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Portal/Borderlands: When Claptrap Met GLaDOS

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Portal/Borderlands: When Claptrap Met GLaDOS

 

Characters: Claptrap, GLaDOS [ClapDOS]

Setting: During the first Portal 2 DLC/after Borderlands 2 (pre Love as a Construct for most of it)

Synopsis: If he’d known what he’d be getting into… he would’ve done it all over again.

Note: I know my fics are usually soundly under the banner of a PG or even a K rating, but please keep in mind Claptrap is from an M-rated game.  I did my best to keep him from getting too gross.

 

 

 

She’d given him a map.

The whole thing was nuts, really.  He’d accepted an invitation for some weird-ass interdimensional poker game just so he’d have something to do for a few hours and, when he got there, stuff was pretty standard.  Steroid freak, guy covered in blood, a dog and a rabbit, some shadowy thing.  Also, Moxxi was there.  No matter where you went, Moxxi was always there to sling you an overpriced cocktail or two.  Well, not him.  She didn’t serve him anymore.  But all of that was pretty standard stuff.  The really nutso thing about it all was the dealer.

The dealer was a robot.  A female robot.  A sexy female robot.

And what a sexy female robot she was!  One eye set off-centre on her head, half-open case, and super hot.  She seemed to be a fixed model, permanently attached to the ceiling and with limited range of movement, but hey.  That was about the only thing not in her favour.  And really, he could work with that.  Her chassis was definitely custom, nothing mass produced, and it looked like it had been through something or another but that didn’t take away from its hotness at all.  Even if it had, she had a voice on her that more than made up for it.  She was doing her best to be all emotionless and impartial, but c’mon.  You couldn’t pull a fast one on a fellow AI!  She had emotional software.  She just didn’t want to use it in front of a bunch of strangers, which was more than fair.  Humans got freaked out when robots got all emotional and stuff.  He could definitely think of something to do with her.

If she gave him a shot, that was.  It had been… well, a while since Claptrap had managed that.  But while she was dealing out the first hand he had a minute to mull it over, and if there’d ever been a time where he had nothing to lose it was right now.  She didn’t know zip about him!  All he had to do was make his move before she had time to decide he was annoying, and since that could be literally at any moment he’d have to do it soon.  Which he did.  And he didn’t really get an answer.  Which was fine.  A little disappointing, but oh well.  He’d tried.  He’d go back home and be a little sad about it for a while and… maybe some other things, but that was it. 

Except… it hadn’t been.  Right when he’d been about to leave she’d given him a piece of paper – paper!  Who used that anymore, right?  Especially for maps – and told him to be in a certain place at a certain time the next day if he wanted to know what he’d find after he followed the directions.

Well.  That sure sounded like an offer.  And one he couldn’t refuse! 

So here he was.  With the map.  In some kinda… well, he had no idea.  It was dark.  Very grey.  He looked down at the sheet of paper in his hand.  Wherever she was, it was pretty far from where he’d been reconstituted.  Was this some kinda test?  Why else would she zap him so far away from… he zoomed in on his destination.  It was some kinda circular room separated from everything else by a rectangular block.  Probably a bridge, but he’d find out when he got there.

Well, if he was ever planning on passing a test, this would be a good one to start with!

There was absolutely nothing to look at in this place.  It was just endless grey everywhere.  The only break in the boringness of it all was the cameras bolted near the ceiling, and they were all facing the floor.  He was beginning to think this hadn’t been one of his better ideas.  This was looking like some sort of prank that was going to inevitably end in his humiliation at the hands of someone who thought brutal torture was funny.  Which it was, sometimes, but boy was he not looking forward to being the recipient again anytime soon.

Eventually he got to the rectangle on the map, which was indeed a bridge! but thing was he could see down the bridge and into the room it opened to, and something wasn’t sitting quite right.  It was obviously the place, but… that robot was wayyyy bigger than the one he’d gotten this map from.  And if Claptrap knew anything, it was to be wary of big robots.  They usually had big guns.  Or, worse, big brains.  Not that he didn’t appreciate a smart girl!  He did!  But his luck with them was… well, if there was a word that was like nonexistent but times a million to the power of a googol, that would be the word he’d be using right now.

He put the map back in his storage drive and inched his way down the bridge.  Ohhhh boy.  That was her all right, but at least four times bigger.  She must’ve tapped out at about forty feet and her head alone was worth two or three of him.  And he was into that.  He really was.  But it… meant things, and she didn’t look made for combat, so that only left… administration.

