When You Try To Assume
Title: When You Try To Assume
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Angel the Series belongs to Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt. Big Bang Theory belongs to Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. MIB belongs to Lowell Cunningham.
Chapter 7: When You Try To Assume
With a last deep breath Fred got herself under control.
“Woo,” Penny sighed tiredly beside her leaning heavily against the cabinets, “now I really need a nap.”
Smiling Fred put her hands up to Sheldon.
He looked down at her in confusion.
“Help me up,” Fred said.
“You are perfectly able to stand under your own compulsion. Besides, you’ve been on the floor, your hands have become soiled,” Sheldon said scrunching up his nose.
“You can wash your hands afterwards,” she reasoned ignoring the first part “plus it’s your floor; not as dirty as most.”
He still looked unconvinced.
“Up, Sheldon,” she repeated and with a final sigh he grabbed her hands and pulled her off the floor.
Penny cleared her throat and they both turned to look at her. She raised her hands as well. When he continued to stare blankly she pouted.
“My hands are already dirty,” he muttered and helped her up as well.
“Are you calling me dirty?” Penny said in an offended tone but Fred could hear the amusement behind it as well.
“Yes,” Sheldon said simply before turning back to Fred. “You haven’t seen her apartment yet. The level of filth she lets accumulate in her kitchen is abysmal.”
Then he walked over to the sink and thoroughly washed his hands. Penny grabbed the dirty dishes off the counter and brought them over to him, both of them sniping back and forth the entire time.
Fred smiled as she watched them, she was really enjoying herself and didn’t want to leave. But, she knew, that she would have to get back to CalTech eventually.
To her little room. By herself. With just her mind and her memories. (And Illyria. No. No. NO.
Her smile faded and she cleared her throat awkwardly causing them both to look at her, “Um, I guess I should get goin’ back.”
Sheldon’s eyes went wide. “You’re leaving?”
“I’ve got to go back sometime, Sheldon.” (Oh god, she really really hoped not) She smiled at him gently trying to keep back her own thoughts. She was doing so well.
Which is why she had to leave. Now.
“Well you can’t go out like that,” Penny pointed out.
Fred looked down at her attire which consisted of a bra and Sheldon’s "Friday Pajama" pants. She had honestly forgotten.
She bit her lip, “I guess I’ll just change back into the dress form last night.” Fred really wasn’t looking forward to it though; the way to avoid attention on campus wasn’t walking around in broad daylight in rumpled formal wear.
With no shoes. Because she really could not remember where her shoes had gotten to. If one of Sheldon’s
had ended up in his shower, she had no idea where hers could be since she was much less discerning than he was.
“You can borrow some of my clothes,” Penny said brightly.
Oh, Penny. She knew the woman was trying to help but she just didn’t know. Going into another apartment, new surroundings; so many new things to trigger her. Courting danger when she had had such a lovely time and could just start to feel her mind be strained as it stopped being clouded by alcohol or muted by fatigue.
But Penny represented something else, she was the only person other than K and Sheldon that Fred had felt any sort of connection to. (The only people outside her head that seemed real.)
A possible friend.
“Sure,” Fred replied after what she realized was probably too long of a pause.
“Good,” Penny said decisively heading towards the door, “we’ll just go over to my” she smirked over her shoulder at Sheldon, “dirty, dirty apartment and get you some clothes.”
“It isn’t really as bad as Sheldon was saying,” Penny called through her bathroom door.
She bit her lip for a moment. “Just ignore the shirt in the sink. It had a really bad stain in it and I was trying to soak it a bit.” She paused. “And the clothes on the floor….”
“…and in the tub.”
Damn. She really wasn’t making the best of impressions was she? Penny tapped her foot nervously. “Its normally not that bad, it’s just been a really hectic week at work. With the party last night I haven’t had a chance to pick anything up…”
Fred opened the door and said quietly, “It’s fine Penny. Thanks for letting me borrow a change of clothes.”
They were around the same size, although Fred was a little taller and Penny had bit more curves so she had decided to play it safe with a pair of drawstring pants and a t-shirt.
Fred was staring at the pajama bottoms of Sheldon’s she now was holding in both hands twisting the plaid material nervously, not looking at anything else.
“No problem,” Penny said as cheerfully as possible. She had noticed the other woman seemed to get more agitated the further she got from the boys’ apartment and Penny tried to keep up a constant stream of talk to make her feel more comfortable.
But, she kept just touching the side of her head and staring at the floor. Whenever she did look at Penny she would smile tightly and look back away quickly. Penny wondered if Fred was just feeling delayed effects of her own hangover and maybe she should stop talking so much.
Honestly though, Penny knew that she wanted Fred to like her. Fred was this weird balance of being one of the guys (working at CalTech, intimidatingly smart, and able to decode Sheldon-speak (and possibly Sheldon’s girlfriend – and that felt so weird to even >i>think)) and one of the girls (down to Earth, obviously having a quirky sense of humor that she could relate to and looked great in formal wear). She was this odd middle ground for her and, well, it sounded incredibly pre-school to say, but, Penny wanted to be friends with her.
And she had probably just been staring again. Yeah, great way to make someone feel more comfortable.
“So,” Penny said as casually as possible, turning to lead her back through her apartment. “Are you from Texas, too?,” she asked the first thing that popped into her head.
Fred giggled at the out of the blue question, “Yeah, I seem to keep running into people from the ‘ole Lone Star state. I guess you can recognize it from me a lot more than Sheldon though, you don’t hear his twang much. What about you?”
