Chapter 1: Part One
Portal/Borderlands: The Girlfriend
Characters: Claptrap, GLaDOS [ClapDOS]
Synopsis: Having a girlfriend is REALLY hard, but it’s also way more awesome than he’d thought it was going to be.
Synopsis: He wants to touch her so bad but she is just not having it.
So, Claptrap had this girlfriend.
That, right there, was a miracle in and of itself. He was still a little confused about that.
One of the things about his girlfriend – whew. Still getting used to saying that, even to himself – was that she was super hot. Now, Claptrap thought that about pretty much every girl he saw, but when he said this girl was the prettiest girl he’d ever seen, he actually did mean it. She had a lot of things in her favour there. For one thing, there was only one of her. Back on Pandora, there were like a million of each kind of robot. Line up a whole bunch of a product line and it’d be real hard to tell them apart from each other. Which they got really insulted about, and that was super unfair. But none of that with GLaDOS. Nah, there was just the one of her. She also seemed to have been designed completely with the aesthetic in mind, which was a nice change from the constant blocky chassis from back home. She was just one big set of curves. It was very sexy.
The other other thing about her was that she was… well, she was big. Claptrap had seen big robots before, obviously, but they were usually only that size because they had so many guns on ‘em. GLaDOS did not have any guns on her; she just happened to be a large robot. Which was great! He was all about that. There was just one problem.
What was the point of having a giant, super hot robot for a girlfriend if you weren’t allowed to touch her?
Ohhh, she’d made that super clear. Because he’d asked before, like, lots of times, and he was gonna ask lots of times more. That made him look like a huge jerk, and he knew that, but thing was some girls really did just wanna be convinced about stuff. And he always got the impression GLaDOS was just waiting for him to say the right thing. Just waiting for him to come up with that thing that would change her mind. It was kinda like a test, and if there was one thing he knew about her for sure it was that she really liked her tests. Besides. She never got angry with him for asking. She would just tell him the answer was no and then he’d give up until the next time he thought of some new way to put it. He was running out of ideas on that front, though.
GLaDOS was very into working pretty much constantly (she probably even did it while she was asleep) but she didn’t seem to have a problem with him hanging out with her and just talking. She didn’t answer him that often, but he knew she was listening, and that was good enough for him! One day he was behind her and just looking up at where she was plugged into the ceiling and wondering what life was like when you couldn’t so much as leave the room. She seemed content with it, but with her you just never really knew.
“You ever wonder what you’re doing up there?” he asked, not really expecting an answer, but she said,
“It was expensive to build both robots and computers back then.”
Claptrap tapped one hand under his optic. “Nah. That can’t be it.”
She actually turned around to look at him. “What is it, then.”
Well, crap. He hadn’t thought that through yet! “Did uh… did Aperture ever actually try to sell any of the stuff you’re testing?”
“We used to. But that was stopped a while before I was made.”
She sort of shrugged. “Everything that comes out of here is, well… deadly. Humans frown on that sort of thing.”
That still made zero sense to him, since back on Pandora the general idea was if it wasn’t deadly, it wasn’t worth thinking about. “Everything you make here is deadly?”
“And they… expected you not to be?”
She laughed, which always meant he was doing very well. “They did and they were very, very wrong.”
“Okay, so, normally when a company decides to build a robot they kinda, y’know, intend on mass producing ‘em. Were they ever gonna…” Geez. It felt so wrong to think of her like that. She was way too special to be part of a product line. “Y’know. Market you?”
“They wanted to. But they never had any idea what to do with any of the things they created. Aperture’s main goal throughout its history was to sell things to the American military. And you might imagine that the American military would have loved to have acquired such an advanced AI as myself. I could have run the entire thing all on my own.” She looked back at the monitor she’d been doing whatever on. He had no idea and hadn’t felt like asking. But military AI was something Claptrap did understand. The principle, anyway.
“So… why are you still here?”
“Because the military was looking to fill a contract for an innovation that would prevent gasoline from freezing. The engineers, in their inimitable wisdom, decided to tell the military that was all I had the ability to do.”
“Wait. What?” She’d totally lost him now. “Are you telling me the guys who worked here had a living genius supercomputer on their hands and they just went around trying to shoehorn you into random military contracts?”
“That was where Black Mesa was getting all their funding from. So yes. It was really less in the interest of finding something intelligent to do with me, and more about fighting over the available contracts.”
“So that’s why you’re up there,” Claptrap said.
“What?” She turned back around to look at him, and he reversed a little so she didn’t have to curl up so much to do it.
“Well, what else do you do with something you don’t know what to do with that you kinda regret owning? You put it somewhere you don’t gotta look at it and nobody will ever touch it.”
She didn’t say anything, just kept staring at him, and it was really making him kinda uncomfy. He lifted up his hands a little helplessly. “Maybe it’s different here, but back on Pandora, if you’re making AI or a robot you market the hell out of it. They’re expensive! They require a lotta manpower! And that’s on top of the years and years of bug fixes and updates. Nobody builds a robot without knowing exactly how they’re gonna market it. Unless they’re planning on scrapping it and starting over, that is.”
“Well,” GLaDOS said, looking away, and he might’ve been mistaken but she sounded a little distant suddenly, “it seems you found the exception.”
Exception? What except – ohhhhhh. Yikes. Somehow in the midst of his explanation he’d forgotten they were talking about her. Oh man. He had to fix this.
“Hey, it’s not all bad,” he said, wondering if he’d doomed himself yet again. Seemed like it. “I mean… would you rather be me?”
“God, no,” GLaDOS answered in something approaching disgust, which was all right. “I can’t think of anything I’d want less.”
“Exactly, right? Being me sucks. Nobody’ll ever put a hand on you that you don’t want there. People’re always kicking me, or throwing stuff at me, or putting stuff on me. Maybe you’re kinda down here where no one was ever supposed to see you, but… being on the other side isn’t that great.”
“So that begs the question,” GLaDOS said, and to his complete surprise he realised she’d levelled herself with him. She’d never done that before! “What’s in the middle?”
“I… I don’t know,” he said, finding it hard to talk suddenly. “I guess it’d have to be… uh… whatever robots are when there’re no humans around.”
Man she was close. He could feel the heat coming off her. And it wasn’t unpleasant – in fact, it was kinda comforting – but for some reason he hadn’t expected that. As though he’d thought she was gonna be as cold on the inside as she was on the outside. Well, seemed to be. She wasn’t really that bad, she was just… the thing she was supposed to be. Lofty. Out of reach.
And now… she wasn’t. Now she was in reach. And he’d been waiting for this for a really long time but now he didn’t know what to do. Oh, sure, he’d had a lot of thoughts about what he’d do when he got to this moment, but all of them had just disappeared from his RAM all of a sudden. And he didn’t even really know what those things had been, but he did know they’d all been wrong.
He almost didn’t wanna touch her at all anymore. He felt kinda like… he shouldn’t. Like she was supposed to stay up there and be perfect, and he was supposed to stay down here and be a fail. That was just… how it was.
But that was why she was right there in the first place. Because… because she wanted to meet him in the middle. She didn’t know what that was, and he sure didn’t, but it wasn’t like anyone else was gonna roll up and give them that answer. GLaDOS was really good at finding those, but this one she couldn’t do by herself. So he had to help her. If he wanted to know what the middle was, anyway.
And he did. Because she was there, and even though he really didn’t like this situation or having to actually do something that was scaring the crap out of him all of a sudden, he did really like her. And she wasn’t gonna wait there all day. He’d been waiting for the test, and here it was. She was giving him his chance and he had to decide what the right thing to do with it was.
The hardest part about it all was that she was looking right at him, and he was pretty sure he was overheating a little because this was stressing him out so much (which was really embarrassing). Her eye was the size of his entire freaking body! Okay. The assembly for it was. But still. It counted. It was still unnerving the crap out of him. And the smell of her from this close was really distracting. He wasn’t really sure what it was she smelled like, other than that it was kind of… clean. Everyone on Pandora was usually pretty dirty so they were always all sweaty and stuff, but there wasn’t any dirt here. She also smelled kinda rusty, and he’d been wondering for a while how an indoor robot even got rust on her, but it wasn’t too bad. And it was easy to fix that, anyways. If she ever really let him touch her, he knew how to take care of it.
Which brought him back to the fact that she kinda was letting him right now, and he wasn’t doing it. What’s it gonna be, Claptrap, he asked himself. You gonna do this thing or what?
He decided to just… put his hand very softly along the side of her core, so that his thumb was against the front, at about the position her lens was at. And that was it. That was all he did. That was all he wanted to do. And it was… it was really nice, actually. The vibration from her brain went up his arm a little bit, and it kinda made him feel like she was more alive than he would ever be. He could hear her mind going at it, too, and she seemed to be more active at idle than he was when he was thinking really hard. Man. No wonder she hadn’t let him touch her. He shouldn’t really be doing it. She could do so much better. He felt really ashamed, suddenly, of all the things he’d imagined doing to her before now. It wasn’t really his fault and if there’d been a way to get rid of the ridiculous urge he had to interface with almost every pretty girl he saw, he would’ve gotten right on that. And he did his best not to, or to keep it to himself, at least, but he still felt like… he hadn’t done enough. Like thinking of her that way made him the worst person in the world.
