Roxanne knew today was going to suck immediately upon opening her eyes, because turning around on your lunch break and then waking up staring down into green lake water is never a good sign. Also, Megamind's kidnapping spray doesn't tend to leave her with double vision or dizziness. He generally prefers her to be ready to go live shortly after she wakes up, and groggy kidnappees make for boring broadcasts.
On the whole, Roxanne is okay with being kidnapped. It seems like a fair trade, life-wise, for reliably excellent conversation and entertainment on a more or less weekly basis. A lot of the time she even enjoys it, sometimes even when the kidnapping occurs at an inconvenient time. Megamind and Minion both fall into the category of 'friends she likes,' after all.
But, the thing is…she's only ever been kidnapped by Megamind and Minion. She hasn't worried about anyone else kidnapping her in quite some time.
And now she's tied to a piling at the very end of a dock across the bay south of the city, her hands behind her back behind the piling, tar from the piling on her dress and in her hair and all down the backs of her legs. It's uncomfortable—this is a shipping dock, so the piling is quite thick and her shoulders are uncertain about the angle—but this isn't a Megamind kidnapping, so discomfort isn't terribly surprising.
Oh, and there's a gun to her head. But that's incidental. She's aware, in a vague sort of way, that a gun to her head should probably be a little higher on her list of concerns, but right now it's right down smack at the bottom of the list.
Because Minion is here, too, and Minion is also restrained, which Roxanne hadn't actually been aware was possible. The gorilla suit seems solid, but she knows how modular it can be when push comes to shove. Evidently, their captors have prepared for this, and that's…alarmingly competent of them. Troubling. Her first thought upon looking around and seeing Minion across the broad dock was, Oh, okay, but then the double vision resolved and the rest of the world returned and she'd seen the chains, seen the men with guns and expensive suits standing around in silence. Her first thought after that was, Oh, shit.
The distant roar of the hoverbike had reached her a second later, Megamind's hoverbike, Megamind—
She had realized it was a trap around the same time she felt a heavy, human weight against her bound hands, felt the gun press cold and hard against her temple.
"Going to ruin your suit," she'd mumbled. At that point, she was still a little muzzy from whatever they'd knocked her out with, but a few deep breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth helped a lot with that.
The weight shifted but didn't answer. Someone else did, though; a man off to her left said, "Oh, you're awake. Good, that'll make this interesting."
The hoverbike's roar was growing steadily louder; he must have been flying quickly.
"Quentin," the man said, and another voice replied, "On it."
Roxanne had looked over her shoulder to try and see what was happening and found Minion staring into the distance, blinking worriedly. This wasn't too far out of the norm—worrying is what Minion does—but he looked really worried. Not particularly concerned with the long-range flamethrower some assclown was shoving nozzle-first into the softish midriff of his exosuit, but nervous. He glanced at her, didn't smile, didn't speak, and that was when the apprehension curling in Roxanne's gut began to curdle into fear.
And then Megamind had landed, and he was worried too, and oh, this was bad. He knew the man who spoke to Roxanne, called him Price. He demanded to know if Minion was okay, if Roxanne was, and—he dropped the de-gun in the lake when they told him to, he took off his watch and dropped that in the lake when they told him to, his restless gaze flicking between Roxanne and Minion the whole time, and—
And that brings us to now.
Now is when the world goes still and silent, because now is when Price claps his hands together and says, "Tell you what. Let's make this interesting," which doesn't bode well.
"I was going to kill your henchman and your damsel in front of you," he says, "but you know what, I'm not all that into senseless killing." He shakes his head, spreads his hands. "I have no problems with them. They've both been so cooperative. Seems…unfair, doesn't it, to make them pay for your misdeeds?" Without waiting for a reply, he continues, "So, I'll give you a choice. You get to pick."
Megamind's expression stays thunderous but his attention sharpens; Roxanne sees it happen because she can't take her eyes off him. Any minute now—any minute now he's going to do something and get them free—
"Either I kill your fish and the woman you love while you watch, and then I kill you," Price says, enunciating clearly, "or you kill yourself while they watch, and they go free."
Megamind blinks. So does Roxanne. Because, one: what the fuck kind of a choice is that?
But also, two: the woman he—what? She—what?
"That's it," Price says, shrugging, when Megamind doesn't respond. "Those are your options."
"You had me throw away my gun," Megamind says in a low voice, arching an eyebrow. "I'll need to borrow one."
Price smiles. Roxanne can't see him, he's standing too far back and she's right at the edge of the dock with the tips of her shoes poking out over the water, but she hears the smile as he speaks and she does not like it. "Oh, no," he says, "not with a gun. No, that would be easy. You've been a real pain in my ass, you know that? I want you to fucking drown. I want you to drown yourself." He sounds deeply pleased. "Here's how that option goes: you get in the lake, you get under the surface, you stay where I can see you. And as soon as you come up for air, they die." He shrugs again. "Pretty straightforward."
Megamind's expression has shuttered and gone dark as Price was speaking, but his jaw is tight and his head is up when he says, "I do this, they go free?"
No, Roxanne thinks dizzily, of course not, that's not how it works, but Price says, "That was the deal, yes."
"Sir, no," Minion says firmly, and Megamind glances at him.
"It's okay, Minion," he says, his voice quiet. "It's okay."
"No it's not!"
Roxanne shakes her head a little, trying to clear it. What happened to the plan? There has to be a plan. There's always a plan, she thinks, but Megamind turns around on the end of the dock, stares down at the water.
"Sir," Minion says again, "no!" and his voice shoots up the octave, goes high and shrill so suddenly Roxanne jumps. He lunges forward, slams into the end of his chains. "No," as Megamind squares his shoulders and draws himself up. "No, no, you can't do this, you can't! There's supposed to be a plan, there's—Sir! Sir!" as Megamind unclasps his cape and shoulder array, drops them both unceremoniously on the dock behind him.
Minion lunges again as Megamind shakes out his arms, shifts his weight from foot to foot. "Sir, please, please—please just—"
"Megamind," Roxanne chokes, finding her voice. His name breaks in the middle. Is this really happening? This isn't happening. She woke up like two minutes ago and—now this is happening? No, it's too surreal, this is absolutely not happening. But it keeps going, and Minion's volume is rising, and Megamind is poised like a matador at the end of the dock and she keeps not waking up, so… "Don't do this, you don't have to—"
"Look at me," Minion shouts, in a voice Roxanne has never heard from him before. "Sir, look at me, please please just—don't, you don't have to—we'll think of something, I'll think of something, just—"
Megamind doesn't look at him again. Doesn't look at Roxanne, either. Roxanne stares at him, at his chest, which is heaving, at his throat, which moves as he swallows, at his face, which is very dark and very angry and, right now, still very much alive.
"Don't," Roxanne whispers, with Minion chanting no, no, no and his metal feet scraping on the wooden dock as he flings himself against his chains between the pilings. "Megamind, don't, please don't—"
"Really not much of a choice, is there," Megamind says, and steps off the dock, plunges into the lake.
Price says, "Huh," and walks to the edge where Megamind was standing a second before and looks down into the water, paying absolutely no attention to either of his two captives.
Minion goes absolutely berserk. He'd frozen when Megamind splashed down, but now he's screaming, throwing his weight back and forth hard enough to rock the broad shipping dock on its huge tree-trunk pilings, slamming his body—his actual body—into the glass of his dome like he can break out of it, spinning and diving and screaming. Roxanne's gut churns and she twists her wrists, yanks forward, picks her feet up and plants them in the tar and pulls as hard as she can, but all that does is make her shoulders hurt and the ropes dig into her skin, so she has to put her feet back down on the piling block and go back to trying to pick at the knots. The gun is away from her temple, now, and nobody mentions her fingers scraping at the ropes binding her.
They haven't had rain in this part of Michigan in a while, so the water is unusually clear, with a good ten feet or so of visibility. So far, Megamind is holding up his end of the deal: he's tilted away from them, kicking and moving his arms in circles to keep himself down a few feet below the surface of the water, fighting his body's natural buoyancy, fighting the urge to rise. He keeps his mouth clenched closed and his eyes open, staring up at Roxanne and Price—Minion is tied too far back for him to see, and too far back to see him.
He has to breathe. He has to, he has to, he has to surface. Roxanne stares down at him, twisting her body against the wood and tar, gritting her teeth and staring down at him through the rippling waves, willing him to surface. Minion is still screaming, still thrashing against his chains, scraping the wood up in splinters around his feet and fingers as he tries to hurl himself forward into the lake.
Roxanne has still been sort of thinking Megamind must have a plan, he must, but—she's never heard Minion sound like this before in her life. His voice is going ragged, he's choking on bubbling sobs, he sounds…well, frankly, he sounds like his lifelong friend is dying. Which is what sells it for her, in the end. She pulls her eyes away from Megamind for a moment to glance over at Minion, and the utterly terrified look on his face makes the bottom fall out of her stomach.
Fuck. Oh, fuck.
Oh, she's—she's shouting—she twists her hands and twists them again, desperate to get free, shouting at Megamind to come up, just come up and breathe—yes she'll die but that's fine, it's fine—
His narrow, pointed face is obscured by the rippling water, but he looks like he's concentrating hard. For the first nearly three minutes, that's all he does: tread below the surface and glare up at the sky while Roxanne struggles and yells at him with tears in her eyes and on her cheeks.
Then his face sort of—scrunches, and his eyebrows pull tight as his shoulders jerk, and—he goes back to treading, but his eyes have gone wide under his fierce scowl. His movements aren't as smooth; they're faster, more frenetic. Roxanne heaves in a jagged breath and wills him to come up, come on, Megamind, come on and rise—she'll go happy if it means he escapes this—but of course he won't either way; Price will kill him, too—
He looks away, jerks his head from side to side, his eyes huge—oh, he's rising—but suddenly he looks up again and bares his teeth and wrenches his whole body around and claws his way back down deeper. Not quickly; he's struggling now, too, kicking and flailing to get away from air and life and Roxanne—she's screaming at him and she's not sure when that started.
She honestly would rather die, and that's…sort of a revelation she could have done without, if only because the circumstances are such that she'll never be able to actually do anything about it.
There's wetness on her hands that's either sweat or blood, but the wet on her face is definitely exclusively tears; she's pretty sure she's crying harder than she ever has in her life before, but she has to keep her eyes clear. She has to. If she can see him, she can get to him, somehow, somehow.
Megamind is still treading down there, deeper than before but he's still trying to push himself down and away, and—
His eyes go wide and panicked as air bubbles out of his mouth with a scream Roxanne can't hear but feels in every inch of her soul because fuck, oh fuck, his mouth is open, gasping wide, gasping—and his expression twists and his back arches, he claws his hands at his face and throat, spasming, his teeth bared and his eyes wide and full of fear. "No!" Roxanne shrieks, raking her fingers at the ropes behind the piling. "No no—no, don't—don't—"
He slows. His head drifts down, his arms stop moving—Minion has stopped screaming, he's just crying now; he hasn't been able to see any of this and Roxanne honestly doesn't know which is worse: knowing Megamind has been drowning this whole time and not being able to see how he fought it, or watching the fight go out of him.
He rises slowly, without moving, until his narrow back breaks the surface, his head hanging, his limbs limp and still.
"No," Roxanne chokes, stunned, "Megamind, no, oh my god." Off to her left, Minion lets out a wail.
"Huh," Price says again, and waits for another small eternity while Roxanne tries to make sense of literally anything that just happened and Minion sags in his chains, gasping. Megamind just...bobs on the surface, rocking with the waves, lifeless, unmoving.
"Okay," Price says after a couple minutes, and stretches. "Get him out and get the bag."
Slowly, Roxanne turns her head, attempting to parse this. What is he talking about?
