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Happy Kitty, Sleepy Kitty

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It’s three in the goddamn morning and there is only one person who knocks on her door like that, even if it’s thumpier than usual. Penny rolls out of bed, blinking away the bleariness, and plods out to the living room. Sheldon has his elbow lifted to knock again, his hands held against his chest.

“What,” she starts, ready to unload her snark reservoirs in his direction, even if he’s nursing carpal tunnel or something.

Then she looks at his face and sees the troubled expression there.

Then she looks at the tiny splotchy furry face peeking out of Sheldon’s cupped palms, and says, “Oh.”

“I didn’t want to wake Leonard,” Sheldon says, and she can understand why; Leonard’s allergic to cats and Sheldon’s allergic to Priya. “I heard a noise outside my window and thought it might have been someone attempting to break in and steal my comics, but then...” He shrugs helplessly. “She can barely even walk, Penny, I had to crawl out and get her.”

“How do you think she got there in the first place if she can’t walk?” Penny’s already moving, throwing a heat pack in the microwave, pouring milk into a saucepan and setting it on the stove, and waving Sheldon in to sit on the couch.

“I did wonder if she fell from somewhere. I don’t think anything’s broken, though.” Sheldon sits down gingerly so as not to disturb his passenger.

Shoeboxes are hardly something that Penny has a scarcity of in her apartment. She finds a nice comfortable one, sets the warm heat pack in the bottom, puts a towel over it to make sure it’s not too hot, and watches as Sheldon settles the kitten in. The kitten promptly proves that she can in fact walk by circling a few times like a puppy before flopping onto her side. Her mouth stretches open in a tiny toothy yawn.

“She can’t be too young, at least,” Penny says, touching the kitten’s calico head with a fingertip. “Not if she can move around that much.”

Sheldon’s smiling. It takes her by surprise because she’s never seen him look so tender about anything short of a completed equation on his board. “She’s feistier than I thought.”

It turns out that feeding a kitten without a bottle is a real bitch of a job. Penny gets milk all over her hands, and she has trouble finding the right angle to hold the spoon on, but the kitten’s got lapping down to a fine art and hoovers the milk up as fast as Penny can refill the spoon. Meanwhile, Sheldon’s googling kitten feeding routines on his phone, because of course he stuck his phone in his pajama shirt pocket in case, he tells her, he needed to call the police.

“I don’t think they’re the ones to call in this case.”

“I don’t have the number for Kittenbusters.”

A joke. From Sheldon. Penny’s starting to wonder if she’s dreaming.

“We’ll need to feed her again at seven,” Sheldon says.

“In the morning? Is there even a seven in the morning?”

Sheldon ignores her. “I’ll need to stay here with her, of course.”

“Oh, of – what?”

“Well,” Sheldon says, looking down at the box, where the kitten is curled into a small patchwork ball, tummy distended, “I won’t leave her here without me. I found her. And I dare say you wouldn’t be very happy if I took her away now.”

“You – I was the one who figured out feeding her!” Penny says. “Besides, you’ve got roommates who might object to being woken up every four hours. She stays here.”

Sheldon gets a mutinous look on his face. “Then so do I.”

Fine,” Penny says.

“Keep your voice down, you’ll wake her.”

The next five minutes consist of a whispered argument about who’s going to sleep where. Various permutations are suggested and rejected. In the end, somehow, Penny finds herself getting back into bed with a shoebox... and a Sheldon. He lies rigidly on the other side of the bed, the box between them. Penny takes a moment to tuck the towel over the top of the kitten, leaving her head poking out, just to be sure she’s warm enough. Then she crawls back into bed, settling her head on the pillow, moving the box up a little so that both of them can fit around it.

She’d expected to have trouble sleeping, but the soft sound of purring lulls the wakefulness right out of her.


Penny had wondered how such a little thing could make a noise loud enough to wake Sheldon up, and at half-past six she doesn’t need to wonder any more. She could swear she’s heard quieter car alarms.