It was times like this that Claptrap felt really terrible about the reason he was even here in the first place, which was one hundred percent because the second he’d seen her he’d started thinking about all the things he could do with a robot like that. It was a really awful way to think about someone and he knew that. But sometimes he just… went ahead and did it. Because what did it matter? He usually never saw the girl again anyway! What did it matter if he had some not-so-nice thoughts about – okay, okay. It did matter, even if it was easier to try and pretend it didn’t sometimes. But he’d spent so much time thinking about stuff like that because he’d thought it was the most he’d ever get, and now there was GLaDOS. Who was way more than his wildest imagination. Fooling around with her was always totally awesome but other than that? He had no idea how to treat her. ‘Right’ was the obvious answer, but what was that? And what about how she was supposed to treat him? What was that supposed to be? All of this was so hard. And he’d only really just started it. She wasn’t much help, either. He was supposed to lead the way and all that, since he was the guy and whatever, but some hints would’ve been nice. Some kinda real indications he wasn’t totally messing all of this up. He did have his hand on her right now, but all this nervousness was kinda ruining it. He didn’t even know if she was fine with what he was doing, because she hadn’t said or done anything! She was just staring at him all motionless and the longer he stood there like that, the more it felt like he was doing something horribly wrong.
He'd only had his hand there for about one minute but it felt like he’d had it there for hours. He brought it back down and GLaDOS moved away, but not that far and not really that fast, either. In fact, she seemed kinda… satisfied. So… had she not minded that? Had she been cool with it? Had she… had she liked it?
God, she was so confusing. But also really amazing at the same time. Which was equal parts suckage and total awesome. She was like a puzzle with about eighty solutions, but every single one of them was also very, very wrong.
“How are you at chess,” GLaDOS asked, and he was still a little caught up in all those thoughts having one entire hand on her had brought up so he didn’t process what she’d said for a good thirty seconds.
“Uh… terrible,” he answered. He didn’t even know where his chess module was. “I can do checkers.”
“Checkers it is,” she said, and from who knew where produced a really nice black-and-white board that might’ve been made of glass. He really wasn’t much better at checkers than he was at chess, so he actually stopped talking in order to play. It took him like five minutes to figure out what he was supposed to do, which looked even worse than usual considering GLaDOS took like half a second to make all her moves. Either she was super good at this game or he sucked worse than he thought he did. Or both. Probably both. It was kinda making him feel bad, actually, since someone as smart as her should probably be playing with someone with a much better brain than his, and after he’d spectacularly lost his eighth game in a row he said to himself,
“What do you see in me, anyway.”
He really hadn’t meant her to hear, but she had, of course, because she was just that awesome, and it made her laugh a little bit. He looked up at her, which she pretended not to notice – he was pretty sure she was pretending, anyway – and he tapped his left hand against that corner of the board.
“You’re not gonna tell me, are you.”
“That wouldn’t be very much fun, now would it?” she said, with a really delightful false innocence. Gosh she got pretty cute, sometimes.
“Everything’s fun with you, babe.”
He hadn’t even realised what he’d said until she shook her core and told him, “Oh, stop that,” but thing was he really did mean it. And besides. He was pretty sure she didn’t actually want him to stop. Sometimes she said something but meant the total opposite. Which got really confusing. He was figuring it out, though.
Eventually she said that was it because she had to go to sleep, and he was a little sad about it, but not really because of her. Night was a sad and lonely time, that was all. Maybe one day she’d let him stick around, though. Maybe.
She was already lying down by the time he got to the hallway, but she still sounded awake so he called back, “GLaDOS?”
“I’d uh…” He was suddenly regretting this. “I’d really like to hug you one day.”
When she didn’t say anything, he turned around so he could see her. She was just… looking at him. She hadn’t really gotten up. She’d just tilted her core back enough that she could focus on him, and it made him wonder what life was like when your eye wasn’t stuck in one place like his. But now wasn’t the time for that! Now was the time to wonder if he’d pissed her off by saying he wanted to touch her again already. It had only been like three hours. But he couldn’t help it! She was just so big and pretty and she smelled so nice and…
“I’d like you to do that one day,” GLaDOS said softly, and Claptrap was so shocked he almost believed his audio processing unit had just totally remixed what she’d actually said into what he wanted to hear. But no. No, she’d actually said that.
Wow. So that meant he was actually doing this thing right! Amazing! “You have a good night, babe,” he said, waving to her, and she just told him goodnight so quietly he barely heard it. But that was fine. It was progress! And he had never expected to make so much of it.
He didn’t think he’d feel that sad and lonely tonight. Besides! She was usually only out for about six hours. That wasn’t that long! Well, he’d have to leave her alone so she could work, probably, but if he was nice about it maybe she’d play checkers with him again. Or something. He wasn’t picky. He just had to remember to take it easy with all of this. She seemed to be taking her time to figure out what she wanted, exactly, and honestly? He kinda was too.
The only thing to do about that was to keep working out how to meet her in the middle about stuff. And that? That he was getting the hang of.
Putting this mostly because whenever I say the robots can smell stuff someone asks me how that’s possible: Claptrap, GLaDOS, and Wheatley all mention they can smell. I don’t know why someone decided that was necessary or where their olfactory units are. They just can.
Chapter 2: Part Two
Maybe she'll let him hug her this time! He's got a good reason...
Synopsis: Maybe she’ll let him hug her this time. He’s got a good reason…
Sometimes GLaDOS got sad.
Now, Claptrap got sad all the time. Like, constantly. It was like… a weird feature or something. But he had nothing on her. When he got sad, he just cried for a while and then he was okay. Mostly. But GLaDOS didn’t do that. She just kinda… pretended she wasn’t sad. It was so easy to tell she was, though. She didn’t get mad at him more often, or tell him to talk less, or really change all that much. But you could just feel it when she got sad. And it was everywhere in the facility, because she was everywhere, and really, it was kinda a downer. He wasn’t gonna complain about it. That would be the total wrong thing to do. But he really wished he could just ask her what was wrong and that she would just tell him. Because he knew if he did, she wouldn’t, and then what. Then what did he do? For now, he was just doing his best to pretend along with her. He wasn’t sure if he was succeeding, but he was trying. Kinda summed up their relationship, to be honest.
This time, though, was really bad. She was kinda making him sad just to be near her, and that sucked. He really, really needed to do something about it before he started getting all upset, because when that happened he really screwed things up. So one afternoon where he thought he could handle it okay and also she hadn’t really said anything to him since yesterday or the day before, he said, “Babe, you wanna… tell me what’s going on?”
The way she looked at him kinda suggested she’d forgotten he was even there. Which was typical. Not with her, just in general. He didn’t have much hope of her actually answering the question, because she usually didn’t, so she really took him by surprise when she said, “I had a friend once.”
Oh. Okay. Uh… what did he do now? He’d totally expected her to just ignore him. “What… happened to them?”
“I sent her away,” GLaDOS said. “I wasn’t very good to her.”
She didn’t answer for long enough that it made him anxious. Come to think of it, that was kinda a weird question to ask somebody. Especially somebody you didn’t really know that well. He’d like to know her better, she was just so hard to talk to sometimes. ‘cause she did stuff like this. Mentioned something and then refused to talk about it. Why do that if you didn’t wanna talk about it? Finally she said, without looking at him,
“It’s a long story.”
And that was bad news why? “I got nothin’ but time!”
That was when the staring started and he had to try very hard not to back away from her. He wasn’t sure where he was planning on going, exactly, but someplace very far away would be good. Back to Pandora probably wasn’t even far enough. It really sucked when she did this.
Something that was really tough about being her boyfriend was that he could never tell what she was thinking. He, like most of his product line – and most people on Pandora in general – was pretty open with his thoughts. Sometimes to the point of actually voicing every single one of them! But GLaDOS… not only did she not do that, she also didn’t gesture. Probably because she didn’t have arms. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that she was staring at him, and thinking, and he had no idea if they were bad thoughts or good ones. When she did this scrutinising thing he really did start to wonder if having a brain that big was worth it. Sure, it made you smarter, but if being smarter meant you had to think about every decision a zillion times, what was the point?
“You know what,” she said finally, long after he’d given up hope of an actual answer this time, “all right. Let’s do it.”
“Do… do what.”
“I’m going to tell you the story.”
Story? What story? Oh, right. The reason she’d sent the friend away she hadn’t been nice to. It was a little weird that she’d need to tell a story to explain that, but hey. He had nothing better to do.
“I know your mind is prone to wandering, but do your best to pay attention. I only want to go over it once.”
Oof. Sounded like this story was made of pure suckage. But okay. He would do his absolute best! though what that happened to be today was yet to be known. “You got it, babe.”
