Chell awoke in a cold sweat.
Whoa, she thought, what was that? A dream?
No, no it was way too realistic to be a dream. She lifted her arm, turned it over, and sure enough, a short white scar puckered up over the area where the chip had been. So it was real.
It was hard to believe Wheatley had actually been smart enough to pull off those stunts back there. Maybe in his human body he was free of the programming that made him a complete moron. Perhaps now he was only partially an idiot.
Chell was further impressed with him when, during an interview with a stony faced FBI agent, she discovered he'd actually been able to lie convincingly. Fortunately, when asked what had happened to them, he had had the good sense not to tell them every little detail. Instead, he claimed that they had been test subjects but neither of them could remember what lab it had been or what experiments had been done on them, and that the only thing he knew for sure was that they had been in cryo sleep for a very long time.
Chell went along with the story, feigning total confusion. Agent Reynolds sighed and scribbled down a few notes.
"That's disappointing," he scowled, tapping the pen against his notepad, "Originally, I assumed it was Black Mesa, but they were shut down years ago and they never really dealt with cryonics..."
Chell shrugged as if she had no idea what he was talking about.
The middle-aged man shook his head in frustration, then handed her a thick manila envelope.
"Well, never mind. If you really can't remember, there's nothing we can do," he motioned to the envelope now in Chell's hand, "In any case, we've got you all set up. In there you have forms for citizenship papers, a social security card... everything you need to get started. All we have to do is fill in your information."
Chell pulled out the thick stack of papers and examined them.
"Wheatley was able to give us your approximate age and your birthdate, and we filled out the rest with information from the hospital," the agent informed her.
According to the paper, Chell was twenty-three, was 5' 5", and weighed 115 pounds. Wheatley had learned via Aperture Files that Chell's birthdate was November 17, 1983. Of course, with the year now being 2048, Agent Reynolds had jotted it down as November 17, 2025 to avoid suspicion. Now the only spot left to fill in was her name.
"We thought you two could choose your own last names," Agent Reynolds told her, "do you have any ideas?"
Chell shrugged. Her own last name had evaded her, and the only other one she knew was Johnson, and there was no way in hell Chell was going to name herself after the man who had created that horrible place.
"Do you know any last names, Chell?" asked Shelly from the corner of the room.
Chell shook her head.
"Hmm.. well, let me list me off a few common ones, maybe you'll find one you like," Shelly paced the room as she rattled off the list, "Let's see, um Smith... Miller... no, um, Thompson... Reed, uh, Anderson..."
Anderson. That name felt familiar to her. She liked it. She motioned to Shelly, who grinned.
"You like that one? Anderson?"
Chell nodded, and Agent Reynolds wrote it down.
"Alright then, I'll send these off to be processed, and you'll be good to go," he stood to leave, "if you remember anything else let me know."
Fat chance, Chell thought as she smiled earnestly at him. The agent left a stack of similar papers for Wheatley with Shelly, and finally left.
Chell hadn't seen hide nor hair of Wheatley since he'd burst into her room a few days prior, but now that she remembered what had happened at Aperture, she kind of wanted to. She needed to know it wasn't just her imagination; that everything she thought to have occurred really did happen. And later that afternoon, she got her opportunity.
With her treatments finished, Chell quickly started regaining her strength. She was soon able to walk around unassisted, and began taking long strolls to build back her muscles. Chell often found herself visiting the cafe on her floor. It was small, usually empty, and had beautiful sweeping views of the city. Fascinated, she would sit by the window for hours and watch people go by on the streets.
Today however, she saw a familiar blonde sitting at the table by the large windows, his back turned to her. Chell swallowed. She still hated him, still hadn't forgiven him for everything he'd said and done to her. But now there was a sliver of pity mixed in with all the rage, and even a tiny shred of gratitude for not leaving her behind. With her head held high, she walked over and plopped herself down in the chair across from him.
His eyes widened in shock, as if he couldn't believe what was happening. He stared at her uncertainly, his mouth partially open, trying to decide what to say. He settled on:
"You look a lot less... gray."
Chell snorted and rolled her eyes.
