|No Distance Left To Run
Author: Canonisation PM
Frieda's not happy to find out Penny's plan for the next few weeks...Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst - Penny V. - Words: 3,488 - Reviews: 2 - Published: 03-21-11 - id: 6840621
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: No Distance Left To Run.
Pairing: Well, if you squint a bit, you might see one :)
Set after episode 13x22, 'Too Much Monkey Business'. Contains spoilers for that episode.
Synopsis: Frieda's not happy to find out Penny's plan for the next few weeks...
Frieda Petrenko placed the pile of charts she was carrying back onto the desk, and sat down, giving her aching feet a much-needed rest. It had been a difficult day, filled with stress and problems for most of the AAU staff. Frieda herself had not been involved directly in most of the drama, but the fallout from it had affected her. Concern for her friends, as well as the increased workload - Oliver hadn't been able to do much of anything today, and Penny had been running around trying to sort out a variety of messes - was now starting to take its toll on her.
She didn't mind the increase in work so much - for all her sarcasm and acidity, she did dearly love being a doctor, and she was happy to pick up the slack for her colleagues. It was the worry that was really tiring her out. She'd come to greatly like Penny Valentine, and still had something of a soft spot for Oliver - although his current actions had disgusted her. So, seeing them both in obvious distress was upsetting to her.
Doubly upsetting was the fact that Frieda didn't really know how to help either of them. She'd offered support to Penny, and hoped it had helped, but now something bigger was clearly going on. Oliver's outburst to the deceased's son had been about more than his last screw-up. It was about something older, something deeper. She'd attempted to get him to talk, but he'd just stormed off, closely followed by Penny, and she hadn't seen them since.
Frieda was not gifted with infinite patience, so Oliver storming off after her attempt to help had not made her keen to try again. Especially since he was still on her s**t-list after the stunt he'd pulled with Penny. It was more his sister that Frieda was concerned with. She'd become very fond of Penny - more than Penny probably realized - and she was worried that the current situation was causing her to lose focus. Frieda had seen Penny grow into an excellent doctor, and now the situation with her brother was distracting her - tarring her relationship with her superiors, and threatening to spiral further out of control if Oliver's meltdown continued.
Of course, Frieda wasn't going to let that happen. Penny might not realise it, but she had a guardian angel at the hospital - though Frieda felt that 'guardian devil' was a phrase she personally preferred. However, if she couldn't find out exactly what was going on, she didn't feel that she could help effectively. After work tonight, she would confront Penny and find out exactly what was going on - then Frieda could try to work out a way to help her. Maybe even help her idiot brother if Frieda forgave him by then.
Looking around, Frieda frowned. It had been a while now since Penny had rushed past her, looking for Oliver, and Frieda hadn't seen her since. She hoped that nothing serious was wrong. As she was thinking, she glanced over to Michael Spence's office, and spied Penny and Michael through the window. They appeared to be having...not an argument exactly, but certainly a little more heated than a typical conversation. It was difficult to see from where Frieda was sitting, but Penny looked more than a little upset.
Unfortunately, the door was closed, so Frieda couldn't hear what they were saying, and she couldn't lip read. Frieda chided herself - if she was going to keep up her excellent spying skills, she'd have to learn how to lip read sooner or later.
From what she could see, the conversation was coming to an end, and Penny started to turn to the door. Frieda sprang to her feet, and quickly walked over to the door, positioning herself in such a way that Penny would be sure to walk past her as she left. She affected a busy look, making it seem as though she just happened to be standing there at that particular moment, rather than waiting for Penny. Frieda allowed herself a small grin. She was rather good at this.
The door opened and Penny walked out, taking an extremely deep breath as she did so. Frieda made a play of looking up and acting surprised as Penny approached.
"Fight with the American?" she asked brusquely.
"Disagreement," said Penny softly. "Let's just say he...thinks I'm handling things in the wrong way."
"Amongst other..." Penny shook her head. "Never mind. Look, my shift's up. I'm going for the evening."
"I've still got little bit to do here...will I see you at bar tonight?"
