Disclaimer: If I owned it, it would have ended differently.

"I've Told You This Story"

Lined up like lemmings,

No one condemning you,

Led to the water

Penny listens to the words of the mad scientist with a sort of morbid fascination. They seem so… true. Maybe ill-stated, but true in a way that she has been half-blind to.

He's Dr. Horrible, she realizes. I remember him. And she does. That had been… right after she met Billy. The very day that she met Captain Hammer. Oh, that had been bad. Dr. Horrible had actually spoken to her, but she had been too star struck to understand what he was saying. Though, judging by his words now, he had probably been trying to warn her. Captain Hammer is self-absorbed, arrogant, dangerous. Something like that. He'll hurt you, seduce you, treat you like a doll. Was that what he had said? Humiliate you, twist your thoughts, make you forget. No, it was- Listen, listen, I'm trying to tell you he's– Why didn't she hear him? And sometimes I wonder, can you even hear me? Captain Hammer, Corporate tool So head up, Billy Buddy. It's like Captain Hammer's always saying– He threw a car at my head, dislocated my shoulder again, it's all such a mess, cut off the head, rotting, you're treating the symptom, just cure the disease, society's slipping, I think you're slipping, we're all slipping down, why can't you see that we're slipping, am I the only one who feels us all slipping, slipping, slipping…

"That's… not a good sound..."

"Don't–!"

"Or whoever has his job, but in Hell."

No.

There is blood, too much blood. You see things when you work in homeless shelters. Fights and people who haven't eaten and war vets with nothing but gunfire in their ears, and Penny has seen this all, but Penny has never seen this. White gloves flail, trying and failing to find purchase on blood-slicked ground and stop the momentum of a body being thrown. There's a sharp sound something hard hitting something harder; Penny has heard bones break and this may or may not be the sound of a skull cracking.

She runs up and shoves Hammer uselessly, throwing her insubstantial weight against his superhuman bulk, but it's too late. It's Dr. Horrible's blood everywhere, and the man himself lies prone on the ground, seeping red on the stark white of a lab coat. It's beautiful in the disturbing, grotesque sort of way that tragedies can be. She hates tragedies, even if they are Greek.

Captain Hammer tries to kiss her, like this is the victory at the end of the movie and it's time to make a move on the twenty-something-year-old Victoria's Secret model with her breasts spilling out of her torn shirt, but Penny slaps him so hard that the superman might actually feel it. He releases her in favor of pressing his hand to the blooming pink print on his cheek. Penny turns away from him to kneel by Dr. Horrible. Her leggings are immediately bloodied, but she doesn't care. All she cares about is that his chest still rises and falls and his eyes are unfocused but open and moving. Those unfocused eyes settle on her.

"Penny?" he says. Blood stains her name as it bubbles out of his mouth and paints his lips, an abhorrently applied lipstick.

What? "It's gonna be okay. It's gonna be okay, we just have to wait for the ambulance, just hold on… please. Please. You can't die here, alright?"

Dr. Horrible actually smiles, and the white of his teeth has been slicked over with blood, strands of red webbing down from his gums. Either he bit his tongue when he was hit or he's bleeding internally. Penny is no nurse, but she's willing to bet that it's the second one.

"Tell –mm– tell him that…" The icy blue eyes flick across the room to rest briefly on Captain Hammer, who stands in a state of shock and disbelief. "I never… I didn't want to hurt anyone… I've never hurt anyone before. The gun was for show. I never even stole money. 'Cept for the gold, but that… oh, hell, this hurts. This is worse than the car."

The car? The car. Penny remembers that. Captain Hammer had thrown a car at the Dr. Horrible. It should have snapped the doctor's spine, but Dr. Horrible had limped away with little more than scrapes and bruises. She had briefly worried about him, at the time, but Captain Hammer was good at making her forget about important things. Not anymore.

"I remember the car," she tells him, and in an attempt of humor to ease the pain, she adds, "Are you indestructible or something?"

The smile falters and is gone, but still red. "Obviously not."

He coughs weakly. More blood drips thickly from his lips, painting smoothly curving lines down his chin and over his jaw. Again, it's beautiful like a tragedy; a morbid work of art in red and white. Penny doesn't know what to do because this is what happens to people in movies right before they die and that's probably the most violence she's ever seen in her life.

"Hey. Hey, easy. No dying." Like that will help. She demands it of him. No dying today. "No. No! You can't die, do you understand? You can't die here. I don't even know your real name!"

The red mouth opens, or tries to, because the red is blooming below him and he's turning pale even as she watches. "B–…"

Paler than she's seen before, but suddenly devoid of any villainous affectation, she realizes that she knows him. Penny reaches and pulls away the goggles so that the scruffed-up blond hair rests flat and the etched brow suddenly doesn't seem nearly so imposing. Penny knows this face, and she can't believe that she didn't see before.

