It started simply enough, mid-way through April.
It was an observation at first, nothing more. It struck Billy one Thursday night, though there was nothing strange about it, nothing special about it. Maybe it was a little warmer than usual, his fingers were sweaty inside his gloves, the stretch of his goggles hot and tight around his eyes. Hot enough that you couldn't help but end up fidgeting, even in the half-breeze that flowed lazily through the streets at night.
Billy did most of his work at night, slipping past security systems, and second rate security guards, to redistribute the city's wealth and technology for his own ends.
Captain Hammer wasn't fond of the dark, so it was easier to avoid him at night. Though these days Dr. Horrible got the impression that Captain Hammer was avoiding him.
Dr. Horrible knew how to hurt him now.
Tonight he was half way toward his dubious destination when he noticed that it was much quieter out than usual.
The streets were usually at least making a show of foot traffic, around midnight, it was a busy city after all and it didn't stop. There was usually a liberal sprinkling of teenagers, drug dealers, prostitutes, the homeless, and drunken revellers making their way home in the dark. It was a background noise that Billy had long become used to, had learnt how to ignore, or how, in emergencies, to use to his own advantage.
But today he noticed that the streets weren't as full as they should have been.
The people who were out seemed to huddle warily in tightly knit groups, drifting from the dark corners to the sickly glow of street lights, the bright halos of shop security, and the wide exposed spaces of street corners.
Like they were afraid. Afraid of the dark, of the quiet little spaces, afraid of being alone.
The homeless people especially. A mostly directionless drift of humanity, that Billy never noticed before Penny, or chose not to notice.
But now he was forbidden from ignoring anything that reminded him of Penny.
It was his punishment.
Once he'd noticed it, it became somehow stranger, somehow more obvious. The warmth should have drawn people out, not kept them in. The faces he slipped past shrank away from him. Not in the slow familiar way he was used to, a flicker of recognition that drew them back rather than risk whatever strange anger Dr. Horrible was willing to mete out. No, this was quick, before he got too close, before he could touch them, grab them-
They'd slid from doorways, backed into alleys, and drifted across the street, watching everything. There was the sharp foul taste of mistrust on the air.
It made him watchful himself, made him more careful than usual, more cautious. He was aware that people watching made for more potential witnesses than usual.
But no one followed him, no one watched him melt the locks on the university's science lab, or steal inside. And no one watched him leave with half their equipment.
There wasn't a sound outside but the wind, and the steady low hum of the fluorescent street lights.
Though Billy couldn't help but feel like that sliver of strangeness was following him home.
He stopped on a corner, pushed his goggles up into his hair, and stared into the darkness.
But there was nothing there.
Billy had never been one of the herd, he'd always stood at the edges, railing against the mass's blind ignorance, while at the same time secretly angry and despairing at his inability to have what they had. To be part of the world, in the way he deserved.
It was horribly unfair to be human.
But being on the edges let you notice things.
When he got back to the dark of his basement, and turned on the television, he half expected to find reports of a serial killer on the news. It had felt like the only logical explanation for the cold dread on the street. The way people were looking at each other sideways, as if wondering who'd been slaughtering their neighbours, and why.
But there was nothing, nothing Billy hadn't come to expect from the news, with the same disappointed heaviness that had plagued his entire life.
Instead there was an email from Professor Normal in his inbox. A scatter of short sentences, typed in a hurry. It told him to be careful where he went at night, to avoid enclosed spaces, to watch everything. There was something out there.
But what, he didn't say.
Vague portentous warnings were common enough in the E.L.E but something about the tight paragraph felt clipped, unembellished, serious.
Billy read it again, quietly uneasy.
And that was when it really started.
He didn't go out for four days. The strange unsettling feeling of emptiness on the streets half-forgotten under a new-found enthusiasm for old projects. He'd been making progress on his Disintegrator Beam, long left on the shelf due to its massive power consumption needs.
Billy thought maybe he'd found a way to make a smaller power source safely feed back on itself, without overloading and blowing up whoever was trying to handle it...or possibly to blow up anyway in the event of tampering, by forces unknown?
It was a small obstacle, more than manageable for him, given enough enthusiasm, and careful thought. He so often failed to overcome obstacles outside of this place.
Ruthlessness, he had discovered early, was hard work.
Some time, near the beginning, he'd spent a day being Dr. Horrible, watched the world turn in a different way. Cruelty on the inside had always been more pervasive than cruelty on the outside.
He'd come home and taken the coat off, but hadn't managed to feel anything for an hour. Until he was half convinced he'd never manage to feel anything again, until the panic set him to hyperventilating, left him was choking unattractively, messily. Before finally ending the whole episode in a heap, shaking and exhausted.
He hadn't left his lab for a long time after that. Ignoring summons with the flat stubbornness born of honest self preservation.
He'd locked his terrified brain away from the world. Made it work without an agenda, made it bleed out every single one of his fears.
He'd built things in that time that he'd been proud of, things he'd never shared.
Machinery expected nothing of him whether he wore the coat or not.
The small victories of machinery had probably grown to mean too much to him.
He looked up through the blurry beginnings of a migraine, and a horrendously sore throat, to realise days had just melted away.
The room felt too small, hot and claustrophobic.
He should eat something.
But his body protested that it needed sleep more.
The next morning there was something on the television about student pranks, that had led to a fire, and a riot somewhere in Illinois, he was only half watching over his equipment.
But he'd been long used to tuning out societies many failures.
It took him all afternoon to set up a test lab for the Disintegrator Beam, some of the shielding was heavy, and the generator took longer to move into the room than he expected without Moist.
He left another message on his phone, because heavy lifting was what henchmen, or assistants, were for. But it stayed unanswered, leaving him to do everything, by himself.
By seven he was unpleasantly sweaty, and his shoulders hurt, and he was impossibly irritated. Also he needed more plastic sheeting. There was going to be a significant splash zone before he worked all the bugs out.
He brushed dust out of his hair and put on different sneakers, lacing them up too tightly and then re-lacing them in a fit of annoyance.
He got three blocks in the darkness, before he realised that there was no one on the street, no one at all.
In that one creepy moment, footsteps gradually slowing to a stop, there was just him, and the empty sidewalk.
Billy's survival instincts told him to very quietly, and quickly, make his way home.
The idea rankled, he didn't like the idea of slinking away. It had been a long time since he'd been willing to retreat while wearing the suit, and never while he'd worn the red, never.
But survival instincts were there to keep you alive.
So he listened to them.
Billy's phone went off at 10:51am the next morning, and caller ID told him that it was Moist.
He stopped soldering long enough to pull it off of the bench, and open it.
"Where have you been? I've been trying to get in touch with you for the last two days? Not to mention the fact that you said you'd help me yesterday and you-"
Moist interrupted him, and for a second it was so surprising that he couldn't help but stop talking.
"There are ghosts in the mall," Moist said quietly, and Billy was absolutely certain that he'd heard him wrong.
"Ghosts, there are ghosts in the mall." Moist laughed, but it was the juddery, faintly disbelieving, adrenaline fuelled, laughter, that sounded like it was teetering on the brink of hysteria.
"What? What are you talking about." Billy got nothing but silence, and then an inhale that sounded like it wanted to escape straight away as a noise that definitely wasn't laughter.
Moist was afraid.
"Just- Just wait, wait, I'll send you a picture, hang on."
The line went dead, but seventeen seconds later Billy's phone beeped.
He'd received an image, which he opened, half expecting something ludicrous, half expecting nothing at all.
It was a grainy picture, taken awkwardly from the wrong angle, but the footage was clear enough.
It made all the hair on Billy's neck stand up.
Ghosts weren't the only thing that started crawling out of the woodwork
The news reporters on television clearly didn't believe a word they were saying any more.
Billy was smart enough to pick up the frantic eyes behind the fixed smiles, and the smudged fear sweat under carefully applied cover-up. Filling the news with reports of ghosts and monster attacks obviously wasn't part of the agenda. Though how long they could keep up the pretence without it becoming delusional was anyone's guess.
He swivelled his laptop round for a comparison.
A report of a feral, half-man, half-wolf creature attacking a school in Vermont rolled across the bottom of the screen, along with a few grainy videos shot on camera phones of varying quality. The comment section at the bottom filled up exponentionally with every refresh.
It was only the first, alerts to similar attacks popped up steadily throughout the day.
Someone had uploaded a video that showed a poltergeist attack on a family in Maine to YouTube. It already had two hundred thousand hits.
Censoring the whole internet was clearly a more taxing prospect that the airwaves. And if even half of it was true, if even half of it was as real as it looked, then the hysteria was probably understandable.
Though it was unnerving how many people were throwing around the word 'apocalypse.'
Billy would have suspected drugs as an easy explanation for everything, but hallucinations didn't show up on film, and they didn't leave mangled corpses behind.
It was like someone had cracked open the door to hell.
A little investigation threw up a website, much linked by those in the know.
It was shoddily put together, badly scripted, and Dr. Horrible knew rank amateurs when he saw them. They were all enthusiasm and faux seriousness with 'evidence' of dubious origin, since there were no sources sighted. Along with their obvious lack of practical experience.
But a quick trawl through their comments suggested their theories and information were actually sound. If he was willing to believe the steady stream of visitors currently plagued by the dead. Or now no longer plagued by the dead, which seemed to be the point.
The rules seemed simple enough. Ghosts struck with iron would dematerialise, a fairly old piece of lore more commonly referenced where fairies were concerned, but perhaps the metal and its density affect their ability to coalesce in some way?
The time it took the ghosts to become visible and/or able to affect living matter again apparently seemed to vary, depending on their emotional state and their original strength. Salt had the same effect as iron, and ghosts couldn't cross a boundary made of salt. Billy naturally assumed that iron had the same properties? Possibly the reason cemeteries originally had iron fences?
Finally, burning the remains and then salting them destroyed the ghost. In effect killing it permanently? Or perhaps sending it somewhere else? Billy wasn't quite sure how that was supposed to work.
Dr. Horrible would want to experiment further, see how ghosts reacted to sound waves, electromagnetism, advanced excitation of the molecules in the room they were haunting.
But Billy didn't want to go trawling for ghosts. Accepting ghosts, accepting that ghosts were out there, still felt wrong to him, in a way that might go against current evidence but felt sharply, primitively real.
Billy knew all the ways that people could hurt you, but the dead were something entirely different.
He didn't want to think about the dead.
Either way it was very quickly getting to the stage where he couldn't ignore it any more, where he had to say something. Because it was all anyone else was talking about, and to ignore it was going to seem at best, ignorant, and at worst, tragically delusional.
He had to say something, he had to acknowledge it in some way.
He pulled the suit off of the hook on the wall. It was easy to put on now, probably too easy. It used to be all about the theatre, about the way it made him feel, the things he was going to do. It was about what it meant to be this other him, the smarter, ambitious side of himself that faced problems head on, that knew how to be afraid and still get things done. That knew how not to let it show.
But it wasn't like that any more.
Dr. Horrible had become something more, evolved in ways Billy never expected, he was quiet and ruthless and broken in a way Billy thought could never make the world better. Billy had always taken some comfort in his own intelligence, in the fact that he understood how things worked. But in Dr. Horrible's hands that intelligence was almost terrifying. Dr. Horrible had ideas, and a lot of them Billy didn't like very much.
It was about what he was when he forgot to care, and right after Penny's death- right after it happened, every time he'd put on the suit he wasn't- no that was a lie, he couldn't be anything else.
And he'd done terrible things.
Before he'd realised that wasn't what he'd wanted at all.
Billy had taken the suit back.
Dr. Horrible got to make whatever he wanted, but he never got to win.
Billy shifted the camera round, dragged the goggles down, he didn't let people see his eyes any more.
He also learned his lesson a long time ago. Don't blog about anything you planned for the future.
He spent an hour talking into the camera, about how humanity didn't deserve to survive, how it had had its chance and proved to be no match for unnatural selection.