"R-r-really, you do!" He continued, "Still a bit pale, but definitely not gray anymore! And, you don't have those shadowy things under your eyes! I had those for a while, real nasty, not becoming at all, but now we both don't have them! Still looks like you have those bruises, though. Are they as sore as they look? 'Cuz they look pretty sore to me."
Chell shrugged and tugged down on the sleeves of the robe she had over her gown. Incidentally, they were still incredibly sore, but she didn't want to turn this into a pity party. Glancing down, Chell noticed he wore a sweater over his hospital clothes that covered his wrists. But she had to know. She reached out and grabbed his arm, ignoring his squeak of surprise, and began to roll up his sleeve. A scar identical to that of hers ran down his wrist in the same location. She placed her arm next to his, comparing the marks. There was no denying it- they were the same.
"Oh, that's what you were after," he said, staring down at their arms, "Yeah, I told them all about them as soon as we got here. Had them take out those buggers right away."
His eyes, behind his newly acquired glasses, met hers.
"So, does this mean you, uh, remembered? What happened back there?" He asked nervously.
She nodded, pulling her arm off the table. He gulped and blinked nervously.
"Thank you," he said, his voice full of earnest, "If you hadn't come for me, well, I'm sure I would be going through hell right now. She really wanted to torture me, you know."
Chell nodded. She did know, she knew even better than he did.
"Yeah, I knew it was going to be bad, so I'm really, truly grateful that you, well, endangered yourself for me." He glanced away, "Although, I don't fully understand why you did it. You know, after everything I did to you."
Chell sighed and slowly shook her head. She didn't really know why either. All she knew was that she had to. An uncomfortable silence settled over the table for a few minutes, until Shelly's cheery voice broke it.
"Wow, are you two actually sitting together?" Shelly laughed as she pulled a chair up to their table, "This just warms my heart."
Chell glared at her, while Wheatley went scarlet in the face. Shelly giggled and slapped a stack of papers onto the table.
"You guys are ready to be released," she told them, "but first, we have to fill out Wheatley's papers. I completely forgot about them."
She pulled out a pen and started filling in his height, weight, and eye color.
"So," she began, we she got to his name, "What do you want your last name to be?"
"Hmm, well it could be Drake, like that guy on t.v.!" He exclaimed, his eyes full of excitement, "Yeah, that's a real dashing last name. Suave!"
Chell shook her head.
Wheatley snorted, clearly offended, and asked, "What's wrong with that? Do you have any better ideas?"
Chell motioned for the pen, and Shelly handed it to her. Chell took the stack of papers and carefully wrote "Pendleton" in the designated slot, and also put "Adam" in the spot for a middle name. The other two simply stared in shock, processing the information.
"That... that really suits you." Shelly said, glancing at Wheatley, "Chell, how did you come up with this?"
Chell sighed and motioned for the two of them to stay there. Then, she hurried back to her room. Quickly, she found the plastic bag of her belongings next to the companion cube in her closet. She dug her hand into the pocket of her jumpsuit and pulled out the folded square of documents she'd stolen from Wheatley's file. She left his Aperture employee I.D. and the Aperture information sheet in her pocket, but brought everything else back to the cafe with her.
Shelly leafed through the crumpled, aged papers, eyes wide.
"This is... so bizarre. You were born in 1980? So you're three years older than Chell. It's crazy... you were born sixty-eight years ago, but physically you're only twenty-six. My mind is thoroughly blown," she handed the papers to Wheatley, "here, these aren't much use anymore. Keep them, they belong to you."
Wheatley's face went blank as he scanned the documents that held information about himself that he couldn't remember, "I'm from England... and I have- er, had- parents. Real human parents. Rebecca and Adam. So I got my middle name from my human father, my dad... weird."
Shelly placed her hand on his and smiled comfortingly at him. His fingers tensed almost infinitesimally under hers, Chell noticed, and he gave the nurse a tight lipped grin. It seemed that, like her, he too was uncomfortable with human touch.
"This must be strange for you, huh?" she asked, "Can you remember them at all?"
