Author's Note: Oh dear. I've decided to create a fairly extensive fanfic when I, yet again, have some major event about to take place in my life. I'm going off to Italy in a few weeks and finishing this puts me on a tight writing schedule. SO I am going to try my freaking best to finish this thing before I leave without making it be too contrived. The idea's been swimming in my head for a long time, so it has to come out. I really hope to the writing gods that I don't have to abandon this, so I give you this warning now.
Now that THAT'S out of the way, I hope you enjoy what I do post! I love Gru and have always wondered about his past. It's a lot of fun trying to figure out what a villain school would be like. ALSO there WILL be romance between Gru and an original character of mine. I hope you will trust me to do justice to Gru's character and make his romance as hilarious yet genuine as I possibly can. I have no intention of Mary Sues being in my story.
Also, I decided to avoid phonetically portraying Gru's accent (most of the time) because I think it gets annoying after a while. It's much less annoying when you imagine his accent yourself. :}
Rating: Rated T for violence and adult themes, lol. It may shift to M if I feel adventurous enough.
Summary: In 1980, Gru never knew that going to an academy for villains would change his life forever.
Disclaimer: Despicable Me belongs to Illumination Entertainment/Universal Studios.
Love and the Age of the Supervillain
In the Beginning There Was Gru
~ Fall 1980 ~
"Hey, mom! I got accepted to the Academy!"
"Eh, college. What, you want to have someone babysit you for four more years?"
At nineteen years old, Gru was used to his mother's criticism. Through passive-aggression, subtle jokes, and sometimes outright disapproval, she successfully whittled away at his self-esteem since he was a toddler. He was sure there was a small part of his brain that repressed the anger he felt toward his mother, most likely lodged in between "sexual repression from ages 12 to 15" and "the day Dad died and Mom made fun of me for crying." So instead of being upset over her disinterest, he took it in stride.
"The Academy of Villainy and other Diabolical Arts is the highest ranking villain school in the world. Many cold-hearted and brilliant men have come from this institution!" Gru shook his fist in the air for emphasis.
His mother shrugged and went back to knitting. "How much money am I going to have to take from my savings?"
"Mom, I got a scholarship, remember? Students pay the school back by stealing during their stay there."
"Oh," she said without breaking her concentration from her knitted scarf. If there was one thing Gru admired about his mother, it was her nonchalance about his recent criminal activity.
Sure, he'd been a good boy for a long time…He grew up in a small town in Poland with his mother and father, his mother a dutiful housewife and his father's occupation a mystery to him. All Gru could remember as a child was that his father became all shifty-eyed when the phrase "anti-communist" was ever uttered in their home. One day one of his father's "co-workers" was shot by a Soviet soldier. It was then their family moved to America.
They moved into a suburban neighborhood with picket fences, sprawling green lawns, and other white bread elements of the perfect 1960s American family. At school kids made fun of Gru's thick accent, but one thing he loved distracted him from all teasing: the moon. When he learned about NASA, a whole new world opened up to him. He built toy rockets, read books about space travel, and counted down the days until the first humans were sent to the moon.
After watching the 1969 landing, the elusive job title of "astronaut" haunted his dreams to the point he would sometimes get sick after waking up. Deep in his heart he knew he would never make it there, and the thought crushed his heart beyond all belief. Once his mother was aware that Gru's dream wasn't some simple flight of fancy, she told him, "Maybe if you get smart enough, you can work at NASA."
Gru was already smart, but after that day he made an effort to become brilliant. It proved to be simple for him, and he easily received honors in math and science in high school. One day after talking to one of his teachers, he ran home to tell his mother the good news.
"Hey, mom! My physics teacher said he'd write a recommendation for me to go to an engineering school!"
"Eh. No one's going to want a Soviet immigrant building rockets in this decade."
The dream died a silent death.
That was months ago he found out about his college acceptance. Today, the big moment had finally come: he would fly away from his mother and not have to see her for a whole three and a half months. And more importantly, he would become so villainous and cunning that she would never doubt him ever again.
