At 7:30, Penny knocks on the door of 4A. Sheldon opens it, scanning her outfit with a hooded blue eye.
“I brought seven layer dip.” Penny chirps, holding the pie plate layered with cheese, salsa, guacamole and other fattening and low in nutrition ingredients out to him.
“Are the layers in the dip meant to distract us from the absurdity of your outfit?” Sheldon takes the pie plate from her and steps aside. Penny bites her tongue. He’s one to talk - she can’t even look at him tonight without seeing the after image dance before her eyes like when the flashbulb blinds her. Her outfit is decidedly festive - silver sequined mini-skirt, black and silver sequined tank top. It is New Year’s Eve, after all.
“Hey Penny,” Leonard takes the bag of chips from her other hand. Sheldon is still standing by the door, peering at the layers of her dip like he’s going to find a fossil in there or something.
“Hey! Boy Wonder!” Penny barks at him. “Wanna put that down so other people can have some.”
“Penny, how many times must I remind you that I am Batman?” Sheldon sighs but places the dip on the table. He leaves the plastic wrap on.
Penny ignores him again but removes the plastic wrap. She is just about to ask where everyone else is when Howard, Bernadette and Raj walk through the door.
“Beer.” Howard announces, holding up two six packs.
“I have champagne for midnight.” Bernadette chirps, holding up a bottle in her right hand. “And, Sheldon, I brought sparkling cider for you.” She waves the bottle in her left.
“That was unnecessary,” Sheldon mutters, not looking up from the pile of DVDs on his lap. “Thoughtful but unnecessary.” Bernadette’s smile falters a bit and Raj puts a hand on her shoulder until Howard’s glare makes him remove it.
Penny takes an enormous scoop of her dip which leaves a multi-colored hole right in the center; Sheldon frowns at it but continues to sort DVD’s.
“Hair’s Waimee?” Penny asks through guacamole and sour cream. Too late, she notices Leonard violently shaking his head. She swallows and repeats her question.
Howard suddenly becomes very interested in the labels on the bottles of beer he brought. Bernadette is studying the Chinese takeout menu like it was part of her dissertation defense and Raj dashes off to pee.
“Amy is with Stuart this evening.” Sheldon’s hand hovers over the dip then retreats, chip held lightly between his thumb and forefinger.
“That’s right!” Penny nods. “Stuart has that New Year’s Eve thing at the comic book store. How come you guys aren’t there?”
“Solidarity.” Leonard says.
“More like hostage crisis.” Howard grumbles.
“Excuse me,” Sheldon pipes up from his spot. “I made it perfectly clear that none of you had to be here tonight. You are all free to go to Stuart’s if you wish. The social custom of waiting until midnight to usher in the New Year is one I only partake in to appease all your plebian tastes.”
“And he wonders why Amy broke up with him,” Howard murmurs to Bernadette who swats him with the menu.
“Wait a minute,” Penny holds up her hands. “Amy broke up with you!? Why? When?”
Raj, who had just exited the bathroom, turns and walks back in.
Sheldon clears his throat, “It appears she is dissatisfied with our social interactions and the confines of our contract.”
Penny draws her brows together until Leonard says, “Amy wants a normal boyfriend and Sheldon is about as far from normal as you can get.”
“Oh yes, and a grown man who surrounds himself with comic books is the epitome of ordinary.” Sheldon fusses to the ceiling.
“When did all this happen?” Penny asks again.
“About two hours ago. Just as she was being picked up by Stuart to attend his soiree.” Sheldon replies. “She sent me a text.”
“She broke up with you with a text message?” Penny’s eyebrows have now separated and climbed up her forehead. “Oh, Sweetie. I am so sorry.”
“So, we decided that we’d hang out here with Sheldon instead of going to Stuart’s” Leonard shrugs.
“An action I stressed was completely unnecessary,” Sheldon snaps. “I am perfectly happy being alone.”
“That settles it then,” Howard jumps up from his chair. “Bernadette, get your coat. Raj! Stop hiding in the bathroom! We’re going to Stuart’s!”
Raj comes bounding out but his smile fades when he sees Bernadette’s glare. Penny looks at all of them - Leonard morosely sipping his tea, Raj, trapped between the bathroom and freedom, Howard, halfway out the door and Sheldon, rooted in his spot as always. Her heart twists for him. His hands are resting on his knees but he is staring out the window, trying to ignore the conversations around him. Penny didn’t think Amy had it in her to be so harsh as to break up with Sheldon on New Year’s Eve, but Amy probably wasn’t being deliberately cruel - just socially unaware as usual. Even though Amy called Penny her bestie, Penny was Sheldon’s friend first and she never could resist him when he was hurt and vulnerable
“You know what, guys? I worked a long shift so I am not really up for a big party. Why don’t you all go to Stuart’s? I’ll stay here with Sheldon.”
