Roxanne blew her nose yet again and then added the tissue to the growing pile beside her couch. She coughed, then resettled back more comfortably into her nest of blankets. She glanced down at the book on the cushions beside her—no. Her head hurt too much to read any more right now. She’d have to wait until later to find out what happened to the feisty Miss Felicity Day after Lord Vincent Valentine discovered it was she he had kidnapped in place of her wilting lettuce of a sister, Wilhelmina.
With a sigh, Roxanne leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Damn this cold. Three o’clock in the afternoon on October 31st and she was still sick, which was really all kinds of unfair; Megamind’s Halloween plots were always among his best and most fun. She had a strong suspicion that it was his favorite holiday, and being sick meant she wasn’t going to be able to enjoy this one fully.
She smothered another cough and clutched the blankets around her—the three blankets and one cape, actually, which wasn’t weird; it just happened to be incredibly soft and warm and comforting and good for napping in and the fact that it was Megamind’s had nothing to do with how comforting it was.
Probably she should be planning on giving it back to him later tonight, but Roxanne was strongly tempted to just keep it—a present to make up for a rather spectacularly terrible birthday.
Remembering, Roxanne made a face.
If only the kidnapping for her birthday on the 17th hadn’t been a lakeside one. If only she hadn’t worn that ridiculously thin dress—but she’d bought it new, loving the way the waistband hit her waist perfectly, loving the way the white lace top clung, and the way that the sky blue skirt spun and flipped.
Megamind had wisely taken the flippiness of the skirt, and the windiness of the lakeside, into account—he’d tied her wrists and her ankles while she was unconscious, then waited until she awoke from the knockout spray to tie her to the wide wooden post in the middle of the kidnapping display. He’d used more rope than usual, and had wound it around her body several times, making sure to secure the material of her skirt down.
(the rope coiled artistically around her thighs and hips, flattering placement and fancy knot work, and sometimes Roxanne feels so pretty when Megamind ties her up.)
Everything had been going so well at that point, had been going well, in fact, right up until the point that Metro Man showed up, laser-eyed exactly the wrong part of the deathtrap, and sent Roxanne plummeting into the frigid water.
The supposedly-deadly deathtrap hadn’t actually been deep enough to be dangerous—color Roxanne not at all shocked, there. It had only reached the tops of her shoulders, but her sudden submersion had been enough to make the water slap her in the face, and she’d ended up swallowing a good mouthful of the nasty stuff.
Not to mention that she’d wound up absolutely drenched and freezing. And Metro Man, who generally disliked water and who also, Roxanne suspected, didn't want to get his uniform or his hair wet, had suddenly been too busy “fighting brainbots” to fish her out of the water.
Instead, Megamind had been the one to—well, it had looked like he accidentally fell into the water with her; he did that part very convincingly, Roxanne will give him that, but one does not generally remove one’s cape and palm a nearby knife before ‘falling’.
Once in, he’d cut the ropes and Roxanne had swum to the platform’s edge, where she’d hauled herself out, dripping and coughing. Megamind had been right behind her, pulling himself back onshore much more gracefully. He’d turned to say something to her, his lips parted, and then his eyes had gotten very wide very suddenly, and he’d blushed almost fuchsia and turned very quickly away, making a ‘take-us-off-the-air’ gesture at a nearby brainbot with one hand and grabbing his cape and tossing it at her with the other.
Roxanne had clutched the cape around herself gratefully, teeth chattering, and it wasn’t until after Megamind had escaped that she’d realized the effect that the frigid water had had on the clinging white top of her dress, and exactly why he’d both thrown his cape at her and taken them off the air at that moment.
Metro Man hadn’t even apologized or volunteered to let her have his cape instead, the ass.
She’d woken up the day after her birthday with an aching chest and a cough—she assumed at first that it was because of how much water she’d inhaled, but it soon deepened into an actual cold.
It was hard to do broadcasting work when she was sneezing or coughing every thirty seconds or so, but she’d been able to do some article writing, and it hadn’t been until today that she’d given in and called in sick to work, in the hope that getting some rest might make her perk up a bit in time for tonight’s kidnapping.
Roxanne sneezed again.
So far, that plan did not seem to be working.
She took another tissue from the box and blew her nose yet again. She had just tossed it down to join its fellows on the floor when she heard the knock—
Roxanne blinked a little blearily. The knock sounded again, and just as she’d thought, it wasn’t coming from the other side of her apartment door, but from the other side of her balcony door.
Her eyes went wide and flew to the balcony windows—thankfully, she’d pulled the curtains closed earlier, but Megamind wasn’t exactly one to let a thing like curtains or locks stop him. Damn it; she’d thought she would have more time; it wasn’t even dark out yet; she wasn’t even dressed; she was just lying here on her couch in her pajamas and her blankets—and his cape; shit shit shit—
Roxanne scrambled to her feet and stuffed the cape hurriedly beneath the rest of the blankets on the couch, then quickly ran her fingers through her hair before crossing to the balcony door. Maybe she could convince him to wait a few minutes while she got dressed and put on some makeup—
She honestly expected Megamind to burst in before she could open the door, but she made it across the room without him doing so. Which was…weird; sometimes Megamind would knock before a kidnapping, if he was concerned that he might be catching her at an awkward moment, but he usually opened the door himself after giving her a reasonable amount of time to pull herself together.
…surely it had to be Megamind, though; who else would knock on her balcony? Roxanne opened the lock and slid the door open, clutching the collar of her pajamas a bit nervously. Hell; why hadn’t she worn her nice pajamas?
“Uh, hey; what’s—oh,” she said.
“Hey, Miss Ritchi.” Minion said.
Roxanne’s eyes flickered automatically past Minion, but—no, just as she’d thought at first glance, Megamind wasn’t with him.