Billy played it back afterwards, and realised he meant none of it. It was a rambling, frustrated monologue that sounded half broken and pleading, where it wasn't sneeringly disgusted at the certainty of humanity's eventual violent destruction.
It was some twisted, confusing mixture of both him and Dr. Horrible, and it made no sense at all.
He deleted the file.
That was why he'd stopped doing them live.
There may have been parts of Dr. Horrible he was ashamed of. But there were parts of himself he was ashamed of too.
Instead he left a short, brittle commentary on ghosts, what he'd learned from trawling through the news reports, forms and blogs across the globe. If they could be classed as matter at all, and methods of temporary, and permanent, destruction.
He wasn't happy with it, he sounded strangely flat, irritated at having to accept the metaphysical, also it felt patronising to him...but he eventually put it up anyway.
He couldn't stare at his eyeless face any longer.
A few days later someone mentioned 'demons' for the first time.
After that it got worse.
It took two weeks for YouTube to become a minefield of horror stories, videos disappearing at a rate of knots as someone, something tried to stem the flow. But they appeared again just as quickly, different angles, different viewpoints, shots from up close, and across the street, shots while people were running away, while people were falling.
People were dying on the internet while the government tried to pretend it wasn't happening.
All the blogging communities were clogged up so tight they were just a mess of code and 404 pages.
But the posts were all the same. Everyone was afraid, no one knew what to do, no one knew what the hell was happening.
Or, perhaps more importantly, why it was happening?
Billy didn't have the answers to any of their questions.
But the one thing he could do was find some answers of his own.
The research was frustrating. There were many varied and conflicting sources for information on destroying demons. The accepted methods for killing a vampire alone numbered more than a hundred. Werewolves there at least seemed to be a consensus on.
Dr. Horrible would simply work from complete and total destruction and go from there. Whatever could survive being reduced to the wet sludge of its component parts was going to win the planet no matter what.
Which Billy thought was unnecessarily gruesome, but also elegant in its simplistic honesty.
Dr. Horrible would have sketched out a plan for a Disintegrator Beam, and several high powered lasers. Which seemed only prudent, given the possibility that these things were more widespread than he expected.
Dr. Horrible believed in being prepared.
It was one of the things they could agree on.
He sketched out several, in the event the Disintegrator Beam didn't work, or jammed he could maybe slice a demon into enough temporary pieces to facilitate some sort of escape.
He had no numbers on the recuperative powers of demons.
Werewolves seemed to be able to regenerate their own skin and musculature within minutes, but he wasn't going to do science on guesswork and hearsay.
He had a feeling if he calculated wrong there wouldn't simply be a beating in it for him, though demonic strength seemed on par with the type he'd experienced from Captain Hammer on numerous occasions.
If he screwed up with this, he'd probably be fed his own intestines.
That didn't scare him as badly as it might have done a year ago.
He was better than he used to be.
Which was going to matter soon, because he'd run out of cables, copper wire and batteries. Not to mention anything else he'd be needing, if he was going to make half his blueprints a reality.
He was going to have to go outside.
He could almost pretend everything was normal for three blocks. Listening to the wind scatter litter across the street, the soft tread of his own footprints.
Until the wind started dragging smoke across the sky.
Some of the houses were on fire, they burned merrily with no sign that anyone was doing anything about it.
But there was more smoke in the distance, and the very faint sound of faraway sirens.
Though it could just as easily have been screaming.
The store was silent, though Billy in no way assumed that meant it was empty. A trail of packages and boxes had fallen from the shelves, and no one had seen fit to pick them up. Cans of paint leaked slowly on their sides.
In fact Billy had seen no one since he left. The odd drift of movement and lights in windows. Either public stupidity or some sort of lure.
But no people, and he had to wonder if they were listening to their survival instincts, or whether they'd simply already been eaten.
He walked quietly, boots making tiny squeaks on the floor as he eased his way up the aisles.
Billy knew better than to assume the quiet was empty.
And he was right.
The employees were behind the registers, a pile of bodies, all waxy skin and open eyes. The floor underneath them was bright red.
Billy stopped, sucked a breath that caught in the back of his throat, and lodged there. For a second he felt completely numb, wondering what sort of reaction he was supposed to have to something like this.
Because this wasn't a distant video feed of horror, that he could switch off, or look away from. This was real, and red, and close enough to touch.
But maybe there was no reaction for this.
He couldn't look away, disturbingly, horribly, he took two steps. He thought perhaps this was what real evil was. Maybe it wasn't about clever plans and revenge, maybe it wasn't even about machinery, and the need to control people.
Billy thought maybe this was what evil was.
Leaving people like this, a jumble of empty, broken shells, like they meant nothing.
They weren't all employees either, some of the legs wear jeans, and in the far corner a woman in red capri pants stared sightlessly towards the aisles. A young boy, no older than six or seven was tumbled over her, like he was still trying to protect her. Billy couldn't see his eyes but his skin was starkly pale, and there was far too much blood.
No one had been here to save them.
It wasn't right though, there wasn't enough mess, this wasn't the remains of a mess, tossed aside, it wasn't even the careful hoarding of food for later.
The bodies had been stacked here for a reason.
They were a lure.
A grisly tableau designed to stun most people in their tracks, to stop them in horror.
But Billy was not most people, not any more.
He turned in an arc, gun flying up in one movement.
He almost wasn't quick enough.
There was a white/red flash of teeth and wide open mouth before he fired.
Demons apparently expected a lot of things, holy water, salt, terrified screaming.
A sonic gun to the face, not so much.
It packed more of a kick than Billy expected, the blunt edge of the handle slamming into his shoulder hard enough to stop his breath in his chest, while the other end threw out an explosion of sound in one huge wave.
It ripped through the mouth full of teeth, and shredded it into pieces, red spraying outward in an bright arc.
The wave hit the shelves, tore through their contents, and then the metal brackets, flinging them against the walls. The glass in the windows just fell apart.
It left a hole in the outer wall the size of a truck, and set off all the car alarms outside in a lazy discordant mess of sound.
The hissing thing, that Dr. Horrible assumed used to be some sort of parasitical demon, possibly a vampire? was a smear of blood, bone and clothing on the floor. Rapidly spreading around the edges of his black boots.
He pushed his goggles up into his hair, and remembered, belatedly, that he was supposed to be breathing.
He did so, a hoarse, half-startled inhale that tasted like tin.
When he got back to his own basement Billy put ice on his shoulder and made notes on the sonic gun blue prints.
He thought the power was just about right. Though he'd have to make damn sure there wasn't anyone standing in front of it when he used it.
No one he wanted to keep standing anyway.
After that he turned the computers on, all of them.
Even the ones underneath his whiteboard.
It was part of a set-up that Fake Thomas Jefferson had installed for him, with feeds to CCTV and traffic cameras, and remote access to pretty much anywhere a supervillain might want to draw information. Or so he'd been told.
Fake Thomas Jefferson was very good at being whoever he wanted to be.
Billy wondered if even Bad Horse really knew a thing about him.
The screens and extra hard drives had always stayed dark, he'd never really needed that much information before. It had always been about building things, and getting his message out.
Billy had never needed to really watch the world before.
He turned them all on.
Power wouldn't be a problem.
Power was Billy's speciality.
An hour later he was reading things he wasn't supposed to be reading.
Reading about what was true, and what the government was pretending wasn't.
It was terrifying.
And, apparently, the military were 'unprepared for the nature of the threat.'
Billy wondered if anyone was.
It got worse, for all that it didn't quite seem real on the flat screens, the video feeds kept sending him updates.
The big catastrophes started cropping up, like cracks in the dam.
Places where they couldn't paper over the horror of it, places where holes opened up in the ground and started spewing fire. Or where buildings just disappeared without a trace.
A black car showed up at two of the disaster zones, not long after the chaos started.
As soon as it was gone the death toll stopped climbing.
Billy wondered if it was government issue, before dismissing it, there was no way in hell they'd drive anything like that.
The videos he found internally were clearer than the ones on the internet.
He was watching more of them than he wanted to, because research only took you so far, and knowing your enemies strengths and weaknesses was one of the most obvious ways to gain an advantage. But watching these things happen wasn't clinical, there was no distance for that. Watching a living breathing human being fighting for their life against something they never had a chance against. Until the person was just so much blood and pieces, sometimes not even still before the things started to eat them.
Billy spent a long time in the bathroom, with his face pressed against the cool of the mirror, trying not to be sick...again.
In the end he put the suit on and made Dr. Horrible watch them instead. He understood how messed up that was, understood that he was only feeding his own psychosis, and he knew he'd still see them at night, while he was sleeping. Because it was all his own head, all his own brain.
But Dr. Horrible could be angry and detached, that was what he was for. That was what he was good at.
And Billy needed him.
It had been 2am for a long time when Billy eventually gave in and got out of bed.
He wasn't really surprised that he couldn't sleep, he'd spent all day watching nightmares come to life, and he was certain his brain was just waiting for the chance to replay them.
He dragged himself to the computers, to find reports of demons made of fire terrorising a theatre in Beaumont.
Traffic cameras in the area picked up the same car he'd seen before, a long, a sleek line of black parked across the street. Billy checked the dimensions and discovered it was a 1967 Chevy Impala.
Two hours later it was gone, and the fire trucks moved in, turned the hoses on.
The theatre quietly smouldered, but the fire didn't spread.
He forced himself to stop watching the steady stream of death. At least for long enough to work on his quantum instability gun. Part of him was strangely insistent that he was just denying the inevitable, but the quiet work stopped him feeling hollow for a while.
On the fourth day he couldn't stay away any longer and instead of drifting to the gleaming line of his newest prototype he drifted back to the computers.
Over breakfast Billy learned that a well-respected priest in Albuquerque had taken half a town hostage, boarded himself up inside a church with forty of his followers.
The reports were calling them cultists, the rumour mill was calling them devil worshippers.
A small, but reliable, source on the internet said they were possessed by demons.
He realised, slightly bewilderingly, which one he believed. He couldn't help but marvel at how quickly your life could turn upside down, and inside out.
The Impala was back as well. It sat quietly on a street corner, looking both strangely out of place, and like it had always been there.
He found the feed from one of the cameras across the street, managed to get a grainy, but readable, view of the licence plate.
He ran it through the system, and discovered that the car belonged to one John Winchester. But the word 'deceased' ran beneath his picture in black text.
He stared at the picture anyway, since it was the only thing there.
Later that day the cult members were stumbling onto the street, and there was a smoking hole where the church used to be.
The networks were calling it a 'savage and devastating' destruction of property.
A steady stream of survivors poured into the hospital.
The Impala left the state.
So it was staying just long enough to destroy the threat, long enough to kill the monsters and pull the people out before moving on?
It was becoming clear that someone out there was trying to hold back the tide of blood.
Whoever they were they didn't stop for money, awards or speeches. They moved on, following the wave across America, stopping every time it peaked, and pushing it back.
But the problem with wave functions, was that there was always more wave underneath.
Billy tried Moist again, he'd been dialling it for days now with no answer, it kept going to voicemail. The bland disinterested drone that told him nothing.
He was half tempted to try and track the phone, as long as it was on he could find it. But he didn't have the right equipment.
He didn't have the right parts to build the right equipment.
He could probably do it on the network. But, he'd admit, to himself at least, that he didn't want to know. Parts of the city were already no-go areas. Parts of the city were just gone.
He sent an email to professor Normal instead, much as he thought he should work on his own initiative there were demons on the streets. The frustration gnawed at him while his inbox remained empty and silent.
He waited as long as he could, then sent an email directly to the E.L.E.
He waited a long time.
But there was no reply.
The idea that he was the last one left was too ludicrous to contemplate.
It occurred to him, in the darkness of his room later, that he was still on the wrong side.
He stared at the ceiling for a long time.
The next day he went back to the screens, felt slightly sick at the idea that he was watching the world fall apart.
The black car had become a strange anchor in the chaos.
Billy wanted to know who these people were, these people who knew enough to follow a trail of monsters, to hunt them down and kill them.
