seiberwing: (Enemy Mine)
[personal profile] seiberwing
Title: And So I Face the Final Curtain
Fandom: Batman (The Brave and the Bold)
Characters: The Music Meister, OCs
Summary: It’s hard to face the music when you’ve built your entire life around the hopes of a criminal record.
Author’s Note: Full guilty confession, I have not actually watched any BatB beyond Music Meister’s titular episode. Probably should get on that eventually. However, Meister doesn’t seem to actually have any canon besides that episode so hopefully this doesn’t run smack into any contradictions.



And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Regrets, I've had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way


“Our next case is State v. William Harris, alias “The Music Meister’.”

The judge sighed. “Oh, good. Another one.”

Billy couldn’t breathe. His heart pounded vivace, hard and aching against the inside of his ribcage. His wrists were cuffed, connected by a chain to the shackles on his ankles, and in lieu of anything more sophisticated they’d put duct tape over his mouth. For the first time in his life someone had rendered him completely helpless.

This was not supposed to happen. Not to him. Not to the Music Meister.

The judge squinted down at Billy from the bench. He was a fat man with his wispy grey hair shaved off to give the impression that the receding hairline was his own idea. “Why is the accused gagged?”

The prosecutor rose, leaning over his bench like a snake over its prey. “Your Honor, the accused is able to hypnotize others with his voice. The gag is a necessary safety precaution.”

Usually Billy loved attention. He went out of his way to make sure people stared at him. But as the courtroom’s eyes focused upon him with suspicion and nosy curiosity, he turned his face downward. This wasn’t how he wanted to be seen. They should be cheering his name, not whispering to themselves as he huddled in his chains.

“How does the defendant plead?”

Billy looked sideways at his state-supplied lawyer, and back again to the table. The tip of his tongue worried at the gap between his front teeth.

“Not guilty by reason of insanity.”

People testified. Footage was shown. Billy didn’t bother to pay attention. His premier performance had broadcast his voice worldwide to hypnotize entire continents into singing to his tune, and he’d taken full credit for the proceedings. It was hard to claim the whole event was a misunderstanding. The only witness that kept his interest was the psychologist who’d deemed him mentally incompetent. Billy leaned forward and glared at him the entire time, picturing lavish torments in his head, even as his defense whispered that being declared mentally disabled was actually a good thing for him. As if the weasely man had any idea of Billy’s true motivations.

Part of the doctor’s supporting evidence was that the Music Meister had turned his hypnotic talent not towards world domination or bank robberies, but instead used it to construct flashy musical numbers. Apparently having style and taste counted as a mental illness, while greed and megalomania indicated sanity. Society was depraved.

Billy was finally permitted to testify, though the judge allowed him to remain in his seat. Insisted, as if somewhere between chair and witness box the criminal would manage to free himself and wipe out the entire courtroom. Billy’s brief responses were written on paper and then passed to the bailiff, who read them out for the benefit of the jury.

A lesser man might have felt pity for the defense attorney, with the helpless case he’d been forced to take. Billy’s fingers drummed on the table as his lawyer searched for some way to present him as sympathetic. “Did you think you were helping people?”

No.

“Did you believe your actions were justified?”

Yes.

“Why?”

For the sake of the performance. For art’s sake.

The defense quickly gave up, if he’d even been trying at all. The gleeful prosecutor leapt to ply him with questions and Billy began simply flashing the 'yes' card to every statement the man made. Yes, he’d broken into a government facility and hijacked a communications satellite. Yes, he’d hypnotized large groups of people, including several superheroes, into committing theft, assault, and excessive property damage. Yes, he had caused an Arkham jailbreak, putting dozens of dangerous criminals back on the streets. Yes, he’d imprisoned Batman and Black Canary in an elaborate deathtrap (corollary: though it was so obviously overcomplicated than any simpleton would realize it was only a show piece). Yes, he had entranced the entire planet with his enthralling song simply to prove that he could. Yes, he recognized the consequences of his actions in property damage and bodily harm to others.

“Do you feel any remorse?”

Only that I got caught.

“Was this plan premeditated?”

He’d have given a bitter smirk if the tape allowed it.

Yes.

Oh, yes. Premeditated for a very long time.

--------

Act One, Scene One. Open on a band room that smells like stale Doritos, its worn red carpet spotted with old chewing gum and soda stains. Our hero Billy Harris is hidden in the very back with a choir book in front of him, practicing for the Christmas choir performance. His ginger hair is cropped into a bowl cut and clothes are meticulously dorky. Enter Marcus Wilson, a bully with greasy blonde hair and a sharp nose tilted slightly to the side by a wrestling accident. He is flanked by two cronies and has no idea what significance he’s about to play in a life of a far greater man.