He shook his head, "No. No, I can't remember any of this. Those names don't quite ring any bells, and if I'm honest, I only know what England is from watching the telly."
Although using the word "telly" is very English of you... Chell noticed his use of British slang and wondered if maybe, like her, his memories were hidden deep inside, just waiting to be triggered. Shelly excused herself, papers in hand, and left the cafeteria. Once she was gone, Wheatley turned to Chell.
"So... where exactly did you get these? They weren't just lying around, were they? I mean, this is pretty important stuff, right here, isn't it?"
Chell pointed to the papers, and then back at Wheatley.
"Next to me, then? Back there? Was it before, I, eh, woke up? In this body?" He asked.
Chell nodded, and he glanced back down at the stack, fingers shuffling through it. "Was there... anything else? Just out of curiosity, of course."
Chell nodded again. He looked back up at her, "Will you... will you show me?"
Chell wasn't sure if that was a good idea. If he found out he used to work at Aperture, it could really mess him up. She decided that he wasn't mentally sound enough to handle that information, so she would have to try and delay showing him for as long as possible.
She waved her hand back and forth, Wheatley studying her movement. "Later? You'll show me later? Ah, well, great then, brilliant."
His eyes darted back and forth. Obviously, he was quite wary of her. He watched her as if she were a wild animal that might attack at any moment. In a way, she was. She stood abruptly, and turned to leave. Wheatley's chair emitted a shrill squeak and he scrambled to stand up.
"W-wait, wait! Where are you going?" He called after her.
She turned around, rolling her eyes in annoyance. She placed her palms together, holding her hands in prayer position, and rested her head against them.
"Oh! You're going to sleep!" he laughed uncomfortably, stubbing his toe on the floor, "Probably a good idea. You know... getting late, and such."
Before she had a chance to walk away, he trotted up next to her. "Can I um, walk with you? To your room?"
She sighed, but bobbed her head in reluctant agreement. He stuck to her side as they made their way back down the corridor. Wheatley smiled and waved to every nurse they passed, calling them each by name. Chell wasn't surprised he was such a people person- he'd always been good at making conversation. When they arrived at her door, Wheatley peered imploringly at her, practically begging her with his eyes not to abandon him.
"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow then, yeah?" he asked, "It'll be a big day, what with getting released and all."
Chell bit her lip and nodded. It was, and she was actually pretty nervous about it. She had no clue where she would be going. For all she knew, they might just dump her on the streets and say, "Good Luck".
Fortunately, thanks to Shelly, that wasn't the case. When the nurse woke her the following morning, she happily informed her that she had managed to secure an apartment for her. One of her good friends was the superintendent of an apartment building in the city and had agreed, as a favor to Shelly, that he would provide an apartment, rent-free for the first year. The only downside was that Chell had to share that apartment with Wheatley. Now she would have to deal with his antics 24/7. Though Shelly had promised they would get their own rooms, Chell knew that a few thin walls wouldn't be enough to protect her from Wheatley's boisterousness.
That being said, she was still incredibly grateful to Shelly for going to such lengths for them. She had really gone above and beyond to ease their transition into society. And when Chell had asked (through a note) why, Shelly simply shrugged and said that she had grown very attached to them. Now they were like friends to her and she wanted to help.
It seemed that others felt this way too- all of the nurses that had been assigned to Chell had made the trip to see her off, all offering advice, giving her gifts (mostly money to help her get started), and shedding tears as they blubbered their goodbyes. Even Dr. Patterson, gruff mountain man that he was, got a little misty eyed after their final checkup.
"Well," he coughed, choking back tears, "you take care of yourself, little lady. And don't let Wheatley pull you into any of his hair-brained ideas, you hear? I love that guy, but, Lord help him, he is nuts."
Chell chuckled and nodded in agreement. Then, in a rare show of affection and gratitude, she stepped forward and awkwardly slid one arm behind his back. He scoffed, and patted her on the back.
"It's been a real honor to treat you two, and I just know you guys will figure out this whole life thing. You both have a lot of fighting spirit," he said, his voice dangerously wobbly.
