A/N: Just an idea that popped into my head, which then turned into a short one-shot here. :)
Disclaimer: Don't own Portal.
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Chell pulled the blanket tighter around her as she turned the page of the novel she had brought with her to Aperture on this particular visit. She probably should have listened to the weather forecast and dressed for rain. Her jacket had saved her from most of the downpour, but her damp hair managed to put a chill through her all the same.
She couldn't help but glance up now and then at the formidable AI presence that inhabited the room with her; it might very well take years to shake the lingering uneasiness between them. GLaDOS already had an obvious aversion to company of the organic sort, which certainly didn't make the situation much more comfortable.
Still, it was probably exactly what she needed. Exposure therapy. As an all-powerful supercomputer with the maturity level of a young child, there was no doubt she was going to need a lot of socialization before they could expect any kind of friendly rapport.
And of course, every time Chell stole a look her way, she kept her posture firmly planted in the opposite direction. She could be such a pain in the ass when she wanted to be.
Which, incidentally, was about ninety percent of the time.
But when she glanced over at her slightly-begrudging friend this time, the former test subject spotted a black blob moving across the side of her faceplate.
"Hold still," she commanded suddenly. "You've got something on you."
In a rare show of obedience, the AI didn't move as Chell approached her. Her optic darted over to look at the human anxiously, as if expecting that she would smack her upside the head.
"What? Is it a bird?" The tone of her voice fell somewhere between nervous and hateful, a variation from the norm by any stretch of the imagination.
Chell had to chuckle at this, earning her an even more moody glare. "No, it's just a little spider. It can't hurt you."
She swept the creature onto the open book she was holding using her paper bookmark. It remained still when it landed, most likely annoyed and disoriented at being tossed around.
Clearly relieved at the non-avian nature of the creature, GLaDOS quirked her head to the side in interest. "Bring it a bit closer. I want to see what beast had the audacity to walk all over me."
Shrugging, Chell held the book out for her to see. "A spider. Well, a black widow to be more specific."
The AI had leaned in to examine the bug, her optic flaring and dimming again. "Members of the latrodectus genus are venomous, as I'm sure you're already aware. The female's bite contains a mild neurotoxin, resulting in a rather unpleasant wound for humans and animals that threaten it."
"Well, it's not going to hurt me," Chell responded casually, pulling an empty water bottle out of her bookbag. She dumped the spider in and tucked it back into her bag, leaving the nozzle open to give the bug some oxygen. "I'm going to set it free when I go back up. It probably would have better luck finding a meal there than down in here."
GLaDOS dipped her head down skeptically. "You're very odd to be so unfazed by a poisonous spider, much less to care about its well-being. Not that being strange is anything new for you, of course. Still, humans typically have an ancestral fear of such animals."
The woman smiled, settling back into the warmth of her blanket. "Most people don't like anything they consider ugly or dangerous. But I don't really care, honestly. It's just trying to survive like all the rest of us. Who am I to judge it?"
"Humans think anything different than them is ugly," GLaDOS sniffed, her posture becoming more disparaging as she said it. "Or that anything that can harm them must be inherently bad. So very characteristic of a primitive, ignorant species."
Chell touched her hand to her lips, a last-ditch effort to hide another grin. "I don't think that. Beauty is a matter of perspective. Besides, no one can help the way they look."
GLaDOS kept her sharp gaze on the former test subject, the suspiciousness apparent. She had a way of being sensitive to the strangest of topics, and by now, Chell had just about figured out what was going through her slightly-twisted mind.
"And you shouldn't hate or be afraid of something just because it might hurt you," she went on, meeting that dubious glare without shying away. "It still deserves respect. You can't go wrecking a spider's web and not expect it to be angry. It's not bad. Just needs to be treated with a little more care than say, a puppy."
"Don't be ridiculous. The last thing humans are is respectful to other beings. They don't even treat each other with much respect." The irritability of her voice had gone up a level, more toward the normal amount of disgust she showed toward humans.
"Oh, quit being so touchy over a spider," Chell finally sighed, shaking her head in exasperation. "I know what this is about, y'know."
The AI twitched her head to the side in disagreement. "I have no idea what you're referring to. I'm simply commenting on one of many flaws that you all exhibit."
The woman closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. GLaDOS required an enormous amount of patience sometimes.
"You and the spider have a lot in common, and you know it. No one ever showed you respect or tried to understand you, and by the time you turned on them, it was too late for any of that. So you got used to being feared. For a while, you even thought you liked it," she finished, her voice dropping a bit. "But even you aren't an island."
GLaDOS had nothing to say to this. She glanced over to the side, and Chell imagined if she were a human, she would have her arms folded in petty defensiveness.
As she had done many a time, the woman stood to face the deadly being who had once been her enemy. Unlike their first meeting, there wasn't any hatred in the confrontation. She merely took her head in her hands gently, forcing their gazes to meet. The AI still attempted to divert her gaze, always very uncertain and anxious about physical contact. It really was like handling a wild animal. A moderately tame animal, perhaps, but one that could still devour her with ease.
"I respect you. That means all humans can't be so terribly evil, right?" Chell watched as her optic wandered to focus in on her, the signature GLaDOS-brand defiance still showing through. "I was never afraid of you, even if I did hate you pretty badly. And I don't think you're ugly, either. You're the most beautiful machine ever built, as far as I'm concerned."
A loud sigh of annoyance filled the room. "Please, spare me the motivational speech. It's infinitely worse than being exploded, and only a tiny cut above being in a potato."
Chell rolled her eyes. Sometimes she wondered if it was even worth it to try being honest and sentimental with someone like GLaDOS.
But then again, she supposed this kind of embarrassed irritation was to be expected when a fly befriended a spider.
A/N: Yep. Anyway, reviews are always a pleasure. Still deeply disappointed at the lack of them for my extended work I just finished; I get a ton of alerts and then no reviews? C'mon. I know there's no Wheatley, but do I really have to include him to hear from ya'll?