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Monsters Vs. Aliens

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Lilo dumps her duffel bag on the bare mattress. She puts her hands on her hips and lets out a satisfied sigh. The room isn’t as small as she’d feared. The right side of the room is already half way through being decorated. The bed is made with a pink duvet and matching pillow cases, and posters of inspirational quotes plastered against sunsets and beaches and forests are making a symmetrical pattern across the wall.

Lilo only takes a moment to wonder what kind of manic depressive person her new room-mate is if she needs so much visual encouragement, because there’s a great ruckus coming from the hallway.

She leans back out through the doorway and feels her body tense as she watches Stitch making his way up the hall. He’s carrying all six of her bags above his head, keeping them balanced with one little blue arm. Some of the people mulling about are laughing loudly, causing others to come out of their dorm and see what’s going on. Others are edging nervously out of the way. Most are just staring at him with wide eyes and slack jaws.

“What is it?’ one girl says very loudly to her friends.

Stitch stops and looks at her. She and her friends all gasp and back up against the wall. Stitch sniffs and stutters his little, “H-Hi”.

“Stitch!” calls Lilo. His ears twitch and he turns, and Lilo waves a hand. ‘We’re down here.”

“Aloha,’ Stitch tells the girls, and then scuttles down the hall with such speed many more people scream.

Lilo steps aside to let him and her bags pass. She takes another look out into the hall; all eyes are glued to her.

“What?’ she snaps. ‘Haven’t any of you ever seen a little blue alien before?”

She doesn’t wait for the answer that none of them seem to be able to give, and slams the door on them.

Stitch quickly stacks the bags on the floor by the one, large window directly across from the door. Once unburdened from his load, Stitch lets out a gleeful laugh and immediately jumps onto their room-mate’s perfectly made bed.

“Careful,’ Lilo grabs him up, wrestling against his protest for the whole two seconds it takes for her to pivot and throw him back onto her own bed. ‘We’ve got to share this room now. You can’t just to messing with her stuff.”

“Just your stuff,’ Stitch nods, resuming his bouncing.

Lilo smirks. “Just be careful with my hair dryer, okay? I don’t want to have to e-mail Nani on the first day, asking her to send another one.”

“Nani... flip out.”

“Exactly.”

Lilo crosses over to the window and looks out at the quad below. The O’ahu campus of The University of Hawaii isn’t a particularly big campus, but it offers all the courses Lilo wanted and it is only the next island over from home. The only other college she had been interested in was Arizona, but she needed the ocean and heat, and California had been too expensive and Florida too far away – for Nani, anyway.

Lilo remembers suddenly and quickly pulls out her phone. She promised to send a text to Nani as soon as they had arrived.

We’re here, she writes. Too tired to talk now. Skype later.

She presses "send" and is a little shocked when she doesn’t receive an instant phone call. She isn’t too tired, but she’s too excited to get started on her room.

Stitch has already begun building his hammock above her bed. He’s hanging upside down, pushing bolts into the ceiling with one quick shove of his tiny little paws. Back home, Stitch has his own little bed that David built just for him out of driftwood he found on the beach. It sits by the window. But there isn’t enough room in here for that. Jumba designed a hammock for him, made up with different materials Lilo doesn’t know how to pronounce. He assured her it would keep him warm enough not to need a blanket, would not rip or wear out, and was machine washable. And that, Lilo had decided, was good enough.

Lilo makes her own bed quickly and fills every draw up with clothes. She takes out the photo frames she has brought with her and places them gently atop her dresser, and props her and Stitch’s surf boards up in the corner.

She’s half way through setting up her desk when she hears clicking sounds, and it takes her a minute to realize why they sound familiar. She looks up and sees Stitch in his hammock, assembling his plasma gun.

“What are you doing?’ she asks.

“Must be prepared!’ he announces, loading the clip with little glowing yellow bricks.

Lilo straightens up. “No way! Everyone will already think we’re weird enough. I don’t need you shooting up people in the middle of the night and getting us expelled.”

“Is only stun.”

“I don’t care! If we get caught with a gun in here, we’ll be out on our butts. Now disassemble it!”

Stitch hisses, clutching his gun to his chest. Lilo hisses back, giving him the most threatening look she can muster.

After a long stare-off, Stitch grumbles and takes the clip out. He tosses it to Lilo, who catches it with one hand. Lilo knows that’s the best she’s going to get out of him – for now. She rolls it up in a pair of socks and stuffs it right at the back of the drawer.

And that’s when the door opens, and a girl walks in with something large and round in her arms.

“Oh,’ she says, startled. ‘Hello.”

Lilo panics, and quickly takes one step to the right to conceal Stitch. She had wanted to give this girl – quite obviously her new room-mate – some warning before introducing her to Stitch. But of course she hasn’t knocked, because it’s her room, and Lilo can only hope she’s tall enough to block her view.

The girl is shorter than her, with dark brown hair cut into a bob, framing her face. She has nice features and high cheek bones and a soft, pale complexion, and judging from the way she’s smiling at Lilo, she hasn’t noticed anything unusual.

“You must be my new roomie!’ she moves into the room, kicking the door shut behind her. Lilo moves with her. ‘Sorry, I would shake your hand but...”

She thrusts what she’s holding into Lilo’s face. It’s a large, round fish bowl with one, single, black fish inside. It has boggling eyes and is swimming around looking confused.

“I needed to give him a top up. He lost some water in the cab ride from the airport. The driver wasn’t too happy!’ she laughs.

As soon as her back is turned as she puts her fish back into place on her dresser, Lilo whirls around. Stitch isn’t there, but she can hear the scratching of his claws and hopes to God he’s crawled under her bed.

Lilo spins back around just in time, and the girl has taken off her denim jacket and stretched out her hand. Lilo takes it and shakes firmly, pleased when she receives and equally tight grip in return.

“I’m Mary,’ she says, ‘but my friends call me Boo.”

“Oh. Why?”

“Because I told them too.”

Lilo snorts. “Lilo. My friends call me Lilo because I’m uninventive and trying not to be bossy. Uh, not that I think you’re bossy... I just used to be bossy and...” she clamps her mouth shut.

Boo just laughs and turns back to feed her fish. “And this is Mike Wazowski.”

Lilo drops to her knees and looks under the bed. “Shalom.”

“I’m so glad this place lets us bring little pets with us. Did you bring anyone?”

Nothing under her bed, Lilo sits back on the balls of her feet, and blows a loose strand of long brown hair out of her face. That’s when she spots him. Stitch is hanging from the ceiling again, directly above Boo’s head. He’s peering into the fish bowl, looking fascinated.

“WhoaumyeahIdid,’ she cries loudly, getting to her feet. Lilo dashes over to Boo, to redirect her attention. ‘I hope you don’t mind me putting up some posters. I don’t have as many as you do but they’re not distracting, I promise. Well, not that I think yours are distracting...”

Lilo wants to slap herself. It’s only been two minutes and she’s certain this girl already thinks she’s a freak. It’s only going to be a matter of time before she heads for the admin building, asking for her own room.

Boo looks at the yet-to-be unravelled posters littered across Lilo’s bed, then back at her own, and groans. “I know. They’re stupid, right? My mom made me pack them. She thinks it will help me sleep better and night because it’ll look more like my bedroom at home. Like I ever have trouble sleeping.’

Lilo hopes she doesn’t see her sigh of relief. A heavy sleeper will be more tolerant of Stitch’s constant nocturnal ticks. Lilo has had years to get used to the sound of his snores, the rustling noise he makes when he tosses and turns, and the occasional nightmare that has him waking up crying out.

“Don’t worry,’ Boo reassures her, ‘I’m taking them down the second I sent her pictures of my dorm.”

“Why do you have so many?”

Boo purses her lip and begins shuffling things around on her desk. She takes so long to answer that Lilo worries she’s crossed a line already. Lilo looks up at Stitch, who is slowly creeping down the wall. Lilo makes a ‘cut it out’ motion across her throat.

“I was in therapy for a while as a kid. And my parents thought the posters would help, and they were so worried that I didn’t really have the heart to tell them that ten was probably a little excessive.”  

Lilo sits down on Boo’s bed. She isn’t sure what to say, so what she eventually says is, “I used to feed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to a fish when I was little.”

Boo looks up from her text books and turns in her chair, and Lilo can tell that she’s trying to judge if she’s lying or not. Lilo nods emphatically, and Boo cracks a smile.

“Mike Wazowski is gluten free,’ she says, ‘just in case old habits return.”

Lilo smirks.

Stitch makes a break for the fish; it’s now cowering in his little yellow castle. Lilo puts a hand up to stop him. He responds instantly, ceasing his movement, and when Lilo jabs a thumb over her shoulder to get him to get back into his hammock, Stitch growls and crawls back up onto the ceiling.

“Did you say something?’ Boo asks.

“No, just... clearing my throat. Hey do you want to come down to the quad with me? I haven’t had a chance to check out the activities fair yet.”

Lilo pulls Boo up out of her chair, and a large drop of green drool hits her chair, just missing her.

Lilo frog marches Boo out of the room, listening to her chatter about her flight over from Indiana and throws a glare back at Stitch. He’s bouncing on Boo’s bed again when he pokes his tongue out back at her.

 

                                                                                      ********************************************

 

In their five hours together – five hours in which they looked at every stall at the activities fair, grabbed some hot dogs, met some guy called Russell and ended up at his frat party – Lilo was feeling much better about the prospect of sharing a room with Boo for the next three years.

Boo talked a lot, and Lilo was surprised to find that she didn’t mind being the listener for once. It was the first time really that Lilo had spent any time with anyone who wasn’t from home – aside from aliens, of course.

While eating a snack under a large tree on the lawn, Lilo had discovered that Boo was studying Philosophy and History, majoring in Psychology. When Lilo asked her why she had chosen this, Boo was very direct with her answer.

“I want to be a child Psychologist. The ones I had when I was younger were bogus, and I don’t want kids to go through what I went through.”

Lilo was instantly curious. But she didn’t want to press, because she knew that shitty childhoods were difficult to talk about, no matter how comfortable you seemed with the topic.  

So Lilo told her that she was studying Hospitality and Tourism, because she remembered how hard it was for Nani to get a job when she was younger, and she wanted options because she wasn’t sure her minor, Astronomy, would pay her a whole lot, despite her “unique education” on the subject.

Boo had begun talking about how she’d had her own unique experiences as well, but then they’d been rudely interrupted by someone falling out of the tree they had been lounging under.

He’d landed on his back at their feet with a loud ‘Oomf’ and a laugh. Neither Boo nor Lilo offered to help him up.

He looked up at them and scrambled to his hands and knees. “Sorry! Did I hurt you? Did I land on anything? No? Okay. I was trying to get my football out of the tree and...’

Said football appeared, bouncing off his short black hair and into his arms.

“Ha! There it is. You two sure you’re okay? I’m a Wilderness Explorer, y’know. I know first aid.”

“We’re fine,’ Boo giggled holding up a hand to stop him rushing over. ‘Are you okay?’

“Not the first time I’ve fallen from something high,’ he laughed and held out his hand. “I’m Russell.”

Lilo shook his hand and after introductions and a bit more chatter, Russell offered them both an invitation to a party his Frat house was holding later on. Lilo had been hesitant; she’d never left Stitch alone for so long, let alone in a completely new environment. But Boo was eager to go, and Russell’s innocent charm was growing on her, and with one last look up at her dormitory window she made her decision.

It’s almost two thirty in the morning when Lilo and Boo both come back into the room. Boo goes to flick the light on, but Lilo stops her just in time.

“Just use your cell phone light.’ She says, hoping that will be enough to still offer shadows for Stitch to hide in.

The curtains are open, letting in low light from the quad. Boo turns her back to Lilo and begins to undress, and Lilo does the same. As she takes off her shirt she notices two big bright eyes staring at her from the hammock above her bed.

“I’m just going to brush my teeth,’ Boo announces as she leaves.

The door clicks shut behind her. Lilo lets out a sigh, pulls her t-shirt on, jumps up onto her bed and reaches out for Stitch.

“I’m so sorry. Are you okay? What have you been doing?’

“Reading,’ Stitch says. His voice is heavy with sleep.

Lilo looks around at her texts books, all open at random pages; evidence of his flicking.

“All of them?”

Stitch nods and points. Boo’s books are open too.

“And that’s it?’

“Show you in morning,’ Stitch mumbles and rolls over.

Lilo purses her lips together and pokes him. “Did you make another gun? Stitch, we can’t have weapons. We’ve talked about this!’ 

“Receiver.’

“For what?”

“Jumba.”

“Jumba has the Internet if he wants to send us anything! What is he sending you?”

“Schematic.”

“For what?”

“Blaster.”

We can’t have weapons!’

“Lilo, can I turn the light on? I forgot my floss and I can’t...’

The light above them flicks on, flooding the room with light. Lilo whirls around to see Boo standing frozen in the doorway, her hand still on the doorhandle and her toiletry bag stuck under her arm.

Lilo straightens up and feels Stitch move behind her. Boo comes into the room, kicks the door shut behind her and points over Lilo’s shoulder. “Who is that?’

Who is that. Not what is that, but who. Lilo looks around at Stitch, who is sitting upright now. He’s morphed back into his ‘cute’ façade; tucking his antenna and extra arms away in what Lilo assumes is his attempt to try and soften the blow.