“I am not a child! I do not need babysitting.” Sheldon whines.
“Really, Penny? You don’t mind? Cuz we can all stay if you do?” Leonard’s voice is sincere but Penny can hardly believe him since he’s pulling on his coat and grabbing his keys with every word.
“Not at all,” Penny says but the door has already closed. “Happy New Year!” She yells.
The door bangs open and Leonard’s head pops back in, “You too, Penny and thanks!” and he pulls it closed once more.
Penny walks over to the couch and plops herself down on the middle cushion, “So. What should we do until midnight?” She nudges Sheldon in the ribs. He gets up from his spot and loads a DVD into the player then returns to his seat next to her. Penny cringes when she hears the familiar trumpet blasts that precede the giant yellow letters that preface the start of the first Star Wars movie.
It is 7:45.
Something is crawling along the line of her jaw. Penny raises the back of her wrist and brushes her chin but seconds later, the sensation - a feather-light brushing - is there again. Her eyes pop open and register several things:
First, her head is pillowed on Sheldon’s bright orange shoulder.
Second, that shoulder is now sporting a sizeable puddle of drool.
Third, Sheldon’s thumb is tracing the line of her jaw.
Fourth, his eyes actually have a grey ring around the pupil which she never noticed until she got this close to him.
Fifth, Sheldon’s thumb is tracing the line of her jaw!
“Sheldon,” Penny’s voice is gravelly from sleep. ‘Why are you touching my face?” She hasn’t lifted her head from his shoulder and he hasn’t moved his hand or created any distance between them.
“I’m not sure.” The normal adolescent cracks that color his voice are gone. He is speaking in a whisper that deepens the tone and hints at the twang from his childhood. “You fell asleep almost as soon as the movie started and I have to change to The Empire Strikes Back. I guess I intended to wake you…” His voice trails off. “Penny, why did you opt to stay home with me?”
She blinks slowly, buying time for her answer. She raises her head and now Sheldon’s hand is cradling the side of her face. His thumb is still but the ring of grey is being overtaken by the blackness of his pupils.
“I…” Her voice catches in her throat. She could parrot his answer back to him. I’m not sure but that would be cheating. She takes her lower lip between her teeth. Why did she stay? The answer is so clear but Penny isn’t sure she is ready to admit it yet. True to the evening they are semi-celebrating, her mind floods with memories. A whiteboard and a spoof of the Bourne-Oppenheimer approximation. Midnight apartment cleaning. Underwear strung up on a telephone pole. Learning “a little physics” and the hours it took her to memorize the facts and figures he gave her. Grocery shopping. Rides to the comic book store. Cheeseburgers with everything on the side. HALO. Age of Conan. Leonard Nimoy’s DNA. A drive to the hospital. A hero who peeks. Endless, endless rounds of Soft Kitty. All of it culminating on this night of new beginnings into the realization that she stayed because she wanted him. She stayed because of him.
There is no way she can tell him that; at least, not in a way that he’ll understand on the first try so Penny offers him the only explanation she can.
She kisses him.
At exactly 10:35.
Making out in Sheldon’s spot is as hot and as dirty as Penny had always imagined it would be, After a few false starts, Sheldon finally caught on and all systems were go. His hands stayed clamped on her waist but Penny had managed to get him to actually lie down. One hand cradles his head while the fingertips of her other hand brush the short hairs just above his ear. Sheldon’s lips part under hers and Penny takes this moment to let her tongue slip through instead of the light flicks she had been doing. Sheldon angles his head and the kiss deepens which causes Penny to jerk back.
“Hey!” Her tone is more than a little accusatory.
“Have I done something to offend you?”
“It’s just,” Penny blows a curl away from her face. Sheldon lifts his hand and brushes it away for her. It is a gesture that is simple and thoughtful and makes Penny forget for a moment why she stopped kissing him in the first place. “That last kiss or your reaction to that last kiss was a little, you know, advanced.”
Sheldon blinks at her, “I’m not sure I understand what the problem is. Are you troubled that I am able to catch on to the mechanics of kissing quickly? Would you prefer I slobber all over you like an overzealous St. Bernard?”
“No,” Penny admits and her hand that was stroking his hair is now tracing a small circle near the neck of his t-shirt. “But, I wasn’t expecting…”
“Penny,” Sheldon’s tone right there could be a total mood killer if his eyes weren’t burning into her at the moment. “I possess two PhD’s in a subject area most of the population finds baffling at its simplest level. I can assure you, figuring out how to kiss is child’s play.”
