Chapter 1: Mood Lighting
Mike Wazowski hated the door to his apartment he rented with his best friend. It was too tall for him to reach. No matter what he said to the landlord, nothing changed. He'd rant at him, almost begging him to lower the knob to a reasonable height, and in response, his landlord would chortle and jokingly tell him how he'd be a lot more peaceful if he were a little less short, before ushering a seething Mike out of his office. He'd tried taking the knob off himself, and was told by an exasperated Sully that he'd "didn't have to go through so much trouble" and that he'd answer the door for him. Mike had ignored him; instead he'd taken to wearing taller shoes to spare himself the indignity of having to knock, informing him that he was perfectly capable of doing things without his help. Sully never gave him too much grief, but all the same, he preferred doing it himself. Short or not, he had his pride. Squinting at the door knob, he reached onto his tiptoes- Even in his high rise shoes!, he thought indignantly- slid his key in, and entered the apartment, shutting the door behind himself.
He knew better than to expect anything other than semi darkness when he walked in, but the brightness of Monsters Inc and the dimness of his own home was still a little jarring. He felt his way around until he grabbed hold of a large furry mass. The mass rumbled.
"You don't have to do this every time you come in, Mike. It's not that dark in here, you know." Mike scoffed. "Easy for you to say, Little Miss Two Eyes. It's hard out here for us one eyed folk. You ever tried being an eyeball with legs?" Sully chuckled, before making his way to the kitchen. "I can't say I have, Mike. I'll have to try it some time." Mike laughed along with him before sitting in the recliner in their living room.
Ever since the Great Power Decline, everything in the city had taken a darker turn. Literally; the buildings were only allotted so much power, seeing as most of it had to go to Monsters Inc. Streets were dimmer, and so an earlier curfew of 6 was enforced. Candles were the primary source of lighting these days, unless it was an especially good day, and somebody managed to make a decent amount of children laugh, a rarity. Laughter was scarce these days; it had started maybe a year ago. Children used to genuinely enjoy the jokes that the workers of Monsters Inc had to deliver, but as time went on, they went form laughing, to politely chuckling, to staring, stone-faced and unfeeling, at whatever monster had the misfortune of being assigned to their door that night. Mike didn't know why, but children didn't seem to find things funny anymore. Sattire, slaptick... none of it brought them any joy. It saddened him, so much so that he'd started taking off of work more than he necessarily needed to. Today had been his first work day all week.
"How was work?" Sully called to him. Mike groaned. It hadn't been pretty; the monster assigned to a door had walked in, slightly nervous yet optimistic before walking through the door, before disappearing inside for about 45 minutes. They were going to send someone in after him when he burst out in tears, wringing his hands and vigorously wiping his eyes, crying that the child hadn't even smiled at one of his jokes. Mike had taken one look at his watery eyes and leaking noses and left for the break room. The lights flickered for the rest of the day.
Mike grunted. "You know how it is. Do we have any beer?"
Twenty minutes later, after Sully had cooked their dinner- lukewarm noodles- they were settled in the living room, watching blurry reruns on their old TV. Television was considered a nonessential, so less power was allotted to watching TV. After the Decline, monsters who made their careers in acting were either laid off or quit, seeing as the power for their broadcasting rooms was the first thing to go to. It wasn't unusual for a monster to go out to get groceries and see a former TV star begging for change at the door. Reruns still came on TV, but very few monsters had such technology anymore. Mike and Sully, along with two other apartments, still had their TV, so others would flock to the three of them when they wanted to watch a rerun that they especially liked. Today, though, everyone seemed to be at the others' apartments. Mike didn't mind; monsters in large crowds made him nervous. It was easier when it was just him and Sully; Sully, who never made fun of his insecurities, who was always there for him when he was down. Sully, who'd never left him before, and who he was sure never would.
The reruns weren't especially good tonight; tonight's episode was about somebody being cheated on... or someone about to cheat on somebody. Mike never paid much attention. He didn't really like TV too much, but Sully loved it, so he'd fought with the landlord to keep it, while not exceeding their energy allowance. He'd had to barter with the other tenants, promising favors if they'd give up just one or two of their electronics, but it all paid off in the end.
The TV droned on and on, and Mike felt his eye drooping lower and lower as the credits rolled. Tomorrow was his off day, which he knew he didn't deserve, having skipped work twice this week. He'd take it, though; he needed as many breaks from Monsters Inc as he could get. It was depressing, with its dingy lights and defeated employees. Sully, who used to love coming into work, never judged him about his frequent respites, though. He knew how draining coming in could be. Mike supposed it was even worse for him- he used to be a star employee, after all, coming in early and leaving late. He almost leaned over and told him he'd cover his shift tomorrow, if it'd make him feel better, but thought against it. It only made Sully more sad to hear Mike say something like that. Sully hated giving up and giving in. Discipline was a great attribute in an employee, but it was also an Achilles heel for someone who needed a break. Mike shut his eye completely. "You can have the bed tonight," he mumbled to Sully, not checking to see that Sully had already fallen asleep, his arm acting as a makeshift cover for Mike's body.
Chapter 2: Wink
Sully comes into work today.
Hi everybody, I'm back. It's been a really awful time, but I think I'm ready to do things that make happy instead of focusing on everything that's been making me sad.
Monters Inc was a chilly building ever since the GPD- heating a building as expansive as the corporation was just wasn't viable anymore, after children refused to laugh. It never bothered Sully, being a hulking mass of fur and heat, but he felt for everyone that wasn't as fortunate as he was. It had to be tough to stand in the frigid air with nothing but the skin on your own back to protect you. He pretended not to notice the others around him trying to brave the harsh, still air of the building.
He sidled up to his station of doors, trying not to think about how endless they looked, before giving a curt nod to his Scare Buddy and stepping inside, and lightly closing the door behind himself.
Sully hated to admit, but going into children's rooms only made him happy now because they allowed him a respite from the cold grey atmosphere his world had become. He knew others most likely felt the same way and that he shouldn't feel bad- there was something assuring, validating, about others feeling the same way he did, after all- but the guilt still clung to him, entangled in his fur like a living thing.
He sighed; it had been a while since he'd felt something like that. Something warm, something weighed, real. It seemed that now, all everyone wanted was to be left alone so that they could retreat further into themselves, in the hope that they might lose their way and never come back out.
Stop that, he thought to himself. Quit being so sad, or Bryce will have to come in after you. And with a great sigh, he straighten his spine and crept up to a child that slept, unaware of his presence, jostling them gently until their eyelids swept open.
"Hi, there!" he said, half whispered, before taking a seat on the foot of the bed, a respectable distance away. Sully wasn't sure if this particular child was afraid of monsters or not, but he'd hoped they wouldn't be. After all, the doors that led to scared children were said to be completely eradicated, and it wouldn't do to have accidentally wandered into one. He didn't even want to think about the lawsuit that would fall on the company if it got out that he'd not only not destroyed all the doors, but walked into one, and scared a child again-
"What are you?" he heard the child ask, and he turned his head to face them fully. His face went slightly slack as he regarded them.
Fuller face, deeper voice... even in the politely bored expression they wore, all these things pointed to a stage in life other than young childhood, or even adolescence. He didn't know how it had happened, but a mistake had been made. There was, simply, no way that this human was a child.
