"The Story of Bill McNeal"
Rated PG-13 for naughty swear words.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, I own no one, I own nothing but the imaginary alcohol. That is mine. Keep yer mitts off!
A/N: Hopefully, thisíll make someone sad. Iím a sadist that way. But donít be mistaken, this wasnít written to make people cry. This was only written for the wonderful character that was Bill McNeal and the actor that portrayed him so well. Dedicated, of course, to both of them. SAL-UTE!
Feedback: yes, please!
'The Story According To Lisa'
Lisa hung up the phone, dropping it back in its cradle. Everything seemed to spin wildly in front of her, her vision beyond blurry. She managed to find a seat on her sofa, knocking papers and stationary to the floor with a rustle, but she didn't notice as she felt the world spin even quicker. Everything moved.
Bill McNeal is dead.
Tears clouded the movement that she saw and she felt herself shake harshly. No.
It couldn't be. She'd seen him... she'd seen him just days ago. He was fine; he was as arrogant as always. He'd teased her, about Walt- about Walt leaving the station. He'd called her a spinster maid wannabee, amongst other things. She'd very nearly bitch slapped him, but then he'd smiled at her, like he didn't know that he'd hurt her. She'd let it go like every other time he'd acted like an ass, because she knew that that was his fucked up friendship call.
She knew that beyond any sarcasm or witty put down that could ever have been born from Bill's arrogant mouth, he was actually fond of every single person in that damn office. So she had no qualms about believing that he had been fond of her too. That even through his demeanor, he respected her. And so she hadn't slapped him.
Lisa's hand wandered to the side table next to her sofa and she found what she was looking for. Her hand collided with a bottle of alcohol, scotch whiskey, and it almost dropped to the floor but she scrambled to it and caught it before it had the chance to fall.
She thought about just drinking out of the bottle, but decided not to. Instead, she clumsily got up from the sofa and took tentative, heartbroken steps to her kitchen and rummaged through her cupboards.
Her tear clouded eyes made it hard to recognize objects and she pushed a plate too far to the edge. It fell and shattered on her kitchen floor. It seemed to fall in slow motion- her eyes cleared up enough to watch it falling, to watch it shatter into a thousand useless pieces. She was too tired and bewildered to pick it up, however, so she resumed looking for a glass to drink in, and once found, she tip toed over the shards of porcelain.
Lisa poured herself an unhealthy amount into the mug she'd retrieved and drank it quickly. It was good, she decided, that she had learnt how to down liquor quickly after her second break up with Dave. She had known it would come in good use.
She poured herself some more. Lisa felt her heart constrict at the thought of Bill being dead, so damn suddenly, and decided on behalf of the ache that she needed to be way drunker than she was now if she wanted to get through the night.
Bill McNeal is dead.
The words echoed in her head again, in Beth's voice. The microwave indicated that it was 11:30 p.m. now; she had gotten the call at around 11:20, she figured. She thought maybe she should remember that detail, that somehow it was very important for the memory of Bill.
Pouring herself another mug of whiskey, she began drinking it slowly as her mind wandered to memories of Bill, millions of them running through her head. Working with him, arguing with him, being his boss and trying to control him, and then, more specific memories flashed through her mind; trying to convince Jimmy not to cancel the segment The Real Deal With Bill McNeal, the constant offers of being willing to help her have a baby, Bill trying to make Dave jealous so that him and Lisa would get back together to help the work flow, singing political songs on his piano, siding with Dave after their first break up, trying to be funny and wondering why no one thought he was, smiling at her after he made Joe fix his printer, giving her a knowing smile every time he'd insulted one of the ladies, a quick flash of guilt in his eyes when he stepped over the line with Matthew.
All too quickly, they stopped, and she was stuck with the image of Bill smiling with some children in the park. Truly happy. He would have made an excellent father.
