The facts are simple.
Penny had been digging the shamy for a total amount of one hundred and eighteen seconds. Shoot her. She had thought it was cute, in theory, because, being honest, sometimes Penny thinks some Sheldon-related things are cute. Can be cute. Like when he’s sitting on his spot and there’s something he finds amusing and his whole body relaxes all of sudden, and he bends over and unclenches like a cat’s back. Or the way his eyes soften when he mistakes well-intentioned complaisance for human kindness. Or the way his voice lowers around the corners of her name, sometimes.
There’s simply nothing cute about Amy Farrah Fowler.
Amy Farrah Fowler is hostile and condescending, kind of like Sheldon, sans the entire set of Sheldon traits that make Sheldon actually tolerable. Amy Farrah Fowler is mean. Amy Farrah Fowler called Penny a slut, while admitting a less than healthy addiction to an orgasm machine. Penny, as a friend, can’t help but point that out to Sheldon during their ride back home. She prepares the path first: “I think she wanted you to kiss her,” she says, after Amy has disappeared inside her house and Sheldon is back in the car. He hasn’t even touched Amy. Penny is almost sure, Sheldon hasn’t even smiled while politely wishing goodnight.
He rolls his eyes in response, fastening his seatbelt. “Unsanitary physical contact does not appeal to Amy. Nor does it appeal to me.”
“It’s a date, Sheldon,” Penny insists. “You should have kissed her.” She doesn’t really know what she is saying, but she is confident she’ll know when the time is right and she reaches whatever destination she is approaching. Like when ten seconds have gone by and Sheldon still hasn’t said anything. That’s Penny cue to keep on talking. “She might not like physical contact, but she is definitely far too keen on letting a machine stimulate her into orgasm.” When Sheldon still doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even acknowledge her words, Penny quietly adds, “Kinky.”
It does the trick. He turns to her violently, as a knight willing to defend his damsel’s wounded honor. “I do not appreciate you making fun of my friends, Penny.”
That does the trick as well. “What?” She honestly can’t believe him. What in the world is she doing here in the first place? She drove him to his first date, his fucking first date, even if he’s thirty years old. She sat with him through it, held his hand, metaphorically, and guided him through a conversation that totally backfired at her. What cockamamy....? And now he’s angry? Just because she made a joke about Amy’s orgasm machine? “Your girlfriend called me a slut, you know?”
“No, she did not. She asked you a question to test a hypothesis she had based upon her knowledge of social perspectives on women’s sexuality.”
Okay, Penny thinks, she still had no right to make hypotheses about her sexual habits. It was mean. It was the opposite of cool, and stupid Sheldon doesn’t have the right to be angry at her after she just took him to his first date. “Whatever,” she shrugs. “She fucks a machine. Wonder what the social perspectives are on that.”
She realizes she’s made a mistake before she’s done making it, more or less around the word ‘machine’. She can do nothing to stop herself, though, and she can’t predict Sheldon’s reaction either. His squeal of outrage, when it comes, is so loud and sudden that she slams her foot on the brake, pushing them both forwards until her forehead is sounding her car’s ridiculously screeching horn. Great. Great great great greatgreatgreat. She said fuck while meaning fuck. Just great. And she said it to Sheldon. And she was talking about his girlfriend. Just fucking great. Then she scared him to death and, now, Sheldon’s knees are pressed to his chest and his chin is buried between his legs. If the situation was any different, she would marvel at his ability to fold into a tight ball of panic, defying, she is sure, at least a couple of physical laws. The situation being as it is, however, she chooses to focus her eyes on the road and make sure she’s always paying attention to traffic and never going over the speed limit. Quietly, she calls his name a few times, tells him it isn’t really safe to sit like that in a car, curled into a ball, if, well, whatever he’s doing can be referred to as sitting. He ignores her time and again, so after a while she stops trying. She concentrates on driving him safely home. She knows that’s the only thing she can do to earn his forgiveness, if not in this universe, at least in a handful of other universes. She hopes.
As expected, he only unfolds when her car is safely, if kind of illegally, parked. He’s ready to step out without saying a word, so she grabs his wrist to stop him. In retrospective, she’s sure that wouldn’t be considered a smart move on her part, but at the moment it doesn’t make a difference. He’s already angry, so she simply waits until he stops gaping at her grabbing fingers to apologize to him. “Sheldon,” she says quietly, “I’m very sorry I said that stuff about Amy. I really am. I don’t know why I said that. She is a nice girl and I had no right to say those things.”
