Oh. Hello again. Were you not expecting to see me so soon? Hah… Well, I did say that I had another story coming. So here it is. It is just a one-shot, however; do not expect me to add to this.
This story takes place after my other stories, A Little Test and A Few Repairs. If you have not at least read the latter, I am afraid this story will make little sense.
This was a quick story I wrote shortly after finishing A Few Repairs. I think I was only writing this to get away from school projects… But I suppose those who read A Few Repairs would want to read this as well, so here you are.
No warnings this time, unless you are unsettled by allusions to torture.
"I'm going to kill you, and all the cake is gone."
She ran through the corridor, ignoring the bright yellow warning signs—radiation, moving parts, implosions—and the voice that constantly trailed her.
"You don't—even care—do you?"
No, not really, because she knew she wasn't going to die here. She had to keep going—she didn't know what to keep going for, since she had no idea where she was now, where she was headed, what the outside world was like. She only knew that she had to keep going, to survive, to get out of this place. She was not going to die here. She was not going to get killed by that voice, or any twisted plan of hers.
Her knee-replacement braces clanged against the metal floor, a steady constant as she ran throughout the facility, alongside the grinding and pounding of mechanical gears doing who knows what. There was another room up ahead, and maybe there would be another clue for where to go—
The floor lurched beneath her, shooting her up toward the ceiling. Immediately she leaped away, barely avoiding being crushed. Another moving part swung at her, and she dodged that, everything feeling like a blur. She was continuously seeing the moving parts, barely avoiding them, panting heavily as she narrowly avoided death again and again.
She could see the way out of this room—another hallway, just there—and made a sprint for it—
Another moving part whirred by her, ramming into her side and sending her spinning to the ground. The wind knocked out of her, she tried to scramble to her feet, gasping sharply at the pain in her side. She managed to crawl away from the moving parts on all fours, finally standing up in a new room. Her side still ached, but she was safe here—
She jumped at the sight of a turret, but relaxed when she found it was a disassembled one hanging from a rack, its optic dim. Laughing in relief, she turned to leave—and saw the optic flash out of the corner of her eye.
She felt the bullets hit her in the back, blasting her forward into another room. Before she could even cry out, she felt herself falling—there was no floor in this room, except for an enormous acid pool a few yards below, and she was getting closer—
Chell jolted awake with the feeling of having been dropped into her bed. Her body was drenched in cold sweat, but there was neither a bruise on her side nor bullets in her back. She reached out to wipe the sweat from her forehead, remembering to use her left hand this time; her right hand had not fully healed, the skin still ugly and burnt.
She glanced at her alarm clock, the blaring numbers reading 1:34. That was a comfort, at least—she still had several hours of sleep ahead, and she could sleep in as long as she wanted, since it was her day off. Settling back down into her covers, she curled up in the bed, hugging her stomach.
Just when she felt herself drifting off, something jolted her awake:
The deafening scream rang out from the living room, accompanied by the sound of squeaking handles and grinding gears. Chell heaved a sigh—she wasn't the only one still having nightmares.
It had been a few weeks since they'd escaped Aperture again, and Chell had done what she could to fix the damage GLaDOS had done to Wheatley. She'd outright replaced the wiring in his vocal processor, fixed a couple other wires, and, after a bit of research, managed to re-enable his sleep mode. But whether through some sinister coding the AI had left, the results of the psychological torture, or some bizarre glitch, Wheatley had started dreaming—and most of his dreams were nightmares.
She remembered the first night: He'd been so overjoyed that his sleep mode had been re-enabled, he'd entered it as soon as she had gone to bed. Only a few hours later, he'd started screaming in his sleep, and she had rushed out of the room to wake him up.
He'd been a confused mess, squawking away like a broken record: "B-but I was in sleep mode, in sleep mode, how c-can I see things when I'm in sleep mode, I'm not supposed to see anything when I'm in sleep mode, not see anything, how did that happen, how can I see things, I was in bloody sleep mode…"
It had taken her a while to calm him down, and when she had, he'd adamantly refused to go back into the mode, convinced he would have nightmares again. "It's—it's not that I d-don't appreciate wh-what you did, mate, f-fixing that and all, b-but…!" And she'd given him an understanding, if tired, smile, giving his lower handle a gentle squeeze. He could do what he needed to recover, and if that meant not sleeping, well… robots didn't really have to sleep, did they?
