Hiya folks! BabyCharmander here yet again, this time with a silly one-shot. I wrote this a few weeks ago in response to a prompt, and decided to finally post the thing here. Still working on my WIP though; have no fear.
Disclaimer: I do not own Portal or Chell or Wheatley and blah blah blah.
On with the fic!
"Okay… Just over here, right? I'm pretty sure we're going the right way. Pretty sure… Um… Right here! Wait—no, no, that's a dead end again. Argh… Oh! I've got it! Right h—NO NO WAIT THAT'S A DROP—"
His processor reeled in horror when he saw the lady completely disregard his advice and suddenly step off the ledge of the path, and he immediately turned away in horror. "Ooooh no, no, now look what you've done! Bloody killed another one…! This is all my—"
Wheatley blinked, his metal eyelids making a light plink, plink noise, and slowly turned around to find the lady giving him a rather amused look as she stood at the bottom of a couple steps leading to a lower path.
Plink, plink. "…Oh, right. I—I guess I didn't kill you, then? Yes, of course I didn't. Never would, um, do that. To any human. Ahahaha…" He glanced around, looking at everything but her (and the funny look she was giving him) as he gave a nervous laugh, then cleared his throat. "Right! So, let's move on!" He moved forward, putting on a confident expression to mask the fact that he'd completely embarrassed himself, as usual.
Hearing that, the core winced, glancing back at the lady. She now had an arm wrapped around her stomach, which had been the thing to produce the (rather alarming, he had to admit) noise. The noise had frightened him at first, but the lady had been quick to communicate that she was just hungry. But he knew how to fix that! Right, easy thing to fix. To cure a human's hunger, all you had to do was feed them! And he knew where one of the old kitchens was—he remembered seeing the scientists going there for their lunch breaks. So he could lead the lady there, and they would have a little lunch break, and then get back to escaping! Yes, brilliant plan. Absolutely brilliant.
If he could remember how to get there.
"Okay, it's gotta be here somewhere. Been here a few times before—um, before the facility got all…" He shined his flashlight around the plants that choked different parts of the facility. "…like this." It did make things a bit harder to navigate, but he would figure it out. Eventually.
"Hey, now, tell that stomach of yours to shut its mouth for a second! I'm working as fast as I can," the core grumbled. Out of the corner of his optic, he noticed that the lady was grinning, her shoulders shaking as she covered her mouth with one of her hands. Immediately he spun around on his rail, fixing her with an accusing glare. "Now what's so funny? Only tryin' to find you some food, yeah, and your bloody stomach won't shut its trap!"
But that only seemed to make her laugh harder, and he rolled his optic. "Honestly, you humans and your weird… human… parts… Don't think I'll ever understand it." Granted, he did have some information on humans installed in his processor—apparently he needed it to be able to take care of them, as if he actually needed help doing that—but he never bothered to consult it much. Humans shouldn't be that hard to take care of. He'd taken pretty good care of them on his own—aside from… well… how ten thousand of them sort-of died on his watch, but that one wasn't entirely his fault! Not entirely.
He shook his face and turned back around, only to give a start at seeing a plant-covered sign up ahead. Immediately he shone his flashlight on it, squinting his optic to read the words through the fronds that covered them. "Caff… eeteee… reee… ya. Caf… cafeteria! Hey, this is it!" Lower eyelid pulling up in a smile, he rushed forward on his rail, which led directly through the doorway. "Follow me, lady!"
The lady rushed alongside him, her face lighting up in an excited grin. But once they passed through the doorway, they stopped, staring at the dilapidated room before them. A few tables and chairs were placed around, but some had been crushed by fallen pieces of the ceiling. Dust and dirt littered the floor, while vines and fronds from wild plants poked through the cracks in the walls. Finally there was a door in the back, leading into some dark room beyond.
"…Ah," Wheatley said at length, surveying the room around them. "Well, this—this wasn't quite the room I was looking for in the first place. Not exactly it—no food here, obviously—but I know we're close! We're definitely close."
He glanced at the lady, whose face bore a look of unmistakable disappointment. "Hey, cheer up! We'll find something." Giving her an encouraging grin, he moved forward, heading toward the other doorway up ahead. "It's in here, I think. I thiiiink…" He slowed down on his rail as he drew nearer to the doorway, squinting his optic nervously. "I… thiiiink… Aha! Right here!"
