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dive for dreams

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1

Penny sits on a dryer, watching the door. There are two cups of frozen yogurt melting in front of her. She stares at them, and thinks, 'this is my life. This, right here, is my life, melting away in front of me like frozen novelties'.

And then she takes her notebook out of her bag and writes a poem about her melted feelings, and when she looks up again, two hours have passed and her whites are too wrinkled to be anywhere near wearable. She's also an hour late for the opening of the homeless shelter.

She feels bad about missing the opening of the homeless shelter, of course. But when she takes a second to think about whether or not she's remorseful about standing up Captain Hammer, she's more than a little surprised to find that she's really not.

So, instead of calling Captain Hammer to apologize, she goes home and posts her poem on a blog. And when an editor reads it and tells her it's good, really good, she finally is able to show Rise'n'Shine just who, exactly, isn't up to whose standards.

*

She hears later that the homeless shelter was attacked, but apparently the attacker was turned to ice right as he was about to kill Captain Hammer. The hero becomes Captain Hammer's sidekick. She can never remember his name, something like Joey Sleet, or was it Jolly Ice?

She never hears from Billy again. But she does think of him sometimes. Whenever she does think of him, her writing ability goes from 'staring at a blank page for half a day' to 'having to write on napkins when she runs out of paper.' She calls him her muse and lists him as her one acknowledgment in her first book.

2

Penny paces in front of the door, five steps right then five steps left. Billy was supposed to be here—she stops a second to check her watch—half an hour ago. He's never late. Billy is the kind of guy who would be early to his own funeral.

Only, apparently not today. Today of all days, Billy is late. Which is just like him, really. Men.

She starts pacing again, and when she looks up she sees not Billy but Captain Hammer. Ugh!

"What are you doing here?" she says, throwing her hands on her hips.

"I've come to win you back," Captain Hammer says, reaching behind himself to pull out a Godiva box.

Penny narrows her eyes at him. "What is that?"

"Chocolates," Captain Hammer says with a raised eyebrow.

"Really," Penny says. "Chocolates. That's very thoughtful, considering the fact that I'm allergic."

"Wait, what?" he says. "What are you allergic to?"

"Chocolate," Penny says. "Which I told you. Last night."

"Penny, Penny, Penny. How do you expect me to remember something you told me one time? After all, I have more important things on my mind. Things like saving the world from evil. And the Democrats." Captain Hammer taps his forehead with his glove.

"I didn't tell you one time," Penny says.

"Well, there you go. You didn't even tell me. How do you expect me to know that, Penny? I'm the Hammer. Not the psycho."

"I didn't tell you one time," Penny says again. "I told you four times. The second time I drew a picture. The last time was when you were trying to make me eat chocolate sauce off your body. And then I tried to shove it down your throat."

"No wonder I had dreams about rescuing Hershey Pennsylvania and being drowned in chocolate as a reward." He turns a super-smile on Penny and throws the chocolates behind him. He pulls a condom out of his sleeve. There's a picture of a hammer on the label. "But that's not important right now. What is important is that I--am fond of you. In fact, I almost like you. And now we should have some kinky, kinky hammer-times."

Penny reaches behind herself and finds the white paper bag. She reaches inside and grabs one of the frozen yogurts and throws it on his head.

"Ah, Penny. A girl after my own heart. Knocking off two of the old 'kinks' at one time." Captain Hammer makes quote fingers. "Adding food to the bedroom and good old fashioned exhibitionism. What do you think? If we add you calling me 'Daddy,' we can round it to a nice three."

Penny grabs the other frozen yogurt. She shoves it down Captain Hammer's pants. "I know you're not the sharpest tool in the shed. After all, you're the hammer. But I think even you will understand when I say 'Screw you!' Was that clear, Daddy?"

Captain Hammer looks up at her and his expression changes from smarmy to indignant. "Are you leaving me? Are you leaving me?

"Yes," she says. "Yes I really am." She grabs her folded laundry and slams out the door.

Behind her she hears Captain Hammer yelling, "You'll be sorry. You'll be sorry you ever heard the name Captain Hammer!"

She bumps into someone as she's storming down the sidewalk. Normally she would apologize. But not today. Today the world can bite her.

She hears an almost familiar voice say, "Hey, watch where you're going."

