Disclaimer: Neither Pushing Daisies nor Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog belong to me.
A/N: Written for shortestgiraffe as part of the xover_exchange
Billy never laughs anymore.
Moist can't tell you exactly why this worries him, but it does – even as he handed over the very nice bonus to the elderly vocal coach, strongly hinting that it might be wise to take the money and retire to some other town, one without recently bereaved supervillainous ex-pupils, it worried him. As the weeks drag on and turn into months, his worry does nothing but grow.
When Dr. Horrible's out supervillain-ing, sometimes his face will twist into a cruel smirk, mocking his hapless victim. Once he even managed a maniacal giggle, but after watching himself on the evening news he swore never to repeat that particular experiment – alas, that was one giggle too late to stop the "Dr. Horrible's Horrible Giggle" from landing at the top of the Top 5 Surprise Ringtone Hits, even out-doing the Ghostfacer's theme.
Not that he's out supervillain-ing that often. Robbing banks, plundering money transports, sabotaging big sports events, poisoning the water main with a unique mixture of hallucinogenics and aphrodisiacs – they're not really Dr. Horrible's style, but the League has mandatory minimum quotas when it comes to the classic heist types – and some fairly unpleasant penalties to be paid for failing to meet them.
Still, these days Billy spends most of his time in his lab. Admittedly, this is nothing new. For as long as Moist has known him, Billy has had a talent for losing himself in his mad science, spending days at a time forgetting to eat or sleep while building his rays or leafing through Tesla's diary (bought cheap on e-Bay) or his great-uncle Harry Matthews' secret notebooks. No breaks except to update his blog or daydream about Penny. These days Moist is perfecting the art of strategically placing containers of fast-food between lab equipment that sparks and bubbles and sizzles, so that Billy will eat without conscious thought – even if that means that sometimes there'll be glowing slime on his burger or the fries will be extra-crispy.
Moist prefers the singleminded obsession in the lab, though, because the truth is, when Billy isn't out supervillain-ing, or in his lab, or once in a rare while sleeping like a dead man, he's – not really there. He doesn't show any interest in anything, not even his blog or the infrequent giftbaskets from the official Dr. Horrible fan club.
Moist can't stand it. He can't stand looking into the face of his boss – no, his friend – and feeling like there's nothing looking back. Eventually he decides to do something about it.
When you're Moist, actually physically dragging anybody anywhere is not exactly an everyday event, but sometimes determination beats perspiration. Just sometimes. Of course, it helps that Billy isn't actually resisting as he drags him along.
That first time, Moist picks a diner totally at random, dragging Billy inside. Soon, they're ensconced in a booth, plates of Deluxe Blueberry Pancake Specials in front of them, while around them people bustle and chat and eat. Moist spends the entire visit terrified that someone is going to recognize the Doc, but nobody does. Of course they don't. People look at the goggles and the lab coat and the big fucking ray gun, they look at Dr. Horrible, not at the somewhat gangly guy that just devoured three portions of pancakes as if he hadn't eaten in a week. All of which doesn't actually occur to Moist before the door to Dr. Horrible's lab is safely shut behind them again.
Still, the impromptu outing seems to have done some good. At least Billy seems to have reclaimed a bit of his old enthusiasm – that's how Moist chooses to interpret suddenly having to smuggle letters into the hands of a mad scientist the Doc read about in Genius! – the smuggling part being absolutely necessary on account of said mad scientist being the private pet of an FBI agent. The idea of getting caught by the FBI is enough to worry even a genuine evil henchman like Moist, but he still judges the outing a successful experiment, one worth repeating.
Which is why, in between assisting with robberies and hostage takings and delegating the acquisition of the items on the increasingly long shopping lists that come out of the Doc's lab to the newly hired junior henchmen, Moist finds himself doing his best to research the local diners, pubs, bars and suchlike. Admittedly, not every outing is a success, the all time low being a waffle-house with poor service and cold food, where the only other customers were a small group sitting around a table and apparently arguing over some post-its. For some reason Billy spent the next night suffering from nightmares bordering on actual night terrors, screaming Penny's name over and over. But mostly Billy seems better, so Moist soldiers on.
