A/N: Hey guys, MoHo here! Had a great idea yesterday morning (was this supposed to be out last night? Whoops, hehe), and this is how it played out: another fanfic! I know, I know, those of you who follow 'Wheatley's Second Chance' probably want to beat me senseless, but I promise I'll rotate which story I'm working on. I promise. WSC won't fall by the wayside. That being said, enjoy the first chapter of 'In Our Darkest Hour,' a human!Wheatley fanfic. Also: It's an AU, so don't hit me if there are a few inconsistencies.
It was clear to Wheatley that he was fighting a losing battle as he tried not to squirm in the cold, uncomfortable chair. An exasperated sigh sounded from beside him, and his blue eyes guiltily met those of the nurse who was mending his hand.
"For the last time, hold still." she said irritatedly. "Unless you want a bunch of crooked stitches in your hand." the nurse scolded before returning her focus to the deep wound on his hand. Wheatley looked away again, glasses sliding down his nose. He started to reach up to fix them, when the nurse froze him with a stern glare, like a deer in the headlights. He let his hand drop.
"It's not my fault. This chair is bloody uncomfortable." he replied defensively. A sharp pain jolted up his arm. "Ow! And it's not like you're the most gentle nurse on the staff..." Wheatley added crossly.
"Don't mind him, ma'am. He's just in a mood because his precious project turned on him." a dark haired man commented from the doorway: Kirk, Wheatley's closest friend and a botanist. The nurse looked at Wheatley with eyebrows raised.
"Oh my. Were you working on the mantis men?" she asked solemnly. Wheatley blushed as Kirk snickered at her question.
"Ah, no no, Kirk's only having a lark." the British man corrected. "I'm an engineer, actually. The project he's talking about is a computer. It didn't turn on me, per se, I, er, tripped over an extension cord and put my hand through the window..." he trailed off in embarrassment. Kirk wasn't bothering to hide his fits of laughter, but Wheatley wasn't mad. Not much set off the cheerful man.
Seven stitches later, the two men were walking to the Aperture Labs break room.
"So, your left hand, huh? Bad luck. I guess you'll have to make do with righty. Although," Kirk grinned up at Wheatley as he held the door open for a couple of secretaries filing out of the room, "you do enough damage with four working limbs, I'd hate to see you work with three." Wheatley, now seated at a table, shook his head, fidgeting with the bandages wound around his hand.
"No way. I'm getting these off. I need my hand." he said a little whimperingly, tugging at the dressings. "Blimey, that nurse must've been in the Navy or something. Lookit this knot!" he growled. Wheatley jumped as a hand grabbed his shoulder.
"Honestly, Wheatley, you don't want it to get any worse, do you?" a svelte voice questioned. He looked behind him and up to see Angie, one of the many interns working in his department. Wheatley smiled at her.
"Ahh, don't worry about me, Angie. You should see the other guy. Er, window." he grinned as Angie laughed before giving his shoulder a squeeze. Kirk resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Everyday the young intern shamelessly flirted with Wheatley, who wouldn't notice her advances if she gave him a lap dance.
"Be more careful, okay?" she said, giving him a wink and slipping out the door. Wheatley smiled obliviously and continued his (losing) battle with the bandages. Kirk shook his head, taking a sip of his coffee and leaning against the small counter before examining his friend.
Wheatley was as laughably clueless when it came to the social realm as he was clumsy. Sure, he was likeable, and friendly, but always seemed more at ease with his codes and programs than with any person. And romantically, he was a complete moron (not that Kirk would ever say it to his face...Wheatley was a little sensitive about insults to his intelligence...). It definitely wasn't that he was unattractive. Wheatley was tall, with a fairly handsome face and thick, messy (most likely because he rarely brushed it, not due to any effort on his part...) rusty brown hair. All the girls in the office fawned over his thick British accent and 'adorable' clumsy tendencies. His supervisors didn't seem to think his frequent accidents were so endearing, but he was a brilliant engineer, so that made up for it.
"Hey, Kirk, mate, do you have a knife?" Wheatley asked, looking up from his struggle.
