Disclaimer: Obviously I don't own it or profit from it, and obviously you're not nutty enough to think that I do. So I guess that covers it. :-)
Penny was going to die.
"So I thank my girlfriend, Penny. Yeah, we totally had sex."
Oh, yes. She could feel that whole death… thing starting now with the heat of embarrassment rising up her neck. She stood up as inconspicuously as possible, descended the stairs from the stage, and began to edge her way along the wall. Of course, when all eyes were on the "heroic" Captain Hammer, she didn't have to try in order to be invisible.
"It's not enough to bash in heads. You've got to bash in minds."
There was good in him, Penny knew. Somewhere… deep… down…
Her initial attraction to him had been nothing but hero worship. The irony, of course, being that he wasn't a true hero at all.
Pie. It was starting to make more sense. No wonder Billy had seemed so tense the last time Penny had mentioned her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. That could also explain why her laundry buddy hadn't shown up last laundry day. Penny had waited for him all afternoon, watching her extra frozen yogurt melt into a depressing soup of… yogurtiness.
"I'm poverty's new sheriff, and I'm bashing in the slums. A hero doesn't care if you're a bunch of scary alcoholic bums. Everybody!"
Now the audience was joining in his ridiculous sing-along. Mortified, Penny crossed her arms over her chest and tried to merge with the wall.
It would be in all the newspapers and tabloids when she broke up with Captain Hammer. She hoped Billy would see it…
"Everyone's a hero in their own way. Everyone's a hero in their—"
Suddenly Hammer was frozen mid-sentence, and a well-practiced evil laugh rang out. Penny watched, entranced, as a man in a white lab coat jumped down from a platform and began to stalk his way up the center aisle. "Look at these people. Amazing how sheep'll show up for the slaughter." Something in his voice made her stop and listen. He was familiar, charismatic, but she couldn't quite place him…
Two hands pulled her to the floor.
"Your disguise is slipping. I think you're slipping," the mysterious man sang.
"Billy? What are you doing here?"
"You have to come with me," Billy urged.
She shook her head in confusion. "I don't—I don't understand…"
"There's no time to explain. We have to get you out of here."
"I bring you pain, the kind you can't suffer quietly. Fire up your brain. Remind you inside you're rioting. Society is slipping, everything's slipping away, so… Go ahead! Run away! Say it was Horrible!" Chaos broke loose and most of the spectators fled, leaving only the reporters and a brave few observers. "Listen to me, Penny. Please," Billy pleaded. For a moment Penny thought to protest. How could she run? She had to make sure nothing bad happened to anyone! But a closer look broke her resolve. Billy's silver-blue eyes flashed with desperation, the dark circles beneath them merging into pale, gaunt cheeks in terrible need of a shave. Penny nodded wordlessly, and Billy clutched more than grasped her hand and ran with her out of the room.
Once they reached the foyer he watched the heavy wooden doors swing shut behind them, and his exhausted face sagged in relief. He led her halfway up a flight of stairs to the left of the door. "Billy, are you alright?"
His eyes quickly scanned her body, checking her over. "Are you?"
"Of course I am," she said brightly, trying to cheer him up. "Why wouldn't I be?"
Billy didn't reply, just pulled her to his chest. She returned the impromptu embrace, her cheek coming to rest against his heartbeat as he buried his face in her hair.
Her heart broke when she felt something wet against her neck. "What's wrong, Billy, buddy?" she whispered.
In response he simply held her closer, fingers twining through her hair. Penny's hand came up to stroke his head soothingly. After a long moment she felt more than heard him speak. "Penny, would you do something for me?"
Reluctantly, he moved away but kept a gentle hand on her arm. "Next laundry day, give me this." He held out a letter. "It's important. Please, make sure I read it."
Penny took it, confused. "I don't understand. Why can't you just keep it?"
Billy opened his mouth, then shut it again. He shook his head. "I can't explain right now, Penny. It wouldn't make any sense to you."
"Billy, I don't understand…" He placed a finger on her lips to quiet her. He seemed to be holding his breath, waiting.
An explosion shook the stairs beneath them. A few seconds later Captain Hammer ran crying like a child out the front door.
Billy nodded with finality. "You're safe now. But I have to go." He reached up to stroke her cheek. He looked so tired. She was about to ask him again if he was alright, but the question died on her lips when he kissed her softly. "Goodbye, Penny…"
When she opened her eyes, he was gone.
Billy was bitterly disappointed. Yet another failure. Bad Horse would likely spare his life since he'd put Captain Hammer out of commission, but he was never getting into the League now. At least one thing was good about today: it was laundry day.
He was surprised to find Penny sitting on the counter of the coin wash. She greeted him with a frozen yogurt and her brilliant smile, and his stomach flipped, just like every time.
"H-Hi! I mean…" He cleared his throat. "Hey."
Penny patted the counter next to her, and he took a seat. "I brought your letter," she said, reaching into her laundry basket.
He quirked an eyebrow at her, and she frowned in confusion. "Don't you remember asking me to give this to you, Billy?"
"Uh... Of course!" Billy lied brightly. He broke the wax seal—his own—and slid the letter from the envelope. It was written in his handwriting, even less legible than normal.
It took me four years and a lot of covert use of League resources, but I was finally able to engineer the Freeze Ray to reverse time. Moist sent me back to the night of the dedication. According to my calculations, if you're reading this, I'm gone. Poof. No longer in existence. By changing my past, I insured that I will never exist.
You'd better sit down for this.
Seriously, are you sitting down?
Penny was supposed to die when the Death Ray exploded. It was our fault.
I think you can guess how horrible that was—and not in the good way. But I saved her this time around, and I'm guessing she's sitting on the counter next to you right now. Yeah, you're welcome.
"What does it say?" Penny asked innocently.
Billy blinked back tears. He could hardly breathe.
"I love you," he blurted.
Penny's lips formed an adorable little "o".
Had he just actually said that? "W-What I meant was… I-I mean… I love the, uh…" He closed his eyes briefly, then let out a sigh. "No. You know what? That was exactly what I meant. I know it's sudden and it probably sounds a little nutty, but…"
He trailed off as Penny touched his chin and leaned toward him just like that day not so long ago. Then quite unlike that day not so long ago, she leaned in the rest of the way and kissed him full on the lips.
I think you can take it from here.
A/N - All Reviews Great and Small will receive replies. Concrit makes me smile! Of course, so does a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down. :-D Thanks for reading! :-)