He glances at her as a couple of nameless goons come up with boat hooks, sees her confusion. "Well, we have to hide the body somewhere," he says as he turns and walks away, out of sight behind her. "Bag full of cinderblocks is an old standby. Besides, it seems fitting, you know?"
The goons tug Megamind's body closer to the dock until they're able to grab an arm and a leg and haul him out, scraping his face on the side of the dock. His eyes are open, the light behind them extinguished, a milky film already clouding them over, and—
Oh. Roxanne is angry. She's still crying, because she can't seem to stop and at this point she's not sure what the point of stopping would even be, but there's a roaring in her ears and her heart is drumming painfully on the backs of her ribs as she turns her head to keep her eyes on Megamind until they drag him out of her field of vision.
Someone tugs on her bound hands, the rope loosens. Behind her, voices, but she can't bring herself to care what they're saying. They're going to kill her, she knows. They didn't hide their faces and they don't seem to care if she knows where they are or where the body is. She's unarmed. Megamind is dead. They're going to kill her and they're going to kill Minion and Roxanne has nothing to lose, so—
She tries to lunge into the lake as soon as her hands are free, but whoever is behind her must have been expecting that; he yanks her stumbling onto the dock by one arm and fumbles to grab her other hand. She does manage to shake this first guy off: she grips his sleeve and falls onto her back on the wood, plants both feet in his gut, and uses her legs and her adrenaline and her rage to lift and throw him off over her head.
Of course there are more goons running for her now, but miraculously, nobody shoots her as she rises to her feet and tries again for the lake. She even makes it two whole steps before they grab her. She's wearing heels and her shoulders and hands are killing her, but she fights like a demon anyway, kicking and screaming and clawing to get away. She nails someone's foot with one of her shoes before she loses them, digs her thumb pretty deep into an eye. She gets her nails into someone else's ear and rips it off his skull in her fist before they finally wrestle her to the ground by the side of the dock just out of Minion's reach, so. There's that, at least.
"Something to remember me by," Roxanne spits as they yank her hands behind her back again and tie her bleeding wrists together with more rope. Behind her, the man who's lost an ear is yelling.
"Get one around her neck, too," Price says, sounding annoyed, "and tie the other end to the alien's bag."
"Fuck you," Roxanne snarls, struggling and kicking until someone pins her legs down with a knee over her calves and the other in the small of her back. "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck—what the fuck was this? What was the point of this? Why would you—why would—" Her tears rise up again and choke her. The rope is rough around her neck, and she's facing the bag they zipped Megamind's body into. She can make out the curve of his skull, the sharp jut of his shoulder. Why.
"The point?" Price echoes. "Who says there needs to be a point?" He crouches between her and the bag and grabs her chin in a bruising grip, drags her face up to look at him. "He was a pain in my ass. I wanted to see what he'd do." Roxanne is still crying, still shaking with grief and shock and adrenaline, but something in her is still clinging to primal rage. "I wasn't disappointed, either; in fact I'm kind of impressed he managed to—"
She jerks her chin back, shoves it forward, sinks her teeth into the fleshy pad between his thumb and forefinger, and bites down with all her strength. Hot blood fills her mouth and Price yells, stumbles back, but Roxanne shuts her eyes and hangs on, keeps trying to bring her teeth together until he punches her in the side of her head with his free hand. She releases him with a pained yelp, then spits blood, blinking hard and trying not to vomit.
"The hell with you," Price says, sounding genuinely shocked, and Roxanne has just enough time to register a little bit of mean satisfaction over it before he kicks her off the side of the dock.
She hits the water with a gasp and a splash. It's late May and the lake is still pretty cold, but it's not awful. It could be a lot colder. And at least her legs are free. She bobs to the surface and treads there as best she can without her arms, shaking the water out of her eyes and blinking up to try and figure out what's—oh. Oh, they've tied the other end of her rope to Megamind's bag. The bag full of cinderblocks. The bag four goons are now hoisting between them and swinging back and forth, the bag they're throwing into the harbor—
Roxanne takes a deep breath just before she's yanked under.
Folks, the longer I write Megamind, the more alien he gets, and I'm having so much fun with that. I used to worry about making him too inhuman, but hey. Life's too short! So fuck it! We're doing it live!
If you want to hear what I used as references for his vocalizations, message me and I'll send you some youtube links. Speaking of which, are the descriptions of his voice okay or are they too much? I'm trying to be descriptive enough to give you the shape of things, but not so descriptive that it interrupts the story.
Anyway, I slept and that means it's tomorrow, so here is chapter 2! I made roasted peaches with nutella for breakfast on this fine rainy Saturday, and things are good.
This is a trap.
He knows it's a trap, and they know he knows it's a trap. They aren't bothering to hide it because they know he'll come anyway. Of course he will, and of course he does.
Minion is worried and quiet when Megamind lands, and small wonder: Roxanne is here, too. Fuck. That wasn't supposed to be part of the deal, but—okay. It's fine, he can work with this.
She's unusually quiet, too, which tells him Minion isn't the only one who's worried. She doesn't look hurt, but Megamind is pretty sure she's either been hit over the head or dosed with something; she's blinking more than usual and doesn't seem to be paying any attention to Price. She's just…staring. Mostly at him, like she's waiting for something.
Megamind already knows he's going to need to stall for time. The host is coming—the whole host, all of them, everyone; Price isn't worth the mud on Megamind's boots but this is a prime opportunity for him to make an example, give the bots some capture-the-flag training, and he's also not taking any goddamn chances on anyone escaping unscathed—but they can only fly so quickly. Megamind came ahead as a distraction. It'll take the fastest of them about, oh, ten minutes? Fifteen? So. He needs to stall. And he needs to keep the attention on him and off the horizon.
His initial plan was to keep Price talking, but he wasn't expecting to see Roxanne here. So then he figures, okay, fine: he'll trick Price into beating him up while he waits for the first brainbots to arrive. Megamind's fastest bots are also his stealthiest, the Romulan run, named for their cloaking mechanism, so he's not too worried about Price realizing he's under attack and trying to kill his hostages until he's actually under attack and fully distracted. Megamind already knows seven basically-surefire ways to get Price to hit him, and he's confident about his own ability to take a beating, even from multiple assailants. It's galling, but it'll work, and it'll make him scarier when he ends the stupid charade. He's not worried about getting shot, not with the nanites he keeps hidden under his mantle jamming their guns.
But then Price gives him—gives him this fucking choice—the choice between watching Roxanne and Minion die and drowning himself, which—isn't much of a choice at all. No contest.
Also, best choice ever, hands-down. He'll be able to handle Price and his cronies entirely at his leisure and entirely by surprise.
Minion tells him no, begs him, his voice shaking and cracking. Minion does this because he is the absolute greatest and best minion a villain could want. He knows Megamind and he knows exactly what's coming, and he sells it like the pro he is. Roxanne, of course, has no idea what's coming, and Megamind does feel bad about that. She's saying no, too, she says his name and her voice breaks even though he saw her recoil when Price laid Megamind's affections bare in front of her.
(That was something he wasn't expecting: Price to just throw that out there into the world like that's where it belongs. Megamind isn't a terribly subtle person, but really? Here, now, right in front of her? Ugh. That chafes.)
(He had thought she already knew, but judging by her reaction...oh, well. She had to find out sometime. Might as well be today.)
The thing is, though, Minion alone won't be enough. Megamind will have to be convincing about this, too. Price is a tough sell and he's expecting Megamind to fail, he's just waiting for him to fail, so—
He does hold his breath. He takes a breath, holds it, jumps. Keeps holding it as he stares up at the wave-distorted clouds, pale lichen-green through the few feet of lake water between him and the surface. He doesn't have to fake it when his body fights him, doesn't have to fake the panic in his eyes—but Megamind knows panic and he knows how to force his body to do what he wants, and he twists himself around and dives deeper before turning back around. They're going to have to see his face if he wants them to believe this, but it's hard, hard to look at the sky without kicking towards it. Hard to wait and let himself get dizzy in the water without just giving in and inhaling.
Roxanne is twisting her shoulders, struggling, her mouth is moving, but Megamind can't hear many air-noises from down here. He can hear the sound of Minion scraping his body on the dock as he fights to free himself, because the whole dock is thundering with it, the pilings vibrating all the way to the stones. Minion is the one who's doing the bulk of the work, honestly. He has real talent as an actor; it's a shame he doesn't get to showcase it more often.
At last, when his lungs feel like they're about to burst or collapse inside his chest and sparks spin in from the edges of his vision and his limbs feel like lead, Megamind opens his mouth and screams all his air out. And then he finally opens his spiracles and gasps water, switches his respiration over to his gills. He does remember to keep his eyes open and panicky-wide as he finally lets himself breathe.
Now he's faking it, but Minion isn't the only actor in the house. Megamind writhes his whole body and grabs at his throat, claws at his face and chest, rakes the water with his nails. He yawns his mouth wide like a dying fish and screws up his forehead like he's in real pain. Then, for good measure, he convulses a few times and flails around in pantomimed paroxysms of death throes before—finally—allowing himself to go gently limp.
Slowly, slowly, he adjusts his buoyancy. Slowly allows himself to drift to the surface and float there.
The surface, where Minion is still making a godawful racket that sounds absolutely nothing like when he actually cries. Good old Minion, what a ham. Megamind's ears are still underwater while he waits for Price to lose patience and fish him out, so he doesn't realize how upset Roxanne is until Price's henchmen are hauling him up onto the dock.
He stares through her as they drag him away, and she turns to look at him as he goes past. Good lord, she's a mess. She's a mess over him? Granted, she did just watch someone die, never a pleasant experience, but—him? She looks like she's been crying for days. Oh, and there's blood on her hands, he sees. They wouldn't have cut her hands, so—she was fighting to get free so hard she bled?
Well, at least he has something to puzzle over while he's stuffed into a bag with a bunch of concrete bricks. A puzzle is good, a puzzle means he doesn't have to think about how he's getting groggy from lack of oxygen again.
He's technically not holding his breath, this time, but that's because gills have nowhere to hold breath. He would use his lungs, but he can't afford to have anyone see his chest move. Megamind's gills are safe to use—they vent between his ribs, under his arms, where no one is looking—but woefully inefficient in air. So he's sort of drowning again. It isn't nearly as bad as when he was underwater, though. Gills aren't optimal in air, but they're better than nothing, even when covered with leather and spandex. He flexes his supraclavicular spiracles gently, pulling biting air over his fragile gill tissue, and no one notices as they zip him into his bag.
Holy shit, Roxanne really looked upset back there. He's seen her upset before, but never like this, not even when she was at her angriest. Truly focusing on her face wasn't possible in the few seconds he'd been staring in her direction, not without showing his hand, but—her eyes were huge, mouth open as she gasped, her face blotchy red and shining with tears and horror. She'd looked like she was about to be sick.
—What? There's—fighting behind him? In the dark of the bag, he blinks a couple times and tries to focus over his pounding heart. Roxanne sounds like she's fighting, she's snarling and shouting at them to fuck off, leave her alone, get away. This. This sounds. Bad. But Minion isn't yelling, so it must be at least partly okay? Minion would tip him off if they were going to—
"Tie a rope around her neck," he hears, and his blood rushes in his ears with a roar, goes cold and then very hot, but—Minion still doesn't react. Is—wait, shit, is Minion okay? Megamind hasn't actually had a chance to look at Minion, yet; he's still making those fake gasping noises, but—what if—
He stills. Someone is tugging at his bag, gathering the end by his feet together. What? What are they—ugh, he hates not being able to see anything! How long has it been? Should the brainbots be here by now? Usually he's good at counting seconds, but holding his breath was more disorienting than he was expecting and the extended oxygen deficit isn't doing him any favors either.