There were places in the world for a robot.  About three of them, in fact.  Drones, stewards, and administrators.  Drones were super basic AI that did just about what you told ‘em to do and that was it.  Most of those bots back on Pandora were combat models, though there was still the odd surveyor around if you looked hard enough.  Then there were bots like Claptrap: helpers, with enough intelligence to not have to have their hands held through the stuff they were asked to do, but not enough for them to make trouble.  Though that had never really stopped him!  Stuff just kinda happened when he was around.  There weren’t that many stewards around anymore, but there were even less admin bots.  In fact, there were so few of them he didn’t know if any even existed.  They weren’t usually put inside of a chassis, instead contained to the system they were supposed to be controlling.  Kept ‘em from stirring up their own kinds of trouble.  Which brought him right back to the bot he was standing just out of sight of right now.

Claptrap was… well, if there’d been a robot totem pole he’d’ve been riiiiight at the bottom.  And not just because he was vaguely square-shaped and easily stackable.  Nah.  He was just not that smart.  Oh, he could think, but trouble was his programming was such a disaster his thoughts kinda just wandered off into places nobody really wanted them to go.  His intentions were good!  Really!  But the results were usually preeeetty messy.  Not anything an admin bot would want to deal with.  And all signs were pointing to this GLaDOS chick being a very smart, very hot, very out-of-his-league artificial intelligence. 

There was always the chance this bot wasn’t her, and the bot he had met was just a smaller version of this bot.  Yeah!  Yeah, that was it!  Alright.  He still had a chance here.  He’d just ask this bot where GLaDOS was, and then he’d go find her.  Kinda weird how the map didn’t actually lead to her, but the mind of an admin bot was beyond him.  Literally.  He didn’t have that kind of architecture.

So into the next room he went, and it was just as boring as all the rest of the place.  It was just a cylinder lined with more of the drab grey panels, except that these ones were tilted at an angle so he could see the mechanical arms they were mounted on.  Each of them had a light just underneath the edge of the panel that glowed a cool white.  The bot was in the very centre, and tracing his eye up the chassis across from him led up to a thick collection of wires disappearing into a series of massive rings that rotated really slowly.  That was… old.  Were they still using HDDs down here?  Did those things even count as HDDs?

The bot was looking at him.  Oh, right.  Right.  He’d gotten distracted.  Again.  Geez.  Even the bot’s eye was huge.  Whoever had built it had made it ridiculously complicated, too.  You could probably configure actual facial expressions with that thing.  Or eyeball expressions, anyway.  He started to wonder if it was better to have arms or an eye with which to articulate yourself when he realised he was still being stared at.  Oh, right!  Right.  He really needed to work on paying attention to stuff.

“Uh… I’m trying to find GLaDOS,” he said, his voice a bit smaller than he’d wanted it to be.  Or maybe it just seemed smaller, since this room was so big.  The robot in front of him tilted its head and said, in what was definitely the voice he remembered,

“What?  Did you forget what I look like already?”

Man.  It was even better in person.  He wasn’t even sure if it was coming from her chassis or somewhere else in the room because it was just as big as the rest of her.  Not loud, but… there.  Everywhere.

It was really sexy.

“… no,” he said, suddenly wondering if he could handle this.  “You’re just uh… way bigger than I thought you were.”

“Is that going to be a problem?”

Her voice had cooled a little bit, which was definitely not the direction he wanted this to go.  He held up his hands in surrender.  “No!  No, of course not!  I just.. wasn’t expecting it.  I’ve only seen like one other bot this big and he was uh… there wasn’t much to him.  Other than like… turrets.  And rockets.  Whole lotta rockets.”

“I have those, but not on me at the moment,” GLaDOS said, immediately raising her hotness level to new heights.  If she had those she was tougher than she looked.  Also, what the hell was her function?  Why would an admin bot have stuff like that?

It didn’t take him long to figure out that GLaDOS was not only no ordinary admin bot, but nothing like any bot he knew.  For one thing, she didn’t seem to know anything about interfacing.  At all.  She was quite curious about it and at no point told him to back off, but she seemed super surprised about the end result.  Which was better than he usually got, so he wasn’t gonna complain about it.  But it was weird.

She just kind of started staring at the wall with her eye narrowed a little bit, and he wasn’t sure if he should say something or offer to go home or what.  He was actually starting to worry he’d taken advantage of her by mistake, which he had totally not meant to do.  Was she mad about that?  Or had he just been even worse than usual?  In his defense, it was hard to figure out what he was supposed to do when she didn’t even seem to know.  She looked over at him slowly, and he was beginning to get freaked out when she asked, with genuine curiosity, “Was that supposed to happen?”

Was what supposed to… how should he know?  They were entirely different models, why would –

Oh s***.  Had he.  He had to have.  He’d gotten her off!  He’d actually gotten her off!

Now he knew she had never done this before.

