Here we are again! Hallows' Eve. This was going to be two separate stories, Hallows' Eve and Moral Obligations, but after thinking it over I decided it would work better if the two were just one longer story. Oh, speaking of which, this is the sequel to Cold Fusion: True North. If you're new, you can definitely read this without having read the other two, but this one makes some references to things that happened in the previous fics.
The sounds of Jupiter are truly beautiful. And also very slightly creepy. Good ambient noise for writing. www .youtube .com /watch ?v= e3fqE01YYWs
From an editing standpoint, this is the first thing that I've written parts of using voice recognition software. I apologize for any misspelled words or misused homonyms. I've tried to catch everything, but I probably missed one or two errors. Please bear with me!
I also apologize for the bad translations. I am fluent in English and proficient in Spanish, but Google Translate could only go so far with the other ones. If you're multilingual and can provide corrections, please, PM me or review with the correct translations!
I say this every time, I know, but updates may be slower than the last couple fics. I'm probably going to do the normal "upload chapters as I finish them" thing with this one. Now that school has started again, I don't have as much free time to write, and I don't think Cold Fusion or True North would have turned out as well as they did without reviewers' influence – otherwise I'd just finish the whole darn thing and upload a chapter a day. This is the earliest in my writing process that I've started uploading a fic, so I'm a little bit nervous… (^-^ ;)
I own nothing! Please don't sue me!
Roxanne looks curiously at Megamind as she fastens her coat. She's seen him in normal clothing before, but it never fails to catch her attention – there's always a sort of wait a minute double-take, and sometimes she wonders if she'll ever really stop being surprised. "Why don't you ever wear turtlenecks?"
He blinks up at her, long fingers skipping up the line of buttons on his grey sweater. "I can't."
"But they'd keep your neck so much warmer," Roxanne points out. "You wouldn't have to wear scarves all the time." Megamind has a startlingly extensive scarf collection. Roxanne has to admit that he wears them well, but still – it's just one more thing to get tangled up in whatever project he's working on, if he's working outside.
"True," he agrees, nodding, and reaches for the small white bottle sitting on top of that morning's untouched newspaper. Sideways-slanting morning sunlight catches his glass as he bolts a pill down with some water. "But I like scarves," he continues with a gasp as soon as the glass leaves his lips. Roxanne shakes her head at him. Breathe, Megamind. She sometimes thinks he wouldn't, if he didn't have to. "I might like turtlenecks too, but I've never worn one."
Megamind looks at her then, deep amusement warring with chagrin on his features. "Roxanne, I can't get them over my head." Roxanne makes a face, and he laughs. "Do you really not notice?"
She shrugs, laughing a little bit as well. "I really don't. I guess I tend to assume that your eccentricities are because you're weird. Not because you're an alien."
He raises his eyebrows, a playful grin dancing around the corners of his mouth. "Maybe I'm weird because I'm an alien."
Roxanne pauses, looks at him, pretends to consider that for a moment. "No," she says eventually, "no, you're just weird."
He chuckles, shaking his head. "Okay."
"So which scarf for today?" Roxanne wants to know. He's wearing black jeans and his sweater is grey over a black shirt, and the October air is chilly (high of 60, low of 41 according to Stan the weatherman) so she's guessing either grey or black knit.
She's partly right. "I don't think you've seen this one before," he says, grinning as he pulls it out of a bag. Roxanne bites her lip to keep from laughing. It is knit, wide, and striped black and orange. The ends are solid black and have large, lopsided orange jack-o-lanterns knitted into them, and the fringe of orange balls is very slightly ridiculous.
"I know," Megamind says with a crooked smile, looping it twice around his neck. It dangles to his knees, and the orange makes his skin look very blue. Roxanne's lips twitch. "But it's warm, and I like it."
"No, no, it's adorable," Roxanne assures him, tweaking it a little so that it hangs straight. She fiddles with the collar of his shirt, flattens her hands on his thin chest. "Where on Earth did you get it?"
