Holy balls, this chapter took a turn for the dark. I am really awful to this man. And I meant to end this one on an upbeat note, I really did! *thumbs through notes* Actually, after looking at The Plan, I can almost guarantee you the next chapter will have a better ending, provided the fic does not take off on its own again.
Many, many thanks to Karen B Jones, who had the best idea for how things should go. I had all of my possible snippets open in my taskbar (there are, like, nine of them, it's ridiculous), and I think I used pieces of most of them, but the overall structure of it is thanks to her.
*scowls and shakes out hands vigorously* Chapter 10…might be a little while. Sorryyyyy.
And, seriously, thank you to everyone who reads my silly fics. You're amazing. I've said that before and I will say it again, probably several times, but your reviews and continued support are really what keep me going. (That and an unholy fondness for the characters, of course! *evil grin*)
As always, I own nothing but Drew.
Drew goes white to the lips. "He did what?"
Megamind nods, still focusing on breathing, which is getting a bit easier. "Th-this was later, when we were older, while I was at sh…school." He swallows hard, remembering Mitch's stumbling apologies, Guduza's silent panic. He doesn't want to just throw Minion's secrets to the wind—because these are Minion's secrets more than they are his—but he can't seem to stop talking. "Just before I graduated. Got back to the jail, he wasn't there, my uncles were falling over each other trying to explain. It was bad. Took me weeks to get him out."
The side of the house is cold against Drew's back, the but the chill seeping into his bones has nothing to do with the house or the weather. "That's why you attacked Washington," he breathes.
He nods again. "We got lucky, they didn't retaliate. Probably should have," he adds with a bleak laugh. "I was definitely a threat, your mother's right about that one. But the story about Minion's life being tied to mine helped a lot. There's only one way they could disprove that…to be honest, I'm still surprised they didn't." He's starting to sound bitter, but he can't help that. His faith in government types was shattered early on, and he was never given much of a reason to renew it. "Minion told me later that he'd been tied up in red tape the whole time, trying to get approved for a silver card, trying to show that he and I should be recognized as family members under the cultural practices of our planet—but actually proving that would have been nearly impossible, since our homeworld was completely destroyed." He sighs and drops his forehead to rest on his knees, shutting his eyes. "At least Allbright didn't hurt him," he murmurs.
Drew is silent for a long time. He really doesn't know his uncle well, but he still has a hard time believing that he'd ever do something like kidnap an alien fish and take it to a facility known for its lack of…well, not humanity, but something along those lines. "And you…you're sure they were going to hurt him?"
That gets another brittle laugh. "The impression I got was that they don't try to hurt any of the beings they take for study. But they don't spend a lot of time trying not to hurt them, either."
That's still difficult to believe, though. After all, Megamind is obviously a sentient creature, and if that weren't enough of a reason to be careful with him, he's more intelligent than probably any human within a hundred miles. Possibly any human alive today. "Maybe that's just what it seemed like," he tries. "I mean, you were just a kid."
"Yes," Megamind agrees. "I was 'just a kid.' Which means they should have—and could have—spent more time and money figuring out my biology before they actually laid hands on me. Maybe if they'd done that, they'd have noticed that weird quirk of my endocrine system that metabolizes the coma-inducing part of anesthesia and leaves the paralytic." He spits this last part with no small amount of resentment. This is more than he's ever said on the subject. More than he's ever felt able to say on the subject, and a very tiny piece of his mind is surprised and pleased with how much progress he's made.
The rest of his mind is still just plain old pissed off and scared.
Drew stares at him, hoping desperately that doesn't mean what it sounded like it meant. "I, um. I'm not sure I understand what you…"
"Starts with a V," the alien tells him, and unconsciously wraps his arms around his stomach, hugging himself. It's a defensive posture totally at odds with the sneer in his voice. "Sounds like dissection."
Oh, jesus fucking holy shit. He lets out a pained sound and wonders if he's going to be as sick as he feels. "Viv…" He can't even get it out. "Th-that's…"
"Oh, what, are you surprised?" Megamind drawls. "So hard to believe they'd take an animal apart to see how it works? After all, it isn't human. Not like it has any rights. Not like it should be given any of the considerations due a legal citizen. Not like it's going to have problems with authority," he continues bitterly, "not like it's going to think it's done something wrong and is being punished for it. Not like it's ever going to figure out that its life isn't worth anything. It's not a real child. Not a normal child. Why waste money on something when you're reasonably certain it doesn't even think like you?" He hisses derisive laughter. "And they ask me why I made myself untouchable. And you wonder why I jump to conclusions."
"Jesus," Drew chokes, and turns sideways and grabs him around the shoulders, clutches his fingers in the fabric of Megamind's shirt. "No." What's really funny is that he doesn't even know what he means by 'no,' except that what Megamind is saying is completely awful and needs to stop…but if he stops, that means what he went through doesn't bear thinking about. And it does bear thinking about, it needs to be thought about and discussed and made so that it never happens to anyone else ever again.
But you can't articulate that, not when someone who has become a very good friend in under twenty-four hours is sitting right next to you and this close from just letting go and screaming, with good reason to do so. Not when you realize that your own fairly crappy adolescence is sunshine and rainbows compared to his and even though you know the comparison is unfair, you feel awful for ever, ever complaining about it. "Jesus no" is about what it comes down to, in the end.
Megamind, for his part, is starting to climb down from his briefly angry perch and realize that what he's just said is, first of all, totally horrible and not something he'd ever planned on voicing to anybody ever. Secondly, it's having a far more adverse effect on the other man than he would have expected if he ever had planned on talking about it. Thirdly, and most interestingly, he isn't freaking out at all about shooting his mouth off and, in fact, feels a lot better now he's gotten all that off his chest.