There's a shout, a scuffle, and then a scream and then a splash. What? What the heck is—
Whoops, now he's in the air and swinging back and forth, so he doesn't have time to wonder what the heck is going on anymore. Now it's time to focus on curling into the fetal position and protecting his head while he's falling toward the water. No one will notice if he moves after they throw him; the whole bag is rattling and clunking like crazy.
He hits the water with an almighty splash and sinks like a stone, curled into a ball and bobbing at the top of the bag as it fills. Huzzah! He's in the clear! He opens his spiracles as wide as he can under the spandex of his suit and feels water rush in, feels his head clear a little. But—wait, someone said there's a rope around Roxanne's neck? What are they doing up there, what are they doing?
It only takes a few seconds before Megamind's bag hits the stony bottom of Lake Michigan with a watery cLOKk. He uncurls and grabs his knife off his gun belt where it's hidden, cuts through his gloves and leather shirt first and shucks those off, cuts his boots away to get his feet free, then strips his spandex undersuit down and ties the arms in a knot around his waist to keep it in place. Then, finally able to breathe properly, he slices his way out of the bag to freedom.
Aha, there's his gun, glowing on the lake bottom like a beacon…and there's his watch only a few feet away from his gun, hooray! He sticks his knife between his teeth, blade out, while he quickly buckles his watch back on. Breathing is easy now that his shirt is off, he has his knife, he has his gun and his watch, nobody but Minion knows he's okay, he's in his element. Okay. Today has been completely shittastic thus far, but he has the advantage. He'll just head up and surface quietly under the dock, then listen until he can figure out what's happening and whether help is needed. Shouldn't take him long now that he's fully oxygenated. He turns to ascend, and—
The rope for Roxanne's neck and the gathering of the bag around by his feet, that—that was the same rope. Ah. Aha.
Roxanne sinks headfirst toward the bottom of the lake, trying not to struggle so she'll be able to hold her breath as long as possible. Once she's down, she might be able to curl up enough to pull her bound hands down over her butt and in front of her so she can get the rope off her neck. It's a long shot—her hips aren't small—but it's her only shot. God, how is this today? How is this her day?
Here's my day so far: got knocked out, watched the man of my dreams fucking drown himself in a fucking lake to save me, got tied to his body and a bag full of stone and now I'm going to die anyway despite his best efforts because, for a supergenius, he can be really godawful thick sometimes. Of course they weren't going to let me go free, dumbass! I love you, but come on!
Oh, that's another thing. Fuck. Fuck her. She could have noticed her interest in Megamind was more than hypothetical before he was staring up at her through three feet of green water and asphyxiating! That! Would have been nice to know about! Yes, he's sexy; yes, he's good times; yes, he's fun to flirt with; no, she did not know she would feel like her heart was burning and ripping apart in her chest when his last breath burst on the surface.
There. The bag is on the bottom now, she's stopped sinking. Okay. She wriggles, pulls her aching hands down her back…nope, it isn't going to work.
The de-gun. It's right over there, she can see it glowing; if she swims down to the bottom, maybe she can haul the bag over to it and use the destroy setting to free herself.
She swallows, starts to get ready to dive—
The light down here is all flickerlight greenwater shadows and the long weeds poking and waving between the stones are in constant motion, but Roxanne is definitely not imagining things: the bag is moving. The bag is moving, and then it tears open, and then—
Megamind. Swims. Out of the bag. Megamind.
He flicks his hips and glides over to his gun, then flips around and picks up his watch from where it's lying a few feet away. How he saw his watch in the gloom is anyone's guess, but—god, he swims like a seal in the water, feet together and all graceful fluidity, the way he moves is absolutely unreal—and he's shirtless? When did he lose his shirt? What's going on, what's happening right now—
Megamind turns, looks up, sees her. Also freezes, that's gratifying. For a second or two, he just stares up at her, his shocked-green eyes huge and bright under the water, a knife clenched in his teeth like he's a pirate. And then Roxanne hears a sort of alarmed, piercing whistle and he kicks off the bottom. He slips up to her a heartbeat later, takes the knife out of his mouth and swiftly cuts through the rope around her neck. He grabs her arm and pulls her past him like they're dancing, turning with her to catch the rope around her hands and cut through that as well.
And his hands, his hands, there's such strength in his hands, and the first thing Roxanne wants to do when her hands are free is grab him by the head and kiss him until he's dizzy—screw breathing, breathing can happen later, she has priorities—but Megamind has one long hand wrapped around her forearm and he's tugging her up through the water. He looks down at her as the light warms around them, holds a finger to his lips, then pulls her past him again, upward this time, wrapping his skinny arms around her thighs to hoist her out of the water over his head.
She gasps as quietly as she can in the cobwebby shadows under the dock, then gulps and does her best to stop panting, her head spinning. Footsteps hurry back and forth on the dock overhead, and there's an awful lot of yelling going on, but she can't hear Minion at all. That's…potentially not good? She looks down, finds Megamind gazing up at her from somewhere around her stomach. His expression seems worried, but he does smile a little when he sees her looking down at him, and Roxanne's heart thumps painfully. He's alive. He's alive, he's moving, his eyes are water-clear and brilliant green, his arms are strong around her legs. She was—she had been right the first time, then. He did have a plan. He always has a plan.
She bends and tugs on one of his arms, and he immediately releases her and rises to breach the surface with a quiet little sucking cough. That milky film is back over his eyes again until suddenly it isn't, and she realizes—oh, he has two sets of eyelids, one for air and one for water. That's nifty.
He glances up at the bottom of the dock, frowning a little and cocking his head, and Roxanne wants to cry, wants to hug him, wants to kiss him and press herself close and crawl inside his skin and just stay there. He's alive, and she's safe, and thirty seconds ago neither of those facts was true. But she's treading water and her head hurts, her shoulders hurt, there's still blood in her mouth and she's only just getting her breath back. All she can do is stare at his sharp, beautiful face and be glad.
After a moment, he turns and grips her by the arms and leans in, puts his mouth to her ear.
"Please trust me," he breathes, and Roxanne's whole left side goes all tingly gooseflesh. "Take a deep breath and put your arms around my shoulders. Not my neck. And don't let go. When you need to come up, dig your fingers in a little, I'll feel you."
"What about Minion?" she whispers softly as he withdraws and starts to turn around.
He pulls his head back and looks pointedly down past their feet, cocks an eyebrow. Roxanne follows his gaze, and…oh! Hey, there's Minion! Well, she'll find out how he got free later.
The way Megamind swam on the bottom of the lake had seemed pretty languid until he saw her, and she wasn't really thinking about how he was swimming on their way up to the surface. Now, with her arms around him and his body undulating underneath her as they travel away from the dock seven or so feet underwater, she has time to be impressed. She doesn't know exactly how fast they're going but Megamind is hauling ass, even with her slowing him down. They're going fast enough that she can't even keep her eyes open without it hurting.
She holds out as long as she can, but it's probably less than a minute before she needs to shove her fingertips into his pectorals. Megamind angles upward immediately, then swims along the surface without breaking stride while Roxanne refreshes. She takes a couple breaths, then ducks her head back down again, pressing her temple into the curve where his neck meets his shoulder, just to the left of his spine. He—sort of full-body twitches—but it must be okay, because then he angles back down again and he's swimming normally.
After a couple seconds, Roxanne squints her eyes open, sees Minion keeping pace alongside. He doesn't look as though he'd be particularly fast—he's sort of shaped like a box—but he seems to be having no trouble matching his much larger companion's speed even though his tail isn't moving all that quickly. That's interesting. Different method of propulsion?
When Megamind comes back down after the second time Roxanne needs to take a breath, Minion says, "Well, Sir, that…certainly didn't go the way I expected it to."
There's a hum, and then a series of warbling, whistling squeaks and clicks that make Roxanne jump. Is that…wait, so, was that whistle earlier from Megamind? She can't tell what direction anything is coming from underwater, but these sound close, whatever they are. If it is him, he sounds far more birdlike than any dolphin or whalesong she's listened to. And she's listened to a lot; it makes for good background noise.
"I know," Minion says, so yes, those sounds must be Megamind speaking. "We lucked out, Sir, we really did. I assume the Romulan bots will tie things up at the dock and bring the hoverbike back to Evil Lair with my suit?"
Megamind flutes a reply, then whirrs something that turns into more clicky squeaks.
"That makes sense. Good."
Oh—oh, they aren't just swimming far enough away for the brainbots to do their thing, then? Megamind is going to swim back to the Lair? All the way back to the Lair, with Roxanne hanging on his neck the whole way?
There's a long pause, and then Minion clears his throat. "I have to say, you…had me worried for a minute there. On the dock, when they dragged you past."
The sound he makes this time is closer to someone trying to start a car with a bad battery, and Roxanne snorts in spite of herself and then has to dig her fingers in again. Megamind click-click-clicks, then dives upward, squeaking.
"I'll wait," Minion calls after him.
Roxanne sticks her head up, breathes deeply. Megamind doesn't pull his head out of the water, himself; he hasn't done so this whole time and she's starting to think he might not enjoy switching between respiratory systems. Trouble is, neither of them can use English under water, and she sort of doubts he'll be able to hear her if she speaks in the air.
He's talking again; she feels his chest buzzing under her hands, sees Minion has drawn closer and his mouth is moving. She pulls another deep breath and ducks back under.
"—sn't like that. I understand you're worried, but I'm sure she's—oh, hello again, Miss Ritchi!"
She sends a smile over in his direction, her eyes closed.
"Miss Ritchi, I'm terribly sorry I couldn't warn you about any of that, by the way," Minion says. "I—I know I scared you, I'm sorry, I just—they had to believe it. But I still wish I could have—"
Megamind trills something complicated and musical at that, pitching his voice so high that Roxanne winces.
"I absolutely will not stop! I am going to apologize and you're going to have to deal with it," Minion snaps. Megamind chirps at him again, but Minion is undeterred. "With respect, Sir, you didn't see her. Anyway, Miss Ritchi, I am truly sorry for upsetting you so badly."
Roxanne nods a bunch and smiles at him again, squinting her eyes open long enough to try to wink so he knows it's really okay, she's not mad or upset with him. She'd give her left arm to be able to speak right now.
She's doing her best to hold her breath as long as she can, but it's getting harder and harder the more she stays down. She can't hold her head out of the water long enough to truly get all her wind back—coming up creates too much drag; she can feel the resistance when she pokes her head up—and eventually the longest she can manage is about twenty seconds. Megamind responds to this by beginning to swim in long, gentle parabolas, which allows Roxanne time to exhale slowly while she's underwater, then inhale when she breaches. As long as she breathes deeply and evenly, it works. They mistime it a couple times, but overall the rhythm is solid.
After a while, Roxanne settles into the pattern of air-water-air and gains room in her mind to think about other things. The deep breathing is helping a little, but she still shies away from thinking about—about everything that just happened, and focuses instead on what's happening now. She could get used to this: swimming with Megamind. Or, hanging on Megamind while he swims, rather. His skin is cool and smooth under her hands, the water is cool and smooth as it rushes past and curls around her. She has seagulls and shallow-water noises in her ears when she's in the air, and the deep-water rumble of the lake and Minion and Megamind's voices when she's under the waves. It's…nice. Soothing. She almost entirely has her breath back.
She's slowly starting to relax and come down from her earlier panic, her fear and her grief and everything. But she is still more keyed up than she realizes, which is why, when she breaches and a voice by her head says, "Hey, Roxie," she gasps in a huge, frightened gulp of air and flings herself away from Megamind, diving almost without thinking. The drive to just get away sends cold rinsing down her whole spine. She aims herself down at the bottom of the lake and kicks as hard as she can, diving deep and pinching her nose and blowing to equalize the pressure in her ears, until she can twist her hands into the weeds at the bottom of the lake and hold herself there, her heart pounding.
