There were days when Chell’s tenacity was enough to keep her going through the endless test chambers. Then there were days when it sunk in how hopeless it all seemed; she still knew that she didn’t want to give up but she couldn’t feel it those days, she couldn’t feel anything.
It was one of those days.
Chell lay on her side staring at a mural in a Rattmann den. She almost wished that GLaDOS would get mad that she wasn’t testing, maybe that would give her some satisfaction; but she’d been silent for the past hour, probably busy coming up with creative ways to murder someone.
She wondered if she should wait for GLaDOS to kill her or if it’d be simpler to just lie down in front of a turret. She knew she didn’t want to die but she couldn’t help feeling it.
“Hey,” a voice whispered from behind her as Wheatley peeked through the wall. “I’m sorry to interrupt whatever you’re doing but you need to keep going if we’re going to get out of here.”
Her expression grew madder by the second.
He lifted his handles and talked as optimistically as he could. “You can do it!” When she didn’t move he drooped. “Um…” he stared at her worriedly, “you are still alive right? If you are could you move? So I know that you are? Just move a little please, it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture.”
She considered staying still so he’d leave her alone but she might need his help later. She rolled over onto her back.
“Oh good, I don’t know what I would do without you, like I said before you’re the last test subject.”
She rolled her eyes.
He looked her over, trying to figure out what she was doing on the floor. “Are you just resting? That makes sense,” he nodded his whole self, “as much running around as you do. Tell you what, you just go to sleep and I’ll keep a lookout.”
She looked at him, a little surprised. She nodded.
“All right,” he moved back from the wall, “I’ll go make sure nothing’s coming.”
Rolling onto her side she held her arm under her head and closed her eyes.
Chell’s eyes shot open looking around, she sighed when she saw that she was safe. The adrenal vapor in the air made it hard to get a good rest, or maybe she was just stressed out.
After laying there for a moment she decided to get up, which she was sure took most of her strength but she put on the portal gun and stepped out anyway.
“Oh, there you are,” droned the voice of GLaDOS, the voice that could both break her and make her fight. “I thought maybe you’d wasted away in there, that would take you awhile though,” her voice gained a slight laughing tone, “your body has a lot to feed off of.”
She just gave a tired glare before continuing the test. She kept the glare on, hoping GLaDOS would think she was being slow to spite her and not that everything took too much energy.
“Good job, you…”
She tuned her voice out as she headed for the elevator. She mechanically blurred through the tests; she’d been testing so long she didn’t even have to put much thought into them anymore.
Landing next to a button she tossed a cube onto it and heard the door open behind her. As she turned a moving wall panel caught her eye.
He peeked out, his light shrunken in fear until he saw her. He drooped like a relieved sigh, “Oh thank God.”
“What was that?” GLaDOS asked.
Chell watched him disappear and felt a little guilty, she hadn’t tried to tell him she was getting up, she hadn’t even thought of it. The next time she found a cubby she knocked on the wall.
The panel moved and Wheatley slid in passed her. “You scared me!” he stopped and turned to her. “Wait, she can’t see us can she?”
She faced him and held up a broken security camera.
His eye widened before narrowing again. “Now where was I? Oh yes, don’t scare me like that!”
Her features softened in surprise. Did he actually care?
“I need you alive.”
Of course he didn’t. As anger suddenly rose up she threw the camera at him.
He dove back, the light in his eye shrinking; then saw her sitting on the floor, her face hidden behind her knees.
She was drained, not just from today’s tests or her anger but from everything, she’d been fighting through a little too hard, been going too long acting like she was fine; she couldn’t do it anymore, any of it.
“Are… you all right?” he asked cautiously. When she didn’t respond he realized she wasn’t. “I think I know what’s going on, you’re depressed, it’s OK it happens to the test subjects sometimes. Hang on, I’ve downloaded some things to say…”
She looked over her knees at him. She’d known it was his job to take care of the subjects, she just didn’t realize he actually did.
“You’re not alone, do you want to talk about it?” he looked directly at her. “Oh, I guess not; do you want a hug?” he looked down at his handles. “That one’s not going to work in our case either.”
She tilted her head down to bury her face again.
“Don’t give up now, we’ve come so far.” He made a sound like sighing and looked away, his optic moving constantly before falling back on her. “What do you need?” he sounded exasperated. “Please let me help; I know you don’t usually need help, being the strongest human I’ve ever seen, and I know I’m not…” the words got too hard to say. “But I want to help you.”
Though her face was hidden she looked surprised and touched. He did care. She looked up at him with a sad smile.
He returned the expression.
Pulling herself up she stepped up in front of him and gave a nod.
“Yes? Yes what?”
Taking another step she placed her head against his side and wrapped her arms around him.
He looked confused at her arm under his eye, then smiled as he realized what it was.
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, this might never be easy but maybe she could make it after all.