Chell had never had anyone to spend New Year's Eve with before.
Well, she supposed that wasn't exactly true. After all, she'd been a child once, right? Surely she'd at least spent New Year's Eve with her parents at least once. She couldn't ever have been completely alone.
But that wasn't what she meant. She'd spent enough time listening to people talk to realize what was normal behavior on New Year's Eve. It involved watching some sort of ball drop on TV with your partner and then kissing them at the stroke of midnight.
Chell had friends. They weren't close friends, but they were friends. She'd been invited to a couple of different New Year's celebrations, but had turned them all down, not wanting to be the only person who didn't have someone to kiss.
That's why she was alone in her apartment, sipping champagne and wearing the silliest glasses she'd ever seen. They were in the shape of the new year's numerals, and they were so huge that they kept slipping down over her eyes. She wanted to take them off, but aside from the TV that was playing silently in the corner, they were the only things making her New Year's Eve feel like a New Year's Eve.
Glancing at the TV, she sighed. There were still twenty minutes left before…
She frowned as a sudden thought occurred to her. Maybe it was just that she'd already had two glasses of champagne, but it dawned on her that she didn't have to spend New Year's Eve alone.
Grabbing her coat, Chell ran out the door.
It wasn't like it was a long walk to Aperture. She'd gone back to visit a few times in the past, and at some point GLaDOS had pointed out an entrance that was practically in her backyard. It made Chell wonder why she'd chosen to release her so far from civilization the first time. It was almost like the AI had wanted her to give up on trying to find other humans.
But it wasn't in Chell's nature to give up, and GLaDOS knew that better than anyone.
It wasn't until Chell was already outside that she realized she was still holding her glass of champagne. She shrugged, tightening her grip on it, and adjusted her monstrous glasses with her free hand. The street outside her apartment was completely deserted, and she crossed it without any difficulty, then slipped into the alley just as easily. It wasn't a good idea to be back here at dark, but she knew she'd be all right. The one time someone had caught her off-guard and held a gun to her, he'd been pumped full of bullets by a very hidden, very precise sentry turret that had suspiciously vanished before Chell had managed to get a good look at it.
People seemed to avoid this particular alley after that.
She reached the manhole and knocked sharply on the cover three times, the metallic clanging echoing through the empty streets. Chell waited.
After a few moments of silence that could almost be characterized as deliberation on GLaDOS's part, the manhole cover was pushed up and over. Chell peered down, then dropped, landing inside an elevator that began to move immediately as the manhole cover replaced itself. Her champagne threatened to splash itself out of its glass, but miraculously managed to stay put.
As the elevator descended into GLaDOS's chamber, Chell peered down. The AI was standing in front of the elevator stop with her arms folded, waiting with a slightly annoyed expression on her face. She'd built herself an android body some time ago so that she could access the files stored in the older levels of Aperture, but she seemed to have become more comfortable in it than in her old body.
"I wasn't expecting to see you—" GLaDOS began as the elevator door open, but cut herself off as her twin yellow optics locked on Chell's glasses. "What are those things you have on your face? You look ridiculous. And by that, I mean 'more ridiculous than usual.'"
By way of answer, Chell held her glass of champagne towards the AI with a bright smile. "Want a drink?"
GLaDOS stared at the human, trying to decide if she was joking or not. "What are you doing here? It's New Year's Eve. You should be out celebrating. You know, with your human friends. The ones that you spend more time with than me."
"I spend more time with them because I work with them," Chell replied, ignoring the usual attempt at a guilt trip. She stepped out of the elevator. "Can you turn on the New Year's Eve celebration? It's on TV. You do get cable or something, don't you?"
With no response other than an irritated huff, GLaDOS flipped several of the smaller screens in her chamber into one large screen. Despite being in an android body, she was still very much in control of her facility. The megascreen switched on to the intended channel, and the countdown clock in the corner of the screen showed less than five minutes to midnight.
Chell smiled and took a sip of champagne. "Are you sure you don't want any?"
"Tell me what you are doing here and why you are forcing me to watch this tasteless garbage," the AI demanded. "Now."
"I didn't have anyone to celebrate with," Chell said, shrugging. "So I came here."
"Oh," GLaDOS said, her voice taking on a bitter tone. "I'm your last resort. I see." She turned away, pointedly showing her back to the human. "Well, fine. I'll allow you to stay here. But don't expect me to acknowledge your existence. I have work to do. Important work that doesn't involve you, and—what are you doing? Don't touch me."
Chell had placed her hand on the android's shoulder, and she gently turned her back around. "You're not my last resort. I was invited to a few different places. I just didn't go. I do have friends, you know."
GLaDOS hesitated, then pulled the glass of champagne out of the human's hand and took a sip.
Chell rolled her eyes. "You could have asked—oh, forget it."
Instead of responding, the AI gave a sigh of resignation and proceeded to drain the rest of the drink, handing the empty glass back to Chell as the crowd and counters on the TV began counting down from ten. The human set it on the floor, then, as an afterthought, set her oversized glasses down next to it.
"Much better," GLaDOS said approvingly as Chell straightened up and the countdown hit one. "You really did look completely ridic—mmph!"
The human had reached forward, grabbing GLaDOS by her collar and pulling her forward into a kiss. Fireworks to celebrate the new year were going off on the screen behind them. The AI stood frozen in shock, bright optics widening, fighting the instant urge to snap the girl's neck. She knew about the ridiculosity that was human traditions, of course, but she never thought she'd have to participate in one.
Chell didn't let go, and GLaDOS forced herself to relax, closing her eyes in mimicry of Chell's own expression. She'd found herself almost enjoying it when, after a moment that seemed altogether too brief, an uncertain-looking Chell relinquished her grip on the AI's shirt and stood back.
Instead of shoving the human backwards and hissing something about deadly neurotoxin, GLaDOS merely straightened up, stepped backwards herself, and eyed her former test subject with an expression that could almost be characterized as fondness.
"Happy New Year, [Subject Name Here]."