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Dr. Horrible's Guide to Resurrecting Your Not-Exactly-Girlfriend

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1. Do your research. Thoroughly.

"I don't know about this, Doc."

"Oh, come on. What's not to like?"

Moist eyes his friend - if the word still applies, after... everything - with no small amount of concern. "You've seen enough movies that you should know how this sort of thing usually goes."

"That means I know how not to do this. And what to do if things get out of hand. Unlike the people in said movies, who always seem to miss the 'remove the head or destroy the brain' memo. I'll have everything very well under control before I even think of trying anything, and I'm trying for something with a little more sense of self than 'braaaaaaains.' Don't panic."

"Yeah, yeah, do I know where my towel is." He does; it's at home. If he actually carried the thing around, it'd be as damp and ineffective as he usually is. "Seriously, though. A zombie army, all of a sudden? What do you even need one for, anyway?"

Doc drops his gaze, and for a few seconds, the ultra-confident persona that's been screwed tightly in place since... the thing falls away; just from that, Moist knows the answer before Doc actually says it.

"It's the perfect cover story." Then the mask is up again, like it never slipped at all. "Besides, I'm not settling for low-quality work here. The least I'm willing to accept is like Discworld zombies."

"...You really want minions that can talk back to you?"

"I want minions that'll have more of a reaction to the world than stimulus-response. If I can pull off a full resurrection, that's even better. There's nothing wrong with striving for high standards."

"If you say so, Doc." Moist sill isn't entirely sold on this plan - for one thing, he can't see how Doc's going to pull this off without the League figuring out what he's really up to - but he's got a feeling this is one of those things where no amount of persuasion will talk him out of it.

***

2. If your usual henchman would be a hindrance to obtaining the body, ASK SOMEONE ELSE.

Tie Die is a bit surprised, when Dr. Horrible approaches her for assistance with part of his plan. She'd watched the rest of the League's reactions, when Dr. Horrible announced his zombie army plan, but she'd been most interested in how the new member fielded the others' questions - more so in his refusal of Dead Bowie's advice than keeping mum about what he intended to do with his research after he had it. He's evil; it's no surprise that he seems to have no desire to share the fruits of his labor with the rest of the League. It just stands out, given the nature of his project, that he doesn't seem interested in pointers from the resident living dead man.

Bad Horse, naturally, has his suspicions about Dr. Horrible's plan, and sent instructions via singing telegram to the rest of the League to determine what is going on, if given the opportunity. Still, she can't make him too suspicious - that he is at all, as a member of the League, goes without saying - so she avoids agreeing too quickly.

"Why me, of anyone?" she asks, making a show of brushing a stray hair off her sleeve.

"My usual associate would make the operation I have in mind... at least five times more difficult than it has to be. Nothing he can help, of course."

"Of course." Tie Die's heard stories about Dr. Horrible's usual henchman. She's not sure she understands why he puts up with someone so evidently useless, but that's a question to be pursued another time.

"And I thought of you on account of your particular talent for distracting bystanders."

"Ah. So it's a glamour you're after, more so than particularly labor-intensive assistance."

Dr. Horrible nods. "It's not labor-free, but I could handle the worst of that alone - it's a matter of diversion, mainly. And, of course, if you'd rather not, I'm sure the Union could refer someone who's up to the job."

"That won't be necessary, Doctor. I think it best that we keep your little project within the confines of the League, as much as possible." She has every reason to believe the Henchmen's Union wouldn't be best pleased to learn about zombie minions in progress; it's certainly nothing she'd have wanted to hear about in her own henching days.

When the appointed night comes, she's not at all surprised to learn Dr. Horrible has a grave robbery in mind. She ends up assisting with the digging efforts, as well as the actual removal of the casket, largely to get them out of the cemetery as efficiently as possible.

It's not until after they've refilled the grave that Tie Die notices the name on the marker. She gives no outward sign, simply filing the fact away for her report, and maintains the requested glamour until they get the casket into Dr. Horrible's laboratory. He pays her for her services with two plastic bags of liquefied gold; he says it ought to have re-solidified, but she should be careful about removing it in any case.

When she returns home, she makes a few notes about the matter, takes a shower, and writes a rough draft of her report. Bad Horse ought to be intrigued by the name attached to the body; Tie Die certainly is.

After all, it takes a very twisted villain indeed to test one's resurrection rituals on one's own murder victim.