“Yeah,” he said, once he realised he kinda had to provide an answer.  “’course.”

“Huh,” she said.  “I didn’t expect that.”

“What… what were you expecting?”

“That was the experiment.”  Her eye seemed more intent, suddenly, and he had the sudden urge to back up really far.  “We’ll have to conduct it again sometime.”

Wait.  What?  Was his auditory processing on the fritz again?  “Really?” he blurted out.  “You want to do it again?”

“Why?  Are you only able to do that once?”

“No!” he protested.  “Of course not!  I just uh… people don’t usually say that to me.”

“It wouldn’t be a very good experiment if I only performed it once.”

She was really going for it with the whole science metaphor, huh.  Well, okay.  He wasn’t one to judge.  Whatever it took.  “You’re absolutely right, honey-RAM.  So um… can I get your email?  So I can… we can meet up again sometime?”

“My what?” GLaDOS asked.

“Your… email?”

She looked at him kinda sideways, an impressive feat considering she didn’t have peripheral vision.  “I don’t know what that is.”

“You know!  That thing you use to send private messages over the ECHONet?”

“I don’t see an ECHONet in the database,” she answered after a moment.  “We have an Internet.  Is it like that?”

“Uh…”  Crap.  Culture barrier!  “Show it to me.”

So she displayed the entry on a screen and presented it to him, and it seemed kinda archaic but along the right lines.  “It’s kinda like that.  This stuff looks… old.  You can get the ECHONet from anywhere in the system of Pandora, but this stuff looks super short-range.  And slow.”

“We don’t have Internet anymore, anyway,” GLaDOS told him, removing the monitor.  “All of the servers went down after the humans were killed.  There are a still few online, but there isn’t much on them.”

“There’s lots of stuff on the ECHONet,” Claptrap said.  “I still get it out here, so you probably could if I tracked you down an ECHO device!”  And he did, even though the signal was kinda crappy.  But that might just’ve been his receiver acting up again.

“Do that, then.”

Well, that was practically an invitation to come back.

 

//

 

It wasn’t for several visits that Claptrap realised he just might have been in over his chassis on this one.

She liked to talk, but she didn’t really say anything about herself.  About all he knew for longer than he probably should have was that she spent all of her spare time doing something called ‘testing’ (testing what he still didn’t know) and she really didn’t know anything about interfacing, which was an awesome surprise.  She’d figure out that he didn’t really know that much about it either, but for now it felt pretty good to be the guy who knew something for once.  And all of that was super fun, when it wasn’t awkward, but he didn’t want to be that guy.  Especially when things were looking this good.  So sometimes he just talked instead, which she seemed not to mind, but he didn’t just want to talk to himself.  He could do that any day!  And he did!  But he didn’t want to do that while he was over there with her.

For a girl who lived by herself she sure had a lot of work to do, and one day he was passing the time by rolling idly through the labs, waiting for her to wrap that up, when it occurred to him to ask, “Hey, GLaDOS.”

Yes?

“Just how big is this place?”

I’m actually not certain.  I know it goes down to about sixty thousand feet, but as for the breadth of it, that has been lost to me.  At the moment, anyway.  I’ll get around to finishing the map.  It’s just not that important at the moment.”

Sixty k feet deep was… pretty big.  He paused in running his hand along the wall.  “Who else is here?”

Hm?

“Usually with a place this big there’ll be a few different bots keeping track of it all, y’know?  Where are they?”

There is no one else.

He dropped his hand to his side and stared up at the nearest camera, which somehow regarded him with impassive curiosity.  He had no idea how she did that.  “You run this whole place by yourself.”

It’s what I was built to do.  So yes.

Claptrap had to look away even though the eye watching him just then kinda wasn’t her.  Oh no.  Oh no no no.  

GLaDOS was an upper-tier administration bot.  So why was he even here?  What the hell would she want with a steward bot?

Unless… unless she didn’t know he was a steward bot.  Or maybe she didn’t know the difference between admin and helper bots.  Maybe they didn’t have that here.  Yeah.  Yeah!  That was it!  There were no other bots here, she’d just said that herself!  All right.  Okay.  Everything was fine.  She was a little – okay, a lot – okay, he should never have been anywhere near her for any reason whatsoever – she was completely and totally out of his league, but she didn’t know that.  He still had a chance.  He just had to not completely blow it.  For once.

“Oh.  That’s cool,” he said, hoping he sounded normal.  “Oh!  Almost forgot!  I picked up that ECHO for ya!  Would’ve done it sooner, but people kept giving me broken ones.  Probably as a joke!  You know how humans are when you ask ‘em for something.  Always such kidders.”

“You give them too much credit.”