"Yes, but I'm certainly not letting you borrow it." Kirk replied with a grin. Wheatley frowned and went at the bandages with his teeth. "Hey! Do I need to get you one of those head cones, like a dog?" he asked. Wheatley looked up with blue eyes wide, unsure if he was kidding or not. Kirk grinned and, deciding to throw him a bone (har, har!), drew out his pocket knife, carefully slicing off the dressings. "There. Now, are you fit for work? Because I didn't just come down here to coddle your boo-boo." he said sarcastically. Wheatley grimaced at his stitches for a moment before replying.
"Do you see this? They literally just sewed the skin flaps together. That's disgusting." he remarked, glancing back up at Kirk. "Oh, yes. What else did you come here for?" Wheatley asked, a little delayed. Kirk rolled his eyes.
"Because, you've been reassigned." he said. Wheatley's eyes went wide and he promptly collapsed face-first on the table.
"Great. Is it because I broke the window? I specifically fell toward the window so I wouldn't break the equipment! That has to be some kind of hate crime, right? Like, a crime against the clumsy? Oh, no...did they make me a custodian, is that it?" Wheatley asked in anguish, meeting Kirk's gaze. The other man was chuckling lightly. "What? What's funny?"
"Idiot. They put you on the A.I. Team." he said with a grin. Wheatley's jaw dropped open and he stared at Kirk for a moment, stunned into silence. A true achievement, when it came to Wheatley.
"You're joking, right?" he finally asked. Kirk shook his head, prompting a wild grin from Wheatley. The redhead jumped out of his chair, banging his knee in the process but too happy to recognize the pain, and happily embraced his shorter friend. "Ahhh, that's brilliant! I can't believe it! Do you even know how huge this project is?" he exclaimed. Kirk took Wheatley by the shoulders and pushed him off, smiling.
"Yeah, I know, but if you want to keep your new job, you better get down to the AI lab. Fast." he suggested. Aperture dropped their employees at the drop of a hat. Wheatley nodded before dashing off and out the door. Kirk waited a moment before Wheatley dashed back by again.
"It's this way." he sheepishly muttered as he passed the door. Kirk shook his head and laughed.
Wheatley checked the time. Two a.m...no, wait. His watch had stopped. The redhead let out a groan and let his head hit the desk.
"It's not easy work, is it?" chimed a voice behind him. Wheatley recognized the voice as Kirk's, and spun around in his chair. The physical change in Wheatley was startling: in the fifteen months he'd been working for the small AI department, he'd lost copious amounts of weight and gained a sickly pallor, as well as dark circles under his eyes, all symptoms of the long hours he worked.
What impressed Kirk, though, was that his cheery demeanor hadn't been tarnished in the least.
"Good evening, mate. Or, good morning." the British man said, smiling warmly. "Not really sure anymore..." he admitted, rubbing his eyes, the glare of the fluorescent lights only serving to make him more tired, somehow. Kirk held up a mug of coffee, which Wheatley regarded like a starving man regarded a hot meal. He graciously accepted the cup and took a long sip. The two friends sat in silence, Wheatley just enjoying the company and Kirk frowning over his friends less than stellar appearance. Unsurprisingly, Wheatley spoke up first, after finishing his coffee in what had to be record time. "So, ehh, this is my workspace. Not an office, not really. Just a workspace." he said. Kirk examined the small room. It was packed with computer screens, all filled with nonsense code. There were sticky notes plastered across every inch of the room that wasn't a computer monitor.
"You've been busy, haven't you Wheat?" he asked. Wheatley nodded.
"It's completely worth it, though. You have no idea the kind of stuff we've been working on!" he exclaimed excitedly.
"Like brain scanning?" Kirk interrupted. Wheatley looked down, suddenly very interested in the bottom of his mug.
"I-I'm actually not working on that one..." he said quietly. "The GLaDOS Project-" Wheatley began, trailing off without finishing the thought. There were some aspects of Artificial intelligence that he thought crossed the line. Inputting real personalities into computers...was at the very least a grey area.
"GLaDOS Project?" Kirk repeated. "They've named it?" Wheatley nodded, looking uncomfortable.
"Yeah. Have you gone to see...?" he responded. Kirk shook his head. "They've got quite an amazing rig for her, the robotics fellas..."