“You’re right. You didn’t.”
Okay, okay, she thinks, slowly letting go of his hand. He hasn’t accepted her apology yet, but at least he’s talking, right? “Honey,” she tries again. “Amy is great. It’s just...” She clears her throat and focuses all her interior kindness into the pacifying looks she’s offering him. “I’m not sure she is the right match for you, sweetie.”
That much is true. Amy is cold and mean and hostile and Sheldon needs better, even if he doesn’t realize he wants it. Would Amy Farrah Fowler take care of him if he gets sick? Or would she consider that messy and unsanitary? Would she sing to him if he asked her? Penny wishes that in all his genius-ness he could read her mind, because certain things Penny isn’t going to say tonight, but she can’t help thinking them over and over and over. Somehow though, he catches up. His hand is firmly set on the door handle, but he turns to her and nods. He doesn’t sound or look angry anymore. Penny is sure that, in the last couple of seconds, he has done the appropriate calculations in The Friendship Algorithm to actually believe her, even if he doesn’t share her opinion. “Of course she’s the right match for me, Penny,” he says, as if he was trying to explain to a four-year old that, in fact, two plus two does equal four in this particular universe. “Amy Farrah Fowler and I share scientific interests and intellectual giftedness.”
It’s Penny’s turn to nod then, and she has to fight out a complacent and non-rebellious smile as she watches him step out of the car and walk the distance to their block. She follows him in silence, a few steps behind. He’s wrong. She knows he’s wrong. But there is just no way to rebuff his absolutelywrong logic.
The facts get a lot less simple as the hours go by.
It’s been a weird night.
It’s been a weird, long night.
It’s been a weird, long night, and Penny might have just drunk one screwdriver too many (Sheldon was paying, after all) because it’s almost one a.m. and she’s still thinking of number thirty-two. She’s thinking of it so intensely than when she hears three consecutive three-knocks knocking, each followed by her name buried in the ghost of a past-midnight whisper, she is sure she’s imagining things. It’s been a weird, long night, after all. It involved her accompanying Sheldon on his first date with a girl who called her a slut while Sheldon calculated (erroneously, mind you) the number of men she’s slept with. It included her crossing a line with Sheldon, making him angry and scared, and then having to apologize to him, minutes before threatening to call his mother so he wouldn’t have a test-tube baby with a woman who is entirely wrong for him. And the night, long and weird as it was, ended with yet another awkward across-the-hallway moment, with Sheldon pushing her buttons and she wondering to what extent he was like or unlike the other guys she’s known throughout her life, and to what extent he was teasing her, and to what extent he was leaving room for implications and double entendre. How far is he willing to push her, really? How far is she willing to let him? It was easy to measure before, because there was one variable that wouldn’t change, no matter what: Sheldon wasn’t interested, nor ever would he be. Yet, things seemed different tonight. He had gone on a date. With a girl. With a friend. With a girl friend. Girl-friend. Girlfriend. It seems to Penny that, for as long as he might have tried to avoid it, Sheldon was finally right there at square one, just like everybody else.
Weird long night indeed.
Things had felt somehow off. They still feel off, she thinks when the three consecutive three-knocks knocking comes again and, this time, Penny has no doubt that Sheldon is standing right across the door. Something is definitely way too off, she realizes, when she walks to her living room and opens her front door. Sheldon’s still wearing the same clothes he had worn for his date, five hours before, and that certainly indicates some disturbance in the galaxy, because Sheldon’s goodnight habits are rocklike imperturbable. There is no way Sheldon would be wearing ridiculously childish but everyday clothes at one in the morning. He should be clad in his matching checked robe and pajamas. Hasn’t he gone to bed yet? Hasn’t he even changed? Is he sick?
She is so stunned that he’s there, wearing his crazy yellow shirt, that she doesn’t think of asking him what the hell he’s doing in her apartment in the middle of the night. She is wearing her pajamas (read: Hello-Kitty shorts and an old worn-out fuchsia tank top). She was in bed. And Sheldon is disturbing too many things in her life for just one night. Yet, all she can say is “Hello, Sheldon” back to him.
He doesn’t wait a minute to explain himself, and Penny’s never been more grateful for his perpetual straightforwardness. “I have been thinking about what you said about Amy,” he says. “I have also been thinking about what I said about you. You have broad hips and a certain corn-fed vigor.”
