Disclaimer: Monsters Inc. and all characters herein belong to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios.
A/N: So... this one's been in the pipe works for a couple months now. The main bulk of this was written in early October, and I've been picking at little bits of it ever since. I think I'm as happy with this now as I'm ever gonna be, so here it is!
Hope you all enjoy.
When Sulley became CEO of Monsters Inc. he inherited Waternoose's old office, and along with it every bit of paperwork relating to the company. Amongst this paperwork were blueprints for the whole building, including not only the secret entrance to the steam room found by Boo, but a whole network of secret tunnels and rooms that no-one even knew about. He decided to use such a room to set up a door station, with a single door that would stay permanently docked there. A white door with flowers ranging from purple to blue.
It had been twelve years since then, and on a Friday night, once a month, he would visit the human girl he had befriended all those years ago. Today was one of those days.
Once quitting time rolled around and all the workers had left the factory, Sulley shuffled his paperwork and set it aside, sighing in relief as another work week came to a close. He stood from his desk, exited his office and locked it up, heading off to his long-awaited destination.
Sulley whistled a happy tune as he walked towards the secret entrance closest to his office, finding Mike was there waiting for him. "Evening Mike," he said with a large smile. "Good day's work?"
"Sure was, Sul," he replied with a wide grin of his own. "There was this one kid, well I say kid, he was actually a teen, but that's beside the point, there was this one kid who actually laughed at my jokes."
"Really?" Sulley said, a look of surprise spread on his features. Both monsters had long since found out Mike's jokes weren't particularly funny, especially to the human children, and they usually just served the purpose as a warm-up act before breaking out Mike's company-wide famous physical comedy.
"Yeah, and with that already being the case, you shoulda seen him when I got my finale. I thought he was gonna wet himself, literally!"
"Wow, that's great Mike, I-"
"But that's not the best part," Mike interrupted enthusiastically, practically jumping up and down. "Apparently I filled three whole laugh canisters. With just one kid! Almost broke the third one too because it almost filled over max capacity! Fungus said he'd never seen anything like it!"
Sulley nodded, muttering an "uh-huh", clearly not quite as enthusiastic and looking as though something was playing on his mind.
"What's up big guy?" Mike asked, his enthusiasm dying down and concern playing on his features.
"Twelve years, Mike," Sulley sighed. "Can you believe it's been twelve years to the day now?"
Mike shook his head slightly. "Almost seems like yesterday that whole incident happened."
"Yeah," Sulley said, a slight smile forming as fond memories returned to him of the day he first met Boo. "A lot has happened since then, huh?"
"Sure has. Laughter being collected as well as Scream, me and Celia getting married, and Boo's all grown up now. But we still haven't found that special someone for you yet, big guy." He finished the last part with a wry smile, hinting at the fact that Mike would still be trying.
Sulley sighed and rolled his eyes, although still appearing amused by his friends endeavour. "I keep telling ya Mike, I'm just too busy to-"
"Ah, ah, ah," Mike butted in. "You've been using that excuse for so long it's practically shrivelled up and died. Surely by now you've gotten used to your workload?"
"Well, yeah, I guess but…" He trailed off, rubbing the back of his head bashfully, not being able to think up a new excuse.
"That's what I thought," Mike said wryly. "Oh, and hey, I heard from Randall the other day. He's doing pretty well for himself."
"Oh?" Sulley cocked an eyebrow.
"Yeah, now that he's working at Fear Co. doing what he loves, he's doing much better. I'm just glad we all managed to put the whole thing behind us."
Sulley nodded. "Good for him. I'm glad the therapy worked out for him. After everything Waternoose did to him… and us…" He looked down slightly, shame crossing his face for a moment. "I didn't think he'd ever recover."
"Hey, c'mon Sul," Mike said softly, patting one of Sulley's arms. "That's all in the past. He's doing well now. I hear him and Johnny are still competing fiercely. Can you believe they keep breaking the Scare record every year?"