"The bus from the airport is coming in ten minutes," he said while placing two fat suitcases by the front door. He glanced over his shoulder and saw his mother fussing over something in the kitchen.
"Give me a few more minutes."
He shrugged and walked to the hallway mirror. Nervous, he checked his image for the umpteenth time since he got dressed. His brown hair was a fairly non-descript 70s hairstyle—volume at the top with short sideburns. He could pass as David Cassidy's evil and slightly less attractive brother. Which is saying a lot.
He smoothed the front of his fitted, black sweater that hugged his barreled chest. Legs incredibly slim, he was glad he carried himself with poise to compensate for whatever awkwardness that came from his recent growth spurt. His father was a larger and more intimidating man. In a few years he figured he'd look the same.
He clicked his tongue and shot guns at his reflection. "Lookin' good."
"Ha!" He looked over his shoulder to see his mother. Folded in her tiny arms was a long strip of striped fabric.
"What is that?"
"This used to belong to your father. Before he died, he said to me, Give this to my son when he becomes a man."
Tears welled up in Gru's eyes. "Oh, mom…" He leaned in for a hug, but she kept him away with a firm push.
"Technically, this is a replica of your father's scarf. I say to myself, eh, maybe my son will grow up while he is away. Maybe not. Who knows? So instead of giving you the real thing, I made this one for you. It should keep you warm until you become a real man."
Gru immediately frowned. "Oh. Thanks."
He hesitated before leaning down. She wrapped the scarf around his neck and was bent on tightening it.
"I can't breathe—"
"Oh, your father was a great man. He didn't have to go to college to be successful. Did you know he owned nearly twelve—"
"MOM!" Gru pulled away and loosened the scarf. "I have to go now. Okay?"
She looked up at Gru and smiled slightly. Vulnerable again, Gru smiled back, expecting a hug.
They stared at each other for a few moments, the silence in the air dead and heavy.
"I don't want you bringing back some girl knocked up, okay?"
"Oy, mom." He turned away and hauled his suitcases out the door. "Goodbye!"
Gru knew only two things about The Academy of Villainy and other Diabolical Arts:
#1: In 1980 they held the position as the most prestigious villain college in the United States, if not the world. The information pamphlet he'd requested in the mail cited that 20% of the students were transfers from Ivy League institutions that had "wanted to cut to the chase and commit crimes already."
#2: It was held in a secret location and required a secret means of getting there.
He was very worried about #2.
Gru made it through airport check-in and security easily. He found his gate number and headed toward the boarding platform, only to be stopped by a group of hippies in bed sheets.
"Hare Krishna, brother!" A thin man with Jesus-hair ran up to Gru and gave him a huge hug. Gru shuttered and pushed the man off of him.
"Do not ever touch my body…ever again."
"Don't you want to share the love, man?" A younger hippie walked up to Gru and banged a tambourine in his face. She pushed a large coffee cup up against Gru's hands and shook it for effect: several coins rattled inside of it.
"Please go away," Gru said curtly while raising a hand.
"If you donate, the universe will reciprocate, man," the Jesus hippie said slowly. "It's all about being at one with yourself and that which isn't yourself. You get what I'm gettin' at?"
"That is all very interesting and, ah, groovy," Gru said with contempt, "but I've really got to catch a flight." He knocked the hippies over trying to break through the circle they'd formed around him. He walked up to the entry ramp, gave his ticket to the attendant, and exhaled in relief.
Once on the plane, Gru pulled out the letter the Academy sent him several months ago. He ran a thumb across the golden, stamped insignia of the college at the top of the letter and smirked.
Dear Mr. Gru,
We are incredibly happy to inform you of your acceptance to The Academy of Villainy and other Diabolical Arts. Based on your grades, essay, and the mandatory psychological assessment test you submitted, we found you to be a perfect candidate as a future no-good, villainous, plotting, and general menace to society. We receive thousands of applicants yearly, making you part of the 10% of students we admit every fall semester. Please take a moment to congratulate yourself. You will be surrounded with the brightest and worst young people in society today.
