“Well, Sheldon, I hear Amy’s got you whipped.”
This is one Saturday later. As every other Saturday, she’s there when he’s there, and somewhere along the way she’s stopped asking herself why. She used to go out on Saturday nights before. Now she does laundry instead, and she kind of likes it. She doesn’t mind it. She enjoys these moments they share—Sheldon and her. They’ve got history now—the moments; not them—and the thing with history is that it never works out so well as when she has the chance to tease him into a nervous fit of crazy ticks. Like right now:
“I don’t understand,” he replies to her obviously deliberate bait. He’s concentrating fully on his crazy folding device in order to, Penny imagines, not react to her teasing. He’d consider that a form of personal debasement. So he pretends he’s only half listening to her. “What do you mean by ‘whipped’?”
She pours a basketfull of dirty clothes in one of the empty machines (all are empty but the one he’s using; this is, after all, a shared private moment) and turns to him slowly, walking closer once she presses the start button with the back of her hand. “Well,” she lets her words drag themselves out of her mouth, languidly, “Leonard tells me that you got back together, and that you admitted that your little break-up was all your fault.”
His eyebrows aren’t twitching yet, but they arch impossibly high. His folding device lies upon the table, suddenly forgotten. “Taking responsibility for sixty percent of our disagreement is hardly admitting all the blame. After all, it was me who moved our relationship terminated. Technically speaking, I was indeed sixty percent responsible for the unfortunate event.”
She nods slowly, eyes wide, making sure he doesn’t believe for a second she actually believes him. It’s no fun if he doesn’t know he’s being teased. He might believe he’s so smart, but she isn’t fooled by him and he is very aware of each one of her small victories. “Well,” she mock-frowns, “according to Leonard, Amy said your work was cute. She kind of pushed you into terminating, didn’t see?” There it is: finally, the twitching. She’s having endless fun with this, and he certainly can tell, judging by the way his eyes narrow beneath his spasmodic brows. She can’t help but push a little bit further, a little bit harder. “Not to mention the pining. I never thought you could pine, Sheldon.”
“I don’t pine. And I really don’t care for your tone, Penny.”
Her smile only gets bigger; her feet, more daring as they drag her a little bit closer to him. “You bought twenty-five cats to fill up the hole she left in your heart. You did pine, sweetie. You just don’t realize it.”
In silence, she mouths every letter: Whipped
“I did not pine. And I really don’t care for your juvenile metaphors, either. My heart is completely wholesome, and it always has been, though I must admit that sometimes the possibility of a murmur has got me a little worried. Whatever the case, however, my cardiac health has absolutely nothing to do with my relationship with Amy.”
“Okay,” she grants. Then, she takes a couple of extra steps towards him, until they’re standing almost toe-to-toe. She knows if she keeps looking for it, sooner or later she’s going to find his trigger, and when she does, he will go off. She doesn’t know what will happen then; she doesn’t know if she wants to find out, or why sometimes she can think of nothing else. It doesn’t really matter. She moves her hand to his cheek before speaking and doesn’t think much about what she is doing. “Just remember I’m here, honey. If you ever need some advice on girls, or anything at all... I’m your friend. I will help you.”
She doesn’t wait for his reaction. She can’t. He’s shocked enough by her touch, and by the implications behind her words, so at least that buys her a little bit of time to step out of the room at least for a while—her laundry keeps roaring behind her—before he’s had the time to protest, or scream her name so loud that galaxies far, far away can hear it.
Penny’s very serious when she offers girl advice to Sheldon. She really is. She knows her friend and she knows that, whether he knows it or not, he’s involved in a romantic relationship now, and she knows sooner or later he’ll need her help. She’s honest when she says she’ll help him. Except for the fact that she figures it will take Sheldon one century, maybe two, to admit he’s in a relationship and well, to accept he might need her help. For some weird inexplicable reason (call her crazy), she isn’t expecting her advice to be required six days later. Six days—that’s not even a week. Of course, she isn’t expecting someone else’s voice behind her door either, but that’s very much beside the point.
Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.” Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.” Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.”
