Chapter 1: Vent Cryptid
It’s a good thing Dad taught her sign language, Alyx thought as she led the One Free Man through the streets. Otherwise, she would’ve had no way to know it was him. Well, other than the anonymous tip that Kleiner got weeks ago to watch this particular platform on this specific day. And the fact that as soon as this dude showed up, Kleiner was shouting in her ear that he didn’t look a day older than he did at Black Mesa and where has he been? and, Alyx, the CP’s are pulling him, Alyx, you can’t let them take him, ALYX! Which prompted an impromptu plan to get Gordon away from the CP which ended in a shoot out with several blocks of running to get away.
The point is, without sign language, she would’ve had a much harder time to convince him to follow her.
She won’t lie though; it hasn’t been an easy 30 minutes. At least Gordon understands that it isn’t the time for questions, though she’s seeing his questioning looks and tilt of his head. Occasionally, she’ll see him make a half-aborted motion with one hand, but by the time she turns to see it, he’s shaking his head and motioning to move forward. Hopefully, once they get to Kleiner’s, they’ll both get answers.
God, he looks so lost.
He didn’t look like the savior the Vortigaunts painted him as. In ordinary clothes, he looks just like everyone else here. If she looked hard enough, she could see bruises forming where his shirt occasionally rode up and the bags under his eyes speak of days without sleep. But the way he hugged against walls, the way his shoulders tensed when he heard something new, the way his eyes darted from one thing to the next told a very different story, one where she could begin to see where they got their stories from.. When he put the HEV suit on, it was like a switch being flipped. He seemed surer of himself, but it wasn’t a happy type of confidence. He still had weariness clinging to him, the bags under his eyes still dark.
It’s the type that says he’s done this before.
They didn’t have much time to explain to Gordon what was happening, but they got the basics in. It’s been 20 years since the incident at Black Mesa. Since then, things had basically gone to shit. Gordon simply nodded and prompted clarifications on certain things. It wasn’t until they were done and about to send him off when he turned to Kleiner and signed a question.
“I didn’t quite catch that, Gordon, could you repeat that?”
Gordon repeated, a little bit slower.
“Oh-oh dear. Gordon… I haven’t heard anything from Barney since the Combine moved us all up here. He’s been missing.” Kleiner looked uncomfortable, reaching out and patting Gordon’s shoulder. “I know how close you two were. I’m very sorry, Gordon.” Gordon shook his head and shot them a sad smile.
“It’s fine,” he signed. Everyone in the room knew he was lying.
But there was no time to mourn those dead for 20 years.
After the accident involving the teleporter, Alyx and Kleiner had a few seconds to breathe before she had to go chase Gordon down and help him get out of the city, so she turned to Kleiner with a question on the tip of her tongue. Kleiner beat her to it though.
“Barney was a security guard at Black Mesa back in the day,” he said. “He and Gordon were as thick as thieves.” He chuckled softly to himself. “Hell, there were rumors going around that they were closer than that.”
“Closer?” Alyx asked.
He coughed and looked to the side. Oh.
“Oh,” she exhaled. No wonder he deflated so much. He came back to a world without someone special to him in it.
She didn’t know how she would react to learning one day that her dad wasn’t here anymore.
It turns out Gordon has an amazing sense of humor. After getting lost a couple times, he caved and politely asked for Alyx to help him out and she readily agreed. Now, in between fighting the Combine, zombies, and various types of other aliens, Gordon told her jokes and she had to resist the urge to curl up into a ball from laughing so hard.
He also sprinkled in facts of what it was like before everything went down. Apparently, they could travel across the world in a manner of hours? And nearly everyone drove cars everywhere? And there were large stores that sold anything you could ever need under one roof? Amazing.
While fighting, she would sneak looks and would always be amazed at how different he acted. His face set into a grimace, he’d plow through zombie and headcrabs without a flinch. He was so focused and determined, nothing like the joking and smiling man from 10 minutes earlier.
Still, he was extremely efficient, which shoots down any questions she had.
It was in the middle of a fight with the Combine that something unusual happened.
She and Gordon were crouched behind some cover, hoping that the bullets the Combine had couldn’t go through the solid concrete. Occasionally, in the pauses when the Combine had to reload, she and Gordon popped up and took out a few, but there always seemed to be new ones to replace them.
“We can’t last much longer,” she yelled to Gordon next to her, the sound nearly being drowned by the sound of bullets against cement.
“I know,” he hastily signed. He peaked over the top of the barrier before ducking down and turning back to her. “There’s an alley to our left. In the next break, we should be able to make it. Follow me?” She nodded and then they waited.
Bullets, bullets, bullets…..
They both sprang to their feet and she started to sprint-
Only to run into the back of the HEV suit. What? She quickly looked up at Gordon to realize that he’s looking elsewhere. She follows his gaze and finds an old sight. It’s one of the Combine, definitely, but he looks different. The top half of his mask is missing entirely, revealing dark hair combed to the right and black eyes with blue irises. And he’s holding a large gun. And staring directly back at them.
“Gordon!” Alyx hissed, grabbing his arm and tugging it. “We have to get out of here!”
“Gordon Freeman,” The Combine man said, static crackling from the mask.
Gordon slowly signed something, but it’s not something her dad ever taught her. He looks hopeful though, and maybe on the verge of tears. She gave his arm another tug, but he stayed firm in his place, looking at this new Combine soldier.
“Gordon Freeman,” the soldier repeated. She held her breath, tightening her grip on Gordon.
“Surrender. Or you will be shot.” The man raised his gun, aiming directly at them. Gordon tensed.
A beat passed. No one moved. Then, in a flash, she’s being tugged behind an overturned car by Gordon as bullets rained over them again.
“How did you know he was going to pull the trigger?” She breathed, trying to put together what the hell just happened.
“His right eye twitched. It always did that right before he shot at something, even throughout Black Mesa,” Gordon signed, and wow, that only created more questions. Gordon must have seen the look on her face because he quickly signed, “Later,” and she gave him a quick nod before focusing back on not dying to the Combine, especially to this new, special one.
She just really hopes that the hope she saw in Gordon’s face when he saw the Combine is just hidden behind his serious face instead of destroyed by the Combine, like everything else.
They were leaning against a half-crumbled wall sharing a canteen when Alyx remembers the strange man.
“B-A-R-N-E-Y,” Gordon fingerspells for her when she asks before repeating the sign from earlier. That must be the sign for his name. “He was a guard at Black Mesa. We got along pretty well, especially since he found me passed out in the cafeteria more than once.”
“You asked Kleiner about him earlier,” she stated in clarification and Gordon nodded. They were quiet for a while. She would’ve said something about finding him and how lucky it was that he was here in this city, but, well, was it really Barney they found? Sure, he might have been Barney once, but she knows what happens to the Combine’s elite. There isn’t much of the original Barney left at this point. It might’ve been better that he was dead, but she’s not going to say that to Gordon. Instead, she says, “At least you know where he is.”
Gordon just shakes his head before standing up and offering her a hand.
Later, after another run-in with the Combine (there was no Barney this time, thankfully), she watches Gordon run a hand over the chest plate and stare off into the distance. It’s quiet, she thinks, watching a savior mourn for the living.