“This... uh...’ Lilo runs a hand through her hair and sighs. She steps aside and shrugs. ‘This is Stitch.”

“Is he a monster?’ Boo asks.

She doesn’t sound scared, just curious, and Lilo feels reassured at her calm demeanour.

“He’s an alien.”

Boo blinks. “Oh.”

She almost sounds disappointed. Lilo lets out the breath she doesn’t realise she’s been holding.

With a little wave, Stitch says ‘H-HI’.

Boo lets out a soft laugh of disbelief, and then wriggles a few fingers in return. “Hello there. He’s... your friend?’ she asks Lilo.

“Ohana,’ Stitch says. He points to Lilo.

Lilo sits Boo down and, deciding it’s going to have to be all or nothing, tells her everything. About Nani and David, and Jumba and Pleakly, and Cobra Bubbles and The Grand Councilwoman and Captain Gantu. Nani had warned her about this months ago – when they had decided they couldn’t afford to get Lilo and Stitch a room of their own. She had told her to keep Stitch hidden for as long as possible. Lilo can imagine how Nani will react when she finds out they blew it on the first day, but right now she doesn’t care. It’s amazing to be able to share this experience with someone new. Only when she finishes, leaving Boo with an astounded look on her face, does she worry that Boo might not believe her.

Boo is quiet for a long time after. Her eyes keep shifting from Stitch, to the wardrobe, and back again. Lilo wants to tell her that there’s no point thinking you can hide in there because Stitch is strong enough to bring down this entire building, and a little wooden door is like paper for him, but doesn’t think that will make the situation any easier.

Stitch isn’t good with awkward silences, so he tries to break it by morphing back to his natural form. His second pair of arms comes out, as do his antenna, and Boo’s eyes widen.

“Wow,’ she says finally. ‘You can change like that any time you want?’ she asks.

Stitch nods, and Lilo explains, ‘It’s less confronting for people to see him that way. I thought he was a dog when I first found him. I mean, I found him at the pound, so it wasn’t a big leap. Nani thought he might have been a koala.”

Boo smiles at Lilo, like she’s only barely holding back her laughter. She turns to Stitch and holds a hand out for him. He takes it gently, and Boo does giggle this time.

“Wow,’ she says again. ‘You’re really real, aren’t you,’

It’s a statement. She’s affirming and accepting this so much easier than Lilo had feared. The relief floods her body, and Lilo suddenly feels very tired.

“Can I...’ Boo starts, and Lilo notices her eyes are welling up with tears. ‘Nevermind. It’s weird.”

“Whatever it is,’ Lilo chuckles, ‘is it really weirder than this?’

“This isn’t weird; this is great,’ Boo tucks her hair behind her ear, reaches out tentatively and, very gently, runs the blade of her finger along the side of Stitch’s ear. She snatches it back quickly, but Lilo sees that it isn’t out of fear. ‘It’s very nice to meet you, Stitch. Please don’t feel like you have to disguise yourself around me. You’re amazing.”

A giant grin breaks out over Stitch’s face. He bares all his teeth and rushes to hug not Boo, but Lilo. She smiles at Boo as she scratches behind his ear. This is the first positive introduction Stitch has ever had, and Lilo is so happy for him and so grateful to the universe to pair her with such an understanding person that she doesn’t know what to say.

Boo rubs her eyes and runs her hands through her hair as she clears her throat. She gets to her feet suddenly and glances around the room, looking lost. Lilo watches silently as she finally finds a destination, and after a moment of rummaging through her suitcase, resurfaces with a tiny little container of floss.

“Flossing,’ Boo says. She collects her things again and moves toward the door. ‘I’ll be flossing. Be right back.”

She leaves, not taking her eyes off Stitch until the door closes again.

Lilo and Stitch both let out a long sigh of relief, look at each other and laugh.

 

                                                               ************************************************************************************

 

It takes Lilo a whole week to work up the nerve to tell Nani, and when she does, it goes as well as she expects.  

Nani has been rambling for almost fifteen minutes, and Lilo is sick of it.

Their home computer is in the corner of the kitchen, and she’s rushing about back and forth. From the angle the camera is pointed, Lilo can see Nani trying to sooth three bubbling pots at once. She clanks and clangs and grunts as she tries over and over to fit the right lid to the right pot. Lilo wants to suggest that if she just shut up for a second and actually concentrated on what she was doing, maybe she wouldn’t be ruining the food. But Lilo can’t get a word in, so she just sits there at her desk, with her arms folded over her chest, watching her own computer screen while waiting for Nani to either finish or pass out.

David is sitting at the counter, sipping on his coffee, not saying anything. Lilo has given up throwing him looks; it’s clear by now his intention is to stay well out of this.

“I thought we had an agreement! You get to bring Stitch with you as long as you can keep him out of sight. And you’re telling me you couldn’t even last one night? ‘No-one will even notice him’, you said! ‘He’ll be like a little blue ninja,’ you promised! Why do I believe you? Why do I always think this time will be different? Hey? Lilo!”

Lilo looks up from her fingernails she’s been biting. “What?”

Nani sighs heavily and slams a lid over the lamb stew. “Have you heard a word I’ve said?”

“Half of my campus has heard you.”

“This is important. We promised Cobra Bubbles minimum exposure! If word gets out that there’s a little blue alien on campus he’s going to find out and then...”

“Then, what? Take me away from you again? I’m already away from you. And I’m nineteen, I can do what I want. And so can Stitch. And Boo is really nice and open minded and she loves Stitch!’

“They could deport him!’ Nani snaps. ‘Is that what you want? You want the Grand Councilwoman hearing we can’t take care of him like we promised?”

“He’s not destroying anything.’ Lilo was glad Nani couldn’t see all the blue prints he had plastered across the top of the window of rockets and cannons.

“And now you’ve got this poor girl involved. Does she know what she’s gotten herself into?

Lilo feels her temper rising. She balls her hands into fists and shoves them deep into her pockets. Nani’s looking at her with a determined expression; her hair is coming out of her bun in crazy strands that fall over her face and stick out in odd directions.

David clears his throat softly. “Nani...”

“What?’ Nani snaps, whirling on him.

David blanches and puts his hands up defensively. Nani glares at him for a moment, before she takes and deep breath and exhales slowly. Lilo watches her deflate like a popped balloon, and once her shoulders go slack and she’s apologized to her husband, Lilo seizes her chance.

“Boo isn’t going to tell anyone. She hasn’t gone running for the hills or the CIA or campus security or anything yet. And I know she never will. She’s different. She just... gets it, somehow.”

“And that sounds normal to you? Her name is Boo, for the love of...”

“That’s not her real name, you moron.”

Lilo feels frustrated again and reaches out, ready to slam her laptop shut. But David finally stands up and comes around to the other side of the bench to put an arm around Nani. She relaxes again.

“I think it’s great that Lilo and Stitch have made a friend,’ he says firmly.

“Two,’ Lilo muttered. If they were counting Russell; she wasn’t sure if they were yet.

‘We couldn’t afford to get a single room, so we knew this would only be a matter of time. And we can meet this Boo when we all come over for Visitor’s Day in a few weeks.’ David is saying it more for Nani’s benefit, Lilo knows. But she’s still excited at the prospect of them all meeting one another.

Nani sighs and steps closer to her monitor. She looks around and frowns. “Where is Stitch?’

“He’s showing Boo the mutli-dimensional teleporter he’s building on the roof of the science building.”

“He’s what?’

There’s a knock at the door. Lilo turns away from the image of a laughing David trying to remind Nani of what a joke is, and answers it to find Russell standing there with arms full of rope and tent poles.

“I thought we could go build a fort on the lawn,’ he grins.

Lilo smiles, rolls her eyes and asks him to wait there. She crosses over to her laptop and sees Nani peering in again, making Lilo feel like she’s in a police interrogation room.

“Who’s that now?’

Russell waves from the doorway. ‘Aloha, Lilo’s family!”

“That’s Russell. I’ve gotta go... er, study. We’re study buddies.”

“Lilo...’ Nani starts.

“Okay, have fun kids!’ David calls with a wave, and then the screen goes black on his smile and Nani’s expression of outrage.

Lilo puts on her flip-flops and grabs an apple from their fruit bowl. She shoves it in her mouth, grabs up the communicator Stitch built her and her cell phone, and follows Russell out into the hallway.

Russell immediately launches into a story about how he used to have a lot of issues communicating with his dad before video chats came along, but Lilo is only half listening as she types a quick message to Stitch, telling him where she will be. It’s in his language; symbols that he had long ago taught her how to read.  

Half an hour later, a lop-sided tent is pitched under the same tree Russell fell out of, and he and Lilo are playing poker and laughing about their former high school teachers. Lilo smiles inwardly at her hand, feeling confident that Russell doesn’t have three aces. That’s when the flap of the tarp opens and Boo sticks her head in.

“You found us!’ Russell announces happily.

“It’s a giant blue tarp,’ Boo laughs. She shifts some of the snacks out of the way and sits down next to Lilo. ‘Wasn’t that hard to spot.”

Russell folds his hand, takes the cards off Lilo and begins to deal the three of them back in. While he’s distracted trying to do fancy tricks with his Captain America playing cards, Lilo leans closer to Boo.

“Where is he?’

‘Still on the roof,’ Boo whispers. ‘He’s trying to calibrate a satellite to get us cable.”

Lilo rubs her eyes. This is what happens when she leaves Stitch with someone who thinks he’s just completely adorable – he gets away with anything.

 

                                                         ********************************************************************************************

 

Stitch is better at concealing himself than ever. His haven is on the roof of the Science building, where he has easy access to copper wiring and test tubes and chemicals, and is free to build many gadgets to occupy his time. Most he assembles, and then disassembles, and mails back home to Jumba with blueprints on how to reconstruct it. Nani has tried to talk to him over video chat, trying to convince him to come home if he’s that bored. But he refuses to leave Lilo, and Lilo doesn’t even try to convince him otherwise.

Nani has nothing to worry about. At least, that’s what Lilo tries to tell her every time they speak to one another. Within a fortnight, the three of them have easily fallen into a routine.

The most convenient place for them to be is their room, but they can’t stay there very long because Stitch becomes tense and begins clawing at the walls – literally.

So they follow his lead, and begin hanging around the second most convenient location: the roof of the Science building.

Lilo almost wants to send Nani a picture of what it looks like up here, just for kicks. Stitch has already set up two long wooden tables; one with already finishes gadgets, and the other with various scattered parts. Boo claims she didn’t notice the tank of liquid nitrogen under the table, but Lilo isn’t buy it for a second, and reminds Stitch to try his hardest to be subtle.

They can’t come up every day, Boo reasons. Someone will notice them heading up the fire escape and wonder why two girls are always going up on the roof, and then come to investigate and find all this and report them to campus security and the Dean. Lilo tries to argue that Boo is being dramatic. The prospect of spending less time with Stitch than she has to isn’t welcoming.

“You’ll be spending no time with him if they catch us, and then we get expelled and Stitch gets... well, whatever they can give him,’ Boo says firmly.

After a few more arguments, Lilo finally concedes. They work out a schedule that only restricts Stitch to the dorm three nights a week. They themselves can only go up on the roof during daylight hours on weekends, and a maximum of four nights during the week after the sun has gone down.

“I feel like we should be dressed as ninjas,’ Boo remarks as they climb the fire escape.

Lilo looks up at her; she can see the full moon bright in the night sky above her head. It creates a silver halo around Boo, like she’s glowing. “This was your idea.”

“All this sneaking around, trying to evade night guards and they’re flashlights and the prying eyes of other students…’ Boo looks back down the ladder over her shoulder. ‘Don’t even pretend you don’t love it.”

Lilo purses her lips. Boo laughs when she doesn’t answer.

When they reach the roof, Stitch has set up a little seating area for them. The night is balmy, and there’s a soft cool breeze blowing that is refreshing after the climb. There are two hammocks set up with a table between them. Boo takes her backpack to the table and begins unloading their snacks and her books. Lilo crosses to Stitch.

He nudges her arm with his forehead, but otherwise doesn’t look away from what he’s building.

Lilo examines the long, metallic device. “What is this?”

“Tesla coil.”

“Why are you making a tesla coil?”

“Electricity.”

“We already have that. Plug whatever you need into it and bam.”

Stitch shakes his head. “For class.”

Lilo frowns. “You don’t take class.”

“In the vent.”

Boo comes over and leans over to inspect his invention. “You’re taking classes... while hiding in the air vents?”

Lilo hugs him, promises to get him some science books from the library next time she’s in there, and she and Boo move back over to the hammocks. Boo has trouble getting into hers; Lilo can’t help but laugh as she moves around, trying to find the best position in which to get in. Finally, she takes pity on her and holds the sling steady for her to sit it. It wobbles, and Boo lets out a little squeal of fright, but quickly finds a comfortable spot and sticks to it. Lilo sets up the record player between them, gently readies her copy of Elvis’ Greatest Hits and turns the volume right down. Stitch instantly begins tapping his foot and singing along to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ as Lilo flops down into her own hammock with ease, and pulls her star charts from her bag.

“Did y’know,’ Boo begins, ‘that I have Herpetophobia?”