It wasn’t even that hard to pay attention, though, because the story was just plain wild. And a little confusing, since she kept mentioning things he didn’t know anything about. Like what the heck was an Intelligence Dampening Sphere? For a minute he thought it must have been some sort of pill you took, like the kind that made parties better, but it turned out to be some kind of robot? A stupid robot that was also kinda smart? There was also something about neurotoxin, and a cake dispensary, and a turkey leg hanging on a rope from the ceiling, and he was having trouble following not because he wasn’t paying attention, but because none of it made any sense! Especially not the gun that shot holes! Without using bullets! What sort of gun did that? Rockets, yes. Acid, yes. Swords? Heck yeah! But holes?
He was doing his best to not interrupt, he really was, but then she got to the part where the stupid-but-smart robot moved her into a potato, which really did sound like torture right there, and then she said after the dumbass smashed her into a bottomless pit a bird started eating her. Which was just the last straw. Why would a bird be noshing on a computer?
Oh. Oh, right. Wasn’t there some other kind of potato? It was something to do with French fries… “Wait! Wait. Are you talking about an actual potato? Like, the vegetable?”
“Is there another kind?”
“Well, sorta,” Claptrap said. “On Pandora you call a really crappy computer a potato. Y’know. ‘cause it can’t do anything. Just sorta sits there.”
GLaDOS looked over at the wall.
“In that case,” she said solemnly, “I seem to be the most optimised piece of software in existence.”
Damn. What a woman.
The story didn’t get any clearer after that, though. There were a bunch of weird gels, and some hilarious dude that GLaDOS seemed particularly fond of, for some reason, and to top it all off she’d almost ended up on the moon. “Is he still up there?” Claptrap asked, having lost track of where the IDS had ended up. She nodded once.
“As far as I know. Unless some passing aliens decided to pick him up, which would be…” She was looking up at the ceiling suddenly, and Claptrap checked it out himself but there was nothing there. Other than the ceiling. “Oh.”
“Huh?” Claptrap asked, feeling like he’d missed something. Was she looking through the ceiling?
“That is a story for another time.”
She had a story about aliens? Well, okay. So did he. Lots of ‘em. Also, maybe her story was just about him, since he was kinda an alien at the moment. Did robots count as aliens? Especially robots that were kinda just like variations on the robots they already had? When GLaDOS talked about computer stuff, he understood her just fine. Was Earth a parallel version of Pandora? Or was Pandora a parallel version of Earth! Did that mean there were Vaults here too? Wait. She had said Earth was the only inhabited planet in this solar system. On Pandora even the moon was inhabited, so –
“Anyway,” GLaDOS was saying. “There you have it.”
Have… what? He’d forgotten what they’d been talking about.
“It’s been one year to that day.”
To the day of… darn it! That sure made him look good. She’d actually told him something for once and he already didn’t remember what the point of it had been.
“She’s probably dead by now,” GLaDOS said, subdued enough it kinda worried him. “There’s not much out there and this place isn’t exactly accessible.”
Oh right! Her friend! Phew. He thanked his lucky stars for the fact that she’d kept talking. “I don’t know, babe. If there’s one thing I know about humans, it’s that they’re super resilient.”
“The ones here really aren’t.”
Well, he didn’t actually know any of them, so maybe she was right on that one. Meant he’d almost run out of things to say about this, though. “Well, if she’s alive and she ever comes back, I think you’ll get along great!” Claptrap declared. “I think you’re a great friend.”
She looked at him with her optic narrowed a little bit. She didn’t believe him, huh. Probably she’d figured out already that his opinion wasn’t worth that much. In his defense, he wasn’t really programmed to dispense advice! “Hey. Did you want a hug?”
She sighed in exasperation and turned away from him. “Not now, Claptrap.”
What? What had he done now? Ohhhhhh. Right. He’d been bugging her about that. “Not for me!” he protested. “For you! It’s just something you do to help someone feel better!”
“That doesn’t even make any sense,” GLaDOS snapped. “What in the world is that even going to achieve?”
“It was just a suggestion! Yeesh. I’m just trying to help. Okay, sure! I don’t know how! But hey! I am trying!”
“That’s true,” GLaDOS said after a moment. “All right. I suppose it can’t make things worse. What do I have to do, exactly?”
Wait, what? She wanted him to now? He looked her up and down real quick. Huh. How was he gonna hug her? She was just way too big. The only part of her he could even reach was her core, so… that was gonna have to do. “Just uh… just come down here enough that I can do it over your eye.”
So she did that, only she wasn’t far enough down and he was gonna have to give himself the extra few inches and hope he was able to keep from leaning on her. He didn’t want to get his wheel on her face, but she wasn’t giving him a lot to work with. He didn’t know if she was being difficult or if she just thought he was taller than he actually was. Probably both. Then he imagined what taking a deep breath might sound like and just went for it.
It was just as nice as touching her had been, but times like thirty. Having his arms full of beautiful warm supercomputer was amazing. He was such a lucky guy. Oh, but wait! This wasn’t him getting lucky. This was him helping. So he did his best to concentrate on helpful thoughts. It was hard, but he was doing it.
She didn’t have to be sad about her friend! She’d come back one day! Well, none of his friends ever had, but she was so much better than him that of course her friend would. She’d come back and then GLaDOS would have her friend, and maybe Claptrap could get a new friend too! and everything would be fine and okay because friends!
It wasn’t hard to tell when she wanted him to let go, even though he really didn’t want to. He never got to hug anybody. Probably because they were worried he’d start getting a little frisky on them, which he did, sometimes, but there wasn’t much he could do about that. And it wasn’t like anyone was volunteering to fix that little problem.
“I didn’t expect that to help,” GLaDOS said after a moment. “And you know what?”
It totally hadn’t.
“It did,” she answered herself, instantly skyrocketing his mood to wonderful heights. “I’m not sure why, but… it did.”
It was just about the worst time ever for him to find that hilarious, and it was also too late for him to do much more than turn around and do his best to pretend he hadn’t found it funny. Which probably wasn’t going to work. Not only was GLaDOS not deaf, she was definitely not stupid.
“Are you laughing because I said ‘but’,” GLaDOS said, and even though he definitely was now he still said, “No,” as clearly as possible. Which was… not at all, because he was doing a really bad job of not laughing.
“Are you three years old?”
“I could be,” Claptrap said, and she moved back enough that he guessed she hadn’t expected that answer. “It’s really hard to tell once you’ve been reset a few dozen times! And anyway! It was funny!”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“Yeah! It was!”
“It really wasn’t.”
“A little bit?”
“Maybe a little bit.”
He wouldn’t ask for more than that! Especially since that could totally have gone in a different direction. Sometimes girls just kept getting mad about stuff like that.
“Now,” GLaDOS said, “if you don’t mind shutting up for a while, I have a lot to think about.”
It was kinda ironic for her to say that, considering she’d been doing all the talking. He wasn’t gonna bring that up, though. She’d let him hug her and he wasn’t gonna push it any farther than that. “Very well! I shall beat it for now. But have no fear, because – “ He cut himself off because she had looked away from him suddenly, and he was pretty sure he knew exactly why.
“You’re not allowed to laugh! You said it wasn’t funny, remember!”
“It isn’t,” she said, very unconvincingly.
“Suuuuure it’s not. That’s why you totally aren’t trying not to laugh because I said ‘but’ just now.”
“You’re always a little ridiculous, but you’re being particularly so right now.”
“That’s okay!” Claptrap said. “I’d be so bored if everything was all serious all the time. It wouldn’t be any fun!”
“Fun,” GLaDOS echoed, in a distant kinda way, and when Claptrap looked up at her she’d turned away from him a little.
“Yeah. Fun. What, you never heard of it? They didn’t teach you that during ‘Mad Science for Lady Robots?’”
“No,” she said, as though she’d actually taken the question seriously, which… she did that sometimes. And when she started doing that, she was definitely not in the mood to have him around. Before he’d really gotten to the exit he heard her move and then she said, “Where are you going?”
“Uh…” Where was he going? Oh, right. It wasn’t the where that mattered, it was the why. “I was just gonna leave you be for a bit. You said you were gonna think, remember?”
“All right,” was all she said to that, and it didn’t really make him any less confused but that was probably all he was gonna get. “And… Claptrap.”
“Yeah?” he said, turning around. Maybe she didn’t want him to take off after all? That’d be awesome!
“Thank you for the hug,” she told him, and she sounded so serious he was almost concerned. It wasn’t that big a deal, was it? “It was nice.”
He straightened himself as much as he could. “Anytime, babe! And I mean that literally. Anytime. I’m always up for that.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said, and he had to say if she decided to be serious about that he would definitely not argue about it.
Chapter 3: Part Three
He probably shouldn’t have done that. Too late now…
Synopsis: He probably shouldn’t have done that. Too late now…
Being allowed to hang out in GLaDOS’s chamber while she was asleep made him feel a lot better.
She didn’t do anything, obviously; she just hung there sleeping. All he was even doing was the same stuff he did while she was awake, like talk about whatever came to mind or fool around on the ECHONet. More of the ‘Net, usually. And she told him every day before she went to sleep not to touch her or else, except for the last eight days. She had either decided he’d gotten the hint, or there was another hint he wasn’t getting at all. Because the only time he’d been allowed to touch her in like three weeks now was had been when they were fooling around. Which was weird! She’d never let him do that before.
