Story: Billy

Author: G. Richmond

Warnings: Mild slash, character death (sort of)

Author's notes: I'm almost ashamed to admit that some bits in this made me quite upset ._. (Also, you'll be able to guess what film inspired this by the last line.)

I also seem to imagine this in the same storyverse as the 'Changing Suits' story.

"Y'know, Billy's been looking a little down recently…" Murdock's voice came thoughtfully over the breakfast table, and Face lowered his newspaper to peer over at the pilot. He was watching a point on the floor near the door as he ate his toast, brows drawn in a little in a faint frown. Face sighed softly, hoping Murdock wasn't about to have what they politely labelled a 'bad day'. The pilot had been out of the VA and free from meds for nearly four years, but he still had good days and bad, although the bad days were so few and far between now life was almost…normal.

But sometimes the delusions were so bad their life would be interrupted for days, although at least for most of it Murdock was quite happy in his own little world. It was only near the end of it, when reality started to come back and he realised the problems he was causing his friends and Face, that he got distressed, and Face had to reassure him that it was okay, they didn't mind.

But over time Murdock had overcome most of his psychoses, stopped seeing people and things that weren't there, stopped thinking he was people he wasn't. Over time he had let go of all of them, most just falling along the wayside to be gratefully lost and forgotten.

All except Billy.

Billy had stayed with Murdock through the years, making an appearance every now and then, more often than any other, and when all the others had disappeared, he remained. But his appearances were never that disruptive. Mostly Murdock would just mention the dog was around, and Face would occasionally find the pilot petting thin air, but Murdock was always in a good mood when the little dog was around, and it was never too much hassle when he went again. Face had even began to think fondly of Billy, and occasionally had to stop himself thinking of the dog as real.

"Mmm? Really?" Face asked, guessing the pilot would elaborate whether he contributed to the conversation or not.

"I guess I must not of noticed before, but he's starting to look old." Murdock was still watching that point, eyes slowly moving across the room. Billy was heading towards the table, "He's gotten real grey."

"Well, that's what happens when you get older. It's nothing to worry about." Face tried to dismiss and lifted his paper again, but he could feel Murdock's eyes boring through the paper. And he knew Murdock knew he would think he was a hypocrite; the slightest hint of a grey tinge to any hair would put the conman in a grumpy mood all day that not even the pilot's most persuasive techniques could coax him out of.

Despite that, Face smiled to himself a little, and Murdock said no more about Billy as they finished their breakfast in comfortable silence.

"Come on Fool!" BA was yelling at Murdock, and Face stopped to see what was happening panting for breath as he turned. They were running for the van to escape the men with guns that they may or may not have provoked in to following them. Hannibal had stayed behind in order to sneak in and have a not so friendly chat with their boss who was threatening the nice people that had hired them.

"No! We've got to slow down, Billy cant keep up!" Murdock was barely even jogging, despite the gun fire practically on his heels.

"Murdock!" Face was disbelieving, voice tinged with anger and concern, and he saw Murdock cringe a little, repeatedly looking over his shoulder.

"There's no dog there, Fool, you're gonna get us caught!" The growl in BA's voice was more pronounced than usual; he was frustrated.

"But he cant keep up…" There was distress in the pilot's eyes; he really believed his beloved dog was following them, "He's old. Face, we cant just leave him."

BA growled and turned heel, continuing to run for the van and leaving them there whilst Face tried to reason with the pilot.

"Murdock, come on." He pleaded, "You know there's not really-"

"No! Face, you cant just leave him to get caught or-" Murdock flinched and ducked as a bullet ricocheted off the wall beside him.

"Murdock!" Murdock looked torn, repeatedly glancing down at the floor (Face guessed Billy must have caught up finally) and then back to Face.

"He's tired Face, he cant run no more." He mumbled, flinching again as more bullets started to fly, and Face took a step back.

"Oh, for God's sake-" Fortunately at this moment, BA's van screeched around the corner and barrelled towards them, breaking just shy of hitting Face, and an angry face leaned out of the window and growled, "Get in!"

BA wasn't happy, and Face could see it in his eyes that he was going to tell Hannibal about it. And Face wasn't sure whose side he was on…

"Hey, I'm back." Face called out as he stepped through the front door, hanging his coat up on the peg next to the familiar brown bomber jacket.

"We're in here." Murdock's voice came from the lounge, quieter than normal, and Face lowered his voice to match and he went in.

"How is he?" Billy was back. And because of that they had all agreed that Murdock should sit out missions whenever possible. More than once his concern for Billy had put them in peril, and even though they knew he couldn't help it, and that Billy was as real to Murdock as any of them, they all found themselves getting irritated and angry with him. Of course, some were more vocal about it than others.

"He's been asleep for most of the day." Murdock was curled up on the sofa with a blanket over his legs, although it was most pulled to fall down over the crook of where his legs met his body. Face guessed that's where Billy was lying.

"How's he looking?" Face asked gently, going over quietly.

"Old…and tired." Murdock was looking down at where he could see the dog, brows drawn together a little. Face let out a soft breath and leaned down, pressing a kiss to the pilot's hair before going to start dinner. He knew Murdock would have forgotten to eat. With Billy there more and more, and with the dogs declining health, the pilot was too distracted to do much of anything for himself anymore.

Not that Face minded taking care of him, it was the distress in Murdock's eyes that made his heart ache. Especially since there was nothing he could do to help. He couldn't even see Billy.

Face was awoken abruptly in the middle of the night by the sudden jerk of Murdock flinging back the covers and flying out of bed. Before he could even gather his wits enough to ask what was wrong, the pilot was already out of the door, and Face heard his footfalls on the stairs moments later.

"Murdock?" The conman ran a hand down over his face before pushing himself up to follow Murdock, grabbing a bathrobe and pulling it on over his pyjamas as he headed downstairs.

"Murdock?" He asked again, finding the pilot in the lounge, staring out of the large bay windows and up into the night sky. His eyes were narrowed in upset, face taught, but the shift of his brow showed resignation.

"Billy's gone." He said quietly, eyes remaining fixed up at the sky.

"Gone?" Face stepped into the room, heart sinking in his chest a little.

"Gone." Murdock nodded a little, then added, voice getting quieter, "Guess he knew it was okay to go now." His eyes closed, jaw tightening.

Face let out a soft sigh and went over to the pilot, wrapping his arms around the pilot's waist from behind and resting his chin on his shoulder. He felt Murdock lean back against his chest, taking his comfort and support.

Face knew Murdock was distraught, Billy was as much a part of his little family as Face, or BA, or Hannibal, but Face knew that this was good. Billy was the last one, the last delusion Murdock had to let go of. Now Murdock could get on with his life, now they all could.

But they could save the celebrations for later, for now, Murdock had lost a dear pet, a friend even. And Face felt it too, felt some sadness that Billy was gone. He hadn't felt much these past few month, despite the mixed feelings over Murdock's increasing preoccupation and anxiety over Billy's declining health, but now it had happened, he felt the loss almost as keenly as if it had been a real dog.

"Where do you think he's gone?" Murdock's voice came softly and a little hoarse, eyes again on the sky.

"Hmm?" Face tightened his arms around Murdock and turned his head to look at the pilot.

"Where do dogs go when they die?"

Face smiled softly and let out a slow breath, turning his eyes out to the sky, "You know where he's gone. All dogs go to heaven."