Megamind is still hanging about five or so feet below the surface, blinking down at her in surprise. Then he turns and looks up, all the long length of him silhouetted briefly against the sky. Roxanne can see the exact instant he realizes what happened, because his whole body goes stiff and then he flips over and rockets down to where she's hiding in the weeds with her breath trapped behind her teeth.
She can't stay down here forever, but she's still feeling okay airwise at the moment. Megamind brings himself up to hover beside and above her, glaring up at the sky, his eyebrows pulled down and his lips pulled back from his teeth in a wary snarl. He's—he's growling, his voice a low, drumming whir. He turns his head and looks at Roxanne, then looks back up at the sky, does this a couple of times, his teeth still bared. She stares at him.
She's never seen him like this. For one thing, he has more skin on display right now than she ever thought she'd see, but—that's not even half of it; his green eyes are flashing under his glare and the waterlight plays odd shadows over his blue skin, and his underwater voice is beautiful and bubbling and strange, and the easy way he moves down here is still just completely fucking unfair.
"It's okay," Minion says, swimming down to join them. "It's okay, Miss Ritchi, it's just Metro Man," and a surprising stab of anger goes through Roxanne at the name. "Can you talk to him? I don't think he's likely to listen to me or Sir."
Oh, of course it's Metro Man. Who else would it be? She nods, glances up Megamind, and then another stab lances through her, this one of fear, when she sees dark slices between his ribs. Blood underwater is blackish, and these look like—no, she thinks, no, he's bleeding—
No, she realizes a second later. Those are gills.
He glances down, too, and then he twists away, lowering his arms a little. His whirring growl softens, smooths into a sort of mournful, echoing thrum like whalesong; Roxanne isn't sure what that means. She also isn't sure about the look on his face. He seems almost afraid, or almost like he wants to cry, but neither of those reactions make any sense. Maybe it's just the light down here?
Well, she has no way to ask and she can't stick around to find out. Her lungs are protesting and she can feel her heartbeat in her ears and temples, so she pushes off the bottom and kicks her way to the surface, trying to ignore how terribly ungraceful she feels all the way up.
Metro Man is flying home over the lake when something catches his eye: a roundish brown spot that looks like a person's head poking out of the water and disappearing again at steady intervals. It's heading along the shoreline, more or less, but it does seem to be starting to cut out across the bay on its way north.
He descends a little in the air, squinting. That's…hold on a second…
Holy moly, that's Roxanne down there! He flits down further, levels out about a yard above the waves, and peers down through the water. She's…holding onto…is that Megamind? It must be Megamind, because the little bright spot off to his left can only be Minion, but…
Welp. There's only one way to find out what all this means, so the next time Roxanne sticks her head into the air, he says, "Hey, Roxie."
He's expecting her to let go of Megamind and look up, or signal the other alien to stop, or just hold her head up out of the water to talk while Megamind keeps swimming. He is not expecting her to gasp in a huge breath of air and then disappear more or less straight downwards. Apparently Megamind wasn't expecting that either, because he pulls up almost immediately, looking around, sculling with his arms out.
Then he looks up, sees Metro Man, and his whole expression constricts into a snarl. He flips double birds, somersaults over, and vanishes into the dark.
Metro Man blinks. Well, that's fine, that's okay, he'll wait. Megamind can swim forever, but Roxie has to come up for air at some point. After a couple seconds, the bright spot rises up and resolves into Minion's face, haloed with light as it always is. Metro Man grins, mouths, "Hi, Minion!" and waves, then gives a huge, theatrical shrug with his hands up by his shoulders in a sort of what's-going-on? motion. Minion rolls his eyes, nods up at him, and dives.
Roxanne surfaces about fifteen seconds later. Metro Man is lying on his stomach in the air with his chin on his forearms, waiting for her, but he picks his head up when she bursts into the air with a gasp. "Hey," he says again, but she cuts him off.
"Where the fuck were you?" she cries, wild-eyed, water streaming out of her hair and down her face. Metro Man blinks. "Where were you? Wayne, where the hell—Minion and I almost died! Did you not hear him screaming? I know you can only do so much, good lord, but—"
He sits up, startled. "Whoa, whoa! What's this about almost dying? Is this about that thing with the brainbots down by that old shipyard?"
"Yes!" She twists her hands briefly into her hair, but she can't leave them there for long, she needs them for sculling. "Yes! Wayne! It is about that thing before the brainbots got down to that old shipyard! Didn't you hear us? Didn't you hear me?"
"No!" he exclaims, wide-eyed. "No, I didn't hear you! I heard Minion, yeah, but—that's not how Minion screams, so I figured—I figured he was faking!" She gapes up at him, and he shrugs. "He—there's an overtone when he really means it, there's—it's a pitch you can't hear, it's too high, but it's distinctive, Roxie. I figured he was either faking or just screaming for the sake of screaming, and yeah, actually, I did have other stuff I was doing!"
Roxanne treads water in silence for a few seconds, staring up at him with her mouth an angry twist and her eyes red-rimmed and puffy. Eventually, she says, "Okay. Okay. That's…fair. I just."
"What happened?" he asks, worried. "Are you hurt, are you…?"
"No, I'm, I'm fine," she says, her voice cracking a little, "I just—I had to watch Megamind die today, Wayne," she swallows, "and I wasn't prepared for that and I wasn't prepared for…oh, and I'm fake-breaking-up with you, by the way; I…met someone."
There was a lot going on in those few sentences. He backs up a little, waves his hands at her. "Wait, Megamind…what? He died? What?"
She shakes her head. "No, I just, I thought he died, he…well, I guess technically I thought I was watching him drown himself to save me and Minion, but—"
"Dang," Metro Man says, startled. He lies back down and sticks a hand into the water, awkwardly pats her back a couple times. "That sounds rough, Roxie, I'm really sorry." Then he frowns. "So, wait, you're fake-breaking-up with me?"
"We're fake-dating," she says flatly, treading water in the middle of Lake Michigan. "So it's a fake breakup. Look, give me a couple days to cool down and…and get my head around things, okay? I'll call you and we'll schedule some kind of public falling-out, we'll avoid each other for a while, and then we'll…I dunno, just be friends. I guess. I'll come up with something."
He nods slowly. "Okay. Uh. Okay, yeah. Just to clarify, we can still be friends though, right? I do like being friends."
That gets something like a smile out of her. "Yeah, I think friends is fine."
He nods again, relieved, then rolls onto his back and tucks his hands behind his head to grin at her upside down, totally ignoring his cape falling into the lake. "Cool. So, when you say you met someone—it's Megamind, right? You're talking about Megamind?" Roxanne turns an interesting shade of pink and gapes at him like a fish. He grins harder. "Excellent," he says, and makes a punching motion at the sky. "Victory is mine; my mother owes me so much money."
She blinks, and then her expression flattens into a truly impressive glare. "You had money on us getting together?" She blinks, then says, sounding even more outraged, "Wait, Sally had money on us not getting together?"
He spins a few enthusiastic barrel rolls around her, grinning the whole time with his hands behind his head, splashing water from his soaked cape into the air in bright shimmering lines. "Yeah, I'd say I'm sorry, but I'm really not. Tell you what, you can have half. Call me! We'll break up!" He pops up in the air, waves, flits away before she can tell him she and Megamind aren't actually together, not yet, and maybe actually they won't get together, she doesn't know.
She takes a breath, ducks under the waves. Megamind and Minion are still down by the bottom, from the look of things; she can just make out Minion's light. They're too far away for her to make out what Minion is saying. Megamind seems to be less squeaky, more clicky, but that's about all she can tell as far as he's concerned. Well, nothing else for it. She dives.
She's been treading water and yelling at Wayne for a solid few minutes, so she can't stay down too long—she's a strong swimmer, but she doesn't have the breath for deep dives right now. Megamind appears to be saying something lengthy, something surprisingly musical in between all the clicks, and Minion is wearing a patient expression on his face; maybe she'd better go back up and tread some more and wait for them to finish their conversation? But she can at least let them know she's done with her conversation, she decides as she approaches. She focuses on the long, tangling weeds that grow up from the bottom. Everything is blurry and fuzzy to her, down here, but she can make out more than just the general shape of things at close range, and the weeds do look quite long. She has—a silly sort of idea—it's a ridiculous idea, very silly, she probably shouldn't.
Eh. Life's too short. She almost died today; she can afford to be silly.
So she keeps kicking down, wraps a hand around the base of several soft weeds, waves at Megamind—who blinks at her, smiles uncertainly back even though his whole face is rumpled with worry—Minion turns and Roxanne waves at him, too. Then she shoves off the bottom, dragging the weeds up with her.
She rolls over when she gets to the surface, arching her back and sticking her toes out of the water so she floats there. She takes her bunch of weeds and braids three of them together, keeping them loose—they are quite long, but she doesn't want to shorten them too much—and ties them in a rough sort of knot, puts the slimy necklace around her neck.
Okay, that worked better than she thought it would and the effect is actually not half bad. It is very silly, but a couple of the weeds have something like little floaties in the ends of their leaves, which gives the necklace a pleasingly quirky effect.
And making something helps keep her mind off what happened earlier. So. That's a definite plus.
She sets the first, prototype necklace in the water and allows it to float away. The second and third necklaces she makes are both sturdier, made with double strands of weed. She's wearing the second and has just finished the third when Minion pops onto the surface of the water next to her knee and makes her jump.
"Oh!" he says. "Sorry."
"Is—is everything okay?" she asks, trying to focus over her pounding heart. She really does need to calm down. She's so jumpy, right now, and she has no reason to be jumpy anymore. She's fine. She's floating on her back in Lake Michigan with tar in her hair and her dress clinging around her legs and she can't see the shore, but Minion is right here and Megamind is just below; they won't let anything really bad happen to her. They never have. She swallows. "Is Megamind okay? Sounded like he had a lot to say, down there."
Minion nods. "He's fine. He just needs to rest a little longer, I think. It's been a while since we swam this far and we're about to head into deep water, to cross the bay—not too deep, Miss Ritchi, only about a hundred feet or so—and he's not going to want to stop until we're all the way across." He looks around. "Where's Metro Man?"
"I made him go away," she says shortly. "He was just…just checking in. Minion," she says, because he doesn't seem like he's in a hurry and she figures she might as well ask, "were you actually restrained, earlier? How did you get free?"
He blinks. "I—earlier? Oh, earlier! My exosuits all have an eject button in the dome. In case of emergencies." His fins twitch; Roxanne recognizes the gesture but it takes her a moment to place it as a shrug. "I blasted off shortly after they threw you and Sir into the water. I did my best to keep them distracted in the meantime, but it wasn't working very well; they were trying to…well, never mind."
So, he could have escaped at any time. Roxanne leans back in the water and sticks her arms out to the side and frowns up at the sky, the completed necklace resting high and dry on her chest.
Minion could have escaped at any time, he was never actually even screaming believably, Megamind can breathe underwater…they're both safe. They were both safe. The whole time.
Thinking about today is making her feel shivery and upset all over again, but it's getting hard not to think about today. She's run out of weeds to distract herself with.
"I was worried about you," Minion says into the silence stretching between them. He's ducked below again because that's where her ears are. "That gun…my first plan was to break free and then snap the piling you were tied to and hit the lake. It would have been jarring, but the tar looked thick enough to keep you from banging around too much. But then they pulled a gun on you, and until Sir got there, I couldn't…"
"And then after," Roxanne says, speaking to the sky—he bobs up next to her again— "he didn't have the de-gun yet, after. If you reacted then, he would have come out fighting with only a knife."
She shuts her eyes, seeing the black body bag in front of her again, the swell of Megamind's head under the plastic, the angle of his shoulder. His white-cloudy eyes as they dragged him past her by his feet, his arms trailing above his head. The way his face twisted as he choked, with Minion screaming and crying in her ears. It was all too terribly real at the time, and she can't seem to shake how shaky she still feels.
