Disclaimer: Based on characters and concepts owned by others. Written for fun, not for profit.
Characters / Pairing: Ensemble / Megamind/Roxanne
Warnings: None to speak of. This is the end.
Author's Notes: In July of 2007, I completed my last chaptered story for a different fandom. Since that time, I haven't done much fanfic writing. I loved all my old fandoms, and continued to dabble in them, but I hadn't had a new one grab on so fiercely and hold on so tightly. Until now.
Thank you, members of the Megamind fandom - and especially those who have been following, commenting on, and generally supporting this story. It's been a long time since I've felt the fulfillment that comes with writing a fic like this. I have a feeling this won't be the last one!
I hope you enjoy the final installment of Rain on the Just as much as I have enjoyed writing it and presenting it to you!
Rain on the Just
Chapter 15 - Silver Lining
Taking a hit like that to the chest, Megamind decided, hurt.
It hurt a lot.
Though, surprisingly, not at first. That was strange. After all, his large brain was fully capable of receiving multiple, rapid, sensory, messages at once. But despite that, his body had still experienced a definite delayed pain response. In fact, Megamind wouldn't have been cognizant of the hit he had taken at all, if it hadn't been for the abrupt, forceful sensation of toppling backwards, the jarring impact against the thick, iron bars behind him, and the sudden inability to remember how to inhale properly.
A moment ago, his only conscious thought had been to get to Roxanne before the gun went off. After that, the world had upended around him.
The room spun drunkenly for a few more seconds. Then awareness returned - along with his breath. With it came the sensation of a soft pair of arms encircling him from behind and a voice - raspy and desperate - speaking beside his ear.
"Let me see it," Roxanne coaxed frantically, her warm breath heavy and fast against the side of his neck. "Oh God, Megamind, let me see!"
He became aware of her attempting to pry his hands away from where he had instinctively been clutching at his own chest like a vice. That brought his attention down to his torso . . .
And that was when the pain finally registered.
Megamind gritted his teeth as his body's delayed response caught up to him. Pain bloomed beneath the pressure of his hands and spread quickly through his chest. His skull and back also ached where he had collided with the bars. The inside of his head began ringing like a gong. He felt as though he had taken a direct hit with a sledgehammer, squarely to the solar plexus.
Still, he supposed as Roxanne finally managed to pry his hands apart, things could be a lot worse . . .
He could have actually been shot.
Roxanne gasped softly beside his ear. The thin, button-down shirt that covered his chest was rumpled and had gotten slightly torn and dirty, but it was otherwise unblemished. The blue skin beneath it was the same - though it would probably purple significantly later.
There was no visible gunshot wound.
Megamind turned his eyes upward and cast a scathing, accusatory glare at the hulking form of the man who was now standing between him and Owen.
"Oww!" he groused petulantly.
Metro Man turned his head slightly and glanced over his shoulder. The hand he had used to shove Megamind aside was still extended straight behind him. He looked from it to Megamind, who had begun rubbing at his battered sternum. Metro Man's lips curved into a soft, apologetic smile. "Sorry, little buddy," he said earnestly.
A moment later, the superhero turned back to face Owen, allowing his Intense Scowl of Justice to wash back over his features. His body had been frozen in a sort of heroic lunge, which he stepped out of slowly and straightened to his full, intimidating height.
Owen froze to the spot like a deer in headlights. His eyes were as wide as saucers as they trailed up Metro Man's towering stature.
Metro Man's mouth twisted into a wry grin and he extended one closed fist slowly toward the young villain. When he uncurled his fingers a twisted, deformed stump of metal slipped from his hand and hit the concrete floor with a muted click.
The mangled bullet bounced slightly and then settled near Owen's boot.
Consequently, the villain's pistol slipped from his nerveless fingers and also fell to the floor with a noisy clatter.
Megamind propped one hand upon his knee and leveraged himself to his feet with a grunt. He felt Roxanne's arms slip away from his shoulders as he stood. Wrapping one arm across his throbbing ribcage, he approached Metro Man from behind and came to stand next to his elbow, facing Owen.
"You were always really good at those last-minute escapes," Megamind conceded idly. His eyes lingered on Owen, but his words were directed at the man beside him. He smirked. "Cut that one a little close, though, wouldn't you say?"
Metro Man huffed slightly through his nose. "Can you blame me for needing half a millisecond to stretch my legs?" he replied. "I was sort of immobile for most of the day." As he spoke, he, too, kept his eyes fixed on Owen.
The young villain was beginning to tremble like a leaf.
"Um, yeah," Megamind droned as his fingers rubbed absently at the back of his neck. "About that." He gave an awkward chuckle. "I do apologize for that. It was never supposed to happen."
Metro Man let out another amused little snort though his nose. "Do I even want to know why you never pulled that gun on me before?" he asked.
Megamind didn't specifically answer that. But he did briefly refocus his eyes on Metro Man's profile. His face sobered. "Look," he muttered with a small sigh. "Those things I said earlier?" He sighed again, a bit heavier. "I didn't mean it." He squinted thoughtfully. "Well . . ." he amended, "most of it." Then he bobbed his head slightly back and forth. "Okay, almost most of it."
Metro Man also looked away from Owen and turned his head to face Megamind directly. His mouth was curved into a deadpan grin, but his eyes had a subtle, authentic twinkle. "Come on," he said. "Give me a little credit for knowing you." He shook his head and leaned down toward Megamind conspiratorially. His smile spread into something more genuine. "You never banter when you're really angry."
Megamind blinked his wide eyes. Then he grinned back.
And as they were momentarily focused on each other, Owen turned and quickly made a break for it.
He swerved like a drunkard on his lanky legs as panic drove him toward the opposite end of the building. He vaulted clumsily over several piles of rubble that littered the hallway, catching himself one-handed as he nearly tripped.
