Notes: Strychnine was (and still is) the active chemical in many rat poisons. Many of the lines in this short fic are paraphrased from the movie, though all assumptions (obviously) are my own inventions.

Also, any Willard fans looking to congregate? Please look up ratpr0n on livejournal, if you so desire…

Strychnine

He was hypersensitive to the tactile world around him: the press of bodies at his back, the smooth, cool wall beneath his cheek, the feel of his nails pulling his lips into a gruesome rictus, huge tears burning his eyes, blurring his vision, and trickling over the hills and valleys of his knuckles.

It was hushed quiet; he could not hear Mr. Martin or any of his coworkers; he could not hear the steady "thumpthump" of the metal rod as it plunged through the fragile body of the small white rat for the final time and met its only resistance upon the back of the storage shelf. He could only hear a whine, a slight shriek of pain that was Socrates' pathetic swan song. His entire body seemed to seize up in a single violent convulsion at that injustice, and suddenly the world's soundtrack returned, louder than ever; he heard a girl behind him ask if he was going to throw up.

Then the blunt end of green piping, stained a shining red like a grim reminder of the upcoming Christmas season, was thrust into his face. "Can't take a little blood, tiger?" Mr. Martin rasped and then cackled when Willard was forced to turn his head away as a wave of revulsion and guilt clenched at his stomach and made him shudder visibly.

Mr. Martin's words echoed in his ears. "Can't take a little blood, tiger?"

Can't take a little

—a little blood bright red and repulsive soaked into the fabric of his white cotton underpants unceremoniously pushed into his pliable hands. His own blood still wet and sticky and warm from his body which had been invaded by something that should have never been there but had been there and back again. Pulled out tinged with red and wiped down and now his underwear was stained with coppery metallic—

blood

 —blood and offwhite cloroxbleachsmelling cream come jizz semen. Bile surged up his gullet but he would not allow himself the further embarrassment of vomiting in front of this man this thing that had taken the last shreds of his dignity and suffocated them disemboweled and decapitated them. Locks of dark hair fell across his line of sight like a curtain as he raised the damp cloth to his eyes and allowed it to soak up his tears. "Can't take it, you little pussy?" that harsh unappealing bray had cut him like a knife. "Can't take a little blood, tiger?" Tiger he'd always called him—

tiger

—mockingly because he was no tiger fierce brave agile. He was only Willard sweet strange shy and afraid to work at his father's company. It was his first week and he was still learning still new still inexperienced immature green innocent and he didn't know whether he could say no and keep his job. He'd wanted to say no, but he didn't think his daddy would be happy that he'd said no to his boss daddy's partner. But he understood how it worked now no longer quite so innocent or inexperienced even though—

?

—he couldn't stand the sight of blood—

tiger? tiger? tiger?

He moaned slightly as the strong smell of blood triggered wave after wave of emotion. Dimly, he realized Mr. Martin and most of the other employees had left and it was Miss Leech who was speaking now and holding the blunt-edged pipe with astonished repugnance. "—expects me to clean this up!?"

"I'll do it," he whispered, sniffling and swallowing mucous as he wiped his eyes. Immediately, she thrust the offending object into his hands and patted his upper arm as she made a hasty retreat.

He'd taken it willingly, allowing his hands to embrace and caress the weapon that had murdered Socrates. Unconsciously, he'd stroked it up and down, ghosting over the phallic top with his fingertips and smearing the tacky fluid. He stepped forward and looked up, immediately meeting Ben's eyes across the cluttered room. "What could I do?" he asked softly, pursing his lips and furrowing his brow slightly. Ben did not respond.

"What could I do?" He took another step and grimaced at the seemingly loud click his shoes made in the large, silent room. Another step, another click, and he closed his eyes, unable to bear the overload of fluorescent light and manufactured noise to his senses. He was standing in front of the shelf now, at eye level with Socrates' body but facing the far wall. With a sharp, military turn on his heels, Willard opened his eyes and faced the mangled body of his friend.

There was no recognizing it. The white fur had been died a macabre red, half of the skull had been crushed, and only one eye—now dull and accusatory in unfair death—stared up at Willard. A second thrust had pierced the rat's belly, spilling its intestines cruelly over the cool metal surface of the industrial shelves. Willard stared, impassive with shock and a raw, horrible rage he hadn't known since—

—Can't take it, you little pussy?—

he'd been bloodied all those years ago, privately strung up like a piece of meat and used savagely as a catalyst, a go-between for Mr. Martin to hurt the person he really despised. But that plan had backfired, because Willard had never told his father what had happened. "What could I do?" He looked down at his shoes. "What could I do, what could I do?" His hands twisted the bludgeon viciously as he imagined it as being Mr. Martin's neck or penis. "What could I do?" He shivered slightly and gasped for air as the emotions arose and washed over him: fear, loathing, guilt, shame, sadness, grief, anger. All encompassing, brutal, unforgivable anger that tingled through his entire body, stimulating him, exciting him. "Rat killer," he hissed, narrowing his eyes on Socrates' body. "Rat killer—

—Can't take a little blood—

I'll show you who's a

—tiger?—

tiger." He growled through clenched teeth, his entire face taut with his fury. Suddenly the muscles of his face relaxed; he closed his eyes, drained by the outburst. "What could I do?" He asked plaintively, his voice still that of a child's.

His eyes flickered open after a moment and turned toward Ben, who had watched him without the slightest movement or sound. Willard smiled, and in the sickly lighting his incisors gleamed. "What can we do?"

And Ben almost appeared to smile back.