The five of them are walking home from the Comic Center, all attempting to huddle under Penny’s Hello Kitty umbrella. It doesn’t even cover her, let alone four men all panicked about their precious comic books getting wet. The rain is driving down in relentless sheets that she doesn’t think she’s ever seen the like of before and, just as they’re checking the street for traffic to cross the road for the safety of home, it starts hailing, chunks of ice the size of her thumbnail plinking off cars and streetlights and the umbrella, which is now woefully inadequate.
“Hurry!” Leonard yells over the howl of the wind.
“Gee, you think?” Penny shouts back, scampering into the street.
“Penny!” All four of them call her name in unison and she glances back and for a second she thinks there’s a car bearing down on her, so dazzling is the white light that engulfs her.
But it’s not headlights.
She feels herself lifted and thrown, landing in the bushes outside the apartment building and lapsing into blissful unconsciousness.
“I think she’s waking up.” Sheldon sounds frazzled. Penny drags her eyelids open and he’s leaning over her, brow furrowed. Her own forehead is cold; when she gingerly reaches up and touches it she feels the icepack and winces.
“Coffee,” she croaks.
“Stimulants of any sort at this point in time might be a very bad idea.”
Penny fists her hand in his Superman t-shirt and yanks him down. “Coffee,” she growls right into his face.
“Um. Leonard, Penny wants coffee. Penny, please let go, you’re choking me.”
She lets go, pacified by the promise of caffeine, and struggles to sit up, still pressing the icepack to her forehead. It’s then that she realizes she’s been lying on their couch with her head in Sheldon’s spot, and he hasn’t berated her for it. He must be concerned.
“Of course I’m concerned,” Sheldon says. “You may very well have a concussion, and that’s not something to be taken lightly.”
Huh. She didn’t think she’d said that out loud. Oh well.
Leonard comes over with the coffee; Penny practically buries her face in the mug and doesn’t lift her head again until she’s drained half of it. It’s hot and it burns her tongue but at least she starts to feel as though her brain is working again.
“What happened?” She sets the mug down and sits properly upright. Sheldon immediately settles into his spot; Howard flanks her on the other side, uncharacteristically quiet.
“We were hit by lightning,” Leonard says, sitting down in his own chair.
“All of us? But... nobody’s burnt or smoking or all frazzly-haired.”
“You might want to check a mirror before you get too sure about that last one,” Howard says. Penny lifts a hand to her head and feels the rampant frizzy halo and groans, attempting to flatten it down with her hands.
“How come none of you passed out?”
“None of us landed headfirst in a concrete planter box.” Leonard’s giving her a worried look of his own. “I’m surprised you survived it with only a graze.”
“Doesn’t feel like only a graze.” Now that she’s sitting up it feels like someone’s playing the bongos on her forehead, actually.
“He’s right. Given the strength of the impact, you should still be out there with a cracked skull instead of just a scratch.” Sheldon lifts the icepack away from her forehead, brushing her hair away to get a better look.
“Thanks for the sympathy, sweetie.” Now he’s staring into her eyes. What’s going on?
“I’m just checking for signs of concussion,” Sheldon says. Apparently he’s satisfied with whatever he sees because he pulls away and gives her back her icepack, which is getting soggy.
None of the others are injured. Leonard got winded when he fell flat on his back, but Leonard occasionally gets winded after particularly vigorous sex, so Penny doesn’t think too much of it.
The thing that strikes her as weirdest is that the storm passed as fast as it came; it feels like she was out forever, but it’s only been fifteen minutes, and the sky is already dark-denim-blue again, shading deeper at the edges as the night tiptoes in.
Everyone finally goes their separate ways: Sheldon to bed, Howard and Raj downstairs for Howard to take Raj home on the Vespa, and Penny home to her own apartment, Leonard in tow. She’s tired and sore and not at all in the mood for anything but snuggling, but Leonard is good at just snuggling now that she’s trained him (elbow to the ribs on several occasions) to recognize when that’s all she wants.
She showers first and then blow-dries her hair while Leonard showers, not exchanging their usual chatter, but both just quietly trying not to think about how close they came to – well – she fingers the graze on her forehead and keeps not thinking about it.
They’ve settled into bed, Leonard’s arm draped across her waist, and she’s finally starting to feel sort of normal again, when Leonard’s phone rings. Penny murfles and rolls over to bury her face in the pillow as Leonard hastily apologizes and answers the phone.
“Oh, hey Mrs Wolowitz... no, he left here at least half an hour ago... no, after the storm finished, I didn’t let him go outside while it was raining, I know he’s not allowed out without his raincoat and boots.” He pauses, and Penny lifts her head to see him frowning. “I’m sure he’s just being careful not to go too fast on the wet roads... yes, of course I’ll call if he comes back here. Okay. Okay. Bye.”
“Howard not home yet?”
“No.” Leonard pulls her close again and kisses her forehead. “I’m sure he’s fine, though. He did have to drop Raj off.”
