Disclaimer: I do not own nor do I claim to own any characters or concepts related to Megamind. This is a nonprofit work of fanfiction.

Thanks are once more due Rawles for her work as editor, and, of course, you for reading.

Our Beautiful Tomorrow
Chapter Four.

He preceded her out of the courtyard. Bernard turned, bouncing on his toes. He canted his head to one side.

"Aren't you excited?"

Roxanne stopped to close the gate. It hung heavily from that weakened hinge, and when she let go it began to swing open again, rasping across the cobblestones. She turned from it.

Bernard waited for her in the alley's shadow, his hands folded at his back. She fell in beside him, and together they walked from the alley into the sun.

"I am a little," she admitted. "But it's strange to think about. I don't have much experience with waking up with superpowers."

"Yes, that seems like it would be disconcerting," he said. She shot him a look, but he seemed earnest.

The sidewalk was clear, the road still but for a lone car rushing down the opposite lane. A beautiful day in Metro City, she thought. Roxanne tipped her face up to the morning sun where it peeked between towering apartment buildings.

Bernard stood beside her, but he looked to her and not the sun.

"Perhaps it's fate," he ventured. "Perhaps destiny picked you for this. Out of all the millions of people in the city, for you to have been chosen; it must be fate."

Roxanne shook her head, smiling wryly. "I don't believe in fate or destiny or—" She fluttered her fingers toward the sky. "Or the movement of the stars."

"Maybe the stars believe in you," Bernard said, then he looked away. He touched his glasses, pressing them close to his eyes.

Her smile deepened, then she too looked away, again to the sky. Storm clouds neared, a dark suggestion rising to fill the spaces between the spires and arches of Metro City. The fragrance of coming rain clogged the air. She needed to speak with Hal about filming before the clouds broke open.

A breeze dragged at her hair. She shook her bangs from her eyes and turned back to Bernard.

"Whatever the stars believe," she said, "I'm glad you believe in me."

Bernard ducked his head. He peered up at her. He'd bit his lower lip; his smile pulled it flat.

"Well," he said, "after that display, it would be hard not to."

Roxanne laughed and brushed at her hair again, sweeping it from her eyes. Unaccountably, she felt like the girl she'd been once in school: the girl who had gone out of her way to interview a particular theatre major not simply because she thought his set design inspired, but because he listened when she talked. Then she thought, no. Not unaccountable.

The sun dappled Bernard's hair, polishing it gold.

Roxanne said, "Thanks for coming out. I know you must be busy with the museum, or what's left of it."

"Ah, yes," Bernard said. "That's priority number one. There's just so much to do with that whole thing. Redesigning, rebuilding. Reconnoitering. Painting..." He passed his hands over each other. His nose wrinkled.

She grimaced. "I'm sorry. That was rude of me. It must still hurt, losing your life's work like that." Then she groaned and covered her eyes, her fingers hooked at her temples. "Sorry again. I am just out of it today."

He laughed and bent to peek up at her between her arms. "No, it's quite all right. The, ah, renovations look promising. In fact, I'm finding it all very rejuvenating."

She eyed him between her thumbs, then slid her hands back over her brow, running her fingers through her hair. "Really? Rejuvenating? Having to rebuild everything you lost?"

"It's a new challenge," he said. "And I don't think of it as losing my life's work. I'm just redefining it."

"You're handling this a lot better than I expected," she said.

Bernard gestured toward her. "What—" The door to the Starbucks opened and a trio of teenagers in loose dress cascaded, laughing, onto the sidewalk. Roxanne stepped aside. Her arm brushed Bernard's; their elbows knocked softly.

He leaned close and continued. "What about you? I would have thought it would take time to adjust to, you know." He squinted fiercely at a fire hydrant across the street.

"Do you have something in your eye?" she teased.

Bernard leaned back, pouting. She considered nudging him, her hip against his, then she thought better of it.

"I'm still thinking about it," she said. "I didn't get much sleep last night, though, so a breakdown isn't completely off the table."

"I can't really imagine you ever losing your cool," Bernard said. "You certainly never gave Megamind the satisfaction."

"You've never actually met Megamind, have you?"

"I always found him to have a certain roguish charm," Bernard said, "like a young and more handsome Humphrey Bogart."

"You two have that in common," she told him.

Bernard frowned. It looked cartoonish on him somehow, like a kid playing at insult. She'd never thought that before. Before, he'd worn his irritation like an old shirt. She wondered at that, then started when one of the teenagers standing at the corner shouted, "You guys, we're late!"

Roxanne made a show of checking her watch. "Sorry, Bernard, but I need to go." She needed to have gone five minutes ago. She tried not to think of that. "I have some work to do at the station."

"Of course!" he said. "I also have many things to do today."

Roxanne smiled at him. "Thanks again for coming out to meet with me."