Lilo looks over at Boo. She’s half-hidden behind a giant psychology text book. “I’m sorry to hear that, but I think they have pills for that now – clears it up in no time.”

Boo laughs. “It’s a fear of lizards.”

“Seriously?’ When Boo nods, with a chipper ‘Mmm-hmm!,’ Lilo shakes her head in disbelief. ‘We’re learning so much about each other.”

“Want me to diagnose you? What are you afraid of?”

“Being diagnosed with a weird illness.”

Boo flips through a few pages, turns the book toward Lilo and points. “Dementophobia.”

Lilo rolls her eyes and looks up at the starry night sky. “Unbelievable.”

For a while Boo reads out a few more strange phobias people have. Lilo points out constellations in the sky, explains how they were names and how far away Sirius, Antares and Betelgeuse are, and tries to explain which direction Stitch flew in from. Boo ask her if she’s ever been into space for real. Lilo asks if when she’s a big time shrink, if she’s going to adorn her walls with inspirational posters and give kids pats on the back as they leave.

They fall into an easy silence after that, and eventually Stitch comes over and curls up on Lilo’s stomach. He’s always so warm, but even on this balmy night Lilo doesn’t care. She reaches out and absentmindedly traces circles along his back, enjoying the soft feeling of his blue fur.

As she’s writing notes on her jotter pad, Lilo feels eyes on her. She looks over; Boo is bathed in bright moonlight. She is watching them, but turns away quickly when she realizes she’s been caught. It’s suddenly awkward, and Lilo hates awkwardness, so she decides its Random Question Time.

“Why did you decide on this university? Doesn’t the East Coast have some really good schools? Yale or Harvard would look more impressive hanging on your office wall than O’ahu.”

Boo rolls over onto her side. “And what makes you think I’m smart enough to get into those schools?”

“Because I’ve met you?’ Lilo smirks. ‘So you decided to come slum it with us islanders, huh?”

“No, that’s not what I meant.”

“Uh-huh...”

“I just wanted to get as far away from home as possible,’ she admits. ‘I wanted a fresh start. I was sick of being the odd girl with the overactive imagination. I wanted to… I don’t know... be known for something other than being the girl with the mental problems.”

Lilo purses her lips and looks up at the stars again. She doesn’t know how anyone would think Boo had mental problems. The girl was more normal than anyone she’d ever met. But then again, the only people Lilo really knew were aliens and her sister.

 “I feel that.” Lilo says finally.

“Why did you choose this school? Because of Stitch?’

“Partly. Mostly I just love the beach too much. If I couldn’t surf, or feel the sand between my toes, or smell salty air I’m pretty sure I’d go even crazier.”

Boo chuckles. “When I landed at the airport, that was the first time I’d ever seen the ocean in real life.”

Lilo sits up suddenly, startling Stitch. He grumbles, pushes her back down and curls back into her.

“You’ve never seen the beach?’ Lilo asks, astonished.

Boo shakes her head.

“No surfing? No sand beneath your feet? You don’t know what it smells like?”

“Well now I do.”

Lilo scoffs in disbelief. Boo just shrugs, reminding her that when you live in a small town outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, the nearest beach is many hours drive.

“Right,’ Lilo points insistently at Boo’s book. ‘Read the hell up, because tomorrow you and I are taking the day off and going to catch some waves. The surfing here is pretty choice.”

Boo tries to argue that she doesn’t have a board, but Lilo insists that she can borrow Stitch’s, and that is that.

The next morning they’re at the beach, bright and early. Lilo gives Boo time to enjoy simply being there. Boo inhales deeply and splashes about on the shore, kicking up foam with her toes. Stitch is there, happy to sit on the beach and build sandcastles while Lilo shows Boo the basics, like paddling and how to stand up.

Boo wears a dark blue bikini, and it stands out in stark contrast to her pale skin. She awkwardly carries Stitch’s red board out into the water. Lilo takes of her shirt, leaving her in only her bikini top and board shorts, and follows Boo out into the surf.

The swell is a little small, but it’s perfect for Boo to find her feet on. It was also deterring a lot of the more experienced thrill seeking surfers who enjoyed the bigger waves, so Boo had less reason to feel intimidated.

It takes her quite a while to get the hang of it, but finally Boo manages to stand up for a wobbly few seconds. She lets out a squeal of delight and looks around for Lilo, but the motion causes her to lose her balance, and she disappears into the surf.

Lilo is laughing and slowly applauding as Boo resurfaces and paddles over to her.

Boo sits up on her board like Lilo and floats alongside her. “Did you see that? Pretty impressive huh?”

“Not bad,’ Lilo laughs, ‘for a haole.”

“Excuse me?”

“Means white person. You’re shark bait.”

Boo laughs and brushes wet hair out of her face.

Lilo loves this feeling; her feet dangling over the side of her board in the cool water, while the heat of the sun beats down on her, kissing her skin and warming her all over. She stretches her arms out in front of her, tilts her head back and closes her eyes to absorb all the sun she can.

After a long moment, Boo splashes her, bringing her back to reality. “What do your tattoos mean?’ she asks suddenly.

Lilo looks down at her arms. She points to the two batons crossed over each other with fire coming out both ends of each. “This one is my brother-in-law, David’. Then she points to the large white Frangipani on the inside of her right upper arm, ‘And this one is my sister, Nani’. She turns her right arm upward, showing a colourful array of starts, nebulas and constellations, ‘This is Stitch’. And finally she turns around and shows the word Ohana printed along her shoulder, ‘And this is everyone – and my parents.”

“They’re lovely,’ Boo smiles.

“Nani had a meltdown when I got this one,’ Lilo points to her back. ‘But then I got the flower and she got over it. Do you have any?”

Boo shakes her head, sending droplets of water everywhere. ‘I can’t decide. All I can think of is getting a door.”

“A door?”

“Sounds stupid, right?”

“If it means something to you...’ Lilo trails off with a shrug. ‘When you’re ready, I know a guy. I’ll take you to see him.”

“Thanks,’ 

“Mahalo,’ Lilo corrects.

“Mahalo,’ Boo repeats with a smile.

 

                                                           ************************************************************************************************

 

Lilo has another two months after their first surfing lesson where everything goes so smoothly, she actually forgets to worry that anything could possibly go wrong.

Having Boo there makes it all so much easier. If she had been paired with someone awful and close minded, Lilo is sure she would have dropped out of school by now. Having to hide Stitch from the alumni and faculty was bad enough, but to try and hide him in their own room...

But Boo is fantastic, and Stitch is as fond of her as she is of him. She brings him back food from the cafeteria during her free periods, and asks him many questions about his planet and interstellar travel and how it had been for him and Lilo growing up.

Despite her bouts of hyperactivity, she’s patient and understanding and fun, and doesn’t even mind when Stitch tosses and turns and claws at the walls in his sleep during one of his nightmares.

In fact, they were both so used to it by now, that on this particular night it took them a while to wake up and realize something wasn’t right.

There’s a rustle, and a grunt, and then a thud beside her like something bumping into her desk.  Lilo – in her half-awake state – assumes Stitch has rolled out of bed again. But there’s another grunt, and a loud ‘OW!’ in a voice that doesn’t belong to any of them, and Lilo sits up in alarm.

In the darkness, Lilo can see shadows moving – one small, one large. She can hear Stitch snarling and panting, and the other figure crying out as they try to fight Stitch off.

“What’s... Stitch...?’

“Gun!’ Stitch cries. ‘Gun!”

“No, no guns!’ the deep voice is shaking. ‘Everything’s fine, just go back to sleep!’

“What’s going on?’ says Boo suddenly.

“I’m just trying... ugh... to... AHHHHH!”

Lilo flicks on the light. In a whirl of blues and greens she can just Stitch tackling something giant and hairy. And then Stitch grabs it by the ears and pulls its head back, and with another cry of pain and flailing limbs, the two of them stumble back into the closet. The doors slam them inside.

The silence is sudden, blunt and deafening. Lilo looks over at Boo; she’s sitting bolt upright. Her hair is sticking up in different directions, and she’s breathing heavily with wide open eyes.

As one, the both of them throw their covers off and dash to the closet. Lilo rips the door open, but there’s nothing inside but clothes and empty boxes.

“What happened?’ Lilo demands, feeling panic rise up from the pit of her stomach. She taps the back of the closet, rummages through her clothes, tosses her shoes aside and kicks the boxes out of the way in a mad frenzy – but there’s nothing. ‘Where did they go? What was that thing? Did you see it? Boo?’

Lilo looks over her shoulder. Boo is standing there like a deer in headlights, staring into the closet like she can’t quite believe what’s just happened. She’s still breathing heavily; her nostrils are flaring with every breath she takes.

“He’s gone!’ Lilo cries. ‘But... but how...”

Boo’s knees give out and she falls clumsily to the floor. Lilo crawls over to her, blinking tears out of her eyes.

“What do I do?’ she grabs Boo by the shoulders and shakes her gently. ‘What do we do? He can’t have just disappeared. His teleportation device is on the roof...”

Boo opens and closes her mouth a few times, trying to form words. But no sound comes out, just a few gurgling noises.

Lilo goes back to the closet, crawls inside and looks around again. There’s nothing out of the ordinary. The only evidence that anything happened, is the mess she herself has made by rummaging around. Lilo bangs her fist on the back of the closet, feeling frustration and confusion with every strike.

It’s so loud and confined that it takes her a minute to realize someone is calling her name.

Lilo slides back out onto the floor and looks over at Boo, who seems to have come to her senses a little.

“It’s okay,’ she says.

“It’s not okay,’ Lilo snaps. ‘This is not anywhere near okay!’

It’s okay...’ Boo repeats reassuringly, ‘...because I know where he’s gone.”

A feeling of hope bursts inside her chest, and Lilo scrambles over to her friend. Boo glances over at the closet, and swallows back a quiet sob.

Lilo takes her hand to grab her attention again. “Where?”

Boo lets out a laugh of disbelief. “The monsters world.”

The hope turns to anger instantly. “What the hell is that supposed to mean? I thought you said you knew.”

“I do, I’m not making this up,’ Boo says firmly. ‘That thing he was wrestling with... it was a monster. I don’t know why it was here... they only go after children’s screams...”

“What the hell are you talking about?’

“It’s real. Y’know, I was actually starting to believe that it wasn’t, after everyone told me... but it’s true. It happened.”

“Of course it happened, you saw him fall in!”

“That’s not what I mean!”

Lilo lets out a cry of disgust and goes back to the closet. She doesn’t know why she expects to see something different, some clue to where Stitch went...

Suddenly, Boo is beside her, looking cross.

“You don’t believe me,’ she shakes her head. ‘I know, it sounds ridiculous. No-one ever believed me. All those therapists and my teachers and my parents, they told me time and time again that it was a dream - imaginary friends of a little girl. And I even started to think I’d dreamed it until tonight, but I’m telling you… it was real. There’s a place where monsters live, and they come into children’s rooms every night to scare them. They work in this giant silver factory! And there’s monsters of every type and shape and colour and...”

She trails off, looking like she’s about to cry again.

Lilo reminds herself to calm and think about things. And, really, considering all she’s seen in her life and who her best friend is, does she really find it that hard to believe that what Boo is saying is true?

Lilo pictures the giant, green thing Stitch was wrestling with. It had a proper voice, but what in the world looked like that? And where else could it possibly have come from?

Lilo pats Boo on the arm. ‘I believe you.”

‘Do you really? Or are you just saying that because you want Stitch back?’

“A little of both.”

Boo sighs and shrugs. “Well that’s more than I’ve ever got from anyone.”

She shoves her way gently past Lilo and steps into the closet. She runs her hand along the back wall, and Lilo watches her and impatiently shifts her weight from one foot to the other.

“We can’t get in this way,’ Boo says finally.

Lilo only just stops herself from saying, Duh.

“They’ll have shredded the door by now,’ she adds.

“Shred? But it’s still here.”

“No, on their side, they have...’ she sees Lilo expression and stops with a tight-lipped smile. ‘Never mind. Point is we’ll have to try and find another door.”

“Well let’s go!”

“Wait!’

Lilo is half-way to the door when she stops. Boo steps out of a closet and looks worried.

“We can’t do it tonight.”

“Why?”

“Just trust me, okay?’ Boo urges. ‘We have to wait for another night, and use another closet. They won’t use this one again.”

Lilo folds her arms over her chest and grunts in annoyance. She wants Stitch back now. She wants to barge through whatever dimensional gate they use and rain holy hell down on them until they send him back to her.

But Boo seems to know what she’s talking about, and after a long staring match, Lilo has to concede.

Fine,’ she sighs. ‘Tomorrow night?’

Boo nods, and with something of a plan in mind they switch off the light and go back to bed. Lilo takes forever to get back to sleep; her eyes never leave the closet. And even though she can’t see her, she’s sure Boo’s don’t either.

 

                                                          ********************************************************************************************

 

The next night, as soon as the sun goes down, Lilo is back in their room and rummaging through her drawers.

Boo comes in not long after her, arms full of books. “What are you looking for?”

Lilo finds the glowing clip just where she left it. She straightens up and clicks it back into Stitch’s phaser.

“What are you doing?’ Boo demands. ‘We don’t need that!”

“The hell we don’t. I’m not marching into some Monster compound unarmed.”