***

3. Pop culture has a wealth of advice on the subject of the living dead. That advice should not be taken lightly.

Preserving her was the easy part - just a matter of getting into the funeral home after hours (Moist laughed in the face of the electronic security system) and replacing the standard embalming fluid with a formula he'd devised in college, to keep things viable for dissection longer. That by itself would keep her intact for a year, if he did nothing.

The harder part was working up the nerve to spring the plan. He thought of every possible objection first, as a way of making sure he had all his counter-arguments in place. He's a little surprised that the hardest sell turned out to be Moist - apparently, he'd thought they were just breaking in for a final farewell - but then, zombies are an appropriate goal for a mad scientist; maybe that's why the League took it with so little fuss.

He's watched plenty of zombie movies in his day, so he knows what he's not aiming for. The 'mindless brain-eating undead' shtick might make for better minions, but that's not the point of this exercise. In fact, if that were all he could manage, he'd be in no shape whatsoever to attempt to control the fallout.

His goal is for it to look like nothing ever happened to her in the first place. He'll settle for being able to carry on an intelligent conversation, even if it's one where they're both trying to make sure bits don't fall off.

He also watched Buffy in its original run - which, procedure aside, is the main reason he made a point of digging her up before actually trying anything. He doesn't see how having to dig yourself out after a sudden resurrection would help anyone's state of mind, and as far as he knows, she doesn't have the kind of superhuman strength it would take to do that.

There's another concern raised by the same source material - by the same incident, actually - but he figures he'll cross that bridge when he comes to it. Or burn it, one of the two. He needs to at least talk to her and stop regretting what he didn't get the chance to say.

In any case, his research is as done as it's going to be, and the ray gun (it gives the project away as his, true, but it'll be easier to dismantle when he's finished) ought to be at a hundred percent, as best he can tell from the animal trials he's been able to pull off. All there is to do now is try it and hope like hell it actually works.

***

4. Whether your procedure requires it or not, it's only polite to actually be present when the person comes to.

It starts as a vague prickle at the back of her consciousness. Then it turns into a tug, and the next thing Penny knows, she's on her back on a lab table, gasping for breath - having to breathe, for the first time in a while. There's some kind of ray gun over her head, and a faint smell of ozone in the air.

She closes her eyes, trying to figure out what just happened and regain her composure before she starts asking questions.

"Penny?"

She opens her eyes again, and manages to turn her head. Billy's in a chair next to the lab table, wearing a red lab coat and black gloves; there are red marks around his eyes, like he's been wearing the goggles currently resting on his forehead for too long. There's concern in his eyes, and he looks like he's waiting for her to say something - that or lunge for his brains.

"...What did you do?"

Some of the fear leaves his expression. "In general, or at the moment?"

"Either would work," she says, "but maybe you should start at the beginning. I think I was a little out of it last time we... last time."

Billy closes his eyes. "You were never a target," he says, sounding like he's trying to fight off tears. "You were never supposed to be hurt, no one was except Captain Hammer, but then the freeze ray powered down too soon, and he - and I killed you."

"You didn't pull the trigger."

"I still built the damn thing."

"But you didn't fire it, except at the ceiling." Penny manages a small smile. "Not to say you're off the hook entirely, but most of the blame isn't on your shoulders. That said - why did you go to all this trouble?"

"I had to. For my own peace of mind, because I never - because I love you. And I never actually said it, and I needed to know you knew that, and that you weren't the target. Try as I might, I haven't been able to move forward."

She doesn't know what to say to that, at first, and focuses on propping herself up on her elbows. "That... wasn't exactly how I'd meant it. I was thinking more the whole..." She waves a hand at the lab coat, as best she can from this position.

Billy sighs. "I... wanted to be able to give you the world. And, well, it's a mess, and I think I could fix it if I have the chance."

"I wouldn't have taken it if you'd offered. There's so much wrong with the world that I don't think one person can really fix it - anyway, historically, that kind of thing tends to backfire."

"Hey, if I can resurrect someone without landing in 'flesh-eating zombie' territory, I might be able to actually handle the world. I do my research."

Penny raises an eyebrow. "I don't doubt that you do. I mean, I'm here. But I don't want the world, and with the route you've chosen, you're going to have to do it alone."

"Oh, I know. Not like I'd trust anyone else to do it right anyway." There's an intensity to his voice that makes her think she should have asked what he was up to a little more closely, when she had the chance.

"Well. You got me here in one piece, from the looks of it. Now what?"

