Disclaimer: "Megamind" is owned by Dreamworks. I am not profiting from this fanfiction.


How ridiculous. If this kept up, he was going to have to refine his titles. Being the Master of All Villainy meant a few things, after all - such as being able to kidnap your preferred victim when you needed her. Unfortunately, Roxanne Ritchi was nowhere to be found.

He - or rather, they; he and Minion were equal parts knowledgeable - knew Miss Ritchi's routines, her likes and dislikes, what she did during her off days, her favorite places to visit, everything. Which is why he knew something was up. She never took off after lunch on a work day, and if she did, there were only so many places she would visit.

She was a celebrity of circumstance, after all. People knew her. She was every bit as easily recognized on the street as Metro Man or even Megamind himself. There were only so many solitary places she could visit and not be swamped by fans.

Well, very few were fans of her, which he could imagine being irritating for her. Yet another reason she would choose to stay out of the fray when she wasn't on duty.

But really. Something about this situation smelled rotten. Roxanne Ritchi wasn't the type to forego her responsibilities as a reporter; she would have gone to lunch and then gone back to work. 11:20 to 11:40 was her lunch break.

It was 12:18 now and still no sign of her emerged.

His plan was spread so thin today that he'd gone to kidnap her himself (he sent a glance at the can of Knock-Out Spray to make sure it was still on the passenger seat). Now he admitted that something had happened to her. She was often more punctual than anyone else in the city. There was simply no way she could be this late for anything.

He pushed a button on the console in the center of the vehicle, and a screen flickered to life. "Minion," he said aloud.

Minion, who'd been busy off-screen, called out an affirmative and came rushing into view. "Sir?" he asked. "What happened?"

Of course Minion would be in the same place mentally; Miss Ritchi wasn't late, didn't fight when she was kidnapped, and between her and Megamind, he would have been a maximum of five minutes late. Five minutes.

Megamind replied, "I can't find Miss Ritchi. Set up the computer to search for her. I'm going to try to track her down."

"Sir, if I may. . . I think the plan would work without her."

He scoffed. "It's the principle of the matter! What kind of evil overlord can't find his damsel? Really. I swear, if some other villain tried to kidnap her before I could. . . Oh, there will be consequences."

"Y-yes, sir," Minion agreed, looking just a tad bit stunned.

"If you find anything on her, let me know. I'll be doing the same." That said, he punched the button again, turning off the communicator. Now, where to begin. . ?

Her office sounded like a good starting place. At least this way, he would know if she even showed up for work. Steering dangerously close to other vehicles, he sped along, blowing past red lights and even coming close to clipping pedestrians. Nobody ever saw the invisible car as it rocketed by.

Ah, he loved this car. It handled like a dream, obeying the slightest movements of his hands. Add that to the number of advancements he'd put into it - like auto-piloting - and this was the least dangerous vehicle on the road. He didn't even bother with seatbelts. Technically, with the safety devices he'd installed in case of a crash, he didn't need to.

He dehydrated a car next to the KMCP building to park over it before getting out. Twirling his gun and whistling a tune (purely for dramatic effect; he really was annoyed at the situation) he stalked right into the main room. The receptionist froze, a phone to her ear, as she spotted him.

"Don't mind me," he said to her as he rounded the desk. He looked over the computer screen displayed before her, but it had no useful information. So he said, "Did Roxanne Ritchi come to work today?"

For a long moment she didn't move. And then he thrummed his fingers and bit out, "Answer me. If you continue to hinder my discovery of Miss Ritchi's whereabouts I will deem you more useful when dead. Understand?"

At once the woman shrieked, jumping back as his threat hit home. She gave a series of nods, now plastered against the desk, half-sitting on it.

"Did. Miss. Ritchi. Come. To. Work. Today?" he reiterated.

"Y-yes, yes! She did. But she left for lunch and hasn't returned yet. No call-ins. We're treating it as a no-show," she volunteered the information.

"Do you know where she went for her lunch?" he demanded.

She shook her head. "Out the front door and turned left. Didn't get in the van. That's all I know, I swear!"

Clearly this woman deserved a raise, to have such a faultless memory coupled with such good observation skills. Not to mention how she recovered so quickly to answer his questions.

If he were a good guy, he might just suggest the station give her one. With a smirk, he turned to leave, no more questions. He considered dehydrating the woman, but he was more focused on Miss Ritchi.

Left the building, turned left, walked to. . .where? There were three restaurants within easy walking distance, one of which was a fast food joint. Only one had he ever seen Roxanne Ritchi visit, so he started there, getting back in his vehicle.