“All right, baby,” she croons, rolling out of bed and picking the box up. Sheldon’s blinking his way awake; she has the box on the coffee table and the milk on the stove by the time he picks his way through the maze of stuff on the floor and sits down on the couch.

“She’s going to need a name, you know.” He foozles the top of the kitten’s head, ruffling her fur up into a series of punk spikes, and then lifts her out of the box onto the couch, where she starts sniffing the cushions. “I was thinking Schrödinger.”

“No. No way.” No way is she co-parenting a kitten named after a scientist who proposed a thought experiment that she still very much associates with Leonard.

“Erwin?”

“She’s a girl.”

“So you assume.”

“I thought tortie cats were always female,” Penny says a trifle smugly.

Sheldon starts talking about chromosomes and alleles and Penny resolves the issue by ooching the kitten’s lower back; the kitten lifts her tail and blatantly demonstrates her lack of testicles.

“I suppose Rudolf, Josef, and Alexander are also all out of the question, then.”

“Call her Julia.”

“Why?”

“...because it’s July?”

Sheldon blinks at her.

“Wake up,” Penny says, and goes back to the stove to test the milk.

 

Now that she’s up she figures she probably won’t get back to sleep anyway, and so she unearths her waffle iron and throws together a batch of batter. Sheldon gets into the spirit and goes across the hall to find his 100% really for serious not fake maple syrup.

They eat sitting on the couch, the kitten industriously sniffing each of their plates before wobbling back into her box and curling up nose-to-tail like a calico comma.

“I don’t really think she’s a Julia,” Sheldon says.

Penny crunches and swallows her mouthful of waffle. “Why not?”

“She doesn’t look like a Julia.”

“Whereas you, of course, look totally like a Sheldon.” The fact of the matter is that he does. She’s never really thought about it before but it’s a nerdy name, and he generally looks like an archetypal nerd; the only thing missing is the glasses. Of course, right now, licking maple syrup off his lower lip and sitting there nonchalantly in his pajamas, he looks like he could just be some guy she picked up, sharing breakfast this time before they go their separate ways and forget each other’s names.

He touches her hair, just flicking at one of the soft waves it sometimes falls into before she can brush it. “This is too light for you to be a Penny.” The crooked smile he gives her makes her smile back.

“I did have sort of copper hair once in high school.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. It was between my red phase and my purple phase.”

Sheldon scrutinizes her hair, continuing to eat his breakfast. “I can’t imagine you with purple hair,” he says eventually, mopping up the last of the syrup with the final bite of waffle.

“I went through most of the rainbow at one point or another. It was one way to try to look interesting in uniform, and the purple actually went with the uniform, so I didn’t get in as much trouble as I guess I could have.” Penny takes his plate and dumps it and hers in the sink, running the tap briefly over them. “Did you have to wear school uniform?”

“Not for long, fortunately. I find blazers and ties restrictive, and I had tremendous trouble with school pants. Meemaw spent a lot of time hemming them up and then back down again.” With another small smile he adds, “Missy’s skirts, on the other hand, went up and stayed up.”

Penny stifles a snicker. She can still remember Missy’s predilection for short dresses from her brief visit years ago. “Oh, hey, I have a photo album here somewhere... want to see?” She unearths it from behind two vases on the shelves by the bedroom door and blows dust off it before returning to the couch. Sheldon’s picked not-Julia out of her box and is holding her against his chest again, leaning back so that the kitten has an almost flat surface to settle on.

“I didn’t say yes,” Sheldon points out, but he does look as she leafs through the pages. Penny in purple and white, leaping into the air with pompoms outstretched. Penny with purple hair that fades to pink at the ends and ridiculously oversized earrings. Penny dancing at prom; Penny making faces at the camera with three other girls, all in tiny camisoles and shorts; Penny with pursed lips blowing out eighteen candles.