He blinks a few times and manages to be vaguely surprised at himself. He also notes with some amusement that this is probably about how Roxanne would be reacting if he told her all this, and that this just seems like a very touchy-huggy family.
He clears his throat awkwardly and pats Drew on the elbow. "You, um…you realize I didn't actually mean to say any of that, and I'm actually a lot better-adjusted than I probably sounded a minute ago? You know that, right?"
Drew doesn't move and doesn't relax his grip. What he does is say, "One of the guys from the lab is hosting a holiday party tomorrow night. You need to come."
Megamind reels. "Wait, what? Where did that come from?"
"I'm serious. And go as you. You need to be there." He swallows hard and forces himself to let go and sit back, staring down at his hands. "I know you're not a social guy, but…trust me. You need to be there."
Megamind's eyes narrow. "What exactly makes you think I want to spend several hours hanging out with a crowd of people? You're all right, but…a houseful? No thank you."
Drew squeezes his eyes closed. He's really bad at talking about stuff like this. It's so much easier to show people their worth physically, no words and long explanations getting in the way, no chance of misinterpretation provided both parties come to an agreement ahead of time. But that's not going to work with his sister's boyfriend, obviously, so he'll have to talk, instead.
"Okay, look, I get the feeling you don't really understand what you mean to…to people like me. I mean. You're like, an icon or something for us." This should sound incredibly awkward, but he's found that if he refuses to act as though things are awkward, they usually won't be. Besides, this needs to be said, and Megamind is possibly one of the very few people who won't find it awkward at all. "One of the girls has a tattoo of your logo on her side, I've seen it." He lets out a painful-sounding bark of laughter. "Heck, I was the one who told her she should go ahead and get it!"
It's dark under the porch, and his vision has never been particularly good even in full light, but he can hear the confusion in Megamind's voice when he says, "What? Why?"
"Because…" He trails off, trying to remember what he'd told one of the interns when he'd been down and hurting and looking for a role model he'd be able to identify with. He'd been proud of that conversation.
"Because we see ourselves in you," is what he finally settles on—it's not what he'd said to the intern, but he thinks it might be close. "You're real. People don't love you on sight. You're too smart to be understood half the time, you isolate yourself, you laugh and make fun of everyone you see and all the stupid things they say. You see through all that crap, you call them on it, and they hate you for it, and you're okay with that." He swallows. It's not fair, it really isn't. Megamind was never supposed to hear all this, was never supposed to actually find all this out. But he keeps talking, hoping that at some point, he'll say something that makes some actual sense and doesn't sound like plain hopeless fanboying. "You make some of us feel like we'll be okay, even if we can't figure out how to really get along with people. You give some of us the courage to ditch the 'friends' who make them the butt of their jokes." And then he finds the right words, after he's said so many dumb ones—these are the right words, he's sure of it. He takes a deep breath. "When…when we're outside, looking in? You make us feel like we're not alone out there. You're the best and worst of us, and we see ourselves in you. That's why."
Megamind sighs. "Sorry to have let you down," he mutters. "Hanging up the supervillain cape. Getting a life that kind of resembles something normal."
"Are you kidding?" Drew exclaims, looking up in surprise. "I mean, yeah, a couple of people were kind of hacked off about that. But most of us are thrilled! You made it through!" He beams at him, making him blink. "It took a long time, but you made it! And maybe, if you can do it…maybe, so can we." There's a pause during which he wonders if he has just blown any chance of Megamind going to the Christmas party; eventually he grimaces and finishes with, "Please come to this. I'll be right there with you the whole time, if you want, and I'm sure Roxanne will come too if you ask her. We'll leave early if you want to. Just…please come. It would mean so much to everyone there."
Megamind is silent for a long, long time. Finally he says, "If I'm asked to sign anybody's tattoo, I'm leaving."
Drew squeaks and punches the air in triumph. Or tries to. He ends up skinning the backs of his fingers on the underside of the porch. "Yes! Ow!" He shoves his knuckles in his mouth, still grinning like there's no tomorrow. "Yaaaay," he mumbles. "Whoop whoop."
Megamind dissolves into helpless wheezy laughter just as the porch door slides open and Roxanne calls out, "Drew? Pavel? You guys out here?"
"Shhh," Drew hisses, choking back giggles, and Megamind presses the back of his hand to his mouth and swats him repeatedly on the shoulder.
"…Are you guys seriously under the deck?"
"I w-was having a panic attack," Megamind says in a very wobbly voice. Roxanne blinks down at her feet, unsure of whether or not she should be worried about this.
"And…are you crying now, or laughing?"
"The second one?" he squeaks out. "Even though I sort of feel like doing both?"
"I need a band-aid," Drew announces, and that is apparently Megamind's cue to lose it; he lets out a noise like HAahg and follows that with several mwee hee hees that are totally unlike anything resembling an evil laugh.
"That's it, I'm coming down there," Roxanne says flatly, and tromps down the stairs and squeezes herself through the lattice. "Holy crap, you guys are really far back there."
"I cleared out the cobwebs for you," says her brother proudly, "because I am a Good Person."
"You're a horrible human being, what are you talking about," she mutters, but she's smiling as she crawls up next to Megamind and into his arms. He hugs her close and shoves his nose in her hair, which isn't really out of the ordinary. Except after that, he lets go and squeezes himself into a ball and leans into her lap, giving her clear access to the back of his head, neck, and shoulders—a signal both of trust and that he is not feeling at all well. She bundles him in as close as she can.
Drew very politely pretends not to notice this. "True, but I am a fantastic tree."
"Uh-huh," she says, rolling her eyes even as she puts an arm around Megamind's back and starts rubbing his head with her other hand. It's not something she's done before and it feels a little strange, but after what he said about the forehead touching, she's starting to wonder if a little more head-contact might be good for him. "Somebody want to fill me in?"
