Chapter 1: O n e
O n e
"I have missed the warmth." Leonard said softly as he turned the wheel slightly to pass a slow rolling truck adjacent to their rental car on the highway.
One six hour flight for Raj and a four hour drive for Leonard later they were back in Pasadena, it was bigger than either of them remembered.
Raj sat next to him, his head half out the window and shades shielding the sun from his eyes with a smile across his face.
"Me too, dude. Well I missed that and the girls walking around in their skimpy clothes." They shared a soft laugh and continued down the road in a mess of traffic. The drive was slow, they rolled down the street and were almost thankful for the mess of cars surrounding them as it gave them a chance to reminisce and relive what both of them considered a wonderful part of their lives that was spent here. They pointed out some of their favorite restaurants (and laughed heartily at each "Sheldon Approved" restaurant) and marked places they needed to visit during their week vacation down here.
It was the retirement party for one of Caltech's oldest and most recognized physicists. He was a mentor to both of them, Howard as well who would be meeting them later. Their lives were busy but it was simply an invitation they couldn't ignore.
This reunion certainly wasn't an easy thing to put together. All of them had been building separate lives over the last seven years since they walked away from Pasadena and the comfort of their social group. So many different factors were a part of where they stood now. A part of why they all left was built around the relationships they'd had here, the ones that they strained, and the ones that were broken.
As the pair moved through the lobby of the hotel the discussion had turned extremely serious. Who, in fact, was the best Batman?
"Michael Keaton is the original, you can't top an original." Leonard was old school, never a fan of remakes, even if the rest of the world seemed to be.
Raj however, wasn't about to let his favorite movie of all time take a hit. "You're nuts, Leonard. Christian Bale brought the darkness to the character that even Keaton failed to represent. Plus, Adam West was the 'original' Batman and you cannot say that Ledger's Joker wasn't the best villain of all time. The revamp of Batman is the best."
Leonard scoffed slightly as they passed through the flower print carpeted hallway and stopped at the door of their hotel room. He retorted simply, satisfied. "Jack Nicholson, the argument ends right there."
Opening the door to their room, a rush of comforting and cool air hit them both and Raj bounded in first and splashed himself onto the bed. "Four hour flight from Michigan was totally worth it."
Leonard settled his things on the floor and took solace on his bed a bit more calm then Raj. "So Howard's texting me, he's in town and wants to know where to meet?"
A smirk grew across Raj's face. "We should go out for a meal."
"How about the Cheesecake Factory?" Raj spoke with a hint of intensity in his voice, as if he'd just dropped a pregnancy scare on a daytime soap.
Leonard felt his eyes roll. "You do realize that the odds of Penny still working there are extremely rare, right?"
"Well then there should be no worries, we can just enjoy the food and you know the food was always good."
Leonard sighed heavily and cast his eyes towards the window. It had been so long since he'd spoken to Penny, but far shorter since her face had passed through his mind. She was the first person he ever told he loved, even over his family who thought the simple idea of love was enough. They said it was nothing more than a theory that didn't really need broadening to speech and action.
The memory of their last day together still stuck out in his mind, it was one of those thoughts that came each day, yet he told himself after every one that he couldn't let himself think of things like that anymore.
There was a part of him that knew just going in there would bring her up in his mind again. It was like a moth to a flame though, a part of him knew it was bad… but he couldn't keep away. "Alright. They do make a good salad."
Raj's smile perked up a bit and the pair was out the door and headed for the restaurant.
You can make a lot of different things seem okay when you force yourself to smile each morning. That doesn't mean they are, doesn't even mean they're close to the way you want the condition of your life to be. Still, a proper smile and a blind attitude can cover up just about any agony.
Sometimes it's a job, other times circumstance makes the idea and the dream you expected seem unreachable. More often than not though, it's a person who changes the way your future turns out.
One day you see yourself at a movie audition and working so hard to time the line out just right that it sounds perfect and you begin your star driven dream to the top. The next day, you're sitting on the couch of your apartment on a Saturday night putting a few random pictures into a 150 page scrapbook.
There was a spot on the cover, a line draw across the top that was just waiting for some perfect title to be scribbled across it and define whatever the hell this thing was. There were so many different days put together in this one little book that it seemed to go well beyond definition.
Today's story being told was their last trip to Disneyland. She couldn't tell you why they went or what possessed her to even schedule it. Time off and a little extra money added to the ever growing depression of their current state and a mini-vacation was born.
As she settled the last picture into its spot (a great photo of them with Goofy), Penny took a sip from the small glass of wine she'd poured herself for the evening. It wasn't all that late; the sun was still casting itself over the sky and even peeking in through her window as perfect lighting for the task.
Today had been another simple day, quiet and calm with very little of anything going on. Penny could think back to foggy memories of nights where she would, literally, party until the sun was just coming up. She could remember, much better and with more angst, waking up alone or—worse than that—waking up next to some random man and that dark cloud of sorrow would hang over her. Now her life was so much different, she was different and anyone who knew her would say the same. Still, Penny could say with absolute certainly that she was happier now than she was then, in spite of outward appearances.
She felt like a much older woman than her twenty-eight years would attest. The last seven had been long and hard, a big part of her felt as if they were the years that would eventually define her life. Most nights were spent on the couch watching television, working on her scrapbook. Sometimes reading or even trying her hand at the occasional screenplay though she never could seem to push past the 20th page or so before she lost interest in one story and was ready to delve into something different.
Suddenly, breaking her thoughts and her work, Penny's phone began to buzz across the kitchen counter next to her. She sat down her book, took a small sip of her drink and answered. "Hello."
"Well, Penny, Penny… do I have a surprise for you." It was Chuck, the only person from the Cheesecake Factory who'd worked there as long as she. This was yet another aspect of her life that didn't fit into that old plan from years ago. Eight years as a waitress was certainly not the ideal ending in that screenplay about the girl from Nebraska.
However, the way he spoke drew a quirk in her brow, intrigue in her mind. "Guess I've been a little bored today, a surprise might help."
"You'll never guess who just sat down at table six."
"Oh God is it the Stevenson's? I swear if Mr. Stevenson stared at my breasts any harder when I took their order they would freaking explode. I don't know why his wife doesn't just punch him right…"
Chuck cleared his throat loudly to stop her rant and finish his end of the conversation. "Uh, no… not the Stevenson's. But I'll give you a hint, a boy with thick black glasses and an Indian man with a grey sweater vest."
Penny felt her stomach drop to her knees. "Are you kidding me?" She asked, almost desperately.
"Nope, and if I'm not mistaken they just ordered the exact same thing they used too… oh… wait, someone else just showed up."
Lowering her head, Penny had a million thoughts racing through her head and each one of them seemed to be going in the same direction. "Oh God, is the new person wearing a horribly tacky belt buckle?"
Chuck faltered on the other line, his hesitation giving the answer away. "I think it's a Nintendo controller… how the hell did you know that?"
She smiled slightly, but it was misleading of her feelings. With a heavy sigh, she finished the rest of her wine and knew another glass wasn't far off. "I'd say lucky guess if I really believed that." She responded, dryly.
"So… I'm noticing from their wandering eyes that they almost seem to be waiting for you to pop out or something. If they ask, what do I tell them?"
Penny took a long breath and felt the tears brimming in her eyes. It was as if someone was tearing at her from two different sides and she was losing herself in the feelings of mixture that painted the moment. She wanted to see them, know how they looked, hear how they were but…her eyes cast down the hallway of her apartment where the bedrooms were and…
…she couldn't do that to him. "Tell them I left, a long time ago."
"Really?" He asked, almost as if he had misheard her.
One of the tears escaped, it would be the only one she'd allow tonight. "Please."
"So…" As Chuck approached the table once more, he directed his attention to Howard who'd just joined his friends. "What can I get you?"
Howard thought for a moment and put his menu down with a heavy smile. "I'll go with the ham and mashed potatoes, with a large Coke."
Chuck smiled, wrote something on his notepad and turned away only to be drawn back by the call of Leonard's voice. "I'm sorry, and I'm going to be even sorrier if you don't but you've worked here for a while and… do you recognize us?"
"I did but I didn't want to say anything in case you boys didn't remember me. How have you been?"
They all shared a small laugh and Chuck knelt down next to the table for the impending conversation. "Good, good." Leonard spoke first. "I travel a lot, going from college to college giving lectures about my work and the work of other's. It's fun to see the world and explore."
Chuck turned to Raj who seemed far less excited to tell his tale. "I pretty much do the exact same thing I did here only without the support of friends and, well, it's incredibly cold in Michigan and my body temperature still hasn't adjusted even though every person I tell this story too says it will eventually. Oh and I have developed a great passion for… scotch." There was a slight pause, everyone eyeing Raj for a moment and an unsettling discomfort filled the air. Finally, it broke and Raj had no choice but to burst into a laugh and draw the attention away from everything he'd just said.
Left was Howard who wore a bright, almost arrogant, smile on his face. He began his story with gusto. "Well, finally found someone to tame the beast. Yeah Bernadette's made me a mild mannered man. I have a son, who is only a few lessons away from working some long division problems. He's only five, we live in a small town up in Washington and… couldn't be happier."
"Well that's great you guys, I'm glad to hear that ya'll are doing so well…" Chuck started before shifting his gaze back to Raj for a moment. "…well except for you, but I'm sure something good is right around the corner." Raj however simply shrugged and looked away. "Anyways, I'd better get your orders in." As his voice trailed, Chuck turned to make his leave for the kitchen when an almost desperate call of his name from Leonard stopped him.
"What about…" He cleared his throat, realizing that he'd spoken a bit louder then he wanted, and that anyone sitting within six or so tables from them on any side could hear. "Is uh…" He all but whispered this time. "Is Penny still working here?"
Chuck hesitated for only a moment as his mind wandered. "Penn? Nah she busted out of here years ago. Yeah last I heard she was in New York doing Broadway shows. Huge success, haven't heard from her in…" Another pause, he let out a little sigh and answered confidently. "Four years. Anyways… food's waiting."
As he made his actual exit, Leonard let out a heavy sigh that overtook the feeling of the table. There was disappointment through them all that she wasn't actually here. It was a quiet hope that had been passed in seeing her again but the idea of her being gone wasn't surprising, at least not to Leonard.
In truth he didn't really see her as the type to settle anywhere.
"I still miss that sweet body." Howard said in an awkwardly erotic tone meant more to break the silence than anything else.
Feeling Leonard's glare against him, Howard shrugged it off and looked to Raj who was smiling a bit.
"I actually thought about her a few weeks ago. I was at a coffee shop trying to pick up girls with this amazing new technique I've been honing called… the conversation." He couldn't tell you when, but there came a point in his life where Raj started to lay the jokes down on himself, it was easier that way. "Anyways, this girl had that pink Dell computer like the one Penny had and I swear, I couldn't really see her screen but I'm pretty sure she was shoe shopping."
The story brought a smile to Leonard's face as he looked at the small fort he'd built with the cream packets. "I think about her all the time, I miss her."
Howard's words were stopped by Leonard who smacked his sugar packet fort at the man next to him. "Yeah, we know."
"I got the job!" So much cheer filled the room that Penny couldn't have stopped her smile if she wanted too. Leonard was bursting through the door of the apartment with a handful of papers in his hand and quickly hugged her, ignoring the plate of food she struggled to keep from falling.
As he pulled away, Penny kept her smile proud. "That's awesome, sweetie! Oh I know how much you wanted it."
Nodding, Leonard moved to the kitchen and opened the fridge with a heat seek for a celebratory drink. "I wasn't sure because they had so many amazing candidates but…" He pulled out a bottle of orange soda, glanced at it with confusion and settled. "…they weren't as good as me!" With a heavy proclamation, he lifted the bottle high and took a drink, only to have the condensation water his eyes as he gasped for a breath. "Is Sheldon here?"
Guilt washed Penny's face for a moment. "Uh… no."
Leonard quirked his brow, curiously, in her direction. "Then… why are you in our apartment?"
"I… I heard a noise." She spoke too quickly, gave away her lie almost on purpose. His face remained stoic and she caved. "Alright, I knew you had some of Sheldon's mom's casserole and…its frickin' amazing, okay? Sue me."
A chuckle filled the room. "You're welcome in our apartment anytime, despite what Sheldon says…" There was a trail in his words and soon enough he fell silent. Penny could sense a discomfort in him and took an intrigued step.
Leonard shook out of his trance. "Yeah… I suppose I just realized that my statement is false to a point." Penny tilted her head as a notion for him to elaborate. "I mean, the job starts next month and this won't be our apartment anymore."
That, his one statement was the ONLY reason that Penny was hoping Leonard may be passed over for this job. He was a rock, so solid and sweet and… she cared about him so much but a part of her knew that if he left, when he left, the distance would consume them.
Of course he would keep in contact with the others; Howard and he were the most alike when it came to personality, minus Howard's 'suave' towards women. Raj and he talked science more seriously than anyone she'd known, other than Sheldon but more often than not he was talking to himself.
She moved to him, touching his shoulder with her patented half smile that melted him. "You're gonna do great, I know it."
Accepting her praise, Leonard then found himself focusing on something that hadn't crossed his mind in the constant flow of wonder about this job and its parameters. "What's gonna happen to Sheldon?"
"What'd you mean?" Penny asked as she took a bite and moved to sit at Sheldon's computer table since he wasn't around.
"Well you know Sheldon, he may be the neediest person on the face of this or any other planet and… I don't know if he can live alone."
Penny thought for a moment and shrugged off the idea. "I know he's different but, he is an adult right? I'm sure he'll be fine."
He thought for a moment and nodded slightly. "Right, and you'll still be across the hall so…"
"Oh no… I mean, don't get me wrong I'd kill for the guy but… oh God…" Her mind traced back to what Sheldon lacked, most notably, a driver's license. "Do you think I could convince the bus station to reinstate him?"
Leonard shook his head. "Tried it." He moved closer to her and sat the bottle of orange soda down as he took a small sip herself. "Look, like you said, he's a grown man. One would think that a man with the IQ of Sheldon Cooper could find a ride to work every day."
"Yeah but…" There was a whine in her voice. "…if he knocks on my door I won't be able to say no." She could feel Leonard grinning at her. "Can I come with you?"
Looking at her for a moment, his response was simple. "I'll make you a copy of his schedule."
"I'll give him two weeks and then he's gotta handle his own crap."
Morning came as the sun trickled through the small opening of the blinds that covered her window; Penny stirred slightly as the warmth of the air settled down over her. Pasadena was always beautiful in the winter time, 20 plus years in Nebraska had worn her down when it came to chill and snow.
Rolling to her side, Penny found herself face to face with the Sith Lord himself Darth Vader. Running a hand through her hair, she sat up and lifted the pillow along with her. Her hand delicately ran along the pillowcase and she felt a twinge in her stomach.
For so long her life had been a consistent mesh of weeks piled together and all played out the same. It didn't happen overnight and certainly wasn't anything she'd bargained for but the routines she'd fallen in with Sheldon were who she was.
He was awake; she could hear him moving in the other room and knew that the oatmeal would be ready any second. Of course, he'd walk in here and tell her it was ready, even though she had told him she didn't like it, he offered anyway.
Right on schedule…a soft knock hit her door.
She could have spoken at any time, but he needed the rhythm.
She smiled and sat the pillow back down behind her. "Come in, sweetie."
The door opened slowly and he walked in, apron clad with a large bowl in hand and a stern face that was the only way she recognized him. "I've made oatmeal; I could procure you a bowl if you please."
Her eyes fell shut for a moment as she pushed aside her bangs and smiled. "I'm good, but you enjoy… I'll make some cereal or something later." Accepting her answer, Sheldon moved back to the kitchen and listened to the call of Penny's voice from the other side of the room. "You know it's a big day today." Moving through the living room where Sheldon was pouring some oatmeal into a bowl, Penny settled on a stool near the counter and watched him intently.
"Penny, it's Saturday, I have the day off from work, I have recently read all my new comic books, we cannot have Thai food because that would be the fourth time this week and that's far too many for one seven day period and… well the weather channel calls for rain."
The words she wished to speak stammered on her lips for a moment, settled and she gathered herself once more. "Right, well…anyways, it's late in October on a Saturday which means…Big Ten conference play is getting started."
Sheldon's eyes rolled on instinct. "Oh Lord, you're speaking of football aren't you?"
"Yes, Michigan is in town and if we can't win this game we've got no shot at the conference championship."
With a sigh, Sheldon finished the bite of his breakfast and swallowed before delving into another rant. "There in lies my deepest confusion with the concept of sports. You speak of this… Nebraska as though you are a part of the team and yet, you didn't even manage community college in this state or…your home state. It seems to me that the term 'we' is tossed around rather loosely in the world of athletics."
Chewing on her lip gently, Penny shook her head and battled the smile growing across her face. "Last week, you and I watched Star Wars for like…then 11 billionth time, I started talking about how annoying Princess Leia's hair must be to keep up and you shushed me and said that "we" were about to battle the empire in an epic fight and yet… I have a hard time believing you could hold up a light saber, let alone use one in a fight."
Suddenly, matching glares were squaring off on opposite sides of the kitchen counter. "First of all, I have always envisioned myself in the action of movies because it is a transparent way to enthrall oneself into a film to enjoy it at the peak of its intensity and… were you, by chance, steering this conversation towards a point?"
"Yes, I am…we're cheering for Nebraska today, because a Cornhusker victory will be the perfect start to the week and you… are wearing that NU jersey I bought you because they won the last time that you wore it."
Almost like a child, Sheldon threw his head back with a heavy groan and inhaled to begin protest. "Penny…"
Suddenly, her pleading eyes were gazing into him, bangs covering them slightly as she tilted her neck just slightly, almost like a puppy in a window. "Come on, Sheldon… for me?"
Pursing his lips, Sheldon dropped his spoon heavily into the bowl and sighed dramatically with defeat. "Very well, but that face will be stowed away for the remainder of the year, are we understood?"
Penny squealed with delight and clapped her hands while moving to the door. "Understood, now enjoy your breakfast."
"Now…" Of course he wasn't done, that's why she hadn't left the room yet. "…I do hope that your game is in accordance with our roommate agreement and that its time limit will not carry beyond the seven o'clock hour as you know, seven is when we do our laundry."
After everyone left, Sheldon and Penny found themselves all but sharing two apartments and one day the hallway separating them seemed pointless and far too expensive. So they simply adjoined into his and Leonard's old place.
She still remembered the day she moved in, and the three hours she spent signing their "roommate agreement".
"Don't worry, it's an afternoon game and won't intrude on laundry time. Speaking of, have you seen my laundry basket?"
Sheldon let out another sigh, there was another lecture on the way and another smile from Penny. "I'm sure it's bombarded by a random mass of your clothing, if you simply took the time to seek it out, you'd most likely find it suffocating and screaming for help under a barrage of halter tops and mini-skirts."
Penny slipped in a small scoff. "I have more clothes than just halter tops and mini-skirts."
