Standard disclaimers apply. If I owned anything even remotely related to Portal 2, I wouldn't be broke.
Chapter 7: Epilogue
"Hey, Wheatley! Have you picked the ripe ones?" Chell called as she hefted the basket of carrots she had collected.
The response was a quiet call and a wave, and then Wheatley managed to stumble over.
Chell laughed as he tripped over a rake, but caught him before he fell.
Wheatley, dressed in a pair of denim jeans, boots, and a blue tee with a straw hat that matched Chell's to keep the sun off his head and neck, grinned sheepishly at her. "At least I didn't spill them this time. That's definitely an improvement. Not spilling them, I mean."
Chell grinned and helped him regain his balance. Much to their delight, he had been able to regain his voice. He was still unable to shout or raise his voice too loud, but the doctors expected him to make a full recovery and soon be able to scream loudly whenever there was a bee, instead of just mouth "bee, bee" and run in circles while waving his arms in a panic.
"Let's load it into the truck. All of our pickings are going to the grocer today. We've got enough eggs, milk, and cheese from Old Man Arnold's, and he doesn't need any vegetables right now," Chell explained.
Teaching Wheatley how to help out around the farm hadn't been too difficult, as he often watched her do it (it being an organic farm, with no pesticides, also helped to keep things simple). Of course, there were those tiny mishaps that were usually attributed to him being just a tad (okay, very) clumsy, but he always meant well, and was far from the "moron" that GLaDOS had painted him as.
Then again, he was no longer that Wheatley; he was slowly finding himself and who he was, and having Chell's forgiveness and trust was a huge step in doing so.
So, Chell let him help out around the farm, though he was to stay clear away from the stove and oven unless she was there to supervise.
The microwave, he had at least managed to get the hang of.
Well, after nearly being barred from that by putting something with aluminum foil in there.
That had nearly resulted in Chell getting a new microwave, and had been the first time Wheatley actually managed to speak as he chorused "I'm sorry" about five times before they both realized that he had spoken.
Then, there had been cheering, jumping up and down in joy (on Wheatley's part), and opening of the windows because the kitchen had still been filled with smoke from aforementioned microwave.
Chell shook off the memories as she placed her baskets next to one filled with cucumbers and peppers.
Wheatley carefully placed his own basket down, then let out a breath of relief. "Nothing fell out this time!"
"I think we're both very happy about that." Chell smirked, then opened the car door now that they had everything. "Let's get started. We have an extra stop to make."
Wheatley sobered slightly, and glanced at the wooden markers in the truck bed, before he gave a nod and climbed in after he covered the vegetables so they wouldn't be directly exposed to the sun.
The drive was pleasant, but instead of turning immediately into the town, they pulled into a small area of land surrounded by a fence. The grass was green, and there were dirt pathways that formed into rows and columns that stretched out about the length of a farm field.
Only, instead of crops, there were markers, from straight wooden poles to slightly blocky stone ones with writing on them. Even some of the straight ones had writing, or some kind of paint on them to mark them properly.
It was the town's cemetery. There was a smaller one attached to it for pets, and rather than giving off an eerie vibe, with the grass and flowers that grew between graves and around the fences, it gave off a feeling of final resting.
Chell carried some of the broad wooden poles on her shoulder, while Wheatley was in charge of carrying the tools.
There weren't any people there yet, and Chell was thankful of that fact, as they made their way up to the section that they had been working on.
Though there had been nothing to bury under the ground, that didn't stop her from creating a previous marker for a home-made headstone, and it certainly wouldn't stop them this time.
Wheatley paused at the spot, then looked at her with a slightly anxious expression. He never liked being in the graveyard, even though Chell assured him that there were no actual bodies (cremation, she had called it), but the term "graveyard" still put him ill at ease.
It wasn't unexpected, as he had been considered "junk" to be thrown in Aperture's "graveyard" with the others.
Chell admitted that she tried to recover the bodies to Wheatley one day, but had found the area burned; apparently, that was how Aperture got rid of the "trash" they threw outside until the incinerator was working again. Rather, she just finished fencing off the area, and never looked back.
"Chell?" Wheatley questioned quietly.
"Do you want to do his grave, and I'll take care of the others?" Chell had been surprised when Wheatley told her one day that he wished there was some place to give his dead friends a proper burial, after he told her what happened in Aperture before his "escape".
So, Chell managed to reserve four spots in the cemetery, and that they wished to remain responsible for placing the markers, themselves.
Wheatley hesitated, then answered, "Yea. And...I'll also do...that grave."
Chell, who had placed the markers down, gave him a comforting embrace.
Wheatley took in a deep and shaky breath, then let it out. "We'd...best get to it. You know, before the sun really comes up, and the vegetables all fry. Would...sort of be counter-productive to all the work, and all...the vegetables baking in the sun, I mean..."
