"But Chell, what am I supposed to do while you're at work?" Wheatley whined. "Can't I go with you?"
His eyes were pleading, but Chell sighed and shook her head. Just because he was used to having her around in the apartment all day to entertain him didn't mean that that was always going to be the case. Now that the money GLaDOS had stashed inside the Companion Cube for her was almost depleted, Chell had been forced to get a job. Today was her first day as an official McDonald's cashier.
"Why not?" he asked, then repeated, "What am I supposed to do?"
"Watch TV," she replied, walking over and turning it on. She flipped it to PBS-even he couldn't get into any trouble watching that-and set the remote on the coffee table before turning to give Wheatley a reassuring smile. "I'll be back before you know it. There's a sandwich in the fridge. Just go take it out when you're hungry. You know how to open the fridge, right? And the pantry? Because there's cookies and junk in the pantry."
"Of course I know how," he scowled. "I'm not a moron!"
"I know you're not," she said, still smiling at him. "Don't worry. I'll be back home at five." She knew he couldn't tell time, but she hoped he would at least be able to recognize the number on the oven's digital clock.
He didn't respond, continuing to give her a hurt glare, so she shrugged as she walked out the door. She trusted that he'd be fine on his own. He really wasn't that much of a moron, after all. It was mostly that he just lacked empathy. She knew he just wanted her to stay home because he'd be lonely without her. The job she needed to help support them both wasn't having a positive effect on his short-term happiness, so he didn't like it.
Wheatley stared at the door, hoping that she might reenter, but gave up after a few minutes. Sighing, he slumped down in front of the TV. He'd never watched it by himself before, but he figured it couldn't be as bad as all that.
And that was how a tired, grumpy, and miserable Chell found him when she walked in through the front door. "Wheatley?"
"Chell!" Wheatley exclaimed, scrambling to his feet after flicking off the television. He had a large grin on his face. "How was your day? Did you have fun? At work?"
"No," she answered as she dropped her keys into the bowl by the door. "How was your day?"
"Mine wasn't great either!" he said. His happy expression gave way to one of worry so fast that Chell would have sworn he was bipolar. "Today I learned that I've been doing something that can make me go blind!" He lowered his voice and glanced from side to side. "And I've been doing it a lot."
Chell wasn't sure whether to be confused, amused, or revolted. "You mean—"
"Yes, Chell," he said, nodding seriously. "I've been running with scissors."
The only thing she could do was stare at him, her mouth opening and closing as she did her best not to laugh at his earnest face. It took her several seconds to find her voice. "...Wheatley. What have you been watching?"
He hesitated. Then his face brightened. "It goes like this! 'On my way to where the air is sweet, can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street'-"
"Sesame Street?" Chell interrupted. "You've been watching Sesame Street?" He nodded, and now she really wasn't sure whether or not to laugh. "Did I turn that on for you?"
"Yes!" he said. "You put it on and it's been on all day! Oh, except for when there was a purple dinosaur on. He wasn't from Sesame Street."
She continued to stare at him for a moment before shaking her head, pressing a hand to her forehead, and walking into the kitchen. "Okay. That's...great. Work sucked. I've got such a migraine and I need to cook dinner."
"Migraine?" Wheatley asked as she began rifling through the medicine cabinet. Then his face brightened. "Oh, migraine! That means you're sick, right? Oh, luv, if you're sick then you should go to a doctor! That's what Snuffy did!"
"It's not that kind of sick," Chell answered as she popped two painkillers into her mouth and swallowed them dry. "Look, I'm going to lie down on the couch for a little bit before I start cooking, all right?"
He nodded, looking concerned. "Are you sure you'll be all right? Because I really think that it would be best if you went to see a doctor-"
"I'll be fine, Wheatley," she snapped, not seeing his look of hurt as she yanked a box of cookies out of the pantry. By the time she turned around, the hurt had given way to...something new. It was an odd look, the sort she remembered seeing on her parents' faces as a child. "What?"
He gave a pointed look to the box of cookies in her hand. "You're not going to eat all those, are you?"
She glanced down at the box. "I might. I've had a really bad day. Customers are all stupid. Why?"
"You'll spoil your appetite," he said, sounding strangely stern. "And cookies are a sometimes treat!"
"You have got to be kidding me," she said, squeezing the bridge of her nose. "Look, Wheatley, there are exceptions to every rule, all right?"
He shook his head as he walked over to her. "It's not okay!"
She gave him a long look before trying to push her way past him, still gripping the box of cookies in her hand, but he wouldn't move and she resorted to glaring. "Wheatley. Move. Now."
He looked a bit frightened, but shook his head and stood his ground. "No!"
And then he grabbed the box. He would have managed to yank it away from her if she hadn't immediately gripped it with her other hand. "Wheatley! What the hell are you doing? Let go!"
"No!" he said again, tugging on the box. "You let go!"
"NO!" she yelled, trying to pull it away from him. She was stronger than he was, but he had a better grip on the box, and she couldn't re-position herself without losing hers. "I do need these! So let go!"
Instead of answering her, he just pulled harder, and she pulled back, until all of a sudden there was a ripping noise as the flimsy cardboard box split open. Both Chell and Wheatley stumbled backwards as the cookies spilled out onto the floor. Chell caught sight of the spilled cookies first, and it was just too much, the fitting ending to a horrible day. Tears began flowing from her eyes.
As Wheatley sat up, he gave the mess a disapproving frown. "Oh, no. It's a mess. That means it's time to clean up, clean up, everybody do your share, clean up, clean up, everybody everywh—Chell?" he asked with concern as he caught sight of her. She was sitting on the floor, hugging her knees to her chest as silent tears slid down her cheeks. "No! No no no no no! Don't cry!"
He moved over to her, giving her a look of desperation as he gently put his arms around her. She wasn't sure where he'd learned that, but she was sure that before the television, he would have just sat there babbling at her about how she'd spilled the cookies. Maybe it had taught him something useful after all.
So she didn't push him away, instead leaning against him as he began to sing again. "It's all right to cry. Crying gets the sad out of you. It's all right to cry. Crying makes you feel better…"