Author's Note: Timestretch, you can totally draw some scenes from the story. I was thinking about it myself. And that goes for anyone else who might want to in the future. Just make sure you link me to them so I can see, and if you require a response as an anonymous reviewer then please leave an email address that I can reach you at or I won't be able to contact you once the story is complete. Other than that, have at it!
This is it, people. The final chapter!
Chell held up the glasses that she had pilfered from the pocket of the android during her hug. She may not have cake, but at least she'd come away with something. Running her finger around the shattered rim, a niggling part of her whispered for her to keep the spectacles as a reminder to prove that it had all really happened. The other, stronger part of her said that she should fix them before she had to leave. As much as the prospect of giving them up saddened her, she knew it was the right thing to do. They belonged to the android, and she'd broken them like so many other things. At least now she had the chance to give something back. And at least only one of the lenses was broken. She was sure with all the science nerds that had basically lived and worked down here in dim light that there'd be a few pairs of glasses lying about. It was just a matter of finding ones that closely matched the shape and focus of the one remainder. Chell knew that GLaDOS didn't actually need the spectacles to see, but she didn't want her to find any reason to complain. It would probably still look weird peering through mismatched lenses.
So for once, Chell was the one doing the testing. Rummaging through drawers and under piles of paper strewn across desks, she popped out any similarly shaped lenses on glasses that she found and matched them up with what she saw when she slipped them on over her nose. It brought a bit of a giggle out when she saw what she looked like in the mirror. It made her look older and weirder. Some of them made one of her eyes look bulgy, others made it smaller. They also made her slightly giddy when they were paired wrong and more than once she had to fight off a headache, eye strain and the nausea associated with it. Some of these people were seriously so blind she wondered how they even did their jobs. It seemed that GLaDOS's spectacles were more for show rather than functionality. They were just plain glass with no real focusing elements on them at all.
When eventually she found the closest matching pair, she had to pop out the lens and put it carefully in place in its new home before admiring her handiwork. She hoped GLaDOS would be appreciative, but she wasn't about to put too much stock in that happening. But still, she needed to put things right. And then give them back before she was accused of stealing too.
"A gift for me? You shouldn't have. I mean that. Really. They were mine to begin with." GLaDOS took the glasses that were presented to her and slipped them back on over her nose. It felt better to have them on, as if her outfit wasn't quite complete without them.
"You've disturbed my bi-lateral visual acuity by approximately 6.53% from using an incorrect lens. However, I understand what you were trying to achieve. I will adjust my optic to match. And then I won't crash into things when I ambulate. Unless that was your goal in the first place. In which case, I have thwarted your attempts at tomfoolery with the power of science. I hope you're not too mad."
Well, that was probably the closest thing to appreciation she was going to get.
"Thank you, [Subject Name Here]."
Perhaps there was a bit of hope after all, Chell beamed.
She had tried to drag out the inevitable for as long as she could. But it just wasn't working anymore. Doug had relocated his hidey hole to somewhere unknown, and had taken his stocks of canned goods with him so there was nothing to scavenge for when she got hungry. Chell put it off until her stomach was positively gnawing at her in protest. She didn't think GLaDOS would appreciate seeing her chewing on a raw potato. Besides, she'd developed a strange fondness for the tubers, and they probably weren't even safe to eat after whatever she'd put on them as a child to make them grow to such epic proportions. At least there was plenty of water around in the various filtration systems for her to drink, so she didn't go thirsty.
Chell sighed as she squirmed around on the pile of lab coats that she'd gathered up and placed in the main AI chamber, much to the consternation of the android. It wasn't fitting to clutter the place up like that, she'd told her, but the human couldn't care less. It was lonely staying in the offices, and she certainly didn't want to go back to the relaxation vaults. She'd had enough of those to last a lifetime.
Eventually GLaDOS had relented and let her stay there for a while despite it not being conducive to science getting done. The AI had been planning on packing up her android form when it wasn't being used to access the terminal, but now she felt as if she had to stick around in it for Chell's sake. And that meant the long hours of sleep mode to keep herself charged instead of the quick fix of plugging herself in and using her main chassis. Yelling at Orange and Blue would have kept the girl up all night, so remaining as an android was necessary.
Of course, remaining in her humanoid body also meant that Chell was quite content to explore a little more with her horrid, stubby fingers and chubby lips when they lay together at night. And GLaDOS put up with it. She still didn't quite understand the mechanisms behind human affections, other than the chemical processes that occurred to create emotions. Why Chell had chosen to direct those affections at her though would remain a complete mystery. Fear and anger she understood. They were essential parts of the survival of any creature, organic or not. She had experienced that herself when faced with her own mortality. But whatever this was, was confusing. It made no sense to the highly logical AI as to why this particular human was increasingly affectionate toward her after all that had happened between them. If anything they should loathe each other. They had merely worked together to save science.
