The last series of tests had pushed 6 beyond what he was used to. While the interim time between test periods often lacked much in the way of stimuli, the downtime was normally a welcome period to be alone with his thoughts, which had lately become overwhelmingly filled with questions he wasn’t sure he would ever have an answer to. But tonight, he was too tired to do anything other than stare vacantly at the other side of the room.
6's room was bare except for the bed he lay curled up on, some books, a drawer mounted in the side of the wall that allowed for things to be passed from the outside of the room to the inside and vice versa without having to open the door, and a small intercom adjacent to a camera mounted in the room’s far corner.
He was never quite sure when his next interaction with the doctor would be. While 6 was aware of the concept of “time,” it was difficult to discern its passage in the depths of the laboratory, where the light remained constant and the tests he was asked to take part in seemed to be on a completely random schedule. As he had been reminded on multiple occasions, 6's purpose was to solve problems. The tests were meant to measure his progress and determine how close he was to being “ready”; whatever that was. Discerning a pattern in his test schedule shouldn’t have been as problematic as it was proving to be.
The crackle of the intercom jolted him awake.
“Good morning,” came the clipped voice of the doctor. “Morning” was a term that 6 understood to delineate a moment in “time,” though he hadn’t quite figured out why it was more relevant than any other points in his existence.
The doctor rarely discussed the world outside the laboratory — something that 6 had only recently become aware of existing. It started as jumbled clues — smells that clung to the doctor’s clothes that did not seem to match anything else within the lab, slips in casual conversation that pointed to an existence beyond what 6 was aware of, containers with labels written in unfamiliar characters. His attempts to ask for more information about these things were only met with the doctor being more evasive with his answers and prone to hiding anything of interest that he brought into the lab with him.
6 sat up and stared into the camera, which served as a connection between the large room in the central lab and his own room, which lay behind a heavy door stenciled with the written form of his moniker in Hands — an hourglass.
“You’ve been sleeping nearly twelve hours. The last test must have taken more out of you than I’d anticipated,” the doctor's voice said through static on the intercom.
6 remained silent. His skull hurt and each one of his vertebrae seemed to be pulsing with a dull ache. Twelve hours did not seem like enough sleep.
“Get dressed and come to the central lab. We’ll do an assessment to see how you’re holding up before we do any further testing today.”
The line went dead.
6 realized that the doctor had already been by without him noticing — a fresh set of clothes was waiting for him in the drawer, identical to the ones he had on currently. He tossed his worn clothes into the drawer and pulled on a clean white shirt and grey scrub pants, cinching them tight around his hip bones so they’d stay put. The door swung open with a loud hiss, followed by a thud as steel contacted steel. He quickly finished pulling on a pair of black socks over his feet and headed down the hallway to the central lab.
He found the doctor hunched over a folder, chewing on the edge of his pen as he looked over the papers in front of him. While the doctor and he were anatomically similar, the doctor was more than double his height, and usually donned a lab coat over muted, long-sleeved shirts.
6 approached quietly and stood next to the table, awaiting instructions. After a few moments of silence, the doctor looked up, setting the folder and pen down.
“How are you feeling?” the doctor inquired, moving his hands as he spoke.
While Hands was a language that didn’t require motion to be understood, the motions added dimension to oral conversation, which was lost over the intercom. 6 could discern from the motions that the doctor was concerned; a slight tremor in the doctor’s right hand indicated that he had not slept so soundly. 6 also smelled traces of alcohol, confirming his suspicion that something was amiss. The smell often stuck to the doctor's clothing following a difficult test phase or an unexpected problem.
6 gestured back, without using his voice. “Hurts,” he signed, moving his hands to indicate a general, broad ache rather than a centralized injury. “Still tired,” he added, when the doctor remained silent. The doctor seemed to consider this before scribbling some notes in his file.
“Did you dream?” the doctor asked, his hand gestures small to emphasize that he was asking gently.
Dreams were something the doctor was highly interested in lately. 6 had never dreamed until a recent experiment, where the force of a high impact attack had knocked him off his feet and left him unconscious. When he awoke to see the doctor standing over him, he had frantically tore the breathing mask off his face and asked the doctor where the others had gone, describing a series of landscapes and figures he’d seen during the course of the two days he’d been out cold.
“They used sounds!” he had explained, the first time he’d experienced this. “But…it wasn’t like how we speak. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying. They didn’t use hands at all! And they were…”
6 hadn’t been sure how to describe what he’d seen. He used his fingers to make a cuff around his arm to show that they were…thick? This was followed by a confusion of gestures to explain that the beings he’d seen were covered in some sort of…soft substance. Like they had a full body blanket on over their thick skeletons.