Her first thought when she recognizes Amy’s voice is the absolute certainty that she and Sheldon must be soul-mates. Her second thought is how horribly wrong it is, just the thought of that. But that’s also beside the point. Because Penny is a friend of Sheldon and that means she should be okay with offering girl advice to his girlfriend, even if that means listening to—
“Sheldon and I have decided to move our relationship to the next socially established level. We are now officially involved in a romantic endeavour so, consequently, we are planning our first unsanitary exchange of saliva. He recommended coming to you for advice on events of such nature.”
—things like that. Okay, Penny thinks, raising as many psychological barriers as she can make up in her mind. Okay. Romantic. Saliva. She gets it. She’s got it already. Sheldon is her friend and she knows it must be hard for him, taking his first baby steps into the world of romance. It is her duty and her responsibility as a friend to help him and yes, that means helping Amy. Personally, Penny thinks a transition into romance and exchange of bodily fluids would have been easier for Sheldon is he had chosen someone more... well, someone else entirely. It is, however, none of her business who Sheldon chooses as a girlfriend who is more than a girl who is a fried, so Penny nods, steps aside, lets Amy in, smiles big and prays to whoever might be listening that Amy won’t say the word ‘coitus’.
She doesn’t what could happen if she did.
Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.” Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.” Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.”
Patiently, she waits until he’s done knocking to open the door. She’d lie if she said she isn’t a little bit nervous about this. She’s been working long hours at the Cheesecake Factory and she hasn’t seen or talked to Sheldon since she had The Most Awkward Conversation Ever with his girlfriend. She imagines that, if Amy has followed her advice, unsanitary exchanges of saliva (or maybe just one) might have taken place already. She can’t help but wonder if maybe Sheldon has undergone some drastic change after that—maybe he’s experienced some sort of epiphany, right? It’s a silly thought, she knows. She saw how Leonard’s mom kissed him and it really didn’t change anything but, still, she can’t help wondering. At least until she opens the door to find out he’s still the same old ridiculously-dressed and adorably-uncomfortable Sheldon.
“Hello, Sheldon,” she smiles. “What can I help you with?”
“Amy and I just had our first exchange of saliva.”
Okay, she’s walked right into that, and she knows it. She can do nothing but nod. She bites her bottom lip to keep her face as inexpressive as possible because, if she doesn’t, she doesn’t know if she’ll laugh or make a grimace. After a couple of seconds, she tries a pacifying, soft, comforting smile. “First base, huh? And? How was it?”
Sheldon’s straightforward, brutal honesty is appalling. “Disgusting,” he says without even blinking.
Disgusting. Well, her advice on technique was definitely good advice. For a second, she’s tempted to point that out to him, but all of a sudden—she can’t figure where the feeling comes from—she feels terribly sad, terribly heartbroken for him. This time, she can’t help the grimace of genuine pain that creeps up her face. “I’m so sorry, sweetie.”
“Well,” he nods, “you should be. You encouraged Amy.” His eyebrows are so high in their scolding that she stops feeling sad in a quarter of a second. Especially when he shakes his head in condescension before speaking again. “This is why I’m here, actually. Amy and I find ourselves at a crossroads, and Amy suggested, very cleverly, that you should help us figure out which way to go.”
Her eyebrows are higher than his now. She wants to shake her head, say no. She’s done enough. The more she does, the bigger the chance to screw things up. It’s none of her business, whatever their crossroads. It is their relationship and, even if her accompanying them during their first date may suggest otherwise, she is not a part of their relationship. She can’t keep holding their hand. She can’t. She can’t. She can’t. Yet, she can’t say no, either. She might not like Amy, and she might not care for Sheldon’s attitude ninety percent of the time, but she knows somewhere deep inside he’s feelings lost and insecure and he’s counting on her to help him. So she says, “Okay,” before she has the time to think twice about what might happen if she agrees to help them.
“Okay,” he mimics, before taking one step closer towards her. “You have to kiss me now.”
