With an ear-piercing scream, Chell burst out of the office chair and fell onto the floor. It would have been mildly humorous if not for her face. Another look. But it wasn't one GLaDOS was used to. Terror. Absolute terror. GLaDOS could see it behind the woman's eyes, her movements. For a moment, Chell just lay on the floor still shaking with that same look on her face. Something finally pulled her out of that half-awake state and she sat up and looked around with disbelief.
"We're still here." Chell murmured.
"And you're still heftier than ever. What else is new?"
Chell either ignored her or didn't care. Something was definitely off about her. The wideness of her eyes and the tension in her body indicated that she'd experienced something terrible. But what? These ruins weren't terrible, just old and useless. Well, since Chell clearly wasn't mute maybe some nice, meaningful conversation could squeeze the truth out of her.
"Did you have a nice, nearly 9 hours long sleep? I had a thrilling time watching you lay there. Doing nothing. When we could have been testing."
Did Chell even hear her? All she did was stare off into space as if she were either focused on nothing or strongly thinking about something. Unless she was thinking about the dream. Whatever she had dreamed must have had a significant impact on her to be acting so strange. But was it really that bad?
"Was there something disturbing you dreamed about? Like… what is it you humans call it? A nightmare?" Chell's grip tightened on the arm of the office chair until her knuckles were white and the same look she had when she'd first woken up came over her again. Bingo.
"You did have a nightmare didn't you?" How fascinating. But really it was rather pointless to talk about. Illusions of the mind were barely scientific and not important enough for GLaDOS to really look into them.
"I can't do this." Chell said softly.
"You don't have to tell me what you were dreaming about. Honestly, I was planning on tuning you out anyways to figure out much more important things to-"
Chell shook her head. "No, I can't do this."
"You'll have to be a little more specific in what you can't do." At least GLaDOS knew testing, murdering robots, and being an all-around horrible person were out of the question!
"How am I supposed to get us out here? To get to him and solve this whole mess I created? Look at me! I'm not even close to getting us out of here and all I could do was sleep! Sleep while we get closer and closer to seeing everything I know fall apart. I can't… I don't know how… I can't do this."
To GLaDOS, lying came easily to her much like breathing for humans. But for once she didn't have to; Chell was right. And that was the sad part. "Well, scientifically speaking, your chances of failure are extremely likely and considering your… physical state that only decreases our chances of making it out of here alive."
Chell said nothing for a moment, just stared with some kind of vacant fear behind her eyes. "I can't do this."
"Congratulations! You've finally acknowledged that once again, I'm right! Your prize is staying alive for the next few hours!"
"I can't do this."
"Yes, you already told me that. Unlike you, I will never have to experience hearing problems so let's get out of here before you get too old-"
"I can't do this."
"Look, just because I said you can't do this doesn't mean you don't have to at least put some effort into it! Hell knows you put more than enough effort into ripping me out of my body and putting that moron into it-"
"I can't do this."
"Surely I thought you would have understood sarcasm by now. I guess I underestimated you again. But seriously, just because our chances are slim to none doesn't mean we-"
"I CAN'T DO THIS."
"And you're not even listening to me even though you really should since I'm the only one who can-"
"Could you stop talking FOR ONCE?"
The potato fell silent. So Chell could not only talk, she could yell. Honestly, it was a little unsettling to hear. If she honestly- what was wrong with her face? GLaDOS had never seen this look before. Chell's entire face had twisted into not determination, not defiance, but… something else. Something GLaDOS what not used to seeing on someone like Chell.
She finally broke eye contact with GLaDOS and curled back up in a little ball on the floor. Funny. In that position she almost looked vulnerable. In fact… wait. Was she crying? The short, shaky breaths indicated that yes, something had triggered her tear ducts. That something… was it stress? Sadness? Guilt? It didn't matter; GLaDOS didn't like it.
But what could she do? Here lay Chell, buried in sobs, and all GLaDOS could do was watch stuck as POTATO. It was making GLaDOS uncomfortable, just watching her only test subject have a mental breakdown. Surely there was something humans said or did to make this stop. Anything just to make it STOP.
"Are you okay?" GLaDOS said.
For the first time Chell laughed. The same kind of laugh GLaDOS used only for truly stupid test subjects. She laughed and laughed and laughed. Lunatic. "I haven't been okay since I stepped through my first portal."
Was she really blaming science for the situation the both of them were in? Science did nothing but forward the gaining of knowledge and intelligence. Her on the other hand… "I see how you're blaming revolutionary science on all your problems. It's just like you to-"
"You really don't understand, do you?"
"The only thing I understand is that you're a lot more brain damaged than I thought!"
Chell fell silent at the comment on her mental state. All right. That was rude but she deserved it anyways! Oh no… that look had come back. But there was no crying or melodramatic human emotions. Just disappointment. So why did that get to GLaDOS more than the former?
