"Dad?" Alyx asked quietly as she stepped into the control room where he was working tirelessly alongside Doctor Kleiner to get the rocket ready for launch.
"Yes, baby? What's up?" He replied cheerfully glancing at her with a smile before turning back to his work.
"I just wanted to know if we have heard anything from the citizens who were relocating out of City 17 before the citadel exploded." She bit her lip nervously she didn't want her dad to think she'd been obsessing over this when in actual fact she only spent two hours a day listening in on radio communiqués for any sign of the citizens and Barney Calhoun. Eli stopped work and faced her, Doctor Kleiner stopped as well as he looked worriedly at Alyx.
"Honey, Barney will be alright we will hear from him soon most definitely." He responded seeing right through her and straight to the heart of the matter. He moved from the console he was working on and placed and arm around her.
"Dad! Its been three weeks already, we should have heard from him by now! Shouldn't we?" Her eyes filled with worry as she clutched at her father's shirt.
"We just have to wait and see honey. Go get some rest." He leant over and placed a kiss on her cheek. Alyx, though not quite satisfied with her fathers answer, walked out of the control room.
"Eli, why didn't you tell her?" Doctor Kleiner asked once Alyx was cleared from the room. Eli hung his head and turned away.
"I don't have to heart to tell her that his train was derailed and there weren't many survivors, Izzy, I just don't. I want her to still have that hope that Barney will return to us and there is a chance! Barney is the most resilient man I know, after Gordon that is."
"Eli, you can't keep it from her, she is an adult she has the right to know. You shouldn't allow her to have false hope either no matter what good intentions you may have."
"I know, I know, it's just hard." Eli turned back to his workstation, "I'll tell her soon." Doctor Kleiner stared at his friend for a while and shook his head sadly before turning back to his own work.
Alyx wondered around the compound listlessly as she struggled to find a way to deal with her worries. In the hangar was where Alyx found just the person she needed right now, she smiled slightly as she watched Gordon work on his HEV suit. It always took her awhile to get used to seeing him without his suit on, he looked so much more human and vulnerable and it made her love him even more.
"Hi Gordon!" she shouted across the hangar her voice falsely cheerful, something that Gordon picked up on right away. He stood up and turned around eyeing her worriedly before holding out his arms to her. Alyx knew that he had seen right through her façade of happiness as he stood there with waiting arms. Her lip trembled as she struggled not to cry, a loud sob escaped her lips as she ran into his arms hugging him tightly.
"Alyx…" he whispered in her ear, she could feel him wince as the pain ripped through his throat and was evident in his voice. Today was not a good day for Gordon. That was something she loved about him, just by saying her name she knew what he was asking of her and just exactly how he was feeling. The connection between the two of them was very strong.
I guess being in battle together does that, she mused as she looked up into his startling green eyes.
"I miss him Gordon," she sobbed as she clutched onto his shirt, "I'm so worried for Barney; he should have contacted us by now! Are you worried Gordon? We need him back, I feel like I've lost a brother." Alyx frowned as she watched Gordon who nodded his head, his eyes glassy. She knew he felt his missing presence more than most; after all they were long time friends.
"He'll be back." Gordon replied simply, a tear running down his face more for the pain of his throat than worry for Barney. Somehow this simple statement calmed her and assured her that perhaps Barney would be alright after all as Gordon only ever worried about something if it was most dire. She knew she could always count on Gordon to make her feel better, to pull her out of the dark side of any situation. For this she loved him with all her heart.
"Thanks Gordon." She whispered in his ear before kissing his cheek. She walked out of the hangar leaving Gordon to return to his work with a small smile on his face.
"It sure feels good to sit down and eat after such a long day!" Eli commented with a cheerful smile as everyone gathered that night for dinner.
"It wouldn't be so long if you worked more efficiently, the same goes for all of you," a tight-lipped Dr. Magnusson informed Eli and the rest that were gathered. Most of which looked at him with disbelief. Everyone in the complex worked themselves to the bone in the race to get the rocket ready. Dinner time was the only time they had to sit down and relax.
"Give everyone a break Dr. Magnusson, they work hard you know it." Alyx chided and she tapped him gently on his arm. "Don't take your stress out on everyone else." Magnusson pursed his lips and went back to eating; not saying anything is response to Alyx nor anything further on the subject. Alyx always seemed to be able to calm everyone down and always knew the right thing to say.
Eli looked over at his daughter contemplatively as she ate,
"I've got to tell her the truth, I can't keep her in the dark like this anymore, and she deserves to know." Eli glanced over at Kleiner who nodded slightly. He knew it was the right thing no matter how much he wanted to protect his little girl he had to tell her and allow her to learn to deal with this in her own way; after all she was an adult.
The mindless chatter did nothing to put Eli's mind at ease as he contemplated how he would tell Alyx all through dinner.
