Pale Blue Shadows
Megamind's first kill was entirely by accident… and so was Miss Ritchie's. AU, Dark!fic
Chapter 1: Shower Scene
Roxanne shivered, the cold rivulets of water running down her shoulders. Her hair stuck thickly to her forehead. She curled herself inwards more tightly, her head resting on her thighs as she pulled her legs in closer. Her dress was ruined, red dye running down the shower drain. She watched the swirls of red dance across the white plastic, incriminating as the blood on her hands. The evening felt surreal, the memories playing in fragments over and over. A broken record of incriminating evidence that chilled her more deeply than the icy water that streamed down into her face. She choked back a sob, raising her face into the shower's flow to let the tears flow away down the drain. There was no relief in them. There should be no relief in them. She, Roxanne Richie, was a murderer.
"I couldn't possibly," Roxanne said with a smile, her voice carrying a gentle amusement as she pushed the proffered glass of champagne away. "I've had far too much already, Mr. Edwards."
"Nonsense, Miss Ritchie," the suave businessman replied, his dark eyes shining in the candlelight of the restaurant. "I believe your promotion deserves to be celebrated, and as owner of the station which has promoted you, it is only fair that I provide you with certain.. enticements to stay."
"Enticements to stay?" Roxanne inquired, one eyebrow raised as she finally accepted the glass. "Isn't a promotion and a salary increase an enticement in itself?"
"Of course," he agreed amiably, "But other stations will start sending you job offers very shortly, and I want you to think favourably upon me and my humble station when you are forced to consider them."
"I think you're too kind," Roxanne said foxishly, "I already think very favourably of the station."
"And of me?" Mr. Edwards was in his mid-thirties. A handsome and wealthy man, he gazed at her with a self-confidence she found refreshing. In a city where nearly every man was terrified to so much as look at her for fear of being pummeled by her supposed boyfriend, Metro Man, Mr. Edwards was proving to be unique. And the celebratory evening he had requested as business was rapidly becoming the first date she had been on in over two years – ever since Metro Man's failed attempts to woe her.
"I think you're very… brave," Roxanne admitted over the edge of her champagne glass. She smiled flirtatiously, "Most men seem to believe I'm the personal property of the city's hero."
"Or villain," Edwards added with a dark smile.
"Villian?" Roxanne choked, her champagne nearly shooting out her mouth. "What… who on earth thinks that?"
Edwards shrugged, amusement on his features as he leaned back comfortably to regard her. "Well, the city's villain has as great an obsession with kidnapping you as the city does believing what you claim are only rumours of your involvement with Metro Man."
"They are rumours," Roxanne said firmly, and perhaps a little too eagerly. Edwards' smile became more of a smirk. "I can assure you that I am completely, entirely unattached, Mr. Edwards…"
"Antonio," Edwards interjected with a smile.
"Antonio," Roxanne said softly, catching the name on her tongue. "I'm sorry," she sighed, settling herself back into her seat, "I get so worked up about these things. I feel like I'm never allowed to have a normal evening."
Edwards leaned forward, taking Roxanne's hand gently into his own. "Perhaps you deserve one, my dear." He gestured towards her glass, "More champagne?"
Roxanne wobbled to the washroom. She was too intoxicated. She knew this as she pushed open the door to the ladies washroom and it seemed to move just a little too far. She walked in as solidly as she could, keeping her eyes locked on her goal. The sink was a welcome relief. She dug her fingertips into the cold porcelain, breathing deeply. "Excellent, Roxanne," she muttered darkly, "Why don't you just get yourself drunk with a wealthy man who only too obviously wants to take advantage of you?" She stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. The restaurant was nice, she admitted that freely. The bathroom was even nicer. Individual cloth towels sat folded in a basket by the sink. She grabbed one, thrusting it quickly under the tap, as she pushed the water all the way to cold. She lifted the towel with only faint trepidation before running the cold towel over her face, careful to avoid the makeup around her eyes.
"Damnit," she muttered, tossing the soaked towel into the hamper provided. She cupped her hands under the flowing water and began to greedily slurp up the water. She needed to sober up, and fast. She hoped the caffeine from her dessert coffee would begin to counteract the effects of the alcohol in her system. She needed to make an escape before Antonio (Mr. Edwards, her mind corrected itself), swept her into his limo and brought her home to be his next conquest. Because at that point, she would be just like every other woman reporter in this city… willing to sleep her way to the top. And Roxanne refused to be one of them. At least, that was what she had remembered somewhere shortly after Edwards ordered the third bottle of champagne. "Damnit," she hissed again.
A well-dressed woman in her early fifties entered the bathroom, took one look at Roxanne in her short red dress, slurping water from her hands at the bathroom tap and sniffed. Roxanne glared at the woman's reflection in the mirror. She was not one of those women. Not usually, any way. And seriously, who could blame her for this one, little slip? She, Roxanne Ritchie, spent her days getting alternately kidnapped and rescued. She was a prop in the game being played between Metro Man and Megamind, and it really was only fair that her career glean some benefits from the abuse.
She pulled herself straight, raging now against the unfairness of her lot in life. In a whirl of energy, she marched out of the washroom and flashed Mr. Edwards a smile as she passed him by the front door of the restaurant. He offered her his arm, gallantly enough, but his dark eyes whispered of a bedroom not far from here, where he would just love to take her. "Mr. Edwards," she said with gushingly fake adoration, "I would absolutely love to continue our evening, but I really must go home and go over my notes for tomorrow's interviews."
"Always working, aren't you, Miss Ritchie?" the businessman replied, his eyes betraying his disappointment only for a second before they began to scan the restaurant bar for a different conquest for the night.