The Pie Hole isn't love at first sight. Oh, it's as nice as Moist expected from the review he read in the Gazette, raving about the cherry pie, but lots of places they've been to have been nice. The petite blonde waitress brings them their pie along with a smile and a comment about lovebirds that leaves Billy spluttering and flushing. Still, the pie is delicious (and the waitress brings extra slices to apologize) and back home, Dr. Horrible makes his first blog post in three months.
Their second visit isn't exactly planned. Having spent the better part of two weeks organizing the heists all by himself and somehow managing to smuggle a mysterious metal canister that the good Dr. Bishop is most adamant that his young colleague absolutely must have past thankfully not very watchful FBI agents, Moist decides that it's time for a new outing. Only, when they arrive at the chosen pub, a sign proclaims it closed by the relevant authorities, and while Moist is still trying to think of an alternative, Billy's the one to remark that "that pie place was just around the corner from here, wasn't it?"
It's a gradual process, beginning with The Pie Hole simply becoming the place to go if whatever plans Moist has made go awry. At the end of it, they've become regulars, coming in practically every day for the special of the day, while Olive – the blonde waitress – flirts with Billy. Moist isn't sure if Billy actually notices the flirting, but at least he seems to be enjoying himself.
Sometime in the middle of the process on a grey, rainy day, just as Olive has put down their plates, one of the regulars, a brunette who spends so much time at The Pie Hole that Moist initially took her to be another waitress, walks in and heads straight through the room, pulling off her rain poncho as she goes. They watch as she walks into the open part of the kitchen, sneaking up on the oblivious pie-maker and dropping the dripping wet plastic over his head, then, as he whirls around, she once more grabs hold of the plastic and pulls the man down to plant a kiss on his plastic-covered lips.
Somewhere above him, Olive snorts and makes a comment that Moist could have sworn ended with "out of a coffin." Then Olive catches herself in making the comment, exchanges a look with another regular – a black man who more often than not has some knitting with him and sometimes stares at Billy a little too long for Moist's peace of mind – and then makes the sort of "oops, did I really say that" attempted save that anyone who has ever had a secret identity has had to make at least once. Not that Moist particularly cares about the particular secrets of The Pie Hole, although he supposes he'd be less serene if the menu included meat pies – last year he and the Doc attended a series of lectures on "Villains through the ages", and Moist has never quite forgotten the tale of Sweeney Todd.
Mysteries aside, they gradually settle in to a new routine. In the mornings they visit The Pie Hole and afterwards Moist will assist the Doc in various henchmanly ways, cleaning lab equipment, fetching take-out, accompanying him at the bi-monthly meetings of the League, spending long hours searching for blueprints of Stark Industries' top-security wonderflonium and unobtanium storage facilities and even longer hours at the library, trying to persuade the nice young woman with the grinning orangutan badge that not only should she somehow persuade the national archives of various foreign nations to dig out the incredibly rare and sort-of highly confidential papers of such notorious gentlemen as Dr. Kotin and Dr. Moreau and send them to some obscure American public library, but that he – Moist – should then be allowed to take the irreplaceable papers home with him or at the very least be allowed to photocopy them. In the evenings he sometimes manages to persuade Billy to come along for the Henchman's Union's twice-weekly "Special Villainous Screenings" of various superhero movies, where booing at the heroes on the silver screen is actively encouraged and henchwomen will sigh dreamily and tell their male companions about how romantic the hostage scene was (or chat with their girlfriends about the relative – ahem – merits of the hero and the villain, causing any nearby henchman to blush furiously.)
All in all, it seems to Moist that Billy is getting better. Admittedly, he spends even more time in his lab than before, but that's what an evil genius is supposed to do, right? Still, he's more than momentarily worried when the daily shopping lists one day include "two bodies, female, as fresh as possible", but performing autopsies and experimenting with animating the dead bodies with carefully implanted servo engines and stalling the natural process of decay with chemical solutions is all perfectly acceptable evil science, has been ever since the day of the great Dr. Frankenstein himself, if not exactly the sort of evil science that Dr. Horrible has ever specialized in before, but they do say that variety is the spice of life. Moist finds himself wishing that his boss would pick a different spice, because the med student that is his corpse contact tends to send him knowing looks of a downright lewd sort, even though he supposes that being thought a necrophiliac is a small price to pay for his friend's improved state of mind.
