Chapter 1: Cold
Aperture had always been on the...brisk side, temperature wise. It was never warm-unless one was standing directly in front of a pit of fire or incinerator- but it was never freezing cold either. It seemed to simply be kept at the most convenient temperature possible, never wavering, and never
Old Aperture, it seemed, was a little different.
Chell hadn’t noticed it right away- she had been a little preoccupied with fallen Queens and ‘murderous’ crows- but it was only in the middle of a small lull in the action that she felt the feeling of goosebumps along her exposed arms.
Cold drafts constantly moved through the dilapidated facility, and this was made only worse by the frequent shifting of the structures above it with each explosion that shook the upper facility.
However, Chell did have a slight advantage against the chill. She was constantly moving. Running through portals, jumping from ledge to ledge, and avoiding falling to her doom down pits that ran deep enough to defeat even her long fall boots’ capability for recovery.
The same didn’t exactly apply to GLaDOS though.
If Chell had it her way, she would’ve wanted GLaDOS to have to travel around Old Aperture with her own portal gun, making the dangerous jumps and working herself to the bone just to survive. Partially out of a sense of wanting to finally see the former head of Aperture have a taste of her own medicine, but equally because as it currently stood, Chell had to carry her instead.
Not only would some of the carefully timed portal maneuvers not work for someone following behind Chell as she placed them, it seemed that GLaDOS wasn’t particularly accustomed to this body, and placing too much stress on it simply caused her to short-circuit. Or, in this case, dramatically collapse on the spot, nearly falling into a pit of acid or unto dangerously sharp bits of rusted metal more times than Chell could count.
So, to save herself some trouble, she had reluctantly begun carrying the former central core around when there would be more physical requirements than simply walking involved.
Admittedly, throwing the much shorter woman over her shoulder and listening to the startled squeak of displeasure was somewhat cathartic to Chell, but in the end, it wasn’t exactly the most practical.
Instead- considering Chell had to keep catching GLaDOS everytime she had been walking for too long- she simply held her newfound companion in a bridal carry. It wasn’t the most ideal, but at least the chances of GLaDOS slipping out of her grip was somewhat lower when the core could more easily hold on of her own accord, and not have to deal with being upside down against Chell’s back.
And that was how it had been, for what might’ve been hours, though frankly it felt like days. Chell had stopped for a few minutes with a yet again unconscious GLaDOS in her arms- to be fair, the core had been attempting to help when she passed out, thinking of plans to try and take down the moronic core that was no doubt going to end up blowing them all to pieces- leaning against the wall of an old office, ignoring the flakes of wallpaper and clouds of dust that were disturbed as she did so.
They were getting closer to current Aperture, so much so that the tremors were getting more and more intense above their heads, occasionally knocking bits of paint from the ceilings of whatever room they were in at the time, or shaking any remaining light structures that had managed to survive over all this time. If they didn’t get a move on soon, Chell was fairly certain that one of these offices would cave in over their heads, and they wouldn’t even have to worry about the impending explosion at all.
Letting out a breath she didn’t know she was holding, Chell reluctantly pushed herself away from the wall, and adjusted her hold on GLaDOS. She didn’t exactly need the core to be conscious if she was just going to be carrying her anyway, but it was certainly nice to not have a complete dead weight in her arms.
She shifted an arm to try and shake the core awake- she was thankfully never out for too long- but… paused when she noticed something odd.
GLaDOS had clearly begun to stir from unconsciousness a little, but not completely. For a few moments, the core existed in a sort of limbo, not completely unlike a restless sleep. When Chell moved, GLaDOS had too. Shifting a little bit closer, pressing her face a little harder against Chell’s chest, and curling her body up ever so slightly.
It was only then that Chell noticed that she hadn’t been the only one with goosebumps.
GLaDOS was trembling.
For a second or two, Chell simply blinked. Staring almost dumbfounded at the almost impossible thought of GLaDOS, the GLaDOS who was the epitome of fear, of power, and of superiority, shivering in her arms.
Quickly following this disbelief was a surprisingly swift punch of something uncomfortably like pity, as Chell reminded herself that GLaDOS didn’t exactly have the same advantage of constant exercise helping to keep her body warm, nor did she have any sort of warm clothes to cover herself up with.
There wasn’t much Chell could do, especially now, as they needed to be moving as quickly as possible to make their way to the central chamber, but as Chell headed out of the office and back onto the trek upwards, she held GLaDOS a little bit tighter, rubbing her free hand against the smaller woman’s arm, attempting to keep the blood flowing while the core was still asleep.
It hadn’t been more than five minutes before Chell knew that GLaDOS had fully woken up, but neither had said anything. GLaDOS had simply wrapped her arms around Chell and buried her face in Chell’s tanktop, pointedly avoiding her gaze, and seemingly trying to pretend that she wasn’t cuddling her former arch enemy.
No doubt it would only be another five minutes or so before the moment was fully broken by GLaDOS making a comment about how horrible Chell smelled, or how disgusting humans were with their sweat.
But for now, Chell enjoyed the silence, and GLaDOS enjoyed the body heat.
Chapter 2: Boredom
GLaDOS wasn’t bored. Boredom was a concept saved for lesser minded beings. Creatures that used so little of their brain capacity on a regular basis that they managed to find themselves, somehow, with nothing to think about.
For a supercomputer, boredom was incomprehensible. There was always thought running through her mind, always another test or two that she could plan, always more data to look over. Her mind worked at a million miles a moment, never slowing, and never stopping.
So to say that GLaDOS could get bored was simply untrue.
Or, it would’ve been. Once upon a time.
See, things worked out a little differently in a human body. Humans, while they rarely did, had the ability to use their brains to keep themselves constantly stimulated. They didn’t have to get bored, it was just an unfortunate side-effect of their overall laziness and refusal to live up to whatever miniscule potential they could ever possibly have.
But even the human brain’s capability, when used to its full power, was a far cry from what a computer could accomplish. And, as GLaDOS quickly found out, attempts to merge the two resulted in an unpleasant, unconscious result.
And so, as she found herself piggy-backing off her former enemy and test subject turned… whatever she was, GLaDOS had a problem. She had nothing to do.
Sure, she could idly think, let her mind cautiously wander to comparatively simple and downright elementary concepts- are we going to die in an explosion soon? Will it be as painful as last time I died? What will happen to all the science I’ve worked so hard for?- but as soon as she dared to push a little bit further, to dig deeper, she was hit with a wave of warning fatigue.
How on earth she was supposed to function without directly analyzing exactly how many milliseconds after the explosion it would take for her body to be completely destroyed, while at the same time pondering if this new form she found herself in somehow possessed a complex blackbox feature that would put her through the same, horrifying experience of reliving the last moments of her death, over and over? Being able to do that was the bare minimum of the situation, to say nothing of all the help she would’ve liked to be giving to Chell to get them to move along a little faster.
She couldn’t say what the answers were to a test, but surely if she was just allowed to think about it for five goddamn minutes , she would’ve found some way to point Chell in the right direction.
What was there for a former central core to do, in a situation such as this? While she sarcastically warned herself not to ponder that too much, lest she risk knocking herself out in the process, GLaDOS instead found herself playing with her hands.
It was childish, and ultimately pointless, but was at least somewhat better than simply hanging onto Chell’s back and staring off into space.
First, she loosely fiddled with the straps of Chell’s Aperture Brand tank top, absentmindedly rubbing it between her index finger and thumb, before letting it lightly snap back against Chell’s skin. A slight twitch indicated that Chell certainly felt it, but she made no move to stop GLaDOS, and seemed far more preoccupied with the test chamber at hand, and estimating how best to handle it without getting the both of them killed.
So, GLaDOS kept going. When she bored of the feeling of fabric beneath her fingers, she moved upwards ever so slightly, loosely twirling strands of Chell’s hair around, tickling the Chell’s nape with whatever stray hairs had fallen from her ponytail over the course of their little adventure.
This earned a little more of a reaction. An involuntary shiver that ran down Chell’s spine, and a small, slightly irritated huff of air.
“What? Am I distracting you?”
There was, of course, no answer. Though, in leaning forward just enough to see the side of Chell’s face, GLaDOS caught sight of an eyeroll, accompanied by the ever so slight upward twitch in the corner of her lips.
Satisfied to know that, as mildly annoying as her current activity might be to the human, Chell wasn’t going to stop her. She rested her chin on Chell’s shoulder, and this time, brought her hand to Chell’s bicep. She made sure not to get in the way of Chell’s placing of portals, keeping her touch featherlight as she found a hint of amusement in the act of tracing Chell’s muscles each time they moved.
After awhile, the AI knew that surely, Chell was flexing on purpose, judging by how the muscles in her arms seemed far more intentionally noticeable than they had ever been before.
But even still, GLaDOS couldn’t help but continue. Giving Chell’s arm a gentle squeeze, feeling just how solid the muscle was, and soon running her hand further, wherever it could reach without being too much of a distraction, and finding that wherever it travelled, lean muscle could be found.
She also soon realized that a quick glance towards Chell’s face- or as much of it as GLaDOS could really see from her position- showed that her actions definitely weren’t going unnoticed. As GLaDOS traced a finger over the tensed muscles in Chell’s abdomen as she braced for a dangerous jump, a flush of extra color managed to make its way onto Chell’s skin.
“You know, I’m really not going to say this twice, but I don’t like to be wrong, so I figured I’d make a… small clarification , regarding earlier comments.”
The core tilted her head a little, knowing full well that her breath blew hot against Chell’s ear as she spoke, keeping her tone as smooth and level as possible, while at the same time struggling to contain the odd, currently unexplainable sense of exhilaration that had struck her in the heat of the situation.
“Your body is… not as unpleasant as I might’ve once implied.”
Chell’s chest suddenly shook with what took GLaDOS a moment to recognize as silent laughter. Mercifully she had just finished the chamber they were in, and thus was allowed to take a moment to take a short break to bow her head and let her shoulders shake with laughter that she wouldn’t allow herself to vocalize.
GLaDOS let her have her fun for a moment or two before cutting her off, trailing her hand back up Chell’s chest, until it eventually rested on her chin, tilting the human’s head to the side so that GLaDOS could lean forward, and quickly chase the amusement from Chell’s expression and replace it with something a little more alien to the both of them, but ten times more thrilling.
“Don’t get cocky now. You know that it’d be pretty poor science if I only did one test. If we both get out of all this alive, you and I can do a few more tests on this matter. Together . So long as you’ll cooperate, I think we can get some good results.”
This earned a smile. Thoughtful at first, then slowly shifting to something a little more coy.
It wasn’t exactly an answer yet, but for now, GLaDOS would take it.
Chapter 3: Moon
The idea that life could ever move in slow-motion was nothing more than an expression that humans made up for themselves. Their brains unable to comprehend what was happening in front of them, they lagged behind. Slowing their thoughts of everything else down, focusing on a single moment that they could see, attempting to understand.
The opposite was true for GLaDOS. Everything moved so quickly for her that she hardly had a moment to think on anything longer than was absolutely necessary. Running a whole facility single handedly tended to do that to you. There was always something that needed your attention, be it a broken panel, misplaced turret, or test subject running loose in the hallways.
Life moving in slow-motion was just not a luxury GLaDOS was allowed to have. Everything in Aperture, every experiment, every bit of science, was all worthy of a fraction of her attention. Too much to simply ignore.
Yet, somehow, as her facility burned and crumbled around her, as the smell of thick smoke and neurotoxin burned her unfortunately currently human lungs, somehow, her mind focused on one thing, and one thing alone.
Chell was an idiot, GLaDOS decided, as she grabbed the portal gun that had been knocked aside in the action, and she crossed the room in a few short bounds, dodging debris and trying to make sure she kept her balance. Chell’s split-second plans were awful, and GLaDOS made a mental note to remind her of that fact as soon as they got out of this mess. A portal in the center of the room sucked everything that wasn’t tied down into space , so as GLaDOS found herself half running half stumbling towards the center of the room, she frantically looked for something to hold onto so that she didn’t suffer the same fate the moment she got close.
A piece of metal, jutting out from the floor. No doubt knocked loose in all the destruction of the facility. It wasn’t ideal, but a quick check confirmed it to be solid enough.
The moron was babbling. She wasn’t paying attention to the exact words. All his bravado and confidence from moments ago? Gone. The cowardly little creature was begging for his life now, pleading Chell to let go, to throw herself into the abyss of space, so that he could bring himself back to safety.
Perhaps that bothered GLaDOS more than it needed to. Perhaps that was what fueled the rather rash decision to reach out towards the portal, and strain herself to grab the cord that was connecting his core to the mainframe, and, with as much strength as she could muster, violently rip it out.
The force of this action sent the metal ball flying, desperately crying for help as he was sucked further and further away from earth, the portal on the moon, and Aperture.
But for once, GLaDOS wasn’t gloating. She didn’t have the time.
She saw Chell, with nothing to hold onto, destined for a death in the cold depths of space.
And GLaDOS’s world moved in slow motion.
Chell was not going to die like this. GLaDOS would not give anyone the satisfaction of that. Not the little moron, not the universe, not the unfeeling grasp of space. If GLaDOS couldn’t kill her, nobody would.
She lunged forward, partially throwing herself into the portal, shifting her grip to what remained of her chassis, as it allowed her to lean a little closer, to stretch her arm as far as it would reach, to grab Chell’s fingertips, and they almost slipped out of her grip, if not for Chell’s attempts to help by stretching forward, allowing GLaDOS to pull her forward a little bit more, then getting a grip on her arm instead.
She felt dizzy, though she couldn’t say what it came from, the exhaustion she was putting this body through, or the amount of neurotoxin she had inhaled.
Still, something pushed her forward. Despite the black that was forming in the corners of her vision, she gritted her teeth, and thrusted them both backwards, pulling both their bodies out of the portal just barely enough so that she could close it without one of their limbs getting severed.
They both fell backwards, and GLaDOS vaguely registered the feeling of the metal panels beneath her as she landed awkwardly on her side, with Chell landing directly beside her.
Their eyes met, but only for a moment. Grey eyes shone with something that GLaDOS couldn’t quite place, either gratitude or something more, before rolling back in her head.
Warning sirens from the facility still blared in GLaDOS’s ears, but for the moment, she ignored them.
While she’d later blame this as a result of the lack of oxygen getting to her brain, or perhaps the fact that she wasn’t far off from unconsciousness herself, in the moment, GLaDOS had no words to describe why she did what she did.
Why instead of of getting up, making sure that she could get the facility back under control, put out the last of the fires, get back in her body, she instead pushed herself a little closer to Chell, wrapping her arms around the test subject, and pulled her into a tight embrace.
Holding her there for seconds that felt like hours, until she was certain that she felt a heartbeat, and the rise and fall of her chest. It was only then that everything she had been struggling to ignore in her own body seemed to hit her all at once, and GLaDOS found herself joining Chell in the world of the unconscious. Only vainly hoping in her last moments of consciousness that the facility wouldn’t crumble above their heads in her absence.
Chapter 4: Startled
Chell was fully ready to admit that finding amusement in someone else’s suffering was at least a
bit cruel. After all, she had been on the other end of it for quite some time now, knowing full well that GLaDOS likely got her sick kicks out of watching Chell struggling to survive, and no doubt laughing to herself every time that Chell got injured.
And so while the honorable thing might’ve been to merely turn the other cheek, brush it off as being in the past and be a better person herself, it was just the slightest bit satisfying to feel what it was like to be on the other side of things for once.
They had made their way up into more and more recent parts of Aperture, finally to the point where GLaDOS could actually be somewhat useful with her knowledge of the layout of the facility. They found themselves in an old production line, seemingly one that had been shut down after Chell and GLaDOS’s first little fight, and simply was never gotten around to being turned back on in all the fuss surrounding GLaDOS’s waking back up and subsequent downfall.
It was a bit of a mess, slightly overgrown, and most of the machines were broken, haphazardly strewn about the room, or just barely, precariously standing.
Still, according to GLaDOS, if they could simply move some of the debris out of the way, they would likely be able to follow the conveyor belt to a more well kept part of the facility, and have an easier time making their way to the central chamber.
