"… Are you there?
"If you are–are you gonna' open the door?
"… Please? It's pretty important… So just…
Two minutes and thirty-two seconds–he counted. Yet, not an answer was uttered to him.
Leaning by a door, under the flickering silver spotlight of a faulty porch lantern, the marvelously massive moon by his back against the glittering stars, Wheatley stood alone.
He never liked to be alone–especially not in a place like this. Too dark. Too secluded. Too quiet. Too... what's the word...
Three minutes went by. Again, not even a peep escaped from the other side. With the exception for the twittering insects lured the lantern, everything stood still–silent.
If he knew anything, the silence would've suggested that this was a brilliantly opportune time to leave, for, apparently, the occupants weren't fond of guests.
But when has Wheatley known anything?
So, he waited. Even after four minutes and eleven seconds, he waited. Now expressing a peculiar interest in his leather cladded feet, he began to feel nervy, perhaps, even a bit dejected.
"I'm still here, you know…"
With those magic words gloomily spoken, the door swung ajar.
His spirits sky-high again Wheatley hastily dusted his vest and greeted the occupant with a rather exaggerated smile. Though, the occupant seemed more than cross, his arms folded over his chest in an annoyed fashion. If looks could maim–let alone–kill a man, Wheatley would already be just another pile of metallic parts for the burn pile.
"Do you not know what time it is?" the occupant growled, his English accent–a characteristic both he and Wheatley shared–terribly stressed.
"I'm just here to talk. It'll only take a few minutes of your time," Wheatley said. He desperately tried to not to sound so pleading, fighting the need to fall to his knees with his hands in a prayer and beg.
"No." The occupant then slammed the door, that is, until Wheatley's hand interjected, allowing it to crush between the door and the edging. A yelp squeaked out from Wheatley as he withdrew it and protectively cradled it in his other hand.
"Please, just listen to me, mate!"
"You've given yourself a lot of trouble for a 'little talk'. If you can't even control your own lunacy, why should I even invite you into my own home?"
"As a matter of fact, I'm quite in control of my sanity now. No need to be so harsh about it."
"Why don't you bother someone else with your stupidity? I don't need a moron to keep me awake at ten o'clock in the night."
"I am not a moron!"
Stop it, thought Wheatley, let's not go down that road.
Managing to calm himself down, he grumbled, "I didn't come here to fight you. Just let me talk to you. I'll leave right after."
The occupant thought his hostile request over. Pouting, he invited him in.
Wheatley bashed his forehead against the doorframe before he could take one step inside the house, failing to recall about his abnormal height compared to the others. After recovering, he successfully evaded the obstacle, now looking down at the occupant from a lengthy stature distance.
"Now, what could you possibly want to talk about?"
"I wanted to apologize," replied Wheatley.
"Well, she's not here." The occupant began to lead him to the door by forcibly pushing him to it. "Try again tomorrow."
Wheatley raised his foot and planted it firmly to the floor. He propped himself against the wall so he couldn't be shoved out of the house easily.
"I know that," he said bitterly. "The apology's for you."
The occupant lurched backward like a provoked cat. Wheatley let his guard down, letting go of the wall.
"You're wasting your time. You don't know me."
"That–That doesn't mean I can't apologize!" Wheatley retreated with each step the other man took towards him. The occupant approached slowly and threateningly, hands balled up into fists, ready to strike his guest in the nose.
"Do you know how much we had to go through just to get her to sleep without her waking up screaming? How many doctor's visits we had to go to for broken ribs, fingers, wrists, ankles, blood poisoning?
"Pneumonia, insomnia, PTSD, malnourishment–her medical record is the diagnostics book itself!
"A measly 'Oh, I'm sorry!' isn't going to cut it for all those years. Words can't heal a shattered ribcage, doctor. The audacity of you to even try makes me gag."
"You hate me that much, don't you, Al–Alf–"
"Damn–bloody right I hate you!"
Wheatley stood still and speechless, a stone-cold statue. In the back of his mind he played recent memories over and over like a film reel. And that's all he could do, just stay numb and watch the pictures go by.
"DUDE, ARE YOU ALRIGHT?"
That wasn't the best answer to ask someone after they almost got crushed with a car, especially when you're the one who almost flattened them like a pancake with a three-thousand pound chunk of metal.
"DON'T WORRY, BRO! I'M A HERO!"
The loud American fellow went into rescue mode, lifting the unresponsive Wheatley off the asphalt. His eyes, wide with terror. Though, not even a scratch surfaced on the inexpressive man's skin. In fact, it wasn't even clear that the car even hit him.
Wheatley attempted to speak, barely able to spit out the word "what", fading out of his state of shock and back into full mindfulness.
"Shut up and don't move! I'll save the day!" He found himself sitting in the passenger's seat of the car, his gangling legs digging into his chest from the lack of space. The person in the driver's seat slammed on the gas pedal, causing Wheatley's head to bash the cushioned head-rest. He felt as if glass marbles rolled around and smashed against the fragile base of his skull with every bash on the head-rest. His eyes kept blurring his vision into twisted blobs of black and green and gray–it's no surprise he became nauseous.
