F o u r
Penny hated hospital food, it was dry and usually cold but Sheldon was so uncomfortable with strangers that she couldn't possibly leave him here alone long enough to have a decent meal. So she'd been making her way to and from the closest gas station and living off junk food for the last two days.
For now it was a twinkie and the consistent sounds of Sheldon breathing steadily in his sleep. The door to their room was shut and the quiet in the room was almost overwhelming.
A sudden knock on the door seemed like an alien invader into her little world because the only people that came in here were doctors and they never knocked.
Penny climbed out of her rather uncomfortable chair and watched as the door opened and the bright eyes of Mary Cooper found her and the older woman offered a warm smile. "Hello Penny."
"Hi," Penny whispered and moved in for a warm hug, a feeling she'd missed for the last six years from her own parents.
As the women drew apart, Mary cast her eyes to her boy lying on the hospital bed. "Thank you for calling me, I'm certain that Shelly wouldn't have if it were up to him."
Mary moved around to the opposite side of the bed, the sunlight that was streaming in through the window and onto Sheldon's face was now shadowed by the worried presence of his mother. Penny wondered if she should take a step outside and leave Mary to her boy, but she'd been so supplanted here with him through all this that her feet wouldn't allow her to leave.
With a soft hand, Mary brushed the cheek of her child and cooed something that Penny couldn't make out, it was most likely a prayer of some kind. "So have these doctors told you anything?" Mary asked, not taking her eyes off of Sheldon.
Penny sighed slightly and sat back down. "Not really, they've been running tests and stuff. Sheldon really wants to leave but he can't stand without getting dizzy and before the fall he'd been losing words and sometimes he'd just freeze up. Biggest mistake I made was telling them that you were coming, because now they won't tell me anything because they have to keep the news within the family first."
"I've never been one for doctors, Penny. If they were worth half of what they were paid they'd have seen that you're about as good as family anyway." With a blush from her seat, Penny cast her eyes to the tile floor and shifted awkwardly in her seat. There was a silence in the room for a good five minutes as Mary continued to fuss over her boy. When she finally settled herself a little, she spoke. "It's cancer isn't it?" The word was heavy but it had passed through Penny's mind so much in the last couple of days that it was no longer foreign.
She shrugged a bit. "All the research I've done online with his symptoms and the few things I've caught the doctors saying… I think so."
Mary Cooper's eyes welled up almost immediately but she never let the tears fall. A bright and strong smile painted her face as she nodded to steady herself. "Well, just one more obstacle for my baby to overcome."
"Yeah." Penny added half-heartedly.
"Now, his sister's coming into town tomorrow… you two got any room for us? I swear I nearly died when Shelly told me he had a girl moving into his apartment."
The words made Penny smile, it seemed to shock anyone who knew Sheldon when they found out he lived with her. "Yeah we have room; I'll take the couch so you guys can sleep in my room."
"Now dear we don't want to make you sleep on an uncomfortable couch."
Penny waved the older woman off. "No, it's fine… the couch is actually pretty comfortable and Sheldon has a futon he got just because it was used in the background of one of those shows of his that he paid a boat load of money for and he never uses it. But I suppose now I won't be able to throw that back at him when he gets on me for spending my money on stupid stuff… because it'll be great for you and Missy."
Mary looked to Penny with a studying gaze and Penny found herself trying to read the woman's face. "God is good." Mary cooed, looking back to her son.
"I'm sorry?" Penny pried, watching as Mary slid the other chair in the room just a bit closer to Sheldon's bed.
"I've known for a long time that Sheldon was different, he never had friends until he moved away from Texas, he was always held up in his room either crying because he was picked on or plottin' his revenge. But he was always a good boy; he would try and find ways to help the dogs with their itching by shocking away their nerve endings or trying to make it easier for Missy to do her homework by making up hundreds of flashcards that the poor girl could never keep up with. Still, I always worried he'd end up alone or God forbid he'd end up back in Texas with us. Don't get me wrong I love my baby to death but Texas is not the place for him." Penny chuckled softly and continued to listen intently. "But the good Lord has blessed my boy with you. Now all those other friends of his are gone but you've sat in this hospital with him for two days and I can tell by the way you're dug into that chair that you'd be here for another two years if you had to be and sweetheart I hope you know how much that means to his momma."
