Title: Dead Like Me
Author: Vagabond Sal
Recipient: Gaisce
Featured character: World Without Young Justice Harm/Billy Hayes
Summary: Just like in Romeo & Juliet, only drunker and a little bit more dead.

Author's e-mail: legerdemain@gmail.com
Author's LJ: vagabond_sal



Being dead isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Not that I was expecting a whole lot in the way of fringe benefits, because, you know, trafficking in arcane powers before you're old enough to legally drive probably doesn't endear you to anybody important Upstairs, but spending the rest of my afterlife as some horrible cross between the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man and a Touched by an Angel wanna-be wasn't really what I had in mind when I turned away from the white light. Halos and angel wings? Yeah, right. Try pulling another one, Roma Downey.

My name's Billy. Was Billy, is Billy, whatever. I'm still not sure on the particulars of what to call myself now that I'm post-mortem and all, but just plain old Billy'll do, for now. I'm not normally this chatty, but being held in a closed time-like compression cannister by agents working for a shadow-ops thrice-disavowed branch of the U.S. government gives a guy time to ruminate about the his life. Which brings up the question of how an all-around swell Casper case like me got caught in a glorified Campbell's soup can in the first place, and, well, not to get all Holden Caulfield on you or nothing, but I might as well start at the beginning.

Yadda yadda yadda, say what you will about my traumatic childhood, boo hoo, get me a guest spot on Oprah while you're at it. Point of fact, though, is that I was a fucked-up little shit growing up. A lot of my memory's pretty hazy now, but I get flashes here and there, and, well, let's just say that I'm not proud of everything I did before the Hayes took me into their home. I remember being angry, a lot, as a kid; I remember being angry over how stupid everybody else around me was, I remember being angry over the shadows of fists that rose and fell, I remember just being angry, period. Intelligence and anger is a dangerous combination, but combine it with a feeling of bitter impotence and a morbid fasination with Wendy the Werewolf Killer, and, well, you get me, burning black candles in his bedroom and trying to invoke Belial Most Wicked.

I know it sounds like I'm jumping all over the place here, and I am, but you need to understand what I was before you can get who I would soon become--a lot of which was thanks to the Hayes. Man, the Hayes. I don't remember a lot about them, but I remember that they were kind, and patient, and a little sad, too; I think they'd lost a daughter before they adopted me, I'm not too sure, and I think that maybe they were trying to do something right, in her name. That's not that important, though. What is important is that they were good to me, in a way that I wasn't all that accustomed to, and, if you've ever seen any of a number of similarly-themed Very Important after-school specials, you probably know what happens next. I stopped using e-Bay to buy sacrificial Black Sabbath daggers and started using it to buy vintage porn instead, a much better use for a stolen credit card, if you ask me.

Tip to our viewers at home, though: If you contract with arcane forces and promise them something that may or may not be your immortal soul in exchange for strange eldritch powers, but later on you change your mind? Tossing your copy of the Permagum Codex into the fireplace and turning all the crucifixes in your room right-side up isn't enough to get those arcane forces to stop calling you in the middle of the night about coming through on your end of the deal. Those infernal powers, man, they just can't take no for an answer.

A couple days ago, see, I was having a soak in the tub. (Shut up, it's perfectly manly and not at all gay.) I wasn't thinking about much of anything, just sort of letting my mind wander, when I see this flicker in the mirror-- looked like some blond kid, maybe three or four years younger than me, arms crossed and a smarmy scowl on his face. Now, anybody else would've just written it off as a trick of the light, but somebody who'd done what I did and knew what I knew, I figured there was something rotten going down. Maybe somebody finally coming to collect on the debts I'd never been able to clear, and didn't that thought just make me all sorts of nervous?

I made to get to my feet, but somehow, I slipped, and, well, let's just say it would have taken a lot more than a medic alert bracelet to get me back up and standing. The Hayes freaked, they called the paramedics, and that's when the shit really hit the fan, because the paramedics tried to resuscitate me with a pair of electroshock paddles, and something went...wrong. You know how sometimes, when you sneeze, it feels like your body's trying to explode out of your skin? It was like that, except that this time, my body really did explode, into a mist that expanded out like dispersing storm clouds.