He kinda had to, or he’d be even more of a useless steward than he already was, but he was putting off explaining any of that to her.  He wasn’t gonna bring up the massive difference between them until she did. 

When he gave her the ECHO she spent a long time inspecting it.  Like a really long time.  She went so far as to take it apart, study all of the pieces, and then put it back together again.  He was standing far enough back that she couldn’t see him while she was doing it, so he just watched her and wondered the kinds of things that were running through that brain of hers.  He could’ve stared at that thing for years and it never would’ve made any sense to him.  But she was making it make sense.  Somehow.  Even though she’d never seen it before.

“I’m going to need the codebase for this,” she said finally.  “I know how it works, but I’m not going to be able to use it without writing compatibility software.”

“Oh,” Claptrap said, wishing he’d thought of that.  He would’ve seemed smarter.  “Uhhh… I think I’ve got that somewhere, but I’m gonna have to use the ECHO to show it to you.  Until you – wait.  Who’s writing the software?  You said there was no one else here.”

“Is that a trick question?”

They just stared at each other for a minute or two, and then Claptrap said in confusion, “You mean you’re gonna write it?”

“Of course I am.”

“You’re… you’re gonna learn the language this thing runs on and write compatibility software for it right now?”

She sighed and looked back at the ECHO.  “I can’t figure out if all robots on Pandora are this stupid or if it’s just you.”

Ohhhh no.  Oh no no no.  Not now!  Not yet!  “Well, I mean – I’m sure lots of people can do that, it’s just… uh… I can’t.  I’m uh… not built for that.  But I’m sure you can!  You seem like the kind of person who –“

“Are you going to show me the codebase or not?”

“Yeah!  Lemme track it down.”

She hadn’t been reading it for more than a few minutes before she shook her head.  “It’s so strange,” she murmured.  “All of this is… the same, but different.”

“Is it?”  He’d never tried programming or building stuff.  Too many rules for him to keep track of. 

“Mm.  This is almost the same as one I know.  This shouldn’t take me too long.”

That was when he suddenly remembered something, and he jumped in between her and the device, and when she narrowed her optic at him he realised that was kinda rude.  But this was important.  “Don’t connect to it before you’ve got yourself an antivirus!  ECHONet’s swarming with malware.  Most of it’s pretty harmless, as long as you don’t mind ignoring popups.”

“I’d rather not,” GLaDOS said.  “Show me some.”

“Some… popups?”  Why would she want to see those?  They were kinda hard to avoid.  Despite a guy’s best efforts they usually slipped through the cracks.  She looked at him tiredly.

“Claptrap.  Seriously.”

“Ohhhh.  The antiviruses.  Yeah.  I knew that.”  He pulled up a few of those on the ECHO and she looked at them, though not for very long.

“All right,” she said after about twenty minutes.  “Let’s see if this works.”

He really hoped whatever she’d done worked, because being downed by a virus was, like, the worst way to lose a girlfriend.

“Oh,” she said, a little faintly.  “There is a lot on here.”

“Oh yeah,” Claptrap said, “It’s not regulated or anything so pretty much everything you can think of gets dumped up there.”  He did his best to show her the major places, once she’d worked out how to connect him to her monitors that was, but they got stuck pretty early on because of the cat videos.  He’d meant to show her just one but before he could work out where they should go next she said, in a really cute, delighted sort of way, “You have cats?”

“Um… we don’t.  One of the nearby planets has ‘em.  People’ve tried to bring cats to Pandora, buuuuut… they don’t last very long.”

“I haven’t seen a cat in a long time,” GLaDOS said.  “I don’t know if we still have them, either.  Well.  Other than the ones in the cat graveyard, that is.”

He didn’t know if he wanted to ask about that. 

Well, watching cat videos wasn’t such a bad way to spend an evening.  He had a playlist of his favourite ones, which she seemed very happy about, but at one point his luck ran out and the next video on the list was interrupted by an ad, which he hastily had to mute before it blew their mics out.  “Sorry,” Claptrap said, cringing a little bit.  “I can’t block ads from Hyperion.  It’s a – “

But to his total surprise she actually leaned closer to the screen.  “What is that?”

“Uh… do you not have DRAM here?”

“That isn’t DRAM,” she said, as though she were insulted he thought that would satisfy her.  “I know what DRAM is and that is not it.”

“Yes it is!” Claptrap insisted, though there was a second or two there he wasn’t sure because she was just so confident about it.  “It must just look different from yours.”

“Is there somewhere I can see more of it?”

“Well, yeah, there’s lots of…”  Of all the things to want to look at.  But they weren’t busy so he put her on the relevant Hyperion product page and the look that came over her was… strange.  He’d never seen anybody so mesmerised by DRAM before.  It was just a stick of memory!  Sure, a lot of them had pretty dope heatsinks or came in nice colours, but –

Hoooooly crap.  Wait.  He knew that look.