"Are you alright, Eli?" Kleiner whispered to his friend as he watched him eye Alyx sadly.
"Its too hard, Izzy. Just too hard." He replied mournfully, "Why do I have to break her heart, crush her hope like that."
"Eli, you are looking at this quite the wrong way, give your daughter some credit. She is stronger than you think." He placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. Gordon who was sitting on the other side of Eli nodded in response to Kleiner's words. "Yes, the news will hurt her greatly but she will adapt once given the chance to think it over and she will see that Barney still has a chance. He may just come home alive." Kleiner finished emphatically.
"Hey! What are you all moping about?" Alyx spoke up from her place next to Gordon. The three men look at Alyx all with sombre expressions, Alyx's eyes darted between them and her face fell. "What is it? What's happened?" she whispered urgently, "I need to know!"
"Alyx, honey, let's go outside there's something I haven't told you that I need to." Eli stood up and slowly walked outside with Alyx hot on his heels.
"What is it Dad?" Alyx asked curiously once they had made their way outside into the cool night air. "Honey… I have to tell you about Barney…"he began gently
"What about Barney?" Alyx interjected dangerously. "What haven't you told me?"
"We still have the highest hopes that he is still alive, as I have been telling you all along, but shortly after the incident at the citadel, Barney's train derailed and there were casualties…."
Silence fell between them and all that could be heard was the distant roar of a hunter before Alyx burst into tears.
"Why didn't you tell me, Dad!?" she managed between her sobs, "I have been feeling as though I'm worrying for nothing what with what you have been saying to me."
"I only meant to protect you, baby." Eli responded sadly as he reached out and held her hand, "I guess it didn't work as well as I wanted to. Izzy and Gordon convinced me to tell you because you're an adult and you deserve to know the truth, I can't hide it from you forever."
Alyx stared at her father, eyes rimmed with tears.
"Thanks for telling me, Dad," she whispered, it was all she could do to contain her grief, "I'm not mad at you, I should be, but I'm not. I understand what you did and how you were trying to protect me."
"Alyx - " he began before she held up hand to stop him talking.
"I need to be left alone now." She walked away from Eli struggling to hold back the tears, she started to walk faster and faster and she turned the corner down the hallway to her room. Still in the dining area, Gordon had seen Alyx rush from back inside and down the hallway; he knew Eli told her about Barney and his heart ached for her he got up and rushed after her. He knew it wouldn't do for her to be alone right now.
Gordon could hear sobs echoing off the walls as he approached Alyx's door. He knocked on it gently.
"Alyx." He whispered before his voice gave out on him, tears of frustration pricked at his eyes at the ironic timing his throat had.
"Come in, Gordon." She responded between sobs. He opened the door and his face fell as he saw Alyx draped across her bed sobbing into her pillow. Gordon sat down on the bed next to her and placed his hand on her back.
"Oh I know he didn't mean to hurt me." Alyx sobbed correctly reading Gordon's thoughts, "I know Dad means well but it's q-quite a shock you know?" she sat up, roughly wiping the tears from her eyes.
Gordon nodded, aptly hiding his annoyance at his inability to speak right now. Alyx reached out and grasped his hand. "I miss him Gordon, I feel as through apart of me is missing. Barney is the closest thing I have to an uncle, a brother even!. I just need to know he is safe." She sighed miserably as she leaned closer towards him, resting her head on his chest; Gordon brought his arms around her and held her closer.
"Gordon?" she whispered as she looked up at him. "Do you mind if I could be alone for while, I don't want to keep you any more than I have to. You've done enough for me already. I love you." Gordon looked hesitant but then nodded, he dipped his head and placed a light kiss on her forehead, his eyes expressing what his voice could not. She knew he loved her with all his heart.
She watched as he slowly made his way out of her room, closing the door behind him. Alyx sighed as she lay spread eagled on her bed. She dragged a hand across her face as she wiped away the remnants of her tears. She thought back to when she was younger and all her memories with Barney as she grew up.
"Okay kid, come with me!" Barney whispered excitedly to Alyx as they sat around the dinner table. She almost squealed with delight, Barney had been promising her for weeks now to teach her how to fight and how to defend herself should she need to. The two excitedly escaped from the table much to the amusement of Eli and Isaac.
Barney and Alyx stood outside the compound, the cool evening wind blowing through their hair.
"Alyx one thing you always have to remember when faced with hand to hand combat is don't just focus on your opponent." Alyx opened her mouth to object, confusion apparent in her eyes.