The lady followed him and immediately began looking around the room, her search guided by his built-in flashlight. As in the last room, there were cracks in the walls and ceiling, but this room bore many differences from the previous one. For one, rather than tables, it had a few counters with a couple of sinks, as well as a fridge, a microwave, a dishwasher, and cabinets.
"Yes! This is where all the scientists used to put their food. Should be loads of it in here! Mountains of food." He shone his flashlight at the fridge, moving closer to it on his rail. "Try in there."
The lady eagerly yanked the fridge door open, only to balk at its contents. "What's wrong? Not to your taste?" Wheatley asked, tilting his optic in concern. He moved closer to inspect the contents himself, and blinked. There were a few bags and containers that were probably supposed to hold food... but the stuff inside them didn't quite look like food—at least, not the stuff he remembered. He remembered the scientists eating things like "salads" and "sandwiches" and "soups." The stuff in these containers, however, looked fuzzy and green and yellow and—he… he didn't know food—or, well, anything—could be some of these colors, if he was honest.
There was a clear container in there that the lady grabbed, but it was only water—not food. But then his flashlight caught a white container with a red cap, and his optic flared in recognition. "Oh, there's some milk there! Quite healthy, that stuff."
Reluctantly the lady picked up the white container and unscrewed the cap, only to frantically replace the cap and shove the container into the furthest depths of the fridge. She backed away, shutting the door as her face took on an unnatural green color.
"Or… not healthy, all right." Wheatley's upper lid drooped, but he shook himself. "Well, no use crying over—what's the phrase—spoiled milk? Something like that. And—no, really, there isn't—please don't cry, lady, we'll find something! Um…"
But the lady was already moving on, looking a little sickened, but still determined. She approached some of the cabinets, throwing the doors open to examine the contents. Her eyebrows went up, and she motioned for Wheatley to come closer.
"What's that? Have you found something?" Moving behind her, he shone his flashlight into the cabinet to reveal what appeared to be a variety of cans, all with different labels. "Oh, brilliant! Maybe this stuff isn't spoiled. Why don't you try it?"
The lady grinned, looking over the faded, dusty labels before selecting a few cans and taking them out to the counter. She had no immediate means of opening them, and Wheatley was going to suggest chucking them at the walls when she opened a few drawers, producing a can opener and a spoon. Once she set her portal gun aside and managed to get one of the cans open, she didn't hesitate to begin shoveling the food into her mouth.
Wheatley winced at the sight; eating had never been the most… attractive-looking human activity, but it was a necessary one. At least 80% necessary to human survival. Or something. He was rounding—it wasn't exact. And anyway, she probably had to eat rather quickly to get that stomach of hers to stop complaining. He'd be happy to hear an end to that noise.
Though he had to wonder: Was this food safe for consumption? The stuff in the fridge wasn't, at least, given by the way it looked and given the way the lady reacted to it. But even though the lady wasn't recoiling from this food, it still didn't look that appealing to him—granted, he didn't eat, but still! What if this food was bad, too? …What if he'd given her rancid food? What if she got sick from it? What if she died?!
"Um, lady, are you sure you should be eating that?" Wheatley asked, his voice heightening a little in worry.
But she only waved a dismissive hand, not looking away from her meal. Already she had opened another can and was tearing into its contents as well.
"Well, all right… j-just… hrm." He didn't like having to watch her eat this stuff, but he had to keep his flashlight on her so she could see what she was doing. Otherwise she could choke, or something, if she didn't get sick first. He shuddered.
She finished her meal with a third can, breathing out a contented sigh.
"Ah! Are you finished, then?" Wheatley asked, tilting his optic.
But apparently she wasn't—she guzzled down the bottle of water she'd grabbed earlier, and had Wheatley shine his light on the sink so she could refill it. The faucet groaned and shuddered before spitting out some disgusting, undrinkable gunk, but eventually the gunk gave way to spurts of lukewarm water, which she filled the plastic bottle with. Apparently satisfied, she gave the core a nod.
