Chapter 1: Rose
Tardis, Date Unknown
As he is standing in the alcove off Rose’s bedroom on the Tardis, the Doctor knows he shouldn’t be there. He feels compelled, almost nightly, to watch her sleep. The peaceful look that overcomes her in sleep is a sharp contrast to her animated features during their time together. Her hair even, smooth along her jaw, displays none of the wild curls, charged with static electricity that she has while awake.
The Doctor has plenty of time to ponder why he needs to see this companion of his in her sleep. His Rose. Perhaps it is the calm before the storm? Her personality is never at pause during her waking hours.
Or perhaps it is the peace she has displayed across her features. A peace he can never possess; not in ten lifetimes. Not ever.
The Doctor wonders silently: how long will this peacefulness last for her? How much longer can she be his companion before it changes her forever? It probably is too late for Rose - a thought that causes the Time Lord to question his motivations often. Over many lifetimes, he has had to consider: at what cost is he to his human companions?
He doesn’t want to let go of Rose. He needs her. She keeps him conscientious. Less prone to becoming a megalomaniac, full of exacting revenge on those that would cause harm to the timeline, his friends, and her. He stuffs his hands in his pockets and rocks back, leaning on her bedroom door frame. He can almost feel the Tardis along his spine, pitying him for his sentimental reverie.
He looks at Rose, softly breathing in and out. The rhythm of the rise and fall of her chest is enough to make him want to rest. It makes him wish he could crawl in beside her; brush the hair that curls from her jaw to settle on her lips with every breath. But again, it is something he can’t let himself do. He can’t let himself love her. He can’t be for her what she needs or what she deserves: a man who will love her and her alone. He has been close to too many companions, always trying to be aloof and to disconnect him from their human emotions. He can’t be the man whom Rose can spend the rest of her life with. Grow old with.
He will never grow old or be that man for anyone.
“Oh Rose,” the Doctor says quietly while watching her, “what am I to do with you? How will I do without you?”
Chapter 2: Missing
Penny sighs deeply as she takes two cans of diet soda from the ‘fridge. She shuts the door with her hip and spins around to face the couch. Pausing at the side of the kitchen island, she considers him sitting in his spot, his back straight like a wall. Sheldon waits for her; his chopsticks waving in the air impatiently.
Spending Friday nights with Sheldon was now a regular thing. Once they both got home, they relaxed for an hour by chatting with Amy, who is tanned and smiling from her time in Saudi Arabia with Feisal, on Skype (“Look bestie! I’m working on a case of melanoma!”). Next, Penny drives to pick up dinner and they eat, usually with Sheldon talking incessantly and Penny pretending to listen to him (though she does enjoy the inflections in his voice, even when she doesn’t understand what he’s talking about, whether the topic be physics or comic books). Finally, it is then time to select a DVD. They were supposed to take turns choosing, but Sheldon had veto rights (“I break all ties, Penny. You know this”).
Penny places the can of diet cola in her left hand on the island. "I don't want this."
Sheldon looks over at her, "Then get something else, you're standing right next to the refrigerator."
“No, this…” she waves her empty hand between the two of them. "I don't want to be Leonard, Sheldon."
“Penny, Leonard doesn't even want to be Leonard. Now, get your soda and come back here before your shrimp gets cold.”
She grips the side of the island to keep her voice even, “Sheldon, I know that with Leonard spending most of his weekends with Leslie…”
“I thought we agreed not to mention that woman’s name.” Sheldon interrupts her. His voice is tight.
“And you don’t like to be alone,” Penny continues, ignoring him, “no matter how much you protest.”
“Do you have a point?” Sheldon, clearly disinterested, stirs his tangerine chicken.
“I also think that you miss Amy,” Penny finishes.
Sheldon stops stirring. “We just spoke with her. How could I possibly miss her?” He motions to the spot next to him on the couch, “Penny, is this enough of the chit chat? The movie is about to start.”
Penny moves from the island with their drinks, placing his on the coffee table, and sits down with enough force to make Sheldon bounce slightly in his spot, causing him to emit a quiet squeak. She snaps open the can with a grimace, "This is exactly what I am talking about. How many times have we watched this movie?" Penny sweeps her empty arm towards the television screen, where Serenity is paused.
“Seven. But I chose one that I know you like! Certainly you must, according to your past scribbling on your napkin of ‘Mrs. Penny Fillion.’”
"Sarcasm, Sheldon! God, when will you catch on to that?” She flings her hands up and soda splashes out of the can onto the floor.
"Good Lord, Penny, what's gotten into you?” Sheldon scolds, putting down his tangerine chicken to mop up the mess. "Are you upset? Should I make tea?"
“I don't want tea! I want…” Penny lets out a frustrated growl, “I want to go out. I want to leave.” She jumps up quickly and leaves with a slam of the door.
Sheldon jumps slightly from the sound and then considers the closed door, the television with the paused movie, his box of tangerine chicken and his drink on the table, before his gaze drifts over to her dinner.
Not one minute later, Penny comes back without making eye contact with him, and takes her shrimp, diet cola and fortune cookie back to her place, but with full hands, the door only closes softly behind her.
Sheldon sits with his journal propped up on his knees in bed, after watching his movie, attempting to eat cold tangerine chicken (micro-waving it left it sticky) and fielding a call from Raj looking for Howard.
Penny is upset with him. She hasn’t answered the text he sent her (Is my calendar off? Are you experiencing a high influx of estrogen?). He is trying to puzzle out his recent social interactions with her to see what can be done to remedy her current dissatisfaction with their friendship. He taps his pen on the page before him. Thus far, for this evening’s entry, he has written:
Penny arrives, as usual, at 7pm. After arriving home from her dinner shift at the Cheesecake Factory, she leaves the room for a refreshing shower and I order our Chinese. Next, I load up Skype on my laptop, so that Penny and I can have our weekly chat with Amy. We chat for exactly 30 minutes, as always. Amy offers no revolutionary information that would upset Penny, (“Sheldon, he says if I actually marry him, he’ll fund my research for a decade! What do you think? Do the pros outweigh the cons? ”). She then leaves to pick up the food.
I choose the evening’s movie, Serenity, and place it in the Blu-Ray player, watch the trailers, then put it on pause. Penny brings the food in with her. It smells delicious as always. Penny smells like jasmine, which I find curiously enticing, as always. I set out our food on the coffee table and wait for Penny. Penny goes to the refrigerator for our drinks, as always.
Penny then has some sort of emotional breakdown.
Query: Has Penny’s hormonal cycle changed? She should not be irritable for eight more days according to my calendar.
Sheldon taps his pen once more, and writes:
Addendum: Apparently, texting above query to Penny was not the appropriate response, as she has not returned my text.
Addendum 2: During Penny’s soliloquy, she noted that I might be missing both Leonard (in this, she may have a point. With both Leonard and Howard focusing solely on their significant others, there has been less time for Paintball, Klingon Boggle, Chess, Jenga, Battlestar Galactica and other ways we would enjoy our time. Halo night is sacred, however, and both Howard and Leonard are always participants in this activity), and Amy, (which I do not believe has merit. I suppose we chat online less, with her being in the Middle East and the time zone differences, not to mention that she seems to enjoy Feisal’s attentions and research grant money). I suppose I might feel slighted when Amy spends more time speaking of her experience in Saudi Arabia, and less time focused on me.
P.S. I am unable to sleep, as I continue to mull over what has upset Penny, though the more important question, at the moment, is why does this upset me enough to interrupt my REM cycle?
Tardis, Date Unknown
“Rose, I think a trip to Earth is in order – what’cha call it? A vacay?”
“A vacay?” Rose’s interest is piqued, “Not just a visit to London to see Jackie and Mickey?” She smiles widely, “You mean a “pack our bags and go somewhere warm and have some fun” vacay?”
“Yes!” The Doctor jumps up to the Tardis controls, “That’s exactly what I mean, Rose!” He grabs her hand and pulls her to him; making brief contact with her warm body, before he places her hand on the control. “Hold that…” and he runs to the other side of the control deck. He pulls, turns and kicks at his controls, and then the Tardis lurches, “Where d’ you wanna go Rose?”
Rose raises her voice to be heard over the commotion of the Tardis starting up, “Surprise me!”
They both take a second to grin foolishly at one another and then the Doctor shouts, “Now Rose…pull your lever!”
She does, and her world tilts.
Rose follows the Doctor down the platform of the Tardis, her tote bag slung over her shoulder. They stand at the door and look at each other. Rose breaks the silence, “Aw, c’mon, tell me where you’ve brought us!” She digs her elbow into his side.
“Rose, I’ve brought us to,” he swings open the Tardis door with a flourish, “Warm, sunny California, in the good ol’ U.S of A!”
She peers out the door, “Uh, Doctor?” Rose points at the dark room in front of her.
The Doctor walks out of the Tardis and steps into a darkened room. His eyes adjust and he sees that this isn’t sunny California. He glances back at her, “You must’ve pulled that lever wrong, Rose!”
“Me? You were the one who was kickin’ at the controls!” Rose drops her bag. Vacay over before it even starts.
The Doctor taps the side of his nose. Why has the Tardis brought them here? Rose and the Doctor, by habit, begin to investigate their surroundings. The Doctor strides straight to the various whiteboards strewn about the room, while Rose goes to poke about the toys that seem to be in every spare corner. The Doctor pulls out his glasses and focuses on one of the whiteboards. “No, it can’t be…”
Rose puts down a Batman figurine and walks over to where the Doctor is pressing his nose up to a whiteboard with strange symbols covering it. “Doctor, is it an alien language?”
“No. No aliens this time. It’s…”
The Doctor can’t finish his words, because presently, there is a tall man in plaid, slowly coming towards them, brandishing a glowing stick. Rose whispers to the Doctor, whom she is taking refuge behind, “Are you sure we aren’t dealing with aliens?”
The tall man in plaid speaks, “If you are here to steal our valued collectibles again, I…I’m going to stop you.” The voice has the tone of a man who would rather do anything than stop an intruder from stealing his valued collectibles. He waves the glowing stick, which also makes a sound, at the pair of interlopers in this room.
The Doctor puts his hands up then nudges Rose when she doesn’t do the same.
“It’s just a toy, Doctor. A light saber from the film: “Star Wars.”
The Doctor puts his hands down, “Of course. Right.” He observes the tall man before him, whose left eye is twitching and the glowing stick in his hands is shaking, “Hello. Doctor Cooper, I presume?”
“How…” Sheldon powers down Leonard’s light saber, “do you know who I am?” He tosses the light saber on the armchair and turns on the lights. In front of him, is a young woman (a relative of Penny’s?) and a tall, skinny man with a shock of light brown hair, wearing a wrinkled, long coat and dirty sneakers.
The Doctor removes his glasses and considers Sheldon in front of him. He nods to the whiteboard, “By your work of course.”
“This is my work - beautiful, isn’t it?” Sheldon turns to his whiteboard, covered with equations of his model of Euclidean space, with a look of affection, “However, it is not yet published.”
“It will be.” The Doctor smiles widely.
Rose clears her throat loudly, “Ahem!”
“Right-o, introductions.” The Doctor claps and rubs his hands together, “Doctor Cooper, this is my friend Rose, and I’m the Doctor.”
“That’ll do then,” the Doctor says.
Penny sits on her couch, her shrimp cold and untouched. Goddamn! Why does she continually beat herself against his craziness? It’s like continually hitting one’s head against a wall. Sheldon is a giant, immovable, stubborn brick wall. Penny growls in her throat. She is still frustrated that she let herself into this situation. She’s Sheldon’s friend, but a big part of his routine? Penny doesn’t do routines.
Penny pokes at her shrimp. She really doesn’t mind spending time with him. Usually he amuses her, but it is coming at a cost to her. She doesn’t want to be a replacement for Leonard, or for Amy. She wants to be appreciated for being Penny. Is that so much to ask?
“Apparently,” she says out loud. There is no one to hear her, except maybe the luminous fish, named Brad, swimming in his bowl on her kitchenette. It is a Sheldon gift that is currently the centerpiece of the table. Penny snorts a laugh. Good God! He is everywhere! Sheldon would like that. The man loves being the center of attention. She sighs and bites a shrimp, chewing slowly.
I’ll go talk to him tomorrow morning, Penny muses. I just need a Sheldon night off, she agrees to herself, nodding while she chews. That’s all. Even the guys, who knuckle under more often than not, occasionally have to go out without him. She understands that need better now. It isn’t like she is really going out. Bernadette is busy with work and trying to placate her husband’s sense of inadequacy. Amy is in Saudi Arabia. And where are her old friends? Well, they’d dropped her like a rock when she first started spending too much of her time with Leonard then, hanging with the boys and girls of - Geeks’R’Us. Penny laughs at herself: I guess if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Her old friends are, if a bit on the flaky, self-absorbed side, at least easy to be around. Like going out for drinks and dancing the night away on heels that usually give her blisters the next day. And that’d be it. No stubborn man-child to get frustrated over.
Her phone buzzes on the coffee table, and she picks it up. It is a text from Sheldon, of course and, oh God! He’s trying to figure out what’s wrong. Damn! Going for the first thing that women have that make them, well not men: their hormones and female parts. She tosses her phone on the couch. He’ll have to come up with something more original than that to have her respond.
Penny gets up off her couch and stretches. She is ready to give up on her shrimp and put them in her ‘fridge. Her bed sounds like a good idea right now; or maybe a movie? That she wants to see like: The Lake House! Penny grabs the DVD off of her shelf on her way back from her kitchen and curls up on her couch as it starts.
Keanu Reeves can soothe her soul after hitting her head against the brick wall too often.
“So let me get this straight,” Sheldon begins his eyes narrow and calculating, “You have a time machine…”
“A Tardis.” The Doctor corrects.
“A time and relative dimensions in space,” Sheldon is incredulous and folds his arms across his chest, “How is this technology possible? I mean in theory, yes, I’ve written papers on it, but in reality…?
“Oh, Doctor Cooper, the technology is alien, like me.”
Sheldon doesn’t know whether to offer him his laugh, his look of derision, or attempt cynical aloofness. He settles, through no real choice on his part, on dropping his arms and letting his mouth hang open slightly, “What?”
“He’s an alien, from a planet called Gallifrey,” Rose pipes in.
“You know,” Sheldon begins as he recovers his equilibrium, “I watch hours upon hours of science fiction. I spend months of my own time attempting to create equations to support time travel and inter-dimensional travel along the space time continuum.” Sheldon pauses and motions to his guests, “But somehow, in the infinite possibilities I can imagine, a blue telephone box and a man, who looks no different than I, declaring himself an alien, with a time machine,” Sheldon shakes his head, “seems a little farfetched even for me.”
“You mean a blue police box,” Rose corrects.
Sheldon turns to glare at the Penny look-a-like with the British accent, “And I suppose you are an alien as well?”
Rose considers Sheldon and says, “No. I’m as…human as you are, Doctor Cooper.”
Sheldon looks her up and down. He sees a girl in jeans and a pink hooded sweater (he suspects Penny has one just like it), “Of course you are.”
The Doctor is pacing, tapping his nose again, “What I want to know is,” his gaze goes back and forth between the Tardis and the room which they are in, “how did we end up here?”
“Yeah,” Rose agrees, “not exactly our vacay destination.”
“Right, but we are in…” The Doctor looks to Sheldon for confirmation.
“Pasadena, California,” Sheldon supplies.
The Doctor grins widely at Rose, “See, I was close!”
Rose shakes her head and mutters, “My lever...my ass!”
“I also would like to know,” Sheldon commands their attention, “why an alien, a human and a blue time machine interrupted what little REM sleep I was having?”
The Doctor jumps slightly, “Yeah…yes…uh…right back!” And with that, he turns back to the Tardis and opens the door to enter.
“Doctor?” Rose inquires, following him.
“Right back,” he replies quietly to her, and with a smile, he closes the door.
The Tardis starts up with a loud whine and slowly moves through time and space.
Sheldon watches, “Fascinating.” He turns to Rose, “Does he do that often, just disappear like that?”
“Yeah, but I always go with him,” Rose says, her cheeks are burning and she’s blinking too fast to stop the stinging in her eyes.
Sheldon, noting again the similarities with Penny (short, blonde, attractive, overemotional), does what he always does for Penny when she is upset, “Would you like a hot beverage?”
Rose smiles weakly, “Tea would be lovely.”
As Sheldon crosses from the living room to the kitchen, a loud whine enters the apartment again and, shortly after, the Doctor walks out of the Tardis, “A spot of tea would be perfect, thanks!” He wraps an arm around Rose’s waist as she smiles up at him. They follow Sheldon to the kitchen. “I told you I’d be right back,” he whispers in her ear before they sit on the stools by the island.
The kettle is on and the mugs are awaiting the hot water, but Sheldon is impatient, “Well?” His arms are crossed again and he is very nearly vibrating where he stands. The Doctor raises an eyebrow, and lowers another to give Sheldon his mock puzzled look. Sheldon tries again, “Why or, more specifically I suppose, where did you go once you understood why you were here in my living room at 2 a.m.?”
The kettle whistles and, while not taking his stern gaze from the Doctor, Sheldon deftly reaches for it and fills their mugs. Both the Doctor and Rose pick theirs up and blow on them almost simultaneously and the Doctor takes a hesitant sip. He puts his mug down to return Sheldon’s gaze, “The question should be: when did I go?”
“When did you go then?” Sheldon is both irritated and fascinated by this man. Alien, he reminds himself, although he only has his and Rose’s word on this. For all he knows, these people are stark raving mad. But, it is highly unlikely, and though Sheldon often, very often, scoffs at Penny’s supposed intuition, he, in turn, has the distinct intuition that this pair is telling the truth. Not to mention, he saw the blue police box disappear with him and return in front of his very eyes.
“I went,” the Doctor picks up his mug again, “to your future, Doctor Cooper.”
Sheldon’s tea is forgotten, “My future!” He places his palms flat on the island and leans his face closer to the Doctor’s, “When do I win the Nobel?” His voice wavers, but he speaks quietly and reverently.
The Doctor takes one long drink from his tea, and again puts the mug down. He stands and Rose gives him a questioning look, but he only touches her hand briefly before he addresses Sheldon, “I can’t tell you that. You must know that if I told you what your future holds, it may not occur.”
Sheldon nods, his head bobbing enthusiastically, “Yes, a time paradox. Of course I am aware of the ramifications, but then why go to my future specifically?”
“I can’t tell you that,” the Doctor repeats and he holds Sheldon’s gaze again, “I can, however, show you things that will knock your socks off.”
His breath catches in his throat and his eyes travel to the blue box in his living room. Rose is in a similar state of shock, “You mean to bring him,” her thumb jerks towards Sheldon, who is still speechless, “with us?”
Rose catches his look, “You’re leaving without me, aren’t you?”
The Doctor lay a hand on hers again, “I did promise you a Californian vacation.” His eyes look down at her bag, on the floor by the couch where she dropped it earlier. “I’ll be back, I promise,” he says again in her ear. “Trust me.”
“Excuse me,” Sheldon’s voice again commands attention, “You are proposing I go with you in,” he points a long finger at the Tardis, “that?”
“Yes. Time. Space. C’mon, you aren’t a little interested in putting your theories into practice?”
Sheldon moans, “Oh Lord, you sound like Leonard.”
“Sounds like a smart man, that Leonard,” he slaps Sheldon’s right shoulder. “Are you in?”
Sheldon winces and glares at the Doctor for 4.2 seconds, looks in the general direction of 4B for 5.1 seconds, then mutters, “I’m in.” He turns on his heel and heads to his bedroom for his emergency bag.
While he is gone, Rose stands, bringing her body in front of the Doctor’s. She places a hand over one of his hearts, “Why are you leaving me here?”
The Doctor makes a failed attempt to look away from the hurt in Rose’s eyes, “Rose, we need...I…you need a break from all,” the Doctor spreads his arms wide, “the crazy. Go, enjoy the sunshine, enjoy your Mum and Mickey, enjoy...” he puts a hand to her cheek, “being normal.”
Rose’s grin is lopsided and bitter, “What’s so great about being normal?”
“Sometimes I wish...I wish...” The Doctor’s voice is quiet. Rose throws her arms around his neck and jumps. He catches her, as always. His arms hold her tight for a quiet moment.
Sheldon returns to the living room dressed, his bag slung over his shoulder and catches the scene in front of him. Huh. He clears his throat, “Ahem.”
The Doctor grins and he disentangles himself from Rose’s embrace. “Sheldon,” The Doctor claps his hands together, “Ready?”
“I have some phone calls to make, and a note to write.”
“No details, Doctor Cooper,” the Doctor warns.
Sheldon nods, and picks up the phone.
Rose wraps her arms against her stomach and glares at the Doctor, “Where exactly am I supposed to stay while here in sunny Pasadena?”