A tear escaped Penny's will to hold them back and she was quick to wipe it away. She couldn't look at Mary or Sheldon in that moment because it might break her down completely if she did. She was going on little sleep and being in a hospital was on her top five lists of least favorite things in the whole world.
It was in this weakness, that Penny's heart shone through completely. "He's pretty much all I've got these days so… I gotta make sure he stays healthy."
Penny was absolutely beaming and it was mostly because Sheldon was doing the exact same thing. He hadn't stopped talking since they left the school and it was so wonderful to see him this excited.
As they made their way up the steps of the apartment complex, Sheldon was still going. "You see, this is why Dr. Harrington is such a remarkable man, on par with the great minds of our time because he sees things well beyond himself." Penny would nod and smile, it was genuine in its affection but half of what he'd been saying meant nothing to her, but it meant everything to him and that was enough. "I am still perplexed that he would give his grant money to me and my research!"
Unlocking the door, Penny stepped into the apartment and quickly discarded her high heel shoes. She listened as Sheldon shut and locked the door behind them before she plopped down on the couch with a thud.
"Dr. Harrington is a very sweet man." She offered, just trying to keep up and let him know she was listening.
"Sweet?" Sheldon argued joyfully as he opened up the refrigerator door and pulled out a pair of soda cans. "He's a gift to the human race and did you see Kripke's face when he gave me that funding, I swear Penny it took every ounce of mental stability I had not to stick my tongue out at him."
With a laugh, Penny stood and met Sheldon before he reached the couch. She took the soda can from him and took it back to the kitchen. As he sat down at his computer to, no doubt, post about his evening on Twitter and Facebook, Penny opened her drink over the sink and casually poured out about a quarter of it. From there she took out her vodka from the freezer and filled her can the rest of the way.
"I'm glad you had a good time, sweetie." Penny said, moving up behind him and wrapping her arm around his neck gently.
Sheldon didn't pull away from her when she hugged him anymore. It took a while for him to grow comfortable with this physical contact but she was a hugger and he knew that. Even more recently they'd shared a bed together numerous times so a simple hug was nothing. Plus, she always smelled quite good.
"Thank you, Penny." He started as she knelt down next to him, "and I do wish to express my gratitude in you're being there tonight. I've achieved a great deal of success in my life but to have a night like tonight and have you there to share it with was sublime."
When he looked at her finally, the silence that fell over the room was deafening. Penny could feel her heart racing as she watched the small smile twitch on his lips. When he moved, she nearly jumped but as his palm lay gently across her cheek she nestled her face against the warmth of his hand.
"Sheldon…," she whispered.
"You really are the primary aspect of my life, Penny. I hope to continue this… arrangement between us for the foreseeable future. "
Penny took a heavy breath. "Kiss me." She said, her eyes moving to his lips for only a moment as he quirked a brow. He was hesitant but he never backed away from her, his hand never left her cheek and she knew he wanted too. His inexperience in all this was paramount and that was why she was here for him, she was always ready to give Sheldon that extra little push.
She kissed him with everything she had and though Sheldon was stiff at first, she moved her lips against his and coaxed the emotions out of him and soon enough he was following her lead and soon enough they were locked in the moment.
Her chest was tightening with each second that passed and though she knew this night would go no further than this, she was soaking up this kiss and already claiming it as the best one she'd ever had.
As they separated, Penny rested her forehead against his and looked into his eyes as they opened slowly. "I…," she started, but the words failed her and she was left with nothing more than a throaty sigh.
"Penny." He stated as simply as he would if he were knocking on her bedroom door. That was when he finally pulled away from her and she settled back into her crouched position. "I—I need to go to bed."
She stared at him blankly for a moment before nodding slowly. "Oh… kay."
He closed the lid of his laptop as he stood and worked extremely hard not to look at her. "Goodnight, Penny."
"Night." She said with heavy disappointment that went unheard by Sheldon. The sounds of his footsteps faded down the hall as she stood and quickly returned to her vodka laced beverage.