“They’re not dangerous.”

“Tell that to Stitch. Oh wait, we can’t, because he was kidnapped by one of them.”

Boo steps forward and tries to snatch the gun. Lilo clutches it to her chest and squirms away.

“Do you at least know how to use it?’ Boo asks. ‘We’re not going to blow up half the dormitories, are we?

Lilo plays with the settings, takes the clip out and reinserts it and takes the safety off to demonstrate. Boo hurriedly shakes her hands and tells Lilo she believes her and for the love of God to please be careful. Lilo smirks, turns the safety back on and resumes packing her backpack. There’s snacks, a camera, a spare sweater, night vision goggles and two bottles of water.

She’s also bringing the communicators she and Stitch use. She shows Boo quickly the basic settings and what the symbols mean and gives her one.

“In case, for any reason, we get separated,’ Lilo gives her an intense look, silently promising not to let this happen.

Boo nods and immediately slips into the back pocket of her jeans.

In no time at all, Boo has her usual purple hoodie on and her red sneakers, and Lilo is dressed in her black sweater, camo pants and black boots, and they’re heading across the lawn toward the frat house.

“Why are you dressed like that?’ Boo giggles.

“This is a very serious rescue mission! Why are you dressed like that? You look like we’re going to the movies.”

Boo shrugged. “Seemed appropriate.”

They reach the frat house and don’t even bother knocking. There’s another party on – same as every weekend since the start of the semester – and the door is wide open. There’s dozens of people loitering on the porch and in the hallway. Lilo and Boo squeeze past them and head straight upstairs to the room down the end of the landing.

Boo knocks this time, but Lilo just brushes past her and storms right in.

Russell and his roommate, Peter, are both half hidden behind a large television screen. The layout of their room is exactly the same as Lilo and Boo’s, except this one is significantly more disorganized. They’ve got clothes all over the floor, shoes kicked off on their beds, posters covering the walls and the ceiling, and that boy smell is lingering in the air.

The two of them are sitting on the desk by the window, and haven’t yet noticed anything out of the ordinary.

“Dude, where are you?’ Peter shouts, as if Russell isn’t sitting right next to him.

“By the boulder! Look! Hurry up and find me!”

As one, both of them lift their arms up into the air; they’re still both clutching their game controllers.

“Hey!’ Lilo shouts. 

Russell sits up as straight as he can. Lilo can just see slanted eyes peering over the top of the television, and when they see her they widen.

“Oh!’

The game stops suddenly and Russell gets to his feet.

“Dude, we’re almost done!’ Peter cries. ‘What the hell are you...oh,’

Both boys are then on their feet, and Boo snorts over Lilo’s shoulder. Russell is shirtless and Peter is pants-less, showing off a pair of bright red boxer shorts. Peter realizes quickly and scrambles to put on some sweat pants. Russell just stands there and folds his arms over his toned chest, smiling.

“Sorry,’ he says, jerking a thumb at the TV. ‘Halo. Things can get a bit intense.”

“We need this room...’ Lilo begins to explain, but Peter (now wearing pants) laughs.

“Ahhhh I get it. Russ, why didn’t you say so?’ He punches Russell in the arm and makes for the door. ‘I’ll just leave you three alone.”

And with a wink, he closes the door behind him.

“Lolo,’ Lilo says.

“Sorry to bother you,’ Boo says to Russell, ‘but can we borrow your room for a while? It’s important.”

Russell arches an eyebrow and surveys them suspiciously. “What for?”

“It’s... complicated.’

“It’s none of your business,’ Lilo snaps impatiently.

“You kick out my roommate – at a very crucial time, I might add – and then tell me you need my room for something “important”. Yeah, actually I think it is my business. I just bought new sheets last weekend. I don’t want you two ruining them! I didn’t keep the receipt and even if I did their returns policy is...”

“Your bed sheets will be fine,’ Boo says. ‘We’re not going to be doing anything dangerous.”

Russell narrows his eyes. Lilo’s face is stoic, she knows it is. But she can feel Boo fidgeting beside her.

“That’s not true, is it?’ he says finally.

“We don’t have time for this,’ Lilo says. ‘Just put on a shirt and go enjoy the party. Please?”

Russell squares his jaw.

Lilo sighs. “Fine. We’re going to sit here and wait for a monster to come in through your closet so we can sneak through into its alternate dimension and rescue my best friend who was kidnapped… who is also an alien from another planet.”

For a moment, he looks like someone has clubbed him over the back of the head. He glances from Lilo, to Boo, and back again in an attempt to see if this is a joke.

But when they just look right back at him, Russell finally seems to come to a conclusion.

“Okay,’ he says lightly. And he begins looking for a shirt.

Lilo and Boo look at each other, stunned.

“You... believe us?’ Boo asks.

“Just like that?” Lilo adds.

“Sure, why not?’ Russell finds his Spiderman shirt and slips it on quickly. ‘Everyone’s got something weird about them. One time, when I was a kid, I floated all the way to South America in a house that was lifted up by millions of balloons. And I had a dog who talked. And there was this thing with an old explorer guy, and a giant bird, and... well, you get the point.”

Lilo looks at him in amazement.

Boo points at him, looking thoughtful. “Y’know, I remember hearing something about that! In New York, right?’

Russell grabs them both into a bone-breaking hug. “I’ll be right downstairs. Just come get me if things get hairy, okay?”

And with one last salute, he leaves, closing the door behind him.

“He is the strangest boy,’ Boo laughs.

Lilo throws herself and her things down on Russell’s bed, crosses her legs and looks at the closet. Boo does the same.

“What now?’ Lilo asks.

“Now we just have to wait.”

Lilo lets out an exasperated sigh and puts her head in her hands. She pushes the heels of her hands into her eyes until she sees stars. She feels a hand on her shoulder suddenly and looks up, blinking the distortion out of her vision.

“I’m sorry this happened,’ Boo offers, looking sympathetic.

“It’s not your fault,’ Lilo says, trying to control her voice. She doesn’t want to snap at Boo – she’s trying to help after all.

Boo gets up, flicks all the lights off and shuts the curtains. The room is pitch black, and Boo has to feel her way back to the bed which results in ruffled hair and fingers up Lilo’s nose. The mattress beside her sinks as Boo sits back down. Lilo narrows her eyes, forcing them to adjust to the darkness.

The seconds tick by at an agonizing pace. The beat from the music downstairs quickly begins grating on Lilo’s nerves, and she begins fidgeting. She waits for the inevitable ‘can you stop that?’ from the girl beside her, but it doesn’t come. She looks at Boo; in the darkness, she can see shadows and realises that Boo is doing enough fidgeting of her own.

“You nervous?’ Lilo asks.

“No.’

“You’re a liar.’

Boo sighs heavily. ‘Then why even ask me?’

“You’ve been there before, right?’ Lilo says. ‘That’s why you got sent to all those therapists, and had all that other crap.’

“I’d do all these drawings,’ Boo replies, ‘and ask for a kitty, and say Mike Wazowski a million times. It drove my parents insane. They kept trying to tell me it was just a dream but wouldn’t let it go. I was only really little when it happened.”

“And you still remember it?’

“It’s distorted. Often for most people memories of infancy tend to be...’ Boo stops her ramble and laughs sadly. ‘I remember a few things. Names and smells and colours. I remember a giant factory and this weird machine. And crabs, for some reason.’ Boo adds, sounding bemused. ‘I never get the crab thing. He came and visited me again about a year and a half later, and I remember that much more clearly. He just sat in my room and talked, saying that he was happy that I was happy and that we shouldn’t see each other again – and we didn’t.”

“He?”

“Kitty.”

When it’s clear Boo will offer no more explanation than that, Lilo asks, “How in the hell does a little kid end up in a world full of monsters?’

Boo shrugs. “Beats me. I don’t think I was kidnapped or anything. I don’t really remember being afraid. But I do remember that they needed children’s screams for... something.”

“But we’re not kids. What do they need us for?’ Lilo glares at the closet, feeling more anxious than ever to get Stitch back. What if they were using him for horrible experiments?

“I just hope what happened with Stitch hasn’t put them off coming here,’ Boo says. ‘Otherwise we’re going to have to come up with a Plan B.”

Lilo laughs then, and Boo frowns.

“What’s so funny?’

“What are the odds,’ Lilo chuckles, ‘that two of the weirdest kids in the whole world end up best friends?’

In the darkness, Lilo can see Boo almost beaming. “We’re best friends?’ she asks.

“Second best friend,’ Lilo insists, ‘after Stitch.”

Boo nods solemnly. “Oh, of course.”

Lilo elbows her playfully, and Boo replies in kind.

Minutes tick by. They turn into hours, and Boo ends up lying on Russell’s bed with her legs up the wall, while Lilo paces back and forth in front of the closest door.

Eventually Russell comes back upstairs, telling them he’s tired and has a big day tomorrow and needs to sleep. And the couch is occupied by drunk people and he can’t be bothered building another fort at this time of night. So he crawls into Peter’s bed so as not to disturb Boo and falls asleep almost instantly. His snores provide a little distraction to the endless waiting.

 “Do we have to pretend to be asleep?’ Lilo whispers after what seems like more empty hours.

Boo looks at her watch. ‘It’s almost three am. I don’t think they’ll be coming tonight.”

Lilo cries out in frustration and kicks a pillow – hard. It goes flying and smacks Russell in the face. He wakes up with a start, arms flailing about. Boo apologizes quickly to him for Lilo, grabs both her shoulders and frog-marches her out of the room. Lilo shouts that they’ll be back tomorrow night before Boo closes the door behind them.

 

                                                              **********************************************************************************

 

Tomorrow night comes and goes – nothing.

Another night after that they spend in Russell’s room – nothing.

By the fourth night, Lilo can’t take the waiting anymore, and she lets Russell finally introduce her to the world of Resident Evil. Shooting zombies is surprisingly therapeutic, and it takes her mind of the frantic anxiety she’s been seething in the past four days.

She hasn’t been able to concentrate in class. Lilo’s been up on the roof, trying to figure out if she can use Stitch’s teleportation device to just zap herself into this other world. But she doesn’t know how to calibrate it and doesn’t want to end up on Saturn on something, so she ends up just sitting up here, moping, until Boo eventually finds her.

Lilo feels Boo moving around the room now. She’s taken up pacing in place of Lilo, with her chin pinched thoughtfully between her thumb and forefinger. Lilo has given up asking her what she’s thinking. Boo just waves a hand and grunts, and doesn’t provide any more answer than that.

Finally it gets late enough, and the lights and Xbox are turned off and they all go to bed. Russell, like always, falls asleep almost immediately. Lilo and Boo share Peter’s bed (because he’s convinced Russell is getting lucky every night they’re in there, and is determined to be a good ‘bro’ and give Russell as much time as he needs, and as a result hasn’t been back to the room since), which is a bit snug but Lilo doesn’t mind. Boo is smaller than her, in height and in build; when Boo’s arm overlaps Lilo’s, and their knees press together, Lilo finds it oddly reassuring.

Only now, lying in a comfortable bed, does Lilo realize how tired she is. It’s been a long three days, and she wants to let her eyes close and drift off into blissful nothingness. But she can’t, and she won’t, because she has to be ready. Stitch is counting on her.

Like every night, different scenarios run through her head; images of what they’re doing to Stitch, of him lost and alone, trying to get back to her but not knowing how, of them dissecting him or God knows what else. The visions loop around and around in her head as she stares up at the dark ceiling.

“I swear,’ Lilo whispers, ‘if they don’t show up tonight I’m setting this phazer to ‘wrath of God’”

‘What’s the longest you’ve been away from Stitch?’ Boo murmurs.

“Five hours, thirty seven minutes and eleven seconds,’ Lilo replies, and shrugs. ‘But that’s a rough estimate.”

“We’ll get him back, I pro-...”

Boo’s mouth shuts, and her body tenses. Lilo’s entire body is awake – she heard it too.

The creak of a hinge.

Russell is still snoring away softly, completely oblivious to the massive thing that is creeping out from the closet. It moves slowly and silently; all Lilo can see is a mass of shadow and fur. It’s creeping over to Russell, dodging the socks and shoes and books on the floor that Boo had strategically laid a few hours prior out to try and buy them time.

Boo grabs Lilo’s hand suddenly, and Lilo stiffens in surprise. Boo squeezes her hand and Lilo responds to the signal. As one, they very slowly rise up, like vampires from a coffin. Boo gets up first, then Lilo. She imagines herself weightless, trying to will the springs in the bed not to recoil, of the floorboards beneath her feet not to groan.

Lilo sees Boo in her peripheral vision; she’s edging toward the closet with light footsteps. But Lilo’s too focused on the monster to follow. It’s almost on top of Russell; from behind, Lilo can see it has four arms and three legs.

And it’s green.

Boo disappears. Everything in the room disappears. Without even realizing, Lilo’s moving forward, and suddenly the gun is in her hand.

“Lilo!’ Boo hisses.

It happens too quickly. Lilo springs forward, jumps onto the back of the monster, wraps her arm around what she can and presses the gun to what she hopes is its temple. She feels the giant thing freeze.

“Oh no,’ it says in a voice that cracks like a pubescent boy, ‘not again!”

“Don’t. You. Move,’ Lilo snarls.