"You may have them, but you certainly do not choose to wear them as often." Sheldon countered as he washed his bowl in the sink.
"What about this one…" She pulled on the red top that hung down to her mid-thigh and made sure to display the Flash symbol proudly. "…this is my favorite shirt."
Sheldon shook his head. "I don't believe a night shirt, that you stole from your roommate, counts."
"Oh I think it does." She loved to argue with him and couldn't begin to tell you why, that was just their way and it worked.
However, all the banter halted when his bowl slipped quickly from the grip and crashed into the sink. The noise started Penny and she watched his hands grip the sides of the sink and balance him unsteadily. As she moved to his side, her toe smacked against the leg of a stool and the pain shot through like a bullet but was pushed back for his concern.
"Hey…" She offered gently, touching his back with her palm. "Dizzy?" Sheldon nodded with uncertainty in his eyes and fear battling for supremacy in his expression. "Let's sit…use me." His hand settled on her shoulder and they moved together to his spot. Gently she settled him onto the couch and touched the top of his head, hot…clammy.
"Should I call?"
His eyes fell shut as he answered. "No, I'm convinced it shall pass in time.
When the dizziness came it always shook her more than him and he was the one losing balance. It was weakness, a feeling they shared as they did with most things. Penny couldn't tell you the day or moment when it occurred, but at some point anything felt by one, bled to the other.
Slowly, she sat down next to him and slid in close to his warm body. Penny curled her legs up tight and rested her head in the crook of his neck as he continued to try and compose himself.
"Are you still going to make me wear that dreadful football jersey?" He asked between elongated breaths. Penny smiled sadly and nodded against his chest. "You are the true reincarnation of evil."
Penny closed her eyes. "You still love me."
T w o
His voice would flow; ring almost seamlessly as if each word was the most important part of his entire world. There was passion, consistency and truth in what he said. It didn't really matter that she couldn't understand; it was his voice, his sound and symmetry that soothed her.
Penny lay curled up on her side, pillow tucked gently beneath her as the darkness consumed her bedroom. Star Trek sheets covered the bed because hers weren't washed and she hadn't found the time to do so.
He was talking about Erwin Schrodinger, she remembered his cat but that wasn't in this speech.
She'd been crying for a while now and was in no hurry to stop. His face etched in her mind like a carving, so much fear, his fear broke her. The longer the days, the harder it became. She couldn't sleep without his lectures, the ear buds fit like a part of her each night and when they used to travel to conferences and such, she'd take them and simply say it was any random band he either didn't know, or didn't want to know.
It had been sixteen months since Sheldon was diagnosed with his brain tumor, he lived in denial for the first three, simply claiming that his mind was too far beyond cancer to let it actually win. Then the first seizure came and he cracked his head open on the kitchen counter and they spent the next three days in the hospital.
The whole thing was hard for Penny to comprehend at times, a life that was centered so much on something so sad. She'd put in a lot of effort to smile as much as she could, dream big and wish for beautiful things. Yet tonight was a repeat of so many nights over the last six years that she couldn't even picture a time where she wasn't across the hall from him.
She could count the number of people who truly understood Sheldon Cooper on one hand and it always made her smile to think that she was a part of that select company. It was his mother who first let her in on that philosophy, who told her that knowing him and who he was completely made her special.
His family had, over time, become her own. They spent Thanksgiving with them last year; Christmas was already planned for this one. The day her father told her to stop wasting her life with a lost cause was the day she decided to stop calling. It broke her heart to lose them, but the Coopers were enough to keep her feeling loved.
Through her time with him, Penny's deduction skills had developed immensely and tonight she was hoping they hadn't. The call from Chuck about the boys being at the Cheesecake Factory meant that there was something special that had brought them back.
For weeks Sheldon had been looking forward to this party at his work where'd he would have the chance to send off one of the few scientist with whom he actually respected for their work. He'd bought new clothes; made her buy new clothes…it was what made him smile these days.
Now though, knowing that the others would be there, knowing that Sheldon could hardly stand to say their names, she wasn't sure how to tell him that they would be there.
Hurting him was harder than hurting herself in some ways.
Suddenly, a new light fills her bedroom and it draws her shut eyes towards it and there he stand with a hand over his eyes. Smiling sweetly, Penny took out one of the buds. "Sheldon?"
"Are you decent?"
Without thinking, she slid over to the opposite side of her bed, making a little space beside her though there is no conversation about. "Yes, sweetie, I already told you I don't sleep naked."
Sheldon removed the hand from his face and still spoke with a bit of conviction. "That doesn't explain the night I walked in here and you were without any cover at all."
A slight sigh escaped her lips. "It was really hot that night, I've explained this." There was no response from him, just simple silence as he stood in the doorway and wrapped his arms across himself. "Are you okay?"
"Sleep seems to be eluding me this evening."
Her smile faded and she thanked the lack of illumination painting her that he couldn't see. "I can sing soft kitty to you."
His head shook slightly. "I am not sick."
Quickly, he stopped her. "Not currently sick, I have suffered no nausea, loss of thought or any of the other inebriating symptoms that carry with my ailment. So your offer of soft kitty is not valid in this instance."
"Get in." She ordered softly and watched his expression alter with the confusion of her words. "I didn't stutter and I know you heard me. We both need sleep and you've got a doctor's appointment tomorrow, so get in."
There were so many different things he was looking to protest but they all fell away as she pulled the blankets down and patted the mattress beside her. Sheldon had spent such a large portion of his life alone, whether he was surrounded by people or not. Yet there was only one person he'd ever met that made him feel cared for like his mother could.
Only he didn't have these butterflies in his stomach around his mother. Though he hated that term as the idea that butterflies were swarming around in his stomach was insane as this was just some chemical reaction to her voice, smile and the feel of her skin against his that drew out his inability to think straight.
Shutting the light off in the hallway, he settled in beside her on the bed and his hand grazed across an exposed portion of her hip and he bit the hell out of his lower lip. A moment later she turned away from him and whispered. "Back to back, okay? You wake me up if you need anything."
Eventually they settled into a comfortable position on her small bed. His back and her own touching almost perfectly as the blankets rested over them with ease.
"Penny…" He called through the silence, cutting it gently like a blade through water.
"Hmm?" She managed, her eyes shut as she trailed a leg back to touch his, silently admitting that his presence was just as important to her as she was to him.
He hesitated for only a moment, and then sent out his request. "Sing soft kitty to me."
She laughed lightly. "I knew it."
Face to face with himself in the mirror, Leonard adjusted the tie once more and hitched his breath for a moment to listen as Howard spoke to his wife about what achievement their son had accomplished today. Something about a big wheel and the simplicity of it all made him smile. It was strange to see Howard the family man, he was so far from that for so long but the role fit him well. He was dedicated to them and had all but set science on the back burner.
A feat that Leonard wondered sometimes if any of the rest of them could do. Tonight was the party, an event he wasn't sure he'd even be able to find time for. His new job was flushed with long hours and most of them were on airplanes traveling from school to school. There was a loneliness that came along with it and on most days he missed his old circle and the life he'd had here.
Yet, when he was explaining his theories to those students and watching them watch him with intent and interest; it was a strange sort of fame that was addicting. For so long he was considered second tier when it came to pure science behind Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
Sure he dated Penny for almost a year and was considered far and beyond a 'normal' nerd compared to Sheldon. Yet, there was a part of him that wanted the accolades, how had he worked any less hard then his neurotic ex-roommate.
Shaking his head swiftly, Leonard pushed all that away and tallied it off to no matter. Those two weren't in his life anymore. Who was he if he remained stuck in the past?
Just then, Howard stepped into the bathroom and glanced at himself in the mirror. "Tonight is gonna be good, I can feel it."
Leonard felt his hand almost reach to block the smell automatically. "You know, I thought since you traded vows you might lose the overwhelming smell of Old Spice."
"Leonard, this is where you lack in tactic. You see, Howard Wolowitz is off the market now, it's the forbidden fruit and I want everyone to see what they're missing out on."
Adjusting his glasses, Leonard quirked a brow. "You do realize this is a retirement party for an 86 year old professor, not a Victoria Secret Christmas party?"
Howard sent him a sideways glance. "There are lady scientists, I'm sure Leslie Winkle will be in attendance tonight and there are others."
"Does your wife know you're… marking your scent across Pasadena?"
Howard spat out a scoff. "Please, she's the one who told me to flaunt it."
Silence was Leonard's response, his mind allotting that there was in fact, someone for everyone.
A moment later, there was a knock on the hotel room door. "That's probably Raj." Leonard listened as the door opened and the sound of Raj claiming tonight to be the beginning of something spectacular. It was as if they were all forgetting that tonight was a shindig for a group of second base camping scientists.
As Leonard moved into the main part of the room, Raj and Howard were locked in a strange position of sniffing each other's necks that drew confusion and a slight sense of nostalgia.
"Oh that's nice…" Howard cooed, pulling back with a slow nod. "Calvin Klein?"
Raj smiled quickly. "You always did have a sixth sense for these things."
"That's actually just one of the five." Leonard added oddly from the side just as Howard moved in to get a better sniff. "Guys can we go…" Leonard asked, opening the door as they both looked to him. "This is getting… or… no, we're completely beyond the limit of disturbing and we have to go now or I'm leaving without you both."
It was something they'd both grown accustomed too, silence and the comfort that accompanied. Penny turned the wheel into the parking lot of the local grocery store and began leaning upward a bit in search of a decent parking spot. This was the only place in the city that reminded her of anything from Omaha. The only reason for that were the little trees planted in random patches of grass and rock in odd spots all around the parking lot.
Sheldon had pointed out one day that it was the equivalent of putting a beard on a baby, or something like that she couldn't remember but it was about showing one thing when you're clearly something else. Half the stuff that Sheldon would say was all about the interpretation and she'd become pretty good and figuring the majority of his rants out.
Today was different and the silence proved that. There were no speeches or rants, she could more than likely say anything right now and he wouldn't really be listening. She accepted it, respected it and knew that Sheldon was inside his own mind.
The doctor's appointment was nothing more than a checkup, a look as to how the treatment was working and if more chemo would be necessary. Of course, things were worse, of course he'd need more chemo which meant he'd be weak again, sick again and fall into that damn depression again.
If there was one thing about Sheldon that could be deemed as true, he did everything textbook. Even dealt with 'usual' side effects as if they were being read off by a doctor.
Penny hated chemotherapy and for so long knew nothing about cancer or any of this as it hadn't really been an issue with her immediate family growing up. An uncle had it once but not one she was ever close with. Her dad went to the funeral; she remembered that he didn't make them go.
Now though, after sixteen months of fighting, a short lived euphoria of remission then the onslaught of its return, Penny knew cancer as nothing more than the demon which haunted them both, more than that, she knew cancer better than just about anything else.
She'd parked the car some time ago and had found herself gripping the steering wheel and lost in her own thought. There would most likely need to be a pillow back in the bathroom as when he was sick from the treatment it was always nicer for him to rest his knees on over the toilet.
His head would have to be shaved again; perhaps she could find him a cool hat, Batman, Spiderman… something.
She would have to find that smile again, the 'everything is going to be okay', 'you're the strongest person in the world', 'I wasn't crying before you saw me' smile that she forced for so long last year.
Suddenly sitting next to him was eating her alive and she needed to move, to distract herself. "You need anything in here?" She asked gently, keeping her gaze averted from him a bit as she opened her door.
Sheldon shook his head slowly, unresponsive through word and listened as her door opened and closed then turned to watch her half jog into the store.
Oranges, no… orange juice, no, it wasn't that either. Apple, he'd been asking for it last week and they were out, she could buy some and it would make him happy. It certainly wouldn't be 'forget about your tumor' happy, but maybe enough to crack a joke, or a rant if she bought the wrong kind.
Penny knew what kind of juice he liked, maybe if she just bought the wrong one he'd complain about it for a while; it would be nice to hear his voice today.
Never mind the fact she had yet to tell him about the party tonight, though after the events of today it seemed less and less likely that he would be all that up to going anyway.
The place was pretty packed for a Sunday afternoon and Penny had found herself hiding behind the fall of her bangs as she opened up freezer to grab a gallon of milk. Red basket hooked over her arm, she loaded it with only a few things. Essentials and one… bottle of vanilla vodka that she would slowly drink from for the next week or so.
Days weren't much longer than this one had proven to be. Especially considering how quickly yesterday seemed to pass. You see, yesterday was the day before Leonard left for his brand new job and today was that day. Of course, his flight was at eight in the morning, she drove him to the airport after a semi-heartfelt goodbye with Sheldon and then she proceeded to hug and cry him three times before he boarded.
The rest of her day was spent accepting the fact that the boy she'd grown so close to over the last four years was absent across the hall and she felt in her gut that she may never speak to him again. Throughout her life she had lost contact with a lot of people she once considered close friends. Even her family hardly called, she visited once the year before and realized how out of touch she was with all them, which only created distance and awkwardness between she and her family.
Now the only person with whom she was close was a man who she assumed wouldn't bat as much as an eye if she were to vanish by sunrise the following day.
Still, as she sat in her living room in the silence and glow of her television set, watching a rerun of an old Star Trek show almost through habit as none of her boys were here making her. She was just… lost in it at the moment, it reminded her of Leonard, hell it reminded her of Sheldon and that made her feel better.
Suddenly, there was a soft rapping at her door.
The words drew a smile to her face as she turned down the TV. "Come in, Sheldon."
Slowly the door opened and he peered inside to see her sitting on the couch with a glass of wine in her hand. She was dressed down in her pajamas and hair tied in two separate pigtails, meanwhile he was in a Joker T-shirt with a long sleeved white one underneath. In his right hand was a plate of something, held up by an oven mitt covered hand.
"Hello." He offered, unsure of how to reach the statement he came prepared with.
Soaking up the silence between them, Penny grinned sweetly. "Hi."
"I have ordered some fajitas from our usual Mexican restaurant, you remember, the one that Raj and Howard were so assertive in us eating and that played the bongos with my insides. Of course, now that they're gone it would be much simpler to just remove it from the schedule altogether, but that might be far too much work. However I made my order this evening and have since realized that I made a rather over encumbered amount that I cannot consume on my own and was hoping you might share in my endeavor."
Her brow quirked a bit, replaying the flood of words that had just come rushing at her, settling her glass down, she finally stood. "You want me to… have dinner with you?"
Sheldon then took his opportunity to send a sideways glance. "I do not remember saying anything about a joint meal; I was simply planning on leaving the plate behind, my company excluded."
"So you're like a fajita delivery boy?"
A sigh slipped through his pursed lips. "If you wish to break this moment down to its simplest terms… then yes." Even as he finished the sentence, Sheldon could sense something in her eyes that didn't settle well with him. Emptiness he'd never seen. Penny wasn't on the same level with him in many ways, and that statement could be played the other way as well, but she always outdid him and everyone he knew in life enriched expression and that was just… lost on her this evening. "Would you care for some?"
Penny hadn't eaten all day and that was no doubt why the wine was getting to her already, still, she had to know. "You don't want to eat with me?"
Words escaped him for the moment, or perhaps he was just struggling to find the right ones. "I-I… well I've left my plate across the hall."
"Sheldon, sweetie if you don't want to its okay, I am a big girl."
Grumbling under his breath, he opened the door of her apartment back up. "Let's do this in my apartment."
She laughed softly. "Sheldon…"
"Oh please, how can I not have dinner with you as you look at me with that protruded lip and eyebrows so despondent I feel like I've just isolated a puppy from its mother?"
Again he passed her. "What?"
However, they were both already making their way across the hall. He offered a half glance back in her direction. "You looked sad."
Sheldon settled the plate for Penny down on the opposite side from him at the counter. He then moved to his own side and stayed standing while grabbing a pair of forks and offering her one. "You reek of liquor." He stated, dryly.
Her smile grew a bit. "I'm filled with liquor."
"Well at least you're honest about it. Seemed when I was growing up my father never drank more than three beers according to his own stories, yet we would always find far more cans then that in the dumpster. He would constantly blame the neighbor's children for stealing from him… yet the neighbors children were three and five at the time so I always wondered how they reached that refrigerator in the garage." He spoke with such a consistent tone that Penny couldn't tell when he was being serious… well, he was always serious but… she couldn't… tell. Her silence drew him irritated and finally he narrowed his eyes and spoke. "Sarcasm. Of course I deducted that he drank the beers himself." She chuckled off-handedly and stuck a yellow pepper into her mouth and cooed at how good it tasted. The boy was certainly capable of succeeding at anything he set his mind too.
However, as she at slowly she could sense Sheldon's eyes watching her, settling on her and almost… studying her. Certainly she'd had more than her fair share to drink this evening but if she didn't know any better, she'd say he was ogling her. "Sheldon…" She whispered, drawing his attention.
His eyes averted up to her own and he spoke slowly. "This character on your pajamas, this…kangaroo? Why is he wearing a shirt?"
Penny glanced down at her PJ's and noticed the cartoon spread across her chest and felt the reality of her world come back. "It's Rocko." Sheldon's silence and a soft shake of his head drew an exasperated sigh from the blonde across the counter. "It was a show that I loved growing up, Rocko's Modern Life. 0n Nickelodeon."
"At the appropriate age when most children found themselves enthralled with Nickelodeon, I was reading doctorate studied and mastering chemistry. I had very little time for trivial things such as mediocre cartoons."
Her eyes narrowed at him as she wet her lips a bit and retorted. "Well I didn't, and I loved Rocko." She turned to her meal for only a second before sending one more bit of frustration at him in a slightly playful manner. "And he's a wallaby…not a kangaroo."
"People say that I'm anal."
She swallowed a half-eaten piece of steak and gagged slightly before stirring up at him. "Did you just say the word: anal?"
His eyes rolled thickly. "Please remove your mind from the gutter and focus on your dinner."
Another silence fell between them as they ate together in a comfort that neither had found in quite some time until Penny found herself curious and, in a strange way, hopeful. "Sheldon?"
"Hmm?" His hum carried across the counter.
Neither of their eyes met as she asked. "Am I going to have to drive you to work on Monday?"
His response was quick, certain. "Most certainly."
Penny smiled lightly. "At least you're honest."
Penny found herself lost in the vegetable section of the grocery store when her mind shot back to the moment and she felt the weight of the basket hooked through her right arm. So many times when Sheldon's sickness was really bad she would lose herself in thought about this or that, usually him and sometimes her own baggage that had piled up over the years.
For now though, she needed to be back with him, close to him and the silence he would send her way. That didn't matter, she wanted him to know that she wasn't going anywhere, even if it seemed like he didn't care.
"Penny?" Oh no…her mind shut off completely as she couldn't help but turn to the sound of his voice.
He stood the same, short and dressed up a lot nicer then she could remember. A tie, button down shirt and his hair combed perfectly. One thing she always remembered about Leonard was the time he took making his hair look good. Which always made her laugh cause his idea of good didn't always match her own, but it seemed to work for him.