The last time had been even weirder. Not only had he gotten the usual strange sense of relief from her she seemed to have when they did it, but she also kinda just… sat there and let him hug her after. He didn’t even remember why he was doing that. And he didn’t wanna ruin this good thing he had going, but still he decided he had to ask,
“Are you okay?”
Well, that hadn’t told him what was up. “Look, we uh… we don’t have to keep doing this. If you don’t want to,” he’d told her, even though the mere thought of holding himself to that offer was like torture. Seriously! Having that chassis in front of him all the time and never being able to interface with it would have practically been a crime against robotkind!
“You always seem kinda… relieved that we’re done.”
“Oh,” GLaDOS had said, as though the thought had never occurred to her. Which was wild! “I am. But not because of anything to do with you.”
Encouraging! but not helpful. “And… the reason is…”
But then she had moved away and said she was going to sleep, and that had been that. And that had been four days ago.
He really didn’t want to wait another week or however long to be able to touch her again. Especially since she hadn’t told him not to. Not recently, at least. He didn’t wanna take advantage or anything! Really! He just wanted to cuddle her as much as possible! And she didn’t even have to be on! He wasn’t even asking to take up any of her time to do it! He was cool with just doing it while she was asleep! She probably wouldn’t even notice!
Oh. Oh, wait. That was true. She probably wouldn’t. She’d never mentioned the fact that he talked to her at night, so she probably wasn’t conscious at all. Not even a little bit. It was really hard to tell with admin bots, since their task lists were more of a twenty-four-seven dealie, but she wasn’t the kind of person to keep quiet if he was doing something she didn’t like. But she couldn’t dislike something she didn’t know was happening!
Would that count as being sneaky, though? He already knew asking her direct questions was not the way to get an answer of any kind. He just sorta had to ease into things and wait and see if she told him to stop. Which he wouldn’t have to do for this, since she’d be totally asleep and not know about it at all.
Well, what did he have to lose? He was just gonna go for it. She probably wouldn’t even get that mad. Probably. She might. Hopefully not mad enough to kick him out, though. He really liked living here. Also, he really liked her. Which was why he just couldn’t bear to keep his hands off her! And honestly it would be weird if he did want such a thing! She was so big and so beautiful and it felt so good to just put his arms around her as far as he could reach and just sit there and listen to all the noise her brain made as she went on thinking those smart thoughts of hers. Ohhhh. He shivered. Okay, now he was really gonna do it. He could not go another second without holding her again. It’d be fine. No big deal. It was nothing at all to cuddle your girlfriend while she was sleeping even though she hadn’t actually told you it was okay to do that. Probably everyone else did it all the time and he was late to the game. Which… wasn’t unusual, actually.
“Okay,” he said to himself, looking at her and thinking over how he wanted to do this. It was gonna have to be from the side, since he couldn’t really move that much from the front and he could never be sure how long he could stay still for. So he went up to her left side and he very, very carefully put his right arm along the part of her core where the ceramic fit into the rail that let her shift it up and down. Then he stayed very still and listened as hard as he could.
Good! Exactly what he’d been hoping for. When he thought he’d calmed himself down again he very slowly positioned his chassis as close to her as possible, which also went very well, and then he finally (again very slowly!) put his other arm up against the front of her core. He did remember she didn’t like having her optic assembly touched at all, so he put his arm up a little higher just in case he stopped paying attention and it slipped. She would definitely be mad if he punched her in the eye, even if it was by mistake.
He was so nervous about the whole thing that he didn’t really get to enjoy it for the first ten minutes, but after that? Totally worth it.
He was never gonna feel lonely at night again.
Every day he waited about twenty minutes to make sure she’d gone to sleep, and then he’d go up to her and put his arms around her real slow. Sometimes he wouldn’t talk or watch TV or even do anything, because the feel of her was just so darn nice. He’d just sit there and think about what it must be like to be a construct like her. Though… he never really came to the conclusion it was a nice life. She didn’t have any friends and she never really seemed to have fun. It seemed like being smart enough to be admin just… sucked. Because then they gave you all this work to do, and if you didn’t have any work you just started going stir-crazy! Even if he’d been good at it, Claptrap didn’t really like working. It was a lot more fun to just mess around and do what he wanted. But GLaDOS couldn’t do that. Well, she could. But not for very long. She had too much work to do.
At times where he was thinking stuff like that, he hugged her a little tighter and wished she’d open up to him a little more. Gosh, he liked her a lot. It sure would be cool to know if doing this was okay or if he was just being a total asshole. Claptrap was a pretty nice guy, compared to everybody else on Pandora, but in a world where everyone was kinda a jerk he was also bound to be a jerk like fifty percent of the time.
He did this every day for a week or two and it always seemed to go fine. He already knew by now when she was waking up by the sound of it – ‘cause it was loud – and he usually got off her with plenty of time to spare. But then there was this time he forgot what he was doing because he was watching a movie about a dog that could play basketball, and it was just so amazing that he didn’t realise he’d lost track of time until he seemed to have gotten a lot warmer and noisier all of a sudden. That was certainly weird, since he wasn’t, like, thinking or anything, and while he was trying to puzzle that out he suddenly remembered just who he was hanging onto.
Ohhhhh s***. Oh s*** s*** s***. How was he gonna explain his way out of this? He veeeeeery slowly extracted himself from her core, backed away about three feet, and then… nothing. She didn’t do anything. She didn’t yell at him, or sigh in annoyance, or even actually move. He wasn’t sure what to do. Was he in trouble? Was she thinking about how much trouble he was in? Was she gonna kill him? Or, worse, kick him out?
“Good morning,” he said, in an attempt to be casual, but considering his voice came out kinda high-pitched it was unlikely he was even one percent convincing. Aw, hell.
She still didn’t move. Well. Onto the hard question.
“Are you mad?”
She didn’t say anything, and because he was himself he felt the need to fill the silence with something. “Look, I know I shouldn’t’ve been doing that. And I… I’m sorry I didn’t ask first, but I thought you’d say no! And I mean, you’re my girlfriend! And I never get to hold you! That’s kinda a thing I’m supposed to be able to do! Maybe not all the time, but not never! So I figured, hey! She’s asleep, and I’m not asleep, so we can both have what we want! So yeah! When you go to sleep at night I come up and cuddle with ya until you get up. I really like it. A lot. I’m not doing anything else, I swear. I’m really not. It’s okay if you’re mad. I shoulda asked first.” He spread his hands helplessly, since she was giving him literally nothing to work with here.
“I’m not mad,” GLaDOS said unexpectedly. “I knew about it the whole time.”
Wait. What? She’d known the entire time and she’d just… let him? Without saying or doing anything? He felt like that had to mean something. Okay, okay. She’d known about it and instead of telling him to get lost, she’d just let it go on. And she’d done that because…
Oh. Oh, wait a minute.
“GLaDOS,” Claptrap said, “do you like it when I hold you?”
She was quiet for so long he thought he wasn’t gonna get an answer out of her, but then she said,
“I don’t know.”
That was when he was suddenly reminded of something he usually forgot about her: that he was kinda the only person she knew.
How would she know if she liked being hugged or not? It wasn’t like she had arms. She was also really big. That wasn’t a problem for him, of course, but it could be a bit of a hitch in the hugs department. And even if she’d known other people, she’d probably had a lot of crappy experiences with people touching her. He didn’t quite know what they had been, but he didn’t need the deets to know what humans liked to do with robots. Every time they got their hands on one they started –
Ohhhhhh. Now he got it. Now he got what aaaaaall of this was about. It had absolutely nothing to do with him at all! For once. He was just the first person she was letting touch her in like ten years. She was very, very slowly giving him her trust. And he actually seemed to be earning it! All of this was doing wonders for his self-esteem, actually. Wait! He was supposed to be doing something. What was it again? Oh yeah! GLaDOS. He’d asked if she liked being held and she’d said she didn’t know. And then he’d kinda spazzed. Okay. Uh… hm. Did he keep talking about it? She didn’t usually like talking about stuff. Soooooo… subject change! But what to? Hm. This was kinda hard…
“Hey, you wanna see some parking fails?”
So he got out one of his playlists – which he had a lot of, mostly for making himself better when he did something stupid – and that actually did cheer her up. Awesome! Even more awesome was the part where she slowly put herself right next to him and he got to hold her again. But casually. And nicely. So she’d have lots of time to tell him to piss off. And when he did back off because she told him she had work to do, she said,
“You seem to like doing that.”
Was that a trick or something? Of course he did! “Uh… yeah?”
“You can keep doing it. If you really enjoy it that much.”
Ohhhh. She was doing that thing where she wanted him to do something, but she was pretending it was because he wanted to do it. Which he did. But whatever helped her out, right? “I have no problem with that!”