Although they’ve encountered a couple more units from the Combine, they don’t run into Barney again. Instead, they hear his voice projected over them as the screens that usually used to broadcast Breen’s propaganda instead show an image of Barney. He just says the same things, asking Gordon to surrender, saying they won’t hurt him if he does, explaining that it’s better this way, but Gordon just ignores them after the first loop. At one point in the middle of a message, he turns to Alyx and signs, “Remind me to talk about Kleiner next time we see him,” with a giddiness that he hadn’t displayed before.
“You’ll see. Unless… No, you’ll see.” Gordon returns to ignoring the messages. Alyx glances at the projection of Barney, silently praying for… Well, she’s not sure yet. She just doesn’t want this man to break Gordon.
While Gordon gives her jokes and stories about the world before, he’s less willing to tell stories about himself. Somehow, she gets him to tell her that he was a student under Kleiner while he got his doctorate at MIT. When she asked what MIT is, he gave her a look and signed with the most serious look, “It’s hell wrapped in textbooks and fees”.
When she stopped laughing, she asked why he would go there willingly. It was his turn to laugh. She never got an answer to that one, but that’s okay.
He was in the middle of explaining how college worked when they were interrupted.
Barney was standing in front of them, gun in hands.
For some reason, he was alone, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Gordon Freeman, you are under arrest. Surrender immediately,” he commanded, the static bleeding into his voice. Alyx and Gordon looked at each other. He’s starting to sound like a broken record. And then, Alyx remembered what Gordon told her a couple hours ago.
“Hey Gordon?” She starts. Luckily, Barney doesn’t move and she watches his right eye. “You wanted to tell me about Kleiner?” She sees Barney’s shoulders tense slightly. She turns slightly to face Gordon to see his response better, but she keeps Barney in the corner of her eye.
“Oh? Haven’t you heard?” He signs, slow and languid, looking about ready to laugh. “He got locked out of his office again.” She sees Barney freeze up completely out of the corner her eye and whipped her head to look directly at him again.
He stands absolutely still. His eyes were flashing between being blue and green, like they couldn’t decide which they’d rather be before settling on green. The air between the three of them was tense as Barney took a slow, deep breath. Then, in an instant, he threw the gun to the side and started sprinting down the street, shouting “FUCK YOU, GORDON,” in a voice free of static as he ran.
Alyx was in awe as she watched one of the Combine’s Elite turn sharply around a corner in full sprint.
Gordon was bent over, holding his stomach in silent laughter when she finally turned to him.
“What… In the world… Was that?” She asked, laughing slightly in disbelief. Gordon only laughed harder, starting to wheeze, and soon she found herself laughing heartily along with him.
“That,” Gordon signs, wiping a tear from his eye after they calmed down, “was Barney Calhoun, our resident vent cryptid.”
Chapter 2: A Talk
Barney, Gordon and Alyx have a chat.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
After their interaction with Barney, Gordon was in a much better mood. Sure, he still slipped into grimacing through fights and being extremely efficient and cold while shooting down attackers, but his shoulders had less tension in their walks. Mind you, they were still tense, though that’s to be expected when one man holds the hope of an entire world on their shoulders.
His hands also showed his improvement, flowing from one word to another in a more relaxed way when he told her stories of old-aged routines.
They still encountered the Combine, but it was either a unit or Barney, never both. Which, if Gordon didn’t absolutely light up every time he was able to tease Barney over something decades old, she would absolutely be more concerned about. As it is, she couldn’t care less if it was the Combine making this choice or just Barney as long as it gave both Gordon and her a good laugh.
And it did. Their first interaction with Barney was the only one that ended with being shot at. Every time since then, once Gordon could tell Barney was getting close to snapping, he’d say something along the lines of, “I heard they restocked the vending machine in the lunch room near the security monitors,” or “Dr. Englewood says he has another test to run and he needs a subject for it,” or he just brings up Kleiner’s office again and Barney always runs like crazy, without fail. Once, even Alyx got him to sprint away.
The problem was that they were getting closer to their goal, and all three of them knew it. Barney no longer asked for them to surrender. He couldn’t smile, not with the mask the way it is, but his eyes crinkled every once in a while after Gordon cracks a joke or when he gets caught up in talking about whatever he likes to rant about it. Alyx, for the most part, would stand back during these interactions. Barney seemed to understand Gordon, so she wasn’t needed as a translator, and she didn’t know their inside jokes. Still, she watched as Gordon ranted about an old alien movie he and Barney had watched all those years ago, and she saw Barney’s eyes soften and watch Gordon’s movements with what could only be endearment. She watches him when they approach him, she sees the way his eyes flash between blue and green for longer and longer periods of time before they settle on green.
Alyx watches, and she can tell that their time is running short.
She just doesn’t want to break it to Gordon.
It turns out, she didn’t have to.
Barney was waiting for them as they turned a corner, sitting on top of a car that hasn’t been moved in years. His gun was set next to him. He was leaning over, his hands dangling in between his legs. It was a position that she never saw any of the combine take.
It was a position of defeat.
Gordon and Alyx made sure to make a lot of noise as they went over to him. If he heard them, he made no movement to show it.
When they got close enough to him, Gordon started to reach out to him. Alyx couldn’t tell if he was going in for a shoulder pat or nudge, but he never managed to finish the gesture. Barney’s hand shot up and grabbed his wrist, twisting it out and away from the both of them. Instantly, Alyx had her weapon drawn and pointed at Barney’s temple, ready to shoot. She didn’t want to, of course. This man, who may not even be a man at this point, was starting to feel like a friend. He listened and paid attention, even if he rarely spoke. And when he did, it was in a slight southern accent that she wouldn’t believe the combine didn’t program out of him if she hadn’t have heard him on multiple occasions. He was witty and got along well with Gordon. He was just what Gordon needed to keep going, and to put a bullet in his head less than a foot away from Gordon would not be good for him. She really didn’t want to do that.
Gordon hadn’t reached for any of his weapons though. He had his free hand held at Alyx as he gave her a look that said don’t shoot yet and she nodded to let him know she understood. She wasn’t going to relax or drop her gun, but she understood. Gordon turned his attention back to Barney, who had a distant look in his eyes. He also seemed to be panting heavy, like he had just ran miles without stopping, but, no, that couldn’t be right. Not only did they find him sitting here like he’d been there for a few hours at least, but she’s pretty sure the combine didn't need as much air as normal people.
Now that she was listening for it, she could hear his breaths coming through his mask, more distorted and static-y than anything she’s heard from him yet. His eyes were an electric blue, rimmed with a brimstone red. They had learned that blue was when he was obedient to the combine, but he still had some personality then.
They hadn’t seen red yet.
Gordon, with the patience of a mother of 3 trying to corral them all to bed, slowly moved his free hand into Barney’s line of sight before signing his name. Barney’s gaze snapped to it, watching it move, but still silent. Gordon continued to sign things slowly as he asked him questions and gave him assurances. The process took forever, with Barney squeezing one of Gordon’s wrists and watching the other, Gordon watching Barney’s face and keeping his attention on the way the red retreated, overtaken by the blue, and then the blue retreating to green, and Alyx keeping her gun focused directly at Barney’s temple.
Somewhere between the eighteenth are you okay? a nd the thirteenth we’re here now, Barney, there’s nothing to fear, Barney started to relax, releasing Gordon’s arm and leaning forward. His green eyes moved from Gordon’s hand to his face before he closed his eyes and leaned forward until his head rested on Gordon’s shoulder. Gordon simply patted his back with one hand and stroked his hair with the other. Alyx lowered her gun.