Something changes in the way the water's moving, and she opens her eyes again and glances to the side, then nearly yells. Megamind is floating there with his back in the air and his face in the water, floating on the surface just like earlier—
Not like earlier, not like earlier. He was limp and lifeless earlier; now his arms are out the same way hers were a second ago. He's just floating. Resting, like she is, cradled in the sun-warm water at the surface of the lake.
Roxanne swallows. Then she slowly tips her head back again, arches her back with the braided weeds on her chest, stretches her arms out wide. Sweeps one arm around until she finds his fingers. His hand twitches away—but then it settles back, just barely touching her, and Megamind turns his head to the side and peers at her from just a couple inches underwater. Roxanne sculls closer, just a little closer, just a little, until she can finally tangle her fingers with his and squeeze. She's expecting him to pull away again, honestly. She desperately wants to talk to him, wants to hear his voice—the voice she's used to—but he doesn't seem to want to hear or speak to her, and she's beginning to worry about that, on top of everything else.
But he stays. Doesn't even twitch when she touches him, this time. And after a moment, he awkwardly turns his wrist to curl his long, spindly fingers over the back of her hand.
For a while, they lie like that, Roxanne's face in the air and Megamind's in the water, both of them breathing, both of them safe under the sky, their hands together.
Until Megamind finally does pull away. Roxanne sits up in the water, moving from floating to treading as Megamind turns around for her and waits. His arms are still out, but he's sculling slowly back and forth now, moving like a butterfly sunning itself. Minion pokes his face up. "Ready to go?"
She swallows. Her earlier idea seems even sillier now, and somehow also painfully sentimental. But she might as well, so…
She swims forward, touches Megamind's shoulder instead of wrapping her arms around him like he's expecting. He turns, glances up at her, raises an eyebrow. Roxanne holds the braided weed necklace forward in both hands, lets him blink at it before she reaches to slip it over his huge head and let go.
Megamind looks down as the soft weeds settle slowly against his bare chest, still sculling with his arms. Roxanne was always under the impression that he was a mammal, but he has no nipples, no navel. Just gills between five of his ribs, and a few small scars, and two long, narrow pits above his clavicles that open and close as steadily as breathing.
He looks back up at her, blinking, his expression lost. We match, Roxanne wants to tell him, but he won't hear her, so she—reaches a hand forward, instead, towards the hollow at the base of his throat and hopes he understands.
But he blinks again at that, jerking his head back, wide-eyed, then spins back around. For a moment, she thinks she's offended him, but he doesn't pull the strands of weed off over his head, he doesn't tear them off his neck. He just waits, treading in the water with his back to her, his shoulders stiff.
Roxanne swims close, pulls herself close against his back. Breathes deep, closes her eyes, and relaxes as the waves close over her head.
He's…not sure what that was about, honestly. The necklace thing. But it didn't escape his notice that she's wearing one, too.
Well, it may not be standard human behavior, but the necklace itself is helpful, sensation-wise. The weeds are soft on his neck and shoulders, which makes Roxanne's hair much less distracting when she tucks herself down behind his back.
She made him something. What does that mean? Why did she do that? She made one for herself and then she made one for him, too. That's not what he was expecting to happen after she swam up to talk to Metro Man. He was expecting her to ask the hero for a ride home. He's surprised she didn't, but pleased.
Carrying her is tiring—she's more buoyant than he is, which makes swimming in arcs to match her breathing easy enough, but sticking her head out at the apex of every arc creates a ton of drag. And it's been a long time since he's swum anything like this distance. But carrying her is also nice in a way he isn't used to. It's…warm. Not just because she naturally runs a few degrees hotter than he does; it makes him feel pleasantly warm somewhere in the middle of his chest when she puts her arms around his shoulders. She hasn't ever hesitated about it. She didn't draw away from him under the dock, she didn't flinch when he lifted her out of the water, she didn't lean away when he spoke quietly to her to tell her the plan. She didn't jump when he swam down to her on the lake floor after Metro Man startled her. And Minion says she hasn't said anything at all about the way he speaks underwater.
She recoiled when she saw his gills, but that's to be expected, isn't it? He expected something like that ages ago. He isn't human, isn't even remotely like a human other than his basic shape and structure. It's only natural she'd be afraid.
But then, immediately afterwards, she made him a necklace out of lakeweed. So—is she freaked out, or isn't she?
The water in the bay is cooler than it is closer to shore, even at the surface. But the Lair is only a few more miles north now, and Megamind would really prefer to reach it before the sun sets completely. It truly is astonishing just how much difference the loss of sunlight makes, and while he can deal with the cooler temperatures, he won't enjoy it, and he isn't sure Roxanne will be able to at all.
Temperature isn't the only reason to hold sunset as his target ETA, though. It's only an hour or so away, and Megamind is really starting to feel the ache that settles in when he disrupts his osmotic equilibrium too much. He isn't planning on switching osmoregulatory mechanisms—it's an exhausting and unpleasant process at the best of times, and always leaves him feeling shaky and hungover—but he didn't have much time to prepare for an extended period in freshwater today. He has another few hours before his hypotonicity reaches dangerous levels, more than enough time to reach the Lair, but he'd rather not push his luck.
He sighs inwardly and resumes the steady rhythm he'd worked out earlier to match Roxanne's steady breathing. It goes more easily, this time. Up and down. Rise and fall. Everything is waves today.
By the time they get back to Evil Lair, both of their lakeweed necklaces have fallen off and the sun is on the horizon. Minion takes a moment to explain to Roxanne where they're going, and then he leads the way down to the Lair's aquatic entrance. Megamind puts on one last turn of speed for this—the tunnel is sort of long, and he and Roxanne are both tired. He still can't really believe she didn't ask Metro Man for a lift.
The tunnel opens into Minion's freshwater pool, and Megamind rockets up to the surface and finally breaches, sucking air into his lungs and yawning his spiracles wide at the same time, reveling in the blast of oxygen that hits his brain when he opens both respiratory systems at once. Behind him, Roxanne slowly unclasps her arms from around his shoulders and sidestrokes away a little, shaking her soaking bangs out of her eyes.
Megamind turns toward her, uncertain. It—is a good sign, right, that she stayed with him and Minion? She spent the whole afternoon in the lake with them, even if she did spend the latter portion of it shivering against his spine. She didn't have to stay. She could have called for help at any time; he's sure Metro Man was keeping an ear out for her.
"Thanks," Roxanne says, panting, looking at him with water running down her face and neck. Her eyes are so blue, bright under the lights of the pool room and still red-rimmed from crying earlier, and—oh, she's pale with cold under her freckles, he realizes; her lips are purpling with it. The water ripples around her body; she's shaking more than he'd thought she was.
He reaches for her, appalled. "You're freezing," he says, and dives about half a foot down so he can tow her over to the stairs after him. His legs are so, so tired, and the muscles in his back and abdomen are killing him, but what's a few more yards between a supervillain and their kidnappee, right?
They're in the shallows, then, and Roxanne is staggering up the steps, hugging her arms and shivering violently under her very wet dress. Megamind follows her up, resolutely keeping his eyes on his feet, but he has to turn and sit down rather hard on the edge of the pool when his knees give out under him halfway up the steps. To his total shock, Roxanne whirls and drops at his side, one hand on his back, the other gripping his shoulder across his chest so she can stare into his face.
"What's wrong?" she gasps. "Megamind, what's—are you okay—"
He stares at her, wide-eyed, frozen. He sees the instant she realizes how close she is, but he also sees the shift in her expression that means stubbornness/doubling down and he realizes—she isn't about to withdraw. She just sits there, huddled at his side with her fingers nearly dipping into one of his supraclavicular spiracles—which, ahaha, haha, ha, that's—very extremely distracting—
"Megamind," Roxanne says again, her blue-sky eyes roving over his face, "what's wrong?"
Well. What's wrong is she's very close and he wants, badly, to kiss her, but that's nothing new and not actually difficult to resist. He clears his throat. "I'm fine," he says. "I'm. My legs are. Tired." He summons a laugh that comes out in a series of fluting notes, then winces. He's still half in water-mode. "My knees sort of feel like…lime jello? I just need to sit, I think."
Roxanne bites her lip, nods. "I'll sit with you," she says, and lets go of him so she can pull her feet up out of the water and curl them under her on the side of the pool.
While he's still trying to wrap his head around her reaction, she huddles against his arm and says, "Why lime jello, specifically?"
Megamind blinks. He's sitting on dry land and he is thoroughly out of his depth. "No real reason," he says. "It's the only kind they ever serve at the Prison for the Criminally Gifted. I hate it."
Roxanne snorts. "Well," she says, "I'm sorry your knees feel like something you hate," and she rests the side of her head on his shoulder.
Oh wow. Okay. She's even more tired than he'd thought. Okay, no, he can't do this, he has to stand up. "Miss Ritchi, you are shivering," he say severely. "You need to get dry, you need to get warmed up, I need to get you home." He gathers himself, shifts away from her, gets his feet under him. Staggers again. Shit, his legs are really pretty much useless at the moment. Megamind's endurance never lets him down when he needs it, but he's made it home and now he's safe, and apparently his stamina has finally punched out for the evening.
But Roxanne rises, still at his side, still at his side, and—she pulls his arm up over her shoulders, tucks herself even closer against him. And she runs the backs of her fingers down over his ribs, smoothing his gills flat, and lifts him to his feet.
He stares at her. She's holding onto his waist, his arm, she—
"Oh, my god, your hands," he blurts, noticing the torn skin on her wrists. That's right, her hands were bleeding earlier, how—how did he miss that—
"They're fine," she says. "They'll heal. Come on. Where are we going?"
"Miss Ritchi," he protests. "You can't—I'm fine—"
Her fingers tighten on his waist. "Megamind," she returns, mimicking his tone. "I can, and you aren't. You're exhausted. You carried me all day; I can damn well carry you up some stairs until you get your feet back, you—you crazy merman, you."
He jerks his head back and blinks a few times. Is…is she joking, is that a joking tone?
"Come on," she says again, pausing in the doorway at the base of two staircases leading in opposite directions. "Tell me where we're going."
Megamind can't find his tongue.
Roxanne looks at him for a few seconds, waiting, and then she rolls her eyes and turns a little and calls, "Minion? Where can I get this man some pajamas?" and this, this is ridiculous, she is still shivering and she is asking about pajamas that aren't even for her.
And Minion, that little traitor, calls back from where the brainbots are helping him into his second-best exosuit, "Take the stairs to your left, go up two floors, then turn right when you hit the landing, that's the main hall. Two doors down on your left is his room. If you go the other way at the landing, you'll come to the kitchen."
Roxanne nods. "Thanks, Minion," she says loudly, and Minion calls back, "Anytime, Miss Ritchi! I'll be up in a few minutes, I'll make you both some soup," while Megamind gathers himself enough to wail something about secrets and lairs and villainy not being a museum cafe open to the public, Minion.
He does his best to maintain his usual prickly aloofness as he and Roxanne make their slow and steady way up the stairs, but it's hard. Her dress is wet and her skin is cold, but underneath she is so warm, and fuck, he loves her entirely too much. She's held onto him all day, trusted him to keep her safe and afloat in deep water, trusted him to help her breathe when she asked—she only let go once, and it was because she was startled by something that had nothing at all to do with him.
His arm is around her shoulders, this time, and his heart is in his throat. God, he's tired.
"Wait," he says quietly, when they reach the landing. "Wait. Turn left."
She blinks at him. "What? No, we—"
"Minion's room," he explains shortly, glaring down the hall in the direction he wants to go. "My…I don't have any clothes that will fit you. Minion does. Not," he swallows, "not well, but—better than mine will."
Roxanne hesitates, then nods and follows his short directions to Minion's room, where Megamind gently disentangles himself from her grasp. "Wait just a second," he tells her, and reels over to Minion's bed, drops to his knees to grope around underneath it.