"Hey!" Roxanne called out after him.
Both Megamind and Metro Man looked away from each other at the same time and turned their faces back toward the retreating young villain. Immediately, Metro Man's body tensed to take pursuit - his legs crouched like a runner, his hands balled into fists, his Intense Scowl of Justice returned.
Megamind, on the other hand, took a slow step toward the hero's side and placed one palm against the bent crook of his arm. Metro Man looked down at him curiously.
Megamind offered him a roguish grin. "Relax," he said in a confident drawl. Then he stepped back and crossed his arms. "I got this."
Owen reached the demolished, gaping hole in the wall that emptied out into the darkened park. He scrambled out of the building and risked a look back over his shoulder. He seemed to notice that he wasn't being pursued and slowed his pace, nearly tripping himself on his own gangly feet in the process. He made a full turn and continued to walk briskly backward, keeping a sharp eye on the room that he had left in his wake. Then he jammed his hand down into one of his deep pockets and fumbled around inside. A moment later, he managed to wrestle his cell phone free again. With ungainly fingers he flipped it open and groped awkwardly at the keypad with his thumbs as he continued his graceless backward retreat. A second later he seemed to have called up the menu he had been fumbling for - in all likelihood, the number to trigger the final bomb he had alluded to earlier.
Owen halted in the middle of the wet grass. The last vestiges of the storm outside rustled his short, tattered cape off to one side and the remaining drops of rain misted around him, speckling the goggles on top of his head. His shoulders rose and fell in large, panicked movements, but as he saw he still wasn't being followed the ghost of an anxious smile spread across his face. He chuckled nervously and held the phone up into the air over his head, his thumb hovering once more over the SEND button.
Megamind's eyes widened. "Um," he ventured uncertainly, taking a small step forward. His eyes flickered down to his watch. "I think I've got this."
Then, out of the darkness of the park, came the strident peal of opening guitar riffs. Owen jumped slightly and turned toward the noise, only to be snatched off his feet by an enormous, mechanized claw that had shot forward from just beyond the frame created by the hole in the building. He cried out sharply in alarm and dropped his phone onto the grass as the claw heaved him up and twisted him upside-down. He struggled in the claw's massive grip - his arms pinned, his cape hanging down past his ears, and his feet kicking ineffectually through the air like a flipped beetle.
A moment later, the spider-bot crawled back into view, accompanied by its own rock anthem.
At the controls was Minion.
Even over the blaring music, Megamind could hear Roxanne's startled, joyful cry behind him and he grinned broadly. He crossed his arms over his chest again in satisfaction, taking a few steps forward as Minion steered the spider-bot back inside the zoo through the missing wall. The robot almost seemed to woof in excitement, bucking and twitching as it came to a halt.
Minion held on tightly while the spider-bot shook some of the excess rainwater off its metallic body like a soggy canine. The vibration traveled up the length of the claw's cable, causing Owen's upside-down face to turn a nauseated shade of green. Megamind held one hand up and slightly turned his head to the side as some of the droplets flew in his direction. He smiled as the robot's numerous red eyestalks glowed brightly at him in recognition. It was such a relief to see it back to its old self.
"Any problems overriding the remote access, Minion?" Megamind called out over the pounding chords of Van Halen's Panama, which was continuing to reverberate through the narrow room.
"No, sir!" Minion responded proudly. "Sorry - it just took a little time, that's all."
Megamind brushed one hand dismissively through the air in front of him. "Not a problem," he replied over the din. "I had everything completely under control in here."
Minion transferred the spider-bot to auxiliary power and the music faded out. He shifted in the cockpit and turned his mechanized body down toward the three other people standing in the room. He arched one brow dubiously at Megamind.
"Yes, I heard," he drawled, holding up the spare communicator watch that was fastened around his robotic wrist. "But aren't you glad I convinced you to let me come along anyway?" he added with a wry quirk to his upturned mouth.
Megamind's features softened as he looked up at him. "Minion," he said, "my fantastic friend." He offered Minion a sincere smile. "I honestly don't know what I would ever do without you."
It wasn't really an answer to the question Minion had asked, but Megamind knew his friend would understand his true meaning.
The fish's tawny eyes acknowledged Megamind warmly for a brief moment. Then, after a beat, he narrowed them archly and redirected them to his left, where Owen's inverted body hung in the grip of the robot's claw. Minion retracted some of the cable, tugging the villain closer, and swam to the side of his new tank. Then he deliberately flipped himself upside-down in his water to look the young man dead in the eyes.
"Gee whiz, Owen," Minion said, his voice both syrupy-sweet and menacing all at once. "How's it hanging?" He punctuated his question with an edged, wolfish grin - displaying rows of wicked-looking, sharp teeth.
Owen cringed back from him with a definite whimper. His legs continued to kick fruitlessly through the air.
Megamind sneered smugly, crossing his arms again. "I told you I brought backup, you delusional little insect."
Metro Man stepped forward to stand beside Megamind. He, too, took a few moments to observe Minion gleefully terrorizing Owen, then he cleared his throat.
Megamind glanced up at him.
"So," Metro Man muttered, his face displaying the same sheepish expression he had worn the day Megamind and Roxanne had discovered him alive at the old schoolhouse. He scratched aggressively at one side of his shaggy jaw. Some small flecks of the hardened boa plasma that were still clinging to his hair and clothes showered to the floor like fine pieces of lint. "Hey."
Megamind blinked. "Hey," he replied, feeling a little uncomfortable.
To Megamind's extreme curiosity, Metro Man continued to fidget slightly. He had never seen Metro Man fidget.
"So," the former hero began again. He paused, then abruptly gestured forward, indicating Minion. "Good to see that he's actually okay."
It took Megamind a delayed moment to respond. This was . . . "small talk," wasn't it? He blinked again. He had never engaged in small talk with his rival before. It was weird. He shook himself a bit before replying.
