It’s the evil whinny, he will tell himself later.
After all, the evil death whinny has always made his knees weak and his insides wobbly. And, okay, in retrospect maybe he should have realized that the wobbliness in question didn’t much resemble the wobbliness of debilitating fear brought on by, for example, Captain Hammer deciding to use the back of his head for target practice with a Volkswagen, but he’s got a busy schedule, what with solidifying his position in The League and instilling terror in the unthinking masses - not to mention making the world a better place for everyone - and there isn’t exactly time for introspection. Besides, there are some things a guy really doesn’t need to know about himself.
You know, until he does.
The smoke is everywhere, in his lungs, in his eyes despite the goggles, a thick mist of teargas and the fog of flash grenades, filling every room of the League’s headquarters. Through it, he can barely make out what’s happening - the chaos of fighting and running, shapes and shadows and violence - and he feels stunned, paralyzed by the unexpected attack. No one should know where these meetings take place, no one should be able to hit them like this, all of them together, unarmed at the conference table, but there are police all around them, superheroes breaking through their defenses, and Billy has the sinking realization that this battle was over before it began.
Behind him in the meeting room, Professor Normal is face down on the mahogany table, cursing the cops holding him trapped as they bark out his rights. On the other side of the main hall, Snake Bite is fighting Johnny Snow, two SWAT officers in full armor backing him up. At Snake Bite’s feet, her summoned cobras lie dead, frozen solid by Johnny’s ice beam.
Without his weapons - freeze ray, death ray, the whirr of power in his hands - there’s nothing he can do to help her, but Billy stumbles forward anyway, dazed, coughing as the smoke sticks in his throat, his feet catching on something that groans. A fallen policeman, blood slippery on the floor and he nearly trips over the man’s arm, puts his hand out to steady himself against the wall. He’s caught for a second in a ridiculous impulse to bend down and check that the cop is all right, but before he can act on it or get over it, he is seized from behind, hands fisted in his lab coat, pulling at him, and he scrambles at the wall, tries to dig his fingers into the wood paneling, tries to hold on, but his gloved hands slide impotently over the surface, finding no purchase, and there is the familiar, sickening disorientation of whirling, thrown, through the air. Through a doorway, into a dark side-room, landing with a thud, with a slap of pain in his right shoulder blade where his body hits the floor, skidding backwards from the momentum, until a bookcase brings him to a sharp stop, the top of his head connecting with the bottom shelf.
He has to blink a few times to get the room into focus, but when he looks up, he has no trouble recognizing the shadow in the doorway.
“So, Doctor,” Captain Hammer says. “We meet again at last.”
They haven’t met, not since that day. Not since Billy did what he did and his life changed and the Captain ran off screaming. He tries to pull himself up, but he’s uncoordinated, his legs folding back under him, his fumbling hands only succeeding in tearing a jumble of leather-bound books down from the shelf, a couple of them bouncing off his scalp before they reach the floor.
Captain Hammer steps closer, grinding one gloved fist into the palm of his other hand, deliberate and threatening.
“Not so tough now, are you, Billy? What’s the matter? No clever little gadget on you to kill defenseless women with?”
The words spill out of him before he knows he’s going to say them. Perhaps he’s been waiting to say them, all this time.
“I never wanted to hurt her. It was you I was going to kill.”
Captain Hammer smirks, close enough now that Billy can see the glint of contempt in his eyes. His heart clenches tight with sudden fear.
“Oh, I know. Such a mess you made for yourself. But that’s nothing to the mess I will make of you.” He squats down at Billy’s side, leaning over him. “With my fists,” he adds, in case Billy was somehow miraculously stupid enough not to catch his drift. “When I kill you.”
He grabs hold of Billy’s coat, pulls his other hand back to take his first swing. Billy is already flinching away in anticipation of the blow when something moves behind the Captain’s head. A large, massive shadow blocking the stream of light from the doorway, a shadow on four legs, and maybe Captain Hammer hears something, maybe he sees something out of the corner of his eye, or maybe he just follows the line of Billy’s gaze, but he turns his head to look. His face just has time to register surprise before the hooves fall, on his shoulder, on his forehead, and Bad Horse knocks him down.