She’s sure she hasn’t heard right. She’s as sure about that as she is about her inability to fly. It’s one of the laws of this particular universe. Penny can’t fly. Penny can’t kiss Sheldon. Two plus two equals four. No way Penny advising Amy to kiss Sheldon and Sheldon finding the experience ‘disgusting’ equals Sheldon’s hands awkwardly resting on Penny’s hips as he bends closer to kiss her. Yet, it is happening. It’s is very happening. It is happening a lot.
“Sheldon, wait wait wait wait wait.” Her hand on his chest. Check. His heart beating out of sync beneath her palm. Double check. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m kissing you, since I can’t wait forever for you to kiss me.”
Now? She is scared. Something’s wrong. Something’s deeply wrong in the universe. “Yes, Sheldon. I kind of got that part. But, you know, why?”
He’s standing fully straight again. He looks exasperated but, in fact, he usually does, so she doesn’t pay attention to that. “Isn’t it obvious? I kissed Amy and we both thought it was extremely unpleasant. Amy suggested it might be because we were both somehow lacking in empirical knowledge about exchanging bodily fluids, so she suggested we tried the experiment with someone with enough expertise to compensate for our deficiency. It was evident one of us had to kiss you. We draw lots to determine who should the guinea pig, and, sadly, I lost. So here I am, confronting my unfortunate fate. Kiss me now.”
Oh, fuck. He lost? What if—? Oh, fuck fuck fuck. “No, Sheldon. That makes zero sense from the point of view of a real human being’s logic. I’m not going to kiss you.”
“It makes perfect sense, though it’s no wonder you can’t figure it out on your own.” Why is he standing so much closer again? “There are two possible outcomes to this experiment. Either we are still repulsed by the experience, and the nothing can be done but get used to it, or we are not. If this last contingency was to occur, then Amy and I should reconsider the terms of our current relationship.”
Perfect sense, he says. The most perfect sense Penny has ever heard. Whack-a-doodle. Nothing of what he says—ever—makes sense to her, but this definitely takes the cake. “So,” she tries again, “you are saying that if I kiss you and you like it you might break up with Amy? But you just got back together!”
“I know that, Penny.” He looks even more exasperated now, but somehow his ridiculously long hands have found their way back to her hips. She would push him away if the intense look in his eyes hadn’t trapped her inside a tiny little too tight circle of energy that keeps pushing her closer and closer and closer. His voice, to make things even weirder, is lower than usual. “I’m not worried, though. I’m pretty sure four seconds from now I’ll be just as disgusted as I was half an hour ago.”
He’s never been closer. She’s never seen so much of his eyes. She’s absolutely sure she has never seen them so blue. Maybe they’ve never been so blue, she wonders. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t really care. She’s only sure of one thing right now. She’s truly, really, fucking pissed. Disgusted? By her? How dares he? So what? Maybe he’s doing it on purpose, baiting her so she stops resisting to his stupid senseless plan. Maybe he’s not just learned how to play her game, but actually thinks he can beat her at it. Whatever. She doesn’t care. If it’s a pro gamer strategy, it works. Whatever, is her last thought. In less time than it takes to say ‘fuck it’ she’s made a vow to make sure that, be that four seconds, four minutes, or four hours, he will be anything but disgusted by the time she’s done with him.
Okay. Maybe she gets a little carried away.
It starts easy enough. Hands on cheeks and tongue down his throat and she’s done this enough times to be very matter-of-fact about it, right? Right? No. Definitely not right. Because right now the only thing she knows for sure is that this is nothing but matter-of-fact and she doesn’t know where the last fifteen-to-fifty minutes have gone but something isn’t right at all in how much she doesn’t remember. How did they get to the couch? Why hasn’t he pushed her away yet? Letting her weight slide back from his upper thighs to his knees, she makes an effort to keep her jaw from shaking stupidly when she speaks. “Hi,” she says.
His eyes are so glassy that they look like they’re about to break into million tiny fragments in a second. Still, once he’s finally granted a bit of breathing space, he doesn’t waste one atom of oxygen before scolding her—kind of. “I must confess, Penny, I find myself deeply puzzled by this sudden turn of events.”
