Author's Note: This was an exercise to help me back into the habit of writing. Seeing the connection between two of the most awesome things since apple pie actually gave me a bit of inspiration. I might revise this sometime, but for now, I'm posting just in case anyone enjoys it.
Disclaimer: I don't own Calvin and Hobbes or Doctor Horrible.
"Calvin?" For the voice of a stuffed tiger slash friend slash hallucination, it was very reasonable. It almost made the blonde-haired teen pause. Instead, a wince-like blink was the only response that his best friend got. Calvin simply didn't have time.
"You're actually leaving?" This time the questioning voice held a hint of sadness to it. Calvin turned to face him, but only so that he could shovel through the mess at the foot of his bed. The tiger watched him with lonely, wise eyes.
The teenager sighed after a long moment as he revealed, beneath what looked to be a haphazard pile of clothes, a cardboard box. The word "Transmogrifier" was scrawled in precise but childish writing on the side. Calvin's fingers gently stroked one edge, almost as if he couldn't help himself in the presence of so many memories. Was a teenager supposed to feel nostalgia?
He had to say something, but he didn't really know what.
"Sorry, Hobbes," Calvin managed, finally looking his best friend in the eye. There was a time when the tiger dwarfed him, even with the help of his spiky blonde hair, but time had changed more than a few things. A growth spurt had stretched him, although he still had the physique of a geek. Now, the two were pretty much at eye level. "What else am I going to do, though? The world needs me."
"And I don't."
It wasn't an accusation so much as a hurtful statement. It hurt both of them. The silence that followed was deep, but so was the understanding that stretched between them.
When Calvin spoke again, his voice was shaking. "I'm figuring with the money I've made so far I'll go to Los Angeles. I've got a shot there for people to take me seriously. There's, like, a League for people like me. Just don't tell anyone... where I'm going, okay?"
Once his friend left, Hobbes was probably not going to talk to anyone again. Even if he wanted to, who else had Calvin's imagination? But it wasn't something Calvin needed to know. The tiger nodded, silently agreeing.
Meanwhile, the blonde-haired kid continued to pack, unceremoniously but altogether too solemnly for the type of person he usually was. He laughed in surprise, however, when he uncovered an old comic book sticking halfway beneath his bed and a pair of underwear. "Remember this?" he exclaimed. "God, you spoiled every edition of this for me, didn't you?"
Hobbes smiled a little. "I did try my best."
"Back then, I sort of thought I might be a comic book artist when I grew up. Things sure change, don't they?"
"Not as much as you might think. If you hadn't turned out to be an unappreciated genius, you'd probably still love those types of things."
Calvin's face fell. He bit his lip for a quiet moment, then placed the comic book back where it had been. "Sorry," he muttered again.
When he had finished stuffing his belongings into the "Transmogrifier", it was time for a final goodbye. Neither of them could really think of what to say. They'd stood through so many trials together. Hobbes himself had secretly been terrified that Calvin would stop considering him a friend after he had aged, but there was something about Calvin that kept him seeing the impossible. Turned out it didn't matter.
The tiger pulled the boy into an embrace, sighing sadly as he did so. Calvin quietly accepted it, squeezing him tight, before murmuring, "You've got to stay here for mom and dad, to help them cope. It isn't about me getting too old for you. I'll never grow up that much. It's about," he struggled for words, "who I am."
The last words that Hobbes would say to his friend were mumbled, almost inaudible, as Calvin walked out the door for the final time, carrying half his life in a cardboard box. "Maybe you didn't get too old. But you did grow up that much."
"So, this is a real villain's lair, huh, Doctor Horrible?"
"If you count the fact that I'm a real villain, I guess so. The word 'lair' is usually used to describe a secret hideout, though, and since the door is pretty obvious to passerby, it's debatable. And you don't have to call me... my full name. Billy's fine."
"Is that your real name?"
"It is now."
Billy's new roommate seemed to find that simultaneously cool and suspicious. Billy stepped to the side to let him fully take in the sights, not that there was much to see. A few messily organized rooms with neutral walls, a couch, a computer. Some artwork that was mainly just a cool-looking pattern, framed. Billy preferred that the lab be completely hidden so he could think of it as a refuge rather than another part of his normal life.
Billy's roommate was pretty new to the villain scene, though, and didn't appear disappointed at all by how simple it was. "Nice place." He smiled, and the supervillain couldn't help but feel a bit proud, although he knew there was really nothing to be proud of. Not here, anyway.
"It's not really all that much," he admitted. "But there's, you know, everything you need... Do you want any help with that?" He was already reaching out by the time he asked, quick enough to catch his roomie's belongings as they slipped out of his fingers.
