Doctor Craig Nolan- commonly known around the lab as the simple “Fact”- was not busy. His assignment, at the moment, was to collect his thoughts and opinions on the mouse and sheep tests for the Genetic Life-form and Disk Operating System. He already had. It didn’t work. But he had to wait for his coworker to return to work the next day before he could do anything. He hadn’t been assigned anything else, so instead he flipped through his clipboard. He was checking if he’d missed anything, because it seemed too simple and he couldn’t have forgotten anything. He found that he hadn’t and leaned into the couch. He looked around the office.
It was a small space of three cubicles, a shared building space for prototypes, and a two-seated couch. It had been had assigned to him and his only two colleagues at Aperture. His only colleagues anywhere, really.
Doctor Rick North slammed the door of the office open heavily. Speak of the devil. Fact looked down at his clipboard.
“Gahg,” Rick huffed. Fact glanced up.
“Hello to you as well, Rick,”
“’Tell you something,” He grunted, banged the door shut, and flopped down on the couch sideways, back of his head landing on Fact’s shoulder and legs dangling off the armrest. Fact considered shifting away but didn’t. “I’m freakin’ exhausted,”
“That seems accurate,” Fact said. Rick grunted in response. “What could you have done? It’s only noon,”
“I had to clean up after that damn mantis-man mess. Me and the custodians. Deuh, now I just wanna go home and sleep,”
“Did you know that it’s avidly believed that the average human swallows eight spiders in their sleep?”
“Thanks, I’m real glad I know that now,” Rick mumbled sarcastically.
“Yes, but actually the average human actually swallows zero spiders in their sleep. Researcher Lisa Holst, who swallows 274,936 in her sleep each night, is an outlier and shouldn’t have been counted,”
“Mmh,” Rick replied faintly.
“Humans do, though, spend about a third of their life asleep,” Fact felt the floodgates opening. “12% of people dream entirely in black and white. Humans are the only mammals that willingly delay sleep. Fear is said to not actually be the main emotion in nightmares. Even if you think you don’t dream, you actually do, but you forget that yo-”
He was interrupted by a loud, snuffling snore. Fact assumed it was in jest and looked down.
Fact looked at Rick, asleep against his shoulder, and realized how ridiculously helpless he, Fact, was. Rick had to be over a half-foot taller than him and a good forty pounds heavier. Fact- tiny, weak, not-really-wanting-to-wake-Rick-up Fact- sat stiffly, staring straight ahead. He shook his head and attempted to focus again on the test results.
At first, he figured it was because Rick’s snoring was reminiscent of a jet engine, but eventually he snuffled and continued in a softer way, and Fact found he still couldn’t focus. He noted it as odd and placed the clipboard in his lap, staring at the wall across from him, bouncing his leg absent-mindedly.
He sat there about an hour and a half, being careful not to make a single movement or sound that might disturb his friend.
Doctor Bailey “Space” Attaway entered excitedly, not that he ever entered any other way, and opened his mouth. Fact quickly shushed him. Not sternly, partially because Space didn’t like harshness and partially so he didn’t wake Rick. He directed Space’s attention to Rick.
“Oh, is he sleeping?” Space asked at his regular volume, which wasn’t a yell, per se, but definitely was louder than the average speaking voice. Rick murmured something along the lines of “Go away” and stirred so his cheek was now on Fact’s shoulder, squishing half his face. Fact nodded patiently.
“Yes. Could you keep your voice down?” Fact asked. Space’s eyes widened and he nodded.
“Right, sorry,” He said in what he meant to be a whisper. It was good enough. He went to sit next to Fact, noticed the lack of space, and sat on the floor near him.
“You’re out of lab for the day?”
Space nodded. “They made me go out,”
“Made you? Where were you?”
Space looked up and smiled. “Space room,” He said.
“You’ve been in the telescope room all day?”
Space nodded ecstatically. “Yeah. They said we had to study the stars and planets and asteroids, but I already wrote it all down and drew it out last month, so I got to stay and everyone else got off duty. Wheatley gave me a high-five. It hurt,”
Fact nodded. “Yes, 87% of hand injuries are from high-fives,” He said blankly. Then he blinked. “Wait, you mapped out the entire visible space field by yourself?”
He squinted, then nodded. He patted Space awkwardly on the shoulder with a ‘Good job’- his preferred way of commendation.
They continued conversating, growing gradually louder as they forgot themselves and stopped whispering. Rick roused, to neither’s notice, and squinted at them. He made the faintest smile. He was comfortable with Space and Fact’s cheerful chatter. Much contrasted to the guts of mantis-men, which he was in fact not comfortable with. He shuddered. Disgusting. He willed himself to focus instead on Space and Fact’s conversation. Not what they were saying, just that they were talking. They were there, and that was a strangely calming idea to Rick.
His eyes fluttered to the clock on the wall. As long as Fact didn’t have anywhere to be- and he would no problem sacrificing Rick’s comfort for work, Rick was sure- he could lay here for another solid three-and-a-half hours. He closed his eyes again, shifting until he was comfortable.
That sounded like a plan to him.