She sniffed into her drink before taking another gulp of it into her mouth, letting it burn her throat. She welcomed the burn, wanting it to erase everything within her that was making her feel like hell. Then she felt guilty for it, knowing she needed this pain, because it was tears for Bill, and he deserved them.
Of all people, Bill McNeal could not have left without people crying for him. She smiled sadly as she thought it, but knew it was true. He might be a cocky, arrogant, pompous son-of-a-bitch, sure, but that didn't matter anymore. She wouldn't have been crying so hard if he hadn't been. It was his special articulance and yet idiocy towards people that made him Bill McNeal, and she knew now that, if she'd had a choice in the matter, she wouldn't have changed it for the world.
Lisa lifted the mug to her lips but was greeted with air as she pulled it back to skull the rest of her drink. She stared into the mug, confused. She could've sworn there was some alcohol left in it. She went to grab the bottle next to her, but her intoxicated fingers knocked the bottle out of her grasp and dangerously near the edge of her kitchen table. She sighed as it stabilized itself and did not fall to the ground, but the relief was short lived as she went to grab for it again and it made the rest of the journey to the floor. She was too drunk to catch it this time and it shattered much like the forgotten plate on the floor tiles of her kitchen.
"Fuck!" she cursed, as shards of glass sprinkled her feet, soggy with the remaining alcohol. "There goes Jack," she mumbled as she stared at the mess. "Dammit!"
Resigned to her only mostly drunken state, she sighed in anger. Picking up the mug, she threw it in the air, and watched it collide with a wall. The yellow mug shattered also, and she laughed almost maniacally at the multicolored mess.
Bill would have loved this. Seeing her like this. He would have laughed. It would have fueled his fire. He would have made fun of her inebriated state, poked fun at her pain. God, she already missed him.
Drumming her fingers on the table and spending a few minutes listening to the solitude of her fingers on the wood of her kitchen table, Lisa decided she wasn't drunk enough for the night. Nowhere near it. If she would remember Bill McNeal, she needed alcohol. She needed to numb the pain of having to remember him. Needed alcohol to remind her that she would never see him again, to make the pictures of him in her mind slide from one to another more gracefully.
Finding her jacket thrown on the arm of her sofa after five attempts and a final victory of getting out of her kitchen unharmed, she unlocked her door. Remembering the concept of shoes, she dug herself into her closet to find a decent and comfortable pair. Patting the side of her coat, she felt her wallet nestled firmly in a safe inner pocket. Grabbing the keys of her side table, she checked imaginary boxes in her mind and deemed herself ready to venture outside in search of more alcohol.
The New York City nightlife in her part of the woods was eerily quiet tonight, she noticed through her drunken fog. She wondered if that made it safer for her to be outside, half drunk, or if it made it more dangerous for her. Her rational mind screamed at her to get back inside her apartment and get a nice nights sleep to combat the alcohol and pain in her system, but the alcohol spoke to her as if a devil on her shoulder, telling her to continue her path. The alcohol was more dominant it seemed, as she continued her confident, perhaps crooked steps towards the bar 15 minutes walking away from her flat.
She remembered when she had taken Bill to this same bar, her current destination. It was the night following the cancellation of the Real Deal feature, and they'd both been so angry that they'd settled there for a few drinks. The night had gone slowly with both covering small talk efficiently, until they'd had a few drinks. Work talk had ensued, thought not strictly related to work at all. They talked about Dave, about Matthew, about Beth. It wasn't bitching so much as it was sharing opinions, sharing anecdotes that they had each experienced.
Their conversation had inevitably turned to her past relationship with Dave, and he shared his experience with Catherine. They had laughed at the stories each would tell, now with more drinks under their belts, and had giggled over words that weren't necessarily funny until they had started singing loudly and embarrassingly.
He had walked her to her house, and as they were both quite drunk, she had welcomed him into her apartment for the night. He had slept on the sofa, and in the morning she had found a note on her kitchen table.
Didn't want to wake you. Hope you have a massive headache. I know I do.