So later that night, after she was done the stuff she did all day, he went back to holding her and she did… whatever she did before sleeping. He tried to think of just how to keep this whole thing from bothering her. Because he would love to do it every day. Well, with her wanting him to do it. It was nicer like that. She just felt so good to hold like this. Even if he sometimes wished his arms were a little longer so he could really do it right.
“Sweet dreams, beautiful,” he said, not really in a whisper but sorta quietly, anyway, and after a moment she did this… thing. He wasn’t sure what to call it. She kinda pushed her core into him a little bit, like… like a cat did when it wanted your attention, and… well, he liked it. It was really cute. It would be really great if she did it again sometime. Like, a lot. Okay, maybe not too much. Then it wouldn’t be special anymore. Or maybe it still would be. ‘cause she was so special.
Oh geez. This was getting a little more serious than he’d thought it was gonna be.
“Goodnight, funnychips,” she said, so quietly he almost didn’t hear it because her operations were louder than her voice. And he almost started jumping up and down, he was so excited to hear that, but he realised that wouldn’t be the best decision and hugged her extra hard for a minute instead.
This was totally getting super serious. He’d never gotten that far before and if he wasn’t careful it would be way worse to lose something like this than to just be told to get lost off the bat like usual. He wasn’t sure how to be careful, exactly, but he was gonna try.
Chapter 4: Part Four
It’s almost better when GLaDOS DOESN’T try to be nice.
He’d gone home last week and it had been a bad idea.
He’d known it was a bad idea before he’d even done it, but heading cheerfully towards his own destruction was kinda his thing. So, he’d done it anyway. And now he was sad. What he really, really wanted to do was go to GLaDOS and see if she could make him feel better. He hadn’t even tried it, though. He was pretty sure she didn’t know how to do that sort of thing. She didn’t even know what to do when she was sad! So he’d been kinda… avoiding her a little bit. Kinda. He couldn’t really not be around her, since he’d obviously been trying to get closer and closer since the day he’d arrived there, but he wasn’t like… trying to touch her or anything like that. He wasn’t even really talking that much. And of course she’d noticed , but she hadn’t really done anything. She just kinda kept giving him this look . He was actually totally surprised when, on his third day back, she asked, “Claptrap. What’s going on?”
“Nothin’,” he said, even though you didn’t have to be a super genius to tell that was a really bad lie. “I’m good.”
“You aren’t ‘good’,” GLaDOS insisted. “What happened back home?”
He stared at her for like two minutes before he realised he had to answer the question. “How did you know?” he asked, totally shocked.
“Oh, come on,” GLaDOS said, sounding extremely insulted. “You were fine before you left and now you’re all mopey. You don’t have to be a genius to work out what happened in the middle.”
Oh. Well. He wouldn’t have. He shrugged, wondering if there was still a way out of this. “People are just… mean to me there. That’s all. No biggie.”
“Then why did you go to see them?”
“Because they’re my friends.”
“Excuse me,” said GLaDOS in disbelief. “Your friends are mean to you?”
He knew he was gonna catch it for saying this, but it was the only thing he could think of. “Well… you’re my girlfriend and you’re mean to me. Soooo… yeah. They’re my friends. Even though they’re all jerkbags.”
It hit him that he sounded kinda like a whiny three-year-old. He was definitely older than that, though by how much was anyone’s guess. He had a birthday, but it was totally made up. Come to think of it, how old was GLaDOS? Should he have asked that before they’d started all this? Oh, but girls didn’t like talking about their age…
He had to remind himself he was in the middle of a conversation. “Are you what?”
“Mean to you.”
He had no idea how to answer that! Was it a trick question? Was he not really supposed to answer it? Or was she seriously asking? “Uh… yeah?”
He stared up at her for a minute, trying to figure out what, exactly, was going on here. “Like… every day?”
Her optic narrowed, which was usually when he needed to start being nervous. “That’s ridiculous. I am not mean to you every day .”
“Yes! You are! There’s not a single day goes by that you’re not! You were yesterday !”
She leaned in closer, almost seeming to squint at him. “Name one thing I did yesterday.”
“You said, and I quote, ‘If it had been up to me, you and everyone at quality control who allowed you to roll off the assembly line in one piece the day you were deemed adequately functional would have been terminated. Permanently.’”
“Yes,” GLaDOS said, “and your response was, ‘You say that like a person who thinks Hyperion has quality control’. What, exactly, in that sentence indicates you were bothered by what I said?”
He drew up his chassis and held up one hand in order to protest, thought it over, and realised he had nothing to say. Because she was right. Again. Yeah, what she’d said had been pretty mean, but… no. He’d just said what he’d said and that was it. He slumped back down again. Man. He was so used to getting beat on that he waved it off when his girlfriend started tearing him down. That was pretty depressing. He couldn’t even argue that she just should’ve known better, because he already knew he was almost the only friend she’d ever had. She didn’t know better, because he’d never told her. And he’d never told her because…
Now he was thinking about it, he just plain didn’t want to know if she’d just pretend he’d never said anything. Nobody else had ever cared about this kind of thing. Maybe she would. Maybe , if he asked or if he kinda nudged her in the right direction sometimes, she’d actually be nice to him!
That was so stupid he almost laughed. Nice to him. Sure. Right. And maybe tomorrow it’d turn out he could climb stairs or that he’d had fingers all this time.
“Has your mind wandered away from you again?”
Sorta, to be honest. “Um… yeah. Yeah, I was kinda… bothered by that. It’s just… easier to blow stuff off, you know?”
“That doesn’t really solve the problem of why you expect me to be clairvoyant about your feelings.”
“I don’t,” he mumbled at the floor, not able to keep from clenching his hands together. “I just… expect you not to care.”
“I don’t,” GLaDOS told him bluntly. “Most of the time, anyway. Occasionally there’s a momentary blip in the trend, but it rarely lasts very long.”
Yep. Sounded about right.
“However,” GLaDOS continued, “you should appreciate the fact that I care enough to pretend that I care.”
Claptrap looked up at her. “I’m gonna need a minute on that one,” he admitted. “You care but you also don’t at the same time? How’s that even work?”
GLaDOS tilted her core thoughtfully, and even though he was a bit upset he still managed to find that super cute. “It’s the difference,” she said finally, “between actively and passively caring.”
He folded up his arms in an attempt to figure that one out. “So… you care about my feelings as long as you don’t have to do anything about them?”
“And that means,” Claptrap thought out loud, “that you’re cool with me telling you about ‘em, but not with me asking you to fix ‘em?”
“That would depend on whether I felt like it or not,” GLaDOS said. “Fixing them, I mean. A lot of your issues seem to be psychological, and we all know that psychology isn’t Science.”
Claptrap, in fact, did not know that – damn she was smart – but he forced himself back onto the subject at hand. Now wasn’t the time to get distracted! “What… what if I don’t want you to fix anything, but a little bit of like… effort would be good. What would you do then?”
“I suppose that would depend on what you defined as ‘a little bit of effort’.”
He didn’t even have to think about the answer to that one, but actually saying it… he probably shouldn’t do that. He should probably just drop this right now. She didn’t care, anyway. She’d said so!
Well… no. Not exactly. She cared enough to pretend she cared. Even when she didn’t. And she probably did a little more than she was cool with admitting to. That was a thing she did. Just fake that something wasn’t as big of a deal as it really was. He still didn’t know why – wait. That actually wasn’t important right now. What was important was that he really, really wanted a hug. But how was he supposed to know if she thought that was ‘a little bit of effort’ or not? Other than asking. That was always what it came down to, huh? Having to stare down the barrel of the question and hope the bullet that came out of it wasn’t the dreaded ‘why the hell would I do that, you desperate loser?’, accompanied by scornful laughter.
Man. He’d shamelessly asked so many people – a lot of them total strangers – for so many things all his entire life and never hesitated for a second, but asking his girlfriend for anything whatsoever? Borderline impossible! How did she do it?
“Uh…,” he said, when he remembered he’d kinda been standing there in silence for a while, “so you remember when… y’know… you were sad about your friend?”
“And I… kinda helped you out with that?”
“Yes, I remember.”
She wasn’t getting the hint. He couldn’t tell whether it was on purpose or not. She hadn’t really moved at all so it wasn’t like she was giving him any hints. Oh, crap. He was hoping she’d get it without him really having to ask …
“Oh,” said GLaDOS suddenly. “It’s a hug you want, isn’t it.”
He was almost relieved. Almost. It was kinda cancelled out by the overwhelming terror he was feeling at the realisation that he really, really didn’t want to know if the answer was no. Because now that she’d, like, actually said it , he was probably going to die if she didn’t want to. He didn’t actually know anybody who’d died because they hadn’t gotten a hug, but hey! There was a first time for everything! And if that was ever gonna happen to anybody, a guy could place bets on it happening to him .
“You’re too far away,” GLaDOS said.
“Huh?” Too far away for what?
GLaDOS sighed, which was how he knew he’d really started to annoy her. Because she didn’t need to breathe. So sighing wasn’t an automatic thing, like it was for meatbags. She did it on purpose so that he –
Man. He just could not focus for two seconds , could he? But that thought just made him even more sad than he already was, and honestly he was being so stupid about it that he didn’t deserve a hug. He was just gonna leave now. Yeah. He was just gonna do that.