Still, there was no time for that, he was right in front of her with confusion and a sweet look of hope on his face and all she could think about was running to her car.
The silence couldn't last forever. "Leonard…" She whispered. Her voice weak and she cursed herself for that. "Wh—what're you doing here?"
"Me?" He asked. His smile was bright as he looked into her eyes. "What're you doing here? That… guy at the cheesecake factory told us you were on Broadway."
Penny sighed heavily; Chuck was officially off lie telling duty. "Did he? He's always… playing jokes on me, thought this one would be funny I guess."
His head shook and before she could process a second thought he was pulling her in for a hug. When their bodies touched he felt her tense and almost coil away but shook it off as surprise. "So you still live here then? In Pasadena?"
As they broke apart, she was hiding slightly behind the fall of her bangs and nodded with a shy smile. "Yeah… still." The last word hung a bit, as if her living here was a mark that she hadn't made any real progress with her life. That tone was the exact same reason he didn't ask about her still working at the Cheesecake Factory.
She could feel it, see it in his eyes and knew what he was waiting for. He wanted her to ask about him, to be curious and wonder. Maybe to long for him the way he did her to this day.
Penny knew all that, she could feel the want pouring off him, which is why she went the other way entirely. "I have a thing that I'm running late for but… it was great to see you."
Leonard's face fell noticeably. After five years this was it, this was all he meant to her? A slow nod was his response. "Oh…kay."
She'd hurt him and worse than that was she knew it. Yet, the only thing she could seem to process that Sheldon was waiting for her.
Sheldon needed her.
"Take care of yourself, Leonard." That was it, she rushed off with a hand over her mouth and in his wounded state he could have sworn she was laughing. It probably wasn't true but he wanted it to be so she could be the villain.
Because Leonard just couldn't understand what he'd done wrong.
She fought tears through the checkout line and when the guy bagging her things kept asking if she was okay. His eyes scanning her body the entire time as he ran a finger through the trail of his beard. She raced out the doors and didn't look back before moving to her safety net and the car he sat in.
Opening the door in a rush, she tossed the bag into the center console and threw her head back against the seat. Her eyes wet with unshed tears that she brushed off before turning to Sheldon with a watery smile. "Hey."
Sheldon sighed for a moment, glanced at her and then back to the bag. "Did you pick up my prescription?" He already knew the answer.
"Son of a bitch." She spat out, smacking her hands against the steering wheel and listening to herself chuckle sadly. "I forgot…I saw…"
Her words were stopped by his. "I know, they've parked their… Land Rover across the way over there behind that stock truck, I believe Raj and Howard are both sitting in the back." Penny watched him for a moment, tried to read his reaction and realized through the last five years that the two of them had been together that she still couldn't all the time. "I've come to the conclusion that they're here to celebrate Dr. Harrington's retirement…"
Reaching out, she touched his shoulder softly and squeezed. "We don't have to go, Sheldon. We could send a card or maybe go by his house on a different day. You could talk to him then."
"Penny, you and I have both purchased formal wear for this event; it would be silly to let that all go to waste."
Her mouth fell open as the words she had prepared lost matter and she found herself stuck in confusion. "But… I thought… you told me that seeing those guys was something you weren't interested in."
"It isn't, they made their choice to remove me… us from their lives, but I'm not going to let their presence ruin what is certain to be an eventful night out. One that you yourself have spoken of in high regard, stating that you haven't quote: 'put on dancing shoes in years'. Though I never have, nor do I still intend to dance."
A smile stretched across her face at the realization that he'd reached where she was when it came to their past. For so long, and even now Penny didn't know why Sheldon was so against bringing up Leonard and the others, things had happened between them that even she didn't know, but she never pried and though curiosity was eating her alive, she didn't plan too.
It was comforting to her to know that Sheldon saw it the same as she, them against the world… and whatever was thrown at them.
"Penny…" He called, drawing her eyes as they met warmly and she swore he was leaning in close to her. "You still haven't obtained my prescription."
She couldn't tell you the day, or give you any specifics, but at some point over the last five years, she'd fallen in love with the crazy bastard.
T h r e e
They noticed the change in his demeanor the moment he sat back down into the driver's seat. Howard and Raj exchanged a look before realizing that Leonard had forgotten the reason they'd sent stopped by the store in the first place.
"Leonard, you forgot the wine coolers." Howard wined nervously, seeing the way his friend gripped the steering wheel. Silence was his response and it unsettled the car even more.
Raj leaned up over the center console and ran a hand over Leonard's face. "Hey dude, did you get body snatched in there or something."
Shaking back to reality, Leonard found himself reacting to his surroundings. "What, sorry… I just… you'll never guess who was in there." His voice doesn't carry well; in fact if they were in any place then this small rental car they wouldn't have heard a thing. Their eyes ask the question as he continues. "Penny."
"Are you serious?" Raj questioned.
"How did she look?" Howard had no need for distortion, he was curious. However, the looks he garnered after the question drew him back. "I mean… really?"
Disgruntled, Leonard took a long breath and let himself overflow with frustration. "She just completely blew me off too. You know, I always knew that Penny was out of my league but she used to be… nice. Bitch."
"You don't mean that." Raj interjected and saw Leonard's expression visibly soften.
His head fell back against the car seat. "I know, but it was pretty bad. I'm almost positive she was running away from me."
"Well…" It was Howard's turn to be the voice of reason which meant that Leonard was obsessing. "…you know, it has been five years… maybe this is your opportunity to let this crush go."
Adjusting his glasses, Leonard started the car. "It's not a crush, and I'm fine."
Raj chuckled a bit. "Right, and that's why you're about to rip the steering wheel off the dashboard."
Howard shot him a glance. "Right, Leonard has the muscle tone of a canned ham. He could just honk the horn really loud or scream out the window."
"Can we just stop this conversation now? You know, push past it and go the party."
The boys in the back exchanged another glance. "Dude, wine coolers?"
Penny closed her eyes to hide her own face from the mirror and let her hands move on their own as she ran the tie through the knot and pulled it up around her neck just enough that she could slip it over her head. She was clad in a long, and stunning white dress that was Sheldon approved and showed just enough cleavage to make her feel sexy without the slutty.
She was nervous, excited and worried, a mixture of emotions and all of them settled into the pit of her stomach. She couldn't seem to figure out which one was going to win out. The door behind her opened and Penny turned back to see Sheldon walking inside with his shirt all buttoned up. It was red and would go well with the black jacket she'd helped him pick out. Now all that was left was the tie.
Pulling it over her head, she moved to him and watched as he slowly bent a bit so she could reach. Sliding the tie over him, she flipped the collar to cover up the loop and then tightened it.
"You're radiating tension, Penny. You aren't required to accompany me on this endeavor."
A scoff fell from her lips without much chance of control. "Why wouldn't I go?"
He readjusted the tie a bit and moved away from her to grab the jacket that hung from her closet door. "Because you've suffered a falling out with Leonard, because you won't know anyone there and aren't really in that…loop as I am. I wouldn't want you to have a poor evening just because you feel an obligation to me."
Sheldon could go as far out of his way as possible to make someone feel silly or to let them know that he was smarter than them. Hell, half the time now Penny would make sure to tell anyone listening that Sheldon was smarter than them. Still, he cared about her and she knew it, because he made sure to show it in the only ways he knew how.
Walking slowly to where he stood, she wrapped her arms around his waist and inside the suit jacket he'd just put on and laid her head against his chest. She'd felt an urge to hug him pretty much since they left the hospital. Now, in the intimacy of their apartment, she took solace in his arms and felt him stiffen above her at the touch, but never resist.
"I want to go; we need to get out of this apartment anyways other than trips to the store, the comic book shop and the hospital. You know?"
He nodded slightly. "I understand." Suddenly, almost expectedly, his mind shifted to something different. "Speaking of the comic book shop, I've been saving up some money for a new collector's booklet that categorizes the complete history of the Spiderman series, they've been touting online for quite some time. It will be released this Tuesday and…" He pulled away from her a bit and checked to see if she was paying attention, much to his delight, she had been watching him with contentment. "…I'd like to be there early, I hate knowing that other people have things before I do."
Penny smiled softly and ran her hands over the sides of her dress once more before answering. "That's fine; just remind me the day before so I can set the alarm."
"I still don't understand your incapability of simply waking yourself up with the rise of the sun. Honestly, my body won't allow me time to 'sleep in' in the morning as I feel a day is wasted with sleep if I'm not up with it before…"
However, as the speech wore on and the familiarity set in, she finished it for him. "Everyone else, yeah… I know, sweetie."
He sent a glare in her direction as the pair move from her bedroom to the living room and towards the exit. "I don't like it when you complete my unfinished thoughts."
"When was the last time you had an unfinished thought?" She teased as they ascended the staircase side by side.
Sheldon glanced to her and caught the smirk indicating sarcasm. He opted to match. "I'm having one right now."
With an exchanged chuckle, they moved to the bedroom and Penny took a step in front of the full length mirror and ran her hands down the side of the dress. Through the reflection, she could see Sheldon standing behind her a bit awkwardly, his hands behind his back as he looked around at the walls of her bedroom.
"Something on your mind?" She asked, looking at him through the mirror.
He eyed her for a moment. "Let me start by saying that I am hoping to avoid a loud squeal or an overly aggressive hug on your part, but I simply wish to say that… your appearance is not aggravating, nor can I find any reason to question your selection of attire nor the style in which your hair is done… you look…." His voice trailed off, he wasn't sure what to say as compliments and things of that nature weren't his strong suit. He was never one for sweet and touching and though he wanted to convey his emotions properly with her more than anyone else, it was always hard to tell her that she was beautiful.
Penny bit down on her lip as her eyes began to water just a bit. She fought hard to hold back the urge to swoon or thank him vigorously and do what he'd requested she not do. Instead she smiled, her insides a swell with love. "Thank you. You look amazing yourself… Dr. Cooper."
The drive to the school was familiar yet unique; they'd taken it so many mornings so to be headed in this direction in the dusk of the evening was strangely serene.
Sheldon had his hands folded on his lap, his head turned to away from where Penny was sitting as he stared out the window. She'd be lying if the thoughts never entered her head of what it would mean if she lost him. The words cancer and tumor don't arrive in your life without bringing with them the fear of death. Most of the stories you see on television and read in novels end with the sick person dying and those who were around them living for them, or living better after them.
The idea of that made Penny's stomach twist in knots, she couldn't possibly live better without Sheldon, she certainly couldn't live for him because they were so different in so many ways that all those things Sheldon wanted to do with his life would mean so much less to her. She wanted to take him to the places he yearned to see, she wanted to be that friend who traveled with him across the world and gave him all those beautiful dreams. That, as with most dreams, was simply out of reach for Penny. She didn't make that kind of money, she wasn't successful enough to help Sheldon, and she'd never been successful enough to help anyone.
Almost angrily, she shook her head and washed those thoughts away. This night wasn't about her or her insecurities and broken life. It was about Sheldon, making this night great for him because the near future didn't look as if it were holding too many of those.
"You know, this feels a lot like my high school prom." Penny said a bit nonchalantly.
Sheldon glanced at her and then turned away again. "Yes, the ritualistic night where teenage girls are meant to lose their virginities and teenage boys are meant to lose their minds and dress in overbearing suits. A rite of passage that I am happy to say, I passed on."
Penny sent him a sideways glance and snickered a bit. "Alright, I assumed that you didn't go to your prom but you make it sound so cheap. My prom wasn't like that at all."
"Are you saying you didn't lose your virginity at your senior prom?" He asked and the guilt washed over her face.
Her eyes averted back to the road. "No, I mean… I lost it at a high school dance, but I was a sophomore." The thought ended there and Sheldon found that a bit odd, when he looked back at her she was lost in a memory and it was obviously not a good one.
"Your first time was… upsetting?" He asked a bit uneasily.
Penny let out a heavy sigh and smiled weakly. "It wasn't great, but… I don't really want to talk about it."
"Very well." Sheldon said and the conversation ended there and he knew that it wouldn't pick up again. He wasn't great at starting chats, unless it was to start one of their games that would be played on the way to school or during any other long drive.
There were many things that Sheldon didn't know about Penny, about her life before she came to California and about her family. She rarely spoke of them, outside of the occasional joke and random reference meant to bring down her life in Nebraska. He knew she didn't speak to them now, and he knew that was a big part because of her relationship with him. Selfishly, he was okay with that, if they didn't appreciate her devotion than he would keep it for as long as she allowed.
"If it appeases you, Penny… I wouldn't be completely against you playacting tonight as though it were some sort of juvenile event of importance."
Sending a quick glance in his direction, Penny steered the car into the parking lot of the school and let his words wash over her. "Sheldon… are you asking me to be your fake-prom date?"
He sighed heavily. "Well I'm not going to go so far as to ask the question as I am currently a thirty-five year old man with two PHDs and you're only a few months shy of thirty—,"
"Easy," she warned, weakly.
Sheldon shook his head. "I am merely suggesting that if you choose to supplant the events of this evening with the ones of your actual first dance… I wouldn't be against it." He looked forward as she parked the car and shut it off. "And this constant distress you have with the age of thirty is the very foundation of the word frivolous. If anything, I'd say you are a far superior version of yourself now, at your current age than you were when you were twenty-two."
Turning to look at him, Penny saw not only that he was serious, but that he was a bit nervous because he kept merely glancing at her and then occasionally looking back towards the school. "You do realize that a prom date includes things like hand-holding sitting very closely together… plus at most proms… people dance."
"Penny, this is a retirement party for an 86 year old, nearly reclusive professor of subatomic particles. I doubt they'll be playing much tango music."
She laughed slightly and saw a small smile twitch on the side of his mouth. "Fine, plus we'd be breaking the 'you don't dance' rule. I'm not budging on the hand-holding though. I have to mark my territory with those obsessive undergraduate fangirls of yours."
"Very well, hand-holding will be permitted."
"And I can call you my date? Not just my roommate, cause going to a fake prom with your roommate is like going to the real one with a cousin or… your older brother."
They began to exit the car as Sheldon caught her eye over the top of her red Volkswagen. "Must you always bring up the fact that I'm older?" He asked half-heartedly.
As Penny rounded on him and laced her hand through his, she felt easy about the whole evening for the first time all week. "Of course, sweetie, I'm not thirty yet… remember?"
The idea of the fake prom was washed away the moment they stepped through the doors of the gymnasium where the event was taking place. It was as if the man was wearing a beacon of some kind (though his outlandishly yellow suit had a lot to do with it) the first person Penny saw upon entrance was Howard Wolowitz.
Suddenly it wasn't about replacing a bad memory of her own; it was about salvaging a future memory of Sheldon's. Penny had hoped to avoid them all night, she'd been in this school before for a few scattered functions with Sheldon, it was a big place and she had hoped to simply avoid and distance herself from the others. This theory was shot all to hell the moment they walked through the door.
Of course, Howard saw them and of course he nudged his wife and Raj at the exact same time to draw their attentions to them.
Bernadette's jaw fell open slightly and she glanced back to Leonard and hastily alerted him. Raj was almost studying them, as if he were waiting for the pair to burst into flames or something. As for Howard, well his lack of subtlety was in full force on this evening. "She's dating him?" He called out far too loudly and suddenly went red with embarrassment as others were drawn to his voice.
That drew Sheldon's attention away from the decorations of the party and to the spot the boys had taken up. It was the first time in seven years that they'd seen him, seen each other and Penny could feel his grip on her hand tightening.
"You okay?" She asked quietly, turning her gaze away from their spectators and to her boy.
Sheldon nodded accordingly. "I am, we knew of their presence here yesterday. It is merely an obstacle we must overcome."
Penny nodded with a bit of fault. "Right… just because they're here doesn't mean it has to change our night. We'll just stay on this side of the…" Her sentence was stopped when she looked back and saw the group awkwardly heading in their direction.
Her hand was about to shatter with each step they took as Sheldon squeezed her tighter.
"Hey." A voice called to their right. The pair turned just in time to see Leslie Winkle's thick, black glasses and hot red dress before she pulled them away from the entrance and into the mass of the crowd. "I saved you two a spot at the 'veteran's table'."
"The what?" Penny asked, all the while silently thanking Leslie with the grateful look in her eyes.
Leslie smiled as they reached the table that was wonderfully surrounded with familiar faces. "Oh, Kripke couldn't deny himself the pleasure of labeling us as the 'veterans' because all of us have been here for over ten years."
When they sat, Penny was next to Leslie and Sheldon next to Kripke and both of them had their respective families at their side.
Leslie had been married for five years now to a micro-biologist who worked with her here at the school and her twin daughters were so much like their mother Penny wondered if they were little clones half the time. They were sweet though, and always called her ma'am which was polite and cute in a way. Still, she wasn't even thirty yet… she wasn't a ma'am.
Kripke's family was different, much newer and merely consisted of his wife, Gabrielle. She was tall, taller than him and had dark, mocha skin that Penny swore was the color of a really good piece of chocolate. Gabrielle was one of the reasons Penny always agreed to these events, outside of supporting Sheldon. Gabrielle wasn't a genius, she knew about as much of science as Penny did and the pair had more than a few things in common, including their small town backgrounds. Gabrielle was from Louisiana and had a southern charm that was all her own. It was why Penny constantly wondered what she was doing with Kripke, who could be tolerable at best. Still they seemed happy and Penny accepted that. It was her wish for when people saw her with Sheldon, as she would say… 'because I love him'.
"I can't believe they're here?" Leslie finally said, drawing Penny's eye.
"Who's here?" Kripke asked, his speech impediment had greatly reduced thanks to the fact that Gabrielle had him work to fix it and promised him that she wouldn't leave him if he couldn't. It wasn't absent entirely and Penny had to fight at times not to smile at some of his pronunciations.
It was Sheldon who spoke. "I believe she's referring to Leonard, Wolowitz and Koothrapalli who have found their way back here for the evening's events."
"Leonard as in… your ex-boyfriend Leonard?" Gabrielle asked.
Penny nodded. "That's the one." She looked to Sheldon and saw his eyes wandering a bit; he was looking for Dr. Harrington. "But… tonight isn't about that. Where's the man of the hour?"
"There?" Sheldon called, pointing towards the isle of tables that held the food. "He's been cornered by Dr. Gabelhouser. No doubt begging him not to leave and diminish this schools already faltering reputation as a premiere institute for sciences in California."
"Maybe you should try and rescue him from that man." Penny suggested, she wasn't a huge fan of Gabelhouser, he always spoke so condescendingly towards her. She'd even heard him refer to her as an idiot to someone in passing.
Sheldon nodded and stood, their hands still entwined, he looked at them and then back to her. "Come back to me, sweetie." She teased softly and he blushed a bit before dropping her hand.
"Perhaps if I make a loud noise I can distract Dr. Gabelhouser. He has that sort of youthful child attention span. That's why he's constantly rearranging that office of his that's overcompensating for a lack of decent sized genitalia."