"I know I know it doesn't seem to make sense." Barney interjected holding his hand up before Alyx spoke up. "The more you seem unfocused the greater the advantage you will have, basically you will be prepared for an ambush and when your opponent thinks they got you – BAM!" Barney gestured with the heel of his hand thrust outward, "They are on the floor with a temporary block of oxygen to the brain – enough for you little girl to get away and come get me or your father to help you, should anyone try to hurt you." Barney held his arms out and Alyx ran into them, hugging him tightly as he continued to talk, "Combine on the other hand will require you having some weapons training, th-"
"Weapons?!" Alyx interrupted, " I want to shoot the Combine! They deserve to die! They killed my Mum!" her eyes started to tear up as she looked at Barney, "Will you help me, Barney?"
Barney looked at Alyx with sympathy, he understood her pain for he wasn't without loss in his life, noone was these days. Barney took his gun out of his holster and emptied the clip, placing it securely in his pocket. A wicked grin spread across his face. "Not if you don't catch me first!" With that he took off with a run across the field as Alyx shrieked and ran after him, laughing hysterically.
Eli and Isaac watched from the lab window upstairs as Barney and Alyx chased each other around the field as the sun slowly set.
"I'm glad we have Barney," Eli commented gratefully, "I'm glad Alyx has Barney." Isaac nodded as he patted his friends shoulder
Alyx smiled, although still tearful as she rolled over onto her side, more fond memories floating through her mind
Alyx stared out at the stormy skies that were gathering in the east, she had been seated on the same hard cold stone for hours. The uncomfortable feeling shooting through her back and legs was a timely reminder of the pain she felt over loosing her dog, Jude. Alyx and Jude had been through everything together; they escaped Black Mesa together and the journeys with her father until they set up camps and eventually the base. Alyx and Jude were a team, he kept her warm during cold lonely nights and kept her company gave her someone to talk to when her father was too busy to stop to sit down with his daughter.
She knew the main reason she sat here unmovable was the fact guilt ate her up inside like something terrible, she knew that from the moment Barney had come to join them that she had spent more and more of her time with him as the company of a dog was nothing to that of another human who could speak and converse with her. Until Jude passed away of old age she never knew how much apart of her life he still was even after Barney had arrived and had taken up all her time. It was going to be hard to fill that hole in her heart which was being ripped open wider with her guilt.
"Hey Alyx!" Barney called out across the side yard where she sat, "I've been looking for you everywhere." He added as he ran across the yard to where she sat, joining her on the rock.
Without saying anything, Barney knew her pain and what she was feeling.
"Hey kid, its ok, its not your fault he is no longer here." He placed his arms tightly around her, allowing her to hug him back, "Jude would have known that you can't spend every moment with him, he had other people to go to for attention and he always stayed with you every night did he not?"
"Yes." Alyx mumbled softly as she realised that Barney was right. "I know, Barney, I know. I suppose the main thing is, I'm only 15 and I always loose everyone, everyone important to me just keep dying." She hung her head, her long hair hiding her tears. Barney jumped up off the rock and stood before her, shock in his eyes and fear for the mind and even perhaps soul of the young girl in front of him.
"Now listen here, Alyx," he began his voice stern, " You have not lost everyone who loves you and who you love. Are you saying you do not love your father? Or Dr. Kleiner? Even me? Aren't I your pal? We do everything together right? I know you love me and I'm not dead now am I?" Alyx looked up at Barney with a smile, in her guilt ridden state she didn't stop to think about the people she did have here.
"Thank you Barney! I love you, you're my best friend!" he wrapped her arms around him tightly. Barney smiled softly as he wrapped his arms around her, he was glad he could protect her and be there for her when she needed it.
Alyx work up the next morning with a smile on her face as she saw Barney asleep in the chair across her room. He promised her he would stay with her until she fell asleep and he ended up staying the night. She jumped out of bed and threw her pillow at him.
"Come on Barney! You call yourself a security guard." She teased, dashing out of the room. Barney laughed as he ran after her catching her and picking her up. He was startled to see tears in her eyes.
"I have to say goodbye to Jude today. How will he know that I am always with him, Barney? Is there a way to be sure?" She sighed as he set her down. She ran her hands through her hair, triggering memories of when Jude used to wake her up by snuffling her hair, he always loved the smell of the plant extract she used in her shampoo. It gave her an idea. She suddenly broke away and ran down the hall towards the wash room. "I'll see you at the funeral!" Barney shook his head and walked off smiling, glad that she was happy again.
A small crowd gathered around a deep hole in the ground nearing the end of the small ceremony that Eli had prepared for his daughter's beloved pet.
"Here lies, Jude Vance, Rest in peace." As Barney made to start shovelling the dirt down into the hole, Alyx stepped forward.
"Wait! I need to give Jude something." She pulled a little bag from her pocket and dropped it in on top of Jude's body.
"What is that sweetie?" Eli asked with an arm around his daughter.
"My hair." She replied simply as she threw back the hood she was wearing to reveal a short crop cut held back out of her face with a headband. Everyone smiled and hugged Alyx as Barney continued to toss dirt into the grave.