"Uncle Mitch made it for me when I was nine. We," he says, and grins a little at the memory, "Minion and I, we had to wear something Halloween-related for class. I had sort of resigned myself to failing that particular assignment, but then Halloween came and the CO came by my cell with a package from Uncle Mitch. He'd been absent from exercise for two days, staying in his cell and knitting this." His eyes are distant, and he's smiling unconsciously as he rubs the material between his fingers. "It was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen, and I loved it on sight."
It's one of the few times Roxanne has heard him talk about anything specific from his childhood, and the first that she's seen him do it with anything resembling nostalgia.
"I like it," she decides, and he looks back up at her. "Uncle Mitch sounds like a good guy."
Megamind snorts. "You'd never think it to look at him," he tells her. "Big, bald, one-eyed. Scarred. Tattoos everywhere. He's in on a triple-murder charge, first-degree. He pled guilty, so he's just in for life instead of being on death row."
"And he knitted you a Halloween scarf so that you would have something to wear to school." Roxanne shakes her head. "Amazing."
"People can surprise you like that," he says, and she grins up at him, kisses him quickly.
They walk north down Main Street hand-in-hand. Megamind's new disguise is pale and thin and dark-haired, with high cheekbones, and he's been wearing it often enough that people are starting to recognize him – he catches eyes and nods recognition, and waves when someone calls, "'Ey, Pavel!"
Roxanne told him playfully that humans don't get to pick their first names and neither should he, but Megamind had refused point-blank to be called William ("That's what you get for pulling Shakespeare on me," Roxanne had said), and so the name on his driver's license is William Pavel Chudakov, Ph.D., and he uses his middle name for everything. Roxanne tells him precious little about the person whose face he's wearing, but admits that she obtained the scans overseas, and assures him that anybody who actually recognizes him is not going to want to draw attention to them. Megamind doesn't press her for information. He doesn't care, really; all he wants is to be able to go places with her, and W. Pavel Chudakov makes that possible. Megamind has been making up Chudakov's backstory as he goes along. It's almost fun, in a way.
"Look, look at that one!" Roxanne points at a fake corpse propped in a doorway, tongue lolling and eyes bulging.
Megamind hums appreciatively. "Now that's just gross."
Metro City is large, but the people who live there get behind Halloween with the joyfully morbid vigor that is usually endemic to small, out-of-the way towns. Skeletons dangle in shop windows, and straw men swing creakily from street lights. Some are little more than scarecrows, while others are frighteningly realistic. Jack o' lanterns are everywhere, most of them plastic or metal, but Roxanne notices a few grinning vegetables that haven't been smashed.
"Why do people try?" Megamind asks as they approach one of these. "I mean, it's a nice idea, but we're on the main drag, here. There's no way those are going to survive the night. Half of them probably won't even survive the day."
Roxanne laughs. "The people who made them are new in town." At Megamind's dubious expression, she insists, "No, really. I bet they're new." There are a few pumpkin-carving daredevils scattered throughout Metro City – Roxanne knows of one brick row home on Chestnut Street with a porch that houses up to ten glowing vegetables every year. They're destroyed on a fairly regular basis, but there's always a new one to take the squished one's place. Roxanne can only guess where the owners get such an unlimited supply of pumpkins.
But the Chestnut Street house is the exception to the rule: real pumpkins are almost always put out by people who haven't spent Halloween in Metro City before. That rule is so well-known that three of the doors Roxanne and Megamind walk past have 'Welcome to Metro City' fliers swinging from the door handles above the jack o' lanterns, and she points those out as they walk East towards the harbor and the lair.
The lair is on the outskirts of town, easily a four or five mile walk from Roxanne's apartment. Normally, she and Megamind would simply order a cab if they didn't have the invisible car, but today is Halloween and it was Megamind's idea that they walk and see the sights, "before the night's revelry destroys everything of interest." Roxanne has no problem with walking. It's Sunday, and she isn't going in to work this weekend come hell or high water. And she didn't go in on Saturday, either; this is the first Halloween weekend she hasn't worked in five years, and she figures the news station owes her that much.
