Epilogue

Ruth has been having a rough day. Two of her best volunteers had quit because they had found full-time jobs, and then there had been that giant spill, and the coffeepot had broken down yet again and had needed to be repaired…and now, on top of everything else, she's been going over the donation numbers and they just aren't working out. Someone has been skimming off the top. She doesn't know who it is and she doesn't know how to find out, and she's honestly not sure if he even cares anymore because at this rate there's no way she'll be able to stay open.

She looks away from the line of tiny numbers and pushes her glasses up onto her forehead so that she can massage her aching eyes. "God, I need a miracle."

"Uh, hey. Knock knock?"

Ruth looks up. And up. And up. Then she blinks a few times, just to make sure her eyes aren't playing tricks on her.

No, there really is a man the size of a house standing in the doorway, and he looks uncomfortable. "I was, uh, I was just walking past and…and I saw your sign. Help wanted?"

Ruth glances at the ceiling and sends up a quiet thank you. "You want to volunteer? Here?"

The big man nods.

"Here, at this kitchen?" She points at the floor as if that will make her question clearer.

"That's right."

Ruth rubs her eyes again. They've been bothering her more and more lately and the headaches are getting worse, but it's not like she can afford new glasses. "I appreciate the offer, son, I really do, but I'll level with you – I dunno how much longer we'll be open. You'd do better to go to one of the bigger kitchens."

To her surprise, the big man shakes his head. "They don't need me. You do." He fishes something rectangular and black out of his jacket pocket. Follows that with a pen.

Ruth's heart flutters. No, she thinks. He isn't.

But he is. "To whom do I make checks payable?"

This is too good to be true. "Helping Hands Community Kitchen. Sorry, did you want to donate or volunteer?"

Big-and-Tall leans down on the desk to write out the check, glances up at her with twinkling hazel eyes. His arms are huge. "Can't I do both?"

"I—of course, that'd be…oh sweet Jesus," she exclaims, staring at the number on the check. That's a lot of zeros, she thinks dizzily.

She looks up at the big man. "What'd you say your name was?"

"I didn't. It's Ben."

Ruth glances down at the check, crisp and clean in her crabbed fingers, then frowns. The signature is very spiky, and looks a bit like…no. She swallows a question, ignores the million conspiracy theories dancing through her head. Who cares what the signature looks like it might say? It's a big number. "Ben…?"

"Just Ben."

Ruth nods, pulls open the drawer of her desk and slips the check inside, then takes out a volunteer form. "Good to have you on board, Just-Ben. Let's talk hours." She leans forward, squinting up at him—the way he's standing, his head is blocking the overhead light. Ruth's glaucoma gives him a dazzling halo. "We're open nine to six, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. What hours can you work?"

That gets a smile. Crooked and snaggletoothed, but it's wide and friendly. "All of them."

Ruth stares. If Ben is serious, maybe she'll finally be able to take a day off once in a while. "All…?"

"All of them," Ben says again, firmly. "If it gets to be too much for me, I'll let you know. Write it down."

Ruth shakes her head but obediently pens in, MTWThF open/close. "Ben," she says seriously, "you are my new best friend."

Ben chuckles. "Yeah, well. Heard you needed a miracle, so I figured I'd stop by."

Ruth laughs. The shadow of stress that's been hanging over her head for the past six months has lifted; right now, she's pretty sure she could fly. "You're a hero. I swear."

"No, I'm really not. Not a hero." Ben shakes his head. "Just a guy with too much money trying to do something good with it for a change."

Ruth stands and claps him on the back. "Sometimes that's all it takes." She limps over to the door and pulls her cane out of the umbrella stand. "C'mon, Superman, I'll show you how to work the coffee maker without breaking it."

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0

Roxanne's first morning as a resident of the Lair is nowhere near as quiet as her final morning in her apartment had been.

vvoooOOOEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE—

"Waargh!" Roxanne shrieks and bolts upright, staring desperately around for the source of the noise until her gaze falls on Megamind. He's standing by the bed and holding a small, round machine with a crank on the side, and he's cranking away on it with a broad grin on his face. The little machine is wailing with a noise that would raise the dead.

Swearing, Roxanne lunges for him, but she gets tangled in the sheets as Megamind dances away, cackling madly and holding the air raid siren out of her reach. He sticks his tongue out at her just before he leaps into the bathroom and slams the door, then calls out, "Yeah, see how you like waking up to the end of the world!" A moment later, she hears the shower start running.

Roxanne is still clutching the sheets to her heaving chest. "I'm gonna kill you," she finally manages to growl, and staggers into the bathroom after him.