Minion wasn't always in his current exosuit—the suit Megamind made him in the beginning, his first one after they moved into Evil Lair, was somewhat smaller than the one he pilots now, and he's hoping Minion kept some of his original costume gear in storage.
He's in luck. The pajamas Minion wears now would fit Roxanne approximately as well as a circus tent, but Megamind finds a red-checked flannel nightshirt that used to reach to Minion's knees—Roxanne can wear it like a dress if she rolls the sleeves up. "Aha," he announces, and drags himself to his feet using Minion's bedpost as a ladder, then turns and brandishes his find.
Roxanne is hovering in the doorway, biting her lip and staring at him. Megamind's triumphant grin slips a little. "What?" he asks, but she shakes her head.
"Nothing," she says quietly, coming over to him. "Thanks." She takes the nightgown, then loops one of Megamind's arms through hers so he can lean on her. He's getting his legs back, little by little; he doesn't need her to carry him, now, but—he is still grateful to her for letting him lean his weight on her. He knows she's tired, too.
"Do you mind if I use your shower?" she asks, and he stumbles. She—
"No," he says, after a second or so. "No, I. I don't mind." His bathroom is—well, it's inside his bedroom; he has something like a small hotel room to himself, with a bathroom just inside the door and a spacious but cluttered bedroom beyond. But. It's probably okay for her to come in, just this once. These are special circumstances.
"Thanks," she says again. "I'm just…ugh. Probably going to need to scrub for a while to get the rest of the tar off." Soaking all day has helped somewhat, but her dress is definitely ruined for good.
Megamind blinks at her, then sticks two fingers in his mouth and whistles. A moment later, several brainbots appear at the end of the hall. "You," he says, pointing imperiously. "87K10, go to Main Storage, shelf gamma-AC, bring the open bottle of polyoxyethylene twenty sorbitan monooleate to Daddy's room. And you," pointing to another, "Needles, bring a set of clean towels from Minion's linen cupboard."
He drops his hand, and explains, for Roxanne's benefit, "It's a nontoxic solvent useful for removing things like tar from hair and skin. You'll want to let it sit and soak in for at least twenty minutes before washing it off. Gasoline is more efficient, but I somehow think you'd prefer not to smell like a refinery."
"Oh," she says, sounding startled. "Yes, that's—thank you. Why do you do that?"
He looks over at her. "What?"
"Whistle with your fingers." She frowns a little, questioning. "You don't need to."
Megamind feels his shoulders pull tight. "Sometimes," he says, "it's nice to feel a little less alien than I am."
He gets her settled in his bathroom, shows her how to work the freshwater taps, tells her what to do with the solvent for the tar, and then beats a hasty retreat and does not think about Roxanne Ritchi climbing into his shower like it's something she does every day.
What he wants to do now is to just go ahead and vent his secondary respiratory system to seal his gills down and close his spiracles, but if he does that without reestablishing osmotic equilibrium in saltwater first, he's going to be in a world of hurt in a few hours. So he gathers up his pajamas, grabs a clean towel from the linen cupboard, and makes his way back downstairs. He should have done this before coming up to his room, but he was. Distracted.
The saltwater pool is partitioned off from the freshwater entrance to Evil Lair. It's also much bigger than the freshwater pool, and not just because the lake offers more than enough access to freshwater. Both Megamind and Minion are technically euryhaline—able to survive and even thrive in both salt and freshwater—but they are built for saltwater and the reef pool feels like home; if they're going to swim, this is generally where they prefer to do it.
Usually Megamind would be able to just get in, swim to the bottom of the pool and up again, and get out, but after such a long time in the lake with almost no preparation, he'll have to spend nearly an hour at depth if he doesn't want to wake up in a puddle of his own blood in the morning.
Well, at least he'll be able to check on the corals and anemones, and make sure Greta, his big moray eel, is still doing well in her hole in the rocks—she's recovering from some skin lesions of uncertain origin. And she does seem to be improving, with no new lesions he can see. But he's tired, he's so, so tired, and swimming isn't the refreshment it usually is for him even if the salt does help ease his soreness somewhat. He stays down just long enough to make sure he's isotonic, and then he gets out, dries off, vents and seals his gills and spiracles, and finally crawls into his pajamas and slippers.
He stumbles back up the stairs on aching legs to his bedroom, lost in thought. Minion said, earlier, Roxanne was really upset about him dying. Megamind's pretty sure it was just because watching someone die in front of you is reliably traumatizing, but Minion said no, absolutely not, this was definitely personal. Megamind has no idea what to do with that, no idea where to go with it, any more than he had any idea what to do about that lakeweed necklace earlier.
Well, he'll have to figure it out one way or another. He'll just…take his cues from Roxanne, he supposes, as best he can, until this all blows over and life goes back to what passes for normal around here.
Let's play "spot the former bio major."
He's still trying to sift through all this when he opens the door to his bedroom. He's not surprised to hear the shower still running; tar is tough enough to remove from skin, let alone hair. He's gotten it in his beard once or twice, and honestly it's just easier to shave the whole thing off and deal with the indignity of looking like a teenager for a couple weeks. So, she'll definitely need at least two rounds of solvent, that's forty minutes of just sitting and waiting, minimum…plus the time it takes to wash the solvent off, so, say forty-five minutes. And she's cold, and the shower is warm; if she's anything like Megamind, that's another five minutes. Call it ten minutes because she's extra-cold. And he has no idea what else a shower entails for a human, and thinking about Roxanne in the shower is something Megamind generally tries his best to avoid, but…all in all, an hour or so seems like a reasonable enough estimate.
He still stops dead in his tracks, though, because—
Roxanne is singing. The shower is on and. Roxanne. Singing. In his bathroom, singing.
Bathrooms have good acoustics and Roxanne seems to have a decent voice, but it isn't the quality of the song that shocks him. He's mostly startled because it's a song he actually knows, it's—Judas Priest, he thinks, Diamonds and Rust, but—suddenly there are lyrics he doesn't recognize—
"Ten years ago, I bought you some cufflinks…you brought me something; we both know what memories can bring…"
He's tempted to just sit down on the floor in front of the bathroom door and listen, but he's pretty sure that would be unforgivably creepy. He goes and sits down on his bed, instead, and stares toward the door. Which still feels creepy, but. Forgivably so.
"Well, you burst on the scene already a legend: the unwashed phenomenon, the original vagabond…you strayed into my arms. And there you stayed, temporarily lost at sea…"
The water cuts off, and so does the singing. For a minute or so, all is silence, and Megamind keeps puzzling. A recording he doesn't know? A live show somewhere? Now you're telling me you're not nostalgic—well then give me another word for it, you who are so good with words and at keeping things vague—
He hasn't listened to Sin after Sin in years, maybe he'll have to…then the bathroom door opens, and he looks quickly down at the floor.
"Oh," Roxanne says, sounding startled. "Oh, you're back."
Megamind looks up. 'Cause I need some of that vagueness now; it's all come back too clearly—yes, I love you dearly—
"I just, I poked my head out earlier but you were gone, I thought…never mind." She clears her throat, color rising under her freckles, embarrassed. "I, um, I hung my clothes over the shower door," she tells him, slowly swinging her arms back and forth. "I hope that was okay."
He glances at her swinging hands, then snorts.
Roxanne laughs quietly, too, looking down at herself. "Yeah, I don't think Minion's clothes fit me very well." There's a good four inches of fabric hanging over her hands.
Megamind shakes his head, lips twitching in spite of himself, in spite of the weirdness of having Roxanne Ritchi actually in his actual bedroom, wearing Minion's old clothes. "It's better than the nightshirts he wears these days," he tells her. "You could probably go camping in one."
She laughs again, fumbling with one of the sleeves. But it's hard to roll up a sleeve one-handed, and a second later she winces, and—right, that's right: her wrists. The fabric is probably rubbing, or maybe turning her hands that way is uncomfortable. Megamind frowns, then stands and sweeps over and past her, back into his shower-humid bathroom. "Here," he says over his shoulder. "Um. Come, come here?"
She does so, one sleeve partly rolled up, the other flopping around uselessly. Megamind faces her, a roll of gauze in one hand and a bottle of providone-iodine solution in the other. "Um," he says again, feeling very flushed and sort of temporarily lost at sea, himself. "Your, your wrists are…it's a little late for full treatment. Debridement and everything. But you've been in water all day, so that's probably a moot point." He sets the supplies on his sink, then starts washing his hands. Roxanne leans against his doorframe, just watching quietly. "I, I think you should be okay with just, with just some antiseptic and antibiotic ointment? And a bandage. Should be enough. You won't get infected. Here," he says, shutting off the tap and turning to reach for her. "Let me?"
She steps forward, holds her hands out to him, and watches his hands move as he carefully rolls her sleeves up with shaking fingers. He keeps his eyes away from the oversized nightshirt's neckline, keeps his attention on her hands and wrists. It isn't hard. This is the first time he's really looked at the wounds, not just noticed them, and his eyebrows net together, troubled. The cuts aren't deep, but they are ugly—no longer bleeding, and not even scabbed over thanks to her day in the lake, but weeping and raw-looking and angry red around the edges. She must have really been struggling, earlier. There are a few places cut deep enough that he thinks they might scar, an idea that makes his heart squeeze uncomfortably.
He steps away, guides her to the sink. "Hold your hands over…yes. Okay. This is probably going to sting," he warns.
"It's okay," she says, but she still hisses when the iodine splashes into her cuts.
"Sorry," Megamind says, quiet, and guides her to turn her hands so he can pour the antiseptic liberally over the circumference of her wrists. That done, he reaches for the neosporin he keeps next to his toothpaste (an arrangement which has definitely never backfired hilariously). "Um—do you want—?"
"You do it."
So he swallows, and gently dabs the ointment over her sterilized cuts before finally picking up the gauze and bandaging her hands while she watches in silence. She's usually so, so full of questions and spitfire commentary. And she was singing just a minute ago. Is she okay? Is she just tired?
Roxanne steps—forward—brings her bandaged hands up—
"Megamind," she says in a low voice, "um. Fair, fair warning? I'm about to freak out, can…can I touch you?"
"Ah?" Well, that answers the is she okay question, sort of. He blinks, taken aback. "Ah. If—you want to?"
Her eyes fill with tears and she nods hard and takes another step forward. Megamind is already backed against the sink, but—okay, this is okay, Roxanne has her arms around him again—around his ribs, this time, but his gills are flat, so it's okay—and her face is shoved into his bony shoulder between his neck and the collar of his pajamas and she's—crying? Again? She cried earlier today, too, but then after the thing with the bag she mostly just stared at him, and—
He puts his arms around her and she moves even closer, so he just gives up on trying to take cues and holds her as tightly as he can. Which is pretty tightly, honestly; he's no Metro Man but he's hardly a delicate flower, either. Megamind can be reasonably immovable when he wants to be.
Roxanne stands there in his bathroom, in her bare feet and borrowed nightgown, pressing herself against him like she can somehow phase into his body by sheer force of will. She's fairly clutching him against her and just—shaking silently, her whole body trembling with it, while Megamind stands like a stiff, uncertain stick, holding her.
Eventually he can't take it anymore. "Um," he says, feeling intensely awkward, "maybe…would it maybe be better if we sat down? On, on a couch? I have a couch, would…would that be better?" Maybe the walk will be good for her, he thinks. Getting up and moving rarely makes him feel better, but it does help as a distraction long enough to break him out of his spirals, sometimes. Of course, walking to the couch will mean showing her more of the Lair, but…well, she's seen one of the entrances and she's seen his bedroom and she knows how to navigate a little—thanks, Minion—and she's seen a good deal of his inventions already, so. It's fine. It's probably fine. "Miss Ritchi," he prompts, because she hasn't reacted in the slightest.