She hooks her arm through Megamind's and leans on him for a few steps, shoving him to the side a little so that he stumbles and laughs, then looks at her with dancing eyes and shoves her back.
It was disconcerting for a while to see his eyes shining out of such a human face, but she's grown more or less used to it over the past few months. And although the charade still makes Roxanne a little uncomfortable, Megamind truly does not seem to care one way or the other whether or not he has to wear a disguise, so Roxanne has finally decided to just go along with it and bite her tongue and not worry about it. Megamind actually seems more comfortable this way – the few times she has seen him wearing his true face at public functions, he has been jumpy and stiff, over-confident, and overly careful that no one sees his hands shake.
Roxanne sees, but only because she's looking.
But today, the air is comfortably nippy, people are smiling, and it's Halloween. Megamind inhales deeply. "Ahh, excitement," he says happily, and glances at Roxanne. "Can you smell it? Surely even you can smell that."
She sniffs. "I smell something," she admits. Halloween has always had a smell. She isn't sure if it's excitement or rotting pumpkin, but it's always there and it's always the same. "How can you smell it? Didn't you take your caffeine earlier?"
He shrugs. "I did. But some things still get through, if they're strong enough. Everyone reeks of it, but I'm only getting bits and pieces – it's great. You know this is the first time I've been able to go out on a major holiday and not feel drunk or nauseated after fifteen minutes?"
Roxanne laughs. "You've never been drunk in your life."
"I've smelled drunken humans. That's the same thing." He wrinkles his nose. "Humans are gross."
"Racist," she says, but she knows he's joking, and she's rewarded with a gentle jab in her side from a very sharp elbow.
"Xenophile," he replies. Then he frowns a little. "There's something else, too, I think, but I can't put my finger on it. It's got to be strong if it's getting through to me even after your brother's pill." He sniffs again, shakes his head. "You really can't smell it?" He peers hopefully at Roxanne. "Anything?"
She breathes in, the cold air freezing her nose and chilling the back of her throat, and shakes her head. "Nope," she says with a shrug. "Nothing."
He shakes his head again, his expression wondering. "Amazing."
The decorations and lights peter out a bit when they reach the rows of warehouses near the harbor, but by that point the sun is higher in the sky and Roxanne has shed her coat and draped it over her arm. The plan is for them to stop into the lair for a quick lunch before heading out again, north, to the outskirts of the city and residential neighborhoods.
Minion greets them at the door in a truly spectacular eight-foot headless horseman costume. The gorilla body is wearing a high-collared shirt and bow-tie under a waistcoat and tweed jacket, but the dome is missing, and Minion's bowl is tucked under one arm. Roxanne jumps, then laughs.
The music echoing throughout the lair makes the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. "What am I listening to?" she asks, glancing around for the source of the noise as she follows a chortling Minion into the lair. It's eerie, centered around a single-tone and quavering up and down endlessly. It is a vast, lonely sound, sad and ancient.
Megamind steps inside, looks around, listens for a moment, and then his face lights up with recognition and he half-dances further into the lair, spinning around with his arms out. Minion grins. "Live transmission from Jupiter," he says. He sounds very proud of himself. Megamind makes a happy wheeeeee-ing sound under his breath. "Magnetic particle vibrations."
Megamind shuts his eyes and grins broadly, revolving in slow, tight circles with his head on one side. He looks utterly content, like a cat lying in the sun. "I love the noise from Jupiter. It makes my bones tingle."
Roxanne shudders, but neither of them notices. She's glad. The creepy noise makes her skin crawl, a little bit, but Megamind and Minion both look genuinely happy, and crawly skin is a small price to pay.
Minion chuckles. "As far as planetary noises go, Jupiter's are pretty. Neptune's are a little too high-pitched for my taste."