He wondered if they were even human, if they had some sort of...powers. Some sort of superpowers that meant they could do this while the world burned.
All the heroes Billy had ever known were self-deluded morons, more interested in their own sense of self-importance than the safety of the general population.
But this person...these people? They clearly cared. There was something complicated in that, something that hurt, in a way that kept drawing Billy back to their quest to save the world. When he'd tried so hard to make the world better, to make it work. Here was someone trying to save it.
Billy followed the car all night, watched it park outside a hospital that, last time he'd checked, was ground zero for an earthquake.
Or something else.
The CCTV in the hospital car park was still working, it was late but he managed to catch two grimy, washed out faces, one average height, the other much taller.
He half-heartedly ran the faces through the system, and then started in surprise when he found a match.
Dean Winchester and Sam Winchester, sons of John Winchester. Wanted for murder, assault, grave robbery, escaping custody, and a variety of other offences running from petty to quite frankly bewildering...desecration of a church?
It seemed like maybe they'd been doing this a while.
But he had names now, the men in the 1967 Chevy Impala were Sam and Dean Winchester, and they were trying to save the world.
The next day there was nothing on TV but the news, a scrolling mess of footage and interviews looped every few hours, with new stuff occasionally added in. Billy knew because he watched it all day.
It seemed the real world had finally made it from the net to the networks. The lid was off and once everyone was already panicking someone had to tell them to stop. If only so they could delude themselves into thinking everything was ok.
But too much of the news was honest now, no one was pretending it was all a lie any more.
He left it on as background noise, a grim loop of flat, dead voices while he showered, made himself something to eat, and updated his information.
And Billy realised something then, something that the map had been telling him for days.
The Winchesters were losing, the wave was piling up ahead of them like a supernatural tsunami, red smears of ghost activity and violence, crawling and spreading on the map like a virus where they were heading.
Like they were being herded, or chased.
It looked, for all the world like the exterminators were about to be taken out.
For all the world.
Billy stared at the map for a long time.
He'd always wanted to make a difference, and sitting in this basement working on plans for massively destructive weaponry while the world slid into hell was not the way to go about it.
And it occurred to him then that he hadn't just been working on the plans, he'd been building them. In-between the news broadcasts, and the horror, he'd been arming himself for war.
The realisation stole all his breath, and he was left shaking in the dark, coming to terms with the fact that he'd already decided.
That Dr. Horrible had already decided.
The red suit was a little conspicuous. But then that was the point, and, if half the guns worked, it shouldn't matter.
He shut his laptop.
Dean's back was pressed into the wall, brick cold even through the weight of his leather jacket. Soft enough for the damp to have gone right through.
Sam was six inches to his left, pressed back just as tightly, hair picking up dirty plaster and cobwebs wherever it rested.
"Did you bring the extra ammunition?"
Sam looked over at him, expression amused, and ever so slightly pissed off, shaded over with adrenaline and familiar enough that Dean could have answered the question himself.
"I always bring the extra ammunition."
"I'm just checking," Dean told him, which was a special kind of lie, the sort that's just an excuse for words.
Sam slid along the wall beside him as they edge slowly, but purposely to the end.
"No, you're checking up on me," Sam bitched quietly. Though his attention wasn't entirely on Dean. Which was only sensible, given where they were.
"Well considering what we're dealing with here I figure it's all the ammunition or nothing." Though truth be told even all the ammunition might not be enough.
Which was why they'd borrowed a little something from Bobby's shed.
Bobby had called them crazy, but in that soft, surprised way he had, like they were doing the right thing, no matter how fucked up the right thing seemed to get.
It was certainly getting harder, like they were trying to run up hill on a wet slope. But Dean was damned if he was going to fall. And he had Sam at his back if he slipped.
This time they'd found what they were looking for, sneaking in through a broken wall at the back, sliding through the pipes and corridors, until Dean was half-lost in the maze of the place.
But they'd worked their way deep enough to hit gold.
This was the hub, or maybe nest was a better word, because the thing that'd been controlling the foot soldier demons, and luring in the townsfolk was in the middle of the room.
A mess of flesh and bone, something that Dean would wager wasn't supposed to be anywhere but hell, a pieced together monster that it almost hurt to look at.
The people were still stumbling in, like unsteady sleepwalkers with glazed eyes. The creatures guarding the mass of horror let them pass, ignoring the sway of fresh meat in favour of staring outwards, watching for anything which didn't belong.
Dean didn't know how he ever could have thought those silent guards were people, their skin stretched out where limbs didn't fill it right, or like there was a mass of worms underneath it. Making low breathing noises, like they didn't quite know how to use their borrowed throats.
They'd fought one yesterday, when they followed it back here, and found this place.
It was never supposed to be a fight, but they'd obviously got too close, tempted it with the delicious 'eau de Winchester,' and it hadn't been pretty.
Dean had already been tossed by one of these things, and barely managed to drag himself up again.
Sam left it in wet, bloody pieces but he'd suffered for it, he'd crumpled like it had taken everything he had, and hit the dirt, skin gone white like all the blood had just drained out. Dean had dragged him back to the car while his whole back screamed at him. All adrenaline and fear-anger that, yet again, this was too big, too much.
They were good, they were really fucking good.
But they were only human.
No matter what anyone said.
Coming back today was a stupid idea, but it was just the latest in a long line of stupid ideas they'd had since the world went to hell, figuratively speaking. But this bloated thing was drawing in the entire population of a town, an entire god damn town, devouring them by the dozen.
And there was no one else.
Dean dragged his lighter out of his pocket, and snapped it open, lit the flame-thrower he was holding.
"Dude, I cannot believe you brought that."
"Jealous, Sammy?" Dean grinned at him.
Sam shook his head, which was his little brother lying his ass off. Sammy wanted the flame-thrower, he wanted it bad.
"We gonna do this?" Sam asked instead.
"Lets do this!" Dean didn't wait for a reply, he slid out from behind the wall.
The monster closest to them saw them straight away, and swelled disturbingly in its borrowed skin, lurched in Dean's direction.
Sam swung round for the one behind the thing in the nest, further away but getting closer every second.
The long, low calls they made were somewhere between anger and hunger, but they served just as well as a call for re-enforcements.
Dean had seen the number of them in this building, and he wasn't happy about that at all. But if they could burn the demon sitting in the nest all they have to do was get out, block the exits and burn this place to the ground.
It was a good plan.
It was his plan.
He turned the nozzle on the flame-thrower up, and the creature coming for him lumbered straight into the flame that poured from the end. It gave a high, painful shriek, but Dean didn't let it rear back, he followed it to the wall. Distended as it looked in human skin it looked worse as it melted, flesh running off of it, and scorching the thing underneath, the thing that seemed to give up trying to escape, instead it flailed towards him in the charred remains of its shell.
Dean's back thumped into the wall when he moved to avoid its charge, it crashed into the pipes, and fell writhing in flame.
The one he'd killed was replaced just as quickly by one of its friends.
He was pushed back through another set of pipes, stepping over a trail of thick blood that told him Sam had hurt one at least.
The slam of gunfire still echoed round the walls.
Sam was still fighting.
Two more came at Dean from behind the nest, faster than the first two, a steady, sloping pace that promised nothing but violence.
He showered both of them in flame, clothes and hair catching fire, and then he was ducking back under the pipes, back out of reach while they crashed into the walls, and the machinery.
He couldn't hear Sam any more, and he could see more than two now, more in the distance, the double doors, that led back onto the factory floor, bowing under the weight of them, as they flowed forward, caught between protecting the screaming creature in its nest, and crushing both of them to death.
The fact that Dean was working his way toward the nest seemed to make the decision that much easier for them.
There was nowhere left for Dean to go, he had to go sideways, past the new surge of flesh, or he'd end up boxed in, and though he rated his reflexes pretty damn highly he wasn't deluded.
He pulled the flamethrower up, sent a tower of flame towards the gathering throng, setting light to the closest. The thing in the nest shrieked loud enough to make Dean's brain want to bleed out of his ears.
He'd timed his run near perfectly, but they were just too damn close.
He was caught by an arm, just the edge, but it was enough to throw him sideways.
The gout of fire abruptly went out when Dean was slammed into the wall, he slid down it, face one long length of pain on the concrete.
He was still trying to get his hands underneath him, trying to rise, when there was the wet sound of meat moving, close and high over him, Dean rolled on the floor as the creature reared up, head and throat splitting open to let free its own monstrous teeth. It made a noise that was never supposed to come out of anything human.
And Dean knew there was no way in hell he was surviving this, he had nowhere to roll, nothing to use as a weapon, and less than a second.
So if nothing else, he hoped like hell that Sam got out of here alive.
There was a droning whine that went all the way through his back teeth
The creature- exploded.
It became a shower of blood that left a black-red stain in the air, that swirled in an arc, before falling and spattering his clothes.
The noise came again, louder this time, and Dean resisted the urge to put his hands over his ears. He got his knees and hands under him, and dragged himself upright.
The room was a mess of red smears, pieces of what looked like wet meat lay in darker patches.
All the monsters were dead, and he was damn sure he hadn't done it.
The place smelled like hot plastic, and electricity.
"What the hell?"
His shoulder felt like it was still vibrating, and Dean would swear he could hear that in the silence. Though nothing else.
He couldn't hear anything else, the whole place was quiet.
The nest in the centre of the room looked empty, and for a second Dean was crazily certain that the thing had moved, no matter how impossible that seemed.
Two steps told him that wasn't what had happened at all.
Because the nest was full of blood, like the terrible thing within had been liquidised.
Boots on concrete behind him make him turn around.
He expected to see Sam.
Instead there was a long figure in red, eyes hidden behind flat, black glass.
Dean drew a gun on him, because that's what he did when things didn't make sense.
The figure continued to stare at him impassively through the goggles, long length of gun held easily at his side, as though Dean was no threat at all.
His own gun stayed steady, reflected in black glass.
"Show me your eyes," Dean demanded flatly. Because that, more than anything else, was what he wanted to know.
The faceless man remained still for a very long second, mouth a tight line. Then the hand that wasn't holding the gun lifted, pushed at the edge of the goggles. They raised in one movement.
Dean was half expecting flat black, but that wasn't what he got. He got blue-grey, uncertain above a mouth that still looked like a sneer.
"Who are you?"
"My name is Dr. Horrible."
Which...wasn't a name at all. But it sounded like the best he was going to get.
"Your brother's over there," the stranger said flatly, and gestured to the pipes at the back.
Dean let the gun drop without another word, and backed up through the pipes.
Sam was unconscious, just unconscious, he checked twice, there was the quick slam of his pulse under Dean's fingers, that made him exhale messy relief.
"Jesus Sammy," he chastised, his brother looked like he was flung into the wall at speed, there was a red edge to his face, and his nose was bleeding.
Dean suspected he'd tried his mojo when the bullets ran out.
Sam wasn't inclined to come all the way back, and Dean resolutely didn't think anything about head injuries that wasn't important right this very second.
He hauled Sam unsteadily to his feet, arm pulled over his shoulder, while his own caught his waist and did, admittedly, a piss poor job of holding him upright.
Dean was going to be useless when the rest of these creatures tried to catch them leaving.
And he no longer had anything that could-
Dr. Horrible appeared at his side, looking coldly alien in his strange suit.
"Here," he said tonelessly, and handed Dean a gun, black, heavy plastic, warm against the soft edge of this thumb. "Don't point it at anything you don't want to die."
Dr. Horrible was too short to get an arm round Sam's shoulder, hell who wasn't? So he slung one round his waist instead.
Dean thought about protesting, but didn't. Dr. Horrible still had the gun that had just liquidised twenty monsters, and their unholy mess of a leader, and saved their asses. Also, judging by the sound of shuffling footsteps the rest of the building was already wise to their fate.
So they backed up, supporting Sam between them, long tall mess of him that there was. Back through the corridors they'd come through, half listening to the creak of pipes, and the angry roar through the walls.
