Penny isn’t sure what to think of the two guys at first; they’re just suddenly there in her doorway and she’s surrounded by her little flock of boxes. Her heart’s still hurting and they both look like the biggest geeks she’s ever seen, and that impression doesn’t go away after they greet her. But they’re kind of sweet, and she is pretty hungry, even after Leonard’s little speech about bowel movements, so she goes over to the uncharted territory of 4A.
The first thing she notices is the approximately eight thousand bits of paraphernalia that make it readily evident that yes, they are in fact geeks, as geeky as geeks can get, and that living together probably makes them some kind of concentrated übergeek, but she is intrigued by the writing on the whiteboard. She’s examining it with no idea what it means, but notices the way that Sheldon leans up against it and gives her a serious come-hither look when she makes the comment about him having a beautiful mind. If there’s one thing she does know about, it’s the signs that a guy is attracted to her.
Mind you, Leonard’s showing the signs as well, just in a really blatant way, like practically jumping up and down to get her attention when she looks like she’s listening to Sheldon too much. She turns to Leonard, but can still feel Sheldon’s eyes on her and she wonders what’s going on in that beautiful mind.
Now that she’s thought it the thought won’t leave her.
By the time they’re halfway through lunch she’s sure Sheldon’s nuts. Not about her. Just in general. Leonard’s obviously nuts about her, which is a little worrying considering they’ve only just met. She’s starting to think they’re less A Beautiful Mind than The Odd Couple, but when she mentions this she just gets a pair of politely bemused looks.
The part where she breaks down in front of them is really embarrassing and horrible, and she asks about the shower mostly as a way to get away from them for a little while without going back to her stupid mostly-empty apartment that doesn’t feel like home yet. Once she gets into the bathroom and starts getting her clothes off, though, it seems like a really good idea.
She can hear them talking about her, but not what they’re saying.
When she can’t get the tap to switch over from the bathtub to the shower she almost starts crying again because it’s such a stupid little thing to be thwarted by, but instead she wraps herself in the nice fresh towel (it’s so comfortable) and pads back out to the living room, where she promptly gets to meet creepy Howard and quiet Raj. She wants to get the hell out of there – seriously, if Howard had long blond hair and a joint in his hand they could be a certain couple of Kevin Smith characters – but it’s too late to bolt for her own apartment now because she’s only wearing the damn towel.
At last everything’s working and Leonard and Sheldon are heading out to get her TV back from Kurt. She can lean against the shower wall for a moment and just enjoy the sensation of the water running over her body, sluicing away the dried tear-tracks and the sweat from carrying most of the boxes up (the movers had done the big stuff but bailed after the couch; too many stairs, and she couldn’t offer them more money because she doesn’t really have much more).
Even though she’s hurting from the breakup with Kurt and trying not to count the years wasted with him, she feels clean and new and hopeful as she towels herself dry. Maybe this is going to work out after all.
And then everything goes to hell (of course) because Leonard and Sheldon come back without their pants and she feels this horrendous knot of guilt in her stomach and before she knows it she’s offering to take them out to dinner. That part’s okay; she even thinks she can cope with the fact that she doesn’t exactly have much (any) money left after the meal.
Where it goes to hell is when Howard makes that clichéd crack about how does she want her eggs in the morning, and she snaps, “Unfertilized,” a little too harshly at him, and all four of them go quiet.
“I’m sorry, Howard, I’m just a little worn out and I still have boxes to unpack.” She gives him an apologetic little smile. “Plus, y’know, I haven’t really had time to go grocery shopping. I figured I’d do it in the morning.”
“Oh, hey, it’s okay. I just thought since you had lunch with Leonard and Sheldon, and dinner with all of us…” He lets the sentence trail off and gives her a hopeful look and instead of yelling at him again she can’t help but laugh; he’s so oddly resilient. Or annoyingly persistent. One or the other.
“Yeah, Howard, I get it.” She gives him a coy smile. “I was really hoping Raj would ask, actually.” She hears a startled choking noise from Raj’s direction, and then all of them are laughing, and although she feels guilty for making a joke at Raj’s expense (since he does seem like a nice enough guy), at least it’s over.
What she doesn’t realize is that, for a certain someone with an eidetic memory, it’s not over. Not yet.