“Yeah, well, we’ll see about that.”
By 11:05, Sheldon is down to one shirt; and Penny’s tank top glimmers from the floor. One bra strap has slipped down her shoulder and Sheldon’s lips are ghosting over the top curve of her breast.
After their brief discussion about the simplicity of kissing, Penny yanked him up and straddled him fully, her skirt bunching up near her hips. Sheldon squeaked and then groaned when her mouth began traveling along the length of his neck. He tried to kiss her again but Penny gripped his hair and set to work on his collarbone until Sheldon was half whispering, half pleading with her to both stop and continue. Her teeth grazed the skin and his hands slid right up the outside of her thighs. She could feel the tips of his fingers barely brushing the elastic of her panties. Penny rolled her hips against him and Sheldon’s hands (which suddenly seemed to have a life of their own) curved under her ass.
She lifted her head and Sheldon crushed his lips to hers. His hands had moved and held her head to his. It was a brutal kiss and Penny heard the click of teeth then his lips were trailing down the side of her neck. She arched her head back to guide him and he mimicked every move her mouth had made on him. Penny whimpered as his lips, teeth and tongue bruised the skin just under her ear.
“Can I do this?” His voice was breathless, ragged and his fingers pulled at the bottom of her shirt. Penny nodded and raised her arms. Sheldon pulled the tank top off and held it for a moment to take in the sight of her.
“You’re staring.” Penny’s cheeks reddened.
“I’m sorry,” Sheldon cleared his throat and placed the sequined top beside him where it promptly slid to the floor.
“Your turn.” Penny sing-songed, but Sheldon clamped down on her wrist.
“Just one layer. Please. For now.”
Penny nodded slowly, “Sure, Sweetie. I understand.”
“I know you do, Penny.”
11:25 finds them both shirtless and reclined on the sofa once more. The right side cushion balances precariously on the edge of the couch but Sheldon needed the extra leg room. Penny can’t seem to get his hands to go anywhere but her bare breasts or the curve of her waist.
“Sheldon,” Penny breaks another endless kiss. “You gotta move on.”
“I don’t understand.” He blinks at her. Penny looks at him, lying alongside her and wonders how he can be so brilliant and so clueless. She clears her throat. This has to be handled delicately.
“I mean…” a small sigh escapes her, “This is great - the kissing, the touching, being close like this but,” Penny bites her lip. “I need a little more.”
Sheldon’s expression of bafflement remains and Penny rolls her eyes. She takes the hand that is resting on her hip and slides it under her skirt. Sheldon’s eyes widen.
“Penny, I’m not…I don’t think…” Despite his protesting, Sheldon has worked an index finger between her leg and the elastic that encircles it.
“I’ll show you,” Penny whispers, covering his hand with hers and guiding it along.
“Oh. Oh.” Sheldon’s eyebrows rise as Penny’s fingers move with his. Her hips move in rhythm with his hand. A gasp escapes her when she coaxes him from one finger to two.
“A little faster.” She murmurs against his lips and feels Sheldon’s wrist flex as he increases the tempo. A quiver skips across her abdomen. “Not that fast, Sweetie.” Penny cautions and Sheldon is back to delivering slow, deep strokes. Penny runs her hands down his chest and has his brown plaid pants open before he can react. Her hand slips down and encircles him. She grins at the low growl that is coming from the back of Sheldon’s throat each time her hand slides upward.
“Penny, I…oh my…I think it best,” she tightens her grip around him and Sheldon buries his face in the curve of her shoulder for a moment. “I need...”
“You need me to stop?” Penny’s voice is husky. Sheldon nods. “That’s okay, Sheldon. Now, let me show you what happens when you curl your fingers toward you.”
Penny is back on Sheldon’s lap. They grind against each other. Their mouths meet, change angles, tongues stroke against each other. Sheldon’s height makes it so he doesn’t have to pull Penny down to kiss her. Instead, they are eye to eye and she feels like his eyes are making trails all over her exposed flesh.
Penny groan as she feels the hardness beneath her each time Sheldon’s hips meet hers. His left hand grips the back of her thigh so tightly she is sure there will be a set of five bruises there tomorrow. The couch is in complete disarray. The coffee table angled away from the couch after Sheldon’s leg kicked out when Penny traced the outline of his ear with her lips. She knows she lost an earring a good ten minutes ago - either Sheldon or the couch swallowed it up. Her hair is knotted beyond belief and still he manages to run his fingers through it.
“God, Penny.” Sheldon moans then takes her breast in his mouth once more. Electric jolts travel through her as his tongue rolls over the nipple in his mouth.