"…And that's right about when you came down," Drew finally finishes. Megamind has remained more or less silent throughout his summary, save one time when he kicked the older man in the leg when he was starting to get too specific about the PHED. He'd rather not have to think about that story more than once in a very long while, and Roxanne would only freak out. Incredibly, she doesn't say a word about his sudden movement or Drew's subsequent abrupt change of subject—probably she is remembering the last time she pushed Megamind for information.
She's quiet for a long minute. Finally she says, "You saw my baby pictures."
He hums and nods. "You were adorable. I didn't know you had braces."
She chuckles. "Well. Wow. You know, for what it's worth…Minion told me they never hurt him."
He breathes. "Minion told you already. Oh, thank god. I remembered after I told you none of it was true that I mentioned it in the car a couple of days ago, and…"
"And you were still panicking," she says gently, curling over him a little, "and all you could think was that somehow you had to calm me down and protect your best friend's privacy, because you weren't sure if he would want me to know about that." A lot of that would ordinarily irritate her, but she's seriously resolved to give Megamind the benefit of the doubt as often as possible this week. He's usually very good about thinking twice before he speaks but he tends to make a lot of social mistakes when he has to juggle too many thoughts even on his good days. He's more stressed out now than she has ever seen him, which isn't helping at all. Still, she knows he can't stand it when she tries to analyze his motives, so she adds, "Does that sound about right?"
"Yes." He leans into her, and if she didn't know better she'd swear she can smell how relieved he is that he doesn't have to explain or worry about her being upset with him.
Good. She nods, then continues, "Anyway, what he said was, the guy who took him actually helped him a lot. Recommended which forms to fill out, what status to file for. From the way he sounded, he didn't feel like he was in any danger." She strokes her fingers against his temple in what she hopes is a soothing motion. "If that was my uncle, I don't think you have anything to worry about. I've met Rod a few times, he's…always really happy. Very calm. Very reasonable man."
"Really?" In her arms, Megamind relaxes very slightly. Not much. But she's surprised that he does at all; she knows he trusts her word on things, but even about this? That says something.
"And even if he is a threat," she says, "he wouldn't dare try anything with me and Drew here." The way Megamind is curled so tightly, she can pat his thigh with the hand that's around his back, and she decides to add something a little more lighthearted. "He'd be torn to pieces in the street by fifteen howling scientists if he did. I don't know if my brother told you, but his lab is very…possessive of you. It's sort of sweet, in a creepy way."
He lets out a low laugh and relaxes further. "I've heard."
He's clearly starting to feel a little better, and that helps Roxanne's mood immensely, but at the back of her mind is still the awful knowledge that if push really does come to shove and the worst happens, she won't actually be able to protect him. She isn't strong or super-fast or super-intelligent. She's just human, and not even a particularly special human, at that. One of these days, she thinks, I'm going to have to see about taking some kind of martial arts class. She really can't stand knowing how helpless she really is.
For now, though, she knows people who know other people, and that will have to be enough. "Now, I want you to listen to me. I might not be a super or an alien, but I am stubborn as a mule and just as protective of you as you are of me. And if anyone, family or otherwise, ever tries to hurt you or Minion, I will personally ensure that they wish they had never been born." She bends her head and kisses the curve of his skull. "Legal or not. I'm all or nothing, Megamind. You know that, right?"
"I know," he sighs, and finally goes boneless in her arms. Whether it's because he's more relaxed or he's simply too tired to maintain his tension any longer, she isn't sure. "We'll figure something out."
"Unus pro omnibus," she says.
"Omnes pro uno," Drew finishes.
"You guys're gangin' up on meeee," he murmurs, then cocks a lazy grin up at Roxanne. "An' I thought you didn't speak Latin."
She smiles down at him. "I don't. I just read too much classic literature during my formative years. One for all, all for one. Alexander Dumas."
He hums again and snuggles. "But there's only two of us."
"Hey," Drew says, sounding mildly offended. "There are definitely three of us. I counted."
"And there's Minion up in Metro, and he makes three, too," Roxanne points out. "And four, if Wayne is around. Like it or not, sweetheart, you've got at least two other people on your side at all times, now. We'll fight for you—we love you. And we know you'd fight just as hard for us."
When he doesn't respond, she realizes that his eyes are closed. Did he fall asleep? Getting Megamind to sleep in the middle of the day isn't easy; he must be exhausted. She shifts a little, pushing gently on his head and back and making him stir and mutter. "Okay, sweetheart, I know you're tired and you know I'm happy to let you sleep on me, but I'm not going to sit under a porch while you take a nap. That's where I draw the line. So roust."
He groans loudly but rouses himself and rolls away, leading a floppy, dusty exodus from under the porch, his disguise once again firmly in place.
"Are there spiders?" he asks nervously as he straightens. Moving and squeezing out through the latticework woke him up a bit. "I bet there are spiders. Get them off."
"Your butt is clean," Drew huffs as he scoots backwards, dragging his long legs out after him and coming to his feet in one long disjointed flailing motion. "I know because I checked."
"Will you stop," Roxanne says from where she's still waiting behind the lattice, "perving on other people's significant others."
"No, because I know you don't actually mind," he replies, dusting himself off. "And unless 'Pavel' here tells me to stop, I plan on continuing to flirt shamelessly with everyone to whom I am not related. Your fake hair is clean, by the way, you can stop fluffing it."
"Thank you." Megamind subsides and bends to offer to help Roxanne up, but she's busy looking at the ground and doesn't notice his outstretched hand until she already has her feet under her.
"Oh, sorry—thanks, hon." She grabs his fingers and he pulls her to standing.
"You don't mind, do you?" Drew asks. Usually he wouldn't, but in this case he thinks it's probably best if he just makes sure.
Pavel's pale face is mildly quizzical, but the disguise generator has still managed to pick up the deep shadows under Megamind's eyes. "Why would I mind something like that? It's flattering." Then he glances at Roxanne and notices that she's staring at him with a little frown troubling her features. "What?"