Penny shook her head and looked down, away from Frieda. "Not tonight."
Frieda cocked her head to one side. "You sure? I think it would be good idea. Especially tonight." She made a play of sighing deeply. "Okay. Just this once, I will even buy all the drinks."
Penny gave a small smile, but did not look at Frieda. "Thank you. But...I can't, tonight. I've got to...I have stuff to do."
Frieda nodded, disappointed, but determined not to show it. "Okay. But if you change your mind...you have my number." For anything, she wanted to add, but restrained herself.
"I know." Penny looked up into Frieda's eyes. There was pain and anger lurking behind them, Frieda could see that. But there was also a tenderness as she met Frieda's gaze. "Thank you," she said sincerely. "I mean it."
"No problem..." said Frieda, slightly discomfited by the intensity of Penny's words. "So...I will see you tomorrow, then?"
Penny looked away again suddenly. "I'm not in tomorrow," she said awkwardly. "I'll be..." She paused, not meeting Frieda's stare. "I'll see you later, though." She looked back at Frieda and smiled weakly. "Goodbye, Frieda."
As she walked off, Frieda looked after her, confused. Penny seemed much worse than she had earlier in the day - now she looked lost, frayed, almost broken. Could it have just caught up with her? Frieda doubted it. Something else had to have happened. It was unfortunate that Penny wasn't going out tonight - it would have been the perfect time to grill her. Now Frieda would have to try and find the time the next time she saw her.
Frieda frowned as she thought more about the conversation. Penny had seemed very odd when she'd mentioned not coming in tomorrow. Frieda knew that it was probably a good time to take a day off, given the day's happenings - but Penny's reaction had not been one of someone taking a day off.
As Frieda was thinking all of this through, she was busying herself with the remainder of her tasks for the day, eager to get out of there. As she was doing so, Michael's door opened again, and he walked out, extreme annoyance plastered over his face.
"What's wrong with you?" asked Frieda. "Your clumsy passes at Penny being rejected again?"
"Hilarious," said Michael with a scowl. "She didn't give any more explanation to you, did she?"
"What?" Frieda stared at him in confusion. "Who?"
"Keep up, Barbie - Penny."
"Explanation for what?"
"Her little vacation. Threw me for a loop, let me tell you." He looked at Frieda intently. "She talks to you - spill it!"
"Spill..?" Frieda crossed her arms. "Oh, I see. Americanisms. Not a great idea when talking to me...could lengthen conversation, and I am not sure if either of us want that."
"Cut the jokes, Frieda!" snapped Michael, and Frieda blinked in surprise. Michael was really upset about something. "I need to know what's going on with my team here."
"Why would she need to explain anything to me?" asked Frieda, her eyes narrowing in thought. "She said she was taking tomorrow off, that is all."
"Tomorrow off..." Michael gave a harsh laugh. "Yeah, she is...and the next few weeks as well."
"What?" Frieda's eyes widened in shock. "What do you mean?"
"She just waltzes into my office, and says she needs a holiday...takes all the leave that she's built up, then swans out of here, leaving me without one of my best doctors!" Michael rubbed his head in frustration. "So, you know, I'd kind of like to know if you have any special insights here."
"She's leaving for a few weeks..?" Frieda's mind was racing and she was finding it difficult to concentrate. What was going on here? "No," she said finally, shaking her head. "She didn't mention anything...just that she wouldn't be in tomorrow. I don't know what's going on."
"I thought..." Michael shook his head angrily. "I thought she could handle being in charge. And she was doing great, despite all this trouble with Oliver...then he flies off the handle, she can't reign him in, he disappears, and the next thing I know, she's skipping out of here to go lie on a beach or something, and I'm left scratching my damn head in shock!"
Frieda couldn't believe this. Penny was leaving for an interminable length of time, and hadn't even thought to mention it? She was hurt, but quickly tried to put those feelings to the side. Something really bad must be wrong - she needed to ignore her own bruised ego, and figure out what to do to help Penny.
Michael broke the silence: "You don't think I put her under too much pressure, do you? Maybe she's not ready for this sort of thing...you don't think she's reacting to that?"