Everyone else gasped and looked surprised at his candor except for Penny who let out a quick laugh before taking the tone of the room and put on a very non intimidating glare. "Now… Sheldon, you do still need your job so keep your digs at your bosses penis in check alright, go save that poor old man."
With that, he was gone and Penny was okay in knowing that he wouldn't be cornered by Raj, Howard or the others. They certainly wouldn't go to Sheldon first, they'd want to talk to her and getting him away meant she could nip this in the bud before the festivities started.
"I'll be right back." She offered before pushing away from the table and making her way back to the entrance area where she'd seen them all last.
When she rounded the corner, Penny wondered if they had moved at all. They were standing in a small circle, talking vehemently and she was sure it was about them. Pausing for a moment, she took a deep breath and raised her head before walking towards them.
"Howard, you're going to blind someone with that suit." She said lightheartedly before they all turned to her in surprise and took a step back.
Penny wore a smile, big, bright and beautiful and Leonard couldn't believe how great she looked.
"Penny, hi!" It was Bernadette who spoke, her voice filled with joy as she moved in and gave her old co-worker and friend a tight hug. Penny smiled a bit as she hugged the girl back, though Leonard could see simply by the way they embraced that Penny was uncomfortable. It bothered him, how she acted around them as if they were strangers or that she held some sort of grudge. Leonard knew he didn't leave on great terms with Sheldon, but he thought he did okay with Penny. She acted as if she didn't want to be anywhere near any of them.
"Hey," she offered meekly and took a step back. "Listen, I know that you all probably have questions. We haven't seen each other in so long and so much has happened but… I'm asking you as someone who's cared about all of you… to please just keep the questions to yourself tonight."
"Look, Penny…." It was Leonard and she just knew he wouldn't let it go. "A co-worker of yours tells us that you're not here. Then you run away from me in the supermarket and now you show up here holding hands with Sheldon Cooper!" The way Leonard said his name, as if the very idea of anything intimate or sweet with Sheldon was physically disgusting. "I'm sorry." He apologized off her look and the red that drew in her cheeks. "It's just… mind boggling."
Penny was about to retort, but Bernadette's train of thought got the better of her. "Do you still work at the Cheesecake Factory?" She asked and immediately regretted it.
With a heavy breath and a moment to simply let all her anger go, Penny let that old smile fall across her face and looked back to where Sheldon had returned to their table with Dr. Harrington. "Look, we were all really close once, we were and I sincerely hope that you guys have awesome lives but… you're not a part of mine anymore. You haven't been here." Penny sighed softly. "You never called," she looked to Leonard and he cast his eyes to the floor. "You never wrote." This time, he gaze leveled on Raj and he pursed his lips but said nothing. "You're the ones who left; you can't come back here and judge me because I didn't. Enjoy your evening." With that she was gone. She didn't know if she handled it right, maybe she was being irrational or defensive but she didn't care. She missed them all and wanted to tell them that but she stood strong and firm in her belief that they walked out on her.
When Penny made her way back to Sheldon, he held out his hand for her to hold once more and everything else washed away.
Flashbacks in Italics...
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.
Thank you for all the Kudos and Comments, they are greatly appreciated.
I apologize in advance for any mistakes to this story grammatically or otherwise, this story has no beta.
F i v e
"How many other universes do you think we're together in?" Penny asked, finally breaking the wonderful silence the morning had become. She was still lying against him and his arms were still around her. It was warm and welcoming; they'd even managed to both be covered by her blanket from the night before.
Looking up from her spot nestled into his chest; she saw his lips pursed and his mind in thought. "I'm not sure… I suppose if we did the math and calculated all the universes in which you and I are both within this proximity of one another and whether or not we have this sort of ability to interact. Considering that in some I might be a limbless sponge that slides across the walls or you may be a wild beast of some sort that throws feces at any intruder to your territory. A trait I often worried you might possess if someone woke you up before eleven on a weekend."
"Can we please leave mine or anyone else's feces out of this?" She whispered and smirked when Sheldon let out a defeated sigh.
"Very well, as I was saying…."
Penny could only laugh and listen to the sound of his voice as he went into a rant of why the many universes theory would really only create the best possible outcome depending on what said universe entailed. She wasn't really listening, just enjoying the bass his voice created through his chest as she closed her eyes and held him tighter.
Over the last few months, Penny had thought about this moment time and again. She pictured a relationship with Sheldon as being technical and she knew that at some point it would be. She imagined him putting on gloves when they lay together, she was happy to report that he'd yet to recoil from her subtle hand movements under his shirt.
It was so much the same that she felt almost breathless. Nothing had changed, just that voice in her head that kept whispering that if she kissed him now, he would most definitely kiss her back. Whether he would admit it or not, he liked that kiss and most certainly wanted more.
He was still talking when she moved up to his face and cupped his cheeks between her hands and kissed him. He fell silent and accepted the gesture, when they pulled apart; she looked into his eyes and saw that he was looking at her with soft derision. "I certainly hope you don't plan on using that as your method to, as you would say, shut my hole."
Penny smiled brightly. "Maybe."
Sheldon rolled his eyes but she could see the smile playing on his lips. "I still stand firm in my belief that you are the reincarnation of pure evil."
"I guess you're shacking up with a devil, Dr. Cooper." She gave him one more soft kiss before twisting against his body and sliding up against his side and facing the television. She grabbed the remote from the coffee table and quickly changed the channel.
As the channel changed, Sheldon immediately recognized the show on the screen and felt his stomach turn. "Oh Lord, Penny…,"
"What?" She cried almost incredulously as she paused the DVR. "You can't tell me you hate this show, it's a classic."
Sheldon shook his head. "It's absolute drivel, Penny. The dialogue is borderline of what kindergarteners say to each other at recess and the stories are seemingly handpicked out of a parenting guide to raising a rich teenage snob."
A sharp scoff escaped Penny's lips. "How can you say such mean things about Saved by the Bell?"
"This was always my sister's favorite show as well, I can't tell you the summers I was forced to watch this nonsense each morning. It always messed up my thought process with homework. It was always bantering on in the background and was much like trying not to look at the poor homeless man on the street as he loudly smashes his face against the nearest brick wall." He was dead serious in everything he said, but Penny wasn't taking him nearly as seriously this morning as she would on another day, mostly because his fingers were still gently brushing the open patch of skin that was exposed between her t-shirt and the hem of her sleep shorts.
Looking up at him again, she stared into his eyes and bit her lip gently. "So you won't watch it?"
Sheldon shook his head. "I see nothing you could do to convince me to put myself through that again."
"What if I took my shirt off?" She said so boldly that he nearly fell off his spot on the couch. Penny was trying to keep her face as stoic as possible but her heart was in her throat as he looked at her with overwhelming shyness.
Without speaking, she reached around to where his hand was touching her and grasped it with her own. Then she slid it up her side slowly and exposed more and more skin.
Just as he was about to speak, the blaring sound of a distant alarm started to sound through the house.
It only took Penny a few seconds to realize what it was. She'd set it before they left last night… to remind her of their appointment at 10:00 this morning.
Clearly, with all that had happened, they'd both forgotten.
Everything was shattered in that moment. The mood and the playfulness were chased away by the fear and the sorrow. Sheldon's hand fell away from her and Penny sat up straight and away from him.
Penny took his hand into her own. "I should probably shower." She said, and even though he nodded in response, he wasn't really with her in the moment anymore.
She dropped a kiss on his palm as she stood and forced herself to walk away.
"Cause everything you've been the most afraid of, you've been doing from the start… breaking your own heart." Penny's voice was barely above a whisper and it hardly carried over to where Sheldon was sitting but he could make out the words. He didn't recognize them and he knew she was unaware of her own singing, when h looked at her, she stopped and smiled.
Sheldon closed his comic book, making sure to keep his finger on the page. "You're singing?"
She blushed. "Out loud?" Sheldon nodded. "Sorry, do you think they heard me?" She asked, gesturing to the few other filled seats in the clinic. There were six chairs in here; each of them attached to large IV's and the ones that were filled had people getting their respective medicines pumped into them. For Sheldon, it was green; Penny tried to refer to it as that ooze from that Ninja Turtle movie her brother used to be obsessed with when she was younger. Sheldon was quick to tell her that the second Ninja Turtles movie was a sham and a disgrace to the first.
He also said that if she mentioned the third installment, she would be banished from the house. So of course she found it online and gave it to him for his birthday. He didn't banish her.
"I won't sing anymore." She said simply and reopened her magazine.
Sheldon shrugged. "I don't mind, I just thought you should know."
Penny grinned slightly, but when she looked back up at him he was eyeing his IV bag. "Halfway," she offered weakly. It usually took about two hours to do the IV, then another hour as they used… something, she could never remember the name but they strapped him down on a machine, put a white shield over his face and shot rays into his head. All of this was to try and shrink the tumor enough that they could have surgery and try to remove it.
"Hello all!" A voice called and Penny felt her cheeks tug at a smile when she looked up and saw an older woman with bright, red hair make her way to where they sitting.
The few scattered people waved and offered a few words, but Penny rose from her seat as soon as the woman approached. "Ms. Lockhart, how are you?" Penny asked just as the older woman pulled her in for a hug. Virginia Lockhart was a colon cancer patient who had been coming here well before Penny and Sheldon ever had, and that was almost sixteen months ago. She was one of the happiest people Penny had ever encountered in a place like this.
"I'm better than I was yesterday, worse than I will be tomorrow. How are you two doing?" Penny sat in her folding chair just as Ms. Lockhart sat in her IV chair.
Sheldon peeked over his comic book just long enough to offer Virginia a meager smile.
"We're… doing pretty good considering."
Virginia laughed softly. "Considering seems to be a pretty common word around here. Everyone's waiting for what comes after 'considering'."
"If they make it past 'considering'."
The older woman shook her head and Penny half expected it. "You're too young to be so pessimistic, honey."
"She used to be the opposite." Sheldon chimed in but when Penny glanced to him he hadn't even looked away from his comic book. The words sat wrong with her but she couldn't begin to explain why. She eyed him for a moment but he never looked back and eventually she turned to Ms. Lockhart again.
The two of them chatted for a while; it was nice for Penny to have someone who'd dealt with cancer. Ms. Lockhart had been through this three times already, going into remission twice but still never being able to completely shake the disease. If anything, it helped Penny to understand what the person who actually had the illness was feeling.
It was easy for her to sometimes feel as if she and Sheldon were on the same level when it came to this. After all, she was there for every step. The Chemo and the late nights over the toilet, she'd been there when his mother had found out and when he told his co-workers at the University. Still, she didn't know what he was thinking, and though Virginia Lockhart and Sheldon Cooper's minds were far from identical, they shared at least one common ground.
Though Virginia's stories were always filled with interesting tales of her family, Penny was only half listening. Instead, she spent the rest of their time there trying to figure out what Sheldon meant.
A task she'd most likely be dealing with till the end of time.
He didn't speak the entire way home.
Penny sort of hated herself in this moment. As she sat on the edge of the couch, her body leaned forward towards the television, she pulled the Wii remote back behind her and swung it forward and watched as Link sliced his sword through another swinging spider. She'd played games before, with the boys, with Sheldon. She would play when they needed an extra on their team or if Sheldon was merely practicing his Call of Duty skills and needed a partner, but this was Zelda. This was a one player game that carried with it no excuse and here she was playing it with a decent level of intensity.
She would have shut the machine off in shame right then… but she'd just gotten the Boss Key and was so close to beating this Fire Temple.
"It would be prudent of you to put on the fire tunic." Sheldon's voice came from the hallway and Penny turned back to see him sauntering towards the couch. She moved to the center and allowed him room to sit next to her.
After eyeing him for a moment, she turned back to her game. "There's a fire tunic?"
"Yes," he started, leaning up a bit to help her. "In your items menu, it's the red suit that identically matches your current, green one."
As she paused the game, Penny saw it clear as day, she didn't even remember getting it but it was there, right next to a blue one as well. "What if I wear the blue one, it looks better?"
Sheldon sighed; Penny knew she'd earned it. "Then Link would melt under the heat of the Fire Temple, I'm quite surprised you've lasted this long with that green tunic on."
"Yeah, I kinda wondered why my hearts kept going away." She leaned back a bit and was level with him, just as she was about to start the game again, she leaned over to him and dropped a kiss on his cheek, an action to which he immediately recoiled.
Penny felt her stomach drop; it had been a long time since Sheldon had physically pulled away from her. "Sheldon…" she called but he had already stood up.
"I'm going to lie down." He said, but she could tell by the twitch in his cheek that it was an excuse. As she heard the door to his bedroom shut, she looked at the TV and then back towards the hallway.
Shaking her head, Penny shut off the machine and dropped her controller to floor before standing and stomping to his room. She didn't knock, to hell with that and when she burst through the door he was sitting at the head of his bed, his back to the wall and looking at her incredulously. "What are you doing?" He asked sternly.
Her mouth opened to speak but no words came out and she began pacing a bit. "I am not a pessimist." She spat and looked at him as his brow furrowed in confusion.
"Are you… testing out potential Facebook statuses?" He asked in absolute seriousness.
The sound she released was frightening, almost a growl. "No! You said today, when Ms. Lockhart told me to stop being a pessimist that I used to be the opposite. Used to be? You think I'm a pessimist!"
"I never said that."
She shook her head. "But you meant it, that's what you meant!" There was a silence that followed, the look on his face showed that he had no answer planned, nor did he intend too. "I try like hell to stay positive and smile… for you!" At this point, she wasn't yelling at him, she was just yelling.
Sheldon shook his head slowly. "You cry after you believe I've fallen into REM sleep, Penny. I can hear you."
Defeated, she sat down at the foot of his bed and felt a sudden chill in the air. She looked at the distance between them; it seemed much larger than she was sure it truly was. "I want to be happy, Sheldon."
"But you worry over me as you would over a carton of milk?" He said and immediately lost her in his metaphor, he could tell by the empty look on her face. "You believe I may come with an expiration date." The words came out so naturally that they almost made her break down right there.
Quickly, she crawled up to him on the bed and ignored the sight of him nearly climbing the wall to maintain a bit of distance. Once she was at his feet, Penny stopped and looked him in the eyes. "Sheldon," she whispered and moved to settle herself between his legs on the bed. "Why did you run away when I kissed you?"
"Because your loyalty to me is the very definition of futile. It is my belief now that you would be better if you set your future in a more prudent direction." Sheldon never lied; it was one of his best and worst qualities. He would tell you how he felt with absolute truth, good or bad. It was good when he would stand up for her at a function they'd attend and some guy would start hitting on her. It was bad when he would be so brutally honest about how poorly her parents treated her, to her parents when they were last here to visit.
For some reason this didn't surprise Penny at all. She'd read more than enough literature to know that Sheldon was dealing with his own mortality. She'd been told by her books and by people she'd met through his disease that he would, at some point, pull away from her. Even through his last round of treatment, despite the times when he would shut her out completely, he never once mentioned anything about her being better without him.
"What happened to BPO?" She asked sweetly, her smile bright and true and it drew his eyes to her.
Sheldon shrugged slightly. "Perhaps I miscalculated."
Penny shook her head slowly, then reached out and set her palm under his chin. "Sweetie, you never miscalculate." His agreeable nod made her laugh softly and she dropped her hand from his face but neither of them moved.
"I received a text message from Leonard this morning which has led me to believe that if I truly wanted to ignore him for the rest of time than it might have been beneficial to my cause to change my cellular phone number." He grabbed his phone of the nightstand next to his bed and began pressing buttons.
"You're last four digits are 2473...," she let the sentence hang there and watched him.
After a moment, he looked up at her as though he were expecting her mouth to have fallen off. "Yes, and your point?"
She lowered her head a bit. "It spells 'bird'; I've always thought that was kinda cool."
Sheldon narrowed his eyes and shook his head at her in confusion before pulling up the message on his phone and reading it aloud. "I've taken a job at the Uni, which I'm assuming means University in text message vernacular. See you Monday, buddy." Sheldon lowered the phone to his lap and glanced up at Penny who had a bit of guilt painted across her face. "You knew of this already, didn't you?" She shrugged. "When could you have possibly obtained this information before me?" He asked and she knew he was upset.
"Last night, after you went to bed, Leonard came by and he told me that he'd been offered the job, I didn't know he'd taken it though."
Penny felt him shift a bit on the bed and watched as he swung his legs off to the side. "Were you part of his convincing to return to Pasadena?"
Slowly, she moved to position herself in the same position as him, but there was a rather large gap between them. "I told him not to come back here for me."
"Do you believe he did?"
She shrugged. "I don't know, Sheldon. If he did, he's wasting his time; I'm with you now, like we decided this morning."
Sheldon looked down at his hands; they were fidgeting in his lap. "Yes, if I recall you latched onto me like a leech." He said in all seriousness and Penny rolled her eyes and slid over a bit closer to him.
"I like being close to you." She admitted and gently moved her hand atop of his as they both rested on his knee. "I like kissing you and… stuff."
Suddenly she felt his eyes on her and Penny faltered again, her mouth falling open and shutting tight as she lost all train of thought. "You lose a great deal of your articulation when you speak of our relationship, Penny."
Sheldon smiled a true smile that she only saw during new comic book day and the debut of The Dark Knight. "I make you nervous."
She bit her lip and glared at him, a smile tugged at the sides of her mouth as she shook her head in weak disdain. "You only make me nervous because I can't make you nervous."
"I don't understand."
Penny sidled up next to him and locked her hand with his. "Guys are usually… weird around me, they act different and tell stupid jokes and make lame gestures to get my attention. But you… haven't changed a bit and… I'm still absolutely bonkers about you."
He turned away from her for a moment to stare at the wall in front of them. "I used to actually like that cartoon growing up, Bonkers. That crazy cat who thought he was a cop. It was far too early in my developmental stage for me to really appreciate true comedic writing, but at the time… it was nice."
"You're a frickin' loon, do you know that?" She said with a watery smile.
Sheldon groaned and finally turned to look at her again. "So am I right to believe that you'll be staying with me for the foreseeable future?"
"Yes." She chirped and leaned into kiss his cheek. However, when she reached his face, Sheldon turned and met his lips to hers. It was a kiss, a Sheldon initiated kiss and Penny almost fell off the bed when his hand landed on her side. They broke apart and Sheldon pulled his hand away quickly. "You can touch me, Sheldon. I like it." She offered and he nodded as the information soaked in.
He held his hand up in the air and glanced at it. "I apologize, it's just that my hand went a little numb when I touched your skin just then, have you recently put on some sort of numbing agent for a rash or bug bite."
"That's called chemistry, Sheldon." She said with a smirk.
This of course led to Sheldon embarking on an extended rant of how their contact had absolutely nothing to do with the science of chemistry.
If she hadn't rolled over in that moment than she never would have heard it. The retching sound that burrowed through the wall muffled just a bit and drew Penny to sit up. She sat in dark silence of her room for only a moment before she heard him start to throw up again.