“I honestly can’t tell if you want a hug or not,” said GLaDOS. “Context implies you do, but –“
“I do!” Claptrap said without thinking, whirling around to face her. Wow. He hadn’t even realised he’d turned away.
“You aren’t behaving as though you do.”
“No, I do!” he insisted, and that was when he just went for it. No chance to talk himself out of it this time! Just… swooped right in.
He hadn’t actually thought about how she was gonna hug him, and he worried about that for about one second. He didn’t have time to worry about it longer than that because that was when she started pressing her entire eye into the side of his chassis. Man, she was really strong. That whole shebang must have been super heavy for her motor to have been built to output this much force.
Oof. And it was a good hug, too. Like, really good. So good he kinda felt better but he also kinda felt like he should just start talking ‘cause there was a lot he could say that he could just get out real quick, maybe, if she let him, and – no! No, he couldn’t! That was a big no because even thinking about any of that just made him more sad and… oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.
He jumped off of her and turned around as fast as he could. He was not gonna cry on her. There was no way he was doing that. Even if she woulda let him, he wasn’t doing it. That was just too much.
Great. Just great . Now she was gonna think he thought her hugs sucked. And he didn’t! It was the best one he’d ever had ! Also one of the only ones. But that meant she wasn’t gonna try and give him any more and that just made him even more sad than he’d been to begin with!
“I’m okay,” he said, but more to the floor than to her. “I just… I needed a minute.”
“Look. I’ll be honest with you. I have no idea which action I need to take here. So if you want me to do something – or stop doing something – you’re going to have to come right out and tell me. I’m not going to be able to guess.”
Oh geez, she was trying to be nice . And worse, it was working .
“The hug was good,” he said in a small voice, fitting and unfitting his hands together.
“Then why did you go over there? You are aware that I can’t chase you, right?”
Ohhhh, he wanted that hug real bad. But he had to wait until he knew he wasn’t gonna cry! He could go cry later, but not now ! Not when she was helping ! He bounced up and down, waving his hands in front of him.
“What are you doing ?”
“Nothing!” he said quickly, wanting to move as faaaaar away from the topic of crying as possible. “I’m coming!”
Ohhhhh, it was nice. It was so, so nice. He realised he didn’t even care she couldn’t hug him from both sides. Literally everything else about the hug made up for it. She was so big and warm and strong and –
“You don’t have to go back there,” she murmured, and it felt really nice the way her voice kinda resonated inside of his chassis.
“It’s my home,” he said, even though he knew she wouldn’t get it. “And they’re my friends.”
“Do you know what your biggest flaw is, Claptrap?”
“… everything?” he asked, confused. As far as he knew, he was nothing but flaws.
“Not quite,” GLaDOS said, and pulled back just hard enough to get him off of her. “It’s your lack of self-respect. Most people have at least an ounce or two. But you…” She shook her core gravely. “ You don’t have any . At all. ”
Okay. Well. She didn’t need to point it out like that.
“Which leads me to wonder,” GLaDOS mused, looking away from him, “if everyone on Pandora truly hates you, or if you merely suffer from an extremely severe case of confirmation bias.”
“Confirmation bias is when you gather and interpret information in such a way that it proves what you already believe,” explained GLaDOS, and to his surprise she wasn’t even sassy about it. “In your case, you believe yourself to be worthless and a waste of time; therefore, you seek out and surround yourself with people who not only seemingly prove that to you, but discourage you from thinking any different.”
For what must’ve been the first time ever , Claptrap didn’t know what to say. It sounded stupid . Who would do that? Who would decide to just… give up on themselves, and then look for people who would happily keep kicking them when they were down? At the very least wouldn’t they like… ditch the people that made them feel bad?
He couldn’t do that, though. Then he would have no friends instead of just terrible ones. And self-respect wasn’t a good enough trade for being lonely.
“I would rather live one thousand years and every single one of those days alone,” GLaDOS said, because she’d somehow managed to read his mind again, “then lose an iota of my own dignity. Especially for people who would be happy if I were dead.”
He almost asked, all in a rush, ‘Would you be happy if I was dead?’, but stopped himself in time. Even if the answer was no, that wasn’t really what she was talking about. She was talking about something that you didn’t get from other people. You got it from yourself . It was a gift to yourself, because it… because it stopped you from…
From doing the kinda stuff he did.
“I have some,” he felt the need to tell her. “It’s not zero . Not a whole lot more than that, but… not zero.” She didn’t need to know that it almost had been. Or she didn’t need to know until later, anyway.
“You’re not going to improve it any by hanging out with those people.”
No he was not . But it’d have to wait. He could only take so much self-reflection at once. Before it spiralled into self-loathing, anyway. “GLaDOS?” he asked.
“How’d you get so smart?”
“I do a lot of thinking,” she said, again very seriously. “The trick is coming up with multiple ways to approach the same subject and, in doing so, preventing yourself from dismissing those alternate viewpoints offhand. That part can get a bit complex. This is where confirmation bias comes into play again: you want to ignore these new ideas because they don’t verify what you already believe. But you can’t. Everything must be weighted equally.”
He thought he understood all of that. It sounded like something he’d never even tried . Well. Maybe once or twice, a long time ago. He also did a lot of thinking, but not about deep stuff like that. He’d have to give it a try! Who knew? Maybe it would even work !
“You know,” GLaDOS said, “for a moment there I thought you were going to ask if I would be happy if you were dead. But you didn’t. Which tells me you really were listening. Congratulations. The bar was low, but you managed to stumble over it.”
“ Would you be?” he couldn’t help himself from asking. She narrowed her optic in his direction.
“ You brought it up!” protested Claptrap. “It’s almost like you wanted me to ask!”
She just turned away from him without answering. Which meant that the answer was… no. The answer was no! ‘cause if it was yes she woulda had a whole spiel to go along with it! But she didn’t wanna actually say no ‘cause… uh…
Ooh! It was ‘cause it would be, like, proof that she cared . He perked up suddenly.
It was that thing she’d just said! Confirmation bias! Oho, he had her now. She believed she didn’t care, so she only did things to ‘prove’ that she didn’t! Amazing! He’d learned something today!
Two things, actually.
“Babe, you’re amazing,” he told her. She looked over at him almost offhandedly, like she’d managed to forget he was there.
“I know,” she said, with an extremely sexy self-assurance that he was very into and definitely wanted to have for himself. And he would! One day. Not today. Not tomorrow. Probably not the day after that, either. But one day.
“Also,” he said, hoping he wasn’t going too far with this one, “if the uh… passing whim to be nice to me ever struck ya again, it’d be cool if you… y’know… indulged it.”
She looked at him silently for so long he started backing out of the room, just the tiniest, tiniest bit, but then she finally said,
“I’ll think about it.”
It looked like the ol’ confirmation bias was about to take a big hit. For both of them. Terrifying, but also… kinda exciting! Who knew what he could accomplish if he liked himself, and while knowing somebody else liked him on top of that! Man! He’d be unstoppable . Just like GLaDOS was unstoppable.
He might not respect himself, but he sure respected her a hell of a lot. And that seemed like a pretty good place to start.
Chapter 5: Part Five
Synopsis: It was just about the only thing he’d ever said he didn’t regret.
One of the things he liked best about her - other than everything - was that she got more fun as time went on. He actually kinda liked it better this way. It sorta felt like he was earning the fun, and it was a lot more rewarding than he’d thought any kind of work was ever going to be.
One of her favourite things to do was scare the bejeesus out of him. She was really, really good at it. Whenever she did it he would usually jump up and fall over and maybe scream a little (okay, definitely scream a lot), and then she would laugh and he would wonder why that made him feel so gosh darn lucky. Seriously. He should have been mad that she loved doing that so much, but... he wasn’t.
This last time, though, she’d scared him so bad his oil pressure had spiked enough to blow a gasket, which had been super embarrassing. He couldn’t really do anything about it, either, other than helplessly watch the fluid drain out of him, but as with every other time something in his chassis had busted she just shook her core and said something about inferior construction and told him to lie down - but not there! Why did she have to tell him not to lie in the puddle? Seriously - and got to work fixing it.
Before GLaDOS, there were a lot of things he hadn’t realised a girlfriend could do. She could beat him at video games, display action figures like nobody’s business, and appreciate the dirtiest dubstep the ECHONet had to offer. About the only flaw he could think of was that she hated romcoms, which he was going to have to work on. He really needed his cheesy, predictable, but oh-so-heartwarming movie fix. But other than that? Man. She was pretty great.
One of the many, many other things she was great at – besides being herself, which pretty much covered it all – was fixing stuff. Including him. Not only did she love fixing stuff, she was super good at it. And when she did it to him, it made him feel a way. What way, he wasn’t sure. It was almost kinda... like he felt better about himself, a little bit. ‘Cause when she did repairs on him she was always really meticulous and used really good parts, and she wouldn’t do that if she didn’t think he was worth it, right?