"You're not a kid," he blurted, because it was the first thing on his mind. They shrugged.
"I'm not. You got me." they shifted into a sitting position.
"And you're not supposed to be in my room, so I guess we're both in the wrong here."
Sully wriggled uncomfortably. "I have to be in here," he said. "I'm supposed to get you to laugh."
The girl- woman, he corrected himself, his eyes flitting across her chest, noting the protrusions under her top- narrowed her eyes and cocked her head to the side slightly.
"Don't you guys go to kids' rooms for that sort of thing?" she asked. "Not to insult your intelligence, my dude, but I'm not a child."
He peered at her again, this time taking the opportunity to look for a bit longer at her form. Her arms were definitely longer than a child's. Her face was longer too, more mature. He craned his face lightly to take in more differences. They'd only had outdated charts to go by when studying children, and of course, the brief seconds they'd had to gather joy from them, but Sully had never experienced being in a human's space so closely before, an adult's no less. He looked her in the eye. "Not even almost?"
She snorted and cracked a smile. "Nope, sorry man. Maybe tomorrow." Now it was his turn to partake in a snort of his own. "You never answered my question, though. What exactly are you...?"
Sully pursed his lips; nobody was on a strict time limit with doors, but if someone took more than an hour, they'd get funny looks all through the day, and he was not looking forward to Randal's stink eye at lunch. However... maybe talking would eventually gather a few laughs. And while he doubted telling this woman that everyone in Monstropolis had all, more or less, decided to identify as chimera would garner even a chuckle, he did want to keep her talking. The more time he spent in this room, behind the door with her, the less time he had to endure the draining atmosphere of the Door Station. And if he actually managed to leave the room with a full tank... the pros outweighed the cons- the chance that he'd get nagged for taking so long suddenly didn't seem so formidable.
"Uh..." he started, " monsters don't really have set races or... species? Like people do. We usually just start families with whoever we like, and whatever we get at the hospital is what we get. Some of our scientists are trying to figure out why, but I think it's always been like that, so I don't think they'll find out any time soon."
He watched her ponder this, her eyebrows creased lightly. "That's kind of beautiful. You're literally a race created from everyone just falling in love with whoever you want. " Sully scratched at the back of his neck. "I'd never really given it too much thought, but yeah. It is pretty beautiful." The woman shifted under her covers. "I wonder why though. Like, maybe it's an adaptational sort of thing, like your race was doing bad at some point- nobody really had any favorable features that would make for strong offspring, and so your population got really low, until you all adapted to just reproduce with who you bonded with the most so your race wouldn't die out."
"Huh," Sully said. "But even if that were true... how could we adapt to the point where just mating with anyone, no matter what... species... would get them pregnant? That seems like a pretty big evolutionary jump to make, you know?" She nodded. "Yeah, I feel you. Maybe you always were just like that."
The woman sat in silence for a bit, leaving Sully to fidget with his hands. He really didn't want to step through the door and back into work, especially after a low humming drone sounded from the slits in the ceiling and warm air began blowing down. It was going to seem even colder when he walked though now, he griped to himself. "What's it like, in the monster world?" she finally asked him. He relaxed, relieved at her question that had stopped him from beginning to rise and walk to the door. He tilted his face. How could he tell her, without making her feel bad before she went to bed again? Sad before bed- he hated the feeling himself. "It's kind of chilly, kind of dim. But it's not so bad if you have friends." She looked at him. "So... cold and dark?"
He looked away briefly- the way she'd said it... it put an ice cube, small but painfully cold, in his chest. But he willed it to melt, and he looked at her again. "No, I meant chilly and dim. Don't be such a Negative Nelly." And with that, he bopped her nose lightly with his claw before standing, and walking towards the door. "Try to get some sleep. And next time, maybe be a little younger." he called over his shoulder, smiling when he heard another snort from her. Bracing himself, he opened her door and faced the cold of the Door Station.
He braced himself again, expecting some snide remark about his extended session, but when nobody said anything, he'd looked around apprehensively. Everybody was looking at him, for sure, but the usual ribbing that staying late warranted was absent. It was making him uneasy.
Finally, he gritted his teeth- it was better, he found, to stay on the offensive when someone made a mistake here. Don't be meek, be angry, and people were less likely to bother you. "Sully... what did you do in there?" his Scare Buddy asked. He turned to him, eyebrows knitted minutely. "What do you mean?" he asked. He didn't miss the small tremor his voice brought the smaller monster, and resisted the urge to apologize. "Y-your canister." he warbled, pointing a finger at the canister that was previously empty, but now so full that it almost seemed distended, the only full canister for rows and rows and rows.
Chapter 3: Shiny
Even if it's tentative, it's progress. Mike wants to come into work again.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"And you're telling me that she was an adult? Like, a fully grown, adult human, female woman?"
Sully groaned as he relaxed into the recliner. "Yes, Mike, for the last time. I walked in, and she was a fully grown, adult human, female woman."
Mike gaped and him. "A-and you're so calm about it! You act like you talk to grown humans all the time! Don't skimp out on me, what did you talk about with her?!"
He sighed as he looked over his roommate, who couldn't seem to sit down or take a breath since Sully had walked in the door. "It's not like it's big news, calm down. Do you want me to make you some tea? I think we still have some chamomile...." He made a move to get up out of the chair, when Mike slapped his hands to his furry chest, eye blown wide.
"Sully! Are you kidding me?! I-I..." he took a breath to steady himself. "I... cannot believe you right now. You talked to an adult-an adult!-" he looked like he had more to say, and plenty of it, but before he could launch into another diatribe, Sully put a hand on his shoulder. "Okay, Mike. I get it- it's exciting news." And he did get it- before, this wouldn't have made headlines. Monsters collected canisters full of laughs- and before, screams- regularly. But the shortage of laughter meant that anything like what Sully had accomplished- a full tank! From an adult!- was even more rare than a rarity. He understood Mike's enthusiasm. But he'd been hearing the same thing from all of his coworkers all day, from the minute he stepped out of that door, to lunch-where monsters he didn't even know worked with him, clamored to get a seat by him, asking how he'd done it, some even suggesting that he'd reverted to scaring the child out of desperation-to the walk home, which he normally enjoyed, even now, after so much had changed. His once peaceful stroll was interrupted all the way to when he got to the door, where he'd had to gently but directly order everyone to leave him be.
Mike relented. "Okay, okay. I get it. You're all tired from work. So take a nap or something. I want to hear all about this when you wake up, though!"
Sully let out a deep sigh as Mike let him alone in the living room, presumably to go and brag to the other tenants about his feat. Sure enough, seconds after the door closed, he heard him crow, "Hey, Julia! You'll never guess what Sully...!"
He smiled. Mike was incorrigible.
After his nap- which he hardly remembered taking, in all honesty- he found himself sitting by the fire with Mike, dinner in hand. They ate silently enough, which was strange, even if it were a normal day-which is was decidedly not. Sully had gone out to get dinner, as usual, when the patron of the place took one look at him and excitedly babbled about the full canister at work, before ushering him off with his food, insisting that he wouldn't be paying this time. "You're a hero, Sully! Get used to it!" he'd shouted after him, the other customers cheering their agreement.