So, because she had the feeling that the relatively feeble GLaDOS wasn’t going to be of much help, Chell placed the AI down, and decided to get to work.
She hadn’t had her back turned on GLaDOS for any more than five minutes before she heard a startled shriek, followed by the crash of metal hitting the ground.
Immediately, Chell whipped around, fearing for a moment or two that some kind of serious harm had fallen upon her companion. She didn’t have much time to ponder that thought however, as before she could process anything that she was seeing, Chell found herself being nearly knocked to the ground by the full force of someone jumping into her arms without warning.
That someone, Chell realized as she adjusted her grip and tried to steady herself, was a rather spooked looking GLaDOS.
And the source of her fear?
Normally, Chell would’ve understood that. She had felt her nearly heart stop several times upon turning a corner and being face to face with something that attempted filled her insides with bullets. However, considering that the turrets in question were deactivated, and crumpled rather pathetically on the floor, Chell felt no shame in allowing herself a silent laugh.
Like everything else in the room, the unused killing machines had been simply left to pile up at the end of the conveyor, until the machine eventually stopped making them. Unfortunately they didn’t make the most sturdy structure, and it hadn’t taken much more than GLaDOS bumping into it to send them all toppling forward.
“I know you’re not technically talking but shut up !”
GLaDOS clearly didn’t seem to find the situation as funny as Chell did, as her pale skin was quickly flushing a dark pink, and she snapped at Chell with an anger that paled in comparison to the embarrassment hiding just underneath.
“They’re just… bigger in person! That’s all!”
Chell just about dropped GLaDOS at that, and she could’ve sworn she felt the slight sting of tears in her eyes as she desperately choked back any attempt at sound trying to leave her lips, nearly doubled over in laughter.
Truly it was the little things in life that brought the most joy, like seeing the very person who was responsible for littering these things around her facility have to deal with one face to face, and scare herself out of her own skin in the process. Made even more amusing by the sheer fact that they were, in this moment, completely harmless.
At Chell’s continued laughter, GLaDOS let out a hiss, and suddenly squirmed out of her arms like an angry cat, practically bristling as she gained her own footing and desperately tried to regain her dignity.
“Just get back to work! We’re both going to end up dying in an explosion if you just hang around getting your laughs in all day.”
GLaDOS crossed her arms over her chest defensively, doing her best to chase the remnants of the ashamed blush off her cheeks and glare at Chell convincingly.
Admittedly, she had a point. They didn’t have time to be wasting, and for as much as Chell would’ve loved to relish in GLaDOS’s uncomfortableness for a few moments longer, she’d prefer to live to see it happen another day. So, reluctantly, Chell let out a huff and turned back to the pile of debris.
Still, it was only in the following silence that fell over the two of them that Chell found a bit of heat rush to her own cheeks- mercifully not visible to GLaDOS who was standing behind her- as she realized just how strange it felt to know that GLaDOS’s instinctual reaction to fear was to seek comfort in the person who had once destroyed her.
Chapter 5: Lipstick
Chell hadn’t really paid it any mind at first. Frankly, when kissing a former arch enemy, the sheer strangeness of the situation was usually the first thing on her mind, followed by a close second of surprise that an AI who had just recently inhabited a human body caught on to being a good kisser so quickly.
Needless to say, Chell’s mind hadn’t really been focused on much besides the act itself, focusing on finding every last bit of enjoyment in every moment that could be their last, considering they could end up blown to pieces before they even had the time to pull apart.
It really only was when she happened be passing by a pane of glass that she caught sight of her own reflection, and realized a little something.
They were both covered in a mixture of scrapes and bruises, dried blood, dirt and smudges of oil. Neither of them really looked particularly clean. GLaDOS, for example, still had the remains of a bloody nose, with bits of dried blood on her upper lip and chin. She also had smudges of black around her lips, which Chell knew to be lipstick that was no doubt once pristine, but now had either been rubbed off, or smeared.
Only thing was, Chell now had a pretty good idea where most of those traces of lipstick had ended up.
On herself. The corners of her lips, along her jaw, on her neck, and even a few smaller ones along her collarbone. To be fair, she remembered pretty well how she got the ones on her face, she just hadn’t put two and two together at the time. However, the rest of them were a bit different.
Chell had stopped paying attention to much of what GLaDOS did in her arms if she was in the middle of a potentially dangerous puzzle, but she still found herself somewhat bemused to think that she hadn’t noticed the smaller, sneakier kisses being pressed against her skin. Sure, light amounts of pressure on her skin were nothing compared to nearly being grazed by a bullet, or feeling the heat of a laser so uncomfortably close she could’ve sworn it burned the hair off her arms, but really?
She looked down to the former core in her arms for an explanation, and found GLaDOS conveniently asleep.
For a moment, Chell considered waking her- if she even was truly asleep, Chell wouldn’t put it past the core to fake it- but decided against it, knowing that GLaDOS would no doubt avoid the question in favor of chastising Chell for focusing on something so frivolous when they needed to be focusing on stopping Aperture from exploding.
Still, as Chell set back off through the facility, she found her mind lingering on the subject, as the recently discovered marks somehow seemed to burn against her skin the more she tried to ignore them.
This wasn’t exactly unlike GLaDOS. If there was one thing that Chell was made completely certain of- judging by how much the Aperture logo littered everything that Chell wore- GLaDOS liked to leave her mark on things. Things that were hers .
Her facility, her testing apparatuses, and apparently, her test subjects.
If Chell had made this connection earlier, she might’ve taken a minute to see if she could burn the logo off everything she wore, or scratch it out with dirt or blood, just to spite the facility that she loathed and the creature at the head of it. Now this, on the other hand, was a little different.
Rather than refuse her travelling companion of something that clearly kept her happy and relatively quiet, Chell decided on simply getting even.
She waited patiently until their next real break. They couldn’t take many, and they had to be brief, but Chell was only human, and while she might’ve been able to jump through test chambers all day long, that didn’t account for carrying around a fully grown human- or AI in a human body- almost the entire time. If she didn’t take a few minutes to catch her breath, she’d end up dead. Either by exhaustion alone, or making a careless mistake.
GLaDOS didn’t seem to mind, both getting the chance to stretch her limbs, and for the two of them to take their minds off things. Perhaps it was a bad idea, to pretend for a couple minutes that they weren’t in a life or death situation. Perhaps zeroing in on the fear of death would give them the extra push they needed to move a little faster, and increase their chances of survival.
But Chell didn’t want to die miserable. If she was going to die- and she had confronted that possibility several times over the course of her stay in Aperture- she either wanted to die victorious, or die happy.
And if that meant using her last moments alive to think back to just how it felt to have human contact again? Chell was going to take the risk of a five minute break, it was worth it.
Besides, she didn’t hear any complaints from GLaDOS’s end-disregarding the fact that Chell’s mouth on hers gave the core very little chances to complain- and instead, only heard soft hums of approval as she cautiously pulled away, turning her focus to a new target.
She didn’t have the advantage of lipstick to smear, and unless she managed to find a permanent marker with which to scrawl her name all over GLaDOS’s forehead while she slept, Chell only saw one, acceptable option of making things even.
To add some new bruises, albeit far more comfortably gained ones, to the space where GLaDOS’s neck met her shoulder, the soft expanse of skin, fair, and mostly unmarred- side from the cuts and scrapes that Chell was mindful to ignore.
She found herself wondering, as she pressed her lips against the crook of the core’s neck and began carefully attempting to leave a mark, if GLaDOS would say something. Object to Chell’s actions, or at least question them. For a moment, it seemed like she would. GLaDOS’s lips parted, and an exhale left them with the faint sound of a question that died on her tongue moments before she would’ve said it. Instead, GLaDOS simply tilted her head to the side, giving Chell better access.
Chell couldn’t have said how much time passed. How long they stood there, with GLaDOS’s back to the wall, and Chell leaned down in front of her. But Chell knew that, by the time the next big tremor shook the facility and brought them back to the moment, she had left at least four solid bruises along GLaDOS’s neck, starkly standing out against her pale complexion.
It brought her an odd sense of satisfaction to see it- to the point where she almost understood why GLaDOS was so fond of tagging everything she possibly could- and even more so to think that GLaDOS might not have even been aware of the extent of what now stood out like a sore thumb on her form. Surely, the former Queen of Aperture would object to having difficult to hide love-bites being paraded around so openly, and that was part of what made it so enjoyable to look at.
“If...if you’re quite finished assaulting my neck with your mouth like some kind of failed vampire , we really should be getting a move on. We’re close to the central chamber, and frankly I’d like a chance to get my hands on that little moron before the facility caves in on us both.”
GLaDOS’s voice held a bit of a stammer in it as she carefully brushed herself off, pushing Chell back and shooting her a look that desperately tried to hold an ounce of contempt in it. However, despite her suddenly sour disposition, Chell knew what GLaDOS truly looked like when she was unhappy, and this wasn’t it.
In a swift, now quite practiced motion, Chell scooped the core up, unable to keep a small smile off her face upon seeing how GLaDOS reflexively wrapped her arms around Chell’s neck for support, seemingly without needing to think about it.
They could die today. It was a rather large possibility, in fact. But if they did, Chell certainly didn’t mind this being the last memory she had of Aperture.
Chapter 6: Bullet
Letting your guard down in Aperture was one of the dumbest things you could do.
To assume that you knew the facility and its dangers, to relax, to allow yourself to feel confident. Because it was then that you’d meet your grisly end. If Chell hadn’t been so on edge and ready to act at the time, GLaDOS’s fire trap likely would’ve caught her enough by surprise to kill her.
And so since then, she had made sure to be extra careful to never let herself believe that she was savvy on all of Aperture’s lethal capabilities. Always expect something new, something worse than the last.
Of course, it was this constant looking forward, this neverending fear of the unknown, that ended up with Chell forgetting, even if only for a second, about a danger she had faced so many times that she had allowed herself to become numb to it.
Wheatley, for as much of an idiot as he was, had his job made unfortunately quite easy. It didn’t take a genius to use giant metal plates with spikes on the end of them, or to pull the ground out from underneath somebody.
Because of this, Chell found every hair on end with every corner she turned, cautiously putting one foot forward at a time, as if she expected to lose it in some horrific, unseen trap.
It was also because of this paranoia that, for the more straightforward rooms that didn’t require as much jumping around, she had GLaDOS following close behind her on foot, rather than carrying the core around. It was exhausting on the AI’s limited energy supply- as she had made very, very clear in her complaints- but Chell reckoned that if she ended up horrifically injured by misstepping into a trap, if GLaDOS was in her arms, she was likely to suffer the same fate, and they’d both either bleed out, or blow up with the rest of the facility. If she was behind her, there was a chance- albeit quite small- that GLaDOS would be able to find out a way to keep Aperture from exploding without Chell, and then help Chell to recover.
This was, admittedly, a longshot, but it was the best Chell could think of at the time.
And, as it turned out, it was quite possibly the best thing she could’ve done.
It happened in a heartbeat. As many life or death situations did. Chell hadn’t been paying close enough attention to her surroundings, having just narrowly avoided a panel attempting to crush her from above, she scrambled out of the way, more focused on not becoming a splat on the ground than she was at what would happen when she stood back up.
“I see you.”
Chell felt her heart stop. She barely had the time to turn and look at the source of the noise, seeing a flash of red, and feeling the telltale sick feeling in her stomach that indicated that there was a laser sight pointed on her.
Like a deer in headlights, she felt herself freeze for what she knew was truthfully only milliseconds, but somehow managed to drag on for hours. Her mind raced with attempts to remember if there was any cover nearby, to recall if she had seen a good portal surface within reach that she could escape with. If she spent time wildly looking around now, she’d be shot. If she didn’t make up her mind soon, she’d be shot.
Then suddenly, Chell felt the force of something hit her in the side and she felt herself being knocked off balance and thrown a distance to the side on the ground, and then, not a second afterwards, the sound of bullets cut through the air.
She collided with the cold tile floor, and not a heartbeat later, a pained yelp rang out, followed by a warm body landing directly on top of Chell.
It had taken Chell far longer than she wanted to admit to process what had happened, finding herself embarrassingly stunned into a state of being completely bewildered. It was only the sound of slightly ragged, sharp inhales of breath from GLaDOS- who Chell was collected enough to realize was on top of her- and the feeling of something warm and wet dripping onto Chell’s skin that managed to shake her out of it, and bring her back to the present.
Hurriedly, she sat up, bringing GLaDOS up with her, and frantically letting her eyes travel across the core’s body, until they landed on a spot where nearly white skin was being turned red.
GLaDOS had been shot. More impressively, she had taken that bullet for Chell . Something that, if one had told Chell before their journey in old Aperture would happen, she might’ve broken her vow of silence to simply laugh.
Yet here she was, feeling her heartbeat race in momentary panic, before getting a proper look at the injury, and feeling her worries ease ever so slightly. While it certainly looked bad at first glance- Chell blamed the color contrast, seeing dark red blood on something so pale was rather startling- the bullet had hit her in the arm, and hadn’t even gone through the flesh. It merely grazed her.
GLaDOS, however, quickly went from a state of similar silent shock, to acting as if she was dying for a second time.
“I’ve been shot! I’m bleeding !” She paused, looking quickly from her injury, then back to Chell. “Do something!”
Perhaps if the circumstances were different, Chell would’ve brushed GLaDOS’s unhappiness off, and told the core to figure it out on her own. She’d faced worse injuries than that, GLaDOS would survive. But as it stood? Chell found herself, without hesitation, untying the sleeves of her jumpsuit, finding a place where the fabric had already been torn from a bullet or laser, and ripping the whole sleeve off.
It wasn’t as long as Chell would’ve preferred for a proper bandage, but so long as GLaDOS could keep a hold on it, it would be good enough.
“You won’t even speak long enough to say thank you? I just saved your life ! You’d have a bullet in that...stupidly well sculpted abdomen of yours, crumpled over and bleeding out on the floor and…”
Chell caught sight of a strange look in GLaDOS’s eye as she trailed off, though it only lasted a moment. A flash of something dark, but not in the same, sinister fashion that Chell was used to. It almost looked sad .
“...Just get to work! This hurts !”
No sooner had a look of tenderness crossed GLaDOS’s face than it was replaced by one of pure frustration, and what looked like a little bit of a pout. If Chell looked closely enough, she noticed the ever so slight shimmer of tears beginning to well up, as GLaDOS clutched her arm and squirmed uncomfortably in place.
To be fair, it was more severe than the scrapes and bruises that GLaDOS had obtained up until this point. Although, Chell resisted the urge to point out that GLaDOS was the only one out of the two of them who had died before, and surely that was much, much worse.
As carefully as she could- knowing that a distressed GLaDOS was likely a snappy GLaDOS- Chell pulled the core a little closer on her lap- for the sole purpose of having a better angle to wrap her wound, of course- and gingerly pulled GLaDOS’s hand off from where it was wrapped around the laceration.
The core’s hand was stained a dark red, and the wound was equally bloody, but as Chell dabbed at it with the mostly clean scrap of fabric, she judged that it wasn’t deep enough to cause too many problems, so long as GLaDOS didn’t go around moving that arm, kept it above her heart as much as possible, and kept pressure on it.
It would be somewhat difficult to convey this without speaking, but judging by the fact that GLaDOS was supposedly the world’s most advanced and intelligent lifeform, surely she’d know this anyway.
Still, doing this for her was the least Chell could do, considering the core got the injury as a result of saving Chell’s skin. And, as she finished wrapping the wound as best she could and stood herself back up- helping GLaDOS up in the process- it was made apparent that it wasn’t the least Chell could do, the least Chell could do was pick GLaDOS back up, and give the core something nicer to think about.
Chell once again found herself struggling to keep her mouth shut, and resisting the urge to playfully tease just how adorably simple- and downright human- it was for GLaDOS to be quivering her lip and asking for Chell to kiss her injury better. Even if it wasn’t exactly worded so politely.