Sulley chuckled at this. "I know, it's in the news every time. Apparently, no other monster even gets a look in. It's always one of those two."
"Well, I don't mean to brag, but I've held the Laugh record since Laughter collection began," he said with a smirk.
Sulley laughed more, shaking his head. "Yeah, yeah, you're the best Mike."
"Aren't I?" Mike replied, his grin growing cockier.
"You sure are. Anyway, you gonna let me get Mary now, or are we just gonna stand here all night?"
"Oh!" Mike said, suddenly snapping his attention back to the reason they were both there. "Sure, go ahead. I'll shut down the Laugh Floors for you, and then wait by the entrance while you go get her."
Sulley walked past Mike and pushed a button hidden behind a pile of fake Scream canisters. A secret door opened to reveal a tunnel that travelled downwards. Sulley started off down the tunnel while Mike walked in the other direction to shut down the rest of the factory for the night. As Sulley walked, he grew slightly nervous. It had only been a month since he last met with Mary, but he always became nervous whenever he visited. Maybe it was the thought of being discovered, or the thought of Mary not wanting to see him anymore. Or maybe it was even the fact that Mary growing up made him feel old. Sulley chuckled at the last thought, he always remained young at heart, and thanks to his daily workout routine he maintained even since quitting Scaring, he didn't age much physically either. But watching someone you knew as a small child grow up to become a young adult has a way of making age catch up with you.
Having reached the room that held Mary's door, he gazed at it a moment before approaching it. "Well, here goes…" he said to himself.
Mary sighed as she sat back down at her desk. Her latest sketch wasn't going quite so well. She'd set herself a project much more difficult than her art teacher had. The teacher had asked for a single sketch that expressed an extreme of any chosen emotion, which was up to the student to decide. Mary, on the other hand, wanted to practice as much as she could, and wanted to try every emotion she could think of. She'd already completed a few, and she had no problem thinking up the ideas either, with a few 'imaginary' friends and related situations she had to choose from; Celia and Mike on a date, George getting covered in watermelon after he tripped over one of Mike's props, Mike with a look of envy as Sulley stood proudly in front of a scoreboard for Scare records, and a picture of her getting a hug from her favourite blue and purple monster. Because Sulley had allowed her into the Monster World on a few occasions, and both he and Mike told her stories of their lives, she managed to learn much more of their way of life than any other human could hope to.
Over the years a few other students at her school would remark on how they recognised Mike, George and a few others from the many pictures she'd either sketched or painted in school, though nowadays she received no such comments. Growing up seemed to have the effect of making children forget the monstrous figures from their past, but thankfully Mary would never be one of them.
Her art teacher himself simply remarked that the Monster World along with all the creatures that inhabited it were an incredible creation of Mary's imagination. She was glad, in a way, that nobody believed in the world any more, and that Sulley had continued to allow her to show the pictures at her school, despite being hesitant the first time so many years ago.
But the sketch she was currently working on wasn't going quite so well; fear. She'd tried sketching Randall from memory, but because she was so young at their last meeting, she didn't remember him well enough to get all his features right. She sighed, giving up on it temporarily, and moved to her bed, grabbing the clock on her bedside table. It read 22:57, and Mary knew she should soon be expecting company.
The fourteen-year-old girl moved over to her dressing table and ran a brush through her hair, using the mirror to see as she guided her hair into a ponytail. She then caught a glimpse of the photo on the table, one that displayed an eight-year-old version of herself on her father's shoulders, her mother standing next to them, and a forest behind them. She smiled fondly as a tear escaped her eyes; it was the last photo taken of her father before he passed away. She still missed him terribly, even now, but it also made her much more grateful for the friends and family she had around her, both human and monster.
She wiped the tear away and sat patiently on her bed, waiting for her visitor to arrive. She was excited to see her blue-furred friend, but also wished she could see him more.
"Mary?" came a soft whisper, rousing her from sleep. She slowly opened her eyes, a blurry blue and purple form occupying her whole field of vision. "Mary?" The whisper came louder this time, and she felt a large hand shaking her slightly.