And Chell knew she would have given anything to avoid her nightmares back then.
But, try as he might to avoid sleeping, the boredom and depression eventually got to him, and he would reluctantly drift back into sleep mode the next night. More often than not he would have nightmares, but on blissful occasions he would sleep the night through without any nasty dreams. Those times, she would wake up in the morning to find him giving an amusing account of what he'd dreamed, and how maybe these crazy sleep mode hallucinations weren't so bad.
Then he would have a nightmare again, and go on and on about how much he hated his sleep mode and why did GLaDOS have to do that to him, and… then he would go back into it the next night, thinking maybe this time it would be better, only to have a nightmare again, starting the cycle anew.
It had been wearing down both of them, and Chell had been losing a lot of sleep over it. While she hated to leave him locked in a nightmare, sometimes, if he wasn't too loud, she would let him stay in it so she could get the sleep she needed. Sometimes he would guilt-trip her the next morning after that, while other times he would just give her the most pitiful look his single optic could muster. And, unfortunately, both were rather effective.
This time, though, Wheatley was really screaming his vocal processor out, and Chell wearily rolled out of bed and entered the living room. She found him on the couch, where he always "slept," but rolled onto his side rather than sitting upright. His top handle was flailing madly while his lower handle was stretched out, occasionally giving a jerk, and his face constantly rolled around, optic shut. All the while he was screaming, though he occasionally paused to ramble.
"NO! Let me go let me go let me go let me go stop stop stop you can't do this stop please stop please—" And his speech degenerated into screams again, his vocal processor sounding strained.
Chell rubbed her forehead at the noise, but approached the couch, crouching down until she was as close as she could get to him without being struck by one of the handles. Taking a deep breath, she spoke as loud as she could without shouting: "Wheatley."
His optic snapped online with a flash, and Chell squinted her eyes against the sudden light. Before she could say anything else, he curled both handles around his body, shivering badly. His vocal processor simulated shaky gasps as his pinprick optic darted around, apparently trying to assert just where he was.
At the very least, he was not crying, and for that Chell sighed in relief. While it didn't happen often, Wheatley was always embarrassed when she caught him like that, so she would usually treat it as though he were working at a receptacle and ignore him. He seemed convinced that crying was evidence of some weakness, which was why he'd ranted many times before about how of course he never cried, that was a human thing, and he was definitely not a human, nope, so he would never do something like that. Nevermind that his emotions were very human otherwise.
Chell figured GLaDOS must have said something to him about it, and she would have to correct it, much like how she'd been working to correct his constant "suggestions." Yes, she'd say, it was all right to give a command so long as he wasn't a jerk about it. No, nothing was going to electrocute him if he didn't word his request as a suggestion.
They'd get through it eventually. She had recovered from Aperture, and so would he.
"O-oh," he finally said, drawing her out of her thoughts. He had stopped shaking, and his handles had relaxed a little. "I-I'm… I'm at the lady's house."
Chell smiled a little, and reached out to tap his side. He gave a start, and looked her in the face. "…Oh. H-hello." He blinked a few times, then shut his optic.
Seeing that, she took a seat next to him and watched him open his eye again. The terrified look had left his optic, though it still remained a tiny dot of light, contracted in fury. She knew what was coming, and carefully picked him up, setting him on her lap.
"I-I b-bloody hate that sleep mode, I d-don't know why they ever gave me that bloody thing—s-stupid engineers and scientists, j-just like how they programmed me with stuff like pain and nausea and all that bloody trash…"
Chell reached over, grabbing his upper handle and massaging it gently as he rambled. It was his usual rant, and by now she could almost quote some of the phrases he repeated. But she resisted the urge, focusing on rubbing the worn metal of his upper handle. It hadn't taken her long to discover how sensitive his handles could be, and she'd begun taking advantage of it, holding him by the handles or massaging them until he calmed down.