If her actions tonight pushed that boy away she would never forgive herself.
As the Cylon's overtook the new settlement of the crew of the Battlestar, Penny sat in the warmth of Sheldon's spot and took another sip of her drink. It was getting late, well past midnight by now but she certainly wouldn't be finding much sleep tonight.
The kiss between her and Sheldon kept replaying in her mind. She could feel his hand on her cheek and the way her heart raced when their lips touched, it was wonderful and so perfect but had now brought so much stress and angst into the pit of her stomach. She'd pushed too far and tried too hard, yes she wanted to be with him, yes she loved him and with any other guy her aggressiveness would have been the best route, but with Sheldon… she clearly scared him away.
A sudden knock at the front door nearly caused Penny to drop her drink. Hastily, she sat it down on the table and stood in a rush to the door. Peering through the peephole, Penny let out a heavy sigh of exhaustion and laid her head against the door for a moment before opening it.
"Leonard… its midnight, past midnight, what are you doing here?"
He looked at her for a moment in silence. She was still in her white dress from the evening, though it the pink slippers countered the elegance just a bit. "I know, I—I can't believe you guys still live here." He said with pity and Penny glowered at him. "I'm sorry it's just that I couldn't leave things like they were… I mean… Penny it's been years since we've seen you and you act like we're some kind of bubonic plague."
Penny stayed firm, not budging from the door. "It's not about you, Leonard."
"Then what's it about, Penny. I—I'm sorry I didn't call."
She leveled a glare on him that brought to mind the phrase of 'if looks could kill'. "You should be." She spat, folding her arms in front of her. "We were so close, Leonard… I thought I mattered to you."
"You do, Penny. You always have." Again there was silence between them and Penny wouldn't look at him. "You've been drinking." He said flatly and Penny rolled her eyes with a groan.
"Not exactly breaking news, Leonard."
Leonard shook his head and finally got her to look at him again. "Dr. Gabelhouser offered me a job tonight."
That drew her full attention. "Yeah?" Leonard nodded. "Doing what?"
"Teaching." He said simply and Penny hugged herself just a bit.
"You gonna take it?" She asked, looking back into the apartment towards her and Sheldon's bedrooms.
He shrugged. "I miss you."
Penny smiled sadly. "Don't take a job for me Leonard. I'm not waiting for you anymore."
"Are you and Sheldon…," the question barely formed in his mouth. It bothered him to even ask it and he could tell it upset her.
She closed her eyes momentarily and shook her head. "No, Leonard, we aren't together."
"But the way you held his hand, the way you looked at him, you're in love with him… aren't you?" Leonard asked almost hesitantly.
"Yes I am." She said, matter-of-factly, almost proudly. She lit up as she said it, as if it were the first time she'd ever spoken the words aloud and though it pained Leonard beyond belief to hear it, for some reason it just didn't surprise him like he thought it should. "You gonna take the job?"
Leonard smiled. "I have missed you."
"Leonard…," she started, but he stopped her with a wave of his hand.
"And Sheldon, and the comic book store and… how simple life was here. I have an exciting life, but I also have an extremely lonely one and… I have some serious friendship points to make up."
"You can't just walk back into our lives, Leonard, you think I was hard… you haven't even tried with Sheldon."
Leonard cast his eyes to the floor for a moment and nodded. "I know… but I'm going to try, I want you guys back in my life." He then smirked a bit. "Plus I have to have a front row seat to watch you try to woo Sheldon Cooper."
Penny groaned with a playful smile and used the flat of her hand to push him out of the doorway. "Go away." She joked and he laughed with his head cast down to the floor. "By the way, you can't have your room back here."
He raised his hands defensively. "Oh no I wouldn't want to break up the Coopers." He then turned his gaze to the apartment door behind him. "Anyone living there?"
Her chuckle killed his dream of moving back to the building. "Retired lesbian couple, they make the most a—mazing green chili casserole. It's packed with cheese though; you wouldn't be able to eat it."
"You were always so thoughtful of my lactose intolerance." He said with truth but a smirk.