"Sulley?" she replied sleepily, slowly sitting up in bed. "What time is it?"
"About half-past eleven," Sulley replied, chuckling slightly. "It's not like you to fall asleep so early anymore."
"Sorry," she replied, rubbing her eyes and smiling at the large monster sat on the end of her bed. "But you were late, y'know."
"Ahh, yeah, sorry about that," he said, laughing nervously. "I got caught up in conversation with Mike."
"About what?" she asked curiously.
"About the first time we met you," he replied with a wide smile. "When you were just a little girl, and now look at you."
Mary blushed. "Stop it, you're embarrassing me," she giggled.
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said, his smile widening. "Is it considered 'uncool' to remember your childhood nowadays?" he added, gesturing the air quotes with his fingers.
"Yes, it is," she said, tapping his nose with a finger. "Unless you're willing to show me pictures of when you were a little baby kitty?" She giggled at the thought.
A look of horror quickly passed Sulley's face before he chuckled slightly. "OK, point taken."
"So, how are things at the factory?"
"Oh, not too bad at the moment, actually. We've met our monthly quota with a few days to spare, so I might actually be able to take the weekend off for once."
"Oh good," she said excitedly. "Hopefully that means no more grumpy Sulley coming through my closet."
Sulley looked at her in disbelief. "I'm not that grumpy!" His face then softened, and he looked slightly concerned. "Am I?"
Mary giggled at this. "Well, not usually, but you sure were last month. 'I can't believe those new recruits managed to wreck the whole Laugh floor' was what you said, I think."
Sulley wrinkled his nose at Mary's impression of him, and then frowned at the memory. "Oh yeah, that…"
"Sulley, you're the big boss of a whole company. I don't expect you to be happy all the time. Mom only has a small job in comparison, and even she comes home grumpy sometimes."
"I guess so. But I'm supposed to be the funny monster that comes through your closet. My job is to cheer you up, not whine about my job."
"Don't worry Sulley," she said, pulling him into a hug which he returned. "For what it's worth, I find your complaining kinda funny too."
"Oh gee, thanks," he said sarcastically before both of them began to laugh.
After breaking the hug, Sulley gazed down on the young girl. "Anyway, enough about me, how about you?" He looked around, and spotted a few new sketches on the desk. "How's your art coming along?" He stood up and made his way to the desk, starting to look through the small pile.
"Oh, it's going pretty well actually," she answered with a hint of pride. "We had a project to draw something that expressed an extreme emotion, but I wanted to take it further and practice all kinds of emotions."
Sulley flicked through the pictures. "Let me guess which emotions then," he said, smiling wide. On the top was the picture of Mike and Celia on a date. "Love, of course," he said, looking over at May who nodded. The next picture was of George covered in watermelon, and Sulley laughed. "Oh, I remember that day. Embarrassment I'm guessing?" Mary nodded again, giggling. The next picture was of Mike looking at Sulley enviously, with the scoreboard in the background. Sulley winced at it, remembering the story of their college days he'd explained to Mary not long ago. "Envy… Probably one that's best not shown to Mike."
"Yeah, I thought so," she said nervously. She wasn't entirely sure if the picture was even a good idea to being with, and was starting to worry what Sulley thought before he reassured her.
"I've gotta say though, it does capture the emotion perfectly. Well done," he said, turning to her and smiling.
"Thanks," she said, blushing slightly.
"Although, if I may ask, could you perhaps keep this one away from anyone else? It comes a little too close to our purpose being here in this world and I still worry about casting any suspicion."
The last picture was of him and Mary sharing a hug. His eyes softened at the gentle pencil strokes of blue and purple that eloquently captured his fuzziness, and the smile present on both their faces. It warmed his heart, and he hoped this could only be one emotion. "Happiness, I'm hoping," he chuckled.
"Of course," Mary said, giggling. "What else would it be?"