"…I think we should stop the charade here," she says softly. Megamind immediately goes rigid, even takes a step back, his eyes scanning her face in bewilderment. "I know we said we'd let it go a little longer, but…it's clearly not doing anything for your mental state. In fact, I think it might be making it worse."
He tucks his elbows against his sides, blinking. "But," he says unevenly, shaky and uncertain all over again. "It's going to be horrible."
"I know." She shakes her head and bites her lip. She really doesn't like the idea any more than he does, but she can't stand seeing him like this, she really can't. "But it's going to be horrible no matter when it happens, and if you're right…if she already knows…"
"It'll only be worse the longer you put it off," Drew points out in a low voice.
He starts to reply, but stops when Roxanne reaches and takes his hand—the one with the ring on it. "Megamind, be honest," she says, "if I weren't affected by this at all, would you have already told her?"
He tilts his head at her, pleading mutely, Why would you say that? But he knows she's got him with that one.
She nods. "I want to end this now."
He shuffles his cold feet in the grass and makes a muttering noise, but nods and unbuckles the watch. It squawks at him indignantly, but he silences it and stows it in his pocket. Roxanne smiles and touches his face just as the shy, lost expression falls away and his brows lower and lips thin with determination. He looks back at the house.
"Then let's do this."
As it turns out, they have to wait a few minutes longer; Linda is sitting on the front porch talking on the phone when they come in through the back sliding door. Roxanne isn't sure why, but Megamind puts his shoes and socks on as soon as Drew announces Linda's location. She also isn't sure why he wants to change his clothes, but she has to admit that the long-sleeved V-neck and jeans are much more his style than the white button-down and khakis he had synced with Pavel's overlay. Megamind wears khakis about as well as he wears hats, which is to say badly.
Unnoticed by Roxanne, Drew slips him a small, rectangular box, which he slips into his pocket with a grateful nod.
They'd planned to be in the sitting area together when Linda comes back in, but as ill luck would have it, she enters right while Roxanne is putting a box of cereal back in the kitchen cupboard. So all the warning they have is the door opening and Linda saying, "Well, that was your father, he's…oh."
It's a small 'oh,' but then it doesn't have to be particularly large to carry such a vast sense of cold disappointment. Roxanne freezes, then whirls and sees her mother standing just inside the door, turned towards the family room, her lips a thin line and her head tilted back, eyes closed. She's just…breathing.
Then she opens her eyes and looks back into the family room; Roxanne can't see where Megamind is, but she can guess what her mother is looking at. Linda's eyebrows move, her mouth twists, and she gives a few little, jerky nods.
Then she spins and slams the door closed behind her with a bang and a strangled scream, making everyone present jump.
Then she whips around again, her expression closed and steely. "You."
Roxanne has made it into the family room by this point, and is standing behind and to the right of the alien by the sofa. "Me," he agrees, sounding astonishingly calm given just how upset he had been only a few minutes ago. "I think you said you had things you wanted to ask me."
Although she's pale and there are tears in her narrowed eyes, which Roxanne hadn't expected, she doesn't even hesitate. Clearly, the idea of 'now that it's happening I don't know what to do' does not apply to Linda Ritchi. "Why can't you leave this family alone?" she demands. "Why are you doing this to us? We've suffered through ten years of you and now you're dating her?"
"Yes, I am," he replies. "It's nothing against you—"
"You're damn straight it's nothing against us!" she snarls, cutting him off. "You have no respect, no restraint, no idea how inappropriate this is! Or maybe you do. So how did you do it?" she asks, hands on her hips. "Hypnosis? Or are you really playing the long game, making her believe?"
A muscle pulses in his jaw. "This really has nothing to do with you," he says, fighting to keep his tone even. "And she hasn't been brainwashed. As I said earlier."
"You expect me to believe she loves you?" she hisses.
"Yes, I do!" Roxanne snaps, just as Megamind says, "No, I don't." They glance at each other.
Megamind speaks first. "What we mean to say is, we love each other very much. But we don't expect you to believe that."
She presses her lips together. She's trying very hard to keep her cool, stay calm, stay rational and clear-headed but it's just not happening—not with him here in front of her, finally, after years of crying and sleepless nights, after doctors and worrying, after living in fear for her child who can only be delusional, after watching her son refuse to worry about his sister, after a full decade of hatred and entirely justifiable anger—not now.
She stalks forward and puts herself between him and Roxanne, teeth clenched as she glares at her daughter, "I'll talk to you in just a minute." Then she rounds on Megamind, whose face is closed and wary, full of suspicion. "Get. Away. From her." She drives him back, nearly screaming. "You leave us alone! Not anymore, you don't—don't come anywhere near us! How dare you do this to this family?" She throws her arms in the air; he flinches back. "Haven't you put us through enough? You don't deserve her! What gives you the right? You're evil! A villain! That's all you are! It's all you'll ever be, all you'll ever be good for! You've crowed it from the rooftops time and again," she cries. "You're not human! Not even from Earth! And you denied any humanity you might have had when you turned your back on us and declared yourself a villain! You're not even a real person! What gives you the right? How dare you?"
Megamind's foot hits the wall. He glances to the side, notes that he has nowhere to run. He's been maintaining his calm impressively well throughout her onslaught by telling himself that she's just getting it all off her chest, but when she screams that he isn't a person—that's when he stops cringing away and actually starts to lose his temper. She doesn't get to say that. Not with the most disgusting part of his stay with the PHED so close to the front of his memories.
Roxanne has just taken three quick steps forward, her mouth is open to launch into his defense, but suddenly Megamind's whole expression twists. His eyebrows draw together and down and his fists snap to his side as he steps forward, making Linda stumble back in surprise. "Get out of my face," he hisses. Step. Step. "You think I don't know all that? You think I haven't told her repeatedly that she deserves better, she should find someone else? You think I don't think about everything you just said every single day?"