Alyx smiled as she kicked back the covers and nestled beneath them, it had been a long day for her and sleep was calling her softly like a sweet lullaby. She closed her eyes her thoughts of the loved ones in her life as she drifted off to sleep.
An hour later Gordon slowly opened the door to check on Alyx and as he suspected she had fallen asleep. She's had alot on her plate for someone so young, he mused sadly. He walked closer to her bed and his heart warmed when he saw the smile on her face, if life wasn't treating Alyx the best at the moment it was safe to say her dreams were. Gordon leaned down and placed a soft kiss on her cheek before sitting down in the chair near her bed; he would watch over her tonight.
The bright sun shining through the gap in her curtains woke Alyx up the next morning. She felt incredibly rested; better than she had felt in a long time. She looked over to her right as she made to get out of bed and started at the sight of Gordon fast asleep on the chair next to her bed. Her heart melted as she watched him, she knew she loved him more than the world itself. He might not have much to say but his actions showed more than words ever could.
She slipped out of bed and over to where Gordon sat asleep and settled herself on his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck and resting her head on her arms, closing her eyes. Gordon opened his eyes as soon as Alyx had closed hers, a grin spread across his face as he watched her.
"I know you are watching me, Gordon." She spoke up without opening her eyes. Gordon stood up swooping her up with him, causing her to shriek.
"I love you, Alyx." He whispered, the usual flicker of pain evident in his eyes.. She smiled happily as she looked down at him from her position in his arms. He set her down just as the door to her room flew open.
"I'm sorry for interrupting, Miss Vance but you need to come quick!" said one of the rebels who had opened the door the others with him gestured to her quickly as they all ran away. Alyx and Gordon shared a curious glance as they too bolted after the group all chattering excitedly.
"My Anthony is back!" one woman cried as they ran faster, " I though I'd never see him again." A few people around her patted her on the back happily.
"They're all back!" someone else responded. Alyx was instantly happy for the woman as she remembered how many nights she spent crying after Barney and his party ddint return home. She stopped in her tracks as she thought over the words in her mind… Barney and his party…
"Oh god, please!" she whispered as found she couldn't move. Gordon stopped next to her, gripping her arm tightly as, he too was apprehensive. She still couldn't move even with everyone rushing around her excited to see their loved ones returned. Gordon finally tugged on her arm forcing her to walk out, she kept her eyes shut, scared that if she were to open them she would see that he was not there.
"Where is my girl, Alyx? Not excited to see your old Uncle Barney? Thought I'd gone and died on you, Shameful indeed!" A happy voice boomed out across the clearing where everyone was gathered. Gordon dropped Alyx's arm and ran forward towards Barney, stopping right in front of him holding his arm out. Barney took one look at him and threw his arms around Gordon in a brotherly hug.
"I sure have missed you pal," he whispered emotionally, tears pooling in his startling clear blue eyes, "Glad to see you escaped without major injury Gordon." He added sincerely. All Gordon could do was nod, his throat constricted even more than usual. "Is Alyx around? He whispered anxiously, " I'm dying to see her."
"And she's dying to see you." Eli interjected as he walked up to the two men, "She's been a mess since I told her you were in a train accident and we didn't know where you were." He clapped Barney's shoulder sombrely, "She's standing around the corner there frozen with fright I believe." He added with a smile. Barney nodded his thanks at Eli and patted Gordon's shoulder as he walked past him towards where Alyx hid.
Don't kid yourself! That's not his voice you hear!" Alyx chastised herself, her eyes still shut, refusing to open her eyes and confirm or deny her hopes. She felt someone walk up next to her and place their hand on her shoulder.
"Alyx," the deep timbre of his voice. "I'm here now." Shock reverberated through her as she recognised the voice which spoke to her, she cautiously opened her eyes to see a man standing before her, as her eyes adjusted back to normal she noticed the age old combine suit, the stubble which seemed to be forever at a three day growth and last she saw his blue eyes which shone with happiness.
"Barney?" She called out cautiously, "Is that really you?"
"Yes, kid, it is!" He grinned, a smile which spread to Alyx's face as she launched herself at him, hugging him tightly.
"I missed you so much! I'm so happy to see you, I -I!" she cried, unable to finish her sentence as her emotions overpowered her. Barney smiled in return as he hugged her back just as fiercely; tears in his eyes as he held her close, she was always somewhat of a daughter to him as he had always resigned himself to the fact that he was never going to have any of his own, being a combine spy hadn't allowed him the time to work intimate relationships not that under the combine could he ever have had any children. Relief ran rapid through him as he stood there surrounded by all the people he loved and cared for. Finally it all seemed as though it was worth it. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his best friend Gordon, eyes shining with tears and grinning wildly at him, he grinned back, wrapping his arms tighter around Alyx. He was home.