"Oh, I dunno," Sulley replied playfully. "Since I'm so embarrassing…"
The next thing he knew, a pillow hit Sulley's head and he turned to see Mary looking at him with best look of annoyance she could manage whilst giggling. "I'm a teenager, you can't take my words seriously," she laughed.
Sulley laughed and smiled wickedly at her. "You have no idea how much you're going to regret saying that."
Another pillow hit him, square in the face this time, and he only laughed harder, setting the pictures down on the desk. However, just as he was about to turn away from the desk, something caught his eye. In amongst a pile of books, a small white corner of paper was sticking out. Intrigued, he gently pulled it out and gazed at what was drawn on it. Immediately his face fell. A saddened look overcame him and tears welled up in his eyes.
"Oh Mary…" he whispered, trying desperately to keep his voice under control for her sake. "When did you draw this?"
"Draw what?" she asked confused. She walked over and took the picture the large monster held out to her, and upon seeing it she bit her lip. "Oh, that…"
The two stood in silence for a moment, Sulley not wanting to say anything until Mary explained the picture.
"Well, you see…" she began, struggling to think of what to say. "It's like I said, I wanted to practice all kinds of emotions."
"And I take it, that one is supposed to be sadness?"
"No," she said quietly, shaking her head slightly before looking up at Sulley with eyes full of tears. "It was more like… despair."
Sulley wasn't quite sure what to say. Mary gingerly handed him the picture back, motioning for him to set it back on the desk. He took one last look at it before he did. It was incomplete, but he could see exactly what it was. It captured the scene Mary had told him about six years ago. He could see two cars, almost unrecognisable in the mangled mess both were in. There was fire that engulfed the whole scene, and a crew of paramedics and firefighters drawn on the side of the picture. This was the day Mary's father had died in a car crash.
He set the picture down and looked over to Mary, who had led on her bed and buried her face in the pillow. He gulped slightly, wishing he'd never pulled the picture out of the pile of books. He slowly made his way over to the bed, and rested a hand on Mary's shoulder, rubbing soothingly in circles with his thumb.
"I'm sorry Mary, I shouldn't have pulled that picture out," he said.
Mary looked up, tears staining her cheeks, but a slight smile playing on her lips. "No, no, don't be sorry. I'm glad you saw it, actually. No-one has yet, and I actually feel better now that someone's seen it."
Sulley smiled gently, and as Mary sat up he gave her a hug, rubbing her back.
"You know, this was the inspiration for the other picture," Mary said as they broke the hug, to which Sulley looked puzzled. "That picture of our hug, it wasn't just any hug. It was the hug I remembered you giving me after I told you about that night. It wasn't just meant to show happiness, or at least, that's not all it meant to me. It also means comfort, and hope, and love." She smiled wider, to which Sulley's heart could have melted. "It was the day I realised that, despite what I'd lost, I was lucky to have so many friends that were there for me. Human and monster."
"Oh Boo…" he started, blushing as he realised he'd used Mary's childhood nickname.
Mary giggled, both at his words and his reaction. "Y'know, Kitty," she said, returning the gesture of giving out childhood nicknames, to which Sulley chuckled. "For someone who was once supposed to be top Scarer, you sure are a big softie."
"A big softie, am I?" he returned with a smirk. "We'll see who's the big softie."
Without warning, Sulley pushed her to the bed and began tickling at her sides. Mary burst out in laughter, thrashing around slightly.
"Stop it!" she said, tears rolling down her face from the laughter.
"But why?" Sulley chuckled. "I'm just a big softie, right?"
It took all Mary had to stop herself from screaming in laughter as the sensation of Sulley's claws lightly trailing her sides tickled her. She hadn't been tickled like this since her father was alive.
"Stop it!" she repeated, kicking her legs around.
Sulley in turn straddled her slightly, giving him better leverage to keep tickling, chuckling all the while. "Not until you tell me how scary I am, and that you're the big softie."
"I'm not a softie!" she laughed. "You are!"
"Then I guess you want me to carry on."
"No, no, no!" she said, her laughter becoming more uncontrollable.
"Not until you say it."
"No, stop it," she giggled. "I won't say it!"
