"Penny, I know you understand my intense aversion to being tardy." She knows he's hovering in the living room, and she can only imagine his facial expression at the pile of clothes she had abandoned earlier on her sofa in her quest to find the perfect pair of jeans for her costume. On a scale of 1 to apoplectic, he's at least at 9 by now.
"Sheldon, it is--" she glances at her watch, "only 8:12. The party doesn't start for another 48 minutes, and it's only going to take us 15 to drive over there. We're fine!" She looks in the mirror one last time, willing to give into him on this one (if nothing else, she knows that Sheldon will stop pacing and start cleaning, and really, the mess can wait until tomorrow). Everything looks perfect, and she's pretty proud of the way she's managed to do her hair, the fact that she found the perfect shirt. He's going to love this.
When she pops out of the bedroom and sees him standing with his hands on his hips, his head turned (oh, he saw the pile of dirty dishes, abort, abort) she can't help but gasp a little. They hadn't discussed costumes at all, and here he is, standing in all black, the v-neck shirt and leather jacket are-- ok, really, he looks good. His hair is a little more mussed than she's used to, and while he doesn't have the ears, it's the Doctor in her living room.
She realizes that not only is she blatantly checking him out, he's actually doing the same to her. Or at least, whatever his version of that is. The best part is, she knows she has Rose Tyler down. She had found screencaps and everything. She tugs a little self-consciously at the Union Jack t-shirt she's wearing underneath her black hooded jacket. "Penny, that costume is remarkable in its attention to detail." She jokingly half-curtsies and makes her way over to him to get a closer look. It's not hard to ignore the voice in the back of her brain that is wildly protesting that this is Sheldon, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, when she reaches out to brush her hand down his jacket. There's a square lump, right above his heart, and he smiles at her puzzled look. "Psychic paper," he explains.
"Of course. And your sonic screwdriver?" He pats his right pocket.
She can't really believe how well she knows these lines now, but a quote immediately bubbles up her in her mind. Sheldon had decided that the only adequate revenge for The Lake House was a Doctor Who marathon a few weekends ago, and she had really truly enjoyed it. So there's really only one option, just to see how he's going to react.
"Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks, 'Ooh, this could be a little more sonic?'"
Instead of telling her off because the line isn't one of Rose's, he launches into a complicated list of advantages to having a sonic screwdriver, so, it's not quite what she was expecting, but still pretty Sheldon-y. And by item number 7 on the list, he's actually sort of starting to embody the character he's dressed as - a little more looseness to his limbs, his face opening up and the smile reaching his eyes.
She interrupts him before he can get to get to his next point, otherwise, they'd miss this work party of his entirely and she'd either end up sitting through a lecture on the physics of the eventual possibility of a tool such as the sonic screwdriver, or the next season of Doctor Who. Even if she does want to know what happens when he regenerates, Sheldon just shakes his head every time she asks him what happens next, or if really that other guy can be the Doctor too. OK, so another marathon wouldn't be so bad. "Sweetie, it's 8:30. We should probably get going. We might even be a little early, that way."
That does the trick. "Do you require anything else before we leave?"
"Nope, I'm all set." She leans over and snags her keys from the table, and when she straightens up he does something so unexpected she has to bite the inside of her lip to stop herself from saying anything. His hand is on her back and he's steering her gently towards the door. A sudden, stray thought bubbles up: is this a date? When did this become a date?
And then Sheldon leans in just enough so she can feel the pressure of his chest against her arm, and she swears on all that is holy that he smells her hair. Yep, it's a date.
Penny will be the first to admit, this Caltech party is actually pretty fun. The punch has definitely been spiked, and she's 3 cups in. Raj has matched her drink for drink so far, and he's really not that bad as long as Sheldon is hovering over her protectively. He's dressed up as someone named Zaboo - but he wasn't drinking yet when she asked who that was, and she's forgotten to bring it back up. Howard disappears pretty quickly after he shows up, and she doesn't even want to know how he managed to get here on his scooter when he's only wearing a loincloth. Leonard's over in the corner with Leslie Winkle, and he offers her a genuine, if awkward smile when she waves at him. They're coming up on the sixth month anniversary of the break-up, or, as Howard had nicknamed it: The War of the Worlds. Seriously, they had made a fake plaque to hang on the fridge in Leonard and Sheldon's apartment and everything. She's not quite back to normal with Leonard yet, but they're close, and that's good. (The direction this night is heading in, she's going to need a friend who understands just how weird it is that Sheldon apparently has a deal, even if it's Leonard. It's not like she's going to go bare her soul to Howard about it. Oh god.)