"So." Mike had finally said around a mouthful of pasta, "you ready to talk now?" He was being alot more calm that he was earlier, calmer than he ever usually was, so Sully smiled and obliged him.
"Well, she was really smart. Like, really smart. We talked about why monsters come out the way we do. I made a her laugh a little bit. Then I left."
Mike gave him a deadpan stare. "Sully."
Mike took another bite of his food. "You mean to tell me... that you walked into a door-"
Sully growled. "Yes, Mike! I walked in, and we had small talk, then I left, and the canister was full! Leave it alone already! Maybe you'd see an adult for yourself if you'd come into work!" he huffed loudly, his meal left, forgotten, by his side. Mike stared at him, his eye never leaving Sully's face. They sat like that for a while, before Mike broke the silence.
"You think I don't pull my weight. You think I'm pathetic." Sully said nothing. Mike set his lips and nodded curtly a few times.
"You're right." And with that, he rose to his feet, leaving his dinner behind, and walked into the bedroom.
Sully sat in the living room for what felt like hours, until his pasta went cold, only moving to reach the box of matches from the table and relighting the fire.
Mike woke up in bed, his arms and legs akimbo. What had woken him up so early? Oh, yeah, he thought to himself. The alarm clock. And it was the alarm clock that had woken him up, beeping shrilly as ever. 6:00 AM.
Why had he even set the damn thing? It's not like he was going to work- Oh, yeah. Now he remembered. After... last night, he'd paced in the bedroom, setting his work clothes angrily, taking an extra long shower, even going so far as to attempt to do some pre-bedtime situps, despite being primarily abdominal. Now he was awake, prepared to go to work and show Sully who was pathetic-
But why? Sully was angry at him for shirking his duties, but who wouldn't be? He was lazy. He was pathetic. He knew how difficult of a roommate he could be- it had taken so many tries to find anyone who would take him on as a roomie, and he was convinced at times that Sully only did so out of pity, or a misplaced sense of debt for how he'd helped him during college. But that was college, Mike, he thought. You were great, but look at you now.
He really didn't want to venture down that trail of thoughts- he needed to be in a state of mind for work, after all- so he banished the thought, put on his uniform- which he knew didn't need to be set out, but it made him feel productive, so why not?- ate his breakfast, then left for work quietly so as to not disturb Sully. He cast a glance at his friend to gauge how quietly he'd have to shut the door-
Only to see that he wasn't there at all. The recliner was empty, the blanket Sully used folded neatly. Even the fire had been put out, the ashes swept. He must have gone to work, too, then.
Well. That was just fine. If Sully wanted to watch Mike show him up in person, rather than hearing about it from others, that was dandy. He left the apartment, locked the door, and strutted off to work.
He hadn't expected to see Mike at work today, even after his blowup at dinner, but there he was, strutting around like he'd been regularly coming in. Sully rolled his eyes, but inwardly felt a surge of pride run through him. He knew that it was hard for Mike to come in and face this job, but he'd done it today. Whether or not he came out of responsibility or spite, though, was a different story. Sully pushed that aside so he could feel happy for his friend.
Mike ignored him as everyone filed into the Door Station, many of them still chatting about Sully's success from yesterday. Someone patted him on the back, with a hearty laugh, asking if he'd do it again. "Just kidding, buy guy," they said," I know you will."
Sully smiled at him good naturedly, before stepping into his own door. Alrighty then.
Mike stepped to his, nodding at his Scare Buddy. "Okay, Johnny-boy," he said grandly, "I'm goin' in," and he walked in, ignoring his Scare Buddy's polite reminder that his name was Clarence.
The room was dark. Darker than usual kids' rooms, which was strange. Weren't kids supposed to be scared of the dark? Weren't kids supposed to be scared of monsters, too? he thought. So this one's a little braver than the rest. That's good for me, then. I can't stand scaredy kids. He stepped a little closer, noticing a lack of toys on the floor. That was weird, too. Jesus, did this kid no anything a normal kid might?
Mike crossed the distance between himself and the sleeping kid, tapping him before sitting near his bed, before thinking better of it and sitting a little closer. It wasn't policy to sit at the foot of the bed, just something he'd picked up from Sully. He grimaced.
How was Sully doing right now? Probably killing it, as usual. Mike grit his teeth. He just wished Sully would make a mistake, or trip when he walked, one in while. Maybe then it balance them out. But that's not fair, he thought crossly. Sully doesn't need to fuck up so that you can feel better about yourself. Come on, man. And he sighed, preparing to turn his attention to the kid.
The kid was wide awake. Staring at him. Mike started. "Hey, kid!" he greeted them in what he hoped would come across as warm and exciting, rather than panicked. The kid didn't say anything back, choosing to instead continue staring at Mike. Mike stared back, though he could feel himself beginning to feel weird by looking the kid in eye for so long. He didn't know what else to do, but he definitely was not going to get stared down by this weird kid who was definitely crossing "slightly strange" and moving right over into "probably pulls the wings off of bugs" territory. Oh god. He probably did do things like that. Just my luck, Mike panicked. My first day back into work and I'm probably going to get maimed by tiny Ted Bundy. Mike thought back to the Safety button in his hand that Monsters Inc passed out to everyone who entered the Doors. If a monster was in a difficult situation- a monster getting discouraged by a kid's lack of response (or a creepy child who was probably going to hold him down and pour lemon juice in his eye)- then your Scare Buddy would either swap spots with you- oh, God, how he wished he could get Johnny to come and swap spots with him!- or help you leave the door entirely. One push for tag teams, two for please get me the hell out of here, this kid has the devil in his eyes and would not hesitate to kill me.
He finally, finally, broke the stare with the kid, feeling the first drop of sweat collecting enough to roll down his back. "Um... stare much?" he finally asked, trying his hand at some bravado. The kid was definitely not fooled, letting Mike know with a smirk. Mike blanched. Oh God, he knows how scared I am, you're not supposed to let them know that you're scared they can smell that! Oh GOd I'm donefor, oh my godohmygodohmy-
The kid dropped his death stare, and started laughing. Mike furrowed his brow. "Oh my god, you looked so scared! Jesus, man!"
Mike blinked, and cleared his throat. "Um... what?"
The kid inched a little closer. Mike balled his hands into fists by his sides. "I was just playing with you, but you looked like you were going to pass out or piss your pants or something! God, man, chill out. It was just a staring contest!" The boy laughed again.
Well. The kids switch in personality was so quick it gave Mike whiplash. His head throbbed. "O... okay. I guess I was a little scared. You got me, kid." and he chuckled weakly, running a head over his horns.
"Alright, so you gotta make me laugh, right? My sister said you might come in. I told her she was full of shit, but you're here, so. I guess she was right." the kid seemed unaware, or unconcerned, about Mike's shock at his casual usage of foul language, despite being unable to be older than ten or eleven.
"Hey, kid! Watch your mouth! All that cursing... you'll get a cavity or something." The boy snorted, inching closer still.
"That's fucking stupid." he said nonchalantly, peering out of the corner of his eye and smirking at Mike's obvious discomfort.
"So, what jokes do you got?"