Penny whipped the covers off and moved towards the bathroom. The second she was out from the cover of her blankets, the chilly air hit her bare legs but she pulled her red shirt down a as far as it would go and knocked softly on the bathroom door.
"Sweetie, can I come in?" She asked softly.
There was a slight pause and a thump. "It's open." He said, breathlessly.
When she opened the door, Sheldon had his head lying flat against the wall to the left of the toilet, his pajamas were soaked with sweat and he had only turned on the light over the shower, so most of the bathroom was dark save the orange glow emitting from behind their periodic table shower curtain.
Penny didn't speak as she knelt down under the sink and opened the large cupboard door. From there, she pulled out a dark blue pillow and handed it to him. Sheldon slipped it under his knees and then fall back against the wall, making the same thump she'd heard outside the door.
The sound of the sink turning on broke the silence of the room and Penny pulled a washcloth from the hanger and let the cool water rinse through it and then she rang it out and moved to where Sheldon was resting.
"You realize that moistening my head is pointless, right?" Sheldon asked weakly as she dabbed the cloth against his forehead.
Penny smiled at him sweetly. "It feels pretty good through doesn't it?" He didn't answer.
After a while she merely draped the rag over his forehead and knew that eventually he would remove it, from there, she sat down against the wall next to him and tucked her legs up close to her chest.
"You're chilly." He stated, rolling his head to the side a bit and looking at her through hooded lashes.
She offered a slight shrug as if to brush off his concern, but her shivering form said otherwise. "I'll be fine."
Sheldon shook his head. "I won't perish between now and the time it takes you to put on a pair of pants, Penny." The sentence lost all meaning when he wretched heavily, the wet cloth making a splat as it fell on the tile floor. Sheldon moved back over the toilet and Penny followed him there, she draped her hand over his back and felt his muscles go ridged against her touch.
Penny winced and fought off tears as he fell heavily against the open lid of the toilet and began to pant in exhaustion. "Oh sweetie," she whispered and ran a hand through his moist hair. "How long have you been doing this?"
"Since approximately 2:47, I caught a glimpse of the clock as I ran in here."
She wasn't sure what time it was now, but it seemed as if he'd been in here for a while. Penny felt a great deal of his weight fall onto her as she supported him back against the wall. She looked into his eyes and saw how much he was hurting, she remembered that look from last time and it was more haunting than ever tonight. "Can I get you anything, you probably need water. We can't let you get dehydrated."
He cast his eyes to the floor, Penny could tell that he wasn't really up for talking at all but she kept asking questions anyway, she couldn't stand the silence. "I'm not certain I could hold it down."
"Still," she said, standing up almost too quickly. "We'll try small sips and see what happens."
Sheldon didn't protest as she raced out of the bathroom and stumbled on the one step from the hall to the kitchen. She caught herself on a support beam and started to weep. She only cried for a moment before throwing her head back and forcing the tears away.
Penny turned the faucet on with a shaky hand and filled the glass about halfway. As she returned to the bathroom, Sheldon was on his feet and leaning against the doorframe. "I wish to return to my room."
"You sure you're okay?" She asked, positioning herself next to him so he could use her for support. Sheldon nodded and settled his arm over her shoulder. This was really how they grew to push past his awkwardness and phobia of touching. At least, between them, he still would never touch a stranger or anything he wasn't certain of, but he was okay touching her because he trusted her.
Once they reached his room, Penny felt her bare foot step into something warm and she nearly fell over and brought Sheldon down with her. "Oh crap," she whispered with a bit of frustration.
"Oh right, my apologies, I'm afraid I couldn't maintain all my control to the bathroom." He said as he broke away from her and settled onto the foot of his bed.
Penny sat down on his dresser and lifted her foot and watched as a yellow liquid dripped onto the floor and she turned her head away. "Dammit, are you okay?" She asked again and watched as he crawled under his blankets.
"I believe so, just tired now." He said in a soft and weak voice before laying his head back heavily against the pillow. The moonlight cascaded through the window and onto his blue bedspread; it was a serene darkness that colored their night entirely. It told to how broken he was that this mess could be made all over his floor and not only did he abandon cleaning it; he all but forgot it was there.
"Okay, well I'm going to lay a towel down over this stain and then take a quick shower. Promise me you'll holler if you need anything." She all but demanded as she leaned against the doorframe and kept her foot elevated.
"Mmhmm." He offered and Penny bit down on her lip hard.
After dropping a towel over the stain on the floor, Penny found herself in the shower. The water was hot and it stung her skin, almost biting through to the point she thought she might bleed.
She slid down to a seated position underneath the stream of the water and cried.
S i x
"Hello?" The voice on the other side was familiar yet not for Penny. It had been so long since she'd heard it, even longer since she'd had any desire too. But today she did, she wanted to hear that voice.
"Hi Mom," Penny said with a soft chuckle as she watched Sheldon rip off the Santa hat she'd put on him and stuck it on her head.
There was a slight pause. "Penny, I—I… how are you?"
"I'm good, Mom. Merry Christmas." There was a great deal of shyness in Penny's voice, almost hesitance; she was desperate for this conversation to go well.
It seemed with each time she spoke, it took her mother longer to respond. "Merry Christmas to you, I'm… surprised to hear from you."
Penny sighed softly; the condescension in her mother's voice was evident. "Mom, it's Christmas, of course I'd call."
"You didn't call for Thanksgiving, or any of the other holidays in the last seven months, even when your brother got out of prison."
She had to bite her lip and force herself not to scream at the words, but when she looked over at Sheldon staring intensely at the tree, trying to find out where to put his Dr. X ornament on the tree, she felt her anger melt. "The phone goes both ways, Mom. You're the one who hung up on me last time, remember?"
Again a pause came with her comment and this one lasted so long Penny wondered if her mom had hung up the phone again.
Her luck wasn't that great today. "I'm sure you didn't call to fight, Penelope. Tell me what you're doing for Christmas this year, I never heard back from you in that email I sent." Penny felt a bit of shame running through her stomach. Her mom had sent her an email stating that the entire family would be in for Christmas, even her aunt who lived in Europe with her four kids.
"I'm in Texas, Mom." She said quietly.
Another pause followed and she could then hear her mother whispering about her whereabouts to someone next to her. It clearly wasn't intended for Penny to hear, but she did nonetheless.
"So you passed up on the chance to be with your family in Nebraska, to be with that boy and his family for Christmas."
Penny sighed and stood as the rest of Sheldon's family started to gather around the tree. She moved out of the living room and stepped outside into the slight heat of the southern air. Shutting the door behind her, Penny started down the few steps that led up to the Mary Cooper's front door.
"Mom, it's his first Christmas after his diagnosis… I couldn't let him do this alone."
Her mother scoffed. "Some things never change."
"I swear child you have always been this way."
This conversation was taking a turn for the worse and Penny found herself moving further and further down the driveway so no one inside would hear her. "What way Mom, slutty? Cause I haven't heard that one before from Dad!"
She could hear her mother seething on the other end. "Oh for God's sake, Penny. Wyatt said that one time in the heat of the moment after he caught you in our bed with that wretched boy from across the street and that is not my point."
"Then what else is wrong with me, Mom? I'm not successful, I haven't gotten married yet. How else have I disappointed my entire family?" It was all coming out now, she was sad and missed her family when she called, but hearing how against hearing from her they seemed to be, she was losing it.
"You've disappointed us… by wasting your time with that boy; you put off your life for him and then what happens to you when he's gone, Penny? You're left with nothing!" The sentence ended rather abruptly and Penny sensed that her mother knew she'd stepped over a line
Penny could feel her legs turning to jelly underneath her as her hands shook. "He's not going anywhere, Mom." She said softly, she had wanted to sound angered and bitter, but she had thought so much of losing Sheldon recently that this was severely wounding her. "I have to go, we're opening presents."
"Penny wait… I—I,"
"No, goodbye Mom." She hung up her phone and held it at her side for a few moments before pulling back and throwing it as far as she could across the road. It smacked off the pavement and skipped into a few pieces into the ditch parallel from Sheldon's mother's house.
She stood in the wake of her disastrous Christmas call to her mother and briskly wiped the tears from her eyes and refused to let any of this ruin what had to be a good day for Sheldon.
Turning around she saw Sheldon standing up against the screen door, he'd been watching the entire call no doubt. He then held out one hand with a present that she'd gotten for him then looked to the watch on his other hand and gave her an impatient look.
Penny smiled at him and made her way back up the stairs and watched as Sheldon opened the door for her. "Optimum gift opening time is 8:15, Penny. It is now 8:18 and my hot cocoa is getting cold."
"You didn't have to wait for me, sweetie?" She said while pouring herself a cup of coffee.
"Every Christmas at exactly 8:15, you and I have opened our Christmas gifts together, this year, being here in Texas with my family it took a great deal of work to get my sister up at this early hour to open gifts because apparently 'we're not children anymore' though she seems all too eager to open the big box that she got from my Meemaw but will be bitterly disappointed, as she is every year, when she opens it up to see a very large, very unflattering sweater."
A soft chuckle escaped Penny's lips. Sheldon gazed at her through the hood of his lashes as she stood rather close to him and sipped her coffee. For some reason, the idea of her being in his childhood home was very serene. Like the crossing over of any of the Star Trek franchises, it just seemed natural.
"So your sister hasn't caught on yet that big box means big sweater?"
Sheldon rolled his eyes and shook his head. "No, she keeps insisting that one of these years it's going to be a painting she's coveted from my Meemaw's collection, and by covet, of course, I mean 'wants to sell'."
There was a slight silence between them and the only sound that could be heard was the distant chitter chatter between Missy and Mary Cooper. Penny was looking into Sheldon's eyes and he was trying to look anywhere but.
Reaching out, she touched his arm and he finally found her. "Sheldon," she started her voice soft and meant only for him. "Thank you for letting me spend Christmas with you."
"Well as you pointed out, Penny, it was certainly an ideal time for you to be here, what with my family's knowledge of my ailment and their overbearing handling of it all… unlike you who seem to know the proper way to advocate such support in these manners."
She stared at him with a mixture of adoration and confusion. She had a decent idea of what he was trying to say to her but he always had to hide his kindness with heavy syllables and thick speech. "A little less." She pried and he huffed gently.
"You know me better than anyone else does."
Taking a step towards him, she leaned into his body for a much needed hug. Penny needed to be assured that she was doing the right thing by him and the fact that she, of all the people in the world, was the one who knew him so well was assurance enough. He hugged her back, it was robotic and simple but it was far more effort than he made for anyone else.
Sheldon held her for a moment, subtly moving them from the sightline of the living room lest he be caught and hear the horrifying teasing from the other women in his life. "Am I to assume that the Olympian like shot-put of your cellular phone was a result of a distressing conversation with your family?"
Penny sighed and let her head sink into his chest more. "As far as I'm concerned, Sweetie… you are my family."
Sheldon let the words wash over him, the feeling of her in his arms settled in a little deeper and nodded. "In that case, I will allow this hug to carry on for a while longer." Penny exhaled contently into the flannel of his pajamas and squeezed him a bit tighter. "But if I'm not opening presents by 8:20 there may be bloodshed."
Being in a relationship with Sheldon was proving to be a learning experience for Penny. She started dating fairly early in her teenage years; it was something she liked to consider herself a bit of an expert on. But with Sheldon, all her usual knowledge and smarts on the subject were constantly being tossed out the window.
Penny was a physical person, she loved to hold hands and kiss and hug, all the things that were meant for couples to display their affection. Sheldon Cooper was not that kind of person, at least… not in public. She knew that he wasn't an overly touchy person, but she assumed that in them being together that they would be able to go out and hold hands.
They never did, when they went out to their usual haunts, such as the comic book store or one of their Sheldon approved restaurants, Penny would try to hold his hand and he would always pull away and simply smile at her. What bothered her more was that it worked and Sheldon knew it worked; it was that smile of his that was meant for only her, his real smile that could make her forget about all his transgressions.
Even now, sitting together on the couch watching an episode of 90210, Sheldon and Penny were sitting on opposite sides of the couch; Penny's feet were up on the couch and just barely touching the side of Sheldon's leg.
She kept turning her gaze to him and merely enjoying the perplexed look on his face with each passing scene of the show. Penny would be first to admit that this wasn't the greatest show on TV, but after he made her suffer through a three hour marathon of an animated Star Wars show, she was happy to have him sit through one episode of overdone teenage angst.
He was in the midst of a four day break from Chemotherapy and they were soaking up the full nights of sleep and days of Sheldon being at full strength. She'd taken a few extra days off, much to the chagrin of her boss but she felt it was necessary to enjoy these good days with him as often as she could.
Sheldon would be working tomorrow and then he would have another round of chemo the very next day so they were enjoying this, even at a distance that was a bit upsetting to Penny.
"I—I…," he started, but bit his tongue and remembered his promise not to complain during the show.
Penny smirked at him and watched as he sent her a soft glare and returned his gaze to the screen. "Go ahead, Sweetie." She caved.
"I cannot understand the worlds obsession with spoiled people and their pampered lives and trivial problems, I mean this guy on here just graduated high school and now he owns a bar he hasn't even reached the appropriate age to drink the beer that he is being allowed to serve these people!" He stopped his rant and took a breath before turning his eyes to Penny in order to gauge her reaction.
She was looking at him blankly for a moment before a small smile played across her face and she kicked him lightly in the leg. "It's television, Sheldon. It's not meant to be taken so seriously."
"Then clearly you haven't gotten the most out of shows like Lost and Heroes… well the first season of Heroes, not that drivel that followed." Sheldon finished bitterly.
Penny chuckled softly. "Yes, sweetie, I'm well aware of your disdain of the second, third and fourth seasons of Heroes."
"Whomever came up with that whole circus storyline should be shot." He said evenly and Penny rolled her eyes with a smile.
With that, the silence fell over the room again and Penny was feeling a bit better about it all. So she decided to try something and lifted her foot up just a bit and let it fall over his lap. Sheldon didn't falter much, though he did send a fleeting glance at the intruder on his personal space but never said anything.
A moment later, she started to slide her foot up and down his thigh, at first the movements were slow, almost unnoticeable, and then she curled her toes and put a little pressure on him. He squeaked involuntarily and then began to blush profusely before sliding his legs as far from her on the couch as he could.
"Penny," he said, but his voice wasn't nearly as intimidating as he wanted it to be.
She moved her leg away from him and sighed as she sat upright. "I—I'm sorry, Sheldon. I just wanted to flirt with my new boyfriend a little."
He looked at her and saw the disappointment on her face and it only added to his embarrassment. "Penny you've… put me in a bit of an uncomfortable situation."
"What?" She asked, leaning over just a bit to look at him, he started to cross a leg but stopped and merely dropped his hands into his lap.
"Did you assume that I couldn't feel your foot moving against my leg? I—I believe proper human function has reared its ugly head and disproved my theory that I am superior to most carnal urges."
Penny tried to process it all, but found herself lost. "A little less." She said and he groaned with displeasure.
"I—I have a…." And the blush that filled his cheeks finished the sentence for him and Penny found herself almost floating in disbelief.
She couldn't control herself from looking down at his hands that now covered his lap. Sure enough, she could see it protruding against the denim of his jeans. As soon as she saw it, she stopped searching and went back to watching his eyes. She knew that staring would embarrass him more and if she'd lured this much out of him, she certainly didn't want to scare him away.
"It's okay Sheldon; you don't have to hide it… I am your girlfriend now."
"Please don't use such simpleton terms as boyfriend and girlfriend, Penny. We are far better than that."
Penny rolled her eyes. "Fine, I am your… paramour, Sheldon." He looked at her with pleading eyes and she slid closer to him on the couch, the television now forgotten. "If anything, sweetie… I'm flattered." This seemed to confuse him even more. "I like that I can bring that out of you, it means you're turned on by me."
"Turned on? You didn't flick a switch, Penny. You simply massaged my leg."
She smirked. "Well clearly I clicked something to make the dough rise." She teased and he started to squirm away from her again. "Sheldon, honey… I like it." He froze and studied her. She certainly didn't appear to be using sarcasm, her smile was as genuine as always and she wasn't moving away from him.
"You do?" He asked shyly and she nodded with a steady reassurance that calmed him. "Was that your intended goal in touching me?"
Penny shook her head. "No, I just wanted you to notice me; I didn't think you'd react that way. Call it a pleasant surprise."
"Like Christian Bale as Batman, unexpectedly good?"
She laughed heartily and dropped her hand on his thigh. "Sure." Slowly, she moved her hand up to his offending appendage and let her index finger trace over the bulge in his jeans.
"Penny." He whispered, but it wasn't a plea to stop… it was just her name and that drove her even more.
She touched the zipper of his jeans and started to pull it down. "You can tell me to stop, Sheldon." She assured softly, never taking her gaze from his eyes.
He didn't respond, he didn't move at all really as the sounds of his zipper being brought down filled the room. All too suddenly, he could feel the air on his most sensitive area and it all became so real. He'd had this dream before, it confused him and never came to a solution on paper, but he'd had this dream before… only he wasn't waking up now.
She didn't hesitate to touch him, it was intimate and anticipated and Penny was holding him so tenderly that it felt as if they were doing something beautiful, which was so new to her in this area. Sex was always about aggression and sometimes frustration for her, even with Leonard it was the task of reaching a great pleasure that she was merely battling for. This, with this boy, was the pure definition of love, they were making it here… with this intimacy and exploration, they were making the love that would define their relationship.
Her hand rose up and down him and he started to be his lower lip and Penny leaned her head forward and rested it against his. Sheldon moved a hand to her back and took a handful of her shirt into his palm and squeezed it. He'd done this to himself once before, mostly as experimentation, but this was sublime, it was so raw and undefined, so… unstructured that it shook the foundation of his entire world.
Penny started to shift a bit next to him, her own body making the position she was in very uncomfortable and eventually she was nearly the entire way off the couch. Her own jeans were starting to feel constricting so she used her free hand to undo the button and pull down the zipper and suddenly Sheldon was looking into her eyes anymore, he was watching as more of her wonderful skin was being revealed to him.
The hand that had been gripping her shirt then moved and helped her with the task of removing her own pants. A pair of white, soft panties was displayed to him and he touched them as he would a new comic book, slowly and with precision, as if it would always have its own feel to him. He would spend the rest of his life trying to duplicate what her skin felt like under his fingertips.
Removing her hand from him, Penny took the jeans off the rest of the way and tossed them haphazardly onto the floor.
"Penny." He stated simply.
She rolled her eyes with a smile. "I wasn't going to take time and fold them, Sweetie."
He nodded and continued to run his hand up and down her leg, occasionally coming near her buttocks but never touching it completely.
Penny continued her ministrations on his penis and Sheldon felt her carefully straddle his knee. She started to move ever-so-slightly against him and he knew then that she was wishing to find the pleasure she was currently giving him.