GLaDOS frowned as the dark-haired test subject groped for her arm to draw it around her like a blanket. She seemed so content with whatever they had that it made her wonder what the ramifications would be of letting her go again. The AI had been witness to an excellent experiment in inanimate object attachment that occurred with lack of human contact after all. While GLaDOS herself wasn't exactly inanimate, she certainly wasn't the ideal choice in partner. She could potentially live for thousands of years with the right access to materials, electricity and technology. Chell, on the other hand, would not. She would grow old and die within the blink of an eye no matter how hard she tried not to.
If she stayed down here she would grow old, but she would never actually grow. On the surface, she had a chance to age under a warm sun and to start a family. Have mini-humans to care for. A life.
GLaDOS couldn't offer her that.
The cold down here got to people eventually. She couldn't even count how many times she'd seen people wasting away under the artificial lighting. At first they'd just get tired. Then the headaches started. If they pushed past the nausea it was already too late for them. It was no substitute for the sun. Life didn't exist within these walls. They just sucked it out of people until they were skeletons of the people they once were. Really, she'd done them a favour by purging this place of the disease that festered here.
Aperture Science was not made for humans.
And it was time Chell remembered that.
Chell could feel GLaDOS's warm body behind her in the elevator, gently bumping against her every time the glass shaft rocked unsteadily on its ascent to the surface. There wasn't much room in there for them both and she found her breath steaming against the glass, her reflection looking nervous and just plain ill. She'd definitely lost some of that lovely olive tan from her time down below, but that was the least of her worries. She really didn't want to leave. She still hadn't quite figured out what it was that she was nervous about leaving though. Whether it was GLaDOS or the familiarity of Aperture she couldn't say. Probably a little bit of both, if she thought about it. The former was silent against the hum of the machinery, her face as stoic and unreadable as ever as she escorted her former test subject to the surface.
When at last they ground to a halt in the dusty shed, Chell found herself wanting to just turn back around and bury her face in the android's chest and not let go. Instead, she found herself faced with the thick tang of rusted metal in her nostrils and the same musty air that had greeted her on her arrival. The door swung open with a loud clang and hot sunlight poured into the dingy space, momentarily blinding the human as it was reflected and amplified by the golden wheat field in front of them. Scrubbing at her face and blinking madly until the spots in her vision disappeared, Chell stepped out into the sun again with no small amount of apprehension.
A harsh squint was plastered upon her face as her retinas burned with fury, but after a while, she began to get used to it and her nerves began to melt away under the summer heat. Taking a deep breath of fresh air that had her head reeling from the amount of fresh oxygen, she hardly noticed when a smile began to cross her face.
It only solidified GLaDOS's beliefs that she was better off out here with the humans, frolicking in the sunlight.
The android watched from the shed as the heels of the long fall boots dug into the earth and crunched the flattened wheat from where the Black Mesa vans had previously sat until she'd removed them the moment she had gotten control of her main chassis back. The test subject looked happy. That would have to be enough.
When Chell realized that GLaDOS hadn't followed her she wandered back over and took her hand, intending to lead her over to spend some time sitting outside together. It would be a fitting end to their little saga. Plus, there was just something tantalizingly wicked about the thought of stripping off and letting the android have her way with her out there in the open with nothing but the cool breeze on their skin.
But the humanoid supercomputer wouldn't have a bar of it, and her white-knuckled grip on the door frame prevented Chell from dragging her anywhere.
In the end, it had been much easier to convince GLaDOS to lie down and make love to her on the dusty floor of the shack than it was to get her to step out into the sunlight. But as Chell watched her button up her shirt with her white hair all askew from the tight bun it was usually in, she noted with a sated smile that for once the android looked positively frazzled.
When finally GLaDOS had adjusted everything and brushed away the dust from her skirt, she simply decided to do away with the glasses and hair tie for now. Sweeping her hair back into that youthful look, she faced the test subject once more.
So this was it then.
"The Enrichment Center would like to remind you that Aperture Science is dedicated to maintaining the health and wellbeing of former test subjects. If you experience any of the following; Loneliness, pining, heart palpitations, wet dreams, the need to jam robotic implements into your orifices, intense and prolonged states of arousal or a sudden sexual attraction to your microwave oven, you should return to the Enrichment Center for a thorough physical examination."
Chell quickly stuffed her tongue into her cheek and bit down on it to keep from laughing at the smirk that was slowly crossing GLaDOS's face. Oh, that was how it was going to be, was it? Well, she'd certainly show her! And for the first time she spoke directly to the AI, who visibly gripped at the edges of the elevator at the sound.
"The Enrichment Center would like to remind YOU that-"
"Chell...I am the Enrichment Center..."
And as the smug android stepped into the elevator and disappeared back into the bowels of the earth Chell was left with only one thought.
'Damn you, GLaDOS. Damn you to android hell.'
Final Author's Note: I hope you've all enjoyed reading my little tale as much as I've enjoyed writing it. I do have a niggling little idea for a potential epilogue type thing, as I'm not too sure if there's enough fodder there for a proper sequel, but we'll see how it goes. Thank you for all your lovely reviews over the course of this story. I'll be sure to write more once I get on top of these upcoming assignments and my surgery.
In the words of Cave Johnson...
We're done here.