Mike coughed. "Well... uh... oh! I got one! You ever hear about the chef who only made fake spaghetti?" he looked expectantly at the boy.
"No, I haven't. What about it?" he asked stiffly, purposefully making himself sound as disinterested as possible.
"Oh, nothing much. He just got arrested for being an impasta."
Mike looked at the boy again, uncertainty pooling in his gut when the boy fixed him with another of his famous dead eyed stares.
"That wasn't funny." he said. Mike felt his stomach begin to tie itself in knots. "Um, some of my jokes are a required taste. If you-"
"My father was arrested a week ago. That's why it's so dark in here. We can't pay for lights because he was the only one with a job. Same reason I don't have any toys, either. My mom sold 'em all so she could pay for school supplies." Mike stared at the boy, dumbfounded.
"That's not all the way true," the boy continued, and Mike relaxed and thanked God; that story... Jesus. "My sister has a job, too. She's a hooker."
What the hell??? Mike was at a loss for words. Was he supposed to do something? Could he do something about this? He doubted MPS could do anything about a human child being neglected, but-
"Yeah, it's really embarrassing, too, because she comes to pick me up from school in the passenger's side of her pimp's car. You ever wonder how far someone can take a dick in her mouth if you don't let her up?"
There was no hope for Mike's jaw, because he was sure it had dropped off maybe five minutes ago, and rolled under the bed. "Well- um... I don't-how..." eye widening even further when the kid broke into another huge smile, and started laughing. Mike gaped.
"I was just fucking with you, dude! Oh my god, you should have seen the look on your face! You really do fall for anything, don't you?" and he kept laughing as Mike struggled to put his face back together. Mike stuttered.
"W-why- why would you lie about something like that?! I-I- what!? You... I'm not... I don't under-" he finally cut himself off after a few seconds of trying and failing to scold him, because he was laughing. Not smirking, not giggling, but full blown laughing. This was loud, scary laughing, laughter that might wake his parents. And they'd come in, and ask what he'd said that was so funny, and Mike wouldn't be able to say anything except that he hadn't said anything funny, sir or ma'am, but their child was most likely a sociopath or something like that, and they should keep all the sharp objects and small animals far away from him.
He waited for the boy to settle down- which took about 5 minutes that dragged on for way, way too long- the entire time looking longingly at the door. He'd made the little sicko laugh, which was all he needed to do, and he was more than ready to go now. He wasn't even particularly excited over the idea of the full canister anymore. Mike just wanted to get up, leave, and pretend that this visit had never happened.
The boy had no such plans for him. "You can stay longer, you know. My mom doesn't care about monsters staying on weekends." Mike made to stand. "Oh, you know, I would, but my job has this strict-" he gasped as the boy took hold of his hand.
"Hey, don't go! Come on. It's boring in here. I lied about why, but I really don't have any toys. Don't be like that." Mike worried his lip, before slowly taking a seat. Curse his bleeding heart.
"My mom lets me do alot of stuff. She lets me stay up late on weekdays, too. She lets me skip school, she lets me smoke..."
Mike was not one to be fooled twice. He turned on the boy, eye narrowed accusingly. "No, she doesn't! There's no way..."
The boy hadn't even waited for Mike to finish calling him out; instead, he'd wordlessly fished around in the dresser by his bed, picked out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. "What now?" his eyes seemed to ask. "What are you gonna say now?" Mike recollected himself, trying not to panic as the boy lit a cigarette like he'd been doing it for years and took a long drag and exhaled, head thrown back.
"Chainsmoking at nine, huh?" Mike tried to joke. "I'm ten." the boy answered back, flippant.
The two of them sat like that for a little bit, until Mike grew uncomfortable with the smoke filling up the room, and the boy's seemingly blase response to it all. Mike quietly stood, and made to tell the boy that the situation had gotten too out of hand for him, sorry, and that he was taking his leave.
The boy was crying as the cigarette left his lips, tears that only fell one at a time. His eyes stayed dead as when Mike had come in, but now they shone so bright that they were starting to look a little glassy. "Um..." Mike didn't know how to deal with tears , his or anyone else's. He brought him arm around the boy awkwardly. "Uh... please don't cry, man... It'll be, uh...it'll be okay..." the boy laughed again, sniffling. " Y-you're so bad at this." and he was bad at comforting, so he gave up after a while. They sat in silence for a second before Mike spoke again. "Hey. Uh, hey kid. I... I really gotta go now. But if you let the next monster that comes in your room that you want to see Mike Wazowski- that's me,okay?- I'll be back. I will." the boy nodded at him, continuing his cigarette and wiping his face.
Mike quickly stepped out of the room and shut the door, and stopped short. Everyone in the Door Station was staring at him, eyes wide, mouths agape. Oh god, he thought, Did I do it? Did I get a full canister out of that kid? Nobody moved. It felt like the world was on pause.
Finally, Mike looked down at his station. He hadn't just filled one canister- because of course he was going to fill at least one, he tried to assure himself- he'd filled several canisters, and one was being stoppered right now, the sound of sniveling being quickly sealed off until the room was silent again.
Sully was the first to reach him. "Mike, oh my god! How did you manage that?!" and he didn't get to answer before he picked him up and wrapped him in a hug.
Mike could appreciate many things about Sully- his laugh, his warmth in the dead of winter, the fact that he didn't like pineapple soda but still went to get it occasionally because he did- but he loved his hugs more than anything else. Sully was a big monster, but rather than crush others in his arms, he never did that, in favor of holding them not too tightly, but not so loosely that it didn't feel like he wanted to hug them at all. The firmness of his hugs, the softness of his fur that smelled faintly like strawberries... sometimes it was the only thing that Mike needed after a day of work, especially one like today. That kid had looked so dead, he was so scary... Sully had, somehow, managed to hold him and make it all go away, like always. And he would have never had to if Mike hadn't come into work.
And he'd only come in today to show him up...
Mike felt the tears welling up, until they spilled over and soaked into Sully's pelt. "Mike..." Sully murmured. "Mike, it's okay. It'll be alright." And while Mike had said nearly the exact same thing to the kid in the room, it sounded so much better coming from Sully's mouth. Sully was so much better at comforting than he was... Sully was so much better in general than he was. How could he have tried to change that?
Stupid. You could never be as good as Sully. You're lucky he even lets you ride his coattails.
Mike finally had had his fill of Sully's hug, and patted him to let him down. This probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, because there were still throngs of monsters waiting to go and harass him over the feat he just accomplished. Sure enough, before his feet even fully touched the ground, they were on him.