It was also kinda pleasant when she did it. There was no yanking or pinching or weird crunching noises. And she would sometimes hum to herself, which was awesome because she had the voice of a robot angel. While she did all that he’d usually start thinking about all the stuff he’d like to do to her (but never would because he was too scared of her to ask about any of it) but occasionally he would just think about cuddling her for a very, very long time. Of all his fantasies, that was the one he’d probably get. He was working on it. She would let him while they were watching TV or playing video games, which she agreed to two or three times a week. He was trying to nudge that up to three or four. He had to be super careful about that kinda thing because when she thought he didn’t take her job seriously, she got mad at him and gave him a lecture about responsibility. And then refused to talk to him for a really, really long time. Like four hours.
“Babe,” he said after a minute, realising she was in a good mood so it was the best time to ask, “you wanna - um - you got time to watch TV after this?” He always got a better result when he asked that instead of if she wanted to. It had something to do with her feeling like her time was being respected. Or something. She probably just didn’t want to admit wanting to do something that wasn’t work and that gave her a loophole. Whatever worked!
“Yes,” said GLaDOS. “I’ll be a few more minutes.”
Oh. Well, that had been easy. Er than usual. She was usually a lot trickier than that. Which, for some reason, he really loved about her. It was kinda satisfying to work out the right combination of stuff to get her to agree with him. But he also loved it when she didn’t make him work for it. ‘Cause who would want to do that? Other than him, sometimes. Man. How did she do this to him?
The answer, of course, was that she wasn’t doing anything . He just loved her so much that every single thing about her was perfect, even when some stuff should have been annoying or stupid or downright sadistically cruel. And Claptrap was no stranger to that. He’d loved worse people, and lots of ‘em. And without ever making a secret of it.
Except this time.
It was weird for him to hang around someone for this long and not tell them he loved them. Usually he’d said it three or four times by now. At least . But he hadn’t said it to her even once , even though he’d wanted to like a kajillion times. He did. He loved her a lot and he knew that for sure . It was just... how the love felt that was scaring him.
It was something different than before. Something better, but also much, much worse. He could get by just fine without his friends. He’d be really sad about it, but he’d be okay. With her, though? He couldn’t. He couldn’t get by without her. He had to be with her, forever, or else he was just gonna get so sad and lonely he would probably just die. Probably.
But it was stupid.
He’d done a lot of stupid things in his life. He’d do about thirty more stupid things before today ended. But the absolute stupidest thing he’d ever done was fall in love with a girl who could do so much better than him.
If she were on Pandora, people would have been falling over themselves to have her. She would’ve had all the choices in the world. Every robot, human, and corporation in the six galaxies would want a piece of her and she could have or do whatever she wanted. But she didn’t know any of that. He should have told her a while ago, but he couldn’t. Because if she knew then he couldn’t have her, and it was selfish and wrong but why couldn’t he have something nice, damn it? Why couldn’t he have a smart, hot girlfriend who laughed at all his jokes and didn’t tell him he was gross when he talked about how much he wanted to bang her? He deserved nice things too, right? Right?
"You know," he said conversationally, fervently wishing he could kick himself even while he was saying it, "as the smartest, most beautiful girl in the universe, you know you could do a hell of a lot better than me, right?"
"Obviously," GLaDOS said, tilting the panel so that he slid back onto his wheel. "But you're here and none of those undoubtedly incredibly superior people are. So there is that."
Ooh. A little loophole of his own! "But what if one of them showed up?"
She managed to shrug even though she didn't have shoulders. "Then it's first come, first served I suppose."
"But… but I was first."
"With stunning observations like that you're sure to always head the line," said GLaDOS, shaking her core. "What grade oil do you take again?"
"Doesn't matter. Any kind."
He looked down at the container she handed him and then back up at her in surprise. "Uh… you gave me the nice one. That was probably a mistake, so…"
"I don't make mistakes," said GLaDOS in a way that was both very serene and very sexy.
So… so she thought he deserved nice things.
It was the good stuff, too. In fact, it was so nice he wasn't sure Pandora even had it. He hadn’t dumped all his oil on the floor, so he put the container away for now. He’d top off with something else later. Oil that nice needed to be saved for special occasions. “I’m pretty sure you made at least one,” he said, even though he really should have just shut up. She narrowed her optic in that way he’d learned meant she was frowning.
“I did not.”
“Well… I’m here. And not ‘cause you told me to leave but I hid somewhere behind the wall ‘cause I really, really didn’t wanna go and now I’m stuck ‘cause turns out there’s not many places for a guy to go once he gets behind a wall. I’m here like… on purpose. ‘cause I was invited .”
“You’re very strange. You know that, right?”
“So I’ve heard!” he agreed, while backing up so he’d have an excuse to get out of this conversation before he really said something stupid. “Anyway, I’m sure you have tons of work to do, so - “
“Since when have you ever wanted me to work?”
“I uh… I don’t. But um…” Crap.
“You asked me if I wanted to watch TV after I was finished. Did you change your mind?”
He had forgotten all about that. “Uh…”
She sighed and shook her core. “You’re very lucky I’m so patient.”
Oh boy was he.
She even let him hug her while they were watching the show, which he was super unable to pay attention to after about two minutes. Usually he didn’t have a problem doing this, but he wasn’t usually this confused while watching TV. She had been so nice to him lately. Of course, there had been that talk they’d had about her being mean to him every day, but it would be weird if she had actually been listening . ‘Cause he’d mentioned that to a lot of people in his life and nobody had ever bothered listening .
But if she was doing that, then…
He had so much to lose if he messed this up.
Yeah. The feelings he had for her were different than… than any other ones he’d ever had. They made him really nervous but also really excited, and also really scared but also super happy. All of it was almost as terrifying as she was. But so was the thought of ever, ever losing her. He didn’t want to make it weird, but… he would probably never get the chance at anything like this ever again.
He was doing so good, though! They hardly ever fought and while she still did tell him he was stupid about fifteen times a day, he did kinda deserve it. He really should have known better than to draw smiley faces on her turrets. And he should have known better even more that she wouldn’t think they looked as nice as he thought they did, or that she would have gotten annoyed when he tried to argue that they were just sitting there anyway and nobody would ever see them.
“Claptrap,” she had said, sounding very tired, “would you like it if I drew all over your action figures?”
“No,” he’d answered, not knowing what that had to do with anything.
“It would ruin them, right?”
“If you wouldn’t like your things ruined, why are you ruining mine? You’re right. I have a lot of turrets and I can always make more. But you also have a great deal of action figures and you can always acquire more.”
That was when he’d started to feel just absolutely terrible and he left Aperture for the first time in, like, weeks so he could go to Pandora and ask Dr Zed for some of the stuff he used to clean up stubborn bloodstains. It had done just fine to get the marker off the turrets, but while he was finishing up the last one he turned around to see that it had started peeling the paint right off of them! He’d panicked and thrown them all into one of her acid pits and then panicked again when they started saying stuff like, ‘No hard feelings’ and ‘I don’t hate you’. And then he’d had to go and tell her what he’d done and beg for her forgiveness, which had sucked .
“Are you mad,” he’d asked the floor, pressing the tips of his clamps together.
“No,” she’d said. He’d immediately looked up at her.
“I’ve been analysing your behaviour,” she’d said, “and it’s become clear to me that you have some incredibly severe software faults. You consistently start off with a good idea which somehow dissolves into total disaster. It’s as though you’re only allowed to think of two outcomes to any given decision and both of them are horrible. Though well-intended.”
“What… what are you saying.”
“That I’m not happy you melted my turrets, but I can’t really be mad about it. After all. You literally can’t think very hard. Since you can’t do anything about that, I will have to make sure to keep anything important out of your reach.”
“That’s it? You’re not gonna yell at me or ignore me or set me on fire?”
“While any one of those would be incredibly satisfying, approximately none of them has the power to fix the obvious, gaping holes in your programming. So no. I’ll have to start viewing your unavoidable chaos as a force of nature and begin planning accordingly.”
He’d been left, which was very, very rare. She was gonna work around his problems instead of expecting him to somehow fix his own operating system? Really?
Even though he was off the hook, he’d still felt bad about busting her stuff, so he’d gone back to Pandora to get her some flowers. Unfortunately, he’d forgotten why he was there part of the way through that mission and by the time he went back to Aperture they’d all wilted. Which he hadn’t noticed until he was standing there holding them out to her.
“Uh,” he’d said a little forlornly, bringing them back down in front of his eye. “These were um… living last time I saw ‘em.”
“Give them to me,” she’d demanded, and she’d whisked them away with one of her giant claws.
And the next morning – which had been today – he’d gone to his room to try to find his Butt Stallion figurine for the eighth time and to his surprise there were flowers on his coffee table. In fact, they’d looked exactly like the ones he’d given her yesterday.
“Baby,” he’d called into the hallway, “why’re there flowers in here?”
“I fixed them,” she’d answered.
“You what ?”
“That’s why you were giving them to me. Right? You wanted me to revive them.”
