Skeletons in the Closet

Chapter 4: The First Stone

09:15 PM.

Night, an endless black blanket draped across the sky, was accompanied, or rather bejewelled, with silver stars. They glowed against the black backdrop, radiating light that many of Monstropolis' residents would unfortunately mistake for that of helicopters and aeroplanes. Indeed, the industrialized city suffered from light pollution, like their fellow counterparts in the human world, but tonight it was different. The stars were at their best, showing off their natural beauty as they shone for all they were worth. For some unlucky lost monster who roamed around on the outskirts of the city or in some other miserable place, from the guidance of the brightest North Star they could easily find their way home. For the romantic monster, the starry night proved to be the perfect setting for a passionate rendezvous or, say, a moonlight stroll, either way that would make for a wonderful (and ideal) night to remember.

If at any time Mike Wazowski considered doing one of these things with Celia after their date, there was definitely no chance of doing that now.

Shifting into fourth gear without thought and narrowly avoiding stalling his car in the process, Mike turned off the main road and down the path that led to the parking lot in front of Monsters, Inc. The small, green monster grumbled under his breath about the impracticality of manual cars, not once considering his poor driving skills, as the car winded its way down the path.

Many lights lighted up the factory, the white building standing tall against the black landscape. Mike could see the factory miles away from Harryhausen's, and he kept an eye on it as he made his way through the night-time traffic – unfortunately, that meant that he did not really keep an eye on the road itself, and many motorists and pedestrians were not impressed by being nearly knocked over and potentially killed by a manic, monoball ("midget" was thrown about by some of the younger monsters) monster.

Overall, Mike really did not notice, let alone care, and even if he did, he would deny everything and blame his behaviour on Sulley.

Because whenever something is up with the big guy, it always comes crashing down on Michael Wazowski.

And speaking of the big guy …

Standing by the entrance of the factory, almost as tall as the front doors, was the great James P. Sullivan (the late, great James P. Sullivan, once Celia deals with him). Even from a far-off distance as he rode down the path, Mike could clearly make out the relieved expression that Sulley wore on his face the moment he spotted his best friend arriving.

And yet, Mike could distinguish slivers of – what was that? – impatience and anxiety rising to the surface: the big guy was precariously biting his bottom lip and his brows were furrowed. Even his movements were affected – his right foot was tapping up and down, beating to a rhythm of its own making.

Good grief, Sulley really must be worried about something. And I thought I was worried about Celia turning my proposal down – phew, wait 'til he's in the hot-seat!

Mike shifted into third gear, and subsequently into second gear, as he decelerated. Slowly, he proceeded to the parking lot, though judging by Sulley's nervous mannerisms as the blue monster watched his friend approaching, now was not the time for the small, green monster to rejoice in finally being able to park in the vacant block right by the entrance. Instead, Mike pulled up right next Sulley, parallel to the entrance – Mike always hinted to Sulley about the possibilities of valet parking, but so far, nothing came of his requests.

Lowering his window, Mike leaned out of the car, looked up at Sulley with a half-lidded eye and, in a sultry tone, said, "Hi, come here often?"

"Good to see you too, Mike," replied Sulley, though he did not look directly at the smaller monster. Instead, his head was turning to his left and to his right, his eyes shifting in every direction. Finally, he gazed down at a very bemused Mike, nervousness flickering in his blue orbs. "Don't worry about the car for now. Just leave it here and follow me inside."

Humour abandoned and now apprehensive of Sulley's bizarre behaviour, Mike started, "Sulley, what's going on –"

The big monster cut him off with a wave of his hand. "No time to talk, Mike. Not out here, anyway. Wait until we get inside. Get out of the car and don't say anything until I show you the problem. You got that?"

"Sure thing, pal …" began Mike, but his words faded as Sulley turned his back on him, hissing "Come on!" as he walked through the front entrance.

Hoo boy, if this is what happens when you're CEO of Monsters, Inc., count me out for a promotion, thought Mike apprehensively.

Glancing out into the dark night, which suddenly seemed less scary than Sulley's behaviour, Mike activated the alarm on his precious car before he turned on his heels and begrudgingly walked after Sulley into the deserted factory.

They walked through the corridors in silence.

They treaded across various carpeted floors quietly. No words were exchanged, no hearty congratulations on the engagement, no inquiries regarding Celia and whether or not she was furious at Sulley for calling Mike away from their special night … nothing like that. Silence hung over them, an unsolicited member of their troupe, as far as the two monsters were concerned, but one they had to put up with all the same.