"Er, yes," he said. "Yes. Thank goodness." He, too, turned back to where Minion was continuing to have a little fun menacing the young villain in his robotic clutches. Megamind's next words weren't necessarily directed at anyone in particular. "If he hadn't been, I imagine today might have turned out very differently."
Metro Man made what sounded like a small humming noise of agreement.
A moment later, Megamind collected himself and looked back up at the man beside him. They had never stood shoulder-to-shoulder like this. Ever. He absently tapped the tips of his blue fingers together and narrowed his eyes in slight confusion. "So . . . it's 'Way-en' now, is it?" he asked.
The name felt foreign on his tongue; it was so strangely, surreally, inexplicably . . . ordinary.
Megamind had always known his rival's other name, but neither one of them had ever actually used it in each others' presence before. Mortal enemies didn't call each other by their first names. But, Megamind supposed, that's not who they were anymore. Were they?
Megamind stared blankly at a random spot on the floor and said the name again - thoughtfully - as though he was testing it out. "Way-en."
After a pause, he turned back to the other man with another puzzled squint. "So does that mean there's no more Music Man either?" he asked.
Wayne's chuckle caught Megamind a little off guard. The sound rumbled around for a moment inside the deep cavern of the man's broad chest. Megamind couldn't be certain, but he thought it actually sounded like genuine amusement. Another curiosity. He had never heard Metro Man laugh before. Not like that.
"I guess you could say 'Music Man' hit a bit of a creative slump," Wayne answered. "It wasn't especially pretty." He shrugged. "The songs - the whole lifestyle, in fact - started getting a bit stale."
"Oh," Megamind said with a preoccupied nod. "That's . . . rather disappointing, actually." Then he gave Wayne a sidelong glance. "You don't suppose there's any way I might be able to hear-"
Roxanne's voice carried clearly from across the room behind them. Both Megamind and Metro Man turned toward her. She was smirking knowingly at them with her hands on her hips and equal parts admiration and affectionate exasperation playing over her face.
"Don't get me wrong," she said. "Former-rival-bonding couldn't make me happier." She grinned wider and raised one eyebrow, gesturing to herself with the pointing fingers of both hands. "But kinda still in a cage here."
Wayne started forward but stopped himself mid-step. He looked back at Megamind. "Let me guess," he said. "You've got this one too, right?"
Megamind drew his dehydration gun from his pocket. "If you don't mind," he replied.
Wayne raised his hands. "Not at all," he said. Then he motioned toward the cage in a sweeping, 'all yours' sort of gesture. "I think I'll go find where our friend Fire Bug dropped his cell phone," he added. His feet lifted slightly off the floor and he floated - deliberately slowly - toward the park beyond the destroyed wall.
Megamind gave the chamber of his gun several twists until its setting reached 'dehydration'. He took aim at one of the cage bars and Roxanne stepped back so he could fire. A wave of blue light shot from the gun. The metal hummed like a tuning fork as the beam spread up and down its length. A second later the bar vanished and a bright, blue cube pinged off into a far corner of the cell. Roxanne did not even wait for Megamind to remove another bar before she came forward again and squeezed herself sideways through the wider gap.
Suddenly Megamind felt extremely apprehensive.
No. Scratch that.
He was completely petrified.
What could he possibly say to her now? After what had happened? Watching Roxanne's reaction a few minutes ago to the charade he'd been forced into had been worse than a dagger to his heart. Never mind that Minion had required time to locate the spider-bot and completely disable the remote control's link to it. Forget that the only way Owen would have allowed Megamind to retrieve the dehydration gun was if he had thought the weapon would be used to destroy Metro Man. None of that made any difference now.
Because Megamind's actions had hurt Roxanne. Badly.
He had never seen her so desperate before - so upset, so frightened, and so utterly, emotionally wounded. And he had been the direct cause of it.
She had told him she believed in him. And he had reciprocated by giving her more reason to doubt him than ever.
As for what she had said afterward . . .
Megamind's heart twisted with a palpable ache that went far beyond the pain in his bruised chest. His mouth went completely dry. He couldn't even fathom how badly he must have ruined things. He just couldn't.
'Please forgive me' wouldn't even begin to cover it.
Over a dozen different thoughts raced through his head at the same time, and Megamind couldn't be certain which one of them would eventually come stumbling clumsily out of his mouth. He fumbled to shove the barrel of the dehydration gun back into his pocket as Roxanne came to a halt in front of him. His stomach flip-flopped. She was frowning and he immediately averted his eyes away from her. Megamind opened his naked hands toward the ceiling and stared down at them brokenly.
"Roxanne," he said. "I don't know what to-" His voice felt thick in his throat. He tried to swallow past it. "I- I wish I could-"
Roxanne took a small step toward him as he began to stammer. She eyed him silently. Then she almost seemed to physically push her way past the impotent words that were coming at her as she closed the distance between them. The next thing Megamind knew, Roxanne's arms were around his neck and she was gently clinging to him.
Megamind stiffened. Once again, his oversized brain suffered a bit of a delayed reaction. It took a few long seconds for him to actually process what had just happened. One minute he was contemplating his inevitable acceptance of the very real possibility that he would once again have to watch Roxanne walk out of his life over something he had done. The next he was completely surrounded by her.
She hadn't thrown herself into him too aggressively, or playfully bowled him over, as she had often done following his victories on numerous other occasions. She was trying to be mindful of the pain in his chest, he could tell. But she still hung on with a desperate kind of force that Megamind couldn't help but answer in kind. His arms folded up and around her, pressing her closer to him. Any lingering physical pain evaporated into the furthest reaches of his mind as he tightened his hold. Roxanne finally relented and did the same.
Megamind released a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding in a long, steady exhale as he mumbled a very quiet, "I'm so sorry," against her shoulder.
