Disclaimer: I only WISH this world were mine. Credit Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and the cast.
Hi, everyone. For those of you who are reading Finding Time, don't worry, I'm still working on it, but this idea jumped out and started gnawing on my ankle.
Update: I've decided to use this one-shot as a springboard for an entire collection of Dr. Horrible stories. Sorry if there's any confusion when you click in. For those of you who've read Laundry Day, the next entry is new.
Pulling away from the equations on the whiteboard was always an aggravation; he always felt as though he were a mere substitution or evaluation away from an important, meaningful, and real mathematical result. Here on the white board, everything was safe and perfect until the cruel world and random chance decided to blow the carefully conceived notions apart, which was more often and more literal than he and his landlord liked. Granted, the application of his conclusions was exciting, and creating an impossible invention that worked was a moment of pure, undiluted joy (followed by the manic glee over potential uses). Without the ideas, the theories, and the designs, however, without the initial creativity and cunning, his inventions simply wouldn't exist.
Some interruptions he could forgive. Dinner, though generally a bland, lonely affair, was important. Sleep, useless though it seemed, brought with it occasional inspiration, and he had to admit he didn't get near enough rest. His friends, especially Moist, helped keep him grounded, and maintained the delicate balance between genius and insanity that resulted from his reclusive lifestyle. And, of course, if he was going to make these wonders, he had to show them off, which required a certain amount of preening. Like showers. Like laundry.
He hadn't been to the laundromat his usual time this week. The Freeze Ray may have hit a few snags, but he was so close to a breakthrough in quantum mechanics. To hell with the Observer Effect. If electrons from the gold bars at the bank could be jumping into his apartment at any given moment, then it wouldn't take much for him to be able to coax the rest of their respective atoms into joining them en masse. Besides, it wasn't like the bureaucrats would miss them.
As tantalizing as that prize was, though, his laundry basket was reaching a critical mass, to the point he suspected one more sock would act something like a fissile sparkplug. He was currently wearing his only relatively clean clothes, and another night sleeping in them and he probably wouldn't even have that.
Grudgingly, he rose from his armchair from where he'd been glowering at some particularly stubborn variables and removed his labcoat for his alter-ego's subdued hoodie and jeans underneath. With one last check around his dingy apartment for stray clothing, he was well on his way to the Saturday bustle and a foul mood.
He wouldn't mind so much if waiting for the dryers didn't feel like such a monumental waste of time. To keep himself entertained, he had brought along a small device he was programming to give back the quarters the machines kept eating.
Oh, good, the usual Coin Wash crowd was there, and in number. He counted five laundry brats running around and throwing objects he preferred not to identify among the tumbling clothing. Their adult versions were all fighting for space and machines, and after some shrieking lady kicked him off his (which was still total bull, she'd gotten there after him, there was no way it was hers), he consoled himself that at least when cheetos ended up in someone's whites, he could blame the children.
The beeping of his last load of clothes roused him from the stupor he'd fallen into. Finally, done. Eagerly, he peeled himself off the bench by the window, pulled open the dryer…
And saw the most magnificent creature he'd ever seen reflected in the chrome as she walked by.
He just stared at the metal, long after she had moved away, replaying the way her red hair brushed at her neck, the swish of her skirt. At last he caught up to the present, and, realizing he couldn't see her anymore, straightened and looked around furtively. He almost wondered if he hadn't imagined her, but there she was, talking to a little boy reading on top of one of the washers by the back row. Was it just him, or was the whole room brighter?
It occurred to him suddenly that he'd been standing around obliviously for several minutes, and he quickly tossed his underwear back into the dryer. He put in a few more quarters and hoped she hadn't seen him or the red that had crept up into his cheeks.
She was alone at the back, buying soap. Perfect. Now if only his feet would move. "Aren't you done yet?" a creaky voice demanded, and he jumped. Numbly, he shook his head at the old crone who had asked him, and she narrowed her eyes at him before moving away and muttering something uncomplimentary.
Back at the soap vending machine, the radiant girl had been joined by a mother and a screaming toddler. He groaned inwardly. A wasted opportunity. She offered to buy the detergent for the woman, who was struggling to hold her child's hand and dig into her purse at the same time.
"Say something to her," his mind begged as she asked around politely for a machine that was free. "What, what can I to talk to her about?" he asked himself desperately. For the first time he could recall, he couldn't come up with a single plan. She hopped onto her washer after loading it and pulled out her own book, but she tended to do less reading than she did gazing dreamily off into space, possibly imagining some whirlwind romance.
An incessant noise finally got his attention away from the girl; his dryer had finished again. Another bunch of quarters fixed that, and he went back to watching her.
Why was it beeping again?! She finished folding her last blouse and picked up her basket and he crouched down to feed the insatiable beast more money. He glanced back up as her shadow fell over him on her way to the door. She smiled down at him, and he was frozen as sure as if he'd shot himself with one of his inventions.
"Get her name, stupid!" his brain was screaming, "Find out when you can see her again!" His mouth responded only with what he later imagined was probably a very goofy smile of his own, a direct result of the strangest feeling like he was floating. She walked out, but even this escaped his euphoria, and he happily started retrieving his now burnt underclothes.
He'd be coming back next Saturday. The Trans-matter Ray could wait.