The Doctor hems and haws until Sheldon hangs up the phone after leaving messages in Texas, “You may stay here, if you like. My roommate Leonard very rarely sleeps here these days. Do stay out of the first room down the hall to the left, however. That is my room.”
“Yeah, so what? It makes sense for me to stay there as you’ll be away.”
“Perhaps, but no one is allowed in my room.”
Rose turns to look back at the Doctor and rolls her eyes, “I’ll just take the couch for now until I call my Mum.”
“Acceptable.” Sheldon sits on the couch, in his spot, and sighs. 0,0,0,0. He experiences a flash of anxiety and wonders if he can take it with him. Sheldon takes a deep breath and picks up a notepad and pen from the lamp table. After he finishes his note, he folds it, leaves it on the coffee table and addresses Rose, “If you happen to meet the woman who lives across the hall, and looks similar to you, will you make sure she gets this?”
Rose nods, and moves towards the Doctor, “You’re coming back, yeah?”
“Of course. We just...you just...need some time. Go visit Jackie and Mickey after your vacay here, of course.”
“We were supposed to have a vacay.” Rose’s voice is quiet and full of emotion.
“We will, Rose.” The Doctor kisses her forehead, and Rose does her best not to cry. He’ll be back. Rose repeats this mantra in her head until she is certain. “Keep all of this...crazy...to yourself here. The fewer who know...”
“Yeah, I know.” She leans up, holds his shoulders, and kisses him, “Take care of yourself. Who knows what kind of companion he’ll be.”
“Certainly, not comparable to you,” he says quietly. The Doctor opens the door to the Tardis with a flourish, “After you, Doctor Cooper.”
“You know, it seems a small box to fit us both comfortably,” Sheldon walks up to the open door and peers in. His jaw drops. “It’s...it’s....
“Bigger on the inside? I get that a lot,” the Doctor beams proudly.
Sheldon steps through the door and looks back, “This is improbable.”
“Don’t you mean impossible?
“No,” Sheldon states, “It is obviously possible as the evidence is right before me. It is, however improbable that a blue box is that big on the inside.”
The Doctor shakes his head, and smiles. “Come on then! Time and tide wait for no...Well, they actually wait for me, but let’s go!”
Sheldon clutches his emergency bag strap on his shoulder, takes a deep breath, and walks into a time machine; a real one. Oh, won’t Leonard be envious! The Doctor follows him, listening to Sheldon mutter about finding his sanitizing wipes. He gives a toothy grin to Rose and closes the door with a quiet “See you soon.”
The whirring fills the room again, and Rose sits down on the couch heavily. “Bye.” The room is empty, and she isn’t even sure if she says this out loud.
Penny stops by 4A on her way for her breakfast shift with the hope of both finding both Sheldon and some coffee. The door is locked, so she knocks three times, before she begins to fish their spare key out of her purse. The moment her hand feels the metal of the key, however, the door opens, and a mirror image of her answers the door.
Penny is stunned into silence, almost misses the girl’s “Hello.”
There is a strange woman…in 4A. Penny knew Sheldon had been alone when she stormed out last night, and in the interim he brought home a woman? This woman who looks quite a bit like her? “Um, who are you?” Penny crosses her arms across her yellow uniformed chest and gives the girl her best intimidating look. Perhaps another grad student followed Sheldon home from work Friday? Was she waiting for Penny to leave?
“I’m Rose and I’m...I’m a little lost. Are you Penny?” Rose views the woman, who as Sheldon had said, looks a little like her. They were most likely the same age, height and with the same coloring.
Penny looks at her warily, “Ye-e-s...”
Rose stands by and lets her in, “Doctor Cooper, um, Sheldon left you a note.” She points to the coffee table.
Penny walks in and grabs the note, opens it and reads:
An opportunity has presented itself to me. Don’t sit in my spot while I’m gone.
Penny holds the note in her hand; tight enough that it starts to crinkle at the lower right edge. “What the hell is this?” Penny’s purse falls from her shoulder to the floor with a thud.
Rose takes a step back from the blonde woman whose face is quickly going from pink to flushing red cheeks and replies, “A note that Doc - Sheldon left for you.”
Penny is instantly suspicious, and folds her arms tight across her breasts, with the note crumpling further in her hand, and tries to look intimidating again, “And you are?”
“Rose Tyler. A friend...dropped me off here. He and Sheldon left together.”
“To go where?” Penny notices her accent and guesses, “England?” Sheldon had been there before after all.
“I honestly don’t know. All I know is that Sheldon offered me the use of the sofa until I could make other arrangements.”
“So you actually don’t know Sheldon?”
“Not very well, no,” Rose admits carefully. The Doctor had asked her to be vague. “Although he did say I couldn’t use his room if I’m gonna stay.”
“That sounds like Sheldon.” Penny relaxes her stature so not to seem as threatening to the woman in front of her. However she’d arrived here, Penny has the feeling that this Rose is as lost as Penny feels at the moment. Sheldon is missing. What about Halo? Laundry Night? Next Friday? Penny angrily crumples up the note and sticks it in her apron. “How long is your friend gone for?”
Rose tries to express her own confused nature of the Doctor’s and Sheldon’s time together in order to be clear to Penny, “I don’t know. Sorry.”
Penny taps her foot. Sheldon can’t seriously be gone too long. His head will explode or something without his spot, his routines, and his comic book collection. She smiles cautiously and addresses the strange girl, “You like coffee?”
“I could use some tea.”
Penny grabs her purse and Rose’s hand, “Come with me. I think Starbucks has exactly what we need.”
Rose allows herself to be taken by her. She somehow finds herself trusting her implicitly.
It seems they are both short one friend already.
Chapter 3: Space
Tardis, Date Unknown
The Doctor runs about the control deck, twirling dials and looking at screens.
Sheldon feels rather helpless; a feeling he most certainly does not like. “So exactly how are we moving through time and space?” He is anxious, but he attempts his usual aloofness.
“By utilizing the time vortex, of course.”
Another lever is pulled and another screen is peered at in his peripheral vision. The Doctor then turns to him, “Doctor Cooper. In all of space, time or universe, where do you want to go?”
“I...I hardly know,” Sheldon admits, regretfully. Sheldon despises not knowing everything. “Wait. Take me to your planet. I want to see if your alien species all look like men in a suit and dirty sneakers.”
“No.” The Doctor turns back to his screens.
“No, not all of your species look as you do and dress like they are human? Or no...”
“No. I can’t take you to Gallifrey.”
“Why ever not?” He asks, although even Sheldon can sense this is a topic the Doctor would rather not be discussing. However, he presses on, “I think I want to know more about you, which is only fair as you know quite a bit about me.”
The Doctor stops fiddling with his dials and screens, and looks at Sheldon, “Gallifrey doesn’t exist in time or space any longer.” He turns back to his controls.
“Doesn’t exist?” Sheldon moves to the controls where the Doctor is fiddling. “How does something like that happen?”
“A time war,” The Doctor says and keeps his eyes down on his controls, stroking a finger along the smooth surface between the dials. The Tardis, his Tardis - a constant reminder of his lost home.
Sheldon’s eyebrows raise, “A time war?”
“Yes, with the Daleks.”
“Yes. The Daleks were, or are, well, little green blobs in a casing of armor.”
Sheldon nods, satisfied; he didn’t watch and read science fiction all his life not to roll with it, “And Gallifrenians, like you, were at war with them?”
“How then, did you survive?”
The Doctor looks away again, “The Time Lords were…”
Sheldon interrupts, “Time Lords?
“Yes, that’s what I am: a Time Lord.” The Doctor says sadly, “The last Time Lord.”
Penny doesn’t sleep that night. Her friend has disappeared with hardly a word and thoughts of where and why are swirling in her head all night. When she does doze off, she has strange, but realistic dreams of Sheldon in a box. One is made with bricks, like a small house that only fits one, tall, crazy scientist. Another strange vision has him stuck in a telephone booth.
She tosses and turns, then goes into the living room to hunt for a television show to fall asleep to. She clicks until she lands on a Star Trek marathon in process and curls on her couch to watch.
She finishes the marathon, still wide awake.
Penny eventually hears the jingle of keys and the door to 4A opens. Leonard is home. She throws on a pair of shorts and a camisole that she finds under a cushion on her couch (they smell clean), snags the crumpled paper from her coffee table and hurries next door before both Rose and Leonard freak out about one another’s appearance in the apartment.
She enters 4A as Leonard, Leslie and a sleepy, disheveled Rose all stand staring at each other. Penny stands in between them all and puts her hands in front of her to ward off their questions. “I can explain,” she addresses Leonard. “Sheldon is gone.” Penny pulls out the crumpled paper that is in her fist, tries to smooth it a little and then gives it to Leonard.
Leonard quickly reads the note and looks sharply back at Penny, “This is all he wrote?”
“Yes.” Penny looks away from Leonard’s stunned gaze, but smiles at Rose, “All I know is that he left with a friend of Rose’s.” She looks between Rose and Leonard, “Rose, this is Leonard Hofstadter, Sheldon’s roommate. Leonard, this is Rose Tyler.”
Leonard squints, sticks out his hand, and Rose takes it. “Rose. It’s nice to meet you. Your friend…”
“I’m sorry, I really don’t know any more than you do.” Rose bites her lip, “I don’t know how long or where they might have gone.”
“That’s if Sheldon and your friend actually went anywhere farther than Pasadena. I’ll try Caltech. Maybe he’s holed up there with your friend.” Leonard picks up the phone and starts punching in numbers.
“Ahem,” Leslie demands attention.
“Rose, this is Leslie Winkle, Leonard’s girlfriend.” Penny knows it will irk Leslie to be referred to as only that, so she does it anyway.
“Charmed,” Leslie says dismissively to Rose, then goes into the kitchen and begins to make coffee.
Leonard hangs up and taps the phone against his thigh. “Not there, and he left a message that he’d be away a while.” He shakes his head, “Sheldon miss work? Something is really not right here. Penny, what happened the last time you saw him? Was it Friday night?”
“Yes,” Penny’s face is pinking a little, “We…uh, had Chinese and, well, to be honest, I got a little frustrated with him and left early.”
Leonard rolls his eyes slightly, “We all get frustrated with Sheldon sometimes. I’m surprised you last as long as you do alone with him.” He scratches his chin, “Maybe he went home, if he was upset.”
Penny’s head snaps up at this. She hasn’t thought he’d be that upset, “I mean we had a little fight, but nothing bad enough to make him go to Texas!”
But Leonard is already on the phone, “Penny, you could have made his grilled cheese wrong, and he’d go home to see his mother.” Leslie comes and hands him a mug of coffee and he smiles his thanks at her. There is a pause, then, “Hello? Mrs. Cooper?”
Leonard pauses often and says several yeses and nos. Penny is itching for Leonard to put on the speakerphone. She elbows him twice while he is talking to Sheldon’s mother, but he doesn’t get the hint. “Well?” Penny asks impatiently.
Leonard puts the phone back in the holder, “Sheldon called his mother last night, and left a message for her to: “Not miss me too much. Love your son, Sheldon.” So, she has no idea he’d gone anywhere. Neither does Missy. Sheldon left a similar message for her.”
Penny’s hope deflates. She didn’t really want him upset enough to go to Texas, but that would, at least, be an easy problem to solve. She goes to the kitchen to get a mug of coffee to hide her disappointment.
Leonard turns to Rose, “Your friend, he’s a physicist?”
Rose smiles slightly, “A doctor, yes.”
Leonard nods, “I’m sure Sheldon’s just bending his ear somewhere. What’s his name?”
Rose looks away, “John Smith.”
Penny, leaning on the island with her mug, nearly spits out her coffee. As it is, some dribbles on her chin. She wipes it away, “Seriously?”
“What?” Leonard asks, confused.
“When someone uses the name “John Smith,” it’s because that person is trying to hide their real name,” Penny explains. “How do you geniuses not get this?”
Leonard folds his arms, pretty sure he is being insulted, “What about all the Mrs. Smiths in the world who happen to like the name John?”
Penny shakes her head at him and Rose stretches. Penny feels instantly sorry for her, “Look, one night or two on their couch isn’t too bad, but you can’t keep sleeping here.” Penny moves to place her arm protectively around Rose.
Leonard is gracious, though, “Yes you can. You can stay as long as you need to until your friend and Sheldon come back.”
“Leonard,” Leslie steps to the right of her boyfriend, “with dumbass gone, we can have this place to ourselves.” She has to waggle her eyebrows a few times for Leonard to get it.
“I suppose Penny’s couch is more comfortable,” Leonard smiles at the two and then turns to Leslie, “I thought you agreed not to call Sheldon dumbass anymore.”
“I agreed not to say it in front of him, so that our sexual relationship could continue unhindered, but I never agreed not to say it when he wasn’t around. And look!” Leslie spreads her arms wide, “No Doctor dumbass!”
Penny’s eyes narrow. She is glad Leonard is happy, really, but she can never warm up to Winkle. Sheldon is right more often than not about her.
Tardis, Date Unknown
“So, a Time Lord,” Sheldon is fascinated and wants to find out more. “If you are a time traveler, don’t you age?” He has another idea, “Will I?” Sheldon sounds hopeful.
“No, I don’t age per se; I can regenerate though!” The Doctor’s smile is wide. “As for you, as a human, yes, you will age for the length of time you are with me, in your timeline.”
Sheldon’s face pinches with disappointment. He focuses on one of the remarks the Doctor has said, “Regenerate?”
“When one body reaches its end, I can become another body. I regenerate.”
Sheldon looks excited, “Regeneration. How many times have you regenerated? How many different bodies have you had?”
“This is my tenth.”
“Ten!” Sheldon nearly shouts, “Just how old are you?”
The Doctor’s eyes roll back slightly as his fingers count, “Approximately 903 years.”
Sheldon has been rendered speechless yet again. No amount of calculations on his whiteboard could ever, even with artificial intelligence or a robot, get him to that age.
He is instantly jealous.
“So!” The Doctor rakes his hands through his already messy hair. It now stands on end, “Where to, Doctor Cooper?”
Sheldon says with all due reverence, “Space, the final frontier.”
The Doctor grins widely, showing teeth. He spins his dials, pulls his levers, and gives the Tardis’s controls a little hip action, “Off we go then!”
“Rose!” Jackie’s voice calls out her name in her ear, loud and clear on the line from London.
Rose has the phone tucked between her shoulder and ear, “Hey Mum…” she begins, but Jackie interrupts her.
“Rose, where are you?”
“I’m in California.” Rose is twirling her hair, pulling at her split ends.
“California!” Jackie repeats. “Where’s the Doctor?”
“Well, actually…” Rose’s voice trails off.
“He left you, din’t he? Ooh I never trusted tha’ bugger!”
Rose stops playing with her hair. “Jackie, you flirt with tha’ “bugger” every time you see ‘im,” Rose accuses her mother.
“Rose! I do not…though I like ’im better now without those ears.”
“Mickey’s asking about ‘cha about twice a week y’ know”
Rose laughs quietly, “Only twice a week? He’s slipping.” She starts to poke at the dumplings Penny left for her.
Jackie pleads, “Come home Rose. If th’ Doctor’s gone, come home.” There is a pause, and Jackie sniffs, “You’re missed here. Mickey would love ‘ta see you,” Rose hears her blow her nose, loudly, “and so would I.”
“Mum, he promised he’d be back for me.” Rose has tears in the corners of her eyes, “He asked me to trust him. And I do,” Rose shakes the tears from her eyes, “with my life.”
Rose hears her mother sigh deeply, “You are just like your father Rose Tyler…a dreamer.”
“Jackie, don’ say that like it’s a bad thing. You know you loved ‘im,” Rose defends her father.
“An’ I love you. Come home Rose.”
“I will. Once th’ Doctor comes back, we’ll be come there next, ‘kay?”
“Rose…” Jackie begins to chide her daughter.
“You’ll see us soon. Trust me.”
After leaving Rose to her phone call, Penny comes in to 4A, with hands full of Chinese take-out, on a Thursday. The boys actually felt a little tense when she’d suggested it. Leonard consoled himself that it was technically “Anything Can Happen” Thursday.
Sheldon is controlling them, even when he is absent. Penny’s stomach burns, which she supposes is with anger at her weak willed boys, but really it is anger and a feeling of emptiness in the pit of her stomach. She fills it by hanging out with the guys and lots of Chinese food.
“Hey!” She says brightly, and gives the bags to Leonard to unpack, while she plops down into the far left seat on the couch.
“Uh Penny,” Howard begins warily, “you know that’s his seat.”
“He’s gone. It’s my seat now.”
“Why doesn’t Leonard get the seat? It’s still his apartment,” Howard notes.
Penny shoots him a look, a look so full of venom and so Sheldon-esque, it startles the engineer. "Seriously?” Penny says, her voice dripping sarcasm, “Leonard is still too scared to change the contrast on the television.”
“At least you got a note.” There is a hint of sadness in Raj’s voice and he takes a swig from his second beer.
Penny lets out a bitter snort, “Sure I did. Basically, all I got was: “I’m leaving and don’t sit in my spot." Not exactly warm fuzzy feelings in that note.”
“When have you ever known Sheldon to have warm fuzzy feelings?” Leonard says, handing her the box of shrimp.
“When have you ever known Sheldon to have any feelings?” Howard says, happily stirring his pork.
Penny shoots Howard a scowl and angrily sticks her chopstick into a shrimp. She didn’t expect a note expressing any sort of overt emotion toward her, especially considering they’d fought. But it still hurt her that he’d not expressed anything. They’d been spending their Friday evenings alone for months! Most Saturdays too for that matter.
And then, nothing!
He’d been gone for a week and nothing. No phone call, no text, no e-mail, no Twitter or Facebook updates. Sheldon always updated his Facebook! His last update had been:
Sheldon Cooper is waiting for Penny to bring dinner so that we can watch this evening’s movie, Serenity.
Penny has tried to give up obsessively logging in to Facebook to check his status. The sounds of Howard, Raj and Leonard postulating on the location of their errant friend filter through her thoughts.
“I still believe the mother ship came back for him,” Howard is saying with a mouth full of pork.
Raj nods thoughtfully, “Perhaps, the government wants his research for a weapon!”
“A weapon?” Howard says incredulously.
“Hey dude, don’t mess with dark matter. It’s serious shit.”
“Well, he didn’t get fired. He only left Gablehauser a message saying he needed a sabbatical.” Leonard hands Raj his beef and broccoli, “and his mother and sister haven’t heard from him other than the messages he left them to “not miss him too much.” Leonard sets out his carton, and notices one more in the bag, “Uh, Penny?”
Penny’s eyes are unfocused; she is not listening to the conversation until Leonard says her name again sharply. “What?”
“You ordered our dinner, right?"
“Right,” Penny says slowly.
“Then why,” Leonard pulls out the last carton, “did you order tangerine chicken?”
Penny doesn’t have an answer for that.
The Milky Way, 13.7 billion years ago
The Doctor pulls open the door of the Tardis with a grand sweep of his arm, “Tada!”
If the Doctor’s purpose for bringing Sheldon here was to make him speechless, he has succeeded. Before him now is reality, the kind he had only seen in his dreams as a child, or simulations on television. It is what he has postulated for countless hours at his whiteboard for.
The big bang: the moment of creation of his universe; alpha and omega and the focus of his life’s research. Would the creation of the cosmos contain the strings of matter that he knew, just knew, it did?
Sheldon’s mouth hangs open and his extremities are tingling with excitement. The Doctor is practically dancing with glee. “Magnificent, isn’t it? Imagine! The Solar System coming together from nothingness - humans - lovely humans will come from this.” The Doctor swings his arm across the view before them. “I’ve brought human companions here before,” The Doctor pauses, thinking of Rose, “but I thought you especially would appreciate it as your first trip.”
“Yes, I…I...” Sheldon stutters. “I’ve been imagining this since my childhood.” Sheldon is awestruck, but he has a sudden thought. He turns from the view in front of him and looks at the Doctor, with a raised eyebrow. “How do I know that this is the moment of the big bang? What if this,” Sheldon looks back at the birth of the cosmos, “is just an illusion you’ve created. How can I have, literally, come back over 13 billion years to witness this extraordinary event?”
“Oh no, Doctor Cooper, this is as real as you are,” The Doctor’s eyes were wide; his grin wipes off his face in an instant, “trust me. This,” his arm points behind him to the Tardis interior, “is a time machine, and you,” he claps a hand on Sheldon’s shoulder, “are witnessing the birth of your universe.”
Sheldon flinches at the Doctor’s hand on his shoulder, but then just shakes his head slowly, “Impossible.”
The Doctor’s grin is back, “Don’t you mean improbable?”