They got ten feet before one of the doorways to Dean's left blew outwards, flash of wet-red skin, and claws, and he threw up the gun he'd been given, hoped to god that the thing worked, because, if he couldn't at least push it back with one shot, that arm was going to rip his damn head off.
The trigger was soft, smooth, and there wasn't so much a kick as there was a shiver.
The surging creature slammed to a halt, ice sliding across its distorted face, and reaching arm. It froze in place, skin going pale and hard as ice.
Freezing air curled off of its creaking surface.
"Holy shit," Dean said, honestly stunned.
"Cryo-gun," Dr. Horrible said flatly. "I made it after you fought those fire creatures in the theatre."
Dean didn't like that at all.
"You've been following us?" he accused, and it was all threat. Because the world was too screwed up for trust, especially now, no matter whether people save your life or not.
"No, I've been watching you blunder your way through the mess this world has become, saving people where you go, losing just as many."
"And just what the hell have you been doing?"
"Maybe I got tired of watching you."
"So you thought you'd come and join the party?"
"I thought I'd come to warn you that you were herded here. I suspect they were trying to get rid of you once and for all."
"Story of our life," Dean grunted. Then pulled the metal door open and half leant out into the corridor, found nothing but machinery and blood. He got a better grip on Sam, who was half way to slurred, unsteady consciousness.
"Hey!" Dean shook him as best as he could, was rewarded by just the slightest reduction in his weight. He shifted awkwardly in Dean's grip, nose bloody, eyes unfocused. "Hey, come on, I don't want to drop you Sam, but I'd really like both hands."
"M'okay," Sam told him, when he clearly wasn't. He twisted round to see who else was holding him, found the flat circles of Dr. Horrible's goggles, and made a confused noise.
Dean saw his hand fist in the red fabric of his coat.
"Still a big question mark over him," Dean told him. "But he did just kill all the bad guys."
Sam's weird throat noise sounded curious.
"Yeah, I know."
It was easier on the way out. Dr. Horrible was leading, and he seemed to know which way he'd come in, if nothing else. Dean didn't mind because he could see over his head, and because people he didn't know didn't get to go behind him.
Dr. Horrible didn't seem to care that Dean could kill him, he didn't seem to care about much at all. Except the shiny length of metal and plastic that laid loosely against his leg, lifted every time anything moved, any time there was a length of shadow, or where Dean waited just a little too long.
Dr. Horrible seemed to trust his senses if nothing else.
One moment there was a monster, then there was a wet burst of sound, and the monster became a stain on the floor. The way you'd always pretended monsters could be killed when you were a kid. The way Dean had always been taught it didn't work in real life.
But then there were no more monsters, Dean was kicking open the fire door, stumbling them outside in a rush of air and triumph.
It was freezing outside, but they were alive, and that was good enough. That had always been good enough.
Much to his surprise the Winchesters took Billy when they left. He sat unnoticed in the backseat, once Sam was slid in the front. Dean watched his brother while he drove, like he was trying to gauge the possibility of head injuries.
They stopped in a motel a hundred miles on, Dean steering Sam in through the doorway under a combination of terse questions about his head, and mockery concerning his ability to stay upright around demons.
Billy went into the bathroom and ran water on the edge of a towel, without having to be asked. Dean took it without a word, attention focused solely on his brother, and Billy drifted back to the bathroom, eased the door to- but not shut.
He pushed the goggles up and off, took off his coat and left it a tumbled mass of red fabric on the bath. The gloves he laid over the sink.
He looked at his face.
There was a smear of blood high on his cheek, it was transfer, not his own, he thought maybe it was off of Sam's shirt. It had been a long time since he'd had someone else's blood on him. He swallowed and stared at his face in the mirror, at the sharp line where the elastic of his goggles had dug into his temple.
It was strangely unnerving, he rubbed at it with two fingers and breathed, flaring condensation over his own reflection.
He carefully didn't think 'Winchester' over and over again. In the whole grand scheme of things, of everything that mattered, he didn't know why he was here. What on earth did he think he was doing? With these people who he didn't even know. These people he had all but stalked across the country via camera. Exactly how had he ever thought this would go?
In thinking that the right gun at the right time could make him one of them? Billy was painfully ashamed of how ludicrous that felt, because he clearly wasn't one of them.
Because he'd done bad things, for a while that had been everything he'd wanted. And for a while after he'd had no choice, because he'd lost everything else he'd ever wanted. He'd lost the one thing that could have made him something else.
The one thing that he would have been happy with, even if the rest of the world went to hell.
What was he doing here, with them, trying to pretend he was on the right side, finally. Had he really chosen at all? Or had he been pushed over there, when the wrong side, the brittle angry, empty side became too much for him.
He was honestly afraid that he'd fail here.
When he'd failed everywhere else.
To make matters worse, in real life the Winchester brothers were both vibrant and attractive in a way which struck Billy as completely, painfully unfair. They were almost a carved out perfection of what heroes were supposed to be, whether they knew it or not.
When he just looked dirty, smudged black and dark grey, cheeks pale under the drying flecks of red.
He wondered if he'd gone completely insane, if he was-
The door clicked open and he startled, expression, for a moment, probably scared half to death. He papered over it as best as he could.
Sam Winchester filled the doorway while his brother was all hard edges and movement in the room beyond. He was still holding the wet towel's edge against his head, hair curling wetly under the press of fabric.
It seemed weird to call him Sam, too familiar somehow.
"Dr. Horrible...is it?" Sam said carefully, there was a flicker of recognition in the way he said it. Recognition that, for once, made Billy's heart sink in his chest.
"The guns belong to Dr. Horrible," Billy said carefully. "And the outfit, I'm just Billy."
Sam looked at him like he was mad.
It had been a long time since he had to explain it.
"You have an alter ego to fight monsters?" Dean's voice was suddenly dubious and amused over Sam's shoulder.
Perhaps it wasn't that hard to explain.
But then Dean laughed and drifted away and Sam was left looking down at him, serious and unreadable. Billy had to wonder if this was the part where he explained himself.
But Sam just tipped his head forward.
"I'm going out for food, you want anything?"
He blinked, for a second completely bewildered.
The only money he had was what he'd pushed into the pockets of his jeans. All the large bills from the hardware store.
He tried to work out how to say 'no' when he was so hungry he'd probably be seeing spots in a few hours.
Dean drifted back again, slapped a hand on Sam's shoulder.
"Just get him whatever you're having Sam."
Sam rolled his eyes and then moved, gone like that hadn't just been about food at all.
Billy stared into the mirror for a minute longer, then left the bathroom.
He hovered in the room, he suspected there was no real reason for him to be here any more, but he couldn't make himself go. He hung uncertain, uncomfortable, while Dean Winchester spread himself around the room.
Billy had never managed to do that with himself. Bits and pieces of machinery, yes, but never himself. it was something to marvel at, if he was going to be honest.
Until Dean picked up the ray off of the table and pressed it into his hands.
"Tell me about this," he said simply.
Billy had a headache, the hum-sway of the car digging through his brain in a way that seemed to be trying to either send him to sleep, or make him feel sick.
He couldn't for the life of him decide which.
He thought part of that might be because the couch had been a very uncomfortable place to sleep, and Sam and Dean, for some unknown reason, were up just after dawn.
He'd wandered out with them to the car, without even really thinking about it, and now they were hundreds of miles further on.
And one had told him to leave.
It was a little surreal, being inside the car, being inside the story. And it was odd thinking of it like that, it was wrong to think of it like that. It seemed like forever since he'd watched the car through the small grainy screens in his basement. From the safety of his basement. And he still didn't quite know what had dragged him outside, what had pushed him towards two men he didn't know, who didn't know him.
Billy was officially insane.
The Winchesters had been silent in the front for a while, though they kept exchanging looks that clearly meant something. Billy took that to mean they'd been talking. He liked it much better when he could pretend they didn't know who he was.
"Exactly how much do you know about this things anyway?" Dean managed to make the question sound like an accusation from the front seat. Though whether he thought Billy himself was a monster, or whether he was still angry about Billy's surveillance, he wasn't quite sure.
"Almost nothing- well, I mean, whatever has been backed up by reliable sources. I'm assuming some myths concerning the destruction of demons are rooted in fact, since they actually exist. But obviously my background isn't demon-hunting."
"It's, umm, engineering right?" Sam's expression was carefully interested. Billy looked up at the rear-view mirror, but Dean wasn't looking at him.
"Something like that."
"So what? Super-villainry just started out as a hobby?"
"Dean," Sam's voice wasn't so much a warning as a suggestion.
Dean looked at his brother briefly, then looked away, looked in the rear-view mirror again.
"Seriously, how exactly does someone decide that they're just going to be a supervillain. Is it like a club, a bunch of bad movie villains get together, order pizza and discuss amusing ways to kill a whole bunch of people?"
"I never wanted to kill people," Billy started, awkwardly.
Dean stayed quiet, eyes flat in the mirror, he was judging him, and not kindly, but Billy didn't mind, he thought maybe he deserved it. Part of being out in the world was accepting what people thought of you, what people thought of what you did.
"You made a gun, a gun that could separate people into the atoms they're made of, and you thought that was the best you could do with yourself?"
Billy didn't think admitting that at the time he'd thought it would be a means to an end would help at all.
"That's pretty fucked up you know," Dean told him, before he could speak, though he honestly didn't know what he'd say in his defence.
Dean stared out of the window then, expression fierce and Billy was uncomfortably aware that he'd disappointed Dean, that he'd expected something different, maybe something better, something that wasn't what he got. It hurt more than he'd ever have expected.
"People also say that you killed Captain Hammer's girlfriend," Sam said into the silence, voice soft, and Billy couldn't judge the emotion behind the question, couldn't wonder what was behind it, because his own heartbeat sounded too loud. Drowning out everything, even the sound of his own breathing.
"Yes," Billy said quietly. "I killed her." Because he was fairly sure he was being judged, and there was no other option but to be honest.
He didn't look up again.
He wasn't brave enough to meet their eyes any more.
When Dean stopped for gas and drinks he didn't move, he stayed in the car and stared down at his own hands, because there were some things you couldn't change, no matter how much you wanted to.
Dean squinted in the sunlight and drained his soda, palm flat against the heat of the Impala.
Billy was still folded over in the backseat, slowly fiddling with his latest project. Which Dean suspected actually would shred, boil, burn or mangle any monster they come across next.
Jesus, how the hell did one nerdy social reject manage to make functioning science fiction weaponry in his basement?
When Sam had asked about the girl, he'd looked at him with hollow eyes, like Sam had just ripped his heart out, some messy, fucked-up mixture of guilt and regret, and both of them were spider-webbed through with pain.
Dean had left him to his silence,
Because faces like that, he'd seen a lot of them.
Most of them in the mirror.
Sam was shuffling next to him in the dust, sorting through his change like the secrets of the universe might be in there or something.
"It's what happens when someone of above average intelligence is pretty much ignored by society. They crave power, they crave approval-"
Dean stared at him.
"Yeah? So, according to you pretty much every nerd ever should turn out to be a supervillain."
"That's not what I meant, look I just-"
"He kind of reminds me of you," Dean told him.
The expression on Sam's face was easy to read for a second, it flickered through confused, wary, irritated, and then dubious, but just before he looked away there was a flash of hurt.
Which proved he maybe didn't quite understand why.
"Look," Sam said. "The only thing we really know about this guy is that he used to be a supervillain, and me personally, I'm not all that sure about the used to be part of that."
"Yeah," Dean said. "Yeah, I know, but he's people Sam. This used to be about people and now it seems to just be about the monsters, and maybe that's how I'm rating people now? On how much of a monster they are."
"We were all people once," Sam pointed out.
"Not everyone remembers that," Dean said quietly.
He stared at Sam for just long enough for him to exhale roughly, and give in.
"The thing about people, Sam, people get second chances." Dean slid round the car, pulled the driver's side door open.