They decided to take a break, and after finding a decent bedroom to camp in for a few hours, they all sat down, Gordon against a wall, Barney against him and Alyx across from them. They didn’t need to talk as Alyx passed Gordon a canister from her bag to him and he tossed a few rations from his to her. Barney just stared at his hands. He only spoke after they had their impromptu meal.
“The Combine, they- they know I’ve been talking to you.” Gordon and Alyx share a brief glance before focusing all their attention on Barney.
“What do they want?” Gordon signs. Barney only looks up long enough to watch him sign before looking back to his hands.
“They- They wanted information. They wanted to see if I could learn anything from you.”
“And?” Alyx said, none too gentle. She was suddenly on high alert, trying to remember everything conversation they’ve had, every word spoken, because anything the combine knows can be used against them. Before she can spiral though, Barney shakes his head.
“I-I told them that you didn’t know enough for the information you had to be valid. I didn’t lie either. You never once told me anything about the resistance. But- I don’t think they believed me. That’s why they kept sending me back. They were hoping you’d slip up.” Barney clenched his fists and pulled his knees up to his chest. “Instead, I started going rouge, defecting.” He gave a short and clipped laugh. “Guess they underestimated the power of a physicist and friendship, ey Gordon?” He nudged Gordon before going stock still.
“What do you mean defecting?” Gordon asked.
“I wasn’t supposed to remember anything.” He answered with a hollow tone in his voice, and Alyx didn’t even know the masks let that happen. “They never expected you to talk to me and-and reminisce.”
“What about this time?” Alyx chimed in. Both of them looked at her, heads tilted in the same direction and angle and everything. Jeez, these two could be so similar at times. “Why are you telling us this time instead of all the others,” she clarified.
“Well, uh.” Barney looked down and to the side, muttering something that she couldn’t hear. Gordon nudged him. Barney cleared his throat and looked back up before deciding eye contact was too much and instead looked at the floorboards between them. “They decided that it was taking too much time and that I should be… Rebooted.” Gordon looked at Alyx and started to sign rebooted before she interrupted him.
“Killed.” Barney winced. “They were going to kill you.” Gordon whipped his head in alarm to Barney, who shrugged.
“They weren’t going to kill me. My body would still be alive and kicking.”
“They’d reset you!” she hissed, hitting the floor for emphasis. “Erase everything and set you back at square one. No thoughts, no memories, no life. Just another soldier.” That’s worse than death. Worse than leaving and being gone forever. Becoming a husk that’s used to torment and harass those who were once your friends. Death would be preferable at that point.
“Barney,” Gordon signed, getting his attention, “is that true?” Barney stared into Gordon’s eyes before slowly nodding. “How are you here then?”
“I had to warn you guys,” Barney said quietly. “I just can’t-couldn’t let you guys walk into that. It didn’t want you to be caught off guard.”
“Why are you talking like you’re going back?” Barney’s head shot up to stare at Alyx, his eyes wide.
“Be-because I am?” Oh hell no.
“Hell no,” Alyx said at the same time Gordon signed, “Why would you even think of doing that?” Alyx may not have known Barney for as long as Gordon, but she still considered him her friend. And now he was saying he was going to practically walk himself back into a death sentence, right after he escaped to warn them no less? No way she’d let that happen. But Barney was looking at them both uncomfortably, like he had something to say, but didn’t want to. Neither of them relented though. There’s no way he would do that to them, would he?
“I have to, guys,” he started. “It’s- I swear, it has nothing to do with wanting to go back, because if it’s about what I want, you know I would stay here, right? You know that?” He looked at them worryingly, and she’ll indulge him enough to nod. “It’s just-” he cut himself off before taking a breath. “It’s just that the combine is very touchy about their things going missing, yea? And, well, I’ve been theirs for years. And they tend to put- something- in things that they don’t want to lose. And, well, they figured out that I was from Black Mesa and they figured out what I did. They learned how the people that had met me saw me. And so they saw me as some sort of-of icon they could use to get people to listen to them. Fat load of good that did them” He chuckled softly to himself in a self-deprecating sort of way before carrying on. “So, they decided they’d upgrade me, let me become one of the elite. Of course, they couldn’t mess with my face or nobody could recognize me, but they could mess with everything else. And while they were taking me apart and reassembling me, they snuck something else in. Something that would ensure that they couldn’t lose a precious bargaining chip. You catch my drift?” Alyx did, but she wanted him to say it. Gordon just stared at the floor.
“What did they put in you?” She said, unwavering. Barney winced, not the first time in this conversation and probably not the last.
“Don’t make me say it,” he whispered.
“Barney, tell us.”
“Barney,” Gordon interrupted, his hand sharp and heavy as he made the movement, “Stop avoiding the question. What. Did. They. Put. In. You.” He was still staring at the floor, but he practically oozed the fact that he was tired and just wanted to know what was happening. Barney took another deep breath, steeling himself.
“I have a chip placed between the second and third vertebrae of my spine,” he said in a slightly monotone voice. “It’s purpose is to record brain activity, conversations, speech patterns and to relay my location at any time. It’s secondary purpose, if absolutely necessary, is to override the brain and body functions until the unit, me, is brought to a safe place for the malfunction to be fixed and rebooted. The last purpose, if all else fails, is to act as a kill switch.”
The silence rang heavy as Gordon and Alyx took in what he had said. Barney deflated.
“See?” Barney said in a much softer voice. “I have to go back. There’s no other way. If I stuck with you, you guys wouldn’t be safe, not as long as I was there. It’s safer for everyone this way.” Barney reached out and placed each hand on one of their knees. Gordon instantly reached down and intertwined their fingers, but Alyx just stared at it.
What a cruel world she lives in. This being, this man had such a pure heart, so ready to embrace death if it meant people would live. In every past conversation, she can hear his voice with varying degrees of static insist that people be safe, be careful, whether it be to the public about being submissive to their alien oppressors, or to Gordon and Alyx when they’d accidentally run into zombies and headcrabs and had to rush to get their weapons drawn. This man, who spent the entirety of Black Mesa running around and trying to get people out and to safety, even if it meant running back into the building he just escaped from to help more people. This man, who she was told snores in his sleep and makes the best junk food mash-ups, who watched alien invasion movies until he passed out on his couch, who helped them when they got into tight spots, this amazing and wonderful human, because what else could he be? He was too warm to be anything else. This is the man the Combine would rip away and reset and kill, over and over, if it meant keeping everyone in line. And he wouldn’t even regret it if it meant people were safe.
She didn’t even realize she was crying until a gloved hand brushed against her check. She looked up and met Barney’s eyes, a soft and warm green. She leaned into his hand, tears now coming faster.
“Hey, hey,” he says, and he’s so warm, how could she have thought him anything but human? “It’s alright. It’s gonna be okay.” She could see him exchange a look with Gordon before she was being pulled in between the two of them. It was a little uncomfortable. The HEV suit wasn’t made for hugging, and Barney’s mask had sharp edges, but it was perfect. She started to sob when a hand started rubbing circles into her back.
She thought she was done being angry at the world. She thought it couldn’t get worse. She thought that she could take it if the combine took more from her. They already took her shot at a normal life.
She was angry.
“We’ll save you,” She muttered harshly, clutching Barney’s uniform as her tears left wet spots. “We’ll come for you, and we’ll find a way to take that stupid chip out, and then we’ll free you.” She felt Barney sigh and Gordon shift, but she doesn’t care. Barney deserved it. She knows he does.