“Yes, we already covered that, Sheldon.” She does not believe this. Didn’t the mum card she played so wisely work? “I am not renting you my womb. And you are not having a child, either, so I don’t see what you might need it for.”
He takes one step closer. Weirded-out, she takes one step back. “Penny,” he clears his throat. “I don’t want to rent your uterus. I have been thinking, as I just said. I don’t mean to insult Amy Farrah Fowler but the truth is that, as higher-than-average as her IQ is, she is no me. My genetic material would probably prevail over hers in terms of intellectual development so I’m willing to hypothesize that her contribution to my progeny would be futile. You, per contra, are indeed corn-fed vigorous, and your hips are broader than mine.”
She has to bite her own tongue not to say that out loud. Oh, God. She thinks that, in light of the current events, he may take that the wrong way. But. Really. Oh, God. Oh, fuck. Oh, cockamamy. Oh, Sheldon. She breathes in a couple of times before speaking again. “Sheldon,” her voice isn’t really that high-pitched, but she is sure bats could still hear her, “is this a booty call?”
Penny’s got guy friends, other than Sheldon and Leonard. Well, she had guy friends, other than Sheldon and Leonard. Or Howard and Raj. The point: she knows guys. She has been forced to deal with the aftermath of unfortunate dates before. She knows the drill: make a rude gesture with her hand, kick their shin, threaten with junior rodeo tactics, and close the door in their faces. However, this is Sheldon. Sheldon. Sheldon Sheldon Sheldon. The only unmovable variable (Sheldon is not interested) is not only moving; it’s twirling and bouncing and earthquaking and her head is beginning to feel really fuzzy and much too big and heavy for the strength of her neck.
Sheldon, however, looks perfectly calm and composed. “No, it isn’t,” he answers, as if she had just asked any other question but what she’s actually asked. “This is Occam’s Razor.”
Her neck finally gives away. Her head falls. “What?”
Okay. Now. How did he get both his feet into her apartment? She’s holding onto the doorknob so tightly that her knuckles are turning white, but she doesn’t really care. She’s at loss here. She doesn’t know what has gotten into Sheldon, and she doesn’t know whether or not she’ll have to close the door in his face in the next couple of minutes. Why isn’t this night over yet? Why does it keep getting longer and weirder?
”Lex parsimoniae,” he explains, looking impatiently at her. “The principle is popularly interpreted as ‘the simplest explanation is usually the correct one’. It means that when competing hypotheses are equal in other respects, the principle of Occam Razor’s recommends the selection of the hypothesis that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities while still sufficiently answering the question.”
“Well, Sheldon, I think you’re introducing a lot of assumptions here.”
“Not really,” he shrugs, after thinking it over for a couple of seconds. “You and I procreating is certainly the simplest and easiest solution to work out the value of our unknown factor here: how to assure a progeny that is not just highly intellectually gifted, but also physically vigorous.”
Closing the door it is, then.
Don’t say that she didn’t try. She did try. She tries and tries again, but his hand, firm against the wood, makes it impossible. She immediately retreats. It is not often that Sheldon displays any kind of physical strength because, in fact, Sheldon sort of lacks any kind of physical strength. Yet, there he is. He’s not leaning causally against her door, as he often does. He’s leaning towards her, one hand holding the door open, both feet standing firmly inside her home. He’s not leaving. He makes it obvious when he insists: “I am perfectly serious, Penny.”
He is perfectly serious. He is perfectly serious. She doesn’t know if she should laugh, or cry. He’s come to her apartment in the middle of the night to get her pregnant, and he’s perfectly serious about it. All of a sudden, she has an answer. She wants to cry. She is sure she wants to cry. She doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know what to do to help him understand. This is not how it works. She knows, but he doesn’t, and that realization breaks her heart a little. He doesn’t even know what he is saying and yet, he is so determined, so honest, and so trustful about it that she is left absolutely speechless. She can think of anything to say that will make it better. She can’t yell at him, because that would only confuse him further, and she can’t try to explain calmly because he will reject each of her attempts and will trash whatever argument she makes about love and feelings and everything else he doesn’t consider he should know about. She can’t say anything. She can only do something and damn it, it’s been a long and weird night and in the morning she won’t hold herself responsible for her own actions. Go girl, she thinks, standing on her toes and grabbing his face, pulling him closer until her lips are resting on his, softly, so softly.