Sam was hovering, and Sam Winchester had a lot of body to hover with. It made Billy wonder if attack robots were really a possibility, and he thought he realised now why Gort was so tall. It really was very imposing. Billy wondered how likely it was that he'd get to see Sam Winchester loom over Captain Hammer one day. Of course, he wasn't even sure Captain Hammer was still alive...news reports on some of the so-called heroes had been conflicting.
Sam stopped looming, slid into the seat across from him. He managed to look just as tall sitting down. Power of personality, or possibly just height and enthusiasm. Though Billy never got the feeling Sam wanted to punch him in the face. Which he was more used to from powerful personalities. Sam loomed in a strangely awkward, almost protective sort of way, even when he felt angry, it was an interesting contrast.
Billy thought Sam was made of quiet contrasts. It made him interesting, though it made him unpredictable too. But for all that Billy's instinct wanted to lean away from him, he thought the younger Winchester was the softer, more uncertain brother.
"What are you doing?" Sam's voice was intrigued, honestly interested.
"Re-configuring the sensors to work again. They're on a timer, for safety, in case someone other than me tries to use the rays, for...something that isn't good.."
Sam watched him for a long minute.
"Dr. Horrible wanted to put some sort of fail-safe booby trap mechanism in, so only I could use them. If anyone else tried they'd...do something else instead. Something fairly horrible."
Sam laughed through his nose. He sounded genuinely amused.
"That seems a little..."
"Gruesome?" Billy suggested, he shifted in his seat, looked at Sam briefly before looking back down at the mess of wire and pieces of glass.
"I was going to say paranoid," Sam admitted.
"Some of them are pretty unique, and they could do a lot of damage." Billy scratched awkwardly at the back of his wrist. He wasn't really used to having conversations with...heroes? Possibly people? It had been a long time since he'd simply talked to somewhere. He was uncomfortable with how awkward he sounded. "Dr. Horrible has a certain flare for the dramatic," he admitted.
Sam made a noise, a soft, intrigued noise.
"You know you talk about your alter ego like he's a whole different person?"
Billy looked up at him, but Sam's expression was simply curious.
"Sometimes I suppose I think of him like that."
"Is that easier?" Sam's voice had a low soft quality, almost hypnotic, but Billy had never liked talking about himself. Dr. Horrible was easy, he has an agenda. Billy was...Billy was messier, both less and more of him at the same time. And everything always came out wrong.
"It scares me sometimes-" he said honestly, didn't even realise how honest until it was out, and he couldn't quite take it back, so he let the rest slide out too. "It scares me when I remember that he's me."
"You keep him anyway?"
Billy frowned, opened his mouth to protest that there was no keeping and no getting rid of him, he was just there. He'd always been there, not so well formed, not so bright and ruthless, but in some way, he'd always been there. But he knew that would be the wrong thing to say. He knew that would come out wrong and he didn't want Sam to look at him like that. Like he thought he might be broken.
He thought perhaps that Sam naturally worried about people, and it surprised him how much that made him want Sam to believe that he knew what he was, and what he'd done.
"He's good at what he does."
"You're good at what you do."
Billy didn't know what to do with the compliment once it was handed to him, so he ignored it, wondered if that made him seem rude.
"He does what he's supposed to do." It was a quiet protest, and it felt insubstantial in a way that almost made him want to cringe away from his own words.
"The things Dr. Horrible wants to do-" Sam's voice had gone quiet, careful. And Billy had heard that tone of voice before too.
"I'm not schizophrenic," he said carefully, "I know- I know the difference between right and wrong, he's still me, and I'm responsible for everything he does. I'm perfectly aware of that."
"Look, Sam started. "I'm not trying to push, I just-"
"I know, believe me, I know." Because Dr. Horrible was more of a defence mechanism against the fucked up realities of the world than he ever was before.
It was why Billy let him do a lot of things.
But he didn't tell Sam any of that.
"It's not like that," he said instead. He hoped it sounded more convincing to Sam than it did to himself.
Sam didn't push though.
He settled in his chair, hands stretched out among the electronics, he fiddled carefully with a piece of wire, long hands strangely close to Billy's own where he worked. The moved lazily, fingers tumbling back and forth, but never straying too close, never touching anything Billy might need.
Even if, maybe, he sort of wished they would.
It had been a long time since he'd shared what he did. Since anyone had asked him things, things he could answer and not feel ashamed.
"I was wrong about you," Sam said quietly instead, shaking his thoughts apart. Though he was smiling, so Billy had to hope that he'd discovered he was wrong in a good way. Forced himself not to dwell on the fact that it meant Sam had obviously had a problem with him before.
He had no idea what to say.
But then Sam laid his hands flat on the table, stood up and disappeared back outside.
Billy stared at the door for a long minute, then stared down at his pieces. It took him a long second to remember what he was doing.
The clock told him he'd been making circuits for an hour and a half, when he noticed that he was no longer alone.
Dean was watching him from the arm of the couch, half smile painted on his face.
Billy eyed him sideways
"You were singing," Dean said, and he wasn't even pretending he wasn't amused now. Billy thought his entire face was probably red.
Billy had made the backseat of the Impala his own, pushing aside Sam and Dean's coats and laying out his pieces in careful order. It was in no way a laboratory, but it was the best he'd get. So he pieced together what he could on the long stretches of road.
He was forbidden from soldering, or handling anything that was toxic, or electrically charged. But Billy understood, he thought the Impala was the last precious thing Dean had.
The last precious thing that wasn't Sam.
The things he made for the hunting, the rays, the heat vision goggles, the random accessory fit only for a certain monster, he thought the Winchesters saw them as resources, resources in the fight against evil. But Billy didn't mind, Billy was more than satisfied being the person with the ability to provide what the Winchester needed, in fact, the thought was strangely comforting.
It had been a long time since anyone needed him.
Billy had never saved people before, he'd never pulled people out of rubble, he'd never run breathless from a monster in the dark with someone holding his hand like it was the most real thing in the whole world.
Violence had never meant a chance to win before.
So he was happy to make things for as long as the Winchesters needed them.
Dean held the wheel, fierce and possessive while Sam lounged in the passenger seat, taking up long lengths of space while pretending he wasn't.
Billy was wearing one of Sam's shirts with the sleeves rolled up. It was amazing how fast the Winchesters went through clothes, and, Billy supposed, him too now?
The shirt was the only thing more or less spare, until they rolled through a town with a department store, that hadn't been looted or gutted. He didn't think the earth-toned plaid was very flattering on him.
He felt a little like he might lose his hands, every time he replaced a piece of wiring or changed a battery, the sleeves gradually tumbling from elbows, to wrists, and then further.
Still, that wasn't the only reason it felt strange, the material smelled like Winchester, every time he turned his head, his nose brushed the material and reminded him that he wasn't wearing his own clothes.
"Hmm," he looked up.
"What do you have back there that would take out a banshee?"
Billy pulled a face, then shook his head.
"I don't know, you're the ones with the experience," Billy reminded them. "You tell me how and I make it work."
Dean raised an eyebrow at him in the mirror. But Sam was the one who twisted around, watched his hands until Billy became self-conscious, movements slowing.
"Just like that?" Dean said eventually. "We say 'help build us a gun that could freeze people in time' and you just do it."
"Yes," Billy said honestly, though the question evoked a memory that slid painfully through him. "Just like that. Is that what we need?"
Dean shook his head, the driver's seat squeaking when he shifted in it, he looked at Sam, a long, measured look that Billy didn't have the history to read.
"Dude, you could really build me a gun that could freeze people in time?"
"Seriously, I'm starting to see why someone might decide on a life of crime."
"I could build it for you," Billy started tentatively, because he didn't want the brothers to fight.
"Dean, we're not going to need a gun that freezes people in time!"
"Spoilsport," Dean complained, though the look he threw Billy in the mirror suggested he hadn't dropped the idea.
Billy decided that if Dean Winchester wanted a freeze ray, then Dean Winchester would have a freeze ray.
They followed the wave, which Dean thought was a pretty accurate description for the spread of filth that kept flowing in like the tide. They followed it to an apartment building, and though the quiet, brightly lit exterior seemed innocent enough the higher floors were wreathed in black smoke. It swirled and ebbed around the windows, in a way which wasn't innocent at all.
Like a boatload of demons were up there, having some sort of party.
Dean was overwhelmed with the need to gatecrash.
But all the doors were locked up tight, and the windows utterly refused to break. Some sort of complicated mojo that Dean took as a personal insult.
Billy had spent the last twenty minutes in the back of the Impala, sliding apart pieces of his guns, and then adding pieces, putting them back together in new and bewildering ways, while Dean and Sam stood on the empty street, breathing the crisp air.
He'd thought about asking what he was doing, but Dean was becoming used to being surprised and bewildered, by the sheer amount of impossibly insane things Billy could do with technology, and enthusiasm.
It took him another five minutes before he was out of the car, hastily constructed mess of plastic and electronics held at his side.
Though Dean had faith enough in his skill to be reasonably sure it wouldn't explode.
Dean waited until he was within touching distance before asking.
"So genius, how are we getting in?"
"We're going through the wall," Billy said simply.
"You're going to blow out a wall?"
"You said stealthy," Billy said carefully, and an eyebrow shifted over the rim of his goggles. "I didn't think blowing out a wall would be stealthy, so I went for something with phase shifting instead."
Before Billy could explain what the hell that was, Sam spoke.
"We're going through the wall?"
"We're going to what?" Dean turned to Billy, half incredulous. "You can do that?"
"I can do that," he said simply.
But seriously, through the wall?
Dean reached over, pushed Billy's goggles up onto his forehead.
"Are you sure this isn't a stretch even for you?"
"It's a fairly simple matter of sending the molecules that make up the wall into quantum instability, effectively rendering it non-existent for as long as it takes to step through."
Dean shook his head.
"Yeah, that didn't sound simple at all."
"We all have our unique skills."
"Yeah, you're pretty unique alright." Dean dragged the goggles down, covering his eyes again.
But Dr. Horrible was smiling.
Dean took a moment to be smug about that.
Sam looked about an inch away from losing his shit right there in the street.
Dean would admit that the fleeting, and incredibly unpleasant, mental image of him getting stuck in the middle of a wall was not one of the nicer things on his list of 'gruesome ways in which I might die' but at least it was unique.
"We're not gonna get stuck inside a wall," he reassured his brother. Then realised he wasn't really the best person to be making assurances on quantum instability, because no one would believe him. He nudged Billy, making the gun jiggle. "Right? I mean, that's not gonna happen?"
"That's not going to happen," Billy said smoothly, and Dean believed him.
The demons guarding the elevators, and entrances, weren't expecting them.
What with the whole coming through a wall part of the plan.
Dean got the knife in the first one's back, while Sam took care of the other.
The apartments upstairs were a different matter.
Because there was no way they were leaving this place as Demon Grand Central.
"If everyone in this building is possessed it's going to be damn near impossible to exorcise them all," Sam warned. Like they hadn't gone in, hot, hard and outnumbered before.
"Not necessarily," Billy said quietly, he was still fiddling with the dials on his gun, but then he looked up, set it down by the wall, briefly.
"You have a plan?" Sam asked.
"I think you might need this," Billy drew a long solid ray gun out from under his coat, held it out to Dean.
"What is it?"
"It stops people in time," Billy said simply and Dean hadn't been so tempted to hug someone, in a spontaneous and embarrassing way, for a very, very long time.
"Dude," he said instead, and took it like it was made of solid gold.
"You realise you're just encouraging him," Sam complained.
Though clearly he was just pissed because he didn't have a ray gun that stopped people in time.
It turned out that demons frozen in time were much, much easier to exorcise.
Though it took a while, and involved tromping round the apartments like door to door salesmen.
But Dean could live with that.
Though to be fair it also involved a lot of bible reading. Which he let Sam do most of, since he loved his Latin so damn much, and hell, Billy was so full of science that Dean wasn't even sure he could exorcise a demon.
But Dean had a job to do already, holding on to the freeze ray, occasionally freezing people in time.
Until they've been through pretty much every door in the place.
They came back down the stairs, or maybe tromp was a better word?
Then they came back through the wall, into the crisp night air.
