Timeline/Spoilers: This story takes place before the events of the "Monsters, Inc." movie. As for Buffy, somewhere sixth season, before "Seeing Red". Buffy's back, but that can't really be a spoiler for anyone, anymore, can it?
The Scarer and the Slayer's Sis
A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Monsters Inc. crossover fan fiction story
Written: May 2002
Herbie watched as, along with all the others, his door was brought out onto the factory floor on the overhead line. It reached his station, and was lowered and locked into place. The indicator light up top began to glow, and Herbie resolutely stepped up, opened the door, and stepped through. At last, he was an official, honest-to-goodness scarer!
He reached behind and closed the door, as he had been trained to do. Wouldn't want anything besides himself slipping through to Monstopolis, after all. That would be bad - even disastrous.
That looked after, he took a moment to look around and take in his surroundings. Then he did a double take.
Were little girls' rooms always this cluttered? It hadn't seemed that way during his training. The bed seemed a lot bigger now, too.
He was starting to get a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He took a cautious step forward, then another and his unease only deepened.
"For somebody breaking into the Slayer's house, you're kinda timid, y'know?" said a voice into the silence.
Herbie jumped straight into the air, and turned one hundred eighty degrees so his legs bore the brunt of his impact with the roof. Since all eight of them ended in sucker feet, he stayed attached to the roof after the impact.
"I am not timid!" Herbie objected.
"Maybe I should've said jumpy?" Dawn Summers observed with a snicker.
Herbie fought down the urge to argue with the annoying girl, and just looked at her instead. She was big. Very big. Much bigger than he'd been led to expect any of the children he was going to encounter would be. The mockups in his training had been so much smaller. Shouldn't somebody have warned him?
Then, something else penetrated. "Slayer?" he said in a confused voice. He didn't like the sound of that word.
Dawn studied the unexpected guest sticking to her bedroom ceiling. Amazement washed over her features as she realized.
"You didn't know?" she asked. "That's so different. Usually all the demons and monsters break in here because it's the Slayer's place."
Herbie shuddered. He didn't even know what a demon was, but he didn't like the sound of it. He had more immediate concerns on his mind, however.
"What's a Slayer?" he asked.
"That would be somebody who goes around beating up vampires, monsters, and other assorted nasties so they don't cause any more problems," Dawn replied.
Herbie started to skitter backwards towards the closet door. Thinking the ceiling free of clutter, he didn't bother to look where he was going. However, he'd forgotten about the light fixture, which he wound up stumbling into. As a result he ended up plummeting to the floor, making an "oomph" sound on impact.
Dawn burst out laughing. She quickly collected herself, and asked the intruder, "Are you all right?"
Herbie made a non-committal sound and tried to regain his composure. This kept getting better and better. "Do you beat up monsters a lot?" he asked.
"No, Buffy goes psycho-girl trying to keep me away from that stuff. She seems to think I'm made of glass or something." Dawn paused, then resumed, starting down a different track. "Wait a minute - the way you said that. Did you think I was the Slayer?"
"You're not?" Herbie asked, mildly puzzled.
"No. That's my sister Buffy. You really are out of the loop, aren't you?"
"Is she going to attack me?" Herbie asked with a hint of fear. He took a quick look around the room, assuring himself there was no one else present, then eyed the closed door to the hallway nervously.
"Depends on why you're here. Are you going to try to hurt, eat, kill or kidnap me? Or anybody else?"
The tone was curious, not fearful, but Herbie still wound up staring at the girl in shock. "Why would I want to do any of those horrible things? Why would anyone?" he replied.
"You're really not from around here, are you?" Dawn said with a mischievous smile.
"No, I'm from Monstropolis."
"Never heard of it."
"You're not really supposed to."
"Yeah, well, the life I've got, I end up hearing a lot of things I'm not really supposed to. So why are you here?" Dawn finished, steering the conversation back on track.
"To scare you," Herbie admitted, a trace of apprehension apparent in his otherwise calm voice.
"To scare me," Dawn parroted.
"So you'd scream," Herbie elaborated.
"Good job so far," Dawn commented in a voice heavy with irony.
"There's no need to get insulting," Herbie said defensively.
"Excuse me," Dawn started in an indignant tone, "who snuck into whose bedroom in the middle of the night to frighten whom? You're lucky insults are all I'm using."
"It's just my job," explained Herbie. "It's nothing personal."
"You're saying your job is to sneak into people's bedrooms to make them scream?" Dawn asked. Her tone remained indignant, and the volume she was using seemed to be slowly but steadily increasing.
"Well, yeah. Children's bedrooms, to be exact."
"Why? Just for kicks?" Dawn asked, the outrage in her voice still increasing.
"No. We need the screams," a defensive Herbie began to explain.
"For what?" Dawn asked in a much calmer voice than she had been using, her confusion apparent.