"Anything's better than the panic sirens," Megamind murmurs, still with his little smile in place, still revolving. Then he stops abruptly and mock-glares at Roxanne. "Speaking of which, I am going to destroy your alarm clock."
"I like that clock!" Roxanne protests. "You have no idea how long it's taken me to find an alarm that actually wakes me up."
Megamind holds up a hand to stave off her protest. "I will personally come to your apartment every morning and drag you out of bed if it means never having to hear that clock again. It gave me a panic attack this morning. Again. Your clock didn't wake you up," he says, pointing at her, "I did."
Roxanne throws up her hands. She usually remembers to turn her alarm off on the rare occasions that Megamind sleeps over at her place instead of the other way around, but she had forgotten last night, and this morning she had woken up to a frightened squawk from her boyfriend just before he had flung his long body across hers, pressing her into the mattress while he'd covered the back of his head with both hands. "Why?" she demands. "Just what is so weird about my clock? I thought you'd be used to it by now!"
He folds his arms over his chest and cocks his hips. It's funny, Roxanne thinks vaguely, that that's how she knows he's actually sort of serious. "It sounds like a panic siren."
"A panic siren? What's a panic—"
Minion sighs. "One of the emergency klaxons on our homeworld."
Roxanne stares at him. "It's a what?"
Minion just blinks at her sheepishly. "The only way I was able to sleep in your apartment back in July was to set the suit to generate a conflicting frequency so that I wouldn't hear the alarm. It was, um." He shuffles his feet and grimaces. "Distressing."
Roxanne turns an incredulous stare towards Megamind, who shrugs. "I told you that first morning I'd build you a new alarm clock," he begins, but Roxanne stops him.
"Wait, now, just wait a minute." She blinks at him. "Your initial reaction to an emergency siren heralding the end of the world is to shield me?"
He blinks, his gaze darting nervously from side to side. "I would have said my initial reaction was to scream like a little girl, but your way sounds much better. I'll go with that, yes."
Roxanne tilts her head. He's trying to distract her, and she knows it. "That's…really sweet, actually." Megamind flushes a deep rose-purple. "Thank you."
Minion rolls his eyes and starts to clank away. "I'll be in the kitchen when you two have finished being all cute."
"So, how were the decorations this year?" Minion asks. Because he does most of the driving around, he has acquired a better understanding than Megamind has of what Halloween decorations in Metro City tend to look like. "Are there ghosts hanging from street lights again?"
Roxanne shakes her head. "No, this year it's mostly straw men."
"There were a few corpses," Megamind offers as he enters the kitchen. He had hung back to listen to Jupiter for a little longer, but he hates being left out when Roxanne and Minion start talking. Roxanne isn't sure, but she thinks it might be because he's still amused that they get along so well. "I quite liked the one outside that rubber modeling place."
Roxanne smiles wistfully. "My family used to buy all our Halloween decorations from that shop," she remembers. "And then one year, Dad dressed up as one of the Rotting Men #3 – we had one that we always put out on the porch to scare trick-or-treaters – and held really still on one of the porch chairs."
"Until the kids rang the bell, right?" Minion laughs.
Roxanne nods, grinning at the memory. "I think one of them nearly wet himself. I thought it was pretty funny."
Megamind scowls. "Children are evil," he complains. "All of them have such a thing about public humiliation."
"You were pretty evil as a child, I seem to recall," Minion points out. "No disguises at the table, Sir. And take off your gloves." He says nothing about the scarf when Megamind's human overlay disappears, but his eye lingers for a moment and he smiles.
"Yes, well, I had a reason," Megamind says loftily, shedding his gloves and sitting on them.
Minion raises an eyebrow. "You made the school psychologist cry."
"I merely beat him at his own game." Megamind sniffs, then smiles excitedly at the pot on the stove. "Soup?" he says. "You made soup? Minion, you shouldn't have."