Chapter 7: Abandonment
Sleep was a waste of time, GLaDOS decided. She had already spent far too much time unconscious in this new human body when she was first thrust into it, an unpolished, imperfect form that barely let her walk around without feeling woozy.
After the facility was brought back under her control and she was allowed to be in her chassis if she so pleased, she had the time to tinker with the human form, do her best to improve it, at least to the point where she could perform basic functions without fainting like a damsel in distress.
It wasn’t like she needed it, but especially considering Chell’s eventual return to the facility, she… wanted it.
While the core would not admit to any particular fondness towards the body, she had to admit that it had its merits. One of which being that it allowed her to be quite close to her human partner. Which, of course she didn’t care about. It was just something that she had gotten… used to, and would hate to suddenly be without. She was a creature of habit, after all.
And so, since Chell was so insistent on sleeping almost every night- despite the fact that GLaDOS argued she could just keep pumping the place with enough chemicals to keep her from ever needing to sleep again- GLaDOS found herself joining her.
Sleep was an eight to ten hour long waste of time, but… GLaDOS wasn’t going to complain about being able to cuddle up to Chell without flying through portals and dodging bullets at the same time.
And of course, it was much preferred to have her face pressed up against someone who had access to showers again, and someone with a change of clothes, rather than the same tank top for another 9999999999- years.
In fact, Chell was downright… enjoyable to be cuddled up against, as far as humans went. During the day, GLaDOS practically hung off Chell’s shoulder, or found herself in Chell’s arms despite no longer needing to be carried around. At night, she wrapped her arms tightly around Chell’s torso, and buried her face in the human’s chest.
GLaDOS could feel the material of Chell’s shirt underneath her fingers. She could smell the slightly citrusy soap that she stocked the shower with. She could feel the warmth of Chell’s body heat. Chell was here. They weren’t going to explode, GLaDOS wasn’t about to die, and she wasn’t alone.
Her grip on Chell tightened a little, as if to confirm this fact. Chell’s chest rose and fell, not faltering as a result of GLaDOS’s slight shift. She was asleep, and slowly, GLaDOS allowed herself to follow.
She was rudely awoken about three hours later, by nothing but deafening silence, and a sudden, ever so slight chill.
GLaDOS had shifted in her sleep, feeling the beginnings of goosebumps across her skin, and tried to curl closer to Chell, hoping that the human would reflexively take this as incentive to do something to make her body warmer for GLaDOS’s sake. However, instead of Chell giving GLaDOS more of her blankets, or wrapping her arms tighter around the core, GLaDOS was met with an empty space. A slightly warm, but still empty spot on the bed.
That shook GLaDOS from her mostly unconscious daze, as her eyes snapped open, revealing an empty bedroom, and the digital clock reading 2am- not that it really mattered, Chell was only trying to sleep at ‘normal’ times because it gave her a sense of normalcy, despite the fact that she couldn’t really tell when they were underground.
Rather quickly, GLaDOS sat herself upright, hastily fixing her now messy hair, and looking around the dark room once more, feeling an odd tightness in her chest, and an ever so slight increase in the speed of her heartbeat.
It was fine. She was being stupid. Chell would come back, she was probably just… doing something. She’d only be gone for a moment or two, then she’d come back.
GLaDOS played with the sheets while she waited. Rubbing the fabric between her index finger and thumb at first, and then twisting around large fistfulls of the material as time passed, and her tension increased. How long had it been? She wasn’t looking at the clock, but she knew it had to have been fifteen, maybe twenty minutes.
The core considered going back to bed on her own, but… she didn’t even need to try to know that it’d be a fruitless endeavor. Her stomach was twisting in knots, and her heartbeat was only getting more and more panicked.
If she was in her chassis, she could do a scan of the facility. Search for lifeforms, make sure that Chell was still here. And… and if she wasn’t…
The sound of a door opening broke her train of thought, and a little bit of light spilled in from the bathroom that was connected to Chell’s sleeping chambers turned faux-underground apartment that GLaDOS had, somehow, managed to forget was there.
A rather sleepy looking Chell flipped the bathroom light off, and plodded over to the bed, only pausing directly in front of it when she caught sight of GLaDOS sitting up in the low light.
She shot the core a look that might’ve been confusion or concern, but was so coated in half-asleep unawareness that the intention hardly mattered.
Either way, GLaDOS felt every muscle in her body seemingly instantly uncoil itself, with her heart and stomach no longer feeling like a chunk of ice and rock respectively.
Without hesitation, she grabbed Chell by the arm, and pulled the half asleep test subject back down onto the bed, causing her to land on the mattress with a soft ‘whump.’
Before Chell could protest, look for an explanation, or attempt to escape the AI’s sudden cuddly assault, GLaDOS had latched herself back onto Chell, wrapping her arms and legs around Chell’s form, and burying her face against the human’s neck.
Chell wasn’t leaving again. GLaDOS wasn’t alone in the facility with nothing but turrets and birds for company. Chell was here .
Of course, Chell had only been gone for about five minutes. But five minutes was practically an eternity for someone who was missing her.
Chapter 8: Age
“You know, I think I’m going to have to move back into my chassis soon, this body’s been… malfunctioning.”
GLaDOS idly spoke, sitting casually in her throne-like chair in the central chamber, lazily flicking through camera feeds as she watched ATLAS and P-Body test. Chell was lingering nearby, as GLaDOS knew she enjoyed watching the two bots, attempting to mentally solve the puzzles before they could, and silently smirking to herself whenever she succeeded.
There was no verbal response to her statement- she knew Chell could, and would talk if she deemed it necessary, but even now, the human preferred to keep it to a minimum- but GLaDOS needed to only look to the side to catch Chell’s eye as she moved closer, her head tilted ever so slightly to the side, and a questioning expression on her face. This was enough of a response for GLaDOS, who counted it as a ‘what do you mean,’ and continued her thought.
“I could’ve sworn I fixed this back when I got control of the facility back from the moron, but this body’s energy consumption seems...off.”
Chell’s expression momentarily switched to real concern, and GLaDOS quickly spoke up to dispel what she knew the human’s worries were.
“I haven’t been passing out again, if that’s what you’re worried about. It just feels like everything takes a small percentage more effort than it used to. I actually get tired during the day sometimes. Can you believe that?”
Chell’s face relaxed a little at this, the beginnings of a smile twitching onto her face as she moved in front of GLaDOS, gently grabbing the core by her shoulders and coaxing her up, and into her arms.
“ ...Have you considered the fact that maybe you’re just getting old? ”
Chell’s voice was low and gruff as always, but ten times warmer than it had been when GLaDOS first heard her properly speak a sentence. Then, it had been so guarded, so defensive, more like a growl than anything else. Now it was scarce, but in the way that a precious treasure was. Rare, beautiful, and something to be appreciated partly because of its infrequent appearances.
Still, that didn’t change the fact that GLaDOS pulled her head back ever so slightly, and raised her lip in a mixture of disbelief and disgust at what Chell had actually said.
“ Excuse me? I am not old . And if I was , it’s because of the countless decades that I spent dead , not whatever tiny amount of time I’ve spent in this form.”
She crossed her arms over her chest, fixing Chell with a glare in an attempt to shake the amused smile off the human’s face.
“ You’ve been in that body for what, fifteen years? Aging is bound to happen eventually, and I don’t know why you’re so against the idea of change. It happens whether you like it or not, better to just make peace with it. ”
As she spoke, Chell brought her hand to GLaDOS’s face, knowing that the gesture would ease some of the irritation off of the core. However, it didn’t take long for GLaDOS to realize what she was really doing- using her calloused thumb to gently trace over wrinkles that definitely weren’t actually there- and so the AI wasted little time in pushing the hand away.
Had it really been fifteen years? Surely it hadn’t, that was… far longer than it had felt. If anything, GLaDOS could’ve sworn it was more akin to fifteen weeks. Maybe months, but not years .
“Awful bold words for someone who’s going to be an ugly old hag in about forty years. I can just move back into my beautiful, metallic self, and stay as perfect and pristine as the day I was made.” GLaDOS paused, an idea suddenly popping into her mind, and quickly worming its way into serious consideration. “Or… I could always just make a new one of these. We both seem to be fond of its capabilities, so it wouldn’t hurt to make a fresh, well functioning one. No?”
Chell’s amused smile slowly shifted into a softer, almost uneasy one, and she leaned down, pressing her forehead against GLaDOS’s, as if hopeful that her failed headbutt was going to elicit some kind of positive response.
“ I like this one though. ”
GLaDOS scoffed, but didn’t push Chell away this time. Not yet.
“If you liked this body fifteen years ago, then you’ll like the new one I make. I’ll make it aesthetically exactly the same as it was, if that’s what’ll keep you from getting yourself in a fuss about it.”
GLaDOS’s answer was, unsurprisingly, not satisfactory. Chell had finally allowed her expression to shift into an ever so slight pout- something that wasn’t overly common on her face, and far more often would find itself on GLaDOS’s- as she brought her arms around the core’s waist, and let out a gentle exhale of breath.
“ Come on. Grow old with me. You’ll live forever, and like you’ve said, I’ll be dead in sixty years or less, so you can just go right back to your chassis when I’m gone. Sixty years is like a blink of an eye to an immortal, right? ”
Chell wasn’t begging, but GLaDOS didn’t miss the fact that this interaction alone had Chell speaking more words than she might speak in a week on average. This clearly meant something to her if she was willing to be adamant enough about it to feel the need to vocalize her thoughts exactly, rather than leave it up to GLaDOS to interpret expressions or gestures.
“You’re just jealous that I’ll look better than you.”
Reluctantly, Chell pulled back, giving GLaDOS a slightly disappointed, yet still determined smile, that indicated that this wasn’t over, and that she’d no doubt come back to this discussion sometime soon, still intent on convincing the core.
But for now, as GLaDOS took her seat back on her throne, and Chell headed out- presumably to her room, or maybe to run through a few test chambers for fun- it seemed that the matter was dropped, and GLaDOS wouldn’t have to think about it.
Only… it wasn’t quite that easy.
GLaDOS had said her last comment with the same, playfully teasing tone that most of her jests possessed, a slight lilt in her tone and a smile on her lips. But that smile was far from natural. It had quickly been put in place to mask the strange twisting in her gut that had started the moment Chell reminded her of a human’s lifespan. Sixty years. Or really, less, considering the fact that GLaDOS had first made that comment over fifteen years ago.
As soon as Chell left the room, GLaDOS’s demeanor changed. Her expression fell, and her body grew tense. One hand gripped the arm of her chair with a little more intensity than perhaps she needed, while the other hand drummed its fingers nervously against her leg.
Chell was right. Time could move very, very fast for someone who didn’t have to worry about it. Just the thought that they had been like this for fifteen years already had shaken GLaDOS more than she expected. Had she really not been paying attention? What had changed in that time period?
She debated with herself for a minute or two, before giving in, and bringing two of her monitors closer than the others. On the first, she pulled up camera feed from fifteen years ago, the day that she first let Chell go. On the second, she pulled up feed from this same room, but only fifteen minutes ago. She zoomed each of them in on her former test subject-turned romantic partner, and she stared.
Chell had changed. GLaDOS hadn’t thought about it, and for a moment she wondered if this body’s eyes were malfunctioning too, considering she could’ve sworn she had been seeing the exact same Chell for all this time. But now, comparing the two, the twist in her gut returned with a vengeance.
The change wasn’t drastic, Chell didn’t have white hair, nor was she hobbling around with a cane. Her body was still well exercised and healthy, and her eyes and mind were just as sharp and observant as they had always been.
But… she was softer. Her form, while still muscled, no longer looked as hard and intimidating as it once had. Her face looked gentler, no longer held in a permanent stoic scowl, though there were creases on her forehead from all the time she had spent furrowing her brows in concentracion. Laugh lines were beginning to form more noticeably along the sides of her mouth, and the beginnings of crow’s feet peeked out at the corners of her eyes. While her hair was still the same gorgeous dark brown that it had always been, one or two grey hairs were tucked in amongst the rest, easily missed to a normal observer, but standing out starkly to someone who was purposefully looking.
Chell wasn’t old , but... she was aging. And unlike GLaDOS, she couldn’t just turn back the clock and make herself a new body. She was getting old, and GLaDOS couldn’t stop it.
GLaDOS didn’t know what she could do.
So, she took her head in her hands, and tried to do what she did best when it came to feelings that she wasn’t used to, and problems she couldn’t solve.
GLaDOS pushed the guilt, the fear, and the anxiety deep down, and she ignored it.
If she didn’t think about it, it wouldn’t hurt.
She could pretend it wasn’t a problem, and then, in sixty years? It wouldn’t be.
Chapter 9: Return
GLaDOS was not jumpy. Jumpy would presume that she had something to be afraid of, which was most certainly not true. This was her facility, her home, her domain. She had control over every panel, every camera, and every turret. The only time she had reason to be afraid was during the period in time she was forced out of that position of control, and was at the mercy of an
running her machines.
But now, after regaining control, and dedicating time to fixing all the damage that had been caused in Aperture’s near destruction, she found herself quite comfortable. She could move back to her chassis whenever she pleased- and she did for quite awhile- but equally found a bit of comfort in this new- somewhat improved- human form. She had built a chair into the central chamber, allowing herself to watch and control the facility comfortably in whatever body she pleased.
Things had fallen back into the way they were supposed to be. Routine. Normal.
Not to say that science was in any way boring, GLaDOS balked at the thought. She was plenty proud of her work, and found enjoyment in knowing that she was advancing science far beyond what any human could ever dream of achieving.
But there was a certain element missing. The element of surprise.
Routine was well and good for getting things done, but without a little bit of change, GLaDOS got impatient. There was a reason humans made good test subjects. They couldn’t be predicted with a hundred percent accuracy, and often provided interesting data that robots couldn’t always give.
Ever since she kicked Chell out, Aperture had been lacking in the human department. Leaving GLaDOS, and the facility, in a state that was inching dangerously close to being stagnant.
So GLaDOS again, had no reason to be jumpy. But she was distracted. Lost in her own thoughts, not paying as much attention to her surroundings as she normally might’ve. It was because of this that things that normally would’ve been treated with a cool calmness earned a... bit more of a reaction.
And, to be fair, as someone who had watched her facility nearly crumble to pieces in front of her, suddenly hearing a loud crash and nearly being hit with falling debris was a little bit concerning.
Besides, nobody needed to know that GLaDOS had practically jumped out of her skin in response. That camera footage could be deleted.
Still, that didn’t change the elephant in the room. Or rather, the brick on the floor.
A crude message scrawled across paper that was taped to it, clearly thrown by someone who knew exactly where the central chamber was, where GLaDOS would be, and where the weakest points in the ceiling were.
‘It sucks out here, let me back in. -Chell’
Only a brain damaged lunatic would think that destruction of property was somehow a better way at communicating that she wanted to be let in than just, you know, knocking on the shed door.
Why, GLaDOS would go right up there herself and tell Chell just how stupid she thought it was. She got herself in the elevator, and marched right up to the shed door, throwing it open, and preparing herself to completely chew Chell for her brutish, destructive ways- and suggest that maybe, if she was so keen on breaking things, she ought to be the one to fix them.
Of course, by the time she opened the door- and momentarily blinded herself with the glaring sun that spilled in from outside- all thoughts of what she was going to say to Chell died in her throat.
Chell was... there . The surface had been good to her, with time in the sun giving her skin a healthier glow, and her hair looking tousled by the wind.
How long had it been since Chell left? How long had GLaDOS been alone in Aperture?
Too long, GLaDOS decided, as she grabbed Chell by the front of the shirt and nearly sent them both toppling backwards and into the elevator.
They had some catching up to do. And Chell had a ceiling to fix.
Chapter 10: Food
Chell’s voice broke the relative silence that the two had been residing in for the past hour. Relative only because Aperture whirred and groaned as it worked, like a living being it seemed to breathe as GLaDOS ran her tests.
The core didn’t turn to look at Chell as she spoke, seeming deeply engrossed with whatever it was that she was doing, and having decided a long time ago that so long as Chell wasn’t murdering or causing property damage, most of the time GLaDOS didn’t mind letting her go unchecked.