It's Billy.

"Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh, Billy, why didn't you say anything? You– oh, you stupid– why didn't you tell me?"

He just looks at her.

"Never mind." She thinks of Billy's cuts and bruises, of the way he flinched at noises and shied away from talking about Captain Hammer and the passion with which he spoke. The way he lived, quiet and reserved but burning so fiercely. "You tried to tell me. I just wasn't listening."

Dr. Horri– Billy grunts, eyes widening suddenly as his fingers curl into the fabric of her jacket. He's trying to tell her something, but his voice has run out nearly as fast as his blood is. Penny is only vaguely aware of Captain Hammer swaying on his feet behind her.

"Billy?" She can tell that he's looking at something beyond her, but it's not Hammer, and for some reason it feels like he's pushing instead of pulling. "Billy, what is it?"

He makes a low keening noise in his throat and Penny looks over her shoulder to try to find what it is his eyes seem settled on. She finds a gun. Not the death ray, but a different one. One she recognizes from a few previous news reports.

And with my freeze ray, I will stop the world.

This mechanism is the same one that froze Captain Hammer in place.

"Oh." Her brain sparks with realization. Billy may be the evil genius, but she's not half bad herself. "Yes! How?"

"Bla' b'n," Billy mumbles, blood making his lips stick. "Qui'."

"What?" She bunches the hem of her sleeve in fist and dips the fabric into Billy, mouth, trying to clear some of the viscous liquid away. Something passes over his face, and her best guess is that it's pain, but it might very well be something else that can't fully be expressed at this place and time.

"Blue," he manages to say. "Bu'on."

Penny is moving away from him, towards the Freeze Ray, even as her brain is translating the words.

"Blue… Blue Button! Blue button?"

"Mm-hm."

There are only three buttons anyway, so even if Billy hadn't been able to speak, she would have had a one out of three chance of getting it right without his instruction. It's fitting. Billy may go a little overboard, but he does so in a very simple way, and simplicity makes it easy for Penny to find the blue button.

She fumbles and hopes that the two seconds her sweaty fingers have lost her don't make the difference for Billy's life. She presses the button.

oooOOOooo

Penny has given blood for blood drives before, but never in an emergency like this. She's trying to tell them to help Billy even as they promise her yes, of course they will, because she's not going to believe a word anyone says until Billy walks out of the hospital with a clean bill of health. Ink attacks her eyeballs and she realizes oh, I'm passing out. Huh.

oooOOOooo

"Hey."

Billy stares at Penny. She's sitting, and he's lying down, and oh my gosh he's in a hospital bed. The IV in his arm has made a dark bruise already. The part of him that has been skulking in shadows and keeping secrets for so long immediately panics because there could be anything in that IV bag and there could thusly be anything in his body and hospitals are bad, bad, bad. Except, Penny is here, and Penny wouldn't let them do anything bad to him if she could help it, right? Right? It's not like she's sitting there with a disapproving frown or an evil smirk on her face. She's just sitting by his borrowed bed, watching him.

He doesn't exactly remember how he got here, but he has a pretty good idea. He also has to wonder what in the world Penny is doing here, because from what his fuzzy memory tells him, she knows exactly who he is.

The idea of trying to talk makes him ache, so he just tilts his head at her and hopes that she understands the thousands of things that he's trying to say in that one small movement. They're flooding out of his brain, he knows – it would be pretty convenient if they would flood into hers. A telepathy machine is definitely in order.

But Penny doesn't make any accusations or suddenly discover that she has mind-reading powers. Instead, she brings her hands up and he sees that she's holding two plastic white cups. Condensation covers them and makes tiny wet spots on the thin hospital blankets as Penny lets them rest next to him. He stares at the plastic tear-off coverings until his foggy brain recognizes frozen yogurt.

"I ordered one and they gave me two," Penny says, moving one of the yogurt cups closer to him. She smiles and he wants to smile, but he's not sure if that's safe to do yet. "What a crazy, random happenstance."

He can't make himself smile even though he tries. He just doesn't have the energy to smile, and he aches so terribly that he thinks that the pressure that talking might put on his insides simply isn't worth telling this girl that he loves her. Not– er, not that that's what he's going to say. It's just an example of something he can't say because his words won't work. He'd probably just say something like 'thanks' or 'yeah'. Because there's nothing he can say that big enough. The words are too small. And math, which he's better at, is also too small, which is saying something. And science, beautiful science, can't really canvas this either. There is no poetry he can recall that says everything to be said, not by man and certainly not by him.

In Billy's silence, Penny's smile has faltered somewhat. "Right?"

"Oh…" The small sound scrapes along Billy's throat, and it is either because of or in spite of this that he manages a smile that holds for less than a second. Penny sees it and smiles back. Her smile is beautiful. "Yeah."