"You're lucky you made it out! You could've lost a leg or something worse!"
What comforting words, thought Wheatley, sardonic.
Wait a second...
"YOU ALMOST KILLED ME!" he then screeched. His impromptu loss of composure caused the man to lose control of the wheel for a brief moment. The car swerved like a drunkard on roller-skates until the man regained control.
"Freaking calm it down! You're not dead!"
Sadly, for poor, little Wheatley, this was his introduction into the surface world. After drifting in space for an agonizingly long amount of time, fate–or a meteor–caused him to return to earth, right back where he started: the facility.
He managed to escape from the laboratories fully intact (much to anyone's surprise). However, it'd only been two days before he managed to put himself in peril again.
"Where are we going?" shrieked Wheatley.
"My place–well, my bro's place. The hospital's forty miles away, so we'll have to go with plan B."
It didn't take long for the two to arrive at their destination
"Well, ah… T–Thanks... Really, you didn't have to do this," said Wheatley, modestly.
"No problem, dude. I owe ya' for the accident," said the man, cooly, wolfing down his fourth burger.
Previously, right after Wheatley's episode of fear, the man revealed possessing the name of "Alfred"–Alfred F. Jones–the "F" standing for "Freedom", as he righteously claimed.
A strange man he was to inexperienced little Wheatley, an individual who never met a human other than… the speechless woman who lacked a name. He wondered how Alfred could possibly scarf down so many hamburgers without poisoning himself with calories. He also wondered how he could retain that flamboyant voice without wearing his vocal chords so much to the point where they were no longer useful–or how that odd cowlick-thing sticking out from the top of his head could stay up like that.
"Not to be rude, or anything, but isn't that the fourth burger-thing you've eaten?" asked Wheatley sheepishly.
"Your point being..."
"Oh! No–No! It's not a bad thing! It's… ah… It's a bit astonishing how you can eat… so much of that… H–Have you been training?"
"You know…" Alfred strayed from the topic, his words muffled over his unsophisticated chewing noises, "you sound a lot like a guy I know… a lot. Well, you're not as much as a stuffy wuss-puss like him... but, ya' know…"
"Really? I didn't actually think there'd be people like me! Is there any chance I could meet him?"
At this point in time, the phrase "speak of the devil" would've been fitting, for the aforementioned wuss-puss arrived, looking quite irritated.
"Alfred, what have I told you about bringing in street-bums without my consent?" he groaned, slapping a hand to his forehead at the sight of Wheatley.
"Yo', Artie! Meet… whateveryournameis! I almost ran him over with my car today!" Alfred announced. He sounded too cheery for Wheatley not to feel concerned.
"I'm not surprised…" griped "Artie", under his breath, veering his head towards Wheatley. The urge to giggle struck him when he caught sight of Artie's rather… "luxuriantly thick" eyebrows, but he choked it down to keep from offending him.
"We'll–" Artie looked over at Alfred, who began to juggle the coasters like a "deranged circus money" in the Brit's words.
"I'll make sure you return to your home safely. You can phone a friend of yours if you feel its urgent to."
"Oh, that's not really necessary. I don't actually... um, have anyone to contact."
Artie inaudibly groaned irately at this.
"Can we at least get a name?"
"Ah, yes! Of course you can, mate! It's… It's 'Wheatley'."
As if struck against the head with a lead pipe, both Artie and Alfred shared an expression of bafflement and fear at the sound of his name.
"Alfred…" Artie whispered, not daring to raise his voice, "… where did you find him?"
"I…" Alfred began, his face frozen in a look of pure terror, something not common for a man of his pride, "… I just…"
"You... Wheatley," Artie called, stressing his name out so threateningly it scared the poor, puzzled man out of his wits, "where are you from?"
"Well... sir... it's not a very… 'safe' place. In fact, it's rather–"
"Aperture Science?" Alfred blurted mindlessly, causing Artie to hastily slap a hand over the man's mouth.
Wheatley gazed right through them, absolutely petrified of how they were even familiar with that purgatory of a place.
"How did you know?"
Like a deer in headlights, they seemed completely horrified with his response.
"… We'll be right back."
Retreating to the kitchen, they resumed the conversation in secret. Wheatley placed a hand on his chin, thinking over how his name stunned them to such an extraordinary extent. Sure, it wasn't a common name, but it's not terrible enough to send two people into full-blown shock. Luckily, their conversation wasn't entirely inaudible, as he could grasp a few fragmented phrases:
"How is he here?"
"… But she said he…"
"That's him! Right there! Right outside our door…"
"… But didn't he…?"
"Arthur... please. You've gotta' chill, dude... Just use your words... We can talk th–"
"YOU LITTLE GIT!"