“Still disgusted by a little bit of first base?” She’s pretty sure there’s some kind of biological proof somewhere that he is not disgusted, but she doesn’t know what else to say, except ‘hi’, and she already said that. To clarify her point, anyway, and to distract him from the quacking in her voice, she moves her hand from his crotch to his shoulder. Things might have gotten a little out of hand, but at least she still remembers this was some sort of experiment. Something about him being disgusted by kissing in general, or maybe just by kissing his girlfriend. Oh, damn. His girlfriend. He has a girlfriend. She’s the worst friend in the world, really. Someone should give her an award made of bitter irony. Or something.
“Ummm,” his eyes are still glassy; his brow, still deeply frown. “I remain confused as to one, why you would consider this ‘first base’—if I’m not mistaken about the parameters of this particular sports metaphor, we crossed that bridge almost twenty minutes ago—and, two, why you think I should be bothered about unsanitary exchanges of saliva after the inexplicable shenanigans that just took place on this couch.”
She can’t help but cringe, painfully, as she finally moves away from him, sitting on the couch beside him, looking away as he arranges his clothes back into straight lines and acute angles and the shiny appearance of unblemished neatness. When he’s on his feet again, she makes one last attempt. “I’m sorry?” She doesn’t know what she’s apologizing for, but she does feel bad. He wanted one little kiss and she just went absolutely nuts and dragged him with her into a madness of limbs, kisses, lips, tongues, jerks, sighs, pants, zips unzipped, shirts pulled up. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, Fucking Fucking of Fuck.
The weirdest shit?
She wants to kiss him again.
“I’m sorry,” she says again, standing up to meet his not-really-justified-but-inevitable wrath.
A miracle happens, though. His wrath doesn’t come. Instead, he only shrugs. “From ruining my experiment?” He shrugs again, before turning away and walking towards the door, nonchalantly. “It was very much to be expected.”
For the first time in Ever, smiling seems to come easily to this mouth.
Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.” Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.” Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.”
Oh, no. She thinks. Amy Farrah Fowler. On her doorstep again. Oh, God. Shaking her head as if that could actually make reality go away, Penny stands up very slowly, leaves her pumice stone upon the coffee table and, barefooted, walks towards her front door. She hasn’t finished opening the door before Amy is speaking. “Good afternoon, Penny.”
“Good afternoon, Amy.” She tries a sweet big smile that says anything but I almost screwed your boyfriend on my couch not two days ago. She imagines her attempt fails, because Amy’s intense gaze looks even more heavy-lidded than usual.
It turns out, however, that her attempt is all in vain. Amy doesn’t waste one second longer of niceties before she speaks, as matter-of-factly as humanly possible, given the very fucked-up circumstances. “Sheldon told me about what happened on that couch not two days ago.” (She actually uses a pointing accusatory finger, and Penny does shiver.)
Well, of course Sheldon kisses and tells. Penny knows how he feels about lying and secret-keeping. Of course he told Amy. So what? Is Amy going to try and punch her? It definitely doesn’t seem so, judging by Amy’s cold and composed demeanour, but you never really know. It’s not like Penny’s scared—she knows she can take Amy any minute, and lick her, too—but she’s kind of weirded-out. She can’t explain what happened between her and Sheldon, and she certainly can’t understand whatever is going on between him and Amy. What if Amy is here for more advice? Or worse. What if she’s here to propose some other nutty experiment that will unavoidably lead Penny into their almost-human-but-not-yet-there madness? What if this time Amy does say ‘coitus’? Just the thought makes Penny feel light-headed, and it’s not like she knows if it’s because she’s disgusted or intrigued. As a first step though, she decides to walk down the socially accorded path and apologize: “I’m so sorry, Amy. I shouldn’t have—”
“Penny, Penny, Penny—” Oh, damn. Why is it, that everything Amy says or does must remind her of Sheldon? Why? Why so creepy, Shamy?—“You don’t have to apologize. If anyone, I am to take responsibility. It was the miscalculations on my experimental idea that disregarded the considerably big chance of you ruining the efforts of our procedure. However, we should congratulate ourselves that your impromptu passionate rapture did not affect the concluding results of our little scientific enterprise.”
