Author's notes: Normally, Roxanne is very firm in her beliefs that one should not judge a book by its cover, but even sophisticated, well-adjusted adults sometimes turn into insecure basket cases when they are thrust into a stressful situation with their parents.
In retrospect, Megamind could see that the whole Bernard thing was still kind of a sore spot that hadn't quite healed. Not enough time had passed for them to laugh about it, apparently. It was too bad he didn't have this realization until after he'd gone to Roxanne's with the holo-watch strapped to his wrist, once again projecting Bernard's features over his own. He was going out in disguise more and more often, at least when he wasn't doing hero work, to escape the notice of the public.
He meant to surprise her. Certainly the last thing she was expecting when she opened the door was for Bernard to sweep her up in his arms and kiss her.
"Just like old times, huh?" he cried out.
She realized right away, of course, that it wasn't actually Bernard. She knew Megamind's voice, and his eyes, but her reaction was immediate and visceral.
"It's not funny!" she shouted, pushing him. "You think it's funny, reminding me how you tricked me?"
Her vehemence almost made him back over the couch. "Well," he said, flustered, "maybe not funny, I was trying for mildly amusing...I was out and about, you know, just...wanted to stop by..."
The watch flickered through three or four more disguises as Megamind fumbled with it. Finally he turned it off. Roxanne closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, struggling to compose herself. She was surprised at her own anger and she wished that she hadn't yelled at him. Megamind could be so funny, and exciting to be around, but once in a while he did something that made her want to smack him.
He was fidgeting and twitching now, trying to cross his arms, rub the back of his neck and put his hands on his hips all at once. He finally settled for grabbing the back of the easy chair and standing behind it as if it were a force field.
"I'm sorry," she said, stepping around it. "I think I overreacted. I know it's not easy being in the public eye all the time. I don't blame you for wanting to be anonymous once in a while."
He smiled wryly and relaxed a little. "You've been talking to Minion, haven't you?" he said. He certainly had complained enough to Minion, long and loudly, about the endless publicity. Making evil speeches in front of terrified crowds, that he was used to. But now he had to be nice to people all the time. Every day. It was strangely exhausting. He was beginning to understand why Metro Man retired from the hero gig.
"I am a nosy reporter. I can see what's happening." She put her arms around his neck and he leaned his forehead against hers. It was a gesture he often did when seeking comfort.
"I may not be a big celebrity like some," she said, smiling and poking him in the chest, "but I sometimes feel a little overexposed myself. Being on TV gets you noticed. I understand why you want to disguise yourself sometimes, just give me a heads up, OK?"
She touched his cheek and he shivered all the way down to his toes. He leaned in and they kissed, but after a moment she pulled back.
"I have to go to work in about five minutes," she said regretfully. "There's been a new development in that firing scandal."
"Oh." Suddenly he sat down on the couch, pulling her down with him onto his lap.
"I'll make it quick," he said briskly, burying his face in her neck.
Roxanne burst out laughing. She couldn't help it. He was humming against her neck and that always tickled her.
"I have to get going! I mean it."
"Too late, Miss Ritchi. I have you in my clutches now!"
"If you make me late..." she warned.
"I'll give you a ride."
She brightened. "The hoverbike?"
"It's getting serviced. Sorry. But with the invisibility function on the car we can speed-"
She huffed. "Well, if we leave now we won't have to speed," she said. She got up and began looking for her purse.
Megamind sighed. "Always the voice of reason," he muttered. He got up to follow Roxanne to the door. "Is this the way it'll be when we're-" He bit his lip and glanced at her, but she was checking her reflection in the mirror distractedly and hadn't really heard him. He breathed out. That was close. He almost let it slip.
"Can you pick me up after work?" she asked.
He grimaced. "Can't. I'm supposed to set up surveillance for the sting operation. They're getting a little better with the equipment, but I have to supervise." He smirked. "Sometimes I think the whole police force would fall apart without me. You should see some of the training sessions sometime, if you ever need a good laugh."
"Oh, they can't be that bad," she said, locking the apartment door. They walked down the hallway to the elevator. "You're probably being too hard on them."
"Ha! They need to be prepared! What if I'm taken out? Not that anyone would ever get the jump on me, of course, heh, still, some scumbag could get lucky. And what if that scumbag is a supervillain? He'd probably waltz right in and take over just like I did."
The elevator arrived and they got in. "After all," he continued. "when Metro Man fell, they were completely unprepared. All it took was a few thousand brainbots, some scary lasers-" he said spookily, briefly making claws with his hands, "-and a smoke machine, and they couldn't surrender fast enough! I just walked all over them," he said with a smug expression.
"Well, I'm sure they love being reminded of it," she remarked.
He chuckled. "And I try so hard not to hurt their feelings. Don't worry Roxanne, I am very tactful when pointing out their incompetence."
"I hope you display some of that tact when you meet my folks tomorrow," she said, arching an eyebrow at him.
"Right." He wilted a bit. "That's tomorrow? Of course it is." Then he smiled and slipped an arm around her waist. "I assure you, Miss Ritchi, I shall be the height of decoration."
Decorum, she thought, but didn't bother to correct him. Briefly she visualized Megamind decorated in tinsel and lights, like a Christmas tree, and smiled at the thought.
"Pleasant, charming, and-" he waved his other hand vaguely. "-um-making with the small talk. I have an etiquette book."
"Just try not to be late. And no leather, capes, or spikes. I've asked Minion to pick out something for you to wear."
"I knew the two of you would gang up on me," Megamind said. He sighed and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
The big day dawned.
"You really expect me to wear this?" Megamind asked disdainfully. The jacket was light brown, the shirt was plain white, the pants were tan, in a word, bleah.