“Hey, Minion,” she said. He was holding a wicker picnic basket in his metal arms, which Roxanne eyed with interest as she stood aside to let him come in. “Can you give me a bit? I thought I’d have more time to get ready…”
“Oh!” Minion said, following her into her apartment. “No, there’s no need to get ready, Miss Ritchi. That’s what I stopped by to say—and to give you this, of course.”
“Ah?” Roxanne said, trailing after him as he walked purposefully into her kitchen.
“Oh, yes,” Minion said, setting down the wicker basket on her kitchen counter.
He reached into it and pulled out, in quick succession, a large tupperware container full of what looked like chicken soup, a big thermos, a bag of cough drops, a bottle of tylenol, and something flat and metal which turned out, after he pulled and adjusted a few pieces, to be a collapsable tv tray.
“The kidnapping for tonight has been cancelled,” Minion said, moving briskly to her cupboards and opening them. He pulled down a bowl and a mug, opened her silverware drawer and pulled out a spoon, opened her utensil drawer and pulled out a ladle.
“We didn’t want you to spend all of tonight waiting and worrying,” he said, “so I went ahead and came to tell you.”
Minion popped the lid of the tupperware, causing steam and a distinctly chicken-y smell to rise into the air of her kitchen. He ladled a generous serving of the soup into the waiting bowl, unscrewed the lid of the thermos, poured out what appeared to be tea into the mug, set the tea, soup, spoon, cough drops, and tylenol on the tray, then picked up the tray and turned expectantly to Roxanne.
“Why don’t you go and sit down again, Miss Ritchi?”
Roxanne opened her mouth to argue, then, unable to think of any actual reason to do so, closed it again and went and sat down again on the couch.
Minion followed, setting the tray down on the coffee table once she’d settled (a little awkwardly, since she remembered at the last moment that Megamind’s cape was still concealed within the mound of blankets, and elected to sit on the whole nest of them rather than try to wriggle beneath them without revealing it.)
Minion was looking at her expectantly again, so she picked up the mug of tea and took a sip. He beamed at her; this was evidently what he had been wanting.
“…cancelled?” Roxanne managed.
“Yes, on account of you being under the weather, Miss Ritchi,” Minion said matter-of-factly.
“On—but I’m—” Roxanne dissolved into a fit of coughing.
“Yes,” Minion said, giving her a look that said he knew what she’d been about to say, and was not having with it. “The evil plots will return to the usual schedule after you are well again.”
“But it’s Halloween!”
“Yes,” Minion said, in a way that clearly indicated that he did not understand the full gravity of the situation.
Roxanne opened her mouth to protest further but was stopped by a cough.
“Miss Ritchi,” Minion said with a stern look, when she finally finished coughing. “Halloween is not as important as your health.”
“Drink your tea, Miss Ritchi.”
Roxanne subsided against the couch cushions and took a somewhat sullen drink of tea. Minion watched her for a long moment, as if trying to be sure that she wasn’t going to leap up and attempt to kidnap herself, and then moved into the kitchen again.
“I don’t know how you managed to talk him into this,” Roxanne muttered into her tea.
“Into what, Miss Ritchi?” Minion called from the kitchen, bustling around, and putting things away.
“Canceling the Halloween plot,” Roxanne said, and sniffed. The steam from the tea seemed to be helping her sinuses.
“Oh,” Minion said, sounding surprised. “I didn’t have to talk him into it, Miss Ritchi. The cancellation was Sir’s idea.”
Roxanne almost dropped her tea in surprise.
“But he loves Halloween!” she blurted out.
“Well, yes,” Minion said, again in that does-not-understand-the-gravity-of-the-situation way. “I suppose so. Now, have you got enough tissues to last you, Miss Ritchi?”
Roxanne answered that, and all the rest of Minion’s solicitous questions, with her mind rather preoccupied by the thought that the Halloween cancellation had been Megamind’s idea, and it wasn’t until after Minion was gone that she realized she’d forgotten to ask him if the other half of Evil Halloween was also canceled.
Megamind ran his fingertips across the spines of his books, trying to decide which one to re-read. The problem, of course, was that he didn’t really want to re-read any of them, but the book that he actually wanted to read wasn’t there—ever since he’d found out that the library was ordering Valentine’s Day, he’d been waiting for it to arrive so he could grab it during one of his nighttime visits there. It had been scheduled to come in a few days ago, but when he’d gotten to the library, it seemed that someone else had already snatched up the book during the library’s regularly scheduled hours. Now he’d have to wait until whoever it was finally finished with the book before he could read it.
He sighed, and let his hand stop on The Blue Sword. Not exactly what he wanted, but at least he knew how much he loved this one. He pulled it off the shelf.
Really, he didn’t want to be reading any book tonight, not even the romance novel he’d been waiting weeks for. What he wanted—
Megamind made a face.
What he wanted was home in her apartment, sick with a cold which was entirely his fault for dousing her in freezing cold water on her birthday; dear god; he was the absolute worst, and she was probably still furious with him. He certainly wouldn’t blame her. He’s furious with himself, both for the cold water itself and for the way his mind keeps returning to the picture of her like that, her wet dress clinging to her body and her wet hair clinging to her skin, and the cape, his cape, wrapped around her—
Megamind shook his head in an attempt to make himself stop thinking about her like that, damn it; that was very inappropriate and not fair; she’d only been wearing his cape because of how cold and wet she was, which had been his fault.
No thinking of her like that.
No thinking of her like that, and no Halloween kidnapping, which was another thing that was entirely his fault. And he’d been looking forward to Halloween for months; he did every year—Halloween was the most fun and inspiring of holidays, and—well, everyone seemed to hate him a little less on Halloween. People almost liked the bad guy, on Halloween. Sometimes, a few people—only ever a few, and only ever ones in masks—sometimes a few of them would even cheer for him.
And Miss Ritchi always wore a costume, which was…exciting in a way that he probably also did not deserve to dwell on. A different costume, every year, and he looked forward to that for months, too, finding out what her costume would be.
Whatever her costume this year would have been, he wasn’t going to get to see it.
Megamind flopped down on his bed with another sigh and opened his book.