She wonders if she can get Sheldon to drink some of the punch. He has to know that it contains alcohol, if Raj is physically able to speak to her, but he hasn't made any comments about the fact that she's had 3 Dixie cups worth of it either. She cranes her head around to discover he's already looking at her, which, ok, is a little weird and a little hot, and he's got an expression on his face that she can't quite read. It's a toss up between the Sheldon-version of desire or he's mentally reciting pi to the 87th decimal place again.
"I'm going to get another drink. Raj?" He starts to polish off the end of his cup and gives her a thumbs up with his other hand. Drunk Raj is great, Penny decides. "Sheldon?" He looks around her to the little bar they have set up, where it's pretty much punch or nothing, and grimaces.
"Think of it as a non-optional--"
"Social convention, yes Penny, I know. I suppose it can't hurt to have one glass."
Raj stops drinking and stares at Sheldon as if he is witnessing the second coming itself. "Dude!"
Penny smiles like her face is ready to come apart. This night is going to be legendary. She reaches for his arm and grips it a little, and he feels warm and solid beneath her fingers. Maybe she can even get the leather coat off of him at some point, although she might not quite know what to do if she's faced with the possibility of seeing Sheldon's naked elbows for the first time ever. "Alright, Mission Acquire Punch is go for launch. Behave yourselves while I'm gone."
As she walks off, she definitely hears Raj say her name, the word "dude" at least 5 more times, and she's pretty he's talking about her ass. OK, maybe Drunk Raj is still the same. But her ass does look great in these jeans, so. It's cool.
She has never seen anything quite like what happens when some song comes on the speakers, and she can't even understand what the hell this high-pitched guy is rapping about until he gets to the chorus, but by that point Raj is actually jumping up and down, and even Sheldon is sort of nodding along. It's officially a nerd dance party, and about half the place is singing along:
My backpack's got jets
Well, I'm Boba the Fett
Oh my god. This kid rapping seriously sounds like a weird cross between Eminem and Cartman, but she's pretty sure if she points that out, somehow she'll end up being the super uncool one. The next song is some legitimately hilarious acoustic cover of "Baby Got Back," and once she gets a feel for the rhythm of the song she can't help but dance a little bit. She uses her free hand to grab one of Raj's and she spins him around once, lets go and turns to face Sheldon, and he's standing right there. Looking a little amused, but not really in his standard vaguely patronizing way. Her hand goes to him, like gravity, and she slips her hand inside his coat to rest directly on his chest, and they just stand there for the rest of the song, smiling at each other and probably looking like idiots.
The moment is broken when the next song comes on, mostly because Raj emits the girliest squeal she has heard since Junior Rodeo. And that one didn't come from one of the girls, it came from one of the pigs. She didn't even think that noise was humanly possible. Once her ears have stopped ringing (and, holy crap, Sheldon's face is absolutely priceless) she finally figures out what the song is. Oh, the boys had made her watch this about eighteen times the weekend it came out and ohhhh, that's who Raj is, right, The Guild. Raj gets pushed to the middle of the impromptu dance party, and Penny thinks to finally grab her phone and snap a photo of him mid-rap.
And when Sheldon stands right behind her and watches the scene over her shoulder, leans in and whispers conspiratorially, "And imagine, this is supposed to be a professional work function," she thinks this evening is going to turn out alright, no matter what happens.
Howard surfaces about an hour later, and she prays no one asks him where he was. She really does not need to know. He looks far too pleased with himself, and has already exchanged (she counts) seventeen high fives with Raj. So yeah, avoiding details is essential. He finally turns his attention to her, and she can see the glint as soon as he realizes exactly who she's supposed to be.
"Penny, or should I say Rose? What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."
It's sort of sweet for Howard, for once, so the urge to punch him is pretty minimal, and she settles for a grudging, "Shut up, Howard," instead. He just smiles.
Raj pokes Howard in the arm, and gestures to where Sheldon is engaged in conversation with some grey-haired man across the room. "Check out Sheldon. He's drinking the punch!"
Penny can't help but laugh when Howard's jaw nearly hits the floor. It is pretty great. Sheldon's leather jacket is still on him, but there's something about the way he's standing, the way he's gesturing. It's still the same guy she's always known, but she has this new appreciation of how tall he is, and just how controlled his movements usually are. He was pretty good about sticking to his promise of only one cup, and he's not about to start rocking out on some showtunes, but it's nice. He's nice. She wishes he was back with them, standing next to her. She wants to hold his hand. Doesn't Rose always hold the Doctor's hand? Wow, she is really, really not that drunk.
