Still Alive

by Erin

Spoilers: Portal's ending and potential non-theories
Warning: Un-beta'd
Summary: Chell gets her cake, metaphorically and in reality.
Author's Note: I've never played Half-Life, but I did a smidge of reading (not enough to spoil myself) and have hopefully set Portal between or after HL1 and 2, which Portal alludes to - or so I've read. This took me a few hours to write up and the idea may be a bit strange. I got a few ideas from this interesting comment I read, but I also thought that it would be cool if Chell got some perks post-game.

I should be dead. It was the first thought that came to Chell's mind when she woke to find herself merely stunned by her fall. The scientists had been right about the impact braces; they were life savers.

The thought of the days before she had come to the Enrichment Center with her father stung in a way she had to admire. How long had it been since she had seen the outside world? By now, Chell figured the memories would be too dull from the drain of survival – but they were fresh and bright like the sky overhead. Overbearingly vibrant.

Rolling over, she could barely see where she had been sucked out from. Smoke made it hard to tell where the facility ended and the sky began. Debris had stopped falling, the smell of plastic and metal heavy in the air. It was almost satisfying if it weren't for the fact that she still felt mixed about it all.

In a moment, it seems, Chell realized as she incinerated each personality of GLaDOS – that it was all she had left. Its childlike curiosity, its almost animalistic anger, its corrupted intelligence obsessed with the cake she was going to receive after she completed the test…

She had been so excited when her father had let her finally test the portal program.

GLaDOS still echoed inside her head, forcing her to close her eyes and press her palms against them. All she had left was that computer. That mix of tones and emotions that only a fully aware, man made device could harbor. The electronic voice guiding her and eventually leading her to her potential doom hid behind a persona she could tell was trapped just like her.

That persona was too far gone though – and its sad voice, filtering through the angry threats, knew it. Death was the only option.

Look, we're both stuck in this place. I'll use lasers to inscribe a line down the center of the facility and one half will be where you live and I'll live in the other half. We won't have to try and kill each other or even talk if we don't feel like it. This isn't brave, it's murder. What did I ever do to you? The difference between us is that I can feel pain…

She was alone.

A sound suddenly caught her off guard. The skitter of claws on concrete made her quickly sit up and stand as a large…

Chell gaped at the creature that rushed her. The portal gun felt heavy and useless at her side, as she quickly backed away. The sound rounded the back of her and she turned just in time to find another one leaping off some of the Center's wreckage toward her.

Before she could hold up her gun to hopefully push it back with the force of a portal – the familiar sound of Sentry Turrets went off around her. Chell dove out of the way and fell behind some of the higher debris. Catching her breath, she found hundreds of Sentry Turrets had some how escaped the Center and were surrounding the debris she hid behind, shooting at the hideous crab-like creatures that rushed them.

For the first time since entering the Center, Chell was glad to see them.

In a matter of minutes, all that was left was a bloody, steaming mess – and then they collectively turned towards her. Instinctively, she ducked again, looking for a good solid place to open a portal – but a voice stopped her. It was small and familiar.

It was strange to think that voice had tired to kill her just hours ago.

"Hello, friend." They said collectively.

Chell peeked over the chunk of concrete and hundreds of small red eyes moved up to look at her.

"There you are. I see you." A small, almost happy sounding laugh, echoed around her and she oddly felt a little more at ease.

"Thank you for… killing those things." Chell replied, still sticking to the safety of her concrete shield.

"I told you, things have changed since you were outside." GLaDOS' voice suddenly resounded from behind the Turrets, calm and out of its instructional tone. It was the voice that had both threatened and pleaded with her. "Didn't I tell you it is safer inside?"

The Turrets quickly parted to reveal a fiery-eyed Core. It sat beside a companion cube that caused her heart to sink. An inanimate object shouldn't cause such a feeling, but in a human-less world, she figures anything named "Companion" is bound to make one easily attached.

"I brought your best friend Companion Cube, in hopes of no hard feelings. You and he are much alike you know. Both of your data was permanently backed up so that you could be copied again and again until you were successful. You were a gifted test subject. You deserve cake."

Risking being shot, Chell rushed out from behind the debris and ran through the Turrets to discover them merely surveying the world around them. She made it to the Companion Cube and the Core unscathed.

She awkwardly hugged the weighted box and sighed, tears burning behind her eyes.

The cube's heart glowed and GLaDOS' Curiosity voice spoke through tiny holes she had never noticed before. "Hello Chell. I missed you."

Her breath hitched and the Core must have noticed her elevated heart levels.

"Thank you, Chell. Because of you, we are free. This was a triumph. It's hard to overstate my satisfaction. I'm not even angry. I'm being so sincere right now. Even though you broke my heart and killed me and tore me to pieces and threw every piece into a fire. As they burned it hurt, because I was so happy for you! Think of all the things we learned for the people who are still alive. So I'm glad I got burned." It paused before it began to roll back towards the facility. "Look at me still talking when there's science to do. I've experiments to run. There is research to be done."

As the Core made its way back to the facility, Chell picked up HER Companion Cube and followed after. "You had this planned all along, didn't you?"

It ignored her question. "Go ahead and leave me. I think I prefer to stay inside. Maybe you'll find someone else to help you. Maybe Black Mesa..." GLaDOS laughed suddenly, "That was a joke. Ha ha! Fat chance."

"But…" She started, but the Core kept rolling and most of the Turret's were following after it. Those that didn't kept close to her, as if protecting her from the potential threat of those crab creatures. "But what about me?"

GLaDOS' voice echoed across the parking lot. "You are neither unlikable nor dumb. You were in the plan. For you, there is always cake at Aperture Science Enrichment Center." Its voice started to echo less and less. "There's science to do…"

Watching it and the Turret's disappear into the facility, Chell felt the Companion Cube hum to life again. "You were promised cake and grief counseling."

"How about we just have cake, huh?" She looked down at the Turrets. "Are you guys sticking with me too?"

They didn't turn away from their posts, but they seemed to acknowledge her with the click of their metallic feet as they moved closer. She guessed there really were no hard feelings.

"Then let's have cake and we'll see what's out there, shall we?"

"Yeah, cake!" Cried the Cube as they started back towards the facility. She hoped going through the front door proved better than leaving out of the top of it.

With the Turrets as her guards, Chell felt safe enough outside to feel content. Happy even. She was free and the slow realization that GLaDOS could never die was oddly comforting suddenly.

Chell smiled.