"Then I'm gonna keep going," he said, tickling harder.
"No!" she cried, trying her best to push Sulley away and wriggle herself free. "Stop! Stop it! I mean it, stop it dad!"
They both suddenly froze, awkwardness quickly overtaking the happiness that had previously filled the atmosphere of the room. Mary blushed furiously, a look of horror spread across her face, and she quickly pulled away from Sulley to bury herself under her sheets and pillows.
"I'm sorry," she said, her words slightly muffled.
Sulley simply sat motionless for a moment, completely taken aback and unsure of what to do or say. After trying to think of what the best action would be and failing, he heaved a heavy sigh and pulled back the sheets to look Mary in the eyes.
"Mary, don't apologise," he started.
"But I… I just…"
"I know," Sulley replied before he shushed her, a plan slowly coming into place in his head. Honesty was the way to go; it would at least serve to ease her embarrassment. "Just listen for a moment." He took a deep breath before continuing. "We've known each other since you were so young, since before I was sure you'd ever remember me, even. You played such a big role in my life when we first met, and I wasn't sure if I'd played a role in your life at all."
He paused a moment, thinking of what to say next. He gently sat on the edge of the bed, motioning for Mary to sit by his side. When she did, he put an arm around her before continuing.
"But when Mike rebuilt your door, and after all that time I revisited you, only to find you'd never forgotten me, well… You have no idea how happy I was."
He smiled fondly at the memory, and Mary couldn't help but smile widely back.
"And it was then I decided I would make it my mission to stay in your life. To be consistent. In fact, I thought to myself, 'I am gonna hold onto this kid, and I am never gonna let her go'."
He shook Mary slightly as he leaned her closer into him, offering her a beaming smile that warmed her heart.
"And as you know, that's exactly what I did. Ever since then, I've come to visit you every month. Not enough to arouse suspicion in either of our worlds, but not so little that we'd miss each other too much, although…"
His smile saddened a little before he continued, "…sometimes it still doesn't seem enough."
"It's OK Sulley," she replied, wrapping an arm as far around him as she could. "I know we both wish we could see each other more, but I understand why it can't be more."
"I know," he smiled down at her, his eyes glinting. "But all this time, month by month, I've seen you grow from such a small little thing into a fine young woman. And…" Sulley held his free hand out to her, which Mary happily took. His eyes were tearing up now, and she wasn't quite sure what to expect now. "Mary, I am so, so proud of you. Of everything you've accomplished, of everything you've become. I couldn't be prouder."
Mary looked up into the big blue and purple monster's eyes, and saw both the tears falling freely from his eyes, and his wide, loving smile. She couldn't help but cry happily now too. "Thank you, Sulley."
"But Mary, that's not all of it," he continued. "I don't think you're seeing the whole picture here. I'm proud of you, Mary, and I love you. As a father would love a daughter."
Mary gasped, shocked at both the honesty, and the fact that he felt the same way she did. "You… you do?"
"Of course I do. I have for a long time, possibly even since the first time we met. That first night, when you finally fell asleep in my bed, I watched you. And I saw you, I mean really saw you, for what you were. A young, vulnerable two-year-old child, no different from a monster. There you were, in a world that feared you, where you could have been placed in immeasurable danger. And you slept peacefully in my bed, blissfully unaware of anything going on around you. I felt a sudden urge to protect you, by any means necessary, and get you back home where you would be safe. Away from the fear, away from danger."
He hadn't realised he was rambling on until he felt a slight tug at his arm. He looked down at Mary, who smiled sweetly at him. "And you did just that," she replied.
Sulley nodded. "I did. And looking back on it, I realise I never gave it a second thought. There was no other option; it was what I felt I had to do. I had to protect you."