Sheldon glares back at him, but lets it go. He turns back to the view in front of them and nearly jumps out of his skin, “Look!” Sheldon’s long finger points at a spot, high to their left, “The Hydra cluster; look at it go! See how it forms from the dark matter surrounding it - Fascinating!” Sheldon wonders, if Penny saw this, would she understand his work better?
“Penny?” The Doctor questions him and he turns to him.
Sheldon is a little more than surprised that he’d said his thoughts out loud, “Yes. She’s my…neighbor. Penny, on occasion, tries to understand what Leonard and I do, and I was just thinking aloud, that she might like to see this, too.”
“Hmm…” The Doctor considers this, “Is Penny really just a neighbor? Or is she like Rose is to me? A friend? Or a companion?” The Doctor silently wonders if these simple words can really define what Rose is to him.
“Yes, she is my friend, and, I suppose, you could call her my companion on the evenings we spend in each other’s company.” Sheldon nods, then returns to considering the sight in front of him, which is easier to explain. “Is that…a string of quantum proportions heading towards the Hydra cluster…Oh I think it is!” Sheldon nearly launches out the Tardis door.
His work, verified. If only he could sit at this door and work it out on paper. Sheldon can hardly go back to work, saying he’s proven string theory with no evidence. He already did that, and all it got him were snickers behind his back, to his face, as well as some rather nasty emails from the NSF.
“Awe inspiring, isn’t it?” The Doctor breaks through Sheldon’s reverie.
“It’s my life’s purpose, right in front of me, so yes,” Sheldon says quietly, “Awe is close to what I’m experiencing.”
And just a bit of frustration at the Nobel that he won’t get from this sight.
It is Friday night, the second since Sheldon has left. Penny had missed Amy’s Skype call, because she always called Sheldon’s account (well that and Penny doesn’t have a Skype account). Rose is on the phone (collect!) to England with her friend Mickey in 4B, so Penny lets herself into 4A.
She sits in his desk chair, turns on Sheldon’s laptop, and unfolds the note paper with the passwords that Leonard gave her (Sheldon had given Leonard his passwords in case of emergency, like the apocalypse or zombie invasion because, yeah, he needs to update Facebook when zombies are about to eat your brains), while she waits for the laptop to boot up.
She looks around the quiet apartment. No Chinese food, no movie she’s seen a dozen times, no annoying but occasionally amusing friend to hang with.
She isn’t quite ready to admit she is lonely yet, but she grudgingly has to face the facts.
Penny misses Sheldon.
Once the password screen comes up, she punches in the seemingly random numbers (sixteen of them!), but knowing Sheldon, they are probably have some meaning, like Batman’s birthday or something. Penny chews a broken nail, and waits for his screen to come on. She smiles at his background (the Superman “S” that is his favorite t-shirt) then Penny clicks on the Skype icon, plugs in that code (amy_farrah_fowler) and waits.
Amy logs on only a minute later (really, she is as predictable as Sheldon) and she smiles when she sees Penny’s face, “Bestie! Where were you and Sheldon last week?” Amy’s face comes closer to her web cam, “I look forward from speaking to you every week.”
Penny smiles at her friend, “Amy! You look great. I think your hair is even blonder now.”
“Thank you. Yes, the sun has made my hair lighter, which should make up for the skin cancer I’m probably going to have.” Amy’s eyes look around the room behind Penny, “Where is Sheldon?”
“I was kinda hoping you knew,” Penny admits. “He left about two weeks ago, with barely a word to anyone.”
“Really? Sheldon? Our Sheldon, who has a schedule from the time he wakes to the time he sleeps? Every day. That Sheldon?”
Penny has to smile. She has known Sheldon longer, but Amy has him set down to rights.
“Yes. All we have is that he called his mother and sister, to ask them not to miss him, called Caltech to take a sabbatical and left me this note,” Penny takes the crumped paper from her pocket and holds it up to the webcam.
Amy squints, even with her glasses, and reads. “Is that really all he left you?”
“Yup,” Penny pops her ‘p’ and waits for Amy’s reaction. She doesn’t get what she expects.
“I must admit,” Amy replies after a moment, “I find that surprising. From all of the time you two spend together, and a few text chats I’ve had with Sheldon, I understood that you both are very close.”
“You understand a-what? Text chats?” Penny doesn’t hide her confusion well.
“Yes, Penny, sometimes Sheldon texts me; he asks me questions that, well, I suppose he can’t ask you.” Amy taps the sides of her glasses, “Neurobiological questions he has aside, I am a girl, you know.”
Penny inwardly rolls her eyes, “I am aware, Amy.”
Amy closes her eyes for a second, and then continues, “One particular series of texts had Sheldon ask me why I thought you were spending more time than normal with him.”
“He asked you that?” Penny is surprised. She hasn’t considered that Sheldon occasionally self-reflects.
“Yes. I told him that perhaps you enjoy his company, however, he believed it was because he was your de facto friend now that Bernadette and I are unavailable for girls’ nights.”
Penny feels her stomach turn in knots. She had accused Sheldon of using her as a replacement for Leonard and Amy, when really, he felt the same. “Sheldon really said that? That he believes I was hanging out ‘cos I had no one else?”
“Well weren’t you? I’m not blaming you; I wish I could be with you all too, and although Feisal is very attentive, I still pine for you and Bernadette and our crazy girls’ nights. And yes, I miss Sheldon too.” Amy’s face is close to the webcam again, “He’s a good friend, Penny.”
Her eyes begin to sting a little. She wishes she could hug Amy. Sheldon is gone, and she just might have something to do with his decision to leave; this does not sit well with her. “I know he is,” Penny’s voice sounds strange in her ears, “Oh Amy, what if he left because thinks I don’t care?”
“I am sure when he returns, you can tell him.” Amy nods with her words, like if she does, then it must be true.
It is time, however, for Amy’s Skype session to end, “Penny, I have to go watch Feisal’s camel races. His camel is favored to win!”
She waves goodbye as she ends the session, and closes Sheldon’s laptop.
Penny sits in his chair and reflects sadly and she is reminded of a few lines from Catcher in the Rye, which she didn’t quite read in high school (She’d read the first chapter, and the last, and copied Sally Ann Chesapeake’s notes for the rest) but these lines resonate:
It’s funny. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.
Chapter 4: Time
Tardis, Date Unknown
Sheldon has slept fitfully on the Tardis. His REM cycles have been filled with strange dreams of Texas (Shelly-bean, where are you? You get back here and get dressed for church!). And of Pasadena (Sheldon, if you tell me one more time how to buy my tampons, I’m going to take one and shove it up your…).
Sheldon falls out of bed with a yelp. He gets up and gingerly rubs his backside, while gathering his things to get ready (his room has a private bathroom, so no need to post a schedule) for the time ahead of him today.
After he dresses (Batman on yellow thermal), he finds the Doctor already at his controls (does he sleep?). He nods his head in greeting, “Doctor.”
The Doctor nods back, and then claps his hands, “Where to, Sheldon? Which road shall we take next in your scientific discovery of the universe?”
“Scientific discovery…Oh I like that!” Sheldon says, going with the Doctor’s idea and running with it. “Einstein then; he was my hero like Superman was when I was a child. I read both equally.”
“Yes!” The Doctor very nearly fist bumps Sheldon, who moves just out of range as soon as he sees it coming, “Albert Einstein, father of the theory of relativity.” The Doctor is spinning his dials again, “An excellent choice.”
They are on their way.
Penny does what she always does to connect to a new female friend. She goes shopping. Rose is a willing accomplice as they troll the shoe sales at the Glendale Galleria.
“Oh, look at these!” Rose holds up a pair of pink open toed pumps, “These would go great with my pink jumper!”
“Try them on then,” Penny says over the tower of boxes she has in her hands to try on. She sits down with a thump, as she can’t see the seat. The boxes fall about her, and Penny offers Rose a shrug and a look of chagrin.
After Rose has tired of trying on shoes, they go for a walk to the food court. Along the way, Rose stops in front of the Gap. Penny, not expecting it, bumps in to her.
“Hey! Why did you stop?” Penny rubs her hip where she ran into Rose.
“There’s a sign in the window: Experienced Sales Help Wanted.” Rose points to the sign. “That’s what I did, before, uh, well, before (Before: “Nice to meet you Rose, run for your life!”). I worked in a shop. I’m going to need money and pay you some rent if you keep letting me stay.” Rose walks into the store.
Penny follows her, “Well, of course you can stay…” but Rose is already speaking to the manager.
Apparently, the manager enjoys Rose’s sense of style and quirky British accent, because within fifteen minutes, as they are leaving the Gap, Penny has a new skirt and Rose has a new job.
There he is; the man himself. Sheldon feels something near giddiness as he takes in the small man with the wild hair. He is whispering to a girl, or woman? She is of indeterminable age, and with a giggle, exits off the main floor, chalk marks staining the back of her tight black skirt. The scientist turns back to his work with a grin.
He cocks an ear at a sound and Einstein turns from his blackboard to greet the newcomers. "Yes?
Sheldon tries to find his voice, and opens his mouth to reply, when the Doctor makes their introductions, holding a tired, worn leather card holder up to the genius, "Smith and Cooper, physicists on loan from Oxford University." He snaps the holder closed.
At this Sheldon has no trouble voicing, “Theoretical physicists."
Einstein nods, "Yes. Many theoretical physicists are very interested in my work." He gestures to the student desks in the front row of the lecture hall. The Doctor takes a seat and Sheldon meticulously inspects the seat beside him. He sits down awkwardly, trying to touch the least amount of the lecture hall desk and seat.
The Doctor points a wary finger at the work on the blackboard, "Those equations. This is beyond the theory of relativity. You are pushing past that to..."
Sheldon's eyes go wide, "Time travel! You are working on time travel!" Sheldon quickly scans the blackboard, throwing a silent, "Thank God for my eidetic memory" into the universe. He shows an uncharacteristic, wide smile at the Doctor, “Only you possess the power of time travel?” A breathy laugh is his answer to the rhetorical question.
The Doctor leans into Sheldon's ear, "But, this doesn't happen. You know this. Einstein does not solve the problem of the gravitational time dilation to create a stable space time continuum - no time travel.
"I would beg to differ. Obviously time travel is possible as I am here."
"By means of alien technology, Sheldon,” the Doctor is thoughtful. “I don't think any aliens are involved here." His brows are knit together. I don’t think, he repeats to himself. What is going on with this time line?
Just then, Einstein looks past them with a grin. Another woman, walking on almost impossibly high heels (Penny would be impressed, thought Sheldon) comes down the lecture hall aisle towards the blackboard.
"Albert, sweetheart!" A thick German accent punctuates her greeting.
"Mein liebling," Einstein responds, and she wraps her arms around him and kisses him deeply, leaving him with red lips as she pulls back. "Ah, solche wundervollen küsse mein geliebter."
Sheldon narrows his eyes. Hound dog! This is why there is no time travel. He rolls his eyes and points at the heavily made up woman currently making out with the Nobel laureate. "This, Doctor, is why Einstein doesn't finish his work. Women!" He knew he was right about limiting his exposure to them, even keeping Penny at a safe distance
“Penny? Again? Are you certain she’s just a neighbor?” The Doctor winks, crinkling his eye purposefully.
Sheldon inwardly chides himself for speaking his thoughts aloud again, “I only mean to say, that I have limited myself from the opposite sex to focus on my research, as Einstein should have.”
The Doctor steeples his fingers and nods. Einstein has had two different women to snog in one day. Even for an older, brilliant, but not particularly physically imposing scientist, something seems suspicious here, and the Doctor’s alien alert is on high. Slowly, he slides his hand down, searching his inside jacket pocket for his sonic screwdriver. When his fingers wrap around it, he tries to, surreptitiously, point it from under the desk at the woman Einstein currently has his tongue wrapped around.
The sonic screwdriver confirms his hypothesis. The woman is not human.
“Uh, Sheldon, we have a problem.”
Penny, in her new spot (take that Sheldon!) with Rose next to her on the couch, are taking on Leonard and Raj with Halo 3 - Rose is a promising partner considering she’s never played before.
“Oh - do I get to blow up that one?” She points at Leonard’s character.
“Oh yes! Please do!”
Rose throws a grenade with a squeal, “Oh, I like that a little more than I should!” (The Doctor has prided her on her non-violent nature, but Rose is feeling the stress of his absence). Leonard groans as he waits to respawn.
Penny laughs, “Me too.”
Raj only meeps quietly as Penny fires on his tank, as there is no alcohol in 4A. Penny pities him and considers going to her apartment to grab a bottle of wine, but changes her mind. He’s going to have to find a way to communicate with sign language or something because Penny is too busy trying to kill him to feed him booze.
However, Leonard is frustrated with his partner, “There! Go get her, tiger!” He encourages Raj to fire back at Penny, and Raj nods emphatically.
With Leonard focusing on trying to communicate with Raj, Rose kills him again. Pretend violence serves its purpose, Rose thinks. She feels a little less stress.
Penny and Rose clap enthusiastic high fives together (because, Penny, you can actually touch your Halo 3 partner now without hand sanitizer first), while Leonard groans again, and Raj meeps a little sadder.
“You know,” Leonard says, as he rises from his seat to get his guests drinks, “Sheldon was right. No women as attractive as you both should be this skilled in video games.”
Penny’s and Rose’s glares toward him are identical.
“Alien women are distracting Professor Einstein from his work. It figures!” Sheldon begins to rise from his seat, “We have to tell him. Even a womanizer like him can appreciate being warned to stay away from attractive, alien women.”
The Doctor places a hand around Sheldon’s wrist, “No. We can’t tell him anything until I figure out what’s going on here, and what aliens we are dealing with.”
“We have to figure it out?”
“Yes, we. It’s part and parcel of being a companion, Sheldon.”
They walk back up the lecture hall to the doors they’d originally come in. Sheldon opens the door quickly.
And he runs into a brick wall.
Rubbing his shoulder that makes contact, “Uh, Doctor, I think we have another problem.”
“Oh, no…no…no...” the Doctor runs his hands up and down the brick wall, looking for a hole in this…illusion? “I think they must know I’m here.”
“Don’t you mean, we are here?”
“Yes, yes, yes! We! ” The Doctor turns from the door, “And we are stuck in here, without the Tardis.”
Penny is pacing back and forth in her small bedroom. It is rare that Penny can’t sleep. She is usually so dead tired from work, or slightly buzzed from some wine, that it’s never an issue for her.
Lately, she’s been pacing. A lot.
Maybe she is not used to someone else in her apartment for more than a night or two. Rose has been using her couch for weeks now.
Penny goes quietly, tip toeing into her living room, peeking over at Rose, who is curled up and sleeping deeply.
She tries not to be jealous.
She also doesn’t know exactly what to do, except pull her bathrobe belt tighter, grab the spare key from its hiding spot (in between the cover of Superman #177 which Sheldon had left, as it had a rip in the upper left corner that Sheldon was certain Leonard caused), and head to 4A.
Creeping across the hall, she opens her neighbor’s door quietly and enters. She knows Leonard is out with Leslie, so the apartment is dark and quiet.
She’d been here once before on another sleepless night. She came for a preemptive raid on Sheldon’s milk, as she had known that in order to function the next day with no sleep, coffee was a must. She had entered as always, but this time, Sheldon was sitting in his spot, with a mug in his hands.
“Sheldon? What are you still doing up?
“I might ask the same of you, and why you decided to, once again, come in without knocking at 2 a.m.?”
Penny shrugged, “I was having trouble sleeping and needed some milk for my morning coffee to try and keep me awake tomorrow at work.”
Sheldon had shaken his head, “I don’t know why you rely on stimulants to battle insomnia.” Sheldon raised his mug, “Warm milk is how to get the sleep you need.”
“Yeah, uh, no.” Penny tried to hold in the “ewww” that she wanted to say to the thought of drinking warm milk…unless it came with a cup of hot coffee.
Sheldon got up and headed for the kitchen, “How can you know you dislike it, if you have never tried it?” Penny followed him and sat on a stool in front of the island. He took a mug, filled it with milk, and set it in the microwave for the exact time that he’d perfected to produce just the right temperature.
He handed her the mug, “Drink.” She made a face at him, but took the mug just the same. She peered in, “Trust me.” Sheldon said as she swirled the warm milk in the mug.
She shrugged, and drank. “Okay, that’s not as bad as I thought.” Penny drank some more, and Sheldon quirked up a corner of his mouth; his “I told you so.” look. She ignored it. “So, why are you up so late? Stuck on a physics thingie?”
“Physics thingie? Really, Penny, after five years spending most of your time here, you’d think you would have picked up something.” Sheldon lectured; an eyebrow rose.
She stuck her tongue out at him, and then drank some more milk. It was calming, after all.
“Essentially, you are correct. However, I was getting frustrated with one of my equations, and I was attempting to get some sleep to begin again fresh tomorrow.” Sheldon had finished his milk, and was rinsing out his mug.
Penny finished her milk, and he took her mug to rinse as well. When Sheldon was finished, he turned to head to his room. “I hope you can sleep now Penny. Sweet dreams.”
She caught his shoulder, and gave him a quick, one armed hug; just quick enough not to make him uncomfortable. “Thanks sweetie. Pleasant REM cycles to you.” Penny slowly made her way back to her apartment, attempting to leave without turning back, but she did.
He was still standing there in the hall, with a shy smile on his face.
Penny smiles, and remembers warm milk. She takes some lactose-free out of the ‘fridge, puts it in a mug and places it in the microwave, times it how she’s seen Sheldon do it, and takes her mug to sit in his spot.
Penny sits in his spot, drinking the warm milk he taught her to make. She remembers that Sheldon is sometimes a comfort, just like the warm milk.
It is funny how she didn’t think of that before when he was here.
Albert is still passionately kissing his second woman (alien!) of the day, while Sheldon watches the Doctor bring out his sonic screwdriver again, pointing it at the brick wall as secretively as possible.
Finally, the Doctor appears to be successful, and with a wide grin, he squeezes through the opening in the brick wall he has made, and Sheldon, every bit as thin and tall as the Doctor, follows him.
Once they are outside in the university’s halls, Sheldon questions him, “So, now what? How do you intend to stop these women from attaching themselves to the professor?”
“First, I need to know whom I’m dealing with, and the only way to do that is with the Tardis!” The Doctor is moving through the halls, practically at a sprint.
Sheldon manages to keep up, but it’s not without some irritation, “Okay, and then what?”
“Then…” the Doctor says ominously, not missing a step, “then we stop them.”
Sheldon barely has time to nod as he sprints behind the Doctor, but manages an “Alrighty.”
They reach the Tardis, and the Doctor enters with Sheldon on his heels. Sheldon walks to peer over the Doctor’s shoulder and watches him use his sonic device and punch in codes to the screen in front of them.
“I’m having the Tardis scan now for the aliens to see if I’ve encountered them before…”
Sheldon interrupts him, “At any point in your nine hundred plus years?”
“Yes, then the Tardis should have a record of…hmm…I don’t know who this is!”
This gives Sheldon pause. Not knowing the answer to something gives him a panicked feeling, but the Doctor not knowing? Sheldon thinks he can actually hear his heartbeat quicken and his palms are suddenly clammy. He takes a shaky breath, “So, now what?”
“Now, we go and talk to them!”
Sheldon finds himself nearly sprinting behind the Doctor once again.
Penny goes to visit Rose at the Glendale Galleria for Rose’s lunch break from the Gap. Rose had called her and asked her to meet her. She thinks Rose gets lonely sometimes for her friend, and Penny can commiserate with her.
While she’s waiting, Penny strolls into her favorite shoe store, because, nothing says, “get out of the funk I’m in” like a new pair of shoes.
Penny is browsing when she sees, out of the corner of her eyes, Sheldon-like shoes in the men's section. She often wondered where he bought those ugly brown shoes he insisted on wearing (she had often tried to coerce him into shopping with her for some, well, a little less nauseating shoes).
Penny takes a deep breath, as she had come here in the first place to get away from thoughts of Sheldon; she sweeps her arms full of display shoes on the nearest shelf to her, and drops them on the counter.
"In a size 7 please."
"All of them?" The shop assistant's eyes are, Penny can see, calculating commission.
"All of them," Penny nods. She'll try them all on, even if she can only afford one pair.
Penny is gleefully trying them on (in order of can never afford, could afford if she didn't pay rent, could afford if she didn't pay her cable bill, could afford if she didn't eat, and probably could afford in two weeks, to I can afford this today because they are a $1.99 pair of flip flops).
She looks at her watch, and realizes she needs to hoof it to the Gap to meet Rose, and buys the flip flops (and yeah, the shop assistant is totally pissed at her) and heads over.
Rose is waiting just outside of the store, only looking slightly irritated, but when she sees Penny, she smiles.