She doesn’t want to scare him. That’s the last thing in the world she wants to do.
Fortunately, he doesn’t run away, doesn’t scream, doesn’t push her off. In fact, she has reached the fourth Mississippi when she realizes that he is moving, kind of. His right hand is still holding the door open; his left hand is still hanging lifelessly by his side. Yet, he seems to be moving closer, closer, closer, without actually moving one inch. She has just left the seventh Mississippi behind when she realizes he’s not really leaning towards her as much as he’s falling against her, sort of like a dead body. She pulls away immediately, but only slightly. She is sure the laws of physics have a lot to say about the pain in her toes, but she isn’t done with her lesson yet. She lets her hands fall to his chest, slowly pulling him back until he’s once again standing perfectly straight. His hand finally leaves the door, only to wrap itself around her waist when she kisses him again. She doesn’t stop to wonder. She’s sure the way he’s helping her support her own weight has a lot to do with basic physics as well, so there’s no use in thinking it over. She concentrates on her mouth, on her teeth grazing his bottom lip until he finally surrenders. She takes her hands to his neck again and caresses his nape until she feels goose bumps rising beneath her fingertips. She keeps the strokes of her tongue slow and deliberate, as not-messy as she can. Five Mississippis later she’s flat on her feet again. She doesn’t move away, but she’s barefoot and he’s tall enough for the distance between them to provide enough breathing space. His right hand is still curled around her waist, and there’s a look of peace and wonder shining glassy in his eyes.
“You had your first date tonight, Sheldon. You deserved a first kiss to go with it.”
He doesn’t frown. He doesn’t even nod. He doesn’t say anything and that, really, should surprise her. He’s looking attentively at her, as if all of a sudden he was realizing something. Yet, realization doesn’t look painful or even surprising in his eyes. He learns things as if he had always known them. His arm still hasn’t moved, and she doesn’t know what else to say. She was expecting him to tell her that neither her words, nor her actions had anything to do with their previous topic of conversation. She was expecting him to be angry, scolding, babbling and ranting like a mad person. She wasn’t expecting him to just stand there, smiling a tiny little smile, and quietly ask: “You know what I find fascinating, Penny?”
“What?” She feels embarrassed by her husky whisper the minute it comes out, but she doesn’t look away. “What?” she repeats, her voice still throaty. If socially-inept and emotionally-unstable Sheldon can handle this crazy situation without looking away, so can her. What what what, she wonders.
“The day I met you I was just coming back home from the high IQ sperm bank. I already had plans to engender a new race of intellectually superior specimens, but then I changed my mind without any logical reason, which is extremely out of character for me.” His smile twitches, and her heart skips a beat. “I came back home and I met you, as I said. Today I decided to pursue my original plans for procreation, and then I changed my mind again. Now I am here and you just kissed me and I liked it.” He’s still looking at her with that mixture of understanding and curiosity and she still can’t look away. She feels trapped underneath the weight of his gaze; she feels dizzy, grounded. He liked it! At least, thank God, she still has enough sense as to not interrupt him and ask him what he’s implying. Sheldon doesn’t imply. He says. Whatever he wants to say, he will say. And she kind of knows what he’s going to say, even if just the thought of being able to predict Sheldon’s words is completely crazy. But hell, she feels crazy. So she lets him go on, and he does. “Penny, do not mistake my meaning. I am not saying that I believe in such a juvenile superstition as fate, but the fact remains that the Theory of Everything has yet to demonstrate whether it is certain or not that cause always precedes effect.”
Of course. She nods. Of course. Sheldon’s only possible reaction to a first kiss could only be something she only understands vaguely. Surprisingly, though, when his right arm finally leaves her waist and he begins to turn away, she realizes that vaguely is definitely more than enough. She gets what he means. She really does. In fact, she’s still smiling stupidly when, ten seconds later, she hears him locking his front door for what remains of the night. What the cockamany just happened? Penny holds onto the doorknob to keep her knees from giving away under her boneless weight, and sinks her feet into ground to stop herself from running after him. She breathes in, breathes out. Breathes in, breathes out. It was just a kiss, she tells herself. Just a kiss. And two firsts in one night—as long and crazy as the night turned out to be—are probably too much as it is for Sheldon.
She wonders though, if the Theory of Everything will someday prove that number thirty-two does follow number seventeen.