Someone’s knocking on her door. Did Kurt lock hims-- oh, no, wait. No Kurt. New apartment. One bedroom, one bathroom, no Kurt, and someone knocking on her door.
“Just a sec!” she calls, disentangling herself from the blanket and getting up from the couch, locating her robe and pulling it on. If this is the building super to fix her shower, she’ll forgive him for waking her at – she checks her watch – eight in the morning. If it’s anyone else, she might have to kill them.
It is someone else, but Penny’s too surprised to be angry. It’s Sheldon, clearly far more awake and alert (and dressed) than she is, and he’s carrying a breakfast tray. There are a few dishes on it, each covered over, neatly folded napkins, and there’s even a flower in a bud vase.
Although on closer inspection it’s actually some kind of glass chemistry tube thing and the flower’s an origami one made of a lined notebook page, but that just makes it even more endearing.
“I thought that since you said last night that you hadn’t yet had time to shop for groceries, you might appreciate breakfast.”
Penny rubs her eyes and blinks, but Sheldon is still standing there patiently, and she’s pretty sure that’s the crispy scent of waffles drifting up from one of the dishes, and, “Come in,” bursts out of her mouth before she can even think about what a mess the apartment still is.
Sheldon steps delicately around the boxes and Penny dives ahead of him to clear the table, unceremoniously relocating the array of paychecks and magazines and photocopied résumés to the coffee table, where they turn from neatish stacks into a little paper snowdrift. By the time she gets back to the table he’s lifting covers from dishes and her stomach growls as her suspicions about the waffles are confirmed.
“I assumed you wouldn’t have unpacked much yet,” Sheldon says, setting two plates down and distributing waffles onto them like a gambler dealing out a hand of cards. “Also, I didn’t know what you would like on your waffles, so I brought a selection of toppings.”
Penny just stares at him. “Sheldon, you didn’t have to go to all this trouble!” She throws her arms around him; he doesn’t hug her back, occupied as he is with breakfast, but he does tilt his head a little to lean it against hers for a moment.
“It’s no trouble. It was waffle day anyway and, although I’ve been trying to refine the recipe for some years now, I’ve always had trouble making just enough batter for only Leonard and myself.”
“You made these from scratch?” Penny sags into her seat more than sits down, and stares at the plate in front of her. She’d given up on happy endings after the final fight with Kurt, resigned herself to the notion that the world wasn’t going to do her any favors, and now there’s this admittedly odd man in her apartment who knows how to make waffles from scratch and is offering her actual maple syrup to put on them.
Sheldon chuffs a laugh. “There’s not much point having a book full of family recipes and not using them.” He sits down at last, apparently satisfied that she’s got a decent plateful in front of her, and then bounces straight back up. “Drat! I forgot the juice. I’ll be right back.”
His long legs make quick work of the distance between 4B and 4A, but he’s still gone long enough for Penny to ascertain that the Cooper family waffle recipe is an amazing one. She’s already halfway through the first one when he gets back with a bottle of orange juice and two glasses.
“These are incredible,” she says, her mouth half-full.
“That’s what Leonard said the first time he tried them.” Sheldon pours her some juice and then sits back down to finally start on his own breakfast.
Penny swallows. “If you ever get sick of science, you could totally be a cook.”
Sheldon gives her a bemused look. “Why would I ever get sick of science?”
“Oh, I didn’t mean you would, just if you did... never mind.” Penny forks up another mouthful of waffle and turns her attention to breakfast instead.
Before too long she’s eating on autopilot and appraising the man sitting across from her. He chews each bite methodically, like maybe he’s got the specter of his mother or someone hovering behind him telling him to chew his food properly before he swallows. (She knows that one herself from too many coughing fits at the table.) He has a really pretty mouth; lush lower lip that’s just begging for a little nibbling itself, and when his tongue darts out to lick away a stray drop of syrup she’s hard pressed to keep from leaning across the table and tracing its path with her own tongue.
She tries forcing her attention elsewhere but it only gets as far as his hands. His fingers are long and elegant as he cuts each bite of waffle off, following the neat gridlines left by the waffle iron, whereas her own waffle displays the same sort of haphazard mess as, well, anything from her mussed bed-hair to her untidy apartment to her shambles of a life, take your pick. She can imagine only too well those fingers on her, tracing lines across her skin with mathematical precision and, although she’s wearing her robe, she suddenly feels absurdly underdressed.
