It had been about two years now since Mrs. Ritchi passed away. Roxanne had taken it terribly hard, and he backed off for a period of several months to allow her to work through it all. He had wanted to go to her, to be there to comfort her, but why would she want him when she had her hero to turn to in her distress? Even though it had taken all of his willpower to stay away, he did just that, giving her as much space as she needed to work through her grief so she could feel strong again.
They looked at each other for a moment, and as he watched he saw her eyes cloud and glisten with unshed tears. She blinked and looked away, not wanting to look weak in front of her long time captor, but just as she did he caught a glimpse of her soft, full lower lip beginning to quiver.
Megamind had no idea what to do. He grew up in a prison for Christ's sake! Prisons were a great place for a young boy of tender years to learn how to pick a lock or steal a car... hell, they were a fantastic place to learn how to kick ass in a fight, a skill he had employed often in his thirty-plus years; but they most certainly were not the best places to learn how to be tender, or comforting, or empathetic.
But as he sat there watching her agonize over how much she missed her mother and still trying so hard to be strong in front of him, the self-proclaimed dark, dingy recesses of his cold, black heart were lit with compassion.
He wanted to reach out to her, to comfort her. Of course, the instant he tried she would probably tell him to get lost... who the heck would want him to even touch them, let alone put an arm around them and offer to be a shoulder to cry on, but she needed someone. He supposed he could fit the bill in a pinch.
Haltingly, he reached out to her as she sat miserably looking away from him, trying to avoid eye contact at all costs, and carefully laid a hand on her shoulder. He gently began to smooth his hand over her back, hoping that even though he had no idea what he was doing, he would be able to soothe her at least a little in his awkward attempt.
Feeling his hand on her, she snapped her head around to look at him in surprise. The way those amazing green eyes looked at her so tenderly crumbled every inhibition, and she threw herself in his arms, hugging him tightly and nestling in as closely as she could. She didn't care that he was the bad guy, or that he was an alien or blue or any of the other stupid arguments that the people of the city they both called home used against him; he was kind enough to be there for her right then, when she needed someone most. That's the only thing that mattered.
After a moment of mild shock that she responded so positively to his attentions rather than kicking him out, he relaxed and wrapped his arms around her, letting her melt into him as she buried her face into his chest. Suddenly, he didn't feel awkward at all; he knew just what to do and reveled in the feeling of her closeness as he smoothed his hand over her hair and pressed his lips to the top of her head.
He understood her pain; every year when the rest of the city was excitedly preparing for the holidays and spending time with family and friends, he felt a deep, empty ache in his heart at the memory of losing his family and his world. From time to time he would open up to Minion about his longing for the family he never really knew, and his little friend always managed somehow to know just what to say to ease his boss' mind. What would he do without that fantastic fish?
As Roxanne reached a hand up to wipe away a stray tear, he was glad to be able to be there with her at that moment, and a tingle of affection for his favorite captive washed over him. It was amazing to him that underneath all of their blaring differences, they really weren't so very different at all.
He held her that way for a while, listening to her sniffle quietly against him and allowing himself to imagine what it would be like if she was his to hold like this all the time, his to comfort and protect. As he thought about it, he realized that he would be willing to do just about anything to make that happen if he thought there was even the ghost of a chance that he could be with her.
After spending several blissful moments wrapped up in his fantasy, he heard her sniff again as she reached up a second time to wipe away the tears. I'm just not enough, she doesn't really want me here, who am I kidding?
"Roxanne, I'm sorry it has to be me here with you... do you want to call someone to come sit with you? A friend?"
Without looking up, she answered into his chest, "Why would you be sorry?" After another moment she questioned, "I thought you said villains didn't say they were sorry."
Megamind grinned into her hair and bit back a chuckle. Even in this state her mind was still busily at work trying to figure him out. She was too just smart.
"Oh well, you know. It just kind of slipped out," he answered quickly. Then more seriously, he continued, "I mean, I just figured you were wishing you had someone else with you right now."
She pulled away a little to look at him and answered with a sniff, "No, I'm glad you're here with me, Megamind. Besides, I don't have anyone to call."