The door burst open. A fuming Arthur stood before him, a manic inferno raging inside of him like a wild-fire, before he lunged at Wheatley with terrifying power. With Wheatley thanking the heavens, Alfred rushed in, holding back Arthur before he could get the chance to snap some limbs in two.
"HOW DARE YOU COME HERE, AFTER ALL THE HELL YOU'VE RAISED! YOU BLOODY WAN–ALFRED, LET ME GO ALREADY!" Arthur screamed, flailing his arms more than violently, attempting to snatch Wheatley's neck in his white-knuckled fists. The fear of him escaping Alfred's hold on him wasn't existent, due to Alfred's unnatural strength.
"What did I do? You don't even know who I–"
"YOU DON'T EVEN CARE, DO YOU? YOU DON'T EVEN CARE ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE DONE?"
"Please, try to calm down! I'm sure there's an explanation for all this! Just calm down!"
"DON'T EVEN TRY TO LIE TO US! SHE TOLD US EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR STUPID, LITTLE STUNTS!"
"I'm not lying! Just–Please! I–Wait, 'she'? She actually escaped? She's here?"
"I SWEAR, IF ALFRED WASN'T HOLDING ME BACK, I'D K–"
That one, simple sound hushed the thunderous roaring of death threats. Though, Alfred and Arthur never expected this plainly discreet noise before, they now dreaded its arrival with every second of their lives. They winced, preparing for the absolute worst.
It was the front door.
A young woman, roughly about the same age as the two, collectively arrived after a long day of working at her profession. She arranged herself to head upstairs and greet her roommates with a typically silent welcome. However, instead of preforming the usual welcome routine, she froze in her tracks, observing the mystifying situation with enquiring gray eyes.
They all became statues, petrified in time. No one even risked making a single move.
Wheatley made an attempt to recall the woman, receiving vivid memories of a combatant in orange, armed with a physics-shattering weapon, holding on for dear life as the lack of gravity took its toll on the facility. The same woman whom Wheatley wanted to rid numerous times, and almost succeeded in doing so.
The woman stared at her former comrade in amazement, possibly fear.
"How is that possible?"
Wheatley broke the stillness, making his way over to her step by step. With a closer look at her features.
"You really did escape."
His gaze then shifted to her arms, of which they exposed wounds mostly healed by time, though, they stood out prominently against her skin. They weren't simple cuts and bruises from everyday life. Faded gashes, blackened spots, soot staining the pigment. By the looks of this, she went through hell and back.
A sharp pang arose from the center of his throat. He made the effort to speak again,
"… I–Did I–I'm... I didn't–mean…"
He then threw his arms around her, burying his head in her shoulder, sobbing uncontrollably.
"I'm sorry I did this! Please–I–I'm sorry this happened to you! Please–understand that I never meant for this to…"
Even though Wheatley couldn't see it, the lady's terrified expression morphed into sadness. Tears streamed down her face. She clutched onto the back of his shirt, clenching her teeth together with stress–
"I don't hate you."
She let go and fled up the staircase without missing a beat, never to be seen again for the rest of the night.
"Come on, spit it out already," Arthur snapped, losing his already nonexistent tolerance.
"They… They told me about all the… country matter."
"What? Who told–" He then groaned in a somewhat angrier manner, rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"Alfred told you, didn't he?"
"He's America, right?" Wheatley questioned him.
"And you're England?"
"And… um... they told me about the… Revela–"
"The Revolution…" Arthur lost his focus in a matter of milliseconds.
"You know, it's strange, really…" said Wheatley, "after thinking about it… it kinda' feels like we have a little more in common than we assume."
With that statement in mind, Arthur broke from his daze.
"What the–Stop talking nonsense!"
"No, I'm not. Think about it: We've both lost it at some point in our lives; we wanted more authority, right? And we both hurt the people we cared about…"
"I don't care about Alf–"
"It's too blatant to deny it, mate. Trust me." Wheatley smirked at Arthur's stubbornness. With a deep breath, he continued,
"You say you hate me, but you couldn't even control your own temper at one point. I call that hypocrisy. And I'll admit... I'm... I'm not very fond of it."
Muteness may be one thing, but a sensible speech like that wasn't typical in the bumbling Wheatley, and Arthur knew this as well. He furrowed his bushy brows at him, dubious of his levelheaded words, but his skepticism didn't last very long.
"As much as I want to drop-kick you to the moon..." Wheatley retreated again at Arthur's words.
"... I feel the need to agree. And..." Arthur heaved a sigh, "I'll do my best to act fair–but only if you promise too!"
That silly smile returned to Wheatley's features as he shook Arthur's hand and sealed the deal.
"It's a promise."
The comfort on Arthur's face quickly dwindled, his usually stuffiness taking its place–
"We're not friends."
As opposed to acting offended at this rather aggressive comment, Wheatley gave him his usual happy-go-lucky chuckle,
"… And I can live with that."