“Hiding in here by yourself, altar boy?”

Billy kept his head down as the older boys surrounded him. Those were the days when he still listened to his parents, who thought ignoring bullies would remove them from existence.

Glorious now, behold him arise.

His voice cracked and rasped as he sang, fighting its way through the last vestiges of puberty.

“I’m talking to you, Harris.” Marcus shoved him lightly and Billy stumbled back into balance. Ignore them.

K-king and god, and sacrifice.

“You retarded or something?”

Hallelujah--

Marcus grabbed him by the collar just as Billy’s breaking voice hit the perfect high note.

Hallelujah.

Marcus froze in place, a glazed expression coming over his face. Billy held the note, watching in confusion as the bullies stepped away from him. At the end of his breath he was forced to stop and coherence returned to the group.

Marcus took a step forward, about to speak and Billy sang again. The pitch sounded strange even to his own ears but as long as he kept it up they moved where told them. By Billy’s will the three walked away from him, then returned, staring at him without the slightest hint of resistance.

Billy began to smile.

Stop.

Stand in place.

Turn around.

Dance, you pathetic idiots.

They pirouetted like ballerinas, dumbstruck looks on their thuggish faces, as Billy watched in rapturous glee. Whatever he’d managed to tap into, he definitely liked it.

The fools tried to block the incident out or rationalize it away, but Billy was never bullied again. Anyone who bothered him found themselves tripping down the stairs or stabbing their hands with their pencil. Quite by accident. No one ever managed to make the connection between his quiet humming and the way their feet suddenly betrayed them.

Billy kept his talent private, having strong memories of childhood movies where the superpowered protagonist was constantly pursued by government agents wishing to vivisect him in the name of science. His main test subjects were the children he babysat every few Saturday nights. Ellen was three and Barton was five, neither one old enough to reveal what he’d done even if they’d understood it. He tested duration, distance, and versatility, the length of time he could hold his control after he stopped singing and the complexity of the acts he could compel them into committing. It didn’t hurt them, and what point would there be in hurting them anyway? There were so many better people to destroy.

As Billy practiced his strength grew. Secrecy became a burden and controlling feeble-minded children only whetted his desire for power. Billy had no interest in religion but he did have a strong attachment to his position in the church choir. He waited in his pale robe that ended several inches too high above his ankles, watching the gathered crowd carefully as they streamed in for yet another mundane Sunday service. The women in their wide hats, the little girls in their flowered white dresses, the men in ties whose garishness was directly proportional to their age. His parents and siblings were nested in the middle of the mass, wearing dull clothes and bored expressions. However hard he tried he’d never been able to sway the four of them, but today it would be of no matter. He would have the audience he deserved.

Billy curled his toes inside his loafers as he waited through the pointless service. A few flecks of sweat formed at the edge of his hairline, symptomatic of the malfunctioning church air conditioning. When the choir’s voices surged into song his fingers curled eagerly around the railing.

Thirty seconds into the first hymn the rest of the choir was silenced. Billy’s voice rose, filling the whitewashed overheated building with glorious hymns. He watched as the half-asleep faces of the crowd turned slack and wide-eyed, slowly beginning to rock back and forth. In the front row a few older women began to tap their feet. Congregants rose to their feet, swaying and clapping, sending up a joyful noise to the young man who’d taken their minds. His family, confused, played along and pretended they were caught up in the religious experience enrapturing the crowd around them.

Billy’s song was nearly broken by laughter as he looked down on the peons below him. Their words praised the Lord but their adoring gazes praised the real power moving in the room. Releasing them from his spell was nearly painful, the angel regretfully taking his wings off to return to banal humanity. As the crowd returned to their senses he smiled cruelly behind ginger bangs.

The power was delicious but power for power’s sake was pointless. As the third child in an unambitious family Billy had never developed an idea of what he wanted to do with his life. There had been the usual dreams of being a rock idol but his parents had treated it as a passing childish whim. It wasn’t until senior year that the concept of ‘supervillain’ even crossed Billy’s radar. He’d taken a break from practicing on his electric keyboard to steal dessert from the kitchen while his mother was distracted by the evening news. On the way back he caught sight of a green suit and twirling question mark cane, and a cocky smirk he would later imitate in front of the mirror.

“Who’s that?”