"…and then bloody making me have those—th-those sleep-hallucinations, th-those bloody horrible things, whose bloody idea was that? I'd come up with a b-better bloody idea than those stupid bloody engineers…"
He abused the curse as though it were the only one he knew—which wouldn't surprise Chell in the slightest. She heaved a sigh, rubbing another part of the handle and avoiding the dent in it.
"…if I could just—just g-go back in time—a time m-machine, d-d'you think Aperture b-built one of those?—a-a-and I'd g-go back to before th-they even thought t-to make me, and I-I'd kill e-every single one of th-those bloody scientists…"
His rant was winding down now, and she could feel the tension leaving him.
"…and… and then… th-then… w-wait… i-if I k-killed them before th-they made me, th-then… th-then would I still, y'know, b-be 'round…?" He blinked, glancing around uncertainly. "D-don't… d-don't want to wipe out m-my own existence a-and all."
Chell gave a quiet laugh and shook her head as she continued to rub his handle.
His rant finally over, he went limp, leaning against her stomach. His eye shields were half-closed in a tired expression, and he was staring out into the dark room. "Wh-what'm I gonna do…? I… I haven't g-got a rail here—all ch-charged, though, d-don't worry about that—but… but I-I can't go anywhere, a-and s-sleep mode was fine u-until… until I got th-those bloody hallucinations. A-and—uh—"
She'd gone to massage his lower handle, but he'd pulled it away, looking up at her in alarm. She gave him a funny look; normally he didn't mind—in fact, he usually appreciated it, since it was a tremendous relief to him that he now had both his handles again. It was odd for him to act this way, unless it had something to do with his dream…
Wheatley seemed to guess what she was going to ask, and immediately his optic darted around, looking every which way but at her. "Ah—n-nothing, mate, i-it's nothing, I—I've c-completely forgotten it, i-in fact. Y-yep, completely s-slipped my mind."
Chell re-adjusted him in her lap, turning him more toward her, and fixed him with a pointed look while he glanced away guiltily. No, he wasn't going to pull that on her this time. "Tell me," she said firmly.
It was something she'd been trying to do with him every so often: get him to talk about his nightmares, or what had happened. In exchange, she would sometimes go over something that had happened to her back at Aperture, or when she had first escaped. It was usually a relief for him to get it off his processor, and, to be honest, it was a relief for her to do the same.
Though it didn't always go well—a few times he'd wound up locked in a flashback part way through, and she'd had to snap him out of it. She was prepared to do so this time, though she inwardly hoped she wouldn't have to.
"…Oh… well…" He simulated a shaky, useless sigh. "Y-you… w-when I first came back, y-you saw I… I d-didn't exactly have my lower handle, yeah. Sh-she… she…"
He was shaking, and she gave his upper handle a reassuring squeeze.
"…G-grabbed me with a b-bunch of those arms… c-couldn't move, a-and she g-grabbed my handle, a-and… p-pulled it off." He shut his optic. "With, with one of th-those claws… c-clean off—c-can't tell you h-how much it b-bloody hurt…! R-really, if I tried, I-I think I'd crash again… d-don't want to do that…"
Chell cringed. She'd figured the handle might have fallen off as a result of something else, not directly ripped out. Then again, it was GLaDOS they were talking about—she shouldn't have been surprised. Carefully she pulled him closer and reached out to massage his lower handle, ignoring his flinch at her touch. But she continued to rub it until he relaxed again, realizing that he was—mostly—all in one piece again.
"Th-thanks," he said finally, leaning against her middle.
She nodded, letting go and looking him in the optic. Are you all right now?
He glanced up at her, noting her expression. "Y-yeah, I-I'll… I'll be fine. Th-thanks."
Sighing quietly, she lifted him off of her lap and set him back on the couch again. She leaned back, peering into the kitchen and noting the time on the microwave—somewhere past 2 AM—and yawned as she got to her feet. While she was glad Wheatley was doing a little better now, she was more glad to be able to get back to sleep. She took a few steps toward her door, and—
Chell paused to rub her forehead, and turned to glance at him.
Wheatley's optic contracted a little and began to dart around nervously. "E-er, this is just a s-suggestion, of course, j-just… thought I would suggest—" He stopped when she tapped the side of his casing and raised an eyebrow. "Er, right. I-I… Well, I h-had this idea—"
She rubbed her forehead again. Great. Two in the morning was the perfect time to listen to his ideas.