Realizing right away that that apology wouldn't nearly be good enough, Megamind pulled away from her. He was loath to release her so he simply leaned back a bit, keeping his arms around her as tightly as he could. Shaking his head, he managed to force his gaze up to look her in the eyes.
"Roxanne-" he attempted to begin again.
But that was as far as he was able to get. In the next moment, Roxanne's hands unwound from his shoulders and slid up the back of his neck. With her fingers laced across the base of his skull, she gently pulled him back toward her and covered his mouth softly with hers.
At first, Megamind's body gave a tiny start. Then his eyes shuttered closed. His overactive brain momentarily turned off and his apology was put on hold. He was completely incapable of registering anything beyond the softness of her lips . . . the press of her tongue . . . the smell of her skin against his. Both of his hands curled inward and gathered unconscious fistfuls of Roxanne's blouse as he responded to her kiss, pulling her even closer. He barely noticed any lingering pain in his chest at all anymore.
Roxanne's lips lingered for a few more seconds. When she finally eased back, she continued to maintain contact with him by resting her forehead against his. She anchored him to her gently, her hands still clasped behind his head.
For a moment, Megamind only stood there dazedly, holding her against him. The relief he was feeling was unimaginable. It seemed impossible, but somehow he hadn't lost her - not to Owen's actions, or even to his own. Megamind drew in a deep, steadying breath.
". . . I love you."
The words slipped out of him in a soft sigh.
It wasn't how he had intended to tell her. After all, they were light years away from his original plans for the perfect evening. And it certainly wasn't the apology he had meant to give. But once he had said it, in that moment, Megamind couldn't imagine saying anything else. It felt unquestionably right.
He noticed a small tremor ripple through Roxanne's body. Her lips parted as she pulled back to stare at him with slightly wider eyes. Megamind returned her gaze, looking into her face with a renewed sense of earnestness.
"Roxanne," he said, this time steadily, "I am very much in love with you."
In the next moment, Roxanne's face split into a huge, beaming smile. She shook her head with the tiniest hint of a laugh. "Yeah," she murmured, placing one hand along the side of his face. The pad of her thumb stroked across the smooth plane of his cheek. "I know."
Megamind blinked at her. Then his heart utterly swelled. Days ago he had worried that a reply like that could have only meant that he had somehow gone about this all wrong - that he had been too predictable in his affection or that he had failed to declare his love with the necessary amount of fanfare. Now, however, as he took in the absolute joy in her smile, it didn't feel that way at all.
He felt assured. Validated.
And happy. So, so happy. In fact, Megamind couldn't recall a moment in his life when he had ever felt more thoroughly happy.
He loved Roxanne Ritchi.
And what was even more amazing: Roxanne Ritchi loved him back.
Standing together in the middle of a rubble-strewn, old building, both of them slightly battered and more than a little disheveled, and so far away from the private, candlelit, flower-strewn setting Megamind had originally envisioned . . .
Things couldn't have turned out more perfect.
Megamind returned Roxanne's delighted smile. And then he was the one kissing her - this time sweeping her flush against him, with one hand in her hair, the other around her waist, and all the flourish he believed the moment truly deserved.
There may have been spinning involved.
As they swung around full-circle, Megamind happened to glance up over Roxanne's shoulder to where Minion was currently waiting in the spider-bot at the other end of the room. The robot body had its back to them, but Minion was clearly turned around inside the tank. He was grinning happily and offered Megamind a small, discreet thumbs-up. As Megamind smiled back, Minion cocked his body with a smug little 'I-told-you-so' expression on his face and proceeded to turn around in his tank again, making a deliberate show of ignoring them.
When Megamind and Roxanne parted the second time, she finally took a step back. She was laughing and looked happily dizzy as her arms slid down from his shoulders and came to rest against his chest. Despite his earlier reservations about the dress shirt, Megamind decided that he liked the sensation of Roxanne touching him without the thick layers of spandex and leather between them. It was something he could definitely get used to. He smiled back at her.
Then Roxanne's soft lips twisted into an impish grin. A playful spark flashed through her blue eyes. The next thing Megamind knew, she had removed one hand from his chest, wound back, and thumped her fist against his shoulder.
Megamind recoiled from the subtle blow, his face falling and his bottom lip jutting out in pouty consternation. He reached up and reflexively rubbed at the spot with his fingertips, looking back at her with a somewhat wounded expression.
"Um, ow?" He blinked at her.
Roxanne's smirk widened. "That," she said in reply, "was for nearly giving me a heart attack, hero."
Megamind cringed slightly. He deserved that, he knew. Truth be told, he probably deserved a lot worse, so he couldn't shake the undeniable feeling of relief building up inside him. Clearly, he was getting off easy.
Megamind's lips quirked into a small, sheepish smile. "Perhaps we are in need of some sort of signal," he suggested. "For future reference."
"Oh, you think?" Roxanne teased back with mock seriousness.
"Then again," he mused, "I'm not sure how wise that would be. You were the one who said my codes were so easy to crack," he reminded her, shrugging.
Roxanne rolled her eyes with a grin.
Then Megamind frowned.
"I really am sorry, Roxanne," he said in earnest. "If there had been a way to convince Owen of my char-ahde without involving you - without hurting you like that - I swear I would have-"
Roxanne silenced him with a small, knowing smile and a gentle finger against his lips. After a moment she removed it. "Can we at least have a 'Minion's-actually-okay' signal?" she asked, placing one hand over her heart. "I'm not sure I can handle worrying like that again."
Megamind pressed his lips together into a troubled line, his expression slipping a degree darker. "He almost wasn't," he told her quietly. "Almost 'not-okay', that is. It was . . ." He glanced back over in the direction of his friend for a moment. Minion was still turned away from them. Megamind took a steady breath in and out. Then his eyes found the floor. "It was bad."