The doctor had looked alarmed at this explanation, and had left the room to review the test results to figure out what had happened. Upon returning, the doctor spent several hours explaining the concept of dreams, reassuring 6 that what he had seen was something limited to his mind’s eye. Yet despite this, the doctor asked him for a detailed analysis of what he’d experienced, asking a number of questions that confused 6 (“Wait, you saw Hotland? But how? Did anyone look at you directly? Did they react to you being there?”).
Despite his attempts to maintain a calm demeanor during his questioning, 6 could see that the doctor was clearly spooked by this new development. But for 6, sleeping now presented a new freedom that he hadn’t realized he’d been missing, though he struggled to make sense of what he was seeing most of the time.
“6, did you hear me?” 6 looked at the doctor, but remained silent, recalling the white, cold environment he had found himself standing in the night before, uncertain of how to explain what it was he had seen.
He was exhausted.
The doctor looked as if he was about to press further when a sound went off, startling both of them. A red light flashed above a doorway that 6 had never been through, while the doorway to the hall that led to 6’s room slammed shut. A heavy THUNK indicated that it had locked.
“What in the hell—" the doctor stammered, shifting his gaze to the monitors behind 6, which showed the hallways and lab rooms of the facility. He shot up suddenly, his eyes widening as he knocked over the contents of a coffee mug onto the desk.
6 spun around to see what the doctor was looking at and felt his breath catch in his ribcage. There was…something in the hallway. It looked like a figure out of his dreams. Was this a test? He watched the monitor intently as the figure strode down the hall towards the central lab.
“Shit,” the doctor said through gritted teeth. 6 was unable to tear his eyelights away from the figure approaching on the screen, but could see the reflection of the doctor dashing around the lab behind him, hitting buttons that slid equipment into the floorboards and tossing papers into cabinet drawers.
So this must not be a test. Forgetting his exhaustion, 6 began to summon an attack when he felt the doctor grip his arm firmly.
“No!” the doctor hissed, his gestures angrily instructing 6 to dissipate the sharp bones that had shot out from behind him. 6 scattered the attacks, confused, as a knock at the door snapped the doctor to attention. A voice bellowed from behind the door in a language that 6 had only heard in his dreams.
The doctor gulped, sweat beading on his brow. “Get to your room. Now,” the doctor said to 6 quietly.
6 hurried to the door leading to his hallway, only to find it locked. He looked at the doctor, who was frantic.
“Fuck!” the doctor muttered, grabbing 6 by the shoulder blades and quickly steering him into the small kitchenette at the other end of the room. He shoved 6 into a supply closet, between lab coats and cleaning equipment. “Not a word,” the doctor signed silently, before closing the closet door.
6 stood frozen inside the closet, his soul glowing in panic and illuminating the interior a dull cyan through his shirt. He heard the sound of the hallway door opening and jumped when he heard the doctor speak with whatever it was that was behind the door, using the same strange language he’d heard earlier.
Although terrified, his curiosity was too much to bear. 6 slowly approached the closet doors and peered through a crack. It was hard to see from his vantage point, but a large, furry figure stood before the doctor, towering over him. The figure was dressed in garments 6 had never seen before – rich purple robes, a silk tunic, and a crown that sat firmly between two massive horns that nearly scratched the doorway he stood in.
“Ah, I thought I’d find you down here,” the figure bellowed.
The doctor stood in the doorway, looking as if he were trying to form a shield between himself and the inside of his office.
“Asgore! What a uh, unexpected surprise!” the doctor laughed nervously, which came out sounding halfway between a laugh and a sob. “How did, uh…what brings you down here? I’m assuming it’s not an emergency or you would have called me? You know I’m happy to meet you at New Home, there’s no need for you to come out this way.”
“Nonsense!” the king laughed, pushing his way into the lab and spinning the doctor along with him as he threw a massive arm around his shoulder. “I was out here this morning for the Snowdin Librarby opening anyways and thought I’d stop by to see if you’d like to join me for a cup of tea. I would have knocked on your front door, but one of your colleagues told me I’d be more likely find you down here.”
The doctor shot a look towards the kitchenette before turning back to the king. “I uh, suppose that's true. With all the problems we’ve had with the Core overheating lately, I’ve just been working out here so I can monitor the cooling system directly. It’s much easier for me to address issues as they come up when I’m working in Snowdin. Why are you out here anyways, the report isn’t due for at least another few weeks, yeah?”