Bad Horse neighs - a brutal, savage sound that echoes through the smoke-filled rooms, up the length of Billy’s spine - and rears up again, brings his front hooves down once more on the Captain’s writhing body. There is a spray of blood, action-painted red across the red of Billy’s coat, and Captain Hammer lies still. Breathing, maybe, but still.
Billy stares at him, stares at the wrongly twisted shape of him. He always fills every room - too large - tries to push everyone else up against the walls, but now he looks small, suddenly, with Bad Horse standing over him. Human and frail. Billy’s heart is beating in his throat, hard enough to hurt.
“Doctor,” Bad Horse says. “Doctor, get up.” His voice inside Billy’s head is impatient as the scrape of his hoof against the parquet floor, sharp as the edge of it, clean and smooth but for a single smear of blood. Unshod, Billy thinks, and he doesn’t know why he never noticed that before. He has noticed the white stockings on all four legs, but here, in the square of light from the open door, among the lingering smoke, they seem almost translucent. “Doctor!”
His head snaps up at the force of the command, and, oh, the blaze on Bad Horse’s nose is just as white, and only inches from his face. Bad Horse snorts, a quick rush of hot breath from flaring nostrils, weirdly soft against Billy’s cheek.
“We have to go, Doctor,” he says. “This base is lost and we can’t save the others, but we can save ourselves if we go now. Can you get on my back?”
Billy blinks, uncomprehending, and there is a strange sound inside his mind, like a curl of amusement.
“Horseback riding, Doctor. Theory at all familiar?”
He nods, and staggers to his feet. It isn’t graceful or quick, but the dizziness has almost passed, and he does make it, manages to step around Captain Hammer’s fallen body, up to Bad Horse’s side.
He lays a hand on Bad Horse’s withers, then snatches it back again.
This is the leader of the Evil League of Evil, for God’s sake, and he can’t imagine anyone, let alone himself, daring to treat him like…like a horse.
“You really want me to…?” He finishes the sentence with a vague gesture in the direction of Bad Horse’s back.
Bad Horse throws his head, the rippling of his long mane somehow eloquently spelling out annoyance.
“I want to get us out of here. Get on with it.”
Billy is a city kid, and he can’t say he’s ever done this apart from maybe a pony ride once at the children’s zoo, while his mom was alive, but Bad Horse, for all his greatness, isn’t really a big horse, and it’s not too difficult to pull himself up to sit astride him. At first, he doesn’t know what to do with his hands, but he figures he should do his best not to fall off, so he sinks them into the thick strands of Bad Horse’s mane. There is a shiver, deep in the long muscles of the Horse’s neck where the backs of Billy’s gloved fingers press against smooth fur, and he is about to let go again, but then Bad Horse says, “Hold on,” and they’re moving.
Letting go isn’t an option.
There was an experiment. This much everyone knows.
Maybe its purpose was evil and villainous. Maybe its intentions were good. Here the versions differ.
No one is exactly sure what was supposed to happen. Everyone knows it went wrong.
The whole world has seen the unlikely result.
Still, Billy finds, the first time he steps into the meeting room of the Evil League of Evil and takes his place down near the foot of the table, glimpsing Bad Horse in reports of destruction and mayhem on the nine o’clock news and reading about him in the papers is not a preparation at all to being in the same room with the world’s most feared super villain, who happens to inhabit the body of a horse, and who communicates by projecting his words telepathically into your brain. In fact, it turns out, the only appropriate response to the physical fact of the man is sheer terror.
“Welcome, Doctor,” Bad Horse says, just barely dipping his head in greeting. It isn’t sound, not in in any traditional, ear-related sense, but it is a voice, clear and distinct inside Billy’s thoughts.
He’s glad he’s chosen to wear his goggles over his eyes with the new version of his costume; behind them, he feels the familiar nervous twitch start up.
Everyone in the room is watching him, measuring him. He holds himself as still as he can and looks only at Bad Horse. Bends his neck in a proper bow of respect.
“Thank you,” he says. “It’s an honor to be counted among the members of the League.”
“We trust that you will show yourself worthy,” Bad Horse says, and the threat of the unspoken or else is almost as obvious as it is expected. But then, then Bad Horse speaks again, and Billy doesn’t know how it is he knows this, but this time he’s sure the words are only for him, audible inside his mind alone, intimate in ways that are whole new levels of disturbing. “I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ll become.”