"Brilliant, then, back to escaping!" Wheatley exclaimed, relief evident in his voice. He turned to leave the room, practically bouncing on his rail. "We've had a nice—ah—lunch break, and now you're not hungry! No, properly fed, and now we're both ready to continue escaping. Oh! And no more odd sounds, either. No more growling from that stomach of yours, no more of your insides making those weird, unexpected noi—"
"WAAAGH!" Wheatley swung forward on his connector, bashing his face into the rail and causing a few unstable pieces of the ceiling to crumble around him. He blinked a few times, his optic's aperture dilating and contracting rapidly as he re-adjusted himself. "What the bloody heck was that?!"
"AAGH!" He spun around, frantically shining his flashlight this way and that before he spotted the lady, who was covering her mouth and looking very surprised.
"Hic!" Her whole upper body jerked with the noise.
Wheatley's processor reeled in horror—the noise was coming from her. "What the bloody heck did you eat?!"
The lady only blinked at him. "Hic!"
"Oh—oh, no no no, the food was bad, wasn't it?" He turned away, pinprick optic darting around the room in worry. "I knew it! I knew I shouldn't have let you eat that food! Knew that it—that it had gone bad—disgusting—it certainly looked it—I mean granted all food looks disgusting really but—but I should have known! Oh, and now you're sick—what is that you're doing? Vomiting? You're vomiting, aren't you? Or—or is it a seizure? I'll bet it's that—got to be, got to be a seizure—oh, mate, what are we supposed to do? I wasn't trained for this! They only gave me that bloody stupid manual, but a lot of bloody good it'll do us when you're already dying—"
He felt a light tap to his side and nearly jumped out of his casing. "Wuh—! Oh, it's just you. Really, lady, you should say something before—"
"BUT NOT THAT!" He was practically flailing in panic at this point. "You just had to remind me of your horrible state—"
"—and how you haven't got much time left—"
"—and… and…" …and he couldn't help but notice that she was grinning, and her shoulders were shaking—"Why are you laughing at a time like this?! Aren't you supposed to be—you know—dying?"
But she only continued to laugh silently, though she seemed to stop randomly to make that abnormal noise.
"…Okay, so maybe you're not dying. But probably close! Probably close—um, well, hopefully not, but… okay, fine, let's see what this says here." Wheatley glanced aside as he skimmed through the information in his processor, looking over various sicknesses and diseases, not finding what he was looking for. Just when he was about to give up, he found it—a description that best fit what the lady was doing, though for some reason, it wasn't listed under diseases or illnesses. Probably misclassified.
Slowly turning his optic toward her, the sphere rolled closer, giving her a very serious look—one that caused her to stop laughing and return the expression. "It seems," he began, his voice grave, "that you have a very deadly disease… called the hiccups."
There was a moment of silence as human and robot stared at each other, but it was quickly interrupted by a quiet "Hic!" followed by more silent laughter, which was intermittently interrupted by more hiccups.
"Why are you laughing?!" Wheatley cried, his voice heightened in exasperation. "I mean, it's not like you're on the brink of death or anything—not like you're going to keel over dead at any minute! You have a disease! Do you understand me? Do you—do you understand what I'm saying at all?"
But now there were tears streaming down the lady's face as she continued to laugh and hiccup, and Wheatley's upper lid drooped in sympathy. "I-I'm sorry, lady, didn't mean to upset you, there, but you really have to pull yourself together! We have to—to overcome this, somehow… somehow… Ah! There's—there's cures, in this manual! Cures for the hiccups. We can use that! See? All's not lost! …R-really, please stop crying…"
The lady finally managed to stop her silent laughter as she wiped the tears from her eyes. The hiccups, however, continued.
"That's the spirit! Great. Now, let's see here…" Wheatley tilted his optic at the first suggestion his information on humans gave him. "Really? That's… that can't be right. Doesn't sound right at all. But… worth a shot, I suppose, worth a shot. It says here that if someone scares you, it'll chase that nasty disease right out of your system. So let's try that! Should be a simple fix, right. Hopefully."
Still hiccupping, the lady crossed her arms and cocked an eyebrow at him.