Which was when their plan got screwed up.
Something hit Sam's from behind, throwing him into the wall of the building, and this one was solid, the impact sent him tumbling to the ground
Billy's arm moved, but he didn't have the reflexes up close, he got shoved out of the way slamming into a car hard enough for his elbow to smash one of the windows.
Dean was up in its face, as fast as he could possibly be, but it was strong, it was really fucking strong. He didn't realise how strong until it threw him. He went skidding along on the asphalt, coat taking the brunt of the impact, but he lost a good deal of skin on his hand, and most of the left side of his jeans.
Billy hit the wall with a sound Dean heard from thirty feet away, and then the thing had Sam by the throat, hauling him up, and choking him
Black leaked from his eyes in insidious waves. Like he was so old not all of him fit inside his borrowed skin.
The freeze ray was tumbled on the floor ten feet from Dean's head and he scrambled after it.
But when he got close he found it cracked right down the middle, he left it, went sprinting back toward where his brother was dangling several off of the floor.
He sent two fists into the middle of the thing's spine, just hard enough that it dropped Sam into a coughing heap.
But when it turned, arm flung out, he had no way to brace against that much force. It sent him flying like he weighed nothing at all.
Before turning back to where he left Sam, sprawled on the floor.
Straight into Billy's quantum instability gun.
The demon tried to flee, smoke sliding out in a long, jerky gout, but it was already tearing itself apart, sloshing out and hitting the walls. It hit there in wet spatters, smeared into nothing. As if even hell had to obey the laws of physics. Until all that was left of both it, and its borrowed skin, was a mess of black-red sludge.
"Quantum instability is inherently unstable," Billy said simply. Then looked vaguely embarrassed, before leaning down and helping Sam to his feet.
"Thanks," Sam said.
Dean thought he might know what it felt like to be in a comic book. His heart gradually stopped slamming in his chest, calmed to something more sensible.
He followed Billy and Sam to the car, Sam was brushing gravel off of his jeans and Billy was already fiddling with what looked like the battery pack on his gun, in a way that Dean was fairly sure wasn't as haphazard as it looked.
Dean went to fetch the broken freeze ray, picking it up with a noise of tragic loss, because for a couple of hours that had been one of the coolest things he'd ever held.
He walked back to the car slowly. Sam threw himself in the passenger seat while Billy leant against the door. He pushed the goggles up, and scratched under one of the lines of elastic.
Though now Dean was close enough to see that he had a nasty cut across his cheek, that he seemed not to have noticed, and the way he was holding the gun suggested being slammed into the wall, or the car, had done more damage than he was admitting too. His arm movements were careful, and measured.
"You're bleeding," Dean told him.
Billy lifted a hand, and touched his face, he didn't wince when he encountered the cut, but his cheek twitched, like he was assessing how badly he was hurt. Dean thought he'd had worse, no, he was certain he'd had worse. The way he reacted to violence, to the threat of violence. And he took a punch better than some of the people who'd been killing monsters all their lives. For all that he looked like he might blow away in a high wind sometimes.
Dean couldn't help but wonder how enthusiastically Captain Hammer had pursued Dr. Horrible.
He held out the line of cracked plastic, almost apologetically.
"The gun's broken," his voice made it sound like as much of a loss as it felt.
"I can fix it," Billy said simply. "That's what the guns are for after all, to fight monsters."
Dean thought that yes, that was what they were for.
"Besides," Billy continued. "Sam's not broken, and that's all that matters."
Dean held his breath, watched Billy slide himself awkwardly into the backseat.
He walked round the car, let himself fall into the front seat.
Sam was grumbling about demons that snuck up on people, and Billy was now doing something complicated with the broken pieces of Dean's toy.
Dean felt like something had changed.
Though he couldn't quite work out what.~~~
Billy turned the light on in the bathroom, and it was just a little past comfortably bright.
He very carefully pushed his goggles off, slid his coat down his arms and his shirt over his head. The movement twisted and pulled something, which protested angrily, and he very carefully lowered his arm again. His whole arm, and his shoulder, hurt like hell, a bone deep ache and there was a redness that suggested his bruises tomorrow were going to be spectacular.
He'd almost forgotten what it was like to see his own skin in shades of purple, green and brown. Like some strange echo reminder of another life. When the world was different, when he was different.
He hadn't broken anything though, hadn't fractured anything, or torn a muscle. It would just be a ragged palette of colour on his skin, and he breathed relief, heavy, soft relief, leant on the sink and blinked tiredly at his own reflection.
He started when Sam appeared over his shoulder.
"Easy," Sam said under a soft laugh, that was more apologetic than amused.
For someone so tall Sam was very good at sneaking up on people.
Billy met his eyes in the mirror, then lowered them, to the red smear of pain across his chest and shoulder. And Billy felt immediately, painfully, self-conscious. His arm twitched, unpleasantly, when he stalled it from trying to put his shirt on again.
"That's not gonna be pretty tomorrow." Sam's voice was soft. But he didn't touch, he did nothing but stand there.
When he finally looked up again he was frowning.
"You keep saving us," he said quietly. "We weren't anything to you, and yet you're still doing all of this." His voice was soft, like he didn't, in any way, still suspect some sort of agenda. Like he simply wanted to know why.
"You're the good guys," Billy told him, and it should have come out sounding simplistic and ridiculous. Because he'd always fought against exactly that.
Instead it was just the truth, and that was all it sounded like, and all the emotion that laid underneath it.
"I saw you, I saw you travelling across the country, killing things, saving people when everyone else was falling apart." Billy shrugged, awkwardly. "I thought I could help. I thought I should help."
"So this is your redemption?"
Billy met Sam's eyes in the mirror again.
He wanted to say yes, he wanted to ask if it was enough, but he said nothing, because he couldn't get anything else out.
Sam took another step.
"I didn't mean it like that," he said softly. "I don't mean it badly at all, I just-. We appreciate it, we appreciate you, sometimes I think you don't know that, and Dean doesn't really...." Sam shook his head. "I just thought you needed to know that."
The words jumbled together, into something that made absolutely certain Billy couldn't speak at all. Staring at Sam's face, all softness and honesty, it was almost impossible to not believe.
Sam reacted to his silence in a way he wasn't expecting. He came closer still, close enough that Billy could feel his warmth against his bare back, a startlingly unexpected sensation, that his skin reacted to. And he moved away on reflex, before-
Sam's hands caught his waist, and Billy was so surprised by fingers on bare flesh that he stilled completely. The hands very slowly slid to his hipbones, settled there, as if to keep him in place. Sam's fingers were still shifting, almost imperceptibly, though Billy could feel it, he could feel every minute twitch, could feel the way his skin tingled on every tiny slide.
And suddenly his heart was beating much too fast, and he was sure he was reading the situation completely wrong.
Billy was briefly, horribly lost without sharp red line of his coat. Because he couldn't do this on his own, he'd never been able to do this, and though Dr. Horrible almost certainly didn't know how to do it either, Billy thought he'd make it not matter so much.
Sam's hands moved, ever so slowly, on the bare edge of him, as if to find a better place to grip. The thought was brief, but sharp, and warmth pooled low in his stomach. Long fingers trailed over the smooth edge of his hipbone...almost uncomfortable in their intensity, fingers on skin, on his skin. And though Billy thought that maybe he should have some frame of reference for that, he couldn't find it.
"Breathe," Sam said quietly, so close to his ear. He took a startled breath on reflex, almost choked on it.
He could feel the heat of Sam's chest through the thin cotton of his shirt, where it pressed in, and then pulled away, on every breath.
"It's ok," Sam said simply. "If you want me to stop just tell me."
Billy shook his head, one rough, jerky movement that he didn't intend, but he meant, god he meant it, no matter how much it terrified him.
Because he wanted this tall smiling man to keep touching him, and he thought he'd do anything, anything at all. He pushed that neediness down so hard, didn't want it felt, didn't want it seen, but it was hard, it was so hard.
Sam took his mute, uncoordinated clumsiness for assent, and Billy thanked him for it, because he couldn't speak, could only look in the mirror, at the strange narrow awkwardness that was him, outlined everywhere by Sam Winchester, coloured in streaks of lean and tan, where he was just unfilled lines.
He looked away, eyes down to where Sam's hand had gone still on his waist.
Everything was still, and Billy thought that in a second he would feel horribly, uselessly awkward. He'd find his shirt, and would leave the bathroom, cursing all the things he didn't say, didn't do. All the ways in which he was wrong. And the helpless frustration of it nearly killed him.
He was so busy staring at Sam's hand on his waist, that he missed the other lifting, and catching his face, pulling his jaw round and up, turning him. There was a squeak of skin on damp porcelain, before he was pressed back into it.
Sam was kissing him then, one hand on his jaw, sliding up to hold his face, tipping his head up. The hand kept moving, until it was dug in his hair, and then Sam pushed the kiss open. He made it something heavy and fierce; controlled it with quick, almost angry, pushes of his tongue, that drew stunned, helpless noises out of Billy. But he was sure he didn't care.
His height was strangely overwhelming, and he was holding just a little too tight, which made it better in a way Billy couldn't quite name. All weight against his own skin, and he couldn't think at all, because he'd never prepared himself for anything like this. Never thought that Sam would touch him like this, in the chill of the bathroom, never like this, half-naked and close, and too sensitive under his hands.
He was pulled almost helplessly into hardness, pressed there and held under Sam's weight. Until every push and shift of skin felt like it was done purely to torment him. He thought, hazily, dizzily, that he might come just from being here, from being kissed like Sam had just been waiting for the chance. He groaned, when thinking it shoved him harder towards exactly that, and he was sure it would be humiliating. But he wanted it, wanted it so badly.
He caught Sam's arm, held it, breathed, hoping for more air, but getting nothing.
Sam's fingers stretched against his skin, and he found air then, a great stunned gasp that shivered out of him just as quickly.
"I can't, please-" the rest caught in his throat, three words, barely there at all.
Sam exhaled, roughly, surprised, his hands slid off of Billy's skin.
"It's ok," he said, voice shaky, he stepped back, stepped away. "It's ok, I'm sorry."
And then he was gone, and the space behind the mirror was empty.
Billy turned awkwardly, dizzily, wrapped his hands round the cold of the sink, and his knuckles went white there.
Because he thought he'd just given Sam completely the wrong impression, pressed him back out of the bathroom with his own uncertainty, his own muddled fear.
It left a pit in his stomach that felt full of lead.
Billy thought the Winchesters were probably used to him taking up all the space on the table by now, or, if it was full of guns, one of the beds, or half the floor. Bits and pieces of plastic, metal and circuitry.
At the moment it was all laid out on the bright red of his coat on the bed. Which wasn't so dramatically imposing now, because twice he'd laid the soldering gun down on it, and made tiny burnt holes in the fabric.
He was using science as a defence mechanism, to quiet his brain from its hyperventilating, pretending quietly, impossibly, that nothing strange had happened. That the twinge in his shoulder every time he reached for a piece of wire didn't make him think of bright light, and Sam's mouth.
Dean was on the other side of the room, fingers flipping through the many-thumbed pages of his fathers journal. Looking for answers, or just re-treading old paths. Billy didn't ask.
He didn't think it was his place to ask.
Dean looked over at him every once in a while, expression curious. But, contrary to what the both of them thought, he wasn't always building astonishing things. Sometimes he was just checking the circuits, replacing the batteries, or cleaning dust out of the cases.
Sam was out, making sure they didn't starve again. Billy honestly couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten without Sam, or Dean, Winchester pushing something under his nose.
Dean eventually shut the diary, and wandered over to sit on the end of the bed.
He picked up one of the canisters laying by Billy's knee, shook it slightly.
Dean pulled a face, and very carefully set it down again.
"It won't explode," Billy promised, which was true. Sometimes he wasn't quite sure exactly how smart Dean was, not stupid by any means, Billy thought he just didn't collect information easily. Not if he wasn't interested, or he didn't need it.