"Any time," Bernard said, and he smiled too.

She hesitated a moment, then she reached out to him and hugged him fleetingly about the shoulders. Bernard went still against her, then the line of his shoulders softened and his hand fluttered at her side.

Roxanne settled back. She drew a quick breath and said, "So I'll call you later this week."

"Yes," he said, "please do." He touched his arm, then dropped his hand again.

She flashed him a short wave, her fingers curled. Then she turned.

"For what it's worth," Bernard called to her, and she turned around again, looking over her shoulder. "Everything you said the other night at the museum, about what makes a hero: bravery, strength—"

"Determination," she said.

His cheek dimpled. The sun shone at his back, limning his hair so it gleamed like a halo. "Who better to challenge Megamind than you?"

The wind pulled at her sleeves, calling her to work. Her stomach tightened, twisting about itself.

"Someone has to stand up to him," she said.

"Well, whatever the reason," he said, "I'm glad it's you."

Roxanne touched her brow fleetingly, then laughing, she lowered her hand.

"I'll call you tomorrow, Bernard."

He bowed, his arm at his waist. He straightened. "I'll be waiting."

She left him there on the sidewalk outside the narrow Starbucks. Her heels clicked on the asphalt as she crossed the street, first slowly then quickly as she lengthened her strides. June swallowed her, the morning already warm. She grinned at the sun.

Roxanne arrived at the station at ten to nine. The features department bustled, the morning staff well represented if not fully there. Hal hadn't come in yet, of course. She checked her watch, the spindly second arm ticking around the face. She supposed it was too much to expect Hal to show up on time.

She could call Hal and try to arrange things with him on the phone, but the last time she'd tried that, he'd trapped her in an excruciating vortex of niceties, awkward come-ons, and loud declarations that he couldn't hear her; could she say that again? Better to wait for him to come to the station. If nothing else it would save her worrying about sparing his feelings on the phone without the excuse of needing to go somewhere else to do something else with someone else.

"Morning, Roxie," Tina called from her desk.

"Morning," Roxanne returned, en route to her own.

Her proposal—the notes for her proposal, anyway—sat where she'd left it, locked in the bottom drawer of her desk. She fished the packet out, nicked a pen from the jug in the drawer above, and began scratching through her notes. The scrape of the felt tip across the paper filled her ears, and she focused on that rather than the murmuring of the station around her.

A spot had opened in the fall's Friday line-up, not much, just a ten minute segment in the nine o'clock news, but she thought she had a good shot at it. Her first thought had been to propose an exposé on Megamind's activities, but: as she dragged the pen down a line reading exam. poss. connection between electr. demands of bbots + outages Art. Gard., she thought instead of the ambulance crying as it swept down the street. She thought of the police setting down their arms as Megamind emerged from the fog and of the report of a gun fired not to defend, but to attack.

She wrote, We need to change, and she paused, her pen poised on the e's curling underbelly. The pen bled a dark spot onto the page. Roxanne set her jaw and wrote, Propose: exam. non-super crim. act. in M.C. + necess. of reestab. govt W/O MARTIAL LAW.

A bang jolted her. Roxanne caught the proposal up against her chest. Lucy squinted at Roxanne from her perch on Roxanne's desk. Her haze of blonde hair stood out like lightning.

"You look like crap," she said. "Do you need a coffee?" She turned and shouted, "Harry! Get Roxanne a coffee! I don't know, black! Two creams! Jesus, Harry!"

Roxanne set the proposal down. Checking her blouse for ink stains, she found one, a delicate spot at the collar. Resigned, she said, "Good morning, Lucy."

Lucy crossed her legs and pulled at her skirt, tucking it back down to her knees. "Tham says you saw her yesterday. Now aside from my wife's incredible good looks and impeccable bedside manner, what reason would you have for seeing her in the middle of the workday?"

"I have no comment at this time," Roxanne said primly. "Please direct any further questions to my attorney."

Lucy laughed and jumped from Roxanne's desk. "This isn't an interrogation," she told her. "I just want to make sure you're okay. Hal came in yesterday blabbing about how you'd been shot and it was all Bert's fault and—" She made a flapping mouth gesture with her hand.

Roxanne covered her face and groaned, "Hal."

Lucy touched her shoulder gently. "You okay?"

Roxanne breathed into her cupped hands for a moment, the shadow cast by her palms a fleeting relief. She smoothed her hands down her face and smiled at Lucy.

"Yes, I'm fine," she said. "I need to talk to Hal, though."

"He won't listen," Lucy reminded her. "He's not like Harry. Harry, you wonderful man!"

"The coffee cart is seriously right over there," Harry told Lucy. "Ten steps away. I counted." He winked at Roxanne and handed her a coffee, then presented Lucy with a cup.