"How'd you manage-"
"Jesus, Mike, not one full one, but twelve-"
"Holy shit, you and Sully are crazy-"
The monsters kept coming and coming at him. He could see everything- had the fur on Sully's belly looked so sharp before? There was no way Samantha's scales had been that bright before, right? And Fred... Mike didn't even want to think about how shiny the drool running down his fangs- which also looked painfully sharp, looked. Oh, god. He could hear the air as it rushed in and out of his lungs, like a vacuum being turned on and off. "Oh, Jesus," he wheezed, but nobody seemed to hear him. Could they hear him? There was no way he was invisible; everybody had definitely rushed over because of him, which should have been awesome... but it felt like someone was stepping on his chest. Correction: Stepping, then jumping up and straight up slamming the bottoms of their feet directly onto his heart. He wheezed again, but no words came out. 'Move..." he weakly protested, but the throng of monsters only seemed to get tighter and tighter. This was just like when he thought he was going to drown at the beach last summer... Everyone else is so tall, he thought worriedly, his panic spiking when he saw that the gaggle of coworkers had completely pushed Sully from his spot right beside him, to the outside of the circle. Mike saw bright white and yelped; he couldn't see anything now, which he wasn't sure was better. He blinked furiously until he vision had somewhat returned, wiped the sweat from his face, and tried faintly reached for Sully, who watched in alarm as Mike's eye fluttered closed, and he plummeted to the floor, the sound of high pitched ringing sounding in his ears.
Chapter 4: Flicker
For someone who seems to love attention, Mike can't handle it very well in concentrated doses at all.
I swear i don't love Sully more than Mike, guys. I swear! Sully Will have his day of suffering, too.
In the locker room, it wasn't so intense, Mike decided. It was warm, it smelled faintly of wet dog- not his favorite odorent, but it was a staple so he guessed he didn't mind. But what mattered most was that Sully was right next to him, patting him soothingly on his back, pressing a cool towel to his forehead.
"How ya doing, Mike?" Sully asked him lowly. This wasn't his first time coaxing Mike out of a panic attack, so when he'd seen him breathing like the air was too thin and flailing like he was on fire, he'd tried to get to him before the crowd muscled him to the back. But as soon as his head hit the ground, he'd charged forward, ignoring everyone's protests with a sharp "He's had enough." and taking him to the quietest place he could find.
"I'm fine," Mike mumbled, scooting closer to Sully's warmth. He closed his eye.
"Heyyyy, you two are... A little close for comfort. If you want to fuck, do it at home."
Mike grit his teeth. "Randall, do you have to work to be this annoying, or are you just naturally unlikable?"
Randall moved to face the both of them, in that fluid, almost liquid-like way he carried himself. He stood stock still, then lunged into Mike's personal space.
"For you? Oh, I make an effort." He smiled glibly, before throwing a curt nod in Sully's direction. "And you already know how I feel about you, Big Man. There's no way you got that full tank without scaring that kid. Doing whatever it takes to survive. I respect that. But you?"
He turned, disdainful, to Mike. "You rigged the system somehow. Nobody thinks you're funny. Nobody thinks you're scary. And you found a way around and snuck your grubby claws into the scream machine until it spit out what you wanted. I'm gonna find out how." And with that, Randall turned, making sure to slap Mike with his tail, and left.
Sully took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "That Randall really chaps my hides." He grumbled lowly. Mike nodded, but his brain was churning with the words Randall had hissed. It felt like they were dancing on his skull, until they absorbed into his mind and refused to leave. What if he had rigged the system? The kid he'd visited hadn't been too moved by him... but he'd cried! That had to have been it, right? Sadness was an emotion like happiness was an emotion, like fear was an emotion.
He decided to press it. "Hey Sully?" He asked.
"When you went to visit that lady- the adult... How did she feel?"
Mike looked up at Sully. "Well," he started. "She was... Curious? And she laughed a little at one of my jokes." Mike pursed his lips lightly.
"Did she cry?"
"What? No, she didn't-" Sully stopped himself. He looked down at Mike, who suddenly felt very small.
"You don't have to say anything if you don't feel like you want to Mike, but I really want to know. What happened in that room?"
Mike shook his head. "Have you ever been scared, Sully?"
Sully didn't answer him, instead letting the silence hang in the air. Mike had begun to think that he wasn't going to answer, but then:
"Yeah. I've been scared before."
Mike could feel the sweat under Sully's fur.
"The kid... He was scary. He was really scary, Sully. He made me... And then he started crying... And the tanks were full and everyone started getting too close to me..."
Mike grabbed at the sides of his face. "I don't want to go back out there."
Sully held him closer. "Then you don't have to. He said fiercely.
Mike closed his eye again, letting himself imagine it. He could be at home, in his bed...
Alone. In the dim lighting that was almost like being in the dark. Nobody there but him. He clung to Sully tighter.
"Yeah, I do." And he sat up and left for the Door Room.
Randall hung by the light fixtures on the ceiling, his lip curled in distaste. It wasn't unlike a monster to come to the Locker Room to cry their eyes out-work was hard, kids were mean, the occasional teenager was bratty.
Mike had better have had a good reason for breaking down like that, something Randall didn't know about, beause right now? He sounded pathetic- whining into Sully's fur about how terrified he was over some little snot nosed kid.
And why was it that those two only got the interesting doors? It felt like he'd been getting the most mundane children of the lot- he'd say something a little disturbing, they'd share a dark laugh, and he'd go.
He could go for something exciting, like a scary child, or whatever the hell Sully had gotten. An adult? There was no way. She was probably just a teenager with a deep voice and too much in the way of tits.
Randall hissed and rubbed his hands together at the thought. What he wouldn't do for a view of those... Sully probably hadn't appreciated them at all, the fool.
That was where Randall separated himself from his coworkers. They just didn't know how to spot an opportunity and snatch it up. If he'd opened a door to find a treat like that, nothing in Hell could have made him leave as soon as Sully had.
"Idiot..." He hissed. "Did you hear something, Jack?" A monster underneath him asked. "No, why?". The two of them began searching for whatever had startled them, looking under benches and in stalls. God, monsters were nosy. It was irritating. Randall left them to discuss the source of the noise, swiftly crawling out of the Locker Room to get back to work.
Being invisible had its perks, of course- nothing was safe when you could virtually wipe yourself from existence. Secrets were automatically yours for the taking, children loved to watch you wink out of sight, then come back, you could avoid conversations with people you didn't want to see... There wasn't a thing Randall thought couldn't be fixed by disappearing. And right now, invisibility was about to prove its usefulness again.
He watched for Sully, slithering after him as he walked into a door. Things were going to get good.
Chapter 5: Winner Winner Human Dinner
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Randall had begun to dose off when Sully finally, finally, took his leave of the room with a hopeful "See you soon!" and a quiet shutting of the door.
"See you soon!" Randall mocked, before crawling over to the girl and settling on top of her sheets.
That monster wasn't so bad, you thought. A little shy, but that was okay. Maybe he'd come back- you could request to see him, right? Was that what he'd said? You hoped so.
You prepared to dose off, a smile on your face, when you felt a weight slowly but surely cover your body over top your bedsheet. Your eyes flew open, looking around frantically, only finding the empty space of your bedroom. "Hello?" You asked, voice wavering.
A voice answered you. "Hewwo?"
Even though it was mocking you, you still felt a chill run down your spine. "Um... Is there still a monster here?"
"Nooo.... Not a monster." it answered you. The hairs on the back of your neck stood up. It had to have been a monster, because what else would have come in your room at this hour?
As if it pulled the question from your mind, it replied again, its breath so close to your cheek you could feel its warmth.
You pulled the covers over your head and let out a scream.
"Oh God, oh God, ohgodohgodohgod..." Your cries eventually devolve into a sort of whimpering cry as you waited for the demon above you to rip your throat out or drag you to Hell.