Billy swallows, blinks again, involuntarily, four times in rapid succession.
He might not want to think about the circumstances that brought him here, but he is here, and he’s always known he belongs here.
“I don’t intend to disappoint,” he says.
Bad Horse makes an actual sound, a horse sound, a puff of breath that carries the hint of a whinny. It feels like approval.
Nothing could have prepared him for coming face to face with the world’s greatest villain. The funny thing, though, is that he’s even less prepared for how easy it is to get used to it.
The cops look up at the sound of approaching hooves, twist with weapons drawn to get them in their sights. Billy clings on for dear life, bends low over the Horse’s neck, pressing himself flat along the crest of his neck. It’s what jockeys do, to minimize air resistance and increase speed, he’s pretty sure. If right now it also minimizes the target he makes for on-coming bullets, he’s happy to pretend that’s just an added bonus.
There are bullets, a smattering of shots deafening within the thick walls, but they’re fast, Bad Horse is fast, sweeping through at a headlong gallop that feels unstoppable, and the policemen scatter, throwing themselves out of the way so as not to be trampled. Billy catches a glimpse of Snake Bite, handcuffed on the floor, taking advantage of the commotion to roll away from the men holding her.
Johnny Snow is the last man blocking their way, standing in the doorway, the hood of his white parka pulled back, but the white woolen scarf still hiding his face. He points his ice beam, and it’s a beautiful piece of technology (Billy has to give him that, even if he can’t stand the guy’s lack of vision, always dragging the battle between order and chaos down to the level of a schoolyard fist fight), but it has the same weakness, the same design flaw as his own Freeze Ray - it needs a second to charge, and there are no seconds left.
Snow is clearly insane, doesn’t move an inch in the face of a horse racing right at him. And Billy would feel vindicated - because he’s always freaking known that white-wrapped yeti had a screw loose - except he’s too busy squeezing his eyes shut beneath his goggles, squeezing his legs hard around Bad Horse’s body and bracing against the crash.
It’s not really a crash at all, though, from where he’s sitting, just a shudder of impact washing through them as Bad Horse’s shoulder connects with Snow’s arm. The crash is behind them, as Snow slams into the door post in their wake, yelping in pain. There is the cracking glacier sound of the beam discharging, and cold whizzes past Billy’s right ear, but they’re in the empty hallway now, turning a corner, and he can hear the cops rushing after them, but for now they’re out of the line of fire.
He straightens a little, tries to get his bearings. Which, quite possibly, he’d be better off not doing. Since they seem to be speeding past the leather sofa in the sitting room towards a dead end.
In front of them, there’s a wall papered moss green, decorated with a rather unsettling painting of a woman and a swan, and absolutely no door.
Bad Horse is slowing, but there is still no way they’re not going to collide with the distinct lack of anything door-like, and Billy is just about to decide whether throwing himself to the ground is less likely to cause irreparable damage when there is a click, and a buzz, and the wall before them slides aside, creepy swan and all. Behind it is a small space, just large enough to fit a horse, with a lever on the wall.
He realizes what it is just as Bad Horse comes to a sharp halt inside it and he has to catch himself with an arm almost around the Horse’s neck not to take a dive head first over his ears. Bad Horse grabs the lever with his teeth and jerks it down, and they’re plummeting, rushing downwards with ear-popping speed.
“An elevator?” Billy pants out. “You have a secret escape route through a hidden elevator? You really are an evil genius.”
“Did you doubt me?” Bad Horse says. It could be a warning, but he twitches his ears in the way Billy’s come to associate with humor, and his voice is tinged with a smile.
“Not that stupid,” Billy says, smiling, too. Before he can realize what he’s doing, he runs his gloved hand along the strip of warmer skin beneath Bad Horse’s mane in something almost like a pat.
Bad Horse shivers again, the tremor clearly visible under his dark fur.
“I’m sorry,” Billy says, pulling his hands back to rest on his own thighs. “I didn’t mean to…” He’s suddenly hyperaware of his own weight on Bad Horse’s back, the heat of the Horse’s body against the insides of his thighs. Standing still like this, with room to breathe, the disregard for personal space feels intimate and alarming. “Want me to get off?” he blurts out.