Chell released him, and smiled. If she ever learned to talk, she would have to thank him, and everyone else for that matter, for everything they had done for these two strange test subjects that had come in here, close to death and completely clueless. The staff had become their family, and Chell was both sad and scared to leave them, but she knew she had to.
She gathered her paltry sum of belongings from the closet. She would burn that jumpsuit once she got home, she decided. Shelly had provided Chell with a soft, long white t-shirt, black leggings and flat black boots so she wouldn't have to wear her jumpsuit and long fall boots home. Companion cube under one arm, she rode the elevator to the ground floor where Shelly and Wheatley were waiting for her. His face lit up as she walked towards them.
"Hey!" He called, waving at her, "Morning! Look at me, I'm wearing real human clothes! I look pretty smart in them, don't ya think?"
Chell glanced at his dark jeans, crisp button up shirt, and cool sneakers and decided he didn't look half bad. It was weird, though, to see him like this. In the lobby, dressed in everyday clothes, he blended in perfectly with the rest of the people that milled about. It was hard to believe that a few weeks earlier he had been a little metal ball.
He leaned over to whisper in her ear, "To be honest, though, these little shorts that Shelly made me put on underneath are kind of uncomfortable. I don't quite understand the point."
Chell's cheeks reddened, and she had to bite her lip to restrain an uncomfortable chuckle. He was so forthcoming- obviously, his human decency hadn't quite developed yet. What he'd said was hilarious, but she didn't need him thinking that they were buddies all of a sudden. She did her best to fix him with a reproachful glare and hurried over to Shelly, who watched them curiously from the doorway.
"What's with the whispering?" She asked Chell, who shook her head slowly as if to say, you don't want to know. "You guys sure are strange. In any case, are you ready to go?"
Ready as I'll ever be, Chell thought as she followed Shelly through the automatic doors. They emerged onto the bustling city street that Chell had previously only seen from above. More people than Chell had ever encountered passed by around them, a flowing river of frazzled humans, all rushing to be somewhere. Horns beeped and motors hummed as cars whizzed by. A breeze whistled through the air, ruffling Chell's hair. She had often heard this city called the "windy city", so a bit of wind was to be expected. Standing there, smack dab in the middle of a bustling metropolis, Chell felt absolutely shell-shocked. She had seen cities depicted on t.v., but actually experiencing one up close was far more intense.
She glanced at Wheatley and could tell that he too was feeling the culture shock. However, Wheatley's nervous energy was intermingled with absolute wonder and delight as he excitedly took in the new sights, sounds and smells. Chell envied him. He wasn't fazed by any of it- he just loved the new experience.
"Come on guys," Shelly commanded, oblivious to Chell's anxiety, "my car's this way."
She led them to an underground parking structure. Wheatley was flabbergasted by the multitude of cars all gathered in one place. He ran from vehicle to vehicle, examining each one.
"Wow," he breathed, fogging up the glass of a silver SUV, "there are so many! Look at all of them, so many shapes and sizes! I want one!"
Shelly laughed, leading them to a shiny green sedan. She popped open the trunk and Chell carefully lowered her companion cube in next to all the gifts she and Wheatley had received.
"You need to learn to drive first!" She retorted.
Wheatley jogged over to them. "Okay! I can do that, no problem. How hard can it be, you just push some pedals and steer, right? Can you teach me? Or do you need some special qualifications or something?"
Shelly laughed again, "No, I can teach you. But let's get you settled in before we start on driving lessons."
She opened the front passenger door, and Wheatley scurried to open Chell's door.
"I, uh, I heard that it was human custom for the man to open a ladies door," he said nervously.
Chell scoffed, but slid onto the leather back seat. Wheatley joined her and Shelly peered at them in the rearview mirror.
"Aw, chivalry's not dead! You could learn something from him, Eric." She punched the man in the driver's seat arm. He chuckled and turned around to face them, his green eyes alight with humor.
"Dude! You can only remember the past three weeks of your life, and you're already showing me up? Unfair!" He chuckled.
Wheatley blushed and looked down, "Oh, ah, sorry, um, man."