She drifts into sleep, her head no longer pounding
What feels like five seconds later, Leonard’s phone is ringing again.
“Damn it, I thought I put that on silent.”
Leonard correctly interprets this as, “Just answer it!” and does so.
“Hi again, Mrs Wolowitz. Is Howard still not home? ...yes, okay, I suppose it was a bit obvious. Have you tried calling his phone? It’s off? Well, he’s not here, he’s probably at Raj’s... yes, I know he’s not meant to go to sleepovers on a school night without letting you know, he probably just forgot.”
Penny prises her eyelids open and rolls over to face him. Howard can’t be missing. Howard’s probably at Raj’s, or still downstairs stubbornly trying to get the Vespa started, or somewhere like that. He’s not (in a crumpled mess beside a skidmark on the road) anywhere else.
“I will. Okay. Night, Mrs Wolowitz.” Leonard hangs up and Penny opens her mouth to ask what’s going on, like she doesn’t already know, but Leonard is already dialing another number.
“Raj? Yeah, hey, sorry to wake you, but is Howard at your place? He is? Thank God, his mother’s called here twice looking for him.”
Penny now understands what it means to be flooded with relief. She can practically feel it tingling through her. Much as Howard annoys her, she can’t bear the thought of him dead.
“No, I will not call her to tell her he’s okay! Tell him to call her!” Leonard pauses as Raj says something Penny can’t quite make out, though she does try to listen. “What sort of weird stuff? We’ve been sleeping... yes, actually sleeping, jeez. Look, can we discuss this in the morning? Okay, bye.” He hangs up, and makes a point of turning the phone off before tossing it back onto the nightstand. “I’m sorry, Penny. Howard’s mom gets kind of anxious...”
“It’s okay,” Penny says before he can get too apologetic, because once he starts he’s very difficult to stop. Just to prove that it’s okay she kisses him, and now that she’s slept a little she’s feeling less like she just died and got dug back up, and so kissing leads to more than kissing.
She doesn’t know what Raj was talking about when he asked about weird stuff, but this kind of qualifies. Not that the sex itself is weird. The sex itself is what most people she knows refer to as “normal” and some refer to as “vanilla”. It’s just that Leonard gets this weird look on his face just as he’s slipping his hand up under her butterfly-print tank top.
“...nothing. I just got this weird feeling of déjà vu.”
“We have had sex before, honey.”
He gets that silly grin on his face that makes him look about twelve. “Yeah, we have.”
And then they carry on as usual, but it’s like he’s being really careful to please her, like as though last time was a bit crap and he needs to make up for it, although last time was fine (genuinely okay fine, not blah fine).
Not that she minds in the slightest, of course. It just seems a little weird.
The next time she wakes up it’s to a familiar knock at the front door and her eyes flick to the clock and it’s only just gone seven. Grumbling, she slips out of bed and into her robe; Leonard’s still sound asleep.
Sheldon looks sleep-rumpled and half-awake, which is impressive because Penny’s only about ten percent awake. “Can you two get dressed and come over?” he says without preamble, shattering the illusion that he’s ever cute even with his hair sticking out every which way because there’s always that light-speed-fast brain ticking over inside. “Koothrappali and Wolowitz are already here. We need to discuss last night.”
Penny blinks. She needs coffee five minutes ago. “Last night?”
“The storm,” Sheldon elucidates.
“Okay, sure.” She has no idea what he’s talking about but disagreeing with Sheldon and trying to go back to sleep is, she knows, futile. “We’ll be right over.”
When they get over there Raj is sitting with his hands tucked under his arms and looks like he’s just been hit over the head with a lemon slice wrapped around a large brick. He’s staring at the couch. Sheldon’s in his spot. Howard’s nowhere to be seen.
“So what are we discussing?” Penny asks, making a beeline for the coffee pot.
“The effects that last night’s storm had on each of us,” Sheldon says.
“What effects?” He’s already put the coffee on for her. How thoughtful. “My headache? That’s gone, seriously, I’m all right.”
“There’s more to it than that – Leonard, don’t sit there,” Sheldon interrupts himself.
Leonard pauses, inches from flopping down onto the other end of the couch. “Why not?”
“Because this spot’s taken,” Howard’s voice says out of nowhere, and Penny drops the milk carton onto the bench as Howard materializes on the couch, heedless of the splattering.
“You – what – how – huh?” Leonard takes a step back so his ass isn’t in Howard’s face. “What the hell?”
Screw the milk. Penny takes three fast gulps of straight black coffee, wincing at the hot bitter taste, but Howard still just appeared out of thin air. He gets up and grabs a dishcloth and is about to dab milk off the front of her t-shirt before she smacks his hand away. Being shocked speechless is one thing, but she’s not letting him get in a free grope.
“As I said, there’s more to the events of last night than Penny’s headache and our unexpected survival of a direct lightning strike.” Sheldon looks unperturbed.
Leonard sinks down onto the now-vacant spot on the couch. “Howard was invisible,” he says.
