Author: Angela Kip PM
She's the only one who understands the world outside. But the more she tries to warn them, the harder they work to get the perfect combination of meds that will drag her out of that world. AU.Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy/Angst - Alyx V. - Words: 2,584 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 01-27-13 - Status: Complete - id: 8953447
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This fic is centered around severe mental illness, which presents itself differently in every affected individual. I hope that I have not offended anyone by posting this.
I don't own Half-Life. If I did, (insert comment on Episode Three here).
The teleporter has malfunctioned. Alyx is aware of this, and she's watching things flash by with baited breath. When the plans for sending Dr. Freeman – Gordon – to Black Mesa East on foot arise, she breathes a sigh of relief. She's made that route dozens, if not hundreds, of times, and she knows that someone like Gordon can handle it just from what she's heard about him.
She wants to sleep – it feels as though she's been awake for so, so long, and she's not even sure how long it really has been – but someone says no, gently, and her father is leading her by the arm into another room.
She is waiting.
"I'm going to need an extra PRN." Dr. Helena Mossman is looking up from the box of medications she's about to take to Unit 58. "Dr. Calhoun? I need to take an extra Thorazine PRN with me."
"For god's sake" is Calhoun's immediate response. He responds to Helena with a "Just go. I don't have a clue where they are…if you need some we'll send someone up."
Helena gives a disgusted sigh and hoists the box up, holding it carefully as she heads up to the psychiatric unit reserved for patients unable to care for themselves. The doctor she's relieving gives her a little smile and the count: one patient given a PRN due to noncompliance, one in the "quiet room" – she can hear him now, screaming hoarsely – and the other eight waiting in the group therapy room for meds. She's only a few minutes late, but she knows they will be bitterly complaining.
At least, those who have enough of their minds in this world to notice.
Alyx has been steered into a room with the Vortigaunts, who are fiddling with yet another teleportation device. She tries to tell them that the original works fine, would be working fine if not for Lamarr (this, of course, is wildly funny, so that she bursts out laughing in the middle of nothing – a headcrab causing all this!), but they are not listening. They talk amongst themselves in their strange language.
The door opens and now she cannot see. It's far too bright, and she's just dying to be part of the conversation about the teleporter but she can't. She looks up at the person or Vortigaunt who has entered, decides it's best to just take a shot in the dark, and tries her hand at some language or another.
"Acute" psych wards often run in extremes, so Helena can judge everyone's condition from the moment she walks in. Some patients are wearing comfortable clothes and drawing a picture or reading a book; others are double-layered in hospital gowns (when even allowing them their own clothes is a safety concern) with greasy hair, staring blankly at the television. Everyone who looks like they won't fight it gets their pills first, meaning that for the last several weeks the same patient is always last. If she asks, it's because Vance, Alyx Azian is last in the alphabet, but she won't ask.
Though, the chart says she handled morning meds just fine, so Helena is hopeful, even when she sees the young woman with her knees drawn up to her chest, picking at a loose thread of the ancient couch.
"Miss Vance, it's time to take your meds."
Alyx looks up and squints, trying to place a name to the face. "Who…" she manages.
"Dr. Mossman," Helena prompts with a forced smile.
"No, Helena." The doctor hurries to correct her before Alyx's face finishes twisting into a scowl, stopping it midway through and bringing on a look of confusion; either way, she holds out a cupped palm to receive seven pills and a cup of water.
For twenty-two years, Judith had insisted that Alyx call her Dr. Mossman, which was understandable considering the latter was only growing up. Yet now there is another person who calls herself Dr. Mossman, Helena when prompted, so they all suppose that Judith will have to do. Alyx holds her hand out and the repairs fall into it, so she begins her work once again.
She has to do this quickly, and in secret, for more than one reason. Firstly, well – Judith would have a fit if she knew. And secondly, afterwards she can't quite tell what's different. It seems to be changing all the time.
Not a minute later, she looks up and realizes she's being lied to – Get out! Liars aren't allowed here!
