Copyright: Once again, I obviously don't own Dark Shadows, since I wasn't alive at the time it was created. If I had written the episodes, there would be a heck of a lot more Willie, I'll tell ya that much.

Author's Note: Just a very short little writing starring everyone's favorite handyman - Willie Loomis. More of a description than a story really. This was inspired by a line in a story written by a friend of mine, so the real credit goes to her... if she wants it. I'm not really ready to brag about this one yet, but ah well. Enjoy as much as ya can.

Workin' Man's Hands

By Catherine A Graham

Willie Loomis had never considered himself a "working man" by any means. Not unless he counted the all the times he had "worked someone over" – the times he had played the con game so well that he thought even a Mother Superior would believe him. He rarely counted them. Petty thievery, pulling a really good con, cheating his way to a win in a fixed card game – to Willie, these things were more hobbies than real work. Sure, they got him his money when he was short on it. And, there were times they required him to use his head.

But, never had Willie's hands been anything but soft. Never had these endeavors brought a callous, never so much as hangnail. There were times his hands were chapped from the cold, when the New York City winters were too much, and the snow was falling all around, and stuffing his hands into the pockets of his windbreaker did little good because the snow made itself at home in there too. There were times they were sunburned and blistering, not only his hands, but all the way up to his shoulders, when he had spent too long aboard a ship deck with Jason, and he hadn't worried about their next arrival. There were even times his knuckles were scraped and bleeding from connecting with another man's jaw a little too hard.

But, all of these things healed, and went away, and the palms of Willie's street-bred hands remained soft and welcoming. He was glad for it. He suspected the women liked it that way. After all, they never complained. Workin' man's hands, Willie would scoff, and Jason would give his lilting Irish laugh, who needs 'em? Certainly not Willie. Not Willie who would never work another day in his life if there was any conceivable way of avoiding it. Work was for suckers as far as he was concerned. Work and calloused hands were for people too stupid to see another way to get what they wanted. Or people too honest. Either way, those people lost in the long run. Willie got what he wanted, and his hands were pleasing to the ladies. He had a darn good set up and wasn't about to let it slip away…

Until the night he had went treasure hunting in just about the worst place imaginable. That was the night Willie Loomis' luck had run out. He had known, even has his feet scrabbled against the stone floor, that it was over. And, as his hands scraped against the wood of a coffin he could not see, gathering slivers into the too-soft skin of his palms, Willie had become coldly aware that his hands were no longer his to protect in order to assure that they saw no work.

A workin' man's hands. Yeah, that's what they were, Willie knew. He continued to scrub the varnish into the table and knew that three months ago, he would have felt discomfort at the coarse cloth moving roughly under his hand. Now, he felt nothing.

The sun was going down, and he couldn't see as well as he liked. It wouldn't be long now. The rise and fall of his hand against the table caught Willie's attention, and he slowed the motion of the cloth for a second. Turned his hand over for closer inspection.

The first time he'd wielded an axe, the first time he'd swung a hammer, the first time he'd dug a shovel into the cool dirt of a cemetery over and over until the hole was big enough to accommodate the body of a human man, the blisters that had formed on his palms had bothered him. Stop, they'd told him. Stop, what are you doing? And, his mind had, at first, whole-heartedly agreed. Why work, Willie, it had asked, you know you hate it.

But, his mind had caught onto the game quickly. No, it would scream now, even if his muscles and hands ached and screamed for something totally different. No, don't stop, Willie. He'll find ya here. Not workin', not doing what you're told. He'll punish ya. Yeah, that was it. No work, punishment. Or worse. He could kill ya, Willie. You know he'll do it. The equation was simple enough for his mind to put together before long, even when his body continued to argue.

Today, the state of Willie's hands was no better or worse than usual. It had been on his to-do list this morning to haul in paneling for some of the second story bedrooms, and sometime during the task, he had snagged the thumbnail of his right hand on a sharp edge. The nail was torn now, nearly to the middle, and without first aid equipment, Willie had left the blood to dry along the edges of what was left of his thumbnail.

They were dry too, Willie noticed. Small cracks ran up and down his fingers and across his palms. His body thirsted for water; it always did. Sure, he would throw down what water he could whenever he found a good reason to make a detour through the kitchen. But, when work was to be done, he couldn't take his sweet time to pump himself a glass of well water and enjoy the cold way it worked itself down his throat. Better to get the work done, he knew. Better if he wanted to live, at least. And, he was relatively sure he wanted to live.

A touch from one hand to the other reminded Willie that beyond being dry, they were also calloused. Which was why they didn't complain after almost an hour of scrubbing varnish into an ancient piece of junk table that refused to absorb it. It was either that or the fact that he knew the pain would be much worse if the table didn't take by sundown.

It was a blessing in disguise, Willie realized. Beyond the state of his right thumbnail, and the small protests the cracks criss-crossing his hands made whenever he stretched them too much, he found that he was in no pain whatsoever. It was a pleasant feeling – to be able to bend over the table, to be able to stretch his arm out over the top of it – all without the feeling of screaming muscles and swelling bruises to accompany it.

There were times so much worse than this, Willie told himself, knowing it was true. Times when his hands were covered in blood. When he didn't know whether the blood was from one thousand blisters deciding to open up all at once, or from the man who had once been his friend but who now lay buried in a secret room where no one would find him for a hundred years or more. He had hoped the blood was his, but it wasn't often that blisters bled. Willie had learned quickly that most blisters oozed something foreign and yellow and sickly smelling. But, the blood could have been his, he said.

Willie hadn't had a blister in a long time. His hands were hard and calloused. An unidentifiable grime covered them, even when Willie was sure he had washed his hands so well that not a single splotch of dirt could be found there. His nails, those that weren't torn from a careless accident, were bitten down so far in moments of fear and anxiety that he had nearly exposed the sensitive skin underneath. His skin cracked with the need for water.

A workin' man's hands. Willie worked all right. He worked from when he got up in the morning till long after the sun set, till his Master finally gave him leave to go to his room. His hands were proof. I swore I'd never work again…

Men who really worked were either stupid or honest. Willie was pretty sure about which category he fell into.

There was a time his hands were velvet. There was a time he headed up cons and small robberies and maybe a car jacking or two just for the heck of it. And, it was his brains, never his hands he used. There was a time women loved the way those hands felt against them, soft as they were.

A woman would never feel his hands again. They wouldn't want to anyway. Not after the things he had touched in the way he had…

Willie could see now how some men were proud of the calloused hands they possessed. He felt it himself sometimes, after finishing a particularly gratifying job. Like the time he had replaced the stained glass in some of the attic windows. The glass had cast rainbow-colored shadows into the dusty gloominess of the room, and Willie had smiled. If the table took like it was supposed to and Willie didn't spend tonight paying for the fact that it hadn't, he knew he would feel some pride at the visible progress. Men should be proud of a thing like that. But most men hadn't… they hadn't…

A workin' man's hands… Good for carrying and scrubbing and fixing and doing. Good for hurting and killing and hiding and burying. Willie Loomis had undoubtedly earned the hands of a working man. Hands hard enough they felt right only when touching wood or stone.

Willie grabbed the table as hard as he could, not caring that his hands were smudging the delicate varnish he had spent the last hour applying, not giving a damn about the pride he might feel at its completion, and shoved the piece of furniture hard enough that, with a gigantic shudder, it clattered to its side on the floor.

Willie looked at what he had done, and instantly knew he would pay. He pressed the hardened skin of his palm into his forehead and sighed. If it's broken, I'll jus' fix it again. My workin' man's hands. It's the only thing they're good for.