"Got anything here that does explode?" Dean sounded half-way between chastising and curious.
Billy thought about it.
"A little bit."
Which startled Dean into laughter. One brief moment of amusement, that Billy couldn't help but feel proud to put there.
"A little bit, huh?"
"It depends on how hard you shake it, or if you heat it up."
"Then I think I'm going to be careful what I poke," Dean told him, and it was Billy's turn to laugh.
He wasn't expecting it when Dean reached over, lifted his hand out from the scatter of circuit boards.
"Who broke your wrist?" he asked, in a voice that was calm and conversational, but so much more underneath. His hand wasn't tight around Billy's fingers, certainly not tight enough to hurt. But it was strangely intimate, having his hand held.
His mouth went dry for a long second. He wanted to ask how Dean knew his wrist was ever broken. But the Winchesters had probably broken more bones than him, especially between them. Faced more dangerous things than Captain Hammer, who was really just a bully with super strength.
Dean was still looking at him, and he remembered that he hadn't said anything yet.
"No one," he said awkwardly, and immediately realised that that sounded stupid. "I mean, Captain Hammer."
Dean didn't ask what he was doing at the time, didn't ask if he deserved it.
Billy was grateful for that.
He let his hand go, and Billy was briefly lost for where to put it.
"When you're over here, making things, I have to admit, it's pretty cool, the way you just randomly come out with things from...a pile of stuff."
"Sometimes it really is just a pile of junk that I couldn't do anything with," Billy admitted. Which was true. They had cannibalised more than a few electronics on the road, to feed Billy's need for parts.
"But mostly it's not," Dean tipped his head towards Billy's lap. "I'm always wondering what we'll get next."
"I'll make you whatever you want," Billy said simply. Because he'd never thought people this strong could help but be cruel, but he'd been wrong.
Dean didn't reply, he just looked at him, face almost impossible to read.
The silence dragged on, though Billy didn't think it was uncomfortable.
"Sam said he kissed you," Dean said eventually, it was more of a quiet question than a statement.
Billy swallowed, rubbed at the long length of wire he was holding. Because Dean had given no indication of what he thought about that. He forced himself not to ask if he thought that was wrong.
It hurt to think about it, when he was the one that had pushed Sam away, though he'd never meant to, would never have, and he thought it was something he'd regret for a long time. Replaying that scene over and over, he sometimes lost track of when it became something confusing, and just remembered what it had felt like.
Other times it was pushed down, shut off, with everything else he'd had to regret.
"I wanted to know why things were weird between you too," Dean continued when Billy didn't speak. "He told me he kissed you, spent the whole time wearing his guilty face. He thinks he upset you."
"He didn't," Billy said stiffly, awkwardly.
"He thinks he got the wrong impression, that you didn't want to?"
There was a strange intensity to the words.
"I wasn't expecting, I don't..." Billy floundered for something, anything, because he couldn't explain what had actually happened.
"Did you?" Dean's face could be strangely intense, and Billy found, terribly hard to look away from.
Words stuck fast in Billy's throat, and there was no way in hell any of them were coming out, not while Dean was looking at him like that. Close, and careful and attentive. There were a million other things he could say, but none of them would answer the question.
He looked at Dean, as if he might have the answer, as if, perhaps, he could help.
He didn't know what he saw in his face. But Dean very slowly lifted a hand, pushed his goggles through his hair and off, dropping them with the rest of his equipment, and when Billy blinked a question at him he leant forward, found his mouth with his own.
It was warm careful pressure that Billy didn't, couldn't have expected.
When Billy didn't move away Dean's hand pushed into his hair, tilted him into it. A strange echo of the same movement he'd felt before, different hands, a different mouth. This time he kissed back, the pieces in front of him clattered and clinked, when he shifted his legs, tried for all the world to get closer.
Dean made a noise against his mouth, long, wet vibrations of sound, which went straight through him. He was already pulling at the coat, dragging it free from where it was laid out between Billy's thighs, and sending pieces of metal and wire to the floor. Before Billy really registered that there was intent behind the kiss. Behind the determined way Dean touched him, leaving his skin tingling under his hands, with nowhere to put his own save for the smooth curves of Dean's shoulders. Dean seemed to take that as encouragement, though there was almost no conscious thought in the gesture, no conscious thought but maybe quiet desperation. Billy was just holding on, shivering in a way that had nothing to do with cold.
Then Dean was moving, pressing Billy down into the bed, while his thigh slid over his own, Hands moving from his jaw to his waist, until Billy's head hit the pillow, and Dean was a living, breathing weight on top of him, solid, and needy in a way his brother hadn't been, and Billy was thrown, completely, to feel that edge of the familiar in Dean's hands.
To feel Dean's hands, in a way he'd never, ever expected. Breathing too hard and moving wherever Dean pushed him, opening under the roughness of his mouth.
Billy wondered how much this was about him, and how much it was about Sam. He felt awful for thinking it, felt worse when, instead of making him feel uncomfortable, it made his breath catch in his throat.
Dean pushed hands into his hair again, drew his head back, and he was kissing him again, wet, greedy open-mouthed kisses that seemed designed to drag his attention back. Like Dean knew he was lost. Like he knew he was thinking about Sam, and he needed to push himself into that space instead.
Once Dean had him his hands slid free, fell away, and then pushed into the waistband of his pants and shorts, sliding them over his hips and down. They tangled, before Dean's foot pushed them all the way off. Making it perfectly clear that Dean wanted more than kisses. Billy didn't have the breath to protest, if he'd even wanted to. The noises he was making were anything but, hoarse little groans of encouragement that had Dean slipping between his thighs, pressing down into him, solid hardness against the curve of his hip.
One hand rose, and Dean dragged his mouth open with his thumb, and kissed him again. Rough, wet, and with little attempt at grace or finesse. Billy thought he could quite happily be kissed like that forever.
He didn't resist when Dean pulled his hands down, coaxed him into touching, into sliding his hands under the waist of his jeans, fingertips moving over bare flesh. Dean dropped his hand long enough to tug open the button, and the zipper, then pushed Billy's hands back inside. It was easy, far too easy, to push at the denim, heartbeat loud enough to drown out the sound of Dean breathing. Billy pushed it low with his palms, until he had the warmth of Dean's hips under his hands. Until the smooth hard length of Dean's cock was bare against his skin, pushed into his own, in one rough roll of hips.
It was hard to catch a breath, when he was all but breathing in Dean, every exhale sounded broken, and every inhale sounded like desperation. His hands found Dean's waist, almost without his permission, pulled him in, pulled him down in one urgent dig of fingers. He was half startled that he'd dared, but once he was touching he couldn't stop. He was aware that things like this didn't happen, didn't happen twice, and determined this time to take everything, everything Dean gave him. Without questioning.
He couldn't look away, couldn't meet Dean's eyes, the low pool of heat in his groin was a fierce ache, that had him shivering and breathless.
"Please." Billy's voice didn't even sound like his own, he bit down on everything else, half afraid he'd chase Dean away as well. Half afraid his mouth would make a mess of this, whatever it was. And that would kill him, because he thought he'd never wanted anything this much before.
Dean felt almost angry under his hands, and though he never once held too tight, or pushed too hard there was a desperation, that felt like fury and adrenaline under the skin.
Dean's hips pressed in harder, a long drag of cock against his own, an unsteady push that had him gasping. Heavy, and real, and Billy wanted it, wanted all of it. He couldn't help but wonder what Dean would feel like under his hands, sliding between his fingers- or in his mouth, the weight of him slip-sliding across his tongue, then pushed in deep, if Dean's fingers would tangle in his hair, if he'd hold him there.
The images were too much, they broke what little control he'd been hanging on to, and he was coming. Pulling Dean down into him, and gasping, under waves of heat that made his skin too hot, and too small, and it was almost too much. Dean paused, for just a handful of heartbeats, fingers tight on his skin.
Billy was left gasping into his mouth, too wrung out to turn his head, still shivering under every push. When Dean moved again he was sliding through the slickness of his come, mouth wet and open, eyes dark, but stunned, like they didn't see anything at all. Then Dean pushed in hard enough to hurt, hard enough to ache, a bright shiver of blunt pain that somehow made everything better, exhale long and hot. Billy felt him come against his skin, his own breath shaking out over Dean's throat.
Then there was nothing between them but slippery wet skin, and the push, thump of Dean's breathing and heartbeat.
His forehead pressed in hard against the curve of Billy's own. Mouth so close, so very close, and Billy thought, if he was braver, he'd fist a hand in his hair and kiss him, kiss him until his mouth was numb.
Instead he breathed into the silence, until Dean moved away, took his skin, and his warmth, and slid to the edge of the bed, head bent forward in the darkness.
Billy was drawn up too, sitting awkwardly in the warm sheets, skin prickling almost lazily in a way it hadn't done for a very, very long time.
The silence dragged on, growing strangely heavier.
"I'm sorry," Billy started, and Dean went very still on the bed, the sort of stillness that hurt. Billy knew because he'd seen it from both sides. "If I made you angry, I'm sorry."
Dean made a noise, something deep in his throat that felt like disgust, and ran his hand over his face.
He looked hurt for a moment, before it was covered, fiercely, almost protectively, with something else.
Billy went cold, wondered if he'd broken something again, promised himself he would never speak again, not ever.
But Dean surprised him by leaning over, catching his jaw in one hand, and kissing him. One messy, rough press of mouth, before he disappeared into the bathroom.
Billy thought he could breathe again.
Billy would have taken the time to worry about what had happened between him and Dean, but the world didn't give him a chance. Werewolves were terrorising Pennsylvania, and these ones didn't turn back into people, ever. Some new strain, some ruthless brutal demonic poison, turning the woods into a suicide run for hundreds of towns.
They ran the roads, rescuing stragglers where they could.
All Billy got for a week were snatches, in the quiet moments before he fell into an exhausted sleep, in a too soft motel bed, or swaying uncomfortably through nightmares in the back of the Impala. Nightmares that were no longer about Penny, though sometimes she was there too, all pale skin and bright hair in the darkness. And she always looked sad.
They felt like the only moments Billy had to himself.
Though more often than not he fell asleep to quiet conversation.
To the sound of Winchesters still hunting.
At the moment he was making the best use he could of a college science lab, in a small town that he'd forgotten the name of.
Silver bullets were inefficient, there needed to be a faster way, a better way. Billy had been running through calculations all the way, but they were too widely spread, and there was no way to eradicate them all, without harming the public, or burning whole areas to ash.
The level of silver that needed to enter the bloodstream to kill them was too difficult to manage over a large area. So, at the moment, Sam and Dean were doing their best in a series of endless, brutal hunts.
But the probabilities for their survival went down every day, curve dropping more sharply the less sleep they had.
Volunteers that went with them came back too often as simply bloodstains.
Science was refusing to help him. Werewolves were, frustratingly, more of a biological problem, and Billy's knowledge of biology wasn't up to the task.
He felt honestly useless, for maybe the first time.
He dumped his gloves on the bench, and wandered out into the main office.
Dean had fallen asleep sprawled over the desk, gun shining against the wood, and Billy didn't have to look to know there were silver bullets in there. He wasn't sure how many though. Dean had already been out twice tonight.
He touched the cold metal, felt it through his fingers, didn't stray close enough to touch Dean's hand.
He remembered the way those hands felt on his skin, remembered being so overwhelmed that he'd never really gotten the chance to touch back, like he'd wanted to. He'd never come close to asking why, to asking what it had meant. Though he wasn't sure he ever would have had the courage. He was fairly certain Dean wouldn't have answered.
And if Billy had had trouble meeting his eyes for days now it didn't matter. It didn't matter because there'd been a constant stream of survivors, or maybe refugees was a better word? Faces changing every day, and there was no way Billy could remember them all.
Dean took a breath, there was no fuzzy edge between sleeping and awake, he was just there
Dean looked at him, then rubbed a hand over his face.
"Still talking to Sheriff Roberts," Billy told him. "They were going to set up the floodlights, make sure nothing gets into town, without them noticing.