She cradles his head to her chest, feeling the pressure building between her legs again.
“Closer,” She gasps. “I want us closer.”
Sheldon moves his hand under her skirt again and moans at the heat and wetness there. His fingers plunge into her without warning and Penny draws her breath in.
“Penny. This is…I want...” His words are cut off by another groan.
He raises his head and meets her eyes before giving the slightest nod of his head. Penny climbs off him and smoothes her skirt down. He gives her tank top back then picks up his maroon undershirt. Sheldon stands from the couch. His hair is pointing wildly. His lips are swollen and a deep crimson and shades of purple, blue and raspberry pattern the left side of his neck. He looks so utterly disheveled that Penny walks over and presses another kiss to his lips. Sheldon’s arms encircle her, molding her against him. They kiss for a few minutes and Sheldon laces his fingers with hers. Penny steps back from him and toward the door, pulling him along. Sheldon tugs her hand in the direction of his room.
She looks over her shoulder at him and he pulls at her hand again.
It takes her a few seconds to process his meaning and then her hand covers her heart. Of course, he would see spending the night in his room, in his bed as a clear indication of what all this meant to him. Of what she meant to him.
“Penny?” His voice, for the first time since she has known him, holds a note of uncertainty. “Tonight. You and I. Paradigm shift?”
“Paradigm shift.” Penny smiles. Sheldon returns her smile and leads her down the hall.
“C’mon. C’mon. Hustle! Hustle!” Leonard opens the door to the lobby and Bernadette, Howard, Raj and Amy all come through. The five of them begin bounding up the stairs, their footsteps like thunder.
“Oh, we’re not gonna make it.” Bernadette wails.
“We better make it!” Howard barks. ”What kind of people leave a New Year’s Eve party before the New Year?”
“I felt bad!’ Leonard shouts from the back. “Penny probably ditched him hours ago.”
“He probably went to bed hours ago!” Raj whispers to Leonard who is behind him. “And why is Amy here?”
“Amy!” Leonard calls over his shoulder. “Why are you here?”
“I feel my breaking up with Sheldon via text was insensitive. He deserves such an announcement in person.”
“Leonard! The door is locked.” Bernadette yells from the fourth landing. “Hurry! It’s 11:57!”
Leonard bounds up the stairs and unlocks the door.
“Sheldon! We’re back!” His voice echoes in the empty apartment. Raj, Howard, Bernadette and Amy peer over Leonard’s shoulders.
“Were you robbed again?” Howard looks at the mess surrounding the couch and the couch itself.
“Sheldon!” Leonard runs down the hall to Sheldon’s room.
Bernadette bends down and picks something off the floor.
“That’s the Victoria Secret bra I gave Penny to celebrate our six month anniversary.” Amy says.
“You gave Penny a bra?” Bernadette lets the bra fall from her fingers.
“You have a six month anniversary?” Howard wonders.
“As besties,” Amy smiles. “It looked stunning on her, too.”Raj straightens out the coffee table and finds Sheldon’s discarded Aquaman shirt. He looks pointedly at Howard then Bernadette.
Leonard comes back into the living room. His face is pale and his steps are leaden.
“Leonard?” Bernadette scurries over to him. “Are you ok?”
“I knew he shouldn’t have eaten those Cheese Doodles,” Howard hisses to Raj. “Even the fake cheese gets him.”
“I found them.” Leonard’s voice is barely a whisper.
“They’re dead, aren’t?” Amy’s voice is grim. ”Slaughtered by some deranged New Year’s Eve killer who has no respect for life or furniture arrangement.” Her cheeks flame when eight pairs of eyes glare at her.
Raj walks down the hall and seconds later his “EEP!” is heard. Bernadette comes back from the kitchen with a glass of water for Leonard in time to see Raj waving her and Howard down the hall.
“Stay with Leonard.” She tells Amy and follows her fiancée.
Leonard had only pushed Sheldon’s slightly ajar. She pushes her way between Howard and Raj who are snickering behind their hands like the geeks they are. Bernadette claps a hand over her mouth to muffle the gasp coming out of it.
Sheldon and Penny are fast asleep, blissfully unaware of the gawking eyes of their friends. The sheets are rumpled around them. One of Sheldon’s bare legs hangs off the bed: Penny is curled into his chest with the sheets pooled around her waist.
Bernadette recovers quickly enough to push the giggling Howard and Raj back toward the living room. Those two can barely look at each other without falling into new fits of laughter. Howard gets himself in control first after a blistering look from Bernadette.
Say something to him, she mouths.
Howard wipes under his eyes and walks over to Leonard, clapping his hand on his shoulder.
“Happy New Year, buddy.”