In all likelihood, GLaDOS had probably let it go on for far too long.
As amusing as it was, the test subject had dropped a considerable amount of weight and was looking quite pale and sickly. Even if she hadn't been so willing to get undressed whenever the AI visited her, the dark bags under her eyes told her all she needed to know.
She'd even looked healthier stuck down in Aperture labs. Now the girl barely even went for a walk unless it was back and forth between work, home and occasionally the supermarket. All her free time was spent working. She'd managed to pick up a second job down at the recycling plant where she sorted out various bits of trash from one another. The work was simple, and she didn't have to talk to anyone. As long as she understood what types of rubbish went where, she was pulling in a bit of extra cash. But she was barely making enough money to cover her expenses as it was. Eating decent meals had become a thing of the past, and GLaDOS had watched as she'd starved herself just to spend more money to keep the android with her.
If she kept it up, she wouldn't be eating at all. More than once she'd thought about removing whatever fake face she'd used to spy on Chell and just grabbing her as the girl blindly stumbled down the street after a long day and half the night at work. She could barely even stay on her feet she was that tired and malnourished. But that would have ruined her fun. Technically she didn't care what the test subject was doing to herself, but science couldn't be done if she ended up killing herself. GLaDOS even found herself reluctant to engage in the rougher relations that the girl wanted more and more these days. She looked too fragile; like grabbing her too hard would turn her bones into powder and she'd just drift way in the wind.
So these shenanigans had to be brought to an end.
At first, she had tempted her taste buds by the strategic use of food products that she had brought with her. Melted chocolate and strawberries were supposed to work well for human relations. But they didn't. Sure, Chell had eaten it all, but it didn't cause her to want to go out and buy more food. GLaDOS had plotted and schemed, but sometimes the best way was the most direct way. Bringing cake to fatten her up would have been a dead giveaway, so instead she had brought with her a few ingredients in a bag on her next visit.
Chell had been quite confused when the android pushed past her and went straight to the kitchen, ignoring her outstretched hands.
GLaDOS dumped the contents of the bag upon the kitchen counter and immediately set to work after pushing the former test subject into a chair at the table to keep her from getting in the way. It had taken her approximately 4.593 seconds to watch many hundreds of cooking videos and scan thousands of recipes to determine what the best choice of meals was. She couldn't have something too sweet or too heavy, as it would only end up making the girl feel ill. So the supercomputer had eventually decided on pasta with a meaty tomato bolognaise sauce and spinach. Because meat and leaves were essential for giving humans energy. Learning to cook it all had taken a bit longer than discovering the recipe, but the practice had paid off.
Chell was already salivating long before it was done cooking, and the way she squirmed in her seat told her all she needed to know.
GLaDOS had to shoo her back to her seat several times when she had gotten up to come and see how it was looking. But finally she had placed the plate down in front of her. Sprinkling a heaping handful of parmesan cheese on top of the steaming dish, GLaDOS sat down across from her at the table and stared.
Despite Chell's enthusiasm for what had been cooked, she still looked up at the android curiously instead of tucking straight in.
She should have known.
Slipping her hand inside the lapels of the black pea-coat she still wore, GLaDOS retrieved a fancily addressed envelope and placed it on the tabletop before sliding it across the Formica surface. She watched as the test subject cracked the seal on the back and read the letter from Miss Johnson.
Client data from Model 22-10's sensors indicates that you are physically unwell and suggests that it may cause further damage to you if we continue to provide certain services that you have requested in the past.
As a most valued customer of Miss Johnson's Toys For Good Girls and Boys, we are understandably concerned about your well-being and don't wish to cause further harm. It is for this reason that we have taken the liberty of supplying 22-10 with some essentials that we hope you will enjoy.
Please consider getting help for your current condition if you have not done so already. Until then, we can only provide you with basic services so as not to threaten your physical health. If you require knowledge on where to receive financial or medical assistance, 22-10 has been programmed with data on various programs that you may be eligible for.
Our full range of services will be available to you when our data indicates that you are feeling better.
Until then, we hope you continue to remain in good health and that you are satisfied with 22-10's performance as a highly customized model.
If you feel that we have overstepped our boundaries, you may submit a complaint to our Customer Service Department and we will do our best to resolve the issue.
Miss Johnson's Toys For Good Girls and Boys
P.S. - Copies of the data stream and a list of services will be provided upon request.
Chell frowned a little.
They were right. She wasn't taking care of herself. It was hard to admit it. Perhaps taking the services away was for the best. It was annoying having to work when her stomach was eating itself and growling like an angry bear.
GLaDOS continued to watch in silence as the girl pondered over the contents of the note and started chewing on her nails nervously. So instead, she reached over and picked up the fork before stabbing some of the pasta and raising it to her lips. The cheese had already started to melt over the fragrant bolognaise sauce in stringy streaks, lending its own pungent aroma to the mix. It was more than Chell could handle, so she was pleased to find the test subject opening her mouth to accept the tasty tid-bit. With that obstacle out of the way, GLaDOS surrendered the utensil to the girl who hungrily began to wolf down the food without a care was to whether it would burn her or not.