Sulley led the way through innumerable passageways with Mike a few steps behind him, the green monster growing more and more hesitant as they made their way up through the different levels of the building. He wanted – oh, how he really wanted! – to say something to Sulley, to at least utter one word that would express how he felt at that moment so that the big monster, his best friend, could lessen his ever-rising dread; carry the load, put him at ease … things that friends do for each other.

Because that's what friends are for, right?

Mike opened his mouth … and quickly closed it. Sulley's words, his cryptic warning, echoed in his mind: Don't say anything until I show you the problem. You got that?

Yeah, I got it, pal, answered Mike to himself despondently, keeping his eye on Sulley's back as they padded along the corridor of the ninth floor. 'Cause that's what friends are for, what I'm here for, no matter what happens …

"We're nearly there," stated Sulley in a low voice, without looking around at Mike.

Mike nodded, but did not make a sound.

Biting his bottom lip once more, Sulley held back the apology that threatened to escape from his mouth – he was afraid that more than a request for forgiveness would come gushing out. There will come the time when he will eventually have to reveal how Randall came returned through a door into the factory, but right now, at this crucial point, showing Mike the sedated monster in the nurse's office was his main priority. If he said anything now on the subject, Mike would turn around and march out of the factory before he even laid an eye on the monster.

And goodness knows if he'll keep it a secret …

Sulley strode on, Mike close behind him. His small steps became large strides as the bigger monster picked up the pace, his apparent nervousness fueling his movements. Meanwhile, Mike bristled inwardly, more than a little irritated at Sulley as he practically stormed ahead of him. It was not enough that they walked all this way through various floors - now Sulley was almost jogging, so much so Mike too had to pick up the pace to catch up with him.

Good grief, Mike fumed to himself, who does he think he is, a world-class athlete or something? Now he wants to make me run, too? I swear, he's gonna make my odorant wear off! Why won't he slow down?

Whatever the problem is, if it's so bad that it's making Sulley act weird, please give me the strength to at least get out of here as soon as possible, Mike prayed, stifling his own ever-growing nervousness, though he had a hard time trying to keep the doubt creeping into his thoughts, threatening to consume him ...

They reached the end of the corridor. Sulley paused by the last second-last door, a white door with a glass window. A blood-red plus-symbol and the words "Nurse's Office" in black capital lettering were pasted against the window's surface.

Mike scanned the window, and his large eye narrowed as he turned to look up at the big blue monster. "The nurse's office? What are we doing here, Sulley?"

Sulley did not reply immediately, despite the breach of promise from the one-eyed monster. Instead, he looked down at the floor, his eyes darting all over the place, and he shuffled his feet. Nervousness held the reins once more as his movements became spasmodic. Even his speech was affected to some degree, evidenced by the rather obvious lack of such speech.

And that lack of speech, the unspoken explanation, the untold reason that he was waiting for, annoyed Mike by far.

"Sulley, answer me, for goodness sake," said Mike sharply. "I don't want to complain or anything, but after having to leave Celia behind after just proposing to her and driving all this way through hellish traffic to get here and you acting like a panicky earthquake that's just waiting to happen … and now you're not even answering me … Sulley, my patience is up. How can I help you if you're not even telling me what's going, huh? What was the whole point of this?"

The small green looked up at the bigger monster with an exasperated expression, his hands on his hips as if to say, "Well? Give me an answer – I'm waiting!"

Sulley looked down his infuriated friend with tired eyes. A heavy sigh passed his lips.

Judgement Day cometh, reverberated the chilling voice in his mind, sounding almost gleeful at the proclamation.

As he opened his mouth to finally respond to his friend's questioning, Mike suddenly gasped, his large eye widening as he whispered in an utterly shocked tone, "What. In the hell. Is that?"

His gaze was no longer on Sulley – instead, he was staring wide-eyed at the ground, a few paces behind Sulley's feet. His skin, the exact shade of a tantalising Granny Smith apple, became a shade lighter, paled with pure astonishment. Gone was his fury: shock stood in its place.

Slightly mystified yet feeling a tug of panic, Sulley braced himself for the worst as he turned around and –

Oh no ...

"Is that … blood on the floor?" whispered Mike, his voice barely discernible.

Dotted all over the floor, like scattered confetti, were blood droplets.

Fresh blood droplets, differing in sizes, still soaking into the carpeting.

"Uh …" was all Sulley could say. He only had eyes for the crimson-coated carpet.