"What’cha feel like eating?" Rose says, grabbing Penny's arm to pull her to the food court.
Penny shrugs, "Wherever I can get a salad. My jeans are feeling a little too snug lately." Too much Chinese, Penny thinks.
Rose laughs, mutters "actresses" under her breath and heads over to the D’Angelo’s.
They take their trays (Penny has a salad and fruit; Rose a bacon sandwich) and sit in a less populated area of the food court.
"So how goes work?" Penny asks; a piece of melon just past her mouth.
"'S alright." Rose plays with her bread, pulling off the crusts.
"Feeling okay?" Penny recognizes the melancholy mood. She knows Rose misses her friend as much as Penny does hers.
Penny, however, is beginning to turn her feelings towards a healthier irritation and anger at Sheldon, who left her with hardly a word, but that damned note, which was crinkled and beginning to tear at the edges. Penny had put it in a baggie, and it now resided in the pages of the Star Trek Movie novelization that he had given her for her last birthday, which she had stuffed under her bed.
Rose shrugs, "It's just been..."
"A long time, I know," Penny nods, poking at her fruit.
Rose blurts, “What do you miss about your friend?” She looks down and brushes crumbs off her pants
“Sheldon?” Penny puts down the piece of cantaloupe she was playing with, “Right now I’m a little pissed. I’ve sent him texts, left messages on his cell phone, Tweeted and updated my Facebook message to: Penny wants to know where the hell Sheldon is!” She pushes her fruit plate away and starts playing with her lettuce instead, “And nothing. No response. That’s what bugs me the most. Sheldon has a response for everything!” Penny takes a shaky breath, “Except for me.”
“Maybe he’s somewhere that he can’t get a message,” Rose says quietly, but can offer no more.
“Hmmm…You have a point. Maybe he’s underground at that super colliding thing.” Penny manages to get a few bites of lettuce in, and she is chewing thoughtfully, “Is your friend interested in those science-y things? Might they have gone there?”
Rose smiles, a little painfully, “Yeah. He’s interested in everything! And I thought…” Rose pushes her sandwich away, no longer hungry, “I thought he was in me too. But…”
“He left you.” Penny says, feeling a sudden kinship with her.
Rose speaks animatedly, “He promised he’d be back, and I trust him. It’s just…” Her hand waves behind her, “I could go back to London. I could live with Mum again, take up with Mickey, and just go on as before. But,” she looks up to Penny, “Mickey is sweet, and he’s a great guy. It’s not that he isn’t; he’s just not…”
“Not?” Penny prods.
“Not him. Mickey was a great boyfriend, but he’s not the Doctor. Who shows me the whole universe, which makes me feel,” Rose searches for the words to express what the Doctor is to her, “like I really am, you know?”
“I do know.” Penny agrees softly. “You and I have more in common than a missing friend.” Penny begins to clear away her picked over lunch to put back on the tray. “I had Leonard and he was a great boyfriend too, but…you know…”
“Yeah,” Rose agrees. “I definitely do.”
Rose’s lunch is almost over, and they both rise to clean their uneaten lunch. They are walking back to the Gap, when Penny turns to her new friend and quirks her lip up, “Your friend makes you call him Doctor? Geesh, Sheldon would love that!”
Sheldon and the Doctor find themselves squeezing back into the lecture hall. Professor Einstein has unwrapped himself from the woman, but she is still there. The Doctor strides down the aisle towards them, not missing a step.
Sheldon opts more for sitting at the desk that he had not long ago vacated, to watch the show.
Einstein looks up and nods at the Doctor, “Mr. Smith, where did you go?”
“Oh, I just went for a little walk,” the Doctor turns and addresses his companion, “Ma’am, have we met?””
She smiles; her lips are a red gash, “Perhaps, Mr. Smith.”
“Well, maybe we can catch up?” The Doctor smiles at the professor, “If you don’t mind”
“Not at all, not at all. I have my equations,” Einstein turns back to his beloved blackboard, “Gretchen, darling, I’ll be waiting for you, mein leibling.”
Gretchen kisses Einstein fully, again, marking his lips and moustache a deeper red. He smiles stupidly at her. She leaves with the Doctor and finds a seat beside Sheldon. The Doctor takes a seat next to her.
The Doctor says, without preamble and with a lowered voice, so that Einstein won’t hear, “Just who are you and what are you doing in this timeline?”
“I might ask the same of both of you,” she hisses, her accent dropped.
The Doctor takes out his sonic screwdriver, and points it at her; a menacing look in his eyes, “Again, I’m asking you, who you are, and what are you doing in this timeline?”
Sheldon looks between them both and admits he’d put money (not much) on the Doctor right now.
Gretchen, eyes flashing with anger, says, “My sisters and I are from the Succubae.” She looks down at the sonic screwdriver in the Doctor’s hand, “You don’t need this. We mean no harm.”
“Why are you here then?” The Doctor keeps his sonic screwdriver out, but lowers it to his lap.
”And why the brick wall?” Sheldon’s shoulder still hurts. He is probably bruising as he sits here.
She ignores him. “Look around you, and see what’s happening here.”
Sheldon answers her, “Einstein is calculating how to conquer the space time continuum - time travel in layman’s terms.”
“Exactly. And this cannot happen. Not now,” Gretchen looks into the Doctor’s eyes, “You know what is going to happen here, in Germany. In less than a year, Hitler will form the Third Reich. This world, Earth, is going to war.”
Sheldon and the Doctor nod simultaneously. She has a point. Sheldon answers her, “Yes, and Einstein will leave Germany for America once Hitler takes power.”
“However, is time travel really a good idea during this tumultuous time?” Gretchen asks, knowing the answer.
Sheldon and the Doctor look at the alien, but it is Sheldon who asks, “Just how many of your sisters are currently distracting the professor in his work?
“There are four of us here in this timeline.”
“Four!” The Doctor and Sheldon exclaim together.
Gretchen replies, “Once he moves to America, his focus will be the war effort and the atom bomb. We will no longer be needed here.”
“So, you are here to help the timeline, not hinder?” Sheldon wants to be sure.
The Doctor nods, “A good question.”
Gretchen agrees, “Yes. It is our sisters’ goal only. Once we have accomplished the stymieing of the creation of time travel, then we will leave.”
“And go where?” The Doctor asks.
“Wherever we are needed,” she says. “As a matter-of-fact, I have two sisters who are attempting to, direct Shakespeare on the right path.”
Both the Doctor and Sheldon raise their eyebrows. Sheldon asks again, “The brick wall?”
Gretchen smirks, “We have our ways to keep from being discovered. I couldn’t let our efforts go to waste.”
“Okay, but where are you from? How do you travel in the timeline?” The Doctor questions her.
Gretchen rises, “Doctor, you have to allow a woman some secrets.”
Chapter 5: Truth
Penny is trudging through her Saturday shift. She hasn’t been sleeping well and, by the end of the week, it begins to show.
It doesn’t help that there are crying children here for dinner with their parents. Why? She asks silently as she goes to bring more milk that the children have either spilled or thrown. Why do parents insist on staying for dessert when the kids are tired and cross?
Penny is walking back to the serving area when her cell in the pocket of her apron buzzes. She puts down the wet, milk-soaked cloth and wipes her hands on her apron (already stained with ketchup and something undefinable) and takes out her phone to read the text.
It’s from her contact in the audition circuit: “Pen-open aud. up. Crim. Minds one-shot, young & blonde descriptors-thought of u babe! text u later w/date and time.”
Penny’s mood is instantly uplifted. The kids can scream all they want now. She sees the parents waving for the check, and she goes to bring it to them.
Of course, they leave no tip. Even so, Penny is in a good mood. She waves at the cook and mouths “taking my break” and heads out the back door. She pulls her phone out again, eager to share her excitement.
In times like this, she’d text Sheldon first, she knows she would. Penny even begins to, “God! Wait ‘till Sheldon gets this!” She gets as far as thumbing through her contact list and selecting his cell number.
“Oh balls!” Penny grumbles when she realizes her mistake, “Stupid Sheldon!” Frustration at not being able to share this with him causes her to kick the dumpster. She can feel the pain radiate from her toes up her leg and shouts out, “Son of a bitch!” Sheldon has caused her enough pain, and the anguish is sucking the joy out of her happiness.
She keys in for Leonard instead, and texts him: “audition soon for Criminal Minds! Set your DVR ha ha-Penny” then in the absence of Amy, she is left with only two female friends in the area, so she texts the same to Rose and Bernadette: “My place 2night-will bring vodka if u bring orange and cranberry juice!”
Penny takes a deep breath. She will make the most of this opportunity if it kills her, she thinks vehemently to herself, as she limps her way back inside and to go scrape gum off the table.
Tardis, Date Unknown
Sheldon and the Doctor are sitting on the couch in the Tardis’s common area. Sheldon sitting in the far left seat that he has dubbed his temporary spot.
“I am still unsure about your decision to leave that woman and her Succubae sisters with Einstein,” Sheldon says, while he stirs his authentic tangerine chicken that a quick stop in China allowed him to procure. He has no idea what day of the week it actually is in his timeline (although his watch still works, it doesn’t have a date function - an oversight), but he had been craving something familiar. He wonders how many Friday nights he’s missed.
The Doctor is speaking through his reverie, “I believed her,” he says simply, “we know Einstein doesn’t create time travel.” The Doctor turns and looks pointedly at Sheldon, “Nor do you, Doctor Cooper.”
Sheldon eyes drift sadly to his dinner. He distractedly stirs a little more.
The Doctor mutters to himself, “Your son, however…”
“Hmmm?” Sheldon looks up, “Did you say something?”
“No. I was…I mean I believe that Einstein isn’t being hurt from Gretchen and her sisters - in fact, he seemed to be enjoying himself fully.” The Doctor takes the spare fork and jabs a piece of chicken out of Sheldon’s container.
Sheldon could freak out over this. However, the Doctor has managed 903 years thus far with, he imagines, few contagious diseases. Sheldon says nothing except, “Yes, I am sure he was. Einstein’s randy ways are well documented. Being distracted like that, who knows what he might have accomplished, time travel notwithstanding.”
“I am certain one can enjoy the affections of a woman without excess, or being distracted, Sheldon”
“Can you?” Sheldon looks at the Doctor from under his brows.
“Can I what?”
“Can you enjoy the affections of a woman, Rose for instance, without being distracted from your responsibilities as a Time Lord?”
“We…we aren’t talking about me,” the Doctor stutters, feeling a little unsure about his feelings towards Rose at the moment. He does know he wants to get back to her.
“Because the evidence would suggest no,” Sheldon continues, chewing thoughtfully on his chicken, “You left her behind.”
“I left Rose, with every intention of returning to her, for her benefit, not mine,” the Doctor says with confidence.
Sheldon points a chopstick in the Doctor’s direction, “How exactly does it benefit her to stay in Pasadena?”
“Rose…she needed,” the Doctor pauses, and looks down at his sneakers, “A dose of normal.” He looks back at Sheldon. “It’s not easy being around me for extended periods of time.”
Sheldon looks up sharply from his Chinese food, “My friends have often said that about me. I think even…”
The Doctor nods with understanding, “Penny?” He nabs another piece of chicken from Sheldon’s open container.
Sheldon hardly notices, “Penny was upset with me the night you arrived and I left.”
“Is that why you came with me?” The Doctor questions him, his eyes flashing with amusement.
“I came with you because you offered me time travel. That would be difficult for any true scientist worth his salt to refuse.” Sheldon sits up straight and huffs a breath out of his nose.
“Hmmm,” the Doctor taps his fingers on his knee, unconvinced.
Sheldon, uncomfortable as to where this conversation is going asks, “Where to next Doctor?”
“That would be up to you. What other scientist do you admire?”
“Stephen Hawking, before the ALS consumes him. I’ve seen a series of lectures he gives, but to know the man…”
The Doctor jumps up, heading for his controls, but steals one more piece of chicken from Sheldon’s dinner.
Sheldon shrugs. He isn’t really hungry any longer.
Penny is two drinks past tipsy when Bernadette giggles about Howard’s pants.
“It’ll be a wonder if we have any children with those sperm killers he wears!” Bernadette knocks back the remainder of her Screwdriver and slips off Penny’s couch to the floor in the process.
Penny and Rose laugh at her. A small woman like Bernadette can’t hold her liquor like the experienced drinkers Rose and Penny are. Rose clinks her cranberry vodka with Penny’s.
“Cheers mate,” Rose puts on an even thicker accent that makes Penny giggle like Bernadette.
Penny lowers her voice an octave and tries, “Blimey mate, cheers to yah too!”
This puts both Bernadette and Rose into new fits of giggles and Penny gets up, slowly to refill their drinks.
“We should play Truth or Dare like we did for our girls’ nights with Amy,” Bernadette squeaks from the floor, nursing her new Screwdriver.
“Oh yeah, my mates and I always played it too,” Rose agrees, accepting her refreshed drink from Penny. "My mate Shireen would always dare me to cut my hair or pierce my nose.”
“I’m not a big fan, as it always seems to become about me.” Penny plops on the couch beside Rose with Bernadette on the floor by her feet.
Bernadette looks up, behind her and grins widely at Penny, “Truth or Dare?”
Penny cautiously says, “Truth.”
Bernadette turns on the floor; her head lolling slightly to the side of her neck, and asks her, “What exactly is going on between you and Sheldon?”
Penny rests her head against the coolness of her drink. That took all of two seconds, she chides herself. Aloud, she says, “Dare!”
Bernadette ignores the broken rule, “I dare you to tell us what exactly is going on between you and Sheldon.”
Penny recalls with perfect clarity, despite her current slight intoxication, the one time when she had made what she considered to be a pretty overt pass at Sheldon. Mr. Clueless, of course, missed her cues. They had been walking up the stairs on their way back to 4A with their Chinese to enjoy their Friday night. Penny had, in a fit of madness, acted on her undefinable feelings toward him. She put her hand on his shoulder to stop him on the step beside her. She leaned forward to kiss him. Just once.
Sheldon must have thought she was attempting to take the bag of Chinese out of his hand. He clutched the bag to his chest, and sprinted up the stairs. Penny had to step at a jog to keep up with him.
Penny sighs deeply, caught, but she is just tipsy enough to answer with some truth, “We’re friends, but it’s been different. We’ve depended on each other.” Penny takes a long drink, and continues, “But I…and he, as it turns out…we didn’t trust that.” She tips her drink down her throat to stop it from stinging.
Rose looks as flushed as Penny does, and takes a long drink herself, and barely whispers, “Yeah, I understand perfectly.”
Penny reaches over, and gives Rose a rather sloppy hug, while Bernadette wails, “I’m so-o-ory!” then promptly passes out.
Rose and Penny share a look, and burst out laughing. They clink their glasses again.
“Screw absent friends.”
New York, 1962
Doctor Hawking is practicing his coordination with a bonsai plant. He finds the exercise tedious and a waste of his valuable time, but his wife has the advice of a “new age” doctor and, for her, he will persevere.
Persevere, while he contemplates the universe.
Doctor Hawking picks up the sound of his wife’s soft footsteps which are followed by harder ones.
“Darling, forgive me for interrupting your solitude, but these men have requested some of your time.” Jane proffers two men for Stephen’s attention.
He doesn’t mind being distracted from Bonsai snipping. He puts his trimmers down and considers the two men, turning a shoulder towards them, but not standing up, as he doesn’t wish to falter before the newcomers.
This time, Sheldon does the introductions, though the Doctor still holds up the psychic paper, “Doctor Hawking, I am Doctor Cooper and this is Doctor Smith, on loan from Caltech.”
Stephen nods at the men, “Why don’t we drop all the “doctors”? Call me Stephen.” He holds out his good hand; the one that is humming now with the feel of the scissors.
Sheldon looks at Doctor Hawking’s hand and his own. He swallows deeply, and takes his hand and shakes it. There’s no hand sanitizer here in 1962 and Sheldon’s supply is back in the Tardis. “Sheldon Cooper,” he introduces himself, then points back at the Doctor, “and John Smith.”
The Doctor shakes his hand easily. Again, Sheldon reminds himself that if the Doctor managed to survive over nine hundred years and ten lives without worrying about germs, Sheldon can try to fight the urge to excuse himself to the washroom to scrub his hand.
Penny is wandering again. By the last check on her bedside clock, it is 1 a.m. She has thrown that clock one too many times, however, to depend on the accuracy. Penny does know it is too late to still be awake.
She slips on her robe over her Hello Kitty sleep set and walks through her darkened living room to snag their spare key from inside the DVD cover (Superman Returns) where she keeps it now.
Rose is still asleep, so Penny leaves quietly, shutting her door softly behind her, as she approaches 4A, and unlocks their door.
The apartment is dark, and she doesn’t think Leonard is home. She thinks of warm milk, sitting in his spot and poking around on his computer, when she decides to cross the one barrier left.
Penny heads down the hall and takes a deep breath. She enters Sheldon’s room. She stands in the open doorway into his room, and it looks the same as it always has, even when he was here.
Not one thing out of place. Each comic book is in its plastic and cardboard, arranged in each basket by his precise method. The train on its track perfectly aligned. No matter how long he’s gone, dust dare not settle here.
Penny enters, and sits on the edge of his perfectly made bed. Had he even gone to sleep that Friday night? This bed suggests no. She swings her body around until she is lying prone on his bed, head on his blanket covered pillow. Penny looks up to the swirls and patterns on the ceiling. Does Sheldon count the whorls in the pattern when he can’t sleep?
Steadying her breathing, she makes a decision and rolls over, and pulls the blankets back and gets in under the sheets, curling around his pillow. Penny can’t resist, and takes a deep breath into his pillow.
She can still, faintly, smell his Herbal Essence shampoo. Penny closes her eyes against the stinging she can feel in them and swallows to try to alleviate the tightness in her throat. When she opens them, her eyes fall on one of Sheldon’s black notebooks, sitting on his end table with a pen across it. She knows Sheldon keeps a journal; his way of making sense of his friends, and his “social interactions” with them.
Penny knows she shouldn’t. She almost feels guilty about it for the minute it takes her to leave the pen on the end table and open the notebook. She rolls again on to her back and opens it to the last entry; she was right. Sheldon didn’t sleep the night he left. He couldn’t sleep, because of her. Penny had stormed out that night and confused him. If only he waited until she’d calmed down; they could have talked it through. If only she’d answered his text...
If only. This will make her crazy, so she steels herself, and reads back. And back, and back. She can feel her jaw subconsciously drop. All of these entries are about her:
Penny arrives during laundry night at 8:21 p.m. This is the third time this month we have done our laundry together. Penny, despite my warning, yet again puts all her colors and whites in one washer. She now has more pink socks and shirts to add to her collection. I refrained from saying “I informed you thusly” and I am rather proud of my restraint.
Query: Penny has now, with my running total, joined me for laundry night with 82% accuracy. She certainly has the opportunity to participate in the social events this evening provides. And yet, Penny spends most Saturday nights with me. Why?
Penny and I had a shorter than normal chat with Amy tonight, as she had a function to attend with her benefactor/fiancée.
We therefore ate slightly earlier, and were able to watch two movies. We both agreed on Terminator Salvation. I agreed, as the special effects and continuation of the canon make the film enjoyable to me. Penny agreed, because, according to her, Christian Bale and Sam Worthington are “hot,” which is one of Penny’s colloquial terms for sexual attractiveness.
Penny, however, fell asleep during our second choice, The Bounty Hunter, which Penny had promised me was about vampires and the undead, but was actually a romantic vehicle for that girl from Friends. She had hoisted this movie on me, then after the first act, fell asleep, with her head on my shoulder.
Query: What is the expectation of a friend, when a female friend invades one’s personal space while asleep? I couldn’t really blame her; I’m sure she didn’t realize where she was.
As it was, I was forced to watch the remainder of the film, trying actively not to touch a lock of her hair that fell across my chest, lest I wake her.
Penny came over unexpectedly and unannounced this evening, a Monday. She was in some form of distress, crying quite enough that I could barely understand what had happened to upset her at first. She sat beside me, crying uncontrollably, and finally I was made to understand that she had been called to an audition while she was at work, and her boss hadn’t let her go.
I was unsure of how to comfort her - as I always am under such circumstances. However, as Penny’s friend, and as I was alone in the apartment, it was my responsibility to try. After my first “there, there” (which only made her cry louder) I tried again, by patting her shoulder. Although it didn’t make her cry more, it didn’t seem to help either.
What did, however, and I am unclear as to why, was when I moved my arm - ostensibly to find her tissues - she moved closer to me, and began to cry against my favorite Green Lantern shirt. I placed my arm on her opposite shoulder in what seemed like a supportive embrace.
I offered to sing her Soft Kitty, which she refused on the grounds of not being sick - I contend that this sadness is a kind of sick, and sang it to her just the same. It did seem to help, and she finally stopped crying to the point that I could extract myself from her and make her tea.