Megamind glanced over the top of the book to see Brainbot 228 hovering in his bedroom doorway, holding a little white piece of cloth.
“Hey, 228,” Megamind said, shutting his book and setting it aside, glad of the distraction. “Did you want daddy to help you with your costume?”
“Bowg bowg!” 228 said, swooping excitedly into the room and dropping the cloth into Megamind’s waiting hands.
Megamind looked at the cloth with some surprise. He recognized this costume; it was one of what the bots called the Signifiers.
When the bots dressed up for Halloween, they tended to construct somewhat…odd costumes. Cars were prominently featured, which made sense, as the bots were dressing up as things they found scary. The bots had started their existence as stray animals, many of whom had had fatal encounters with cars. But there were plenty of other, stranger, costumes, too—characters from bedtime stories that Megamind told them, things like Fire Alarms and Toasters, and abstract concepts like Loneliness and Pain, things like The Sound the Vacuum Cleaner Makes.
When the bunch of them gathered together to do their version of trick-or-treating, the sight of them could be seriously startling and, if you didn’t understand what was happening, extremely confusing.
Which was the reason for the Signifiers. Megamind had asked about them, the year that he found out the brainbots were going around to all of his prison uncles who had been released and trick-or-treating. The Signifiers, Zero had said, were ’traditional-type’ costumes which showed that the cavalcade of brainbots was participating in Halloween. The bots divided themselves up into groups, so as not to overwhelm any one uncle all at once, and each group had a Signifier, who wore the traditional costume and was tasked with keeping the swarm focused and together.
There were a whole bunch of Signifier costumes—ghost, witch, mummy (which looked, basically, like a floating orb of toilet paper, but Megamind would never dream of telling the brainbots that), vampire, zombie, jack-o-lantern (the bot being the jack-o-lantern always had a great deal of fun carving the pumpkin that it wore), clown, and black cat. All of them except the ghost went to a different bot each year; the ghost Zero always wore herself. Except this year, apparently.
“Is Zero not going with you this year?” Megamind asked, draping the white sheet over 228 and helping them thread their eyestalk through the hole. “Or is she just wearing something else?”
“Bowg! Bowg bowg bowg!” 228 zig-zagged briefly in the air, more excited than ever, and then grabbed Megamind’s sleeve with one clawed appendage. They tugged at his arm and Megamind got up, laughing.
“Oh, does she want me to see it?” he asked. “Okay, 228, lead the way!”
Megamind followed as 228 led him down the hallway and into the open lab area of the Lair. The other bots were there already, dressed in their own costumes. When the bots saw him, several of them dashed over to him, bowging, eager to show off their costumes. First someone who had smeared their sharp-toothed mouth with lipstick and stuck a high-heel atop their braincase—
“Oh, my goodness, look at you! You’re Miss Ritchi, aren’t you!”
—next a bot who had tied a number of tin cans to strings and hung them beneath their body, where they rattled together—
“Ooh, you’re a wind chime, aren’t you?”
—and then someone with a lampshade stuck on their braincase.
“Oh, look; you’re a lamp!”
The group of them swarmed around him happily while he laughed, and then that little group parted to show him another group, all of whom had painted their metal bodies green, and who were chomping their jaws together even more than usual.
“Ah, you’re the alligators!”
The Miss Ritchi bot flew closer again, and Megamind saw, accompanying them, a bot which had painted themself blue, and was wearing the tattered remains of what looked like one of his own capes. Another bot swooped in to join the pair, this one painted with scales and wearing a glass fishbowl. After a moment yet another brainbot joined them; this one had been painted black, and was carrying a little cage on a chain, a cage in which a Metro Man doll and a ragged scrap of white cape had been placed; this bot was followed by a bot dressed as—
“You’re the kidnapping chair!”
A bot flew into view, this one also painted blue, but with a scrap of orange cloth tied to one appendage. It was followed by three other bots, these painted black and white, and making the sound of police cars.
Another bot, which had wrapped purple tulle around itself in a kind of puffy cloud hovered proudly nearby, holding a loop of silk rope in its appendages.
“Oh, you’re a bath loofa!”
A group of bots, all dressed as books—
“Ah, it’s the library!”
Another bot, wearing a tie and a comb stuck on its braincase.
“Are you Warden? You are!”
Someone dressed up as a box of doughnuts; someone dressed as a singular doughnut, chocolate covered, with rainbow sprinkles. A bot with white pillow stuffing stuck to its body, making a popping noise and performing rapid little hops in the air.
A bot covered in glitter—
“Ah, you’re Glitter, aren’t you!”A bot, painted black and holding a cage, like the Metro Man bot, but with a veterinary cone inside this cage. Someone dressed as a radio, their jaws open as they played music; three bots flying in formation, stacked one on top of the other, with a box around them, the top bot red, the middle one yellow, the bottom green—
One with a fuzzy blue blanket draped over its body.
“You’re a blanket!”
Another, painted orange, with soft orange yarn wrapped around its body, its metal appendages folded in a hugging position.
“My favorite sweater!”
A bot with the poison symbol painted on its braincase, holding an apple—the poisoned apple from Snow White. Another bot, which had clearly turned up its own body heat slightly, and which wore a kind of metal box around its braincase, with a metal door on the front, gaping wide—the oven from Hansel and Gretel.
Two bots throwing a wrench back and forth—
“Oh! You’re Fetch!”
A bot with its eyestalk threaded through an upside down flowerpot, flowers clutched in its appendages. Three bots together, two whirling round and round each other, while one above them jumped up and down, making a whirring, crunching sound—
A bot with pieces of paper on strings hanging down from its body—
“Ah! You’re one of daddy’s idea clouds!”
One with a long green tail and a party horn in its mouth, which it blew periodically.
A bot with a feather boa draped around it like a fur collar, and a single false eyelash on its brainstalk, carrying a bottle of perfume, which it sprayed in little puffs. Megamind sniffed, recognizing the heavy, cloying scent.
