Summary: For Moist, the status is definitely not quo.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon is the evil overlord of this 'verse.
Beta: Ably beta'd by the wondrous gigglingkat of LiveJournal, thanks to whom (among many other things) the song is integrated into the story instead of lumped onto the end like an afterthought! Yay!
A/N: And onward we go! Fourth part in my Dr. Horrible continuity which seriously needs an over-arcing name now.

A Henchman's Lot
by CaffieneKitty

Doctor Horrible's Blog-Private Entry
8 days after Penny.

The League... Fools. What they think doesn't matter. They're just a means to an end now. The League's accepted me, and that's what I needed.

The League has a dedicated lab for routine stuff, so that'll help things go faster. I've put through some of the preliminary materials testing and machine work along with some grunt work for older projects that have been lower priority, to, uh, muddy the waters. I've managed to cross some things off my to do list in the process, gotten a few projects from seventy-five percent to a hundred. Which is, y'know, nice, I guess. Side benefit.

I mean, there's a lot of legitimately evil reasons for wanting to invent time travel, but even though I've locked my old posts, I wasn't exactly subtle about my feelings for Penny. If Hammer could figure it out, someone in the League could. Hell, a panda with a, a, bamboo branch lodged in its cerebellum could figure out anything that idiot could.

Anyway, like I said before, I need to be alive and in the League so I can bring Penny back. Kind of a circular thing there, sort of.

So I can't tell anyone anything. It's a healthy level of paranoia. Hopefully healthy enough to keep me and Moist alive.

Not telling Moist is going to be hardest.

The union has kept Moist busy with meetings and paperwork and crap. Since he was seen as my henchman at the League introduction, he sort of side-stepped the admissions procedures. They seemed pretty used to people operating outside the system, though. Anyway, so, Moist hasn't been around as much, so me not telling him anything shouldn't seem suspicious. Can't tell him about things if he's not here, right? That won't last though.

This... I can't let any hint of what I'm trying to do get out. It's way too dangerous and there's too much at stake. Even if it means keeping Moist in the dark. I have to do this alone.

Hunh. Yeah. It's gonna turn out a lot better than the last time I said that. It has to.


The weirdest change in Billy was that he'd stopped talking. About HER. About anything. He was different. You get the whole "He's ... different," thing with a friend joining the League, going from being a person's friend to being their henchman; that's what the gang at the Henchman's Union had said. They get goals, and plots and soon you're just a cog in their world-ruling machinery. All you could hope for was to be a happy, well-treated cog.

There were some really bitter people in the Henchman's Union.

But still, Doctor Horrible was his best friend, from way back even before he'd decided on a name. They used to talk about... just... stuff. Random crap: dating, plotting, exactly where Lord Voldemort went wrong. Stuff. Not so much anymore. Not at all, actually. Just henchman-type stuff.

"Moist, I need you to get me a couple things," said Doctor Horrible, rubbing a figure off the whiteboard with the elbow of his lab coat and writing in a new one.

Right now, though, Billy was in the middle of some kind of brainstorm. He was striding from the lab bench to the whiteboard, muttering, stopping to make notations on the board. Often a brainstorm meant an outburst of talking about his projects; sometimes it meant knowing when to duck. "Okay, what do you need?"

The steady rhythm of Billy's pacing footsteps had started a tune going through Moist's mind:

Now that you've gone from misery to silence
I don't know which worries me more;
that you might be planning some ill-advised violence
or that you're not mourning the girl you adored.
When did these eggshells end up on the floor?

"A liter of irradiated illuvium ninety, not anything else, ninety. You might have to search a bit, most of the stuff they'll have there is forty-eight or twenty or non-irradiated illuvium which is just stupid because there's no point at all in not irradiating illuvium."

Moist blinked gamely. "Oookay. Irradiated illuvium ninety."

"It'll be labeled. And green. I need a liter of it at least. Any less is not enough, more is better. I can always use the leftovers to make something glow."

"All right. Anything else?"

"Yeah. Uh... It's-" He grabbed a piece of graph paper off the bench and sketched quickly, "They look like um," he handed the paper to Moist. "Little robotic spiders but they aren't. They're monofilament-welded quark-plexing trans-quantum processors."

Moist looked at the rapidly-dampening sheet of paper in his hand. Little twelve-legged robotic spiders capered across the page.

"They're about the size of-" Doctor Horrible gestured in search of an appropriate description, pinching the air between gloved fingers, "-a thirty Ohm resistor. And they might be kind of purple-blue with a silver shine to them. I need at least eight, but the more the better. More would be a lot better."

"Okay. Monofilament-welded... um. Eight little purple robotic spiders. Got it. Any leads on where I should look for this stuff, or should I start-"

"MegaGlobalHyperDyne Incorporated will have all of it. You'll need to break in."

"I- Uh, what?" Moist's voice squawked a little.

"What? You've done it before. Breaking into places."