Its breath came closer and closer to your skin, its breath nearing your jugular. Any minute now...
You held back a gag as you felt its teeth scrape your neck through the sheet. "Boo." It whsipered against your skin.
Unable to restrain yourself anymore, you let out the loudest scream you've ever heard yourself make in a while. It ricocheted off of the walls and bounced back into your ears, seeming to grow even louder as time passed. The demon clapped a hand over your mouth.
"Shut up!" It hissed. You managed to close your mouth, your eyes brimming with tears.
"I was kidding, I'm not a demon. You really will believe anything a voice in the dark tells you, huh? Unbelievable." The voice said, chuckling under its breath. "Hey." It said. "Look at me."
You hesitantly removed the cover from your head, to be met with a reptilian face, instead of the empty air that had been there to greet you before.
"So... You're not a demon?" You asked quietly. The monster shook his head. "Nope. Even though that noise you made was... unholy. Jesus, woman."
"Why were you in my room? Why did you wait for Sully to leave to come talk to me?"
Now it was time for the monster to use a hushed voice. "Because, well, between you and me... Sully has always been a bit of a showoff. Always going on and on about how good he is, showing off his people skills..." He grimaced. "I wanted to see what all the hullabaloo was about."
"If that was all..." Your mind churned. "Why... How come you're still here? Sully's been gone." The monster scratched his head.
"We'll get to that, don't you worry your pretty little head." And he gave your head a few condescending pats, slithering closer to you.
"I've always been a little curious about human anatomy. You make so many gases, so many liquids..."
"And you don't?" You asked, curious, albiet a little put off by the sudden increase in closeness.
"Sure I do." He replied smoothly. "Wanna see?" And he smiled, showcasing the impossible amount of teeth that resided behind his lips.
In all honesty, you weren't sure if you wanted to see the things this monster could make. It had snuck into your room, scared you out of your wits... And now it wanted to breach your privacy even more?
It saw the indecision on your face. "Aw, come on. Don't be that way, I'm only curious." You closed your eyes.
Only to have them wrenched open by a pair of long, decidedly sticky, fingers. "Come onnn..." the monster pestered.
"Fine!" You huffed. "What do you want to see?" You asked it, shuddering at the way its crocodilian eyes shimmered in the darkness.
In all honesty, you weren't as appalled at the monster's request as you'd made yourself seem. It was a weird thing to ask, but if you thought about it honestly, wouldn't you ask the same?
No, you decided. This monster was rude and had no business doing what he was asking to do.
So when he let his fingers run over your mouth, you opened it to tell him exactly what you thought-only for him to slip it inside, his eyebrows raised in bemusement.
"Oh," he said. "You know, I wasn't even going to take it that far. But if you insist..." And you let out a noise of dissent. He laughed. "I'm only joking!" He laughed, taking his finger out and wiping your saliva on your bedsheet.
"I was going to take it that far" he rumbled, pressing closer to you. "I had every intention of coming in and pressing into this warm little body, and-"
"What?!" You heard yourself hoarsely whisper.
"Mmhmm," he confirmed, letting a hand trail down your face and neck. "Word travels fast at work, sweetie. Especially when the word is that someone walked in and saw someone that looked like you... And oh... are you a sight."
He'd crawled fully into your lap sometime during his confession, you realized in alarm, and was now using his new proximity to whsiper huskily into your ear.
"You're so... Ripe." He decided, and you swatted him. "Excuse me?" You protested. He laughed.
"That word doesn't mean the same thing where I come from. You smell good, don't worry."
"You smell very good, in fact, especially here," and he nosed the juncture where your neck and shoulder met,
"And here," his nose skimmed lower, in between the valley of your breasts. You let out a choked gasp, and he smiled wickedly into your cleavage.
"And definitely here." And his nose, along with the rest of his face, slid directly in between your legs, his eyes boring into yours.
"Oh my God." You whispered again. He murmured into the skin of your thighs, watching you struggle not to let your eyes flutter closed.
"Mmm, and you're so warm, especially right here. I could stay here for years, gorgeous. Riiiight here." And he moved in, even closer, his mouth right on your sex.
You scooted up sharply, keening quietly into the dark, finally breaking whatever spell he had casted on you. "Don't be like that," he crooned, fluidly moving himself back into your nethers. "It's so warm."
"S-so are other parts of my body." You offered weakly.
"Mmmmsure... But it's very warm here." And he proceeded to nuzzle into you. You flushed heavily.
"And It's even warmer inside!" He exclaimed, his voice full of wonder. You whined loudly, mortified. He looked up at you and winked. You hid your face in your hands, much to his amusement.
"You know, I've always wondered..." And before you could ask the monster, who you weren't sure wasn't a demon after all, what, exactly, he had been wondering, he licked a long, slow stripe up the length of your slit.
"Ohjesus!" you wheezed, biting down on your knuckle until you tasted the copper of your blood.
The monster smirked and chuckled, taking your knuckle in his mouth. He closed his eyes, preparing to get even more comfortable, when a low "ding!" sounded from behind your door. He sighed, and took your finger out of his mouth.
"Welp, that'll be me, sweetie. But don't be a stranger. Ask for 'Randall' tomorrow night." And he loped off your your bed, slithered out the door, watching you pant and sweat.
Chapter 6: Simmer Down
The afterglow always burned brighter than the initial lighting, for Randall at least.
Randall's about to drag this company, kicking and screaming, out of the dark ages, and nobody will ever think of Sully or Mike again if he has any say-so. And he does.
Randall swaggered out of the door, a sly grin painted on his face until he registered the lack of noise from the other monsters. Although he already had an inkling of what to expect, he still felt a jolt of surprise overtake him when he saw the multitude of full canisters before him.
They seemed endless as the sea, row after row of shining metal layed out before him; he looked at the mass and thought of the shine of a million silver coins, endless and glittering, at the bottom of a wishing fountain. It looked beautiful.
It looked like a promotion, he thought glibly, slithering into the multitude of monsters. "So," he started, the oily smug note to his voice saturating the air, "how'd I do, ladies?"
Even though the other workers had all had their fair share of altercations with Randall, none of them could deny him the praise warranted for the deed he'd accomplished. And so the entirety of the room broke out into applause, showering Randall with pats on the back, and loud, nearly manic, cheers.
He ate it up like fire on dry kindling, relishing the look on Mike's face- eye wide, pupil contracted, mouth hanging open- as everyone congratulated him. And then, never one to leave well enough alone, he looked him dead in the eye, and put a finger to his temple in a mocking salute, laughing when Mike spluttered.
They could have carried on, and most certainly would have, except for the lone voice that carried from the top of the room, all the way to the floor, from the intercom.
"Mr. Randall, if you would, please report to Scare Quota Management. Please report to Scare Quota Management."
The room was quieted, the loud uproar cooled to a simmer. Nobody had heard from anybody from Scare Quota Management in months: since the decline, quotas weren't as important as energy conservation. It didn't matter if monsters filled quotas. It mattered if Monsters Inc would be able to make whatever monster collected stretch.
But now, Randall had broken the glass ceiling, and SQM had come calling. The monsters, who had hoisted Randall up, gently sat him down on his feet, the room now too quiet. "You'd better go and see what they want," someone murmured behind him.