"Oh, I've already eaten, Sir," Minions says, waving a hand. He rarely does anything with soup; if it isn't frozen, it's more trouble than it's worth to him to eat it. "Besides, it's easy, and you'll want to be on your way."
"You should come with us," Roxanne tells him. "Honestly, we'd love to have you. It isn't as though we're doing anything particularly private. We're just wandering around and looking at the sights."
Minion waves at her again. "No, that's all right," he replies. "I'm really fine right here. I have some things I need to take care of. You two go and have fun."
Roxanne had been worried, initially, that Minion would begin to resent her for taking up more of Megamind's time than he was used to. But, to her surprise, it's actually been fairly easy for both of them to adjust to the changes. According to Megamind, Minion has actually been enjoying some of the time off. Roxanne can well believe that taking care of Megamind has been a full-time job over the years—she isn't sure how Minion has managed it. But she suspects that, after having no one around but each other to talk to for so many years, they're both glad of the company. She knows she would be.
It's surprising to her, sometimes, that she and Megamind have been dating now for several months—sometimes it feels much longer, and sometimes it feels like they only started yesterday. Megamind has had no more problems with worrying that she'll leave him since the 3-D projector incident, at least not that he's mentioned to Roxanne or that she's noticed. But there's a notebook on his bedside table. Usually he keeps it in the shallow drawer, but a few days ago it had been lying open on the nightstand and Roxanne had glanced at it.
Alto. No te dejará.
Stop. Sie wird dich nicht verlassen.
Stop. Elle ne vous laissera pas.
Stop that. She's not going to leave you.
Állj. Ő nem hagy téged.
Stop that. She's not going to leave you.
Stop. Sie wird dich nicht verlassen.
Стоп. Она не оставит вас.
Stop. Ni fydd hi'n gadael i chi.
Over and over and over again, in different inks and different languages, some of them crammed two in a line and scribbled in the margins, front and back. It goes on for pages. One had been covered entirely in an alphabet that looked like nothing so much as what might happen if a spider ran through ink and then tap-danced drunkenly across a piece of paper.
But that's the only indication she's had that he still has any doubts. And if that's the only indication…well, maybe she can do something about it today while they're walking. He mentioned once, ages ago, that he just couldn't understand why she wants him of all people, and Roxanne thinks that maybe all she needs to do is help him understand the why. Megamind isn't one to accept as fact something that doesn't make sense to him. It goes against his nature.
And this is going to take a while to drill into him. Years of social conditioning won't be erased by a few months' reassurance. But she knows he's working on it.
Still, she thinks she might be able to help with it, at least a little bit. Maybe if Megamind knew the reason she'd been single for almost a decade, maybe that would help. Roxanne isn't particularly anxious to talk about her past romances—such as they were—but if it would help, then…well, maybe.
She really wishes she could get some third-party input, some way to have somebody else let Megamind know that she has, in fact, found him attractive for quite a while. Longer than just the past few months. She hadn't wanted to admit it, ever, and she'd been worried about the whole 'bonding with your kidnapper' thing, so she can't really remember if she ever had admitted it to anyone. She could tell him, herself, but it's something that would mean more coming from somebody else. I've actually been attracted to you for years is one thing. Oh, yeah, she told me a couple years ago that she thought you were hot is something completely different.
Well, she can tell him about Peter and Chad, at least. Maybe that'll help.
Megamind holds the door for Roxanne when they leave again, bundled up and, in his case, disguised. She glances at him and smiles, tucks a black-gloved hand around his upper arm. It had surprised him when she started doing that – Roxanne is not a clingy person – but he kind of likes the feeling of having her on his arm. Holding hands is nice, but there's something vaguely high-society and fancy about walking arm-in-arm with her. He isn't quite sure why he makes that connection, but there it is.
They walk in silence for a little while. Megamind looks out at the lake, its water green and very cold and almost smooth as glass. Soon, tonight probably, there will be snow.