Penny's brow quirked. "Not so much thoughtful of the condition but more… leery of the results."
They shared a laugh and then an awkward goodbye and Penny closed the door to the hallway and it happened so fast it was as if he were never there at all. She was back in the solitude and quiet of the apartment, her white dress now suddenly binding as sleep and liquor began to tear her down.
Shedding her dress and grabbing her red Flash shirt that was slung over the back of the cushiony chair that sat to the right of the couch, leaving her dress on the floor she ignored the voice in her head that said leaving it on the floor would draw ire from her roommate.
Dressed in her nightshirt… her favorite shirt, she slid into the couch, covered herself with a blanket and fell asleep with the television on.
Sheldon woke up with a knot in the pit of his stomach. He'd went to bed with it, but that was almost something akin to a new comic book morning, or the next day after he'd purchased a new video game and would have the entire day to play it.
That was last night, this… this was different, and this was equally familiar but particularly horrifying. With this, as with most things, he could find sanctuary in the numbers and facts. He could do everything by the book and be safe, because he had the mind for safety and it far outweighed his lack of courage for everything else.
Chemotherapy was about all things technical, he knew what foods to eat to make his vomiting a little less painful, he knew what not to drink and eat beforehand to ensure that he lasted through the entire session. He had four comic books picked out for himself to read as they pumped him with the treatment and had also picked up three various fashion magazines for Penny.
Staring up at his ceiling, he knew where he found the courage for this. It wasn't within himself, it was with her. She was his courage and his strength; he was the mind that merely directed it all. In spite of her 'soup' tattoo, the truth behind its meaning, to her at least, had proved true over the last five years.
Sheldon was never one for needing people, he grew up alone and spent most of his life being told that he wasn't wanted, somewhere along the way he grew to feel the same way about everyone else. He tolerated most, grew accustomed to some and over time, he learned to actually enjoy the company of a few. Leonard was his friend, his roommate and someone who took the time to adjust to who Sheldon was. He never understood why he had to change, he was careful and precise and most of the time, he was shunned for that. Leonard tolerated it, that wasn't much, but it was more than anyone else had ever afforded him.
Then there was Penny, she was so able to push past everything that made him different and Sheldon was smart enough to know that he was different and stubborn enough not to care. With her, he didn't have too, sure he irritated her, and she did with him as well, but she never ran away or pushed him away. She adjusted and he made more effort to do the same with her than he had with anyone else.
Of course he bought her magazines for today, because he knew she would be there, she had always been there and always supported him. He, without hesitation, could say that she was the most loyal person he'd ever known.
She was his constant…
"… I do miss Lost." He whispered to himself before silently cursing J.J Abrams for only making six seasons when there was so little good television these days and he certainly didn't trust network executives after the cancellation of Firefly. Sure that was six years ago, but he was still bitter.
As he rose from his bed, he moved to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror for a while in silence. He ran a hand through his hair and wondered if he should shave it off now or wait for it to fall out, he waited last time and finding it in the sink was quite distressing. Penny had offered to shave it off for him, she said he looked cute bald, he knew she was lying.
After that he ran a finger over his lips, where she'd kissed him, where she'd touched him. He had certainly initiated it, with his hand on her cheek and that primal human instinct that overtook everyone at some point, beat even the great mind of Sheldon Cooper and he was oddly okay with that.
It made him normal, to be so drawn out like that by the interaction and touch of a woman. He never wished for normal, he wanted too and daily succeeded in being extraordinary. Still, kissing Penny didn't make him feel normal, it made him feel special, not because he choose to be with her, but because she was choosing to be with him.
Once he was finished brushing his teeth and going through the rest of his morning ablutions, Sheldon was warm in his morning robe as he shuffled down the hall and to the kitchen. He immediately noticed the soft sounds of the television and watched as an episode of Haven played across the screen. It was a decent show, a bit slow and overbearing on the pushing of Stephen King's name when everyone knew he had nothing to do with the actual telling of the stories. Still, he watched it, had the DVD's and knew that Penny liked it.
