I didn't go in to see him the next day. Instead, I spent it filling out job applications. Joy. The day after, though, I just couldn't stay away.

"So, I guess you've probably talked to your doctor by now," I said, settling down in a chair.

He nodded.

"What are you planning to do when you get out?" Like I couldn't guess.

"Let everyone know I'm back. Do something dastardly, you know, to prove I'm all right."

"Dastardly, right. So, murder, or just petty theft?"

He shrugged, then winced as it stretched the stitches over his ribs. "I'm not sure yet."

"You could go to the animal shelter and kick puppies."

My suggestion had been spoken so casually that he almost nodded. Then his brain actually processed it. "What? No! I'm not gonna kick puppies."

He was so indignant that I just had to laugh. "Oh, man. How did you ever conquer the world?" I wondered out loud.

He suddenly grew pensive. After a short silence he answered quietly, "A misfire."

My brows furrowed. "What do you mean?"

He hesitated. It was obvious that he was trying to decide whether or not to open up to me. Finally he looked away.

Fine. If he wanted to keep everyone out, let him. I stood up.

He looked back at me, a hint of dismay in his eyes. I could see that he was trying to figure out what to say to get me to stay, or to come back at least. At the moment, I wasn't inclined to be particularly accommodating. I left without letting him know if or when I planned to return.

{(+)} {(+)} {(+)}

The next day, my conscience kept poking at me. I might have been able to ignore it had my curiosity not pitched in as well. Eventually I realized that if I stayed at home I'd be driven mad by their concerted efforts. All right, all right. Mentally waving a white flag, I grabbed my purse and headed off to the hospital once more.

Billy brightened visibly when I walked through the door. It took him a few seconds to don his villainous 'Dr. Horrible' mask, the one he hid behind so often. "Hey, Billy," I greeted him, mostly to mess with his double identity. I had to stifle a snicker as he reacted, only to stop himself and reassert the Dr. Horrible persona.

"So, you're back. Again," he said, trying to act nonchalant.

I couldn't help it. "Indeed. We meet again, Doctor Horrible. For the last time." Cliché line? Check. Ominous voice reserved especially for the delivery of such lines? Check and double check.

"What?" He actually seemed somewhat alarmed.

He deserved the eye-roll he got. Of all people, I thought he would be able to recognize overdramatic speechifying when he heard it. "Kidding. So, did you decide what you're going to do yet? Still no on the puppies?"

He gave me a look.

"Geez, you have no sense of humor."

"I do," he protested. "It just doesn't involve needless violence to...puppies."

"Right. Regular 'Defender of the Small', you are. Kel would be proud," I said, knowing he wouldn't get the reference and ridiculously pleased by that knowledge.

He thought about it for a couple seconds, searching his memory, then gave up and moved on. "Anyway, that doesn't have anything to do with my villain...ness. Uh, level of villainy? Evilness."

Patience wasn't my strongest suit, and I certainly didn't have enough to wait for him to suss out his semantics problem. "Whatever. Look, I'll be completely honest with you; about eighty percent of the reason I came today was because I love a good story and you definitely have one. Yesterday you said that you became our Evil Overlord and all that because of a misfire. What happened?"

I couldn't think of a delicate way to phrase it, so might as well go in for full bluntness. If it was going to hurt, it was going to hurt, no matter how I asked the question.

He sighed like he knew I was going to ask, but still hesitated before resigning himself to dredging up whatever memories were associated with his rise to power. "What about the other twenty percent?" he asked. Obvious stalling tactics. That didn't prevent me from answering, though.

I shrugged, not sure of how to explain my compulsion to share other people's burdens. "I like to help people. Listening is a good way to do it."

He gave a tiny nod, as if to firm his resolve, and told me his story.

"...then he tried to fire. It wasn't meant to be dropped. It just wasn't built to sustain damage. I should have designed it better." He put his head in his hands, the picture of defeat. His muffled voice issued from between his fingers after a brief silence. "It exploded. The shrapnel flew everywhere and Penny—" He stopped. I could figure out what had happened; he didn't need to say it out loud for my benefit.

He took a shuddering breath and continued, head still bowed and face hidden behind his hands. "The E.L.E. thought it was on purpose, of course, and I was accepted. You probably know the rest."

Ruling the world by accident. I shook my head in amazement.