“I know, darling,” she hears him say in his slight southern twang. “I know.”
I know this was originally set to be two chapters, but this scene was way longer than I thought it was going to be, so yay! Ya'll get more chapters.
Chapter 3: "I love you."
Gordon deserves a rest.
Trigger warnings for blood and some fight scenes. It's also really sad :(
This chapter was brought to you by a late night session of listening to green ice [demo] by nbmudkip on repeat for 2 and a half hours until 1:30 am. You should give it a listen! -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqD6lVHlC9I
This chapter is in Gordon's POV and full disclosure, I have no idea how to write Gordon.
Hope you like it :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Gordon wasn’t worried when they didn’t run into Barney on the way to Nova Prospekt. He didn’t when they plowed through corridors and hallways, shooting down any Combine they saw. He definitely didn’t worry when he lost yet another week to teleport/time fuckery. It was fine, even as he broke into the Citadel and made his way to Breen’s office. Everything was fine.
It stopped being fine when the portal opened and started tearing everything apart without seeing Barney at least once.
As he and Alyx ran back through the halls to get out, Gordon’s mind began to wander and think, where is he?
He hears a shout and a sharp tug on the HEV’s suit collar and- wow, that’s a long drop.
“Gordon, please,” Alyx says behind him, tiredness leaking from her voice. “Pay more attention and try not to walk into chasms, okay?” Gordon glances over his shoulder and gives her a quick thumbs up. She sighs and takes the lead, leaving Gordon to watch her from behind. This trip has been rough on her. She smiles less, her shoulders a little more tense. It’s hard watching someone change like this and not being able to help, but, well. He’s not exactly an expert at this sort of thing. After all, he’s ninety percent sure he’s got a morphine addiction and insomnia at this point and if he sat down to actually process what’s happened the last week or so, (god, it’s been 20 years to everyone else) he’d have a breakdown of sorts and not be able to move. Good thing surviving and shooting takes up most of his higher brain function.
But it doesn’t stop him from worrying about Barney.
“I wonder where Barney is,” Gordon hears Alyx mutter to herself as they turn another corner. Somewhere safe, he hopes.
They make it out of the citadel and watch as the portal pulses.
Weaving through the city wasn’t easy the first time and it certainly isn’t the second, especially since they now have something the combine wants back. And they are nothing if not persistent.
Thankfully, he and Alyx have made it to the train station. Unthankfully- is that a word? Probably not, but Gordon has dealt with too much shit this week to care- distracting the combine long enough for the other train to escape is just another really good and helpful plan for everyone who isn’t Gordon.
It’s not like Gordon hates these plans, he thinks as he ducks around another shipping container. At least there’s people he can actively help and protect now, instead of watching them all get gunned down from a distance, first by the military and now the combine. It’s just, being used as live bait sucks. Gordon shoots down the combine soldier that rounds the corner unprepared and automatically reloads. It reminds him of that time he had gone 48 hours running on coffee and energy drinks before his roommate so kindly reminded him that they had a test in 5 hours that he hadn’t studied for because he was too busy writing an essay for his history class. It sucked, but he wouldn’t’ve done it any other way. Gordon snaps out of his thoughts when he feels the ground shake and hears the familiar hum of a Strider. Fuck.
Quickly, he darts to another shipping container, risking a glance around to try and find the Strider. In the distance, he can hear Alyx cursing at the machinery, trying to get the train working. He’s going to have to take this thing down if they want to leave. He darts to another spot and dives for cover when he hears the Strider start unleashing bullets. He can still feel the bruises from the last time one of those things hit him dead on. It’s not the most pleasant feeling in the world and he’d rather avoid it if he could. His eyes quickly darted around and the bullets tinged! off of his shabby cover. It won’t hold long, but he doesn’t need it to. He feels the sweat trickle down his back as he waits for a pause before sprinting for the ladder and launching his way onto the second floor. He feels a bullet catch his calf and hisses because fuck! That hurts so much. At least he’s at a good angle to fire back now. And he does, two solid hits with the rocket launcher, and the third barely skimming under it. Not enough to kill. Damn.
As it staggers, he scans the second floor. There has to be a crate, the last people through said there’s be left over supplies and- Yes! There! Gordon has to quickly duck back down to avoid getting his head shot off, but he saw the crate. Hopefully, it has ammo for the rocket launcher and not something else. He really doesn’t want to think about the possibility that it’s for something else.
A couple of close calls and a skimmed bullet to his left arm and he’s crouching in front of a rocket ammo supply crate. Wonderful. Two more direct hits and the thing cries out as it falls and dies, letting Gordon slide down to sit on the floor, wiping sweat off his face he didn’t even know had gathered. Faintly, he hears Alyx cheer. She must’ve gotten into the system. Honestly, he has no idea how hacking works. But she does, and she’s great at it. She calls out to him and he huffs out a breath before stumbling back onto his feet and into view. A couple knocks on the platform gets her attention and he’s graced with a wide smile.
“I’m almost done!” She calls out to him, “If you want to come back down here and wait on the train, we’ll be on our way in no time!” He gives her a thumbs up and a shaky smile before turning back around to the ladder. He’s gotten enough fractures from vaulting off of high places to last him a lifetime, he doesn’t need any more, thank you very much . He’s halfway down the ladder before he spots something out of the corner of his eye and reflexively drops the rest of the way, watching as a bullet embeds itself into the wall where his face was. That was close.
Quickly, he dives for cover and pulls out his pulse rifle, checking it’s ammo. He thought he got rid of all the Combine already, how did one survive? Steadying his breathing in an attempt to calm himself down, he listened for footsteps and radio chatter. He only heard footsteps. Weird. As the footsteps get closer, Gordon braces himself. Right before they round the corner, he springs up, aims the rifle and-
It’s Barney. Oh thank god, they’ve found him.
Were his eyes always red?
Too late, Gordon hears the gun go off and sees the flare of the muzzle before he feels the bullet lodge itself into his side. Half a second later and he’s slamming the butt of the rifle into Barney’s face before he darts away.
Stupid! He berates himself as he leans against one of the containers, hoping he’s far enough away that he can catch his breath, just for a second. He told you that they were going to reset him and you still hesitated! You know what red means! Quietly, he replaces the rifle with his crowbar and crouches around a corner, decidedly ignoring the HEV suits warning about how much that fucked him up. It’s just- he doesn’t think he can fight Barney, not in the way he fights everything else. Because- fuck!
This is Barney!
Barney, the dude who lets him stay over in his dorm room on weekends so they can marathon shitty movies and fall asleep on the couch with smiles on their faces and popcorn kernels in their teeth. Barney, the dude who learned ASL just so Gordon didn’t have to carry around a notebook when they hang out. Barney, the dude who’s grandmother calls on the third sunday each month just to see how her favorite grandchild is doing and to see if he got her monthly supply of chocolate chip cookies, which he always split with Gordon if he asked. Barney, the guy with the softest pair of eyes and most compassionate heart Gordon has ever seen, things that even the combine couldn’t take from him.
Until now, it seems.
Gordon harshly bit the inside of his lip, dragging himself out of his thoughts and back into reality. The way Barney is now, Gordon might die if he doesn’t pay attention. Shaking away a few stray tears, he focuses and tries to hear Barney’s footsteps. He snapped Barney out of it once, he can do it again. All he has to do is remind him.
