It had taken Chell years to convince everyone that she and Gordon weren't dating. They were simply friends. This boring concept changed their relationship to siblings in the public eye. She was much more comfortable with that idea. He'd offered her a gun when they'd met, but quickly taken it back. Every time there was something dangerous, she would shoot the walls, realize she didn't have a portal gun, and run screaming. Years of being trapped underground with only an ASHPOD certainly took its toll. It was the only way she knew how to deal with danger. Besides that, she had a strange affection for the head crabs, they reminded her of the turrets, and she couldn't repay them for that beautiful song... So she left the affectionately named face huggers alone. Unless of course they attacked her, in which case she stomped on them with her long fall boots until they were a pulp. She then proceeded to cook them over a fire and eat them viciously. Gordon was quite disturbed by this, making nervous jokes about how if they ever ran out of food, she had to promise not to do that to him. She'd simply laughed and gone on about how if he'd survived this hell for as long as he'd said, she would NEVER be able to kill him. Especially if he had a crowbar with him. She had stopped considering Aperture, but it still haunted her dreams. She still missed GLaDOS. Gordon had his own nightmares, usually involving the combine and striders. Always striders. Those things were scarier than death itself. Chell would try and comfort him, gently patting his shoulder. It was times like this she wished she could sing. Or at least talk. Instead she tapped out a melody with the crowbars and whistled quietly. He had offered to return the favor when she had nightmares, but she'd told him her "nightmares" had some good bits, and didn't bother her much, just made her homesick. He hoped she didn't mean Aperture. He really had no intention of going there, based on the stories of GLaDOS. Sometimes Chell would wake up and go into fits, trying to scream and desperately tell him that the turrets were right there... not the singing turrets, the... the... she'd sob, leaning on his shoulder. He wasn't sure he believed that the nightmares were "fine." Still, he didn't want to intrude in on her privacy. He simply sat and let her cry herself back to sleep. Often the next morning, she'd wake up, cheerful, with no memory of what had happened. He decided that she sleep-cried, if that was even a thing. Either way it was terrifying. Watching her fearful eyes search the area for something that wasn't there gave him nightmares. They'd been slowly making their way to Aperture, without either of them realizing it. It was just Chell's instinctive direction. Finally, after walking all morning one day, they came across a shed in the middle of a field. Gordon looked at her quizzically, she knew he was wondering what this was, and why they were there. She could only answer the first question. The other was too hard to explain, because in all honesty, she wasn't sure. She didn't know whether to tell him or not, but finally decided that before they descended into the bowels of the earth, he needed a choice. She was begging the sky that he'd say no, and just wait for her outside, but he looked determined enough to go with her and protect her. She tried to convince him that she didn't need protected. He had dismissed her comments, and remained dead set on following her in. Even if it killed both of them.
The elevator was exactly how she remembered it, dark, creepy, and home. She sighed, breathing in the sweet scent of old moon panels and gel. The sweet smell of science. She pressed the button and let the elevator carry the two of them down into the facility. She kept waiting and waiting to hear GLaDOS' familiar voice. After about five minutes of silence, she'd started to get worried. The air was buzzing with anticipation. She rubbed her knuckles nervously with her thumb and tried to find a security camera. Nothing. Now she was scared. She didn't want GLaDOS to be dead, she wanted to hear her talk again, to hear what she had to say about Chell coming back. Gordon had no idea what was running through this crazy woman's mind. What was she thinking? Coming back to her personal hell? Did she WANT to get herself killed? And him along with her? Granted, she had given him a choice, and he'd come with her. Guess that meant he was crazy too. Of course, he'd already known that. After deciding GLaDOS was... sleeping... hopefully... Chell moved onto the problem of showing how much she appreciated all Rattmann had done. She set off in search of his collection of homes, Gordon trailing along behind, confused to death. She didn't explain her intentions, simply let him follow her. She wasn't used to giving orders, or explaining things, certainly not down here. This place had always just been her, doing what she had to. Listening to GLaDOS tell her what to do. Not her instructing others... She wasn't really used to having a companion. The cube didn't count. She wasn't sure how to include Wheatley in her mess of thoughts, she was quite content to forget him. Life was complicated enough, she didn't need to consider how she felt about him. He wasn't even here...
