Disclaimer: Based on characters and concepts owned by others. Written for fun, not for profit.
Author's Notes: This little vignette is a mixture of a short scene I started a while back, and some bits that ended up on the cutting-room floor from another story. The combination made for a nice, fluffy one-shot, though. Hope you enjoy!
Summary: Roxanne discovers that she and Megamind define failure a bit differently.
The Science of Failure
"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
- Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)
"Come again?" Roxanne Ritchi arched an eyebrow and looked in the direction of the sparks showering in little cascades from the active welding rod. She fixed the individual wielding it with an incredulous stare.
Megamind paused his work and pushed his safety goggles up onto his considerable forehead. He took a moment to set down the rod and then stepped away from the new and brilliant (if he did say so himself) device he was currently creating to defend Metro City. He angled his head curiously, as though he couldn't quite pinpoint what he had just said to puzzle her so. He shrugged and repeated his last statement.
"My plans," he said. "They never failed."
Roxanne's lips curled into a warm grin. He was rather adorable when he was confused. Confused and, apparently, selectively amnesiac.
"What are you talking about?" she said - gently and with genuine affection, but still with a hint of irony. She gestured vaguely to the area of the lair that still had clippings of paper, layers of post-its, frenzied scribblings, complex artwork, and equation scratchings dangling from the ceiling like an enormous mobile. "You know as well as I do: in the old days, you never won."
"Oh well, winning!" Megamind laughed and swept his arm dramatically through the air in front of him, as though physically clearing away the apparent misunderstanding. "That's a completely different story! Sure, I lost, but I never failed!"
"Um," Roxanne said. "There's a difference?"
"Of course!" He seemed shocked by her statement. "A big difference! A plan isn't a failure if the end result is what you were hoping for, now is it?" He grinned broadly with a satisfied cross of his arms.
Roxanne blinked. "You mean," she said, "you were hoping to lose?"
Megamind brought his fist to his chin thoughtfully. "Clearly I'm not explaining this right."
Roxanne began taking gradual steps toward him. "So let me get this straight: All those times you kidnapped me, all those times you antagonized Metro Man, every time you played cat-and-mouse with him in front of the entire city - you're telling me you were actually playing to lose? That doesn't sound like you."
"Roxanne, you make it sound so masochistic. Of course I wanted to win, but the fights were never about the victory," he explained. "Not really. It was about the challenge. The challenge was exhilarating. Why do you think I missed it so much when it ended?"
"Victories aren't exhilarating?"
"Indeed," he replied. "They are. And when I finally got one, it was - for a while. But afterward where did that leave me?"
"In charge," Roxanne said with a shrug. "Not that I approve of what happened," she quickly added, "because taking over the city was clearly, clearly wrong."
"Wrong. Yes, clearly," he agreed. "And evil."
"Very evil. But . . . ," Her look softened. "But you always gave the impression that was what you wanted."
Megamind gave a little snort of laughter. "Well, I wouldn't be very convincing as a super villain otherwise. Would I?"
Roxanne crossed her arms and fixed him with an amused glare.
"Okay, okay," he said. "If you want to know the truth, winning for me was never actually about destroying Metro Man - because, let's face it, it couldn't be done. One-upping him, though - that was another story. That was what I lived for - ever since we were children."
Roxanne maintained her amused glare. She arched an eyebrow at him.
"I know what you're thinking, but it's true!" Megamind insisted. "I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I was meant to be a super villain. But going beyond that was never really part of the game. And while Evil Overlord certainly has a nice ring to it, the fact is: the villain routine doesn't work without a hero. Why do you think things went so wrong when Metro Man pulled his disappearing act?"
"So success, to you, meant getting your butt kicked," Roxanne mused. "And you said I made it sound masochistic."
"It wasn't really like that," he said. "Not really." He plucked an old clipping from the ceiling and held it out to her. On it was an image of Metro Man, flashing that 1000-watt smile and holding Megamind at arm's length by the scruff of his puffed collar. It was probably taken just before one of the former villain's many trips back to jail. Roxanne took the yellowed clipping from him and studied it for a moment before looking back up at his face.