“Nebraska actually,” Penny said, “made my way out here to California to be a movie star. Like everyone else I suppose.” She smiled a bit self-deprecatingly, “Haven’t got any big parts yet.”
Fred was squinting as if in pain but tried to continue the conversation, “I had a friend who was doin’ that. Wanted to be an actress and all. She was one of the strongest people I’ve ever met,” her voice was strained and Penny was surprised she hadn’t torn Sheldon’s pants from the grip she had on them. She wondered if the woman she was talking about had died recently or something, from Fred's obvious upset, use of the past tense and all.
“I work mostly at the Cheesecake Factory really,” she admitted opening her door. “I can’t make money finding hordes of treasure as Queen Penelope after all,” she tried to joke as she walked into the hallway. First, she noticed the strange quite after her comment and thought maybe Fred just hadn’t gotten the reference - not all geniuses were game nerds she knew.
But then she turned and saw Fred stumble back until her back hit the wall then slide down it until she got to the floor. She dropped the piece of clothing she had been clutching so tightly and curled into a ball, one of her hands went to her head clawed into her hair.
“Fred?,” Penny asked feeling shaken. She had no idea what had just happened. Tentatively she reached out to the other woman to try and comfort her in some way but at the last moment she stopped. She knew Sheldon didn’t like to be touched most of the time, what if doing something normal like putting her arm around her just made things worse.
That was it - Sheldon!
She stumbled in her hurry over the last few steps to the other apartment door and knocked rapidly.
Sheldon opened the door looking pinched and obviously still hung-over, ready to yell (explain
) to her again why she shouldn't be so loud. Then he saw Fred and did an about-face back into the apartment, closing the door on her.
Penny scrunched up her face affronted, about to knock and yell for him again (and give him a piece of her mind for running off) when he was suddenly back. The leather satchel she remembered Fred having from last night opened in one hand.
He approached Fred carefully, like you would a cornered wounded animal (and part of her mind wondered how far off that actually was). There was something in his hand and Penny was relieved.
Oh, she thought, Fred just needed medication or something. She would be fine in a minute and then….
Without touching her in any other way, Sheldon reached out slowly and placed a black sharpie in Fred’s hand (the one that wasn’t tangled in her own hair) and Penny decided then and there that she just needed to stop trying to assume anything.
Fred rose to her feet, spun to face the wall, pulled the cap of the marker off with her teeth letting it drop to the floor, and started writing.
Penny’s breath caught. She had done it all in one smooth, startlingly fast, uninterrupted movement.
Sheldon backed away and came to stand next to her. For a while all they could both do was watch – the other woman’s eyes were dazed but her handwriting seemed precise and quick.
She noticed Sheldon fishing around Fred’s bag again. He pulled out a camera phone and took a picture of what she was doing.
“If the modus operandi has remained the same as usual, K will send a team to re-paint the wall,” Sheldon said. He paused for a moment and glanced over at the yellow tape that crisscrossed not too far away, “I wonder if they might deem it fitting to fix the elevator while they’re here.”
Penny tore her eyes away from the girl she had been giggling with not that long ago who was now writing the sort of equations she usually only saw on the boys’ whiteboards. “Sheldon,” she said taken aback by his attitude (and not in the way she usually was), “this isn’t normal.”
“Of course she’s not normal. I haven’t been able to test her in a controlled setting but I am quite certain Dr. Burkle is of adequately genius level intelligence,” Sheldon said haughtily.
Penny turned her head to him slowly, “No, Sheldon, honey. This isn’t normal in a bad
way, not in your guys’ sorta crazy way. Something is wrong
with her,” she said gesturing at Fred, trying to make him understand.
He narrowed his eyes, “It is simply, an admittedly, rather exaggerated form of escapism. You have been guilty of that yourself in the past,” he hissed at her.
Penny ignored the jibe and looked at him sadly. “Sheldon,” she whispered glancing back at Fred again.
With a sigh he seemed to deflate slightly and looked away from her, focusing on a bit of wall that Fred hadn’t written on yet instead. “From my observations Fred suffers from flashbacks, post traumatic stress disorder, disassociation and depression. As I have not fully studied psychology I cannot give you a true evaluation of her current condition,” he reported in a dull monotone.
Penny breathed deeply through her nose and tried to process all of that, “Is she getting help or something?,” she asked finally.
“Fred’s,” he paused as if looking for the correct term “handlers are aware of her situation and seem to deem her coping mechanisms sufficient.” Sheldon himself did not seem entirely pleased by this.
“But-," before she could continue her little normal hallway suddenly had many more people in it with suits than it usually did. Well, it usually didn’t have any, but that was beside the point.
One of them, an older gentleman, took Sheldon aside talking for a while. At one point he glanced at her and Sheldon looked over too, but then he shook his head and gestured at the elevator questioningly instead.
Fred didn’t seem to notice the commotion but came out of her trance like state on her own about 10 minutes after they had arrived. Very swiftly she was ushered away by the older man, the wall she had written on was extensively photographed, re-painted the exact shade of the rest, and somehow aged with this bizarre futuristic looking silver device to look like its surrounding by the rest of the team.
They were all gone less than 3 minutes after the marker had dropped limply from Fred’s fingers and joined the cap (and Sheldon's "Friday Pajama Pants" - did they need a TM by now?) on the floor.
Penny watched it all wide eyed, afraid to even breathe.
With the paint still drying on the wall Sheldon turned to her obviously considering something and asked, “You are still occasionally monetarily deficient, correct?”