Any other day she would turn and see who it was, but not today.

Half a minute later, she hears a loud thunk from the Laundromat. The same almost familiar voice yells "Crap! Who was a big enough dick to throw chocolates on the ground?"

She half hears something involving "Dr. Horrible," and "just desserts" and then another loud thunk.

And then she gets into a taxi and out of this situation.

*

Captain Hammer pulls his backing for the homeless shelter, and without his backing the whole plan crumbles. Luckily for Penny, this actually puts him into a morally questionable light, and it's incredibly easy to find a news program to host her expose. It's called, "Captain Hammer, just how much of a tool is this guy?" After that, Penny starts giving talks on female empowerment nationwide. Eventually she’s able to afford the expansion herself.

Billy tries to call her a few times. Or more accurately, a few hundred. Eventually she gets tired of screening her calls and threatens a restraining order.

3

Penny looks up at the door from where she’s curled up into a ball in front of the dryer. Billy isn’t there.

Of course Billy isn’t there. Obviously. What is she, stupid? Who would want to spend time with a boring, unattractive geek like her?

She wipes the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand, looks down at the two frozen yogurts just sitting there waiting for someone, anyone, to come and join her, and starts crying even harder.

Penny really liked Billy. A lot. She thinks, in another life they may have been friends, or even more than friends. But not in this life. Clearly not in this life. After all, who would be friends with someone who slutted it up with the first man who looked her way.

She blows her nose on an old sock. It’s clean, she thinks, and she doesn’t feel like she can move far enough to find something more appropriate to use.

She had thought that she and Captain Hammer had been dating. She’d been wrong of course, which she’d realized as soon as Captain Hammer finished. “It’s been real, Patsy. Now why don’t you pick up one of the complimentary Hammer Shirts and head on home. After all, busy day tomorrow. All those homely people to help.”

“Penny.” She’d laughed a little, thinking it was a joke. “You know it’s Penny.”

Captain Hammer had dug deep into his pocket. Half a minute later, he’d looked down into his hand and said, “Sorry, Polly. All I’ve got is Hammer coins.” He’d held his hand up to the light. A second later he’d said, “Wait. No pennies, but here’s a nice shiny dime,” and he’d put it in her palm.

“But...” Penny had said, her lips starting to tremble.

Captain Hammer had sighed and rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re gonna cry now. Peggy, you may be cute in a sort of nerdy way, but not cute enough for me to put up with tears. They tarnish the hammer.”

Penny had bit her tears back and rushed to apologize, but Captain Hammer had thrown his hand up and said, “Shh, shh,” not even letting her get started. “All I’m saying, Pansy, is that I shouldn’t have to put up with tears on top of pretty mediocre sex.”

“Mediocre,” Penny had said, eyes watering.

“Let’s just say that the Hammer?” Captain Hammer had looked down. At his Hammer. “Not impressed.”

At that, Penny had run out of the Hammer Manor, tears streaming down her face. And she hasn’t stopped crying since.

Penny gives up on Billy showing and she breaks out the spork. It’s when she’s in the middle of the second cup that she gets the idea. The crazy, wonderful idea.

She will become the best at sex the world has ever known.

*

Penny goes home and starts watching porn right away. She takes copious notes and practices in front of a mirror, and the next time she has sex, he’s the one crying. From bliss. It goes great really, one conquest after another turning into a blur of sex, sex, sex. It goes great, until it doesn’t.

One day she wakes up and realizes she has no friends, no job, no place to live... All she has is sex.

She gets signed up in one of those free addiction groups in the basement of a church and when it’s her turn to talk, she almost surprises herself when she says, “I’ve had sex with hundreds of men.” She almost surprises herself more when she realizes it's actually true.

Her social worker moves her into the same homeless shelter she used to work at. It’s expanded. It’s not the glory she and Captain Hammer had talked about. It’s actually even better.

In front of the building is a statue of a man in a lab coat, goggles on his forehead and gloves on his hands. When Penny looks at him, she swears she knows him.

She asks someone who it is. They say it’s Dr. Horrible, Bad Horse’s right hand.

Penny sends a glance over her shoulder and quiets the person she’s talking to. It may be a long shot, but one can never be too careful when talking about Bad Horse. She heard that he’d dragged Captain Hammer through the streets until he’d cried like a little girl. And then Bad Horse had disemboweled him.