The attractive brunette man laughed, "Hey no worries, it's just a joke! I'm Eric, by the way, Shelly's fiancé." He extended his hand, and Wheatley peered at it before he registered he was supposed to shake it.
"I'm Wheatley. Wheatley Pendleton," he smiled politely, using his full name for the first time, "It's, um, nice to meet you."
Eric grinned and then turned his attention to Chell. "And you must be Chell! It's nice to finally meet you. Shelly talks about you all the time. She really never shuts up- I'm always hearing about one of you. I feel like I know you already."
Chell blushed and looked away.
"Oh please! That's a bit of an exaggeration. Can we get going?" Shelly asked impatiently.
"Sure, babe. Let's get this show on the road." He turned the key and the car roared to life, causing both Chell and Wheatley to jump in their seats. Eric and Shelly laughed at their surprise, and Eric shifted the car into reverse, glancing over his shoulder as he backed out of the space, then drove out of the garage and merged into traffic.
"Whoa, this is so amazing!" Wheatley exclaimed, his face pressed against the window as the city zoomed by, "I can't believe I'm riding in a real car! It's bloody fantastic!"
"I'm sure you've ridden in a car before, Wheatley, you just can't remember it," Shelly said, "In fact I know you have. You had a driver's license, remember?"
"Oh, that's right." Wheatley said, his face darkening for a moment, "So that means I've actually operated one of these before, way back in the old days. Maybe it'll, just, all come back to me once I'm behind the wheel."
Eric snorted, "Unlikely. Cars are different in England. Most of them are manual transmission, and the steering wheel and pedals are on the other side of the car. Plus, you drive on the opposite side of the road there."
"Okay, mate, to be honest I have no idea what most of that means. But why would they drive on the opposite side of the road? Wouldn't that make it kind of hard on tourists, and, uh, immigrants, and what not?"
Eric shrugged, "I dunno, you're the English guy. You tell me."
"Yeah, but I can't remember any of that," Wheatley mumbled under his breath. For some reason, Chell noted, talking about his past life as a human put him in a bad mood.
They arrived in front of a squatty brick building. It wasn't huge- from the street it looked to be only 5, maybe 6 stories high. It was dwarfed by the much taller and sleeker buildings surrounding it. However, it possessed a certain degree of charm and character. Chell decided that she liked it, which was fortunate considering it was her new place of residence from now on.
Shelly left the men to gather up all the items in the trunk and took Chell upstairs first. They approached the elevator, and Chell eyed it warily. She hated elevators. They reminded her of testing, and by extension, that place. Riding in one now made her physically sick- in the hospital she nearly threw up in one.
Since the apartment was only three floors up, she opted for the stairs, much to Shelly's chagrin, and Shelly handed Chell the keys to her new home: Apart. 3B. Chell stuck the key in the lock and turned, then stepped through her front door for the first time.
The apartment was average-sized with an open floor plan. Two of the walls in the den area were an exposed brick, while the others were painted off-white like the short hallway they were standing in. The kitchen was a decent size, and was connected to the living room. Shelly showed Chell to the first door in the hall- her bedroom. It was a good size, not too big but still comfortable, and the walls were painted a pretty shade of lilac. Shelly had taken the liberty of decorating the place, as was evident in Chell's floral bedspread.
Eric entered the room, his arms laden with gifts bags and Chell's companion cube. "Where do you want this thing?"
Chell motioned to the corner, and he set the slightly charred cube on the shiny hardwood floor. "What is it anyway? Wheatley said something about it being a 'companion cube'? I've never seen anything like it."
Shelly put her hand on his shoulder, shaking her head to tell him it was best to not bring it up. He nodded and unloaded everything else onto her bed. "You can go through these later- I'm gonna make sure Wheatley's settled in."
Shelly and Eric spent the rest of the afternoon showing the pair everything they needed to do to keep their apartment running. Then, while Shelly made dinner for the group, Eric presented them with three boxes. One contained a small flat rectangle that he claimed was a computer for them to share. According to him, you couldn't survive in the modern world without one. The other two boxes contained even smaller rectangles that he said were "smart phones" (though Chell was unconvinced that they had higher intelligence levels than regular phones) another must-have invention for the modern human. He gave them a crash course in using their devices.