"Oh, Harry," Lucy crooned, "you're so sweet. For me?"

"Nope," he said, taking one large step back. He swigged a sip from the cup and waggled his eyebrows before he spun around on his heel and sauntered off, hips swinging.

"Harry, you liar!" Lucy shouted after him. "That coffee's not that good!"

"This would be why Tham worries about you at work." Roxanne sipped her own coffee: black, two creams. She wished she had a third cream. Maybe a fourth.

"What, about Harry?" Lucy asked, diverted. "Please, he's too hairy. You sure you're okay? 'Cause if you're sure I'll leave you alone, promise."

Roxanne smiled at her. She cupped her coffee between her hands and said, "I'm sure. Really. Thanks for checking on me."

Lucy rapped her knuckles on Roxanne's desk, knocking out a staggered three-count, then she nodded as if satisfied.

"You're welcome for the coffee, too," she said.

Roxanne turned back to her desk and the proposal fanned out before her, then Lucy said, drawing her back, "Oh! Rats! I forgot to ask about Bert!"

"Bernard," Roxanne called. "His name is Bernard."

"Oh, well, no wonder Hal's jealous," Lucy said. "Berrrnarrrd." She made a face and vanished around the near corner.

"Hey, good news," Harry said, standing at Roxanne's elbow. "I think only half the department heard that."

"He's just a friend," Roxanne said lightly. "I barely even know him."

"Ye-es," Harry said meaningfully. He presented Roxanne with another packet of cream, filched from the cart. "I didn't want to risk the wrath of Lucy."

She snapped the packet up. "Thank you, Harry. You're a godsend."

"That's what my mother says," he agreed. "By the way, your cameraman's here. He's making moon eyes in the corner."

Roxanne sighed. "I should probably go talk to him, huh?"

Harry rested his hand on her shoulder and gravely bowed his head. "It's a far, far better thing that you do, than I and so on." Then he clapped her soundly on the shoulder and said brightly, "Have fun."

"I take it back," Roxanne said, eyeing him. "You're a heel."

"Also what my mother says," Harry confessed. He shrugged and sauntered off again to his own cluttered death trap of a desk. A googly-eyed gag pen bobbed sadly in his back pocket.

Roxanne turned away, snorting into her hand. She chanced a glance over her shoulder and yep, there was Hal at his desk, peering over his opened laptop at her. She dumped the packet of cream into her coffee and pushed away from her desk, grabbing the chart delegated to the near corner.

Hal looked up at her approach. "Hey, Roxie!" He twirled to meet her, the swivel chair rolling beneath him. He beamed. "What's up?"

"Hi, Hal," she said, smiling. "Listen, I need to talk with you about the Metro Man retrospective." She presented him with the report, ta-da.

"Geez, another retrospective?" He scowled down at the chart. "You know, they should really give you something new to do. Something cool and kind of exciting, you know?"

"Let's focus on this for now," she reminded him. "We need to do location filming tomorrow. I thought maybe we could do bookends with the Metro Man Museum. Could you compile a backdrop from archives?"

"You mean from before the museum exploded everywhere?" Hal asked. "Sure, no problem. I'll get that together and we can green screen it later."

"And I'll work on getting clearance to film on-site," she said. She gestured to the chart, forgotten in his lap. "I made a list of some other places I'd like to film at. Let me know if you have any ideas, okay?" She turned.

"Oh, hey!" he called, and Roxanne looked back over her shoulder. He half rose from his chair and caught the chart as it began to tumble. "Let's grab some brunch. I know it's early, but I know this great pizza place; they've got like the most amazing garlic bread—"

She held her hands up between them. "I don't really feel like pizza right now."

"That's okay. We don't have to do pizza. We could just grab some coffee and hang out."

"I'm good with coffee." She hefted her cup. "I really do need to get that clearance. But thank you. And you can put the backdrop together?"

Hal sank, filling his chair. "Yeah," he said, "I'll do that."

"Thanks, Hal." She smiled at him. Hal, his gaze fixed somewhere about her hips, didn't return it.

Roxanne swapped the coffee cup from one hand to the other and left him at his desk. The chair creaked after a moment; he rotated back to face his laptop. The soft hairs at the back of her neck stood; her skin tightened. Hal looking at her over his laptop, she thought. She didn't turn around, but marched past her desk.

Harry chewed on his gag pen, the plastic bright between his teeth, as he clattered at his keyboard. His nerd glasses sat low on his long, dark brown nose. He'd that particular unfocused look that meant he was very focused.

Roxanne tapped his shoulder and said, "Hey."

He started, cracking the pen's casing in his jaw. Ink dribbled onto his lip. He withdrew the pen from his mouth and stared morosely down at it.

"Aw, fig snot," he said, as harsh a cuss as she'd ever heard from him.