4

Penny checks her watch again and sighs. Billy is definitely late, no ifs ands or buts about it. She looks at the frozen yogurt bag and hopes that they’ll still be cold enough when he shows up.

“Penny,” Captain Hammer says, stepping closer to her. “Penny, please?”

“No,” Penny says, checking her watch one more time. “Billy will be here any second.”

Captain Hammer brushes her hair away from her face and blows on her ear. She kind of hates that. She spends a second wondering why she’s with him again. “Come on. Penny. Baby. You know you want another ride on the Hammercycle.” Oh, yeah. That's right. The sex is great.

She bites back a smile because no matter how much she wants more sex, she really prefers that every person here didn’t know that she wants more sex. She shakes him off of her, and when she looks up, she sees him. “Billy,” she says with a big smile.

Billy shoves his hands in his pockets and says, “Penny. Hi.”

“What’s the matter—Billy—cat got your tongue?” Captain Hammer says.

“Cat got your tongue?” Billy says in a high, mimicky voice, and then he seems to realize that Penny’s there. He blinks. “Um...”

Penny ignores it. After all, with Billy, it’s pretty much to be expected. “So, the Captain and I were talking. About kinks. And we agreed that we wanted to try a threesome.”

Billy blinks some more. “And you wanted me to watch your fish?”

“No,” Penny says, arching her eyebrow. “No, I’m really not sure why you’d think that. Especially considering that I don’t own a fish.”

“Uh...” Billy says, at a loss for words. “It seemed like the most likely reason you’d be telling me...?” He shrugs.

Captain Hammer slaps Billy on the back with a hearty laugh. “Oh, Billy here is a sly one. Aren’t you—Doctor?”

“You’re a doctor?” Penny says. “I thought you were a computer repairman.”

“Uh...” Billy says, blinks speeding up.

“And by Doctor, I mean Doctor of Love,” Captain Hammer says, slinging his arm around Billy’s shoulder.

Billy lets out an oomph.

“Right,” Penny says. “So, Billy... Are you a vanilla kind of guy, a chocolate kind of guy, or—?”

Captain Hammer cuts her off, patting Billy’s cheek and saying, “Oh. No. No. I’m pretty sure Billy here is a swirl kind of guy. Aren’t you, Billy?”

Billy swallows audibly. “Why did you ask me here again?” he says to Penny.

“Well,” Penny says, shrugging her shoulder, “it’s obvious, isn’t it? We wanted you to be our third.”

“Your third...baseman?” Billy says.

“Silly Billy,” Captain Hammer says, pulling him closer with the arm he still has slung over his shoulder. “Our third partner. Of sexualiness.”

Billy blinks at Captain Hammer and then he looks up at the ceiling. He turns to Penny and says, “Can you stop this... This?”

Penny wrinkles her nose. “You still don’t believe us?” She turns to Captain Hammer. “Are you sure...?”

Captain Hammer turns his most disarming (or possibly smarmy) grin on Billy. “Don’t play coy now, Billy. You know by now. You know. We want you to be the meat to our sandwich. The cream to our oreo. The filling to our twinkie.”

Penny gives Captain Hammer her ‘seriously?’ eyebrows. Captain Hammer either doesn’t see or else he ignores her. “So, Billy...?”

Billy turns to Penny and says frantically under his breath, “Is this all just a practical joke? Or wait. Is it you? Did you put him up to this?”

Penny rolls her eyes. “This? Was all him.” She notices Captain Hammer blush out of the corner of her eye. “I would have just picked someone up at a bar or something.”

“Really?” Billy says, mouth dropping open and eyes bulging out. It’s not a very attractive look on him.

Captain Hammer doesn’t seem to notice, if the way that his smile’s cranking up and the way that his Hammer’s cranking up is any indication. “Reallyreally. We want you in a big way.”

Half an hour later, Penny leaves on her own. It’s too bad the threesome idea didn’t work, but at least she doesn’t have to listen to any more soliloquies on the power of the Hammer. She drops the frozen yogurt off at the homeless shelter on her way home. She hopes they like chocolate swirl.

*

Half a year later, she stands up in Captain Hammer and Billy’s wedding— Scratch that, she stands up in Francis and Billy’s wedding. (At least that finally explains the whole overcompensation thing.)