"Well what about Metro Man? You've got him... "
"No... I really don't have anyone." She answered in a matter-of-fact tone. She didn't want to explain to him at the moment that she and Metro Man had never been together, and never would be. They were somewhat close, but he was always so flakey and self-absorbed, and didn't make a good confidant. There was no way she could be in a relationship with someone like that.
As for other friends; she got along beautifully with most of her co-workers and had other acquaintances outside of work as well, but there was no one that she felt she could really talk to about deep subjects like this. For years her social life had pretty much consisted of spending time with her blue captor and his henchman, tied to a chair and dangled in front of Metro City's resident hero as bait. Despite the rather dysfunctional nature of the relationship, she had to reluctantly admit to herself that they were really the closest friends she had.
Don't have anyone? That was not the answer he expected, and little red flags began to go up in his incredible mind. That one phrase was enough to give him hours of fodder to ponder over, and he couldn't decide if the answers he might find would possibly give him hope, or make him worry himself sick for her.
But then another thought occurred to him; if he understood her correctly, for some reason she felt comfortable confiding in him something that she couldn't share with anyone else, not even Metro Man. From somewhere deep within him a tiny glimmer of excitement began to surface. What if...
No. It was crazy to even allow those thoughts to form in his mind. Sentimentality like that was asking for trouble.
Instead of continuing to dwell on her odd response, he looked deeply into her beautiful blue eyes and said, "Well, this may not be worth much, but you have me. You'll always have me."
Roxanne's eyes grew wide at his proclamation that he would always be there for her. For some reason, his promise of support meant more to her than the same offer would have meant from anyone else she knew, including Wayne. A warm tingle began to move through her chest knowing that Metro City's notorious villain was in her corner and would always be there for her.
When she began to recover from her shock at his promise, and her own reaction to that promise, her face softened into a gentle smile and she said, "Megamind, I can't even begin to tell you how much that means to me. Honestly, it means so much."
Her blue visitor found himself momentarily speechless at her reply. His brows raised in surprise and the corner of his lip turned up in a half smile as he rolled her words around in his mind.
Such a favorable response from anyone, but especially from his precious Roxanne Ritchi seemed almost unimaginable to him. How could anyone but Minion ever value an offer of devotion like that coming from him?
After several seconds of trying unsuccessfully to process her answer, he blurted out incredulously, "It... it does?"
"Yeah, it does." she said, and her smile grew even sweeter; a true smile this time that settled across her entire face, and shone radiantly in her beautiful blue eyes.
She watched him sit in shocked silence, thinking, with a silly smile plastered to his expressive lips. She couldn't get over how cute he looked, and wished he really could understand how deeply it touched her that he had given her his promise to be there for her whenever she needed him.
All his constant bluster about being such an evil villain was sounding less and less likely all the time as she caught these tell-tale glimpses of the true Megamind that he kept hidden carefully away. Underneath it all, she could see more good in him in one little finger than most people had in their whole body, and she hoped that someday he might be able to understand that the way she did... especially when she allowed her mind to wander toward the hopeful possibilities that a change like that in him could open up between them.
Watching her personal villain as those thoughts ran through her mind made her heart swell with affection for him and appreciation for the way he stood by her in her time of need. Without thinking any further about what she was doing, she slid close to him and wrapped her arms around him again, settling in as closely as she could against him.
"Thank you for staying with me, Megamind. I think I'm feeling better now."
Wow. He couldn't believe how good it felt knowing that he had been able to see her through such a deep personal struggle. He was amazed that out of all the people in the city, this beautiful, talented woman had trusted him with something so close to her heavy heart, and he had been able to put a smile on her face again.
As much as he hated the thought of ending this moment with her and going back to the normal routine, he began to feel that it might just be time for him to call for Minion. After all, she seemed alright now, his purpose there seemed to be fulfilled… she would probably want him to get going as soon as possible.
Holding on to her and soaking up her closeness while he still could, he reluctantly asked, "So do you think you're going to be okay now?"
"I think so. But wait… you're not leaving yet are you?" she asked, lifting her head so she could look at him with a tiny frown.
"Well, I mean, I thought that since you were feeling better now it was just time for me to be moving along…"
"I'm not feeling that much better, I still want you to stay for a while… if you don't mind, that is. Will you? I just don't want to be alone right now."
