(Author's Note: This is my first Psychonauts fanfiction. It's the only game I have ever learned to play on my brother's Xbox and I love it. I know this story is a little slow getting started, but the ending is great, I think, so please read and review.)
It had rained the previous night, and as Milla struggled through the boggy ground in her high-heeled shoes, she wondered why camps always had to be out in the wilderness, as opposed to, say, on a swanky street-corner disco.
Camp Whispering Rock was located where it was, in the middle of the woods, for a good reason. There were unique resources there, resources that were needed for people to develop and grow stronger. But still, sometimes Milla wondered. Why couldn't they just transport the stupid minerals—
Her two-inch stiletto heel abruptly sank into a soft spot. With a growl, Milla grabbed her boot and struggled to pull her foot from the ground. It came out with a sickly squelching noise. She winced and, on second thought, raised herself above the ground to avid further mud on her boots. Why she hadn't thought of levitating before was beyond her—although, she supposed it had something to do with wanting to be sincere. Sasha would be less likely to ignore her if he'd seen she made the effort of walking across the grounds.
Sasha had his own cabin—they all did—but that wasn't where Milla was going. Sasha was rarely, if ever, in his quarters. He spent most of his time deep underground, in a lab built beneath an abandoned structure in the middle of the woods. Even now, when he was sick, he flatly refused to leave it. He treated his equipment like his children, and people like parasites. It was an unfortunate personality trait that sometimes made him difficult to approach.
Milla and Sasha had been partners for some time. First officially, paired together by the government. Her creativity paired with his logic made for a great team. And then, unofficially, as workers in the same training program. Milla was in it for the kids; Sasha was in it for the… well, actually, Milla wasn't sure why. Perhaps he liked the kids too, even though he rarely spoke more than two words to them at a time.
Milla glided over the ground, only a few inches. She passed the cabins and the main lodge, in a clearing on top of a hill. Still floating, she followed the muddy path towards the woods. The creek had swelled and even the plank bridges were overflowing. She swept over them, leaving the excited and curious stares of the campers behind her. The trees thickened when she came to Sasha's lab. It was tucked away, much like Sasha himself, surrounded by a massive fence decorated with "KEEP OUT" signs. Within the compound were no trees, just the rusty, crumbling isolation chambers. Milla let herself down on the metal catwalk and carefully began picking her way over the rickety thing, ducking her head to get into one of the dark, padded chambers. She opened the hatch, lowered herself, and closed it above her head.
Then she dusted herself off and looked around.
Below her was a long staircase of overlapping rectangles, slightly irregular and the only sign of color in the room. Other than that, the high walls were bare and white, just as the ground was. Boxes were clustered neatly into groups. Below her, Sasha was fiddling with the knobs on an old console. He gave no notice of her, despite the sudden flamboyancy of her polyester suit in his immaculately sterile labs.
She walked down the stairs, footsteps echoing. She waited until she was halfway down to say anything.
"Sasha, baby doll, have you been down here all night?"
Sasha mumbled incoherently. "Perhaps. There are endless tasks for me to do here. And now this is acting up. It's not like I could just… leave it."
He rose to greet her, picking up a small, old-fashioned EEG machine from the table in front of him and swinging it onto his hip like an infant. He walked over to meet Milla at the bottom of the stairs; immediately, his head tilted, almost unnoticeably, to the muddy heel of Milla's boot and the stain it left on his white tiles.
"What's that?" asked Milla quickly, pointing to the EEG for a distraction, even though she knew what it was.
"This? An electroencephalography machine," said Sasha proudly, adjusting it against his body. "Very simple. It detects brain activity. But it'll do more than that when I'm through with it." He patted it, then, as if coming out of a reverie, asked, "I'm sorry. I've been a bad host. Would you like some tea?"
"Well, I—" began Milla.
Sasha sneezed twice, violently.
"—am just fine, thank you," she finished.
Sasha gestured her to sit. He twitched two fingers; two chairs slid over the ground toward them. They both sat, Sasha with his EEG machine on his lap. He looked down at it fondly. "It has a lot of potential," he said. "But patience is the key."