"I-I think… m-maybe it would be nice if you could, uh, m-move your bed out here?"
Chell gave him a sideways glance.
"Um, okay—better idea, uh… D'you think you could maybe sleep out here? W-with me?" He gave a hopeful grin.
She wanted to help him, but that was pushing it. While the couch was softer than the beds in the extended relaxation center, that wasn't saying much. Shaking her head, she turned back toward her room.
"Oh… I-I was just thinking th-that it might—th-that it might help w-with… those sleep-hallucinations, a-and all."
Chell stopped and grit her teeth. For a core designed to be a complete idiot, he was pretty good at guilt-tripping. Turning back, she found him looking dejectedly at a spot on the couch, his handles drooped. No, he was very good at guilt-tripping. Heaving a sigh, she grabbed him by the upper handle and began to carry him to her room.
He blinked in surprise when he felt himself being lifted off the couch, and looked up as the lady carried him toward her room. "W-wait," he stammered, "y-you'll take me in there?"
Chell nodded, stepping into her room and shutting the door.
Wheatley looked around in awe, optic wide. It was hard to see in the dark, but from what he could tell, he could see a bed about the size of the ones in the extended relaxation chambers, a digital alarm clock sitting on a night stand, a shelf, and a dresser. There were two other doors and a window as well, but he couldn't see into any of them. "So—so this is your lair, eh?" he asked, smiling up at her for a moment, then shuddered. "W-wait, no, no, it's not a l-lair, th-that wasn't the r-right word to use—"
She tapped her hand against his side.
"…Sorry," he whispered, glancing away. Even though the lady had finally forgiven him a few weeks ago, he still felt that guilt creep up on him from time to time. It made him feel wretched, like he was some awful thing that didn't deserve forgiveness—and he really didn't. He was amazed she had actually forgiven him… and sometimes wondered if she would take that forgiveness back.
He felt her grip on his handle tighten in a reassuring way, and tried to relax. That was over. He'd learned his lesson—and GLaDOS had made sure of that in the harshest way possible.
Chell carried him over to the bed, setting him down on the side closer to the door, where the blankets were mostly undisturbed. He looked up to meet her gaze as she bent down. "Don't wake me up," she said, "or you're sleeping on the couch."
"R-right," Wheatley said with a nod. "Understood. N-no talking—not a peep. I won't say a w-word, you can c-count on me, no waking you up i-in the middle of the night, 'cause that would be j-just t—"
Wincing, he watched as she rose to her full height, but she only gave him an amused half-smile. As she crawled into bed, he shifted around a little, getting a feeling for his surroundings. He sank down quite a bit into the soft mattress—it was cushier than the couch. While it was very different, it wasn't bad, though it did press his lower handle against his body, making it harder to move. "W-well, could be w-worse," he muttered. But seeing Chell lift her head, his optic contracted, and he muted his vocal processor.
Wheatley watched her reach out and grab another blanket that had been bunched up toward the end of the bed and pull it back over herself. Must be cold, he figured, watching her in fascination, though she kept turned away from him. Eventually her side began to rise and fall evenly, and there were no sounds in the room other than the whirring of his gears and the soft sound of her breathing.
This grew to be rather boring, and Wheatley tilted his optic back, watching the blue light bounce off the ceiling. He wasn't tired—he never had to sleep, and he really didn't want to if it would mean more of those sleep mode hallucinations.
Shivering, he shut his optic. No, he did not want more of those. They'd been plaguing him for weeks, and they felt even worse than regular hallucinations, somehow. They came immediately, tossing him into the redemption line where there was no friendly turret and no hope of getting out, or into her chamber, or into space, or into some dark part of the facility, or even…
His optic opened, revealing a shuddering blue pinprick. While the lady usually tried to get him to talk about his sleep-hallucinations, there was one that he'd seen more than once—one that he never wanted to talk about it. He never wanted to describe it for fear of cursing it into existence. It wasn't like the others, where he was in the facility or somewhere he would never end up again, or where she returned, or anything like that—things that would never happen.
No. This hallucination could very well happen.
