Disclaimer: I don't own F.E.A.R.
Summary: Harlan and Alma in different stages.
"She's so beautiful," his wife cooed over the small bundle in her arms, protectively wrapped in a white terry cloth. Harlan stood by her bed side and offers a thin weary smile, his eyes catching sight of his newborn daughter slumbering so quietly. Harlan had not the chance to truly look at her, seeing as he arrived after the birthing procedure was over. He didn't respond to it, seeing no point in engaging discussion about something he has yet to witness for himself. If there was one thing Harlan learned as a scientist, it was to keep his mouth shut until he had the evidence he needed to prove it. And Harlan is new to this whole father situation, so there was nothing to offer at this point.
His wife glanced at him, finally tearing her eyes away from the baby. She seemed hesitant to even acknowledge his presence there, but he couldn't blame her. For the past year, they've been trying for a child, and now that they have one it didn't seem to change anything. All it did was bring to light that they were both inexperienced and out of their league. The mistake of an early marriage, as his mother would bitterly tell him.
"She doesn't have a name yet," she murmured to him with an expectant look.
Harlan, tired of standing, sat on the side of her bed, feeling his weight sink into the fine cushion. He was careful not to touch her or brush against her, she still looked unwell judging by the black circles under her eyes.
"You should name her then," he nodded to the girl, still so remarkably peaceful. It was a nice change from most of the infants he'd seen, all tears and snot.
"I want you to do it," she said so quickly, beginning to hand him the child. "She's your daughter too."
He was unsure of how to grab his daughter, until his wife positioned his arms the correct way. She smiled warmly at them, as if relishing the sight. Harlan felt the softness of the baby cloth on his hands, and finally looked at his daughter. She had delicate little arms and tiny fingers, he can see little tufts of black hair peeking from her cloth-covered head. The baby was still asleep.
"I…" he felt nothing but awkward, he'd never really held a baby before - much less name one. "Well, I'm not too sure. I guess…Alma, for my grandmother."
He smiled at that. His grandmother had been a strong woman, practically the only person in his family that he'd been fond of until her passing. Alma meant Young Girl in Hebrew, something he'd learned from her when he was a child himself. The baby stirred in his arms and opened her eyes. His young girl, indeed.
"Alma," his wife spoke in approval. "That's nice. I like it."
Fatherhood was not something he'd been prepared for, despite planning for a pregnancy, and while there may still be a few doubts and uneasiness lingering in the pit of his stomach, he found that he didn't mind it much when Alma (young, happy Alma) reached for his nose with her little fingers.
Alma Wade was a problematic child.
Every night, she'd scream and cry and throw fits until Harlan grew red in the face and quieted her down with a stern shouting. Alma would cower from him in terror, huddled in her bed, her tiny fingers clenched to her blanket. Almost immediately, Harlan would feel empty and exhausted; if he did not shout, Alma would not stop or calm down. His wife had often remarked on his temper, but what could she do? She could not calm Alma with her coddling and lullabies.
"I'm sorry, daddy," she would sniffle after another episode, head held low while sobbing onto his shoulder. "I have bad dreams. Very bad dreams."
He frowned. "What sort of bad dreams?"
It was not uncommon for night terrors to occur in children, but it was a sign of a sleeping disorder and he wondered if his daughter was afflicted with it. But then, Alma had often thrown fits for no reason - even if she wasn't asleep, it seemed that every time he and his wife argued, Alma would be lost to them in a panic attack. He was starting to debate bringing her in to a psychologist for an evaluation.
"Monsters. Blood. Daddy, they hurt me in my dreams but I didn't do anything," her voice was so little and torn in that moment, clutching at him with her hands and looking to him for an answer.
Harlan paled, feeling his throat tighten in anxiety. He gently rubbed her back and stayed with her until she fell asleep again, her slow steady rhythmic breathing the only sign of rest at last. When he'd finally finished his routine for the night, he climbed into bed and closed his eyes. He saw Alma's distress, felt the sorrow beneath her words, a burden that preceded one so young - but tomorrow that would not be, because Alma was still a child and children always dreamt of monsters. Never has there been a more bold-faced lie that Harlan Wade told himself, he wondered if that was why Alma had always thrown fits; a simple calculation to draw attention? No matter, Harlan was never a man of sentiment. That, he knew, was the truth.
One morning, he went to his office, head resting on his left hand and glasses askew, as he tried rubbing the fatigue away. These moments were not rare for Harlan Wade, too often he'd be found in this position, barely available for a quick chat - ruminating over fights with his wife or Alma's out of control behaviour. It happened to be Marshall Disler that found him in this state, poking his head inside the door with a low audible knock.
"Long night, Dr. Wade?" Disler remained by the doorway, tilting his head at the scene.
Harlan immediately straightened and nodded at Disler. "Like you wouldn't believe."
The man hadn't immediately launched into a formal discussion on the status of Origin, and he sighed as he put his glasses back on. Harlan had this idea a few months after a bloody and demoralizing defeat at the hands of the Viet Cong; something that would change the layout of military command for good. Unfortunately, Origin was put on 'reserve' until he could come up with new evidence to aid in research due to the lack of substantial literature on the properties of telepathy. Armacham was not one to invest in fruitless endeavours, a lesson learnt from Icarus. Projects were time and money; and anything that took more time and more money was never a possibility. Usually, Armacham was frank with this, and they might not have been this time because there was merit in his idea. He never put out an idea he could not prove, that much they knew.
However, it had been years and Harlan still had not found enough sound evidence, his papers rejected by the Board of Directors, citing "insufficient data" or "low reliability". Just one more fuck-up to add to his life.
