"All right, good day, people!" Joy rubs her hands as she takes her chair behind the console. "See you all tomorrow."
There's a chorus of varying types of good nights - Disgust's with implied eye-rolling, Anger's with a growl, Fear's wavering and nearly unheard - as Joy stretches her legs out and mulls different memories she can pull if Dream Productions falls down on the job tonight. Riley had a good hockey practice recently; the team's been rotating people on positions, and Riley's usually a forward, but she put on the goalie pads and fell over a million times, and...
"Whoa!" Joy jumps into an upright sitting position, spinning her chair...and she grins when her gaze falls on Sadness, who's wringing her hands just out of sight of the console. "Oh! How are you, Sadness?"
Sadness shrugs. She's making eye contact with Joy even though her head's dipped and her shoulders are hunched. "Oh. You know."
"Aren't you going to rest? Riley's got a full day of school tomorrow, and she'll need her team fresh."
Sadness shrugs again.
"Do you want to sit?"
"I guess." Sadness takes her own chair as the screen lights up, and Sadness's eyes grow wide. "Whoa."
"Haven't you watched Riley's dreams before?"
"Oh yeah, sure. But not since we got lost in...you know."
Joy nodded for a second, and then a wide smile split her face. "Hey, do you want to share dream duty with me tonight? There's lots of good stuff to see! Even if the dreams aren't great, there's a lot of memories we haven't seen in a while, and—"
Joy looks at Sadness playing with the hem of her sweater. "Yes?" Joy asks.
"I'll watch it with you," Sadness says, words heavy but not unwilling.
"Okay!" Joy kicks back in her own chair again. "Okay."
"So this is what dream duty is like."
Joy doesn't let the defeated tone in Sadness's voice worry her. It's not only because that's just how Sadness talks, but it's also hard for anything that sounds remotely like disappointment or criticism to stick. "Yeah, isn't it great? The dreams have gotten so creative lately. The other night, every single dream was in black and white. Movie nights with the parents have really paid off!"
"I liked the part about the dead mouse and how it's never coming back to life."
"Well, uh." Joy considers it. She can't deny being fascinated with the different way Sadness sees the world. Joy's very glad she doesn't see things in that particular way, but the little parts of the dreams would go completely ignored if Sadness didn't pick them out. "Yeah! That's pretty nice."
"But, uh." Sadness keeps shooting glances at Joy out of the corner of her eye. "I meant. I've done dream duty before, but it's never been this...good before."
Was that...was that a positive thought from Sadness? Joy laughs. Of course it's in the context of calling something else bad. "I'm having a lot of fun with you, too! Maybe we should switch off with the others in the future. Can you imagine what Anger would have thought about that bit with the pizza?"
"Oh. Yeah. Sure."
"Hey, look!" Joy points at the screen again. "It's Rainbow Unicorn! She's amazing."
"Yeah, I guess."
Joy leans forward on the console, chin resting on her hands. Life is so good sometimes.
It's funny, but Joy only realizes that it's daytime again when she hears Disgust's voice. "Have you been awake all night?"
"Yes, we have!" Joy grins. "Maybe it's not something we should do every night, but I had a lot of fun, didn't you, Sadness?"
Sadness looks between them and sighs as she sits up in her chair. It's not a no, and maybe Joy's just projecting, but it looks an awful lot like Sadness's version of yes.
Joy's learned, since she had to fight her way back to Headquarters, that it's sometimes best to distract herself while someone else is taking more control. It doesn't happen a whole lot - the new console means that they all get input more frequently and in more complicated ways - but Joy finds herself with a moment on her hands, and Disgust is busy crossing her arms nearby, so why not?
"Hey, Disgust?" she says quietly while Fear presses a couple buttons, trembling as he does it.
"Yeah?" Disgust says.
"You want to watch dreams with me tonight? Sadness and I had a lot of fun."
Disgust makes a scoffing noise. "When I could be sleeping? I don't think so."
"Don't even think of asking me." Anger kicks the console so his chair spins Joy's way. "I hate dream duty."
"Big surprise," Disgust mutters.
"Oh, okay." Joy looks toward Sadness, who's not meeting her eyes. "Looks like it's just you and me again tonight!"
"You...you didn't ask me," Fear says as Joy pushes buttons again.
Anger laughs, a harsh, quick sound. "That's because we collectively decided you don't get to watch dreams after what happened last time."
Fear brightens a little. "Oh, good idea."
"You didn't ask Sadness, either," Disgust points out.
Sadness jumps to her feet quickly, her chair spinning behind her. "That's okay," she says. "I'd probably be awake anyway."