"Megamind." Roxanne's tone tells him she has something on her mind, and he looks at her. She's gazing straight ahead, frowning a little bit. "Has Jo told you about a man named Chad? No? Peter?"
Megamind shakes his head. "No, she hasn't said anything."
Roxanne purses her lips. "Figures. I've dated a bunch of people casually – you know, the one-night sorts of things, where one party promises to call and never does, or it's obvious after the first half hour that we're not compatible?"
Megamind hesitates. "I can't say that I do know, no."
She glances at him, then looks back at the road in front of them. "Right. Well, Peter and Chad were my two really long-term boyfriends." She pauses. "I think you should know about them. Like I said, I've dated a bunch of people – but nobody after Chad. I think you should probably understand why."
Megamind blinks in surprise – deep conversations out of the blue are not really Roxanne's style; she prefers to let things happen and explain as they go along – but nods. "All right," he says, "fire away."
Roxanne takes a deep breath. "I'll start at the beginning, with Peter. I dated him for three years, from the beginning of my third year of high school up through the end of my first year of college. He's still around here, somewhere – came to Metro University to study law. He actually did some work for me, a few years ago. He's an attorney at one of the firms here.
"Peter…Peter was great. He was a good man, with a good heart, and I loved him." Roxanne says this as fact, without any apparent defensiveness or hidden motive. "He was career-oriented, dedicated, sensitive – he could talk motorcycles with my father and crossword puzzles with my mother, and he and Drew always got along okay. Everyone thought we'd get married, have a house with a yard and a dog and the average two point six children. Everyone," Roxanne stresses, glancing at Megamind. "Including me."
Megamind shakes his head and makes a mental note to learn more about motorcycles. "So what happened? Why did he leave you?"
Roxanne laughs. "Oh, he didn't leave me. I left him. Mother nearly had a fit when I called and told her."
"I don't understand," Megamind says, bewildered and still shaking his head. "You just said you thought you'd marry him. Besides, he sounds perfect for you."
"He was. He just wasn't right for me." Her voice takes on a frustrated tone as she speaks. "He went along with what I wanted every time. Every time. He never disagreed or objected. He always admitted he was wrong, always apologized first. He never let me apologize. I was always the one who started arguments, and he was always the one who apologized. Hell," she exclaims, really scowling now, "what arguments? We never argued! If I had a problem and said something, he would say, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that bothered you,' or, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I'll try to remember that in the future.' Even in bed, it was always all about me. He let me do whatever I wanted. It was downright scary."
She lapses into irritated silence. Megamind blinks, thinks about this. What Roxanne just described sounded…well, it sounded pretty much like a profile of the ideal guy. "I still don't follow."
Roxanne sighs. "Relationships are give and take. All Peter ever did was give."
Aha. Now her point is perfectly clear. "He made you feel selfish."
Roxanne looks at him, eyebrows raised. "I didn't have to tell you that," she says in surprise. "I had to explain it to pretty much everyone else."
Megamind shakes his head. His social skills aren't much, but 'give and take' is just math. Like an algebraic equation, it has to stay balanced. And Megamind is good at math. "No, it makes sense. If he wouldn't let you give anything back, then you were always taking."
She nods. "And I was always second-guessing everything, wondering if he was saying 'okay' because he wanted to, or because he thought I wanted him to." She scowls. "It was awful. Anyway, I dated a few other guys in college—Michael was okay, I guess, until he went and cheated on me, and Nick turned out to be gay, that was a fun conversation—but everyone I found was either super-quiet or just content to sit back and let me do my own thing. I was being safe, sticking to the 'type' I knew, but that type just didn't…well, it was Peter all over again, to varying degrees. I met Chad just after I graduated, after I landed my first job with the news station. And Chad was wildly different. He was everything Peter hadn't been. He'd fight with me. Challenge me. He took. After Peter, I thought Chad was great. Finally, my chance to give something back!" She laughs bitterly. "I was an idiot."
Megamind blinks. "I missed something, I think. Why…?"
