Dr. Horrible, no pun intended, was in a terrible, horrible, no-good very-bad mood. This night, of all nights, was not the night to cross him. His archnemesis? Celebrating the ruination of his plan with a hot date. The girl of his dreams? Lost to his archnemesis. Not even the little logical voice in the back of his head, mentioning now and again that the plan actually hadn't failed because he'd gotten what he set out to steal, could talk him out of it. It was one of those nights where all he had the muse to do was prowl the city in his gloomy sweater and nurse his dire thoughts about humanity's crippled society. He was in such a mood, in fact, that he scarcely had any idea how it could get worse.
Now, those of you who have the most miniscule modicum of intelligence know that it can always get worse.
After he had walked past Captain Hammer and Penny's date for the third time, William Harris was being followed.
The notion was so real and unexpected that he actually stopped walking. Upon reflection, he realized he had been hearing those clicking noises behind him for some time. His sense of surprise was soon replaced by suspicion-who could possibly be following him? Clicking?
He turned around to see a dog.
It had stopped under a yellow streetlight, ears perked and tail wagging slowly. It was rather big, and a pedigree expert would most likely tell you that it was probably some sort of shepherd-esque kind of dog, possibly. The mutt was such a mutt that it was difficult to tell, but from what little lighting was given the doctor saw shaggy fur, a long tail, and a wolfish face. He could see its eyes shining at him expectantly, faintly hear its panting breath. The dog blinked.
Dr. Horrible gave a sigh and kept walking. It just wanted food.
He had almost gotten himself back into his comfortable funk when he heard the clicking again.
He whirled in anger, just in time to see the dog draw to a halt. This time it tilted its head at him. Bill didn't know much about dogs, but he knew enough about basic body language that the dog seemed to be confused. About what? Was it unclear that he wanted nothing to do with it?
"What do you want?" he asked rhetorically, using it more as an imperative than an interrogative. Hoping that the beast would understand his tone of voice, he carried on. This time he walked very determinedly, but at the same time listened for the infernal toenails-on-sidewalk sound.
When he heard it again he was, quite understandably, ticked off.
"Go away!" he demanded, upon turning to see the dog for the third time. He tried to just walk away faster, but right on cue the pawsteps recurred behind him. Throwing his hands in the air and trying to think of an appropriate curse, he could think of nothing derogatory enough for the insufferable cur. But he did happen upon a stroke of his signature brilliance, in which he crowed in triumph:
The dog shut its mouth, as if in disbelief. Dr. Horrible held out a hand towards the mongrel and stepped backwards to test his theory. The dog did not follow. Not daring to believe it, he walked faster. His command held fast. Allowing himself a grin of exultation, he turned fully around and marched off into the black night. His moment of glory was, sadly, short-lived.
The dog barked.
Billy jumped right out of his skin at the percussive noise. He held completely still for a moment, eyes scrunched shut, willing himself to believe that it was just his imagination. After a terse moment, in which he half-convinced himself that he was totally alone, he took another step.
The dog barked again.
Dr. Horrible was just about ready to explode. His cheeks grew red with chagrin, his fist clenched in anger, and his ears reeled at the second, third, and fourth bark. By Bad Horse, how could something that was alive be so blasted loud? He hadn't a clue what the dumb animal wanted with him, or why it chose to humiliate him publicly. But it wasn't a territorial or accusatory bark. It was the kind of bark employed when a dog wants to meet a member of its kind walking across the street, or when it's trying to get your attention because nothing else is working. Of course, Bill couldn't have known this because he'd never had a dog, so all he could do about it was be annoyed. Very annoyed.
In the course of five minutes, Dr. Horrible tried ignoring, walking faster, and yelling obscenities. The dog replied with barking, barking faster, and patiently waiting for him to finish before resuming barking. At the moment the dog was waiting for him to select another course of action. He ran his night-chilled hands over his burning face. For a moment he considered just how tired he was and how much he had to do tomorrow. He sighed. It sounded something like,
Twenty minutes later, Dr. Horrible brought him home.
Eventually he'd realized that he didn't have a choice in the matter, so what would be more accurate is he allowed it to follow him home rather than waste more time wrestling with it in the bad part of the city in the dead of night. He even let it walk right up next to him, tongue lolling happily and casting adoring gazes up at him every so often. He'd pretended not to notice. He was now embarrassed in more than one way.
As he opened the door to his apartment the mongrel practically shoved himself in before the door was properly open. Sighing again, he walked in after it.
"'Kay, fine, just...walk all over my place," he called after it, watching it prance around his living room-turned-lab. In the light the dog was revealed to be not nearly as mange-ridden as one would expect of a stray off the street; his fur was in fact lustrous, with a color and pattern like Indian summer.
"Hey, hey! Don't eat that!" he warned as the dog sniffed at the wonderflonium on his desk. Instead of backing away the dog reared up, putting its paws on the table as to sniff it more closely. "That's highly radioactive! And toxic! Not to mention the halitosis it'll give you! I said get down!"
Finally, he had to resort to pushing the dog down himself. Before it dropped to earth, however, it jumped up on him and managed to lick his face. Then it sat down.
"Ohhw," Dr. Horrible moaned, his whole face cringing at the stink the tongue left on his lips and mouth. He wiped it on his sweater, making a mental note to wash it with bleach. "Forget the halitosis."
For an awkward moment of silence, man and dog regarded each other. Billy now realized in full that he had a real, live dog in his house. As a child he'd always wanted one, for what child doesn't, but as that dream had never come to fruition he'd squirreled it away in his mental drawer of moldy memories that never got pulled out. Now he regarded most non-human beings with apathy at best...excluding the revered Bad Horse, of course. In fact, he had hardly any experience with animals at all, other than his diabolical attempt to create a mind-controlled army of gerbils that had almost ended disastrously. As for the dog itself, all that Billy could discern was that it was waiting for him to do something. Being watched so keenly was mostly weird but also a little gratifying, because he either didn't think he had followers that watched his blog like that or he knew he didn't. Any interaction with this alien beast would be complete guesswork. He didn't know the first thing about having a dog.
"I guess you need a name, huh?" He grumbled, half to himself. As if it had heard him, the dog gave a wag of its tail. Don't name it, you idiot, then you'll want to keep it! Didn't you pay attention to any of those Hallmark movies?
He knelt to get a better look at the animal. Still it only watched him, ears up and mouth open. Somewhere in himself he experienced an impulse to pet it, which he put on hold because he wasn't heartless enough to tell it no right-out. For the first time he noticed the animal's eyes. They seemed bigger than moons, milk chocolate, shining and liquid and almost as beautiful as…
Penny. he sighed in his head. No, he wouldn't name a dog after his crush. How creepy would that be? Plus he was fairly certain it was male, by reason of its 'marking' behavior during their walk home. But now he couldn't think of anything else. Those eyes of innocence caught him.
"Nickel," he said finally. It was the best he could think of under the circumstances. "Because that's all that you're worth, one grubby little nickel. You understand?"
The dog started panting again. Dr. Horrible waited for a response. He didn't dare let it know that its name was truly based in fondness-if it had the slightest inkling that it was winning him over, he would never be rid of the animal. He tried clenching his jaw to look mean.
The dog licked his hand, as if it remembered its new master's dislike for mouth-to-mouth. Once he was sure that the dog couldn't see his face, he smiled.
Nickel loved Billy.