-Exile-

A Series of Portal 2 One-Shots By Digitaldreamer

I. It Takes Your Mind Again

Hullo all, it's good to be back.

Right, so I was listening to Exile Vilify- which for the record is an absolutely lovely song -and was considering the way it potentially connects to the game. When I consider the lyrics and the characters, as well as the atmosphere of the song, I think it connects a lot to... well, all of it, obviously. Thus I had an idea for a series of fics based around the song- character studies, things that study the events of the game, you get the idea. Don't worry, it's not a songfic, please have more faith than that. There will be "chapters" about every character, so don't worry Wheatley and GLaDOS fans, they're coming.

Anyway, I suppose the best way to show you all what I mean is to let the work speak for itself. The first of these is about Doug Rattmann. You find the song in one of his dens, after all, and I can't help but feel that having a fic based around said song without writing about him would be doing him a disservice. Besides, he was an awesome guy, and he deserves to have more written about him.

Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own Portal or any of the characters, I'm just playing around.


It had been a long time.

He wasn't sure how long it had been, but he knew it had been long. He'd started off counting down the days when She'd first taken over the facility, scribbling tick marks on the walls with broken pieces of homemade charcoal and using the last calendar as some sort of guide. He'd lost track somewhere between the first loss of his cube friend and that awful, crushing grief that came with it, however. He'd gotten the cube back, sure, but he was aware that when he'd come back from that he hadn't really come back.

There was no way to go back, not really.

That was the impression he was starting to get as he lay nestled behind the walls, curled up on his latest makeshift bed of cardboard, trapped in his own personal prison. Trapped with nothing but his thoughts and the whispers in the back of his mind for company, with no knowledge of what it was like on the surface or even about the going-ons of the place he was trapped in. Was there anyone left besides him? Were there still trees outside, was there sun? Was the world going on without them, unaware of his potential grave set just below the sleeping earth, or had it all been wiped away by whatever had happened outside? He had no way of knowing and he was starting to doubt he would ever know.

Perhaps there was no going back.

"You mustn't think that way," The words in the back of his mind are like the comforting whispers of an old friend. He's not sure if they originate from there or the cube by his side but he'll take it all the same.

He tries to respond but the sound is caught in his throat, too dry for words. He takes a sip of his precious water supply, coughs violently and tries again. "I know," he says with lips that feel awkward and strange from days of simply not speaking.

"I know," he says, and his parched throat is constricting now, a reminder of the latest breakdown. "I know, but it's hard."

It was hard, and that was part of the problem. He could survive but he could not fight back, was never strong enough to fight back. He wasn't strong enough to fight back and all he could do was sit back and age as the machines around him refused to do so, sit back and wait and it was driving him mad.

"I know," the voice says. "I know, but you are not alone."

"How do you know?"

There is a moment of silence. The voice doesn't reply right away, but he feels the prompting, and so with a shaking hand he reaches out to twist the dial of one of the radios he'd salvaged. It resists at first, but then there's the static, loud and awful and nerve-wrecking because what if She found him!

And then came the song.

It was a soft thing at first, something he barely caught through the static, and if he moved the wrong way he lost the signal. It took several jigglings of the antenna, as well as smack against the tiny machine before it got it any clearer. He soon found himself inching along on hands and knees to catch the signal. Finally it came through, loud and clear, as it were reaching for his very soul.

"Exile… it takes your mind again…"

For a while he just listens. For a moment he wasn't in the facility. He wasn't surrounded by cold machinery and concrete walls, he was surrounded by cool air and billowing trees. He was surrounded by life, connected to something so far beyond the walls of the facility, brought to the memory of pattering rain on his face to the tune of soft piano.

"You're right," He finally murmurs through cracked lips. Because of course there are people somewhere, there could not have been a radio signal if there weren't people somewhere. There was life out there- sometimes when he was caught down below it was hard to remember that, but it was there.

He could go back after all.

It was then that his mind went to the girl somewhere else in the facility, to the girl he'd set up in Her clutches. The hero he'd seen in glimpses throughout the years, growing in pods and occasionally jumping through hoops, the woman in orange whom he sometimes doubted was even real. She was there. She was there, he had put her there, and now like him she was alone.

He knew what he had to do.

He rose suddenly, the motion somewhat painful as his undernourished joints creaked and popped. Still he ignored them, stretching and shaking away the nightmares as he made his way for his paints.

"What are you doing?" The voice asked.

"Showing her," He explained as he pried the top off of the paint can, the sound still not drowning out the song from the radio. "This place has a way of destroying you, of making you think you're all alone- that it's impossible. I can't let that happen to her."

He dipped his paintbrush into the paint and swirled it around, thick brows knitting together as he took in the sight of the battered walls before him. The perfect canvas. "I know she is strong. I wouldn't have put her there if she weren't strong. But.." Here he shook his head as he laid down the first stroke, let the motion sync with the shrill hum of a violin from the radio.

"Sometimes we all need reminders that we are not alone."


-End-