Roxanne's gaze softened. She did not ask for any specifics yet, for which Megamind was grateful. She simply placed a gentle hand along the side of his face again. For a moment she merely stood like that, and Megamind quietly accepted the comfort she was offering through her touch.
A few seconds later, he reached up and folded his fingers around Roxanne's hand. He brought it down from his face and looked at it, stroking her skin gently as his eyes studied the frayed, makeshift bandage that surrounded her palm.
"Did he hurt you?" he asked, trying very hard to keep any remaining aggression out of his voice.
"No," Roxanne admitted with a small smile. "It was actually an accident. I was trying to get out through the window." She shrugged. "But he did donate a piece of his cape," she offered with some degree of optimism.
Megamind's mouth twisted into a sour frown. "I'm sure that will carry substantial weight in the number of life sentences the overzealous insect receives," he muttered sardonically.
Roxanne curled her fingers further around his, effectively using his own hand to hide the injury in question from his view. She smiled again. "It's fine, really."
Megamind could still feel the fabric of the bandage against his skin, but at her quiet insistence, he let the subject - and his subsequent anger - drop.
When he looked back up at Roxanne, she was smirking playfully again.
"By the way," she said, "care to clue me in to your new, super-secret method for getting rid of your boa plasma?" She cocked a teasing eyebrow at him.
"There was no secret," Megamind retorted, his shoulders rising into a defensive shrug. "And it wasn't new, either. I told you all about it days ago!"
Roxanne eyeballed him incredulously. "You said the only ways to get rid of the plasma were fatal!"
"I said they were messy," he amended. He gestured toward the far end of the room, where Wayne had floated a few minutes ago. Megamind held both his hands out in front of him like scales. "On one hand," he said, lifting his right palm a bit, "scattered chunks of demolecularized superhero. On the other . . . " He paused, then thrust his opposite hand vaguely in Wayne's direction. "Well, he's going to be picking residue out of his hair for at least a week!"
Roxanne's eyebrow arched even higher on her forehead and Megamind sighed.
"Okay, truthfully? I wasn't totally sure it would work at first," he admitted. "I knew the plasma's hydraulic base was capable of being dried into solid matter, but I'd never tested it on anything living before. I wouldn't. The boa plasma is very dangerous, Roxanne." He looked at her meaningfully. "An average human being simply wouldn't have the strength to escape once the gel hardened," he said. "Not to mention, he or she would very likely run out of air before it could be breached from the outside - or suffer severe injury in the process.
"We'd learned that remote signals can't penetrate it either," he continued, ticking his points off on his fingers as he spoke. "So even a machine with the right amount of power would still be trapped, unless it had assistance from the outside. Minion and I lost a few brainbots to the cause in our early experimentation." He shook his head. "No, the only way it would work is if the object or person inside the boa plasma was capable of generating a sufficient amount of its own raw, kinetic energy to break free."
Megamind again turned his head in the direction Wayne had flown, then looked back at Roxanne. "So, yes: in theory, someone with Metro Man's powers would certainly be strong enough to do it," he said. "But without testing that theory, there was no way of predicting the substance's long-term effect on his super strength. If his powers had failed to immediately return once the gel had been neutralized, he would have remained helpless - at least temporarily - and quite possibly in the same danger of suffocation as any other living thing." Megamind took a deep breath. "I had to be absolutely certain he would regain his abilities quickly enough to free himself."
Roxanne tilted her head and smiled expectantly. "And so you tested it," she stated. It wasn't a question - as though she knew without a doubt Megamind would be dying to explain this to her.
She was right.
Oh, how well she knew him.
Megamind bit down on his bottom lip with an excited gleam in his eyes, the way he always did when he was about to unveil something brilliant. "And so I tested it," he repeated with a self-satisfied grin. "Once I'd received the brainbots' report about what, exactly, had happened at your coffee shop, I knew I'd have to find a way to test it. So I did." He gestured toward Owen. "With the unwitting assistance of our friend the Beetle-Bomber, in fact."
Roxanne raised an eyebrow, awaiting his explanation.
Megamind simply crossed his arms in reply, affecting a casual stance and wiggling his own eyebrows back at her.
Roxanne looked at him for a moment. Then focused her attention on the remains of the demolished rear wall. As she turned back to him, her lips spread into a knowing smile. "The bomb from the prison," she guessed.
"Self-contained, raw, kinetic energy," Megamind replied with a smug and devious smirk. "Set it down a safe distance from the wall, take the shot, wait a few seconds, and-" He smiled flirtatiously - as he so often did whenever he had explained his evil plans to her in the past. "-boom," he finished in a villainous whisper.
Roxanne's returned his gaze with a playful roll of her eyes. "Brilliant," she murmured.
The next thing Megamind knew, her arms were encircling his shoulders again and his hands had alighted upon her hips - his fingertips pressing small dents of pressure into the flesh there.
"Yes," he said softly, but with a hint of good-natured arrogance. "I thought so."
The look Roxanne gave him after that made him want to sweep her up and kiss her positively breathless this time. And he probably would have, if he hadn't sensed a sudden presence at his elbow again. He glanced up to see that Wayne had returned. He was holding Owen's cell phone.
Megamind grumbled inwardly at the man's timing.
"Probably don't want to leave this lying around," Wayne said, offering the phone to Megamind. "Not if it really was being used to trigger the explosives remotely."
Megamind and Roxanne drew apart so Megamind could accept the phone. He slid it into the pocket of his trousers. "I'll have some of the brainbots perform a sweep here for the last bomb," he said with a nod. "Then it should all be over."
Roxanne looked from one man to the other, then relinquished her hold on Megamind completely, taking a quick step back. "You know," she said, nibbling at the corner of her bottom lip with mischievous innocence, "I think I'll go tell Minion how glad I am that he's okay." She retreated for a few more steps, glancing deliberately from Megamind to Wayne and back again. Then she smiled, turned on her heel, and trotted off toward the spider-bot.
