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One of Us

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The world has gone to hell, since Bad Horse laced the water supply with mutagenic compounds, giving half the world superpowers. The results of which - it's nothing like it is on TV.

Ordinary people aren't meant to be heroes, or villains. They're just people, greedy, reckless, impulsive, stupid people. And when you gave people the ability to take revenge for every slight they'd ever received in their lives....things got ugly. It's safer off of the streets. Though safer is a relative word now.

Billy has stopped wearing the suit. He folded it, and left it at the bottom of his wardrobe. Professor Normal was melted, just last week, by an overenthusiastic member of the public. Not for doing anything. Just for being a villain. It's dangerous to be a villain. More dangerous to be a villain. It's dangerous to be anything at the minute.

Which is why, when someone knocks at the door, Billy does nothing but sit quietly in the dark for a long minute. They don't go away, they keep knocking. The door vibrates gently, with each impact, four feet from his head. Billy eventually gets up, opens the door.

For a second all he registers is a shape in the darkness.

The darkness falls on him, and Billy is in no way built to hold more than two hundred pounds of human being, that's currently trying its best to be dead weight. He slams into the wall, and narrowly avoids ending up on the floor. But he recognises the weight he's holding, it's a familiar weight, though the way it's collapsed into him, that isn't familiar at all. Captain Hammer is heavy, heavier than a normal man, and standing in the dark hallway trying to hold him with the smell of wet copper an inch from his mouth, is more than claustrophobic.

Billy eventually manages the short walk to the kitchen, though possibly only via luck and gravity. He sets him down in one of the chairs, and Hammer instantly folds over on his arms.

No one will notice the light - Billy boarded up the windows weeks ago - he flicks it on. Captain Hammer is bleeding. Billy freezes with his hand on the plastic switch. He'd known as much, he'd tasted as much in the narrow darkness of the hallway, but seeing it, in real life, is much different. His shirt is torn and wet in patches, he's missing a glove and the other has lost three fingers. He looks...Billy has never seen him look like this before.

"Stay here, I have to get some -"

The first aid kit is under the stairs.

When he comes back it's obvious Captain Hammer hasn't moved. Billy fills a bowl with water and carries it to the table, tosses a towel down on the wood. Captain Hammer watches him, expression tired and confused. He doesn't resist when Billy carefully, warily, catches his chin and tilts his face into the light.

He makes a noise in his throat.

The blood is Captain Hammer's. Billy can see where the skin of his face is torn open, he can see where it's come from, where it's fallen against his shirt and run down the solid line of his neck.

He dips the towel in the water, squeezes it out, then lifts it to Captain Hammer's face. The blood comes off easily in some places, more reluctantly in others. Captain Hammer breathes into the silence, flinching occasionally when the towel skirts parts of his face clearly more abused than others. He says nothing, though he does tilt his head, when Billy's fingers encourage him to. It's utterly surreal, sitting here in the near silence of the kitchen, with the smell of blood everywhere and Captain Hammer breathing against the cold skin of his knuckles.

Hammer looks unreal like this, there's a long, untidy break in his lower lip that trickles blood, another across the middle of his eyebrow, and one on the high vulnerable part of his cheekbone, the smear of a bruise is already turning dark across his jaw.

"I have to clean these." Billy gestures carefully.

He goes for the alcohol, and Captain Hammer inhales sharply through his nose. Hands clenching on the wood of the table.

"If you hit me this will just take a lot longer," Billy says softly.

Captain Hammer swallows raggedly, like he might be sick, and relaxes in Billy's grip. Though he looks miserable, flinching and hissing at every ounce of pressure. He does jerk backwards when Billy presses on his lip. Sends a helpless, wounded look of accusation across the table.

"You have to let me," Billy says softly, and Captain Hammer surprises him, by slowly leaning back into his hand.

Now the villains have superpowers too, and some of them are angry.

"I didn't know anyone else," Captain Hammer says thinly.

Billy's not sure what he can say to that. The last time he'd seen Captain Hammer he'd left Billy bruised a lot like this, canted into the edge of a library wall, dizzy and bleeding into his mouth. He cleans the rest of his face in silence, Captain Hammer twitching and fidgeting under his fingers, unwilling to pull away but clearly uncomfortable.

His skin is warm.

Eventually Billy lowers the towel; dips it in the water and wrings it out, before settling it against the dark edge of Hammer's jaw.

"You're going to have to put ice on that, or you'll look even more of a mess tomorrow. I don't even know if this will help. I've never seen you -" he carefully readjusts the towel. "I've never seen you bleed," he finishes softly.

Captain Hammer lifts a hand, bruised and scraped at the knuckles, and holds it there himself, while Billy searches through the rest of his first aid kit. It's a fairly comprehensive first aid kid. He's given himself stitches before.

"I thought you were invulnerable," Billy says softly.

"So did I." Captain Hammer still sounds annoyed, underneath that thin track of fear, and that's oddly comforting.

Billy's hands look pale against Hammer's face, spots of his blood dot the thin lines of his fingers. He thinks, bizarrely, that six months ago he would have given anything to have Captain Hammer's blood on his hands.

"I didn't have anywhere else to go," Captain Hammer says simply, and it's clear he's both bewildered at the realisation, and that he hates it.

"It's all right," Billy says quietly, and it surprises him that he means it.

He very carefully lays his thumb against Hammer's lower lip.

"You probably need stitches...can you even have stitches?"

"I don't know." There's a cautious, wariness to each word, like Captain Hammer is aware that it hurts, and he's trying very hard to avoid the sensation. "Probably not."

Hammer's skin is really unnaturally warm.

Or perhaps Billy's just cold, there's been no power for weeks.

"Who did this?" he asks into the quiet.

Hammer scowls, then winces, and for a long while Billy doesn't think he'll answer.

"I didn't know any of them."

The silence is so full it's hard to breathe.

"Why do you stay out there?" Billy thinks, maybe, he puts too much emphasis on the question. He makes it sound ludicrous.

"I'm a superhero," Hammer says flatly, though he sounds scared, and angry, and tired. "It's what I do."

Billy wonders if he knows that no one cares any more. That no one is watching any more. Then he feels like an asshole for thinking it.

"I killed someone," Hammer says softly. It's a strange, lost collection of words.

Billy looks up, surprised and confused. "What?"

Hammer is twisting his hands together, rubbing his fingertips across the breaks in his knuckles. It's a horrible, repetitive gesture.

"I know you think I'm an oaf, but I've always had control, I've always known exactly how hard to hit. He wouldn't stop hitting me, and there was blood everywhere, and I didn't know how much to use, I didn't know, and I hit him too hard. I couldn't -" The table creaks sharply under the push of Captain Hammer's fingers, and Billy doesn't think at all, he just stretches a hand out, and covers his hand, pushes it still. His fingers curl round the ragged torn edges of Hammer's knuckles.

Hammer takes a breath, stares at his hands in surprise.

"I think he wanted to kill you," Billy said quietly. "And I think the fact that you feel bad about it, means you're ok."

The world was going to hell and Captain Hammer, it turned out, might have been one of the good guys after all.