Penny looked out her window a little sadly. What she missed most about Nebraska was winter—it always snowed on Christmas. And now the nights in Pasadena are a little cooler, a little brisker, but nowhere approaching the frigid snowstorms that would cover the Nebraskan prairies.
Even worse, her own gift-giving instinct was failing her this year. She loved the look of shock and defeat on Sheldon's face whenever she produced an astounding, long sought after gift that he had never even dreamt she would be able to acquire.
This time, however, she was out of ideas.
The people on the streets below walked slowly, lazily—she missed the hurried bustle of Christmas shoppers eager to get out of the cold. She missed seeing scarves and toboggans, Wellingtons and parkas.
Penny rather slowly gathered up her laundry and headed downstairs to the laundry room. It was Saturday night, so Sheldon would be down there, undoubtedly. For once, she wouldn't mind the company.
And there he was, carefully placing his clothes into the washing machine. Maybe she could weasel some information out of him.
"Hey, Sheldon," she said perkily.
"Oh, hello Penny," he replied absentmindedly, carefully measuring out his fabric softener.
"Soooooo . . . " She rested her basket on the laundry table. "How're things?"
He looked up sharply. "Made of matter. I'm sure we've had this conversation before."
Penny sighed. Right. No small talk. "I was just wondering what your plans are for Christmas."
"The same as every year. Avoiding pleas from my family to come back to Texas and playing Wii Sports. Why?"
"No reason." She moved over to the washing machine and started dumping her clothes in.
"I may be incorrect," Sheldon said. "But as you usually you speak in blathering, seemingly unending sentences in a despicably bright tone, I have the feeling something might be wrong."
"Really? I'm the one with the blathering unending sentences?" Penny spun the dial and the washing machine burst into life with the sound of sloshing water. "No, Sheldon, nothing's wrong."
"Ah, good, then." He began clearing the laundry table in preparation for folding his garments.
"I miss the snow!" Penny burst out.
"Snow? What snow?"
"When I was in Nebraska, it always snowed for Christmas. It never snows here. I miss the Christmases I had when I was a kid—with candy canes, and tinsel, and popcorn strings, and snow! I miss the snow!"
"While I echo your sentiment for the Christmas of my childhood yore," Sheldon said, "It didn't snow on Christmas in Texas. The only time I remember snow on Christmas is when I was in Germany, and I had the flu the entire week."
Penny's eyes grew wide. "You've never gone sledding? Or had snowball fights? Or made snowmen? Or snow forts?"
"Oh, Sheldon," she said. "You really missed out."
"Not particularly. I don't like being neither cold nor wet."
"But snow is magical."
"No, Penny, silk top hats placed on top of anthromorphic snow creatures are magical. The snow itself is nothing but the solid state of dihydrogen oxide."
Penny huffed and blew her bangs out of her face. "Whatever. You just don't understand." She spun around and pretended to be terribly interested in her laundry basket.
She thought she heard Sheldon say ever so softly, "Perhaps I don't," but it must have been her imagination.
I can't do it, Penny thought. I just can't go into any more stores.
Everything in every store was either completely boring or Sheldon already owned it. She couldn't afford any of the extremely rare comics or figurines, and Stuart wasn't as willing to give her a deal as she hoped he would be.
She had resorted to clothes shopping, but nothing was appealing. At least, not for Sheldon. He was so finicky. Then again, practical man he was, he just might be content with a healthy supply of white wool socks.
She collapsed onto her couch, utterly exhausted.
It was hopeless. Sheldon probably had the perfect present all lined up, and would deliver it with a smug smirk of superiority and all she would have to hand him in return was a lousy pair of socks.
She pulled her laptop over to her and decided to surf Craigslist. One man's trash is some nerd's treasure.
And, there it was, an ad that seemed to come straight from heaven itself:
ORIGINAL STARFLEET UNIFORM AUTOGRAPHED BY WILLIAM SHATNER
Penny clicked on it eagerly, and the text of the full ad read:
MY STUPID LOSER HUSBAND CHEATED ON ME WITH THE BABY SITTER AND NOW I'M GIVING AWAY ALL HIS STUFF. IF YOU DON'T WANT IT I'LL JUST SET IT ON FIRE I GUESS. THIS IS A UNIFORM WILLIAM SHATNER WORE ON STAR TREK THAT MY STUPID LOSER IDIOT SAD SACK WASTE OF LIFE STUPID LOSER HUSBAND HAD AUTOGRAPHED WHEN HE WAS ELEVEN. IT'S YOURS FOR TWENTY BUCKS. ALSO, DON'T EVERY HAVE AMY MARIE PETRIE BABYSIT YOUR KIDS. SHE WILL SLEEP WITH YOUR STUPID LOSER HUSBAND.
Penny couldn't reply fast enough.
Christmas day finally arrived, and Penny pranced into the boys apartment, wearing her Santa hat jauntily.