For a small while the two gazed into each other's eyes silently, almost as though to tell the rest of the story and the rest of their emotions without the need to utter another word. Sulley shuffled a little to face Mary more, and she looked down, unsure of what to say next. She now knew how they both felt for each other, but her feelings were in conflict, memories of her biological father flooding her mind, intermingling with memories of Sulley. Both had been a large part of her life, as well as her mother, but she wasn't sure if it was right to call Sulley a father figure. Noticing her eyes threatened to water again, Sulley placed a finger under her chin and gently pulled her face up to his gaze again, and placed his hands on her shoulders. He didn't know for sure what she was thinking, but judging from the conflicting emotions he could see in her eyes, he had a pretty good idea.
"Mary, I know I could never replace your father, and believe me when I say I would never even try to." He smiled as wide and as reassuringly as he could. "Whether you consider me a father figure, a friend, or just the big kitty that lives in your closet…" He paused for a moment, expecting Mary would giggle at the last comment, which he was happy to see she did, "just know that I'll always be here for you. We'll laugh together, cry together, or even just have a good ol' moan about how badly my work or your school is going. Just like we always do."
His smile was then replaced with a more stern and serious expression, and he leaned in slightly before continuing. "So Mary, please, don't apologise. Don't you ever apologise."
He pulled her into a hug, one of her favourite kinds of hug. The kind of hug that almost threatened to squeeze the life out of her tiny frame, but was gentle enough to do nothing more than fill her with warmth and comfort. The same kind of hug she would always get from her father in times gone by. She cried openly, a mixture of both sadness and joy, and the sobs almost racked her whole body. Sulley rubbed her back, uttering shushing sounds and small words of comfort.
"It's OK," he said soothingly, "let it all out."
After a short while, Mary's sobs quietened, and she stopped shaking. She broke the hug and looked up to the monster who still held onto her arms comfortingly, looking down on her with a warm smile. "So I hope you realise," Sulley began. "If ever you happen to let the word 'dad' slip again, I know what you mean. And you know how I feel too. So no need for tears, no need for embarrassment, OK?"
"OK," Mary nodded. After a brief moment's silence, she spoke up again. "Thank you Kitty," she said sweetly, and for a moment Sulley could see the innocent two-year-old girl he'd met so many years ago. "Thank you for… well, for everything."
He brushed her cheeks with a large finger, wiping away the tears and smiled lovingly. "No Boo, thank you."
The two hugged again, and when they pulled away Sulley ruffled the young girl's hair, to which she giggled.
"C'mon, we should get going," Sulley said with a chuckle. "Mike and Celia can't wait to see you, and the kids have been going on and on all week about a visit from their Auntie Mary."
"Oh, I can't wait either," she giggled. "I can't believe how much they'd grown last time!"
They got up off the bed, and Sulley made his way to the closet, holding the door open for Mary. She stood at the entrance before turning to Sulley, a playful grin on her face.
"Race ya to the storeroom," she said before sprinting through, fits of laughter echoing after her.
"Just don't forget to put the costume on this time!" Sulley shouted, a hint of panic in his voice.
"Yes, dad," she called out.
Sulley gasped, surprised at the casual use of the word so soon after it had become a source of embarrassment, before shaking his head and chuckling. "Teenagers," he muttered before running in after her whilst closing the door behind him.
Unbeknownst to either of them, the whole scene was witnessed by Mary's mother who was watching through the slight crack in the doorway, the door not having been fully closed. She'd known that Mary's childhood friend hadn't been quite as imaginary as she'd first thought for a few years now, but never mentioned anything of the sort to her daughter. But after witnessing how both felt about each other, she figured it was time she should introduce herself to the monster her daughter was so closely bonded with. Perhaps not yet though, today would just be for them.
She watched as the two ran through the closet into the Monster World, and rolled her eyes. 'Well, that's the house to myself for a few hours,' she thought to herself with a slight smile. 'Too bad it's always at night. Still, I can think what I want about him, but at least the monster's punctual.'
She walked away and back down the stairs to the kitchen to prepare for tomorrows dinner. She chuckled to herself, thoughts of perhaps one day making dinner for three, wondering if monsters even ate the same things humans did. There were many questions about the big blue-furred monster she had in her mind, but they could wait for another day.