"Monstropolis runs on scream power. Believe me, we wouldn't be doing anything this dangerous if it weren't necessary."
"Dangerous? Dangerous how?" Dawn asked.
"Humans and the human world are highly toxic to us," explained Herbie.
"Why don't you use something safer then?" Dawn asked.
"Like what?" Herbie asked. Then, his curiosity aroused, he inquired, "What do you use here?"
Dawn paused to think for a moment. "I'm not sure," she told him. "I never thought about it much. I think we burn oil and coal - which spews pollutants into the atmosphere and destroys the ozone layer. Then there's nuclear power, which leaves byproducts that will be dangerously radioactive for thousands of years. Well, there's solar power - unless it's night time or cloudy. You know what? Forget I ever mentioned it," Dawn finished, slightly abashed.
"Okay," Herbie agreed.
He collected himself and rose to his feet. As he had eight of those, it took him a few moments. "You're not the least bit scared of me are you?"
Dawn shook her head. "Nope. Sorry."
"Any chance you'll scream for me anyway?"
"There's a problem with that. Buffy, oddly enough, is actually home right now. If I scream, she'll hear it, and rush in here and start using lethal force on anyone and anything she doesn't recognize. Which would be, well, you."
"Lethal force?" Herbie inquired with dismay.
"Uh huh." Dawn nodded for extra emphasis.
"And she beats up monsters a lot?"
"All the time," Dawn confirmed.
Herbie shuddered again.
"I've got a new idea," Herbie said. "Why don't I just shuffle back to the closet door, open it and go back home? Will that keep your scary sister from beating me up?"
"Probably," Dawn replied. "Buffy doesn't usually attack anything that hasn't attacked her or somebody else first. Well, except for vampires, but they're always evil. Except when they're not, like Spike and Angel."
"You're a very strange girl," Herbie commented as he continued to study her.
"You're a furry blue-green semi-cute spider thing who turned my closet door into some kind of inter-dimensional portal, you came here to scare me but you're not frightening at all, and you're calling me strange?" Dawn countered.
"I'm sorry!" Herbie spat out. "Please don't hurt me!"
"I wasn't going to," Dawn told him. "You realize at least one of us has this scaring thing backwards?"
"Yeah, well, I was told little girls are a lot easier to scare than you seem to be," Herbie told her, a hint of irritation beginning to show in his voice. "I'm thinking about having a long talk with the people who run the training program."
"Who are you calling little?" Dawn asked, irritated herself. "How many times do I have to tell people I'm fifteen, not five, before it sinks in?"
"You're what?" Herbie asked, shocked.
"Fifteen. Is that some kind of problem?"
"I was supposed to be going to a two year old's bedroom," explained Herbie.
"So how'd you wind up in mine?" Dawn asked him. Then the answer hit her, the monks! The monks, and their crazy spell. And she'd thought all the weirdness from her being the Key was over and done with. She should have known better.
"Actually, I think I know how it happened. I kind of am two years old. Well, depending on how you count, I'm two, fifteen, or several thousand."
"I don't understand," said Herbie.
"Actually, I don't either. What I'm saying is, in a way, I'm two years old, but I look a lot older - fifteen, to be exact. I think of myself as fifteen, normally, and so does everybody else - it's just simpler that way."
Herbie just stared at her.
"Clear like mud?" Dawn prodded.
"Okay, simple version. I'm not your typical two year old."
"So other two year olds will be easier to scare?" Herbie asked, hopefully.
"Probably," Dawn told him. "I don't know actually know any, personally."
"That's a relief," Herbie told her.
"Wait a minute. These other kids - you're not going to hurt them, are you?"
Herbie was perplexed. "What kind of horrible creature would want to hurt children? Even if they are toxic human children?" he asked.
"I could give you a list," Dawn offered.
"Eep," was all Herbie managed to say in response at first, appalled that the girl could make such an offer - and seem genuine about it.
After a pause, Herbie continued. "We don't have time to hurt anybody, even if we wanted to. Get in, get the scream, get out, and on to the next door - that's the way it works, or at least the way it's supposed to."
Something occurred to Herbie. "Oh, no. I've been here forever - and I'm not even going to get a scream from here. I'm going to be in so much trouble - and it's my first day. I've gotta go - now," he stated, starting toward the door.
"Will you come back?" Dawn asked.
"Not if I can possibly avoid it," Herbie said as he grabbed the closet doorknob. He yanked the door open, tossed out an apologetic, "No offense," as an afterthought, then disappeared into the closet, slamming the door behind him.
"None taken - I think," were the words Dawn sent in hopeless pursuit or her now departed visitor.
Buffy paused outside the doorway to Dawn's bedroom. She'd been walking down the hallway when she'd thought she heard - she wasn't quite sure what she'd thought she heard, but it was something out of the ordinary.
She rapped gently on the door and opened it.
"Dawn? Everything okay in here?"
"Sure, Buffy," came the response.
