By Beth Einspanier
Inspired by the Half-Life games. All relevant settings, characters, and events are the property of Valve. This story is mine. All rights reserved.
This story takes place after the events of Half-Life 2: Episode 2. Warning: SPOILERS!
Gordon Freeman was tired – physically, mentally, and emotionally tired. It had been five days since arriving at the new base from White Forest, seven days since the death of Eli Vance, and nine since he'd had a good night's sleep. He rubbed a gloved hand against the shadow of stubble that had started to blur the outline of his goatee.
He peeled off the Hazard suit and hung it up, attaching a battery pack so it could fully charge. He rolled the kinks out of his shoulders, glad to have the heavy suit off – for while it was designed for long-term usage, he doubted that it was meant for indefinite comfort. He rubbed the spot on his inner arm where the suit would inject morphine or coagulant when he was injured, satisfied that the marks were well-healed. He also marveled at the scars and bruises he bore from his activities in the Black Mesa incident and beyond. Any Marine would be proud to have survived even half of what he had – and he was just a graduate physicist.
Clad only in his boxers (which, like the rest of him, had seen better days – but he would think about replacing them later), he climbed into the narrow bed that had been set up for him, letting out a sigh of relief. He took off his glasses (which by some miracle had come through everything unscathed, thanks in part to the retractable helmet that came with the Hazard suit) and set them off the bedside table next to the electric lamp. He had pulled the threadbare blanket over himself and was about to turn off the lamp when he heard a quiet knock at his door.
"Who is it?" he asked, instinctively reaching for the pistol he'd stowed under the bed. It was a stupid habit, but in these times one could hardly let one's guard down.
"It's me." It was Alyx. His heart skipped a beat. The door slid open and she peered inside, and he was dismayed at how pale she looked.
"Come in," he said, leaving the pistol where it was. She stepped in, hugging herself like she would never feel warm again. She'd been a bit distracted since her father's death at the claws of an Advisor, but she'd kept up a brave front. Now, though…
"Do you mind if I sleep in here?" she asked, "I… I don't want to be alone tonight." She offered a wan smile. "I won't take up much room."
He surveyed the bed he occupied. It was no king-size, but the two of them would fit. Besides, this far north it would only be practical to share body warmth when possible. He nodded. "Turn off the lamp when you're done." And he turned over to give her any privacy she needed.
He heard her shut the door, followed by the rustling of cloth as she undressed. He listened to her bare feet padding over to the bed, and felt the brief draft at his back as she climbed under the covers behind him. He noted with slightly detached surprise that her bare back was touching his, and the part of him that was less theoretical physicist and more male wondered how much she was actually wearing at the moment. He wouldn't ask. He couldn't. It would just be awkward.
A few moments later, he heard a small, choked noise from her. He craned his neck to try to look at her, but it was almost pitch black in the room without the lantern light. He felt her starting to shiver at his back.
"Alyx," he whispered, and in response he heard a slightly louder noise – this one loud enough for him to make out. It was a muffled sob.
Oh God, he thought, feeling stupid. She'd never really had a chance to truly mourn for Eli. The two days between his death and their arrival at the new base she had spent in a state of shock, and once she'd been among the resistance she'd kept up a brave façade that was now evidently crumbling. And, in her own way, she'd come to him for comfort.
Gordon turned over in bed to face her, and touched her gently on the shoulder. In response, it appeared that her wall of bravery came crashing to the ground. She started shivering violently, and her whole slender frame shook with sobs – true, unmuffled sobs.
"It's okay," he said quietly, "I'm here."
She rolled over, practically flinging herself into his arms, and he held her close as she wept against his shoulder, clinging to him like she never wanted to let go. He felt her small breasts against his chest, her legs half-curled across his thighs, her fingers curling against his back in anguish, frustration, rage. Rage at the Combine. Frustration that she couldn't save her dad. Anguish that he was gone forever.
The worst part of it was that Gordon thought he had some idea why Eli died. He'd known too much, and somebody – either the mysterious G-Man, or else his employers – decided that Eli had to go. There was no way to tell Alyx this, and it wouldn't have comforted her anyway. She'd been a tool of the same entities that had controlled Gordon's own fate. He'd grown fond of her, his fellow freedom-fighter, and while he was sure that she'd initially fallen in love with the legend of The One Free Man (he hated that pun, but there was nothing he could do about it – even the Vortigaunts called him the Free Man), he could also tell that she'd come to love Gordon Freeman, the man.
He closed his eyes as the tide of her anguish eased. She seemed slightly more relaxed now, as though all the tension of the last week and a half had suddenly drained out of her.
"What are we going to do?" she finally asked, after her tears had spent themselves. He imagined that she probably looked as vulnerable as she sounded, all red-eyed and tear-stained.
"I'll tell you what we're going to do," Gordon said, "First, we're going to find Dr. Mossman and find out whose side she's really on. Second, we're going to destroy the Borealis to prevent a repeat of the Black Mesa incident. A third, we're going to set up a memorial to Eli, so no one forgets all his work and sacrifices."
She gave him a brief squeeze, and the two of them lay together in each others arms until they both fell asleep.