Query: Would Leonard, had he been home, been able to comfort her more quickly, and efficiently without as many failed attempts? My conclusion is probably yes.
Penny snaps the journal closed; her throat tighter and her lashes wet. She remembers that night from a few months ago. Her contact had given her a last minute audition offer, and her boss hadn’t let her leave early. Penny was minutes from quitting and going anyway, but what if it was another failure? Then she’d have no job to pay her rent.
So she went to 4A after work to seek comfort, and she can admit that she went looking for Leonard; but found Sheldon instead. She remembers him eventually putting an arm around her, letting her soak his t-shirt and softly singing Soft Kitty over and over.
Then he made her tea, changed his t-shirt, and let her watch The Bachelorette.
Penny curls around his pillow again, letting the journal slip to the floor, and wants him there with an ache of sadness.
And there is no one to sing Soft Kitty to her.
Leonard comes home from his evening out with Leslie and the rest of the quartet members, twisting the door to his apartment, and finding it open.
He hesitantly walks in to his dark apartment and turns on the living room lamp. Leonard scans the apartment quickly, and everything seems where he left it. Perhaps he forgot to lock the door? He turns to put his keys in the bowl, and he thinks he can hear - snoring?
Leonard starts down the hall to his bedroom, and finds Sheldon’s bedroom door ajar. Is he home? He walks slowly in and it’s not Sheldon he finds.
It’s Penny. In Sheldon’s bed, asleep.
He sits with a sigh on the bed beside her and gently nudges her shoulder. Leonard has no idea when Sheldon is coming back, but he thinks allowing Penny to stay in his room is not a long-term good idea.
Not to mention that it is somewhat disconcerting to see Penny so upset that Sheldon is gone. He knew they spent more time together than they used to, as Leonard was over at Leslie’s more nights in a week than not, and Penny felt sorry for Sheldon being alone.
Or so he assumed.
He nudges her shoulder again, and Penny’s eyes slowly open. “Leonard?” She sits up in Sheldon’s bed, “What are you doing here?”
He smiles at her confusion, “I might ask you the same thing.”
Penny wakes up a little more, and realizes she fell asleep in Sheldon’s bed. “Oops,” she smiles sheepishly, “I couldn’t sleep, so I came here to…I came here…I don’t know why I came here.” Her eyes start to sting again, so she rubs at them, feigning sleep in her eyes.
“Penny,” Leonard asks as gently as possible, “what exactly is going on between you and Sheldon?”
Penny is more awake now. This question, again? “What do you mean?” She doesn’t exactly want to be having this conversation with her ex, even if he is Sheldon’s best friend.
“You both spend time alone together, every week. To anyone else, that would seem like…” Leonard raises an eyebrow to make his point, “dating.”
She focuses her tired eyes on him, “Leonard. Sheldon and I are friends. You know he couldn’t even consider us dating.” Although, Penny thinks, having read some of his journal, he was very concerned about her feelings, “Sheldon is my friend and,” Penny’s eyes sting again, “I miss my friend, Leonard.”
“Penny…” Leonard isn’t that convinced.
“And,” Penny continues, “You’re his friend too. Aren’t you concerned about where he is?”
Leonard shrugs, “Only a bit. Sheldon, though we hate to admit it to him, is one of the smartest scientists in America right now, Penny.” She has lain back down, still rubbing the tears off her lashes, “If he and this John Smith are working on something - well you know Sheldon can’t keep a secret if he calls us.” Leonard pats her hip, “And he has been able to take care of himself since he was a teen, you know.”
Penny nods, satisfied with his answer, for the moment, even if she still wishes for him to come home.
Leonard gets up to leave, “Look, stay here the rest of the night, and I’ll make us coffee and pancakes in the morning.”
Penny sniffs, but manages an incredulous look at him, “Leslie won’t mind?”
Leonard smiles as he leaves the room, “Leslie isn’t Priya, Penny. She has a little more self-confidence than that.” And he leaves her in Sheldon’s room.
Penny curls around in Sheldon’s bed again, somewhat comforted.
New York, 1962
Doctor Hawking (Sheldon just can’t call him Stephen, even in his mind) is showing them his latest research, on a blackboard set up in his home office. It is on the same floor he was when they walked in, and on the way, he leans on his wife for his left side support, and keeps his cane along his right leg.
“The hypothesis that Einstein posited is that the gravitational time dilation is problematic. So, as you can see, I’ve taken that part of his equation, and added my own to prove the existence of black holes, and the energy needed to harness them for means of extended space travel,” Hawking proudly prods his work with a shaking finger, erasing a smudge on his board.
Sheldon is in awe. He understands the man’s genius, probably better than anyone. He also knows about his ALS, having studied much of Hawking’s work, first on his own, reading under the blankets in his room as a young child in Texas, then at university, when his bachelor’s thesis was a hypothesis based on Doctor Hawking’s work with black holes, and how bosons were formed during the big bang.
Of course, he’d seen this now out the Tardis door.
The Doctor was talking to his wife - who had helped Hawking to a seat as he continued to motion to his board, “So then, the formulation of black hole thermodynamics describe the behavior of a black hole in close analogy to the laws of thermodynamics by relating mass to energy…” as Sheldon pays apt attention like a padawan to a Jedi master.
Jane smiles at the Doctor, who was asking her, “How then do you manage keeping your husband away from his board?” The Doctor winked at her.
“Well, we have his doctors, who have no treatment to offer. I found another, who has offered us some hope, so with that, I manage to have Stephen take time to focus on his therapy, which, honestly, he does to placate me more than to help himself.” Jane takes a deep breath, “But its hope for me. I need that.”
Sheldon has been listening to Hawking lecture about his equations, and he thinks about what he is witnessing. This most excellent mind, trapped in a body that is rebelling against him. Sheldon thinks about his own struggle with his body. His cool detachment from it as he attempts the pure intellect he desires to produce his work.
Yet here is Hawking, facing what he thinks are the last years of his life; what in actuality are the last years of mobility, and what does he find? He finds Hawking with a wife he obviously admires, a child on the way, and his work.
Sheldon, always envious of men whose genius and body of work outweigh his own, is envious of Hawking for his…life.
Penny is working the lunch shift. She’s switched with Sara because she needs the afternoon off for an audition.
An audition! One that actually shows promise. She had made a contact a while back (Andrea Stinson. They’d had a lovely discussion about the latest styles for shoes while waiting for her turn) at one of her failed auditions. She’s not exactly an agent, but a consultant who called her occasionally when an audition came up that Penny might be good for. This one was for a spot on television and Andrea is hopeful. It makes Penny absolutely giddy with anticipation.
She calls Rose on their lunch hour for extra moral support at The Gap in the Glendale Galleria. Rose is still excited for her, and encouraging.
“Penny, you’ll do great! I have a good feeling for you.” Penny can hear Rose’s smile through the phone. It makes Penny feel good that she is a bit more cheerful these last few days, and not so sad, missing her friend. In that, at least, they can comfort each other.
Penny serves her last table, and turns to collect the measly tips that are left for her on her last one. She rolls her eyes to the heavens, silently begging, “Let this audition be the one.” It is the wish she wishes every time she finds a penny heads up on the ground, throws a coin into a fountain, and blows out every year’s birthday candles.
She goes back into the serving station and scrubs her hands while checking herself out in the mirror. She needs to redo her make-up, fix her hair and change, and then make it to the audition within the hour. She eyes the couple she recently served. They are eating way too slowly.
Sara comes in; dirty plates piled high in her hand, steadying them on her hip. Penny tries giving her best pleading eyes look. She isn’t an actress for nothing!
“Sara? You know how much I appreciate you taking my shift as well as your own, and I owe you huge! But, could you, please, finish my last table?” Penny’s eyes are wide and pleading, “I’m a mess! I need to fix myself up a bit before I go. Please?”
“Oh, go on then!”
Penny hugs her quickly, and runs to the bathroom to clean up and change.
New York, 1962
The Doctor, intrigued, is still asking Jane about this new age doctor, as Sheldon and Hawking are comparing theories. Sheldon’s eyes are shining, obviously enthralled.
“This doctor…” the Doctor begins, and Jane interrupts.
“How did you hear about him?” The Doctor feels like he should be suspicious.
“It was the strangest thing, because he contacted me. He must have heard about Stephen’s plight and offered his assistance.”
“His diagnosis: ALS. Stephen’s doctors give him only a few short years. I refuse,” Jane absently rubs her protruding abdomen, “to believe that. Once Doctor Eloisa contacted me with what amounted to hope, I couldn’t refuse.” She looks in the Doctor’s eyes, “And Stephen can’t refuse me.”
The Doctor still feels a niggling sensation, “I would like to meet this doctor.”
“Well,” Jane checks her watch, “he should be here shortly to check on my husband.”
“Excellent! We’ll wait, as Doctor Cooper,” the Doctor points at Sheldon, “is still engrossed with Doctor Hawking.”
Jane nods, “Most physicists are.” She smiles and moves to her husband, and the Doctor follows. What he hears, however, from the discussion Sheldon is having with the astrophysicist, is not science.
“…and that’s when you decided to marry?” Sheldon and Hawking are sitting across from each other, in front of his blackboard, equations forgotten.
Jane sidles up beside her husband, who puts out a shaking hand for her. She takes it and wraps it on her thickening waist to steady it, “He married me because he couldn’t imagine his life without me, right darling?”
“As I was saying to Sheldon here,” Hawking nods, “I can imagine the whole universe, but not life without my Jane.”
Hawking’s statement make both Sheldon and the Doctor look away awkwardly.
She kisses the top of his head, then leaves to answer the doorbell, “That will be Doctor Eloisa.”
The Doctor leans on the blackboard behind Hawking, and pulls out his sonic screwdriver. Sheldon sees him, and raises a questioning eyebrow, but the Doctor just shakes his head, with a finger to his lips.
Doctor Eloisa follows behind Hawking’s wife. He is short and rotund, and greets Hawking in a clipped, vaguely European-like accent, “Doctor Hawking! You are looking well today,” Eloisa says, leaning towards Hawking, “Mrs. Hawking tells me you’ve been doing my prescribed therapy, excellent!”
“Yes,” Hawking says dryly, “I have a well-trimmed bonsai tree and a universe yet to unfold.”
“And guests, I see.” Eloisa spies the Doctor over Hawking’s head; leaning casually against the blackboard, sonic screwdriver tapping his chin.
“Yes,” Hawking introduces them, “Doctors Smith and Cooper.” The Doctor and Sheldon nod to Eloisa in turn.
Jane offers refreshment, and leaves to retrieve it, as the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver flashes at Eloisa. Sheldon catches his eye, and the Doctor nods. Sheldon’s eyelids flutter as he takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly, and shoots a look at the Doctor that clearly says, “Again?”
“Doctor Eloisa, I am fascinated by your therapies. Perhaps you could explain them to me further?” The Doctor motions to the room where they had met Hawking. “If you would excuse us, Doctor and Mrs. Hawking,” he nods to them both, and heads out of the room. Sheldon tags along, interested despite himself.
Eloisa follows them, waddling slowly. Finally all three are alone in the lounge.
Eloisa starts by holding up a dimpled hand. “Let me explain,” he looks directly at the Doctor, “I have been sent by the Shadow Proclamation…”
The Doctor interrupts with a statement, “You are Raxacoricofallapatorian.”
Sheldon looks at him, “A what?”
“Raxacoricofallapatorian,” Eloisa repeats.
“Why has the Shadow Proclamation sent you here?” The Doctor still has his sonic screwdriver in his hand, “Are you Slitheen?”
“No, I am not in alliance with any family. I am an agent for the Shadow Proclamation only.” Eloisa looks between Sheldon’s awed expression, and the Doctor’s incredulous one. He continues, “I was sent, in this donated skin, to Doctor Hawking because he is important. His theories of time and space are a landmark in human advancement.”
“And many decades away from this date.” Sheldon interjects.
“Exactly,” Eloisa agrees, “Yet doctors at this time have only given Hawking a few years to live. Until I arrived, he had all but given up.”
The Doctor looks to Sheldon, who shrugs and nods, “He’s right.”
Eloisa addresses Sheldon, “You know of Hawking’s future then?”
“Yes, in my time, 2012, he is still alive, and still publishing his work. He is immobile, however, and unable to speak without technological assistance.” Sheldon says, and adds, “His mind is unhindered.”
Nodding, Eloisa is satisfied, “Then my work here is successful.”
The Doctor slides his sonic screwdriver back to its resting place inside his jacket pocket, “I suppose, then it is time for Sheldon and I to take our leave,” yet, he turns back with his menacing look and says to Eloisa, “I will be contacting the Shadow Proclamation to confirm your story, just as a precaution you understand.”
The rotund doctor attempts a bow with his chubby neck, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” And with that, he goes to join Hawking and his wife, before he is missed.
Penny enters the long room filled with blondes as far as her eye can see. She goes to the desk in the midst of them, and checks in with Andrea.
“Wow,” Penny tries to smile, but her nerves are getting the best of her, “There are a lot of girls here.”
Andrea gestures in front of her to them, “A blonde does not an actress make, Penny.”
Penny looks down, because she’d thought that it did, once, and Andrea smiles, “You, Penny, are an actress who just happens to be blonde. There’s a difference.”
“Thanks for that.” Penny feels slightly more confident, as she takes her number from Andrea and sits down amidst blondes with blue eyes, green and brown. There are girls who are tall, short, thin and curvy. With women who have large, medium and small breasts; some real, some not.
Penny won’t compare herself to them all. Tired of being called Midwestern, she will instead think of a character to create - one who is definitely not Midwestern.
Andrea has given her a middle number, just the right spot for the director and casting agent to be wanting to be impressed, but not so long as to be tired of the process. She also gave her a hint of what the part will be, so Penny can prepare.
She hears her number called, and she rises; not Midwestern Penny, but the sister of a murder victim out for revenge.
Chapter 6: Dare
Tardis, Date Unknown
Sheldon sits quietly contemplating recent events, while from under where he is sitting in the jump seat, the Doctor is pulling wires and swearing slightly as he tinkers with the Tardis’s inner workings.
“Is it common for you then?” Sheldon asks the voice below him.
“Ow!” The Doctor rubs his head where he’s hit it, “What’s common?”
“To find benevolent aliens along different points in timeline on Earth,” Sheldon says.
The Doctor pops his head up so he can see Sheldon, “No, actually, it is the exact opposite of common.” He replaces a wire and continues, “Rose and I, we’ve had our share of alien encounters that threaten us or others.” The doctor reaches for another tool and lowers his head, “The Tardis is a magnet for them, aren’t you girl?” He rubs the deck plating above him.
Sheldon looks down at him, “You are a benevolent alien in my timeline, aren’t you?”
The Doctor laughs easily, “I guess I am.”
Sheldon changes his line of conversation, “Doctor Hawking is quite enamored of his wife.”
The Doctor’s head pops up with a grin wide on his face, “Oh, he most certainly seemed that way.” He settles his arms on the deck plating above him, “You were very interested in Hawking’s life.”
“I find it rather…unsettling. A mind such as Hawking’s, at odds with his body, and yet still reliant on his - emotions.” Sheldon is unaccustomed to speaking of such a relationship between mind, body and romantic feelings and he cannot fathom the words to express this.
The Doctor does, however, “Sheldon, humans have emotions - suppressed or no - I am certain you have them.”
“Do you? Do you have these sorts of feelings for Rose that Hawking had for his wife?”
“What is it you are trying to say, Sheldon?”
“I miss Penny,” Sheldon says bluntly, relieved to at least express that much.
“We could go see her…” The Doctor offers and Sheldon’s eyes widen, “But, you can’t change anything. I can’t stress how difficult it is to travel one’s own timeline - the ramifications - it always ends badly.”
“Agreed. Observation only,” Sheldon nods. “No time paradoxes.”
“No. Time paradoxes are bad. Lay low,” The Doctor cautions again
Sheldon nods again, “Lay low, right.”
“Well, okay then,” the Doctor comes above, finished with his fiddling, “Go see her, any time. You can even take help me take the Tardis there; I’ll tell you what dials to turn.” The Doctor begins to pull some levers.
“Alrighty,” Sheldon moves to the controls, “but be warned, I am not a skilled driver.”
He is sitting in his customary spot at the Cheesecake Factory, but he doesn’t feel at ease at all. It feels different. Odd. Sheldon frowns at the unfamiliar napkin pattern. It is wrong.
The Doctor looks around. “What is so special about this place anyway?”
Sheldon shrugs, unable to quite put the feeling he is experiencing in words. “Technically, in this time, I’d be at Bob’s Big Boy,” Sheldon offers the Doctor one of his small laughs, “At least I won’t run into Leonard, Kothrappali and Wolowitz here.”
There is a crash and some weak applause from the scattered guests this Tuesday evening. A slim blonde girl is bent over the spilled dishes - her hair hanging in her face as she picks up the pieces.
Sheldon watches her. This Penny is so young. Is she nineteen? Twenty? Still living with that lug head Kurt and probably only just realizing that he’s unfaithful to her.
He stands up to help her as she kneels on the patterned carpet of the Cheesecake Factory, “Let me get some of these, Penny,” he bends his knees and picks up a broken coffee mug.
The girl looks up at him, wide eyed, “Do I know you?” Her green eyes have unshed tears, and she looks back to see her manager glaring at her. She hurries her pace.
“No, actually, I guess you don’t.” Sheldon reaches under a table for a few slivers of broken plate that they’d missed.
“Then,” her eyes clear and then narrow, “how did you know my name?”
Sheldon pauses and realizes his mistake; a rookie time travel mistake. How could he have forgotten that he doesn’t know her yet in this timeline? He covers his error, “I heard one of the other servers address you by your name earlier, as I was perusing the menu.”
Penny laughs, her eyes dancing again, like they do in his timeline, “You talk funny. I guess you think I know what you mean, but I really don’t.”
Sheldon feels the corner of his mouth twitch, and tries to contain his laugh at her. At how she always said that, before she got to know him well - well, before. “I think we got it all now,” he points to the carpet. “Will you get in trouble from him?” Sheldon nods his head to the manager, the same one who currently manages The Cheesecake Factory. He alternatively gives Sheldon a hard time for being a “difficult” customer, and protection from Penny when she is mad at him and refuses to serve him.
“Nah. It’s only my first week here.” She smiles at him and stands up.
Sheldon follows her up as well. “Well, I could speak to him if necessary. I am certain you will be an exemplary waitress.”
“Thanks, but I’m really in California to become an actress. It’s a dream of mine; one that I am certain will come true.”
Penny is simply glowing now. When did she lose this? This optimism she has here, even in a time of personal flux? Sheldon ruminates on this question, while the young girl begins to leave with a grin. “Let me get rid of this mess, and I’ll come take your order, okay?”
Sheldon hands her his pile of broken dishes and feels himself grinning back, “I’d like that.”
With that, she is gone.
He returns to the table, and sits again across from the Doctor, who is now smiling almost as foolishly as Sheldon himself was moments before. “What?”
The Doctor only grins wider (Good Lord, this man has so many teeth!) “So this Penny, she’s awfully important to you.”
Sheldon nods warily, “Yes, she is a good friend, as I’ve told you.”
“Ah, don’t try to pull the wool over these eyes, son”
“Would you please desist on reminding me of how old you are? Physically, we look the same age, so let’s keep it that way, shall we?” The Doctor is the one who said they had to lay low anyway.
“Fine. However, do not evade the question. You have feelings for her, Doctor Cooper.” The Doctor points an accusing finger at him, “which is why you brought us here.”
“You brought us here.” Sheldon’s voice is quiet.
Penny comes back with her notepad and a smile, “So what will it be…what’s your name by the way?”
“Sh…” Sheldon begins to stutter - she’ll remember a name like Sheldon! He silently thanks his father for his generic name, “George. George Cooper. And this is…” He nods to the Doctor, “John Smith.”
“John Smith, hunh?” She takes a look up and down at the Doctor, “You’re an odd duck!”
“I’ve been called worse,” the Doctor smiles wide and is beaming his toothy grin.
She grins back, and taps her pen to her notepad, “What’ll it be?”
“Fish and chips please,” he puts the menu down.
“Okay, one order of fish and chips, and for you, George?” She turns to Sheldon with a bright smile.
Sheldon pauses, just a moment, remembering that look from when he first met her and was stunned by that smile; all he could do at that time was look at his shoes and repeat “Hi” several times.
“Your smile is extremely engaging.” He hasn’t ever said that to her before. Why not?
Gone is the sad girl who’d dropped the dishes, and in her place was Penny as he first met her, eyes dancing and a lightness of movement. She is also blushing and Sheldon realizes, in this simple and cataclysmic moment, that not only can he distantly admit her attractiveness, he finds her attractive. Something shifts loose inside of him. He feels exhilarated and nauseated at the same time.