And she does nod against his neck, then, and pull away a little.
God, maybe Minion was right, maybe Megamind really did screw up in a major way, because she's—crying rather hard, actually.
"Oh," Megamind says, taken aback. "Oh, um…hang on." He darts away, retrieves the tissues he keeps on his nightstand. A thought occurs, and he also stops by his bureau to grab a pair of clean fluffy socks for her.
"Here," he says shortly, handing her the socks. "You, you'll want these, the Lair is…the floor is cold. Or—wait a moment—but do put those on—" Another thought: he has a second pair of slippers in his wardrobe. Always useful to keep an old pair on-hand in case of acid spills. He slips the old pair on, hurries back to the bathroom. "Here," he says again, setting the newer slippers on the floor for Roxanne to slide her fluffy-sock feet into. Fluffy socks are warm, but the damp chill of the Lair's cement floors tends to work its way through socks alone.
The slippers may have been a mistake; Roxanne looks down at them, looks up at Megamind, looks surprised, then seems to cry even harder. But. Oh well.
"Okay, um…here, just…" He's not feeling much more articulate than she is, to be honest. He picks up the tissues and offers her his arm, and she seizes his elbow with both hands.
Okay. Okay. He can do this.
Megamind is no stranger to panic, himself, but his preferred method of calming down is to curl up on the bottom of the saltwater pool until he feels better. That obviously won't work in Roxanne's case, so he leads her down the hall away from the kitchen, heading for the open, airy space he uses for storage and planning and prototyping. There's a couch there, a massive black leather sectional. It faces the wall where Minion keeps his herb garden on full-spectrum lit shelving. The lighting in that corner is good and the plants are sort of soothing to look at, and the couch itself is exceptionally comfortable.
Roxanne says nothing, just allows him to lead her across the big room, past his idea cloud and through his prototype staging area, down past several rows of shelves to the brightly-lit herb corner. This is where Megamind sleeps when he's having trouble with being in a bed, or if all he wants is some shut-eye in the middle of a particularly interesting project.
"Here," he says for what feels like the tenth time today. He settles Roxanne in a corner of the couch so she can curl against the armrest if she wants to, already pulling the blanket Minion made him off the back of the couch for her as she lets go of his arm. He puts the tissues on the armrest.
Minion had taken up a brief flirtation with quilting in their teenage years, in those early days when Megamind went silent and his hands went still, and the blanket is a patchwork of dark cool tones reminiscent of the night sky, with stars picked out here and there in metallic silver thread. It's not quite big enough for a bed, but it's perfect to curl up under and it is a very calming blanket, in Megamind's experience. He bundles it over Roxanne's lap while she blows her nose.
And then she reaches up for him, and he steps back, uncertain, gazing down at her. He was right: the walk does seem to have done some good, because she isn't crying quite as hard and her breathing is much easier, but her eyes are still huge and full of tears. "Um…?"
"Sit with me," she chokes out, barely managing to turn it into a question. "Please?"
This feels vaguely exploitative of him, but she did ask, so he sits down next to her and lets her turn toward him, allows her to crawl back into his arms. He pulls the quilt up over her back, instead of putting it over her lap, and wraps his arms around the outside to keep it in place and maybe give her a barrier in case she wants one. She doesn't seem to want one, but he'd much rather err on the side of not overstepping some unknown boundary.
"Miss Ritchi," he says again, when she doesn't speak again, just clings. He pitches his voice low, does his best to sound steady and assuring. "You know you're…safe, here. After a fashion."
"I know," she says, "I know. I'm sorry about this, I—I do know you won't let anything bad happen."
He blinks over her shoulder, startled. Oh, he thinks. Oh, she trusts him, that's…unexpected.
She swallows hard. "It's just, I just—Megamind, I—I thought you were dead. I was going to die, I thought they were going to shoot me and I thought—"
He dares to sweep a hand down her spine and up again, smoothing the quilt against her. "No," he says, still keeping his voice humming as low as he can, "no, they were never going to shoot you, Miss Ritchi."
"They were," she insists. "They—Megamind, they had guns—"
"Ineffectual guns," he tells her. "Nonfunctional guns. Very much jammed, all of them, I promise." He rubs her back again, then hooks his hand up over her shoulder and squeezes gently. "Miss Ritchi, can you breathe for me?"
"Jammed," she whispers, her arms around him tightening.
"Yes, extremely jammed," he says, trying to think of what Minion says when Megamind loses control like this. "I'll—I'll explain, if you want me to, later, but—Miss Ritchi, please, I need you to breathe slowly, please. Like in the lake?"
She gulps again. "The lake," she echoes, in an odd tone he doesn't recognize, and her trembling shoulders curl inward. Then she says, unprompted, "Can I—would you let me—"
He relaxes his grip on her but doesn't move. "Put me where you need me," he tells her. She nudges him to lean back against the couch.
And then she shifts her weight, rises and moves forward and turns so she's—oh. Um. In his lap, straddling his legs, shoving her arms down around between the couch and the small of his back, that's—new. And. Okay! That's okay. He pulls the quilt back up around her, squeezes her through it, and Roxanne puts her chin on his shoulder and rests the side of her head against his jaw. Her damp hair tickles his ear.
"Sorry," she whispers against the back of the couch. "Sorry, is—is this okay—"
Megamind clears his throat. "This is. Fine! I'm fine."
"Don't sound fine," she mumbles.
He clenches his teeth for a moment and shuts his eyes. He'd rather not point this out, would much rather continue to have her close to him, but—that's terribly unfair of him to want, especially right now. She's crying. "I do worry I'm taking advantage of your emotional distress."
There's a pause, and then she pulls away a little so she can look searchingly at his face. "What?"
He swallows hard. "You are clearly in some kind of emotional distress," he says carefully, "and—seeking comfort physically, and I'm—here, but—oh!" he realizes suddenly. "Minion! Minion would be infinitely better at this. I can call Minion, if you like?" Yes! That will be better. Minion isn't in love with Roxanne; Minion won't have the conflict of interest Megamind does complicating things. Minion will be perfect. And if all he's doing is heating up soup, well, Megamind can do that easily enough. He knows how to stir a pot on the stove.
(Speaking of Minion: where is he? It's been well over an hour and there's been no word. Has he been in the kitchen this whole time? Megamind isn't worried about Price coming after him—humans underestimate Minion, they always do; they think all his strength is in the gorilla suit and completely ignore the fact that the gorilla suit is completely useless without a pilot—but it does seem strange not to have heard from him yet.)
(Minion, as it happens, knows exactly what he saw on the dock and he knows the more time he gives the two bipeds to figure things out, the higher the likelihood of a favorable romantic outcome. So he is not heating up soup. He is making french onion soup from scratch.)
(It's a lot of onions.)
"No," Roxanne says, and shakes her head. "No, I don't—I don't want Minion. I want you." She leans forward and pulls herself to Megamind again before he can react to that. He recognizes somewhat dizzily that she doesn't clutch him quite as hard as before, which…maybe that's a good sign?
Now thoroughly confused, he returns to rubbing her back. His hands aren't nearly as large and comforting as Minion's would be, so he uses both of them and hopes that's enough. Brain six times the mass and sixteen times the processing capacity of an average human's and he has no idea what he's doing here, but he's damn well going to try anyway. Story of his life, really.
And…okay, so maybe the whole alien thing doesn't freak her out? At all? He was about as flagrantly other as it was possible for him to be in front of her, earlier, and she…doesn't seem to care in the slightest. She's in his lap, for god's sake, and he knows she saw his gills before.
Right on schedule, she murmurs, "…Can't believe you can breathe underwater."
He hesitates. "I…would appreciate if you kept that to yourself," he says slowly. "It isn't common knowledge. I'd like to keep it that way."
"Of course," she agrees immediately, not moving. "No, of course I won't tell anyone. But—I'm just. Surprised." She shrugs a little. "I assumed you were a mammal."
He has to consciously keep himself from stiffening and trying to change the subject. She sounds calmer, she sounds like this is helping; it's not her fault if the topic makes him jumpy. "I'm…similar to certain mammals," he allows, after a pause. "Monotremes, specifically. My, ah…my more fish-like traits were added to my species' genome artificially. A second respiratory system, some circulatory and musculoskeletal modifications."
She sniffs. "The holes in your shoulders," she says. "What are…?"
"Water intakes," he says shortly. Then, when she makes an interested noise, he steels himself and explains, "They allow enough water to reach my gills to meet my oxygen requirements. My neck is too thin. And I don't have an operculum like most of your fish do, so my spiracles keep the flow going when I'm at rest. Otherwise, I'd have to keep moving forward in order to keep breathing."
"Spiracles, huh," she murmurs, and briefly leans back to look at him. "Sounds like miracles." He blinks at her, then risks a hesitant smile, and—she does smile back, a little! But it's a sad sort of smile, a pained sort of smile, and her eyes are still over-bright and shining. "Sort of feels like I saw one of those today," she whispers, and Megamind stops rubbing his hands up and down her back and just—just pulls her against him, squeezes her in. He absolutely cannot handle her looking at him and crying, and, and maybe this will be better? Maybe this will be better. And her arms around him do tighten in return.
Maybe someday he'll figure out what to do to make this okay. It's just…he still isn't entirely certain what was so wrong.
Eventually, she sighs, and when she speaks, her voice is thick but steady. "I ripped a man's ear off today," she says softly.
He feels his eyebrows go up. "Did you really?"
She nods. "Mm-hm. I did. Oh, and I bit the everloving shit out of Price's hand."
Megamind snorts in spite of himself. "Good for you," he tells her. "Serves him right for putting his hand near your mouth. Did you get a parting shot in?"
"Not with Price, but, um, with ear-guy? Kind of? 'Something to remember me by,'" she tells him, and he grins.
"Not very witty," she admits, withdrawing a little so she can grab a tissue.
"Doesn't always have to be." He absently pats her back a few times as she blows her nose again. "It's a solid one-liner, especially for something brutal like that. He'll definitely remember you, Miss Ritchi, I'm impressed."
She nods a little, then takes a huge, shuddery sigh. "…God. You…you carried me all the way home on your back. That was amazing."
Megamind blinks. That's an…odd change of subject. "I—Metro Man carries you around all the time—"
"Yeah, by selectively manipulating gravitational or magnetic fields." She rolls her eyes. "It doesn't cost him anything."
His world skews just a bit to the left. "I didn't tell you that."
"You didn't have to." She sniffs, and then she curls into him again, heaving another shuddering sigh. "That 'super strength' of his is clearly biological, and it defies the laws of physics as we understand them. So. Has to be one of the two." He feels her swallow, and then her face moves against his shoulder and he thinks she might be grinning. "Also, I asked if that's what it was, and he said yes."
Megamind laughs. "You are brilliant, you do know that," he tells her. "I'm…glad you're feeling better. Are you? Feeling better? You are safe," he adds, when she seems to hesitate. "Price isn't going to get his hands on you again, I can promise you that much."
"I know," she murmurs. "I believe you. But, to be honest…I wasn't that worried about him until the end, there. I had other concerns."
He wrinkles his face. "Other concerns," he echoes. "Other concerns? For all you knew, you could have been killed, and you had other concerns?"
"I had to watch you die today," she whispers, and slowly works her arms even tighter around him again. "And, and I know it was all part of your plan, but—I didn't know that at the time. So. I watched you die, today."
"I'm sorry," he says carefully, and admits, "I probably could have done something else, but I didn't expect it to affect you like this. Or. At all. So."
She jerks back, away from him, and he freezes. She's staring at him like he's sprouted a second head. "Not affect me?" she says sharply. "Megamind! You were dead!"