"Oh, don't look at me like that! I can be scary if I want to. Quite terrifying, actually!" He tilted his faceplate upward with his optic half-lidded, giving her a smug look. "Managed to scare quite a few bots back in my day. And a few humans, too. Don't think I told you about that time when I worked at the neurot—well, nevermind. The point is, I definitely know how to scare you. So let's get to it!" Clearing his non-existent throat, he jabbed his upper handle in the direction of the kitchen. "So you go on in there, yeah? And when you come out, I'll scare you."
"Come on, just do it. You'll be scared stiff, you will!"
The lady rolled her eyes, but complied, marching back into the kitchen and leaving Wheatley alone in the cafeteria.
The core nodded to himself. "Right! Shouldn't be hard at all. All I'll have to do is… is…" Plink, plink. "Wait, how am I supposed to scare her?" His optic darted around the room, the light from his flashlight bouncing off of the debris as he looked for something that could possibly be of use to him. "Really this shouldn't be that hard, should it? I mean… um…"
"AGH!" The core gave a jerk of surprise, nearly knocking himself off his management rail, and found himself shivering a little. Turning around, he saw the lady standing behind him and giving a smirk. "Y-you didn't tell me you were coming! I wasn't ready yet! Ugh—if you're to be properly scared, we've got to do this properly, you know?"
Heaving a sigh that was interrupted by a few hiccups, the lady reached out, tapping his faceplate and then waving her hand in front of his optic.
"What are you—oh, the… the flashlight." Plink, plink. "And—and my voice, right. G-guess... guess you could see me coming. And hear me." Wheatley glanced aside. "Okay… tell you what. I'll head out there"—he indicated the cafeteria's exit with his upper handle—"and turn off my flashlight, and keep quiet. Absolutely silent. And then you—you stay in here, count to—ah—count for a minute or two, and then you head out, and I'll scare you, and we can get rid of that deadly disease of yours. Sound good?"
The lady thought it over for a moment before giving a nod.
"Great! Tremendous. See you in a couple minutes, then!" Lower lid pulling up in a grin, the core sped down his rail, practically bouncing as he exited the room. "This'll scare her for sure! All I'll have to do is—wait, no talking, right." He gave an artificial cough, glancing around the facility as his flashlight lit up small sections. …Oh, he had to turn that off, too, right. Giving a confident nod, he flicked off his flashlight, and was immediately engulfed in total darkness.
"…O-oh, I can't s—" Not supposed to talk, right. Absolute silence.
Wheatley hung there on his rail, optic looking this way and that as he tried to make out some sort of shape in the pitch darkness, but there was nothing—just like it had been when GLaDOS had first turned off the lights.
Wasn't… wasn't she still looking for them? No—no, she couldn't touch them back here, of course—she didn't have access to the maintenance areas, and all that. But—but they had taken that little detour to get to the kitchen so that the lady could get something to eat… They weren't out of the maintenance areas now, were they?
…Come to think of it, where was he? He hadn't been paying attention to how far he'd gone after leaving the cafeteria, and… suddenly the memories came back to him, back to when he'd been going to that new job, and he'd gotten lost in that part of the facility where the lights had gone out, and he didn't know he could use his flashlight back then, and he'd been lost for ages, moving this way and that on his rail, and he'd lost track of time and it was days before he managed to get himself out of there, and—
—and how long had he been out here, now? Had the lady already lost him? Where was the lady? Had—had she already died from that disease? …And then there was GLaDOS, and if the lady was dead, then she might still be searching for him, and… and…!
"…LAAADYYYY!" he cried, whirling around and blasting forward on his rail. Too panicked to think of switching his flashlight back on, he rushed blindly forward until he was caught up by some invisible force, and suddenly he couldn't move forward or backward, and—"OH NO—OH NO, SHE'S GOT ME! RUN, LADY! A-actually no saving me would be really nice right about now but if you can't do that at the moment then RUN! RUN, FOR G—"
Wheatley suddenly became aware of the fact that he was being held in the grip of a portal gun, and that the lady was giving him a rather unimpressed look.