Bad Horse’s ears twitch again, an oddly expressive dance. His voice is filled with open laughter this time, but there’s something else in it as well, something warm and predatory.
“Not yet, I think.”
Billy just has time to register the double entendre he’s walked right into, the possible meanings of “not yet” sticking like a lump in his throat. Then he hears voices up above, the pursuing cops discovering the elevator, a mere moment before they reach the bottom, and any opportunity to process or respond is swept away as Bad Horse explodes out of the elevator like a race horse out the gate.
There is a tunnel down here, what must be several floors below ground. Vaulted brick walls and a dirt floor, dimly lit by lamps spaced along the ceiling, so far apart that each one forms a separate circle of light, stenciled out of the surrounding dark.
The tunnel is just about high enough that Billy can sit upright without hitting his head, but it feels better, safer, to lean forward, his hands tangling high up in Bad Horse’s mane, his face almost buried in the clean, thick animal scent of him. They streak through light and dark and light again, at a steady pace now, the rise and fall of every step surging through him, hard muscles moving between his legs, and it’s like straddling the force of an ocean wave, a simultaneous feeling of absolute power and absolute loss of control. Dizzying, unless that disoriented, swirly sensation is from the knocks on his head.
He doesn’t notice the square metal plate on the ground in front of them until they’re almost on top of it, and he doesn’t know why he finds it alarming - it’s flat, maybe two by two feet, hardly an obstacle, and surely Bad Horse must see it as well as he does (Although aren’t horses supposed to have inferior depth perception, or something? And he wishes to hell he knew what that meant, in practice, when fleeing the clutches of the law through underground tunnels.) - but he calls out, too loud, probably, considering his mouth isn’t far at all from Bad Horse’s ears:
“It’s all right,” Bad Horse responds, disproportionately calm in a way that sounds both amused and fond. There is a sharp clop-clop of hooves on metal as he runs straight across the plate, with intent. “It won’t hurt us here.”
The tunnel behind them explodes.
An enormous chaos of noise erupts as what must be more than one bomb goes off, and Bad Horse doesn’t pause for a second, but Billy twists around to look back, in time to see the furthest walls cave and collapse, the space they’ve just run through disappearing in an avalanche of bricks and dust. He thinks, for a horrifying fraction of a second, that the tunnel will keep folding, that the earth around them will reach for them and swallow them up. But Bad Horse is right, of course, as he always is: the cave-in stops at a safe distance, well before it reaches the spot where the metal plate is, the placement of the charges probably calculated down to the exact millimeter to guarantee that. Genius, indeed.
Billy faces forward again, but as he does, he thinks he hears, through the settling rubble, cries of human voices.
“The cops…” he breathes, speaking without thinking. “Do you think they were…crushed?” It comes out too raw, too concerned not to be ridiculous when talking to the goddamn leader of the Evil League of Evil. “I mean, not that I care, of course.”
Bad Horse snorts out loud.
“But you do, Doctor. You can’t imagine how refreshing that is.”
The tunnel starts to gently slope upwards.
“Dude,” Fake Thomas Jefferson says, sitting back in Billy’s oversized armchair, resting the beer bottle in his hand on the armrest. “I’m telling you, the boss digs your style.”
In public, Fake Jefferson tends to speak like the Declaration of Independence. Billy can’t quite decide whether it’s reassuring or disconcerting that in private, the man who stole the Liberty Bell sounds remarkably like his old college roommate Dave, who lived on a steady diet of pot and Grand Theft Auto.
At least it’s easier to parse the sentence structure.
“I don’t know,” Billy says, readjusting his goggles to scratch at an itchy spot beneath the elastic band. He really should look into an alternative that uses organic fibers, before he breaks out in hives. “He’s always on me, always questioning every detail of my plans. He’s almost worse than Professor Normal and his “Speaking as a scientist, I have to point out that no one has ever successfully…” crap. I thought once I had a seat in the Evil League of Evil, I wouldn’t have to keep proving myself all the time, that I could finally start achieving things.”