"I—I know," he replies, startled. "But—I mean, no, it's never fun watching somebody die, but—"
"It wasn't somebody," she snaps, warm in his arms and heavy in his lap and glaring at him with tears drying on her cheeks. "It was you! It was—Megamind, it was you; in what universe would that not affect me?" He opens his mouth, but she cuts him off. "I had to watch you die. Painfully. Horrifically. In front of me." Her face almost crumples at that, but then she wrenches it into a scowl and continues, "And honestly, seriously, screw you for thinking I wouldn't care about—look, I don't know if that dickbag was right or totally off-base with the whole 'woman you love thing,' but you have to know I care about you. You have to know that, at least."
Megamind stares at her, completely blindsided. "No?" he says, amazed. "No, I…no, Miss Ritchi, I did not know that! Why would—wait, is—is that why you're so upset?"
Her jaw drops open. "Yes! Megamind, oh my god! Yes, that's why I'm…
"How would you feel?" she demands suddenly. "How would you feel, if we switched places? How would you feel if you were tied to a post and had to watch me fucking drown?"
Megamind's gaze skitters away from her face as his heart shudders in his chest. "That's. That's not a valid comparison."
Her eyes narrow. "Isn't it?" she challenges. "Isn't it? You care about me, I know you do. You really think I don't care about you?" When he doesn't look at her, she sighs and squeezes him a little. "You know I care about Minion, right?"
He scoffs, rolls his eyes, waves a hand. "Yes, but that's…Minion. Minion is intensely likable."
"So are you," she insists, and then, when he yanks his head back on his long neck and stares at her, she exclaims, "Megamind, you—are you serious? God, you're serious!" She lets go of him, rocks back in his lap, shoves a hand through her short hair, rests the other in the middle of his chest. "You're smart and funny and respectful and, and yes you kidnap me all the time but you're always weirdly considerate about it?" She releases a sort of wild laugh and says, "I'm—I'm sitting in your lap and you're worried you're taking advantage of my emotional distress, you—and the things you—Megamind! The things you build! How am I supposed to not care about all that?" She swallows and looks away. "Not to mention you're…just…absolutely stunningly beautiful. And I just—I mean, I could sit for hours and just watch you; I've never seen anyone move like you do."
He cocks his head and squints at her. Is she…is she trying to be funny? She doesn't sound like she's trying to be funny, but she also doesn't sound like she's mocking him, so—
"Miss Ritchi," he says quietly, wearing his eyebrows low over his eyes and holding himself stiffly away from her as best he can with her sitting as close as she is, "I want to be very clear. Are you saying you find me physically attractive?"
She stares at him like he's lost his marbles, which doesn't do much for his state of mind, but then she says, "Megamind, listen to me. Listen very carefully," and she lifts her hands and grips the sides of his head and stares into his eyes. He freezes. "You have cheekbones that could cut glass."
He makes a soft, bewildered noise, then gulps and says faintly, "My cheekbones?"
"Yes, Megamind," she says, holding his gaze. "Yes, your cheekbones." She blinks and raises her eyebrows but doesn't look away. She does move her hands, though; she trails them down over his skin so she can rub her thumbs over the subject of her statement. "They are so exceptionally perfect I don't know what to do sometimes. And so is your jawline. And so is this," and strokes her bandaged palms up over the crown of his skull, "and this," running her fingertips down the sides of his neck to rest her hands on his shoulders, still without breaking eye contact. "And all the rest of you, as well. On top of everything else—scintillatingly intelligent and riotously funny and everything else—you are breathtakingly, heart-stoppingly, drop-dead gorgeous, do you understand me?" She pauses for a second, but all he can do is stare at her. "Megamind, I have agreed with you one hundred percent on the 'incredibly handsome' thing for fucking years; were you completely unaware of that fact this whole time?"
He tries for words but he's too all-over tingly and his voice won't cooperate, so he just nods, instead. Roxanne stares at him for another couple of seconds, then closes her eyes in what looks like total incredulity and tips her head forward to rest against his.
Then she says, "Okay. Look. Can I just—look, was he wrong? Price. Was he wrong?"
Megamind gulps and gathers himself. The touching foreheads thing is throwing him for a massive loop, plus also: what? She's thought what? For how long? "About…?"
She doesn't open her eyes. "About your…sentiment for me."
He feels the blood drain out of his face, feels the old chill take hold in the middle of his chest. He is. So far out of his depth right now, but she's still sitting in his lap—she likes the things he builds, she called him beautiful—so—
"N…no? Not…as such, no."
"Not as such?" she says, still with her eyes closed, still touching foreheads. "Or no? It's a fine line, but they're different answers and you know it."
He pulls away a little and scans her face as quickly as he can, trying to read her. She looks tired. Resigned. But not upset with him, not antagonistic, not angry, so—he swallows hard and lifts a trembling hand to sweep her bangs to the side. He's out of his depth, yes, he's in too deep, but—if he dives, if he just—dives deeper still, if he swims down and owns it—he can breathe underwater, he can breathe—
"No," he whispers, heart fluttering. "No, Miss…no, Roxanne, he wasn't wrong."
Something breaks in her expression and she—she lifts her head to look at him, lifts a hand to his chin, lifts his face up to hers and—
Oh. This. This is a kiss. She's kissing him. Her mouth, she—puts her hands on his skin and her lips on his face and—
She's so warm.
She pulls back after a moment or so and sends him a tremulous smile. "Oh, good," she whispers, her blue eyes searching his face. "I love you, too. And it sounds like the worst kind of cliché," she continues, even though he can barely hear her over the buzzing that's suddenly filled his entire brain, "but I didn't even really realize it until I thought I was losing you. Megamind," she says again, "I love you, and I had to watch you die today, and—thank you for letting me hold onto you this whole time, by the way; I know you're tired and you're probably about done with being touched, but…"
She trails off, watching him hopefully. His hands have gone limp on her back and his whole face is slack with shock, but…he is looking at her, he just looks…stunned, almost dismayed. And maybe with someone else she'd take the lack of response as a bad sign, but this is Megamind. She knows him. Not as well as she could, certainly not as well as she hopes to, but she already knows he doesn't always react well to good things. One year, she gave him a Christmas card and he angrily accused her of laughing at him, and then the next year when she gave him a Hanukkah card—because her first assumption was she'd just assumed wrong—he did the same thing. Holiday cards to declarations of love is a big leap, but there have been other indications over the years. This reaction or lack thereof is not totally unexpected.
She settles back into his lap and runs her thumbnail down his goatee to see if he jerks away, but he doesn't resist in the slightest, so she tugs him forward as she moves in for another kiss, and he just goes with it. He lets her turn his head, lets her press her lips to his, and after a few startled seconds, he finally shivers to life under her. He presses into her touch as his hands clench on her back and he kisses her, too, and then—his arms go tight and he arches forward into her—makes a gently strangled choking noise when she brushes an encouraging thumb over his shoulder. She belatedly remembers the openings there. Oops.
She pulls back a little and he opens his eyes and blinks up at her, flabbergasted. "Oh," he says, sounding shocked. And then suddenly his expression shifts and he looks completely aghast. "Oh, oh no; then it is a valid comparison—oh, Roxanne, I am so sorry—"
He lunges forward and drags her into the most crushing hug she's ever had, one arm around the middle of her back like a steel bar and the other up her spine so he can curl his long fingers over the top of her head and hold her against him. It's tight and hard, almost bruising, and it's exactly perfectly what she's wanted since she saw him cut his way out of that fucking body bag earlier. She wraps her fingers into the ridiculous fabric of his hazmat pajamas and shoves her face back down into his shoulder and breathes him in.
"I'm okay," he tells her, his mouth in her hair, "I'm okay. I really am, I'm here."
He's here. He's alive, and he's here, and he loves her.
"Can you," she mumbles, "there was—a noise you made earlier, like a—hum? Like a—" She closes her mouth and tries for an approximation of the whickering thrum he'd made on the bottom of the lake. She fails completely, but she feels Megamind go still. "I don't know what it means," she says, "but I—I liked it, could you—?"
The acoustics are different in open air, but when she bends her head to press her ear to his shoulder, it's similar enough to be comforting. "That's nice," she whispers. "What is it?"
The hum stops. "Um," he says, his air-voice strangely high and wild, "sort of—affection-comfort-sorrow? So, ah—it's—fitting." She pulls away a little, finds him staring down at her, his green eyes bright and as big as plates. "You're…really okay with…with the whole fish-alien thing?"
She feels her eyebrows twitch upward, and then she snorts. "Fish," she scoffs, her heart in her mouth, "what, just because you have gills? Please. You're a platypus alien at best."
"A platypus with gills," he insists, still staring into her face.
"Okay," she says agreeably, "a platypus with gills." She is sitting in his lap because he let her; she is sitting in his Lair because he brought her home. "Megamind," she says, ducking forward for a third quick kiss, "you're not human. I know this."
"I—well, of course you know, but—"
"I also know you're impossibly attractive and I love looking at you," she continues, ignoring this, "and I know you're brilliantly intelligent and I love talking to you. And I know you're you and I know I'm in love with you, and if I ever have to watch you die again, I'm pretty sure my heart will just stop beating right then and there." She swallows. "You being a platypus with gills has no impact on any of that."
His arms go tight again as he bundles her in, his eyes huge.
And then he goes further. He shifts forward under her, then turns his long body sideways and eases her down onto the couch and all but lies down on top of her, pressing his forehead against hers without ever once letting go of her, and—okay, this certainly wasn't something she was expecting, but hell yes. The weight of his body on top of hers is so, so comforting, and the weight of his skull pressing her head down into the cushion is reassuring in a way she isn't sure she can fully articulate.
She winds her arms up around his thin back, clenches her fists against him, and does her best to hold him just as tightly as he's holding her. "So, please never do that to me again." She shakes her head a little, as best she can under the circumstances. "Please, Megamind, I will not be able to handle it."
"I know," he tells her, and the hand on her head moves, twists into her damp hair, and oh, that's nice. That's excellent. "I know, I'm so sorry. I—I didn't realize. You—really? You—"
She swallows. She reaches up again and strokes her fingers over the curve of his skull, hooks her other hand over the jut of his shoulder, his skin cooler than hers but still warm and alive under her bandaged hands. "I do, I love you," she whispers. "But, well. To be fair. I didn't realize either."
He picks his head up to look at her. Then his lips tug into a wry smile and he leans down and kisses her, brushing his fingertips over the side of her face and along her jaw, down around the shell of her ear. She tips up and licks along the seam of his lips until they part for her, until he dips his tongue into her mouth. He tastes like water, like the lake; he tastes like green and growing things. Roxanne runs a hand down the back of his neck and as far down the length of his spine as she can reach, smiles a little when he hums into her, and this time, when he breaks away, his green eyes are dancing as as he gazes at her and there's a high flush of pink on his cheeks, all the way up to the tips of his ears.
"I love you, too," he tells her. The pink creeps up his high forehead and down his neck, and she smiles as she slides a hand around to cup his neck again and pull him down.
In the kitchen, Minion looks away from his onions, glancing at the video feed from the brainbot stationed high in the rafters above the herb corner. "Called it," he says to himself, pleased. And then he shuts off the feed and dismisses the brainbot, which flits away and broadcasts his directive to the rest of the host: avoid the herb corner until dinner at the earliest.
I started writing this last Wednesday. It is now Wednesday again. I wrote this in a week! This is the fastest I've finished anything in literally years!
Thank you all so, so much for reading, and for those of you who reviewed or kudoed (kudo'd? kudio? KUDUDE), another thank you! Your encouragement is extra-appreciated as I learn how to enjoy doing things again. I love you all a ton.
PS: Maybe someday there will be a sexy followup to this fic, but I'm not sure when or if it will happen. We'll see!
PPS: Oh! Meant to explain before. Diamonds and Rust was written by Joan Baez, that's the version Roxanne is singing. Judas Priest covered it with abbreviated lyrics, and that's the version Megamind knows.