“Thank you…that’s...I needed…well, thank you.”
Strangely, his hand itches to touch…her cheek? It would be soft; she always looks soft even when kicking his proverbial ass playing Halo 3. He knows other parts of her skin are soft as he recalls touching her. Now he is blushing.
He puts down the menu he’d been fiddling with, and she coughs slightly to bring herself back to her task, “What’ll it be, George?”
Sheldon lets out a breathy laugh, but starts, “A barbeque bacon cheeseburger please, barbeque, bacon and cheese on the side.”
“Isn’t that just a hamburger?”
“Yes, with bacon, barbeque and cheese on the side.”
“Sure, sweetie,” Penny smiles, “Got it.” She leaves to put in their orders. Sheldon watches her go.
“Oh, you fancy her alright,” The Doctor gloats.
Sheldon would have turned to offer the Doctor an irritated glare, but at the moment, he is watching a flared skirt sway as she walks away.
The Doctor nods, knowingly, “Sheldon, I believe, after we eat of course, I need to show you something.”
“Hmmm?” Sheldon is still watching her.
“Yes. I think I need to show you exactly how I knew you’d travel with me.”
With Penny now out of sight, Sheldon pays full attention to the Doctor, “Well, it is about time.”
It’s Halo Night, and Penny, Leonard, Howard and Raj have finished their pizza, and are playing a heated game, with Penny and Raj against Howard and Leonard. Rose watches from Sheldon’s desk chair still picking at her pizza.
Earlier, while they were scarfing their dinner, Penny had brought Raj the two beers she had left in her fridge back in 4B. There is no way Penny is playing charades while her reputation at Halo is at stake.
Raj jumps up excitedly, “I have you now…” as he promptly blows up Howard’s character.
“Hey, buddy!” Howard tries to play the best friend card, “Why are you hunting me down…hey! Let me respawn for a minute!” Howard looks to his partner, “Leonard, help!”
“Uh, Penny is currently stalking me, so you’re on your own.” Leonard yelps as Penny guns him down from around the corner of the building where he was hiding.
Penny squeals from her (his, suck it Sheldon!) spot, and pats Raj’s shoulder, victory on the horizon.
Halo night isn’t quite the same without Sheldon (it is so much more fun blowing him up and even more fun being his partner because they are unbeatable), but she is damn sure she is still going to kick butt at it.
Rose puts her plate down and continues to allow her eyes to glaze over the scene in front of her. She is out of sorts tonight.
Leonard throws down his controller, frustrated. He turns to Rose while Penny and Raj both team up against Howard, who is whimpering while his fingers fly over his controller. “You okay Rose? You barely ate anything.”
“I was just thinking,” Rose explains, “about friends. Rose waves a hand to the scene in front of her, “I have my Mum, and my friends Mickey, Shireen and my friend, John,” she adds the Doctor’s pseudonym for Leonard’s sake, “but this, this kind of group of friends - I don’t have.” Rose meets Leonard’s eyes, “you are lucky.”
Leonard looks in front of him at Penny and Raj standing now and destroying Howard’s avatar, “Yes, I am, but…” he looks back to Rose, and says quietly, “don’t tell the others, but I miss Sheldon. Sure, sometimes, living together, we irritate the hell out of one another. But it’s also a little too quiet.”
Penny shouts her victory and Raj dances while singing, “In your face Howard!”
“Well, quiet when they are gone,” Leonard adds.
“This place is going to tell me how you knew about me?” Sheldon looks at his surroundings. Although neat and tastefully decorated, he is standing in the living room of an ordinary bungalow - not too different to where his mother currently lives.
“Yes, look here,” The Doctor moves to the kitchen, and points to a drawing pinned to the ‘fridge with vegetable magnets.
Sheldon follows him and bends to look at the picture. In a rudimentary sketch, in crayon, there is a definite blue telephone box, and a man standing beside it - a stick figure in a suit and bowtie.
“Who drew this?”
“He did” The Doctor points to a picture of a boy on the ‘fridge, though held in place by fruit magnets.
Sheldon’s eyes go wide. The boy looks very familiar - especially the blue eyes. “Did my brother or sister procreate?”
“No Sheldon. You did.”
Penny pours a cup of coffee in her kitchen, and uses her own milk. She has been forced to buy it and keep it fresh, as she can’t steal it from next door any longer. Damn Leonard and his lactose intolerance.
The coffee is hot, so she blows on it a bit and leans on her elbows against her island. Penny scans her apartment; there are shorts, tees and hoodies on the floor in the general direction of her couch. She is almost embarrassed to admit to herself that these are her clothes; Rose is perfectly neat and does her laundry twice a week.
Penny avoids the laundry room like the plague - especially on Saturday at 8:15 p.m.
She takes a sip of the coffee to test the temperature, and Penny’s eyes fall on her dining table, where Brad should be swimming in his bowl.
He isn’t. Brad is floating.
Her coffee spills to the floor as she hurries to the bowl, “No!” She wails. Her luminous fish that Sheldon gave her is dead. Penny jiggles the bowl, hoping that maybe he’s just asleep.
Brad is most definitely dead. She’s killed Sheldon’s gift to her. Penny hugs the bowl to her chest as she heads for the bathroom.
She only realizes she’s crying when she sees herself in the mirror over the sink. That just makes her cry harder as she heads to the toilet for Brad’s burial. Penny flips open the seat and pours the contents of the bowl into the toilet. She takes a shaky breath between her tears and flushes.
Penny slips to the floor under her towel rack; tears flowing down her neck, into her hair. She pulls her knees under her chin, and puts her hands in her face. Penny lets herself really give into crying, for the first time since Sheldon left.
She’s killed the last thing she had of his. Penny had used the last of the gift baskets a few months ago and all she had left from him was that damned fish.
And now even he was gone.
“Or do. I always have such a hard time getting my verbs right.”
“My son!” Sheldon’s mouth hangs open in shock as he stared alternatively at the picture of the boy, in a school uniform, who admittedly looks very similar to him at that age, six by his best guess, though this boy looks a little more robust.
The Doctor stands by grinning from ear to ear at Sheldon’s reaction. “Yes Sheldon. Why are you so surprised? Surely, with all the possibilities you can imagine, having a child is not that far out of the realm.”
“It is something I think of often.” Sheldon admits shakily. “Progeny is the only current way to pass on what I am. What I know. I understand that.” He looks around the small rooms. The home. He spreads his arms wide, “It’s this I don’t quite understand. Where am I living? With whom? This décor is hardly my preference.”
The Doctor grins, “You know I can’t give you specifics. The important point is I know that at some point in your timeline, I affect yours, and quite possibly, your son’s lives.” He inspects the drawing again, “Although why I am wearing a bowtie is beyond me,” the Doctor says, though he grins as he looks again, “Bowties are cool, however.” He begins to look around the room, and move suddenly and quickly to surreptitiously take an item off a bookshelf.
Sheldon notices. It is something framed. “What is that?”
“What is what?” The Doctor’s eyes widen. He is moving with the item behind his back while maintaining a look of innocence that he can’t quite make convincing.
“That framed photograph.” Sheldon’s eyes narrow, “I want to see it.”
The Doctor keeps past arm’s reach of him, not an easy feat, “No, Sheldon. I know you understand about time paradoxes.”
“You have already told me I have a son in the somewhat near future.” Sheldon makes a move towards the Doctor, “And if that picture is what I think it is…” Sheldon lunges behind the Doctor and grabs the frame.
The Doctor turns to keep it from him, but the frame falls out of his hands and, as it falls towards the floor, Sheldon sees it clearly. It is a wedding photo. Sheldon is actually smiling in the picture. It is the kind of smile that poses no danger to the lives of superheroes.
And there is Penny - beautiful in white and beaming.
Sheldon’s eyes betray his confusion, as the Doctor nabs the frame before it lands on the floor. He puts it back on the bookshelf upside down, but the damage is done.
“That’s his mother, isn’t it?” Sheldon doesn’t think he remembers how to blink.
“Sheldon,” the Doctor begins, but he is interrupted.
Sheldon takes a deep breath, “So I am to understand, at some point in the near future, I will marry Penny, and we will have a child together?”
“Sheldon, you know I can’t tell you any more than I have,” the Doctor’s brows knit together, “But, essentially, yes.”
Sheldon shakes his head, “You realize how unlikely that is, right?” His eyes look down, “It’s possible this is only a potential timeline?”
“It’s possible, but unlikely,” the Doctor admits.
“You realize that it’s more unlikely that Penny and I would marry. In the time that I’ve been gone, Leonard has most likely seen the error of his ways with Winkle and has begun his ill-advised relationship with Penny again.”
“Why ill-advised?” The Doctor smiles, and feels his sonic screwdriver vibrating to warn him that the Tardis is receiving a transmission. He begins to walk back to the front door.
“I know what you are implying; Penny and I have never been more than friends.” Sheldon begins to follow him, looking back at the small house. It can’t be possible…can it? “Won’t my knowing of this possible future, make it not possible now?” Sheldon asks. “The time paradox?”
The Doctor stops and shrugs, “I did try and keep that picture from you.” He takes out his sonic screwdriver, which is still blinking. “I haven’t told you the when, so I guess, Sheldon, it’s ultimately up to you, and the choices you make.”
Somehow, that unsettles Sheldon more than seeing the wedding photograph.
The Doctor pauses, and places his sonic screwdriver back in his coat. He continues to the front door, “Sheldon, I need to…sort out something in the Tardis. You can continue to stay here.” He focuses on Sheldon fully, a serious look on his face, “Just don’t touch…anything!”
And with that, the Doctor is out the door, leaving Sheldon with his future.
Penny barrels through the front doors of her apartment building and races up the stairs, knock-off Jimmy Choo’s dangling from her right hand, her phone in her left. Every two steps, her bare feet make a chant in her mind, “call back, call back, call back.”
She has a call back for a network television show; a guest spot on a network television show. And not a dead hooker either; she has lines!
Just wait until she sees his face, Penny thinks as she rounds the third floor landing and pockets her phone. She is only twenty-six and with a call back to a television show! Oh, just wait, Sheldon! Just you wait until you hear about this!
Penny makes it to 4A out of breath and with a stitch in her side that she grabs with her right hand as she tries to twist the doorknob with her left and nearly slams her body into their door. Locked!
She stands staring at her neighbors’ door while her breath sticks in her throat. Sheldon has been gone for months now. She is so excited - she wants to share this with him, tell him she is going to do this, prove herself to him, again.
Penny has the urge to kick the door to 4A in frustration. How can he have left them - her, without hardly a word? All the emotion; her excitement, and anger at his continued absence suddenly overwhelm her and all she can do is press a hot cheek against their cold door.
“Where are you?” Penny speaks softly to the door, as if it could tell her the answer.
Sheldon is finding it difficult to not touch anything per the Doctor’s warning. He is struggling between knowing too much, or not knowing enough.
Sheldon always prefers to know too much.
He is poking around the living room, looking at photographs (Here is a picture of a tired but smiling Penny holding an infant in a hospital room) and another of his mother with a toddler on her lap (His mother looks slightly older, but obviously thrilled to be holding the child, who is drooling, on her lap).
Sheldon sees, then picks up a photograph of this child; in a suit with a certificate in his hands (it is hard to read the certificate, but Sheldon feels a surge of pride at what looks to be an award of some sort), when he hears the door open. Expecting the Doctor, he flushes from guilt and puts the photo back.
It is not the Doctor who has opened the door - he sees a flash of blonde hair and he moves quickly to conceal his presence beside the ‘fridge in the kitchen. He hears a soft laugh that is reminiscent of his own timeline’s Penny.
Sheldon senses his predicament, and silently prays to his mother’s god that she doesn’t see him, when he next realizes just how screwed he is.
He hears his own voice following hers.
The Doctor enters the Tardis, and he can hear the “phone” ringing still. He knows only Rose would be using her cell phone that is connected to the Tardis’s communication system, and he finds himself anxious to talk to her.
And he is eager. Does that make him selfish?
He picks up the headset, “Rose?”
“Doctor!” She all but shouts this on the other end - through time and space. He feels both his hearts jump a little, though, at the sound of her voice.
“Rose!” The Doctor smiles widely even though she can’t see him, “It’s good to hear your voice. Everything okay then?”
“As okay as it can be.” Rose chides, “You’ve been gone a long time.”
“Rose…” The Doctor wants to explain, but she interrupts.
“You said you’d be right back. You said.” Rose’s voice is tight and mixed with anger.
The Doctor hears the tone of her voice, “And I will be, soon. We’ve been - exploring. Sheldon has chosen some interesting people to visit…”
“So, he’s an interesting companion then, is he?” The resentment in her voice is clear this time.
“Well, yes, but he’s not you, Rose.” The Doctor tries to sound reassuring; it isn’t an emotion he emulates well, “You’ll be my companion again soon. I miss your - unique take on a situation.”
“Yeah, well, I’m in a unique situation.” Rose says, “I’m the one who’s here in California with his friends, who have been great, but they want to know where Sheldon is, when he’s coming back, especially Penny. Is there something going on with them? Are they an item?”
The Doctor avoids her question. “You’re still in California? You didn’t go home to see your mum?”
“I was waiting for you!” Rose sounds exasperated, even from so far away.
“I promised I’d be back, and I will. Go see Jackie.” The Doctor says, “I promised her I’d bring you back from time to time. So keep that promise for me, and I’ll keep yours.”
“What am I to tell Penny and the others?”
“Nothing, Rose.” The Doctor warns, “I suppose you can tell them he’s safe and he will be back, but no more.”
Rose sighs, “It won’t be easy but, yeah, I’ll be vague.”
“Thank you Rose. Go visit your Mum, and take care of yourself until I come back.”
“It’ll be soon, yeah?”
“Yes Rose, soon.”
He places the headset down easily, breaking the connection between time and space, and begins turning some dials lazily, to prepare the Tardis.
He misses Rose, quite a lot. But he’d better go see what Sheldon is up to. With Rose as companion, she takes care of him and watches his back. With Sheldon, the Doctor feels like he’s the one doing the caretaking.
Sheldon is like a statue, squeezed in between the refrigerator and the kitchen wall adjacent to the living room. He keeps his breath shallow, as he listens to future Penny and himself.
Penny is giggling again, and Sheldon’s voice is muffled, “Aren’t you going to be in trouble with your director by leaving the set?”
“Hmmm, aren’t you going to be in trouble for leaving your class for your TA?” Penny’s voice is teasing.
“Indeed.” Their words are muffled. By the ‘fridge, Sheldon is intrigued by what they are doing. Did they bring home their lunch? Is that why their voices are muted?
“It’ll be worth it,” Penny has her teasing voice again, “We hardly get any time alone.”
“You are right, of course,” Sheldon’s voice is low, “I will pick up Stephen later, while you return to the set to minimize your director’s ire.”
“Deal. Now come’ ere you.” There is a strange silence that Sheldon can’t quite figure out. Not lunch then?
Sheldon then starts to clue in when he can make out strange breathing patterns, and the sound of zippers.
Good Lord. They are eschewing work to come home and engage in coitus! And he’s stuck for the duration. He begins to scour the room in front of him for an escape route.
Seeing none in the general area (there must be a back door, right?), Sheldon begins to weigh his options, while in the other room, he can hear Penny’s pleas to “hurry up and get those shirts off” and Sheldon’s firm, “you first.”
Sheldon, squeezed so close to the refrigerator should be cold, yet he can feel a drip of sweat forming at the nape of his neck. Now he has the thought of Penny taking off her shirt…oh drat! He really needs to get out of here.
Yet, there are more soft Penny giggles, and more heavy breathing, and then, deep moans.
Sheldon has got to get out of here, now! He eases himself out of his hiding spot, and intends to go down the hall in search of a back door, when his curiosity takes over and he peers around the kitchen wall.
The hero always peeks, even if he’s not feeling particularly heroic at the moment. What he sees makes his heart begin to race, and the sweat at the nape of his neck drip down his back.
Penny is on the couch, writhing, obviously on top of her husband. From Sheldon’s viewpoint, he can only see her with eyes closed, back arched, her breasts accentuated.
She is beautiful.
Sheldon experiences the familiar feeling of desire that begins to burn his extremities. He remembers last time he felt this way; of his eyes closed, and the feel of her breast in his hand. His mouth is dry, and he nervously licks his lips, imagining her breast…
Almost as soon as he has the thought, he sees the back of his own head as (her) Sheldon raises his head to take that very breast he has held before into his mouth.
In a surreal moment, she moans his name, “Oh, Sheldon.”
It takes all of Sheldon’s self-control to leave the scene of this Penny (his Penny) to again try to leave their (his) home undetected. He walks quietly through the kitchen while putting the back of his hand against his forehead to try and settle his thoughts.
And his arousal. He repeats in his mind; kolinahr, kolinahr, kolinahr. It almost works.
Sheldon slips down the hall, passing open doors to the bedrooms as he does. The first is obviously his work room; there are whiteboards everywhere, and Sheldon is seriously considering looking, but he’s tempted fate once too often today.
The next room, a child’s, has action figures lining shelves and Sheldon smiles at the familiarity. The last room, the master, is open as well and Sheldon has to force himself to resist this urge to enter.
Past the bedrooms, he can see a laundry room, which also has a door to the garage - success! This is where the Tardis is currently parked.
Sheldon’s hand is shaking slightly on the doorknob, as he can hear Penny’s keen even this far back in the small house.
Finally out into the garage, he nearly bumps into the Doctor, who was just out of the door of the Tardis, “Sheldon, I was just about to come looking for you. You didn’t see this Penny and Sheldon did you? I heard cars outside.”
The reddened cheeks on Sheldon’s face betray him.
“Sheldon,” The Doctor’s voice is firm, “you know about time paradoxes. Did they see you?
“No. They were otherwise - engaged.”
The Doctor pulls him by a quivering arm into the Tardis, before he can get into any other trouble. Maybe he is like Rose.
Penny is heading to the kitchen to drop off an order, while reciting her lines to prepare for her call back in her head. She picks up her order, and serves the family, imagining them hers as she has to tell them of their child’s murder.
She doesn’t receive a lot of tips this shift, but she is wrapping her mind around the character she needs to bring to life.
It’s only when she goes to take the order of a table of one that she comes back to the present, as she sees Rose sitting there.
It’s Wednesday, so she is over the hump of this week’s feeling of emptiness about The Cheesecake Factory’s and her most irritating Tuesday night customer.
She approaches her, “Rose, what brings you to my job? Cheesecake?” Penny teases.
“Sure,” Rose agrees, “but I’m really here to talk to you about Sheldon.”
Penny drops her pencil and leaves it there; so much for being over the hump. She plops down into the seat opposite her. “What?” Penny gapes, “Is he back? Do you know where he is?” Penny can see the look on Rose’s face; she has known her long enough to know she knows something.
“My friend left me a message,” Rose begins, noting Penny is leaning closer to her, “and he said that he and Sheldon are both fine, and will be returning soon.”
Penny balks at the vagueness of her reply, “Define soon.”
“I can’t Penny. I am so sorry.” Rose is painfully aware of the pain that Doctor Cooper’s absence is causing her friend, even if she tries to hide it. Rose feels this pain too, missing the Doctor. “I just know that my friend promised they’ll be back, and I trust him.”
Penny stands abruptly, and bends to retrieve her pencil, “Well I don’t. And if your friend managed to leave you a message,” Penny’s face is blank now, “Why didn’t Sheldon leave one for me?”
At that, Penny turns and continues taking orders. She feels that ache in her chest again, and will use it - the ache that her character will feel at her sister’s murder…. “Would you like coffee with that?” Penny says and she thinks of revenge.
Rose sits for a minute, watching her, and then gets up to leave. She doesn’t feel like having cheesecake any longer.
Chapter 7: Destination
Tardis, Date Unknown
Sheldon is staring moodily out the Tardis door, barely registering the supernovas and constellations passing him.
The Doctor is silent as well. He mans the controls of the Tardis, but he is secretly watching his silent brooding companion
"Sod it," the Doctor mutters under his breath. If he wanted to travel in silence, he wouldn't have developed the habit of selecting companions. One thing about Sheldon; he was usually as verbose as Rose.
The Doctor sighs. He has to get back to her. He promised. But, there is no way he can return Sheldon in the state he is currently in.
"Is there something on your mind, Dr. Cooper?" The Doctor calls out cheerily.
He blushes, too shy to tell the Doctor that he was using the power of his eidetic memory "for sin,” as his mother would say. Sheldon was not seeing the wonders of the universe before him, but Penny's arching back and parted lips as she moved her body with his. Except it wasn't his, or it was, but in a future that will happen. Lord knows when and Sheldon certainly can't figure out how.
