Wheatley finally comes to the decision that his human body isn't all that bad.
It's nothing like being in the small, centralized metal body of a personality core. With this body, he has freedom. He can move on his own accord without worry of dying a horrible death. No rails, no constraints, no GLaDOS. No turrets, no confining walls, no cords, no darkness, no unexpected shut downs.
It's wonderful. Positively, absolutely, euphorically wonderful.
However, he also has to sleep, eat, shape a mouth around words, and deal with the vast amount of human emotions, sensations, weaknesses, and limitations that come with the package. He's still not entirely with the program, but it's much easier now than what it was.
He's never the first one to admit to being scared, but his first hour as a human had been frightening. Especially the whole emotions part. (Oh, and the things humans could feel and taste and smell. Why had no one ever told him about any of this?) When his lanky human body emerged out of stasis after the procedure, everything seemed to have been amplified one thousandfold. He was utterly ravenous and malnourished, but unable to understand what that meant or what it required of him. Walking was a challenge, as was remembering certain things, and constantly feeling was almost too much to bear.
Subjected to sudden bursts of sensory overloads, Wheatley had quickly discovered that pain was not something that he enjoyed. He had also come to the conclusion that humans had to be absolutely mad to suffer all of these things at once. Really, who wouldn't have bats in the belfry after being bombarded with so many sights, sounds, smells, touches, and feelings on a daily basis?
But he's getting used to everything now. He knows that everything has a balance, and it's not so hard to keep a proper equilibrium once you know what to do. There are a few things that still trouble him, but they're not so difficult.
It's getting used to her again that's the hard part.
When he'd found her, he rushed after her, heart thrumming against his ribs (what a sensation), not even thinking of what might happen, and tackled her to the ground in a heap, apologies running down his mouth as he gripped her tightly around her waist. It was the first time he'd ever cried (he's not so sure he wants to do that again), and the wetness from his eyes was gently dabbed away by the hem of her coat.
She had realized it was him after the initial shock. She didn't throw him off or give him a broken jaw or anything else she could have done, should have done; instead, she cradled his head in her lap, her hands moving in soothing circles along his broad shoulders. She only stared down at him as he wept his regrets, her brow knitted and her light blue eyes a swirl of thought.
Somehow, Chell had decided to forgive him. If not forgive, then allowed him a chance to vie for it. He still doesn't know why.
But she made it quite clear that she didn't entirely trust him. He never really expected her to, because, well, when someone goes through a phase of power-lust and is hell bent running you through dozens of dangerous tests and then eventually killing you, it might make you a bit tentative to trust them again. He had been… well, a monster. More than a monster, really. There had been something there, something nice, a friendship maybe, and somehow in the midst of all of those terrible things in that facility, he had chosen a wrong path and gone off the deep end.
In the back of his mind, he wonders just how much his actions might have damaged her. She's more than capable of taking care of herself physically, as she's proven countless times, so there's no concern there. It's the mental, emotional damage that he's worried about. He can't see it, she can't talk about it, and he has no real way of finding out aside from asking her to write her life's story.
He sits in the den of their flat, biting at his lip and wishing the guilt would go away. Wheatley has long since decided that guilt is by far the most awful human emotion in the spectrum. He's felt something similar as a core in the past, but it was muted and muffled and nothing like this. This eats away at you, slowly, and it seeps into nearly every thought, just as the GLaDOS chassis had.
He shivers just thinking about it. Funny things, shivers. He's not sure he likes them yet.
Wheatley hears the sudden click of the doorknob, and he rises from his chair, broken from his reverie. It's her, and she walks through the threshold with a small plastic bag hung in the bend of her arm, her dark hair brought up into its customary manner. She sees him as he approaches from the living room, and she gives him a slight wave of her hand in salutation.
"Hello," he says, returning the wave. "Glad to see you're back. What've you got there?"
Chell smiles. It's small and worn, but it's a smile, and that's something! She offers her arm, gesturing to the bag.
"For me?" he asks.