That was when his eyes fell onto the couch and the girl sleeping heavily there. She did everything with such feeling that he always felt himself smile when he saw her. Even in sleep she was intense. Her face pressed hard against the pillow, mouth open and her right arm dangling onto the floor, blonde hair everywhere. Her dress was on the floor and though her untidiness irritated him, it was an essential character quality of his. Like Bruce Wayne's somberness or Peter Parker's shyness, it was what made her Penny.
She was beautiful; he was never blind to that. He was always torn when it came to how they lived now. He was selfish in his enjoyment of her quiet lifestyle with him; it kept her here every night, near him and not alone. Still, he remembered how much life she was filled with before everyone else left, he often worried that he and his illness were stripping that from her.
Passing on cereal for the moment, Sheldon made his way to where she slept and knelt down next to her head. Hesitantly, he lifted his hand and slowly moved to her hair. It was all over her face and he pushed it back gently and watched as she licked her lips and nestled into the cushion a bit harder. It was a small movement and she didn't really do anything but prove that she could sleep through a tornado if a man touching her wasn't enough to draw her awake.
However, it was in that moment that Sheldon knew he was in trouble, that he was in love… or that he had been for years now. It was something he would have to process and figure out but it was certainly something he was willing to shape and form into his life. He would need structure and he knew that she would be okay with that.
He was only sure of one thing, Penny was his paramour, and she was the only one it could have ever been.
Rising to his feet, Sheldon moved to his whiteboard, popped open a red marker and began writing.
The squeak of the marker woke her, she lulled her head back and fought the small headache that was burrowing into her brain and looked above where she slept to see Sheldon's back and the outline of his whiteboard. He rarely did any work this early in the morning, unless something was confusing him, or he was trying to solve something he simply couldn't. She certainly hoped he wasn't stuck, especially not today.
That made her stomach drop, the first thought of what today was and what it meant for them. It meant late nights over the toilet and long days in the hospital. It meant that she would be crying again and he'd be distant. It was a brutal evil that had encapsulated their lives, but such a necessity to keep him here, with her.
She pushed up from the couch and sat, in his spot, and watched him for a moment. His head was cocked to the side just a bit as he wrote, his hand moving effortlessly.
"Good morning," she finally called, not wanting to startle him.
He froze then and she knew she'd screwed up last night. She kissed him and scared him and on today, the worst day of them all, he would be uncomfortable around her, she was supposed to be his rock and he was going to be weird with her.
Then he spoke. "I've reached a conclusion." Penny narrowed her eyes as he stepped from his whiteboard and towards her. She looked at his board and there were so many numbers and letters on it, symbols even that were like gibberish to her.
Turning her attention away from the board, she watched as he gestured slightly and Penny slid to the right and made room for him. Penny hugged the blanket close to herself, ready for the worst possible response from him this morning. He looked at her and she smiled as best she could.
"Do you see it?" He asked and she narrowed her eyes a bit.
Sheldon sighed tiredly. "The conclusion, it's on the board, Penny." She glared at him for only a moment before looking back to the whiteboard. "I'm merely going off what I've learned from movies and things of this nature but I believe it's customary to have some sort of subtle and sweet gesture to signify the beginning of a relationship. I believe the answer to my equation of the percentages of our possible romance is quite clever."
Penny was too busy scanning all the jumbled nonsense on the board to really hear him, it wasn't until she reached the bottom that she saw it.
S + P = BPO
Her gaze shifted back to him, her eyes heavy with sleep and worry. "BPO?" She asked, leaning in closer to him.
"Yes, that's 'Best Possible Outcome', I believe our becoming a couple will create the best outcome to both our lives, it's all in the math, Penny."
She laid her head against his chest and nearly melted when he wrapped her up in his arms and held her close to him.
They stayed that way for a good minute or so before Sheldon finally broke the silence. "I believe a compulsory kiss is required now to initiate our new relationship paradigm."
Penny settled back a bit and looked into his eyes, her smile irremovable at this point. "You liked that kiss last night didn't you?"
"Please don't make me admit it aloud, Penny."
She laughed softly, kissed him and didn't make him admit anything. Sheldon knew he'd come to the proper conclusion.