"Doctor," Sheldon speaks so suddenly the Doctor startles. "Do you ever think about Rose?"
"I think about Rose all the time," the Doctor says quickly.
"No, that is not what I meant;” Sheldon turns from the door. “I meant do you ever think about Rose."
The Doctor swallows as he meets Sheldon's gaze.
"Sheldon," The Doctor begins, "Traveling through space and time can be very taxing on humans despite..."
"Why are you not answering my question, Doctor?" His brows rise slightly.
"Because this journey is about you; what you want to see and, frankly, need to see." The Doctor slips on his glasses if only to keep his hands busy.
"I respectfully disagree." Sheldon crosses his arms over his chest. "As I recall, you were far too eager to leave Rose that night. You were in my apartment for less than an hour, before you suddenly proposed that I come with you and Rose stay instead. Now, I am no expert on relationships and neither are my friends, but I have witnessed enough of their tribulations and outright failures to recognize a classic avoidance maneuver when I see one."
The Doctor changes the subject. He squints at the screens in front of him, "Where to next, Dr. Cooper? Back to see Sir Isaac? The Doctor spins a dial, "I know!” The Doctor smiles at him, “Nicola Tesla! He must be some kind of kindred spirit, huh Sheldon?"
"I would prefer," Sheldon's voice is firm, ignoring him, "To go to any point in time in which you answer my question. What exactly is Rose to you and why are you so reluctant to name it?"
The Doctor's shoulders slump. He drums his fingers on the Tardis control panel. “I can’t answer that question, Sheldon.” The Doctor’s says softly.
“Why on Earth not? It is perfectly logical,” Sheldon intones.
“I said I can’t!” The Doctor practically shouts, his eyes opening wide with his anger. Sheldon draws back and the Doctor takes a deep breath. He shouldn’t have yelled. He should have kept his temper in check - something Rose always helped him to do. His fists clench and unclench. If her absence is affecting him this much, he can only imagine how she is faring without him.
Rose takes out her cell that he had fiddled with on their first adventure, and punches in the Tardis number again.
She hesitates, her thumb on “send.”
What really will she accomplish by calling him again? Tell him to come back? She’s done that. Tell him she missed him? Rose has done that too.
Rose considers Penny and her absent friend. Penny is alternatively sad and angry at errant Sheldon. Rose finally can fully empathize. That first adventure, the Doctor brought her home, and she’d been gone a year! What if he is gone that long, or longer?
Rose is a bit tired of being the one who waits.
She takes her thumb off the send button, and instead hits the speed dial number for Mickey. He answers on the first ring, “Hey Mickey.”
“Rose! Rose, your Mum is worried sick! You haven’ called ‘er in months. Or,” Mickey’s voice drops, “me.”
“Mickey,” Rose begins, hesitantly, “you know wha’ I’ve been doin’”
“Yeah, waitin’ on the Doctor, as usual,” Mickey accuses. “When’re you goin’ to get it through your head tha’ he isn’t comin’ back?”
“Mickey…” Rose begins, but she can feel her resolve weakening.
All Mickey replies in a voice full of emotion is, “Rose.”
She puts the phone against her head and sighs. Rose thinks it might just be time to go home.
Tardis, Date Unknown
Sheldon and the Doctor are pacing one after the other. Sheldon can’t understand the Doctor's reticence at his suggestion. It’s only another scientist, except this one is from his youth.
"Sheldon, we've seen Einstein. We discovered the sisters of the Succubae and documented their attempts at keeping the timeline." The Doctor stops pacing, and Sheldon nearly runs into him. "We've been with Hawking and discovered Doctor Eloisa, the Raxacoricofallapatorian, who will help extend his life to how you know him in your timeline."
"Yes, we did those things because I wanted to meet my inspirations for my work."
"Right, but now you want to go into your own past, you're own experiences with an advisor..."
"Who changed my life, my research, my focus…?”
“Sheldon,” the Doctor begins, “We have been getting close, too close, to your own timeline. The danger is real. Once, I took Rose back to see her father, before he died and she got emotional. She stepped in and saved her father. To say it did not go well is an understatement. ”
“In the time you’ve known me, have you seen me get overly emotional? I’ll be careful,” Sheldon begins to pace a little again; the Doctor is still unaware how close he came to breaking that rule. "But I need to know why. I need to know her motivations." He stops and looks a little like a lost boy, "I need to know why she was attracted to me."
Sheldon sighs, his lips tight, but he manages, “It is one thing, as you say, to “fancy” Penny, it is quite another to understand why she could possibly...”
“Fancy you?” The Doctor realizes what Sheldon is asking. "Okay Sheldon, right. If that's what you need, then off we go!"
Sheldon smiles, his nose crinkling with the effort, "Thank you.”
The Doctor turns his dials, and wonders at Rose considering Sheldon a replacement companion. Really, the Doctor has been Sheldon’s for almost their whole time together. It actually gives the Doctor a sense of accomplishment and pride, improving Doctor Cooper’s perspective as he has.
Another lever, and a twist of another, and the Tardis has a destination set.
They make it to back Germany, at a different time and place, and Sheldon instantly knows where he is. He circles around the university, and begins to head to one of the newer buildings at Heidelberg.
"I spent most of my year here," Sheldon reminisces, “After six weeks, my mother left. I was alone so I spent the remainder of my time here, by myself, at the dorm.
The Doctor looks at Sheldon anew, "You were only...?"
"Fifteen. Well, I turned sixteen here."
Sheldon shrugs, agrees silently, but says, “It was my first teaching position, after receiving my first doctorate.” They stroll past the lawn filled with students as Sheldon continues, “I was under the advisement of Doctor Jones.”
“And this is who we are here to see?”
“Yes,” Sheldon says, entering the building where he taught for a year. “She was on loan from Oxford when she married here in Germany, and never left.”
The Doctor finds himself walking to keep up with Sheldon, who has turned down a hall and stops abruptly.
Standing in front of them, about to enter the lecture hall, is a familiar, tall, skinny teenager.
Penny is sitting in the same room she sat in the first time around, but the only difference is that instead of forty blondes all vying for the same role, now there are only seven. She tries to remember how to breathe, as one at a time; the potential actresses are called in.
Then it is her turn and as she rises from her seat, she feels disconnected from herself. She isn’t Penny: waitress, friend and community college drop out. Now, she is Joanne, sister of a murder victim who demands and attempts vigilante justice, and is nearly killed herself.
She enters the room, and speaks the dialogue with the casting agent and in front of the director.
Penny finds herself directed to have a seat outside again, hardly remembering how she got back into the waiting room.
It is the director herself who comes out to speak to Penny, whose head spins with the news.
She has the part.
Filming starts in January, and the contract will be forwarded to her agent. Could Penny let her know who to contact and where to send it?
Penny nods, thinking she needs a stand-in agent quick. Her mind quickly goes to Sheldon - of course he’d be perfect with the contract! She feels the quick flash of anger at his continued absence, but pushes it out of her mind and continues down the list of her boys, Leonard, Howard and Raj. Out of them, Howard has the sleaze factor that Hollywood needs. Even a married man, he is still Howard - which is really all she needs to say about him, because Bernadette is a friend. Raj would have to be drunk to speak to the female director and Leonard would probably get too flustered around the attractive woman, Leslie or no Leslie.
So, Howard it is.
Penny gives the director Howard’s information, and dances out of the room while pulling her cell out and punching in the Wolowitz’s number.
It’s time to call in a favor.
They watch as he enters the hall, unaware that he is being watched - especially by an older version of himself. Sheldon knows he can only interact with those who wouldn’t recognize him. He really doesn’t look too much different from when he was here; except for the clear skin and facial hair. He might have gained a few pounds since he was sixteen as well, but not many.
“So you want me to…” The Doctor begins.
“Ascertain why Doctor Constance Jones was so insistent on pursuing me, romantically.”
“Romantically?” The Doctor’s grin is tight, “or sexually?”
“Are they mutually exclusive?”
The Doctor shakes his head, “Fine.” He begins to enter Doctor Jones’s lecture hall, “I’ll let you know what I find out.” The Doctor opens the door, and clearly sees a tall, thin teenage Sheldon, with his older, yet attractive advisor. He looks back at Sheldon, who gives a nod as the Doctor enters, leaving the door ajar so that Sheldon may listen to his line of questioning.
The Doctor smiles his most engaging smile, while bringing out his leather card holder, “Doctor John Smith, from Oxford University.” He snaps the psychic paper holder closed.
“It’s lovely to meet someone from Oxford,” she holds out her hand, “Doctor Constance Jones.” The Doctor shakes it, “And this,” she pulls on Sheldon’s hand, and brings him close enough to her to drape an arm around him, “is Doctor Sheldon Cooper.”
The Doctor knows she expects him to be impressed, so he is, “Doctor Cooper - very impressive in one so young. How old are you?”
“Sixteen.” Sheldon’s Texan twang is soft, but still evident.
Doctor Jones’s arm is still around Sheldon’s shoulder, although he looks uncomfortable with the contact, folding his back in an awkward position. “What brings you to Heidelberg, Doctor Smith?”
“Of course, Oxford University is not the same without your research, Doctor Jones, but there is interest in the young Doctor Cooper there.”
Sheldon extracts himself from his advisor’s embrace, “Really? Oxford University wants me?” His twang is more present when excited, “I am scheduled to return to Texas in a few weeks, but England would allow me to be further away!”
“Sheldon, darling, I thought you wanted to stay here to begin your research.” Doctor Jones is practically pouting. She reaches for his arm, “We discussed this.”
“I know, but I have learned all I can here and it…it’s time for me to begin my research for my next doctorate.” Sheldon says quietly to her.
“Sheldon, why don’t you finish your lecture for your next class, I would like to speak to Doctor Smith alone for a minute.”
Sheldon shrugs, and shuffles his papers on the lectern.
Doctor Jones grabs the Doctor by his elbow, and moves towards the door, “Listen,” she hisses, “I don’t know who exactly you are, but Sheldon’s…Doctor Cooper’s plan is to stay here and begin his research.”
The Doctor jerks his elbow back, “You seem very adamant about that,” the Doctor feels suspicion crawling up his neck, so he, as secretively as he can, pulls out his sonic screwdriver slightly from his jacket and points it her way.
Nothing. Huh, she is human after all. The Doctor is surprised slightly; she is only a lonely woman attaching herself to a teenage boy; albeit with an exceptional mind.
“Sheldon is very special,” her stern demeanor drops a level, “and I don’t think it’s in his best interest to leave.”
“His best interest,” the Doctor catches her eye, “or yours?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” the professor hedges, and looks away.
“Yes you do,” the Doctor accuses, “He’s a sixteen year old boy…”
“With a mind that is beyond any adult I’ve ever known!” Doctor Jones exclaims, “Of course I want him to stay at Heidelberg. The university needs him.”
The Doctor rises, assured of his diagnosis of the situation, “So too do you,” he says softly, and just as quietly, he leaves.
Penny arrives at their small house in Brentwood and rings the doorbell. Inside, she hears:
Howard yelling, “Bernadette! I think someone’s at the door!”
“So answer it! I’m in my lab working, and you don’t want what I have in my petri dish to get loose in California, do you?” Bernadette yells back, as loudly as Bernadette can, that is.
“Fine! But I really wish you wouldn’t bring deadly viruses home from work!” Small footsteps are coming closer to the front door.
“Just get the door, Howard!”
“I am!” Howard swings open the door and greets her, “Penny, the actress de jour. How may I assist you?” Howard bows slightly, and gestures for her to come in and she does, although she has a sneaking suspicion Howard is watching her ass as she passes him.
Creepy Hollywood type.
“Penny!” Bernadette is coming up from the basement and opens her arms wide towards Penny, as she takes a hesitant step back.
Bernadette giggles, “Don’t worry, I washed my hands.”
Penny allows herself to be hugged by the smaller woman. She’s been missing her at The Cheesecake Factory, and there were few girls’ nights since Bernadette’s Hen Night. “It’s good to see you too.”
Bernadette leads Penny to the kitchenette table, “Howard, get our guest something to drink,” she chides her husband, “Penny?”
“Oh, just a Diet Coke for me, thanks,” Penny smiles and accepts the glass from Howard.
“We are so excited for you Penny! How wonderful - a role on a real television show!” Bernadette’s voice rises to almost a squeak by the end of her sentence.
“Yeah, the papers were delivered yesterday,” Howard goes to fish through the pile of mail on the counter, “Here they are. So what do I need to do?” He sits beside his wife, across from Penny.
“All you have to do is sign, as my agent.” Penny explains, opening the manila envelope, and her hand shakes a little as her contract slides out.
Her contract. Penny feels slightly giddy.
“Great. And as your agent, what is my cut?”
Penny glares at him.
“I kid, I kid.” Howard has his hands in front of him in a defensive posture. He’s had his nose punched once too often by her not to be wary.
“And you need to pose as my agent any time the studio needs to call.” Penny signs her contract, and then turns it around for Howard to sign.
“Great. Which accent should I use? Farsi? Mandarin? Russian?”
“Just be yourself Howard. You’ll sound like every agent out there.”
Howard scowls while his wife and Penny laugh.
Sheldon watches and hears the exchange between the Doctor and Doctor Jones. He remembers how she wanted him to stay and how he had initially agreed. He usually was easily influenced by, what he considered, a motherly woman.
What he’s learned along the way, he knows that Constance Jones was, as Penny would say, “hot” for him. He still isn’t sure, or how he, in hindsight, could recognize that.
As he is reflecting upon the scene in front of him, he hears a sound from behind, and he turns and sees Constance’s step-daughter, who was his secret crush while at Heidelberg. Sheldon spent too much of his time reviewing his interactions with her some evenings rather than focusing on his lecture for the following day.
Will she recognize him?
She lets out a deep sigh, as she peers in the door from opposite him.
Sheldon turns slightly, and she looks up to him, and jumps a little. “I am sorry; I didn’t mean to startle you.” He knows she may recognize him, but he asks anyway, “I’m…George. And you are?”
“And how do you know Doctor Jones?” He doesn’t know exactly why he wants to carry on this conversation with her, except he remembers how he used to not be able to talk to her. Sheldon bites his tongue to keep in the thought, which apparently, he was attracted to blonde, Germanic girls and they used to make him mute like Raj.
“She’s my step mother, but it’s him I wish I could speak with.” She is, for want of a better word, swooning over his teenaged self.
“Really? You like that boy?” Sheldon points a long finger, well, at himself. He’s seen enough different versions of himself, and Penny for that matter, for it not to faze him any longer. A time traveler’s curse, he supposes.
“Yeah…he never notices me though. I’m not smart like my step-mom. I take after my dad. He was on the Olympic swim team for Germany when she met him.”
“I remember…” Sheldon starts, but catches himself.
“You remember what?”
“I mean,” Sheldon tries to course correct, “I remember about your father on the Olympic team.”
“He was memorable. He took the bronze his first Olympics.”
He is instantly sorry for her as he remembers, “When did he pass away?”
“Last year. Constance, well, she’s been attached to Sheldon ever since.” Ada sighs deeply again.
“I am certain Sheldon doesn’t feel the same way,” he says quietly, and realizes he is giving himself away.
Ada focuses her glance from teenaged Sheldon to him, “You look a lot like him, actually.”
“Ah, yes…uh…distant relative.” He smiles slightly and backs away, “pleasure to meet you.”
Sheldon scoots down the hall to wait for the Doctor by the Tardis.
Chapter 8: Realization
Rose goes to England for Christmas and she invites Penny along, “Jackie, my Mum, she’s a bit of a nutter, but I love her. She’s always looking out for me, yeah know?”
Penny is tempted. Rose’s family does sound like loads of fun. “You are coming back though, aren’t you?”
Rose evades Penny’s eyes, and gives a non-committal shrug.
“You’d better, or I’ll come there and drag you back!” Penny laughs.
But, she does stay in California. She wants to review and review again her lines. However few they are, she is going to rock them. She also wants, really, to stay in Pasadena rather than England or even Nebraska on the off chance...
It isn’t like he celebrates Christmas anyway. Or Saturnalia. Or anything else for that matter.
Sheldon has been gone for months now. He most likely is never coming back, despite what Rose says.
Still, she puts Sir Isaac Newton on the Christmas tree she makes Leonard drag up to her apartment. He is spending Christmas with Leslie at his father’s house in New Jersey. He will be forced to introduce her to his mother, but Leslie can handle his mother, of that she is sure. So 4A is empty, and a small, but pretty tree fills out her small apartment; which besides her is empty as well.
She has presents under it. There is one for Leonard, (a sweater, but plain this time) who can open it when he comes back for New Year’s, and she even gets Leslie a bottle of cheap (snort) wine.
There is also a present with Sheldon’s name on the tag. Just to piss him off, even if he isn’t there.(“Reciprocity, Penny. You’ve not given me a gift; you’ve given me an obligation”). It is the stash of comics that Stuart has been putting aside for Sheldon. Penny saved up and she paid the bill. She has already wrapped them up, neatly, to preserve them in their individual plastic, just the way he likes it.
She wonders how long this package may stay under her tree.
Bernadette and Howard are stopping by Christmas Eve, and bringing Raj, so there is that to look forward to. Amy has promised to Skype as well, so they can all be together for a night.
As together as they can be, anyway.
Tardis, Date Unknown
The Doctor rattles off their recent accomplishments, “Your mind and youth is what attracted your professor. Ada was attracted to you as a teenage crush.”
“That seems a likely summary of what we’ve seen.” Sheldon is pacing in front of the jump seat where the Doctor is lounging, long legs spread out and his fingers steeples across his stomach in thought.
“And yet you still are…unsettled.”
Sheldon sighs deeply and sits beside the Doctor, stretching out his own legs as he slumps, shoulders less rigid, “Yes. I don’t know what bothers me more, this feeling of needing something, or not knowing how to express it adroitly.”
“You’re a genius, right?” The Doctor looks sideways at him.
“Of course!” Sheldon exclaims as he straightens his posture, “You know that.”
“And you still haven’t figured out how Penny fits into your life?” The Doctor grins.
“Have you figured out how Rose does in yours?” Sheldon retorts.
The Doctor looks back down to his hands, “This is your journey, not mine.” He repeats.
“Are you certain about that?” Sheldon’s lips curl slightly, “At first, this whole Doctor/companion dynamic seemed rather one sided, but I believe,” he looks directly at the Doctor, “that your companions tend to assist you as well.”
“How have you assisted me?” the Doctor questions him.
“I believe my role has been to highlight the void that leaving Rose behind has caused you.” Sheldon tilts his head back, then adds, “that, and allow you to focus on my life rather than your own.”
“Right! Your life,” the Doctor evades, “So then, what’s next, Sheldon?” He claps his hands together and jumps up to touch his controls, “You need to see Penny, right?”
“That would be the next logical step.” Sheldon admits, and joins the Doctor to play with the levers on the Tardis’s panel.
“So then, the Doctor begins preparing the Tardis to go, “where and when to?”
There is a long pause and then, “Time,” Sheldon begins, “represented by the mathematical model of a Mobius strip, would suggest that while you and I travel counter-clockwise on the strip, Penny and Rose are traveling clockwise.” Sheldon’s fingers draw his strip in the space in front of him; his invisible whiteboard. “However, if one draws a line down the strip, it will meet on the other side.” Sheldon nods with a decision: “The Cheesecake Factory again, but since I’ve been away. Not in my past, but today.
The Doctor stops fiddling with his dials, “Sheldon…”
Sheldon interrupts, “Observation only, Doctor. I fully understand the consequences, but…” his voice trails off, “I just want to see her.” Sheldon erases his imaginary whiteboard.
Against his better judgment, but strangely unable to say no to him, any more than he could do Rose, the Doctor spins the dial and shouts directions to Sheldon about which levers to pull.
As before, on their last visit to The Cheesecake Factory, Sheldon and the Doctor step out of the Tardis, that is parked beside the dumpster. Last time, Sheldon nearly passed out being that close to garbage. This time, he begins to move quickly around it. His hands are clammy, but he is not feeling faint.
And just as Sheldon turns the corner of the dumpster, however, he bumps into the Doctor, who pulls his arm in a vice grip. Before he can complain, loudly, at the rough treatment, Sheldon hears what made the Doctor behave the way he did.
Penny has run out the back door, her phone in her hand.
The Doctor has forced Sheldon into a crouch in between the Tardis and the dumpster. Swallowing down his disgust, Sheldon focuses on Penny.
“God! Wait ‘till Sheldon gets this!” Penny chirps, fingers flying on her phone.
Sheldon’s stomach clenches at the sound of his name on her lips. His eyes dart back to the Doctor, whose hand is still on Sheldon’s bicep. His other is held up to his mouth in the “be quiet” gesture.