Poor little Chell.
The AI hid a smile. Life would be so much easier if she had just returned to the Enrichment Center. Food and clothing would have been provided. There was no rent or bills and she'd get a warm bed to sleep in. All she'd have to do was participate in a few simple tests.
For the rest of her life.
Which would be even dismally shorter than predicted if she kept this up.
When Chell was done with her meal, GLaDOS took her by the hand and led her back to the bedroom where she undressed her and put her to bed. Only a moment's indecision occurred before she hung her coat upon the hook at the back of the door, kicked off her high heels and crawled into bed with the pathetic little creature. She found herself quickly wrapped up in the clingy embrace of her former test subject. Fortunately she didn't have to do much else, as Chell was practically asleep as soon as her head was settled upon GLaDOS's chest.
She'd scoop up the pile of crumpled bills on the bedside table and leave before the girl awoke, but not without setting another piece of paper with a much shorter message in its place for her to find.
Until then, she'd wait.
Chell didn't request any services again for another six months.
"Blue. You're doing very well. For an idiot. Have you ever considered a career in household appliances? Because that's exactly what I'm going to turn you into if you don't stop those ridiculous gestures."
GLaDOS sneered at the screens in front of her that showed the two little robots capering about in one of the test chambers they had just successfully completed. She didn't know what they were so happy for. The incompetent ninnies had barely managed to make it through that round. They'd already been disassembled 5 times while trying. She'd briefly considered splitting the two of them up to test separately to avoid them becoming more attached to one another, but she supposed it was already too late for that. She'd never hear the end of their incessant chirping and to top it off, they'd spent too much time watching a certain test subject she wouldn't name. There was no need for them to be getting ideas. She'd have to keep her eye on that orange one.
Speaking of orange, a flash of colour at the door caused her to shut up the wall panels with the security footage on them and remove the stream of data she was monitoring from both the test chambers and her little side business. Returning them to the blank panels that they once were, her serpentine body curled up and lazily whirled around over the head of the white haired android that stood below her, attached by a few power cables that it was being recharged by. Her single yellow optic quickly zoomed in on the figure that stepped out of the elevator doors, identifying it immediately.
Although still sickly and pale with bags under her eyes, Chell was looking marginally healthier than what she had when she had seen her last. Once again decked out in the long fall boots and her tattered old jumpsuit that seemed a couple of sizes too big for her with the loss of weight and muscle tone, her eyes quickly spotted 22-10 standing and watching her.
Her face fell.
So it was true.
It had all been an Aperture Science experiment.
She was never going to escape the place. Any thoughts of the android not being directly tied to GLaDOS were dissipated as soon as it cocked its head in a perfectly timed imitation of the metal beast hovering above it. Chell's defeated frame dared to take a few more steps away from the elevator doors and into the main AI chamber once more as the supercomputer watched in silence. The piece of paper in her hand that had been crumpled and unfolded so many times over the last six months was dropped upon the floor where it was quickly removed by a claw that peeked out from under a panel. The simple message had worked effectively enough; though the words had faded and smudged with how many times she'd ended up rescuing the crumpled ball from the bin.
Chell's heart fluttered like a hummingbird against the inside of her ribcage; her tongue dry and her eyes prickling with unshed tears. She stared at the floor, unwilling to look up at the yellow-eyed leviathan that had made her life a living hell. She didn't want her to know just how low she had sunk. But at the same time, she had the feeling that GLaDOS already knew just how much. The thrumming pressure in her head built up further, making her temples ache with the oncoming headache. Still, she set her jaw with determination and took a deep breath to try and steady herself.
"Oh, it's you. It's been a long time. How have you been? Never mind, I can see that. I will say though, since you went to all the trouble of coming back here, you must really, really love to test."
Chell trembled as she watched the huge claw descend once more towards her, her eyes wide like a frightened doe. The metal pincers clamped around her waist and lifted her high into the air, slowly drawing her across the room. From that vantage point, she could see both the yellow-eyed serpent and the android watching her form slump limply into the claw's trust in surrender as she passed over them. What surprised her the most was that her return had brooked no insulting remark from the AI.
The claw lowered her towards the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device dangling from a cable, which she snagged up on the way past.
A large hole opened up in the floor as panels were switched around and a pneumatic diversity vent took their place. The grinding of the metal had the former test subject on edge as she looked down the seemingly endless hole that would spit her out in a test chamber somewhere. Chell sucked in some rapid breaths as she clutched the portal device to her chest; her knuckles as white as the gun itself. But the pause in the movement brought her eyes back to GLaDOS, who was still staring at her. Silence reigned, before she spoke.
As the claw released her to her fate, the only thing that Chell remembered seeing was the elevator doors closing for the third and final time.
Author's Note: I hope you've all enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it. Don't forget to leave a review, and check out my other stories while you're at it. At the time of writing this note, I'm still working on The Garter, which is a sequel to Strange Bedfellows. But don't worry. I've got roughly fifty-something more ideas left in my notebook for various Portal fan fiction, so you'd better get to work. You've all got a lot of reading to do.
And you've only got 60 more years to do it.
More or less.