Are you done patting yourself on the back? Good. Because from this moment on, you must keep your girlish man-squeals to yourself. You agreed to the pact our institution makes all students sign when applying: you are to be loyal to our school and keep confidential whatever information that is given to you. Our school does intensive background checks on all admitted students, so we likewise keep all records of you confidential from the public.
Due to the nature of our scholastic goals, we are not friendly with local police enforcement or government security at large. More details will be given if you arrive on campus safely. Attached are instructions as to what city you should fly into, including what airline you should use. As soon as you land, hail only the black cabs from the airport and request to go to "Fatum City."
Good luck! Do not make the foolish decision of rejecting your acceptance.
Dean Nero Phillips
Gru did extensive research on "Fatum City." He failed to find anything on what he later figured to be the codename for a location hidden away from the US government.
Putting the letter away, he pulled out a newspaper to busy himself with during the three-hour flight. He smiled at the headline. MASKED CRIMINAL DR. GERO STRIKES AGAIN.
Only a few minutes into his reading, a flight attendant pushed a cart to Gru's side. He looked up at her and blushed at how attractive she was.
"Would you like something to drink? Tea? Coffee? Water?"
"Um, coffee would be nice," Gru squeaked. He watched her pour him hot coffee and mix in four packets of creamer at his request. He mumbled something as she handed the cup to him, his eyes downcast. She smiled before pushing the cart away toward the cockpit. He looked shyly over the rim of his coffee at the attendant's, um, assets as she walked away.
An old man leaned into Gru's aisle. "Excuse me young man, but is that today's paper?"
Gru looked over the stranger: red, round cheeks, a cheerful curly moustache, and a bowler hat placed delightfully askew on his head.
Gru frowned. "It is."
"May I take a gander at that?" The man tore the paper from Gru's hand.
"My, my, these new villains sure are flashy, aren't they?" The man dropped down into the seat next to Gru, making himself more comfortable by taking a quick sip from Gru's coffee. "Mmm, I see you like a lot of cream."
"Excuse you, old man." Gru curtly pulled the paper and coffee away from the man and buried his face in the comics section.
"Why don't you tell me where you're off to?" The man reached his hand inside his coat and pulled out a pipe. "Just have to take a quick smoke."
"I don't think you're allowed to smoke on the plane."
"Anyway, what are you doing traveling today? Vacation? Work? Escape?"
Gru raised a brow at the last word. "None of those. I'm going to school. Vee-llain school."
"Mmm. You don't look like a villain to me." The man took a deep puff from his pipe and grinned. "Don't look like you could steal candy from a baby."
"You don't know anything about me." And with that, Gru turned away to stare out the window.
"I know you're a kid, and right now you're not cut out to be half the villain this guy is." With emphasis the old man tapped the image on the front page of the newspaper with the tip of his pipe. "He's cunning, quick, and best of all, despicable. What can you do?"
"I robbed a gas station this summer." Gru felt strange revealing the crime aloud, more so out of shame than fear of punishment by some authority. He'd had a gun and the job took less than ten minutes.
The old man burst into a fit of cute old-person giggles. "Ohhoho….wow. Are you serious?"
He wiped the corners of his eyes and grasped Gru's shoulder. "See that lady over there with the pearl necklace?" The old man tilted his head across the aisle. Across from them sat a sleeping woman. "I want you to steal it."
"You morally opposed to it or something?" The old man scoffed.
"Of course not. It's just—I'm on an airplane with every seat filled. How can I steal something with everyone looking at me? It would be stupid to even try."
"With an attitude like that," the old man said tapping Gru's nose with the end of his pipe, "you'll never graduate from that old villain school."
Not enthralled with the idea of two people in his life discouraging him, Gru groaned and put the coffee and newspaper on the floor. "Excuse me," he hissed, before making his way to the bathroom.