"Can I… help?" He asked uneasily, in fact, he wasn't certain he should be talking at all during this but she gave him a small nod and rose up off his leg and grabbed the hand that had been massaging her leg.
"Touch me…" She said, her voice thick with the mood surrounding them. She then slid his hand under the material of her underwear and Sheldon thought his heart was going to explode out of his chest.
Closing her eyes, Penny shoved her panties down completely and smiled as Sheldon took in the sight of her. She was shy about him seeing her, never had she been ashamed or unsure of her body, but with him…. It was different, because his opinion mattered to her, more than anyone else in the world.
They continued to touch each other, to please each other but it wasn't enough for Penny. She didn't know if she should ask him or just go with what had always been her way and make the move. So she did, she let go of him and moved up to drop a brilliant kiss on his lips that encapsulated the entire moment. It was filled with love, the way she cupped his face and the way he hummed into her mouth, it was perfect.
Then she straddled his lap and positioned herself over him. They broke the kiss and shared a small look of understanding before she covered herself over him and let her head fall into the crook of her neck.
Penny rolled her hips over him slowly, tactfully and enjoyed the feeling of him trying to touch every inch of her skin. They were both still in their shirts and had their underwear down at their ankles. He filled her up so perfectly it was as if they were two puzzle pieces that had just snapped together.
Sheldon's spot was suddenly their spot, it belonged to them and this moment and Penny considered this her new 0,0,0,0 because this was where her life started anew. She'd never felt anything like this before.
When she finally cried out, it echoed off the walls of the apartment. She threw her head back a bit and felt Sheldon's hand run through her hair and when she finally gazed into his eyes again, she could see that he was there with her, that this moment mattered to him as much as it did her.
"I love you." She said, and it felt so right. She didn't even mind that he didn't say it back; she hadn't really expected him too. The way he held her as she came said everything his voice couldn't.
When he finished and she fell against him, his arms around her and her head on his chest, Penny knew he was right.
She used her finger and drew with it on his slightly damp Green Lantern T-shirt.
S + P = B P O
Sheldon moved through the apartment complex rather slowly, he took the steps one by one up to his floor. He had done this so many times it came as almost second nature, he could make the turns of each stairwell with his eyes closed most likely and that seemed like a suitable challenge to attempt at some point, with proper supervision of course.
He carried a small, white bag with Thai food and stopped on the second floor for a moment as Kelly Jacobson, a single mother of two, stomped out of her apartment with children in tow and passed him for the stairs. He offered a smile to her and she did the same, rather confusedly as if his smile were some foreign beast that had invaded her personal space. But he ignored her strange stare and the lingering ones of her children and moved on.
A few stairwells later, Sheldon found himself at the proper door and used his key to unlock it. Stepping inside, he was surprised at the silence that met him. He expected Penny to be setting out plates at the table and readying the television for the evening's viewing of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was a bit juvenile for his taste, but he couldn't deny the brilliance of Joss Whedon and the monster lore was well done. Plus Penny was absolutely enthralled with the romantic pairing of Angel and Buffy, though Sheldon couldn't begin to understand why.
Her absence was unsettling as he sat the bag down on the coffee table and scanned the living room. "Penny?" He called, his voice echoing off the walls and bouncing all around.
There was no response and suddenly the pit of his stomach was rot with worry. He shuffled down the hallway towards their bedrooms and checked hers first, it was empty. Reaching into the pocket of his jeans, Sheldon grabbed his cell phone and saw that he had no missed calls; she hadn't sent him any sort of message.
He found it odd that she'd said she wouldn't be able to pick him up from work, but was certain it was because she had to work late. As she had the last couple of days and he was forced to ride here with Kripke and listen to his vain attempts to keep up with the rap music he blasted through his speakers. Riding home with Penny was obviously most favorable, but on occasion, he had to be lenient and go with someone else.
Deciding to try a different approach, he dialed her number expertly on his phone and listened as it rang on the other.
That's when he heard the sound of her Darkwing Duck ringtone as it muffled through the closed door of the bathroom.
He hung up hastily and dropped three knocks on the door. "Penny?" Three more, "Penny?" Again, "Penny?"
"S'open." She whispered almost incoherently and Sheldon slowly turned the knob. The sight before him was faintly familiar and equally upsetting. She was on the floor by the toilet. Her face was painted with tears and dripping mascara, she'd been crying. There was a bottle of something sitting on the sink, it was liquor of some kind, or at least… it used to be.
He also saw that she was hugging his knee pillow close to her chest and her bottom lip was quivering with the push of more tears to come. "What's happened?" He asked, kneeling down next to her and battling the smell that was emitting from the toilet next to them.
Penny sniffled sharply and lowered her head shamefully. "I got fired… eight years and…,"
"I see." He said simply before standing away from her and retreating to the sink. He hastily poured out the faint remnants of her liquor into the sink and then dug into the memories of their nights together in this bathroom when the situation was reversed and started to pour cool water onto a rag that hung next to the sink.
Wringing it out, he moved back to the spot next to her and dabbed at the running makeup that stained her face. She was so obviously inebriated but as she looked at him with puffy, sad eyes he couldn't help but wilt. She was so beautiful, even now at her worst.
"Were you given a reasonable motive for your termination?" He asked, setting the cloth aside and pushing a few stray hairs out of her face.
Penny nodded slowly and took a breath to try and stop the bathroom from spinning. "They said I was missing too much time… that I… wasn't management material and it was becoming too much work to keep a waitress around with my schedule if I had no… future."
Sheldon could tell that she was fighting her old feelings of uselessness. It was a character trait of hers that both baffled and irritated him. She was never useless, but not a day went by where he couldn't see the self-disdain in her eyes at some point.
"Are you all finished with your expulsion of fluids?" He asked, hovering over her slightly as he flushed the toilet for the third time since he came into the room.
She sighed before offering a small nod and Sheldon rose to his feet. He moved to stand adjacent to where she sat and hooked an arm under her leg and one under her back before scooping her up off the floor.
It nearly took all his strength to lift her, but she was in no condition to walk. Penny did manage to hook her arms around his neck and cradle herself into his body. He moved them into her bedroom and gently laid her down on the purple comforter. He was about to step away when she maintained her grasp on him and pulled him down to her.
"I love you so much, Sheldon. You're too good for me, do you know that?" She said almost frantically, the alcohol overtaking her speech as she clung to him. "Please don't leave me; I don't have anything without you."
Sheldon reached around where she was holding him and broke her clasp but maintained a hold on both her hands between his own. "Have you ever considered that that may be the problem, Penny?" She didn't respond, just stared at him sadly. "You have nothing else in your life but me, and while I adore your devotion and company immensely, I do believe that your life would be better if you had something else of value to balance it out. Haven't you ever wished to be anything?"
She lolled her head back against the pillow and looked up to the ceiling before wiping at her eyes furiously. "An actress." She said almost disgustedly, as if the very idea of her being that was preposterous.
"Yet, in the last few years I've seen you make absolutely no attempt to become anything of the sort." He stated truthfully and she looked away from him.
Penny swallowed hard and hugged herself. "That's because… the last time I was offered an acting job they told me I had to have nasty sex with the casting guy cause I 'certainly wasn't talented enough to get the job on my acting skills', he was so gross Sheldon, he had crumbs in his beard!" She all but screamed as if it was scandalous and Sheldon narrowed his gaze at her. She settled a little bit and looked at him once again. "I'm not a good actress, I can't act." She finished redundantly.
Sheldon nodded evenly and licked his lips. "I see, well I've always wished to be a superhero but seeing as I cannot fly, I was forced to find a secondary future for myself, you could do the same."
"Physics wasn't your first choice?" She asked with deadly seriousness.
He huffed heartily. "No, I wanted to be a member of the X-Men, Penny."
She burst out into laughter and he couldn't contain his own smile, though he wondered why the idea seemed so ludicrous to her. "You would have been a sexy X-Man, Sweetie."
"I don't think that qualifies as a superpower, but thank you." He said flatly and she snorted before brushing at her eyes again. "Was there ever anything else you wanted to be?"
Suddenly her eyes were shy, her face was hot with a blush and she wouldn't look at him again. He passed off her childishness to the drinking and was okay with drawing this out of her.
"What is it, Penny?" He pushed again, sliding a bit closer to her and turning her chin to make her face him.
Penny bit her lip slightly before groaning and covering her face. "An artist." She said but the words were muffled by her covering hands.
Sheldon and his Vulcan hearing still made out the proper syllables. "I see, well can you draw?"
She uncovered her face. "I do draw… I don't know if I can."
"Well I like to consider myself a bit of an expert in the art department; after all I have what I believe to be the most extensive comic book collection in the greater Pasadena area. Do you have anything I could look at?"
Lazily, Penny pointed to the bottom drawer of her dresser and once he stood, she turned her back to him and lay on her side.
Sheldon opened the drawer and started to skim through the contents, ignoring the numerous backlogs of her scrapbooks, he knew of them, but never of her drawing. Finally, he found a blue, thick sketchpad. He held it gently, it was worn and the cover was tired from over exertion. It was evident from the wear on the object that she'd used it an awful lot.
Opening it slowly, the first image nearly knocked him over. It was far more detailed than anything he'd expected. There were no flowers or corny hearts as he'd imagined her art would be. It was a girl, an oddly familiar girl sitting on the floor with her knees hugging her body. Her face was hidden by her cascading hair but the wall she was sitting against was covered with banners and plaques. They all read second place, runner up and consolation prize and at the very top, just before the page cut off, it said "What You Are".
"Penny, this is…," he turned to speak to her but when he did he saw her body rising and falling slowly with each steady breath she took. She'd fallen asleep and he turned back to the book for a moment before closing it slowly and tucking it under his arm.
He then moved to the small rocking chair that sat in the corner of her room and tugged the Carolina blue blanket off it and draped it over her.
In silence, he sat down in the same chair, not wanting to leave her for the night and began to trek through the pages of her sketchbook.
Thai food and television had been long forgotten.
Sorry this took so long, I promise to upload the rest of this very soon.
Penny woke up and immediately wished she hadn't. The sun was taunting her through the window that overlooked her bed, its light cascading with deadly accuracy right into her face. She groaned and rolled onto her stomach, reaching back to grab her blankets and burying herself in them. "Thirteen hours." Sheldon's voice drew a squeal from Penny as she sat up in a rush, looked at Sheldon sitting in her rocking chair and then closed her eyes sharply as the pain drilled a hole in her head.
"Oh God…." She whispered achingly before lying back down slowly and again covering her face.
"Am I right in assuming that you are memory stricken from the events of last night?" Sheldon said, he was keeping his voice quieter than usual and Penny silently appreciated it.
He saw her feet moving slightly under the covers as she curled herself into a ball. "I remember… vodka and linoleum."
"Do you remember losing your job?"
Slowly, Penny pulled the blanket down and Sheldon could finally see her face, that old look of worthlessness had returned and he suddenly wished he'd kept his hole shut. "Yeah," she said softly before he watched her eyes close again. "Did you stay here with me?" She asked, finally offering him the chance to see her eyes. Their beauty greatly outweighed the mess that was her hair.
Sheldon rose from the chair and walked towards her window. "I was in and out; I brought my computer in here at one point and had a rather invigorating round of Battletoads on a wonderful Nintendo 64 Emulator I found online."
"Thank you for taking care of me." She said simply. Sheldon turned from his spot and their eyes locked.
He frowned at her. "You know I don't enjoy the nights when you drink so heavily, Penny."
She nodded shamefully. "I know, Sweetie, I'm sorry." With guilt pouring through her, Penny looked away from him. "It won't happen again." She promised but he merely nodded to satisfy her, he simply didn't believe her.
"Penny," he offered softly and she looked at him again. "I wish to discuss this." He finished before moving to where her rocking chair was and picking up a blue sketchpad.
Her chest tightened at the sight of it and she once again buried her head in the covers. "Oh balls, Sheldon did I tell you to look at that last night?" She knew he wouldn't go through her stuff without asking, and she hadn't shared her art with anyone before, even him which meant that absolutely no one else would know.
"You told me of your desire to be a professional in this field—," he was about to continue but she cut him off with a start.
"I know, it's so stupid, I just draw to take my mind off of stuff sometimes, I mean… I could never do anything like that, right? Just give me today to recover and I'll start looking for another job." She was rambling and scared because so much of her was in that sketchbook and him having seen it was like opening up a part of who she was that had been locked inside of her since she was little. The quicker she could move the conversation away from that, the better.
Sheldon had his lips pursed and was studying her. There were wounds in this girl that were embedded into her psyche he couldn't begin to understand. Things he never would have imagined when he first met her, all smiles and perkiness. She was so filled with life, but he knew now, that even then, she was tortured with self-hate.
He moved to the side of the bed that she was lying towards and knelt down to meet her at eye level. She was looking at him, her eyes big and steady. He was almost lost in them for a moment but was able to pull himself away from a strange want to cradle her. She didn't need coddling now, she needed guidance. "You are a very talented artist, Penny."
"I—I… what?" She said in absolute disbelief, as if she were waiting for the Bazinga and that small chuckle of his that was reserved for the jokes only he found funny. "Sheldon you're being crazy again, I just mess around they're nothing special."
Hastily, Sheldon began to flip through the pages of her sketchbook and eventually he settled on one and displayed it too her.
It was one of her favorites, a memory drawing she'd done of her childhood dog Sammy. He was all white masses of hair and nonstop energy. Sammy had been her first pet, her first real anything on the farm. He would follow her around all day and sleep with her all night. She took care of him and in a lot of ways he took care of her.
In the picture, he was running down a long stretch of road, tall grass flanking each side of the pavement as his tail stuck up high and his feet were in full motion. The detail that she put into that one was pretty immense, she was certainly proud of it, but saw it as nothing more than a lots afternoon.
"The fact that you drew this off of nothing more than a picture in your head proves to me that a future in art is not out of the realm of possibility for you." Sheldon spoke in absolute seriousness and was now finally drawing her out a little.
Penny adjusted so that she was sitting up in the bed now. Her shirt clinging tightly to her body as the heat of the room caused her to perspire just a bit. After their recent intimacy, he wasn't able to ignore the sight of her figure curving in all the ways that seemed right to him. Sheldon fidgeted uneasily for a moment before standing again.
"Do you really think I could be an artist?"
Sheldon nodded. "I do, it certainly won't happen overnight and you will have to find another job in the meantime as my salary will not cover all our expenses, we're lucky that I have insurance through my work in order to pay the medical bills but the smaller things that your salary gave us will need to be replaced." Penny nodded in understanding and slowly laid herself back down. "But yes, I do believe that if you found the proper channels to display your skills, this talent could benefit you greatly."
Then suddenly she was crying again and Sheldon was sick with the sight of her in tears. He discarded the sketchpad onto the dresser and was again at her side. He reached out, hesitating for only a moment before running his fingers over her cheek and trying desperately to remember anything from any romance move she'd forced on him that would apply to this.
"I love you, Sheldon." She whispered with a watery smile as he looked at her with utter bewilderment.
His hand never left her cheek. "And this… distresses you to the point of tears?" He asked with worry.
She shook her head and reached up to grab his hand with her own and held it tightly. "No, it makes me happy. These are happy tears." She admitted and wiped them away with a bit of embarrassment before forcing herself to sit up again.
Sheldon sighed in relief and stood again. "There really should be some sort of distinction."
"What like bright blue tears for happy and dark purple for sad?" She teased and accepted the glare he offered her as a small reward. She smiled again and held her head in her hand to fight away the throb of her headache before swinging her legs off the bed and standing unsteadily. "No more vodka for Penny." She said with a laugh that didn't carry well and Sheldon merely looked away for a moment to prevent his eyes from rolling.
"Penny," he said her name as if he were a teacher calling on her for the answer to a question. She looked at him and saw that he had his hands held behind his back. She raised her eyebrows in response and he continued. "I have two subjects I wish to inform you of, is your head of sound ability to listen or must I wait for you to have a cup of coffee or a warm shower?"
"So long as you don't go on for hours, I think I can handle not showering for a little bit. What's on your mind, Clementine?" The name she called him was so random that Sheldon lost his train of thought for a moment and found himself at a complete loss as to how she could be such a mystery to him. She smiled again and he settled from the confusion.
He raised his hand and held out one finger, first topic of course. "During your alcohol induced sleep, I received a text message from Leonard asking if we'd be interested in having a meal with him. I don't understand why he keeps texting me; I have yet to respond to him and decided I wouldn't until I consulted with you and your opinion on the matter because I'm sure you're more aware of how to handle this sort of social situation." Penny sighed and nodded before taking a step towards him.
"Do you want to have him back in our lives?" She asked simply, Sheldon appreciated getting to the point. If she were to write a guide to Sheldon Cooper, getting to the point would be near the top of the list.
"Leonard's presence in my life wouldn't alter all that much, I suppose we'd have another for a random night of video gaming and I'm sure he'd be around for a few meals here and there. It certainly wouldn't change my feelings towards you as the central figure in my life." His voice wasn't meant to sound sweet or romantic but Penny certainly took it that way. He spoke so technically that things he meant as sweet could easily be missed by most people, not Penny. She loved his protocol.
With a smile, she nodded in agreement. "It wouldn't change how I feel about you either. You should set up the dinner."
"Very well, I'll choose an appropriate restaurant and… do you suppose we should tell him about my ailment?"
Any mention of that always put a cloud over the room. Penny's hangover wasn't already ruining her morning, but this drew the pain away from her head and into the pit of her stomach. "That's entirely up to you, Sweetie."
"I see no benefit in keeping it from him, if anything it might help explain why I've been gone from work on days after I've had treatment and why I will be leaving early tomorrow."
Penny nodded as she remembered more chemo tomorrow. "Have him meet us tonight for dinner then. You probably won't be this up for it on any other night this week."
"Very well," he said before tapping on the keys of his cell phone and sending the message. When he finished he saw that Penny was still looking at him diligently and he couldn't help but smile at her. She blushed and looked away from him, hating and loving how he could disarm her so easily. "Next topic is, of course… your employment. I may have a lead for you."
Her eyes lit up. "You do? Do you know someone in the art world?"
Sheldon suddenly looked shameful. "No, Penny I'm sorry I should have specified. I have not yet delved into the art world to help find you suitable employment, I was thinking of a more current form of work."
"Oh," she said with a bit of disappointment but quickly washed it away. "Okay, what?"
His smile grew. "Well you see I recently spoke with Stuart…"
Leonard could feel a pair of eyes on him; he took the bite from his fork and let it sit in his mouth for a minute before looking up at the full cafeteria and slowly turning his head to the right. Sheldon was there, standing over him expectantly and watching him. Leonard swallowed sharply and raised his eyebrows.
"I never received a return message from you either accepting or declining my invitation."
The boy seated nodded slowly before adjusting his glasses. "I know, I was planning to tell you today but I've been busy, I definitely accept."