"He turned out to be a total jerk," Roxanne says flatly. "I was with him for almost two years. Incidentally, the second of those was the first year you spent kidnapping me. After that…" she pauses for a moment, and Megamind gets the feeling that she's skipping over something, but he figures she has her reasons so he doesn't comment. "Well, after that, the paper ran that piece about how Metro Man and I were dating, and that was that. Nobody wanted anything to do with me – nobody wanted to cross Metro Man – and I was pretty disillusioned with the whole 'love' thing anyway. I decided to take some time off from dating." She spreads her hands. "I mean, I'm an independent person! I was perfectly happy on my own. I didn't need anybody else. I didn't want anybody else. I had the perfect life – a job I loved, entertainment and excitement on a pretty much weekly basis—"
"I object to being called 'entertainment.'"
"—Shut up, if you can call me a tumor then I can call you entertainment – recognition from the people of Metro City, my very own personal cameraman, and I was living debt-free except for rent. I truly did not want anybody else. I saw no reason to go cluttering my perfect life up with a boyfriend." She comes to the end of her brief rant and sighs. Her voice softens a little. "And then I met you."
Megamind blinks again, says nothing.
"And you were just, pff, well," she sketches an incoherent gesture with her free hand, "awesome. And certainly very striking, looks-wise. And I mean, I had already met you, okay, but I hadn't really gotten to know you. I knew you weren't going to hurt me, I knew I was safe with you, but I never really questioned whether you were evil or not until I met Bernard. Well. You as Bernard."
"How is he?" Megamind asks suddenly. "I've been avoiding him."
Roxanne grimaces. "That's probably wise. He isn't feeling very friendly towards you at the moment. Regardless…"
"Yes. I interrupted. Continue."
"That time that I fell? Your brainbots caught me, and I know it was because you had told them to." She glances to the side; the tops of Megamind's ears are turning bright pink, and her hand around his bicep tightens. "I know how their programming works. At that point, they wouldn't have bothered with me on their own, so they must have been following orders. You saved my life."
"I saved your life once," he points out. She's giving him too much credit. "Metro Man saved your life countless times."
"I'm going to disagree with you on that one," Roxanne says thoughtfully. "You can't really save something that isn't actually in danger, can you?"
"Isn't actually in danger?" he echoes, incredulous, and starts ticking things off on his fingers. "Alligators, flame-throwers, the Bootwheel of Death—"
"Brainbots swooping in to catch me if I fell? Knots that never once pulled loose? And, Megamind – you thought I didn't notice, but I did." Her mouth curls into a smile that Megamind swears is positively evil, and he would know. "You set the clocks back. Twice. Yeah, I was in some real danger."
He huffs, but can't help but smile a little. "Five times."
"I reset the countdown for your detonators five times." He shrugs, trying to look unruffled. "As long as we're counting, I thought you should know."
She laughs and leans against him. They're entering the residential areas to the north of town, row homes and duplexes that are more heavily decorated than the shop windows and apartment buildings. "Regardless. I noticed. I never doubted that you were evil, but I did know that you weren't going to hurt me. Do you know why I'm telling you all of this?"
Megamind shakes his head. "I haven't the faintest idea." But I'm not going to complain.
"It's because I want you to know that I know what perfect looks like. I don't want perfect. I want someone who will fight me, argue with me, frown sometimes and tell me what he does and does not want—someone who treats me like an equal. Pavel—" She pauses, makes a face, lowers her voice. "Megamind, you are smarter than I will ever be, but you don't talk down to me."
He grins. "Not usually."
"Not usually," she agrees, laughing. "But you don't, you really don't. I don't have to worry that you're not telling me something, I don't have to worry that if we're fighting you'll haul off and slap me. My point, my funny blue friend, is that you are the best thing that's ever happened to me." She pulls away from him, and pushes her hands into the pockets of her coat, embarrassed. "Anyway. I just thought you should know that."