“How come I’ve never seen you eat?”
GLaDOS paused what she was doing, though still didn’t turn her head. She blinked a few times, clearly surprised by the question, then promptly confused, and quickly followed by disinterest.
“Ugh. Why would I want to? It’s so inefficient. It’s a waste of time and resources, and it’s a hardly sustainable form of energy. As soon as I got control of the facility again I started making changes to this body, try and make it more useful. One of the first things to go was the dependance on food.”
Chell, brushing aside the bigger question of how on earth GLaDOS managed that with this more-or-less human body, frowned. She hadn’t expected to have to talk this much, hoping that she could’ve just asked the one question, gotten a straightforward answer, then dropped it. But curiosity killed, and she couldn’t help but push.
“You still can though, right?”
GLaDOS waved her hand dismissively as she responded, busying herself once more with her work.
“Yes yes, this body can taste and digest food. On the off chance that I was stranded in this body without access to any other form of energy, I could hypothetically still eat. Why does it matter?”
Chell pressed her lips together, thinking for a moment or two before making her way over to GLaDOS, while rummaging around in her pocket for something, and pulling it out once she was close enough to the core.
“I was just curious if you’ve ever eaten one of these.”
The former test subject grabbed the back of GLaDOS’s chair as she spoke, swivelling it around to face her, and shaking the central core from her work. She then promptly shoved an ‘Aperture Science Nutrient Rectangle’ under the AI’s nose, looking at her expectantly.
GLaDOS scrunched up her face with disdain, looking from the wrapped bar, then to Chell, then back.
“No, I haven’t. As I quite literally just said, any reliance on food was one of the first things I got rid of. Why does it matter?”
The core crossed her arms over her chest, impatiently waiting for Chell to get to the point. Whatever she had been in the middle of clearly was not something that she wished to be interrupted from- even though Chell knew just from looking at it that it was far from urgent, and GLaDOS likely just wanted an excuse to get out of conversation.
“I just figured that maybe you should taste it. Considering this is all that you’ve stocked the kitchen with, I don’t think it’s fair that you haven’t even tried what you’re having me eat.”
With that, she tossed the bar at GLaDOS, who caught it with annoyingly good reflexes- no doubt another thing she added into this body post getting control of the facility- and waited.
“I’m terribly sorry that me feeding you something edible and sustainable somehow isn’t enough for you. Aperture isn’t a restaurant, it’s a science facility. I don’t know what you expect me to do.”
Chell huffed, furrowing her brow and twisting her mouth into an irritated scowl.
“If you can make whole human bodies from scratch, surely you can-”
“You want to eat human flesh? Now that’s a whole new low.”
GLaDOS cut Chell off mid sentence, her annoyance at being interrupted having quickly been replaced with amusement at getting the chance to tease Chell, and watching how fast Chell opened and closed her mouth, stumbling over a clarification.
“You know that’s not what I meant. I just mean that if you can make a human body, you could stand to make a few cows. Chickens, if you aren’t still scared of anything with feathers.”
This earned an offended snort from the core- along with a glare that reminded Chell that this was still quite a tender spot- as GLaDOS muttered something under her breath about ‘entitled humans’ while she ripped open the wrapper on the bar Chell gave her.
As if to prove a point, she took a larger bite than Chell would’ve asked of her originally, trying her best to hold a confident, smug expression the entire time.
It lasted about five seconds before the involuntary shudder and grimace naturally found its way onto GLaDOS’s expression.
Yes, the ‘ASNR’ was technically edible, and technically enough to sustain human life. It also had the consistency of chewy, wet foam with mysterious crunchy bits, and a flavor that could only be described as ‘chemical mistake mixed with something vaguely fruity.’
Chell watched as GLaDOS seemed to go through the five stages of grief in the course of a minute or two, before, very reluctantly- but clearly not wanting to back down from the situation she put herself in- swallowing.
Chell waited in front of GLaDOS, a smile unable to be kept away from her face.
“...I’ll look into getting a couple more options for the kitchen.”
Chell couldn’t help but grin as she left the central chamber, victorious. That, and cross her fingers and hope that cake mix was on the list of options.
Chapter 11: Name
Chell had come
That thought had run through GLaDOS’s head many times now, playing on repeat like a broken record. Chell had returned to Aperture hours ago, and while the immedient, heart pounding thrill of the moment had eventually simmered down- mindless, blind passion shared between them had done well to use that excitement like fuel on a fire-GLaDOS still couldn’t stop thinking about it all.
She had, admittedly, not made an effort to keep track of how long Chell had been gone. Time was a tricky thing in Aperture, with days feeling like years, and decades feeling like seconds. The only way one could truly keep track of time is if they were intentionally keeping count. GLaDOS’s chassis had an internal clock, and if she wanted to, she could pull up the current time on any of the many monitors she watched the facility from.
But as the days directly after Chell’s departure dragged on, GLaDOS had quickly found that watching time go by only made it feel ever more agonizing. It was easier to try and dismiss the passage of time, let it all blend together. Bury herself in her work and let her life continue on as normally as possible, and not think about how she felt lonelier with every passing day.
That didn’t matter now. However long it had been- be it weeks or months- was all irrelevant. Chell was here. She didn’t just exist on the screens, as GLaDOS rewatched old test footage in a moment of weakness, she wasn’t a figment of GLaDOS’s imagination, brought to life and fostered by the hope in the distant sounds of the facility that could’ve been Chell and her destructive tendencies. Chell was alive and breathing, and GLaDOS was in her arms.
Things in Aperture had been peaceful since Chell left and Wheatley was stuck in space, but GLaDOS had only just realized that this was the first time that she had actually felt relaxed in a very long time. Laying on a quickly repurposed bed from one of the sleeping chambers, marvelling at how surprisingly comfortable it was- at least with a partial human cushion- and just how pleasantly warm she felt with its sheets draped over her body, despite Aperture normally tending to lean on the chilly side.
It had been much, much louder a few minutes ago- courtesy of GLaDOS herself- but now the room was in near complete silence. The sound of slightly exhausted breathing, and the natural shifts of the facility were the only things that GLaDOS could hear.
Well, that, and the slight rustle of the sheets as Chell shifted. Reflexively, GLaDOS tightened her grip. If Chell thought she could just waltz in here, spend a couple hours stringing GLaDOS along, and then just walk back out, she was sorely mistaken.
Thankfully, GLaDOS’s concern was unneeded. Chell wasn’t attempting to leave, nor was she attempting to murder anyone or destroy property- GLaDOS was still mad about the hole in her ceiling- she was merely moving her arm from where it had been around GLaDOS’s waist, and bringing it up to her face.
Calloused fingers rested under her chin, gently coaxing GLaDOS’s face away from resting against Chell’s chest- which wasn’t easy, it was quite a nice place to be- and tilting her head up a little, so that Chell’s eyes could meet hers.
Her eyes . GLaDOS was instantly distracted by them, any previous train of thought being shoved to the side, in favor of focusing more on that piercing grey gaze. Flecks of blue dotted her irises, and while they certainly had the capability to look as cold and sharp as a metal blade, now they were warm and gentle, in a way that GLaDOS had never seen before.
GLaDOS’s observation didn’t stop there. She let her eyes travel across Chell’s face, taking note of the way her hair- shaken from its ponytail- fell down her shoulders, and admiring the flush of color that was present all across Chell’s skin.
Aperture’s aesthetic might’ve thrived on shades of white and black, but it had never felt more greyscale than it had in Chell’s absence. Whether it was because of her breaking pipes and causing splatters of propulsion and repulsion gel everywhere, or just because of the way she wore that not-so-ugly orange jumpsuit, Chell was a splash of vibrant color wherever she went. Painting Aperture with a brush that sometimes- most of the time- resulted in some level of rule breaking or property destruction.
For now though, GLaDOS would let all of that slide. So long as she could just stay here for awhile- a decade or two would suffice- then she’d consider forgiving the lunatic for the countless repairs that GLaDOS needed to do because of her.
GLaDOS must’ve gotten more distracted than she originally realized, as she was shaken from her thoughts when Chell lightly tapped her chin, looking almost playfully impatient.
“What? If the facility isn’t on fire again, then we aren’t- or at least, I’m not- in any particular hurry. Unless you’ve got something important to say, which, considering your history, I consider to be highly unlikely.”
The core’s comment won a smile on Chell’s face. A small one, with an oddly thoughtful gaze behind it.
GLaDOS suddenly felt her heart catch in her throat, and for a moment, her whole world stopped.
Chell had always refused to speak the name of her former enemy, even more so than she refused to speak in general. As if knowing it was something that GLaDOS had wanted to hear from the moment she learned that Chell could speak, and wanting nothing more than to spite her for it.
Instinctually, GLaDOS leaned a little closer, waiting with bated breath for whatever it was that Chell needed to say. She had been joking about the human needing to say something of importance, but maybe she was right. If Chell was taking this moment to finally break her vow of silence surrounding GLaDOS’s name, then maybe she actually was going to tell her something profound.
Perhaps she would give GLaDOS a window into whatever mysterious thoughts went on in that puzzling- possibly damaged- brain of hers. Maybe, she was going to tell GLaDOS she regretted murdering her all those years ago. Or it was even possible that Chell intended to tell her that she missed her just as much as GLaDOS had missed-
“...I’m sorry about the hole in your ceiling.”
She watched as Chell’s smile, one that had looked genuinely pensive only a few moments ago, shifted a little, with a spark of amusement playing in her gaze, and her lips curling into a rather self satisfied smirk.
GLaDOS had little hesitation in pulling back, hitting Chell on the arm, hard enough to convey the sudden burst of absolute disbelief and anger that had bubbled up in her chest, but- unfortunately, due to this body’s lack of destructive capability- light enough to do nothing but bring more of a smile to Chell’s face, who threw her head back in a laugh that was mostly stifled, though came through ever so slightly with the shaking of her chest and exhale of breath.
“You are a terrible little human, you know that?”
GLaDOS tried her best to scowl, crossing her arms over her chest and worming her way out of Chell’s grip to sit up, trying to ignore the slight chill on her skin as the bedsheets no longer protected her skin from Aperture’s cool temperatures.
Chell was terrible. She was a smug, irritating, destructive little meatsack, who liked to get GLaDOS’s hopes up before crushing them. Terribly. Then throwing them in an incinerator.
...But she did look good from where GLaDOS was sitting. Rolling over to be on her back, letting her dark brown hair splay out against the pillow, looking so comfortably content and proud of herself. And that was all the more reason for GLaDOS to find her absolutely, horribly, insufferably…
GLaDOS threw herself back onto Chell, deciding that she’d find a way to make sure that if Chell was only going to tease her, GLaDOS would find a way to make her do something other than talking with that mouth.
Chapter 12: Illness
Aperture was, so long as GLaDOS was in control of things, a remarkably clean environment. After all, being almost completely run and inhabited by robots made for a much more sterile workspace. While unfortunately, the humans that found themselves in the facility had the tendency to leak one or more of their many disgusting bodily fluids everywhere, they were, at least compared to examples found on the surface, quite clean.
No unintentional parasites or germs could be found on any surface within GLaDOS’s reach, and while this admittedly meant that the immune systems of any humans in Aperture was remarkably lower than average, that wouldn’t be a problem. So long as no humans went to the surface, messed around in god knows what, then came back inside like a walking biohazard.
Of course, that was exactly what happened. Because GLaDOS had already died and nearly had her facility blown to bits, so the universe needed to find new and creative ways to make her life a living hell.
Cleanliness had not been the first thing on GLaDOS’s mind when Chell got back. That much, was on her. Perhaps she should’ve requested that the former test subject undergo a shower or two, burn all her clothing and replace it with a fresh, crisp Aperture jumpsuit. But they had ended up a little bit preoccupied in the moment, and it had slipped GLaDOS’s mind.
It was only a few days later- long after Chell had cleaned herself up- when Chell was recounting some of her experiences that the thought popped into GLaDOS’s mind again. Apparently, Chell had gotten pretty sick shortly after she left Aperture. Fever, vomiting, drenched in a cold sweat, all the things that GLaDOS found herself thankful for not needing to deal with in her facility. The cleanup on that alone would be wretched.
But that had been on the surface. And Chell was in perfectly good health when she returned, so GLaDOS dismissed it shortly after.
Dismissed it, while in the human body that she conveniently forgot still had a weak immune system that she hadn’t gotten around to removing.
So when the next morning, she found her form strangely slow and her reactions slightly sluggish, she was suspicious, but not immediately savvy to what the cause could be. It didn’t really matter. Since Chell returned GLaDOS had her hands full setting up a proper living space for her- not that she cared, but Chell seemed somewhat adverse to staying in a another ‘Aperture Science Extended Relaxation Chamber’- and if she could just finish that up today, it’d be another project off her shoulders. So long as this body could still function without any glaring issues, she could wait a couple hours to do a diagnostics scan.
Or so she thought.
Chell came poking around the central chamber about thirty minutes after GLaDOS had left her temporary bed chambers- GLaDOS was only spending the nights there to make sure Chell didn’t leave again- curious as always over the process of the home-inside-a-home that GLaDOS was building for her.
She had been adamant about certain design details, like making sure not everything was the exact same color, not having a security camera directly over her bed, and having a proper kitchen.
...In fact, Chell was pointing something out now, wasn’t she?
GLaDOS shook her head, snapping herself back to attention. She had vaguely registered Chell tapping her on the shoulder, which then made her aware that she had been spacing out for… at least a few minutes.
“I...what? What do you want?”
She pinched the bridge of her nose, briefly turning to glance at Chell before realizing that turning her head so quickly made her feel horribly lightheaded, so she momentarily squeezed her eyes shut, taking a deep breath to try and steady herself.
When GLaDOS opened her eyes again- taking note of the blurriness that plagued her sight for a moment or two before she blinked it away- she looked up to see Chell standing beside her chair, brows furrowed and lips twitching slightly downward. She looked worried.
A gesture in GLaDOS’s direction, punctuated by a deepening of the concerned frown on Chell’s face. GLaDOS had been around Chell long enough to be able to translate the wordless sentence of, ‘are you ok?’
“I’m fine . Probably just need to recalibrate this body or something. I’ve advanced it a fair deal but unfortunately, meatsacks can be a little fickle.”
GLaDOS brushed Chell off, standing up and preparing to transfer back into her chassis. She could run a self diagnostic while in this body, but considering how slow it was already being, she figured it’d just be faster.
“TRANSFER UNAVAILABLE AT THIS TIME. CENTRAL CORE AT 25% CORRUPTION.”
GLaDOS balked. She had intended to say something, but the only noise that escaped her throat was a mixture of her choking on air and letting out a surprised squeak.
“Corrupt? CORRUPT?! ”
She raised her voice at noone in particular, seeming more content with shouting at the ceiling, despite knowing that the announcer was not sentient.
“I’ll show you corrupt when I reboot this whole damn system-”
GLaDOS whipped around, ready to walk straight past Chell and reach one of the many panels in the wall to manually fuss with whatever wires were no doubt out of place, causing an absurd error like this. Unfortunately, she had hardly taken a step forward when she was met with the unfortunately familiar sensation of falling.
Like her legs were suddenly as unstable and weak as a puddle of gel, she collapsed forward without being given a moment to try and ease her own fall. If Chell hadn’t been standing as close as she was, and hadn’t relied on instincts from their time in Old Aperture to swoop in and grab GLaDOS before she hit the ground, GLaDOS was certain she would’ve landed quite painfully, smashing her carefully constructed face into the metal floor.
Her vision went black for a moment or two, but mercifully she didn’t fully slip into complete unconsciousness, as she was at least partially aware of her surroundings as Chell adjusted her hold, keeping a steady grip as she helped right GLaDOS, getting the core back on her feet.
“ ...You’re hot. ”
GLaDOS only caught the tail-end of Chell’s sentence, and she looked up at Chell bewilderedly in response. While she appreciated any compliment towards her physical appearance- she was the perfect example of what a real human could never achieve after all- no matter how blunt, now certainly didn’t seem like the time…
...Oh. Oh she meant literally.