The waitress he spoke to wasn't half as helpful as the receptionist. She fainted after just a single threat to her life. The cook behind the counter, however, was most verbal in declaring that Miss Ritchi had indeed visited. He didn't recall what she ordered, but he had noticed she left in a timely manner, before her lunch break was over. Left a good tip, too.

He went to the booth she'd sat in, ignoring the bustle around him as people cowered in fear and murmured to each other. From the window he could see the KMCP main building. His eyes scanned the streets for signs of her, signs of anything, really. After a few moments, he exited the restaurant, eying the streets more.

His gaze fell on a puddle in the gutter. One would have to step around it - or into it - to cross the street. Feeling a little silly for going this far, he came up to it and perused the footprints left from those who'd stepped in it. He was surprised at himself for actually finding a shoeprint that resembled Miss Ritchi's favored shoe type. It had no discernable pattern, but it was the right size. He was glad it was a cool October day, allowing for the water to remain for so long.

He followed the few steps and was surprised again at seeing how they abruptly changed from a walking pace to smudges. Whether it was her or not, someone had been dragged around a building corner and into an alley. Not without a fight though, judging by the smears. The wetness dried up before reaching the alley itself, but its destination was clear.

A low growl escaped him as anger began building up. If he was right, then someone else had snatched up Miss Ritchi. Oh, no. He'd told her once, in so many words, that he wasn't about to let anyone else kidnap her. She was his victim and lord knows he was possessive of his property.

He went back to the car, hitting the communicator again. "Minion!" he demanded.

Minion was on screen in record time. "Sir?" he replied.

"I believe Miss Ritchi was kidnapped as she left the Roy's Kitchen diner, before 11:40. Hack into the security cameras on this corner and see what you can find between 11:20 and 40." As he spoke, he drove, until he was parked beside the alley in question.

"I'm on it, sir," Minion nodded.

Megamind could only sit back, unseen in his car, and glare into the alley. The sharp corner visible from here meant no vehicles beyond motorcycles could travel it without damaging the vehicle, most likely getting it stuck in the process. Which meant whoever nabbed Miss Ritchi was on foot. Which, in turn, meant they would have a safe house nearby, somewhere to take her quickly without raising any suspicions.

The fact that he'd discerned she'd been fighting her kidnapper made him a little proud of her, in an odd way. As if she'd just proven - by track record alone - that she agreed with him, that she was, in truth, his damsel in distress. After all, she never fought him. Besides which, it fit. Metrocity was his domain; Metro Man was his nemesis; Roxanne Ritchi was his victim. Whoever had taken her was about to learn this the hard way.

He wouldn't be nice with delivering the truth. For one, because, well, he was bad anyway. But for two, this was a type of transgression he couldn't forgive.

In no time, Minion was back on screen. Megamind demanded, "What did you find?"

"A man nabbed her," Minion nodded. "You were right, sir. She was pulled into the alley. I'm already searching the police database for any background information on the man."

"Did it show which building she was taken to?"

"From the angles it showed, no. The recording only proves she was dragged around the corner at the back of the alley."

"Dragged?" Megamind echoed in an angry hiss. One did not drag Roxanne Ritchi. She was to be carried. Damaging her beforehand would only prove detrimental to the overall kidnapping process.

"Y-yes sir," Minion agreed, wary now. He'd heard his master's dangerous tone. "The perpetrator, ah. . .knocked her out."

"How? Describe the process." Megamind made a mental note then to adapt the communicator to be able to view recordings sent from the Evil Lair.

"The man stepped out from behind the building as she was passing it and grabbed her around the torso. She struggled with him, but he managed to pull her back. She got a hand free and hit him, then started to run, but he caught her by the ankle and she fell. Then he got on top of her and punched her in the head. She was knocked out. He got around and picked her up under her arms and dragged her around the corner."

To say Megamind was angry would be putting it mildly. Manhandling her in such a way - what was the world coming to? The man was clearly an amateur. Knocking out the victim in a non-violent means made her that much more compliant later. And knocking her out without ever revealing yourself increased her eventual terror at discovering who had her. Not to mention the means by which he'd rendered her unconscious; a blow to the head would just give her a bruise and an angry disposition.

It was like the man knew nothing at all about kidnapping a woman properly, let alone the singular specimen that Roxanne Ritchi was.