She had a thing for DRAM.

He glanced back at the screen, wondering what to do with this information.  It wasn’t like he could ask her about it – and how was he supposed to, anyway, if she had no idea herself what was going on? – but if he wasn’t totally misinterpreting this he’d stumbled across something that could be a lot of fun.  “There are tons of other kinds,” he said, though he wasn’t sure she was listening.  What he would have done to know what was going through her mind!  “From different manufacturers.”

“Show me,” she said, a little distantly, and he did, watching her as best he could without being super obvious about it.  He took her on a quick tour of the other components available on Pandora, or at least he tried to.  She never seemed to want to move on from the specs of whatever they were looking at.  She was fascinated by how small all the parts apparently were and, though she seemed delighted by the mere existence of it all (which was super cute), she didn’t react to anything else the way she had to the DRAM. 

It was… really sort of adorable.  He found himself not wanting to do anything with the knowledge.  She didn’t understand what the heck was going on when she looked at it and… well, maybe he should just leave it at that.  Did she really need to know?  There’d been plenty of times he’d wished he didn’t know anything about that particular… feature.

The question was answered for him when she said, while he was leaving, “Bring some of that DRAM with you next time.  I want to see it for myself.”

“Uh… is that a good idea?”

“Is there a reason it wouldn’t be?”

And that was when Claptrap had to explain to her what a fetish was and what that meant, exactly, and whoo boy.  Not as fun as you’d think.  But when he’d somehow gotten through his explanation she said only, “You made that sound like it was a bad thing.”

He was thrown for a for-loop for a second.  Huh.  She was right.  And… it kinda wasn’t.  Being into DRAM wasn’t illegal or bad or even that crazy.  It was certainly super vanilla from his point of view.  And even if people back on Pandora liked to give him crap for this sort of stuff, this wasn’t Pandora.  This was Aperture, and the only rules were hers. 

And she didn’t have any rules.  Not for this.

“It’s… not,” he said, less than convincingly.  “I just uh… wanted to make sure you knew what was going on.  I wouldn’t want to uh… to take advantage of you.”

“Trust me when I say that would be beyond you,” GLaDOS told him, with a quite sexy self-assurance, but for this one thing he was gonna have to keep in mind she didn’t really know what she was talking about.

 

//

 

He didn’t see her again for a couple days, which sucked more than he’d thought it was going to.  The next time he did was the next poker game, and she didn’t ask him to come over after.  He really, really wanted to, but he didn’t want to push it.  He was doing such a good job of not pushing it!  This went on for the next three games, but at the third one it hit him how bad he missed talking to her and he just went for it.  He asked how she was doing, but in binary instead of English because she was weird about admitting they were hanging out in front of the other losers, and to his total surprise she answered him immediately.

Ohhhhh.  She’d been waiting on him to make a move!  He should’ve figured that out.  He’d seen enough romcoms!

Transmitting in binary meant some pretty instant convos, but somehow they didn’t run into any awkward silences.  GLaDOS was a champ at pretending nothing affected her in any way, ever, but at some point she found something Claptrap said so funny that she started laughing out loud and forgot to deal the river.   He sure wished he’d been keeping track of what he’d been saying because that was super adorable.

“Is there something happening over there we should know about?” Sam asked, eyes peering out from beneath the big blue hat that Claptrap really wanted to borrow.  Brock rolled his eyes and said around his cigarette,

“Don’t bother.  Their kind gets a kick out of doing shit like that.  Makes ‘em think they’re better than us.”

“But we are better than you,” Claptrap protested, glancing at his cards without paying attention to them.  “That’s like… a fact!”

Don’t, GLaDOS advised him.  They don’t get it.

Don’t get what, sugar-RAM?

Being the only one.

It wasn’t for a while that he realised he didn’t really get it, either.  Sure.  He was the last of his kind.  But he hadn’t always been.  He used to talk to other CL4P-TPs in binary all the time!  But there was only ever one of her.  And that was all there was ever supposed to have been.  He could go find a Loader if he was really down and out.  But she couldn’t.

Geez.  That made him sad

Can I come over after? he asked, before he really thought about it, and he was already feeling that cringey-ness that came with him getting too clingy but she said,

What took you so long?

Oh, you know.  Absence makes the… uh… whatever that saying is.

Very smooth.  Yes.  But only for a little bit.  It will be late by then.

That was what she said, and she also said they weren’t going to be fooling around but that actually did happen.  He couldn’t and wouldn’t argue about that, but he did have to ask her why she’d changed her mind. 

“I wanted to continue the experiment,” she answered.