"No." Frieda shook her head. "She's ready for that type of responsibility. It...it must be something to do with Oliver. She was handling things fine before he got involved."
"I thought she was handling that fine."
"She was." Frieda pursed her lips. "Something else must have happened..."
"I...I don't know." Frieda looked up at Michael. "I need to find out." With that, she turned and rushed off down the corridor, Michael's protests from behind her falling on deaf ears. She knew he'd be mad about her running out like this, but she wasn't going to get another chance.
Ignoring surprised looks from the other staff members and patients as she passed, she quickly reached the locker room and looked inside, hoping that Penny would still be there. Frieda muttered a curse under her breath, and swiftly headed for the exit. Hopefully she could catch Penny before she left. The alternative was not something she wanted to think about.
At that moment, Penny - the object of this frantic search - was walking out of the front door, feeling a weight lift from her as soon as she passed the threshold. Deep down, she knew she was being a coward, but it felt so good knowing she wouldn't be back at Holby for weeks. Knowing what she knew, she couldn't come back until it had been sorted out. She'd always feel the pressure to reveal everything, and Oliver had to have the chance to fix it himself. In her eyes, it was his last chance. If he didn't come clean this time, then it was over.
Penny closed her eyes and paused at the door, trying to hold herself together. Since finding out the news, she'd been overwhelmed. She'd been angry enough that Oliver had tried to blame the swab mistake on her, but this? This was something beyond her wildest imagination - the thought that her lack of confidence, her feelings of inadequacy, her family's crushing disappointment in her - had all been done on purpose. That her life had been significantly derailed, not by an enemy, but by her own brother.
Well, this was it. If he failed this time, he was going to be cut out of her life. Not only that, but she was going to make damn sure that everyone knew what he'd done, and what kind of a person he really was - every family member, every other staff member, everyone.
Deep down in Penny's psyche, beneath the anger, resentment and sorrow, part of her still hoped against hope that he wouldn't let her down again - that her brother really did love her.
She opened her eyes again. No point in hanging about - she was going to enjoy a few stress-free weeks, far, far away from Holby, or any sort of hospital. Exactly what she needed to rejuvenate herself. At least, that's what she was telling herself, and if she repeated it enough times, it was sure to be true.
Before she could go, she suddenly heard her name called from behind her. She turned and saw Frieda running out of the front door, slowing as she approached. She looked a little out of breath.
"Frieda? What are you doing here?" She frowned. "Did you run all the way from AAU?"
Frieda paused to catch her breath, then fixed Penny with an accusing stare. "What are you doing, Penny?"
"Leaving? Or at least, trying to..."
"Don't joke. You know what I am talking about."
Penny rubbed her forehead in frustration. This hadn't been how she'd wanted to handle this. "Okay. I'm leaving. I'm going away for a few weeks."
"And you were just going to let me find out when I come in and find you're gone?" Frieda's tone was angry, hurt.
"I don't like goodbyes," said Penny softly. "I'm not good at them."
"Goodbyes...you are coming back, right?" Frieda's expression moved into one of concern - Penny could almost swear there was a little bit of fear there as well.
"Of course." Penny tried to sound firm, but she didn't even sound convincing to herself. "I'm coming back, I promise. I just...I just need to get away for a while."
"Because of Oliver? I know he hurt you - he is self-centred idiot - but surely you can stand to be near him - just for work?"
"No, it's..." Penny tailed off. She couldn't tell Frieda the truth - she couldn't risk hurting her career as well. "There's just...other things going on. I just...I can't be here, okay?"
"I knew it." Frieda stared at her intently, trying to bore through her defences with her stare. "Something else happened, didn't it? Something with Oliver."
"I..." Penny couldn't think of a way to deflect Frieda's questions. She was too tired and too upset to think clearly. "Please don't, Frieda. I can't tell you."
"Don't!" Frieda snapped. She was clearly starting to get more agitated now. Penny had never seen her this way. Normally she hid everything under her mask of sarcasm and cool indifference, but now she was betraying more of her feelings, and she was clearly extremely worried about what was going. "Don't tell me this is for my own good - I have heard that before, and it is never true."