Chell chuckled and withdrew from him. "Alright."
Silently, the two worked, finishing what needed to be done in order to place the wooden gravestones.
Wheatley's hands trembled as he came to the final one. A glance over told him that Chell was securing the first two, and he had already placed the third. Tears had rolled down his cheeks during it, but this one was much tougher to secure in the ground with his shaking hands.
Suddenly, there was a gentle touch on his shoulder.
He didn't jump anymore, since he knew these touches to be Chell's. This time, he didn't look at her, but just took another deep breath to steady himself.
It had been Chell's idea to do this particular one, and at the time, he readily agreed, as it was a way to feel that he permanently lay the past to rest.
But, bloody hell, it was hard.
Still, knowing she was there; knowing she was right next to him, with him all the way...that she had forgiven him that time, and still liked the person he was...
Wheatley glanced at the very first marker that Chell had put in, one she told him about when she first explained about the cemetery.
Then, his eyes went to the ones that they had put in today, and finally, the one in his hands.
"Do it." Chell encouraged him gently.
Brave...she kept calling him brave throughout his entire ordeal; since she had found him, and every step he took along the way. Even when he took steps back, or seemed to backslide a little, she was there to help pull him back on track again.
It was time to be brave again.
Wheatley was resolute, now. It was time. No, it was past time to do this.
He planted the marker in the ground, and worked until he knew it wasn't going to come up, just like the other hand-placed markers in that cemetery.
For a moment, when he finished, he just stared at his work as the spade dropped from his gloved hands.
Chell had taken her own gloves off and put the equipment away, then gently tugged off his gloves and bundled them up with hers to be taken back to the truck.
Wheatley remained in his kneeling position, then blinked when a hand went into his field of vision.
Chell smiled down at him.
Wheatley returned the smile and let her help him to his feet. Once again, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of his shoulders as he gazed at the markers.
From the first one that had been Chell's own burial of the past, to the ones that honored his friends, to the last one...
"Rick, Craig, and Leo? You gave them names?" Chell had said when she saw the wood markers.
"I didn't...well...maybe I did. Adventure called himself 'Rick'. And Fact always liked the name 'Craig'. Space...well...it fits, right? It has to do with space..."
Chell didn't question him further.
Wheatley wiped his eyes from tears as he felt Chell's arm slide around his shoulders.
"You did it," Chell said in a proud whisper. "So you can truly let go, now. It's all been laid to rest. We've got the rest of our lives ahead of us, now."
Wheatley stared at the wooden grave a moment, then turned and hugged Chell tightly.
Yet, his tears had dried, and after a moment, a smile broke out on his face as she returned the embrace.
He was no longer dragging a weight around with him, and they both knew that. There might always be some regret, and some guilt, but they would deal with it if tried to rise again.
Right now, though, it was buried as it should be, in the past.
Chell waited, then took Wheatley's hand when he pulled back. "You alright?"
Wheatley took in a breath of the fresh air, then smiled brilliantly at her. "More than alright. I feel...well...alive."
"Good, because we might not be if that delivery is late. You know how cranky that woman gets."
Wheatley laughed. "Bloody hell, do I! She was rather adamant on her attempts to chase me with that broom of hers! A broom! A right menace, she is! Dunno why the bloke with her keeps her in charge!" He paused a moment to look back at the graves.
Chell squeezed his hand. "We can always come back."
Wheatley turned his attention back to her, and smiled softly. "Only for those three in the middle. Let the others stay buried."
"They shouldn't be forgotten. Just...laid to rest," Chell reminded him as they walked out.
"Oh...right! Right...I think I get it...this is all a big simile, right?"
"Metaphor, more like."
"Right! That was it...always mix those two up."
Chell chuckled. "Many people do."
Wheatley, in high spirits, beamed at her. "Hey, maybe when we get back, I'll cook up something special! Like...um...brownies! Those are brilliant!"
Chell grinned. "Alright..."
"...but you're still not allowed to use the oven alone."
"Aw, come on! That was only once! Alright, maybe more than once...but not too many! Okay, maybe it was many. But...um, you'll be watching! I mean, how many times can I nearly set the kitchen on fire? There's got to be a limit. There has to be!"
Chell just laughed.
After a moment of trying to persuade her to let him use the oven, Wheatley just let himself laugh, as well.
As they walked away, back to the truck, they left behind and buried five markers, from Chell's first one, to the four they just placed. The words on Chell's was a little faded, but still easy to read, and the new ones were also legible, though done in what Wheatley called his "handwriting".
The Mute Lady
The Wheatley Core
Under all of the names was the same message:
Rest in Peace.
A big thank you to the readers that kept up with the story, and an even bigger "thank you" to those that took the time to review (and such positive feedback, too!).