“P-Please,’ the monster stutters, ‘if you would just let me explain...’

The closet door creaks again behind her, and Lilo hears Boo again. “Lilo, I can see it! There’s a way through. Come on!”

“You can’t!’ the monster whimpers. ‘Humans aren’t allowed in... ahhhh, okay,’ he laughs nervously as Lilo presses the gun more firmly into his head.

Lilo looks over her shoulder. Boo is half hidden inside the closet, but there’s a tiny streak of bright light coming through from inside. Lilo feels a surge of adrenaline, leaps off the monsters back and makes for the closet.

“NO!”

Four large green paws grab Lilo and pull her back. She lets out a cry, and in shock she drops the gun. The monster pulls her toward him, trying to smother her into his fur. Lilo kicks and punches and stomps and snarls. Her fists connect with every swing, forcing a loud ‘oomph!’ and ‘ack!’ from the massive thing trying to keep a hold of her.

“Lilo!”

The monster wails in pain again, and Lilo can see Boo beside them, kicking and punching as well. The monster stumbles and loses his grip of Lilo. She hits the floor hard, and once she’s free the monster darts forward.

“Oh no you don’t!’ snarls Lilo.

“Wha’s... goin’ on?’ Russell has stirred from his slumber. He blinks sleep out of his eyes and, when he sees what’s happening, sits up in alarm. ‘What the…?’

Lilo doesn’t stop to console him. She pulls Boo’s arm to get her moving and, again, leaps on the monster. He was just stepping into the closet, and the impact of her slamming into him makes him lose his footing. With another cry, he tries to shake Lilo off, but his feet become tangled in Peter’s clothes, and he goes tumbling forward.

There’s suddenly a bright light, and the temperate drops significantly. When the monster suddenly gets down on all fours (or sevens, if they were being specific) and shakes like a wet dog, Lilo holds on for dear life. She hears a door slam, and Boo shouting somewhere behind her, but Lilo just grabs fistfuls of the Monsters fur and yanks hard.

“OUCH! Get her off me! Get her off!”

A sharp, loud alarm begins to wail from somewhere above them. Out of no-where, a dozen different paws, hands, claws and tentacles grab Lilo and pull her away. She makes sure to take chunks of green fur with her, and the monster she rode in on cries out again.

“Let her go!’ Boo cries.

The sudden firmness in her voice makes Lilo look around. They’re in a large factory, like Boo had said. There’s a line of different doors behind them, all different colours and shapes.

And there are monsters. Everywhere.

Monsters with fur, and monsters with no fur at all; with tentacles and sixteen eyes, and fangs and claws, and one that looks like a giant chicken. Lilo sees her look of astonishment reflected right back at her from the dozens of faces around her. Lilo glances over at Boo; she’s being restrained too. A small red monster with three eyes is holding her hands behind her back. Boo isn’t struggling though, just looking around with wide eyes, and Lilo wonders for a split second if everything looks the same to her as she remembers.

“Someone turn that alarm off!’

Lilo sees a monster step forward that looks like Medusa. She has one big eye in the centre of her head. Her limbs are tentacles, and her hair is made up of tiny purple snakes that hiss at anyone to moves too close. Judging from the way the other monsters quickly step out of her way, and the fact that the alarm is shut off almost immediately, Lilo takes her for being the one in charge.

She sighs in relief once silence fills the room, and steps closer to the giant green ball of fur cowering by one of the nearby silver benches. “Are you alright, Magnus?’

Lilo looks back around. She can see Stitch’s kidnapper clearly now. His fur is bright, almost fluorescent green. He has little horns coming out of the top of his head, and he too has only one giant eye in the middle of his face. His four different arms are clutching different areas of his body; his shins, his shoulders and his eye.

Magnus lets out a wail and throws himself at her feet. Tentacles.

“I’m sorry, Celia,’ he bawls. ‘I tried to stop them! Fire me. I deserve it! I’m not worthy to work he-e-e-ere!’

“It’s all right, just breathe,’ Celia pats him soothingly on the head, and then gestures to a few monsters nearby to come and take over. Once they have led Magnus away, their attention is turned back to Lilo.

“We don’t want any trouble,’ Boo says earnestly.

“Oh, really?’ Celia asks sarcastically. She moves forward and picks up Lilo’s gun tentatively. ‘This is a gesture of peace in the human world, is it?”

“We weren’t going to use it,’

“Yes we were,’ Lilo growls.

“No,’ Boo insists sternly, ‘we weren’t. Lilo, please...”

“Humans aren’t allowed here,’ Celia says. Her eye never leaves Lilo, even though Boo is the one addressing her. ‘Section seven, paragraph four dictates...”

“I don’t care about your lolo rules,’ Lilo wrestles against the monsters holding her, but it’s futile – their grip is fast. “Stitch. Where is he?”

Celia frowns. “What is...”

“He’s my friend! And that thing over there,’ Lilo jerks her head at Magnus, ‘kidnapped him!”

“That is not what happened,’ Celia insists.

“I say different,’

Lilo struggles to pull her arms free again, but the grip is even tighter. Celia considers Lilo for a long moment, before finally breaking her gaze and summoning forward another random monster. She hands her Lilo’s gun like it’s covered in filth.

“We don’t have time for this. We’re behind quota enough as it is. I want you to shut down the floor immediately for decontamination, and I want every door sent back to storage – theirs is to be destroyed. Send them back immediately.”

“No!’ Lilo snarls, fighting every inch of the way as she’s dragged back toward the door they came in through.

“Please,’ Boo shouts, also struggling, ‘just let us explain!”

A large, red, scaly arm wraps around Lilo’s shoulders and jerks her around. She can see the inside of Russell’s room through the tiny opening in the door they’re dragging her kicking and screaming toward.

“Let. Me. GO! Stitch!”

“Mike Wazowski!’

Everything stops. The entire room goes quiet; Boo’s voice echoes off the steel walls. Lilo looks around. Boo’s hair is all over the place; her eyes are wide and steely and her expression is so fierce Lilo even feels a little intimidated. She’s glaring at Celia, who has finally directed her attention to her. She, like most of the monsters, is looking like they’ve been slapped in the face.

Finally, Celia collects herself and moves forward. “What did you say?’

“I want to speak...’ Boo says slowly, ‘... to Mike Wazowski.”

Celia straightens up. “How do you know that name?”

Boo doesn’t answer, just holds her determined gaze.

Celia clears her throat; the snakes in her hair are all whispering to each other. “Take them upstairs. Quarantine their door until further notice.”

Cold, hard cuffs and placed around Lilo’s wrists, and once the same is done to Boo they are lead out of the room.

Lilo is surprised – despite all the monsters there are mulling around the hallways – at how normal it all looks here. She’s not sure what she expected. A cave, maybe? Something dark and sinister? But there’s fluorescent lighting that flickers constantly, and water coolers, and janitors.  

After being led through a labyrinth of hallways that all looking exactly the same, they finally arrive at a more executive looking location up the upper floors. Boo and Lilo are sat down across from large, wooden, double doors. Two very large monsters dressed in yellow, rubber uniforms are standing guard nearby.

Lilo sighs and leans her head back against the wall. She tilts it to look at Boo beside her. Boo is looking at the doors with a blank expression. The lights above them keep flickering, throwing odd shadows along Boo’s profile.

“Well that was the quickest break-in in history,”

“We should have guessed they would have an alarm,’ Boo says.

“So, can I ask why you asked to see your fish?’

A small smile twitches at the corner of Boo’s mouth. ‘It’s the only name I could remember.”

“It was a good one.’ When Boo doesn’t respond, Lilo nudges her. ‘Thank you.”

“We haven’t got Stitch, don’t thank me yet.”

“You got us here,’ Lilo urges, ‘which is more than I could have done on my own. I would have gone through campus blowing up every single closet trying to get here, but you...’ She trails off, feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

Boo fidgets and looks at the doors in front of them. “And now I think we’re going to have to cut through a mile of red tape to get Stitch back. Hey,’ she calls to the monster on her right, ‘there’s not a giant crab guy in there, is there?”

The monster, dressed in a big yellow, rubber jumpsuit, says, ‘Quiet. The Boss will see you soon,”

“You can’t keep us held prisoner,’

The other monster on Lilo’s left chuckles. He beckons for his partner, and the two of them form a huddle a little down the hallway.

Lilo sits bolt upright. The hallway to her left is completely bare, and apart from the whispering from the monsters, and the occasional muffled chatter coming from their two-way radios, there’s not a sound.

“Hey,’ she whispers in Boo’s ear. ‘Keep an eye on those two and reach into my right back pocket.”

Lilo slowly turns her back to Boo, so as not to make the chair creak.

She hears Boo scoff behind her. “This is hardly the time or place...”

“No,’ Lilo blushes, ‘just do it, will you?’

Boo sighs, twists around in her own chair, and awkwardly fumbles around. Lilo tries not to squirm as Boo’s hands brush by awkward areas.

“Bit to the left....’ Lilo breathes. ‘Now up a bit...”

“I got it!’

“Shh!”

The two girls whirl back into position just in time for the two monsters to look around. Boo throws them a large grin and Lilo jerks her chin up in acknowledgement, and she hopes they look even a little bit innocent.

The two monsters turn back around and continue their hushed conversation.

Lilo breathes a sigh of relief as Boo asks, “What is this?”

“Turn back around,’

Boo does, and Lilo is relieved to see the tiny little silver capsule in the palm of Boo’s hand. She bends forward awkwardly, grabs it between her teeth and hides it in her mouth.

“Ged deir adden’ion,’ Lilo says around the capsule.

“What is that thing? What are you going to do?

“Jus’ do eet!’

Boo sighs and turns back to their guards. “Hey! Hey, you there! Hello!”

The monsters look back over. When one of them asks what she wants, Boo laughs.

“My hand is cramping. Can you loosen these cuffs for me a bit?’

“Nice try,’ the taller one says. She shakes her head. ‘If you think we’re dumb enough to fall for that...”

“No, really,’ Boo urges. ‘I have a history of carpel tunnel and it’s not good for my wrists to be in this position for too long. Otherwise I’m going to have to go back to the doctor and get prescription drugs, and they’ll make me drowsy and I’ll fail all my classes and become unemployable and be a destitute on the street.”

Lilo nods emphatically.

They look at each other for a moment, and Lilo takes the opportunity to whisper, ‘Shud you ey’s.”

The other monster sighs. “Fine,’ he says, and gestures to his partner. ‘Make sure the other one doesn’t try anything funny.”

As they approach, Lilo presses the button on the capsule with her tongue, and when they’re almost in front of them, she spits it out.

It lands on the floor with a soft ping. Lilo clamps her eyes shut and hopes Boo has done the same, when a second later there’s a sharp, soft yelp, followed by a thump.

Lilo opens her eyes. The two monsters are lying in an unconscious heap on the floor in front of them. Lilo leaps to her feet, grabs the keys hanging from the taller one’s belt. She nudges Boo, who opens her eyes, and after a moment of half-started questions and wide eyes of surprise, the two girls are dashing off down the hallway.

They dart around four more corners – two rights, a left and then another right – before stopping to catch their breath. Lilo finally manages to get the key in her cuffs, and a moment later they pop open. Once freed, she helps Boo out of her restraints.

“What was that thing?’ Boo asks, rubbing her wrists. ‘What did you do to them?”

“It just stunned them,’ Lilo puts the keys in her back pocket and looks up at the ceiling. ‘One of Jumba’s little inventions. He’d been reading a lot about how girls could get into trouble with boys at parties, and he wouldn’t accept pepper spray as a solution. I told him he had nothing to worry about.’

“Well it’s a good thing he didn’t listen to you,’ Boo whispers as she looks around the empty hallway. “You’ve had that thing in your pocket this whole time? What if you’d set if off accidently?”

“I didn’t, that’s all that matters.”

‘I’d really like it if you’d tell me now what your plan is now. We can’t very well go looking in every room of this factory for Stitch.”

Lilo looks at her. “Do you remember how to get around this place?’

Boo’s eyes widen. “You’re basing your plans on the adventures of a toddler?”

“I was until you said that. Don’t look at me like that, this is fine,’ Lilo glances up at the ceiling again. ‘I have Plan B.”

After watching the lights flicker for a moment, Lilo gives the ‘follow me’ hand gesture she saw in an old army movie and creeps down the hallway. Boo is hot on her heels, moving even more swiftly and with less noise than Lilo.

“Dare I ask what Plan B is?’

“It’s even more ridiculous than Plan A, so it’s probably best not to.”

“You don’t even know where we’re going!”

They have to stop more often than not to allow random monsters to pass before sneaking around the corners. Lilo feels like she’s going around in circles, with nothing but the lights to guide her. When they end up at an elevator, Lilo hesitates.

“Which floor?’ she asks Boo.

Boo presses the down arrow. As soon as the large metal doors open, they duck inside. Boo jabs her thumb into the number for the ground floor and the doors shut painfully slow.

“Makes sense they’d have him in the basement or something, right?’ Boo asks.

Lilo nods. Not just because she agrees, but because Boo’s confidence is almost impossible to argue with. 

“Are you sure you don’t remember anything?’ Lilo smirks.

The elevator jerks, and they’re suddenly zooming downward. The lights flicker in here too, and Lilo smothers down her growing panic.