He awkwardly stood in the tiny room and made a show out of flushing and washing his hands. Five minutes passed and he went back into the plane's cabin. He whistled as he casually walked behind the woman. He stopped mid-step, thrust his arm forward, and tried to pry the trinket off her neck without disturbing her sleep.
Her eyes popped wide open and she looked up at Gru. "Wha…who are you?"
"Um-!" He pulled his hand away. "I was just, ah—"
"Were you trying to get fresh with me, young man?"
"Of course not, I would never—"
"Hey! He was trying to steal your necklace!" yelled a man across the plane.
"Whoa!" Gru held up both hands. "No one was trying to steal anything. I was just returning back to my seat, yeah?" Gru slid back into his window seat, seething.
"You're a fool," the old man said, once again sipping on Gru's coffee until he emptied the cup.
"I almost got caught because of you!"
"Listen, kid. To be a real villain you have to have confidence in whatever you do. Did you know that you can almost get away doing anything without ever being noticed? That you can just walk into some places and take what you want without batting an eye?"
Gru shook his head. "I don't understand what you mean."
"Just watch." The old man leaned over to the offended woman and grabbed her hand. "Forgive my grandson. He's just a bit off."
"Oh," she said, relaxing her face. Gru looked horribly insulted, but the old man ignored him.
"That is a beautiful necklace you've got." The man rolled a bead between his aged fingers, eyes never breaking from the woman's. "Looks absolutely stunning on you." With a free hand he casually took a puff from his pipe without breaking face.
"I got it from my grandmother…" The woman went on to tell a long story about the origin of the necklace, obviously of great importance in her family, and the old man simply sat petting the pearls until they suddenly found themselves detached from her neck. She rattled on, the old man casually petting her neck and snaking the necklace down the sleeve of his jacket. She finally ended the story, both of them laughing, and the old man quietly returning to his seat.
"That, my friend, is how you steal a pearl necklace." He held out his hand to Gru. "The name's Johansson."
By the time the plane landed, Gru had established an impressive level of trust with Johansson. The old man said he was a supervillain up until World War II, when he met his future wife while touring. "The moment she found out what I used to do, she told me I had to retire," he said a bit wistfully. "But after being a villain for so many years, I couldn't stop completely. What she doesn't know won't hurt her." With that statement, the two departed.
The airport at his destination was curiously deserted. All of the passengers on his plane shuffled off to buses and taxis near the luggage drop-off area. Gru huffed as he dragged his suitcases outside of the airport. Dozens of yellow taxis zoomed up and down the street.
"Okay, this is kinda weird," he said softly. He whipped his head left and right continuously to try and catch any black taxis hidden in the sea of yellow cars. He jumped a bit when he saw a black, shiny taxi crawl its way through traffic.
"Bin—go!" Gru grabbed his bags and ran into the street. Cab drivers honked at him as he awkwardly wove through the cars.
"Excuse me—ah, sorry—HEY!" He froze as the bumper of a taxi tapped his backside. "I see what you did there!"
"Get out of the goddamn street!" The cabbie drove forward a few more inches before pumping his break suddenly, challenging Gru.
"Someday you will rue the day you angered Gru!" He ran over to the black cab and jumped inside of the back seat, fuming.
"Where to?" an icy voice asked from the front. Gru could only see long, silky hair under a cap, as well as two pale hands grasping the steering wheel. A tinted window separated himself from the driver.
"Um…Could you take me to Fatum City?"
He saw the driver's hands clench the steering wheel. "Very well. But before we go I have a question to ask you."
"Why do you want to be a villain?"
Gru felt the inside of his stomach churn. He felt unsafe; the cabbie had pulled the taxi off to the side of the road and was letting the engine idle. No one ever bothered to ask him why he wanted to be a villain. Even when submitting his application to the academy, the forms seemed less interested in why he wanted to attend and more of what he had to offer. His mother cared less about his interest in villainy and more in listing the ways he would fail. He didn't have many friends in high school, so prying questions from his peers wasn't ever an issue. And surprisingly, he'd never told any of his teachers about his new career path in fear of disappointing them for not going to engineering school.