“Lady Scott! Did you actually steal one of her bottles of perfume? Oh, you clever, bad thing!”
One bot, with an empty sugar bag upended on its braincase and white glitter on its metal body, waving its appendages happily. A bot dressed as a giraffe, simply a long yellow neck with brown spots. Another as an elephant, just the trunk and the ears.
A bot wearing a battered top hat and carrying a black stick. It waved the black stick and used another appendage to lift the hat, revealing a set of bunny ears beneath it.
“Stage magic! Oh, that’s so good!”
A third of the black-painted bots carrying a cage, this one with a popped dodge ball and a pencil inside it—
“Oh, you’re shool, aren’t you? That’s very scary, yes!”
The bots all circled excitedly around him, bowging happily, and then suddenly the whole group of them parted and revealed another large group—every member of which was dressed as some sort of sea creature. These flew around slowly, mimicking the motion of fish underwater, and then they, too, parted slightly, allowing—
Zero, draped all in gold, save for the blue of her braincase, flew forward slowly. Megamind saw, as she moved closer, that she carried a net, and that her eyestalk, around the actual light of her eye, had been painted in a golden circle, like the mark of—
“Khel-tek? Are you Khel-tek?” Megamind asked, and Zero inclined her head gracefully.
Megamind reached out to touch her wonderingly. He’d told the bots the stories he remembered from his home planet, had told them about angry Khel-tek, the sun goddess, and all the rest of the deities, but he hadn’t expected the myths to have this much of an impact. And he’d never actually—he’d known the stories, and he remembered, vaguely, the pictures that went with them, but Zero, like this…this was like a piece of home, hanging in the air before him, unexpected and—
Again Zero inclined her head. She looked at 228, who wriggled excitedly in their ghost costume, and then bowged loudly.
At this signal the sea creature bots moved aside like two schools of fish, revealing Minion, his robotic body painted with blue and silver swirls, like water. And beside Minion was—
“Ohh,” Megamind said, “oh, wow.”
It was an enormous open bivalve shell, held up by four brainbots, blue and silver streamers hanging down beneath it, shimmering. The shell itself was blue and silver, and as the brainbots lowered the shell to the ground, Megamind saw that there was a cushion inside the shell.
Megamind felt something cool and light settle over his shoulders, and when he looked he realized that Minion had draped a flowing white robe over them.
“Ivri-roh,” Minion said.
Ivri-roh. The deity of the sea.
“Myn the Fantastic,” Minion said, grinning. “Of course.”
Megamind smiled back, a smile that trembled around the edges just a little.
Myn the Fantastic, Ivri-roh’s Mnyn.
“Of course,” Megamind agreed. “So—ah—I guess we’re going trick-or-treating this year?”
Trick-or-treating turned out to be just as fun as people always said—although Megamind knew they weren’t doing it exactly according to the usual tradition. The brainbots went around in swarms to the uncles houses only, and the treats that they got were…well, they were brainbot treats, instead of candy, which was maybe a little disappointing, but only a little. One of the uncles gave out bubble wrap! And Minion had made sure to pack Megamind a snack and drink before they left with their separate brainbot swarms, so it wasn’t as if he was going hungry.
He experienced a somewhat…uncomfortable surprise when the brainbots took him to the Warden’s house. Megamind scolded them all the way up the drive, hissing at them that they weren’t going to be welcome here, and to turn around and go immediately, but to no avail. When one is being carried around in a giant shell, one is rather helpless to change the direction of said carrying. At least there was the de-gun beneath the cushion—
The door swung open and the Warden appeared, carrying a bowl of very crunchable looking bolts and nuts.
“Well, hello, there, kids; what’s everyone dressed up as…this…year…” the Warden trailed off, looking at Megamind, who clutched his white robe.
“Bowg bowg bowg!”
“Len,” the Warden said, raising his voice without looking away from Megamind. “I think you’re gonna want to see this.”
“What now, John?”
Megamind recognized the voice of the prison doctor before the man came into view.
“Is there another one dressed up like you?” Dr. Kelley said, and then caught sight of Megamind and stopped.
A long and very weighty…well, it wasn’t exactly a silence that ensued, since the bots were very noisily bowging and grabbing nuts and bolts from the bowl and crunching them, but neither Megamind nor the doctor or the Warden spoke for a long and weighty stretch of moments. And then—
“…trick or treat?” Megamind managed, a little lamely.
Dr. Kelley burst out laughing.
“Well,” he said, between laughs, “this is new.”
“And no evil plot tonight?” the Warden said, giving Megamind a significant kind of look.
“Miss Ritchi is ill,” Megamind said, before he could think better of it.
The Warden and Dr. Kelley exchanged a speaking glance.
“Ohh,” Dr. Kelley said, “Miss Ritchi is ill.”
Megamind felt himself flush.
“Right yes well we’ve got to be going now thank you Happy Halloween I hope you don’t call the cops on us!” he said, all in one breath.
Dr. Kelley rolled his eyes.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said.
“Wouldn’t want to spoil the kids’ Halloween,” the Warden said.
“You’re just hoping there’s going to be another one dressed up as you.”
Cops or no, Megamind was still a bit keyed-up after the unexpected Warden and Dr. Kelley surprise—thank evil heaven for bubble wrap; there was something really soothing about bubble wrap. The next few houses provided none of the same kind of shocks, though—his uncles were surprised and happy to see him, but that was all. At one of the houses they got little pop grenades, which were almost as good as the bubble wrap!
After that, Megamind found himself relaxing again. He leaned back on the cushion and watched the scenery go by with interest. The bots flew high above most of the city buildings, above the pools of light made by street lamps, and the children, dressed in costumes of their own, who moved in and out of the puddles of light and the darkness. Every so often, one of the children would stop in the darkness and look up, and point, calling the others over—seeing the lights of the brainbots in the sky, Megamind knew.