The king looked surprised. “Wingdin, I didn’t come to nag you about your report, I stopped by to check in on you. Tori asked about you during supper the other night and we realized that you haven’t come by to visit us in almost…three years? Four? Certainly not since we moved to New Home.” The doctor remained silent. “I hope we haven’t offended you in some way.”
“Not at all!” the doctor interjected. “I’ve just been busy, that’s all.”
6 shifted slightly to keep the two in eyesight. He couldn’t understand what was being said verbally, but he could at least make out the doctor’s side of the conversation from the hand gestures that were accompanying his speech. The king glanced at the monitors, which all displayed empty rooms and hallways throughout the lab. His eyes stopped on 6’s room.
“Er, I would offer to make you some tea here,” the doctor said quickly, stepping around the king. “But I haven’t restocked my cabinet in quite a--SHIT!” the doctor cursed, slipping and catching himself on the desk. He looked down to see what he'd slipped in — the contents of the coffee mug he had overturned in the process of stashing equipment away had saturated the papers beneath it, creating a small pool of liquid on the floor. He cursed in Hands, turning the mug upright and scooping the wet papers off his desk.
“Oh my, let me help with that,” the king said cheerfully, as he strode from the desk to the kitchenette’s supply closet in less than two steps.
Before the doctor had time to react, the king had pulled open the supply closet door, scanning the top shelf. He grabbed a rag and was about to turn back around when his eyes caught sight of 6, who stood stock still in the closet with a look of sheer terror on his face. The king started, dropping the rag.
“Oh! My goodness!” the king laughed, as he bent down to pick the rag up. “You scared me, little one! What were you doing in there?” The king turned back to the doctor, grinning. “Wingdin, who is this?”
6 couldn’t understand the monster that towered over him even while kneeling, but he radiated a warmth that made him instantly appealing.
The doctor froze; a few moments passed before he replied. “That’s…um…that’s my son, actually.” The doctor looked at the king as he spoke, but 6 saw him continue his thoughts to him in Hands silently. “Do not speak. Not one word.”
The king’s eyes widened. “Son?!” The doctor nodded, looking extremely frustrated. “Wingdin, you…I mean, I realize it has been awhile since I last saw you, but how did I not know about this?” The king looked hurt as he looked back and forth between 6 and the doctor.
“It’s private. I don’t want to discuss it,” the doctor replied curtly.
“By all means, you have no obligation to. I am just confused why you would hide something like this from me. He must be…golly, four years old?”
“He’s…six, ironically enough,” the doctor said, rubbing his hand over his jaw line so hard that 6 could hear the scrape of bone on bone from across the room. “He’s just small.”
6 remained frozen in place, only moving his eyelights to look back and forth between the two monsters.
“I apologize for being rude, young one. I am Asgore, though I’m quite sure you are aware of that already,” he added with a wink, extending a hand out to the small skeleton.
6 cocked his head, not sure what was being communicated. He winked back, causing the king to burst out laughing. 6 looked back at the doctor, who had a horrified look on his face, but appeared to be making a valiant effort to stay composed.
“Oh my, I was not expecting that!” the king laughed. “And what might your name be?”
6 searched the king’s face, recognizing he was being spoken to, but having no idea what was being said.
“Sorry, he’s uh…he’s very shy,” the doctor stated. The king turned and looked at the doctor. “His name is S...ans. Yeah. Uh, his name is Sans,” the doctor spat out quickly.
The king turned back to 6.
“Sans, huh? Well, Sans, I have two little ones, who are only a few years older than you. You’ll have to come by and meet them sometime. In fact…” he said, turning back to the doctor, who was visibly sweating again. The king didn’t seem to notice. “Wingdin, I was going to invite you to join Tori and the children and I for supper in New Home tonight, but now that I know you’ve been hiding a young one from me, I’m going to insist that you be there. Both of you. Tori will be delighted, you know she loves children.”
6 saw the doctor sign an expletive before vocally responding. “Er, well…I don’t think tonight will work. I have some diagnostics I need to run on the Core to ensure that –“
“You have a whole staff, do you not? Have one of your lab assistants do it. I will not take no for an answer.”
The king looked at 6, winking again. 6 winked back. The king smiled. “Five o’clock sharp, Wingdin. I’ll see you then.” And with that, the king strode out of the room, the sound of his footsteps fading down the hall, ending with the clang of the door locking back into place as he exited the facility.