"I'm dead. I'm dead. I'm dead. I'm dead. I died. I'm dead. Or whatever it is that happens to an AI when it's destroyed."

Wheatley held very still. He didn't dare open his shutters for fear of what he would see. Was all that talk about Android Hell real? Was he even dead? Oh, he hoped not. Of course he still felt he deserved it, but he would much rather live out a meager existence, even if it meant an eternity at that bollocks facility. God he hated that job. It wasn't even a job really, just a ploy to make sure she was staying on the right track to escape. They'd almost had it too, until he'd gone and…no. He couldn't think about that now. Why DID his thoughts continue to find their way back to the only friend he'd ever had? Even during his brief detention in space, Wheatley's mind had almost constantly returned to the mute girl with the swingy, dark ponytail and mysterious grey eyes; during those seldom times that he could block out that space bloke's jabbering. Why didn't anyone seem to realize when it was time to just shut up for God's sake? The Intelligence Dampening Sphere nearly rolled his eye before being brought back to the present by quiet, wary footsteps and became still once more.

o o o

Chell sat cross legged atop her companion cube beneath the shade of a tall oak tree*; the only thing that had appeared on the horizon throughout her first three days of travel. A small stream flowed near-by and led to what looked like a grove in the distance. Was there anything really left to the outside world? Of course there were those tales of deer and humans, but coming from GLaDOS, you could never be sure. The former test subject sighed, a soft breeze tousling her hair. The day was warm, and she came to wonder if even the perfect weather was too good to be true. Chell stood up. She needed to stop thinking so much. *It frustrated her how much Aperture had affected her every thought and move. When she first returned to the outside world, she jumped and turned at every sound. Who knows how long she stood, her back pressed against the metal panels of the shed, before she realized she was alone? Chell found herself pacing, something she never had any cause for in Aperture. It was always box, button, elevator, repeat…apart from those times she wasn't running or battling corrupt AIs. Now if she didn't watch herself, the Aperture escapee would pace for hours on end. Chell was shaken from her reverie by a distant, yet all too familiar yell that seemed to be getting closer with every passing second. She managed to look up in time to see an object plummeting to the ground in flames. Chell shook herself mentally.

No.

She was just imagining things. She had to be.

I'm just not used to being alone.

That was it. Of course she was imagining that distinct accent that had become a sort of reassuring prattle for her over the past few days. She was lonely. Nodding to herself, Chell sat again but still, in the back of her mind she could have sworn that she heard mumbling. Eventually, her survival sense bested her and the she slowly slid off her companion cube to go and checkout whatever had crashed into the earth. With careful, soft footsteps like those of a lioness, the girl slowly approached the smoking crater that surrounded a scorched, but very much alive, Wheatley who was shaking lightly with his shutters closed. Chell had to think a moment. Could this possibly be the corrupted, maniacal core that had tried so many times to end her life? She cocked her head to the side as his blinds receded just enough to reveal a bright blue optic, and closed again. Not a second later, the AI's shutters flew open as a stream of chatter and apologies bombarded Chell's ears.

"Alright, look. Don't say anything! Well, I mean that is if you can say anything. Not really sure on that. Just if you can, please don't and if you can't, I don't suppose it really matters. The point is that I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I really and truly am deeply sorry, and I know that you probably don't believe me but…" Her face (grew) hotter with every word, anger (growing) until simply standing there, listening to his pathetic rambling became too much. In a sudden fit of rage, she swung her leg back and with the toe of her long-fall boot, sent the core across the field with a satisfying thud, kicking him again and again.

"…alright, I deserved that, I definitely deserved it, and that…and that...and-FOR GOD'S SAKE WOULD YOU JUST STOP AND LET ME-"

"WHY!"

She picked up the sphere, only to hurl him to the ground again.

"WHY should I stop and let YOU do ANYTHING?"

She picked him up again, looking him straight in the eye.

"Did you ever stop trying to kill me? What did I ever really do to you? I was only doing what you SAID! I trusted you, with everything I had, and you turned on me the minute you actually made something of yourself!"

Wheatley shrank back with every word, closing his blinds with fear. He had expected her to be angry, but nothing like this. Eventually, Chell became silent. When he opened his blinds again, tears were streaming steadily from her closed eyes.

"Oh no….don't…please…don't cry…um…."

Usually, the Intelligence Dampening Sphere hated humans for the nasty fluids that never seemed to stop pouring out of them. If something wasn't coming out of their eyes, it was their nose or some other orifice of their fleshy bodies, but honestly, she was different. Wheatley had been surprised when he first caught himself wishing to be able to apologize to the girl. Finally at a loss for words, the core said nothing, letting the human girl hold him to her chest. Slowly the shaking subsided and eventually, she drifted off into a fitful sleep.

o o o

Chell woke groggy eyed with a bitter taste in her mouth. As she sat up, something beside her moved in the grass. The girl leapt to her feet, surveying the area. Her heart hammered.

"Oh you're awake! I was starting to think that maybe you'd…died or something. "

Chell rolled her eyes and relaxed her stance. She turned towards the stream, the core rambling on behind her.

"Okay, look. I…..Wait, where are you going? You can't just leave me here, come back! Please…? Ohhh I know what this is. Playing a trick on Ol' Wheatley, are you? Alright, you just go on…I'll still be here….when you get back. You are coming back, right? I honestly, rea-"

The girl walked on, letting the voice fade into the distance and knelt on the bankside, taking in her reflection for the first time since the last battle. A new scar had brandished just above her right eyebrow. It wasn't bothering her, so she figured it wasn't very deep. Small bits of shrapnel were embedded in her cheek, and she winced at the soreness in her ribcage. 'Probably bruised,' she sighed. It's not as if she hadn't had worse.

Chell washed the sleep from her eyes, drying her face with the hem of her shirt. Suddenly, realization struck her as thoughts of the previous evening flooded her memory. She sat on the balls of her feet. The familiar pressure of the boots digging into her legs was enough to conjure a long stream of memories.

A charming, British accent, not to mention the first NON-computerized voice she'd heard in god knows how long that WASN'T trying to kill her at the moment.

A sort of friendship established with time and trust.

The sense of highly anticipated and greatly deserved victory.

The betrayal.

The confusion.

The grief.

The hatred….

…the guilt.

How that little idiot ball of circuits managed to extract the strongest of emotions from her, while one of the most intelligent AI's in history couldn't even produce a smirk, Chell didn't know, but she sure as hell wasn't going to let him know that.

o o o

A/N: For now. Guys I am SOOOOOOOOO freaking sorry that I took THIS long to update, I've had so much going on that it makes me want to cry, and I still have more plans to face. I honestly had planned on getting a bit father than this, but I saw that I had myself a good stopping point decided to take a chance. PLEASE don't kill me, I PROMISE this story will start getting somewhere either next chapter or the one after and I WON'T take as long this time. If any of you have managed to stay with me this long, I am forever grateful. As always any and all comments and critiques are greatly appreciated. Thank you SO much for reading! Also, HUGE special thanks to magefeathers for being the most amazing beta-reader EVER, and to Lady-Pyrien for all the laughs, ideas, and support. I really hope I got rid of all the asterisks, those were for my beta. Until next time, Kizzy.