What had stunned her, what had amazed her, was that he was the same. The same as always. Not an act, but Bill McNeal. Prior to the experience, she had wondered what he would be like if she'd talked to him alone while he was drunk. She had always thought that maybe, in the throes of alcohol, that he would reveal some other self, a more socially expectable human being whom tormented others because he was a little scared boy.
That night, he had been the same, only polite in his respect for her in that he hadn't taken advantage. The Bill McNeal that she had thought was a cover was the true nature of the beast, so to speak, and the respect born out of that was tremendous on her part. Beyond any lame revelations, he had wholly and truly revealed himself in that he showed her that his act was not an act. It was just Bill McNeal.
Lisa let her feet find their way to the bar as her mind floated between memories and thoughts, and when her feet stopped, her mind did as well. She saw the bar and cursed. Closed for renovations.
Sighing angrily and wishing for a mug to hurl, she stepped into the curb and kept watch for cabs, until one was noticeable in the near distance. Raising her hand, she hailed it and climbed in.
Bill is dead.
It rung through her head so loudly that she didn't hear the direction she had given the driver. Didn't matter, she knew she'd get to somewhere with alcohol, and that was all she wanted. It was all that mattered.
The trip was fortunately brief, and she tossed a few dollars to the driver before getting out of the cab into the street.
She stepped into the curb carefully, albeit clumsily, and nearly tripped. Straightening herself, finally noticing that she was so very alone, drunk, in a world she didn't know inebriated. Lisa took a long, haunted look around, searching for familiarity, with only one thought ringing through her foggy brain.
Bill McNeal is dead.
'The Story According To Dave'
Dave Nelson had never been the violent type. He had never hit anyone in his life, his temper had never promoted violence of any kind, and throwing items during a fight had highlighted as an innocent pillow on a sofa. So when he threw his portable phone at the wall, he managed to surprise himself. The surprise, however, was overwhelmingly overthrown by the pain and hurt that was consuming his body, his tiny body, and he didn't know if he could stand it.
There was no way- there could be no way. It couldn't be.
Mr. James' voice had been hollow on the phone, broken and sorrowful. Nothing had sounded more painful in Dave's life. He idly wondered how the rest of the gang had taken it.
Heart attack. He died from a.. a heart attack.
Grabbing his keys and putting his shoes back on, he left his apartment in a hurry. He couldn't be there tonight. Not tonight. Not with his answering machine telling him to call Jimmy, as soon as he could. He scolded himself for not being there when the news was known. It was 11:10 p.m. on his watch- how long ago had it happened? For how long had Bill McNeal been alive to him, when in fact, he was dead to the world?
Absentmindingly wiping his eyes, he noticed that he hadn't let anything fall. No wetness was evident on his trench coat sleeve. It made him feel worse. Made him feel like the cold-hearted bastard that everyone, and mostly Bill himself, had taunted him of being. Then why, his rational, logical side reminded him harshly, does it hurt so fucking bad?
The door of his apartment complex closed behind him, but he didn't notice. All he saw, all he noticed was what was before him. His tunnel vision worked for him. It lessened the pain.
The pain, he reminded himself, that he needed. He felt cold, alone and in a pain he'd never experienced before. He'd never lost anyone before. He didn't know how it worked. Was he supposed to cry? He thought that that was what happened in these times, but his eyes were dry. Hollow, but dry nonetheless. His hands formed tight fists in his coat pockets; overgrown nails making half moon shapes on his palms.
Memories? He didn't know if he had any that he wanted to revisit. Not that they were all bad, but he didn't know if it would be the final straw on his sanity. Through the pain, also, he didn't know if he had the capacity to remember anything. He tried, straining his mind. After a few minutes of coming up blank, he dropped the case, and that was when they started filling his head.