Megamind watched as she reached the base of the robot. Using the oversized spikes on its legs and Minion's outstretched hand, she climbed up into the cockpit and threw herself joyfully into Minion's robotic arms.
The sight caused a definite smile to tug at the corner of Megamind's lips. Not only because he was relieved to know that the two individuals he cared for most - in this world or any other - were both all right, but also because he realized that Roxanne had purposefully left him all alone with Wayne.
The woman was wickedly devious.
No wonder he loved her.
Right away, however, Megamind's fingers began to fidget. He wasn't sure how comfortable he was with this. But clearly it was something that was important to Roxanne. And if it was important to Roxanne, Megamind would certainly make the effort.
He forcefully cleared his throat.
"Look, I-" Megamind mumbled slightly, then quickly added more volume to his voice. "I wanted to thank you," he said, turning toward the large man beside him. "For what you did for her."
Wayne cocked his head with a subtle look of surprise. His eyebrows raised a bit and he paused for a moment before responding.
"Oh," he replied, crossing his muscled arms over his broad chest. Suddenly his posture didn't seem at all like the usual, heroic stature of the city's former, cocksure defender; it was more introverted, cautious - even a little self-protective.
Curiouser and curiouser, Megamind found himself thinking.
Wayne let out a chuckle. He unwrapped one of his arms and massaged vigorously at the back of his neck. His hand came away with a few more bits of glue and hardened boa plasma. "I never would have let that guy hurt her, you know," he said as he shook the flecks of residue to the floor.
Megamind angled his head inquisitively.
Not "that foul villain" or "that evil fiend" or even "that vile evildoer".
Just simply . . . "that guy".
There was something odd about hearing Metro Man speak without all the grandiose descriptives. It was so strangely . . . normal.
Wayne shrugged self-effacingly. "It really wasn't a big deal," he finally said.
But it was. It was a big deal, and Megamind knew it. Metro Man had made a deliberate choice to leave the public eye a year ago. It was what he had said he'd wanted - his chance to find his true calling and genuine happiness in his life. He had even gone so far as to fake his own death in order to guarantee that he would never again be expected to perform the heroic obligations that he had found to be such a burden: defending the people of Metro City, or participating in the recurring "game" that Megamind, himself, consistently initiated.
But then, without a moment's hesitation, Wayne Scott had chosen to end all that.
All to protect Roxanne.
It was most certainly a very big deal.
In fact - Megamind's mouth curved into a discreet, appreciating smile - it was actually rather heroic.
"I admit, that was a pretty impressive gun," Wayne added after a beat, a chuckle rumbling around inside his chest. "Both of them, actually."
Megamind's grin widened. "Everything I make is impressive," he retorted with a casual brush of his hand. "But what happened today actually wasn't the only thing I was talking about." He turned his head back up toward the man beside him, this time with a more sincere expression.
For a moment, Wayne merely blinked. There was a slightly confused look in his blue eyes.
"That day at Metro Tower," Megamind clarified. "The falling concrete." Then he frowned. "I wouldn't have gotten to her in time," he said. "I owe you for that."
Wayne continued to stare. Then his face broke into a genuine, lopsided grin. "How did you know that was me?" he asked.
Megamind sniffed. "Are you kidding?" he exclaimed. "The angle of decent practically defied the laws of physics. Clearly, it had your goody-two-shoes fingerprints all over it." It didn't take long for Megamind to grow serious again. "Thank you," he said more softly. He turned his head to focus his eyes on Roxanne, in the cockpit of the spider-bot with Minion. "She means . . . so much to me."
Wayne nodded as his eyes traveled in the same direction. "So I've noticed," he mused. Then he focused on Megamind's profile. "She feels the same, you know," he said. "Those days in the coffee shop? We always ended up talking about you."
Megamind had really tried to act unflappable while speaking to his rival, but he couldn't stop a huge smile from spreading across his face at that. It sort of put Owen's photographs into a completely different perspective. As Megamind's silly grin spread even further, he averted his gaze away from Metro Man and down toward his feet.
The two men stood in a strange, companionable silence for a few moments. Then Wayne shifted his attention to the park outside. The rain was stopping, and only intermittent drops were still dribbling steadily from the fractured stone framing the huge hole in the building. Wayne gazed wistfully at the world beyond the broken wall. He sighed.
"They're going to hate me now," he said in a soft voice. He turned his gaze back down to Megamind and smiled sadly. "Aren't they?"
Megamind looked back up at him. He blinked. It was unspeakably surreal to see his rival look so insecure. All their lives, Metro Man had been nothing if not infuriatingly confident. Megamind wasn't sure what to make of this new development. But it was unsettling enough that he felt the need to say . . . something.
"I don't know," he began. "But I wouldn't be so sure. From one formerly loathed public figure to another, I can attest that the citizens of Metrocity are a rather forgiving group of mindless drones."
Wayne shot a small scowl at him, evoking a genuine chuckle from Megamind. It seemed Metro Man was still defending the people of his city.
"Oh, come on," Megamind drawled in response. "I'm just kidding." He waved a hand dismissively through the air. "But you have to admit: there is an ounce of truth to it. I mean, just look at me." He spread his arms out to his sides. "A year ago, I terrorized them and took over their city." He shrugged and let his arms fall. "Now I'm defending it. And they actually like me. Things . . . change." He turned his gaze out into the park. "I have a feeling they won't hold anything against their hero for very long. And the ones who do?" Megamind sniffed. "Who cares?"
Wayne laughed self-depreciatingly. "That's easy for you to say, little buddy."
Megamind shrugged again. "Only because I have more experience being despised than you."