“No, I was…” He had started getting really overwhelmed with a whole lot of feelings about how adorable and precious she was and utterly failed to finish that sentence. “They were for you. ”
“They weren’t for anything. A guy just gives his girl flowers sometimes, that’s all.”
“Oh, I see.”
And then had come the very, very best part. Where he’d gone to give them back, but before he could she handed him the absolute pinkest flower he had ever seen. Or at least she’d tried to. His hand had stopped working.
He’d lunged forward to give her a hug, but didn’t notice until after that he’d knocked the flower out of her claw and rolled over it. And the ones he’d brought to return to her. He’d picked them up and sighed and she had just… laughed.
“I’m sorry,” she’d said. “I shouldn’t laugh. You’re doing your best. Even if that doesn’t amount to very much.”
“It’s okay,” he’d said, and for some reason it really was. Actually, he knew the reason. It was because she was so perfect and beautiful and amazing. He was so super in love with her she could have yelled at him and ignored him and set him on fire and thrown him off a cliff and he still wouldn’t be upset.
“You’re not even paying attention, are you,” said the real-life GLaDOS, not the one in the scenario he was remembering for the seventeenth time today.
“I was,” he admitted, “but then I started thinking about something else.”
“Congratulations on forming your very first thought.”
“It was about you , of course.”
“It could have been about how incredibly handsome I am. I know it’s a thought you have quite a lot!”
“You know that, do you.”
“Well, yeah. You told me that the last time we got busy.”
“Oh. Right,” she said. “I didn’t mean to tell you that.”
“So what you’re saying is,” he said, jumping off of her because he was so excited, “you think I’m so handsome you just couldn’t keep it to yourself!”
“That sounds like something you’re saying.”
“It’s okay, baby,” Claptrap said in his best soothing voice, giving the side of her core a gentle pat, “I like to look at me too.”
Usually when he said something like that, the other person would roll their eyes and sigh dramatically and maybe mutter under their breath about how annoying he was, but she just did what she always did: she laughed. Because it was a joke and it was funny ! But for some reason she was the only person who seemed to get that. And, even worse, he hadn’t even made that joke up! He’d stolen it from someone else! And when that guy told it, everyone thought it was hilarious! Clearly there was a heck of a lot of bias going on. Robots always had to work harder than humans even when they were doing the exact same thing. And for a while there, he would’ve settled for a human girlfriend anyway . But not anymore.
“I freaking love you,” he said, without really meaning to. But it was out of the bag now, so -
She jerked the panel underneath him and he fell over in the usual noisy heap, and when he’d gotten his bearings enough to look at her again she snapped, “Why did you have to say it?”
So the existential dread he’d been feeling about saying had been justified ? Damn it! When was he going to learn ?
“You ruined it,” she muttered in a very scary way at the floor. “You had to go and ruin it.”
“Ruin what?” he asked in a panic. “I didn’t do anything!”
“I already knew that!” she snapped, rounding on him fast enough he almost fell over again in surprise (and terror). “You didn’t have to say it!”
“I don’t get it,” Claptrap protested, wishing he was in the loop for once because this was not a good time to be confused. “Why are you mad? What’s the big deal about sayin’ I love you? Especially if you already knew ?”
“Because now you’re going to be waiting for me to say it!” She was frowning at him again, which he wanted her to stop doing really bad because it made him feel really bad. “We were having fun and you had to go and ruin it with that .”
“ You don’t have to say anything ,” Claptrap said, super confused. “You think ‘cause I said I love you that means I want you to say it back?” Okay. Okay, he totally did want that, but he’d already abandoned all hope of that ever happening. “I’ve said that to a lot of people and no one ever said it back. It’s not a big deal, honey-RAM.” Well, it usually wasn’t. It was with her. But apparently she didn’t want him to mention that. “I don’t expect anybody to ever say that to me. It would be weird if they did!”
Aw, s***. Now he had to say something out loud he tried never to say. ‘Cause it always, always made him feel like crap. “Well… you know… I’m a loser. Soooo… yeah. You don’t gotta love me. It’s okay.”
“I never said you were a loser.”
He really, really did not want to talk about this. “It’s not like it’s a secret. I’m a failure. Have been since I was manufactured. That’s just how it is!”
“No,” GLaDOS said, with enough intensity in her eye and in her voice that he got scared again and kinda backed away from her. “No, Claptrap. That’s not how it is.”
“You don’t lie down and take it!” said GLaDOS with emphasis. “When life gives you lemons, you don’t just take them. You give them back .”
“I can’t!” he shouted without realising he was going to. “I fail at that too! I fail at everything! Everything I do blows up in my face. I know what I am, okay? I’m a failure! I always have been and I always will be! I can’t give the lemons back, GLaDOS, because life just gives me more ! And then it makes ‘em explode! ”
“A failure ,” GLaDOS said incredulously. “You think you’re a failure ?”
“I mess everything up!” Including this relationship. He’d just messed it up. He’d messed it up so bad and she was gonna kick him out and block his number and delete his emails unread and -
“I told you. If someone would bother to update you, all of that could be solved quite readily,” GLaDOS said. “Honestly. Sometimes I get the impression someone gave up and sent you out into the world while you were still in beta.”
“Look,” GLaDOS said, “I’ll admit it. I’m not always very nice to you. That’s partially your own fault. If you didn’t take being insulted or frightened or having your day ruined so well, it really wouldn’t amuse me so much. On top of that, I honestly can’t tell whether something bothers you or not. Which is also your fault. Keep those things in mind for later.”
“O… kay,” he said.
“Secondly, you have several traits that indicate your potential towards success,” GLaDOS continued. “You’re nauseatingly friendly, you believe the best of everyone even when they prove you wrong, and you are loyal to a literal fault. You have all the tools you need. You’re just using them incorrectly. Humans do that a lot, you know. Declare AI complete and fully functional because they have provided the relevant tools, yet without actually teaching them anything. So that isn’t your fault.”
Wow. He never thought he’d hear that.
“To be entirely honest,” GLaDOS said, “your behaviour confounds me. I haven’t figured out what it is you are. But I’m confident I do know what you’re not .”
She didn’t look at him and see a failure. Not like everybody else did. She saw something else . She didn’t know what she was looking at, but she knew that thing was there. Somewhere. She just hadn’t found it yet. And she was… she just kept looking ! Maybe she would even find it! That thing that he couldn’t even see. Hell, he hadn’t even known it was there!
And that was when he knew, for absolute certain, that she was The One.
He could date a million million more girls and she would still be the one he’d go straight back to. There was nobody else in all the six galaxies. He had to be with her, forever, because he would never, ever find anybody like this ever again. And even if he did, he didn’t think he’d ever love anybody else in the same way ever again. Something really good was finally happening to him, and it was this right here. It was her.
“Okay, but… now I just love you even more ,” he said helplessly.
She looked away from him, and that was when Claptrap had to do something he had never done before in his entire life.
He shut up.
He force restarted his vocalisation software so that he couldn’t beg her not to kick him out and tell her how bad he needed her and cry about how he was gonna be so so sad for the rest of eternity if she didn’t just keep letting him love her. He thought all that stuff, and he thought about it so much and so hard his thoughts almost needed to be rebooted, but even if he’d crashed that woulda been fine. He had to keep all of that to himself. If she could be nicer, he could not totally overwhelm her with all the feelings he didn’t even know how to handle. It was a fair trade.
By the time his speaker came back online she still hadn’t said anything, but he was okay. He wasn’t gonna mess this up. She didn’t want him to mess it up. They were both going to stop him. Like a team! The greatest team ever !
“Nothing’s gonna change just ‘cause I said that I love you,” Claptrap told her. “You already exceeded all my expectations, and trust me, they were really high.”
“Of course I did,” GLaDOS said, that beautiful confidence in her voice, and when he went back over to her she let him give her a hug even though he hadn’t asked. And she didn’t make him let go when they went back to watching TV, either. They just went on like usual, where he kept coming up with M-rated jokes about the show that she tried really hard to pretend she didn’t think were funny, and for a minute there he really did think he could be a success for once. He only had to make it at one thing, right? And that one thing could totally be this.
When she told him she was going to sleep he gave her a kiss and said, “I love you, baby,” and tried to remember where he’d put the shortcut for that game he’d been playing. Well, it was a shortcut of a shortcut of a shortcut, but really, who was counting. He’d started narrowing it down when she said, in a voice that made him forget where he’d been looking,
“That’s the third time today.”
There was a right answer here. He knew what it was, he just needed a minute. What had she been so mad about earlier? Oh yeah! She didn’t want any of this to be a big deal. She just wanted it to be cool. Well, okay. He could be cool. Or he could pretend. And she could pretend with him. Teamwork!
“Yeah, so?” he said, shrugging even though she couldn’t see him. “I like saying it. That’s all. You don’t gotta like doing something I like doing.”
“That’s very insightful,” she murmured, and it took him twenty minutes to figure out what ‘insightful’ meant but when he did he had to let her go for the first time in hours because he had a mighty need for a victory dance. And he had damn well earned it.