Megamind smiled and said, "Sure, I can do that. As long as you need me, I'll be here."
Roxanne's frown immediately changed into a relieved smile, and she snuggled back in to him, resting her head once again on his chest as he tightened his hold on her and ran his fingertips tenderly through the ends of her hair.
They sat like that in contented silence, not feeling the need to say a word, and allowing themselves the unheard of opportunity to enjoy each other's company without the need to play the villain/ victim rolls they had always been cast in. It was so nice to just be with each other with no expectations, no wicked plans or evil contraptions, no banter or interruptions from the other participants in their game. Just the two of them admitting for once their friendship, and allowing their fondness for one another to show.
It didn't seem like very long before Megamind suddenly realized that Roxanne had grown very still and her soft breaths had become slow and even. Carefully shifting his position so as not to disturb her, just in case, he peeked at her to confirm his suspicions… yes indeed, she was fast asleep.
He watched her in awe as she lay against him, sleeping soundly and looking so peaceful, so unbelievably lovely. He could scarcely believe that she had trusted him enough to allow herself to fall asleep in his arms. Now this was something he'd never forget.
As much as he wished he could stay right there with her just as he was right now, he knew it was time to call for Minion to pick him up. Staying with her all night just wouldn't be right… not that he had a conscience, mind you… true villains don't have a conscience. He simply couldn't run the risk of an awkward situation between them at her next kidnapping; that presented the possibility of further delaying his maniacal plans. After all, e-vil waits for no-one, and after tonight, I'm already behind shed-yool!
Carefully lifting his arms from the pretty reporter so as not to wake her, he touched his holo-watch and whispered, "Minion, I'm ready. Come on over."
Then looking down at her as she rested peacefully, he added, "But be sure to put the bike in stealth mode again, we don't want to… uh, draw attention to ourselves. After all, it's late and the whole place is sleeping; we wouldn't want to wake anyone."
"Well it's about time, Sir! Do you have any idea how late it is? And why would we care if we wake anyone? We're the bad guys, right? I mean, that's what we do! It's practically expected of us! "
"Ugh, Minion… enough with the maternal lectures! Just get over here and pick me up! Pronto!"
Quickly ending his communiqué with his fishy henchman with a huff and a roll of his eyes, he looked down again at Roxanne as she stirred in her sleep, nestling in to him a bit closer than she was before and breathing in deeply. With an affectionate smile, he regretfully slipped his arms under her and gingerly slid by as he eased her softly back down on the couch.
As he helped her onto the soft cushions, she stretched and opened her eyes a little, and looking blearily up at him she mumbled, "Megs, why can't you be good? I wish… "
"What? What did you say? You wish what, Roxanne?" he asked, curiosity mingling with a tingling feeling of hope that he could feel rising in his chest, but his questions were met with the sound of her even breathing as she slipped deeply back into sleep.
A moment later, a knock at the balcony door pulled the blue villain from his thoughts and signaled that his ride had arrived. Wow, Minion certainly didn't waste any time in getting here! He must have been somewhere nearby, just chomping at the bit for me to call… what a worry-fish!
Turning back to Roxanne, he picked up the blanket she had folded at the other end of the couch and draped it over her, then with a final glance at her as she slept, he crossed the room and opened the door quietly just as his friend began a second round of impatient knocking.
Only when it was closed securely behind him did he turn to his scaly friend and say, "I'm here, for e-vil heaven's sake! Keep your fins on… you know, you worry far too much!"
"Sir, it's my job to worry; I'm supposed to look after you!"
"Yes, I know that. But really, how much trouble could I possibly get into at Miss Ritchi's apartment?"
Minion's mind instantaneously filled with hundreds of different ways that his boss could get himself into trouble at their lovely victim's apartment, especially when he thought of the way he had noticed them sneakily stealing looks at one another from time to time. There were in fact so many ways his blue ward could get into trouble, his little mind was suddenly a swirl of scenarios, and he found himself speechless as he tried to decide which ones to list first.