After her initial stumble, she's holding her ground. "Obviously."
He throws his arms to the side in a 'come at me' kind of gesture, his lip curling. "Well hey, guess what? I tried to make her leave me! Months ago! Back in August! You know what happened? She slapped me and told me not to be so stupid and shallow, not to make decisions for her, and that she was giving me one more chance. You think I don't know exactly how lucky I am?
"But what am I supposed to do, huh?" he demands, cocking his head from side to side. "She's not leaving me, and I love her. I've loved her for years. Never acted on it! Never said anything! But—"
"I should hope not!" Linda exclaims. "You know how creepy that is?"
"Yes, which is why I never did anything about it." His eyes narrow, sparkling with anger and too much bottled rage, and he speaks again without thinking. "That, and I learned a very long time ago just how disgusting I am simply because of I'm not human. Hey, what else you think a seven-year-old with more smarts than it knows what to do with is gonna think, it gets drugged 'til it can't move, gets stuck on a table and cut open and looked at? Just 'cause it isn't human, it ain't even legal? You think I didn't grow up thinking I ain't—" He pauses, blinks, corrects himself without acknowledging Roxanne's soft cry behind him, "I'm not a 'real person,' because real people are protected from things like that? What else do you think I was going to take away from something like that?"
He's lying and she knows it, but now she's so mad she can barely see straight—how can he even try to pull the pity card with something so farfetched? "You think that bullshit excuses—"
"No!" he explodes. "No, it doesn't excuse anything! But it's one of the many things I learned as a kid that contributed to me 'turning my back on humanity,' so don't you dare tell me I'm not a person. I'm not human—but I'm someone, I finally know that much. And you know it, too, so don't tell me I'm not a person, don't tell me that." He shakes his head. "I'll take a lot from you, but I won't stand and take that."
"Person or not," she says, "you two aren't even the same species. You're an alien."
"So is Wayne," he replies in a similar tone, folding his arms over his chest like a bar. "You were fine with the idea that Roxanne was dating him. And you were fine with ku Aea, who Drew brought home some years back."
"Yeah, that's—" Drew leaps into the conversation, or tries to. His mother cuts him off.
"Metro Man didn't put my daughter's life in danger on a bi-weekly basis for over a decade, and Ganeesh might not have been human but he—"
"—wasn't an alien, either!" she finishes, just as heatedly as he had a moment ago. "The tentaculae are an older species than we are, even. That was an honor." She clamps her arms down over her chest. "Before you ask, no, being the last living member of a dead race doesn't give you any bonus—"
"Mother!" Roxanne and Drew chorus, equally appalled.
Again, neither is given much chance to say anything beyond that. The snarl that rips from Megamind this time isn't even close to human; it's low and ugly and comes from somewhere deep in his chest. "I would never ask that." He closes the distance between them. "Say what you like about me, but you leave my people out of it. Don't you dare bring them into this."
"Or what?" she counters, barely concealing her smirk even as she leans away from him. "You'll hurt me? Keep my daughter from me? Ruin my credit score, take my insurance?"
"I would never," he hisses again.
"Oh?" She raises her eyebrows. "Then what will you do?"
Absolutely nothing. There's no threat he can make that she'll believe, not one that he'd ever dare follow up on. Still, it feels wrong to just stand there and let her drag not only him but the civilization he can barely remember through the mud. Inspiration strikes. "I'll tell your brother."
Incredibly, that seems to make her falter a bit. "N—what do you know about my family?"
"I think the question you should be asking yourself is, what does your family know about mine?"
He's lying again. Bluffing. He must be. Still, she hesitates to call that particular bluff, so she rallies instead. "What about everything else, then?" she demands, and suddenly his whole face lights up with furious glee.
"Oh, you mean everything I told you half an hour ago?" he says brightly. "That everything? The stuff I already know about and have acknowledged right in front of your face?"
"Wait, what everything?" Roxanne wants to know.
He starts ticking them off on his fingers. "I could hurt you if I wanted. There were accidents when I was kidnapping you and you got hurt a few times. I disregarded your safety. I'm a criminal and I don't intend to stop being one any time soon. Oh, and this," he adds, snatching the black photo album up from where he'd laid it on the sofa and thrusting it in her direction. He'd planned to show it to her later, quietly, alone. But now he's angry, and his head is up and his back is straight; he's whirling above himself, all spinning wounded pride and indignant wrath. It doesn't quite make him brave, but it keeps him from thinking too hard until she already has the book open in her hands.
He stands like a stone while she opens it and thumbs through, her confused expression quickly going hard. But when she looks up, her glare isn't aimed at Megamind. "You made this," she says flatly to her mother. "You made this to turn me against him."
Linda turns her cold gaze on Megamind. "I told you not to show her that."
"Villain," he purrs, his green eyes sharp and bright with burning rage that mounts above his growing fear, flashing above his white smile even though his blood is slowly running cold. "Careful what you wish for."
"Well, the joke's on you, Mom," Roxanne announces, dropping the album on the couch and squaring her shoulders. "I already know about all these."
That makes Megamind turn towards her, showing his confusion all over his face. "What?"
She gives him a scathing look. "Please, I'm a reporter. I wrote two of these op-ed pieces when Jo was out sick."
He stares at her, for a moment forgetting Linda, forgetting Drew, forgetting everything but the woman in front of him as his face breaks apart a little. "Can you say h-how many—"
"Thirty-two," she says, her expression gentling somewhat, and he inhales sharply. It's not quite a gasp, but it carries the same sort of shivery-startled feeling. "And I know how much you regret all of them."
His throat works. "And you…you haven't…"
"I worked through it by myself months ago," she admits. "Didn't see any reason to worry you about it, so I thought I wouldn't unless you did."