So she was still going with that, eh?  All right.  He could probably use more details.  “So uh… what is this experiment you’re doing?”

“You,” she said, and he was about to congratulate her on such a clever answer when she went on, “You’re the experiment.”

“Um,” was all he managed to generate.

“I’ve never had a boyfriend before.”

“You haven’t?” Claptrap exclaimed, just about blowing a fuse in surprise.  How in the world did you avoid having one with a chassis like that?  She shook her core.

“No.”

“But… you’re so pretty!”

The way she looked at him didn’t make any sense.  She almost seemed… confused.  Maybe she’d never been told that before?  That would be super weird, but…

“Y’know what?  That actually explains so much about you.”

“Does it?  Why?”

Oh, crap!  Here he went again with the self-sabotage!  “Uh… I was… I was just kidding!  It meant nothing!  I’m just a kidder, that’s all!”

“All right,” she said, and he thanked his lucky stars she took that at face value.

When he got home a while later he started thinking about the whole thing, like really thinking about it, and he suddenly understood some of the weirdness behind it all.

She really did think they were an experiment!

It wasn’t any sort of game she was playing.  She’d never done any of this before!  Never interfaced, never gone out anywhere, maybe never even like liked anyone enough to think about doing this kind of thing.

And… and that made him the first.

Yikes.

He should have been thrilled, but he was actually just scared.  She was taking all her cues from him, but he didn’t even know what those were!  He’d never gotten this far before!  What was he supposed to be doing?  What happened in a relationship after you started wondering about its future?

 

//

 

The more he learned about her, the more he got the feeling he needed to get out before she figured him out.  She was not only totally, completely admin, she was the most advanced administration bot he had ever even heard of. 

She had once been the supervisor of dozens of human scientists and general employees.  She had reinvented some gun they’d never quite gotten to work and in doing so had become an expert in quantum physics and some branches of mathematics he was pretty sure were still theoretical on Pandora.  She had written her own AI.

That last one threw him the most.  She refused to let him meet them, but he believed her when she said she had built herself two custom testing robots after all the humans had been killed.  That, right there, was the pinnacle of artificial intelligence.  AI that could create AI.  Who did that?  She did.  No wonder she was content to stay down here all by herself.  If anyone found her… well, she already knew what they’d do.  She’d done all that already.  He still felt bad for her about it, but at the same time… well, she was smart.  She was very, very smart, so smart, in fact, he wasn’t really sure how she could stand to hold a conversation with him at all.  But he was beginning to think she didn’t actually understand how smart she was.  She told him about all the things she’d done as though it were no big deal, and he sat there and listened and tried to come up with something he’d done that didn’t sound totally pathetic in comparison.  There was nothing.  He couldn’t even borrow something from anybody else that he knew, because she’d long since outdone everybody in the universe.  She was an AI that could create AI.  And she was his girlfriend.

The thought made him feel like he’d been smacked in the face with a shovel.  Really, really hard.  That was nuts.  This whole thing was crazy.  And he’d been in a lot of crazy situations in his life.  But this?  Whoo boy.  Bananas.

It wasn’t going to last.  He knew that now.  There was no freaking way a genius administrative supercomputer was going to stick with him.  Well, he’d enjoy it while he could.  Hopefully she wouldn’t realise what a total fail he was compared to her for a while longer.  He didn’t want to lose this.  He really, really didn’t want to lose this.  He’d almost have preferred to go kill another vault monster than have to go through the horrific, catastrophic end this thing was going to have eventually.  It was going to suck.  But he couldn’t bow out!  He just liked her too gosh darn much.  He just wanted to hug her and never let go.  Ever.  Ever ever.  But she’d rip his arms off before she let that happen.  She’d threatened to before and he was pretty sure she had not been kidding.  He’d got the ‘no touching’ hint real fast.  Still wished he’d actually managed to do it, though. 

At some point – he couldn’t remember – he had somehow brought up the topic of what the next step in their relationship should be, and strangely enough she didn’t really seem to have an opinion.  He was very confused when he asked if he could move in and she just said, “All right.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, not really knowing how these things went.  He did know there was usually some sort of discussion about ground rules, or at least something like ‘absolutely do not open this door’, but she just shrugged and went back to whatever she was doing.  He never really asked because the answer was always ‘testing’, which told him absolutely nothing.  He didn’t really have anything, other than his action figures that was, which she found very funny and seemed quite happy to help him put someplace nice.  Nicer than where he’d had them, anyway.  And it was really nice, to have her around all the time!  Having someone to talk to whenever he wanted was the absolute best!  She seemed happy, but then… it was weird.  She kinda… her attitude about him kinda did a one-eighty overnight, but if he asked about it she would just give him one of those looks she had and say he was being ridiculous.  Which wasn’t out of the question, but… it didn’t seem right, somehow.