She winced. "Sorry, Harry. I didn't mean to, ah—" She gestured, encompassing the ink spattered black on his tie.

"This pen was a gift," he said. "A gift, Roxanne, from a very special woman."

"Your mother buys you gag pens?"

He stared at her, his brow flat, his mouth as straight. Then he said, "As a matter of fact, yes."

"I'll buy you ten," she promised, "and they'll be even more unprofessional. Do you still have the phone number for the relocated city hall?"

Harry tossed the pen aside. It flopped into the bin, its googly eyes crossed. "Yeah, I got it. Don't you?" He rummaged in the top drawer.

Roxanne glanced over her shoulder, back at her desk and, beyond, Hal hunched before his laptop. He shifted, his shoulders rising.

"I must've misplaced it," she said, turning back to Harry.

"Here you go." He handed her his contacts book. "I need that back, though."

She tucked the book back against her wrist. "Who do I look like to you? Carter?"

"Do you know, he still owes me twenty?"

"Maybe I could rough him up for you." She feigned boxing.

Harry grinned. "You look like you could take him," he said. "You've been hitting the gym?"

Roxanne paused. She settled back on her heels. Her sleeves loosened at her shoulders, no longer drawn tight over her arms. Her still slender but now defined arms, what fat had hung there made muscle.

She put on a pleased smile. "You noticed? I've been trying to make time for it, but I'm so busy, it seems like I don't ever get to go."

He shrugged. "Well, you look fine to me. It's probably all that kidnapping finally paying off."

"Oh, yeah," she said. "It really strengthens your thighs." She whapped Harry over the head with his book, then turned back to her desk.

"You know," Harry called after her, "I moved here to get away from my sisters beating up on me all the time. Not to find new ones."

Roxanne shrugged expansively. "Sounds like that's your problem, pal."

Clearance was a cheap formality obtained from a powerless city government left to fend for itself and its citizens, if it dared. She called. Megamind may have taken Metro City; the government may have surrendered to him. The law remained.

The intern returned. "All right, thanks for holding. You're all set. I can fax this to you, if you want."

Roxanne straightened. "Thank you, that would be great. My fax number is two three one—"

"Three one three," murmured the intern. She repeated each digit back to Roxanne, then with satisfaction reported, "Okay, it's on the way."

"Thanks. I really appreciate you doing this on such short notice." Roxanne eyed the fax machine, silent as it waited.

"No, actually," said the intern ruefully, "thank you. I think you're the first person who's called all day."

The fax machine beeped twice, its alert for an open line.

"Ah!" said Roxanne. "That must be it now. Thanks again."

"Sure, no problem. Have a great day, Miss Ritchi!"

The phone clicked loudly in her ear. Roxanne set it back on its stand. She folded her arms on her desk and leaned forward into the cradle they made, waiting and thinking as the fax machine hummed and got to work. It spat out a sheet of paper, just a paragraph and the mayor's signature stamped below.

Roxanne tossed Harry's contacts book aside and drew her own out from the clutter on her desk. Small, brightly colored post-it strips stuck out from the book at odd angles. She flipped to a yellow one near the front and picked up the phone again.

The line rang once, twice, thrice, again. She closed her book and laid her hand flat upon it. Static blew ragged in her ear, then the line cleared and connected.

"Is it, is it recording?" he said, his voice muffled. Roxanne sank back against her chair.

"Greetings, mindless slave of Metrocity," said Megamind. He'd that way of speaking that brought to mind long sneers and a Yooper girl she'd once known who affected a posh London accent. "You've reached the office of your own sinister and supernaturally gorgeous evil overlord, Megamind. Between ruling this once fair city with an iron fist and rendering your pitiful, boring life meaningless, I don't have much time to answer the phone. Leave any wailing and begging for mercy—"

She hung up. Roxanne rocked once in her chair and tapped her fingernails against the contacts book. When Bernard had turned, beaming, to her she had told him she'd need time to train before confronting Megamind. She needed a plan. She needed to think this through, to figure out what to do and where to start. Roxanne drummed her fingers.

"This is probably a bad idea," she muttered.

Dropping her emptied coffee cup in the trash and snagging Harry's book, she stood. She checked her watch as she dodged an intern. Eleven-thirty—close enough to take a lunch.

Harry spotted her this time. He lifted his fingers from the keyboard in a small half-wave.

"Thanks for the loan, Harry."

She pitched him the book and he caught it, flat against his chest. Harry tossed it onto his desk. He pursed his lips.

"I know that look. Who're you flushing out now?"

Roxanne feigned apathy. "Oh, I'm just following a lead."

"Well, have fun," he said.

"Believe me," she said, "that's the last thing I'm thinking about."

She snagged her bag and her cell phone from her desk, then she passed out of the station and into the early afternoon.