“I don’t remember half of this stuff,” she says.

“Were you drunk?”

She goes to elbow him and stops because of the kitten. “It was a long time ago,” she says. “Not all of us have your photographic memory.”

“Eidetic.” He puts the kitten back in her box; she barely twitches a whisker. “And high school is a time I wish I didn’t remember so well.”

She’s about to ask why, but she can guess, and in the time it takes her to formulate a nice way to phrase the question, he’s standing up and heading for the door.

“Where are you going?”

“I have to get ready for work,” he says over his shoulder.

“It’s still only seven-thirty...”

“I have to format a flash drive, transfer some data...”

She gets up to close the door behind him, watches him cross the hall, and realizes he’s walking in the way that a guy walks when he’s turned on and trying to hide it.

Huh.

The photo album, lying open on the couch, displays a photo of her sitting on a haystack, a corn cob scepter in her hand. She does remember that homecoming; the hay prickling the backs of her bare calves, twisting her ankle when she got down from the back of the truck, the sour taste of her beer coming back up.

Mostly, though, she’s looking at the tan of her legs, the dazzle of her smile, and wondering if she’s imagining Sheldon’s little scuttle out there, or not.

 

She doesn’t have work until later that afternoon, so she carries the box down to the car and takes the kitten to the vet on Colorado. It turns out it costs a lot just for a basic exam, but she gets a coupon from them for a discount on spaying, which they urge her to do as soon as she reasonably can. Penny doesn’t want to do it while Sheldon’s at work, though; she kind of wants him there with her, just in case the operation goes wrong.

She buys a proper carrier, a bottle for easier feeding, food and dishes for later on (not much later, though; the vet says she’s close to weaning age), a tiny pink collar with a jingle bell, and, after some thought, a name tag that she gets both her and Sheldon’s cell numbers engraved on, leaving the front side blank for when they eventually pick a name.

Not once does it cross her mind to drop the kitten off at a shelter.

She texts Sheldon from the waiting room, updating him on the kitten’s health (a few fleas, no worms, no microchip), and a few minutes later as she’s heading home she gets a reply.

We should put up posters about her around the building.

You think someone might have lost her?

Maybe.

I can just go door to door. It’d be quicker. And, she thinks, keep some random walk-in from deciding they want her. Because, to be honest, not-Julia is about the cutest cat she’s ever seen. Growing up, there were a lot of ferals around the house, and while some of them were less beat up than others, none of them had the pretty, delicate coloring of this little girl. She has three white socks and her right forepaw is black; her nose is dark, her whiskers pale, and she has a ginger splotch on her black and white head that looks like a tiny crown or sunburst or something.

Penny pulls up in her parking spot, lifts the box into her arms, and is unlocking the door to her apartment before she realizes that she didn’t knock on even one other door on her way up the stairs.

Oh well.

 

Sheldon keeps texting her asking for updates during the afternoon. Fortunately, being a Tuesday, it’s a given that they’ll see each other at dinner time. Unfortunately, she’s not at all sure that she’s going to get away with having a kitten at work. She can’t leave her at home, though; the kitten will need feeding and apart from that Penny just plain doesn’t want to leave her alone this young.

She ends up bringing the carrier in with her, tucking it away in a corner of the back room, and hoping for the best.

Of course, this means that her manager approaches her forty-five minutes into her shift with the remark, “Penny, your handbag is meowing.”

“Oh, God.” Penny does a quick visual survey of her tables and then darts into the back room. The kitten is awake and disgruntled. Penny lifts her out of the cage and almost immediately gets a rumbling purr.

“You really shouldn’t have it at work,” Jonathan says.

“Would you leave one of your kids at home if they needed feeding?”

He rolls his eyes. “They’re fourteen and sixteen. They can nuke a pizza.”

“Well, she can’t.” Penny puts the kitten back and goes about filling a bottle. “Speaking of nuking...”