It's three days before a scheduled meeting of the League when one of the corpses – covered in crude stitching where the servo engines went in and smelling of the strangest mix of decay and lavender (the latter from being liberally stuffed with the stuff) – is persuaded to sit up, stand, walk across the room and do jumping-jacks, while Moist carefully documents everything with a camcorder. As it turns out, that's just as well, because the Doc hasn't actually met his heist quota, so they wind up staying up into the small hours, editing together a presentation, hoping that will be enough.
While the supervillains meet, their henchmen usually gather in the lobby, chatting, bragging, brawling and generally socializing. Usually Moist finds it very relaxing, apart from the odd attempted murder, but this time he spends most of the time staring at the door to the meeting room, straining his ears to listen for the sound of a furious whinny. More than once he manages to persuade himself he's actually heard one.
Finally the doors open and Moist can breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of his friend walking between Dead Bowie and Professor Normal, while the latter congratulates his young colleague for his intriguing plans for taking over the world with an army of cyborg-zombies. Eventually the Professor leaves, escorted by his robo-warrior-women, but Dead Bowie stays. Even when Dr. Horrible and Moist leave, having stuffed the lab coat, gloves and goggles into a sports bag, he tags along like a silent, unsettling shadow.
They decide to visit The Pie Hole, having missed their daily morning visit. Olive greets them with a smile that turns a little funny when she spots the third member of their party – not that Moist can blame her. Dead Bowie just sits there, an untouched piece of apple pie in front of him, and Moist finds himself wishing that he had some mind-control power, so he could make the supervillain go away – not that he's sure he'd dare to try, even if he did.
About the same time as Moist is finishing his own piece of pie, the pie-maker's girlfriend arrives, and as she walks through the room, Dead Bowie turns his head to watch her. She picks up a cup-pie from the counter, takes a bite and feeds the rest to her boyfriend.
Dead Bowie tilts his head.
Then he stands and walks over to the happy couple. It's too far away for Moist to hear what is actually being said, but suddenly all three of them are leaving in a hurry, trailing the variously surprised, puzzled and suspicious glances of both customers and Olive. The trio has yet to reappear by the time Billy and Moist leaves, an extra couple of fortifying pieces of pie later.
The next day they arrive at The Pie Hole at about their usual time, only to find the door locked and a sign proclaiming "sorry, we're closed". As they turn to leave, wondering what might have happened, the door opens behind them and they're yanked inside by what turns out to be Olive in an oversized apron, her arms covered in flour.
She is very happy to see them.
She has managed to drag Billy halfway to the kitchen before they manage to slow her down enough for an explanation. Apparently nobody has seen Ned – the pie-maker – since yesterday. She's tried pounding on his door, she's tried phoning him – nothing. So now she's all alone, trying to bake pies that Ned usually starts on early in the morning, and The Pie Hole should have opened an hour ago.
It's not so much volunteering to help as it is being forcibly pressed into service. Billy has already been equipped with an embarrassingly frilly apron, but Olive stops herself just before handing another one to Moist, eyes him critically and then ships him off to the market with instructions to pick up some crates of fresh fruit. Not that he minds – Moist likes to help his friends and lately he's beginning to think that Olive might be one, but he does find it a little strange that The Pie Hole apparently doesn't have fresh fruit delivered regularly. Oh well, maybe they do, and Olive just neglected to mention that their regular fruit delivery person has been hospitalized or abducted by aliens or something. She did sound like she had had a stressful morning.
The fruit errand doesn't take long, even if he does have to steal a car to transport the crates in first. Before half an hour has gone by, he's back, carefully manouvering to get a slightly too wide crate of strawberries through a slightly too narrow door, when suddenly there is a loud crashing noise from the kitchen. He rushes back there, strawberries quite forgotten, then stops abruptly just inside the kitchen. Olive stands surrounded by bowls and pie forms having fallen to the floor, as well as a few still steaming pies having suffered a similar fate. Her face is covered in flour, but even so, you can tell she's flushed.
Billy is standing about three feet away from her. There's only a little flour around his mouth and on the tip of his nose, so it's easy to see that he is very pale. For a bit everybody is standing so still that Moist wonders if someone hit the place with a freeze ray. Then Billy stutters something incoherent and heads for the door, leaving a red, sticky trail from having accidentally stepped in a pie as he rushes past a pretty mussed Ned still buttoning his shirt – apparently, he's been lured out of whatever hole he's been hiding in by the loud crashes from his kitchen. Moist hastily follows, paying little attention to the stares of Ned, his equally mussed girlfriend and a supremely un-mussed Dead Bowie.