Mike finally tore his gaze away from the bloody floor to look at Sulley, to receive a proper answer, and that was when he noticed his friend's discoloured blue fur for the first time. In the night light, Mike did not see the dark tint of his hair – as far as he was concerned, it was no different to the purple spots that the blue monster sported. Nor did he notice them immediately in the hallway lights, for the discoloration occurred on the front of Sulley's body – how could Mike have noticed, if he was walking behind Sulley the entire time? Also, consumed with rage when his patience wore thin, Mike again failed to notice as he vented on his best friend.

Until now.

"Sulley, was there blood on your fur? Like the blood on the floor?" gasped Mike, his eye as big as a saucer, if not bigger. "Was it the same blood?"

Sulley met his friend's gaze. He licked his lips, opened his mouth and promptly closed it again, the explanation lost in his throat.

Hmmm, wouldn't I like to hear what answer you have for Mike, purred the little voice in his head. It's bound to be interesting …and entertaining.

And judging by dear Mike's expression, I would say that the conclusion he reached would be far more remarkable and compelling, don't you think, big guy …?

"Mikey … whatever you're thinking right now, you got it all wrong –"

"Got it all wrong? So murder isn't on your agenda?" cried Mike, incredulous.

Sulley was flabbergasted at the notion.

"Murder?" he spluttered. "Why would I ... how could I possibly ever ... you know I could never bring myself to do that."

"Oh sure, and I bet whoever the poor guy was that bled to death tonight would totally agree with you!" screamed the smaller monster, blatant sarcasm dripping from his voice. He gestured wildly with his arm towards the door of the nurse's office. "And I doubly bet that you have his bloody corpse in there right now."

That, in all honesty, was as close to the truth as the excited little monster could get about Randall at this point, but the very idea that Mike put forward to Sulley right now, the harsh accusation that he made regarding his best friend ... it cut deeper than the deadliest knife, shaking the large monster down to the core.

"Mike, I didn't kill anyone," said Sulley in a low rumble. "There's a reasonable explanation behind why I brought you here, and why I have - had - blood on me."

He paused, heaving a heavy sigh before saying, "I know this is all quite bizarre, and I'm so sorry for dragging you away from your evening with Celia. Please bear with me on this ... this wasn't the way I planned to tell you about the problem."

Sulley placed a big paw on the door handle, keeping his eyes on the smaller, green monster. Mike had his hands on his hips once more, though his expression was softer - or so it seemed to Sulley

"I think it's best if you see this for yourself, before I say anything else."

Hastily, he added, "Don't freak out."

Without another word, Sulley turned the handle and opened the door. He paid no heed to the apprehensive look on Mike's face - he motioned with his large arm towards the opening, out of which the bright light streamed, before he stepped inside the office. "Come on."

Lords alive, give me strength. This quirky phrase appeared in and disappeared from Mike's mind in mere milliseconds before he swallowed his anxiety and allowed himself to follow Sulley into the office.

If anything, he would need all of the strength to prepare him for what he was about to see.

Upon entering the nurse's office, at first Mike could not decide what was more difficult for his rather sensitive eye to adjust to: the harsh lights, superior in quality compared to the outdated and weaker bulbs of the hallway lights, or the bright, white walls, without so much as a speck of dust in sight.

But when Sulley, weary-looking as he stood at the end of the room with his back concealing something, stood to the side and revealed a familiar figure lying comatose on a hospital bed like an Egyptian mummy in bloody bandages, that sight proved to be difficult for Mike's eye to adjust to most of all.

And the longer he stared, when the awful realisation hit him when he recognised the figure, his eye nearly popped out of his head.

Ooohh my gaaaaa ... there's just no freakin' way...

Ooooohhh my gaaaaaaa ... it is him ...

Hooooooo snaaaaap ... blood ... blood for Africa, right there ... coming from ... him ...

His voice barely above a whisper as he stared at the bandaged behemoth before him, he could only say: "Please tell me you've speed-ordered a life-size Randall piñata for my bachelor party."

Sulley briefly glanced at Randall with tired eyes before he replied to the smaller monster. "No."

Mike gulped, his eye still on the comatose lizard. "So that's really him?"

"Yes, Mike," answered Sulley quietly in affirmation. "It's Randall."

"How ...? How ...?" Mike asked loudly now, gesturing wildly towards the reptilian monster. He finally turned his gaze on Sulley, at a loss for words, though clearly desperate to hear an answer. "How ...?"

"How did Randall get back into the monster world?" Sulley finished for him, guessing what his friend was getting at.

Mike nodded dumbly, his arms outstretched towards the monster in question. His eye was abnormally large; there was no need to look into that swirling orb to know that the green monster was going through so many emotions at that moment ...