"Describe the male who took her," Megamind snapped now. Everything he learned was just making him more peeved. This whole thing was an unnecessary headache. Taking his victim, treating her roughly, derailing his careful plans in the process - it's plain rude is what it is.

"Ah. . .the police database hasn't finished searching yet, so if he has a record -"

"Just guess," he interrupted.

"Sandy-blonde hair, very short, no tan, wore black jeans and a red sports jacket, I'd guess around six feet tall, two hundred pounds max."

Now Megamind glanced down the alley again. This was getting tedious. Who knew what the kidnapper could have done to her in half an hour? He said, "I'm going to start checking doors. I'll be back."

"But sir, the analysis isn't -"

Megamind was out of the car and had the door shut before Minion could go into length about why this was a bad - in a bad way - idea. He stalked down the alley, noting how well-hidden it was from the street once you were so far down it. At the corner, he eyed both walls, picking out the doors he could see. Two of them were large garage-like doors that seemed out of place, given how no large vehicles would be able to drive down to them.

He started walking then, slowly, eying the edges of each of the doors. Most people didn't take the back way in or out of their homes or businesses, he knew. It made more sense to go through the front. Which is why he was looking for scrapes in the dirt to suggest a door had recently been opened. And he found it in one of the larger doors. In fact, the larger door was the only one that had recently been disturbed. The handle even still had a handprint!

Sliding up to the door, he listened at it. Inside, he could hear the quiet drone of a man talking. The tone was suggestive, lilting, and soft, but no response was ever given. Was he talking to himself?

If Megamind was right about this, then Roxanne was somewhere in there, maybe even gagged. No - she had to be gagged. It was the only way to keep her from making snippy, clever comments. And even then she still managed to talk back with her eyes alone.

This was proven when the male suddenly began shouting. Alarm rose in Megamind; angry males could do some nasty things to females. A wave of protective possessiveness went through him. He wasn't about to let anyone harm his damsel, especially on a day when he needed her.

Being stealthy about it, he lifted the door, glad that it wasn't making as much noise as movies suggest. He slid under it when it was far enough for him to squeeze through, trying to keep it dark within the place. Inside, he saw, it resembled a place he would turn into an Evil Lair. It was spacious and only filled with various metal structures. It had once been a factory of some sort, apparently - though an admittedly small one. Something with a low production rate had been created in here.

It was very dark at the edges, but a few lights were on ahead of him. From his place, as he hugged the walls and inched closer, he saw movement of what appeared to be a man sitting in a chair. He angled himself to see around the man's back, catching sight of Roxanne.

He was right. There was duct tape across her mouth. And as he looked, the scene began to take form. He couldn't believe what he was seeing.

She was secured in the chair somehow, a table with a white cloth sitting between her and her abductor. On the table itself was a tall, lit candle, two plates of food, and two tall glasses of transparent yellow liquid. Champagne, probably. The man had kidnapped her. . .to have lunch with her? When she just ate, no less? Was this some form of human courtship he'd never seen before?

It seemed so primitive. Knocking out a woman and binding her to a chair, all to get her to share a meal with you? Freaking humans and their weird traditions.

The closer he came, the more he could make out what was being said. The man was frustrated and angry with Roxanne, constantly going back and forth from an attempt at being charming and outright yelling. And once he was close enough to make out her expression, he read resentment and fear on her face. She was scared, and pissed about it.

This man frightened her? Oh, hell no. His pride took a blow. He couldn't make her cower, but this unknown human could? Jealousy seared him, at the reactions he couldn't provoke in her, at them appearing because of someone else. He'd already decided to smack this man around for throwing off his plans and stealing his property, but now he had another reason to do so.

Scaring his damsel. Really! He was the supervillain here.

He unholstered his gun - not to shoot with it, but to whack the man upside the head with it. He was feeling vicious enough to hope he would draw blood when he did.

When he was one step away, Roxanne caught sight of him. Her eyes widened and a mix of relief and hope overtook the previous fear. Her date seemed to notice her gaze, though she quickly masked it, and began to turn to see what she was looking at.

It all happened very fast then. Panic went through Megamind at the thought that he was going to lose his surprise attack, so he pounced, brandishing the gun. Roxanne leaned back, yelling something that came out muffled from the tape, and kicked over the table. The man reacted to the toppled table by giving a yell of indignation and jumping back, knocking over his chair. Megamind swung.

The gun connected with the man's skull, sounding a sickening crack. As he'd wished, a stream of blood appeared as the man swayed and collapsed to his left. Tiny bits of thrown food splattered Megamind's boots as the last vestiges finally landed. Both glasses of champagne had been spilled, the glasses shattered. The candle flame had winked out. The tablecloth was askew, revealing the wooden table beneath it on one corner.