Penny isn’t sure she understand what Amy is saying, or why she’s painfully trying to smile, but she is sure there is a pretty much not veiled insult somewhere in Amy’s ridiculous speech. Still, she pretends she doesn’t notice, since, after all, she did make out with his boyfriend, and she’s still somehow expecting the word ‘coitus’ to come out of Amy’s mouth any minute. So, what was Amy saying? Oh, yes. Good news. “Really?” she asks (and she’s honestly puzzled), hoping that her sing-song tone will sound cute, though she’s pretty certain it won’t.
“Yes,” Amy says, “Sheldon and I have decided to terminate our romantic relationship.”
“Really?” (Oh, God. That really wasn’t the right thing to say. Why is the sing-song tone still there, song-singing? Why is she happy to hear this? She really, really deserves that Worst Friend Award.) She tries again: “I’m really sorry, Amy.” (No, she’s not. And she does feel guilty about that.)
“Why would you be sorry? It wasn’t your fault.” (Oh. Good. Also: unexpected.) “We simply couldn’t move past our very unfortunate fist exchange of saliva. We haven’t stopped regretting the event since the moment it occurred, so we concluded that a relationship of a romantic nature was not a viable possibility for us. We have decided to continue our friendship, nonetheless. So I don’t foresee any cats in Dr. Cooper’s future, if that worry is the cause to the grimace in your face.”
“What?” She’s actually thinking about why on Earth she considers it a good idea, to have this conversation with Amy standing in the hallway. For all Penny knows, Sheldon is at the other side of his front door, one ear pressed to glass, the glass pressed to the door. But then she remembers: she doesn’t really want Amy sitting on his couch after... well, she doubts Amy would sit on the couch after... Okay. Back to the present. She fights out another candid smile—her personal specialty. “Oh, good then. Right?” (What is she even saying?)
Amy nods. “Yes. But I didn’t come here to update you on the current status of my social life. That is none of your interest. I just wanted to let you know that Sheldon was not disgusted by your mutual exchange of bodily fluids. I thought you might be interested in knowing that.”
“Good.” Good. Wait. What? Wait wait wait. Good? Really, Penny? Good? “I mean... what? That’s what I wanted to say. What? I’ll say it again. For emphasis. What?”
Amy can shrug. “He didn’t say as much but the implicature was evident in the lexical choices he made to describe the events that took place in this apartment forty-five hours ago. It is unsurprising, if one looks closely into the matter. It’s only natural that after experimenting with thirty-one specimens prior to your sexual encounter with Sheldon you should have an outstanding degree of proficiency in this particular field of inquiry.”
Oh, God. Good. Amy called her a slut again. Okay, this time maybe she had it coming, but that doesn’t make it okay. And she also said ‘sexual encounter with Sheldon.’ Okay. No. Really. No. It wasn’t a sexual encounter. She really doesn’t care what Amy’s neuro-bio-thingy has to say about it. And damn, has it really been forty-five hours already? “Look Amy... I really haven’t had sex with thirty-one guys.”
She says that because she doesn’t know what else to say (and because it’s true). She doesn’t know what else to say though, because she doesn’t know what else to think. She has trouble believing whatever Amy is saying, or implying, or whatever, but why would Amy lie? Is this some evil plot of revenge? Does Amy want Penny to make a move on Sheldon—no, seriously, where did the thought even come from?—and have Sheldon reject her and... But Amy doesn’t seem angry as she nods again, straightens out her pleated skirt, and turns towards the staircase. In fact, Amy doesn’t seem bothered at all and, if Penny is good at anything, that’s reading people. She has outstanding social skills. Everybody says.
So… what was Amy saying?
Knock, knock, knock. “Sheldon.” Knock, knock, knock. “Sheldon.” Knock, knock, knock. “Sheldon.”
She waits until she knows he’s home alone to ambush him. Well, ‘ambush’ is a big word. To pay him a visit. To mock him a little. To let the ball drop on his roof. The re-establish the status quo. Whatever. He seems to be waiting for her when he opens the door and, eyeing her quickly, he walks back a couple steps, leaving the door open for her to come in and close it behind her. “It doesn’t occur often, you actually knocking on our door. You could have just as easily walked yourself in. So,” he sighs. “To what eventuality do I deserve the honour of your mocking me and disturbing my rightfully earned alone time?”