“The Riddler,” said his mother, picking her way through a TV dinner. Her unfinished paperwork was splayed across the coffee table. “One of those weirdos in Gotham. This one does crimes and then leaves riddles behind as clues to what he’s doing.”

Billy leaned forward and stole one of her French fries. His eyes stayed fixed on the screen. “Why would he do that?” The man gestured with his cane to a massive rubix cube, tied with a bow covered in words. A riddle, if you squinted and filled in some of the words on your own.

“He’s a crazy person,” said his mother, chewing her pencil. “They all are. Probably sees it as performance art or something stupid like that.”

“Huh.”

And from there came the grand plan.

Billy smiled into the yearbook camera lens, mumbled ‘oh, something with music’ to the student newspaper, and surprised his family by majoring in electrical engineering. He grew his hair out and threw away his retainer. His grades, previously middling to average, went down drastically as he cherry-picked the classes that would best advance his career. On the side Billy ferociously monitored the performances of the masterminds who’d gone before him. Riddler, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, the Rogues of Central City, anyone who’d made a name for themselves with a bright costume and a criminal record. In the margins of his class handouts he doodled countless sketches of ruffled green shirts and wide-brimmed purple hats.

Billy graduated by the skin of his diastematic teeth, cut town, and set to fulfilling his dreams. If you wanted to really shine, then Gotham was the place to be. But location location, you couldn’t be a criminal performer in a rathole apartment. A proper villain needed a proper lair.

With a song and some cash of ambiguous origin, Billy donned a false name and purchased the derelict Tempest Theater. She was a soiled dove of a playhouse, once glorious but laid low by inattention. Her former owner was happy to see the back of her even without Billy's coercion, but Billy could see the potential lying under the mildew and rot.

The next year and a half was devoted as much to making the Tempest shine as much as it was to preparing for his future career. Hypnotism meant one never wanted for money or had a job to distract one from the important things in life.

On the outside the paint was still peeling and the doors were boarded up, a careful camouflage against the authorities. Inside the floors had lush carpeting and the moulding on the walls was overlaid with gold leaf. The Purple velvet curtains were tied at the corners of the stage, exposing his workbenches and his high-class electric keyboard.

The dressing room became Billy’s studio apartment. If one rearranged the furniture there was just enough room for a twin bed and a few personal affects. No real kitchen but that was fine; he could live on takeout and whatever would fit in the microwave. In the winter he hardly needed to turn the refrigerator on at all.

And the customized stereo system was to die for.

It was in that fragile, gilded cradle that the Music Meister was finally born. Billy’s meticulous figures wove together his costumes in viridian and amethyst, as carefully as he put together his electricity-spewing Conductor’s Baton. Picking a single uniform was excruciating so he picked them all, an ensemble for each of his favored genres. The mask seemed obligatory, but everyone did masks and his astigmatism made contacts disorienting. Billy devised instead a pair of mirrored shades that hid his prescription glasses underneath, decorating them with the same double-note insignia that adorned his costumes.

His debut took months to plan. Competition for the front page of the newspapers was heated in Gotham, and he needed to make a big splash just to get past the Joker’s latest escapade. Threatening the city would be enough for a routine performance, for his opening number he'd need something far bigger. He needed the entire world.

Not even the famed vigilante in the bat suit would get in his way. The entire world would hear him sing and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

--------

And now here he was. Disgraced, stripped of everything but his name, forced into chains and a dull prison outfit, duct-taped into submission. All that work for nothing.

Billy’s tongue was dry and the back of his throat hurt. They hadn’t let him have a drink of water since they put the gag on. His foot idly tapped as the jury deliberated and his lawyer flipped through a Tom Clancy novel.

At least they weren’t long about it. Not guilty by reason of insanity. Meister gave the court a silent shrug. Jail or lunatic, he wouldn’t be at the Tempest anytime soon. What would they even do with him? They couldn’t keep him duct taped for the rest of his life, could they? He had visions of spending his life in a soundproof room and refused himself the privilege of shuddering.

The sound of the gavel made him jump. “Fine,” said the judge as the jury shuffled out. He sounded almost bored with the proceedings. “Put him in Arkham with the rest of the weirdos.”

Billy sat up, all fear wiped away in favor of excitement. “Mkm?”

Arkham Asylum, prison of the celebrity criminals? Where they sent the ones that had really made a dent in proper society’s dull mediocrity? Home to the idols he had so meticulously followed all these years?

The duct tape crinkled as Billy’s lips twisted upward, a triumphant grin no one could see. Perhaps he’d succeeded after all.
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