"Yeah, I mean, yeah," he swallowed, "the Radio Shack after hours, sure, and the garage of some UCLA physics professor, not, not some huge corporation with security and guys with guns guarding things!"

"It's not a huge corporation. Just kind of biggish."

"But it's not some guy's garage, either!" Moist rubbed a hand backward from his forehead, making his hair look like he'd been licked by something large and affectionate. "I can't do it! I'll mess it up!"

"You can do it, Moist. I've figured it out," Billy pointed at a stack of rolled up blueprints on the couch. "The Uncivil Engineer wants me to owe him a favor, so he got me the plans for the building and the security schedule. He even had them laminated. Moisture resistant."

Moist unrolled the plasticized plans. "That's great but I really..." He peered at the plans. "Hey..."

"What do you think?"

"Big ducts everywhere... And it looks like most of the door security's almost all electronic..."

"Walk in the park, right? You can figure out an approach from that?"

Moist fumbled with the plasticized blueprints as they slipped in his fingers. "But, but this is way out of my league! I can't-"

"You can. I know you can. You have to." For a second, Moist felt like he was talking to the old Billy. Not the newest star in the evil firmament; just his best friend who was depending on him.

Whatever this project was, it was as important to Billy as it was to Doctor Horrible. Moist wondered if he should be worried he'd just thought of his friend as two distinct people with differing priorities, but pushed the thought aside and took a big breath. "I dunno. It's just, really, I kind of suck, you know? It's a huge risk. Moisture isn't exactly a big threat."

"It is in an electronics lab." Doctor Horrible grinned.

Moist tried to re-roll the plans and failed, settling for bundling them up under an arm. "Well, yeah, I guess, but... won't it hurt your robotic spiders, getting damp? This thing-" he gestured and the plans slipped back down to land on the couch again. "It's not exactly selective."

"MGHD doesn't realize what they've got." Doctor Horrible waved dismissively. "They'll be in storage, hermetically sealed vials. Moisture-proof."

"I dunno..."

"Come on, Moist. It'll give you a change to try out those sucker-gloves I made you two weeks ago."

"Yeah." He squinted up at his friend. "You really think I'm up to this?"

"Positive." Billy turned and went back into the lab.

Moist picked the plans up off the couch and then picked them up off the floor when he immediately dropped them. "Hey, how'd you find out the stuff was at this MegaCorp place anyway?"

Billy slowly added something from a vial to something else in a beaker. "There was an article in Mad Science Monthly about some top-secret things they're playing with over there."

"Yeah?" Over the years Moist had been subjected to more technobabble than he ever wanted to know about quantum physics or ten-dimensional sine wave propagation or cyclic laser ramjets or whatever it was Doctor Horrible was up to his goggles in at that moment. It was a thread Moist could pull on.

"Yeah!" He grinned, added a few more drops from the vial and swirled the resulting mixture around, watching it change color. "Awesome stuff, fantastic, tachyon-bending, but they don't see the real potential in it!"

"So, uh, what's all this supposed to do when it's done?"

"Oh it's for the-" Billy stopped suddenly. Moist could almost see the mask of Doctor Horrible sliding back down. "It's just for something I'm working on."

Moist watched his friend turn back to the lab bench and another phrase of song wound through Moist's head as he gathered the plans again.

You don't talk about Penny, don't feel like confiding
I guess that really it's none of my biz,
but I can't avoid all the landmines you're hiding
if you won't tell me where the minefield is.

Moist nodded at Billy's back. "Yeah, okay. Cool." Just pick up a grocery list of stuff. No problem.

Speaking of groceries though...

"Did you want me to pick you up some food on the way back?"

"Some what?"

"Food. Y'know? Something to eat? Last time I looked in your fridge there was a biology experiment in there I figured I shouldn't touch."

"I'm not doing any biology experiments," Doc muttered while examining another beaker full of opaque and sludgy god-only-knew-what.

"Oh," said Moist, adjusting the slipping bundle of plans and checking the couch and the floor around the couch in case he'd missed any. "How 'bout I just get you some food. I'll even see if The Caffeinator is around, maybe amp it up for you. You like frozen yogurt, right? That'd probably be great with caffeine in it."

There was far too much silence suddenly coming from the lab area. Moist turned and saw Doctor Horrible staring past the beaker in his hand, looking kind of like a little kid lost in a department store full of sad puppies.

Crap. Maybe that was a Penny thing too. Like laundry. How the hell was Moist supposed to know what the sensitive subjects were if Billy wasn't talking about her either?

"So, uh. Frozen yogurt not a good idea?"

Doctor Horrible put down the beaker on the bench gently. "No." He turned to face the whiteboard covered in equations and drawings of little robotic spiders. "Not right now."

I don't wanna upset you or make you start weeping
Though seriously, sometimes it's creepy as hell
'Coz often you act like she's hidden and sleeping
and you've just invented the world's loudest bell.
I don't think you have but I really can't tell.

"...Okay. I'll get her to caffeinate you some pizza then?" No reaction. "Gimme about, what, four hours to get the stuff from the lab first though. Okay?" More silence. "I'll be back about midnight."