Whatever adrenaline Megamind had been feeling faded. It was over, that quick. The man was out, though he moaned in his unconsciousness. Megamind released a heavy breath, then turned his gaze to Roxanne. She was wearing a nice tailored pale blue pants-suit today.

She was glaring at the mound of flesh on the ground. But as if called by him, she raised her eyes to his. What now? those eyes said.

"You alright?" he wondered.

Disbelief colored her expression. Then she began sneering, muttering into the tape. In no time her words became a muffled rant, growing in volume until it was clearly hindering a screaming rage. She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head as she went on and on, finally breathing hard through her nose some twenty seconds later.

He'd never seen her look so pissed off before. It left him almost dumbfounded. Now he began wondering what the idiot who'd kidnapped her had been talking about. Something inane, no doubt. Nobody of his minimal brain capacity could have possibly stimulated the mind of a woman like Roxanne Ritchi.

He holstered his gun and moved around the mess of the table, coming over to her. He reached for the tape first. She pulled away, glaring at his hand now.

"Oh, relax," he chided. "It's just like a band-aid. Right?" When she still tried to maneuver away, he grabbed her head with one hand and the tape with the other. She squeezed her eyes shut, wincing prematurely, and then he yanked. It actually made a tearing sound as it pulled free of her lips.

She yelped. The motion freed her mouth but the tape didn't come off all the way. She sent him another glare when he reached again to get the rest off, biting out a warning, "Don't you dare. . ."

He gave another solid jerk. It came off all the way now, though it must have been less painful because she only gave a sharp inhale.

"Ow," she exhaled.

Ignoring her vicious glares, he glanced behind her. Oh, great: handcuffs. She was bound to the chair smartly by the handcuffs, the chain going around a vertical spoke, her hands stuck between them. He considered using his dehydration gun to shrink the metal links, but pushed it away. He'd never thought to test it on something like handcuffs that were being worn, so he didn't know if they would sever through her wrists if he tried it. He made a mental note to test it when he got back to the Lair.

As it turned out, she already had a means of escape. Before he could start coming up with a way to get her free, she wriggled, her fingers pulling at the spoke, and it came free. Using her fingers, she guided the chain under it and rose out of the chair. Once upright, she muttered to herself as she linked one leg and then the other through the cuffs, bringing her hands to the front.

He caught a few words like "son of a" and "idiot". To his disbelieving gaze, she wrestled with the cuffs, wincing as she began pulling one hand free. Her face twisted into pain when the metal cuff was on level with her knuckles, and then she tore her hand free. She flexed the fingers, and he saw she'd peeled off skin over two of her knuckles in the process of freeing her hand.

With a scorching look pointed at the unconscious man nearby, she sucked on one of the injuries. Then she looked over at him, not watching as she wrestled with the other cuff.

"Nice timing," she approved.

Well, that was odd. She wasn't angry with him? Usually she was all kinds of cross when he came to kidnap her. Then again, he supposed she was already kidnapped.

Out loud, he said, "Actually, I believe I'm late."

"Late?" she echoed, arching a brow.

"He had you for more than half an hour, right?"

"I don't know. There's no clock in here," she said as if he'd asked something stupid.

"Miss Ritchi, your primitive brain capacity is truly horrendous sometimes," he sighed.

"Are you suggesting you know the time at all times?" she replied with resentment.

"I know my age down to the hour," he hinted. "So, yes. It is now 12:27 by my internal clock."

She rolled her eyes. "Great. Another reason for you to gloat." With a wince, she got her left hand free at last. She held the handcuffs up with a frown, settling her gaze on the prone figure on the floor. Then, with a wicked smirk, she pushed the cuffs through, opening them up again. She started towards the man.

"What are you doing?" he wondered, half out of curiosity in general, and half in curiosity at the look she'd just had in her eyes. Those eyes read: sweet revenge.

Not answering, she grabbed the man by the ankle, pulling him around and dragging him away with determined steps. It was all Megamind could do to just follow, too curious to remain behind. What was she up to?

She dragged him all the way to a second-floor landing made up of several steel poles. The man began to stir, so she worked quick, cuffing one hand. She led the cuffs around the pole, then hooked the other end to -

His ankle. That looked uncomfortable. Megamind was just a tad impressed with her.