They were stupid memories. Bill chewing too loudly. Bill knocking too loudly. Bill smiling a huge, fake smile. Bill throwing Dave's office door open as he entered. Bill telling WYNX listeners the time. Bill trying to make him jealous. Bill questioning his sexuality. Bill pressing the button for the elevator. Bill questioning his authority. Bill smiling, perhaps honestly, Dave would never really know. Bill sharing a private look with him as he lied to a naive Matthew.
They were flashes in his head and they were elusive. As he tried to grasp them, they would disappear. Instead, flashes kept coming, faster and stronger, more varied and each more painful. By now, Dave's path was completely out of his consciousness. All he could think of, all he could sense was the memory of Bill McNeal.
It angered him. He didn't know why. This whole situation angered him. He wondered, not for the first time, if maybe that was the wrong reaction. He should be sad, not angry. Before he knew what he was doing, a trashcan belonging to some faceless person had been kicked, and due to the new throb in his right foot he knew that it was him that had kicked it. Surprised at his own actions, he shook his head and decided not to dwell on it any further. Instead, he just kept walking.
Dave didn't know where he wanted to go, a destination being the last thing on his mind but as he fought his way step by step through an unacknowledged path, a bar came into view. He checked his watch; 11:50 p.m. He'd been walking for more than half an hour, mindlessly, with the memories in his mind. Didn't matter anymore, he found this night's niche in the form of a lonely bar in New York, he thought sourly, as so many had before him.
Entering, Dave felt the stuffy air rush towards him in waves, contrasting greatly with the as-fresh-as-it-gets air of New York City. He dug out his wallet and checked for money, calculating how drunk he could get. Satisfied, he ordered a scotch and sat down at the bar.
"What's the matter, mate?" an Australian accent which belonged to the bartender asked. Dave lifted his head to look at him.
"I take it hasn't been a very good day," the bartender said with a huff, wiping a shot glass dry.
"No. No it really hasn't," Dave spat out bitterly, but didn't elaborate. The guy didn't need to know. He didn't know who Bill McNeal was. Why would he care?
"Want to talk about it?" the bartender offered, setting the shot glass down and picking up another.
Dave stared at the bartender, trying to communicate the hurt without words. Talk about it? He couldn't. He wondered if the guy knew how to read eyes. He hoped so, because Dave wasn't about to tell him with words.
Taking the hint, the bartender nodded in trained sympathy and said, "Well, if you need anything mate, I'll just be down there, okay?" before walking to the other end of the bar to chat with a half drunken lady.
Dave took a sip of his drink, letting the drink sit in his mouth before swallowing it down his throat. Felt it sink into his stomach, felt it settle in his stomach, comforting. Almost.
"Bartender? Another drink," he called out in a gruff voice, polishing his drink off in two gulps. The Australian looked at him oddly but didn't say a word as he poured the drink, settling it in front of Dave.
"There you go mate," he said, retreating to the drunken lady.
Dave looked at the drink oddly, remembering that he didn't actually drink scotch. He was a vodka man. He preferred wine, also, and the only times he'd really drank a lot of scotch was with-
His head sunk to the bar, landing in a thud. The memories, which had quieted down for a while, returned, a sensory memory as the taste of whiskey made him feel the memory much, much stronger. He had been sitting at the conference table at the office late at night and presumably alone, he remembered, when Bill had snuck up on him.
"Tough day, little chief?"
Dave looked up at the man he least wanted to see right now and gave him a twisted smile. "Yeah, you could say that."
"Well, there's nothing like a good swig of alcohol to brighten your perspective," Bill walked to his desk in brisk steps and retrieved a bottle from his desk. "Scotch?"
"Bill, as much as I treasure your intention to get me drunk, I don't think so," Dave declined politely.
"Oh, come on Dave!" Bill threw his arm up, a dramatic gesture Dave had begrudgedly gotten used to. "Live a little!"
Dave looked up at Bill, looked at the bottle of whiskey in his hand and reconsidered. Maybe he needed this.