There’s a pattern to his steps, and Gordon counts it. Agonizingly slowly, Barney gets closer, step by step. Sometimes, he gets a little bit further away, but he’s definitely making his way to Gordon. He’s not speaking, just breathing which is undoubtedly weird, but Gordon can’t worried about that right now. Seconds before Barney gets to where Gordon wants him, Gordon sends a quick thanks to whoever’s looking out for him that Alyx is silent throughout this. And then he pounces.
Sending the hooked end of his crowbar out low to catch an ankle, he uses his free hand to knock Barney’s hand holding the gun up and away. Barney trips and Gordon uses his momentum to force both of them to fall back, Gordon on top of Barney, using one hand to grab Barney’s hand with the gun and the other to catch himself. Minor Fracture Detected, he hears the HEV suit chime as he winces. His wrist is going to hurt for a while, but it's a small price to pay when he has Barney pinned.
And he does. Gordon lets himself grin as he feels Barney squirm beneath him, unable to get out of his grip. Barney seems to realize this too, as he stops wriggling and instead starts glaring daggers at Gordon. Gordon doesn’t mind, even if his eyes are red instead of the once-familiar brown or the newly-calming green. Because it’s Barney.
It was much easier to get him into this hold than Gordon originally thought. He thought that they were for sure going to wrestle for at least a solid 5 minutes before he got Barney anywhere close to being here, but it turns out erasing memories of wrestling over the last milky-way in the freezer every couple of weeks was a mistake on the Combine’s part.
Gordon lets out a little huff, smiling wider, and rests his forehead on Barney’s. He struggles, but there isn’t much he can do. Gordon’s sure that if he didn’t have this stupid mask on, he would be trying to bite him, but he can't and Gordon’s grateful for that. Hello there, he mouths, staring into Barney’s eyes with glee. They glare back. That’s fine. They have time.
“Gordon? Where are you?”
Oh shit, Alyx! The train! He goes stiff as everything that’s happening in the world outside of him and Barney slams into him. And he starts to straighten up when white hot pain flares up from his side and he knows, knows what he heard was a gunshot, but I have his wrist pinned, he can’t angle the gun like that, what the fuck, but none of that matters really. The second bullet hit directly where the first did, driving it even further in. And everything was white, hot, too much. He nearly collapses on top of Barney, but he barely catches himself. He had looked away when Alyx called his name, and that was on him. But he won’t look away now.
And because of that, he catches the tiniest of flash of blue.
Barney, Gordon mouths again and never in his life has he wanted to speak more than now, to just push all his desperation and want and love into it like he’s heard everyone do his entire life. He tastes iron in his mouth and sees it fall onto the mask around Barney’s face, and that’s really gross but also really worrisome. Internally bleeding is a bitch to deal with. Barney, please be in there, he thinks. And then mouths it, just in case. Barney twitches and starts to turn his head, but- no, you will keep your eyes on me - Gordon releases Barney’s wrist and uses the now free hand to force his face back. If he could shoot Gordon with his hand pinned, pinning it won’t make much of a difference.
Barney’s eyebrows are scrunched. Gordon can’t tell if it’s in disgust of the blood on his glove or if it’s because he’s conflicted, but things are also starting to get a little hazy for Gordon. Warning: Severe Blood Loss, the suit informed him. Wonderful. At least Barney isn’t moving to shoot him a third time.
Slowly, he takes his hand off of Barney’s face, and after he knows Barney won’t look away, he signs something they’ve signed to each other a million times across a crowded cafeteria or late at night where they could barely see the outline of each other in the dark. It’s hard to do with one hand and while bleeding out, but Gordon makes it work.
“I love you,” he signs.
And he can barely see Barney’s face even though it’s barely even an inch away, but he can still feel him trembling.
“I love you,” he repeats, just in case Barney missed it the first time. He can feel his arm wobble, about to give out, but he just needs a little bit longer. Just a couple more seconds. As gently as he can manage, he reaches back up to stoke Barney’s cheek and even through his blurred vision he can seen it leave a trail of red, but-
But that doesn’t matter because Gordon’s stretching up and, being sure to lick his lips clean, he softly kisses Barney’s forehead. He was aiming for the middle, but he might’ve missed with how much he’s swaying and he really hopes he didn’t leave a bloody kiss there. God, that’d be embarrassing. Gordon feels his arm give it’s last hurrah before collapsing underneath him and he falls.
And Barney rushes up to catch him.
Gordon feels himself being turned and moved, but really? He’s so relieved that it’s Barney, it’s really him again, he did it, thank fuck , that he doesn’t mind that he’s being man-handled. It isn’t until he feels something hot and wet against his face that he tries to focus back into what’s happening. Being held just feels so nice, even through the HEV suit. But the hot liquid keeps him grounded and he looks at Barney’s face. Everything’s still hazy, but he can see Barney’s face a little more clearly now. His eyes are green again, bright and shining like emeralds or grass on a sunny day and they’re shimmering and-
Oh. He’s crying.
Gordon tries to reach up to wipe them away, but Barney has his hand in a death grip before it can reach his face.
“I’m sorry,” Barney chokes, and his voice is so distorted and static-y that Gordon wants to flinch but he doesn’t have the energy for that. Instead, Gordon shakes his head and smiles, trying to squeeze his hand.
He can hear Alyx call for him again, but it’s far away and distant, like he’s hearing it through water.
Gordon manages to unpin his free arm from between his body and Barney’s.
“I love you.”
Barney lets out a horrible noise, like he’d just been shot, but Gordon’s the only one with bullet wounds and he can’t make a noise like that. A little unfair.
“I-love you too, Gordon. God, I-I love you so much. I’m so sorry.” And he’s clinging to Gordon harder now, but Gordon doesn’t mind. It’s been a while since he’s just been held, and it’s nice. Gordon’s comfortable. This is the safest he’s felt since before he showed up here in City 17, before the Cascade. He just wants to rest for a bit and enjoy this before he has to get up and go back to shooting and fighting again.
So he closes his eyes.
Fun fact! The last scene is the only reason I wrote this fic. It's gone through 3 versions of itself, but I kept all the parts I wanted and I hope it's as sad for you as it was sad for my brain to repeat this scene every time I thought of Combine Barney :)
Hopefully, you can also tell that I've now played through Half-life 2 and Episode 1. I didn't realize how little I knew about how Half Life 2 progressed until I played it and went huh! I wrote this wrong. I won't be re-writing it though, at least not anytime soon.
I also promise Gordon is not Dead! I wouldn't do that! There's one more chapter left for a reason, and I hope it makes up for the angst I've written.
Edit 3/17/21: I've gone back and edited a few things to make the story flow a little bit better! This chapter, amazingly, was barely changed at all, but the past two chapters had a little more work done, just to polish it a little. Nothing super big plot-wise has changed, so don't worry if you don't feel like re-reading.
Chapter 4: Dreams Can't Last Forever
Gordon wakes up and enjoys a morning in bed.
Hello and welcome to the last Chapter! It's currently 12:40am, but I Do Not Care. In the beginning, there's a little bit where Gordon thinks he's awake but he's actually dreaming, so there's some unreality to it. If that bothers you, please skip to where it says, "And then, he's shooting into an upright position." This chapter's also really heavy on crying (the characters,not you (although you might cry too, i don't know you)) and it might be ooc, but it's my fic so i deserve to let them be a little ooc. Otherwise, please enjoy!