“That’s not possible.”
Penny tops up her coffee, pours one for Leonard, and settles onto the couch between him and Sheldon. “So... is that all? Howard can turn invisible?”
“Is that all? Isn’t that enough?” Leonard asks.
“It’s not all,” Sheldon says. “I myself seem to have acquired the ability to read minds.”
Penny just stares at him. Sheldon can read minds? The first thought that occurs to her is that she hopes like hell he can’t read minds through walls. The second is, how must that feel? Surely he has enough going on in his own mind without other people’s thoughts adding to it?
“Thank you, Penny. It is difficult. But rest assured I can only read thoughts about or directed to me. Whatever it was you were thinking about during coitus last night didn’t affect me.” Sheldon gives her a lopsided smile.
“Good to know you don’t think about him while we’re having sex,” Leonard says inanely, and Penny elbows him rather harder than usual.
“I can’t speak for you two, but if you did encounter any strange happenings last night or this morning, it might be best if we knew about them.” Sheldon looks at them both, but Penny can only shrug.
“Sorry, Sheldon, but I can’t think of anything.”
“Um... actually...” Leonard says, “there might have been one thing.” All eyes turn to him and he goes pink. “Last night, Howard’s mom rang and woke Penny and I up, and once she was off the phone we...”
“You actually had sex? That is weird,” Howard cracks.
Leonard throws a cushion at him. “Not that, you asshat. The weird thing was... the weird thing...” He’s going an even brighter red, and Penny glares at him.
“If you have something to say, Leonard, just say it.”
He’s hesitant a moment too long and Penny sighs. “Fine. I’m going downstairs to grab a bagel from the café while you tell everyone else whatever it is I can’t know about our sex life.”
She takes her coffee with her, and resists the urge to listen at the door.
It’s Sheldon who comes to find her. She’s sitting on the planter box, staring at a splash of dull red and brown smeared across the cement, half-eaten bagel being crumbled to bits in her hand.
“Leonard seems to have the ability to turn back time if he does something he regrets,” he says, stopping beside her. “I’ll spare you the details of how he figured it out, but suffice to say that it involved premature ejaculation and a lack of satisfaction on your part.”
“I died last night,” says Penny.
To do him credit, Sheldon barely blinks at this. “You died?”
Penny points at the smear without touching it. “Blood. See the white bits? Bone. See the – the other stuff? On the dirt? That’s – that’s—”
She doubles over, feels Sheldon hovering behind her, wishes he’d at least hold her hair back from her face, and then feels his hands on her head, his chest against her back, holding her as she brings up her breakfast into the planter box, mercifully covering the jellied grey matter that she’s pretty damn sure is part of her own brain.
“How?” she whispers, feeling the tears begin. “How did this happen?”
Sheldon’s arms go awkwardly around her. “I don’t know,” he says. “But we’ll find out.”
He sounds completely confident and certain and it’s enough to get her back on her feet and up the stairs to their shared landing, where she excuses herself to go brush her teeth and look at herself in the mirror, just to reassure herself that there aren’t any gaping wounds in her skull.
When she gets back over to 4A the guys all go quiet. She resumes her seat, trying not to meet anyone’s eyes.
“To sum up, I have developed some sort of telepathy, Leonard can turn back time under certain circumstances, Howard can make himself invisible if nobody is paying attention, and Penny appears to be immortal.”
“Gee, Sheldon, it sounds so normal when you put it that way,” Leonard says, still a bit red around the ears.
“The only question now is what to do with our newfound powers. I for one will never let Kripke catch me napping again.”
“Start my own version of Playboy with really candid shots!” Howard can be so predictable.
“Not have to keep paying for replacement parts when I overheat lasers,” Leonard puts in.
“Become one hell of a stuntwoman.” Penny can feel the grin begin to stretch her cheeks as she starts to think, really starts to think about the possibilities.
It’s then that she realizes there’s one person who hasn’t spoken up yet, not even just because he can’t speak in front of her, but he hasn’t even whispered to anyone else yet.
“Raj, what about you? Did you get a power?”
The silence that falls is like the stutter-silence she left them in earlier; awkward, embarrassing, and related to someone’s sex life.
“Guys? Did Raj get a power?”
“He, uh. He got what some people might refer to as a 'love touch'.” Leonard looks even more embarrassed now than when he was trying to talk about the two of them (and she really needs to discuss that with him at some point in the near future).
“If he touches your bare skin, you’ll want to have sex with him.”
“How the hell did he find out?” Penny looks at Raj, who is a shade of vermilion she didn’t think it was physically possible for him to turn. “Raj?”
Then she remembers the calls from Mrs Wolowitz. Leonard’s call to Raj’s place in the middle of the night. Howard sleeping over at Raj’s. Oh. Oh. Seems like their ersatz marriage got not-so-ersatzly consummated
“You know what?” Penny says. “Never mind how he found out.” (Raj’s sigh of relief says more than words ever could.) “Let’s get on with planning to take over the world.”