Sulley ran a big paw through his abundant hair, trying to gather his thoughts. He closed his eyes, summoning all the strength that remained in his body to help him express his incoherent thoughts and transfer them into constructed sentences, from mumble-jumble to words that would make perfect sense.

Doubtful, big guy.

"I was testing the new consignment of doors that came in today – you know, after double-checking the invoice," started Sulley, opening his eyes slowly: the harsh office lights shone down on him, like the bright lamps that the likes of the police and the CDA used during interrogations – for the truth. He noticed that the harsh light reflected from Mike's eye.

It was a familiar look, flickering in that orb, but Sulley could not put his finger on it ...

He continued, looking down at the floor momentarily. He explained about testing the first eight doors, "to save the assistants time," he said. The explanation was littered with awkward pauses whenever Sulley laid his eyes on the smaller monster, who stared back at him with a hard expression, which only grew harder as the big monster continued on. He was certainly unnerved by this, and so he would let his eyes wander about the room, concentrating on the uplifting posters of happy monsters stuck on the walls, so long as he could not look at Mike. One or two times his movements became spasmodic, evident of the tension within his body, thriving on his nervousness like a parasite.

Don't look at Mikey ... just make your case ... don't let him get to you ...

But why does he look so ... betrayed?

Keep going, Sullivan!

"I came to the ninth door and I was just starting to open it when I felt … I dunno, like a weight was pressing against the door on the other side. Before I could do anything, though, out came tumbling this thing onto the floor in front of me, bleeding and … dead-looking … but it groaned. It was alive, but I couldn't believe it because … it was practically dead. Then it lifted up its head and looked at me …"

Sulley paused for breath, allowing himself to nibble quickly on his bottom lip. He turned to look down at the cataleptic creature in question: a peaceful expression had graced Randall's features in his sedated state, adding to the effect that he looked as if he were sleeping, swathed in a protective blanket of bandages. Sulley had never seen the reptilian monster look so serene before – it made a change from the looks of fear and pain that the purple-coloured lizard wore earlier.

"… It was Randall," Mike finished for Sulley, quietly - the tone of his voice was hard as stone.

"It was Randall," confirmed Sulley, also quiet, his cerulean-blue eyes gazing down at the lizard. "He came in through that door and back into the monster world."

"Well then, we should probably throw him back."

"Wait, what?"

That blunt statement woke Sulley up, enough for him to tear his gaze from Randall to Mike in bewilderment.

"What did you say?" the blue monster exclaimed. Please tell me that you didn't say what I think you said ...

"You heard me, pal," replied Mike, crossing his arms across his chest. "We gotta throw Randall back into the human world. We banished him before, so we're gonna do it again."

"Are you crazy, Mike Wazowski?" cried Sulley, unable to believe what he was hearing. He motioned to Randall's prone form with a muscular arm. "We can't throw him back! Not in his condition. Do you know how long it took me to clean his wounds?"

"Sulley, surface wounds on a psycho means absolutely nothing to me – the only condition that he has is a mentally-unhinged one called insanity, and a fit enough punishment for his insanity-driven actions is banishment to the human world," stated Mike, his voice shrill. "If he ain't fit enough for this world, then he can damn well go back into the human world and terrorise its inhabitants instead!"

"Look at him, Mike!" rumbled Sulley, motioning once more to Randall. "He's been through hell, can't you see that? He's been beaten raw, cut in so many places and goodness knows what else he's had to endure! Does he look like he's been terrorising anyone?"

"Given what's he's put us through, I'm surprised we even let him live," said Mike, flushing with indubitable anger. "Give some credit to the humans or whoever for at least trying to get rid of him, though."

"Where's your monstrosity?" roared Sulley heatedly, stepping towards and towering over the smaller monster.

"Where was his when he tried to kill us?" cried Mike, his eye shining bright with intense ferocity. His fists were clenched tightly into little balls.

Sulley growled, his large body tense with rage. "Mike, there's no way Randall is going back through a door – he won't survive in that world. He's been through too much. Damn it, he can hardly remember anything about what happened last year before he was banished."

"What's that supposed to mean? That Randall just happens to have amnesia all of a sudden or something?" Mike hissed, narrowing his eye in disbelief.

My, Mike is quite relentless. But then, I'm not surprised. Betray him once, shame on you. Betray him twice, shame on you more. Someone ought to cut you down to size, so that you get what you deserve, big guy …what you don't deserve is mercy …

Sulley's breathed in deeply, trying to contain the rising rage that intensified with every word that came tumbling out of Mike's mouth and with every utter that inexorable voice issued.