GLaDOS brought a hand up to her face, feeling her forehead with the back of her palm, while vainly trying to focus on running the math in her head to gather an exact temperature. Her own skin was indeed hot to the touch, and uncomfortably clammy.
Had it been like this all morning? Surely she would’ve noticed. What was the normal temperature for a human body again? A hundred and two degrees fahrenheit definitely wasn’t it, but that was what her internal reading just informed GLaDOS that her temperature was currently at.
That wasn’t good.
However, it could explain why her chassis wasn’t letting her back in. If this form was overheating for some reason, there was the chance that it was being misread as corruption. Now, why it was overheating was a whole other question. Was it possible that this body’s technology had some kind of malfunction? A bug in the programming? Or…
Embarrassingly, it had taken GLaDOS this long for the connection to click in her mind, and she slowly turned her head towards Chell, who, for her part, still looked insufferably concerned.
“... You . You got me sick! ” She jabbed a finger in Chell’s direction, trying her best to focus on her anger and not the horrible twisting feeling going on in her gut. “You vile little humans and your pathogen carrying tendencies, I knew I should’ve just let you stay out there, you…”
She lost track of her train of thought halfway through the words leaving her mouth, and this time, prepared herself for the possibility of fainting, grabbing the armrest of her chair. She had been hit with a wave of what she could only assume was nausea, considering she had only ever heard descriptions of what it felt like, and not experienced it herself.
Luckily, she had taken it upon herself to remove this body’s dependency on food a while ago, and hadn’t ever actually eaten anything that she’d even have to worry about losing.
Not so luckily, the relief that thought brought her didn’t last very long, as she was reminded that she still technically had a stomach, and very much had the capability to dry heave, and spit up bits of bile that burned her throat.
A hand had found its way to her back, gently rubbing between her shoulder blades in what she could only assume was Chell’s attempt at helping. If she wasn’t so preoccupied, GLaDOS would’ve given the human a piece of her mind, and reminded her that since this was all her fault to begin with, she’d better start doing a lot more than a mediocre backrub.
Once her body deemed that it was finished retching, GLaDOS reluctantly let Chell lead her away from the central chamber- and even more reluctantly let the human pick her back up in a bridal carry halfway through; weakly trying to punch Chell in the shoulder in protest- and found herself being brought back to Chell’s makeshift bedroom.
And for as much as GLaDOS protested that she didn’t need to rest -she had a central chamber to clean and a chassis to get back into- she couldn’t deny that the idea of laying down for a few minutes sounded divine , so this wasn’t exactly as much of a bad idea as her fussing had made it out to be.
Chell gently laid her down on the bed, then rummaged around in her semi-organized pile of stuff in the corner of the room until she pulled out two Aperture branded washcloths and half full bottle of water, wetting both of them, and slowly making her way back over.
“ This helps. ”
The blunt statement was the only explanation Chell gave before pressing one of the two cold, damp cloths to GLaDOS’s forehead, who initially tried to shrink away from the sensation, before quickly finding it to be, admittedly, quite soothing.
The other piece of fabric was used to attempt to clean up GLaDOS’s face, wiping the corners of her mouth, and trying to get the newly formed sheen of sweat off.
GLaDOS, for as much as she did appreciate this, deep, deep down, was not fond of the image this was creating. She was a super computer, not a child that needed to be coddled.
“T-This is all well and good, but…” She paused mid sentence, managing to fight down the fresh wave of sickness before it got the better of her. “...But I need to get back to the central chamber. I’ve got to fix whatever wires got crossed or frayed or… or whatever , and I need to get back into my chassis, and toss this body in the incinerator.”
With that, GLaDOS attempted to sit up, but was met with a firm hand on her shoulder, pushing her back down. Chell’s expression was stern. Far softer than it had ever been before their little bonding experience in Old Aperture, but still holding the trademark stubbornness that was the bane of GLaDOS’s existence.
Chell seemed insistent on keeping GLaDOS here, caring for her in whatever non-medically trained fashion that she saw fit. Perhaps because she felt guilty for getting the core sick- which she should- or perhaps because a flash of something unpleasant had crossed her face the moment GLaDOS mentioned destroying this human form.
Either way, it wasn’t like she had the strength in this body to worm her way out of this if Chell wanted her to stay, so it was with a scowl and a handful of daggers glared in Chell’s direction that GLaDOS reluctantly settled herself back down.
The second she could get her internal temperature readings down to an acceptable level, she was getting the hell out of this incubator of a meatsack, disinfecting the entire facility, then building herself a new body with a better immune system.
But until then, she figured there was nothing she could do but try and hold onto her dignity while Chell fussed over her, and pretend that she wouldn’t enjoy being pampered just the tiniest bit.
Chapter 13: Kiss
There was always a time and place for deep, rational thought. In fact, Chell would argue that it had a rather frequent place in the mindset of somebody trying to survive Aperture. It paid to stop and think about the best course of action when faced with a death defying jump over a pit of acid, and to consider all options of escape when determining how to best avoid a stomach full of bullets when battling turrets.
Of course, that wasn’t to say that stopping and pondering something for extended periods of time was always the best option. It was an important skill to be able to think on your feet, and one that Chell relied on quite frequently when placed outside of the static test chambers, and instead facing down sometimes unpredictable AI.
If one was going to attempt to take on a creature that had the mental capability to think and plan a thousand steps in the future, there was a need to expect the unexpected.
That being said, Chell was fairly certain that nothing she had ever, or could ever do, would have prepared her for the situation she had found herself in.
Being thrown hundreds of feet deeper underground, and attempting to escape an old facility that was crumbling above her head? Not much worse than narrowly escaping being burned alive, so Chell would manage.
Handling and travelling with a dangerous, vindictive AI suddenly placed in a fragile, human form? Manageable. As it turned out, GLaDOS was far more tame when her facility and weapons weren’t at her fingertips. An angry kitten with tiny claws rather than a ferocious lion with four inch-long teeth.
Being shown affection from said AI? That was what stopped Chell in her tracks.
How exactly was she supposed to react?
Coming off the slight adrenaline high of safely landing a particularly dangerous jump- during which she felt GLaDOS, who was now no longer just thrown over her shoulder but instead in her arms, tighten her grip on Chell’s tanktop, and curl a little tighter inwards- Chell had placed GLaDOS safely on the platform, helping the core stand steadily on her feet, so that they could both dust themselves off and keep moving.
Instead, before Chell could register what was going on, GLaDOS had turned to face her, gotten up on the tips of her toes, and kissed her.
Her hand pressed against Chell’s cheek, and her lips insistent, she kissed with all the skill of somebody who hadn’t possessed a body with a mouth before.
That was, of course, not very well. However, her attempts weren’t exactly helped by Chell’s involvement in all this, or rather, lack thereof. While in her mind she felt as if she were doing the appropriate thing- trying to make sense of something as bizarre as being smooched by someone who claimed to hate you- she failed to realize that a thought process such as this took time. Not a terribly long amount of time, but more than enough time to leave her standing as still as a statue.
It was barely more than a couple seconds before GLaDOS pulled away, meeting Chell’s wide eyed expression with something that Chell could’ve sworn looked like disappointment before harshly turning her head to the side, as if to try and avoid Chell spotting the red flush that was now present on her cheeks.
To her credit, GLaDOS seemed just as confused as Chell was. She stumbled over her words, questioning her own actions in a tone that snapped Chell out of her momentary daze. She recognized that specific voice. The alarm and uncertainty that came out whenever GLaDOS realized just how human she was acting.
Throwing aside her previous attempts to logic her way through this interaction- considering she knew if she stood here any longer with her mouth hanging open she’d only give GLaDOS more material to tease her with later- Chell decided to trust her gut, and stop GLaDOS’s train of thought before it could go any further down the self-denying, human-hating path Chell could sense it was on.
She turned GLaDOS’s face back towards her, and she captured the AI’s lips in a kiss of her own.
GLaDOS was frozen for a moment or two- her muscles coiled with the same surprise that had hit Chell only a minute ago- but Chell didn’t pull back just yet, deciding to give the core a few moments to decide if she liked this or not.
Hoping to help make the decision a little easier, Chell tried her best to remember just when the last time she had kissed somebody was, and attempted to pull that skill out of the depths of her memories. It wasn’t like GLaDOS had any examples of good or bad kissers to compare Chell to, but Chell figured that the least she could do was try and make her first experience a good one.
Apparently, whatever she managed to do was more than enough for GLaDOS, who quickly relaxed. Her whole body loosened, arms reaching up and looping around Chell’s neck- as if to try and make sure she didn’t pull away- and her upper body arching forward to press a little tighter against Chell’s, as she leaned into the kiss.
GLaDOS moved cautiously against Chell at first, like she was attempting to plan out every movement of her lips before she did them. It was stiff, unconfident.
So Chell moved her hands along the core’s back, up and down, attempting to coax the uncertainty from GLaDOS’s body, and bring her mind away from whatever it was no doubt stuck on.
They didn’t need to think. In fact, it was better if they both avoided mentally addressing any of this for a little while, Chell thought, as she noted GLaDOS’s movements becoming more fluid as time went on. There was a ticking time bomb of a facility above their heads, their lives on the line, and a fairly narrow window of time to make things right.
If they both got out of this alive, then they could talk about what happened between them, in the depths of Aperture. They could address the moral concerns that came with passionately kissing your former arch enemy. They could decide where to go from here.
But for now, Chell was content to just act .
Chapter 14: Reflecting
GLaDOS had a lot of time to think in Old Aperture. She couldn’t do all that much
than think, as she was currently being carried around like a sack of potatoes through a part of the facility which she hardly knew the layout of, without control of her facility, and thus, no tests to run.
And even if she did, she didn’t reckon that would be all that much help, considering the actual level of brainpower she could use was incredibly limited, leading to a lot of trial and error on just how much she could actually ponder without passing out.
Eventually, she found her limits, and began to understand them a little better. This...pathetic, squishy human body that she found herself stuck in was, just that. Human. It couldn’t handle a train of thought akin to one that GLaDOS would normally have, because her normal thoughts were in the thousands per second. She was so used to having any and all resources at the tips of her- at the time, nonexistent- fingers that she didn’t know how to think a simple thought.
To focus on one subject and not be running fifty different ideas and calculations at once was… tricky to get used to. But again, she had nothing but time as Chell slowly climbed upwards, so eventually, she got used to it.
She thought about a number of different things, forcing herself to slowly move from one subject to the next, rather than flipping through them as quickly as she wanted to.
One topic that she always came back to though, was the one that she had a near constant reminder of. That being the human that was carrying her around.
GLaDOS couldn’t not think of her, Chell was inescapable. GLaDOS felt the human’s grip against her skin, could hear the sound of her breathing and the rhythm of her heartbeat, able to take note of the exact moment it became erratic before or during a dangerous maneuver. She could smell Chell- which, she had already commented about several times- and had found herself strangely accustomed to the initially unpleasant, yet… strangely appropriate odor that her nose was practically shoved up against for hours on end.
While she smelled like sweat and blood- as GLaDOS expected any human would- it seemed that Chell had been within Aperture long enough for it to start leaving its mark on her. She had the distinct smell of the upper parts of the facility hanging over her shoulders. The sharp, clinical smell of new plastic, the chemical stench of test elements. GLaDOS supposed she liked that part, so eventually, she stopped complaining.
But these were still Chell’s arms she was in. Chell’s arms, with muscles that rippled in the same way that they once had when GLaDOS watched herself be torn apart, over and over for what had felt like an eternity.
GLaDOS thought alot about Chell indeed.
She thought, as they stood on a rickety catwalk, hundreds of feet above a pit of acid, about how easy it would be for Chell to throw her off, and watch her plummet to what would no doubt be her permanent death.
GLaDOS wondered, as Chell narrowly dodged to the side to save them from a bloody end opposite some turrets, why Chell didn’t make GLaDOS useful, and use her body as a meatshield, so that she could hold the AI she so despised, and watch her blood stain the white floors.
And GLaDOS mused, as Chell pushed her against a wall with a ‘thud,’ and brought her lips and her teeth to the tender skin on the core’s shoulder, why Chell didn’t take her two, calloused and powerful hands, and snap GLaDOS’s neck like a twig.
It wasn’t as if Chell didn’t want to.
GLaDOS saw it in her eyes, and she questioned, many times, if she ought to address it. To remind Chell of the anger that still burned behind that silver gaze, and tempt the test subject to do it .
The wants of a murderer were not easily forgotten, GLaDOS decided.
But… Chell never did it. No matter how much GLaDOS pushed and prodded, how much her frail body presented the perfect opportunity, Chell never broke.
Not only that, but as time went by, GLaDOS started to see a little something different in her eyes. Something softer.
When GLaDOS stood before a portrait of her past, and felt her world crumbling like the facility around her, Chell’s hand was not forceful on her shoulder. She did not sling GLaDOS over her shoulder and push onwards.
She pulled the core against her chest, and wrapped her arms tightly around GLaDOS’s body. Not to squeeze the life from it, or to break a bone, but merely to hold her.
And GLaDOS wondered if she had been, somehow, wrong .
She would’ve never considered such a bizarre notion, but at the same time, she knew without a doubt that if anyone could prove her wrong, could upset the norm so harshly as to throw even GLaDOS off track? It would be Chell.
If Chell didn’t want revenge, where did that leave GLaDOS? If or when she made her way back into her real body, what would she do? If Chell was at her mercy the way that GLaDOS was at hers. Would she do it?
It would be so easy. To put her in an elevator, with promises of freedom, and then to fill the tiny chamber with neurotoxin. No final battle, no theatrics like last time. GLaDOS could be efficient, quick, and brutal. Perhaps she could even make it painless, if she wanted to be nice.
...But the thought brought her no satisfaction. She tried, she searched. To try and find the scrap of excitement that had once flooded her veins at the thought of having Chell in her hands, and repaying the favor of the horrific death Chell had given her when they last butted heads.
Yet... as she stood here, enveloped in Chell’s arms, the only thing GLaDOS could think was what a horrible tragedy it would be for this warm, gentle embrace to go cold.
Chapter 15: Love
GLaDOS did not love. Because she was not human.
One could be deceived into thinking that was the case- her human form looked, just that, human - but in reality, she was just a machine. A very complicated machine, but one that was far, far above the primitive waste of time that was the concept of love.
Chell didn’t love her.
Not that it mattered to GLaDOS, it really didn’t. It was just a fact. Chell could not, and did not, love her. Chell was a human, and GLaDOS was not. It was as simple as that.
While humans could form a sort of fondness for creatures and objects that were not their kind- such as an infatuation with inanimate cubes- they did not love them. Humans, at least the ones that weren’t completely broken in the head, loved other humans for a scientific, evolutionary standpoint.
Loving a machine would be pointless. A waste of time.
And Chell, for as insane as she was, had the sense to know that.
Sure, she’d kiss GLaDOS, look at her with the most infuriatingly tender gaze, carry her to bed and hold her throughout the night, but she didn’t love her. That was, as GLaDOS reminded herself, impossible.
Even now, as they both lay in near complete darkness, twisted up in blankets and sheets, tangled in a pile of limbs that was somehow more comfortable than it looked, GLaDOS was aware that deep down, Chell probably wished she had a real human.
Maybe it was subconscious, a nagging little pull on her heart, as the last rational part of her damaged brain reminded her that she was, as far as humans went, a complete failure.
Or maybe, knowing how cruel Chell was, she knew full well that what she was doing was wrong. Maybe, she was just desperate, and considered GLaDOS to be some kind of… second-best option.
GLaDOS felt her face scrunch up at the notion, but the more she thought about it, the more sense it made.
Chell only came back to Aperture because she didn’t find what she was hoping to find on the surface, right? Whatever was up there wasn’t enough to satisfy her, so she reluctantly trudged back to Aperture, willing to settle for what GLaDOS could give her.
GLaDOS squirmed out of Chell’s grasp at this realization- not caring to do so gently, Chell slept like the dead- and abruptly tried to get off the bed and head out of the room, just barely avoiding tripping and smashing her face into the ground, on account of the bed sheet that was practically tied around her foot.