“Whoa, there, Doc,” Fake Jefferson says, raising a hand to halt Billy’s tirade. The lacy ruffles of his period shirt drop back with perfect elegance; this close up, the motion reveals a cheap tattoo of a Chinese sign on the inside of his wrist beneath. “You’ve gotta forget about Normal. He’s just freaked because he thinks you’re gonna put him out of a job on the mad scientist circuit. Besides, when did you ever hear the Horse-man ask any questions about any of Normal’s plans?”
Billy pulls a face, hopes it projects some sort of imperious annoyance, not the hurt and insecurity he’s feeling.
“There you go then,” Fake Jefferson proclaims, as if he’s just made an indisputable argument to prove something very obvious. “He doesn’t ask unless he’s interested.”
“Huh,” Billy says.
That’s… Of course he is really brilliant, and Bad Horse has every reason to be interested in him and his plans, but… Wow, that’s a lot of interest.
Fake Jefferson takes a swig of his beer, looks aimlessly around the room.
“So you think your buddy Moist will show soon? I want to hear how he’d feel about dampening the Gettysburg address.”
He isn’t exactly experienced in calculating distance traveled on horseback, but it feels as though they must be several miles from the house when at last the tunnel levels out again and comes to a stop in front of a bare concrete wall. There is, of all things, a retinal scanner mounted on the brick wall to the right of them. Bad Horse turns his head to put his eye to it, and the concrete slides aside almost soundlessly. Behind it, there is a stable.
The door opens directly into an empty box stall, and closes behind them as soon as they’ve entered.
“When my retinal print was recognized,” Bad Horse says, “a signal was automatically sent out to one of my henchmen to come pick us up. But we will still be here a while. You might want to get down now.”
“Oh,” Billy says, feeling foolish for needing to be told. “Of course.”
He scrambles off, clumsily, and he’s pretty sure his foot drags the hairs on Bad Horse’s loins in directions they’re not supposed to go, but then he is down, standing in fresh straw up to his ankles, almost unsteady on his own two feet. He makes smoothing-out motions over the tails of his lab coat, more to have a moment to catch his breath than because it’s really wrinkled.
There is a water dispenser in the corner of the stall, within easy reach, and Bad Horse stretches his head forward to push his nose into the cup of it and make the water flow. He drinks in long, slow gulps, the muscles of his throat moving as he swallows. He doesn't seem tired, really, but there are patches where his fur is dark with sweat, the hairs curled with the moisture of it.
Wipe down, Billy thinks. That's what you're supposed to do with horses after they run, he knows that from somewhere: wipe them down. His mind presents him with an image, himself with a soft towel, stroking, rubbing it over Bad Horse's muscled body. Feeling the heat of it through his bare hands.
He steps back, quickly, almost bumping into the partition separating them from the next stall. The door out into the stable is open, though. He doesn't need to stay in here.
"I'll just..." He waves his hand at the door. "Have a look around."
He slips out into the center aisle of the stable, and Bad Horse lets him go without comment. It's late by now, probably past midnight, and the lights above his head are dimmed low, not to disturb the other horses sleeping in the rows of stalls on either side, he supposes. A few of them are awake, anyway, though, moving restlessly at his presence.
He can't help laughing under his breath, the place is such an obvious and brilliant hide-out for Bad Horse. If the pursuing cops and heroes can even find it with the tunnel collapsed, which seems unlikely, how would they prove Bad Horse wasn't just another animal belonging here, unless he chose to speak to them? It's not like they could match his fingerprints.
He follows the aisle until it opens up into a larger room, filled with shadows and with bales of hay stacked against the wall. From narrow windows just beneath the ceiling moonlight streams, motes of dust dancing in the silver swaths. He pushes his goggles up, runs a hand over his face. Behind him, there is a clear tread of approaching hooves.
"Do you think the police got the others?" he says, mostly to be saying something.
"Those who are worth their metal will have managed to escape," Bad Horse says. "But I expect at least half the members of the League are in the hands of the law by now."
The sound of his steps cuts off, somewhere behind Billy's back. His breathing is close enough to hear.
"Why did you save me?" Billy says. He wraps his arms around himself, elbows gripped in his hands, an approximation of his dashing villain pose. Now that they’re safe, he feels shaky, scraped raw with adrenaline and emotion. "I'm not important. I'm..." A fake, he nearly says, thinking of Hammer, of… "I haven't exactly done much. Or anything, really."
