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.