Thankfully, there was nobody there to see her angrily fussing with the fabric, then huffing to herself as she made her way back to her central chamber.
She wasn’t human, and she wasn’t about to play pretend in order to be somebody’s replacement. GLaDOS didn’t actually want any of this anyway. She didn’t care for the closeness, didn’t relish every kiss.
So of course, she definitely wasn’t grumpy when the next morning rolled around, and she had spent the rest of the evening in her chair, working with a scowl that now seemed permanently stuck on her face.
And GLaDOS felt absolutely nothing- other than perhaps mild annoyance- when Chell finally poked her head into the central chamber. She didn’t turn to look at the human, she didn’t say anything, she just kept working.
If Chell wanted something, she could come over and ask for it nicely. Which, of course, she’d never do. Chell could, but she didn’t.
Maybe if GLaDOS was a real person, Chell would talk more. Maybe she’d greet GLaDOS warmly, engage in casual conversation, ask about how GLaDOS’s experiments were going, or… tell GLaDOS that she cared.
But those were all hypotheticals, not something GLaDOS needed to dwell on.
Eventually, she heard the sound of Chell’s longfall boots moving against the floor, and for as much as she hoped that the footsteps were leading away from her throne, they were getting closer.
GLaDOS refused to look at her, instead pulling up blueprints for her latest test chamber, and what changes she needed to make. They were all minor things, boring, really, but right now they were ten times more interesting than Chell.
Finally, Chell was standing directly in front of her, and GLaDOS was forced to look at her.
The human looked thoughtful, sparing a glance or two at the screens GLaDOS was working on, but seemed to be most intently looking at GLaDOS.
“What are you waiting around for? If you don’t need anything, go entertain yourself elsewhere.”
GLaDOS snapped with perhaps a little more defensiveness than she needed. Just because yesterday morning- and many mornings before it- she greeted the human with a few dozen pecks to the lips and cheeks didn’t mean she had to do it now.
Those had been for Chell’s benefit, not her own. She didn’t care.
And she wasn’t acting weird by not jumping into Chell’s arms after being apart for several hours, she was being normal .
But no matter how much GLaDOS glared, Chell didn’t seem to be giving up, and so GLaDOS stood up, ready to brush past Chell and be anywhere but here.
Unfortunately, a hand caught her by the shoulder, stopping GLaDOS in her path, and forcing her to turn around and face a somewhat worried looking Chell.
GLaDOS hardly had the time to open her mouth to say something nasty to get Chell to leave her alone before she was cut off by Chell- who, mind you, still couldn’t seem to bring herself to actually say something.
A furrowed brow, a gesture in her direction, a questioning shrug. ‘ What’s wrong? ’
“Why would you care?”
GLaDOS had hissed the words out under her breath before she had the chance to realize that she had actually vocalized her train of thought, which had not been the intention. Of course, to her horror, that meant that getting Chell to drop this was about to be ten times harder.
The human took the hand she had placed on GLaDOS’s shoulder and, she brought her it to her face instead, tilting her chin up, then tapping the core’s lips- no doubt smearing her lipstick in the process, the monster - with her index finger. ‘ Talk to me. ’
GLaDOS hated that she had learned to translate all this so effortlessly.
“How about you start? I know you can talk, and yet you never do.”
GLaDOS pulled her hand away from Chell’s grasp- pretending she didn’t find herself enjoying the gentle touch - and crossed both her arms over her chest, not caring how defensive it made her look.
Chell let out a wordless huff, then pointed to GLaDOS, gestured to herself, then tilted her head. ‘ What exactly do you want me to say? ’
Of course. Chell just had to play stupid, didn’t she. That was just like her. Making GLaDOS have to go out of her way and actually downright say it for her.
“Oh I don’t know, maybe whatever you’d say to somebody you actually liked? I don’t have to be a mindreader to know that you don’t care enough to open your mouth and actually say something to me half the time, so I don’t know why I…”
GLaDOS trailed off, biting the words ‘get my hopes up’ before they could leave her mouth. Instead, she pulled herself inwards ever so slightly, avoiding Chell’s eyes and deciding to focus her glare on the Aperture logo on the human’s tank top.
Chell was better off just leaving. Going back to the surface, or, if she wanted to cuddle something that didn’t care if she ever spoke a word, perhaps found a turret to throw herself at.
Instead of this, Chell pressed her lips together, and let out a soft ‘hm’ that GLaDOS was genuinely a little surprised to hear. Not quite a word, but a vocalization nonetheless, and enough to get GLaDOS to glance up at her face, even if only for a moment.
A slightly softer, almost… apologetic expression. A gesture to herself, her lips, then a small shake of the head, followed by another, questioning shrug. ‘ I don’t say it enough? ’
“In case you weren’t listening, you don’t ever say anything- ”
GLaDOS was cut off, mid complaint. Chell put a finger to her lips once more, this time with the intention of shutting her up rather than asking her to speak. Then, she pried GLaDOS’s hand away her arms’ crossed position, giving it a gentle squeeze, before pulling it forward, placing it against her own chest, holding it there.
The central core didn’t have the time to question this oddity before Chell had slowly moved GLaDOS’s hand again, this time, up to her lips, where she brushed a chaste kiss across the knuckles.
GLaDOS’s breath didn’t catch in her throat. Her heart didn’t skip a beat. She didn’t feel a flush of warmth across her skin. Absolutely none of these things happened, even as Chell slowly moved her hand for the third, and final time, pressing the core’s and her own hand against GLaDOS’s chest, resting over her heart.
‘ I. Love. you. ’
Love was stupid , and GLaDOS would never admit to any interest related to it. Thus, she would also deny just how quickly she managed to let go of her annoyance to take Chell’s face in her hands and press a kiss to her lips.
GLaDOS wasn’t human, and so Chell couldn’t love her,
“...You know I’d still like to hear you actually say it out loud.”
Chell pulled back a little, eyes narrowed. ‘ Don’t push it. ’
But somehow, she did .
Chapter 16: Nightmare
The air was heavy, thick with a green haze that made it difficult to see. Not impossible, but everything was a bit blurrier than it ought to have been. GLaDOS couldn’t complain. She knew where she was, and if her optic’s ability to see through the haze of neurotoxin was no longer as good as it used to be, that was still the least of her problems.
She was going to die. A painful, yet embarrassingly quick death. Bits of her body would be torn off, burned, and bit by bit, she would die. Then, as soon as it was all over, it would start again. This was how it was.
There was an outline was visible in the haze. A human outline.
There she was. GLaDOS’s destroyer. Right on time.
GLaDOS squinted, attempting to get a better look as the figure drew closer.
It was Chell alright. In that bright orange jumpsuit, with her hair sticking to the sweat on her face and neck, and her face twisted into that scowl that GLaDOS knew so well.
She had come to recognize this Chell. In a heartbeat now, after so many repeats of this moment, she could identify the exact face and stance of her murderer, in the last moments before her vision went black.
...And this… wasn’t it.
The Chell that had murdered her had walked with confidence in her step, head held high as she ripped each part of GLaDOS off. She had not staggered forward on unsteady feet.
The Chell that had bested her had eyes of steel, burning with anger and determination. They had not looked so tired, so… helpless.
The Chell that had burned herself into GLaDOS’s mind like a brand would’ve spat blood at GLaDOS’s feet, wiped her mouth, then gotten back to work dethroning a Queen. She did not let the blood dribble out of her mouth, coughing and wheezing as she struggled to stand in front of GLaDOS.
This Chell did not stand triumphantly over GLaDOS’s defeated body. This Chell fell to her knees, and looked up at GLaDOS almost pleadingly.
Things weren’t right.
GLaDOS’s arms moved forward- arms? Her chassis didn’t have arms - and she watched her own hands, small and delicate, wrap themselves around Chell’s throat. She felt Chell’s pulse, she felt each shaky breath.
And she started to squeeze.
Chell’s hands, calloused and rough, should’ve been ripping her apart but instead they were just clawing weakly at GLaDOS’s arms, losing strength by the second.
GLaDOS squeezed harder, and the light left Chell’s eyes.
One, last, ragged breath was choked out of her throat, and then she went limp. Arms fell to her side, head lolled backwards, and the moment GLaDOS’s hands were no longer holding her up by her neck, she crumpled to a pile on the floor.
A moment passed. And GLaDOS felt herself smile.
The vision ended abruptly, GLaDOS’s eyes snapping open as she awoke with a start.
She took a sharp inhale of breath, eyes darting around her surroundings. The room was not filled with a heavy green haze, and she wasn’t in her central chamber. She was in a dark bedroom, lying on a bed. Chell’s neck wasn’t twisted under her hands, but instead, she was gripping rather tightly to the bed sheets.
Most importantly, Chell was not dead. Not crumpled at her feet. She was sleeping. Lying on her back next to GLaDOS, the sheets only pulled halfway up her body- GLaDOS had pulled most of them away it seemed- and one arm draped over her stomach, while the other lazily hung off the side of the bed.
Still, this sight did not manage to calm the rapid beating of GLaDOS’s heart, so as she sat up and drew her knees close to her chest, running a hand through her hair and attempting to take slow, deep breaths.
That didn’t work very well either. Her breathing was rapid, erratic. Every time she tried to breathe slowly, she couldn’t help but picture the feeling of Chell’s last, gasping breath against her hands.
She pulled herself into a tighter ball, trying to ignore the wave of nausea that hit her. GLaDOS felt sick to her stomach, and it wasn’t because of what she saw in that dream. She had seen Chell look far worse than that.
GLaDOS only feared the fact that she had enjoyed it.
Even if only for a moment before she had awoken and been brought to her senses, she had relished the sight of Chell dead by her hand. It had brought her pleasure to know that she finally did it.
Reflexively, GLaDOS shifted even further away from Chell, practically teetering the edge of her side of the bed. She couldn’t touch Chell right now. She couldn’t look at her.
In fact, what was she thinking? Getting this close to Chell in the first place? It wasn’t right, they were enemies not so long ago. Partnership in the face of almost certain death, maybe. But… this? No, no, someone would get hurt here.
And for as much as GLaDOS definitely did not want it to be her again this time, she also knew that she could be brought back from the dead. Patched up, repaired, and back to her former glory.
Chell could not. All it would take was one moment. A few seconds. A mistake, a lapse in judgement, and she’d be gone for good.
GLaDOS could smother her right now with a pillow, and snuff out the flame that was this dangerous, not-really-mute lunatic.
GLaDOS needed to leave. Right now. She needed to get into her chassis and stay there . In her chassis she wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t dream. She could always remain vigilant, always be in control of her facility and herself. She could keep Chell at arm’s length forever- or at least for another sixty years- and… and…
Her heart ached with a sudden pain at the thought, and she broke, turning to look at Chell’s form in the low lighting.
She looked so peaceful. Warm. GLaDOS felt as if her heart was tied to a string, she could feel herself being tugged forward, wanting nothing more than to pull the blankets back over both of them, and nestle herself in Chell’s body heat until morning.
But she couldn’t. She needed to leave, she needed to keep Chell safe. If she truly cared- which, as much as she didn’t like to say it out loud, she did- then she’d walk out of the room right now, while Chell still had her life.
...Chell was alive, right?
A small beat of panic hit GLaDOS as she stared at her partner’s unconscious body. Her chest was moving, wasn’t it? Sure it looked like it was, but it was dark. Maybe GLaDOS’s eyes deceived her. Maybe she was still dreaming. Maybe-
There wasn’t time for another maybe, as GLaDOS caved, and threw herself onto Chell with a vigor not best suited for something done to a person blissfully asleep in the middle of the night. But GLaDOS didn’t care. She launched her body at Chell’s, wiggling her way under her human’s arm, and pressing her head firmly against her chest.
She could hear a heartbeat, and feel the rise and fall of each breath.
GLaDOS heard a wordless grunt as Chell stirred, shaken into consciousness by GLaDOS’s over enthusiasm. Chell- much to the AI’s disappointment- moved both of her arms, bringing her hands up to rub at her eyes before she turned to squint at the clock on her bedside table.
Yes it was only a little past three in the morning, but still. GLaDOS deemed that waking Chell up was a worthy cause. It was for her safety, after all. She grabbed Chell’s arm back, this time clutching to it like an anchor, silently glaring up at Chell, daring her to try and move it again.
This was met with a somewhat befuddled look on Chell’s part- no doubt somewhat aided by the fact that she hardly seemed fully awake- as she tilted her head, and blinked at GLaDOS expectantly. ‘ What are you doing? ’
GLaDOS huffed in response, snuggling closer. As if it wasn’t obvious.
“Making sure you aren’t dead.”
A beat or two passed, and while GLaDOS had closed her eyes and thus was no longer paying attention to Chell’s expression, she could pretty clearly picture the sleepy, confused, processing face as she silently tried to make sense of what had just been said to her.
“ ...Oh. ”
Chell’s response came low and raspy, blunt, yet sufficient. She still didn’t exactly sound like she understood just how important this all was, but she still seemed content enough to relax again, and let GLaDOS remain in place.
Which was good. Chell could fall back asleep, and GLaDOS would stay awake and lie here until Chell woke up. Just to make sure that Chell was fine. That’s what thoughtful partners did, right?
It also helped that not sleeping meant not dreaming, but GLaDOS tried not to think about that part.
Chapter 17: Failure
Chell was dead.
Death happened to all humans eventually, so it really ought not to have been so surprising.
Chell lived longer than most, much longer in fact. At least a solid ten years more than GLaDOS’s initial estimate. Of course, that was only because of GLaDOS.
As Chell started to get older and her body started to underperform, GLaDOS was there to step in. If Aperture could make a gun that shot holes in reality, they could certainly improve upon pre-existing technology meant to support human life.
So, as year after year went by, and bit after bit of Chell’s natural body failed her, GLaDOS hooked her up to some new machine that would kick the the can down the road a little bit further, at least until the next upgrade.
But eventually, it got to a point where Chell started turning her head away, scowling at the prospect of whatever new machine GLaDOS had designed for her. It was almost as if she didn’t want to live another year. Another five. Another ten .
Yes, she was old and weak and bedridden , yes she could hardly sit up, and lived off an IV drip, but she was alive .
Chell was barely a shadow of the athletic, quick-thinking, tenacious, test-solving woman that she had once been, but she was still Chell . GLaDOS had kept her brain deterioration to a shocking minimum, and so Chell was very much still in there- if she had been reduced to some wheezing old hag who couldn’t remember her own name, GLaDOS might’ve given up sooner and let her go- but sometimes she wondered if that made things harder.
Chell knew who she was, where she was, and what she had been able to do. To then, with full understanding and memory, watch herself lose those capabilities, one by one, had been painful.
The powerful test subject that GLaDOS had come to love now... seemed nothing but tired .
And so, when she was on her deathbed, Chell had actually smiled. Her lips pulled gently upwards as she rested a frail hand on GLaDOS’s balled up fist. As if that was supposed to comfort her. GLaDOS had been fighting tooth and nail to save her this time, but she hadn’t been prepared, her latest prototype wasn’t ready and-
“ GLaDOS…? ”
GLaDOS looked up, blinking tears- she wasn’t crying. Was she? Her cheeks were wet but she wasn’t crying - out of her eyes, and trying to focus her gaze on the woman in front of her.
“ I… ”
Chell’s voice came out like a croak, sickly and weak, and far from the attractively low growl that it had been in her prime. GLaDOS couldn’t help but wonder if something was making it painful for her to talk, hence the way she paused in-between each word. Frantically, the AI tried and determine what it was. Maybe she could get her some water, some medicine, something to make it easier for her to say what it was that she needed to say.
But the rest of Chell’s sentence didn’t come. GLaDOS waited, and she was met with silence.
“ ...I said SPEAK damn you, now is not the time to play mute again!”
GLaDOS rose her voice, trying to ignore the way that her pitch dangerously wavered and threatened to crack. A flare of anger rose in her chest that burned white hot, as she stared down at Chell, who lay there, ignoring her.