Finally, she stepped back, dusting off her hands, and waited. He shadowed her, still intrigued. She was waiting for the man to wake up now? Suddenly his plans didn't seem all that important; this was a rare glimpse of a vengeful Miss Ritchi, and - fates willing - he wanted to be here to see it.

"Thank you, by the way," she said absently with a glance over her shoulder at him.

His world rocked. Was he just thanked for something? He forced out, "For. . .what? Knocking him out?"

"Yep," she replied, popping the 'p'.

"I'm the villain. I don't get thanked," he argued.

"Today, you were my hero," she countered. "Just call it a fluke if you must."

He began stuttering. He was her hero? How?

"Hush. He's waking up," she said to him.

The now handcuffed man moved, groaned, pulled on his left hand - and failed. He frowned as he lifted his right hand absently, rubbing at his head wound, glancing around himself to see why his hand wasn't moving, wriggling. His eyes began to widen in horror as he comprehended his predicament.

"Exactly," Roxanne intoned.

He shot a glance up at her. "What is this?" he demanded. Then his eyes fixed on Megamind and he jolted. "Roxy!" he snapped. "That - that's Megamind! Get out of here! Run!"

Megamind rose a brow. Run, Roxy, run? First, who did this man think he was, to call her by that nickname? Second, how could he possibly want her to run when it was this man who'd kidnapped her first? Did he. . .care for her, to some extent? Did he worry about her safety?

"I know very well who it is," she replied. "Just relax. Right now, you should be worrying about yourself."

The man's expression deadpanned. "What? But. . . Wait. So you want me to just. . .ignore the brute who keeps kidnapping you?" He was visibly confused by this.

"Honestly, you should rethink that," she advised him. "Of the two of you, I would say you're the brute."

"I'm not a brute!" he snapped.

"My aching skull would suggest otherwise."

He winced. "Look, I'm. . . I'm sorry about that. But you wouldn't have come with me if I hadn't!"

"How would you possibly know that?" she shot back. "You didn't ask me anything. You didn't say a word. You just jumped me. Now tell me again that I shouldn't be angry with you." She folded her arms.

Megamind wondered about that statement, then realized he must have missed a huge conversation between the two. Had this man, at some point, declared she shouldn't be angry with him?

"You shouldn't!" he declared now, fighting his bonds. "Jesus - these - are those handcuffs?"

Roxanne displayed her free hands. "The very same ones you used on me. Irony's a bitch sometimes, isn't it?"

"Look, Roxy, we can work this out -"

"Stop right there," she cut him off, her voice hard. "I swear to god, if you call me that one more time I will impale you with a sharp object. Get my drift, Steven?"

Steven. Finally, to know his name! A part of Megamind was happy he had at least one answer. But the rest of him was focused on Roxanne's threat. Did she really just threaten to stab a man? Roxanne Ritchi? Paragon of virtue, girlfriend to Metro Man himself? While a piece of him refused to believe his ears, the rest was thrilled. What else would he learn about her today? Maybe that she would actually deliver on the threat?

He'd bet Steven would scream. Loud.

"I get the drift," Steven said, "but - you have to understand - I love you -"

Her uninterrupted glare silenced him. Megamind only had to glimpse her expression to know how deadly serious she was about this.

"No," she disagreed, "you don't. You're obsessed. You created a completely fictional relationship with me because you're fixated on me. That's not love - it's a form of stalking. Did you know that?"

"But I know you!" he went on arguing. "I know everything about you!"

"Try me," she replied dryly.

"You. . .your favorite color is red," he started.

"Wrong," both she and Megamind said in unison. She sent a glance at him in question, raising a brow.

He shrugged. "It's blue." The irony hadn't escaped him - especially considering that any woman in her right mind would probably begin to hate the color after so many kidnappings wherein the kidnapper was blue-skinned.

"Right," she agreed, still with skepticism in her eyes. She seemed to put it aside, though, focusing on Steven again. "Technically it's the darker blues, like royal blue, but that's not the point. Go on," she offered, "try again."

Steven flustered, clearly grasping as straws. "Your favorite flower is roses!"

"I don't even have a favorite flower," she sighed, "but if I had to choose it'd probably be orchids."

"Y-y-you like your eggs scrambled a-and you're afraid of heights, your favorite movie is Saving Private Ryan -" Roxanne chose then to roll her eyes heavenward "- your favorite genre of music is indie -" she scoffed "- you love the sky at midnight because of all the stars, and the ocean, a-a-a-an-and. . .you love me," he finished, smiling.