"You didn't intend to kill her, you mean," Bad Horse says, his voice barely more than a whisper in Billy's head. Too eerily close to an echo of his own thoughts.
He turns, swiveling on the spot.
"You heard. Before, with Captain Hammer. You heard what I said. Then why would you...?"
Bad Horse sways his head, barely perceptibly, from side to side, what passes for the human gesture of shaking it.
"I've always known that, Doctor. Some of the others may be blind enough to think differently, but I'm not. It was plain from the start that you loved her."
There is no sense in that. At all.
"But you let me into the League. Even if the others approved my application, you could have vetoed it."
Bad Horse takes a step closer, the blaze on his forehead flashing magnesium white, revealed in the moonlight.
"Every great villain is fuelled by tragedy, Doctor, by the memory of fatal mistake. Of disaster. Our loss is where we start from. I know that better than anyone, and I wanted you in the League because of what you’d lost, not in spite of it. And I wasn't wrong."
He takes another step, then stops. Closes his eyes and breathes in deep - a sigh, almost - before opening them again.
“I didn’t plan to tell you any of this tonight. I planned to let it come slowly, let you see by degrees. But having you ride me, feeling you so close, I…” He shakes his head again, more firmly, as if to clear it. “You’re afraid of showing me that you still care about the world, but that’s why I saved you. The others, they’re only in it for the profit, now, for the fame. Whatever creativity they had, most of them have lost. But you see the bigger picture. You’ve reminded me of why I started this, why I became who I am. And you make me want to start over, Doctor. Start over and not stop half way, not let anyone hold me back. I want to conquer the world with you at my side. The two of us together, bending it to our will, tearing it down only to shape it into what it should be. The League was stagnant, a thing of the past. If you join me, the future could be ours.”
Billy shivers in the darkness, his skin prickling with goose bumps at the thought. Being at Bad Horse’s side, having all that power, to overthrow and make right. Everything he’s always dreamt of, and Bad Horse, Bad Horse could make it happen, he’s sure of that. Bad Horse would never hesitate to pull the trigger, like…like Billy’s done. Together, they would be unstoppable, he can feel that, taste it on the tip of his tongue. But…
“When you say “join you”, just to clarify the…clarification… That wouldn’t exactly be what you’d call a…a…platonic-type sort of…joining…thing. Would it?”
Bad Horse smiles, a sharp, hard-edged smile that ripples through Billy’s mind, and steps the last bit of the way forward.
Billy blinks, can’t stop blinking.
“Is that a deal-breaker, Doctor?”
The double doors of the meeting room swing shut behind their leader’s high-held tail, and the members of The Evil League of Evil look at one another across the conference table. There is a prolonged moment of uncomfortable silence.
“Is it just me,” Dead Bowie says at last, “or is the boss even harder to please than usual these days? I mean, he’s always held us to a higher standard of villainy, but…”
“The man needs to get laid,” Snake Bite says. Her sibilant voice is cool and matter-of-fact. A few huffs of laughter are heard around the table, but Snake Bite dismisses them with a slithery wave of her hand. “No, I’m serious. I know he wasn’t exactly happy back when every month was another dimwitted trophy-lay who was only in it for the power-kick and the walk on the dark side, but at least the cover model of the hour kept him company.”
Okay, so clearly there are things here that Billy has completely missed.
“Cover models? You mean, like, human cover models?”
Snake Bite gives him a withering look. He has no problem understanding why the press have a love affair with her “hypnotic emerald stare”.
“No, I meant cover models from the Horse & Hound swim suit issue. Of course human, Doctor. He’s the greatest evil genius of our time. Perhaps of all time. Do you expect him to keep company with dumb animals?”
He has no idea what he was expecting, but talking about it makes him restless, like his skin is itching, too hot beneath the lab coat.
“I don’t know, I…”
“You’re right,” Dead Bowie says. “I haven’t seen him with anyone in ages. I think last time was that hockey player, what’s his name? The one who went to Toronto?”
“I’m afraid I wouldn’t know,” Professor Normal offers. The tone of his voice makes it clear that the lack of knowledge isn’t so much a fear as a point of pride. “Sports might be the only thing I’m less interested in than the peculiarities of our leader’s sex life.”