"Oh, really? What is it? I'm not really very good with guessing games, but I do love presents."
She swats at his him playfully and hands him the bag.
Wheatley peers inside, and is… well, very much surprised. "Are these… glasses?"
Chell nods again. Pressing a finger beneath her eyes, she squints as though she can't see, and then prods gently at his chest.
"Well, I do have to admit, everything is rather blurry," he says. "I just thought it was a human thing, that all of you saw this awful. I suppose it's good to know that it isn't. A human thing. Well, not a human thing, sorry, that's a bit insensitive, I meant—"
He's interrupted by a light punch to his shoulder. Wheatley instantly looks up, startled, and finds that she's staring at him with a half-smirk, her hands placed on her hips. It's one of her You really should stop now, Wheatley stares, and with a nervous swallow, he nods sheepishly and goes back to shifting through the bag's contents.
"Wow, there are a lot of glasses in here," he remarks. "Did you just grab whatever you could find? Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Variety can be a good thing. A very good thing."
She shrugs, plucking one pair out from the bag. Unfolding the ends with a strange carefulness, she slides them over his ears, brushing a few strands of his dark brown hair out of the way, and settles the lenses onto the bridge of his nose. She then gives him a questioning look, as if to ask, Any better?
Wheatley narrows his eyes. "I think it got a bit worse. It's hard to tell, actually. Everything is still pretty fuzzy."
Her brow furrows, and then the glasses are gone, quickly replaced with another pair. Another look: What about now?
He widens his eyes, taking in the world through the lenses. Everything seems more defined; he can see the little details of the furniture, the carpets, the light fixtures on the walls and the ceiling. "Oh, much clearer," he says. "Still a bit blurry, but definitely clearer."
She seems pleased, but she reaches into the bag for several more pairs. She replaces one after another, silently asking if his vision has improved with every set. Some pinch his nose, some hurt his ears, and some make the things around him uncoil into blots. When a particularly sleek, thin-framed pair slides over his nose, he releases a shaky exhale in disbelief. No pain, no fuzzies, and everything looks incredibly perfect.
"This is amazing," he says, and spins about the room in a whirl of awe. "It's just like—well, just like before, when I was still a core. It's all clean and crisp, I can see everything. And you—" He draws up to her, studying her face, "—wow, you look incredible like this. Well, not that you didn't look incredible before, sorry, I meant just through this body. Ah, not that human bodies are bad or anything, I just… all right, all right, quit looking at me like that, I'm stopping. Stopping, see? All stopped."
Her shoulders shake in a silent laugh. Even if he can't understand everything about her, at least he can still amuse her. That gives him a touch of solace.
And then he remembers something. It's small and flickering, flashes of information, images and thoughts, glimpses of things he thinks he might have had something to do with, but he can't be sure. On any other occasion, he might ignore them as per usual when little snippets like this happened to bubble to the surface. They've been somewhat frequent since the procedure. But this… this is different. This is an idea.
He tries to focus, to reach out and grab hold of it before it slips into nothing. It catches, and he suddenly realizes what it is—a way to have him understand her.
He tries to pinpoint exactly where it came from, but there seems to be a block of some kind obscuring the path. He can't figure out a way to break through. Where on earth does he remember this from? Echoes of miscellaneous data left over from when he had been a personality core? And if it is, why hadn't he been able to remember it before?
"Hang on." Wheatley shifts uneasily, gathering his thoughts, and he hooks his long fingers around her wrist to stop her from walking away. "You know, I… I told you I was sorry that day. That I would take everything back. And I meant it. I meant every word, every last word, and I still do." He looks at her, watching her expression meld with confusion as she turns to face him. "You've done a lot for me, even though you didn't really need to. I mean, if I were you, I wouldn't have had anything to do with me after all of those monstrous things I tried to do, you know, with the whole maniacal ah ha ha I'm going to kill you thing, but you're not me, you're you, and—well… I really, really want to do something for you. To… to thank you, and make it up, I suppose, even though that's probably not possible."