For a long moment, there was only silence. Megamind watched Roxanne, wondering what she would say next. Most of what Steven had said was incorrect, he knew, but some others he didn't know. One thing he was certain of was that she didn't love Steven - she was in love with Metro Head.

And considering his still-prevalent crush on her, that fact ate away at him. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't make it go away. Which, he supposed, was all her fault. The way she bantered with him, lacking the hostility he was used to having aimed his way, plus her little smiles whenever something amused her and the fact that she didn't struggle to get out of the situations he put her in. . . Well, was it any surprise he liked her? She was hardly an average human, let alone an average woman, with her strengths and sharp eye and quick mind and clever tongue.

Megamind had always believed that Metro Loser was lucky, being gifted with so many good things, but he was only really jealous of the fact that he'd been gifted with Roxanne herself. It was probably the biggest reason why he hated the goody-two-shoes shiny-teeth braindead drone.

It was because of that last bit - Metro Man was fairly braindead - that he couldn't believe Roxanne could even want him. He had about as many active brain cells as a smear of nasal mucus that had long since dried into crust. How could anyone as blindingly perfect as her see him and think to herself, "Yeah, he's my type?"

The universe was unfair, through and through.

At long last, the woman sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. She knelt, but instead of hitting or beating Steven, she seemed to take pity on him.

"Look, Steven," she started, "this is a severe mental disorder. You need treatment for this." When he began protesting, she held her hand up for silence, talking over him. "You do not love me. What you love is the fictional woman you've placed in my shoes. You want me to be this woman, not the other way around. And I am not about to completely change everything about me for a stranger who's trying to cling to an illusion.

"Here's what's going to happen: I'm going to leave you here. Then I'm going to contact the police and they're going to arrest you. I'll press charges, and you'll plead guilty by means of insanity. You'll be taken to an asylum where you'll undergo therapy for this. And maybe, once you're better, I'll forgive you for all this." She rose. "Until then, you're a direct threat to my life."

Steven began shaking his head. "I wouldn't hurt you - ever!"

"That's what all stalkers say," she allowed. "But the fact is that what one covets, one will destroy to keep from others. And I refuse to be your victim in the obituaries."

Steven was talking again, starting to beg - then curse, but Roxanne was walking away, heading for the exit. Megamind shadowed her steps for a while, then kept pace with her.

"You're really not going to get revange or anything?" he wondered. "It looked like you wanted to wring his neck."

She arched a brow at him. "If I was the type to get revenge, Megamind, yours would be the first neck I wring. But no, I'm not the revenge type." Her eyes softened a bit as she looked ahead, both of them swamped in shadows by now. "I don't particularly like hurting things. Especially not people with psychoses."

He could remember four instances off the top of his head in which she had struck him - twice, it had been a punch to the face. He knew very well that while she may not have taken any pleasure in it, she had definitely taken satisfaction in it. Which, he supposed, was owed her; he did tend to put her in life-threatening situations on a bi-monthly basis. What she didn't know was that the traps only ever looked threatening - they all had a failsafe that would kick in if she ever was actually in danger.

Partly because he liked her, but also, well, could you imagine the cleanup involved if he turned her into bloody human paste? It would take weeks to clean properly!

She didn't wait for him when they reached that big garage door, yanking it up by hooking her foot in the handle, then grasping it and pushing it all the way open. She held her pose for a second, hands up, watching the door to make sure it wouldn't come crashing down, then exited.

When they reached the sidewalk, he stopped her, saying, "Wait here while I get the spray."

She groaned. "Seriously? After all this, you're still going to kidnap me? One kidnapping a day isn't enough?"

He shrugged, thinking he still had a plan to unfold - but she had a point. He considered it. It was Thursday; he could repeat this process just as easily tomorrow, which was just another work day for her.

"Oh, fine," he sighed, as if this was a huge concession. "I'll nab you tomorrow then."

With an amused tone, she retorted, "I can see how much it pains you to concede, and as such, you have my deepest gratitude."

"One more snip like that, Miss Ritchi," he warned from the driver side of the vehicle, "and I'll nab you anyway just for the principle of it."

"Point taken."

He got in and took off without a backwards glance - though he did wonder about this Steven character and what would happen to him. With a smirk, ideas began filtering in, involving bribes, tiny remote-controlled robots and switched medications. He had a satisfying mental image of Steven, dosed way too high on behavior-regulating drugs, sitting in a chair with a deadpanned expression, drooling as he stared at the ceiling.

It was a beautiful thought.