There’s something in the way he says it, the way the word “peculiarities” drips from his tongue, that makes so much slot into place. If Bad Horse has been giving Normal the cold shoulder, it’s suddenly all too obvious why. Billy almost says something about it, something appropriately clever, but then he thinks, hockey player?
“Wait…” he says. “Bad Horse is gay?”
Tie-Die snorts into her bottle of diet Coke.
“Dude,” Fake Jefferson says. “Keep up.”
He doesn’t know what to think, what to feel, his heartbeat pounding with the overwhelming too much of this entire night, but all he wants is…
“Can I touch you?” he says. “Without the gloves?”
Something softens in Bad Horse, his whole body relaxing, opening towards Billy.
Billy pulls his gloves off, and they fall to the floor with a smack of rubber on cement. His hands look small without them, delicate when he strokes his fingers down the line of white on Bad Horse’s nose. The fur there is soft, silk stretched taut over bone. His other hand goes to Bad Horse’s cheek, scratches along the curve of it. The Horse’s eyes drift half closed, and he breathes out, an exhalation of what sounds like pure enjoyment hot against Billy’s chest through the fabric of his coat.
He strokes his hand up beneath Bad Horse’s mane, feels it fall like a curtain over his knuckles. A space of heat, there, the fine hairs moist with it, slick under his fingertips.
“Doctor,” Bad Horse brushes across his mind, lifting his head to nuzzle at the side of Billy’s neck, at the lobe of his ear, along the high collar of his coat. “Can I?”
Billy has no idea what it is he’s asking, but just the fact that Bad Horse is asking for anything, wants permission from him, is heady all on its own. So he says, “Yes,” surprised at the breathiness of his own voice.
Bad Horse fumbles with lips and teeth at his shoulder, and, oh, apparently what he’s given permission for is to be undressed, the fastenings of his coat coming apart as Bad Horse yanks, until his costume falls open. It’s summer, and he isn’t wearing a shirt underneath, so it’s skin against skin - against fur - when Bad Horse leans in again, stroking his muzzle over Billy’s chest.
The touch is warm, and so soft, and if he thinks about how weird this is, he might not be able to go through with it. He closes his eyes and digs his fingers into fur and lets Bad Horse do this.
Lips move along his collarbones, down his chest, mouthing at his nipples, and then there is tongue, broad and rough, lapping, rubbing, and he gasps out loud, suddenly electrified with how good it feels, his hands clutching at Bad Horse’s neck.
Bad Horse whinnies, then, against his skin, and it’s the evil whinny, dangerous, familiar, except it’s not the same at all. He can’t remember ever hearing a sound filled with so much hunger. His whole body trembles with it, all the blood in his veins rushing down to pool in his groin from one second to the next.
Bad Horse seems to notice, and Billy would die of embarrassment at that, if it wasn’t impossible to manage anything beyond just standing there when Bad Horse drags his lips down the center of his stomach and presses his muzzle against the bulge in his pants. He rubs against it, and makes a long, appreciative hmmmmmm sound inside Billy’s mind.
“Would you?” he says, tugging lightly with his teeth at the top button on Billy’s fly. “Sometimes I really wish I had hands.”
There’s no sadness or anger in the way he says that, just a plain statement of fact, but it’s the first time Billy has ever heard him express regret at his physical form. And that’s just wrong, the idea that Bad Horse of all people would regret anything about himself. It makes Billy want to prove him wrong, want to do this right.
He takes a step back to have room to unfasten his pants, and promptly trips over the stack of hay he’d forgotten was right behind him. He falls into a sprawl across the lower tiers of the half-pyramid of bales, not quite lying down, but not standing on the ground, either. He tries to push himself up, but then Bad Horse twitches his ears at him and whinnies, and says, in a voice that’s nothing but desire, “God, you’re beautiful,” and instead he scoots a bit to the left so that there isn’t a corner of a bale poking into his kidney, and reaches for his fly again.
He feels silly, on display, but he’s hard, his body charged for this in a way it hasn’t been in…since… (No, he isn’t going there.) and Bad Horse is on him as soon as he’s got his pants down far enough to get his cock out, the touch of his breath enough to make Billy gasp out loud. Then he’s licking, one slow drag of his tongue from balls to tip, and Billy is squirming, twisting his fingers in the hay as if he could anchor himself down against the pleasure that arcs his body. The sound he makes when Bad Horse puts his lips around the head of his cock, carefully keeping his teeth closed, is loud enough to make the other horses stir and neigh in their stalls.