"Her?" Kirk repeated, startled.
"Well, considering that her mind is based off of that woman, Caroline's, they've been referring to it as a 'she.'" Wheatley explained. Kirk was clearly disturbed, it was written all over his face. "They can't get it working properly, though. Every time they switch GLaDOS on, it only takes like twelve picoseconds before it tries to kill everyone." he confessed. "I-I don't know, Kirk. What they're doing gives me chills..." he admitted. Kirk sighed.
"I understand that. But, uh, don't let the higher-ups catch you saying that. You'll be out the door...or worse." he said solemnly. Aperture was famous for not handling unruly employees with grace. Some were killed in barely disguised 'accidents', and the most unlucky ones ended up as test subjects.
"Yeah, well, that could very well happen. I'm not known for being stoic or anything." Wheatley replied with a grin. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a chatty cathy." he joked. Kirk shook his head, chuckling. He truly was worried for Wheatley's safety, though. For Wheatley, that was the point where everything began to get...fuzzy...
Wheatley sat straight up in bed, a decision which he immediately regretted due to the several audible cracks that came from the general vicinity of his spine. He groaned loudly as he wracked his throbbing head for the answer as to how he ended up in a shoddy looking hotel room? Reflexively he groped for his glasses, knocking over a lamp in the process.
"You have been in stasis for-" a voice blared, and Wheatley yelped loudly in reaction, having thought he triggered some kind of lamp-break alarm, covering up the first half of the number. The second half was enough of a shock to Wheatley, just a series of repeated 'nine's. He put on his glasses and swiped a hand over his chin, feeling a thick scruff on his face as he tried to grasp on some kind of explanation as to how he got here. Working for Aperture meant that nothing really ever came as a surprise (waking up with a bionic appendage wasn't uncommon), but being in stasis for- Wheatley attempted some quick calculations, then promptly gave up on said calculations as they made his brain hurt- a very long time was still pretty shocking.
Wheatley crossed the room to look out the window-or at least, he tried. Before he could reach the window, however, a piece of the floor gave way under his foot, almost sending him plunging through the floor. After letting out a scream and withdrawing to the bed once more, he dared to poke his head in the hole. And what he saw was quite unsettling. The stasis chambers sprawling around him were in various states of disrepair, and large vines were growing up some of the walls.
"Maybe I have been in stasis for as long as it said..." he murmured, his voice raspy from disuse. Wheatley cleared his throat. The evidence was adding up. But if that was true...that meant that everyone who wasn't in stasis was he'd ever known. Wheatley knew he should have been more devastated by that, but somehow the shock of loss was dulled by the fact that they had probably been dead for years. He picked himself up and dusted off, ever-so-carefully picking his way across the room to the door, testing each step before putting his weight down. By some miracle he made it out the door, into a strange hallway that looked like it connected him to the other pods in this row.
"Hello?" Wheatley called tentatively. "Anyone...around? Helloooo?" he shivered as his voice echoed back to him. Nervously he searched for some clue as to what was going. After a few minutes of thorough searching he stumbled upon a computer console. He grinned. Easy. Wheatley typed as rapidly as he could, disappointed to find the joints of his fingers stiff and uncooperative, which slowed him quite a bit. Eventually he accessed the Stasis Chamber Management Screen. According to the report, the bot in charge of the test subjects in stasis had been unexpectedly decommissioned. Further investigation revealed that most of the subjects were now dead. Wheatley felt a chill pass through him. He had narrowly escaped that fate.
"Now...did anyone else make it out alive?" he questioned. He knew he would go mad if he were the only person left in the facility...as far as he knew, the only person left in the world. Wheatley tapped madly at the keyboard. A few names popped up, but one in particular caught his eye. 'Chell [REDACTED]' the file said. Odd. Why would her last name be redacted? He wondered. He selected her file, and, what luck! Her chamber was just down the hall. Wheatley set the pod to wake her and hurried down to find the right door. It only took him a whole two minutes to figure out he had gone the wrong way and hastily changed directions...
A/N: So there it is! I promise, Wheatley's memories will fill themselves in as the story progresses. Aaaanywho, let me know what you think!