Billy refuses to talk about "the pie baking incident", instead burying himself into his work like never before, something that Moist wouldn't have thought possible. The fresh bodies disappear from the shopping lists – in their stead, the Doc orders bodies that have been dead for months, specifying details like approximate age at time of death and method of embalming used. Moist stops visiting the dirty-minded med student and instead engages in a little midnight grave-robbing, steadfastly trying not to think of whose body would match those specifications perfectly.
In the past Moist has usually enjoyed spending time in Dr. Horrible's lab. For the lab of a mad scientist, he's always thought it was kind of cozy. Not anymore, though. The smell of decay is overpowering and the bacterial colonies the Doc is cultivating has Moist memorizing "The Zombie Survival Guide" in his spare time.
More and more often he finds himself back at The Pie Hole when his duties allow. The first time he walks through the doors of the place after the incident he's fully prepared to be kicked right back out by a furious Olive, but instead she drags him into the kitchen and starts asking questions. Fortunately, the heavily edited and somewhat creatively rewritten version Moist offers her is apparently good enough to satisfy her, at least for now, but every time he walks through those doors she'll ask about Billy. After a couple of weeks she begins to send him pies by way of Moist.
Back at the lab, the pies stand untouched and untasted, trying valiantly to smell appetizing while surrounded by the – shall we say - unappetizing smells of the lab. Moist feels kind of sorry for them, but can't quite bring himself to tell Olive how her gifts are received. Trying to distract himself he dives further into his own work, occasionally spending hours at the library, this time trying to persuade the librarian that she needs to get hold of ancient tomes of lore written by obscure foreigners on something that isn't, strictly speaking, vellum. He's beginning to suspect her of secretly suspecting him of using obscure book requests as an excuse to come on to her.
Eventually comes the day when he walks into the Doc's lab, busily sorting the mail – the usual fan mail, the latest edition of Genius!, an invitation for Dr. Horrible to guest-star in a special supervillain-themed episode of Mythbusters, and a brief letter from the librarian letting him know that Miskatonic University has graciously agreed to letting him make a transcript of their precious copy of the infamous Necronomicon, but only if she comes along to keep an eye on him "in a purely professional capacity" – and looks up to take in the unexpected sight of his boss, stark naked and covered in esoteric symbols painted in something that Moist suspects is blood. A space has been cleared in the middle of the lab, black candles placed at each point of a chalk pentagram, and a goat skull has been placed in a frankly obscene manner on top of some very dead girl.
Billy looks embarrassed. As well he should – necromancy is perfectly evil, true, but it's also about as far from evil science as you can get.
Moist has been called many things over the years, but forceful isn't one of them as far as he can remember. That would probably change if anybody else was around to witness him dragging his best friend into the shower and forcing him to scrub off what Moist really hopes is just animal blood. Once Billy steps, still dripping, but thankfully clean, out of the shower, Moist drags an only slightly damp shirt over his head. By the time he's dragging Billy out the door, the evil genius is still trying to button the last button of his jeans.
The Pie Hole is unusually bustling when they enter, but that doesn't prevent Olive from ushering them into a booth that didn't seem vacant two seconds earlier, and soon they each have a plateful of pie "made especially for you" in front of them. It's nice, and when the bustle dies down a little and Olive comes over to sit and chat, it's even nicer.
All good things must come to an end. Usually, the end doesn't consist of the pretty obese gentleman in the next booth suddenly standing up and then toppling. Later the post-mortem will reveal that he had a heart-attack and was dead before he hit the floor, but there is no way of knowing that at the time. Somehow it's Billy who finds himself on the floor doing CPR until the ambulance arrives.
Billy is still climbing to his feet as the paramedics are busily loading the freshly proclaimed stiff onto a gurney, when the door slams open and in walks Captain Hammer.