It’s beautiful, with doves and wildflowers and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Amazingly their marriage lasts. They fight for world peace and the end to the homeless problem and a return of The Traveling Wilburys.

She refrains from telling them that Roy Orbison is dead. After all, everyone has to have a goal.

5

Penny shoves the spork in her mouth, eating mechanically. Things with Captain Hammer... She takes another sporkful. Things with Captain Hammer are fine. Perfectly fine.

She would like to talk with Billy about just how fine things with Captain Hammer are, but he's obviously not going to be in today. She eats another sporkful of frozen yogurt and decides not to think about it.

Captain Hammer is great. He's perfect, really. She's happy. She's really, really happy. In fact, she's so happy that she's finished her frozen yogurt.

She spends a second wondering how that happened then shrugs and licks the bottom.

If there was something wrong, which there isn't, it would be this sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Which she doesn't have. At all.

She looks at the door, then, when no Billy materializes, she opens the bag with the other frozen yogurt inside. She pulls it out and just looks at it for a second.

Really, though. Everything's perfect with Captain Hammer. Perfect. Really.

She looks at her spork, then at the remaining frozen yogurt. She could have a sporkful. Just one sporkful. It's not like Billy would notice.

She opens the frozen yogurt container and carefully takes a sporkful from the side. She pops it in her mouth and sighs in contentment. Thank god for frozen yogurt.

Penny doesn't know why she's acting this way. She's in a perfect relationship with the perfect man. So what if he uses more hair product than she does. So what if he has his own theme song. Which he sings to himself. In the shower. So what if the sex is bad. Every relationship has its ups and downs.

She looks down at the frozen yogurt container and sees the very clear spork-mark trails. She shrugs and thinks, Screw it. After all, if he's late it serves him right to not have any frozen yogurt.

Eventually she leaves, laundry in hand. She bumps into Billy on her way out. "Penny," he says, blinking rapidly. "Um... How are you?"

"Fine," Penny says with a smile stretching her face. "I'm fine, Billy. Just fine. How are you?"

"Contemplating genocide," Billy says.

"What?" Penny says.

Billy stares at her for a second, then he starts blinking again. "Uh... I mean, contemplating suicide."

Penny feels her eyes widen in horror.

"No," Billy says. "No, I don't mean that at all. I mean, contemplating. Uh... Contemplating... a... bride?"

"A bride," Penny says, confused.

"Yes. A bride. A--A mailorder bride. That I ordered. Yeah," Billy says blinking hard.

"You ordered a bride," Penny says, biting back a feeling that she can't quite describe.

"Uh--yes? Yes. I--ordered a bride." Billy looks down at his feet and continues in a lower voice, "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

Penny feels a very familiar sinking feeling in her stomach. "Oh."

"Penny, are you okay?" Billy says, looking at her searchingly.

"I'm fine, Billy. Just fine." Penny starts to walk away, then her concience makes her say, "I hope you're very happy."

"What...?" Billy says, trailing off.

"You and your mail order bride."

On the way home Penny stops at the frozen yogurt shop and gets another vanilla frozen yogurt. She also gets a chocolate frozen yogurt and a rainbow frozen yogurt and every flavor of frozen yogurt they carry.

*

Penny and Captain Hammer marry. They're very happy--very, very happy--and every time Penny thinks differently, she finds herself eating a frozen yogurt.

The years roll by. Penny and Captain Hammer have two point five children and a puppy and are very happy. And if Penny has put on some weight since the marriage? Well, it's to be expected. After all, once you have a kid you never quite get that figure back.

Everything is fine, just fine, until Penny catches Captain Hammer cheating on her. With his secretary. With his twenty year old secretary. She leaves him and screws him over for enough damages in court to live pretty comfortably.

She's eating her frozen yogurt in front of her daily tv time, when, of all people, she sees Billy. He's on Ellen, talking about how he found himself through religion. He's the head of a Catholic super-church based in Hollywood. And he's blissfully happy in the word of God.

She sighs and thinks about how all the good ones are always taken, gay, or priests.

0

Penny's opening the door to the Laundromat when she suddenly realizes that she forgot to bring her laundry. She feels a little like laughing in hysteria. It's just been one of those days where she forgets everything, from her purse to her socks. Although, how she managed to forget her socks, she doesn't want to think about.