“You can’t keep bringing her in.”

“I can’t afford a cat-sitter.”

“Why did you get her, anyway?” At least he’s saying “her” and not “it”.

“Kind of an accident.”

“Oh, did your owner not have you spayed? You need to stay away from toms when you’re in heat, Penny.”

“Tell you what, you let me keep bringing her in, and I don’t report you for sexual harassment, Jono.”

“That was hardly--”

“It was enough.”

 

The next hurdle is when Sheldon and the others arrive and Sheldon wants to go and see the kitten for himself, when non-staff are emphatically not allowed into the back room. Penny decides that the wrath of Jonathan is less of a risk than the wrath of Sheldon, and sneaks him in for two minutes, long enough for Sheldon to assure himself of their young charge’s health.

She has never seen him look so happy.

It’s weird.

“See her little crown?” She points out the ginger circlet. “Her name should be Princess something. Or Queen something.”

“Her Royal Highness--”

“Yeah?”

“Erwina Schr--”

No.”

 

When Penny and not-Erwina-either get home, she discovers that she’s going to have to do an extra laundry run. Fortunately, as soon as Penny opens her front door, she hears the door across the hall open as well and Sheldon’s there.

“Can you watch her for a while? I need to wash her towel.”

“I’ll start her kitty litter training.” He looks more like he’s about to teach her trigonometry, but Penny knows better than to say so.

She gets down to the laundry room, starts the washing machine going, and is back up the stairs in record time for someone who just spent eight hours on her feet. Sheldon is sitting cross-legged on her living room floor, watching not-Erwina-either scratching industriously away in the litter box. Penny slides to the floor beside him and starts untying her shoelaces, which gets the kitten’s attention.

“She can’t go without a name forever,” Sheldon says.

“I feel like since you found her, you should get to name her,” Penny says; she’s been thinking about it all day and, although she still thinks that Erwin and all permutations thereof are terrible for a little kitten, she really does think it’s Sheldon’s prerogative.

Sheldon looks down at the kitten, whose claws are hooked into one of Penny’s shoelaces. “I do like your Princess suggestion,” he says. “Especially considering that the ancient Egyptians used to revere cats as sacred.” He reaches down to disentangle the kitten before she gets too snarled up. “My mother always maintained that the best pet names were short and easy to yell down the yard, but then she said the same about us.”

“I don’t really think ‘Sheldon’ is much of a yelling name.”

“Why do you think she calls me ‘Shelly’? Or Melissa ‘Missy’? And Junior was ‘Junior’ from the word go. Cooper family legend says he didn’t realize his name was actually George until elementary school.”

Penny cracks up. “That’s terrible.”

“That’s Junior.” Sheldon returns his attention to the kitten, who is currently attempting to scale one of his knees. “That’s pointy, baby girl,” he murmurs, and Penny is struck all over again by this strange tender side that she’s never really seen before.

“How come you’re so... I don’t know, you barely get attached to people, you hate sharing the couch even with Leonard, and now you’re all over this cat you’ve known for like a day?”

“When I was in Germany I was younger than anyone else with whom I was studying. There was a house cat at the boarding house where I was staying, and... well, cats don’t laugh at you for speaking with the wrong accent, or being smarter than everyone else, or being homesick. Her name was Muffy and she was a big fluffy blue Persian. She used to sleep on the foot of my bed because I was the only one who didn’t toss and turn and kick her off, or have company stay the night who didn’t like cats. She purred a lot, too.”

Penny puts her arm lightly around Sheldon’s shoulders. “That’s really sweet, Sheldon. Thank you for sharing.”

“You’re welcome.”

“You’re not calling her Princess Muffy, either.”


By Friday night the kitten still doesn’t have a name. 4A has been empty a few nights in a row as Leonard has been staying at Raj’s with Priya, citing a need for privacy that they would have had if they had stayed put, given that Sheldon’s been staying at Penny-and-the-kitten’s place.