"He shouldn't be out there-" Dean put his hands on the bar, pushed himself upright on a groan of discomfort.
"The sun's already up," Billy gestured towards the windows.
Dean settled, though he'd clearly already woken the restlessness in himself. The need to see where Sam was.
Billy thought that Dean would dearly love to put a GPS tracking device in his brother, so he knew where he was-
Billy stared through the window.
Drones, tracking drones.
The whole world slowed, and came to a point.
The sun fell through the glass of the window, and Billy was briefly fascinated by the way it managed to stream through, and turn Dean's hair gold.
"Billy?" Dean said sharply, and Billy shook his head.
"Werewolves, their body temperature runs higher than ours doesn't it?"
"I think I know how to kill them- I think I know how to kill all of them," Billy told him, and he could hear the tentative hope in his voice.
"What do you need?" Dean's expression had shifted to intense in an instant.
"Silver, lots of it, and maybe half an electronics store?"
Dean stood in the sunlight, reached over far enough to pull Billy's goggles down over his eyes.
Tiny heat seeking drones that would punch into anything living that had a body temperature consistent with an angry werewolf, if the silver didn't kill them than the explosives packed inside the shell would. It had been a long time since he'd done remote control. A lifetime ago.
The plans flowed open on the whiteboard in the lab, dimensions and quantities.
Faceless people flowed in and out with boxes, stacked them against the far wall. Billy set a group of them to melting the silver. They were less efficient than they could have been, but then they weren't scientists, and it was their homes on the line.
He started making the drones as soon as he had all the parts. They sat in gleaming silver rows, dart-like and threatening, on the benches.
When the sun dropped below the horizon he sent them all out.
Then he pushed the whiteboards aside, and started making more.
They spent all the next day dragging the bodies in, dozens, some corpses with holes blown in their chest or head, some simply in pieces. They came piled in trucks, in trash bags, wrapped in plastic sheet.
But they kept coming.
And the woods were silent.
Billy didn't really remember coming back to the motel. He was fairly sure the Sheriff had brought him...probably.
Somehow he'd managed to get his clothes off, because he vaguely remembered standing in the shower, though he didn't really remembering getting out of it. He certainly didn't remember drying himself, or putting on- he looked down- a t-shirt that wasn't his, and pants that he was fairly sure were...because they fit.
It was dark through the windows, but, for the first time in a month, there were no monsters out there.
He was exhausted, but the blood in his veins kept rushing, rushing in a way that wouldn't let him sleep.
He was left just lying on the bed, listening to every tiny noise.
He fell asleep when he wasn't paying attention.
A hand in his hair startled him awake.
"It's me," Dean said quietly. Like that didn't make his heart beat even harder.
Billy was left breathing while Dean slowly pushed a hand back and forth in his hair, in a way that was restless, in a way that sent sensation shivering down his spine.
He could feel the slow trail of his breath across his shoulder, but that was all Dean was doing, he wasn't touching him anywhere else, and Billy wasn't sure- didn't know what that meant. Or whether he wanted...whether he wanted what Billy wanted. Waking to find him behind him in the bed had stolen all higher brain functions, and Billy was just left with confusion, and want.
Whatever Dean wanted, he could have it.
He was swallowing in the dark, forced to stillness by Dean's fingers, afraid that the slightest movement would break whatever this was, would make Dean stop; he didn't want that.
He could still hear Sam shifting among their bags in the dark, packing things away.
He didn't know whether he was supposed to notice, or whether he was supposed to stay quiet.
"Sam?" Dean's voice was warm, and over-loud across Billy's skin, it was a question, called out into the dark.
Billy held his breath. The quick tread of feet came close, hesitated.
"Say his name," Dean whispered in his ear, and the words forced him to inhale, dizzy confusion and warmth. "Say it," Dean encouraged.
"Sam," he said obediently, uncertainly. There was a slow exhale, and cloth moving in the dark, dropping to the floor.
The sheets moved, and Billy didn't quite believe it until Sam slid against him, warm skin and length, large hands on his face, pulling his head up and kissing him, like he'd kissed him in the bathroom. Only this time Sam was with them in the dark, and everything was closer; this time Billy wasn't sure anyone was going to say stop.
He could feel Dean's hands on his waist, pressing him into Sam as he slid in behind, fingers tightening, then moving to catch his hips, the loose, low edge of his shorts. Dean hooked his thumbs in, and started pulling. Billy inhaled sharply and let him.
Sam could feel the movement where he was pressed in tight, and he made a noise, low in his throat, before dropping one of his hands to help. He moved out of them, registered the slide of legs between his own, a lazy mixture of both brothers, and Billy couldn't quite believe that both of them were touching him, for all that he could feel the warmth of their hands.
Dean's hand strayed to his hip, then slid in further, as if to test his reaction. Billy couldn't hold the breathless noise he made when Dean's fingers slid over him, he was already hard, then harder still under the press of his palm. Dean's breath flared hotly over the back of Billy's neck, the hand slid back to his waist, held him still while both of them shifted in tighter. And then Sam was breathing into his mouth, pressing him back into Dean's body, with weight and enthusiasm, before crushing him there, hands slipping down to his waist, where Dean still held him.
Their fingers skimmed over each other, never lingering, but always coming back, brushing, awkwardly, aggressively.
Billy realised that maybe heroes needed to pretend too.
He raised a hand, in some moment of desperation that was all his own, touched Sam's hair, felt the way it dragged through his fingers, but Sam moved into him like he'd pulled.
He was hard too, against Billy's thigh, the long length of him hot against his skin. And it was a struggle for breath every time the younger Winchester pushed into him, throat so full of 'Sam' and 'Dean,' but all that escaped was air.
When Dean pressed in behind, push of cock into the curve of his ass he did make a sound, something quiet and overwhelmed, and he thought he said yes, though it could have been dragged away by Sam's mouth. It made fingers dig into his skin, but he could no longer tell exactly whose hands were where.
Until Dean leant away from him, warmth stolen from his skin, and Billy inhaled, he could hear Dean digging through the bag by the bed, in the dark, searching by touch.
Sam's kiss tipped into something more fierce, drawing his attention away from the cold space at his back.
It didn't stay cold for long, before skin was laid against him again. Pressed in, one long line of warmth that ended in Dean's hands, one of them slid down, caught on the skin and pushed his thigh up into Sam's grip.
A pause, just long enough to breathe through, before Dean pressed one wet finger inside him, other hand sliding into his hair, tilting him up, and back, so Sam could kiss him again.
Dean's mouth opened, hot and then sharp, onto the side of his neck and one finger became two. Billy felt pushed all the way open, groaning helplessly into Sam's mouth.
"Please," he said, though the dryness of his throat made it sound hoarse, gravelly.
Sam pulled back far enough to watch him, eyes dark over his half-open mouth. His fingers were sliding, almost mindlessly, up and down the back of Billy's thigh, encouragement and restless arousal
"Dean," Billy's voice sounded broken in the dark.
Dean made a helpless noise, fingers sliding free, he shifted forward on the sheets, pressed up, pressed in.
It was a low burn that felt like it went all he way through him, every breath ached, and Billy dug his fingers into Sam's skin while Dean slid in, and in. One long endless push under a hiss of desperate restraint.
A long taut heartbeat of stillness, and then Dean moved, though Sam was the one that made a soft shaky noise that sounded urgent. Dean's hand caught Billy's wrist, moved his hand, spreading his fingers with his own and reaching down. Sam's cock pushed into his fingers, pushing into their fingers greedily, and Sam made a hot, broken noise head tipping forward so his hair hid his face. Dean guided the slow shift of his hand, fingers still half slippery, and it felt, it felt incredibly indecent, but not wrong. Billy refused to believe it was wrong when Sam was making noises like he ached inside, Dean's breath had gone rough, and lost in his ear, and Billy was left trying to catch a breath between them. Feeling like a raw nerve, balanced so precariously that every push threatened to shove him over the edge.
When Sam caught his hair roughly, and pulled his head forward he lost himself completely. There was nothing at all, but them in the darkness, shoving him towards release. Pulling him into pieces. His hand tightened every time Dean pressed in, but Sam didn't seem to mind. His own hand moved, pressed briefly, hotly, against Billy thigh before it shifted up, folded round his cock; left him briefly shaking, and swallowing, under the low deep stab of too-close arousal his touch brought.
Billy was almost certain that he was lost, losing any sort of coordination against Sam's mouth, and he thought he was going to fall-
But Dean was the one who swore, and pressed him into Sam, so hard.
His hand tightened to a stop on Sam, Dean's fingers twitching where they were still folded round Billy's own, and he was groaning into Billy's hair, a rush of warmth that wasn't even close to a word.
Sam pushed into their hands, lost and ragged, and then wet, and there was no way Billy could feel that without all the breath shaking out of him. Unravelling under the rhythmless pull of Sam's fingers, fingers digging in where they rested, all the way into skin while the brothers twitched and gasped around him, and inside him.
There was a long, hot moment of stillness, before Dean grumbled something that made no sense at all, and very carefully pulled out.
Billy made a noise he never intended to, though it made Sam shift the hand over his head, fingertips fidgeting in his hair, his breathing was loud against the side of Billy's face, but he thought that was more reassuring than it should have been.
Dean cleaned them up in the dark with a handful of tissues, though he didn't say a word.
The stillness went on for longer then, a sleepy edge of looseness behind Billy's eyes. He waited, waited for...something, between one held breath and the next. Though he wasn't sure what.
Neither of them moved, Billy eventually relaxed.
Billy woke up breathing brown hair, he shifted away just far enough to see the long curve of Sam's neck.
He didn't move for a long moment. Because being this close to another person, eyes closed, just breathing against the skin of his cheek, was as close as Billy had ever been to something safe. He pretended it was real for a while, pretended he could have it.
When he couldn't stand it any longer, he rolled his head round.
Dean had slithered out, without him noticing, the long length of bed at his back had only the echo of warmth.
He relaxed again, half of him wanted, desperately wanted to stay pressed into Sam Winchester's hair. Didn't care if the world made sense or not.
But the room was light now, and Billy thought, if he listened, he could hear the low sound of water running in the bathroom.
He slipped out of bed, legs strangely uncooperative, and uncomfortable in strange places. He dressed in the quiet, feeling over-stretched and strange. Dizzy edge of quiet disbelief still shaking everything.
By the time the bathroom door opened Billy had found something appropriately distracting to do at the table.
Dean huffed laughter when he saw him. Hand passing over his hair in a brief, but pointed gesture, and something inside Billy relaxed without him even knowing it had tightened.
Sam eventually got up, reluctantly, with much complaining, and went out to hunt for breakfast.
It came in suspicious paper-wrapped packages, but smelled delicious. Neither of them seemed to mind Billy's silence. They both folded over their maps, leant together in a way that was easy, in a way that was comfortable.
Billy made himself useful at the table, piecing together a smaller, more manageable freeze ray, that Dean could shove into the back of his jeans if he wanted to.
Dean thought he'd found one of the main hubs for the supernatural activity. A hole that had opened up not long before the whole mess started. A mess of demon activity that ran thick like blood across the map.
They were using some of Billy's maps to check the patterns.
Though Dean's desire to head that way had made Sam's face tight and unhappy.
"If we could get close enough-"
"You'd need a nuclear bomb to shut that hole up." Sam said fiercely, which made Dean's face twist up into frustrated anger.
Which there was really no reason for.
"I could build a nuclear bomb," Billy told them absently, over the edge of his burger. It was disappointingly squashed on one side, though it still managed to be delicious.
He was halfway through chewing before he realised that both Winchesters were looking at him, with stunned expressions on their faces.
But then Dean's expression changed, slid into the sort of happy that was an inch away from crazy. He reached over, caught Billy's jaw in what seemed to be a fit of madness. Then he tapped his cheek, smartly, like he was the most impossibly brilliant thing he'd ever seen, and Billy was smiling, helplessly, so hard his face hurt.
He thought, just maybe, Dr. Horrible had a destiny after all.