No one was home.
She clutched at her gift boxes sadly. How could they just ditch her on Christmas?
A colorful note on the coffee table caught her eye.
Take the 1:00 PM train into Los Angeles. It's a Saturnalia surprise.
Sheldon Lee Cooper, PhD.
There was a ticket attached to the note, which was lucky as she was pretty much broke. She whirled around happily, wondering what on earth could possibly be in store for her.
The train ride was rather short, but when she arrived at the station, she didn't see the boys at all. She waited on the bench at the station for two hours, growing grumpier by the second. Finally, a tall, imposing man approached her.
"Excuse me, are you Penny?"
"Yeah?" she replied wearily.
"Um, listen, this weird guy named Sheldon told me to tell you to take the train back home. He gave me this ticket to give you."
Penny snatched it from the man's hand and grumbled a thank you. The train ride home was also short, but her mood was rotten. The boys' apartment was still empty, so she marched over to her own and threw open the door in anger.
She froze in the doorway, amazed at what she saw.
Her entire apartment had been transformed. A large tree stood in the center, decorated with tinsel and strings of popcorn and ornaments of what appeared to be superheroes and Hello Kitty characters. Miniature houses formed a small village on her coffee table, and shiny silver stars dangled from her ceiling. A model train ran the circuit of the room, chugging along merrily.
Sheldon popped up from behind the kitchen counter. "Penny! You're finally home. Good, you're just in time." He flipped a switch, and her main lights dimmed and strings of fairy lights illuminated the room in a multitude of colors.
Penny's hand went over her mouth as tears welled in her eyes. "Sheldon—"
"Candy cane?" he handed her an unwrapped candy as he walked over to her.
"Sheldon, I can't believe you—"
"I apologize for sending you out of town, but we needed to get you out of the apartment somehow."
"Oh, yes, Leonard, Howard, and Raj helped with the setup. Although it was my idea, of course. I knew your brusque sentimentality would have you find a throwback to your childhood a far more valuable gift than any purchase I could have made."
"You—" She stuck the end of the candy cane in her mouth. "You were right. Here. Merry Christmas." Penny shoved the box into Sheldon's hands, distracting him while she wiped tears out of her eyes.
He opened it. "Penny, is this—"
She nodded. "Yeah. William Shatner's original Starfleet uniform. Well, one of them, I guess. The lady was a little crazy. He did sign it, though."
Sheldon's eyes went wide. "How did you get this?"
She twirled her candy cane around between her lips. "It's a secret."
"I—" Sheldon grabbed the arm of a chair for support. "This is amazing." He looked up suddenly. "But wait! You haven't seen the best part."
"What's the best part?"
If Penny hadn't known better, she would have thought it was a mischievous glint that lighted up Sheldon's eyes just then.
All he said was "Come on," before he grabbed her wrist and dragged her out the door.
"All right, Sheldon, you got me all the way outside, now what?" She frowned. "And I dropped my candy cane. Boo."
He held up a hand to silence her, then produced a walkie-talkie from his pocket and spoke into it. "Operation White Christmas is a go." With a burst of static, he put the radio back in his pocket and looked up. Penny also stared up at the sky.
Sheldon cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, "I said Operation White Christmas is a GO! IS A GO!"
"I heard you!" called a distant voice that sounded suspiciously like Howard. After a few more moments, there was a loud groaning of machinery and white flakes began to fall from the air.
Penny laughed in disbelief. "It's . . . it's snowing!"
"Yes." Sheldon nodded. "As you expressed your affection for this particular brand of precipitation rather vehemently, I thought you would indeed find this the best part. As you said, snow is magical."
Penny smiled up at him. "Sheldon, thank you."
"Well, while I deserve thanks for the idea, Howard is the one who built the snow machine."
"Thanks Howard!" she yelled up toward the roof.
"No problem!" came the reply.
Penny and Sheldon simply stood there for a while, looking around in wonder as more and more snow fell. She tried sticking out her tongue to catch snowflakes, but Sheldon warned her they might actually be toxic. She settled for catching them in her hands instead.
A small green bundle descended from the darkness attached to a long string dangling from the roof.
"What is that?" asked Sheldon.
"It's mistletoe!" This voice from the roof sounded like Raj. "You guys have to kiss!"
"Wait we didn't agree to that!" this voice sounded like Leonard.
Howard: "Lighten up, man, it's Christmas!"
The argument faded away under the noise of the snow machine.
Sheldon cleared his throat, looking at the mistletoe, then at Penny. "Well," he said. "We certainly don't have to. It's a stupid tradition anyway."
Penny pressed her lips together, suppressing a smile. Sheldon was definitely blushing.
"Come here, moonpie," She put one hand firmly behind his neck and planted a kiss on his lips.
He didn't mind as much as he thought he would. She tasted a lot like peppermint.