The clock on the mantelpiece ticks loud in the silence, Drew stands frozen by the door. Finally Megamind sighs and some of the tension leaves his shoulders. "Well, she's right about one thing," he says, quietly sad and smiling, "I don't deserve you."
"Don't be stupid," she tells him, stepping close. "Everyone deserves to be happy."
"Not him," Linda snaps. But she turns from Megamind to regard her daughter. "Why? Why this? If you know everything he's done, if you really do, why this?"
"Because he's my best friend," Roxanne says. "And I love him."
"How," her mother replies, "can you possibly love that?"
"Hey," Drew says from his place by the door, and it really is impressive, the way he manages to pack both offense and warning into such a short syllable. His whole stance is alive with it, Megamind realizes, glancing over. The tall man stands poised to spring, watchful and wary, and he's reminded somehow of the big cat he'd seen in the forest. Could that only have been a few days ago? It feels like half an age.
Linda, incredibly, manages to ignore her son. "Even forgetting that he spent ten years kidnapping you and putting you in very real danger—look at him."
"I am looking," Roxanne tells her. "He looks fine."
"He looks damn fine," Drew says, and still his mother won't look over at him. He frowns.
"Then why the disguise?" Linda demands. "Lying to me for months about who he is? Did you think it would be funny, tricking me? Super-genius can't figure out how to introduce himself?"
"We were trying to make this easier for you!" Roxanne cries, finally starting to lose her cool. Really, it's surprising she made it this far. "We couldn't figure out how to tell you—so we thought it would be best if you got to know him first!"
"Oh, yes, that's a wonderful idea," Linda says, drawling sarcasm. "Hit me over the head with the knowledge that the man I tentatively approved of is also a creature I loathe with every piece of my soul. That's going to endear him to me, yes. Good plan. You know, I'm starting to see why you were always such a failure," she adds, glancing at Megamind, who flushes. "Well, the joke is on you this time, Roxanne Calpurnia. I've suspected you two were involved since late October—why do you think I was so upset, that time when you called?"
"Wait. You knew?" It's Drew's turn to sound outraged. "Are you kidding?"
"Your father told me his suspicions some months ago, yes. But—"
"I don't believe this!" Drew exclaims, and—finally—Linda rounds on him. There's a flicker of triumph in his lopsided face before it's replaced with bubbling anger.
"Your middle name is Calpurnia?" Megamind asks Roxanne quietly, sounding mildly amused, and she mutters back, "Really not the time, sweetie."
"How dare you?" Linda gasps, for what must be the fifth time in as many minutes. "After everything he's done to this family, you're throwing in with him? What is wrong with you?"
Drew draws himself up, which makes him look fairly impressive when he pulls his shoulders back. "What's wrong with me is I have been worried for months, thinking I'm gonna give something away or bring world war three crashing into this house by doing something stupid, and you already knew!"
She scowls at him. "Well, now you know what I've been going through all these years. Congratulations. And don't you have to go practice, or something? It's Wednesday."
"The band can manage a session without me," he says hotly, eyes snapping fire. "If you think I'm leaving him—them—here alone with you, you're out of your mind."
Her face goes, if possible, even paler than before. "Well, I guess I know which side you're on, then."
"Yeah," he says, with the ghost of a hard smile. "My side. The reasonable one. Let the record show that I don't expect to find Annie on my side, either."
"What about me?" Megamind asks.
"You're the issue in question," Drew says smoothly, before Linda can get distracted. "You don't get to have a side. Now!" he snaps, and the other three jump. "Just so we're clear: we have my sister, who's biased in your favor; we have my mother, who's biased against you; and we have me, who am sick to death of the whole stupid debate."
Roxanne starts in, "It is not a stupid—"
"Oh yes it is!" he snarls, rounding on her and glaring down from his considerable height. "It is so incredibly fucking stupid. Mom hates your boyfriend because she thinks if he hasn't brainwashed you then he's playing some kind of long game, making you trust him while planning on breaking your heart, which is of course bullshit, but you sure as hell aren't giving her much of a reason to think otherwise. But actually getting to know him is out of the question because she refuses to even try!" He's growing steadily more and more agitated as his voice rises in volume, using not only his hands to gesture but his whole upper body. He's almost hopping with frustration, and Megamind is mildly surprised to discover that he can't look away. "You know, I was really looking forward to this. I really was. I was looking forward to finally, finally having someone around who can speak my language, and now you," he turns and fixes his mother with the full force of his glare, which the ex-villain privately thinks could use some work but is still fairly impressive considering he hasn't practiced, "had to go and ruin it.
"So you know what I've decided?" he continues angrily. "I've decided that is it. I have had enough. I've decided that I'm declaring a moratorium on the subject of Is Megamind Secretly A Douchebag. Nobody gets to talk about that until after Christmas. So! Mom," he barks, pointing at her, "you can judge him all you want but you keep your mouth shut." He aims another finger at his sister. "Roxanne, no pointed or snide comments about his character or Mom's worries." Both fingers go to the blue alien who is still standing by the sofa. "Megamind, you just keep being awesome." Finally, he points to his own chest, which, while broad, resembles a wet paper bag over chicken wire because his shirt is damp from his expedition under the porch. "And I will call Dad and tell him what's going on because I am the only person who even resembles an objective third party, at this point."
"You're not objective," Roxanne protests weakly, but he's gotten into his stride now and refuses to back down. Drew in a towering rage is a sight to see—he seems to have mastered the same kind of pent-up whirling charismatic energy that Bernard has, the sense that at any moment he will lash out and sweep your legs from under you and leave you winded on your back.