Another long lick, and another, and he could come from this, he realizes with a jolt, just like this, but he wants, he needs…
“Bad,” he breathes, reaching down to touch Bad Horse’s face, to connect, and Bad Horse lifts his head and looks up at him.
Sees him. Sees something that isn’t a joke at all.
There is a moment when he is scared, terrified at what’s passing between them, at the future that’s pounding in their bloodstreams, the glory and destruction like a drug and a promise, and then Bad Horse rears up on his hind legs, rears up over him, settling with his fore legs bent in the hay on either side of Billy’s torso, like they might rest on a mare’s back if he was mounting her.
Billy looks down, down into the space between them, where Bad Horse’s dick stretches erect along the length of his stomach and chest.
The hammer is my penis, he thinks, a hysterical giggle breaking out of him.
“Something funny?” Bad Horse asks. His head is bent, his muzzle against Billy’s ear.
“No, just…” Billy waves his hands in the air, trying to explain. “The anatomy lesson is a bit…daunting.”
“I won’t hurt you, Doctor,” Bad Horse says, and when he shifts, his erection drags over Billy’s naked skin, making them both shudder. “I want to really fuck you, if you want to learn to take me, but I can wait for you to be ready.” He pulls back, thrusts forward, grinding down so that they rub together, cock against giant cock. “Wait until all you want is this inside you.”
His insides clench and twist at the thought, hunger and dread, and he glances down again, strokes his hand over as much of Bad Horse’s cock as he can reach. It jerks into his touch, hot and silken, and he bites back a groan, closing his fingers around the thinnest part, squeezing.
“Yes,” Bad Horse moans, mouthing at his neck, and Billy writhes against him, shameless, bringing his other hand up to press himself tighter against the thick base of the Horse’s dick, stroking them both.
“We’ll rule the world,” Bad Horse says inside his mind. “You and me,” and Billy clings to him until he shakes apart.
The moon has begun to dip behind the dark outline of the stable when Bad Horse’s henchmen drive up and park a trailer in the yard just outside the door. They’re none of them in costume, but there is something vaguely cowboy about them, anyway, in their boots and jeans and the way they feel like they belong in a place like this.
The one who calls herself Calamity - a trusted favorite, as far as Billy’s been able to tell in the past - lowers the back of the trailer for Bad Horse to get in. Her eyes skid over Billy, catching for a second on the missing buttons at the shoulder of his coat. It strikes him that he must smell like sex and horse and hay, and he’s infinitely glad he’s remembered to put his goggles back on.
Calamity looks over at Bad Horse, her mouth quirking in a knowing smile.
“Everything go okay, boss?”
Bad Horse twitches his ears, and looks at Billy when he answers.
Billy feels himself go scarlet, but Calamity merely says, “Good,” and steps away towards the stable, presumably to make sure they haven’t left any traces behind.
He opens his mouth to say something, something with a dirty edge, about how if he’d known what kind of evil plans Bad Horse was into, he’d never have applied to the League.
And then he stops, and thinks, Everything went perfectly.
And he sees it all so clearly, sees each part, how they all fit together.
The raid against a base that no one ought to know about. Normal in handcuffs. “The League is a thing of the past…” The escape route and the explosions. Him on his back, half naked in the hay. “I didn’t plan to tell you tonight…”
Maybe he hadn’t planned that, but…
“You planned this,” he says. “You told the cops where to find us. You orchestrated everything.”
He probably means for the words to come out accusatory, but they sound almost awed.
Bad Horse flicks his tail, tilts his head a little to the side.
“If I did, would that be a problem?”
Billy takes a breath, cool night air and grass and quiet dew.
He thinks of Penny, too blind to ever see what the world was really like.
He thinks of himself, too scared to go through with what needed to be done to fix it.
Really, he knows better by now than to have a problem with anything that’s happened tonight.
He shakes his head, and looks away at the open trailer, the gaping blackness inside it where the moonlight doesn’t reach.
“Want me to ride in the back with you?” he says.
Bad Horse whinnies.
Billy’s always had a thing for the whinny.