Wheatley wasn't sure whether to laugh nervously, clear his non-existent throat, or cough. He wound up attempting to do all three simultaneously, which only resulted in his vocal processor simulating a glitched squawk. "R-right!" he said, voice briefly hiking up a few pitches in embarrassment as he flicked on his flashlight. "So—ah, my plan worked! Yes, scare you into—into thinking that she was after us, and scare that nasty disease straight out of—"
"Okay you know what, this isn't working." His upper lid and upper handle both drooped in an annoyed expression as the lady placed him back on his management rail. "Clearly, clearly not working—obviously this manual, or, or that part of it, was wrong—so you know what? Let's forget this, let's move on—move on to the next thing this bloody manual says."
Wheatley grumbled as he skimmed through the file again, looking for the next thing on the list. Upon finding it, his upper handle perked. "Oh! Well, this one doesn't involve any effort on my part, at least." Nodding, he looked over at the lady again. "Okay, so according to this manual, you're gonna have to hold your breath. I know, I know, the manual hasn't been all that reliable, but it's worth a shot, right?"
The lady hiccupped and shrugged before giving the core a nod.
"Right, so… Get to it, then! Hold your breath."
Hiccupping again, the lady took a deep breath and held it, her cheeks puffing out.
Wheatley blinked a few times before tilting his optic one way, then the other. "Um. I… well. That's—that's certainly a look, isn't it?"
Immediately the lady exhaled, covering her mouth as she gave a few silent giggles. These were quickly interrupted by more hiccups, and her grin faded into a frown. She pointed at the core, jabbing her finger at him a few times in an accusing manner before hiccupping again.
"What did I do?!" he exclaimed, pulling his lower handle up in defense. "You're the one who laughed, mate, not me. Try it again."
Rolling her eyes, the lady took another breath.
"Though you did look ridiculous. Just a bit. Just—just saying."
"Oh for—" Wheatley rolled his optic, but even that didn't seem to convey the exasperation he was feeling. He tried to mimic a motion he'd seen other humans use—rather frequently around him, now that he thought of it—and smacked his lower handle against his face. "Ow." He shook himself, then refocused his optic on the test subject. "Anyway, it's not that hard, lady! Just got to hold your breath, is all. Honestly, if we don't cure this disease of yours, we'll never get out of here!"
The lady heaved a sigh, then held up a finger—one more time—before taking another breath. She plugged her nose with one hand and covered her mouth with the other, closing her eyes and concentrating.
"Good." Wheatley nodded in approval. "Now, just don't think of anything funny. Not even the slightest bit silly, or ridiculous, or anything like that." He noticed the corners of the lady's mouth beginning to twitch, and flinched. "Oh, no, no, no! None of that! Don't think of anything funny—think of something, um… scary! Yes, think of something terrifying. Like, um... birds."
And the lady began laughing and hiccupping again.
"Aw—wha? What's so funny about that?! Birds are terrifying! Bloody one of the scariest things there is, next to her! I mean, this one time—agh!" He flinched when the lady suddenly tugged on his lower handle, and looked down at her. Her laughter was gone, but the look she was giving him was distinctly unamused. She hiccupped again.
"Okay! Okay, fine, fine, I get it—on with… on with the next bloody thing." Wheatley shook his lower handle to make her let go before looking back into the manual in his processor. "Though I don't know why we're still bothering with this bloody thing. A lot of good it's done us so far. Followed the instructions for two of the cures to the letter, and where did it get us? Nowhere! Absolutely nowhere! Unbelieva—okay, okay, next cure… Oh. Oh! Okay, this one we can't possibly screw up." He tilted his faceplate upward, giving her yet another smug look. "I know how to do this one! C'mon, back into the kitchen."
The lady cocked an eyebrow at him, and he shook himself, flustered. "C'mon, I mean it this time! I really, truly think this is going to work."
With that, he turned and rolled on his rail toward the kitchen, shining his flashlight around the cabinets. "Look back in there, yeah? We need to find some sugar."
Now the lady seemed curious, and began opening the cupboards, searching for the cooking ingredient. One cupboard was full of cans, as they'd seen before; another had been overtaken by wild plants; one had become the home of an enormous spider web with an equally enormous spider in the center (Wheatley shuddered, recalling that one time he'd gone into sleep mode only to wake up and find one of those things had made a web inside his casing); but the final cupboard had what they were looking for. There were several containers full of spices and other cooking ingredients, including a cheerful-looking (if old) porcelain bowl labeled "sugar."