He gulped and loosened his scarf. "In all honesty, I'm not sure. I thought I wanted to do something else, but…" He sighed and looked down into his lap. "Someone close to me proved I couldn't do it. So I thought, maybe I can do this better. If one day my name is in big print in the paper, then I feel that I would have truly proven myself, you know?"
The tinted window rolled down and the driver spun around in the driver's seat. Gru saw that it was a woman, and her huge eyes were brimming with tears.
"That…was…beautiful." A few tears trickled off her face. "But you're full of garbage."
"If you go walking into the Academy with a sob-story like that, you won't make it." She spun around and pushed down on the gas, sending Gru crashing into the backseat. She sped away from the airport until they zoomed up a freeway ramp.
"What do you mean?"
"You're very adorable. But at the same time you're kind of a pansy. Not a good look if you want to become a supervillain."
"I'm not a pansy," Gru growled. He couldn't remember the last time so many people pissed him off in one day. "If you really want to know, something did happen in my youth that was kind of traumatic, thanks very much."
"Oooh, I get to play Dr. Freud. What happened, honey?"
Gru stuck out his bottom lip. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Did superheroes ruin your life too?"
His face softened, surprised. "Something like that, yes."
"Most villains have that in common." She wagged a finger. "Don't worry. The Academy will instill a very palpable sense of hatred inside of you." He caught her grinning in the rearview mirror. "And with smarts paired along with hatred, you can't go wrong. You've gotta work on that pansy thing, though."
Gru bared his teeth. He wished he could snap back with anything…But instead he crossed his arms, smashed his back into the seat, and stuck out his tongue like a child. "I don't like you."
"Don't care. You like The Bee Gees?" She turned on the radio and blasted disco music throughout the taxi.
Gru's frown faded away a bit. "I do."
She ignored him and turned onto an exit ramp. "You're most definitely not a cop after telling me your sappy life story, so there will be no need for the usual frisking on the side of the road. Though most guys end up liking that part."
"...You were going to frisk me?"
"Anyway, if your fingerprints don't match what we have in the systems once we go through security check, you'll kind of be killed on the spot. Hope you're okay with that. Also, when we go through the security tunnel, I don't need you freaking out."
Gru scoffed. The car went down a hilly street until the road cut through a large field of trees. Soon their taxi sped through the entrance of a tunnel strung with glaring red lights. Curious, Gru pressed his face against his window. He immediately regretted it.
"Oh, what the-?" His jaw dropped as he noticed the strange shapes clinging to the sides of the tunnel. Hundreds of skeletons lined the walls, including the ceiling. Many of them had tattered capes wrapped around bony necks; some even had leather boots still fashionably strapped to skinless feet.
"I told you not to freak out," The driver sighed. "Those are the remains of dead superheroes who've tried to sneak onto the campus. Oh, and some law enforcement too. Frickin' supermans thought they could just waltz in and take out everyone. Idiots." She giggled.
After what seemed like ages to Gru, the driver pulled over to a tiny window on the side of the tunnel. She pressed her hand against a black pad next to the window; a green backlight scanned her fingertips. "Entry Granted,"
said an electronic voice from the opposite side of the window. She drove the car slowly past the window so the black pad was right outside Gru's car door.
"Press your hand against it," the driver said softly. Complying, Gru pressed his thin hand against the pad. The same green light scanned his fingertips.
"Entry Granted. Welcome to the Academy, Mr. Gru."
"Far out," Gru whispered.
"Glad to know you dig our technology." The driver sped through the rest of the tunnel until they emerged into bright light. Gru shielded his eyes from the rays and squinted into the distance.
"Welcome to the Academy," the driver said proudly. "And remember our school motto: Hate With Passion."