…No! Let go of me, bitch!
"You're not Helena," Alyx says, and the doctor grits her teeth as she shows the patient her ID for the umpteenth day in a row. Please, Lord, just let those meds kick in quickly. She's got nine other patients to worry about today.
"No, honey, see? That's what it says. Dr. Helena Mossman, psychologist."
Alyx isn't buying it. "Then where's Judith?"
"Judith isn't real, honey." She braces herself, putting her hands in the right places, because she knows what comes next. Alyx is faster, and as her face contorts in an expression of rage, her fist comes up and makes contact with Helena's nose.
"Get out!" she screams. "Liars aren't allowed here! …No! Let go of me, bitch!"
Helena locks her patient's arms and legs against the couch while simultaneously trying to avoid bleeding on anything. "Get me a Thorazine PRN," she hollers across the room to the nurse on duty.
Alyx hasn't slept so well in ages. Everyone is accounted for, including all of the Vortigaunts and Dr. Freeman. Normally she's afraid to sleep too deeply, for fear of waking up more tired when it's time for her watch, but today there's a foggy form sitting by the door, watching out for her.
You're safe, she hears. And again: You're safe. I promise.
This unit runs on fifteen-minute checks for every patient, five-minute checks if a specific patient has caused an incident. Alyx is well into a drug-induced sleep by the time Helena leaves.
But she checks in on her one last time and swears she can hear the girl humming.
(What's she humming? No, no…you're hearing things. Get some rest of your own.)
She doesn't know what drags her out of this blissful sleep, but now she's just sluggish and tired. Eli's daughter stumbles into the main room, and she can see a man – Gordon? Yes, Gordon Freeman, talking to her father. Eli is explaining about that old photograph. There isn't a point in photographs, not anymore. The world is ending a little bit every day.
"Alyx, I thought you were in bed."
She struggles for her footing and grabs at nothing. Hands cushion her as she begins to fall backwards, and then steer her down a hallway that has appeared out of nowhere, a hallway full of doorless rooms that are empty save for mattresses.
"Come now. It's very late. If you're still awake in an hour you can have some Seroquel, all right?"
She starts to say, "But what about Gordon?" but stops herself. She's pretty sure that Judith wouldn't do this just to spite her (and if she has, Alyx is too tired to hit her again, anyway), so Gordon must not really be here.
Things are not always as they seem.
Helena arrives the next day, as usual, to the sound of shouting. When Dr. Calhoun, the psychiatrist on duty, switches someone's meds, he switches all the patients' meds, or as close as he can get, anyway. The count for the day: three PRNs – Helena watches a fourth one take place as a screaming patient is brought to the quiet room – and not enough staff.
The group is out back at recreational therapy, and when she walks out, there's definitely a sight to see. Several people are fighting over a basketball, and one is drawing elaborate patterns in the dirt. Off to the side, Torren Kleiner is clearly trying to keep an eye on all of them, but Alyx is clinging to him like an overgrown child. He sees Helena and stands.
"I'm sorry, my dear," he says to the younger woman. "I'll see you again Thursday."
"Not so far away, Uncle Kleiner," she says with a dreamy look in her eyes.
He gives her a tender smile, and Helena can see how he is trying to reach into her brain and replace the gray matter that her illness is eating away. It's a connection Helena will not allow herself to form with any of the patients. Most of them don't stay longer than a week or two. Alyx has been here six, discharged two weeks in and brought back an hour later after opening the car door on the freeway and jumping out.
How far away is the world in your mind?
Lord, it was a busy night. After nearly dying at the hands of the Combine (she's done this a handful of times since she was three, but it's still terrifying), getting to Nova Prospekt, and everything with Judith…
She's going to slap that bitch.