"Obviously, the calling feature won't be much use for you right now," he explained, looking at Chell, "but texting will make your life a lot easier! If you need to tell us something you can just type it out."
Chell nodded, scrolling through her contacts list. Eric and Shelly were listed, along with the hospital's number, and even Wheatley's number was there. He was thoroughly puzzled with the device, turning it over and over in his hands trying to fathom how such a small box could run such an impressive operating system.
"This is pretty nifty, this little thing. It's a computer AND a phone in one!" Wheatley was currently fiddling with the voice commands. As the phone talked back to him, he gulped and nervously asked, "this... this thing isn't, well, sentient or anything, is it?"
Chell dropped the device and pushed it a few inches away from her. Why hadn't she thought of that? Had her time in Aperture taught her nothing? Of course a piece of machinery with such features would be intelligent! She recoiled from the sleek rectangle of devious intent.
Shelly and Eric stared at the test subjects, then back at each other, trying to gauge if they were serious or not. Judging by Chell's defensive stance and Wheatley's grave expression, it was safe to assume they were.
"Um, no, they're not," Shelly explained, "there really isn't anything like that yet. We've been too focused on rebuilding society to develop sentient machines."
Chell sighed with relief. Of course, Shelly was wrong- there were already sentient machines, although how they became that way was questionable. But it was nice to know that at least out here she wouldn't be encountering any. Wheatley, trusting as always, instantly relaxed and resumed to fiddling with his phone, but Chell couldn't help feeling a bit of technophobia. She hoped she would be able to get over it in time.
Shelly came from the small kitchen and placed plates of food in front of the three at the table. Chell, who had only eaten hospital food up till now, took a bite of her first home cooked meal and nearly expired with delight. Compared to this, the hospital food that Chell had always found delicious now seemed like shredded cardboard. Shelly insisted that this was just average cooking- if that were true, then Chell was dying to try food that qualified as fine dining. She scarfed down her first plate, then a second, while Wheatley went for thirds. The pair complimented her cooking profusely, Wheatley with words and Chell with meaningful looks and hand gestures. Shelly looked positively triumphant and pinned Eric with an expression of gloating.
After making sure that Chell and Wheatley were completely able to take care of themselves, they collected their things to leave. Shelly explained that she had left them plenty of meals in the fridge and demanded they call her or Eric if they needed any help at all. Then, she smothered them both with hugs, much to their discomfort, before Eric pushed her out the door. Silence filled the apartment as they stared after them. Wheatley wrung his hands and after a few moments looked down at her.
"So...", he began, his eyes nervous, "What now?"
Chell shrugged. For the first time in her life, she was without a plan, without a goal. The world was full of endless possibilities, and it scared her. She had no idea how to start. But she had never failed a test yet, and she would be damned if she started now. Tomorrow, she would begin her journey to success and security and whatever else made life great.
She turned to go to her room, but Wheatley stopped her.
"Wait! Where are you going?"
She rolled her eyes and pointed to her room door. He grinned sheepishly and blushed.
"Ah, right, your room. Probably should have figured that out. It is yours after all, and um, it's not like you would go to my room. 'Cuz it's mine. N-not saying that you can't go in there, if you wanted to, but you probably don't so- are you off to sleep then?"
She nodded, slipping inside her room.
"Ok, well, g'night then." He called after her.
She sighed. He was so needy. It was going to take a lot of willpower to live with him. It's only temporary, she assured herself, once you get a good job and a good income, you can move out and be done with him.
She dressed in the pajamas she had selected out of the pairs Shelly had provided for her, making sure to move carefully as she was still quite sore. She glanced around her small walk-in closet, fingering a few of the pieces hanging there. Shelly had been nice enough to purchase the basics, but Chell knew she would need to venture out for more clothes in the near future. She went to the bathroom that connected her room with Wheatley's.