Sheldon then reached into his back pocket and pulled out his cell phone and started flipping through it. "Penny has asked that I inform you of her request to eat in this evening, she isn't up to going out."
It was still very hard for Leonard to comprehend that Sheldon and Penny texted, that they lived together, that she loved him. It just baffled him completely. "That's fine with me; I wasn't really up for going out either." He said quickly, in truth he hadn't really thought about it, but it seemed right to simply agree with Penny.
Sheldon sent out a corresponding text and they sat in silence for a moment. His phone then buzzed and he checked the new message. "She's pleased, she'll be making Chicken and Rice for dinner. Be there around seven."
"Okay," Leonard said a little uneasily, Sheldon then pocketed his phone and began to turn away. "Wait," he called and his former best friend turned around. "Why… don't you have lunch with me?"
Sheldon furrowed his brow. "I don't eat in the cafeteria." He said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
This time, Sheldon offered a sigh to match his ever growing annoyance. "Because there has never really been anyone that I wish to socialize with as I eat, Leonard. I—I don't have friends that work here anymore."
Guilt came and Leonard blamed himself for pushing the subject. Still, this was one of the reasons he came back… to make up for walking away. "Well, I'm here and we used to be friends… I'd enjoy it if you'd eat with me."
"I'm afraid I've finished my meal for today." Sheldon said flatly and Leonard nodded slowly. "I—I could sit here, I suppose and… chat." He finished lamely.
Leonard smiled and pushed his glasses up. "Great!"
Sheldon pulled the chair out and took a seat next to his old friend. The moment he sat down it felt as if a brick wall came between them. Leonard couldn't think of anything to say, he just needed one conversation starter and he was drawing absolutely nothing. So they sat in silence for a good five minutes, Leonard slowly eating his salad and Sheldon merely making shapes with his index finger on the table.
"So… did you get that new Spiderman anthology booklet?" He asked, really just blurting out the question in desperation.
Sheldon's face immediately lit up. "Yes, we were first in line at the comic book store, it was a rather big deal, Stuart had Steve Ditko at the comic book store for the release, he was autographing them, he wanted to sign mine but it would take away from the mint quality of the product. Penny tried to tell me that it would make the item worth more but I have no desire to sell it, so I had him sign my Amazing Spider-Man blu ray DVD instead."
"Penny went with you?" Leonard asked, and it annoyed Sheldon that this seemed to be all Leonard took from his response.
"Yes, I still don't drive." Sheldon fidgeted slightly in his seat, remembering perfectly how Penny woke him up that morning with a kiss. "She and I woke at five and drove to the comic book store, we barely beat this horrid little man named Dave who is constantly eyeing every comic book I covet. Plus he flirts with Penny and she has promised that if he does again she'll remove his arm from his body and beat him to death with it."
Leonard smiled slightly. "Thought that'd be your job." He muttered under his breath.
"Why would that be my job?" Sheldon asked, Leonard forgot about the guys incredible hearing. "I'm not Penny's bodyguard, her well-being is a top priority in my life but I'm quite certain that she can handle Dave on her own."
It all sank in on Leonard in that moment, he knew of Penny's feelings, she'd told him… hell she'd practically beamed about them to him. But now he knew it was reciprocated, that Sheldon felt the same way about her. The temperature had officially dropped in Hell.
Suddenly Leonard's watch beeped and he slid his chair back and stood. "Back to work, I'll see you tonight, Sheldon."
"Very well." As the cafeteria emptied, Leonard dumped his tray in the trash and turned back to see that Sheldon was still sitting in the same spot. He had a bit of a distressed look on his face and was acting as if his feet were stuck to the ground.
Leonard took a few steps back to the table. "Hey, you okay?"
Sharply, Sheldon shot his gaze up at Leonard and waved him off. "I'm fine, just taking a moment of peace, all right. Go to class, Leonard and be prompt this evening."
With a small sigh and a shake of the head, Leonard walked away.
Once the cafeteria was empty, Sheldon took a few deep breaths and closed his eyes as he finally felt his legs starting to function again. This tumor would do such odd things to him; he'd forget names and lose the ability in his limbs at certain times. He hadn't had a seizure yet, but he knew and the doctors had told him to be on the ready for one.
When the symptoms came, that frightened him. Now, in the peace of his own loneliness, he drew out his cell phone and started texting.
My legs have frozen on me, it is rather distressing.
He sent the message before using the table to help him stand again. His phone buzzed.
U ok? I can come get U if U wanna come home.
I should be fine. He responded as he reached his office and stepped inside. He shut the door and refused to sit at his desk for a while. With all the effort it took for him to stand, he couldn't risk being stuck again.
Ok, call me if you need ANYTHING… I luv U
He held his phone for a moment and let the comfort of these words wash over him. He felt silly, finding so much solace in typed words on a cellular phone but they made his heart swell.
The message sent and Sheldon decided to bury himself in busywork.
"He gave you the job over the phone?" Sheldon looked over to Penny as she turned the corner that led them to their apartment complex. She was still dressed in her pajamas, save a pair of pink Crocs and it was clear she'd had a very lazy day. He knew she was still a bit hungover, so he'd let go of the fact that those were not very good driving shoes.
Penny smiled a bit and nodded with a chuckle. "Yeah, I told him I was interested, he asked me if I knew who Venom was, I—I don't know how I knew, but apparently I did and he gave me the job."
"Eddie Brock." Sheldon said simply and Penny grinned at him. "You enjoy the comic book world more than you let on."
She laughed genuinely. "It's kind of a big part of our lives, Sweetie. I go there more than I go to the grocery store."
"When do you start?" He asked as she pulled her car into the small parking garage that was adjacent to the building.
Parking the automobile, Penny opened her door and looked over the top of the car as Sheldon exited as well. "Day after tomorrow, I told him I wouldn't be able to go in early… because I might have some late nights when you have you chemo."
The pair started for the complex side by side, their hands brushing against one another every now and then. "I am capable of handling myself in those situations, Penny."
"I know you are but I'm not capable of not being there." She said matter-of-factly and any protests from Sheldon ended there.
Entering the building, they started on the stairs, the same stairs they'd walked so many times over the past seven years together. She could remember memories from these steps, most of the time they were silent here. Like the time they ascended them after his diagnosis or when she told him that she was probably not going to be visiting her family anymore.
Most of them however were exactly like this, simple and empty, just them and their lives moving onward together. Penny didn't like to think about it much, she was more in the moment. All Sheldon could do was think about it, how his life was passing with each day.
"Do you think I should make croissant rolls?" Penny asked as the made their way up the second flight.
Sheldon looked to her with a flash of brightness in his eyes. "I do enjoy croissant rolls." Penny smiled. "Will you be cooking the chicken and rice together or having them separate and allowing us to mix them as we please."
"You can mix your own, Sweetie; I never know how to handle your chicken-to-rice ratio." Sheldon nodded in agreement and suddenly his eyes flashed to his hand when Penny took it into her own.
He glanced up as they finished the second flight and passed the tapered off elevator door. "There is a great deal more touching involved in a romantic relationship than I anticipated."
"Is that a good or bad thing?" She asked as they began another round of climbing.
Sheldon shrugged half-heartedly. "It was just a fact. As a man who has based the better part of his life on education, I find myself rather enjoying this new realm of learning that I've been granted in our current paradigm."
She shook her head with a warm grin and asked herself again how she ended up with this crazy boy from Texas with a mind of gold. It was never what she imagined in her dreams as a child. She pictured the athlete or the rock star, a typical man with his love of cars and sports. Someone she could throw barbecue's with and have massive family gatherings for big football games (you know the holidays that really matter).
Her boy wasn't that, he never would be and she certainly wasn't going to try and make him.
"I'm happy to be your teacher, Dr. Cooper."
Sheldon look at her with bemusement. "Ironic, isn't it." He said with a smile, Penny knew he was a fan of irony.
They finally made it to their apartment and Penny unlocked the door with her key. Sheldon stepped inside first and held the door as she followed. "All right, we've got an hour and half until Leonard gets here, I'll shower first, and then cook while you shower, sound good?"
"Very well, it will give me a chance to get set up." He said, moving towards their television.
Penny looked at him quizzically. "Set up for what?"
He looked back at her slowly. "Leonard is coming over; I have to get the PlayStation ready."
"Oh no, not Call of Duty, Sheldon please." She begged that game and his late nights playing it online were the bane of her summer. He fizzled out on it quicker than she thought he would because he was forced to play it alone most nights, but she knew he was hoping Leonard would play with him.
"Penny…," he wined and she shot him a glare that he was quick to match. "I haven't played in ages Penny!" He said dramatically and she sighed in defeat.
"Ugh, fine!" She caved and stomped down the hall towards the bathroom. "But if it ruins our night, I'm not putting out all week." She called as she shut the bathroom door behind her.
Sheldon furrowed his brow as he hooked up his video game system and whispered to the empty room. "Putting out what? Forrest fires?"
Leonard couldn't describe it, he knew that after tonight he'd have to call Raj and Howard and explain to them what his dinner was like at Penny and Sheldon's and he knew he wouldn't be able to articulate it.
They moved in such a rhythm with one another that it amazed him. They would do things and talk with each other so naturally that he started to think back to all their time spent together and wonder if it were always this serene between them.
He'd arrived only thirty minutes earlier and was now wandering aimlessly around the living room as Sheldon tried to set up the internet connection to the PS3 and Penny continued to prepare dinner.
There were pictures everywhere, most of them were just random photos of random things and a lot of them had Sheldon in them so he assumed they were taken by Penny. Eventually, he came to a photo that drew his attention immediately. It was of Sheldon and Penny standing side by side, both of them looking very serious and in incredibly detailed costumes.
They were both wearing Battlestar Galactica flight suits. Sheldon had a helmet under his arm and he stood facing the camera while Penny was leaning against a wall next to him, her arm covered in a familiar tattoo that replicated the character from the show perfectly.
"Starbuck and Apollo…," Leonard whispered into the air and Sheldon, of course, heard him.
He turned back from his spot on the couch and saw the photo Leonard was looking at. "Oh yes, one of our best nights, we won a rather hotly contested costume competition at a Cheesecake Factory Halloween party."
Penny giggled softly from the kitchen. "What'd you hear, Starbuck?" She said gruffly before turning back to the stove to stir her rice. "Nothing but the rain," she finished in her own voice.
Sheldon sighed, "Penny that is dialogue spoken by Commander Adama, not Apollo."
"I know," she said, dipping her spoon into the pot. "But it's my favorite line from that show, it's so sad at the end when he says it too her."
"How long ago was this?" Leonard asked as he sat the picture back where it belonged and took a sip from his beer.
Of course, Penny looked to Sheldon and his eidetic memory for the answer. "Three years ago, we were practically regulars at those Cheesecake Factory parties; I suppose we won't have to be bothered with that anymore."
Penny looked up from the kitchen at the boys, Sheldon wasn't paying attention and Leonard was paying far too much as he eyed her with concern. "You don't work at the Cheesecake Factory anymore?"
"No, I lost my job yesterday… it's okay though, like a slinky… I always bounce back." She said with a bubbly smile that fooled Leonard but was utterly worthless when it came to Sheldon.
Leonard moved to the kitchen where she was working and awkwardly rested his hands on the counter, it was strange for him being a guest in this place. "So you already have another job."
She blushed and shook her head. "Yeah," she didn't elaborate in the hopes that he may leave it at that.
"At the comic book store!" Sheldon chimed in from behind the television.
Penny leveled a glare that he didn't see but she was hoping he would feel her irritation. She sighed in a small fit of embarrassment and nodded in conceit. "Yep, that's me… comic book girl."
Leonard sent a small smile in her direction and Penny pouted her lips with a glare and started to serve the rice onto the plates she'd brought down. "Wow, now you'll be in the company of Captain Sweatpants and…,"
"Dave." Sheldon spat as he moved from behind the TV and lit up like a Christmas tree as his PlayStation boomed through the speakers of the stereo. "Penny, you must be ever vigilant around that man, I do not like the look of him."
The blonde laughed softly as she moved the plates to the coffee table in front of the television. "I think I can handle Dave, Sheldon. Come on… let's eat."
So they shared random stories that didn't really matter much and Penny listened intently as Leonard told her about his work and his family. Of course Sheldon lit up a little bit at the mention of Leonard's mother and Penny felt an odd twinge of disgust that made her feel a little strange.
As the meal winded down and the conversation started to lag, Penny looked to Sheldon in silence and Leonard was astounded at how they seemed to communicate in this way. Then Sheldon took a breath and glanced at his old roommate with a blank expression.
"Leonard, I have a brain tumor." He blurted out as if he were a computerized message.
The sound of a fork falling into a plate void of rice filled the apartment and Leonard began to shift his gaze between Penny and Sheldon. Sheldon was watching him steadily, almost studying his reaction and Penny was merely starting at the table, the subject clearly bothering her.
"You… really?" He finally said lamely.
Sheldon nodded briskly and started to clean up the plates from the table. "Yes, I've had it for some time now; I'm in my second course of chemotherapy and am hopeful to dissolve the tumor enough for the chance of a successful surgery."
"I—I…," Leonard stammered and stumbled over his words as he felt frozen in his chair. "Sheldon I'm sorry." He said finally and watched as Penny glanced to Sheldon over her shoulder.
"It certainly isn't your fault, Leonard. It merely is what it is and we have been dealing with it accordingly." Sheldon said before sitting down at the table again, this time just a bit closer to Penny and she found his hand under the table.
There was a wave of silence as Leonard took in the new information. "Well… if there is anything I can do… I will. Are you guys keeping this quiet or," he let the sentence hang there and Penny was ready to pick up the pieces.
"It's up to Sheldon, I'm sure Raj and Howard will be grilling poor Leonard about his night here. Do you want him to tell them?" She asked with a sweet smile and Sheldon thought for a moment.
Eventually he shrugged and nodded. "That will be fine, you may tell them what you please, just refrain from giving them my cell phone number."
The night moved on and Sheldon and Penny went on to tell Leonard about his illness, about some of the things they'd been through.
Penny actually found herself a bit out of the conversation at times and she was absolutely thrilled with that. Once Sheldon and Leonard started talking about physics and comic books, she watched as Sheldon's face lit up. He would never openly admit to her that he missed such conversations; he knew she was lost on those topics and he never tried to force them on her.
To see him being able to discuss these things so happily was like music to her.
"Okay," she finally said, breaking up a heated debate about the Legend of Zelda timeline. "I'm going to call it a night, Leonard it was great to see you." She hugged him tightly and he held her back slightly, glancing over to see Sheldon watching them with so little jealousy that Leonard was a bit offended. He knew Penny was never going to be his but a hint of suspicion would have been good for his ego. "Have fun boys." She said simply before giving Sheldon a soft kiss and retreating down the hallway.
The two men sat in silence in the living room for a moment, Leonard wanted to bring up Penny, and he wanted to ask how Sheldon and she ended up together, how they'd been living like this for the last seven years. He wanted to bring up so much but he couldn't find the words for any of it.
So he looked at the TV and then back to Sheldon. "You want to play a little Call of Duty?"
Chapter 8: E I G H T
They both jerked slightly as Penny stopped the car. Sheldon is forced to bit his tongue as he won’t tell her that her braking is always too sudden.
Looking at him, Penny smiled her sweetest smile and hoped it would dissolve the fears she knew he had carried all morning. “So I’ll see you at four.” She said in a soft tone.
Sheldon nodded slightly and clung onto his shoulder carrier a bit tighter. “I will be out here at 3:58, give or take a few minutes depending on what the hallways are like at the time.”
“I love you, Sweetie.” She said and though he had yet to say it back to her, Penny mind. His eyes would say it, the gentility in which he touched her would say it.
He smiled again but Penny could tell it was mostly for her benefit and she wasn’t upset, today was chemo day, a horrible day. “Good luck at your new job, I see the Green Lantern T-shirt you purchased fits… snugly.”
Penny smirked. “You think it’s sexy don’t you?” She teased and was beyond pleased at the blush that covered his cheeks.
“I do.” He chirped and she laughed. “Based on all the previous accounts, my sickness from the treatment I receive never usually begins until around midnight or any time there after… perhaps this evening you might wish to engage in a bit of carnal activity?” He asked with hopeful eyes that washed away all the heavy wording. She knew what he wanted and it made her stomach tie in beautiful little knots.
“I think that could be arranged, Sweetie.” He nodded happily and began to open the car door. “Sheldon,” she called as he was about to exit. He stepped out, shut the door and leaned in through the window. “Where’s my kiss?” She asked with a pout.
Dutifully, he stood up from where he stood and the time it took him to go all the way around the car to the driver’s side, she rolled her window down. He bent over as he had before and she reached out and almost pulled him in with her. She kissed him hard and wet and put her all into it and Sheldon stumbled slightly as his head went light and his balance faltered.
As the kiss ended, his lips were red and his eyes were glazed. “I—I… oh Penny now you’ve flustered me and it will take me a good thirty minutes to settle back into a good working pace.”
“Kinda the point, Sweetie.” He scoffed and she giggled and he raced around the car again to finally make his way inside. He offered her a small wave that she returned before he was trouncing up the steps and into work.
Penny wanted this, moments like this and the feeling that was inside of her, and she only wanted that. She didn’t want her love for him to battle so much with her worry for him. She just wanted Sheldon, she and Sheldon to be together and for all this other tragedy to vanish.
She needed a Power Ring, a cancer killing Power Ring.
As Penny started back onto the road, she felt a buzz in her pocket and pulled her cell phone from the center console. A smile painted across her face as the name displayed on the screen, she answered it happily.
“Hey Missy,” Penny chirped brightly.
“Hello Penny, and how is the sister I never had but definitely deserved.”
Penny chuckled softly into the phone as she turned back onto the main road. “I’m good, just dropped your brother off at work and I’m headed to my new job.”
“Oh yes, Shelly told me that he’d gotten you work at that cute little comic shop ya’ll live next too. He’s rubbing off on your girl.” Missy said in a teasing voice, Missy Cooper was, as she so charmingly put it, Penny and Sheldon’s biggest shipper (Missy loved her television couples). She had actually been the first one to show Penny that the biggest reasons she stuck around all these years was because she was in love with that crazy brother of hers. Missy had also been the first person Penny admitted too aloud of her love for Sheldon Cooper.
“Well luckily you can’t see what I’m wearing.”
Missy sighed. “Oh Lord, that boy doesn’t have you dressed up as some silly alien character does he?”
Penny laughed heartily. “No, that was comic-con and he says I have to go as Catwoman this year.”
“He just wants to see you in a leather suit.” Missy retorted with a laugh before she stopped almost instantly and spoke again in a smaller voice. “It is strange to think of my brother havin’ urges and sex and… okay I took myself into a bad place there.”
“Mmm… good place, Missy.”