Boo smiles. “I’m just going off a gut feeling. Aren’t you?”

Lilo thinks about the locator in her backpack – her backpack that was taken off her back down on the factory floor, and is probably being thoroughly ripped open by security. She just hopes they didn’t press any buttons.

“Why haven’t they set off some sort of alarm again?’ Boo wonders aloud. ‘Surely they’ve found those guards unconscious by now.”

Lilo wants to share her theories, but the elevator has stopped moving. They glance at each other and get ready to run.

The metal doors open loudly to a grand foyer. There are dozens and dozens of monsters mulling about, some carrying briefcases, others chatting by the glass doors that show the outside world, and many of them all moving in groups, wearing blue hard hats and laughing with each other.

Boo grabs Lilo’s hand and bolts out of the elevator. They duck behind an enormous pot plant not far away.

“Now what?’ Lilo breathes.

Boo whirls on her. “What? This is your rescue mission.”

“You’re the one who’s been here before!”

“I told you, I don’t remember much!”

“Well that’s more than me!”

Boo sighs and rubs her eyes. “Okay, look, lets just…” She trails off, and Lilo follows her gaze to see what she’s looking at.

It’s a door that’s well out of the way of people. It looks dark and sinister, made of a heavy looking metal with a light blinking above it. A monster with dark, scaly skin is swiping a card into the keypad.

Lilo looks back at Boo. “Big scary door?”

Boo shrugs. “That’s where I’d keep people I’d kidnapped.’ When Lilo raises an eyebrow at her, Boo punches her arm. ‘You know what I mean!”

The monster is scanning his eyeballs, and Lilo bounces on her haunches. “We won’t get another chance. If he’s not down there, we can just hide out until the factory closes and they go home. Then we can search the rest of the floors at night. What do you think?’

 Boo bites her lip in that way Lilo knows means she wants to do the thing, but the rational part of her mind is trying to convince her not to do the thing. So Lilo makes the decision for her. She grabs her hand, and suddenly the two of them are rushing at the door. There’s no one to stop them, and for a moment Lilo thinks they’re going to make it.

“There they are!’ Lilo hears behind them. She looks over her shoulder; seven monsters in yellow rubber suits are rushing toward them.

Boo doesn’t stop. The door has opened and the monster is picking up his briefcase, about to step through. Lilo sprints in front of Boo, knocks the monster out of the way and pulls Boo through behind her. But a split second later, Boo’s hand is wrenched from hers, and Lilo whirls around to see two monsters pulling her back out toward the foyer. Lilo rushes for her but is grabbed around the middle.

They’re hustled into the center of the foyer. Around them, like before, everyone has stopped to stare open-mouthed at them. Lilo supposes it’s because this is the first human they’ve ever seen in real life, but doesn’t dwell on it too much.

“Let us go!’ Lilo snaps.

“Thought you could give us the slip that easily?’ The monster behind her laughs in her ear. ‘The CDA have eyes all over this factory. Ever since the human outbreak incident fifteen years ago we maintain constantly vigilance.”

“That was me!’ Boo snaps. ‘I was the girl that came here fifteen years ago!”

There’s a long silence, so heavy Lilo knows she would hear a pin drop.

One of the CDA monsters finally clears her throat. “Impossible. That girl’s door was destroyed.”

“I didn’t use that door...’ Boo starts to explain, but doesn’t get to finish, because another monster arrives that makes everyone stand up a little bit straighter, and all the CDA monsters salute.

He’s enormous, taller than a fully grown man. His fur is light blue with scattered purple dots. His arms are so long that his paws almost drag on the floor when he walks. His tie is bright red with balloons on it. Lilo doesn’t know what to make of him; the only thing she does know for sure, judging from the response he gets before he’s even said anything, is that this guy is the boss they’d been waiting to see earlier.

Celia is trailing along a step behind him, and when they’re close enough she points at Boo.

“That’s her,’ she says. ‘But really, Sully, it can’t possibly be...”

Sully puts a hand up to silence her. He’s looking at Boo with wide eyes. Boo is looking at him with a furrowed brow, like she’s trying to work out a difficult math problem.

“Is it really you?’ he asks. His voice is deep, but cracks with emotion on the last syllable.

Lilo can feel a hundred eyes on them, but she doesn’t look around to count. She’s too fascinated by the cautious steps Sully is talking toward Boo; the look on her friend’s face as he gets closer and closer.

Boo’s cheeks are flushed, and she straightens up with a soft laugh, like she’s relieved. “Kitty?”

Sully’s face breaks into a beaming grin. “Boo.”

He steps forward, and the CDA monsters release Boo. She rushes forward and throws herself at him, almost disappearing into him as he wraps his giant arms around her in response.

“Stand down,’ Celia says to the CDA.

The monsters that are holding Lilo back finally release their grip. Lilo throws them a dirty look before heading over to her friend.

“They told me two humans had come through and I thought ‘not in a million years’” Sully laughs. He puts his paws on Boo’s shoulders and holds her at arm’s length to get a better look at her. ‘Why did you try and run away? Why didn’t you wait outside my office?’

“Your office?’ Lilo asks. ‘You’re Mike Wazowski?’

He laughs and holds a hand out for her to shake. ‘James P. Sullivan. I’m the CEO here at Monsters Inc.”

Lilo wraps her hand around his thumb and shakes his paw, noticing how jarring it is for a monster to have such soft fur. She was expecting it to be bristly or wiry.

“What happened to the crab?’ Boo asks.

“Mr. Waternoose hasn’t worked here in a very long time,’ Celia offers, deciding to join the reunion. ‘You probably don’t remember me. I’m sorry, if I’d known it was you...”

“Didn’t take the time to ask, did you?’ Lilo snaps.

Celia gives her a narrowed look while the serpents in her hair hiss. “After our recent security breach, you can’t expect us not to be cautious.”

“If it wasn’t for your friend busting into our room in the middle of the night to kidnap Stitch...”

“Whoa,’ Sully holds his hands up and puts himself between Celia and Lilo. ‘Let’s all just take a deep breath and calm down. Why don’t we go back up to my office, and you can both tell me what this is all about.”

Sully offers his giant elbow to Boo. She smiles, puts her arm through his and lets him take the lead. Lilo follows behind them, ignoring all the looks and whispers she’s getting from all the monsters in the foyer She gives Celia another glare as she passes.

“I want my backpack,’ she growls.

Celia’s snakes give her another hiss.

 

                                                            ****************************************************************************************

 

Sully’s office is grand and spacious, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that look out into the rest of the factory and the city beyond. His desk is just as impressive, with two comfy looking leather seats on one side, and one large winged chair on the other. One wall is devoted to dozens and dozens of pictures, all with different monsters in them, looking like they’re having some sort of party.

Boo and Sully have been exchanging small talk the whole way up to his office, talking about someone called Randall and a scream machine and Mike Wazowski again, who apparently is out on business and will be back soon. Lilo is quietly relieved when they finally sit down in his office so they can get to the real issues.

“So,’ Sully says, folding his paws on the desk in a very business-like manner – which only last a moment, because he’s looking at Boo again in disbelief. ‘I’m sorry. You’re just so... big!”

“It’s been a long time,’ Boo replies. She chews on her lip and looks at Lilo, and Lilo can tell she has a lot of questions. ‘But we’re not here just to catch up, I’m afraid,’ she says instead.

“You’re talking about the creature that attacked Magnus,’ Sully nods.

“His name is Stitch,’ Lilo says, trying to keep the impatience out of her voice. ‘And he didn’t attack anyone. He was trying to protect us.”

“Magnus wasn’t going to hurt you,’

“He didn’t know that.”

“Why was he in our room anyway?’ Boo asks.

Sully explains how they had discovered that children’s laughter was exceptionally more powerful than screams, and how they had Boo really to thank for that. He explains that ever since Waternoose had been arrested and Sully had taken over, they’d never scared a child again – on purpose, anyway.

“But that still doesn’t explain why sent a monster into our room,’ Lilo reiterates. ‘Like Boo said, we’re not kids.”

“It was an experiment our science division had come up with,’ Sully explains, ‘and it’s taken years for them to get it approved. It’s controversial. Without going into too many details, there’s history that suggests that the older a human is, the more powerful their scream is. Stands to reason that their laughter would be too. So we decided to experiment with adolescents. It was providing positive until... well, until Magnus met your Stitch.”

Boo and Lilo exchanged a look.

“Why do you need more power?’ Boo asked. ‘Are you going through a shortage?”

The lights flickered again before Sully could say anything.

“No,’ Lilo says with a smirk, ‘but they will soon if they don’t release Stitch.”

Sully sits back in his seat. “Excuse me?”

Lilo points at Sully’s desk lamp. “The lights. Why do the lights keep flickering? I know why. He’s strong, and whatever it is you’re using to hold him, it’s something super powerful, and its soaking up a butt load of energy, isn’t it? So if you don’t have a power shortage, you will soon, because he won’t stop trying to get back to me, and you’ll run out of energy before he does.”

Sully sits back in his chair and surveys Lilo. She just looks back at him, feeling smug. She knows she’s right.

 “We don’t have a shortage,’ Sully says finally. ‘It’s efficiency, plain and simple. More power with less effort. The company is just trying to maximize profit. As for Stitch, I’m afraid I can’t just give him back to you.”

“Why not?’ Lilo snaps and Boo asks.

“He nearly tore down an entire scare floor before we could contain him,’ Sully explains, ‘and if I release him to humans – one with a bad temper, the other who has always been here before and reminds everyone of our containment issues – the board of directors will have my head.”

“So get them here,’ Lilo demands. ‘I’ll tell them. You can’t keep Stitch here forever!”

“No,’ Sully says. ‘I agree.” He presses the intercom beside him. ‘Leslie?”

A high-pitched woman’s voice responds. “Yes, Mr. Sullivan?”

“Call the board for an emergency meeting, will you please?”

“Sir,’ she begins hesitantly, ‘many of them are on holiday leave and…”

“Tell them the future of this company is a stake,’ Sully insists. ‘That oughta get their attention.”

“Yes, sir.”

Boo coughs deliberately. “AndLilosbackpack”

Sully presses the button again. “Yes, and the backpack that came through with the humans. Bring that up for me too, won’t you?”

“I think the CDA are still going through with it, but I’ll radio them and let them know.”

“Can I see him, at least?’ Lilo asks, hoping she doesn’t sound as desperate as she feels.

“I’m not sure that’s...”

“He’ll stop,’ Lilo insists. ‘As soon as he sees me he’ll stop struggling. He’ll do whatever you say. Just let him see me.”

Sully purses his lips and scratches his chin, which is when the doors behind them bang open and someone new bursts into the room.

“Where is she? Is she here?’

Lilo and Boo look around. Standing there is a little green ball of a monster, with a giant eye in the middle of his face. It’s wide open and staring.

“Boo?’ he gasps. ‘I don’t believe it!”

He rushes forward and grabs Lilo’s hand.

Sully clears his throat. “Uh, Mike?”

“You’ve grown up so much!”

Mike,”

“And you grew your hair!”

Lilo smiles and nudges her head at the girl to her right. “I’m Lilo, that’s Boo.”

The little green monster laughs awkwardly and lets Lilo go. Then he turns to Boo, and gets the same look on his face that Sully did, and Lilo suddenly feels like she shouldn’t be there.

Boo laughs. The lights flicker again brightly, and she hugs the small green monster sideways, trying to avoid his eye. Mike makes mention of how much easier that used to be, when she was the same height as him.

Lilo fidgets in her seat. She can see how the years haven’t in any way lessened their affection for her, and she wonders what adventures they went through in such a short amount of time for such admiration to grow so strongly. It makes her ache for Stitch.

As if sensing this, Sully clears his throat. It’s a deep rumble, and it’s so low that Lilo doesn’t even hear it at first.

“We were just on our way down to containment,’ Sully says. ‘Come along, Mike,”

Lilo launches out of her seat and takes two quick strides toward the door before she realises she doesn’t know where containment is. Sully catches up with her quickly, giving her a smile as he passes, and opens the heavy, double doors like they weight nothing.

Celia is waiting out in the hall. She pats Sully’s big, hair arm and holds out something familiar for Lilo to take.

“Your bag,’ she says formally.

Lilo takes it and looks inside to find… ‘Hey! Where’s all my stuff?”

“It has been disintegrated. We don’t know what sorts of things you could be bringing into our world from yours, and we don’t want to take any chances.”

“Stitch’s blaster was in there!”

“Currently down in the lab, being disassembled.”

Lilo is seething, but Celia isn’t paying her any attention anymore. She’s looking over Lilo’s shoulder. Her eye is fixed on one thing, and when she sees him, she lights up. Lilo looks back over her shoulder to see Celia bend down and give Mike hugs and kisses. Lilo thinks she hears the words ‘Googly Bear’, but she isn’t sure.

Boo falls into step beside her for a moment, and gives her hand a squeeze with a tight-lipped smile. “I’m sorry.’

“What for?”

“All this...’ she looks around again, ‘being here again after all this time makes me feel-...”

“It’s fine,’ Lilo nudges her playfully. ‘Don’t be a lolo.”