To his delight, none of them screamed or threw things. Instead, they waved their arms and cheered and called up at the brainbots, entreating them to come closer. Some of the bots seemed tempted to do so—Megamind was tempted, himself—but Zero and 228 kept them in formation.
Once, one child by himself stopped in the darkness and looked up, and Megamind saw with a shock that the face looking up was blue—the child was dressed as him. He didn’t call to the bots, but just stared hard. On a wild impulse, Megamind leaned over the edge of the shell and waved at the kid.
The child instantly gave an exclamation of delight and waved back, jumping up and down excitedly.
228 bowged quietly, and, given permission, a small group of bots broke off from the main group and started to fly down.
“Wait wait wait!” Megamind said, digging frantically through his treat bag—he came up with a little plastic light that flashed blue and green, and gave it to one of the descending bots.
It took the toy, then swooped down with its compatriots. The entire group of them swirled around the child dressed as Megamind, who gasped with delight, the electric lightning of braincases illuminating his face.
As the lower group of brainbots began to fly off again, the child gestured at one, and dug quickly in his own treat bag, then held something out to the bot, who took it, and rose up again to join the main group.
It flew close to Megamind and held out one clawed appendage, then dropped the thing it held into his lap—a little black ring shaped like a spider. He slipped it onto his finger as they flew onwards through the night.
Halloween was fantastic.
He leaned back in his shell, smiling, and wrapped his arms around himself in happiness.
The only thing that could have possibly made this better would be—
Megamind blinked, recognizing the shape of the nearby buildings. He hadn’t known any of his uncles lived in this nice of an area of the city. Or this near to—
His eyes flew wide in sudden fear. Surely—surely the bots wouldn’t—oh, but they’d gone to the Warden’s house; who was to say that they might not suddenly take it into their heads to visit—
“Zero! Zero, we are not going to Miss Ritchi’s! Not going! I mean it! No! Stop! Stop right now! Zero!”
Zero pointedly ignored him, and continued to lead the swarm of brainbots steadily upwards, towards the balcony of Roxanne’s apartment.
Roxanne, sitting on her couch, turned another page in her Valentine’s Day novel—it seemed what happened when Lord Vincent Valentine discovered he had accidentally kidnapped Miss Felicity Day in place of her sister was lots of witty banter and some pretty delicious sexual tension. She had just gotten to the part where Lord Valentine was threatening to tie Miss Day to the bed when she heard the telltale sound of another swarm of bots bowging up to her balcony.
She put the book down, pages spread to mark her place, sniffed, and gathered up her bowl of handmade glitter bombs. At least the trick-or-treating half of Evil Halloween hadn’t been cancelled.
Roxanne liked Evil Halloween, liked both halves of it. She’d been caught off guard but charmed, the first year that the brainbots had arrived on her balcony after the kidnapping had been over and done with, dressed up in extremely strange costumes. And now every year she planned on them stopping by in several swarms—she put a bowl of candy outside her apartment door for the few ordinary trick-or-treaters to take whatever they liked, and dedicated Halloween night to the trick-or-treating brainbots.
She’d had even more fun than usual with it, this year, thinking about the glitter bombs, and the bots spreading glitter all over the inside of Megamind’s Lair, and possibly even Megamind himself. Roxanne had evil laughed a bit, thinking about that, as she’d made the bombs.
The first swarm of visiting brainbots usually brought her a costume, though she wasn’t always sure what the costume actually was. She wasn’t entirely sure, this year, although, that might just be because the bots were doing things a bit differently—they’d been bringing her the costume in pieces, each swarm adding something new.
So far she’d been given a silky robe of deep blue, with stars on it, one of the bots had drawn star-shaped marks on her forehead in glowing paint, another had given her a necklace of what looked like a kind of constellation, made out of what looked like tinfoil and string. One of the others had painted her nails for her, a nice blue color with silver glitter over top—that had taken a while, with intermittent breaks for Roxanne to blow her nose.
Although really, she was feeling much better now that it was dark. She thought wistfully, while the bot was painting her nails, that Megamind could have gone ahead with the kidnapping after all.
The next group of bots had applied blue eyeliner to her eyes—they were actually quite good at makeup; Roxanne wondered if Megamind taught them to apply his eyeliner. The swarm after that painted her lips with deep blue lipstick.
And the group after that had brought her a spear. Up until the spear, she’d been thinking that they were dressing her up as the night sky, which wouldn’t have been strange for the bots; they’d dressed her as a sunrise and a thunderstorm for previous years, both of which had been pretty but not as elaborate as this costume was shaping up to be. The only costume that could come close to this one in terms of detail was the year that they dressed her up as Evil Queen.
(a costume which she still had buried at the back of her closet, where no one, especially Megamind would ever find out about it.)
Maybe this swarm would have the final piece of her costume, a piece that would make the rest of it make sense.
Smiling, Roxanne walked towards the balcony, listening to the bowging and—
—screaming? Bowging and screaming and that sounded like—
Roxanne ran the last few steps to the door, threw it open, and raced to the edge of the balcony, just in time to see a screaming Megamind rise over the edge of it in a giant shell held by brainbots, like the world’s most unwilling Aphrodite rising up through the waves.
“Bowg! Bowg bowg bowg!”
One of the brainbots, the one dressed all in gold, gave a little signal with one of her appendages, and one of the brainbots flew purposefully towards Roxanne. It carried a crown with stars on it in its metal claws, which it settled quite gently on her head, and then flew away.
At the same moment, the golden brainbot draped the piece of netting over Megamind’s shoulders. Then the brainbot dressed as a ghost gave a sharp bowg—
And the brainbots holding the shell moved with sudden purposefulness, tipping the shell abruptly forward.
Megamind, who had been standing in the shell, gripping the upturned edge of it, made a sound of alarm, lost his balance, and half fell out of the shell, onto Roxanne’s balcony, and, since she automatically dropped the bowl she was holding when she saw him falling, into her arms.
He clutched at her shoulders, and then sort of froze, eyes wide and staring.