Which brings me to here, and now, and the bunch of MIB rejects who'd vacuumed me up somewhere outside of Poughkeepsie. The last thing I saw before my vision gave was some government goon in a white lab coat, sealing the jar on me.

I was handled, passed around from what I assumed was hand to hand, then carried into a van. I didn't know where they were taking me. I heard voices, but they sounded far-off and tinny, like somebody'd plugged up my ears with cotton. I was drowning in myself. My eyes, if I still had them, either weren't working or didn't have anything to see. Infinite space hemmed me in on all sides. I tried to concentrate, but my mind was still reeling. Death can be traumatic like that.

I lost track of how long I'd been bottled up, minutes, maybe hours, but after a while, I felt the van came to an abrupt stop. The chatter just outside my little cage increased, then I heard what sounded like screaming. Gunshots. I felt freefall for all of a second, and then the glass that had held me fast shattered against the van's walls. The van itself flipped over, end on end. The doors burst open, and people were falling down all around me.

Freed, I spread out and around, my consciousness stretched out over a couple dozen square feet of smoke. My senses aren't what you could call "normal"--I didn't see what had happened, but I felt the action, the way that you'd feel a big rig driving across the other side of the road. Spots of vibration here and there, what felt like areas of pressure levied upon my mind. I had something like vision, strobing into and out of focus. I saw something large, moving quickly through the crush of people, picking some of them up and hurling them away.

Somebody had managed to raise a gun and trained it on the large figure--a girl, I saw now. I reacted instinctively. I shifted, and coursed through and down his nostils. He started gagging. I concentrated, and pushed all the air out of his chest. After a little bit of that, he fell to the ground, and I knew he wouldn't be getting back up again any time soon.

Hey, I said the Hayes turned me away from the dark side of the Force. I didn't say I was ready to be the last of the Jedi or anything.

I flowed out of the man's lungs. Slowly, my mist-form coalesced. With a little bit of effort, I was able to articulate something resembling my original form. Behind me, I heard something that sounded like the noise I imagined a cow in heat might make, and I turned around and saw my rescuer, leaned against the flipped-over carcass of the van that had been transporting me. I saw now the letters D.E.O.--or rather, the inversions thereof--stenciled on its side. What looked like a huge indentation in the shape of a hand neatly crumpled its engine grill along its middle.

I eyed a twitching pile of what I assumed to be D.E.O. agents. "Not to sound ungrateful, but do you always just hit things till they stop moving, or is there occasional method to your mayhem?"

My rescuer shrugged. I saw, now that I had my eyes back, that she was wearing a horrible red and blue leotard that made me instantly think of circus tents, and a tiara on her head, the sort little seven-year-old girls wear at birthday parties. "Hey, if it ain't broke."

I just stared. Some of those thugs were starting to look pretty gelatinous. The ones that were still breathing, anyway. "I think you broke quite a bit, actually."

The big girl with the rhythymic-gymnastics-gone-horribly-wrong miniskirt, whom I had decided to mentally call Big Bertha, eyed me up and down like I was a nice piece of flank steak waiting to be devoured. (Or inhaled, maybe, judging from the way her nostrils flared open wide and round with every breath.) "You got a problem with the way I roll, pretty-boy?"

"No, no problem," I said, hastily. I raised my hands in what I hoped was a placating fashion. "I just wonder about the prudence of--"

The air currents shifted, then, bringing a new scent to waft underneath my nose, and I took a long whiff. Involuntarily, my eyebrows climbed for my hairline.

"Is that--are you drunk?"

"Perceptive and pretty. I knew my master didn't send me here for nothing."

"Your master?"

Big Bertha smiled. "Oh yes. He's got plans for you, he does." From over her shoulder, the moon cast her shadow, long and full, across my face.

Like I said, harps and fluffy white wings, this ain't.