"I don't know how, but whatever happened to him, it broke him," Sulley stated simply, exhaling, releasing some tension, though he cringed inwardly as his tone was somewhat harsher than he intended. "The trauma probably caused him to lose his memory, for goodness sake. Do you understand what I'm saying, Mike? He can't remember me, or you, the kidnapping, or even his past life at Monsters, Inc. He doesn't know how he ended up in the human world. All he knows is his name. "

He paused, regarding the smaller monster with his shining blue eyes. "Whatever the case may be, I'm not going to banish Randall just so that he can get hurt again."

His tone was resolute. "Randall is staying. I'm going to nurse him back to health, help him get his memory back. I'm going to help him no matter what."

"Oh, so you want to remind him what kind of a psychopath he is then, huh?" shrieked Mike, practically standing on the tips of his toes as he glared up at his friend. "Great, he'll integrate into society perfectly! I can see the headlines now: "CEO-approved Creep Free to Stir Up Trouble Again"! People won't care at all that your former rival who tried to ruin this company and attempted to get rid of us is back in this world! Hell, I won't be surprised at all if he tries any more tricks!"

Sarcasm quickly turned into pleading. "Banish him whilst you have the time, Sulley! He's not worth your or my pity!"

"I'll try to rehabilitate him, not get him to be evil again," retorted Sulley firmly, leaning over Mike.

"What is it with you and lost causes?" Mike cried, spittle flying from his mouth.

"Randall is not a lost cause!"

"He is too!"

"Mike, he is NOT!"

"Face it, Sulley, Randall isn't Boo!" roared Mike, his eye swirling with unmistakable rage. "Randall knew full well what he did and he deserved what he got. He has no one to blame but himself, and there's nothing we can do about it! He's not some sort of pet, child, or whatever that you plucked up off the street. You can't allow yourself to be responsible for him, a dirty creep like that. Polka-dotted monsters can't change their spots, you know that. Sulley, hear me out, for once in your life, just listen to me! He's bad news - you can't drop everything like our friendship for a low-life like him!"

"Michael, I'm NOT dropping our friendship!" Sulley spluttered in shock, his heart nearly exploding in his chest. This wasn't supposed to be like this! "It's not like I'm betraying you or hurting you on purpose! Do you think I wanted this? For Randall to hop on back to our world in his state?"

"Since you're saying that you don't want this, Sulley, then he has GOT TO GO!"

"I tell you, Randall's not going anywhere!"

"OH YES HE IS! HE'S – hey, where is he?"

Sulley immediately whirled around, following Mike's surprised gaze towards the bed.

Oh no …

The constriction in his chest returned with full force …

No, no, no …

The merciless cold claw was squeezing his beating heart, which was fueled by anger, now replaced with anxiety, and pumping at a fast rate …

No, there's just no way …

A breath hitched in his throat, increasing the discomfort in his chest …

He's …he's …

Sulley could barely hear Mike, who was trying to say something, tugging at his forearm and trying to get his attention. No, the big monster only had eyes for the bed.

The empty bed, save for the scarlet stains soaking into the mattress.

Randall was no longer on the bed.

Mike, his voice suddenly clearer now as the daunting realization fully hit Sulley, was saying something about the office door being wide open …

The reptilian monster had escaped when the other monsters were not looking.

A/N: Omigosh, we finally have a chapter update (darn my lazy soul)- and it's from one cliffhanger to another (darn my cliffhanger tendencies). I'd like to extend a huge thanks to my beta-reader, WaterEra, for all the hard work she put into this chapter and going through everything with a fine-tooth comb and adding improvements before I uploaded this. You're the best, WaterEra! :D Of course, thank you to every one out there who has reviewed, faved, alerted or even dropped in to read this little story o' mine. I didn't think it would receive such a lovely response. :)

Wow, Mike is quite the judgemental one, huh? The chapter title refers to an event in the Bible, out of which arose the phrase, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", dealing with judgement and hypocrisy - in this context, Mike's. Also, a bit of foreshadowing in the beginning about how Randall came back ... ah, a chapter crammed full of silly ol' symbolism. ^-^ Drop me a line about the characters', uh, characterisation, because it's important for me to keep these two in-character (such as Mike being sarcastic and Sulley being kind yet guilty in this context). And, to clarify, yes, Randall has escaped when those two were arguing. Whoops.

Reviews are welcome!

*~AI07~* ;)