“Bowg! Bowg bowg bowg! Bowg!”
Behind Megamind, Roxanne saw brainbots set the shell down on the balcony and swoop exultantly to the bowl of glitter bombs, but most of her concentration was taken up by Megamind and how very close he was, his eyes still so wide and his lips slightly parted. He was blushing again, blushing as hard as he had on her birthday, the tips of his ears and his cheeks flushed somewhere between lavender and pink.
There was a mark on his forehead, too, drawn in glowing paint, like the one on hers—a kind of wave symbol, rather than a star.
“…I think your ride is leaving,” Roxanne managed to say.
For a moment Megamind seemed to dazed to understand, then he made an alarmed sound and whirled away out of her arms, to the edge of the balcony, beneath which the brainbots were, indeed, in the process of disappearing, having taken all of the glitter bombs but left the giant shell.
“Zero! Zero get back here this instant! Don’t you dare leave me, you—no! Zero!”
Megamind’s voice rose to a disconsolate wail before dying away as he collapsed, leaning over the railing.
“Um,” Roxanne said, and got no further, because of the way Megamind straightened up suddenly and spun sharply around.
“This isn’t happening,” he said rapidly.
“I’m…pretty sure it is,” Roxanne said, lips trembling on an edge of a smile, amused at the depth of his panic.
“Nope!” Megamind said, and bent to scramble frantically through the contents of the giant shell, reaching under the cushion with a determined expression, and then—
His face changed to an expression of horror, and he pulled a telescope from beneath the cushion.
“…they switched it,” he whispered, staring at the telescope as if it was a deadly snake which had just bitten him.
“Switched it!" Megamind said, shaking the telescope, still holding it at arm’s length. “This is supposed to be the de-gun!”
“The—are we doing the kidnapping after all?” Roxanne asked, unable to get rid of the hopeful note in her voice.
“The kidnapping,” Roxanne repeated. “Are we doing that, now?”
Megamind suddenly flushed even deeper, made a strangled noise, and covered his face with the hand not holding the telescope.
Megamind made another strangled noise and waved the telescope at her vaguely. Roxanne waited until at last he let the hand covering his face drop. His cheeks were still more pink than blue.
“Miss Ritchi, may I please use your telephone?”
“Uh, sure,” Roxanne said, “come inside and I’ll get it.”
Megamind followed her inside, and into her kitchen. Roxanne got her purse down from the hallway hook and set it down on the counter to look through it for her phone. Megamind stood awkwardly beside the sink. After a moment, he set the telescope down with a shudder and pushed it away.
“What’s with the telescope?” Roxanne asked.
“Nothing!” Megamind said. “Nothing, just a story; a very boring story; I’m sure you wouldn’t be interested in it!”
Roxanne narrowed her eyes at him and he squirmed in place, a movement which called attention to his bare neck and shoulders in a really—ah—distracting kind of way.
She’d never seen him dressed in anything remotely like this before; the soft white robe and so much blue skin showing, bare neck and bare shoulders and hands, and bare feet even. He looked—beautiful and vulnerable, almost helpless, really, like if she pushed him up against the kitchen counter, he would let her do it, like he would stay in place if she pinned him there, like—
Roxanne realized she was staring and, with a rush of heat to her face and also to…elsewhere, quickly looked down at her purse again.
“Phone!” she said, voice just a little too loud, and held it out to him.
He took it from her, bare blue fingers just brushing against her own, and Roxanne felt another rush of heat before he mercifully snapped the phone open and turned away to dial.
Megamind pushed the buttons on Roxanne’s phone with fingers that shook, dialing Minion’s phone number. He pressed the phone to his ear and listened to it ring.
He could feel Roxanne behind him, still; why couldn’t she walk away, walk into the other room, or at least a few more steps away; he couldn’t think when she was this close, dressed like—like—
“Minion, I need you to listen very closely—I need you to come and pick me up right now.”
“Where are you?”
“You’re—what are you doing at Miss Ritchi’s?”
“The brainbots left me here!” Megamind waved a hand wildly—Minion couldn’t see it, of course, but it helped to relieve a small portion of his feelings.
“At Miss Ritchi’s? Why did they—”
“I don’t know; that’s not important! What’s important is that I need you to come and get me immediately.”
“Sir—Fifty-seven, I see you doing that! Put that down right now!—can it wait, Sir? I’m kind of busy, here—”
“—and you’re at Miss Ritchi’s, which means you’re safe and—”
“Minion, I am dying!”
An exasperated sigh on the other side of the line.
“You’re not dying, Sir.”
“Minion, you don’t understand; they dressed her up as Alte-re.”
“Ohh, so that’s where that fabric went to!”
“Where—what?” Megamind said.
“The blue fabric with the silver stars on it,” Minion said. “The brainbots took it for that, didn’t they? When I find out which one of them—”
“Is that all you can think of right now? Fabric?” Megamind said, outraged.
“Well, I had to special order it and every—”
A muffled crash on the other end of the line.
“Fifty-seven; what did I just say! Put it down! Sorry, Sir; what was that?”
“We’ll come and get you after we’re done, Sir,” Minion said. “You can keep Miss Ritchi company—”
“Keep her company?!”
“Make her some tea; she’s sick and she likes tea—”
“I know she likes tea! That’s not the—”
“Good! Good; then everything will be fine!”
“I’ll see you later, Sir!”
A click as Minion hung up.
Roxanne watched interestedly as Megamind turned like a man in a horrible dream and replaced her phone in her purse.
“Who’s Alte-re?” she asked.
“Who? Ah! What?” he said.
“Alte-re,” Roxanne said, raising an eyebrow. “You said that the brainbots dressed me up as her.”
Megamind gave a sideways kind of flinch and a very unconvincing laugh.
“Oh, nobody, nobody; do you want tea? I’m going to make tea!”
He turned quickly and snatched the kettle from the stovetop, then turned the sink on.