"Yes, as a matter of fact! I am!" he cries, showing his teeth in an angry smile. "You know me, sister dear: I've never cared about good or bad or illegal or legal or whatever. I really only care about intelligence, which he has in spades and which has no bearing whatsoever on the current issue." He's way up on his high horse right now and he isn't about to come down anytime soon. He has a very low tolerance for intolerance. "So, you see," he continues with a sweeping gesture and little bow, "I am the only objective one, here, and the rest of you humans will either fuck off and be stupid somewhere that isn't near me or learn to keep some civil tongues in your heads, or I will make you. Inhuman company excluded, of course." He wrenches his phone out of his pocket and sweeps around, away, and up the stairs. Half of the shadowy-tense feeling in the room seems to follow him out, the oppressive atmosphere lightening as he disappears. "Dad? Hey. You can probably guess why I'm calling…"
Megamind's calculating gaze follows him until he's gone, then flicks to Roxanne, then narrows in suspicion. He opens his mouth and swallows air, licks the roof of his mouth, and frowns.
"Do you smell ozone?" he says quietly to Roxanne, but she just blinks at him quizzically and shakes her head.
"I do," Linda says in a low voice. She's fallen into her armchair and is rubbing her knees. She won't look at them. "Smells like sticking a fork in a microwave?"
Megamind nods, uncertain about how he should respond. She doesn't sound angry anymore, just tired. And sad. And old.
"Thought so." She sighs.
"Do you know what caused it?" he risks asking, and she scowls bleakly in his direction.
"No. But you're a genius," she adds scathingly, "figure it out."
Roxanne bites her lip. "We really were just trying to make it easier for you, Mom," she says, her voice quiet. "I'm not going to leave him, no matter what you say. We wanted to make this as easy as possible, and it's…it's what worked for me."
She shakes her head. "I understand the truth of it. Not the why. I don't understand why." Megamind starts to reply, but she cuts him off. "No," she says, "no. Not now. You want to make things easier? Get out."
He stammers for a moment. "I-I…but I can't…"
"You can't just kick him out," Roxanne protests.
"Both of you," Linda clarifies. "Both of you, just…get out. And I think you'll find that this is my house, and I could kick him out if I wanted to—but I won't," she says heavily. "I don't want to play that card unless I absolutely have to, I just…can't deal with you right now; I need you both to go somewhere else for a while."
So Roxanne finds her shoes and coat, and Megamind pulls on an extra pair of gloves which means he's tired of being cold for a while and is surprising. Usually when he wants to be warm it's because he's in a good mood, but that can't possibly be the case today.
"What do you think?" he asks in an undertone as she opens the door. "Disguise outside?"
She blinks at him, then sighs. "It's up to you, really. Let's take the car, we'll go invisible and…I don't know, go somewhere."
He nods and doesn't bother with the watch. And he doesn't protest when Roxanne automatically heads for the driver's seat; driving aimlessly can help her calm down.
She could also probably use some distraction from everything that just happened, and he knows just the topic he wants to talk about. "How did you know to come outside?" he asks, once they're unseen and underway. "I mean, Jo had someone text you, but Drew said he deleted it. And when he said you were going for a walk…I don't know, I didn't expect you so soon."
She shrugs. "It was Minion, actually. I thought…I hadn't called him to check in, and I just thought…I thought I should call him. So I did."
"Right then?" he asks. "It couldn't have waited?"
Roxanne frowns a little. "No," she says slowly. "I don't think it could have. And it was really funny, too, total coincidence; the phone rang and rang because he was calling me at the same time." She turns up the heat a little, plays with the radio for a few seconds without looking before turning it off again. "He asked if I knew where you were because he'd tried to call you a few times and you weren't picking up. I said I thought you were at home." But she sounds troubled, and Megamind can't quite let it go. Not if what he's starting to suspect is true.
"So you just turned around and came home?"
"No," she says. "No, we turned around a minute or so after he hung up. I thought…" After a moment, she shakes her head and bites her lip. "Never mind. It's crazy."
"Maybe not," he says. "What did you think?"
"I was thinking about you. And I couldn't stop thinking, what if Mom already knows?" She scowls, frustrated. "Like, what if we're walking and having this conversation and she knows everything already? It wouldn't get out of my head. It was weird."
"You know how, at home, you can hear the generators? They throw you out of whack the same way they do Minion if something goes wrong?"
She turns her head and blinks at him a couple times. Where did that come from? "Yeah…"
"This is the first time I've been away from Minion for such a long time, over such a long distance, since we were kids." Megamind slouches down in his seat, his brow furrowed in thought. "When he called me in Colorado, it was right after I saw the lion."
"You saw a what?" she exclaims, momentarily forgetting pretty much everything else. "Are you serious?"
"Completely," he assures her. "It was so bizarre, I was just walking and I looked around and there it was. It looked at me, turned around, and went off the way it came. And then my phone rang and scared me half out of my skin. It was Minion that time, too. And I'll bet you tried to call him around then—just after it started getting dark out?"
Roxanne is silent, frowning.
"Most humans have some minor psionic power," he says. "ESP is usually seen in children, but tends to fade with age. Sometimes it sticks around, though—"
"I woke up because we hadn't contacted him," she says abruptly. "And I thought I should check in." Then she looks over at him. "But…you said your link with him was biochemical. Over this distance…"
He scowls. "I'm not psychic. All I'm capable of is some really inconvenient empathy if I don't take my caffeine."
"But you're saying I am."
"No." He looks at her. "I'm saying I think Minion might be, and I wouldn't be surprised if we find that your proximity to him is bringing out your own, human psionic abilities. That's not the same as being psychic."
Roxanne pulls over. This is just a little too much for her to handle and keep driving. "S-still," she manages. "I can't believe this. I'm…I'm not a super!"
"You see it a lot in gifted children," he says gently. "These kinds of low-level superpowers. Very low-level, barely classifiable as real powers, but they are distinct abilities. And the more gifted the child, often the stronger their mental abilities will be. Most of them never recognize and develop their extra talents; I'm not surprised you never did."