Mocking him. He’s referring to her mimic-y knocking routine, and he’s gone to the length of actually being sarcastic about it. He obviously resents her for kind of ravishing him the other day but, being honest, she already loves this particular moment far too much to get self-conscious, and, this particular moment, well, it hasn’t even begun happening yet. In slow, deliberate movements, she unzips her flowery pullover-y jacket. “Well, Sheldon,” she says, one syllable falling languidly, luxuriously on top of the previous one, “I’m here because Amy told me you were kind of desperate to be my number thirty-two.”
Only one eyebrow rises, perfectly synchronized with the movement of his hands, also raised to his hips in indignation. “No, she did not.” he says, breathing out calmly. Penny can see he’s making an excruciatingly painful effort not to lash out at her. She’s quite aware she’s right now playing with forces beyond her ken but damn, if he dares pointing that out to her, she’s going to just offer one hell of a demonstration of exactly how his Ken can kiss her Barbie. Seriously, Ken. Come on. Kiss Barbie already.
But she’s getting distracted.
So. Focusing on the task at hand, she takes one step closer to him. Frankly, she’s impressed when he doesn’t move away. She imagines how hard it must be for him, resisting the urge to recoil, to either run away, o hyperventilate. He isn’t even crossing his arms over his chest as a means of barrier. The only gesture betraying his discomfort is the adorable twitching of his nose. So adorable it is the twitching that, for a second, she is tempted to touch the tip of his nose with her finger, just to see what happens. Luckily for both of them, she’s able to repress the urge. She doesn’t think he would have been able to resist that. Instead, she concentrates on smiling. Big and open and tantalizing.
It doesn’t really work.
“You’re mocking me, Penny, and, I have to say, I don’t understand why you would do that. Have I done something to upset you? Or is this the socially established protocol after our unfortunate episode on your couch?”
He’s done it again.
Before he finishes speaking, she feels her heart cracking open. Again. She’s still smiling, but her smile now is genuine, warm, and a little bit sad. Her hand moves to cup his cheek on its own accord and, as it does, Penny is painfully aware this is how it all began: her palm against his cheek, and her trying to be a good friend and failing epically at it. It’s true she came here with every intention of mocking him, but it’s also true that, whatever she is doing is some kind of protocol that follows what happened between them almost sixty hours ago. She doesn’t know what else to do. She’s at loss, and she’s never at loss at this particular type of situation. She feels ashamed, scared, and yet, she feels stupidly happy right now. So happy it almost hurts, as Sheldon’s iron gaze softens beneath the touch of her hand. Why isn’t he bothered by her touch now? Why is she stepping on her toes again? Much like the first time around, she kisses him without really thinking closely about what she is doing. This time, however, there’s no rush, no purpose, no determination. She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing, but she’s doing it slowly, carefully, giving him time to pull away if he isn’t comfortable with this.
He doesn’t pull away.
Well, he does. Eventually. Long after she’s run out of oxygen and her head is spinning madly, her heart drumming to his heart’s rhythm, her lungs threatening to collapse. When he pulls away, his tentative smile keeps snatching her breathing air and, for a couple of minutes at least, she’s sure she’s never going to breathe again. She’s suffocating. She really is. Wow. Wow wow wow.
Then he speaks again: “I’m confused, Penny.”
He sounds so young, so much younger than he should be allowed to sound. Her heels are back on the floor, but her hand refuses to leave his cheek. “I know sweetie,” she smiles, she nods comfortingly. “I’m confused, too. And I’m very sorry I teased you.”
He nods, and smiles quietly. “Okay, Penny.”
His eyes are so blue, so soft, so perfect, that she in a fraction of a second she feels overwhelmed by emotion. She feels tears threatening to fall. She doesn’t know what is happening to her, to both of them, but she can do nothing but to kiss him again.
The status quo be damned.