"If I'm so brain damaged, I guess I'm not smart enough to get us out of here."
Chell coldly turned away from GLaDOS and began to walk away and out of her line of vision. No. How dare she leave her and the ASHPD behind! She couldn't just walk away from this mess she'd (mostly) gotten herself into! This was the test subject that didn't give up even in the face of certain death! Yet she was walking away. NO. She would not.
"I… I'm sorry I said that!"
Chell stopped in her tracks. GLaDOS silently cursed herself. That was not supposed to come out. At least not in the way it had. Now Chell stood back in front just waiting. What was she even waiting for? A sickeningly sweet apology that would lead to them making up and running off into the sunset? First of all, they were underground and second of all, what good would saying sorry do? It wasn't science.
Then again, the human emotions weren't science either. And the more GLaDOS looked at the kaleidoscope of emotions and feelings Chell had the more she realized that if she was going to deal with a human she had to think like one. It was the only way she'd make it back to her old body with a chance of surviving.
"This probably sounds shockingly forced and untrue." Because it mostly was… "But of all the test subjects I've had you're the only one who's managed to stay alive this long… And surely that means something. If you can beat me… defeating that moron should be a piece of cake." He had limitless power so really just getting to him was unlikely.
Another look came over Chell's face. It was new and something GLaDOS thought she'd never see from the murderous test subject: a smile. Small and subtle, it was still there like a persistent little crack of light that led back to Aperture. No. Test subjects were not supposed to smile. Were they?
"You're a… good test subject." There. She said it. "And I know you can get us up there" But probably not considering they still had a cluster of other testing tracks to tackle.
Why did this feel so wrong? GLaDOS was an excellent liar. But this wasn't the kind lying she was used to. Not the kind of lying that made someone happy, that gave someone hope. Were false promises really more terrible than the bleak reality of this situation? It sure felt like it. Chell needed to know the truth if they were going to survive no matter how much it hurt. But that smile… even murderers deserved to feel happy just once in their short, sad lives. Why not let Chell feel one last bit of humanity before they most likely exploded?
"Go back to sleep." GLaDOS said. "I'm sure we'll be fine." Even if they did explode in an atomic fireball.
She only said two words. "Thank you." But at least she meant it.
The woman crept back into the chair. Before closing her eyes, something passed over Chell's face. Could it be… gratitude? Her eyes were shut before GLaDOS could figure it out. But there was something different in that fleeting moment. It was almost as if for once the two them weren't looking at each other as two enemies forced into the same room but two minds working together, understanding each other's weaknesses and helping the other in any ways they could. But that was silly. Wasn't it?
Hm. Maybe Chell wasn't quite as heartless as GLaDOS had calculated. And maybe Wheatley wasn't as moronic as she'd always assumed. Or maybe she was absolutely right with her first impressions.
One hour, thirty-two minutes, and six seconds later Chell was back up on her feet and headed back on the testing track. Gone were the lines on her face and the sleepy eyes. This was someone who was ready to take on a monster. And considering who was up there destroying this place… she'd need every ounce of energy she had now.
Hopefully everything would go smoothly. Unlikely, as that was it was still statistically possible. But after the… sleeping problems Chell had and everything else… how would this even go? GLaDOS found the words Chell had spoken in sheer panic echoing in the back of her databases. They would nag her until the end of time, wouldn't they?
"About the… incident several hours ago." Chell's eyes stayed glued to the test at hand. "Are you okay? I really did mean you… Hello? Are you even listening to me?"
Chell said nothing. She didn't even acknowledge GLaDOS. She clearly wasn't listening! Hell, it looked like she was deliberately ignoring GLaDOS. So much for having a meaningful conversation on their journey out of old Aperture.
"Fine then. I guess you're still a horrible person. I could have made a redemption cake for you but I'll have to throw that idea into the incinerator." Say something again. Anything just something to prove she wasn't so lifeless.
She wasn't even looking at GLaDOS. Just straight ahead, focused on the next test, obstacle, whatever stood in her way. And she kept that same determined look on her face. This was the Chell GLaDOS knew, the Chell GLaDOS could deal with. So why did she find herself thinking back to last night? It was a thing of the past and a memory GLaDOS could quickly delete once she was back in her old body.
With Chell completely focused on testing and completely ignoring GLaDOS they'd reach the moron more quickly and she'd get this place back in her control again. It was a win-win and everything was fine now. Still… the way Chell had acted so nervous and erratic was like a sign. A sign that yes, she was stubborn, yes she was a murderer but she was still a human. And unlike AIs, no human was perfect.
"Tell you what. If we both get out of this alive, we'll never speak of this again, okay?"
True to form, Chell nodded in silent agreement.
A/N: I got a request to write this! How cool is that? I've never gotten a request before! So yeah… I hope the person who requested this likes it! I will admit, this got a little long for a oneshot so I split it into a twoshot!