She didn’t seem to have any time to spend with him anymore, but if he asked what it was she was actually doing she just said it was work and that was it.  So he’d go off and mess around with all the cool science stuff she had – and she had a lot of cool science stuff – until that one time the humans she was testing the weird gun with saw him, and she got super angry about it.  So angry he thought she was gonna mash him into a paste.  Okay, okay.  Humans were off limits

But it was kinda feeling like everything was.  Especially her, and she was the reason he was even here in the first place!  What the heck had he done this time?  It was hard to tell when they didn’t actually talk that much anymore.

When Claptrap was left on his own, well, that was when stuff kinda… started breaking.  That wasn’t so bad.  It was just part of his existence, really.  What sucked was her reaction to it.  The first couple times she got angry and insulted him, which kinda hurt, but he was mostly used to that kind of thing by now.  It was when she stopped that he started to get upset about it.

When he went to tell her he’d broken this or destroyed that, she wouldn’t even say anything.  She’d just look at him, and he wished he knew how she did it.  How she managed to just create this massive aura of disappointment, right out of thin air, and direct it down on him through the suddenly incredibly blistering light coming out of her eye.  No matter how much he tried to apologise or promise he’d do better next time, she wouldn’t move it away from him or scale the disappointment back even a little bit.  It was the absolute worst.  He usually managed to brush off people being disappointed in him, since it was a really common thing, but with her it was just… as though it would be better if she just yanked the floor from under his wheel and let him fall into her bottomless pit.  He’d almost never had a feeling so bad as the one he got when she looked at him like that.  And the worst part of it all was that it was the only way she had looked at him in days.

And then there were the fights.  Whoo boy.

He didn’t mean to start them.  He wasn’t even sure how they started, most of the time.  But she just didn’t listen anymore!  And then he’d find himself yelling and trying to get something out of her, because she always just sat there ignoring him, and then she would finally look at him and proceed to tear every word to shreds.

Her ability to do this?  Terrifying.  He was trying to talk to her and she was just there, waiting, sizing up every sentence and pulling out the weaknesses, which she then used to insult him with an efficiency so brutal he admired it even while she ripped open feelings inside him he really wished he wasn’t discovering he had.  She’d stripped all the emotion from her voice a long time ago, too, and that made it all the worse because he felt like he was some worthless glitch standing in front of a cold and lofty artificial intelligence that was always one cycle away from doing away with his useless existence, but never bothering because he just wasn’t worth the effort.  And if that was what this was about, she was right.  He wasn’t worth the effort. 

But she was.  At least, the memory of how she used to be was.  He missed that.  He missed that a lot.  And for once it had nothing to do with interfacing.  She used to be so nice and chill about stuff, about him, and now she was just… a different person, almost. 

If there was one thing he absolutely knew it was that bugging her while she was sleeping was a big no-no, but night was always when he got really sad and it was even worse now that the one good thing he’d had seemed to have totally crumbled to dust.  And besides!  How was he supposed to know she’d wake up if he went in there and pretended she was actually listening while he talked!  She’d never mentioned it.  And wasn’t your girlfriend supposed to help you when you were all sad about how sucky your life was and the fact that you didn’t seem to have a rock bottom like everybody else because no matter what you did you just kept on going lower?  Wasn’t she supposed to care?

When he realised she was awake and she was looking at him he stopped talking, but after that he felt like he should be talking even more because the silence sucked so much.  She was just staring at him and it felt so awful but he didn’t know what to do!

“What are you doing?” GLaDOS demanded finally, and he got that awful sinking feeling when he realised she’d asked in the good old mix of disgust and horror everyone else usually directed towards him.  He’d blown it.  He’d finally blown it.

“I’m… crying?” he answered, even though she could see that.  What?  Had she never seen a robot cry before?  True, not that many people he’d known did it – in fact, maybe it was just him, come to think of it –

“Why?  What kind of feature is that?”

“I didn’t install it!”  Of course she didn’t cry.  Of course she didn’t.  She was a precision instrument, every part of her picked carefully for extreme efficiency.  What would she know about stupid things like crying.

“Well, I don’t know what you want me to do about it.”

“I’m sorry!” he shouted, throwing his hands out and wishing there was some way to do something about the stupid leak in his eye.  Seriously!  Who had made that possible?

“What are you apologising for?”

“I don’t know!”

She turned away from him and that only made it much, much worse.  “There is something very wrong with you.”

“You think I don’t know that?”

“You seem to want me to do something about it.”

“Would it kill you?”

“I don’t have time to deal with your issues, Claptrap.”