When he says nothing, she glances to the side. The way he's looking at her – marveling and fond and just totally smitten – makes her heart turn over, a little bit. "And," she says, before he can say anything, "you're probably wondering why I brought that up, and in the interest of relieving my conscience, I want to tell you that you left your notebook lying open this morning." Megamind freezes, and Roxanne winces apologetically. "I'm sorry."
Mortified, he covers his eyes with a hand. "You must think I'm a total dork," he mutters.
Roxanne smiles and pulls his hand away, twines their fingers together. "You are a dork," she says, "but not because of that. Can I ask what it's all about?"
Megamind grimaces. "It's…it builds neural pathways. If I start to have doubts, I remind myself. That's all. You weren't supposed to see."
He really wishes she'd let the subject drop, but Roxanne is quiet for a moment and then says, "I just want to make sure we don't have a communication problem, that's all," and that makes Megamind's stomach turn over.
"No!" he exclaims, more quickly and more loudly than he had meant to, and he's dimly aware that he's starting to freak out and that that is stupid, but he can't seem to help it. "No, there's no problem, I promise. I do. It's just, I can handle it. On my own. You don't need to worry, Roxanne, really, I'm fine. We," he says, wishing he could just shut up, "are fine. Aren't we? I thought we were—"
Roxanne steps into the relative shade of a half-naked tree and drags him around to face her, her free hand curling around his jaw to hold him steady as she kisses him, long and slow. His heart hammers against his ribcage, panicked and fluttery; after a moment, Roxanne lets go of his chin and slides the hand around to the back of his head. She tugs her other hand out of his grip and presses it into the middle of his back, holding him against her.
"Hush," she says softly when Megamind finally comes up for air, and touches his face, rubs a thumb over his cheek. "We are fine. Don't worry." She raises her eyebrows a little. "Didn't you hear anything I just said?"
Communicate, he thinks at himself, and get a grip. My god, haven't I made any progress at all? It's been months. And he has made progress, he's made a lot of progress. Irritated with himself for flying into such a panic, he says, "You implied that I was right for you."
Roxanne blinks, and some humor finds its way into her expression. "I did only imply, didn't I? I'm sorry, sometimes I still forget that you need to be told."
And if that isn't condescending, Megamind doesn't know what is. But it's also true, and he knows she didn't mean it the way it sounded, so he just bites his tongue and nods. Roxanne sighs, and they start walking again. "Give me a minute," she says, "I'm not good at this. You're the one who always knows exactly what to say at the drop of a hat."
That makes him blink. I am? he thinks. He isn't sure where she got that impression, but he knows better than to interrupt when Roxanne is wearing her Thinking Face, so he focuses instead on the few orange leaves that still cling to the maple trees lining the road and the small children who are out and about with their parents. Some of the children are already in their costumes, trying to get the proverbial bit between their teeth, begging for Mom or Dad to let them go trick-or-treating already, come on.
After a few minutes, Roxanne bites her lip and nods. "Okay, I think I've got it. Somehow, through some random, hilarious stroke of irony, I have found everything I wasn't looking for but could ever want in you. I can be completely at ease with you. I don't have to worry constantly that I'm doing something you don't like and you're just too polite or…or gracious to tell me. And I don't have to worry that you'll come storming home after a bad day and hit me." She takes his hand again. "I can talk to you about anything. You're my friend, and that's the important thing. And as long as you feel the same way, we're fine."
He swallows. "I do," he says. "Feel the same way, I mean. And I am getting better about not worrying, I swear."
Roxanne nods. "Good, that's good. And if you don't want to talk about it, that's completely okay. As long as you know you can talk to me about it if you do want to. That's all I meant." She frowns a little bit, sniffing in the cold air. "'Communication problem' probably wasn't the best choice of words, there."
He laughs at that. "Probably not," he agrees, and changes the subject. He knows of one thing that is sure to distract Roxanne from pretty much any line of thinking. "How's your mother?"