Wayne stiffened at that. His cheeks flushed strangely. "Oh, no," he said. "I really didn't mean it like-"
Megamind raised a hand to interrupt him. "What I'm saying is, I'm the voice of experience here," he retorted with a small grin. Then he shook his head, crossing his arms. "You know what your problem is, Way-en? You've never had anyone dislike you. You're just not used to it."
Wayne snorted. "You always hated me," he pointed out.
Megamind did not stop smiling, but his eyes took on a hint of melancholy. After a beat, he glanced back toward the park. "That isn't true," he said, very quietly. Though with Metro Man's super hearing, it was doubtful he missed it.
After that, the silence stretched out a little long for Megamind's comfort. He was grateful when the man beside him finally broke it.
"So how do you think this is going to work?" Wayne asked.
Megamind cocked his head. "How is what going to work?"
Wayne rolled his large shoulders and scratched at the back of his neck. "Figuring out this whole hero thing," he muttered. "Now that everyone knows I'm still alive."
Megamind narrowed his eyes at him, slightly confused. "What's to figure out?"
Wayne lifted one eyebrow and glanced back at him. "Come on, little buddy," he droned. "I told you, you can't just quit a gig like this. There are going to be . . . expectations." He shrugged again with a look of resignation.
Megamind's nose wrinkled. "Well, I suppose that's up to you, then, isn't it?" he replied. "It seems difficult to envision anyone shoehorning you back into your old tights against your will, though."
Wayne let out a small, huffing laugh, then the corners of his mouth pulled downward. "It's just that . . ." he sighed. "You said yourself: I forced you into this. You know, taking on 'the role I didn't want anymore'." His fingers framed quotes around the words Megamind had spoken earlier, then his arms dropped to his sides. "Trust me, Megamind, I know how it feels to do this for the wrong reasons . . . to think you don't have a choice in the matter."
Megamind's momentary aggravation tempered a bit and he shook his head, re-crossing his arms over his chest. "Look," he began, "we need to get something straight: a year ago, you did force me to deal with Titan. Which, in hindsight, was only right; Titan was my doing. But understand that nothing you said, did, or didn't do that day ever forced me to continue defending the city afterward. I did have a choice." He raised his eyebrows pointedly. "I made it."
Megamind turned his head to where Minion was maintaining his hold on Owen in the clutches of the spider-bot's claw. The young villain was right-side-up again, but still looking queasy and somewhat worse for wear. Megamind jutted his chin slightly in his direction and Wayne's eyes followed.
"Owen was wrong about a lot of things," Megamind said, "but he was especially wrong about what had the biggest influence on my decision to become a hero. He was so focused on the whole chain of events that occurred last year, the growing approval of the people of Metrocity . . ." Megamind's eyes traveled to the other person in the spider-bot's cockpit. ". . . even Roxanne's presence in my life." He shook his head. "He was mistaken to think those were my only reasons."
After a pause, Megamind turned back to Wayne. "As for what I said to you earlier, I only actually meant some of it," he said seriously. "One being: I'm good at defending Metrocity. And you know what else?" He grinned. "I like it." Megamind uncrossed his arms and placed his hands definitively on his hips. "What happened last year, the new public approval, even Roxanne - all of that had an impact, but the real reason I do this is because it's what I want."
Wayne merely looked back at him for a few moments. Then his own smile spread across his face.
Megamind shrugged and crossed his arms again nonchalantly. "So you should do what you want, too," he offered. "It's up to you whether your fringey tights or your old logo play any part in it."
Wayne laughed, shaking his head. "You know what, little buddy?" he replied. "You're a pretty smart guy."
Megamind raised his eyebrow sharply. "If, by that, you mean incredibly handsome and inspiringly brilliant," he retorted dryly, "then, yes, I am."
Wayne rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say, pal," he droned with an upturned curve to his mouth.
After a moment, Wayne's face grew more serious. He tilted his head to one side and regarded Megamind curiously. "Can I ask you something?"
Megamind bobbed his head back and forth. "I suppose."
Wayne's brows knitted together and he fixed Megamind with a sidelong look. "Would it have . . . worked?" he asked.
"Would what have worked?" Megamind replied.
"Whatever it was Roxanne seemed to be so afraid of," Wayne clarified. "Obviously that gun of yours managed to really affect me somehow. I couldn't . . . well, I couldn't do anything." He narrowed his gaze and leaned in closer. "Could you have . . . I don't know . . . actually done it? Finished me off, I mean?"
A significant pause stretched between them, and Megamind simply stood there. Then his lips curled into a devious smile and one eyebrow arched high on his forehead. "You know what?" he answered silkily. "I haven't the slightest idea."
For a second Wayne only blinked back at him. Then he returned Megamind's grin.
"Sir?" Minion called out from the cockpit of the spider-bot as he began to help Roxanne climb back down the side. "We should probably deliver our villain to where he belongs, don't you think?"
"I couldn't agree more, Minion," Megamind replied as he approached the foot of the robot and reached up to lift Roxanne down the rest of the way. He set her on her feet beside him. "I'm sure the Warden is eagerly anticipating making the acquaintance of our friend the Beetle-Bomber," he added, purposely using the name he had coined, as opposed to the one Owen had chosen for himself.
Then Megamind glanced over his shoulder at Wayne. He paused for a moment, uncertain.
"You could . . . accompany us?" he offered with a small hint of hesitation. "If you want, that is."
Wayne's answering smile seemed surprised, even a bit reserved. "I . . . suppose I could do that." He stepped forward to stand beside the spider-bot as well and regarded the young villain in the claw's grip. "Besides," he announced, placing his hands on his hips and adopting a bit more of his familiar, superhero swagger, "I wouldn't want the citizens of our fair city thinking this vile fiend had gotten the better of me."
"Of course not," Megamind agreed. "Everyone needs to know exactly how I came to your rescue in a blaze of glory and gallantry."