Moist felt the silence follow him out into the hall and down the stairs.

I must be forgetting something, Moist thought as he slipped the vials of little spider-chips into the padded backpack he'd brought, fiddling a bit to get the suckers on the gloves to let go.

Electronic locks shorted, regular locks lubricated. Cameras... he glanced at the closest one, ...still fogged. Haven't seen or heard any guards. Got the illuvium and the spiders...

The illuvium had been well-labeled and very green, and the little robotic spiders had been in sealed containers, just as Doctor Horrible had said. The gloves were working great, except on the 'letting go of jars of chemicals and vials of spiders' part. The last of the eight vials finally pried lose from the sucker-glove and dropped gently into the backpack.

I guess that's it. Moist adjusted the gloves and crawled back into the duct that connected to the vault, sliding along as easily as walking, which on particularly humid days really wasn't that easy. He had to have forgotten something. This is going way too smooth.

Doc had started the new project the day after the meet-and-greet, and Moist knew nothing about it. Well, nothing except it required irradiated illuvium and metallic spider chips.

Doctor Horrible always told him about his projects. He was like a kid with a new toy; he had to show someone how awesome it was, and that someone was usually Moist. He sometimes thought maybe Doc showed him first so he could ask the stupid questions like "Won't that explode?" that sometimes didn't occur to Billy when his brain was going too fast trying to get to the result he wanted to think about the consequences.

Moist turned a corner in the duct, sucker-gloves making tiny popping noises almost entirely lost in the background hum of the building machinery.

Most Henchmen are kept on a need to know basis
But I'm still your friend, your compadre, your bud.
The union has said I should know where my place is.
I hope that this won't end in fire and blood.

The longest they'd hung out together since the Meet-and-Greet was when they'd knocked over that bank, and that wasn't exactly 'hanging out'. Doc hadn't said a thing that wasn't regarding some henchman-type activity.

Moist slid down a slight slope in the ductwork, frowning. Three weeks ago, he had watched Doctor Horrible walk up to the podium at the ELE, blankly soaking up the rowdiness of the evil throng. Something had changed then. Moist wondered again if his best friend was really okay or if he'd snapped.

When Billy went into 'Doctor Horrible' mode it was always a little creepy; watching a friend you'd known for years disappear under a surface of calculating malevolence. He'd seen Billy practicing the scowling and the evil laugh, and knew it was just a mask to hide behind, but it was still freaky. Since the thing with Penny, even freakier. Billy'd gotten scary good at it. The whole detachment thing, cold, emotionless...

Moist grabbed the edge of a drop-off with the sucker-gloves, dangling for a second. It was probably nothing. The League had somehow figured out an interpretation of events at the shelter opening that put Doctor Horrible in an even better light than if he'd killed her. That was... kind of weird, actually, Moist reflected as he slowed his drop to the lower floor to a gradual slide. Still, anything that ended up with neither of them getting executed by the Evil League of Evil was great in Moist's books.

He took the left side branch of a T-junction. What was really weird was how suddenly Billy'd gone from, well, where he was when Moist left his apartment earlier that day, saying the League could go to hell, to a few hours later calling him up to go to the Meet-and-Greet, cool as a cucumber. This was more than just him slipping into his evil-doing persona. Something wasn't right.

A grate over a security office emitted light into the duct. Moist avoided it and kept going. Maybe Billy'd got word that the League already knew what actually happened, except the part about it being an accident, and knew they'd be okay. In which case thanks a hell of a lot for letting me know, Doc. I nearly dehydrated myself up there panicking.

He slid down another short slope. Naw. That couldn't be it. Something had changed between that afternoon and that evening, and Doctor Horrible very deliberately wasn't telling Moist about it. Just like he wasn't telling Moist about the current project.

I wanna know what it is that you're planning
but you're still not telling me jack.
'Coz like massage flippers and mind-control tanning,
sometimes your plans are kind of on crack,
but you're in the League now, there's no turning back...

Maybe if he flat-out asked Billy what the hell was going on he'd tell him. Moist was his henchman now. Asking dumb questions was probably part of the job description. Not that Moist had read the contract they'd signed. Doctor Horrible was his friend; he shouldn't have to worry about job descriptions and contract stipulations. Should he?

Maybe the bitter henchmen down at the Union hall had a point.

Moist saw the yellowish light from the street filtering in the end of the duct he was sliding down. He'd ask Doc about the project, just as soon as he got finished sneaking out of the huge corporate lab he'd broken into. God, Moist, he chastised himself you've got a heist in progress. Pay attention.

Moist dropped out of the duct and into the alley behind MegaGlobalHyperDyne Inc. He had time to think When did it get so cold out- Oh crap! before his surface layer of moisture froze solid and he fell over.

"Hi Moist," said Johnny Snow. "We gotta talk."

(that's all for now)

Post A/N: Tune for the song is linked on my livejournal posting of this fic, and there are extended a/n there.