Roxanne sighed to herself, a part of her had hoped that his interest was more than just passing. But it figured really, didn't it? It seemed like every man was really just looking for some beautiful, perfect floozy to hang off his arm. None of them wanted substance or conversation or understanding. They were all wrapped up in themselves and their own exploits. Well, fine then. She was now Metro City's highest-paid reporter. The whole world could just… bite her dust.
The thoughts propelled her towards the car she had only recently bought. It was silver, and sleek, and had all the bells and whistles. She loved it. She settled contentedly into the driver's seat, fastening her seatbelt as she turned the ignition. The motor sprung to life under her hands and she ran her fingers lovingly over the steering wheel. "At least I have you," she told the car, turning the radio on and setting the station to something… rock. She really wasn't feeling sentimental tonight.
The streets were empty. It was late after all, sometime well after midnight. It was probably for the best, since she could still feel the light buzz of the champagne running through her veins. Just keep the car straight, she thought to herself, and go slowly, and you won't get caught. She felt a perverse pleasure in breaking the law just this much. She shook her head, clearing it of the thought. She was spending far too much of her time with the city's villain if she was starting to take pleasure in breaking the law. Even ones like driving under the influence, which, you know, everyone did.
She stared at the radio knob for a moment. The music was throbbing loud, and not even close to classic rock. She shook her head, swinging the dial. Stupid Friday night party mixes. She raised her gaze and found that she had drifted just slightly into the next lane. She frowned, correcting the angle. Perhaps she was more intoxicated than she had thought. Maybe she should pull over and call a cab. She could always come get her car in the morning. The loud, party dance music continued to blare from her car radio. She found herself having trouble focusing on the decision. "For Pete's sake," she muttered, again adjusting the dial. She didn't see the black car waiting at the intersection up ahead, nor did she notice that the lights had turned yellow long before she had dipped her gaze.
The silver car sped forward, even as the expensive black sedan pulled into the intersection. It was very nearly across when the silver car collided with it on the passenger side. The last thing Roxanne saw was Mr. Edwards' shocked gaze staring straight into her own through lightly tinted glass and her front windshield, as metal crunched and screeched around her.
When Roxanne came to, she was lying on a stretcher. She blinked blearily as the loud wail of sirens and the flash of coloured lights filtered into her consciousness. "What happened?" she heard herself asking, leaning upwards to sit. A clink of metal brought her attention to her wrist. She stared dumbly down at the thin metal band around her wrist. She pulled her arm up experimentally, fascinated by the contraption that cuffed her to the stretcher.
"Miss Ritchie," a firm voice demanded. "Can I please have your attention?"
"Of course, Offisicer," she heard her voice slur. A dawning horror was creeping its way into her mind, but she was refusing to acknowledge it as yet.
"Miss Ritchie," the voice was stern, disapproving, and cold, "I need you to take a deep breath. At the count of three you're going to exhale for me, alright?"
Roxanne clenched her eyes shut. She should have pulled over. She should have called a cab. She exhaled. The policeman's soft "humph," was the only sound her ears picked up. She opened her eyes. He stared back at her hard. "I know you've been drinking, Miss Ritchie," the officer said tersely, "But you're only just over the limit. Lucky for you, you might only be looking at a manslaughter charge." Roxanne stared at the man uncomprehendingly. "The car you hit," the officer continued, "was carrying Mr. Edwards, who I don't need to tell you is a very influential man in this city." He looked about ready to hit her, "He's dead."
Roxanne stared at the man, her mouth dry. "His chauffeur?" she heard herself gasp.
"He's alright," the policeman said with a grimace, "All the better to testify against you."
The following hours pasted in a blur for Roxanne as she numbly went through the motions of being charged, posting bail, and being driven home. She dragged herself up the stairs of her building without fully analyzing the situation. She kept her mind still as she unlocked her apartment door. She shut it behind her with a gentle click. She focused on the minute details. The grain of the wood of her door as she locked it shut. The chill of her hardwood floors as she peeled off her too-tight heels. The pad of her bare feet as she walked down the hallway to her bedroom. She got as far as the mirror before she was forced to confront the truth.
She looked up slowly, her reflection staring back at her. Dark circles of rubbed mascara and eyeliner hung around her eyes. Her hair was ruffled in all the wrong ways and a sense of dustiness pervaded her person. Her dress was rumpled. But it was her expression that scared her. She looked haunted. Lost.
She had killed a man. A man she knew, no less. Her own boss was dead. Because of her.
The cold water could not absolve her. Roxanne knew somewhere, in some deep recess of her being, that things would never be right again, and that at some point she would have to deal with the fact. Would have to come to terms with it. At some point, she would have to accept that she was a murderer. She had killed. She was no better than any of the villains or bad guys that she reported on. All the horror she had once expressed at the murder of an innocent would now be nothing but hypocrisy. She had lost so much of herself. The water ran clear now, carrying only little pieces of herself down the drain.
There was someone in her apartment. Roxanne could hear movement in her living room. She heard padded footsteps cross her bedroom floor. Numbly, she wondered if it was a burglar, perhaps some faceless evil who, in a flush of karmic balancing, would murder her in her own shower. She watched the bathroom door creak open from where it stood ajar. She regarded the figure who stood in her doorway with dull, hooded eyes.
She watched him cross the few feet of tiled floor towards the upright shower. He paused at the glass shower door, which hung open, water spraying across the bathroom floor. He stared down at her, his green eyes expressively sad. Understanding. Knowing. As haunted and cold as her own.
Roxanne made no move to stop him as he stepped into her shower and slid down the wall to sit beside her. Icy water pelted them both. "Does it help?" he murmured softly.
"The guilt?" she whispered hoarsely, her throat aching. She felt him nod almost imperceptibly. "No," she swallowed hard, "It doesn't help at all."