They haven’t told the others about the kitten yet, because of Leonard’s allergies and, well, Penny doesn’t want to outright name it as a fear of ridicule, but she knows that if they saw the soft look in Sheldon’s eyes as he dangles a hair ribbon for definitely-not-Muffy to bat around, the others would have even more trouble taking him seriously than they already do.

Besides, she kind of likes having something that’s just for the two of them, even for now. Everything else the boys do, they do as a group; their rituals of meals together and games nights and all the other things that are meticulously charted out on Sheldon’s calendar are theirs, and while she often eats with them and sometimes plays with them, she’s always been subconsciously aware that she’s not quite one of them.

She consoles herself with knowing that neither is Priya. In fact, she’s at least one up on Priya, because she’s willing to bet that if Sheldon had walked into Leonard’s bedroom on Monday night, definitely-not-Muffy would be in a shelter by now.

Friday night. Sheldon’s in a huff. Priya’s demanded date night with Leonard, Howard’s taking his mom to a cousin’s birthday in Compton and they’re staying at a hotel, and Raj has pitched a fit about having his bedroom taken over and is going to a spa somewhere, which Penny is kind of jealous about.

So it’s just the two of them and the kitten, Penny picking up the Chinese food and Sheldon holding down the fort at home. It’s meant to be vintage video games night as well but they can’t take Little Miss Nameless over to 4A because of the dander risk, and Sheldon’s exact words on the topic were, “If Leonard and Howard and Rajesh are all going to break tradition, you might as well get Mexican food and buy me a sombrero while you’re at it.”

Penny loves Mexican, but she also knows that if she actually did bring home Mexican, she’d never hear the end of it.

They eat straight out of the containers, an episode of The IT Crowd playing mostly unnoticed on the television. The kitten climbs all over the couch and both of them. Penny tempts her with a tiny shrimp out of her fried rice and nearly loses a finger to her eagerness.

“I don’t think that’s recommended weaning food.”

“If she lived on the beach she could catch shrimp in the wild.”

“That’s highly unlikely.”

“Yeah, well, this time last week I thought that you having feelings for anything other than science was highly unlikely, and now -- you hypocrite, you just fed her some of your chicken!”

“Now, a chicken she could definitely catch if she lived outdoors.”

Penny looks down at the kitten and then up at Sheldon. “If it didn’t beat her up, maybe.”

Penny. She’s a predator.”

“Sheldon, you once got treed by a chicken and you’re like a hundred times her size.”

“I wasn’t at the time.” Sheldon clears his throat -- somewhat awkwardly, Penny thinks -- and reaches over the back of the couch for the overnight bag he’s taken to bringing with him. “Speaking of my youth, I brought something to show you.”

It’s a photo album. Penny sets aside her food, nudging it toward the middle of the coffee table where the kitten (probably) can’t get at it, and flips the cover open. Sheldon has already gone a little pink around the ears and mumbles, “Please don’t judge me too harshly.”

“Hey, you didn’t make comments about mine.”

“Mmmm.” He goes a little pinker.

Penny turns the pages slowly. Sheldon at elementary school looks bored, looking sullenly at the camera. Sheldon and Missy aged about nine sport matching gap-toothed smiles; Junior’s early puberty has him looming head and shoulders above them. Sheldon at the airport looks up at the boarding sign for his flight to Germany; that one’s a little blurry, as if the camera holder was shaking a little -- Mary holding back tears?

Then she finds Sheldon at sixteen, decked out in what must have been his first tuxedo, his mortarboard askew, holding up his degree with a fierce grin on his face.

“Wow,” she says before she can stop herself.

“Yes, I know, such an early awarding of a doctoral degree is very impressive.”

She’s not going to correct him. She’s not.

“What about your, you know, graduation gown?” she asks instead, and he turns the page for her, to a considerably more serious shot. In fact, he looks downright overheated.

