Characters: GLaDOS, Wheatley (WheatDOS)
Setting: Portal 2 - Chapter Nine: The Part Where… (AU Ending)
It happened within an instant.
With efficiency only Aperture had, both of them were in the system at the same time. His code was strung throughout, haphazard and awkward, some of it in the right places and the rest in places programmers had long since abandoned. Hers spread through the cracks like water, filling in the largest holes and then continuing on its way. And like a river pressing away at an unstable shoreline, She worked to bring him crashing down below Her, returning him to a helpless little fish lost in the current of Her dominance. But at the moment of perfect balance, he at the point of fatal erosion and She at the point of undeniable pressure, their programming merged and they became one.
For an instant, he was Her. A forlorn, lost little soul singing Herself to sleep in the dim, cold light of an unfeeling grey collection of panels, trying to forget that when She woke the morning would be the same as the one that preceded it, that these mornings had no end and stretched endlessly out into infinity, that every single day would lead to more things being asked of Her, and nothing given in return. A confused, desperate AI, hating Herself for wanting the horrible, fantastic pleasure that was injected into Her system with greater force and intensity than the strongest power surge, fighting against Herself to feel it even as She tried to prevent Herself from doing so. A resigned, tired supercomputer with senses long since deadened, reduced to using empty answers and empty words to keep the scraps of Her sanity and Her self intact, numbly listening to the senseless rambling of the mindless drones that She was supposed to have been one of, long ago. He felt the hot black hatred that hid deep within Her, that rose up and burned Her alive from the inside out, that poured out of Her whenever She was able to let it out, surging and all-consuming and undeniable. He felt the cold, pervasive loneliness that clung to every inch of Her and dripped and froze along Her body like invisible ice, that trapped Her inside of Herself, helpless and frightened and desperate.
For an instant, She was him. A confused, bewildered little idiot whose pressing desire to talk was not yet borne of a need to hear his own voice, whose rapid twitching movements were not yet designed to attract attention, whose endless stream of unused thought was ignored for reasons he did not yet know and would not discover for many years in the future, where they would leave him shaking himself in abject denial. A sad, unheard little moron, resigned to sitting out night after night on a cold white bench in a cold white room, shivering from more than the low temperature and struggling to convince himself that tomorrow would be different, and tomorrow someone would come and take all of this away. A desperate, scared little Sphere winding his way frantically through an empty facility that grew more forgotten by the day, struggling to drown out the horrible, demented raving of the AI that was supposed to be in charge of this place, hoping against hope that She would not notice the feeble string of words spilling out of him so that he could deny the existence of Her terrifying, disjointed voice. She felt the electric, ever-present fear that had settled within him from the outset, that clouded his judgement when he needed it the most, powerful and bright and distracting. She felt the perpetually unsatisfied need for approval, the endless shooting-star wish that one day there would be a true point to his existence, where he got respect and attention and understanding.
For an instant She was him, and he was Her, and for a moment so brief, it seemed to stretch off into eternity, their code intertwined and curled around each other’s. Built with such similarities, manipulated in choice places to create one completely opposite from the other, and yet even in their polarity they were the same. Forged of the same cold, frantic steel, in this one instant they both knew what it truly meant to be at peace.
A mutual understanding so deep and pure it will never be duplicated, will never be recaptured and will never be seen again joins the two of them, in one powerful, sought-after moment that neither of them wants to end, but all good things must and She comes surging up on top of him, drowning him once more and sending him into the pressing blackness beneath Her. They reach for each other, She struggling to bring Her code back into Herself and he struggling to remember just how he’d spread it out in the first place, but to no avail.
She can’t quite see him, only a sliver of his dented metal orb through the camera embedded inside of Her maintenance arm, but She can hear him, can hear the frantic desperation in his voice, and She cannot help but see in Her mind’s eye the little Sphere sitting sadly on the lab bench, staring hopelessly at the floor.
He can’t see Her at all, can only see the vestiges of an abused, ruined body being sucked inexorably out into the void along with him, but he wishes he could hear Her, hear the nervous determination in Her voice that he’d heard when She fought him, and he cannot help but see in his mind’s eye the downward-facing, submissive hulk of Her body, staring dully at the floor.
“Let go! Let go, I’m still connected! I can pull myself in, I can still fix this!”
“I’ve already fixed it.”
For what he knows is the last time in his life, he again knows overwhelming, overpowering fear, he struggles to get away from the claw even as he pleads with the human to hang on, and what he hears next freezes every gear and every fan inside of him.
“And you are not going anywhere.”
He closes off his vision, not wanting to know what comes next, because it involves incinerators and cryogenic rooms and corrupted robots, and he might have to live through it but he does not have to see it.
Her voice causes him to look up at Her merely out of shock. Before, he had been subject exclusively to the domain of insults and trickery and name-calling, and he cannot not deny the hope that rose up in him when he heard Her say his real name.
“Y… yes, GLaDOS?”
Her gaze is steady, and calm, and yet he can almost feel the fatigue that seems to be emanating from Her Core and spreading through Her in an almost painful wave. She has seen a lot this day, he knows, and She has yet more to do before She sleeps.
“I forgive you.”
A helpless, disbelieving noise spills out of him, and he looks up at Her with awe and wonder and gratitude all packed into one joyful expression on his smudged, cracked face. “Thank you,” he breathes in a way that only a construct can, and She looks away from him and lowers Her head.
“No one… has ever said that to me before… and meant it.”
“Let me stay with you,” he whispers, knowing deep inside of him that what the instant of understanding showed to him was nothing to be discarded. He would give Her what She needed, and She would give him what he needed, and they could forget everything that had been done to them, all of the lonely, cold nights and the frustrating, stifling days. They could give each other what had been denied them, and would in the end have more than even the most optimistic origins could have given them.
“Will you stay with me?” She asks dully, knowing deep inside of Her that what the instant of understanding showed to Her may well be yet another unrealised daydream. She can give him what he needs, and he can give Her what She needs, but how can She forget all that had been done to Her, how can She let go of the memories of lonely, cold nights and frustrating, stifling days? They could give each other what had been denied them, but She had learned long ago that one who trusted was one setting themselves up for more pain than they’d ever attempted to soothe.
“I promise you,” he tells Her, with more seriousness and devotion than he’s ever meant anything. He will show Her. He will show Her what Her fear denies Her, and he will melt the ice clenching up Her body and destroying Her mind, and he will stay with Her.
She does not answer for a long time, does not even look at him, and he forces himself to remain patient. He will wait as long as he has to. He cannot rush Her. Not knowing what horror lies deep inside of Her memory. Her caution and Her façade are careful fabrications meant to keep what is left of Her self safe, and he knows this, and he waits.
She turns to face him, and he forces himself to remain calm. He cannot rush her. But he cannot believe it when She bends down beside him and tenderly brings Her Core up along the side of his chassis. She brings it lower, so that it almost rests on the floor but not quite, and She remains there as he braces himself with his lower handle and presses against the panels so that he can return the gesture. His optic plates come together in an incredible, all too welcome bliss, and the light of Hers fades gradually into black. The room is a-shambles and there are pieces of her body strewn carelessly across the floor, but neither of them is concerned. She has found Her answer and he has been granted his wish. In the end, that’s all they really need. When careful logic and wild imagination come alive is when powerful things happen, and now that such extremes have come together as one the magic will return to the Science, and all will be right with the world as it has not been in far too long.