"There it is! Great, now, all you have to do is eat a spoonful of that stuff, and you'll be cured! Right as rain."
The lady nodded, retrieving the bowl and opening the lid. She peered inside, and immediately flinched back.
Wheatley's optic narrowed in confusion. "What is it now?" He shined his light into the little container, and blinked upon seeing what appeared to be a gigantic, dead cockroach. "…Oh."
The lady very carefully set the bowl aside, only to jump back when the cockroach suddenly skittered out, coming centimeters within range of her hand.
"Well, that was unexpected. Um—well, still might be sugar in there, if you want to—"
"…throw the sugar bowl at the bug, yes." Wheatley's upper lid drooped. "Really, lady, how do you expect me to cure your hiccups when you won't even follow my instructions? Or—this manual's instructions, anyway…" Heaving a sigh, he glanced back into the cabinet and suddenly perked up. "Hey, why don't you try that there?"
The lady looked into the cabinet, but frowned at the object the core was shining his light upon. She pulled it out nonetheless, revealing a cylindrical cardboard container labeled "salt."
"The manual doesn't mention this, but I think I'm smarter than that old thing." The core bobbed his upper handle up and down, as though to impress the lady. "I can still remember the stuff the scientists would eat, and, well… those things look pretty similar, right? Salt, sugar—both powdery white stuff. So try a spoonful of that, and see if it works."
Now looking quite doubtful, the lady set the container aside.
"Oh come on! Please? We've got to cure you of those hiccups if we want to have any chance of confronting her! Can't do that while you're sick, can we?"
The lady rubbed her forehead before retrieving the salt container again and grabbing the spoon she'd left on the counter. She pulled the metal opening out of the container before dumping the salt onto the spoon, and reluctantly pulled the spoon closer to her face. Finally she shut her eyes before quickly shoving the spoon into her mouth, and immediately screwed up her face.
"Hah! There you go!" Wheatley exclaimed with a grin. "I can tell—I can tell from your expression that the salt's doing the trick! Driving the disease right out of y—"
The lady began to cough into the sink, spitting the salt out.
"B-but—wh-what did you do that for?! It was working! It was… it was going to work! Argh…!" The core turned around, his handles drooping as the lady scrambled for her water bottle and began to drink. "This is hopeless! We'll never cure you of that disease! You're going to keep making that awful sound for the rest of your life—which'll probably be pretty short, what with the disease and all. Just making that horrible noise, over and over and… over and… over… and…"
He turned to face her, finding her finishing off her water bottle. She regarded him with an interested look.
"When was the last time you made that noise?"
The lady blinked, and then her eyes widened as they both came to the same realization:
Her hiccups were gone.
"H... h-ha! Hahaha! We did it! Or—well—I did it! I cured you! I knew it would work—I'm a genius! I'm an absolute—"
Wheatley flinched back, only to see that the lady had hit him lightly with her empty water bottle. "What's that?"
She pointed to the water bottle, then to herself, then back and forth a few times.
"You… what? No! No, that water had nothing to do with it!" He shook his face before tilting his body upward. "It was my salt idea that did the trick! Cured you right out of those hiccups. Or—or maybe it was the scaring! Yes. A… a delayed reaction from my scaring you out of your wits. That's got to be it. In any case, it was a team effort—in which I did all the work. Obviously."
"Okay, fine, right. Back to escaping." Rolling his optic, Wheatley moved along his rail, heading toward the exits to the kitchen and cafeteria. "Honestly, can't let me celebrate a little… But in any case, you've gotten some food, and we got rid of your disease, so now we can move along with escaping without any more interrup—"
"Oh, would you cut that out!" He whirled around to glare at the lady, only to blink at her expression—she looked a little uncomfortable. "…D-don't tell me you've contracted some other kind of deadly disease, now. You—you didn't, did you?"
Much to his relief, the lady shook her head. She held up her empty water bottle and waved it around for a moment before making a motion that looked like drinking.
"You need more water? But you already had two of—" He paused. "…Oh." Wheatley fidgeted on his rail before giving an awkward cough. "Well, then… fine, one more interruption. Let's… um… see if I can remember the way to the restrooms."