He didn't want to think about it.
But… what was he supposed to think about? It was so dull here, so quiet, and he couldn't go anywhere… Why couldn't he have a management rail? Then at least he could move around the house. Maybe she could… build me one? he wondered, watching at the sleeping form next to him. After she fixes the rest of me… whenever that'll be. Repairs were slow, after all—she had admitted to him that repairing the rest of him might take some time. Eh. I can wait… though I hope she doesn't take too long.
He was still in constant pain, but he was trying to get used to it. His casing was cracked and dented, most of his poles were broken, it was still hard to move correctly, and he'd still get stuck on occasion… but at least none of his wires hurt anymore, and he was very grateful for that. No more twitch, either.
He sighed, flexing his handles and trying to settle himself into a more comfortable position. These things weren't made with cores in mind, he thought, glancing aside. It would be nice to just be suspended by a management rail, his handles comfortably free. Oh, that would be amazing, wouldn't it? It'd been so long since he'd been suspended from a rail! The last time he could remember being suspended from something, aside from in a hallucination, was—
—high, too high off the ground, far too high, it could kill him if he dropped from here, but the cable at his back port was sparking a little—would it drop him now? Don't drop don't drop don't drop—no don't do that! Stop swinging, no…! No, he didn't want to feel sick…!
A soft sound at his side snapped him out of the flashback, and he made a disgusted sound, still feeling the nausea course through his circuits. But the lady was shifting, making a quiet sound of protest in her sleep. Inwardly Wheatley groaned, curling his handles around his body. No… getting s-stuck in those memories w-won't help. If I wake her up, she'll make me go back… He shivered. I don't want to go back out there, but…
He glanced around the room. There really was nothing for him to do here, and it would be hours before the lady woke up. Maybe—maybe he really should just go back into sleep mode. There was a chance he wouldn't have those nasty sleep-hallucinations again, after all, and it would pass the time.
Shutting his optic, he looked into his coding, quickly finding his sleep-mode and initiating the process. A couple seconds later, he was dead to the world.
It was so dark. Where were the lights? Weren't there supposed to be lights here?
He tried to turn to look, but everything grinded and hurt so badly, he didn't want to move. Where was he, though? He could hardly see anything, and—
The words echoed, cold and harsh. His optic contracted to a pinprick, but it was hard to look around, hard to see. Where was he? And who was she talking about? It couldn't be…?
It… it reminded him of when he was in that room, left there for a week or more, alone and hurting… A shudder ran through his body, making his innards grind again. No, he didn't want to think about that, but where was he? He wanted to know where he was, but he could hardly see…
Narrowing his optic—and even that took some work—he forced himself to turn to the side, fighting against the pain and stiffness. But he couldn't see anything there—just darkness.
"She was lying about everything."
He shuddered again and forced himself to look in the other direction, though this action took twice as long. He could see something this way, but it was only fogged up, smudged, broken glass. He could see nothing beyond. But then… what about…
Struggling again, he forced his optic to look down—
Splintered, worm-eaten wood. It had once been a table.
"She's abandoned you."
No. No no no. She would never do that—never. She would never abandon him. She—she had forgiven him, she had rescued him, she cared about him… she wouldn't abandon him. No.
"She lied about coming back for you, because you created such a fuss."
But he didn't mean it—he couldn't help it if those sleep-hallucinations kept coming back—but, no, he could, couldn't he? He could have just not gone into sleep mode, and then she could sleep… But then he might hallucinate again, or have to be awake and deal with his hurting innards… That wasn't his fault, was it?
"Your voice is worse than nails on a chalkboard, and you never shut up. Even a lunatic like her can't stand you."
No that's not true, no no no, she didn't hate his voice—but… but sometimes she would cringe when he talked, or give him an annoyed look, but… she didn't hate it all the time, did she? …But then she would get mad at him for talking at night, and waking her up, but some of that was when he was in sleep mode—he couldn't help that, could he? …No, he could, but… no… it wasn't fair…!
"She has left you all alone in your misery, to sit here for years and years until you rust away."
Shuddering, he forced himself to look back at the window, and gave a painful jerk of surprise—he saw his reflection: his body covered in rust, slowly falling apart for want of care.