"Were you talking on the phone in here?" Buffy asked. "I thought I heard voices. Isn't it kind of late for that?"
"No, I wasn't on the phone. There was a guy trying to sneak in here." At least, I think it was a guy, Dawn told herself. With some species (Was that even the right word?, she wondered) it could be hard to tell.
"You're sneaking guys into your bedroom late at night?" Buffy said in a voice that conveyed both skepticism and bemused disapproval.
"Like you never did anything like that," came Dawn's own amused response. "And I wasn't sneaking him in. I'd never even met him."
"If that was supposed to be reassuring, it wasn't - or it wouldn't be, if I believed a word you were saying. But I can play along, if you want. So where's this guy now?" Buffy asked, her voice changing from parental to playful.
"He left. Turned out he had the wrong bedroom," Dawn told her, feigning mild disappointment.
"Really. Was he cute?" Buffy had slipped into her conspiratorial gossip voice.
"Kind of," Dawn admitted. "But not to die for, or anything."
"So you're not heartbroken, then?"
"Hardly. It wasn't that sort of," Dawn paused, struggling to find the right choice of word, and finally settled on, "thing."
"Disappointed?" Buffy asked her.
Dawn shook her head. "Nah, I think it'll be a little while longer before I actually start wanting anybody to creep in here at strange hours."
"Glad to hear it," Buffy told her. "I'll let you get some rest, then," she finished and started to pull Dawn's door closed. In the process she moved her head in such a way that she caught a glimpse of something she hadn't previously noticed.
"Or not," Buffy contradicted herself. She stepped fully into the room and switched on the light. She looked up at the ceiling.
"Dawn, are those footprints?" she asked, pointing.
Dawn studied the footprints while her mind raced. She knew Buffy would totally over-freak if she heard the real story - and it wasn't like Spider-Muppet was a real threat to anyone. But Buffy would never take her word for that, and would probably end up giving her another lecture. Probably about responsibility. When it doubt, give Dawn a quick lecture and disappear - that seemed to be Buffy's motto on the subject of raising her teenage sister, and Dawn so didn't want to go through that right now.
Finally, Dawn opened her mouth. "You think something's been walking around my ceiling? Without my seeing or hearing anything?" She wasn't actually saying she hadn't seen or heard anything, Dawn reasoned.
"You have another explanation for those marks?" Buffy asked.
Dawn took another few seconds to think, then offered, "Any chance it could have to do with stress on the house from all the magic spells and demon attacks that have gone on here?"
Buffy studied the 'footprints' for a long moment. "Yeah, maybe," she finally said. Her voice lacked conviction, but she was apparently willing to let the matter rest. "I wonder why I never noticed those marks before?"
"I think you had other things on your mind besides inspecting your sister's bedroom ceiling," Dawn told her.
"Yeah, I guess," Buffy told her. "Sorry if I started to freak. Occupational hazard. But now, I really will go and let you get some rest," she finished apologetically.
"Thanks, Buffy," Dawn told her as she shut the door.
"Well, that was strange," Dawn muttered softly to herself as she was left to her own thoughts once again. She wasn't ever sure whether she was referring to her peculiar visitor, or the fact that for a minute, she and Buffy had almost seemed to be connecting as sisters once again. That hadn't happened often enough lately - sometimes it seemed to Dawn like she was the one raising Buffy, not the other way around. When Buffy did remember Dawn existed, it almost seemed like it was the Slayer protecting the Key, not about being a family, and Dawn wound up feeling smothered, rather than protected.
As strange as it sounded, her intruder had renewed Dawn's hope that whatever was wrong between her and Buffy, the two of them could and would fix it. For that, she would always be grateful.
As Herbie stepped back onto the Scare Floor, his assistant, Cy, told him, "Great job, pal. Really potent stuff, there."
He wasn't teasing. He really meant it, Herbie realized.
"B-b-but," Herbie started, only to break off as Cy continued.
"You might want to think about getting back here a little faster though," he told Herbie as the first door was removed from the station and the next was inserted. "You won't win the Top New Scarer award if you don't start going through doors faster than that."
By then, the new door, was in place and active, so Herbie went through and did his job.
After the shift was over Herbie convinced a reluctant Cy to take the crazy girl's door off his Scare List. Cy tried to change his mind because the scream from there had been so powerful. But Herbie was adamant, and Cy was smart enough that if a Scarer wasn't going to go through a certain door, there was no point in keeping it on his Scare List.
The mystery of how Cy had collected a scream which had never been made would puzzle Herbie for a long while. But not forever. Mike and Sully would see to that.
Author's Note: For those brave those souls who read this even though they knew little or nothing about Monsters, Inc., Mike and Sully are the main characters of the movie. In the course of the film, they discover something that will explain Herbie's private mystery. I'm not going to risk spoiling the movie for anyone by going into specifics here, but if you really need to know what it is, e-mail me and I'll tell you.