Nobody has actually seen Captain Hammer for months. Rumour has it that he's been undergoing extensive therapy – later Moist will learn that the rumours are quite true and that the Captain's surprising appearance has everything to do with his therapist finally deciding that he needs to "face his fear" – something that in Hammer's mind has morphed into "find Dr. Horrible and kick his ass". Which doesn't change the fact that showing up while Billy's just Billy and barely taking the time to proclaim that he's here to foil Dr. Horrible's latest scheme isn't just not sporting, but rather breaks each and every unwritten rule regarding the traditional arch-nemesis relationship.
Billy is scrambling, fumbling for his emergency miniature stun ray that Moist clearly remembers is still lying on the table back in the apartment. People scream and run for the door, while he and Olive try to pull the flying brick off Billy, but all it takes is one sweep of one of those black-gloved hands to flick them away as if they were nothing more than annoying flies. As they land next to each other, Moist hears a sickeningly crunching noise. He rolls over and sees Olive cradling her left arm.
More people are getting involved – the paramedics and the knitting regular are trying without much luck to physically pull the raging hero away from his hapless and apparently civilian victim, while Ned is keeping a more cautious distance, hurling pots, pans, bowls and hot pies at him as fast as his girlfriend can hand them to him. Apparently the flying kitchen utensils are more annoying than grown men trying in vain to manhandle him, because Hammer pauses just long enough to grab the nearest large object – which just happens to be the recently deceased customer, gurney and all – and hurl it straight at the poor pie-maker.
Suddenly Dead Bowie is there, having apparently been sitting unnoticed in a quiet corner all this time, grabbing hold of Hammer, lifting him by the scruff of his neck with all the casual ease – and none of the gentleness - of a mother cat lifting one of her kittens. Watching a superhero kicking and screaming like a spoiled child while he's being carried away by a completely unaffected supervillain isn't something you see every day. Moist almost wishes that he had his camera.
They all begin to pick themselves up. Moist and one of the paramedics carefully help Olive to her feet, while the other paramedic goes over to check on Ned. Having deposited Olive safely on a chair, Moist hurries over to Billy. He doesn't seem too badly injured – covered in bruises, but at least nothing seems to be broken or worse. The sound of sirens announces the imminent arrival of the authorities. Moist tries to make Billy come along before the police actually enter the restaurent, but his friend doesn't budge. Doesn't do anything except stare fixedly in the direction of the kitchen entrance, where Ned is leaning dazedly on the paramedic.
Fortunately, the police don't seem to realize that the hero's hapless victim is actually a notorious supervillain. Instead the officers talk of collateral damage and escalation and pressing charges. Billy doesn't actually answer any of their questions, just sits quietly as if in shock. His turning his head to watch as Olive and Ned are escorted into the conveniently waiting ambulance is the only sign of him actually noticing anything around him.
When they finally make it home at the end of a very long day, having not been able to talk their way out of going to the emergency room and then having to spend hours waiting for an intern to spend less than five minutes looking at Billy, Moist is so tired that he doesn't even bother to go to his own place, but just collapses on Billy's sofa, barely remembering to pull the plastic cover over it first.
The next three days Billy is unusually quiet. He locks himself in his lab and Moist has to spend half an hour banging on the door just to make sure he eats his by then cold take-out.
On the fourth day Billy is gone.
Moist searches for him high and low and makes urgent calls, but nobody's seen hide or hair of him. He has almost given up, when he follows a hunch to The Pie Hole. Inside he finds an Olive with her arm in a sling sitting and staring at the charred remains of a table. It takes some time to get her attention, but he eventually manages with the help of the pie-maker's girlfriend, Chuck, who walks in the door about five minutes after him.
Once Olive starts talking, she confirms Moist's hunch. Billy did indeed go to The Pie Hole. In fact, he had arrived in all his Dr. Horrible splendour, had shot the table with a ray gun and forced Ned and the knitting regular – whose name is apparently Emerson – to come with him. She doesn't know where they went.
Moist finds himself trying not to panic, as he desperately tries to figure out what Dr. Horrible would want with a pie-maker and a guy who knits. He racks his mind for any place the Doc might go, questions Olive as to whether he said anything that might give them a clue, any possible reason that anyone would want to kidnap Ned and Emerson.
Eventually it's Chuck who reluctantly admits that apparently Ned can bring back the dead.