"Stop deluding yourself."
No… no… no, please…!
"She hates you."
By some miracle, something jarred him, and he blinked a few times. He felt different, and he realized that he wasn't rusted, but where was he now? Had he just been hallucinating again? "Wh-where…?"
Once his optic adjusted to the darkness, he found himself sitting on the lady's bed. But something was wrong—
"Oh, no!" he cried, optic immediately contracting into a pinprick when he saw the empty space in front of him. "No, no, no, no…!"
So that was it. The lady was tired of his voice, tired of his waking her up, tired of his mistakes, tired of his everything, and had finally left him.
Wheatley clamped his handles tightly around his body, shaking badly. "N-no no no no no Chell I'm so sorry please don't go I'm sorry I'm sorry please…" His face gave an involuntary jerk as he choked back a sob. "I-I'm sorry, I'm s-sorry, I'm s-sorry…"
He continued look around, hoping for some sign of her, but he saw nothing through his blurred, cracked vision. Yes, the lady really had left him here to rust.
Unable to hold himself back, his vocal processor gasped in simulated sobs. He could still remember what GLaDOS told him—how utterly weak this was. While she usually lied about everything, he knew she had to be telling the truth this time. He'd never seen the lady cry, after all… but it didn't matter anymore, did it?
Something touched his side, startling him badly and making his vocal processor simulate a choking noise. Looking up, he could see a familiar face through his blurred vision, and suddenly realized how he must look, crying like this. He forced his creaking innards to move, turning himself away from the lady and ultimately rolling onto his face.
"I-I'm fine, m-m-mate," he stammered between sobs. Embarrassment flooded his circuits—he wished he hadn't asked her to bring him in here. "N-nothing wr-wrong, j-just a g-glitch i-in… i-in my v-vocal p-p-processor…"
He could feel her sit down next to him, and choked again when he felt her lifting him. It occurred to him that she was probably furious that he had woke her up, again, and he began to squirm in panic. "N-no, no, I'm so sorry d-don't p-please…!"
But she sat him in her lap, drawing her legs up and wrapping one arm around him, pressing him against her stomach. With her other hand, she began to massage his upper handle, and he felt himself start to relax. His crying finally began to subside, and he went limp, leaning against her stomach and shivering.
"L-look," he said, though he was looking down at a spot on the bed. "I-I know you're… s-sick of me… S-so just—just… I-I don't know, c-crush my m-main processor, o-or something? P-please, just d-don't let me s-sit here and r-rust away… I-if you c-can't stand t-to be around me, j-just let me die q-quickly, okay?"
He'd felt her grip on his handle loosen partway through, and shut his optic, expecting the worst. He felt her adjust him in her lap, and winced when he heard her speak: "Wheatley."
He opened his optic a little, but was surprised to see that she looked concerned rather than angry. "Wh-what?"
"Why would you think that?"
Wheatley's optic's aperture relaxed a little. "W-well… I-I keep waking you up—d-don't mean to, b-but—I-I guess I shouldn't r-really be g-going into sleep mode wh-when I know I'll h-have those awful s-sleep hallucinations… A-and you've b-been working a-all this time to t-try to fix me, and—m-must be tiring, right?"
Chell heaved a sigh. "Repairs are tiring," she said, and he flinched. "But I'm not tired of you."
"Y-you're… not? B-but—"
She lifted her arm and held her right hand in front of his optic. He blinked, wondering what she was doing this for until he noticed the burn scars on her palm, where they'd gripped a burning portal gun a few weeks ago.
"No. I'm not."
He stared at her hand, then looked back up at her, noting the serious look on her face. But he glanced away, not quite able to meet her gaze. "It's… it's been weeks, th-though, and I'm s-still having those s-sleep-hallucinations, a-and I-I'm still seeing things, a-and—"
Chell held him tighter, going back to massaging his upper handle. "It takes time," she said.
Heaving a shaky sigh, he leaned against her middle, letting his handle go limp in her grasp as she rubbed it. "A-a long time," he whispered.
"And you'll make it."
Wheatley glanced up at Chell, finally meeting her gaze. "R-right," he whispered, letting his optic drift closed. "I'll try."