Wayne's mouth quirked into an odd smirk at that. But he didn't respond to Megamind. He simply turned to Roxanne. "You know," he said, "that would actually make a great title for a song." He turned out the empty pockets of his jeans as his feet left the ground and he hovered there. "And me without a single scrap of paper!"
Roxanne giggled and, as Minion steered the spider-bot back out into the park, Wayne followed close behind.
Megamind eyed the retreating back of the former hero narrowly. All his life, the man had been an obstacle. An enemy. An opponent. A rival. Megamind might have even considered him a partner, of sorts, in their ongoing game, but he had never seen him as an ally. And certainly not a friend.
Megamind shook his head. No, he and Metro Man had never been friends. But after today . . . this very strange day . . . and everything that had happened . . .
Maybe . . . someday . . . they could be.
Megamind raised an intrigued eyebrow.
Megamind had turned to join them when he felt a slight tug on his arm. Roxanne was holding on to his elbow. "I just need to run back and grab my shoes," she told him. "I've lost enough of those lately."
For the first time Megamind glanced at her feet and noticed that they were bare. Roxanne quickly returned to her cell, snatched up her pumps from the floor by the jungle gym, and hurried back to Megamind's side. She put her hand on his shoulder for support, brushed off the dust clinging to the bottoms of her soles, and slid her feet back into the shoes. Then she quickened her steps to try and catch up with Minion and Wayne.
They had emerged from the old zoo and were walking quickly through the damp, misty air of the park when Megamind reached out and tugged gently on Roxanne's hand, pulling her to a halt. She turned to face him.
"One thing before we join them," Megamind said. He took a slow step toward her and interlaced the fingers of both his hands with hers.
"Yes?" Roxanne asked with an expectant smile.
Megamind glanced down at their hands between them, tracing gentle lines against her skin with his thumbs. "You said you . . . loved me earlier," he said with a slightly bashful grin. He looked up into her eyes. "You meant that?"
For a moment Roxanne continued to smile at him with genuine affection. Then she slowly leaned forward and pressed her soft lips to his, allowing them to linger there.
When she pulled back, Megamind's eyes were still closed. He fluttered them open to take in her beautiful, smiling face. Small, translucent beads of misty rainwater clung to her hair and to her lashes. Occasionally, the tiny droplets glinted like crystal in the dim, early-evening light that was peeking through the dispersing storm clouds.
"Absolutely," Roxanne replied.
Megamind drew his lower lip between his teeth and grinned as his eyes focused on their hands again. "And the other thing you said earlier," he said. "When you vowed to make Owen pay for everything he had done." There was an unmistakable, devilish gleam in his vibrant, green eyes when he looked up at her. "Did you mean that, too?"
Roxanne offered him a sly smile to match. "You bet your life," she answered.
This time, Megamind reached for her and captured her mouth in a deep, serious kiss, twisting her body against his as one hand coiled tightly into her dampening hair. She reciprocated by clinging to the rumpled folds of his torn, wrinkled shirt. Then, even when Megamind released her, he did not permit her to go far. He continued to hold her close, feeling the heavy cadence of her breath upon his face.
"How delightfully evil of you, Ms. Ritchi," he murmured with a wicked smile.
Roxanne arched back slightly to look him in the eyes again. Her lips peeled into a stunning, devious grin. "I learned from the best," she replied.
Megamind continued to smile for another moment, then his features twisted into a small, teasing frown. "And yet you've never screamed like that for me," he pointed out, feigning hurt.
Roxanne's grin, however, never faltered. "Are you kidding?" she replied. "That was for you."
A suave, former supervillain probably would have flashed a flirtatious smile and played along with an equally suave, villainous response. Megamind, however, felt his facial muscles reflexively tighten into a goofy, love-struck grin while a warm flush crept up through his cheeks to the very tips of his ears.
Roxanne always did know how to leave him at a loss for words.
A moment later, her eyes softened and her voice quieted. She reached up to stroke her thumb down the side of his face. "I knew you would come through today, you know," she said, a calm certainty in her voice. "I knew you would."
Megamind's silly smile tempered into something more meaningful. "Yes, well," he replied with a slight shrug, "someone has to keep an eye on Roxanne Ritchi."
Roxanne leaned forward until her forehead once again touched his. "My hero," she murmured softly.
After a beat, Megamind tipped his head back and looked up at the sky. There was still a touch of dampness in the air, but the clouds above them were starting to break apart, allowing mottled patches of indigo-blue to peek through. As the sun dipped below the horizon, it painted the clouds that clung to the edge of the tree line with a fiery, orange glow. Megamind straightened his neck and looked back at Roxanne.
"It looks like the rain has finally stopped," he observed.
Roxanne smiled and stepped out of their embrace. She tugged gently on his hand.
"Then come on, hero," she said. "Let's go."
Acknowledgements: To raywing who has been helping with this story since day one, I couldn't be more grateful for all your help, your support, and your advice. You've helped to make this story even better than I imagined!
To Dani Kin whose sympathetic ear, constructive criticism, cheerleading, and (most importantly) friendship meant so much during this process. I raise a glass of Maiolatesi wine to you, my dear!
To Cyrrus25, who reached into my head and gifted me with a truly magnificent, spot-on picture of "Fire Bug". It went so far beyond my wildest expectations.
To MassivelyMinute whose brilliant interpretation of the end of Chapter 12 completely blew me away. (Mental and emotional whiplash, my dear! Without doubt!)
And to those who have consistently offered their thoughts on his story - especially those at the Megamind_Movie LJ community and at FF.N. Some of you have commented, without fail, for every single chapter, and I can't even begin to express what that has meant to me. Every question, every comment, every gasp of horror or motivational cheer - nothing has been more encouraging. I've been blessed to have so many wonderful people involved with this story. You've all made it so worth it!