"Okay, fine," he said, drinking the last of his coffee and putting the mug forward to get an alcoholic reimbursement. "I'll get drunk with you."
"That-a boy," Bill grinned wickedly and served Dave an unhealthy amount. When he finished serving himself in a stray mug he raised it and said, "Cheers, Little Chief."
"So, are you going to tell me your problems now?" Bill took a sip of his drink and raised his eyebrows.
"Bill, I'm not drunk yet," Dave chided, swallowing a few sips down, shuddering at the unfamiliar smooth warmness traveling to his stomach, and laying his mug on the table.
"Well then. Must do something about that," Bill picked up the bottle of whiskey and filled Dave's mug to the brim. "That'll do it."
Dave smiled guardedly at Bill, and raised the mug carefully to his lips. "So, why'd you want to get me drunk?"
"Well, honestly, at first I wanted to see if you'd tell me anything about Lisa naked," Bill grinned. "But looking at your composure, my friend, you seem to need the drink as much as I want to give it to you. Now tell me- what happened?"
"Lisa," Dave began.
"Ah, say no further!" Bill grinned toothfully. "Problems at home, little guy?"
"Well.. yeah," Dave admitted, taking another sip from his mug.
"What's the little lady done now?" Bill asked with a little jilt in his tone. It always bugged Dave when he spoke so musically about something that hurt others, but he sighed and started to explain nonetheless.
"She.. she won't stop calling Stuart," he admitted, and followed it up with a large gulp of whiskey, hiding behind his mug.
"Oh, that game. I hear ya," Bill nodded.
"Yeah, that." Another sip. "So what are you gonna do about it?"
"Do? Nothing. There's nothing I can do," Dave sighed, fidgeting with the yellow handle.
"Nothing you can *do*!" Bill's voice rose, dramatically indignant, slamming the whiskey bottle next to his own forgotten drink. "There's *lots* you can do!"
"Yeah? Like what exaaactly?" Dave asked, worried about the sudden (or had it always been there?) slur in his voice. Another gulp. The glass was now empty.
"Well, I'd say talk to her, but that will never work. No, what you have to do is start calling a girl of your own. You know, tit for tat. Or you could get this guy I've, uh, heard about from a friend," Bill pulled a card from his pocket and handed it to Dave. "He'll take care of your little problem."
"Bill, I'm not going to kill Stuart," Dave began, ignoring the card.
"Not a hit man, you idiot. Counseling." Bill rolled his eyes.
"I don't know. Plus, I already did that once," Dave said, reaching for his mug forgetting that it was empty.
"What? Counseling or killed a guy?"
"Neither. I called a girl. Nancy. You remember Nancy, right? Well, that was somewhat the same situ-" he paused, "Situation. Didn't work out very... Actually, it worked out great." Dave grabbed the bottle of whiskey and poured himself half a mug, drank it in one shot.
"Well then, what's the problem?"
"I don't think it would work again. I don't know if anything would work right now." Dave lowered his head, creating a thud.
Bill sighed, reached for the bottle and capping it. "Well, little guy, then you've really got a problem."
With that, Bill stood up, patted a defeated Dave on the back and went home, leaving Dave with a million thoughts.
Those years ago, Bill's voice had sounded almost patronizing. Not having heard that tone before, Dave reasoned that Bill grew bored with the conversation, discovering him to be a very boring drunk. Some time after that, with hindsight, he uncovered the tone of voice to be concern; Bill's words to be those of a man who really didn't know what to say, who didn't know how to console.
Swirling his new drink in the glass, he shot it back and left it there, along with a couple of dollars. It was time to move on, time to move anywhere. But while his body left the bar, while his feet took him places he didn't recognize and his hands left money next to empty glasses, there was one part of him that stayed still. The part that left his eyes dry, that made his eyesight dizzy and that couldn't stop throwing old memories at him.
His mind couldn't stop telling him that Bill was dead.
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