She glances around the inside of the Laundromat on her way out the door and notices someone with a ridiculous moustache. It makes her smile. It's really ridiculous, dark and full. Suddenly the moustache moves, falls, and she's looking at-- "Billy?"

"Billy?" Billy says in a funny low voice. "I don't know who you're talking about." He looks down, sees the moustache, and says, "I mean, Penny.... Hey...." He sketches a little wave in the air.

"So," Penny says, walking closer to him. "Why were you wearing a moustache? You're not working on an alter-ego, right?" She thinks about Captain Hammer. Of course, he doesn't have an alter-ego, but he's Captain Hammer.

Billy laughs. Then he laughs some more. "No. What? No," he says, waving a hand through the air. He hits the washing machine with his hand and pulls it into his belly, wincing. "I'm... getting ready for Halloween."

Penny wrinkles her nose in confusion. "But, it just was Halloween. Last month."

Billy blinks. "Mexican Halloween."

"Isn't Mexican Halloween--" Penny starts, but then Billy's cutting her off, saying, "What are you doing here? You're an hour early."

"Um," Penny says.

"I mean. It's good to see you," Billy says, patting her shoulder stiffly. "I'm glad you're early."

"It's good to see you too, Billy." Penny puts her hand on Billy's arm, turning the pat into a half-hug. "I was actually hoping to see you. I wanted to return the favor." She reaches down for the frozen yogurt, only to realize the bag isn't there. "Crap!" she says, with feeling.

"What's wrong?" Billy asks, tightening his hand on her shoulder.

"Nothing," Penny says, waving it away. "Nothing, just--I bought frozen yogurt for us. And forgot to take it with me." Suddenly she gets an idea, a really great idea. "Go there with me," she says, looking at him hopefully.

Billy backs away, finally breaking the almost-a-hug. "I don't know, Penny," he says. "We're Laundry friends. Take that away and what do we have?"

"Uhm, I don't know. Maybe a real world friendship?" Penny says with a scoff. "Come on. This won't change anything. Unless it makes it better. Like frozen yogurt with more frozen yogurt."

"But," Billy says.

"Come on, Billy," Penny says. "Don't you want to live a little?"

Billy blinks furiously for a second, and then he says, "Yes, actually. I do."

*

The frozen yogurt is good, but the company is better. Billy is funny and intelligent and really kind of sweet.

He bumblingly tells her that she's beautiful. And, with the way that he covers his mouth and tries to beat his head through the table afterward, she can tell it was completely involuntary.

When they're finished with their frozen yogurt and have long outstayed their welcome, Penny turns to Billy and says, "We should do this again."

"This...?" Billy says, trailing off.

"Yes," Penny says with a smile. "A date."

"A date," Billy says. He blinks for a second and then he says, "This is a date?" in a half-choked voice.

Penny slaps herself on the forehead. "Oh, don't tell me I forgot to tell you."

"But," Billy says, still blinking, "this can't be a date. You're dating Captain Hammer."

Penny winces. "Actually, no. I'm not. I broke up with him. Yesterday. Didn't I..." she trails off.

Billy shakes his head.

"I can't believe I forgot to tell you. Seriously. I'm forgetting everything today."

Billy's eyes suddenly widen in horror. "Oh no. My laundry." He rushes out the door.

A second later he's rushing back in, saying, "I almost forgot." He reaches out and pulls Penny into a kiss. It's pretty much perfect--one of those moments that Penny knows she's going to remember when she's old and gray.

He pulls away, staring at her. They just look at each other for a second, smiling in that kind of giddy way that people only do on the beginning of something great.

Billy's about to pull her into another kiss, when Penny says, "Laundry."

"Laundry," Billy says. He laughs and says, "Laundry," again. And then he's pulling her into a quick kiss and walking backwards toward the door.

"I'll--uh--be seeing you. Right?" he says.

"You sure will," Penny says.

"At our date," Billy says, with a super sweet smile.

Penny smiles. "See you soon." She waves when Billy walks out the door. She smiles down at the frozen yogurt cups. Somehow she thinks soon can't come soon enough.

*

Penny and Billy have that date. And then they have their Happily Ever After.