Ignoring her with glassy eyes and a chest that no longer moved up and down with raspy breaths, there was nothing but silence. Silence that was only broken by the cold, hard sound of a flatline.
GLaDOS’s anger was replaced with freezing cold dread. A pit of ice that formed in her stomach, and slowly spread outwards.
Chell was dead. And GLaDOS wasn’t ready.
Chell had been on death’s door for far too long now, but GLaDOS had stubbornly shook her head and refused to believe it. Chell couldn’t die yet. She still had another year in her. Another month. Another day.
GLaDOS just needed one more day. One more hour. Five more minutes.
She needed Chell, she couldn’t lose her. She couldn’t say goodbye yet.
And days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months, and months turned into years. Soon, it had been a decade since Chell died, and GLaDOS still could not bring herself to let it go.
Chell’s body was perfectly preserved, held in stasis exactly the way it had been merely minutes after death. It was tucked away in a secure room, then locked up. GLaDOS hadn’t looked at the body since the day Chell died. Seeing it would only make her death more real, so she tried to pretend it wasn’t there.
Chell was dead, and GLaDOS couldn’t handle that. So... maybe, she didn’t have to.
It had been a decade, and GLaDOS finally started to move forward. Not move on , but not stay stagnant. That wasn’t very good science. She threw herself into her work, completing a project that she had been forbidden to do.
Chell had never wanted this, she had said as much, no matter how much GLaDOS had tried to convince her otherwise.
But that was alright. GLaDOS could let herself be selfish, that was not the worst thing she had ever been called. Chell could hate for a hundred years if she wanted, and that would be fine . Time would soon be irrelevant to the both of them.
All GLaDOS needed was to be able to hold Chell in her arms again. Warm and alive, and in her prime. And GLaDOS had the technology to one day do so.
GLaDOS could grow a body. If she could make dozens of human forms for herself, she could make a perfect copy of someone else’s. She had Chell’s body, she could take whatever samples she needed, and go from there.
She had Chell’s brain scanned, she need only turn memories and feelings into lines of code. If GLaDOS herself could exist like this, so too could Chell.
And so she worked, tirelessly, to perfect the process that the scientists before her had created. They had found out how to create robotic life with a human base, but that wasn’t what GLaDOS needed. She was made from the building blocks of Caroline, but she was still someone new.
GLaDOS didn’t want to make someone new . She just wanted Chell back.
But she would be careful. She would be cautious, she would check every line of code, every second of the process. She would find where the scientists who created her went wrong, and she would fix their mistakes. She would do this right .
Unfortunately, defying death was no so simple. And for as much as GLaDOS could, and would oppose the natural order of things- her existence alone spat on the process of organic life- that did not mean that the universe would not fight back.
When she first brought Chell online, she had been eagerly waiting at the not-so-human’s side. Chell’s new body was as young and powerful as it had been when they first met, lively looking and healthy. Chell’s eyes, when they opened for the first time, shimmered with life, and seemed leagues away from the exhausted dullness they had held the last time GLaDOS saw her.
But nothing was ever as perfect as it seemed.
This was not the Chell that GLaDOS had spent years with, fallen in love with. This Chell did not look at her with fondness or affection. It first met her gaze with guarded confusion .
Perhaps… she did not recognize GLaDOS’s human form. She had made this one to look exactly the same as it had been when she first inhabited it- it was only fair, she would not put herself in an old, weaker body if Chell got to be youthful- but it was possible that Chell would’ve expected to see the same form that she had looked at before she died.
So GLaDOS spoke, reminded her who she was. The Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System.
And Chell changed.
It did not take long for GLaDOS to realize her mistake.
As Chell grew more and more defensive, looked around the room for means of escape or attack, GLaDOS knew that she had brought Chell back, but she had brought a version of her back that was robbed of half her life. A Chell that looked and thought the same as she had all those years ago. Stuck with only GLaDOS’s murder attempt as the most recent memory in her head.
It was too cruel, GLaDOS decided, to see her like this. She did not wait so long to be met with someone who looked at her with anger, fear, and confusion. She could not stand to be with a Chell who did not remember how tenderly she had held GLaDOS, kissed her, loved her.
GLaDOS did the only thing there was to do.
This was only the first test of many, she had an eternity to figure the process out to bring Chell back. She had everything she needed to tweak the the system and start again as many times as she needed. This was a minor setback, nothing to worry about.
Yet…GLaDOS couldn’t quite stop the tears that fell from her eyes. Tears that cut paths through her makeup, and washed away the splatter of blood that had sprayed against her skin.
She was only getting rid of a failed experiment.
But Chell was dead.
Chapter 18: Success
Time had become irrelevant.
GLaDOS was uncertain of when that fact first became true, but now it was far too late for her to care. The passage of time mattered not, be it months, decades, or centuries . All that mattered was progress.
GLaDOS had gone into this knowing that there would be a great deal of work involved. Effectively raising the dead was not going to be a task done by simply lifting her pinky. She couldn’t type a few lines of code and call it a day, no. She knew from the beginning that this endeavor would require thousands of hours of work, at least .
What she hadn’t prepared herself for was the emotional effort that it would require.
How day after day dragged on, eventually blurring into an incomprehensible mush of time spent without the person she loved. How soon sleepless nights became sleepless weeks, how quickly the loss of someone felt like a chunk of herself had been torn off- a feeling that she was quite familiar with, in the literal sense.
And worse, the momentary high of thinking that she was seeing that person again. The way her heart clenched in her chest as she watched a newly manufactured body begin to stir, and the dizzy, almost drunk high that she experienced in the few moments of possibility, of hope .
For a moment during every attempt GLaDOS made on bringing Chell back to life, the no-longer-quite-human was like schrodinger's cat.
Chell was both alive and dead in that body, until GLaDOS could prove that she wasn’t. So long as she was breathing, lying in that bed, beginning to come to consciousness, there was a chance that GLaDOS had finally done it.
Of course, that hope never lasted long. GLaDOS had not succeeded once in all her attempts.
A hundred failures.
A hundred shells of a person.
A hundred deaths.
What was the most painful? Was it the near complete failures, leaving a vegetable of a person, only barely alive? The clearly robotic recreation, with actions familiar, but a mechanical mockery of who Chell once was? Or if it was the near successes? The Chells that were so familiar, so close . The ones that might’ve held GLaDOS if she asked, or smiled in just the right way. The ones that held some of her mannerisms, recalled some of her memories.
Those, GLaDOS decided, were the worst.
She could defend herself from a Chell whose mind and battle strategy were hundreds of years old. She could drive a weapon into the skull of a near comatose Chell, unable to think or act. She could ask a truly robotic Chell to throw herself in the incinerator.
Each one felt like GLaDOS herself took half the blow, with a pain so difficult to describe that even a supercomputer with an endless vocabulary could not quite place it.
But there was something different about the Chells that were almost right.
The ones that GLaDOS wondered, for a moment, if she could be happy with. That, if after so long, and being so tired, would be enough for her.
They never were.
They weren’t Chell. Not really.
The closest GLaDOS had ever gotten was one that had many, if not most of the former test subjects memories. She looked and thought and acted… almost completely the same as she had the last time GLaDOS saw her.
But she was like watching a recording. She never changed, never shifted. She was a stagnant representation of what Chell had been, nothing more. This Chell loved her because it could do little else. It remembered their rivalry and could describe the journey they experienced, but it answered the same every time, without change, without growth.
This was not a success. So a week in, GLaDOS knew that she could not stop here, and could not be satisfied with a substitute.
So she smothered it while it slept.
That had been the most painful yet. And GLaDOS had learned her lesson.
She would accept nothing but perfection, and if that meant working herself for another hundred years, then she would do it.
GLaDOS would put the facility on hold, devote every ounce of her being to this. She would have forever to clean up the mess that her abandonment of her normal duties would cause.
She could spend years cleaning the vines that grew in the cracks of panels and fixing the leaky pipes and the rusted floors. Her walls could crumble, her kingdom could fall. Pristine white could become a muddied brown, lights could flicker and burn out, and all other science could come to a screeching stop.
But GLaDOS could not wait any longer than she had to for Chell.
Her body soon followed in this abandonment of care. Human form after human form, the only form of attention it was given was when a new one was needed to be made. GLaDOS wore each one down until it dropped, starved or exhausted, she replaced them like tissue paper. She would give care to a form when Chell was back. She would dress herself up nice, paint her face with makeup, and style her hair just the way she had before.
Until then, this would do. A form with dark circles under her eyes like black holes, a form that had not smiled in decades. A form that could not bring itself to look up at the new Chell that stirred on the hospital like bed in the only upkept room left in the facility.
GLaDOS was so tired. She did not want to raise her head and see another failure. Not when she heard the gasp of sudden breath and the rustle of sheets. In fact, she wasn’t even going to look at all until she heard something else.
This was not the first Chell to speak. Others, not many, had done that before this one. Some hadn’t recognized GLaDOS, some had. But something in this one’s tone was enough to bring GLaDOS’s head up from her hands. Enough to make her meet the silver gaze that seemed to be boring holes into her from across the room.
She caught this Chell’s eyes and…
And it wasn’t this Chell. GLaDOS stared at her creation and she knew, without a doubt, that this was Chell .
No version before her had looked like this. No attempt GLaDOS had ever made captured the indescribable, raw essence of Chell quite right.
This one did. Chell’s eyes didn’t look as if they belonged to a stranger seeing life for the first time, her body language and stance were not one of a newborn creation. She looked as fluid and natural as if she had never been dead. Not a copy, not a warped memory, but well and truly her .
GLaDOS practically leapt to her feet, feeling as if she were flying and falling, and dying and living all at once . She opened her mouth to speak but no sound came out. Her heart was pounding and she couldn’t hear herself think, she could only watch as Chell pushed herself off the bed, moving her arms and legs in disbelief.
“ ...GLaDOS what have you done? ”
No Chell had ever been aware like this before. No Chell knew that they had died, and could conceive what GLaDOS had to do to bring her back. They were all limited. Contained to only what GLaDOS could program for them.
But the real Chell? Who could think and theorize, remember and act accordingly? That was what GLaDOS had wanted all along.
So… why was it that icy dread still formed in her stomach?
She looked at Chell and she felt a surge of affection in her chest, but no part of that did she see reflected in her partner.
GLaDOS saw no love or tenderness in Chell’s expression, as stunned confusion slowly shifted to horror.
“I saved you.”
GLaDOS’s voice came as a croak, weaker than she had ever wanted to hear it. She stumbled forward, reaching her arms out in a pathetic, hopeful gesture. One that Chell knew. One that Chell would’ve once taken as a cue to scoop GLaDOS up in her arms and hold her tightly.
She would run her hands through GLaDOS’s hair and hold her until whatever was bothering the core had passed, to chase the loneliness and the longing away.
But not this time.
Chell, her Chell , took a step back. Pulled herself away. Horror had shifted to disgust .
The silver eyes that now glared down at her were not alien. They were not unfamiliar, and their hatred was not confused or misplaced. This was not a failure. This was GLaDOS’s success.
“ You’re a monster. ”
It didn’t feel like it.
Chapter 19: Overheard
“Do you two see that turret over there? Standing around, incapable of intelligent thought? That’s what you remind me of. Only, the turret was
to be like that, you two are accidentally useless.”
ATLAS and P-body both shifted in place, chirping lightly in response and turning to look up at the closest security camera that had swiveled to glare- if cameras could glare- at them, as their boss delivered one of her frequent bouts of ‘helpful criticism.’
She had the two of them testing, but both testing bots agreed that they were far from the center of her attention. Neither knew what that actually was, but ever since a few weeks ago, her comments had become less and less frequent, and far harsher than before. Almost like she was constantly preoccupied with some, more interesting kind of science, and whatever they were doing was just some annoying distraction.
They supposed it didn’t really matter. They’d just make their way onwards to the next chamber, and if she blew them up again, they’d be reassembled before they knew it.
“ What? Oh . Those two. They aren’t interesting. ”
ATLAS paused, tapping P-body on the shoulder.
A familiar voice had come through the speakers again, but this time, slightly quieter. GLaDOS wasn’t talking to them, but they could definitely still hear it.
P-body let out a few, slightly nervous beeps, gesturing forward. It was better not to hang around trying to listen in, GLaDOS would only get angry.
Reluctantly, after a few moments of complete silence, ATLAS decided to drop it, and the two of them started to face the puzzle in front of them.
“You are… insufferable , you know that?”
Both robots perked up at this, stopping in the middle of what they were doing- resulting in ATLAS nearly walking into a laser- upon hearing their creator’s voice once again. This time, the words spoken certainly sounded like they could’ve been directed towards them- insufferable was not the worst thing GLaDOS had called them- but the tone was different than anything either of them had ever heard.
The voice was somewhat muffled, like it wasn’t being directed at the microphone correctly, and it was considerably… softer?
The two bots chirped in agreement over this term, deciding that, somehow, it was the closest thing they could land on as an accurate description of how GLaDOS , the robot who regularly threatened to use them for scrap metal , currently sounded.
“ Oh? Should I throw you in the chamber with those two, or do you want to show me how much better of a test subject you are? ”
Despite P-body’s nagging that they really ought to be finishing this test before GLaDOS realized they had stopped, ATLAS couldn’t help it. It wasn’t like GLaDOS could do anything worse than destroy them, right? She’d done that plenty of times before, and she always remade them in the end.
Besides, this was interesting.
A lower, more muffled voice than GLaDOS’s barely came through the speakers, with words just quiet enough to be near impossible to decipher. This was then followed by the rustle of fabric shifting, and a pleased, melodic hum that was recognizable as coming from their boss again.
“You’ve been busy all day , and I’ve had to deal with these two tin cans by myself , it’s been dreadfully boring. You’re a monster for not keeping me company sooner.”
No sooner had GLaDOS said the word ‘monster’ that both cooperative testing bots were suddenly filled with the immediate understanding of exactly who it was that the central core was talking to. The elusive human test subject, the murderer, the mute lunatic.
“...What do you mean ‘ I left my mic on? ’ That’s impossible, they can’t-”
ATLAS and P-body had, quite exactly, about 0.7 seconds to look at each other before their bodies were remotely detonated.
ATLAS would later argue when they were finally reassembled that it was quite worth it to finally know just what- or who- it was that had grabbed GLaDOS’s attention as of late.
P-body insisted that nothing was worth knowing what- or who - GLaDOS did in her spare time.
Chapter 20: Haunted
Chell was alive.
Chell was alive!
That thought repeated in GLaDOS’s mind like a prayer, over and over as she felt Chell’s arms around her.
This was not new , she had been held by several of the failed Chells before. Either they had been too robotic to refuse, or were close to the real thing, and had genuinely wanted to, despite not knowing how incomplete and hollow their gesture truly was.
This though, this was right.
Despite the emotional roller coaster that the day had been- GLaDOS’s heart had both soared and dropped into her stomach in a matter of seconds when Chell first awoke- for right now, she knew what she felt was joy.
However, things were not over. Chell, despite being a success, would need to still be monitored. GLaDOS knew in her heart that she was real, but ‘knowing it in her heart’ wasn’t scientific. She needed to run memory tests, keep an eye on any possible erratic behavior that could start to pop up.
The facility was in ruins. GLaDOS hadn’t cared for decades, but she had known it was happening. She knew with each storm that passed over on the surface, with every time she nearly tripped over a vine or root, with the sheer amount of grime present in every room other than the few rooms needed for the Chell project, which she had done her best to take care of.
Life in Aperture had been put on a full stop in Chell’s absence, as if it mourned alongside GLaDOS. It buckled and weathered in a very similar way to its central core, both obtaining a haggard appearance, in stark contrast to their former sleek beauty.
But that could change. Chell was back now, and life could continue.
And while it could take weeks, if not months to get everything running again, GLaDOS decided that was alright. Time wasn’t nearly so horrible anymore. For awhile during Chell’s life, it had been a ticking clock that nagged in the back of GLaDOS’s mind, reminding her that she could never really get comfortable with where things were. They would change, they would end. And after Chell’s death, time had become a lonely, incomprehensible blur that was too difficult or too painful to keep track of.