This chapter is brought to you by Lose it by Oh Wonder put on loop for 4 hours
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It’s warm , Gordon thinks.
He’s laying down in Barney’s bed, basking in the morning light breaking through the flimsy curtains. Gordon’s a little jealous that Barney's dormitories are above ground, but with how often Barney invites him to stay over, Gordon’s willing to overlook it. There’s faint clattering coming from the direction and Gordon makes a pleased note that Barney must’ve gotten up before him for once. Judging by the sound of Barney softly humming along with the radio, which is only interrupted by the occasional swear word and the smell of burnt toast, Gordon can only guess that Barney’s trying to make him a surprise breakfast. The thought makes Gordon grin and bury his face into the pillow.
Over the past couple years, they’ve grown impossibly close. Gordon’s never had someone like Barney in his life before. Sure, he’s had a couple people try to get close, but they’ve always ended it before it got too serious. Not Barney though.
Gordon rolls over and hears the gentle clinking of his necklace, causing his smile to widen. He buries his face into the pillow even more as he remembers when Barney gave it to him.
They were having a movie marathon again, except this time Barney decides that they needed a break from the usual alien theme and has put on increasingly cheesy rom-coms. Barney’s still running his never-ending commentary, including the outrageous arm-flailing that will knock the popcorn bowl over unless it’s safely held in Gordon’s lap. To be honest, Gordon never pays much attention to the movies. He’s way too busy watching Barney critique the special effects of aliens bursting through people’s chest or, apparently, the development speed of the relationship of the couples in rom-coms.
At some point, Gordon can remember being curled over the popcorn bowl trying to breathe through his wheezing as he desperately grabbed Barney’s arm so he doesn’t fall over completely, popcorn bowl and all. Gordon can hear Barney pause his rant about how there’s no way that she’d dump all of her hard work just to go after him, I mean COME ON, she had a promotion lined up in a job where it’s nearly impossible for a girl of her standing and he’s just a smarmy man with-with- Are you even listening, Gordon? Listen, she’s much better without him there, I don’t get why- but Gordon’s trying too hard to breathe to notice. Slowly, his breathing slows and he can sit back up correctly without risking the popcorn. His face feels warm from all the laughing and he can feel the beginnings of tears in the corners of his ears, but he turns to Barney and pats his arm as a thanks for being a stabilizer. Then he notices Barney’s face.
He’s bright red, scarlet all the way down to his neck, but he’s looking at Gordon like he hung the moon and stars and- wow, Gordon’s breathless and red for a whole other reason. He just now realizes how close they are- how close they always are- and how it just, how it just feels right .
It’s not like it’s the first time that he and Barney have ended up having prolonged eye-contact, but it is the first time that Barney doesn’t go for a kiss, and he instead stands up and says,
“Wait here, I’ve- I got something I wanna give you.” He does lean back in to give Gordon a quick peck before he’s off to his bedroom. It’s far from the most they’ve done with each other, but Gordon still finds himself tracing his lips with his free hand. He can hear Barney rustling through the bedroom. Occasionally , there’s a soft bang coming from his closing a drawer a little bit too hard, but he comes out of the bedroom sooner than later, holding something in his hand.
“Found it!” Barney nearly shouts with a wild grin on his face, and Gordon can’t help but return it with a grin of his own. Barney then makes a half-stumble-half-jog back to the couch before falling into his spot across from Gordon on the couch. “Hi,” Barney says breathlessly.
“Hi,” Gordon signs back, his smile and blush still covering his face. Barney makes a short bark of laughter before cutting himself off and bringing his hand holding the object from the bedroom in between them.
“I got this for- well, I mean, I didn’t get it for you, it’s something that I’ve had for a while now, but I want you to have it because, well, Gordon. I, uh, I like ya. A lot.” And it hits Gordon what’s happening right now and he can’t believe his ears. Holy shit. He almost wants to clean his ears, but he doesn’t think that action would be appreciated at the moment. He can feel his smile slip into something more resembling awe, but Barney just plows on, either not realizing Gordon has caught on or just determined to get through his short speech. “I know now’s not the right time for this, especially with your big test coming up soon- a couple months now, right?” Gordon goes to nod, but Barney’s not even looking at Gordon anymore. His eyes are wandering all around the messy living room space, from the TV stand that has piles of movies scattered all over it to the piles of unfolded clothes shoved into the corners. Barney just keeps talking.
“I just- I found this the other day in my closet and I thought of you and how it matches your eyes and then I just- I got hit with the fact that I’ve had this thing for years before I’d even met you, yet you’re the first thing I thought of and- It’s just, I realized how much you mean to me, Gordon, and I wanted you to know too, so I thought that maybe I should give this to you? But you absolutely don’t have to accept it, we can just stay as we are now if you-” Gordon quickly lunges at Barney and he only has a brief second to adjust to another body being pressed against him before his face is smashed into Gordon’s. It’s not the best kiss they’ve shared, but it certainly makes up for it in enthusiasm. After several beats, they break apart to breathe and Gordon is staring intensely at Barney with an ecstatic look on his face. Once he knows Barney’s focusing on him, he slowly raises his hands from where they’re resting on Barney’s chest.
“Barney Calhoun,” he signs and maybe the full name was a little too much, but he absolutely wants Barney to pay attention to what he’s about to say. “Barney Calhoun, I’m hopelessly in love with you,” and Gordon watches as Barney’s face shifts from absolutely focusing on his hands to comprehension to absolute wonder and joy. Barney laughs and Gordon can feel it shake his whole body before Barney’s grabbing his face and peppering it in soft kisses.
“I love you, too,” he says in between kisses, “You’re so smart and amazing and I love you so much I feel like making myself look like a fool for you.” And Gordon can feel the blush that never completely faded come back full force and he’s sure that if Barney would care to look, he could see it disappearing under his shirt. Gordon lets Barney pepper him with kisses a little longer before he softly paps his face. Once he has Barney’s attention (Although, he’s still sneaking little kisses on his hand), he points to the little box that Barney had brought out of his room that started this whole ordeal.
“Oh yea!” Barney says excitedly before he sits up and hands it over to Gordon. “My family had this weird tradition of making a really fancy necklace when we’re born and on our eighteenth birthday, giving it to us. Molly got hers a year before mine and hers was an amethyst crystal on what I’m guessing is pure silver chain. Our family went really overboard on somethings.” Gordon’s already pulling up the image of Barney’s Grandmother and- yep, that’s definitely something he could see her doing. “Anyway, I never wear mine because I worry about it breaking because of my job, so I thought it’d see more use with you.” Now Gordon feels like crying, but he holds it back and instead opens the jewelry box.
It’s gorgeous. A bright green emerald center stone surrounded by a delicate gold pendant. The chain also holds the same brilliant gold hue, with the clasp being a simple, but sturdy looking one. It’s not large by any means, but it’s wonderful and- oh, now Gordon’s actually crying now. He can hear Barney’s sharp intake of air, but before he can say anything, Gordon flings himself at Barney for a hug, being careful not to knock the necklace into anything. I love it, Gordon mouths into the side of Barney’s neck and he stays put just long enough to feel Barney relax before he sits back and hurriedly asks Barney to put it on him. Barney obliges, and for the next few days, Gordon is hyper-aware of the weight of the small pendant against his skin, hidden from prying eyes under his shirt. He never leaves home without it.