Penny‘s voice is angry and fierce. Sheldon recognizes this tone of voice. She uses it often when she is frustrated with him, like their last Friday together. The sound of her voice causes various responses in him: fear, admiration, frustration, attraction and affection. These feelings have always been there, but Sheldon can now name them. In short, Penny has always both challenged and exasperated him. It is an intoxicating dichotomy.
Penny has turned to face the dumpster where he and the Doctor are crouching. Sheldon is slightly affronted at her questioning his intelligence, although he knows she’s angry, no doubt, at his extended absence. He feels the vibration of her kick on the dumpster and he cringes. That had to hurt.
It did. “Son of a bitch!” Penny cries. She jumps a bit on one foot before testing her injured once again, limping slightly.
Her phone is still in her hand, and she speaks while she texts: “Leonard. Audition soon for Criminal Minds! Set your DVR ha ha - Penny”
Sheldon gives the Doctor a pointed look, and whispers, “See? Penny minus Sheldon is Penny plus Leonard.” The Doctor pulls his arm harder to quiet him, and Sheldon gives him a glare. There will be more bruising. Sheldon can feel them forming.
Penny is hopping on her good foot with excitement and Sheldon can again admit how attractive she is when she smiles. Obviously, her happiness at the chance of a television acting role makes what she is experiencing comparable to the euphoric feeling he has when he solves an equation. Huh.
She is texting again, aloud: “Rose and Bernadette: My place tonight. I will bring vodka if you bring orange and cranberry juice!”
This time, the Doctor’s head snaps up at Rose’s name. Sheldon whispers, “I surmise that Penny and Rose became friends. Penny often uses alcohol to promote friendship,” he pauses, “Also, when she is upset from an emotional disappointment usually involving a romantic interest.”
Penny has limped back into The Cheesecake Factory, letting the door shut with a loud bang. Sheldon and the Doctor rise. The Doctor opens the Tardis door, “I don’t suppose you want to eat lunch here now?”
Sheldon follows him inside, “No.” He already got what he came for; to see Penny. Now he only needs to process exactly what he heard.
And what exactly his feelings are in relation to her.
Tardis, Date Unknown
Sheldon is pacing again. He does one circle around the circumference of the Tardis control panels, and then sits in the jump seat. He repeats the process three times before the Doctor finally asks, “Something bothering you, Sheldon?”
“I understand that Penny regrets my absence,” Sheldon squirms on the jump seat, wanting to start the process again, but he remains rooted to his spot. “She shows this, which is typical Penny behavior, with anger and frustration towards me.”
“Yes,” the Doctor says, to see where Sheldon is going with this, “And?”
“And this understanding that Penny “misses” me doesn’t have a deeper meaning than that. Her life has certainly been disrupted by my absence. I am an important part of her life. From Friday evenings and Saturday laundry – she probably has more pink and grey articles of clothing without my supervision. But, I still don’t know,” Sheldon hesitates, “why.”
“Why?” The Doctor prods.
Sheldon rises from the jump seat and begins to pace again, “Why on Earth would Penny want to marry me? She has never once demonstrated any type of romantic or sexual interest in me at any time.”
“Are you sure?” The Doctor reaches across his controls to stop Sheldon from pacing by placing a hand on his shoulder. Sheldon doesn’t flinch and he stops in his tracks. The Doctor can see in Sheldon’s eyes that he has something, somewhere in mind.
“There was this one time, two months before I left. She did something very odd while we were going up the stairs one Friday evening.”
The Doctor spins the Tardis’s dials and gives Sheldon an impish grin, “I don’t suppose you remember what date?”
Sheldon gives the Doctor his best look of derision and taps his head, “Eidetic memory,” he moves to touch a lever, “I remember taking my first steps.” Sheldon looks wistful, as he pulls the levers he is instructed to, “my first shoes were Superman blue.”
The Tardis is ready and good to go.
The Tardis is parked in the garage, in a recess behind Mrs. Vartabedian’s Taurus where the Doctor and Sheldon wait. Within a minute, Penny’s Volkswagen pulls into her spot. Sheldon grins and taps his head again from behind the Taurus, as they watch Penny and him leave her car with their Chinese.
The Doctor and Sheldon follow. Opening the garage door after Penny and he have closed it, Sheldon looks back to the Doctor, “You should probably follow me this time,” he whispers, “I know the stairs and at which corners to hide.”
“What precisely are we looking for?” The Doctor whispers back as they start on the first set of stairs.
“By the time we reach the third floor landing, Penny will stop me. She enters my personal space, touches me and has an expression on her face that I was unfamiliar with. It was because I was uncertain of the situation that I hastened upstairs.”
They both listen as Penny and he walk up the stairs in front of them:
“I’m serious! There is your type of “Sci-Fi” time travel in the “Time Traveler’s Wife.” I mean, it’s in the title!” Penny says and her voice is light and teasing.
Sheldon, beside the Doctor, whispers, “I also recognize this tone of her voice. She often teases to achieve a certain reaction from me. Often, I know which reaction she wants, so I withhold it in order to subvert her goals for my amusement. In other instances, I am not assured of exactly what she wants.”
He hears his voice respond to her, “That’s what you said about “The Lake House.” They turn a corner, and the Doctor and Sheldon follow them, a corner behind, and they hear him continue, “And that movie was a travesty, not worthy of the name.”
Penny asks, “What name?”
“Movie,” Sheldon replies deadpan.
Penny laughs and flat against the wall, behind a flight of stairs from them, Sheldon’s throat tightens. He takes a shaky breath through his realization about how much he misses her. Such a simple thing, Penny laughing - she does it all the time - but he took it for granted. Until now, Sheldon didn’t realize the significance of its absence.
Sheldon’s world has been far too quiet since he’s been away.
The Doctor motions with his head to follow them up another set of stairs, to the third landing. Here is what Sheldon came to find out. Penny has stopped him, holding his shoulder. The Doctor and Sheldon peer around the corner to watch the scene unfold.
Penny is looking at him with that indiscernible expression. She is still holding his shoulder when her face tilts up, and Penny begins to stretch to her tip-toes.
The Doctor digs an elbow into his ribs, “She’s going to snog you!” His grin is wide and toothy.
“What, may I ask, is snogging?” Sheldon brows are knit together.
“Kissing, Sheldon. She was going to kiss you.” The Doctor says, with just a little irritation.
Sheldon’s eyes widen, “Kiss me?” He peeks further around the corner and with Penny’s face closer to his than it had been, he could only surmise that the Doctor was correct.
He also watches with his jaw slackened as his own head tilts closer to hers. Sheldon remembers, thinking vaguely at the time that he could smell her shampoo more than the Chinese in his hands. From his hiding spot, Sheldon sees his eyes flutter close. Beside him the Doctor jostles his elbow. In the stairwell, Penny's lips are inches away when Sheldon's eyes fly open in panic. Sheldon watches himself bolt up the final set of stairs, while Penny sighs and jogs after him.
Tardis, Date Unknown
Sheldon is not pacing this time. He isn’t chattering on or trying to figure out the internal workings of the Tardis.
Sheldon is quiet, sitting with a straight back, without squirming, on the jump seat. His eyes are unfocused and the Doctor has to say his name twice before he responds, “Yes?”
“You appear to be deep in thought. Care to share?”
“I,” Sheldon begins, clears his throat and starts again, “When I have a problem to solve at work, I use my whiteboard. However, when I have a problem to solve in my social interactions with my friends…” Sheldon looks up at the Doctor, “with Penny, I use my journal.”
The Doctor sees Sheldon’s troubled expression, so asks, “And this is a problem because…?”
“It is a problem because my journal is currently located on my bedside table in Pasadena.”
“You forgot your journal?”
“It isn’t something I normally pack in an emergency bag.” Sheldon responds, “However…”
“Please don’t tell me you are suggesting…” the Doctor sighs, because he realizes that is exactly what Sheldon is suggesting.
“I can get us there at such a time when Leonard is assuredly not home. He is part of a string quartet that meets on Friday evenings, which, of course, is Penny’s and my evening to have dinner and watch a movie but, obviously, without me there she will have found another activity to fill that time.”
The Doctor is resigned, “All right, give me a date. But I’m parking the Tardis in the garage again…just in case.”
Sheldon follows him to the controls, and the Doctor even allows him to spin one, once.
They climb the stairs, again, but there is no one in sight. Sheldon looks back at the Doctor, “I believe it’s late here, so we should be able to enter my apartment and leave unnoticed.”
At the door to 4A, Sheldon says, “I don’t have my key; so perhaps, your sonic screwdriver would be of use?” He has his hand on the knob while the Doctor digs in his inside pocket, but the door knob turns after Sheldon gives it a testing twist. He sighs and shakes his head, “Leonard must be lost without me. He’s even forgetting to lock the door!”
The Doctor follows Sheldon in and they both cautiously look around. “See,” Sheldon smirks, “empty.” Sheldon begins to walk to his room, the Doctor at his heels. “You can wait in the living room if you like.”
“No, I’ll stay with you. Keep you out of trouble.” the Doctor grins, “It’s sort of my job – to keep my companions from messing up the timey whimey stuff.”
Sheldon gives the Doctor an incredulous look, “Seriously? With my attention to rules and detail, you are worried about leaving me alone in my own apartment?”
“And yet, you won’t let me follow you to your room.” The Doctor eyes narrow at him.
“That’s because no one can be in my room!” Sheldon insists. He turns and continues down the hall to his room, without the Doctor, who sighs, and sits on a stool by the kitchen island.
Sheldon notices that his door is ajar, which is strange, as he distinctly remembers closing it before he left. He cautiously enters his darkened room, allows his eyes to adjust and gasps out loud, instantly slapping his hand over his mouth to cover the sound.
In his room, in his bed and curled around his pillow sleeps Penny.
He should leave immediately. Forget about his journal. This Penny is not from his current timeline and if she wakes and finds him here, according to the Doctor, very bad things will happen. But Sheldon can’t move, or at least, he doesn’t move away. His heart beats too fast and his respiration increases, though, not from fear of discovery.
Sheldon shuffles incrementally closer to her, just to peek. Penny’s hair tangles around her face and Sheldon has to stuff his hands in the pockets of his khakis to stop himself from brushing it back.
He crouches down to look closely at her face and notices the dried tear tracks down her cheeks. Sheldon should be irritated with her. She invaded his room - his bed! What he is feeling, he surmises, at the moment is regret. Penny was evidently saddened by his absence on this Friday evening that she sought comfort here, in his room.
He looks down at his shoes as he contemplates this and notices his journal is on the floor next to his bed. He picks it up, flipping through the pages. Sheldon would never leave anything on his floor, especially when its proper place was on his night stand. “Penny,” he chides her softly; “you read my journal.” Sheldon can feel the heat in his cheeks and ears at what she must have read – the entries about her.
Yet, he can’t be angry at her. Not when she is curled in his bed and all he can think is how right she looks there. Sheldon’s face feels even hotter as the image of him and Penny as his future wife on the couch flash in his mind.
Sheldon stands up and slowly backs away, breathing in and out as deeply as he can to regulate both his breathing and the flush of his cheeks before the Doctor sees the state he is in and gets curious. He is clutching his journal to his chest and considers Penny once more before he turns to leave.
Sheldon knows two things for sure. One, he really doesn’t need his journal any longer, his problem is solved.
And two, he wants to go home.
Tardis, Date Unknown
“Doctor, I think it might be prudent for me to return home.”
“Why now?” The Doctor is twirling the Tardis’s dials absent-mindedly
“I think it’s time,” Sheldon smiles slightly at his oft repeated pun, “You know I want to see Penny -my Penny, and, of course I need my work, but I’m beginning even to miss Leonard, my friends, my…life.”
“You have tired of time traveling?” The Doctor asks with a grin.
Sheldon shrugs slightly, “I believe I have learned all that I can with you on this journey we - I’ve been on. I’ve seen my work confirmed, and need now only to prove it; I’ve met Einstein and Hawking and understood the value of - a romantic partner in life. I’ve seen Penny,” Sheldon’s voice cracks an octave, and he clears his throat. The Doctor still didn’t know exactly how much he’s seen of Penny, “now realizing my attraction to her and hers to me. I am aware that Doctor Jones respected me, and pursued me out of grief and loneliness, and found out her teenaged daughter was interested in me out of a real sense of attraction.”
Sheldon takes a deep breath, and continues, “I’m anxious to go back to my life - even if Penny is not available for me to express all this to her when I return - or worse yet, if she has rekindled her relationship with Leonard.”
“What if…” The Doctor begins.
Sheldon looks at him, “What?”
“What if I took you back to the moment you left?”
“You can do that?” Sheldon’s eyes are wide and calculating - back to that night, with Penny still upset with him, but now he understands why. He finds he is longing to see her.
“Time. Space.” The Doctor grins broadly, “I can do anything.”
Sheldon grins back, “Let’s go then.” He feels happier than he can ever recall feeling.
And anxious, but at least that feeling is familiar. He has traveled universe and time - the Mobius strip, counter-clockwise and clockwise. Now, he will return where it joins. How many others can say that?
It is on the Warner Brother’s lot and Penny parks so far back, that she hops a golf cart going by to make it to the studio where she will be filming her scenes on time.
The driver of the cart, which is full of sound equipment, slows down just enough for Penny to hop off, to walk into the studio. She introduces herself at reception, and the receptionist has her whisked away by an assistant to the hair and make-up trailer.
Penny’s heart has never beaten so fast in her excitement. Hair! And Make-up! She is directed to a chair, and waits.
She tries a few calming exercises, and then thinks about her character and lines. Penny needs to feel anger (she can remember being pissed at Sheldon, so she uses that), and experience the frustration of revenge (…is a dish best served cold).
Penny laughs out loud. Perhaps thoughts of Sheldon should be on hold for this.
“Ah, glad to hear an actress who his happy for a change.” A small man introduces himself, “I am Dalton, and I will be preparing your hair for today’s scene.” He holds out his hand and Penny takes it “My partner in crime, Cyndi, will be by shortly for make-up.” Dalton touches her hair, “Be prepared to be dazzling!”
Rose is on the couch in 4A, her head on the pillow trying not to cry. She is not being entirely successful, when she hears the familiar sound that she knows so well. Rose sits up and rubs her eyes just as the Tardis materializes in front of her.
The Doctor walks out, and Rose launches herself off the couch and into his arms, “I thought you would be gone!”
The Doctor smiles into the messy blonde hair filling his face, “We were, love.”
Sheldon follows, his emergency bag slung over his shoulder; his clothes clean and pressed again inside. He nods at Rose’s look to him, “Rose. I hope you weren’t waiting too long.”
Rose steps away and looks to the Doctor and then to Sheldon. She crosses her arms across her chest, “How long were you two gone for?” She is aware of how time travel works.
The Doctor counts on his fingers, while Sheldon takes an educated guess, “Almost a…” he looks to the Doctor for confirmation, “year?”
The Doctor nods, satisfied with his counting.
Rose just shakes her head, “I hope you both had a great time, while I was sat here worried about how long I’d be left behind for.”
Sheldon, well aware of how irate women can be when they feel wronged by their…companions, leaves for his room to replace his bag where it belongs.
“Rose,” the Doctor begins, “I only wanted you to be…with your kind for a while.”
“Doctor,” Rose elbows him in his stomach, “I am with my kind. I am a time traveler, like you now.” She rubs his abdomen where she had just had her elbow, “So, except for a visit or two with Mum occasionally,” Rose smiles wide, “you are stuck with me.”
The Doctor smiles softly at her, and smacks his lips against her forehead, “I guess I am.”
Sheldon can hear that the voices in the room have not been raised, so he supposes that the Doctor and Rose have resolved their differences.
He hopes to have the same fortune.
Sheldon puts his bag back on his closet shelf and then returns to the living room to make his farewells.
“Sheldon,” the Doctor notices that he has re-entered the room, and Rose heads towards the open Tardis door, waiting at the threshold.
Sheldon walks towards the Doctor, and the men embrace awkwardly - one armed with the Doctor patting Sheldon’s shoulder. “Sheldon, you have been a most…interesting companion.”
“As have you. My journey has been,” Sheldon smirks, “eventful.”
The Doctor laughs, “Indeed it has. Good luck Sheldon, with everything.” The Doctor claps his back once more and Sheldon doesn’t flinch. Progress, the Doctor smiles to himself.
“Thank you, I only hope that I can take the risk of - altering my friendship paradigm with Penny.” Sheldon looks at his hands, “I am not one who takes risks with unsure results.”
The Doctor laughs again, “Of course you are. You got in here,” the Doctor jerks his thumb back to the Tardis, “without knowing the results ahead of time.”
Sheldon tilts his head in agreement, “Point taken.”
The Doctor joins Rose on the threshold of the Tardis, and takes her hand, “Goodbye Doctor Cooper, until we meet again, sometime.”
They enter the Tardis, close the door, and within a minute, they are gone.
Sheldon takes a deep breath, (thinks briefly, thank you Doctor) and turns on his heel to head to 4B.
Chapter 9: Penny
The knocks on her door are not a dream. She doesn’t know exactly what time of the night it is, but The Lake House DVD is on the home screen and it is still dark out.
Penny shuffles to the door, straightening her clothes as she opens it. He is there, rigid and unmoving.
She yawns, the back of her hand barely containing it, “What do you want Sheldon?” She is still, irritated, if but sleepily, with him.
“To come in. Please. I know it’s late.”
Penny steps aside and lets him in. “It is late. Why are you still up?”
“I have been reviewing the events from last yea…this evening,” Sheldon stumbles over his words; Penny looks at him skeptically. “It has occurred to me that there may be some validity to your assertion that I miss Leonard and Amy. However, the more likely catalyst for my unrest is you. I miss you, Penny and I apologize if you were unaware of that.”
“How can you have missed me? We just saw each other a few hours ago!” Penny is fully awake now.
Almost a year, Sheldon thinks. It took him nearly a year to know what he wants. Sheldon wonders abstractly how long it would take her. He’s seen the wedding photo, the boy’s face, but he doesn’t know the when. “It feels like longer,” he says quietly.
Sheldon reaches out impulsively and touches her cheek, like he wanted to, well, years ago. It is even softer than he imagined. He traces his thumb across the line of her jaw, and tilts her head up.
He then does something he’s never before done in his life. Sheldon voluntarily kisses a woman. He bends forward; his lips first brush hers only on a corner of her mouth, until Penny moves into him and, of course, corrects. With one hand on her jaw, his other hand steadies her on her waist.
It lasts under a minute and he steps from her a little awkwardly.
He backs away another step, shrugs a little and smiles shyly at her.
Penny is looking at him like he’s grown a new head, “Sheldon, sweetie, why did you kiss me?”
Sheldon shrugs again with one shoulder, “I wanted to. For longer than I care to admit to myself.” He takes a step back towards her. “Penny, I’ve sought out your companionship, not out of any sense of the loneliness that you ascribe to me, but because I…prefer your presence. I look forward to Friday nights.”
“What about the germs? You kissed me, remember, Typhoid Penny?”
Sheldon quirks a lop-sided grin and steps a final step back to her, “I find, after examination, I am willing to take the risk.”
Sheldon Cooper, risk taker? Penny holds her laugh inside and to him, she only smiles her encouragement.
He lets out a deep breath, and he is close enough that Penny can feel it on her cheek. “I propose that we make Saturday nights, “Whatever Penny Wants to Do” night. Well…after laundry, of course.”
“Really?” Penny is incredulous, “You will give up your Saturday night schedule for one of my choice? You can handle my spontaneity?” He is so close; she has to strain her neck to look up to him.
“Yes, although a little notice on your plans for Saturday evenings wouldn’t exactly be remiss.” Sheldon bends his neck and says this close to her ear, with a slight upward turn of his mouth.
Penny smiles brightly; she knows he’s teasing her and she knows he knows she knows, “Deal.”
Sheldon looks in her eyes, and offers her a rare, genuine smile and then adds, “I also think you should contact that woman whom you hear about auditions from…”
“Yes, Andrea. I have a…an intuition if you will that you will hear about something good.”
Penny grins, her eyes sparkling, “Intuition Sheldon? I thought you believed it was…” she starts.
“Hokum?” Sheldon finishes.
“Well, yeah, actually. Why the interest in my career? At this moment?”
“Let’s just say, I have a hunch, Penny.” Sheldon touches the ends of her hair that graze her shoulder, and then drops the curl before being tempted to wrap his finger around it. “Call her.”
“Okay. I will. But, one more thing Sheldon, I think I want you to kiss me again,” Penny grins teasingly. “Because I still don’t quite believe you did that.” She stands on her toes and her hands crawl up to his shoulders.
A smirk plays across his lips as he bends down to comply.
His lips don’t miss this time.