Five minutes later they are in a car, Chuck at the wheel driving considerably more than the legal limit through the growing twilight while Moist shouts directions. They have to leave the car at the cemetery's parking lot. At least they don't have to climb over the cemetery walls, which would have been a pretty big challenge for Olive especially – the cast-iron gate lies half-melted, confirming that they are on the right track. Moist takes the lead, making his way through the dark cemetery, trying to avoid stumbling into any open graves.
At long last they hear the sound of shovelling and of Ned's and Emerson's voices, trying to reason with Dr. Horrible. They don't appear to be having any luck.
Moist would have preferred to sneak up on his boss, but Chuck picks that moment to stumble across a headstone and into a rosebush, so that plan doesn't last long. Instead he steps forward, thinking that he might have better luck reasoning with the Doc than some strangers.
Moist has never really been able to think of Billy as a supervillain. He's been his boss, his friend, the guy who was willing to take on one of the most pathetic henchmen ever. It's amazing what being in an eerie graveyard after dark, face to face with the business end of death ray can do for your perspective.
Ned and Emerson finally reach the coffin, and Dr. Horrible, who has ordered Olive, Chuck and Moist to stand on the other side of the gaping hole to allow him to keep them all covered, makes them remove the lid. The familiar smell of decay and embalming rises up to them and Moist dares to take a step forward to take a look at the girl who once captured the heart of a supervillain. Death hasn't been kind to Penny and neither has the discount embalming that was all her meagre estate could afford.
Emerson is ordered out of the hole, though Dr. Horrible has to make a couple of attempts before he can stop himself from stuttering long enough to do so. In fact, it takes so long that Moist is on the verge of hurling himself across the hole and at him, but he hesitates just moments too long. Then, when Ned is alone with the corpse, Dr. Horrible orders him to "bring her back". Where the poor guy gets the courage to try to tell the Doc one more time that it doesn't work like he thinks, Moist doesn't know. Dr. Horrible isn't impressed. He just adjusts his aim, pointing the death ray directly at Chuck, and repeats himself.
Ned sighs and reaches down to touch the corpse's cheek with the tip of his finger.
For a second nothing happens and Moist has just enough time to think that whatever was supposed to happen hadn't worked, but then the corpse is moving, turning its head to look up at Dr. Horrible, its lips parting, making a terrible wet noise that Moist would give anything not to be able to hear is supposed to be "Billy".
Moist has been staring at the not-dead body, but his head snaps up at the sound of a ray gun falling to the ground. Billy is pale, paler than Moist has ever seen him, and then he starts to scream. It's a sound that cuts through the darkness, a sound like a wounded animal, and it just keeps on and on and on – until Olive manages to get to his side, awkwardly drawing him into an embrace, and the screams turn to great wracking sobs.
Ned and Emerson help Moist fill the grave back in, the body once more very dead, almost making Moist wonder if it was ever not. While they work, he finds himself telling them the whole sordid story – no editing, no rewriting, no secrets. Admittedly, it's a strange story, but he supposes that people who apparently bring the dead back to life on a regular basis have no reason to complain about that.
In the end, their little excursion turns out for the best. Nobody was hurt and though Emerson grumbles loudly about it, everybody promises to keep everybody else's secrets. Olive even manages something that Moist has tried and failed – she persuades Billy to see a therapist. Admittedly it takes Moist a few days to find one with experience with the super-subculture – the one he eventually does find comes highly recommended by, of all people, Fury Leika – apparently he's been helping her with her anger management issues.
Things settle down, as far as they ever do. Sometimes they sit in The Pie Hole planning heists or reading newspaper articles about the "Hammer scandal". Sometimes Billy will try to talk Ned into accompanying him back to his lab for tests and experiments, but Ned is understandably wary and has developed a tendency to hide behind Dead Bowie – who seems to be spending a surprising amount of time at The Pie Hole for reasons Moist prefers not to delve into, partly because such thoughts lead to wondering about where Dead Bowie was that night, which leads to thinking about how things might have turned out if he had been at The Pie Hole when Dr. Horrible abducted Ned – when the subject comes up, until Olive can distract Billy long enough for him to make his escape back into the kitchen.
One day Moist is sitting and picking at his second piece of pie, idly wondering if perhaps it would be presumptuous of him to propose a double date of Olive and Billy, himself and the librarian, when he suddenly hears a sound that he hasn't heard in such a long time that it takes a moment for him to place.