She gapes at him. "I'm not…I don't have…"
"I think you might." He sighs and folds his arms over his chest. "You've never been unprepared for a kidnapping. Some of your clothes could have been very compromising if you wore them on a kidnapping day, but you never did…no matter how hard I tried to time things so that you would," he adds, blushing.
More than that, she remembers days she'd gotten dressed and then changed on an impulse, wondering why she was doing it and being very glad she had every time. There's a reason Roxanne has always listened to her instincts—never relied on them, but listened to them every time. No more than most people, really; they'd only started being consistently reliable after she'd started getting kidnapped.
Which doesn't prove Megamind's point, but certainly lends it some credibility.
"You've gotta be kidding me," she whispers. Then she frowns again. "But why would it link me to Minion? I didn't think of calling you, remember," she reminds him. "I wanted to call him. Both times. And like you said, I've started reacting to the reactors the same way he does."
His face falls a little, but he shakes his head. "I don't know. It could be because he's always been the one doing the kidnappings."
"I bet the week I spent with him while you were unconscious didn't help much," she mutters. But she doesn't sound happy with that explanation. She doesn't sound happy at all. "Let's get out of the car and walk. I need to stretch my legs."
He doesn't bother with his disguise, just gets out and waits for her to turn off the car and join him on the sidewalk, where he takes the box Drew had given him out of his pocket and knocks something into his hand, rolling it thoughtfully between his fingers before deciding to hold off for a few minutes.
"I could be wrong about all this," he starts to say, offering Roxanne an out as she shuts the door behind her and tests the handle to make sure it's locked. She glances up at him and shakes her head.
"No, you're right: it goes beyond coincidence. I just…" Still shaking her head, she bites her lip as she looks away.
He blinks at her unhappily. "I'm sorry," he says softly. "I knew you'd be surprised, but…I hoped it wouldn't make you sad. This gift, it's really not very strong at all. I don't think it will affect your life in a bad way. Or really even in a good way. Probably not very much at all." He pauses nervously. "Are you okay?"
She manages a laugh. "Oh, sweetie. It isn't that. It's just that…I love Minion, you know I do, but still, I wish this whatever-it-is was linked with you. Not him." She turns to look at him as they set off down the sidewalk together, and he's surprised to find that her eyes are swimming with tears. "If you're in trouble—if you're freaking out so bad you're hiding under a porch—I want to know. I don't want to just know to contact Minion."
He fidgets. "Ah, yes—about the whole freaking out thing? As long as we're here, talking about things. You do know your mother has some legitimate points…right?"
She heaves a heavy sigh. "Yes, Megamind, I know she has some good points. Not that I ever wanted to admit it."
"Y-you really might want to, though," he says awkwardly. "Admit it, I mean. To her. That's why she thinks you're brainwashed, you've never told her you know I'm dangerous."
She thinks about that for a little while, her hands in the pockets of her coat. At her side, a match flares and she glances over. Then she blinks. "Where did you get that?"
He exhales guiltily, smoke trailing from his nostrils as he looks at the glowing cigarette. "Your brother. I haven't smoked in ages and I don't plan on picking it up again, but…today? Just today."
She stares at him for a long few seconds, then shrugs. "As long as you brush your teeth before kissing me again."
He nods gratefully and returns the little paper roll to the corner of his mouth.
"So…" she says after a minute of thoughtful silence. "You used to smoke?"
"Occasionally," he shrugs. "Never really formed a habit." He doesn't bother to explain the negative conditioning that will keep him from forming one now. One bad revelation per day. "But it was an environment thing, you know, growing up." That much is true.
"Growing up." She worries her lip. "You weren't…serious earlier, were you? About…that thing you told my mom?"
He takes a long drag. It doesn't really help. "You think I'd lie about that?"
"No, but…" She trails off, then swallows hard. "You weren't conscious, though."
They're concealed from most of the neighborhood's view by a hedge of thick pine trees. Roxanne stops walking, staring at his thin face, which is closed and dark, his brows lowered. "M-Megamind. You weren't, were you? Th-they didn't…"
"They did," he says, very quietly, and she lets out a strangled sob and reaches for him. "They didn't mean to. They thought I was asleep."
She takes his face in her hands, shaking her head in vehement denial of this, as if somehow by sheer force of rejection she could make it untrue. "No," she says between clenched teeth. "N-no."
He manages a small, reassuring grin. "I have a very high tolerance for pain," he tells her. "I was okay."
"But…it hurt, of course it did, it has to have hurt," she babbles, staring at him, her blue eyes flicking back and forth between his green ones as she touches his face, stroking his cheeks with her thumbs. "Or it wouldn't do this to you. Oh my God. Oh my God."
He rests his hands on her waist and starts to smile. It's been so long since he'd even dared think of those two years, let alone speak of everything that happened. He wants to tell her no, he was fine, he's always been fine, don't worry. It was what he had told them, wasn't it? Not to keep them from doing it again, but to show them they hadn't made him weak. Better to let them do it twice than to see him brought low. At the time, he'd thought that was their goal. To punish him—though for what, he'd never been able to quite figure out.
But that's what he starts to say. Nope! Barely felt a thing!
But then, slowly, his smile falls away. And, even more slowly, he nods. "Yes," he softly admits, almost twenty years after the fact. "Yes. It hurt." And then he summons all his strength, takes a deep breath, and says the part that he has never told anybody, ever, not once. "And it—it hurt worse the second time."
"Megamind," she gasps out, "oh, my God," and pulls him against her. He drops the cigarette so he can hug her.
It's when she begins to rock him desperately from side to side, standing there on the sidewalk, that the stone in his throat finally rises up and chokes him. After a few seconds, he clenches his fingers in her coat, hides his face in her neck, and silently allows himself to break down.