Or maybe he’s just overdressed.
The second she’s finished her first waffle Sheldon’s offering her a second one, not saying anything, just lifting it with the tongs and raising an eyebrow at her. Penny holds out her plate and Sheldon’s lips curve into a pleased little smile as he drops the waffle onto the plate, where it starts soaking up the leftover syrup straight away.
“More syrup?” he offers.
“I think I’m good here.”
Penny pauses in the act of cutting into the new waffle and drops her knife. “No way.”
“Yes, actually.” Sheldon lifts the lid on another dish and Penny almost moans when she sees what’s on it: sliced strawberries, sliced banana, and blueberries.
“If only Howard had your moves, he could have his pick of the women,” she informs him as she leans over to fork liberal amounts of strawberries onto her waffle.
“What moves?” Sheldon says.
Penny laughs. “Oh, come on, you know. Making breakfast for me? Going to all this effort?” She takes a bite of her berryified waffle and mmmms at it.
“This wasn’t intended to be any sort of ‘move’, Penny.” Sheldon looks flustered, fingers knotting in his napkin. “I didn’t mean to give you that impression. I just meant to be – I’m trying to be a friendlier person, on Leonard’s insistence, and I thought that in light of your lack of groceries, you would benefit from a good breakfast before beginning your day.”
Penny’s suddenly very aware of how much her robe is gaping open and how tiny her tank top really is. “I’m sorry,” she says into the sudden awkward silence between them, and she looks out of the window to try to cover her embarrassment. “I...”
Great. Now he’s going to think she’s got a thing for him, and he’s clearly not interested after all, and maybe he wasn’t giving her the eye yesterday after all. The way he keeps mentioning Leonard, maybe they really are a couple despite that thing about heterosexual bedrooms.
Is it too late to break her lease and maybe move to Canada or something?
She likes the sound of her name in his accent. It’s not Nebraskan, but it’s closer to home than the West Coast. She’s surprised he’s managed to hang on to it this long, considering that from what he’s told her he’s been all over the place between studying and teaching.
“Penny, your waffle will go cold if you don’t eat it.”
She palms away a stray tear and turns back to her meal, giving him a watery smile. “I’m sorry. I just... I shouldn’t have assumed...”
Sheldon watches her through several mouthfuls of waffle, his own breakfast going temporarily ignored, until she points at his plate with her fork and he starts eating again like he got so lost in thought he forgot he was supposed to eat. That seems like such a scientist thing to do. She wonders how many times he’s missed meals, pacing around their living room over there and scribbling on his whiteboard. He is kinda skinny, even if she knows from yesterday’s pants incident that those narrow hips say nothing about what’s between his legs.
She really needs to get off this train of thought. Fast.
“So, what plans do you have for today?”
‘Beyond cleaning up the excess breakfast dishes, just the usual routine,” Sheldon says, like he expects her to know what the usual routine is for a guy who can make the letters of the alphabet look like a whole other language with the right signs and symbols. “Although if you need any assistance over here, I imagine I could take time out from studying the nature of the universe and help you arrange your furniture.”
Penny rolls her eyes. “Well, gee, Sheldon, I wouldn’t want to interrupt your work or anything. I can operate a hex key on my own.”
“‘Many hands make light work’,” Sheldon retorts. “Besides, you can’t continue to sleep on your couch. It’s bad for your back and neck.”
“What about Leonard?”
“What about Leonard?”
“You’re the one who said ‘many hands make light work’. Wouldn’t it make sense to bring him over here as well?”
Sheldon reaches across the table and dabs strawberry juice from her chin with a napkin, the gesture more clinical than anything else, and says, “There is of course the other old proverb about too many cooks spoiling the broth. Besides, left to his own devices, he might make his own contribution to physics if he’s not over here—” a sharp swallow cuts the sentence off as his own eyes drift to the gap in her robe “—being distracted.”
Penny looks him in the eye, but his gaze is fixed back on her face, as though he’d never looked away. He’s infuriating and obtuse and gorgeous and if he’s not making a move on her then well, she’s just going to have to make one on him. She’s used to doing that, after all.
They finish breakfast and Sheldon stacks the plates together back on the tray, leaving the little origami flower in its unconventional vase sitting on her table. “I’ll get this cleaned up and be right back,” he tells her. “Where will we start?”