Chell peers up at him, her head tilted to the side. Her bangs frame her thin face, accentuating the arch of her eyebrows, the angles of her jaws, the slope of her cheeks. She's intrigued. He knows that much.
He folds his hands and steeples his forefingers toward her. "All right. Now, I realize this may come as a shock to you. Brace yourself, mate, because here it comes." He takes a deep, dramatic breath, and says, "You don't talk."
She crosses her arms gives him another look, one of those looks, the withering kind that says, Really, what was your first clue?
"Sorry, sorry, was trying to be funny. Guess it didn't work." He manages a weak smile and scratches the back of his neck. "What I'm trying to say is, wouldn't you want to try? I know it must be frustrating and all, to not be able to get across what you're trying to say. Not everyone is really used to all these hand gestures and body language and all that. I know I'd be frustrated if I were you. Not being able to talk would drive me crazy. And I was thinking about it, you know, and I just had a brainwave. I honestly don't remember why or how I know it, it's a bit fragmented if I'm honest, but it's actually a great idea, and I thought, well, maybe you'd want to give it a go. So what do you say?"
She blinks. Once, twice. And then she shakes her head, as if confused. What?
Wheatley rubs his forehead and mentally kicks himself. "Right, right, sorry. I didn't even tell you what it was, did I? It's a simple process. A sort of therapy, really. And it's designed to help people learn how to talk. It's usually applied when someone's got a language disorder or when they've suffered brain damage of some kind. Ah, not that you're brain damaged," he adds, hoping to smooth over the unintentional insult.
Watching him expectantly, Chell holds her palm sideways and moves it in a circular motion. Keep talking.
"Oh, good. Good. Well, it's got a lot to do with music. I'm not really sure how you feel about music, but it goes like this: it starts with a bit of humming and rhythms, and then it slowly progresses into songs. Songs with words, anyway. And you sort of sing along until you're comfortable with the words, 'til you feel like you can do it without the music. After that, it's only a matter of time before you start talking with different pitches and all, like everyone else."
A strange amalgam of apprehension and uncertainty splays across her countenance. She turns her head to stare at the couch, the chairs, the throw rug, anywhere but him, and she bites at her lip as she dwells on the idea. Her arms are brought against her ribs as if she's trying to keep everything bottled up between them, encasing her problems in blood and flesh and bone.
"You don't trust me." He says it plainly because it's the truth. And even though he already knows, it still makes his chest tighten unpleasantly. He doesn't particularly like that either. "You don't have to if you don't want," he continues. "It's perfectly all right not talking. I mean, I don't think I could live without it, but that's just me. And you… well, you're pretty amazing. You're determined. You don't quit. You can do anything you want, and no one can stop you, so don't let me tell you what to do." Wheatley reaches out and brushes his thumb across her mouth. Offering a cheeky grin, he says, "That being said, even though it's not my place to ask, wouldn't it be nice to use this for something other than silly old human bodily functions for a change?"
She makes a snorting noise and bats his hand away in annoyance, but her lips slowly curve into a slight smile. It's shy and reserved, but there's a sliver of excitement at its edges.
He arches his eyebrows, hopeful. "Is that a maybe?"
Chell ignores him and instead absently stretches out her fingers and adjusts his glasses, moving them just slightly so they align properly with the rest of his face.
Wheatley doesn't really know what to make of that. "Uh, yes, thank you. I suppose they were a bit off."
The pad of her index finger then presses into the end of his nose and she gazes up at him. It's not a threatening gaze, but it's stern, proud, and slightly awkward because he's so tall.
"Ah, yes?" he says, expectant. "I'm… I'm going to be quite honest with you, I have no idea at all what that means. Not even the slightest. So if you could just, just… gesture what you're trying to tell me, that would be great. Or write it down. But gesturing is completely fine. Completely."
Her finger moves down to his chest, and crosses in strange patterns across the fabric of his shirt.
Wheatley feels a jolt of excitement skip from his heart and down his spine, and his body trembles a little.
Chell's sketching spells yes.