Disler, remarkably, had been a vocal supporter of Origin. But what the man wanted now was a mystery, especially if it wasn't about the project.
"Your wife again?" Disler stepped inside his office, settling into one of the chairs. Harlan took a quick glance of him. Disler was a slender thirty-year-old with brown eyes and a receding hairline. He was also a father of two and one of Harlan's confidants, well, he might as well be since the man was the only one that believed in the viability of Origin anyway.
"No," Harlan shook his head, and with much hesitation, launched into an immediate diatribe. Was it exhaustion or loneliness? Perhaps both. His wife refused to see a problem, but it was always there whenever Alma talked to thin air. 'Imaginary friends', she said, 'just a phase that some kids go through. You know that'. But Harlan knew it was more than that, and while it was a normal for children her age, it didn't make it right when Alma would huddle in the corner of fright or have sudden temper tantrums that resulted in long nights of punishment.
"Alma may be showing latent psionic abilities. These manifestations probably result from energy that she can pick up, which seems to be all kinds of unhealthy from what I'm hearing - no offense. That might explain the tantrums and the crying." Disler leaned back into the chair, a pleased look on his face. There was something oddly dreadful about hearing it.
"So what do you suggest?" Harlan couldn't believe he was even listening to this. Yet deep down, he knew the explanation might not be so far fetched. Alma had always been different, and sometimes the things she says...
"All I'm asking is…bring her in for a couple of tests. We'll see what kinds of things she can do, write up a full report and maybe use these results to finally kickstart Origin." Marshall slowly stood up, signalling a near end of the conversation.
Harlan sat back, stunned. "You want me to experiment on my own daughter."
"Do you want to find an answer or not?" Disler asked.
Harlan gripped the edge of his desk and turned to his computer desktop. "Uh, I've got a lot of work to do. I'll see you later."
"Of course," The smile was forced, but pleasant, because he knew that Harlan had made his decision the moment he exited his office.
Harlan still reeled from the suggestion but two days later, there had been a incident with a neighbour who was babysitting Alma, a fire had been started but the cause was unknown. The next day, he brought her to a facility in the Auburn District and began tests. The hypothesis was that Alma Wade was an incredibly sensitive psionic that could prove beneficial for Origin. If Disler's theory was true, Alma could change the world. That's what he told his wife after the fire, but he had not mentioned the other part: she knew of no project or research, but any help that came for Alma would be welcomed and a psychological examination was a very large component of testing procedures. Of course it would help.
Despite his wife's protests, Harlan knew that Alma needed to be far away from the house before she caused more trouble. These were only just tests and she would be back home. Harlan was more scientist than not though, so when the test results came out above average, he knew what it was that Armacham would do and what he would have to do.
It was a mistake, the first of many, but Harlan Wade was still young and ambitious. He had things he needed to fulfill and Armacham held a very large piece of him, more than family even. So he was without a choice, really. It was one thing that he told himself, and that he knew to be the truth.
"Will you come back, daddy?" she asked him that final time, hand unwilling to part from his own. Harlan let go and bid her a good night, tucking her into the spare bed at the facility before turning off all the lights. He had not answered because he couldn't; he was not her father, at the very least, not for a while. Armacham could have her for a moment, but only because she was needed.
"No! Where are you taking him?"
He heard the continued struggles between Alma and the nurses, a cacophony of murderous noises from the other end and the cry of birth that came from the infant nestled in his arms. Briefly, he looked up at what he could not ignore, much as he tried.
"Please, dad - Harlan! Please, Harlan! Don't! Give him back! Give him back!" More screams bubbled from her throat, before she eventually slowed in her struggling and fell to the bed. One of the nurses had finally managed to sedate her, and one of the researchers (Habbeger) looked at him for the next set of instructions.
"Take her back to the Vault," before she woke up and begged him again, he meant to add but found that he couldn't. For now, he focused on the little child and the promise of great things. Very soon, they wouldn't need Alma for the project anymore.
"You will be a god among men," he told the boy in pride, but had soon come to regret it after the first round of tests. The failure of Prototype One was unanticipated, and the Board had pushed for new measures.
It's the same thing when he takes away her second son, and the point at which her rage had reached its peak. Two more mistakes that he'd made, but maybe he'd known that from the beginning. Harlan understood sacrifice more than anything, so when he handed the second Prototype to Habbeger, he sealed her away himself.
"I'll do it," he told them, and they all looked at him with incredulity, the air now perforated with their disbelief. Nobody had wanted to step up after the disaster that the young Paxton Fettel put the project into, so of course the burden (and blame) had fallen to Harlan Wade.
"That's your daughter," one of them had the audacity to remark, as if he didn't know what exactly he was doing. He'd known what he created the moment the Replicas had come close to slaughtering everybody in the Perseus facility.
This time, when he acted, it would not be in the vested interest of Armacham or a burning curiosity for knowledge untouched. He'd do it for Alice, because he'd done everything he could not to repeat his past mistakes. Maybe for the memory of his late wife as well.
It came down to one final decision, and he found that he was, again, without a choice: "I know."
There was relief unlike anything that he'd ever felt when he reached the Vault. The regret that came for him at last took him to the place where he left her all those years ago. Harlan Wade was no longer young or ambitious; everything that he'd ever been came to a halt the moment he reached her. He'd been counting down the number of his mistakes since everything had began. Was this mistake number four or five? There are many more he's yet to add to the list.
It's the first that he's done anything for her, he noted. This time, it would be his choice (as it had always been his choice), a truth - and this is the only truth - that would set her free. Harlan understood, for the first time, what it was like to sacrifice; he could feel it sink into his body when the flesh melted from his bones.