Roxanne leaned up against the counter and watched him, half in bemusement and half in fascination. He filled the kettle and replaced the lid, then set it on the stove again and lit the burner, the flame leaping up in little tongues of orange as he twisted the knob.
“Is it entirely necessary for you to stare at me, Miss Ritchi?” he asked—god, his shoulders even turned pink when he blushed, didn’t they?
“Mm,” Roxanne said. “I’ve never seen a supervillain make tea before. The cups are in the cabinet over there.”
Megamind moved to the cabinet and opened it. As he moved, she saw something glinting on his chest—a necklace with little shining stars, like hers, but arranged in a different constellation.
“Who’s Alte-re?” she asked again.
Megamind, getting a cup from the cabinet, almost fumbled it. He set it down on the counter and looked over at her with a hunted expression.
“The tea is in the canister in front of you.”
Megamind opened the canister and took out a tea bag, unwrapped it, and placed it in the cup.
“Is she from the telescope story?”
“So who is she?”
“I really don’t think—”
“That I’d be interested,” Roxanne finished. “Too boring? Yeah, you said. But…we’ve got alllll this time until the water boils, Megamind. So go on. Bore me.”
Megamind gave her a look of frustration, and made a quick, sharp movement with his hands.
Roxanne grinned at him.
“You know I’m just going to keep asking,” she said. “And I don’t just mean until the water boils. All night. And every kidnapping after this, if you don’t answer. Ooh, I know! I’ll just ask Minion; you know he’ll tell me—”
Megamind growled in the back of his throat and glared at her.
“Fine,” he said. “Fine! Alte-re is a goddess from my home planet; she’s called the Queen of the Stars.”
He paused, and Roxanne raised her eyebrows.
“You know I’m not going to be satisfied with just that, Megamind,” she said sweetly. “Tell me the rest of it. You haven’t even mentioned the telescope yet. It’s something to do with your costume, right?”
For a moment, Megamind forgot to look embarrassed or annoyed, as he glanced at her in surprise.
She gestured at his head, then at the mark on her own.
“That,” she said. “It looks like the one the brainbots gave me. Your robe does, too, a bit. So I’m Alte-re, the goddess of the stars—which is quite nice, by the way, and makes sense with the costume, although I’m not sure where the spear comes in. Who are you, then?”
“Ivri-roh,” Megamind said.
“Ivri-roh,” Roxanne repeated. “Who’s the god of…?”
“Deity,” Megamind said, “not god.”
Roxanne tilted her head.
“Gender,” Megamind said, “and—sex, too, really; Ivri-roh isn’t male or female or even both; Ivri-roh is—neither.” He gestured, a quick, graceful, two-handed gesture that made the white sleeves he wore flutter. “Ivri-roh is the deity of the ocean, and they have a very unfortunate history with Alte-re, and can we please just leave it at that, Miss Ritchi?”
“No,” Roxanne said, and Megamind gave her a look that he had expected as much. “Unfortunate how?”
Megamind gestured again, one-handed this time.
“Well—Ivri-roh made the world and Alte-re made all the shining ones—the, ah, the other deities—and they needed a place to live so Alte-re found the world for them. And Ivri-roh tried to invite them to stay, but then Alte-re thought they were threatening her, and it was this whole…thing.”
He glanced at her, as if to see if she was still listening. Roxanne nodded, her eyes on his face—the fun of teasing Megamind aside, she really did want to hear this. A myth from an alien planet, and not just any alien planet, Megamind’s planet. Megamind could call it boring all he wanted, but there was no way this was going to be anything less than fascinating.
“So—so Ivri-roh had made the People, to look like Alte-re, actually, since she was so—um. Beautiful—anyway! But they needed Alte-re to bring the People to life, so they told her they’d let her and all the rest of them stay if she did that. Kind of hoping that when she saw the People she’d see that Ivri-roh had been inspired by her, and stop, ah, hating them. But she didn’t understand, and she just brought the people to life and that was. That.”
Roxanne nodded slowly.
“Go on," she said. “I know that can’t be the end. You haven’t said anything about the telescope still.”
Megamind gave her a sharp look.
“Damn that telescope,” he muttered. “Fine. So after a while Alte-re got to watching the People and decided she wanted them to be—smarter and better and belong to her, so she taught them how to talk and read and walk, and they left the ocean and stopped being Ivri-roh’s.”
“Alte-re sounds kind of terrible,” she said.
“No!” Megamind said, sounding more passionate than she’d expected. “No, she’s—I’m telling it badly, but she’s not terrible, she’s—inspiration and intelligence and I think that’s why—” He blushed again and shook his head. “Anyway, though; Ivri-roh got angry, and tried to bring the People back to the ocean, but they couldn’t. And finally Ivri-roh decided on a different plan—their Mnyn tried to talk them out of it, but they wouldn’t listen.”
Roxanne gave a laugh.
“Bad plans and a Minion who doesn’t get listened to! This is starting to sound familiar! What kind of a bad plan?”
Megamind did what could only be described as a full-body wince.
“K-kidnapping,” he said.
Roxanne gasped in pure delight.
“Oh, my god; this really is starting to sound familiar!” she said. “So what happened next?”
The teakettle gave a whistle and Megamind turned and busied himself with turning off the burner and pouring the hot water.
“Well—they—um. Kidnapped Alte-re for…a length of time,” he said, “and they… they argued a lot for a while,” he picked up the cup of tea and held it out towards Roxanne. “But they they—”
Roxanne reached out to take the tea, but Megamind had frozen again—frozen and gone silent, his hands still curled around the cup, beneath hers.
“…did…did you want some tea?” she asked, mystified, and Megamind make a soft, alarmed noise in the back of his throat and released the cup, snatching his hands back and pulling them in towards his chest, as if the cup, or Roxanne’s hands, had burned him.
“Tea,” he said, voice strangled. “They had tea and talked and built things together and sort of became friends and then Ivri-roh fell in love with Alte-re and the whole kidnapping thing became very awkward and—and—and why don’t we go and sit down now Miss Ritchi?”