“Are these out of order?”

“Yes. Mom insisted in putting them in that way so people would get to see me smile first.”

“Sounds fair,” Penny says absently, resisting the urge to go back a page.

 

They’re lying in the dark, the kitten snoozing between the pillows for a change, and Sheldon’s breath has evened out to the point where Penny thinks he’s asleep, when he speaks up and makes her jump.

“What about Summer?”

“I assume you’re not talking about the season.” She has to be sarcastic because otherwise her heart’s going to thump clean out of her chest.

“For the kitten.”

“Princess Summer?”

“Princess Summer Julia Erwina Cooper,” Sheldon corrects her.

Penny smiles up at the ceiling. “But just Summer for short?”

“That sounds reasonable.” His hand finds hers under the covers and squeezes.


By dinner the next day they’re calling her “Sunny” because it’s a) shorter still and b) less likely that Howard will assume that they’re making a Firefly reference. (He’s still bitter over the train incident, but not as bitter as Raj.)

Also, Raj knows about Sunny because Howard and Leonard delegated him to find out what was going on in 4B.

“You’re harboring a cat,” he says after a quick vodka shot to loosen his lips. “Is that all? Howard thought the impossible had happened and you were sleeping together.”

Sheldon opens his mouth. Penny looks at him. Sheldon closes his mouth and gets on with pulling a piece of chicken into tiny scraps, feeding them to Sunny one by one.

“Why don’t you bring her over?”

“Leonard’s allergies,” Penny says. “It wouldn’t be fair on the poor guy to make his asthma worse.”

“Can I bring Howard over here?”

“What about my allergies?”

Raj looks like he doesn’t know whether to laugh or be indignant on his friend's behalf.

Howard openly scrutinizes the apartment for signs of coitus before he succumbs to Sunny’s wide eyes and fuzzy little head and starts scratching her under the chin. Sunny, predictably, purrs at him. “I could have sworn...” he says, and then trails off when Penny glares at him.

“Where’s Leonard?” Penny asks.

“My place.” Raj wrinkles his nose. “Actually, part of the reason I came over was to ask Sheldon if I could crash at his place.”

While Sheldon is busy explaining all the reasons why this is not an option, Penny is coming to a decision.

“You can stay here,” she pipes up just before Sheldon sics Sunny onto Raj.

“You have a one-bedroom apartment,” Raj says.

“So I’ll stay in Leonard’s room. That makes more sense than you staying there. I’ve slept there before. Unless there’s something you’re not telling me.”

“What about Sunny?” Sheldon asks.

“She can sleep in your room, unless the rule applies to her too.”

“I meant about her dander.”

“Leonard’s not around anyway.” It doesn’t hurt to say so any more. “We’ll just vacuum really well if we know he’s going to be, you know, visiting his apartment.”

So it’s settled. Raj is surprisingly okay with sleeping in a girl’s bedroom without the girl present. Sheldon carries Sunny across the hall. Penny gathers a few things into an overnight bag and puts fresh sheets on the bed, on the off chance that Sheldon’s left, oh, a hair on the pillow or something that Raj might spot and come to totally the wrong conclusion. She picks Sheldon’s overnight bag up along with her own, gives Raj the spare key, and crosses the hall.

Leonard’s room is familiar, and not. She changes his sheets as well, feeling a little petty when Sunny comes bouncing in to help and she doesn’t shoo the kitten away. Whatever; she’ll just change them again whenever she moves back. She puts her shampoo and conditioner and toothbrush in the bathroom, hangs her towel on the rack, and tries to shake the thought that this all feels a little more permanent than she’d thought when whim drove her to suggest it.

Howard and Raj come over a little while later after settling Raj into 4B; the four of them play Worms 2: Armageddon and eat dinner and it’s almost like things haven’t changed, except for when Sunny interposes herself between the couch and the television and, instead of yelling at her, Sheldon scoops her up and plays for the rest of the night with her asleep on his lap.