Boo smiles, looking relieved, and quickens her step to match stride with Sully. He slows a little so she doesn’t have to jog, and holds an arm out. Boo hesitates, and then slips her skinny arm through his. Lilo watches, fascinated, as his shoulders slump slightly, almost with relief.

Sully and Boo chat the whole way, and Mike jumps in often to provide alternate commentary to stories Sully is sharing. And finally, they’re in an elevator, and heading downward. And when the big metal doors rattle open, Lilo sees what looks like a science lab. There’s monsters in those yellow rubber suits running around everywhere, and Monsters in white lab coats, cradling clipboards and jotting down notes as they scuttle around in groups of three or four.

The sound down here is almost deafening; voices echo off the metal walls and bounce right back to assault Lilo’s ears. Boo winces and puts her hood up over her head.

“Let me handle this,’ Mike waves a hand dismissively, steps forward and clears his throat. ‘Attention employees!’

No-body hears him.

“Goog-... er, Michael,’ Celia catches herself, ‘maybe Sully should...”

“Sweetheart, I am the Executive Manager! I’ve got this! Attention, employees! Excuse me! Schmoopsy Poo, could you pass me that air horn from the cabinet over th-...”

“ATTENTIOOOOOOOOOOOON!” Sully bellows.

Everyone winces at the noise, and then looks around in silence. Sully gestures for Mike to take his cue, and Mike steps forward to make his announcement. But he doesn’t even get one syllable out before there’s mayhem.

“Humans!”

“You brought humans down to containment?”

“They carry diseases!”

“We’ll have to quarantine this entire floor!”

“This is will not stand!”

“Our research!”

“When the Board of Directors hears about this...”

Boo sees it about to happen. She rushes over, clamps her hands over Lilo’s ears and then tenses. Sully throws his head back and emits an almighty roar that Lilo can almost hear, but feels completely rattle her bones. It takes a split second for her to realise Boo can’t cover her own ears, so Lilo does so for her in return.

Once the vibrations in her rib cage cease, Lilo lets go of Boo, and she does so too. The room is silent again, and around them many monsters have their own ears (or what Lilo thinks are their ears) covered too.

“Mr. Sullivan,’ one tiny, orange monster – barely up to Lilo’s hip – in a white coat says finally, ‘you do realise...”

“I realise that this is my factory, and I will bring into it whoever I see fit. Humans being toxic is an old belief that has long since been proven wrong – by us, if you’ll remember. Now,’ he adds calmly, ‘will someone please show our guests to chamber forty seven?”

“But sir,’ another monster implores, ‘the creature...”

“You heard him, Pierre!’ Mike snaps. He flaps his hands hurriedly. ‘Lead the way!”

The orange monster, Pierre, hesitates for so long that Lilo is sure he’s going to argue again. But he finally thrusts his clipboard into the arms of the nearest CDA monster, takes a swipe card from his breast pocket and storms off toward glass doors to their right.

Lilo can’t keep up the politeness anymore. She’s hot on this monster’s heels, even though she can feel the awkwardness coming off him in waves. She doesn’t care that she’s probably the first human he’s ever seen in real life. She doesn’t care about their protocols and his beliefs or concerns. Stitch is almost within sight, and she can’t bear the wait any longer.

Boo falls into step beside her easily. She gives Lilo a smile, and a nod, and Lilo knows that Boo gets it.

Celia stays behind to talk to the scientists, and Sully and Mike follow along behind as they’re led down a long, brightly lit hallway. On either side of them are giant glass tanks, like where they keep the snakes at the Zoo. But these aren’t filled with snakes. Each cage has one bizarre thing after another.

One or two have plants with long, red and black vines that whip about and lash at the glass. Lilo isn’t a botanist, but she’s confident these things are not from her and Boo’s world. But as they move on, she’s sees a large, ceramic garden gnome sitting on a stool.

“That one is a hard nut to crack,’ the little orange Monster remarks, ‘but we’re close to getting him to talk.”

“We haven’t had the heart to tell him,’ Mike whispers.

As they move on, passing cages with a large Lego Statue of Liberty, a box full of coconuts, and a fish tank with lobster in it, they stop at another set of large glass doors.

“Oooooh,’ Boo sighs suddenly, ‘what a cutie!”

“Well...’ Mike laughs bashfully.

Sully hits him up the back of the head and points.

In the last cage on the left is a German Sheppard. It’s up against the glass, its paws scratching away excitedly as Boo talks lovingly to it. It’s seeing this that reminds Lilo of the first time she met Stitch at the pound; how she’d walked past all those cages until she’d found him right at the end. Lilo laughs at the irony.

Pierre swipes his card, scans his retina, places his three fingers against a heat-seeking plate and then licks a stick that, once licked, retracts back into the panel. The doors beep and open, and Pierre leads them through.

The lights above them are flickering worse down here. This room is darker and empty, except for another group of monsters in lab coats who are staring through an enormous glass window at the end of the room.

Lilo runs forward, practically knocking the monsters over. They all jump back in surprise, and Lilo can hear Mike trying to calm them down, but Lilo barely notices. She presses her hands against the glass and looks in.

Stitch.

It’s a giant, round room, and he’s suspended in the air. Chains are holding both sets of arms in place from the ceiling, and his legs are held down from the floor. He’s swinging around, looking like a wild animal. The bolts in the ceiling are starting to give way, and every time Stitch pulls, dust and tiny pellets of concrete fall around him like snowflakes. Running along the chains are some sort of cables that are glowing with a faint, pulsating green light.

Lilo knocks hard on the window. “Stitch! STITCH!”

He doesn’t hear her. He’s still thrashing around, spitting and pulling and snarling. Lilo’s heart is breaking just looking at him. She bangs on the glass until her wrists are aching.

“Thank goodness you’re here, sir,’ one of the monsters says to Sully. ‘This is the third time we’ve needed maintenance in to repair the ceiling. He’s going to tear the whole building down.”

“Why can’t he hear me?” Lilo demands.

“The glass is too thick,’ another monster says. ‘He broke through the first two panes, we had to reinforce it.”

“Let me inside,’ Lilo orders. The monsters all look at her like she’s nuts.

“Human, you don’t have clearance...”

“I’m giving her all the clearance she needs,’ Sully insists. ‘Now let her in before he brings the entire factory down around us.”

Lilo grabs Boo’s hand and pulls her along as they open a door for her. They head up a metal staircase that curves around to the left before coming to another heavy looking metal door. Once she’s there, the security camera above her swivels until it points down to them. Boo gives them an encouraging nod, but Lilo just jabs a finger at the door.

Within a moment, it swings inward with the loud, grinding sound of metal.

“Stitch!’ Lilo calls.

Stitch stops instantly. Lilo’s voice echoes around the round room a few more times before going quiet. Stitch’s ears twitch and he turns his head right around.

“Lilo!” he cries happily.

There’s no way across. Fifteen meters of empty space separate Lilo from Stitch, and Lilo looks up at the security camera again to yell at the monsters back in the control room. But then there’s a loud clang from above, and a metal gangway is lowered from the ceiling. Lilo doesn’t even wait for it to dock properly; she leaps up onto it and runs across, holding onto the metal hand rail for dear life. She can feel Boo wobbling along behind her, but she doesn’t stop. A platform extends from the end of the catwalk, and Lilo can move around to stand right in front of Stitch.

His eyes are watering when he sees her, and Lilo strokes his face and kisses him and throws her arms around him and squeezes him so tightly, he has to remind her that he’s still tied up.

“Oh, sorry. Are you okay?”

Stitch scoffs. “Stitch fine. Having blast.”

Lilo laughs and kisses him again, and then feels a hand on her shoulder.

“Boo came!’ Stitch cries, and then laughs.

“I’m so sorry, Stitch,’ Boo says softly. She scratches behind his ear.

Lilo turns around to look at the glass window. She can just see the scientists, all looking at her with complete and utter amazement. “You can let him go now!”

They don’t look convinced. But she sees a small, round blur of green throw its arms up in the air, and then point at the switchboard in front of them, and then a few moments later the chains are released from the ceiling.

Lilo catches Stitch just in time and cradles him to her. She feels his little claws scratch against her back and shoulders as he returns the embrace just as tightly. And when there’s another clang, signalling the release of his feet from the floor, he wraps his legs around her waist and nuzzles into the crook of her neck. Lilo’s eyes fill with tears as she pets him soothingly. She breaths in the familiar smell of his fur and the image of dozens of nights out on the porch looking at shooting stars, and dance lessons in grass skirts, and sunbaking on the beach come flooding back.

They pull away finally and look at Boo, who’s smiling at both of them.

“Boo brought me here,’ Lilo says. ‘She’s the one who saved you.”

Stitch launches into Boo’s arms. She half-grunts, half-laughs in surprise, but hugs him back when he says ‘Mahalo’ and ‘I’m sorry’ over and over.

“You have nothing to apologize for,’ Boo reassures. ‘I’m sorry it took us so long.”

Lilo looks back at the window. A loud, piercing sound of feedback rings through the room, and then over a loudspeaker somebody clears their throat.

“Mister Sullivan has asked us to inform you that you and the creature Stitch may exit the room now, but that any signs of danger to the employees of this factory or the factory itself will be met with force.”

Stitch hops down from Boo’s arms, lets out a ‘YIPPEE!’ and scuttles off back toward the door they had entered through. Boo laughs – the lights flicker again brightly – and the two of them follow after him.

 

                                                             *************************************************************************************

 

Turned out, Boo was right about the red tape.

They have to wait in the meeting room for the board of directors to show up, so they can “re-assess” and “have a majority vote” and “come to a mutual agreement” on how to handle Stitch. Lilo has a strong feeling of déjà vu as she tries to get Mike to just let them just go straight home, but he’s not having any of it.

“Those days are over,’ he says, casting a glance at Boo.

She and Sully have been sitting all the way down the opposite end of the long table the entire time, talking about who knows what. But Boo is talking a lot with her hands, which she does when she’s excited about something, and Lilo wonders if perhaps she’s telling him about college, or her tenth birthday party, or her holiday to Paris, or any other significant even in her life. Sully is listening intently, nodding and face-palming every now and again.

“Ever since Boo came through, procedures were changed. And Sully doesn’t wanna try and change too much too fast, ‘cause he doesn’t wanna lose his job. He’s done so much for this company. He saved it going completely under back then. But he’s expendable now. This company has been in the black for almost two decades, and it’s got the head honchos feeling pretty comfortable.”

Stitch is sitting on the desk next to Lilo. He’s surrounded by scrunched up balls of paper. He’s writing something on a yellow jotter pad, but he gets frustrated, rips the paper away and throws it aside. His second left arm is outstretched, and his little blue claws are linked with Lilo’s fingers. They’ve been that way the entire way up from containment.

“Happy to shake things up,’ Lilo smirks.

After chatting for a while, Lilo decides she likes Mike Wazowski quite a lot. He’s like Boo – open and happy to chat. And when she gets through asking him how the whole scream thing worked, and how he had ended up at Monsters Inc, she asks him about Celia with a wink and a playful elbow. He just sighs and gets a dopey look on his face. He tells her how they met in the cafeteria one morning (she was ahead of him in line, and ordered the last of the cockroach jelly that he’d been looking forward to all morning, but when he laid eye on her he didn’t even mind), and ever since then it had been like living on the top of a rubbish dump, which Lilo assumed was their way of saying “cloud nine”. He told her how she’d only been a receptionist when she’d started, but had worked her way up to supervisor of three Laugh Floors.

“It’s our fourth wedding anniversary this weekend,’ Mike smiles. ‘Ha, how ironic. I was actually going to take her back to Harry Hausens for dinner.”

Lilo wants to ask how that was ironic, but the doors behind them bang open suddenly. Celia walks in, leading a group of twelve monsters, ranging from one so tall she had to get on her hands and knees to fit through the door (Lilo now knew why the ceilings were so high in this factory), right down to a little monster about the size of a new born baby who flew in on bat-like wings.

They all stop when they see Boo and Lilo, but recover their surprise quickly by asking them both – and Stitch – to leave the room while the meeting convened.

“He’s my alien,’ Lilo growls.

“That may be,’ says a monster that looked like a Panda, but with scales instead of fur, ‘but this is our company. And only board members may be present. Now, if you’ll excuse us...”

Lilo tenses. A hand squeezes her shoulder; Lilo looks around to see Boo. She shakes her head and jerks her head toward the door.

Lilo purses her lips. ‘Come on, Stitch.”

Stitch stands on his head, wriggles his behind and laughs. He says some very colourful words before following Lilo out of the room, and Lilo is glad that no-one but her can understand his language.

Sully gives them an apologetic look before the doors close.

Mike sighs and scratches his armpit. “You guys like mice? We’ve got a cafeteria downstairs, and they serve great mice pudding.”

Boo and Lilo grimace and shake their heads. Stitch lets out a squeal of excitement and claps his hands.

“You have good taste, my little scary friend,’ Mike says, giving Stitch a high-five.

Half an hour... forty five minutes... an hour passes before the big doors swing open again. Eventually, Sully finds them all in Mike’s office. Stitch is sitting in Mike’s chair, still trying to write whatever it is he’s desperate to get out. Boo is showing Mike pictures of her family and her dog and their room on campus on her phone, and Mike is looking fascinated. Lilo is trying to decide whether to eat haggis or squid – the only two edible things they have in the entire factory.