"Her parents are pretty conservative, sir, you don't want to scare them off. Besides," Minion continued, ignoring Megamind's gagging noises, "it's only for a couple of hours. It's a perfectly nice suit for an off-duty hero who is attending a casual lunch." He decided not to mention the tie. Getting him into those clothes was going to be hard enough without trying to put a tie on him too.
"Yes, no doubt this suit will totally win them over," Megamind said. "Distract them from the fact that I'm from another planet."
The brainbots deftly stripped off his comfortable black suit and cape. He waved them off when they tried to put the new clothes on him. He dragged the wretched brown suit on as slowly as possible. Last night he'd gone to sleep feeling a little anxious and woken up with a full-blown case of dread. He wasted the entire morning fidgeting around without getting anything done. He found himself constantly checking the clock. With every passing hour he could feel his confidence evaporating. For some reason, the impending lunch date was beginning to show all the appeal of a firing squad.
He glared at his reflection in the mirror.
"I feel like an accountant," he grumbled, turning the collar up. "And the collar's too small."
"It's fine, sir," Minion said, reaching over and turning it down again. Gently but firmly he held sir's elbow and walked him to the car.
"This jacket itches," Megamind complained, squirming.
"No it doesn't."
"I think I forgot to-"
"Do it later."
Megamind's heels were leaving streak marks on the floor.
"Can I just check the-"
"NO." They were at the car. ""Sir, if you don't show up, Miss Ritchi will kill you. Or worse. She will give the both of us such a Look. I don't want to get Looked at, sir," he said fervently.
"Oh, very well." Faced with the inevitable, Megamind recovered his dignity with as much aplomb as he could muster and opened the car door.
"Into the fray!" he announced. "If I'm not back by 2:30, send out a search party."
Megamind screeched into the parking spot, sprinted up the sidewalk, sprinted back, locked the car, made it invisible- couldn't be too careful, too many crooks around, and he should know- and ran up the sidewalk again to the restaurant four blocks away. He stopped at the door for a moment to catch his breath. Wheezing and sweating like a horse. Perfect. He hadn't felt like this since he'd given a tour of the lair to those senior police officers. It was meant as a gesture of goodwill but having a bunch of cops wandering around his personal sanctuary nearly gave him a nervous breakdown.
Who knew that meeting two ordinary people would put him in such a state? These were not really ordinary people, though, were they. They were only the ones who'd raised his beloved Roxanne, nourished and shielded her, and would naturally scrutinize his every word and deed and judge him mercilessly. They would also, perhaps, have a few penetrating questions to ask about all those kidnappings.
He turned the collar of his shirt up again. The tiny act of rebellion made him feel a little better. He squared his shoulders, mentally reviewed some etiquette pointers, affixed a cheerful smile to his face, and strode in.
"Megamind!" Roxanne called. He could see her waving from the back of the restaurant. Mrs. Ritchi looked up and Dr. Ritchi turned in his chair. Curious glances and whispered comments followed him as he made his way across the horribly endless room.
Everyone was staring. He was, unaccountably, on the verge of forgetting how to walk. What is this, stage fright? How the hell could I be having stage fright? he berated himself, fighting it back. Focus! Focus on the table setting. Get this death march over with.
Roxanne felt a hot flush of guilt crawl up her cheeks. Why oh why did I insist on 'normal' clothes? she agonized. Instead of his usual haughty get-out-of-my-way stride he was practically inching his way across the room. Obviously some innate female urge to continually try to improve one's boyfriend's image had overcome her better judgment. Did she really think that a change of clothes would get her parents to accept him? She was always preaching about accepting people for who they were, regardless of outward appearances, and then she went and did something like this.
I am such a hypocrite. I am SO going to make it up to him, she vowed. She should have just let him dress however he wanted and let the chips fall where they may.
By the time the endless walk was over, Megamind's cheerful smile had turned into a frozen grimace. He realized he'd been holding his breath. Roxanne got up to meet him. "Roxanne," he mumbled. They exchanged a quick hug. Under the scrutiny of what felt like the entire metropolitan area he didn't dare try for a kiss. He'd probably miss her lips completely and kiss her eyeball.
He turned to the mother and tried another smile.
"Megamind, this is my mother," said Roxanne.
"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Ritchi," he said in what he hoped was a pleasant and heartfelt manner. Or was it hearty? No, not hearty, cheerful, he had to remember to be cheerful...no, it was charming, yes, that was it. With a little shiver of panic he realized that Mrs. Ritchi had just told him her name and he hadn't been listening.
"So...Debbie, was it?" he nearly squeaked.
"Uh, no, it's Elaine, dear," Mrs. Ritchi said. Her eyes, which were watching him carefully, softened a bit when she realized how nervous he was. She smiled and patted his hand.
Megamind's shoulders unclenched slightly. Well, he could almost breathe again, hopefully her dad would be...
"And this is my father, Dr. Ritchi."
He turned to Roxanne's father and looked him fully in the face for the first time.
"-grk," said Megamind.
"Pleasure," Dr. Ritchi grunted sourly, obviously expecting the worst. He grasped Megamind's rigid outstretched hand, shook once, and sat down again.
Roxanne looked at Megamind in concern. Why had he frozen up like that?
"Have the two of you met before?" she asked.
"Scuse me a sec," Megamind croaked. He wheeled about and dashed back across the restaurant. He disappeared into the lobby.
He hid behind an ornamental pillar, frantically dialing his cell phone.
"Minion!" he whisper-shrieked. "Minion, it's him. Roxanne's dad. That quack that was going to cut me up when I was four!"
There you have it. Reviews are appreciated! The last half of this story is coming up soon.