“In the bedroom,” Penny says immediately, and she has the satisfaction of seeing his cheeks go pink. “You did say I can’t keep sleeping on the couch.”
“Oh. Of course.”
The moment he’s gone she tears into the bedroom and digs through the boxes for clean clothes that are both suitable for moving stuff around and also not too shabby and old. She’s just pulling on a jade green tank top when she hears him knock on the bedroom door. When she turns around he’s covering his eyes with one hand and she can’t help but laugh.
“It’s okay, sweetie, I’m dressed now.”
“Well, you weren’t.” He doesn’t sound too scandalized, though.
“Just come in here and help me get this bed frame together, will you?”
He follows orders well; it’s not until he’s patiently holding the last leg against the base while she hex-keys it into place that she realizes it’s because he’s actually quite hopeless at this sort of thing. Weird, but maybe he just doesn’t do practical all that well.
“So where in Texas did you grow up?” she asks, looking up at him between the slats of the base as her fingers work on the last hex screw.
“And you’ve been here for a few years now? Your accent’s still so strong.”
“I didn’t feel the need to assimilate with local culture.” His tone says, they can take me as I am or not at all, and suddenly she feels a little ashamed at her own attempts to get the Midwest out of her voice.
“You must have been a ball of fun in Germany.”
He gives her a quick smile and that warm look from yesterday at the whiteboard. “Du hast keine Ahnung, mein Liebling.”
After all Howard’s languages yesterday, she’d just as soon not hear anything but English again, but Sheldon makes it sound pretty. God, she needs to get her head checked.
“What does that mean?” she asks, trying to wriggle back out from under the bed.
He puts his hands on her hips and pulls her smoothly out, sliding on the polished floorboards, and she squeals. “That after some thought, I’ve reconsidered the notion that bringing you breakfast may have been perceived as making some sort of ‘move’ on you.”
“Sweetie,” Penny says weakly, acutely aware of his fingers on her hips, “I think you made more sense in German.”
“Allow me to attempt a retranslation, then.” Sheldon leans down and for one stupid second Penny thinks he’s going to whisper to her, but then his lips brush against hers and she knows this language. She reaches up to run her fingers through his hair – too short to get a good grip on, but beautifully thick – and Sheldon makes a little surprised noise and his lips part and she licks at his lower lip, catching the lingering taste of maple syrup and banana slices. His tongue comes out to meet hers and the taste gets stronger and really, waffles for breakfast are just like having any other dessert for breakfast: sweet and decadent and a real treat.
Oh, brain, shut up, she thinks.
His hands move off her hips and he swings one leg over so that he’s kneeling astride her; the motion brings his mouth down even harder against hers and Penny’s hands abandon his hair for the back of his neck, fingertips curling against his skin.
They kiss forever. Sheldon is apparently determined to work out exactly what Penny likes best in a kiss; his mouth moves against hers in a thorough exploration. At the same time he seems to be holding back a little; his body is still arched above hers, save for his knees pressed in either side of her hips. He’s not moving to rub against her or grope her and it’s a nice change. So used to taking the lead mostly so she can set the pace, Penny’s more than happy to surrender to him for a change.
Finally forever ends and Sheldon tapers the kiss down to something so soft that Penny doesn’t immediately realize when he at last lifts his mouth away from hers. He moves off her and leans against the bed frame, looking at her, and he seems a little bit stunned.
She says, “Wow,” and leans next to him. Their combined weight makes the bed frame squeak.
He says, “You have dust bunnies in your hair,” and reaches out to brush them away.
“This time you were definitely making a move, right?”
Sheldon looks puzzled, even as he’s de-fluffing her hair. “Was my intention unclear? I must admit I have very little experience in this field.”
Penny’s mouth goldfishes for a little while before she finally gets it to close, only to immediately open it again and say, “No way.”
“You keep saying that. You’re going to have to learn how to suspend your disbelief if we’re to embark upon any form of romantic relationship,” Sheldon informs her, getting up to dispose of his handful of fluff, and Penny just stares as he goes out to the kitchen.
It doesn’t take long for her lips to curve into a delighted smile. If delicious waffles and dynamite kisses are what he’s capable of without experience, she can’t wait for their second date.