someone holds me safe and warm
horses prance through a silver storm
"Listen to your heart! When he's calling for you. Listen to your heart! There's nothing else you can do..."
"You could stop singing," Sheldon says, rigidly sat in his spot with his hands pressed to his knees. He watches Penny curiously as she continues her song.
"Shut up, Sheldon!" Penny calls back before breaking into the reprieve.
Penny is drunk once more and this seems to convince her of a supposedly latent talent for singing. Sheldon had originally seen little sense in pointing out that this was not the case since the evidence was quite obvious. However, it appeared that Penny was laboring under some kind of placebo effect, otherwise known as Penny's homemade eggnog.
The song finally ends and Penny drops the mike, stumbling back slightly. She collapses into the chair by Sheldon's side, her feet propped over one arm as she reaches for her now near empty mug.
"What is with you tonight?" Sheldon says, left eye twitching at Penny still wearing shoes with her feet in such close proximity to the furniture.
"No one," Penny says. "I am all alone."
"Ludicrous," he says. "I am with you. Ergo how can you claim to be on your own?"
She leans her head back and looks up at him. Her mascara is smudged and there is a eggnog mustache above her upper lip, turned upside down so that it looks like a smile. Penny has not smiled all evening.
"Tell me, genius, where did Leonard go to spend his holidays tonight?"
"India, with Priya."
"India, with Priya." She scrunches her face up and attempts to mimic his voice. It really sounds nothing like him. "Like I said, I'm alone."
"I fail to see how those two comments are related."
"Of course you don't!"
Sheldon flinches at Penny's harsh tone. He repeats the facts again in his head then reverts to a tried and tested and provenly reliable formula: what would Amy Farrah Fowler do?
"Are you menstruating?" he says as gently as possible.
"Oh my god, Sheldon!"
He stands up. "Let me make you some tea."
"I don't want tea, okay? I just want eggnog. Sweet understanding eggnog. Eggnog understands."
Sheldon peels Penny's fingers from around her mug as she lifts it to her mouth and holds it out at arm's length like a radioactive core.
"Rest assured I am not going to acknowledge such gobbledygook with any kind of intelligible response," he says, continuing on towards the kitchen.
"No fair, Sheldon."
"Penny," he snaps, causing her to frown at him. "Would you prefer peppermint or rosehip and hisbiscus?"
"Good choice." He smiles at her. "Peppermint oil has proven symptomatic relief for irritable bowel syndrome, which is why Leonard..."
Before he can finish his sentence, Penny lets out a loud shriek.
"Whatever is the matter?"
"I'm going to die alone drinking peppermint tea and feeding stray cats. And then the cats will eat my face and Leonard won't even come to my funeral because Priya will tell him that I'm a crazy cat lady and who could ever love anybody who had their face eaten by cats?"
"I understand," Sheldon says, carefully placing a teabag in a clean cup with a small set of tongs. "You've suffered a transient ischaemic attack due to your irresponsible alcohol consumption."
Penny cries into her hands, ignoring his medical explanation, even if she continues to confirm it with her erratic behavior. Sheldon lets her tea brew for the stipulated three minutes, squeezes the bag out with the tongs and disposes of it in the bin, before taking the mug over to her and placing it on the table by her side.
"There, there," he says and returns to his spot. He shuffles slightly, disappointed to find that it has already lost the last remnants of his body heat that he had spent such a comfortable time incubating. The things he did for this woman.
"Now drink your tea."
Penny peers through her fingers at him.
Something twists in Sheldon's gut. He tenses his jaw, discombobulated. He has eaten nothing untoward and maintained his usual bowel habit so what could this mean? He looks over at Penny as she reaches for her tea, blotchy eyed and red nosed and quite pathetic looking. He almost considers singing Soft Kitty to her. Could sad be a kind of sick?
"This will not do."
"It's fine," she says, blowing steam off the top of the mug.
"You... I don't know what to do with you."
She shrugs, without looking up. "Join the club."
Sheldon's hands clench into fists at his sides. He has to physically resist the urge to straighten Penny's hair, which lies in disarray about her head. She needs looking after, he knows, but he has never dealt with an urge to help her before out of more than a passing obligation to Leonard. Leonard. The fiend. He has abandoned him to the elements, the cruel cheery festive elements, and a drunken and sobbing Penny to take care of. How he hates Leonard Hofstadter right then.
"Damn you, Leonard," he hisses under his breath. "I hope you suffer bedwetting nightmares in response to your antimalarials."
"What's got into you?" Penny says. "I never said that I hated Leonard."
"But I do."
Penny places her mug back down, leaning closer towards him. "I'm not mad at Leonard. I'm just sad. But thank you for hating him on my behalf," she says with a smile.
That is the first time that Penny has smiled tonight. Sheldon feels both pleased and annoyed, which only goes to annoy him further.
"It was not on your behalf," he says. He can not help but to be truthful. Penny's smile falters.
"No, it's okay," she says.
"I want to help you." His lips thin into a straight line. "You shouldn't be sad."
The beginnings of a smile return to her face, the minutest twist of her lips but Sheldon can at least tell when she is smiling now.
"Taking care of stray cats is the noblest of pursuits. Did you know that in ancient Egypt..."
Penny rolls her eyes as Sheldon continues his story. Sheldon is now satisfied. Amy Farrah Fowler is always right.