"It IS." Penny looked at Frieda tearfully, pleading with her eyes as much as her voice. "Please believe me, Frieda. I'd tell you if I could, but I can't. The less people know about this, the better. Just...just let me go. I have to sort this out by myself."
"And where will you go? Who will you stay with?"
"I..." Penny hadn't even considered that. She didn't really have anyone she could stay with.
"You should not be alone during this, okay? Just..." Frieda paused, then looked straight at Penny, her eyes begging Penny to trust her - to let her in. "Just stay. I...we...this can be fixed. Don't run away."
Penny's eyebrows raised in shock. "Is that what you think this is? That I'm running away?"
"I have personal experience - I can recognise running away when I see it."
"Well..." Penny tried to retort, but couldn't. Deep down she knew Frieda was right. "Please, Frieda...just let me go."
"You pry with me. You encourage me to become doctor again. You try to get me to open up. Why won't you let me do same?"
A sudden flash of irritation shot through Penny, and she couldn't restrain herself. "Oh, that's a joke! You asking me to open up? You never tell me a damn thing - it's like pulling teeth with you! Why did you stop being a doctor? Why did you leave the Ukraine? Can I have even a hint about your past! You barely share anything, so don't lecture me about opening up!"
The effect on Frieda was unmissable. She recoiled back as if physically struck, and her normal mask of sardonic indifference fell, revealing shock and pain etched all over her face.
Penny's stomach lurched as she realized what she'd said. She reached out her hand to Frieda, but Frieda snatched her own away instantly. "Frieda, I'm sorry..."
Frieda's face hardened again, exposing no other emotions than anger. "Okay," she said in a low voice. "If that is how you feel, then leave. I am sorry for delaying you."
"Oh, Frieda..." Penny's shoulders slumped in exhaustion, and she no longer felt the need to contain the tears that had been building up for some time now. As tears ran down her face, she looked at Frieda, trying to make her remorse and sorrow as obvious as she could. "Frieda...if I could, I'd tell you everything, you know that. You don't know how much you mean..." She paused. "You're as close to me as anyone. If there was anyone I could trust with this, it would be you. But I can't. Believe me. Just...just let me go. I have to do this by myself."
Frieda continued to stare at her stoically.
"But...I will be back, I promise. And...I don't want us to part on bad terms. I'm so sorry for what I said...I'm stressed, I don't know what I'm saying..."
"You meant it," said Frieda flatly.
"Bits of it..." Penny shook her head. "I do want to know more about you, and sometimes it annoys me that you're so...private. But I didn't mean to yell at you...and I don't want you to think that I don't care about you, because I...I do."
Frieda stared at her for what seemed like an eternity, then gave a curt nod. "Do not worry about it. We are...we are okay."
Penny gave a tearful smile. "Good...this thing with Oliver is bad enough...but I couldn't bear it if you and I were at odds."
Frieda looked away self-consciously. "No...I could not, either," she said softly.
Penny stared at her for a long while, then sighed. "I have..." She gestured vaguely away from the hospital. "I have to get going."
Frieda met her gaze again, her eyes filled with sorrow. "Don't go," she said softly, almost a whisper.
"I have to," whispered Penny, her voice full of regret. She walked over to Frieda and gave her a hug, kissing her softly on the cheek. She lingered before drawing back, keeping her skin touching Frieda's as long as she could.
"Keep in touch," said Frieda sadly.
Penny nodded. "I will, I promise."
"And I meant what I said...call me. If you need anything. I will...I will try to find time in my busy schedule to help you."
Penny smiled sadly at the quip. "And the same for you. I won't be here, but...if you need me..."
"I'll be fine."
Penny nodded. "I know...goodbye, Frieda. I'll see you in a few weeks."
With a final smile, Penny turned and walked away from the hospital. She didn't look back. Frieda watched her go for as long as she could, waiting until Penny was completely out of sight. As soon as she was, Frieda turned back towards the entrance and walked back inside, angrily wiping a stray tear away from her eye.
And life at Holby went on...