Fortunately, it was empty, and Chell was able to do her nightly routine in peace. She retrieved the bottle of ointment Shelly had been putting on her to reduce the amount of scarring that would result from her healing wounds. She easily slathered it over her front, but when she reached around to put some on her back, pain fired back at her.
She tried a few a more times from different angles, but she was just too sore to reach behind her. She glanced in the mirror and grimaced at the multitude of long cuts that crisscrossed her slender back and shoulders. If she didn't get this stuff on those she would have some nasty scars. Sucking up her pride, she pulled her top back over her head and retrieved the bottle, then went to the living room where Wheatley was settled on the couch with the laptop on his thighs, surfing the web.
She tapped on his shoulder, and he swiveled his head, blinking at her in surprise.
"Oh, um, hey, you're still up? I thought you were gonna go to sleep, although it looks like that's what you're planning to do, wearing those night clothes. What are they called again? Pajamas, right! Wait, did you come out here to show them to me?"
Chell scoffed at the ridiculous notion and shook her head furiously, shoving the bottle toward him.
"What's this?" He squinted at the label, "Scar cream? Thanks, mate, but I already have some of this stuff. Nice of you to worry 'bout me, though."
She shook her head and grabbed the bottle back from him. She pointed it toward her back, and then winced as a wave of soreness hit her. His eyes filled with concern at her pained expression.
"Oh- you can't reach your back, then?" She nodded, "You want, um, need, me to do it? To help you?"
She nodded again, her eyes squeezed shut. She was so embarrassed and ashamed, asking for his aid, but it couldn't be helped. He gulped and took the cream from her.
"Why don't you turn around then? So I can, eh, reach you and what not." He stammered, his cheeks red.
Chell nodded and turned away from him, lowering to her knees to sit on the floor. He leaned forward, then tugged at the material of her t-shirt.
"Now I can't very well apply this stuff with your shirt in the way. I mean I could, but it wouldn't get on your skin, so then it would be a bit useless." He chuckled nervously, "so you should probably, just, move it, or something."
Chell flushed. This was absolutely humiliating. She bit her lip and rolled her shirt up over her head, clutching the flimsy cotton to her front. Her back was now exposed to him, and she could practically feel the heat burning on his face. She heard him squirt a dollop of ointment onto his hand.
"Ok, well, I'm gonna do it now," he stammered.
Gently, his fingertips connected with her shoulder blades. This was the first time he had touched her since they escaped. Physical contact that wasn't absolutely necessary always felt odd to Chell, but physical contact with Wheatley was off the charts weird, especially now that he had flesh. Tentatively, he stroked her back with his long fingers, spreading cream across one of the long gashes.
"Blimey, you really got banged up something fierce, huh?" He murmured, lingering on her wound as his eyes assessed the damage on her back, "A lot of this was my fault, I bet. Most of it is, probably. I- well- I'm awfully sorry."
She shook her head, and waved her hand, motioning for him to continue. She didn't like feeling his hands on her. It was uncomfortable.
"Ah, right, sorry, I'll just get back to it, then."
He took his sweet time covering every square of exposed flesh with ointment, rubbing it in as he went for optimal results. He was thorough, a bit more thorough than need be, Chell thought. When he finished, he pulled her shirt back down for her. She stood and snatched the ointment jar from his clammy palm. His face was red and covered with guilt. She wished she hadn't needed to make him do that. Before retreating to her bedroom, she gave him a tight-lipped half smile of appreciation that he returned with a small grin of his own.
"Anytime, love, anytime, and anything. I'll help you out in any way I can, I promise. You can count on Wheatley!" He swore earnestly.
She wasn't sure his help was something she necessarily wanted, but it was nice enough for him to offer. With a small wave, she quickly shut the door to her room and leapt into bed. As she fell asleep, the odd sensation of his touch lingered on her skin. His fingers, she recalled, were surprisingly nice. Long, soft, un-calloused... the way they drifted over her back as gently as butterfly wings.
Ew, what am I thinking, she thought, repulsed. This is Wheatley! He is a nuisance and an obstacle!
That's right. Wheatley always had been and always would be nothing but a problem.
No matter how nice his hands were.