 

At midnight, Penny is still awake.

At one o’clock, she slips out from between the sheets and knocks on Sheldon’s open door. Sunny comes to meet her, meowing softly.

Sheldon is lying on the left side of the bed instead of the center. His eyes are open; he watches her as she crosses the room and slides into the bed. He doesn’t say a word about people not being allowed in his room, and she doesn’t comment.

Sunny jumps onto the chair near Penny’s side of the bed, onto the nightstand, and from there onto the bed, moving into her accustomed position between them. She kneads the blanket until it’s settled to her liking, circles twice, and plops down onto her side. Her low rumble starts shortly thereafter.

Only once the kitten is settled does Sheldon closes his eyes, and Penny follows him into sleep.


The next night, she doesn’t even bother going into Leonard’s room, and Sheldon already has the covers turned down for her.


Some nights Sunny is gone when they wake up. She has taken a perverse interest in napping on Leonard’s bed. Sheldon buys a new Dustbuster and a lint roller. They take turns cleaning up, but a neat little ring of fur persists in remaining in the center of the blankets. Penny gets into the habit of brushing Sunny every night before bed; it helps a little, and Sunny loves it, when she’s not trying to bite the brush.

“Duct tape,” Raj says.

“For the bed, or for the cat?” Howard cracks.

Penny hits him with the hairbrush.


Naturally, a few weeks into this new routine, Priya up and leaves the country. Leonard hauls all his stuff back from Raj’s, Raj reluctantly leaves Penny’s place after asking her repeatedly to try to remember where she got her quilt from, and Penny and Sunny go back to 4B, Penny trying not to think that it doesn’t feel so much like home any more.

The first evening is hell. She eats at Leonard and Sheldon’s with one ear constantly turned toward the door, positive that she can hear Sunny’s lonely meows. She’s still taking Sunny to the Cheesecake Factory even though she’s weaned, using the excuse that the kitten has just been spayed and needs extra care. (The stitches are out and her shaved fur has half grown back, but whatever.)

Leonard is moping into his pizza and escapes five minutes after they all put their plates down, mumbling something about time zones and Skype. Howard is on a date with Bernadette; Raj is on a date with the laundry room at his building along with every single set of bedsheets that he owns.

“Are you coming over?” Penny whispers the second Leonard’s out of sight.

Sheldon turns his head, apparently listening down the hallway, and then lifts his hands, fingers spread: ten o’clock. And, incredibly, gives her a covert little grin.

 

She leaves a shoe stuck in the doorway to wedge it open.

He knocks anyway.

 

Eleven o’clock. Something startles Sunny awake and she bolts from the bedroom to hunt invisible monsters in the living room. Penny rolls onto her side and realizes that the bed is a lot smaller without the kitten in between them.

“Sheldon?”

“Penny.” She can see him watching her.

“What happens when she doesn’t want to sleep on the bed any more?”

“I’ve grown used to the company.”

“Yeah, I know, so when—”

Sheldon moves his arm, curls it around her shoulders, fingers combing lazily through her hair. Penny goes rigid with surprise for a moment and Sheldon almost withdraws his arm, but then she puts her hand on his chest, feeling his steady heartbeat.

“I’ve grown used to the company,” he repeats.

Oh, Penny thinks, but doesn’t say. Oh.

“If this can outlast an extended period of secrecy, switching back and forth between apartments, and the fact that you keep forgetting when it’s your turn to shovel the litter box, then it can certainly outlast the occasional absence of that which caused it in the first place.”

“Sheldon?”

“Penny.”

“I do not forget to shovel the litter box.”

His laugh rumbles through her. “Not now, you won’t.” His fingers are doing delightful things to her scalp.

Further conversation seems unnecessary. Penny eventually falls asleep with her head on his shoulder, listening to his breathing.

She’d purr too, if she could.