"Think of it this way," Megamind suggested, waving his arms in a dramatic flourish. "It was all about prolonging the game. And, believe me, it wasn't hard to figure out the best way to keep the whole thing going. I am a genius, after all."
"And modest, too," Roxanne interjected with a smirk.
Megamind simply smiled and absorbed that remark. "A victory for him meant I got to start over," he said. "New toys, more elaborate plans, different strategies . . ."
". . . Same old hostage."
Megamind paused and waggled his eyebrows at her.
"A victory for me just meant it would be over, period," he concluded. "It never occurred to me to be concerned since I wasn't supposed to have been able to destroy him. And it's not like heroes just give up. If the bad guy outmaneuvers them, they don't just take their toys and leave. At least," he added, "they're not supposed to."
"So you're saying you let Metro Man win?" Roxanne countered teasingly.
"Of course not!" Megamind shot back, sounding affronted. He straightened to his full height and crossed his arms. Roxanne swore he was sulking.
"Never once did I pull any punches!" he declared. "Ever! What would be the fun in that, Ms. Ritchi?"
"I'm sorry!" she laughed in response. She reached a hand out to him in an attempt to assuage his bruised sense of backwards honor. "You're just making it sound like you actually enjoyed getting carted off to jail."
"Back to jail wasn't a deterrent for me," he said, making a pouty show of leaning stubbornly away from her fingers. "Jail was home for most of my life, you know. Jail was just a reboot - a place where I could regroup and start coming up with a new - even better - diabolical plan. A way to improve the game. There was endless creativity in that. Who wouldn't find it exhilarating?"
Roxanne's fingers finally managed to make contact. (Apparently, his efforts to keep his distance from her were about as half-hearted as any real desire for a victory over Metro Man.) She gave a gentle tug and his unresisting arms uncrossed. She trailed down until she grasped his hand and squeezed gently. He let her. A moment later, he made eye contact with her again.
The smile she offered him was both sympathetic and playful. "You keep calling it a game," she noted. "You don't mean that all your posturing, all your grandstanding, all your diabolical schemes . . . and it was really just a way to finally get the popular kid to play with you?"
"No!" he shot back - a little too quickly to be convincing.
Roxanne could tell she'd struck a nerve. In the time since Megamind had become Metro City's new hero, he had let a few details slip to her about his history with Metro Man. Roxanne didn't have a completely clear picture yet, but it was certainly enough to determine the two shared a rather complicated past together. She hoped he would share more when he was ready.
Megamind sighed and looked at her with a lopsided grin. "I guess I never thought he would be the one to get bored first," he confided. "One would think I didn't always try my best to keep it interesting."
Roxanne offered him a genuine smile, then drew him into a hug. She felt his arms circle her waist and rest, crisscrossed, against her lower back. After a moment she pulled away slightly. She kept her arms wound lightly around his neck as she leaned back to look at him again.
"What about now?" she asked.
"Oh, well now I have good reasons to actually win." He smiled down at her meaningfully. "As a villain, winning hadn't really been a possibility. But as a hero-" He shrugged. "As a hero, losing simply isn't an option. Failure certainly isn't. And there's a wonderful challenge to that too."
Roxanne drew the pad of one thumb across his cheekbone before releasing him. Hand-in-hand, they both stepped over to where he had left his work a few minutes ago.
"Well," she said, "it's a good thing you've never really failed, then." She smiled at him as he placed his goggles back over his eyes and picked up his welding rod.
"No," he reaffirmed, one eyebrow raised in satisfaction. "Never failure."
As he turned back to his latest project, Roxanne stepped to his side and placed a gentle, lingering kiss on his cheek. Then she walked away to leave him to his work for a little while.
Megamind regarded his task with a pleased smile. A shower of sparks from the welding rod lit the happy contours of his face.
See? he mused. Success.