The silence was making Randall antsy. "Don't tell me what to do," he grumbled under his breath.
"I swear, they make this corridor as creepy as possible. Spiderwebs? God..."
Randall sidled down the hallway, wringing his hands. He wasn't idiot enough to believe that this visit had nothing to do with what he'd done in the Scare Room- the Laughter Vault, he corrected himself with an eye roll, what a stupid name- and his mind raced through all the possible outcomes.
Possibility One: They'd fire him. Even though it was never explicitly stated, "Don't fuck the humans" was probably high up on the list of offenses.
But he hadn't! He hadn't fucked anybody, he thought worriedly. He hadn't fucked the woman- and what a woman she was, he thought heatedly, his underbelly growing warm. He thought back to the hot bright flush of her cheeks, the soft skin of her thighs.
Oh, God. He felt his pouch bloom open. "Shit shit shitshitshitshitshit..." he muttered, putting a hand to the wall, his forehead clammy. Of all the times...
While he didn't know exactly what he was, he did know that somewhere down the line, a lizard had crawled up somebody's womb and helped make him into the monster he was. And it was helpful sometimes, he conceded; climbing up the walls never got old, and having a tail- a seventh hand- had its uses. But right now, it was bullshit. Lizard dick- even if it wasn't fully lizard- was irritating as all hell. And it wasn't going to go down until he could put it somewhere else.
Like between that girl's legs, his mind offered unhelpfully. Randall grit his teeth. " I don't have time for this..." he groused.
Think of something else, think of something else...he scrambled for something to think about.
Possibility Two! Possibility Two... They'd realize he'd done what he'd done because he had to. He'd done it for the good of the company! It's not that he wanted to rile that lady up, he imagined telling the monsters at SQM, he just realized that telling jokes just wasn't cutting it. Telling jokes had never been cutting it, he thought. He shook his head. It wouldn't do well to criticize his superiors right now. Not in this situation.
His head throbbed as he thought through possible explanations and excuses.
He did it to help.
He was trying to keep Monsters Inc afloat.
He did it out of love for the company.
That one was a bit much, he thought, but whatever it took. His head pounded again.
And speaking of heads... The ones between his legs throbbed painfully now, demanding to be noticed. I don't have time for a jerk off session in this goddamned hallway! he panicked. But what else to do?!
It was clear that his dick wasn't going to calm down, and there was no way he was going to show up later than he had to; it showed cowardice, he felt.
And many things could be said of him, but he'd be damned if anybody said that Randall Boggs was a coward.
Randall knocked on the door, his face set into a neutral expression. It helped, he'd learned early on, to go into situations with the stance that you hadn't done anything wrong. No sir, he didn't clock out early last week. He had no clue who kept stealing Mike's lunches from the fridge. No siree, he wasn't about to walk in this office, dick out, hidden only by his hands and a flimsy attempt at partial invisibiliy.
"Come in, Mr. Boggs," a crisp voice called out to him.
He walked in. Two other monsters were there, one seated at the desk, the other standing next to him.
"Have a seat," the seated monster said.
Randall took a seat.
The seated monster cleared his throat. "It's come to our attention that you single-handedly produced more Laughter Energy than any of your coworkers since the GPD."
He ran his hand over his head. "Well, I try," he joked, chuckling.
The face in front of him didn't change from its stony impassiveness. Randall blanched, and wondered if this was how other monsters felt around him.
"You do more than try, Mr. Boggs. In fact, we have more than an inkling of what it is, exactly, you do."
At this, the standing monster presented a small computer from behind him.
"Henry is in control of monitoring the security footage of every room in this building. Including the rooms of humans, when monsters enter. He noticed something a bit... unorthodox in your methods of extracting laughter."
Randall opened his mouth- to panic, to explain, defend- but the monster held up a hand.
"Please, refrain until the end of the video."
The tape showed Sully in a room, laughing genially with a human. "You see Mr. Sullivan here using company protocol to get the human to laugh."
The video skipped to another monster, slapping her knee and giggling with a small boy. "See Mrs. Patterson, using the same protocol."
The monster who brought the computer fast forwarded to Randall, laying prone between the woman from before's legs, hands placed lightly on her thighs.
"And there you are, Mr. Boggs," he concluded, hands folded.
Randall sweated. "There I am," he repeated.
They sat in silence for a moment, before Randall spoke again. "Is there any particular reason you called me in, sir?"
The monster looked at him and laughed. "Mr Boggs," he said, a smile in his voice, "you have the most gall of any employee I've ever met. You come in here, thinking you're on the brink of unemployment, and you-" this proved to be too much for the monster; he laughed again.
"I couldn't fire you for this if I wanted to," he confessed. "Is it against protocol to engage in contact with humans higher than Level IV? Yes, without a doubt. But have you brought in full canisters which we havent seen the likes of since the Golden Age? Yes again."
Randall relaxed in his seat. "So, if I'm not here for the pink slip," he started, leaning in, squinting, "why'd you call me?"
The monster behind the desk leaned forward as well. "You're here," he said, "because you're going to help bring Monstroplois back from the grave."
Randall nodded, feeling more comfortable. "Alright, sure. I'll bite. But what are my limitations? When do I get put in timeout?"
The monster put on an innocent face. "Whatever do you mean?" He snapped his fingers at Henry, who deleted the footage of Randall and the woman. "It hasn't come to my attention that you've broken any rule."
Chapter 7: Bulb
Mike and Sully, unite!
alright papa cheese is back, yall ready for some fucking drama?
Ik this chapter is cliffhanger-ish but I’m at work lol, I’m writing when I get home. I reread this fix and now I want to finish it
Mike narrowed his eyes as he watched Randall's form slink out the door to SQM's office. Since the decline, visits to that particular branch of the corporation were so rare that some of the employees- Mike included- had begun to doubt its existence.
"But why invent a completely fake office? What do they gain?" Sully had tried to reason with him on many an occasion, tough Mike had yet to listen to him once he started spouting that nonsense. Not everybody could stop being a sheep, Mike lamented.
Now, he looked like a fool- there was an SQM after all, and Randall was walking right to it- no doubt to cash in big and get a fat promotion. Mike seethed as images of Randall swimming in money filled his brain; he gritted his teeth and muttered curses under his breath, low enough that he wouldn't be heard over the roar of the rest of the employees.
"It should be me," Mike grumbled with his fists clenched. " I did it before him." He turned to Sully, arms spread. "Or you! You were the first one to get a full canister out of this place in ages! And Mr 'I Probably Cheated to Get All Those Canisters' is gonna walk right into SQM and... and..." Mike racked his brain to remember what exactly SQM did. "Well, I don't know what he's gonna do. But I bet you it involves a good promotion and a raise, too."
Sully looked down and smiled at Mike, who was pouting with his arms crossed now. "We don't know that. In fact, maybe they called him up to give 'em the pink slip, huh? There's no way they're gonna stand for him illegally obtaining all those laughs." Mike brightened visibly.
"You're... so... right! They wouldn't stand for that! Unless..." the cogs in Mike's brain worked furiously as his smile slowly faded. "Unless they know, but we need energy so bad they don't care! Oh, Sully, they are gonna promote him!" And he let himself drop unceremoniously into Sully's pelt.