Now, things were different. Chell was never going to leave her again.
Of course, that little fact was another thing that was going to need work. GLaDOS had known it from the moment Chell had first snarled in her face and stormed out. Sure, she was back now; much calmer, and infinitely more affectionate, but this wasn’t over. What GLaDOS had done was no small task, she had brought Chell back from the dead, and into immortality . Chell hadn’t wanted this, and it was going to take some time for her to adapt to, and accept it.
Chell was no doubt still upset, GLaDOS reckoned, but that quite clearly seemed to be something that would be addressed another day.
For now, GLaDOS knew she had to at least make a liveable space for Chell. The rest of the facility would come soon, but in the meantime, GLaDOS refused to have Chell either staying in the hospital like room she would brought back to life in, or living in the filth of the rest of the facility. That simply wouldn’t do.
Chell had carefully carried her to the central chamber, and then let GLaDOS keep a sturdy hold on her hand as she worked. GLaDOS could hardly focus- she felt dizzy with excitement and nervous energy-but the anchor helped. It kept her head clear enough to at least make sure that there was a structurally sound place for the two of them to rest their heads.
GLaDOS hadn’t slept in some time, she realized. After awhile, she had deemed it a waste of time, and just started working these human forms until they dropped. Then, she’d transfer into a new one, and continue as before. It took less than half the time of sleeping, and had served her well.
But now? As she changed into softer, cleaner bed clothes and settled down on the freshly made bed, watching Chell start to do the same, GLaDOS realized that maybe, sleep was just a tad bit more appealing.
How long had this particular body been in use? How long had it been going without sleep?
GLaDOS couldn’t quite say. But she knew that only minutes after her head hit the pillow and Chell pulled the blankets over both of them, that she was out like a light, finally succumbing to the exhaustion that had plagued her for 99 years.
When GLaDOS opened her eyes again, she was alone.
Fear shot through her like a bullet from a turret, and she abruptly moved to sit up. Only… she was already sitting. She had never been lying down in the first place.
She was sitting in a cold, hard, familiar chair. The one that overlooked the bed where each Chell had been woken up. She was in that very room, with the surroundings the same as they had always been.
But that wasn’t right. She didn’t need to be here, Chell was fine . Chell was back, she had succeeded . Soon she’d be able to forget all about this room and the bad memories associated with it.
GLaDOS jumped to her feet, and hurried over to the bed, prepared to see it unmade, but empty, as they had left it when Chell woke up.
That was not the case.
A body lay atop the mattress, with the sheets and thin blankets pulled only halfway up, exposing everything above the abdomen.
It was all soaked in blood.
GLaDOS staggered back, feeling her heart stop and her mouth go dry. A Chell lay in that bed, eyes rolled back in her head, unmoving. She looked as if she had been stabbed several times, in the stomach, the shoulder, the chest, the neck. Blood had soaked the pristine white sheets, and GLaDOS could hear the soft sounds of it dripping onto the tile floor.
Her hands felt warm. Warm and wet, uncomfortably sticky.
She didn’t need to look down at them. She didn’t want to.
So she ran.
GLaDOS fled the room and took a sharp turn, staggering into the control room nextdoor. Surely this was a mistake. Attempt #101 was a success, and it would be marked as such. She knew it. She-
...She paused. Staring at the chart in front of her.
ATTEMPT #0751: FAILED
GLaDOS felt herself choke on air.
751? That wasn’t possible. It wasn’t possible, that would mean that… that she had failed again.
Over. And over . And over , 650 more times.
And it meant that GLaDOS was alone again.
That thought had only been given a moment to cross her mind before suddenly, with a sharp intake of breath that almost felt as if it had been triggered by a punch to the gut, GLaDOS sat up.
For real this time.
Mind racing faster than she could keep track of it, GLaDOS realized that she was panting like a racehorse, and drenched in sweat- had she really forgotten to remove that feature when she was making these bodies? She must’ve gotten more careless than she realized.
GLaDOS was not in a blood soaked room, accompanied by a corpse. She was not looking at a list of failures. She was in the same, clean, warm bed she had fallen asleep in. She was in the- somewhat hastily put together- room that she had made. For Chell. Who was still right beside her.
It was a dream. Just a dream. GLaDOS had, admittedly, forgotten she could even have those, considering how long it had been since she last slept.
Yet, in the few seconds that passed since GLaDOS made this realization, she became aware of something quite interesting.
This body’s reactions weren’t very easy to control anymore.
She knew this, because she was crying.
Sobbing, really. Knees suddenly pulled to her chest, and throat already feeling hoarse on account of the rough, gut wrenching sobs being pulled from it.
Somewhere, deep down, she knew this was hardly the correct reaction. She was safe, everything was as it was supposed to be. Things were getting better, not worse.
But that rational thought seemed like nothing more than a distant whisper in the back of her head, as it was drowned out by racing thoughts, so loud and distressing that GLaDOS could hardly focus on one long enough to calm herself from it.
If she weren’t in the middle of living it, she might’ve found it fascinating, the way her chest seemed to clench and she couldn’t quite breathe, gasping for breath despite having plenty of good oxygen available.
She didn’t even recognize that Chell had woken up until the former test subject was gently shaking her shoulder, trying to get her attention.
GLaDOS didn’t react. She couldn’t. A part of her wanted to say something, to answer Chell’s gently spoken ‘what’s wrong?’ but the moment she opened her mouth, the only noise that came out was another strangled sob.
Chell stopped trying to speak to her after a couple more attempts. Instead, she sat up as well, leaning against the headboard of the bed, and moving GLaDOS as carefully as she could into her lap, and into an embrace.
It took the core a few minutes to even unfurl herself from the tightly coiled ball she had pulled her body into, and latch onto Chell instead.
Still, despite this slight improvement, no matter how many times she tried to blink back her tears, take a few steadying breaths and get control of herself, each attempt only lasted a moment or two before some unseen force pushed her mind back into the thick of it, and fresh tears streamed back down her face.
Chell’s hand had made its way to her back now, rubbing gently up and down as she rocked the AI back and forth, and letting out a low, gentle ‘shh’ whenever GLaDOS’s cries spiked in intensity.
Were GLaDOS more composed, she would’ve chastised Chell for treating her like a child- even if, embarrassingly, it was actually helping a little.
But she wouldn’t get the chance tonight.
GLaDOS cried until her throat burned and her tear ducts had nothing else to give. Somehow feeling more exhausted than before, she melted into Chell’s arms, feeling as if her bones were made of gel.
It was in the dreadfully early hours of the morning, and she knew Chell wanted to go back to sleep. But GLaDOS couldn’t . Even as her body slowly let her mind get a handle on things again, both head and heart knew that she couldn’t sleep again.
Not if she was going to see what she just saw.
GLaDOS had gone through 99 years of this torment, and she was finally free.
She couldn’t relive it every night.
Chapter 21: Date
GLaDOS had been planning this night for well over a month. It was, like everything in Aperture, dissected to its very core, then executed with no small detail left ignored. A test chamber was not made without thought being put into every aspect. Every wall that could or could not have a portal placed upon it, every turret or laser, and the exact height of a drop from a ledge, down to the millimeter.
If GLaDOS wanted to get careless with something she was in control of planning, she might as well resign as head core and join Black Mesa.
Which was, as she might’ve once said, about as likely as putting herself in a human body, dressing up nice, and preparing to engage in romantic activities with a test subject.
The Black Mesa part wouldn’t happen over her dead body.
The romantically involved test subject though, that one had turned out to be a little less unlikely as she might’ve thought.
GLaDOS wasn’t stupid. Far, far from it, in fact. She had known from the moment this strange little something had sparked between them in Old Aperture. Humans didn’t kiss other humans for no reason. Of course, at the time, she had wondered if that reason was simply a sort of near-death recklessness, causing each of them to throw caution to the wind for the sake of something new and ridiculous.
Of course, when Chell came back to Aperture after GLaDOS had let her go, greeting her with a kiss, GLaDOS could tell this wasn’t the case.
There was a terrible warmth in her chest whenever she was around the human, and not the familiar burning of hatred either. It was a constant simmer of pleasurable heat, occasionally flaring up to fuel a bout of disgustingly sweet passion.
As time passed, GLaDOS had, grudgingly, come to admit that she might have felt something a little bit stronger for Chell than just scientific interest or aesthetic appeal. Love was not a word she had used out loud, but it had echoed around in the back of her mind- perhaps due to the remnants of a certain , far more sentimental soul- for some time now.
And while perhaps raw, unspecific passion could be sated by the simple, animalistic behaviors that the two had been engaging in up until this point, love was, as far as GLaDOS could tell, a little bit more… dignified.
So, after a bit of research into proper ‘date’ ideas, she decided that the two of them could stand to play normal for an evening. It’d be good for them, and it’d be a welcome change of pace.
GLaDOS certainly wasn’t excited about it, she didn’t care. She was just doing this because it was appropriate . She took no particular joy in designing and creating a dress for herself, spending hours debating over the shade of lipstick she would use, and getting Chell’s exact measurements in her sleep so that she could create some suitable attire for her as well.
None of that was fun to her, just… mildly fulfilling.
It most certainly didn’t make her heart soar a little when she finally convinced Chell to wear the suit and tie GLaDOS had made for her, and she most certainly didn’t feel like her heart skipped several beats when she actually saw the test subject wearing it.
It was simple, but crisp and clean. A sleek black and white aesthetic to compliment GLaDOS perfectly. She had to bite back the grin that wanted to worm its way onto her lips into a more suitable smirk when Chell first met GLaDOS outside her room, looking almost… adorably out of place.
“ Well . Remind me again why you aren’t always this handsome?”
This comment earned a small smile, as well as Chell sheepishly holding her arm out for GLaDOS to take. If GLaDOS didn’t know better, she’d say the human looked nervous .
That notion was, of course, ridiculous. Chell had been shot at, fought AI more powerful than herself, and been to space and back, all with cool confidence. This was only her first date in a couple decades, it was hardly as nerve inducing.
Still, GLaDOS ran her hand up and down Chell’s muscular arm, shooting her a coy smile and hoping that’d at least help loosen her up. That seemed to help, at least marginally. Chell’s shoulders untensed and her stride relaxed as they made their way to the central chamber.
GLaDOS hadn’t let Chell in there for days, considering the amount of work she had put into dressing the place up. She wanted it to be a surprise, seeing the rather drastic turn that the normally cold and clinical space had taken.
Lights dimmed and soft, rather than harsh and blindingly bright. Screens and testing equipment carefully stored, replaced with a table and chairs, and various tasteful background decorations- some paintings that she might’ve swiped from the old relaxation chambers. The air was filled with soft background music, courtesy of her merry little band of turrets, hidden just outside the panels, resulting in a clear, but not overwhelmingly loud volume.
To say she was proud of herself was… a mild understatement.
She had practically puffed her chest out with satisfaction as her and Chell sat themselves down- and as ATLAS and P-body, dressed in tiny, appropriately ‘waiter like’ outfits, scurried off to get them their food- and didn’t hesitate to allow herself a little bit of time to brag.
“You know I spent two weeks training them? I like to think I finally got through their thick metal skulls.”
Chell gave a small, silent chuckle at that, picking up the glass of wine that had been set out for her and sniffing it cautiously.
“Go ahead, it’s not poison you know. ...Well, it’s not this time. The first couple attempts didn’t go quite as planned, but that’s besides the point.”
That earned a hint of uneasiness in Chell’s eyes, who had brought the glass to her lips but paused mid-sip, looking far more worried than she needed to be. The last attempt wasn’t even that bad, it wasn’t even deadly.
But GLaDOS wasn’t going to let Chell suffer, not tonight, and so she picked up her own glass, taking a more confident taste, easing Chell’s mind in the process.
Eating and drinking were things GLaDOS had always been able to do, but it didn’t mean she did them frequently. She had found other ways of charging this form and keeping it alive, so the process of having to constantly fuel it seemed like a waste of time.
However, it wasn’t… wholly unenjoyable. Given the right amount of time- and plenty of trial and error- she had managed to create a collection of food and drink that were worth the effort. Pleasing to her tongue, and- once she wasn’t worried about poisoning herself- to Chell’s as well.
The rest of the dinner went off without a hitch- of course, GLaDOS had planned it- and while Chell had certainly relaxed and seemed to be enjoying herself, GLaDOS couldn’t help but notice that she hadn’t said a word all evening.
For a former mute, this wasn’t terribly worrisome, but it was a little disappointing.
Chell still made for perfectly good company, contributing to the conversation in her own, silent way, but GLaDOS couldn’t deny a growing desire to actually hear Chell comment on any of this with something a little more in depth than an approving smile.
So, deciding they clearly weren’t getting anywhere just sitting around, GLaDOS had their table and chairs cleared, then signaled the turrets to start a new song.
“I’ve read your file you know, it says you can dance. Feel like proving it?”
Chell blinked, dumbfounded for a moment or two, before giving a small nod, and taking GLaDOS’s hand.
She was, as her personal record had promised, a good dancer. GLaDOS needed to only let Chell take the lead- which admittedly took longer than expected, she wasn’t a fan of giving up control- to let the human’s talent shine.
Perhaps it was the dance lessons that her record claimed she had taken before Aperture, or maybe it was the overall agility and fluidity that she mastered while testing, but whatever the cause, GLaDOS was thankful for it.
GLaDOS let a few songs go by in silence- as slightly faster, more energetic songs prompted the two of them to dance with an effort that indicated the both of them were trying to show off- before the turrets landed on a slightly slower, softer tune, allowing the two of them to relax as they gently moved with the music.
GLaDOS let out a satisfied purr as she rested her head against Chell’s collarbone, Her arms loosely wrapped around Chell’s neck. In return, Chell’s hands found their way on the small of her back, where they seemed to fidget with uncertainty for a moment or two before resting lightly against the silky material of GLaDOS’s dress.
While she could never know exactly what was going on in that mysterious head of Chell’s, GLaDOS had the feeling that the gears in the human’s mind were turning, and that perhaps, now was the time she’d take to finally speak up.
About a minute passed, and still, not a peep came from Chell. So, somewhat reluctantly, GLaDOS decided to give her a little poke. She wanted whatever Chell would say to feel genuine- it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying if GLaDOS forced it from her- but helping her along couldn’t hurt.
“So...what do you think of my dress?”
She glanced up, waiting with bated breath to hear what Chell would say. Perhaps some… shockingly deep, heartfelt, poetic compliment had been on the tip of her tongue all evening. Maybe she had just been waiting for the right moment to-
“...Would look better on the ground.”
Alright, maybe Chell was better off mute.
Taking in a breath through her teeth, GLaDOS brought a hand to her face, pinching the bridge of her nose.
“...I’ll give you one more shot at this, and then we’ll see about where my dress ends up. But unless you can think of something slightly less vulgar to say, I’m sending you back your room alone.”
Chell’s cheeks burned a bright red, and she opened and closed her mouth a few times before taking a deep breath, and leaning her head down, resting her forehead against GLaDOS’s.
“You look wonderful.”
Her voice was low and breathy, with a slight, apologetic hint lingering in its tone. It was just as genuine as the last statement had been- GLaDOS had absolutely no doubts that Chell’s first attempt had been truthful, and she didn’t exactly mind - but she wasn’t cheap , Chell needed to try a little harder.
“That’s a good start...Keep going, and we’ll see where that takes us.”
Chell leaned down, lightly brushing her lips against GLaDOS’s, an almost bashful smile playing on her face as she seemed to be trying her hardest to not smudge GLaDOS’s lipstick, while still satisfying the desire for a kiss that both had been waiting for all evening.
A the current song playing faded out, and the next one began, Chell pulled away ever so slightly, fixing GLaDOS with a gaze that was- as much as GLaDOS hated to admit it- almost tender enough to make her forget the human’s little blunder.
Unfortunately, as the music picked up in tempo from the last song, Chell swept GLaDOS back onto into a proper dance, once again, fell stubbornly silent.
Well, they did have all night.