Lilo forgets about how hungry she is when the giant blue and purple monster walks in. “So? What did they say?”

Sully looks tired. He rubs the back of his head. “You can take Stitch home.”

Lilo lets out the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding as Stitch cheers behind her.

 “They had a lot to say about... everything,’ he chuckles. ‘And they can be very long-winded. But when I finally got to speak it didn’t take much convincing. They’re shutting down the college experiment as a result – they’re deeming it too risky and unstable.”

“In your defense,’ Boo says, ‘it would have been hard to predict that all this would happen. We’re college kids; we don’t do much but study, eat microwave meals and try to sleep.”

“And what happened to you?’ Mike asks, sounding very serious.

Sully laughs awkwardly. Lilo can tell that Mike can see right through him.

“A month off. No pay.”

“They can’t do that!’ Mike cries, getting to his feet.

“It’s better than the other option,’ Sully shrugs. ‘Congrats buddy, you’re getting a temporary promotion.”

Mike collapses back down into his seat, looking into space. Boo pats him on the back.

“Thank you,’ Boo says.

“It’s you we should be thanking,’ he says, gesturing to Lilo. ‘You were right. Keeping him here was draining too much power and costing us too much money. And you know how directors can be about their money.”

“We go home?’ Stitch asks.

Sully nods, jerks a thumb over his shoulder and shoots a look at Boo. “But they want you to go now.”

“Excellent,’ Lilo claps her hands together once. ‘Stitch, let’s get out of here.”

In a single bound, Stitch leaps onto her back. Lilo grunts and wobbles at the force. Lilo’s at the door before she realizes nobody else is moving.

There’s a long pause. Boo is still sitting next to Mike, reluctant to move. She’s looking between both monsters, as if expecting one of them to break and laugh and tell her they’re only joking, and that of course she can stay as long as she wants.

But they don’t. They just look back at her with equally sad expressions, until finally Sully clears his throat.

“Come on,’ he says weakly, ‘I’ll walk you back down to the floor.”

It’s like walking to the gallows. Lilo trails along behind, revelling in the feeling of Stitch clinging to her shoulders, while at the same time unable to shake the feeling of loss emanating from the girl and two monsters walking in front of her.

And as is always the way, when you want a moment to last forever, they are very quickly back down on the factory floor where they had burst in through only a few hours before. It looks to be shutting down for the night; doors are being collected from their stations and set back up along the conveyor belt high up in the ceiling. Monsters are patting each other on the back and shaking hands/wings/talons/claws on a job well done.

Like before, a hush falls over the room when everyone notices Boo and Lilo. But it only last for a moment, because Stitch scuttles out from behind them, and then everyone cries out in alarm.

“Quiet!’ Mike shouts, calling for calm. ‘Everything is under control!”

“It’s him!’ calls a voice, and through the crowd Magnus breaks through with a shaking, pointing finger. ‘He’s the one!”

Stitch bares his teeth and hisses at Magnus. The green monster yelps and takes several quick steps back.

“He’s not going to hurt you,’ Boo says, and then looks uncomfortable as she adds, ‘again.”

“We are returning the humans to their world,’ Mike announces with loud, dramatic flair. ‘Please clear station fourteen for evacuation!’ When the other monsters bustle about to do as he says, Mike turns to Sully and sighs. ‘You seriously expect me to talk this baloney for an entire month?’

“But you’re so good at it,’ Sully smirks. He gives Mike a pat on the back that almost sends him flying. ‘That’s why I suggested you in the first place.”

“You did what? You stinkin’...”

“What’s that? You’d like to go get their card key and bring their door down? Thanks buddy!”

Mike glares at him and mutters under his breath as he storms off. Sully chuckles and gently puts his paw to the small of Boo’s back (it ends up taking up almost her entire back) to direct her forward.

“This was mine and Mike’s old station,’ Sully says. He stands beside a large sort of metal clamp, taps it fondly and then points. ‘And that one down there was Randall’s – which is how you came through the first time. Do you remember?”

Lilo hears Boo begin to share that she doesn’t really, but it somehow feels familiar, when she feels a tug at her pants. She bends down, bringing herself eye level with Stitch. “We’re going home. Finally. I’m dying for a cheeseburger.”

“Back in moment,’ Stitch says.

“Everything okay?”

Stitch nods and winks. His little feet carry him over to the monsters nearby who have gathered to watch. They all move out of the way, revealing Magnus who is sitting on a small, metal stool, looking very tired. But he straightens up in alarm when he sees Stitch approaching.

“Don’t come any closer!’ he warns.

“Eh,’ Stitch says, and throws a scrunched up ball of paper at him.

Magnus cries out and shields his eyes, and the paper bounces off his arm. When he realises he’s okay, Magnus looks down and picks the paper up. He uncurls it and holds it up, and Lilo can see just see what Stitch has written in messy, red pencil.

Sorry I bit your arm. And leg.

Magnus looks up at Stitch. “Well... thank you. That’s nice of you.”

Stitch nods and dashes back over to Lilo. She scratches behind his ear and praises him for apologizing.

From above, there’s a clang, and a familiar door is lowered down into the station where Sully stands. Mike hands Sully the card he’s just swiped, and beckons Boo down for a hug. She gets on one knee and pulls him in close.

“Geez,’ Mike laughs, ‘I remember when you and me used to be the same height.”

Boo gives him a kiss atop his little head. Pink suddenly flushes his green cheeks. “Thank you for helping us. Again. Tell Celia I said good-bye, wont you?”

Mike promises to do so, and when Boo gets to her feet, Lilo takes the opportunity to step forward, shake his hand and thank him also.

As Stitch is saying good-bye to Mike, Lilo turns to look at the door. Sully is standing in front of it, and Boo is standing in front of him.

“Was it this hard the last time?” she asks.

Sully steps forward, and Boo disappears into a mass of fur and arms as he embraces her.  Lilo can see her tiny little hands reach around and grab fistfuls of his blue fur as she hugs him back just as tightly.

“Nice,’ Stitch says beside Lilo.

“Yeah,’ Lilo comments, ‘it is.”

“Like Nani,’

Lilo knows what he means. The way Boo had been looking at Sully and Mike all day, how she had walked around this factory like she owned the place, how nothing like ten eyes or no ears or seven feet or slimy skin seemed to affect her, showed how important this place had been to her for her entire life; how it had shaped her, and been vital in the person she had become. And at the pinnacle of it all is Sully and Mike – two figures that had probably been blurred memories of colour and feeling right up until today. They are to her, what Nani is to Lilo.

“Do not,’ Lilo mutters, ‘breathe a word of any of this to Nani.”

Stitch shakes his head. “Stitch wants to live.”

Lilo smirks and looks back over at her other best friend, who has finally emerged from the mass of fur.

“We’ll see each other again,’ Sully says firmly. ‘Even if I have to break through every single door in this factory to do it.”

“Just don’t leave it so long this time,’ Boo laughs through tears.

With one arm still around Boo, Sully holds his other hand out to shake Lilo’s. His paw is rough, like Stitch’s feet, and she can only wrap her hand around his thumb. But she shakes it firmly.

“Thanks for not imprisoning us in a jail cell forever,’ she says.

The red light above the door turns on. Sully steps aside and opens it for them. Inside, Lilo can see the bedroom. It’s so tidy and neat, that until she sees his posters and the familiar stuffed flamingo on his bed that she is sure its Russell’s room.

“Aloha,’ Stitch calls, waving to everyone, and then rushes through into the room.

Lilo laughs. “Aloha every-… Stitch, no! Off Russell’s television!”

The temperature switches as soon as she steps through the doorway. The warm, Hawaiian air greets her – a welcome change to the cool, metallic atmosphere in the factory. Lilo pulls Stitch off Russell’s TV and flings him onto Peter’s bed, and Stitch begins rifling through Peter’s car magazines.

Lilo looks around for Boo. She’s standing in the doorway with her back to her, one hand on the door handle, ready to close it but not just yet. Sully and Mike are standing there, smiling and waving. Boo gives a little wave back, and slowly closes the door. It shuts with a definite, final ‘click’.

Boo just stands there for a second, and then opens the door again. The factory is gone. It’s just jackets and boots and tent poles and rope. Boo bows her head and sighs loudly.

Lilo bites her lip, not sure what to say. Finally, she settles on, ‘Are you okay?”

“Ask me again in a few hours,’ Boo says. ‘Are you okay?”

“Should I lie down on while we talk about it?’ Lilo smirks. ‘Do we start the hour now, or wait until I’m actually on the couch?”

“In all seriousness,’ Boo responds with a small smile, ‘thank you.”

“What are you thanking me for? You’re the whole reason we have Stitch back. I should be thanking you.”

“You and Stitch have affirmed everything I’d ever believed in – that I was starting to lose faith in. That’s invaluable. I’ll be forever grateful. Even if I have to wait another twenty years before I see them again, this time I know it was real.”

Lilo feels her cheeks burn, unsure of how to respond. She wants to tell her that it’s really Boo that is the life changer here. That before Boo, no-one has ever been so accepting of Stitch, or Lilo’s past. No-one but her family has ever just been her friend, and that that’s also invaluable.

But Lilo doesn’t know how to say any of this, so she just shoves Boo gently, and feels the affection when she receives a push back.

Boo blows air out through her lips and puts her hands on her hips. “I’m starving.”

Lilo laughs. “It’s like you read my mind. Stitch, let’s go.”

The hallway his buzzing, and Lilo isn’t sure how they’re going to get Stitch back to the room without causing panic amongst the parents and…

“Oh, no,’ Lilo gasps, and slams the door shut again.

“What?’ Boo rushses over from the closet.

Lilo pushes her aside and looks out the window. A feeling of dread sinks deep into her stomach. “Oh, no.”

“What?”

Lilo moves aside to let Boo look. “It’s Visitor Day.”

“Wow, so it is! It feels like we’ve been in there forever.”

Boo sighs. “Do you think my parents will be mad if I just go to bed?”

“After they’ve come all the way from Tennessee? They might have mixed feelings about it.”

“What are we going to do?’

In the end, they stuff Stitch inside Lilo’s backpack. He has a few protests about it, especially after being confined in chains for the last four days, but Lilo convinces him by not giving him a choice and shoving him inside anyway.

They make it back to their room without any incident. Stitch bursts out of the backpack instantly and climbs up into his hammock above Lilo’s bed.

“Can you just stay her for a few hours?’ Lilo hates to ask. She’s leaving him in a room smaller than his cell back at Monsters Inc, but she promises to bring him back jelly donuts, and Boo sweetens the deal by telling him he can use her computer for anything he wants.

And ten minutes later, they’re out on the quad looking around for familiar faces.

“This is all so surreal,’ Boo says, looking around. ‘I thought coming here would be a new start away from my old life. Turns out this is one is already weirder than the last one.”

Lilo nudges her. “After all this is over, you wanna get drunk? Shouldn’t be too hard to convince Russell to buy us some vodka.”

“Seems like the mature thing to do.”

“Lilo!”

Lilo looks around in time to see Nani running over before she’s enveloped in a back-breaking hug. Lilo laughs and returns her sisters embrace. The familiar smell of her coconut shampoo and the silky feel of her dark blue shirt she saves for special occasions, along with the combination of the events of the past few days bring tears to Lilo’s eyes.

“Oh, baby,’ Nani wipes Lilo’s cheek, ‘are you okay?”

“Yeah,’ Lilo nods, ‘just happy to see you guys. David!”

Lilo hugs her brother-in-law, who lifts her off the ground with enthusiasm. He laughs his easy laugh and ruffles her hair. “Howzit, Lilo?’

“Grand. Stitch is upstairs,’ Lilo adds quickly, when she can see Nani’s eyes darting around. ‘Don’t worry.”

Nani blushes and waves a hand. “I wasn’t worried.”

David clears his throat loudly.

Lilo throws an arm around Boo and introduces her happily. She’s been looking forward to introducing Boo to them for ages, and hasn’t wanted to do it in video chat. Nani and David both shake her hand, and ask her the usual twenty questions one asks a new person. Lilo tunes out as she spots another familiar person across the lawn.

Russell is talking to a small, Asian woman that Lilo assumes is his mother. He looks distracted though; his eyes keep darting up to the window Lilo knows is his bedroom.

As if sensing eyes on him, he looks around and finally spots her. His eyes widen and she knows he’s about to sprint over to her. But she puts a hand up and shakes her head, hoping she’s conveying the fact that she will tell him everything later just through her gaze. He seems to understand, because he gives her a thumbs up and raises his eyebrows in question. She nods again, and he smiles, and then turns back to his mother looking much more interested in what she has to say.

“… just been looking around,’ David is saying when Lilo turns back to them. ‘This is a sweet place. Close to the beach!”

“That’s why we picked it,’ Lilo smirks.

“It is not,’ Nani chuckles. ‘But we’ve been here for over two hours, Lilo. I’ve tried calling you. Where have you been?”

Lilo and Boo exchange a look. Boo shrugs, and Lilo gives her a wink.

“Nani,’ Lilo slips an arm through Boo’s and begins leading them off, ‘let me show you the science building!”

“Lilo?’

“It’s really fascinating. And there’s a good view of the beach from the roof.”

‘Lilo! I know that look! What aren’t you telling me? Get back here, Lilo!”