Roxanne, who had frozen herself when Megamind said and then Ivri-roh fell in love with Alte-re, gulped.
“Uh. Yeah. Sure,” she said. “Let’s, um. Let’s go sit down on the couch.”
Megamind fairly fled to the couch, and sat down atop the giant pile of blankets. Roxanne followed more slowly, partly because of the hot cup of tea she was still holding, and partly because she was—well, she wasn’t regretting making Megamind tell her this story, but she was certainly beginning to—
(and the whole kidnapping thing became very awkward)
—certainly beginning to see why Megamind felt so uncomfortable telling it.
She sat down and carefully placed the tea on the coffee table. Smothering a cough, she reached for the tissue box. Megamind handed it to her without looking.
“So Alte-re and Ivri-roh were having tea again and talking about the People,” he said, speaking rapidly, like he was trying to get this ordeal over with as quickly as possible, and also sort of like he couldn’t make himself stop speaking. “And Alte-re said she’d made the people better because she loved them, but Ivri-roh said they couldn’t be better because they were no longer free. And that you can’t keep someone captive if you love them. And then they let Alte-re go.”
“They—they let her go?” Roxanne asked, after a long moment in which Megamind said nothing, but merely fidgeted uncomfortably.
“And then what?” Roxanne burst out. “Come on, Megamind; I know that’s not the end! What does she do; does she go back and get them? What happens with the telescope.”
Megamind growled again, teeth gritted.
“And then she’s sad,” he says, fairly throwing the words at her, “And the People try to cheer her up with a party, but it doesn’t work. And Alte-re’s sister Khel-tek wants to be the queen herself, so she decides to go to Ivri-roh and find out how they managed to take Alte-re captive. Only that doesn't really work, either, because Ivri-roh is just sad, too, and they’ve just been by themself under the ocean, and they even made a telescope so they could look at the stars from far away and at least see Alte-re from a distance.”
Megamind fidgeted again, gestured, fluttery and fast.
“So Khel-tek took Ivri-roh captive, wanting to impress everyone, and she tied them up and dragged them to the surface. The party was still happening, and Khel-tek threw Ivri-roh down in the middle of it and challenged her sister to a fight for the throne. So they fought—with spears—and Alte-re won. And then she freed the people, and she freed Ivri-roh, too, because she’d fallen in love with them and—and—and they lived happily ever after. The end.”
A long silence fell—a very long, very tense silence, and Roxanne was terribly aware that she ought to—to say something, or laugh it off—or—or something, something to break the silence and the tension. Megamind fidgeted again, shifted and fidgeted and—
“—something is—poking,” he burst out finally. “What is—”
He reached behind himself, into the pile of blankets, and—
—pulled out his cape, by the collar, and of course that had been the thing poking him, all the wires in the collar and—
“That’s mine,” Roxanne blurted, and snatched the cape back from him before she could realize that she should not do either of those things oh god why Roxanne.
Megamind stared at her, hand still upheld from when she’d ripped the cape out of it.
“It’s my birthday present; I’m keeping it,” she added quickly, as if that made things any better at all.
“…ah?” Megamind said, sounding dazed.
Roxanne set the cape down in her lap with her best and hardest attempt at nonchalance. She smoothed down the fabric.
“I—yes, of—of course,” Megamind said, still sounding lost, “If you want to keep it, you, ah, certainly…can? I just—”
His eyes fell on the book on the coffee table and he made a smothered noise of horror as he quickly snatched it up.
“You can’t mark your page like that!” he said. “You’re going to break the—oh my god, it was you!”
Megamind, one finger closed in the book to mark her page, gestured at her wildly.
“You’re the one who snatched up Valentine’s Day before I got a chance to read it!”
“Before—you wanted to read this book?”
“Really? This one, with the romance and the…kidnapping and the…romance?”
“Ye—” Megamind cut himself off and snatched up a clean tissue, folded it up, and marked the page with it.
Then he set the book face down on the coffee table, set the box of tissues atop it, and pushed the little stack away from himself.
“You know what, on second thought I’m sure it was a different book I was thinking of!” he said. “Completely other book; can’t think how I got that confused!”
He gave a laugh like a jangle of nerves and subsided, looking as though he wished to sink through the cushions and become one with the sofa.
“…Megamind,” Roxanne said, thinking rapidly and speaking slowly. He made a noise of inquiry. “I do have a car, you know. The keys are in my purse and the car is parked down there, outside my window. You could borrow my keys and my car and drive yourself back to the Lair. You don’t have to stay here.”
“I—oh,” Megamind said, and—drooped, looking more miserable than ever. “Yes, thank you; of course I—”
“It’s not what I want you to do,” Roxanne said, choosing her words carefully and giving them great emphasis. “But I want you to know that you’re not—trapped—here. You can leave any time you like.”
Megamind frowned at her, blank and uncomprehending, for a space of several heartbeats, and then his eyes went wide as understanding dawned.
“—oh,” he said.
“Like you, with me, being sick,” Roxanne said, wanting to make sure he thoroughly comprehended her meaning, wanting to leave no space between the two of them for misunderstanding. “Like how you let me go earlier today.”
“—oh,” Megamind said, almost whispered, eyes bigger than ever, and filled now with not just understanding, but also with something that looked like a particularly desperate kind of hope.
“You’re free to go,” Roxanne said, and then, daring rising up in her like an unstoppable tide, she reached out and deliberately set her hand atop the back of Megamind’s hand.
Megamind didn’t say anything that time, but his lips still shaped the word ‘oh’.
“Would you like to stay?” Roxanne asked. “And drink some tea and talk with me?”
Megamind very carefully turned his hand palm up beneath hers, and spread his fingers slightly, and Roxanne slipped her own into the spaces between.
“Yes,” he said. “I would like to—to stay and drink tea and talk with you, Roxanne.”
(and they lived happily—and awkwardly—ever after. the end.)