Dr. Kleiner is nice. She remembers him. He lets her sit by him and talk awhile, asking about her childhood. Growing up in hiding is something that anyone over the age of thirty or so cannot imagine, so she has to explain it to him one day at a time: the way she's never been to school but can drive Highway 17 blindfolded, and the way the others would always drag her out to get supplies under the guise of wanting to have someone small and light along, and the way that she saw so many people around her age buried before they hit eighteen…
And sometimes his face crumples a little, like at that last one, and sometimes he has to remind her not to talk about guns or killing, but not once does he say that none of this is real. He knows it is because this is the world around them that everybody needs explained. But Helena…something about her is not aligned correctly for it.
After a long while, he stands and says, "I'm sorry, my dear. At least it was a long time ago. That helps, doesn't it?"
But she doesn't feel quite right. "Not so far away, Uncle Kleiner," she tells him, and he smiles like he wants that little smile to fix it all. And for a moment, it almost does.
PRNs are a simple cause and effect formula. Therefore, if Alyx Vance is refusing to go to group therapy, then she will receive a dose of Benadryl, which fails to do anything because there are far too many chemicals swirling around in her system. This should not be a surprise to a psychologist, so Helena can only sigh and shake her head.
And since Alyx is still awake, therefore she can refuse her evening meds and consequently be forced into taking another Benadryl. Mercifully, this works and she begins disappearing into a sleepy fog.
"Dr. Mossman," she murmurs as she's being led out of the room towards the dormitories, "Judith? Look after my father."
And if Helena were to comment, then she would rather correct the patient on her name than the bit about her father.
(It's easier to say, "It's Helena, honey," than "But Alyx, your father hasn't come to visit since you've been admitted here.")
And as a result, Helena is looking forward to her three-day weekend.
Authorization for further inpatient days for patient Alyx A. Vance has been denied, based on one or more of the criteria below:
1. The patient is no longer an immediate danger to him/herself or others.
2. The patient is not improving with the current course of treatment.
3. The patient cannot reasonably be expected to recover or improve beyond his/her current status.
It's getting harder to remember the events of even a few days ago. Two worlds have collided and formed a place where nothing is recognizable. She has the pieces, but they don't fit together in any way.
"Maybe we still have – "
It's time for art therapy. Can you draw how you're feeling today?
Digging, shaking, where is Gordon? The Citadel is held together by screams alone.
Alyx, did you have something to share?
The Hunter – the Hunter – oh God - !
This fucking place cannot run without Dr. Helena Mossman. This place! She glares at Dr. Calhoun over the papers in her hands.
"So I'm supposed to believe that the patient in 159 went into a stupor-like state for several hours yesterday after group therapy and was completely unresponsive, and now you're discharging her today? You can't be serious!"
He holds up his hands. "I never said it was a stupor," he says defensively. "I only know how Torren described it. And anyway, you think I'd discharge her? The insurance says she has to go back to that therapeutic group home. If you think I'm not working miracles just keeping all of these people alive, I have to say, you've got a nerve – "
"I wasn't suggesting that," Helena lies, setting the papers down with a shake of her head. She jerks a thumb over her shoulder in the general direction of the quiet room, which is filled with the sound of intense sobbing. "Do we need to PRN that one? Whoever's in there? He sounds like it would help."
"That wouldn't be a very good idea." Dr. Calhoun pushes his glasses further up his nose. "You can't release a patient who's under the influence of a PRN."
He directs a sympathetic look somewhere over Helena's shoulder. "A few hours after I got on my shift, she just gave this awful scream and started crying. We've tried everything, but…she isn't talking."
"I bet you I can get something out of her," she says before striding off down the hall. Yet she hesitates at the door, because here she can hear everything much more clearly. They're about to release a patient who's crying like the world is ending and is completely trapped inside her own mind.
Insurance companies. Don't know a thing about mental illness.
"Oh God!" comes a hoarse scream among the jagged crying. Words that are not even English slip by.
And Helena knows she should be getting back to work, or at least opening this door, but for a moment she sits on the floor with her knees up to her chest, waiting. She hears the shifting and moving on the other side, and she knows.
"No," the other sobs, "don't leave me…"
The doctor closes her eyes and says a little prayer, and goodbye.