"Never mind, don't answer that." Megamind said dryly with a longsuffering expression when he saw the fish's wheels turning, but an instant later his face began to take on that familiar crafty look he assumed when he began to formulate a new and cunning plan. "Now Minion, we have work to do! First, about this balcony… "
Roxanne awoke early the next morning feeling slightly confused as to why she was sleeping on the couch rather than in her bed, and why in the world was she still wearing her work skirt instead of her pajamas. Sleeping in her clothes, especially these clothes, was incredibly uncomfortable and would typically be the last thing she would choose to do.
She sat up and stretched, rubbing her eyes and yawning as she tried to focus her sleepy brain on the reason why she would do something so unusual. Oh, that's right... Megamind. Yesterday had been her mother's birthday. She had been upset, and he had stayed with her until she… wait, where was he? Turning quickly to give her great-room a good once over and seeing no sign of her blue visitor, she realized he must have gone. She must have been sound asleep when he left because she had no memory of him leaving, and she wondered how long he had stayed.
As she pondered the events of the previous evening, the unbelievable way he sat with her, and listened to her, and even put his arm around her gently, holding her when she began to feel a little teary eyed, she smiled. The way he had behaved last night was so different from the extravagant theatrics of his usual demeanor, but for some reason she wasn't all that surprised. The softer side of him she had been able to catch a glimpse of last night seemed to fit him, seemed to be more "him" than anything she had ever seen. As much as she hated to admit it to herself, she liked that side of him… she liked it a lot.
Shaking her head at herself when she realized where her line of thought was taking her, she moved along to get ready and begin her day.
This morning was far different than the previous day had been. Waking early, she had more than enough time to prepare for her day, and once at work, things went smoothly. Everything seemed to fall into place for her as the hours went on, and Roxanne couldn't help but think that the way things were going today almost made up for the disaster she had suffered through the day before.
What made things even better was the fact that the feeling of sadness that had been weighing her down all week long had been lifted from her shoulders thanks to Megamind and the way he stayed to listen to her, offering her a shoulder to cry on when she needed it most. His kindness toward her had been amazing, and despite herself, she continuously found a warm flutter welling up in her chest throughout the day whenever her thoughts strayed to what he had done for her.
Oddly enough, Karen Crosby seemed to be having a hell of a day. The snarky rival reporter arrived for work several hours late due to a strange and random act of vandalism that had surprisingly affected her car alone out of the dozens of cars parked in her apartment's garage. All four of her wheels had been completely removed from their hubs and then placed inside the car with the doors neatly shut behind them; one in the driver's seat, one in the passenger's, and the two rear wheels situated in the back seat, all looking as though they were ready and waiting to go for a spin in a car that lay flat on the garage floor, resting on its undercarriage.
When the vandalism had been reported and her wheels finally reattached, the irate reporter arrived at work to find that the important interview with the mayor that she had scheduled for early that morning had been taken from her and given to Roxanne at the suggestion of a mysterious employee who phoned in from the mayor's office right before his arrival.
Although somewhat surprised to find out about the call placed by the unknown employee, the mayor didn't mind the results of the call in the least; he had always liked Roxanne and preferred her as an interviewer anyway.
When she finally arrived back home that evening after the best day she'd had at work in a long time, Roxanne's glance caught the balcony door, and her spirits fell a little. Great, now she would have to make that call to the building's superintendent to let him know about the damage, and arrange to have it repaired.
She was not looking forward to making that call; the crotchety old gentleman was known for being cranky and immensely stubborn, and took his job, and the building he was entrusted to oversee far too seriously. Any small amount of damage reported to him was treated like a major incident… what was he going to do when he saw the piles of broken brick and rubble scattered across her balcony floor?
Pulling out her phone and preparing to dial, she walked to the door for another hesitant glance so she could give an accurate description of the mess when the round of twenty questions began. But rather than seeing crumbled mortar and shattered masonry, she saw… nothing.
Closing her phone in shock, she walked toward the door and opened it, stepping outside with wide eyes and looking at the flawless rail, nary a crack or missing brick in sight. Sitting atop the structure in the very spot that had been ruined the last time she looked at it, she saw an envelope in a telltale shade of blue.
She smiled, and her heart pounded with a combination of excitement and nervousness when she picked up the envelope, examining the familiar M symbol embossed on the back and her name written neatly on the front. Oh my God, I can't believe this.