"I... don't know." He drops her gaze, instead staring at the floor. "You don't - you don't have to stay, if you don't want to. I won't say the idea doesn't hurt, but - I said what I needed to, and I want to see you happy. I think I'll be okay, in the long run."

"...I don't know if it's a question of wanting to stay so much as I don't think I can." She sits up the rest of the way, finally. "There's miles of legal complications, for one thing, and I'd probably end up a target no matter what you did."

"That and the League would want to know why I never did anything else with my research, after telling them I wanted a zombie army."

"A zombie... oh, dear God." Penny facepalms. "You really are a mad scientist, aren't you?"

"Hey, I'm not that crazy. This is all I was planning to do, I just needed a cover story they'd swallow."

"Still. I can appreciate your motivation, and all, but... next time you feel the need to tell me something, just think it really loud. It'll save everyone trouble."

Billy shrugs. "I said the important stuff. And... you're sure you'll be all right?"

"I was to begin with. Don't see why that would change now. One thing, though."

"Name it."

"Cremate me, this time? It's what I wanted in the first place, but..." She shrugs. "Never got around to writing a will."

Billy nods sharply. "I can - I can do that. Easier than..." He trails off, finally losing the battle against crying; she catches his hand and pulls him into a hug, noticing how cold she still is in comparison.

"Hey. Keep your head up, remember? You're strong enough to carry on - you've got to have a pretty good force of will, to be where you are now. And I'm not gonna tell you Captain Hammer will save us, this time." She pauses for a second, considering that. "What did happen to him, anyway?"

"Shock of actually feeling pain was too much for him. I think he's still in therapy - he's not heroing, I know that."

"I see. In that case... you'll save yourself. However you think is best."

"Don't know how much there is to save," Billy mutters.

"You're willing to let me go. That tells me there's something."

"That could always just be research, though. I'm not going to assume I pulled you out of hell when - everything I can think of points to the contrary."

Penny smiles. "I think it's more than research, or else you wouldn't care at all."

She waits until Billy's left the room to stop reminding herself to breathe; he knows it's coming, yes, but she doesn't want to make him watch that again. And she's making plans, as she returns to her own little corner of the afterlife, to keep an eye on him as best as her circumstances allow.

She thinks he'll be all right, sooner or later. Even if it's a definition of 'all right' that only he can hold to.

***

5. Be prepared to let go and move on. It'll hurt, but it brings its own opportunities.

Dr. Horrible announces, at the next League meeting, that he's abandoning his zombie army project. When pressed for explanation, he only says that the project did not garner the results he had been hoping for, and further research proved they were likely impossible.

Bad Horse finds it more than a little disappointing; he'd hoped he might be able to press the League's most junior member into sharing his research. From there, they could dispense of that ridiculous Henchmen's Union before it has a chance to become a major force in its own right. He's never trusted it, and loathes having to rely on a few of its members for his correspondence. Otherwise, he'd have done away with the whole arrangement as soon as he came to power.

But no. He's a horse, and Mister Ed was just a TV show.

Anyway. In light of Tie Die's report on the grave-robbing incident, Bad Horse is beginning to wonder if there wasn't some other point to this experiment than the doctor let on. There had been some conjecture as to whether his expression upon carrying the girl's body to the stretcher had been shock or apathy - the League voted apathy, in light of his actions after the fact, but this could be a strong point in favor of shock. Particularly if he only conducted his experiments on one person.

Of course, that would depend on what exactly came of his experiment, and the doctor's unwilling to talk. That's no surprise, given how little he said about the project in the first place, but now Bad Horse is determined to get to the bottom of the matter. It's important to make sure the League's newest member hasn't gone and done anything... sappy.

He considers sending someone out for surveillance - but the next member to owe him a favor is Fake Thomas Jefferson, and Bad Horse would rather the doctor not know immediately that he's being watched. Besides, he'll hear all about how the League really ought to move to Boston or Williamsburg.

As though there are any decent racetracks in either city. Really.

He supposes he can afford to postpone anything official for a week or so. The doctor will need at least that long to regroup and determine his next major project, and it's unlikely that he'll destroy the results of this endeavor before someone else can get to them. He may think highly of himself, but the boy's still a novice, if he hangs on to his ideas with such tenacity when they don't work. Bad Horse has been running the races since before Dr. Horrible was even born - as his evil persona, at least, if not as the person acting it out. If he can't outsmart the novices, then what's the world coming to?

When he does realise he's underestimated the novice despite himself, there's very little he can do to balance out his error.