"Thanks, uh, Billy," the dark-haired man quickly responded. The roomie uselessly tried to blink some sweat out of his eyes – he was just as abnormally covered in moisture as he had been that day in the park when they first met. Apparently, it was some type of long-lasting condition. Billy didn't mind, though. He was used to the occasional massive quirk. He had quite a few of them himself.
However accepting he was, though, it didn't prevent the ensuing awkward moment of silence. Doctor Horrible couldn't call himself the most social person – he never had been, although he hadn't been so introverted in his earliest years. He guessed that the new guy wasn't used to getting to know people all that much either.
As the host, it was Billy who pulled himself together first. He flashed a shy smile. "So, Moist. My... evil... moisture buddy. I'll just go put these in your bedroom," he gestured towards Moist's belongings, "and you can, um, make yourself at home."
"Sure. Okay, Doc."
Billy didn't bother to correct him this time.
It turned out that Moist was an even worse cook than his supervillain roommate. He insisted on making the first meal anyway. As the terrible dinner brought back memories of his childhood, Billy traded stories with his new friend. Nevermind that he would usually rather go without eating than stomach something like that, and often did when he ruined some type of meal while living on his own. Nevermind that it was weird to have a friend after the last friendship he'd left behind.
"I actually haven't done much in the past few years." Moist sighed his confession over green beans that probably weren't supposed to be green. "Besides call up random therapists who don't feel like listening to me and such. Being quite so... damp, hasn't really had a great effect on my life."
Billy could guess that much. What he could also see was that Moist seemed a bit too awed at having someone listen to him.
"Have you always been like that?" Billy asked, voicing a bit of his relentless curiosity.
"Nah. My dad tried to fix a problem I had when I was six, and it sort of went too far the other way."
"Oh. I see."
When Billy was six years old, he had still been a normal little hellion. Well, not necessarily normal. But normal enough. He'd had two nagging, loving parents, a big yard, a good home, neighbors, a stuffed-animal-turned-friend. And maybe he'd gotten beat up sometimes at school, too, but nothing on the scale of the violent clashes he sometimes got into now.
"Have you always been like this?"
"Hmmm?" the supervillain blinked his nostalgia away.
"Have you always been like this?" Moist repeated, waving a hand to indicate Billy's entire figure. "You know, on the dark side. Villainy was something that I hadn't even thought about until, maybe, a week ago. Was it a childhood dream for you?"
Billy grinned a little at that, although it was a slightly sad smile. He ate another forkful of disgusting slop before answering. "Some people might say so. I'll say I had plenty of dreams, not all of them normal, but..." he shrugged a little.
Moist was silent for a moment. "So your family wasn't expecting it?"
"My family still doesn't know. I ran away when I was seventeen – grew out of my old identity. I sort of grew out of a lot of things. Just not all the same things that other people tend to grow out of."
Was it growing that he'd done, or falling? One thing about Billy was that he could be cynical as much as he wanted, but he had the open mind of a child. He kept that trait into adulthood, despite what so many people would have guessed. Of course, back then, no one had guessed he might be a genius. No one had thought that maybe his imaginings might become realities, causing him to never let them go.
Maybe he was just a more world-weary version of the child he once was.
Moist looked like he was deliberating on whether or not he should ask his next question. Billy didn't offer him any signs of what he should do either way. Maybe, though, that was enough. The small, white-clad scientist was naturally approachable.
"It sounds like you were pretty driven at seventeen," Moist began tentatively. The supervillain looked up in response. He hadn't been expecting the admiration in his roommate's voice; it made him feel guilty at the knowledge that he was probably not going to answer. "Any reason that you turned to evil?"
Because it was what he was born to do?
Because he could never stop dreaming?
Billy had simply slipped away because even at his most shy and sweet, rules didn't mean much. Rules were fetters. Rules meant being trapped, to him. And he'd seen the world for himself, away from the small little place he grew up in.
Ironically, it was at the time when he was closest to his parents that he decided to leave them for good. He wished that he could protect them from everything, even the possible repercussions of his own actions. The consequences of being related to a villain. But he was no hero. Heroes weren't small, smart victims. And heroes couldn't fight the system, they were part of it, and they had rules.
Because Billy the adult was Calvin the kid, but with the ability to make the things he had once imagined happen. And he remembered the sunny days of summer in another world, talking with his best friend of the way the world should be.
"Because I needed to be, I guess," Billy answered, shrugging his shoulders. He smiled shyly at his new roommate, and left thoughts of another friend behind (except, he never did).
So, he grew out of his old identity. Those who looked for the boy with the spiky blonde hair would never find him – unless, of course, they happened to see the L.A. headlines in the distant future. But even by then, that boy was long gone.
And a certain stuffed tiger sat for years on a bed in an empty room.