Pulling out the stationary inside, she began to read the note he had left, written in all his usual bravado…
My Dear Miss Ritchi,
As I have already explained, a true villain never apologizes, but any villain worth his salt is not above rectifying his mistakes. I have taken it upon myself to recruit several of my brainbots to repair the damage done to your balcony during last night's failed kidnapping.
Of course, the occasional collateral damage is sometimes necessary to the advancement of my empire, but because no evil plan actually took place, your balcony was needlessly broken… so I've decided to call a do-over. We'll start fresh next time, although I'm quite certain there won't be a need to damage your masonry again; I guarantee Minion will be much more careful from here on out.
In the mean time, I hope you're feeling much more chipper today, and that you'll remember the promise I made you… I meant every word. Behind you, you'll find a little something, just a small gift I've left as a token of how deeply heartfelt that promise is.
Roxanne instantly stopped reading and swung around, scanning every inch of the balcony floor, railing, and her patio chairs, looking for the "gift" he said had left for her, but found nothing. Hmmmm…
Turning back to the note with confusion and mild disappointment, she continued…
Just in case you may be feeling up for a little adventure, I still have a perfectly good plan just waiting for my favorite victim. If you're ready, simply take your gift and place it on the railing where you found this note as a signal, and I will personally be along to whisk you away for that journey into terror you unfortunately missed out on last night.
But no pressure, take all the time you need… it means the world to me that you are feeling better, and ready to face the peril that awaits you before we continue on with any more evil plans.
Sincerely from the deepest place in my black heart,
When Roxanne finished reading, her hands dropped to her sides and she looked up, staring blankly at the repaired railing. She was so utterly shocked, she couldn't even seem to find the words to string a complete thought together in her head. As she stood there in awe at this unbelievable gesture from her captor, a smile crept across her face. Maybe she was right… maybe Megamind wasn't so bad after all?
Her train of thought was suddenly interrupted by a soft, muffled thud that seemed to come from directly behind her. Turning toward the curious sound, she found a single yellow rose lying on the ground at her feet. This must be the gift he was talking about! Wait, it wasn't here before… how did it get here?
Just at that instant, she heard from somewhere above her a familiar bowging sound. Looking up, she saw a spike embellished brainbot hovering there, regarding her with its flexible eyestalk as its long robotic arms trailed lazily below it. Bobbing in the air and observing her curiously for another moment, her abductor's unusual pet let out another bowg, and then zipped away.
Roxanne chuckled as she watched the odd little creature disappear into the distance, and then bent to pick up the perfect, yellow rosebud that had been dropped at her feet.
She straightened, studying the lovely flower, and considered the meaning behind the particular color he had chosen… yellow for friendship. Despite his infamous reputation for evil and mayhem, he had certainly proven to her last night that he was her friend, maybe the very best one she had.
Shifting her eyes from the delicate rose she held in her hand to the rail of her balcony, once again made perfect thanks to the thoughtfulness of the one man most feared by every citizen of Metro City, everyone but her, she chuckled.
"Oh… why not?" she said aloud with a shrug to no one in particular, and then lay the rose gently on the rail.
With an eager smile, she leaned over the banister to take a good, long, expectant look at the cityscape that surrounded her, scanning the skyline for a familiar blue form speeding toward her. No one yet… all she could see was the surrounding buildings, their windows glinting brightly in the sunset. Knowing it wouldn't be long now, she quickly cast a final glance back at her gift as it lay on the brick, its leaves fluttering in the breeze, and then excitedly turned to go inside, leaving the door open just a crack behind her.
I'd better hurry up and get ready, who knows when he might show up!
Now for a sad note, our family lost a very dear loved one within the past year, and her birthday was just last month. Thinking about that was the inspiration for this story. I hope you'll review and tell me what you think, but be gentle… I'm a little bit fragile where this one is concerned.
A great big thank you to Hunger4Righteousness for being my beta this time around, and for being such a wonderful friend… Love you dear!
My heartfelt appreciation goes out to everyone that read this little story. I hope that you enjoyed it, and some of you may even be able to relate to it a little bit. Those of you who can, my heart goes out to you… and I hope you know that you're not alone. I, for one, am right there with you. ((hugs!))