As Gordon slowly drifts back into the present, he feels the bed dip and he can hear Barney chuckle. He grins, but hides it in the pillow beneath him.
“Gordon,” Barney softly calls out, and Gordon can feel his warm hand come up and rub at his shoulder. “Gordon, just because neither of us have work today, that doesn’t mean you can stay in bed all day.” Gordon turns and peaks out to look at Barney. He’s wearing his cute alien boxers that Gordon had bought him last month and a thin white button-up that he hasn’t bothered to button. Gordon can hardly believe they’re schedules finally aligned for them to have the same day off like this. Normally, they can only get away with having a couple hours together, but it’s nice to have a whole day. It’s probably going to be the last one until after the test they have scheduled for next week. Gordon’s been working overtime, and Barney’s schedule has always been a bit of a mess.
Barney smiles down at him from where he’s sitting at his side and brushes the back of his hand down Gordon’s face. Gordon leans into it, earning another chuckle from Barney.
“Hey there, Sleeping Beauty, I was startin’ to think you’d never wake up, what with the way you were drooling.” Gordon sits up then, if only to shove at Barney for making that comment. Barney laughs, the sound feeling like chimes in Gordon’s soul, before he moves off the bed to walk to the door. He pauses and looks back, winking. “I made some of my famous Fridge Omelets.Come join me when you’re ready.” And then he’s gone.
Gordon yawns and stretches up, feeling his body ache in unusual ways.
Wait, his body’s aching? Oh, it’s probably just leftover from his HEV training. He’s been trying to remember to stretch all parts of himself after to try to minimize the amount of pain the next day, but he must’ve missed some parts yesterday. Feeling like he accurately solved that mystery, he reaches for his glasses.
Huh, he must’ve fallen recently. The right one has a long crack running across the left one and there’s some smudges of.... Something all across them. He’ll have to send in for new ones. Gordon places them on his face and goes to stand up before he feels a flash of hot white pain flare from his side, causing him to fall back onto the bed, clutching his side. What the fuck.
He must’ve made a noise when he fell back onto his bed because suddenly, Barney is there, sitting next to him and rubbing his back.
“Darling?” Barney asks, worry tinting his voice. “You okay? I heard the bed hit the wall.” Gordon tries to smile at Barney, but he fears it comes off as a grimace. “Are you in pain?” Gordon manages a nod before pointing to his side.
“Hot,” He signs, “Pain. Don’t know why.” Immediately. Barney’s hands are all over him, taking the confirmation of pain as an invitation to touch. For some reason, it doesn’t hurt when Barney touches it, but when Gordon just brushes his fingers against it, there’s a hot flash of pain and he feels his stomach clenching. Gordon can feel the first spark of panic in his brain, and he wildly looks to Barney to quell it, but-
His eyes are pinched with concern and worry, but-
They’re brown and grey-ish blue. But, there’s nothing wrong with that! His eyes have always been like that! It’s hard to see under his helmet, which is why he jokingly says that his eyes could be yellow and nobody’d notice, but- but-
Then why does Gordon think his eyes should be green , like his?
Gordon can feel the panic grow like a wave, but he can’t explain why this feels wrong. It just is and Gordon wants it to stop.
Barney’s looking at him still, but all of a sudden, he’s aware of the fuzziness that surround the room. Of the unrealness of it.
I’m dreaming, Gordon thinks.
And then he’s not.
And then, he’s shooting into an upright position, ignoring the pain in his side to instead start to struggle to get up. Everything’s still fuzzy and he can’t tell where he is exactly, but he has a sense of fear and a need to move that he doesn’t fight. His memories start to flash in his mind and his need to move increases tenfold.Why was he asleep? Where was the Combine? Why would Alyx let him fall asleep like that?
He’s still struggling to get out of a bed ( where’s the HEV suit? Where’s Alyx? Where’s-) when he hears a commotion in the doorway that makes him look up and-
He can feel his shoulders fall and some tension leak out of him as he takes in her appearance. She’s wearing the same outfit as the last time he saw her, but it looks cleaner. In fact, all of her looks cleaner. Her hair’s more brushed, and she has a bright white bandage on her neck. That’s all he can take in before she’s tucked up under his chin in one blink. It’s….. Warm. Gordon lets his arms wrap around her and hug her back. He can feel himself tear up, but by the shaking of the shoulders in front of him, there’d be no shame to cry. After a minute, Alyx speaks.
“I-I thought you were going to die,” she says and the way her voice cracks just breaks his heart. They’ve only known each other for a couple days, max, but he still feels fiercely protective of her. It’s nice to know it’s reciprocated. There’s a couple sniffles coming from her, so he lets a few tears go and hopes she knows that he’s sorry to have caused her pain.
Ever since he made it to this post-Black Mesa world, he’s been held on a pedestal. Everyone expects him just to fix everything and save them, but after he ran straight into a Combine Station and had to fight his way out, Alyx started to treat him more like a human. Seeing someone nearly fall over trying to get to a healing station can do that apparently. He just never meant to reinforce the idea that he’s human so strongly.
Gordon feels like they would’ve stayed there for hours if Alyx hadn’t tightened her grip, causing his side to flare out and him to smack her side to let her know that it’s too much, it feels like you shot me again . He repeated that sediment when she was up and out of his arms and she gave him a watery laugh before looking to the side and rubbing the back of her neck.
“Look, I’m gonna tell the other’s you’re up. You- you’re okay with that, right?” Gordon nods and she flashes him a smile before darting out of the room with a I’ll come back with something to eat!
Gordon, suddenly left on his own, takes the moment to do a mental checklist of himself, going over every part of his body that hurts when he flexes it. It’s probably not the best thing to do in his condition, but it’s comforting. He used to do it in the bowels of Black Mesa, when there was no sense of time or knowing when the next health station would be.
After he did that, he starts looking around the room that he’s found himself in. There aren’t any windows, so he doesn’t know if he’s underground or not, and the walls look dirty, but the bed and blankets are as clean as he’s ever seen so far and there’s a bookshelf in the corner where he can make out books. Small and dirty books that look a little waterlogged, sure, but books nevertheless.
He’s taken to squinting to see if he can read any of the book's titles when the next person arrives. He hears them coming and mentally prepares himself to be tackled again. And when they stop at his door, he looks up.
It’s Barney, and he’s shot full of overwhelming joy. Barney’s alive! He’s made it!
And then he sees the nervous look on Barney’s face and he feels his joy crawl back into his mouth and settle into the back of his throat.
“What’s wrong?” He tries to sign, but Barney isn’t looking at him. He doesn’t even move his head when Gordon’s hands move. He’s just looking at the wall behind him. “Barney?” Still nothing. “Calhoun?” Sometimes, when Alyx and Gordon had found him, he had responded better to Calhoun, but he’s still looking away and- and Gordon feels like crying.
Sure, he’s used to the silent treatment, either on purpose or on accident. You can’t spend your life being mute without someone ignoring you trying to sign at them or talking over you or simply glossing over you because if you can’t speak up , then you’re not worth their time. It can’t be helped when most people are used to someone calling out to get they’re attention.
But never Barney.
Barney always paid attention to Gordon. He always looked directly at Gordon when he saw his hands move even the slightest. He was careful like that, always keeping them in sight so Gordon could always talk. At the beginning, there were some times when Barney couldn’t understand them (his sign language was rusty after not talking to his grandma after so many years), but Gordon could still talk.