He was just about to open his mouth to bemoan the situation even more, when the sound of of an intercom being adjusted, and then breathed into filled the air, followed by a dull, dry voice asking for Mike Wazowski and James. P. Sullivan- both of them- to report to SQM as well, and to do so promptly.
Mike clenched his fists nervously as he traversed the dank hallway with Sully in tow, the skittering sounds of his toenails on the linoleum making him jump. "It'll be fine, Mike," Sully tried to soothe him, his large hand on Mike's back. "You haven't done anything out of protocol, I haven't done anything out of protocol... this isn't as big a deal as you think."
He blanched at Sully's calm demeanor. While he could be certain that Sully hadn't broken any rule, he wasn't sure the same could be said of himself. Was it against the law for him not to call the authorities when he realized that the kid whose door he'd walked through was living the way he was? Mike closed his eye tight at the thought of his glassy stare, the easy way he'd lit that cigarette.
"Yeah," he agreed shakily, his small hand enclosed in Sully's paw. "No big deal."
They arrived at SQM a few minutes after that, the weak lightbulb above the sign sputtering and then dying out in a matter of seconds. "Reassuring," Mike groused as ully reached for the knob, and swung the door open.
"Good evening, Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Wazowski."
The monster behind the beautifully polished wooden desk greeted them with an air of bored familiarity, as if he'd been the monster personally charged with watching every piece of security footage of Monsters Inc since its birth. Looking at the lines and canyons in his face, and the beginning of cataracts in his fourth eye, Sully thought that maybe there was more truth to that hypothesis than he knew. He took a seat at the chair on the other side of the desk; Mike scurried to follow.
"I won't beat around the bush with you two," he started, staring the both of them down with a steely gaze. Mike gulped, a shimmied nervously in his seat. He wished this guy would tone down the intimidation factor even a little- was it really good protocol to terrify the hell out of your employees, especially when they'd done good and brought in laughs? Well. Cries, in Mike's case, but a full canister was a full canister nonetheless.
"You managed to do something that our company's been struggling to do for months on end now. I want to know how."
Sully furrowed his brow at the monster, an apologetic smile forming in the corner of his mouth. "Well, that'd make three of us, sir. I don't know how I brought in a full canister, on account of I didn't even get the human to laugh all that much. And, well, I don't know what went on with Mike's room, but I bet it was just as confusing."
Mike stammered in his reply. "Y-yeah! My kid- he- he just started crying!"
This caught their superior's attention at once; his pupils seemed to contract in double time, and in seconds he as leaned over the desk, the chill in his voice freezing Mike's blood.
"You... scared a child... until he cried?"
Mike scrambled to correct himself. "No, no, nononononono! No, sir! No scaring here! Or- or there! Absolutely no scaring went down in that room! I meant- I- I meant sad crying, sir! Sad crying! Like, 'boo-hoo' 'wah wah'! Not, 'AAH!' "
The monster leaned back in his seat to watch Mike act out crying and wringing his hands, before sighing. "Alright, Mr. Wazowski. I'm appeased. You can stop... whatever that is you're doing."
He turned his eyes back to Sully, who had begun to doze off and let his eyes wander- he brought his gaze back when the other monster cleared his throat sharply.
"So, the subject of this meeting is rather simple: We're going to intentionally place you in adult rooms, and see your methods for collecting laugh energy. This company needs the results that you'll bring back to us- the very foundation of Monstropolis depends on you."
The monster stood then, with many hands behind his back, and walked to the door. "If you would, follow me."
Walking down the dark corridor with the superior of the SQM was somehow more unnerving than when the walk was just with Mike, Sully thought. What strength there was in numbers, he fretted, was being leached away by the clacking sounds of the superior's boots, and the cold gaze that he was sometimes unfortunate enough to be caught in. He would enjoy when they'd eventually part ways, and could share a laugh with Mike over how nervous they'd both been.
Finally, they reached another dark room, the chill making Mike's entire body pimple up like gooseflesh. "S-sir... I don't- I need to be... is there anything I c-can use to get warm?"
The monster took a look at Mike's frozen state, and pursed his lips lightly. "Oh," he said, "You do have reptile ancestry, don't you?"
He snapped his fingers, and another worker- Sully couldn't see where they came from- thrust a coat into Mike's hands, then scurried off into the shadows. "I trust this will be of assistance?" he asked Mike, who hurriedly donned the thick article.
"Yes! Yes, thank you."
The three of them walked to the center of the room, where a series of large cameras were. Dozens of monsters were engaging in acts of hilarity with unresponsive children, some of them leaving in tears.
"I brought the two of you here to let you know that this is the current reality of Monsters Inc. No children are laughing, aside from a few miracles now and then. But the two of your feats have given me a clue as to how we change our strategy. The only constant in this universe is change, young men. If you refuse to move with the wave, you drown. "
Sully felt a chill run up his spine.
"We've always told our employees that the doors they walk into are randomly assigned, and that's been true. But today, we're going to try something new. We're going to hand select the doors that you, Mr. Sullivan, and you, Mr. Wazowski walk into. I want to have my men conduct a series of tests, and see which methods result in the most collection of laughter. You aren't permitted to tell anyone other than each other of your methods until I give the okay, and discussing this assignment with other employees is grounds for immediate dismissal from Monsters Inc- again, at least until I give you permission.
We're going to start by giving Mr. Sullivan his second adult door, and you, Mr. Wazowski-" he turned to Mike then, and leaned to look him in the eye,
"You will be assigned your first adult room; it will be the door you walk into when this meeting has reached its conclusion, which should be," and the monster eyed his pocket watch for two seconds, and then a loud buzzer sounded,
"Now. An assistant will escort you to the Scare Vault. I know these catacombs can be difficult to navigate, but trust, the assistants know their way.”
As if on cue, an assistant leapt from the shadows- shadows Sully was sure were created intentionally, to frighten workers- and pulled them along by their thumbs; Sully peeked at Mike and grinned.
”Their hands are so small!” he whispered jovially, face lighting up.
“Yeah,” Mike replied, “like Boo!”
Mike’s face fell the minute he said it, watching in horror as Sully’s eyes dimmed. “Yeah,” he murmured, voice so low Mike barely heard him.
“Just like Boo.”
”Oh, Sully...” he started, brow creasing. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-“
Sully shook his head, a sad smile on his face, eyes tight. “You’re fine. I’m sure she’s happy, wherever she is.”
Mike nodded, even as he thought about the tattered nightgown she wore, faded and dingy and riddled like cheesecloth, the sadness in her eyes that only a child who’d been all too familiar with disappointment could possess.
The silence, which had been pressing on Mike’s eardrums, finally abated when the tiny assistant cleared his throat and spoke.
”Here are your doors. Mr. Sullivan?” He gestured to his door, a plain wooden one with a gold handle. Sully gave one last smile to Mike as he stepped inside, the faint sound of music reaching his ears before it shut.
The assistant turned his gaze to Mike, his gaze unreadable. “Mr. Wazowski?” He asked, stretching his arm to the door in front of them- his was white, no discernible markings.
“Welp, alrighty!” He said, swallowing hard and preparing to open the door, when he felt the warm hand of the tiny assistant on his arm.