“My issue is that you won’t even talk to me anymore!  What’m I even here for if you don’t want anything to do with me!”

“I don’t know and, quite frankly, I don’t really care either.”

“If I could call you a bitch right now, I totally would!” Claptrap shouted at her.  He didn’t even realise his profanity filter had slipped at the worst possible time until she said coolly,

“It seems like you just did.”

That was when Claptrap wished some sort of magical speech filter had written and installed itself pronto, because the next brilliant thing to come out of his speaker was, “Well, you are!  You are a bitch!  You won’t even tell me what it is I did!  What, am I just supposed to read your mind?  Would it kill you to talk to me for like thirty seconds?”

“You know,” she said, in a way that made it feel like all of his components had been dissolved into acid and were attempting to drip their way through his chassis and out of his wheel well, “I think I was supposed to care about you calling me that just now.  And maybe I would.  If I cared about you, that is.  And we both know just how ridiculous it would be for someone like me to have any feelings whatsoever towards someone like you.

That hurt so bad he actually stopped crying.  He just stood there.  It felt like someone had stuck a prodgun firmly in his back port and turned it wayyyy up.

“You sad, pathetic little moron.”

“I’m leaving,” he heard someone say.  Oh.  Oh, he’d said it.  Okay.  He was gonna have to get on that, then.  And he would, just as soon as he was able to figure out how to start his wheel motor.

“You say that like you think I ever wanted you here in the first place.”

And why would she?  She was the greatest administration bot ever built.  He was only a leftover steward.  Kept alive through so much absolute crap for no reason he’d ever been able to figure out.  This was just another event in a long, long line of the endless chain of misery he seemed to exist for.

“You’re nothing.  You always have been and you always will be.”

He’d turned around to go at some point, but he didn’t remember doing it.  He didn’t know if he remembered how to go.

“I would be far better off if I’d never met you.”

“I know, babe,” Claptrap said quietly.  He’d never felt so defeated in his entire life, and he’d felt like that a lot.  He’d actually tried at this thing, given it his all, and that only seemed to have made the inevitable crash-and-burn suck more than ever.  “I know.”

 

//

 

He went home that night.

Not Sanctuary.  But the other place.  In the Wastes, where there was nothing but bullymongs and snow.  Because when he was really sad, like really, really sad like he was now, he would go up to that place where Jack had dumped all the dead CL4P-TPs and he’d just look at the little hill and wonder why he wasn’t there with them. 

He remembered that day still.  He remembered what Jack had said and the sudden, awful realisation that there was nothing he could ever do to make these people happy, not even if he did everything right the way they wanted it done, and he remembered how triumphantly Jack had sent out the command before turning around and shooting him for doing what he was told.  And then… Hammerlock, telling him he was the only one.  He’d done all that, had everything taken away from him and then some, and he couldn’t even have the dignity of being dead after it all.  He was gonna live forever at this rate and every day of his life was gonna suck.

And boy did his future look like it was made of total suckage.  Because he was such a sad, pathetic loser, he really wanted to go back there and say whatever he had to to make this right.  And he would’ve.  If he’d thought there was anything to say.  She was too much for him.  He’d known that from the beginning.  Once he’d realised she was admin he shoulda just left.  Then he wouldn’t be here, in the saddest place he could think of, wishing Hammerlock had just kept walking.  Everything would’ve been better if some bullymong had just smashed him to a billion pieces.  It would’ve been way easier than feeling like somebody had done that to him on the inside.   

Actually?   This was a good thing.  She didn’t want anything to do with him, fine.  That was fine.  It was fine.  He had more than enough stuff in his memory that, with a little bit of tweaking, he could work into a perfectly serviceable sequence of events where he’d actually had a girlfriend who had actually liked him.  It was easy.  He did it all the time.  Change a sentence here, a look there, remove a few things entirely… there.  Perfect.  He was gonna bury this disaster under something good, just like he always did, and it wouldn’t be there to upset him anymore.  It would be gone.  It would be like she had never existed.  It was a good rewrite, too.  A good story.  He’d be happy whenever he looked at memories like this.  All he had to do was write it over the old crap and he’d be good to go. 

But for some reason it didn’t go how it usually did.

He tried so hard to do it.  He tried so, so hard to commit to the overwrite.  But he couldn’t.  He just couldn’t.  This was one thing he couldn’t pretend away.  One person

She was mean.  She was beautiful.  She was the craziest b**** he’d ever met.  And he couldn’t change her.  Not even in his own memory.  He had to leave her just like that, just as she was.  He couldn’t handle her.  He had completely, totally failed at doing it.  But she was perfect, and no matter how bad he wanted to just for his own peace of mind he could never, ever change her.

He’d really gone and fallen in love, huh?