Joy sees Disgust's point anyway. She shouldn't assume that Sadness just...wants to do everything Joy does. "No, I'm sorry. Will you sit up with me tonight?"
Sadness nods a couple times, again not meeting Joy's eyes. She doesn't seem unhappy - or Sadness's version of unhappy - so Joy hums happily to herself and gets back to work.
"Oh, the pond!" Joy claps her hands as dream Riley skates out onto the ice. "I love that Riley's dreaming about the new hockey rink, but I miss the pond!"
Joy gets to her feet and mimics some of Riley's movements. She can't do it as well as she would if she were going off Riley's memory, but she laughs with delight and hugs herself when she gets some of the turns right.
When she's done, she sinks back into her chair with a happy sigh and hugs herself. "Doesn't that look like fun?"
"I like the memories better," Sadness says. "There's more falling over."
Joy thinks about it for a minute. "I guess there's something nice about how learning, right? Or maybe having it less than perfect makes it more real?"
She talks it out for a little while longer; that's another way she and Sadness are different, because Sadness thinks more quietly a lot of the time. She's so busy talking it out that she doesn't notice Sadness sliding her hand into Joy's at first, and when Joy does notice, she pauses with a smile and squeezes Sadness's hand.
"This is nice!" Joy says, patting Sadness's hand with her other hand. "I don't think Disgust would hold my hand. I don't know if she's into personal contact. I wonder what she'd think about this dream. Is there something she would pick out?"
"I don't know," Sadness says quietly.
"Anger's not really the snuggly type. That's probably for the best. A little space is good for him. And Fear! What do you—"
"I'm going to bed."
"Huh?" Sadness isn't holding Joy's hand anymore. She's walking off, shoulders hunched, and she isn't looking Joy's way. Joy scrambles out of her chair to face her again. "Hey, is something wrong?"
"No. I'm tired."
"Oh. Okay! Maybe we can do more tomorrow!"
Sadness doesn't answer. She just goes around Joy, and Joy watches her go.
Sadness said nothing was wrong.
Joy's watching the dreams, but she isn't taking any of them in. She keeps thinking about Sadness walking away, and Joy feels...she doesn't know how she feels. She certainly feels happy for the most part, but she knows now, more than ever, that it's not a sign that she's happy. It's just the way she is.
"Have you been out here all night?"
Joy looks around. Headquarters is still dark, but it has that feeling that it does when Riley's about to wake up, like everything could go bright and moving any second. Fear's standing at the back, hands laced together, body tilted away from Joy.
"Oh!" Joy says. "Um, I guess! You know how those nights go."
"But Sadness isn't with you."
"No, she needed a break."
"I, uh. I could sit with you tonight, if you wanted?"
"No, it's okay." Joy stretches and yawns, and it's only a little bit fake. "I should actually rest, too. Not now because there isn't enough time, but today. Later."
Fear sags, obviously relieved, and Joy's smile about that feels real. But she still feels...weird.
She'll figure it out later.
Sadness doesn't look at Joy all day. She doesn't ignore Joy, not exactly, but she doesn't really talk to her, either. No one else seems to notice - except maybe Fear, but he shoots them all weird looks sometimes - but Joy can't stop thinking about it.
Joy only sticks around for two dreams that night before she wakes up Disgust and goes to rest for the night. She's too busy thinking to actually notice what the dreams are, although she does notice the first one takes place in school. But the thinking was good. Joy feels a little better.
And she'll feel even better if she can talk to Sadness later.
"Sadness? Can you wait for a second?"
Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness are all heading toward the back of Headquarters. Sadness stops in her tracks; the others are too busy talking about the chat Riley had with her friends back in Minnesota before she went to bed. (It was a good talk, too. Riley's talking about going back for a week or two in summer, and they were talking about all the things they could do...but no, Joy's focusing on Sadness for a minute. Plenty of time for the rest.)
"I was hoping you could sit with me tonight," Joy says to Sadness, who's looking...well, like herself, but in a good way. Sadness looks really nice, and Joy's not sure how she didn't notice before. She looks very huggable and soft in a way that Joy isn't. (Joy looks kind of spiky and awesome in a different way, but Joy's known how great she looks for a while.)
"Oh," Sadness says.
"Because I missed you when you left." Joy smiles. "I liked when you were holding my hand."
"I liked it, too," Sadness says. "Not even when I let you go. Before that part."
Joy holds out her hand. She feels...kind of tingly. In a good way. It's new, but it feels kind of big. And it feels even bigger when Sadness takes her hand, takes a deep breath, and then...smiles. In that small, quiet way Sadness smiles.
"I'll sit with you," Sadness says.
Joy grins. "Great."