Milla said nothing to this, partially because she was not sure Sasha wanted her to, and partially because she was looking him over. They were very close in age, but while she had always remained young, he'd always acted older. Whenever they stood side by side, people guessed him to be at least five years older. And it was no wonder, the way he took care of himself. Milla loved bright colors. She loved dancing and hugging and murmuring sweet nothings. She had her earned herself the reputation of the Mental Minx, aided by her suave Brazilian accent and her terms of endearments used for complete strangers. Sasha, on the other hand, was a black-and-white soul. He didn't get excited or shaken. He rarely even smiled. He liked to talk about serious things, and liked to work, and liked to plan. In contrast with Milla's love of flashy dresses and high boots, he rarely wore anything that didn't match with generous amounts of black, which made his pale skin stand out all the more. Today, it was black pants, black leather jacket, black gloves, and black shoes. He was wearing a turtleneck, but it was a dull beige color. All the sweaters he owned came in colors like that, colors that Milla didn't even consider colors. Sasha had once explained to her that, since his eyes were brown, he needed to have some in his wardrobe. But since he almost never took off his square sunglasses, the point was moot.
"Sweetheart, you're going to get sicker," purred Milla.
Sasha didn't even cross his legs the other way, one of the few signs his feathers were being ruffled. He toyed with his EEG machine, giving himself time before answering, "It's only a cold."
"Sure, only a cold now," said Milla. "But down in this lab without any fresh air you're going to get pneumonia, darling, so come upstairs and get breakfast."
"I will as soon as I finish," said Sasha. Milla had been counting on that.
"Then I'll help you finish and we can get done faster," she said, rising. She put her hands together and rubbed them, looking around enthusiastically. "Where do you need me?"
Sasha rose slower, cradling his machine. "I can do it myself, thank you, Agent Vodello."
"Agent Vodello? No, no, no, Sasha, sweetheart, I'm just Milla to you. Come on, I can help, I can get my nails dirty for once." She pulled off her white gloves. Her nails were painted pink under them. Sasha's eyebrows knitted.
"Very well. You… can hold this," he said, delicately putting the machine in her arms.
"Okay, great!" She followed him back to the console. He sat and, propping one elbow on the console and tangling his fingers into his dark hair, began to slowly turn knobs again.
"What are we doing?" asked Milla over his shoulder.
"I am trying to fix a minor melt-down." Irritably, Sasha jabbed a thumb at a large device behind him.
"What's that, a laser?" asked Milla, looking up the barrel of it.
"Don't hold that EEG in front of it!"
"Right, we don't want it to get fried," said Milla. Sasha missed her sarcasm; he took it back, set it on his lap, and swiveled back to his controls. Milla peeked over his shoulder again, putting her hands on his arm. Immediately, his muscles tensed, but other than that, he gave no indication she was there. He paused to cough quietly.
"I'll make you chicken soup."
"I hate chicken soup."
"I'll get you some herbal tea."
"I can get my own."
"You should be in bed."
"And you should be teaching a class, Agent—"
"Mee-yah," she interrupted softly, squeezing his arm.
"Milla," he mumbled apologetically.
"My class is over," said Milla. "Do you know what time it is, huh? It's ten in the morning, Sasha. You haven't even had breakfast, have you?"
He opened his mouth but only managed to sneeze. He grabbed the EEG before it slid off his lap.
"I'm not hungry. Not physically. Now, mentally—"
"Put a sock in it, Sasha."
"What?" snapped Sasha, who'd never before been told to put a sock in it.
"Please come upstairs, sweetie? For me?" wheedled Milla. She let her hand slid down Sasha's arm. He gave no indication that she was having any affect on him. But then, maybe it was only because his muscles were already clenched to their maximum.
He finally moved, put only to pull a cigarette from his pocket. He held it floating in the air in front of him while he searched his pockets for a light; when he couldn't find one, he lit it on fire himself.
"Have you seen even one of the kids today?"
"It was one of the kids that destroyed my Brain Tumbler," he growled. "Hours of work, wasted on an undeveloped mind. Advanced, yes, but not developed. The key is having the self-motivation to pursue—"
"Sasha, let's go to dinner tonight," interrupted Milla.
"Dinner?" Sasha reached up to push back the square bangs that fell over his forehead. "I have far too much work to go to dinner. We can go to dinner later."
Milla had had enough. He was doing it again, tactfully refusing her. And no one—but no one—refused Milla Vodello.
Her eyes squinted; imperceptivity, her fingers curled. There was a flash of jumbled thought in her mind—yes—and then it was gone. Sasha glared at her.
"How dare you try to break into my mind and read my thoughts!"
"Maybe if you just told me what you think…"
"I expect you to respect my privacy!"
"We'll meet in the parking lot at seven, okay?"
"I said no!"
"You thought yes. And don't you always say brain over brawn, darling?"
Sasha rose, snapping at her to leave. And she did. But she knew he'd come. Sasha wasn't the type of person to deny his own thoughts.