But now Barney was ignoring him. And-
You know what? Gordon’s furious. How dare he? How dare he ignore him, after everything they’ve been through? Gordon grabs the pillow from behind him, and with the aim of someone who’s killed countless creatures, he throws the pillow directly at Barney’s face. Barney’s head shoots up, and Gordon knows that he could just catch it with his reflexes, but to his mild surprise, it hits. And flops pathetically to the ground.
Barney looks down at the pillow for a brief moment before picking it up and looking at Gordon and finally, you asshole.
“Get over here,” Gordon scowls, allowing his anger to make his movements choppy. He wants Barney to know he’s mad, and by the way Barney’s eyes dart around the room as he slowly makes his way over, he succeeded in his goal. When Barney’s close enough, Gordon snatches the pillow from his hands and hits him with it. And he hits him again. And again. Gordon keeps hitting him until his anger is gone and all that’s left is the sting of rejection from being ignored and he can’t help but let his tears fall as his hits turn into him just papping Barney softly with a pillow. His shoulders start to shake and Barney’s eyes stop darting around the room to look at Gordon, to actually look at him.
And suddenly, he’s being pressed into the rough material of Barney’s uniform as a hand rubs circles and Barney lets out a couple shushes and It’s gonna be alright . Gordon’s too exhausted to fight him now, from using all the energy with Alyx and now this, and he can feel the strain on his bullet wound, but, fuck. He just wants to be okay for a few more minutes. When his shoulders stop shaking, he can feel Barney pull back, and Gordon lets him retreat until they’re arms length away. And then he sends the most scathing glare he can muster.
“Don’t you ever, EVER, ignore me again, Barney Calhoun, or I’ll make you wish you’d kill me with those bullets.” And Gordon only feels slightly satisfied when he can see Barney physically gulp at the threat before he pulls Barney back into a hug.
A short nap later, and Barney now has Gordon’s head in his lap and is stroking his hair gently. Gordon’s still very tired and he suspects he will be for a while, but right now, he’s alright with being tired. But they still need to talk.
“Barney?” He signs, slightly unsure on how to proceed with this, but Barney’s hum encourages him to continue. “What was up with you earlier? You just stood in the door and you…” He trails off, not quite ready to face the fact that Barney ignored him. He might be blowing it out of proportion, but he’s had a very rough couple of weeks and he thinks he deserves to have a little breakdown over the fact that his boyfriend had done the one thing that he had silently promised to never do. (Were they even boyfriends anymore? It’s been 20 years, and while neither of them have seemed to change, a lot can happen in that time. God, he’s not prepared for Barney to break up with him, so he’s going to avoid thinking about that for right now.) Barney sighs above him and continues to run his fingers through Gordon’s hair.
“I just- I think it- I was-” Gordon softly taps his fingers against Barney’s knee and Barney takes a deep breath before trying to speak again. “I thought you’d hate me, Gordon,” he admits quietly- and what can Gordon say to that? Barney carries on, but Gordon won’t forget that. “I had just gone back to the Combine and- even after you and Alyx told me not to!- and they did exactly what they said they would and it was horrible and I just- it feels so wrong when they change anything at all but this- this was so much worse!” Gordon feels something wet fall onto his face and he looks up to see Barney crying. He vaguely remembers Barney crying before he passed out, but he’s still surprised that the Combine hadn’t taken that from him.
“It’s like they took everything that was me,” Barney continues through the tears, “and they shoved it into a box that was too small for me- much to small- and then they applied pressure to all the sides to make me even smaller and then ,” his breath hitched here and Gordon reaches up to brush some tears away, “and then they put that tiny, horrible box in the dark, in front of a tiny screen that showed everything that my body did without me there to stop it and- Gordon,” Barney curls himself over Gordon, and carefully removes his hands from Gordon’s hair so he can tug on his own. “Gordon, I killed people. So many people! And it’s- And I couldn’t really do anything! I was so far away from what was happening, but I couldn’t stop watching! And when- and then when I saw you, It was like every part of me that was in that tiny box was suddenly ripping everything that it could touch apart, except the only thing it could touch was me, so it felt like I was ripping myself apart , and suddenly you were bleeding all over me and I couldn’t think, I just wanted to stop watching because I didn’t want to watch me kill you too and-” Barney cuts himself off with a sob, and if Gordon could shift without aggravating his wounds, then he’d be scooping Barney up and hugging him tight, but all he can do in this position is rub comforting circles into his knee as Barney sobs above him. This was heartbreaking to listen to, but he’d listen for as long as Barney talks.
“And then,” he cries, “I was suddenly back in control and you were falling and all I could do was catch you. And then you were dying. I thought you were dying.” Barney leans impossibly close and rests his forehead against Gordon’s. “I thought you were dead. I thought I killed you,” he whispers before breaking into another round of sobbing. Gordon offered as much comfort as he could, but they could only wait as Barney calmed down. When Barney’s calm enough, Gordon tugs at his wrist and it only takes two tugs before Barney adjusts so he’s laying beside Gordon instead of sitting at his head.
“I’m sorry,” Barney whispers. “I shouldn’t’ve- I should’ve known better to ignore you like that. Even If I was scared that you’d hate me. I had no reason- I shouldn’t’ve done it.” Gordon nods a little before reaching out for Barney’s hand. Barney clutches to it life it’s a life-line, the only thing standing between Barney and utter destruction and maybe it is. Gordon absently rubs at his chest, right where his necklace left a decent sized bruise every time he got hit in the chestplate. The necklace sits on the nightstand next to the bed and honestly? Gordon’s surprised that it’s survived this long. Sure, it’s been under his HEV suit (something that was not comfortable in any way whatsoever, but goddamnit, he wanted to wear it that day to the test and there was no way he was going to take it off and possibly lose it afterwards), but he thought it’d be smashed by now. Instead, it’s survived with only a couple chips and dents and it gives Gordon the tiniest bits of hope, however pathetic it might be. If something as fragile as a necklace can survive this, then can’t I survive it too?
“I don’t know if I can forgive you yet,” Gordon signs to Barney, because it still hurts a little but. Gordon turns to look at Barney in the eyes as he signs the next part. “I still love you, though.” And Barney tears up a little before he’s nodding.
“Me too, Gordon. God, I love you too.” Barney reaches out with his free hand and stokes his face with the back of his hand and Gordon leans into it, earning him a little watery chuckle. “I don’t think I could ever stop loving you. God, I love you so much.” And now Gordon can feel himself tear up a little before he’s also nodding and moving closer to Barney to rest their foreheads together.
“Love you,” Gordon signs as he gives Barney’s mask a kiss, one of the only things the Combine successfully took from them.
“Love you too, Gordon,” Barney mutters, leaning into Gordon even harder and Gordon has a thought.
Maybe… Maybe the two of them will make it through this.
Aaaaaand, that's a wrap! This is the first fic I've posted that I'm proud of and I'm glad that people are enjoying it! If you want to draw any scenes, please please pretty please send it to me on my tumblr at https://nakitengoku.tumblr.com/ ! I would love to see it!
On another note, I'm thinking about writing a short *coughcough* supplement fic of what happens with Alyx and Barney between Gordon passing out and waking up! I also have a couple of stray ideas about what would happen after this, but I'm making no promises! For now, this is all you get. Thank you so much for reading my fic!