Maybe he has some sort of radar for knowing when people are talking about him, but Sheldon glances over and sees them all looking at him. He shakes the gray-haired man's hand, and starts heading back over to them, so he doesn't catch it when the guy shakes his head and laughs a little in disbelief, then wanders off himself. Yeah guy, she thinks, join the club.
"Koothrappali. Wolowitz. Penny, if you don't mind, I believe I have fulfilled all of my obligations at this event, and I am now able to leave without being accused of not fully participating in tonight's festivities." She flips her sleeve back over her watch and sees that's it's not even midnight, but it's Sheldon and really, she can only handle so much of Howard's chest hair being in her field of vision before needing a hefty case of brain bleach.
Raj and Howard groan with disappoint, and Penny tries to hide her smile. Then Sheldon's head whips in her direction, and he asks, "Penny, do you still possess the motor skills necessary for driving us home?"
Shit, that's a valid point. She had stopped after the fourth cup, but still. It's Halloween, and there's probably going to be cops all over the roads tonight. She can't afford a ticket, and she definitely can't afford the spike her insurance would take if she got nailed for a DUI.
"We'll take a cab, I guess. There will be some outside, right? I can just get Leonard to drive me back over tomorrow morning to grab my car. Problem solved." She leans over and smushes her cheek against Raj's, and settles for patting Howard's shoulder. "Have fun you guys!" Leonard is... somewhere around, but she hadn't seen him for a while (and if he's scored with Leslie Winkle, well, good for him), and whatever, she'll just grab him tomorrow morning. He won't mind too much.
She turns and it's total instinct when she presents Sheldon with her left hand. His only response is to stare at it. She wiggles her fingers a little, and there's some hint of a smile that passes over his face, but he takes her hand in his (how has she never noticed how long his fingers are before?) and they head out into the night, just a Doctor and his companion.
He holds her hand again once they get in the cab. He doesn't say anything, beyond giving their address to the driver, and advising him of his preference of Euclid Avenue. He's half-watching the meter, but she can tell he's a little grossed out, or at the very least uncomfortable. It's not like the cab is dirty, but it smells like Chinese food and cigarette smoke and people, and the seats have been taped together in a couple of spots. She sweeps her thumb against the back of his hand, and there's that look again, the one that she can't place, and then he turns and looks out the window. If it was any other guy, they'd probably be making out already, getting yelled at by the cabbie to keep it in their pants, but in no universe does that happen with her and Sheldon.
So she just sits and waits for them to get home, and she uses every bump in the road to squeeze his hand a little bit.
When they get to the top of the stairs, it all just happens. One minute he's glancing at his door, and the next his hand is on her cheek, sliding back around to tilt her head up, and then oh--
She knows when Sheldon decides to do something, not only does he want to be perfect at it, he will be perfect at it. His lips are still a little red from the punch, and when he opens his mouth and she opens hers, they both taste the same. Her hands have the lapels of his coat, and all she wants is to get closer. She manages to start walking them backwards, and when Sheldon realizes what she's doing, he gets her flush against her her door, leans in against her, and ignores her sound of protest when he breaks the kiss. His lips ghost across her face over to her ear, and then his left hand raps on her door three times.
Where the hell did she put her keys, because if they are not in this apartment in the next ten seconds and removing multiple layers of clothing, there will violence. Or something. But finding her keys means she has to pick which one of her hands has to leave Sheldon's body.
He knocks three times again, and this time he actually tugs on her earlobe with his teeth before saying her name. His voice is in a register she's never even heard from him before.
Oh, and she's pretty sure the noise she just made resembled a particularly gruesome death call of some animal being strangled, but whatever. Keys. Keys. Right hip pocket? Check. The hand that's about to start wandering under his t-shirt has to take a detour.
Again, he knocks three times. Like, does he even know what he's doing? How does he know what he's doing? But this time, instead of completing the routine and saying her name, he captures her in another kiss, one that has her ready to skip unlocking the door entirely and let Sheldon do... whatever he's about to do right out here in the hallway, neighbors be dammed.
She pushes against his chest a little, and he gets the hint and pulls back. She likes that he doesn't freak out or thinks she wants to stop, he just looks at the keys in her hand and then nods a little.
This time, as the key slides home and she's finally able to open the door, with Sheldon right behind her and whatever adventure they're about to run into, this time her mental voice isn't sarcastic, just happy and a little scared, but in the best possible way. Fantastic.