"Chell, would you mind, explaining, WHERE WE ARE GOING?" Chell could tell that Gordon was annoyed, his expression was very good at conveying that. It was funny though, down here, she didn't care. This place was... hers. Still, she felt she should at least let him know what was going on,
"Okay, this is hard to admit, but through the nightmares, there's this... I miss this place. And, it's not for the reasons you'd think-"
"You miss Her. What the hell is wrong with you Chell? She tried to kill you, let it go."
"She saved my life." Chell scowled.
"No, Caroline saved your life."
"She is Caroline." Chell looked satisfied as Gordon didn't know how to reply to that. She kept walking, not turning to see if he was following. At each corner, she looked for the searching eyes of turrets, the cameras, the comforting yellow glow from the AI's optic. She didn't want to think that she might never see GLaDOS again. It didn't make any sense, she'd been searching for ages, trying to find another person, and now that she had Gordon, she only cared about GLaDOS (and Rattmann...). She felt guilty, like she was abandoning her friend. But he was used to being alone, they both were. She guessed that they both expected anyone they got close to to disappear, or die. It usually happened, so it wasn't like they were unusually paranoid. Just accepted reality. She winced, realizing that despite her instincts, GLaDOS had to be dead, she loved her, so she had died, she was still searching. It wasn't quite in character for her, but she still kept looking. She showed Gordon to one of Rattmann's dens, quickly checking to see if Rattmann was nearby. Nothing. She sighed, settling down to eat an expired can of beans with Gordon. She traced the drawings, Gordon silently watching her from across the room, slowly chewing his food.
"You miss more than Her. You miss everything here. The walls, the smells, the pictures, and I know damn well you miss your portal gun. But you know what? I miss you. We've been here for days, and you've barley paid any attention to me. I mean, I'm used to being ignored, but not by you. So, I was waiting for the right time to give you this, I guess now's as good a time as any." He reached into his bag of guns and slowly drew out a gun, he held it toward her. She looked at it in awe, it was her gun. Her ASHPOD. She let out the loudest squeak of joy she could manage, before snatching the gun from him and rubbing it against her cheek. Gordon smiled as she cried tears of joy. This item should have scared her to death, made her remember the fear, the pain, the bullets, the bottomless pits, the acid burns. But it also reminded her of Her.
"How did you find it?"
"Well, this morning when we were climbing down that shaft, I saw it wedged in a mess of wires."
"Why didn't you give it to me earlier?" Chell asked, playfully slapping his arm.
"I didn't know how you'd react, I guess I expected you to go into shock or something, I'm still not exactly sure how you feel about this place. All I know is that you're crazy as GLaDOS herself." Chell took that as a compliment and fell asleep, hugging her portal gun. Gordon stayed up longer, watching her chest rise and fall as for the first time in months, she slept peacefully. He saw her smile, wishing something so simple could destroy his nightmares, but there just wasn't anything to be done about the haunting screams of everyone you knew interrupting your every thought. He wasn't all that tired, too worried about what the next day might bring. He gently rubbed his thumb over the cold metal of his crowbar, wishing he could hug it and drift off as easily as she had. Instead he sat at the front of the room, peering out of the bent panel, making sure nothing would hurt them. The voice caught him off guard, he hadn't heard anyone talk for ages...
"Hello... and welcome... to.. the eNRRRRRiCCChhhMMEeeENNnNNT Centerrrrrrrrrrr... SHUT UP CAROLINE! CHELLL? CHELL IS NOT HERE! Chell is... Chelllllllllllllll..."