Sheldon’s sister scoffed harshly into the phone. “Oh Good Lord you are terrible!” Penny giggled as she reached the comic book store and parked in front. It wasn’t open yet, so she shut off the car and settled back into the seat. “How’s he been?” Missy asked, her voice carrying a thoughtful tone. Penny knew they were treading in tumor territory.
Her eyes shut, it was so annoying for her that anytime that word came up, those words; cancer and tumor, that she would almost shut down, that her mind would always take her to that place, that empty place without Sheldon. It wasn’t real, it was all in her head and in her dreams and spilled out in the tears she let soak her pillowcase, but it was a part of her, it would forever be.
“We have an appointment today, more chemotherapy but he seemed a bit brighter today than he has on most days we do this so… I’m choosing to take that as optimism.” Penny finished with a smile but it was fake and when she caught sight of it in her rearview mirror she removed it. She was alone, she didn’t have to pretend. “I hate knowing that at some point tonight I’m going to hear him throwing up in the bathroom and see him like that.”
There was a slight silence on the other end and Missy was clearly dealing with her own dark place when it came to Sheldon’s illness. “Me and Momma are just glad that you are there to take care of him. If it weren’t for you Momma would have dragged that boy back here to Texas already. I do wish it was easier to visit, I—I would love to help out more.”
“You know that you’re always welcome in our home, Missy.” Penny said as she caught site of Stuart inside watching her through the window, he smiled and waved and she returned with a grin and held up a finger asking for a moment. He nodded simply and headed back for the counter. “You should really think about coming up sometime… then you can see me and your brother kissing and all that good stuff.”
Missy laughed and then made a gagging noise. “I don’t wanna think of my brother doing any… good stuff. But I suppose the good stuff comes with happy and love so… I’ll most certainly think about heading your way.”
“Please do, send my love to your mom.” Penny said as she exited her car .
“Will do, hon. Take care of our boy.”
Penny smiled, this one was real. “Our boy.”
She hummed a soft tune to herself as she walked around the mass of comic books and memorabilia that filled the small shop that she now worked in. There were a few things that were very good about being employed here, the hours were incredibly flexible and her uniform could be whatever she wanted it to be.
At Sheldon’s behest, she wore one of his smaller t-shirts, a black shirt with a massive Green Lantern logo displayed across the front. Her hair was falling down around her shoulders and she matched it with an equally bright smile.
Penny didn’t know much about comic books, outside of what she had taken from her years of being around Sheldon and the occasional rub off from him. Still, last night he put her through a refresher course and taught her all he could in a two hour span before she made him go to bed. It was nice to be in a place like this, there was almost zero stress and it was warmly familiar, she knew it was temporary and Stuart had no problems at all with letting her leave at four to take Sheldon to his chemotherapy appointment.
“What’s that you’re humming?” She was drawn from her trance by the sounds of a boy, couldn’t be a day over ten, watching her with a few comics in his hands. It wasn’t until the boy asked that Penny realized what tune was in her head.
She looked at him and offered a smile before blushing slightly. “Oh, it’s a song I learned from a friend of mine.” Penny knelt down to meet the boy at eye level. “It’s called Soft Kitty… it’s a song you’re supposed to sing to someone when they’re sick.”
The boy pouted slightly. “My brother just makes fun of me when I get sick.”
“Aww,” Penny cooed and shook her head slightly. “My brother and sister used to be mean to me too when I was your age.” He looked down at his shoes for a moment Penny rose up too full height again. “What do you have there?”
He extended his hands out proudly. “Three Spiderman comics!” He beamed.
“Oh cool, I love Spiderman… are you ready to checkout?” She asked and he started looking around.
“Uh… yeah my dad’s around here somewhere.” He then walked away as if she had completely disappeared and Penny laughed softly before returning to the counter.
Suddenly, the door to the storage room behind the counter opened and Penny jumped slightly. Turning back, she saw Stuart emerge, his eyes heavy with sleep. “Penny, hey… how’s everything going?” He asked, running a hand through his tousled hair.
“Fine,” she said with a soft laugh in her throat. “You’re looking a little ragged there Stuart.”
He nodded slowly as his gaze stared off into the distance. “Yeah… had a date last night… kept me out pretty late.”
“Really?” Penny beamed.
Stuart nodded slightly and spoke with a sigh. “Yeah… no, I was actually up arguing with a bunch of guys online all night about who would make the best villain in a Wonder Woman movie.”
Penny bit her lip gently and offered him a weak smile. “Right well… if you want to get some more sleep, things aren’t very exciting right now.”
“No… if I sleep now I’ll just dream about being somewhere else, somewhere better and then I’ll wake up back here and just be depressed for the rest of the day.” Stuart said sadly, but his tone and words were always that way and Penny knew that in the long run he was very happy with his comic book shop and was passionate about what he did. “Say, if you’re looking for something to do I got a new shipment of action figures in if you wouldn’t mind putting them on the back shelves. I’ll man the register for a while.”
With a smile and nod, Penny stepped into the backroom where Stuart had his little bed and desk where his computer was lit up with a slideshow of images of random animated girls posing in slightly provocative manners. She shook her head faintly, never one to be judgmental and certainly wasn’t going to start now, but it wasn’t the ideal screensaver.
Eventually she found the boxes, there were three of them and they were quite big. She lifted the first and bent her knee up to hoist the figures into her arms a little better. As she carried them out, the bell rang over the door and she watched as the boy and his father walked out, comic books in hand.
Strained, she sat the box down on the ground and it made a thud against the floor. She settled onto her knees and opened it, there were half naked superheroes spilling out all over the place. She’d seen so many of these before, hell half of them were scattered around her living room.
Penny could remember when her brother was little and would play with them. Sheldon didn’t play with his action figures, he collected them. Her brother would always have them spread out around the house and he’d borrow her dolls and use them to do things she was never courageous enough to ask.
What was worse was that she could pull out every single figure before she placed it on the shelf and name them off without looking at the box title. She knew Captain America and Red Skull (for some reason Red Skull was her favorite villain and she felt silly for having a ‘favorite villain’). She could name off each of the X-Men by not only their mutant name, but their human name as well.
That was when she stopped, holding a rather heavy box that held Wolverine inside and glanced down at her shirt. Green Lantern displayed proudly as she stocked action figures she knew onto the shelves of a comic book store.
She was a nerd. It certainly wasn’t at the level of Sheldon or Leonard, but she was and it filled her with a little bit of pride.
“I’m pretty sure we’ve stepped into Howard’s dream right about now.” Penny’s head snapped up at the voice that came in behind her. It was eleven in the morning, she prayed he wasn’t drinking already. Standing quickly, she turned around and saw Raj standing behind her with a shy smile on his face. “Well, probably a dream he hasn’t told Bernadette about.”
“Raj…,” Penny whispered and took a step forward before taking the same step back. “What are you doing here?”
He shrugged. “I’ve kinda been wondering why I ever left. It’s so warm here.” He said looking around. “Seriously this place is so different from when I left. I mean… you do realize you’re working at the comic book store don’t you?”
Penny grinned sweetly and nodded. “I do, it’s temporary but… it’s nice, slow today though.”
“Are those new action figures you’re putting up there?” He asked, pointing to the box. She nodded. “Then be ready for the noon rush, most of the universities offer off campus lunch, they will be filing in to get the new X-Men figures.”
She glanced to the figures and then back to the Indian man in front of her. He looked so much the same, his hair was a bit longer and he was a little older, but he was donned in a sweater vest and a pair of khaki pants, he was Raj. “Seriously Raj you have to tell me why you’re here.” She demanded softly.
“Leonard kept going on and on about how much he missed it here, I told him how miserable I was in Michigan and he said he needed a roommate so… poof.” He finished with a quirk of his brow.
Penny smirked. “Poof?”
Raj nodded. “Poof.”
“And hey, you’re talking to me!” She beamed and he laughed shyly.
“Yeah… slow steps at first but once I was on my own and had a job interview with a woman, where we’d be in her office alone… at seven in the morning, I had to do it… broke the pattern and here we are.” He spoke proudly but still he had trouble looking her in the eyes at times, she constantly offered him her smile and it was far more comforting than he’d remembered it. In fact, she was much different than he remembered. There was almost something… soothing about her presence.
“That’s great Raj, it’s good to talk to you, though I’m still mad about my unanswered emails.” She frowned a bit over dramatically but she was upset and had certainly been when they went untouched for seven years. She’d wanted to keep in contact with him because, away from it all, Raj was great to talk too. When she would send him messages while they were all here, they would talk about so much and never about anything surrounding them. It was just about life, growing up in India, growing up in Nebraska, favorites and dislikes. She missed him and hated that she thought he didn’t miss her.
He cast his gaze down to the ground and pursed his lips. “I am sorry, Penny. I—I wish I had a better excuse, or an excuse at all, but I don’t.” He then heard the bell chime over the door and turned back as a few teenagers walked in with comic books already in hand. “I don’t want to keep you here while you’re working… would you be interested in having lunch this afternoon?”
Penny leveled a gaze on him for a long moment in silence and he was preparing for her decline when she smiled again. “I would, we could get some Chinese at the place across the street.”
“Great!” Raj grinned. “I’ll go run some errands and… maybe look for work and I’ll pick you up.”
They exchange goodbyes and as Raj left, she turned around to see the three younger boys who’d walked in earlier staring at her chest. She watched them until their eyes found hers and she cocked her head to the side. “Don’t make me get my Power Ring boys.”
“So…” Penny started as she turned the car to another street on their way home. “Raj is back. He’s living with Leonard… wherever Leonard is living.”
She looked at him, he wasn’t looking at her. They’d just finished another round of chemotherapy and Sheldon was sullen and distant again. These days were awful and Penny struggled to understand why they had to go through them. Why they had to come in and invade their magical little world and the love that they shared, these days shattered everything.
Not wanting him to pull away from her, she felt her foot settle a little heavier on the gas as she reached an upcoming speed bump. Sheldon, well aware of every turn and crevice in this road, immediately noticed the increase in speed and looked ahead with fear. “Penny, slow down!” He cried and she looked at him, still going too fast.
“Oh so now you talk to me.” She challenged before finally pulling off the hammer and letting the car coast lightly over the speed bump.
Sheldon leveled a hard glare at her, not one of their playful ones, he was genuinely upset. “Yes, I do apologize for not wanting to spout off about the gloriousness of your day after having just had poison injected into my body.”
She let out a heavy sigh and as they reached a stop light, she let her head fall against the steering wheel gently. “I—I’m sorry… I just don’t want this stuff to ruin our lives again… like before.”
“Don’t be stupid, Penny. Before we hadn’t been through this, we went into the situation with our hopes as optimum as they could be… now that we’re on the second round… we know the outcome will most likely be much of the same.” He spat bitterly, this time he was looking at her, almost shooting his words like daggers through her.
He ranted on for a good thirty seconds, but she only heard the first three and it nearly killed her.
Don’t be stupid, Penny…
Penny swallowed the heavy lump in her throat and started to drive again as the light turned. Her eyes burning with unshed tears
Neither of them spoke for another three hours after they made it home. Sheldon watched The Lord of The Rings on a cable station and groaned with each commercial that came. Penny was in the kitchen, preparing his post-chemo soup for the evening. They’d found that his mother’s old split pea soup with homemade croutons recipe actually helped the side effects of his treatment to be a little less violent.
Of course Penny had to learn how to cook it and Mary Cooper was more than happy to make her way to Pasadena teach her. Mary took any excuse to be near her boy and his girl.
As Penny started to set the table, Sheldon grew frustrated with TNT’s nonstop self-advertising and shut the television off.
Once she served him and made a bowl for herself, Penny and Sheldon sat in silence as they ate. She wouldn’t allow herself to look up at him and Sheldon couldn’t stop stealing glances at her. Eventually, he grew frustrated and this was ruining one of his favorite meals, he sat his spoon down in the soup.
“You’re upset.” He said flatly, finally drawing her eyes to him.
Penny bit her lip and looked away once more. “Just eat, Sheldon.”
Sheldon sighed heavily and nodded to himself. “I apologize for ignoring you in the car this evening, Penny. These treatments merely put me in a foul mood is all, I would have assumed by now you’d understand.”
“Apparently I’m too stupid to understand.” She mumbled but knew he’d heard, she was glad he’d heard.
He didn’t say anything and this eventually forced her to look at him again; he was studying her, worry in his eyes. “You must know that I meant nothing ill in that comment, Penny. I was merely speaking in frustration.”
“You know who used to call me stupid, Sheldon?” She asked and he shook his head shyly. “My dad, right to my face when I’d come home with a bad report card or get in trouble on the bus. He would look me in the eyes and tell me to stop being stupid. He wouldn’t ask me why I was getting teased on the bus, or offer to help me with my homework, he’d just tell me to stop being stupid.” Her voice was low and filled with pain and it was stabbing at Sheldon’s stomach.
Ignoring his soup, Sheldon stood up from his seat and moved to where she was sitting. He could see the tears forming in her eyes, as they always did when she thought of her family back in Nebraska. He knelt down next to her and took her hand in his. “You’re not stupid.” He said in the sweetest tone he had and it melted away Penny’s defenses.
She dropped her head into the crook of his neck and felt his arms wrap around her. “I’m sorry.” She said and again confused him. He pulled away but kept his hands on her shoulders. “Tonight isn’t supposed to be about me… we’re gotta get you through it first.”
“Penny,” He smiled a small smile at her. “We will get through tonight, I promise.”
She was so cold, her legs were shaking and her lip was quivering but she could feel the heat of her own tears on her face.
Penny held his hand but he didn’t hold back, he just laid there while they pounded on his chest. She kept crying that they were hurting him, that they were going to break his ribs but the younger one, the one sitting next to her kept saying it was a price to pay to keep him alive.
She was so cold.
She hadn’t even been able to dress when they came to take him, she was in her red flash t-shirt and a simple pair of white panties, they had to leave fast and she just jumped into the ambulance. It was his first seizure, it was horrifying.
There was blood pooling out of his mouth, she’d screamed again but they said he’d merely bit his tongue. Her chest was so tight she thought there might be something wrong with her. She prayed for him to be okay, if he wasn’t, she’d pray for her heart to explode in her chest.
Finally he stopped, it was sudden and instant and the entire world seemed to mute around her. The paramedics stopped, the sounds around her seemed to stop, and Penny thought she might be waking up from a horrible dream… but she was still so damn cold.
They finally made it to the hospital and Penny could only watch as they lowered his gurney from the back, one paramedic bagging oxygen into Sheldon’s mouth while the other continued to push on his chest. He wasn’t breathing on his own.
He wasn’t breathing.
She jumped out of the back, immediately cutting the bottom of her foot on the rugged pavement below and on instinct she hoisted it up and started to fall, the younger medic caught her and helped her walk the rest of the way inside.
Once the doctors got there, Sheldon was surrounded by so many people that Penny couldn’t see him anymore. She fought her way out of the young man’s arms and started chasing after him down the hall. Her foot left a trail of spilt blood in her wake.
Penny was stopped as the emergency room one door closed in her face, she pushed it open without thought and the frantic sounds of working doctors filled her ears.
“Sheldon…,” She whispered but was nowhere near loud enough to be heard.
Finally one of the doctors looked at her, he was older with his thick glasses and balding head, and he turned back to Sheldon. “Who is she?” He asked before moving around to look down Sheldon’s throat with some long tube.
One of the paramedics responded. “Roommate… wife, I don’t know? Ma’am? What’s your relationship with the patient?”
“He…,” She stammered, she wanted to know everything, she needed to know. “I’m his wife.” She lied and then when she put weight on her bad foot, it gave out and she fell. The paramedic lifted her and held her up as the bald doctor looked at her.
“Mrs…,” he let it hang but carried a bit of urgency in his tone.
“Mrs. Cooper, does your husband have any medical conditions?”
Penny nodded immediately. “A brain tumor, we’ve been getting Chemotherapy, in fact… we did today. Is that what’s causing this?” She cried in a panic.
The doctor shook his head. “No, this is the tumor… your husband is not breathing on his own, does he have a DNR?”
“No!” She screamed and thought about punching him. “You do whatever you have to too save him!” Penny could feel the hot tears falling down her cheeks, into her mouth as she tasted them. “You promised me….” She whispered.
The doctor nodded and called for some sort of ET Tube but was stopped by the sounds of another doctor that had taken his spot over Sheldon. “Wait… we’re good, cleared out the fluid… he’s breathing again.”
Penny slid to the floor and sat against the wall to allow herself to cry.
She sat in the dark of the hospital room they’d given him and listened to the heart monitor beep. This was much more serious than when he fell the first time, the last time she’d stayed overnight in a hospital.
A soft knock on the door drew her attention and Penny turned to see the bald doctor, Dr. Tracy was his name. He didn’t offer her a fake smile and she silently appreciated that, he simply held out a piece of clothing, green scrub pants she had seen all the other doctors and nurses wearing.
“You looked cold,” He said simply and she accepted the pants. He looked to Sheldon while she stood and put them on, pulling at the strings to tighten them around her waist. They were incredibly baggy on her, but they were fairly warm.
“Is he okay?” She asked and the doctor looked at her.
He sighed heavily and nodded before taking a in the other cushion chair that was in their room, Penny sat along with him.
“He should be okay by morning. Seizures aren’t uncommon and from what I heard through the paramedics you had done a fantastic job before they arrived.” She lowered her head and listened to his words. She hadn’t done much, gotten him on the floor so he wouldn’t fall, put a rag on his head to keep him cool, just things she’d read about in books. “We’ve got him on Compazine to help with the effects of his chemotherapy, the tube in his throat isn’t breathing for him, it’s to suction out the vomit that may arise from his treatments so he won’t choke on it. His vitals are good and like I said… by morning he should be okay to go back home. This is just…,”
Penny finished for him. “Par for the course.”
Dr. Tracy nodded somberly and offered her a gentle touch on the shoulder before standing and moving towards the door. “I’m on staff all night so I’ll be keeping an eye on him, if you’d like… we have a sleeping room, it’s mostly for nurses on call but I guarantee they would okay with you sleeping there tonight.”
She smiled weakly. “I’ll probably just stay here, thank you.” With that he was gone and the silence was deafening once more. Penny sat in her chair quietly, not really watching anything or doing anything, just sitting and thinking and letting her mind frighten her. She was thinking of death and the finality of it all, she was wondering about heaven and the afterlife and all those little things she used to be so uncertain about as a child… all those things she was uncertain about now.
The thoughts plagued her, they made her sick to her stomach and she had to force them away. Standing briskly, she dragged her chair over to the side of Sheldon’s bed and sat as close as she could. She was far exhausted but couldn’t sleep, sad but had cried far too much, scared but painfully used to the feeling.
Penny knew she should call someone, Leonard for support or Mrs. Cooper to let her know, she would at some point, but tonight she just wanted to protect Sheldon as she had for so long now.
So she sang Soft Kitty to him, her voice soft and echoing slightly off the small walls of their hospital room, meant more to sooth herself than the boy she loved.
Flashbacks in italics.
The next two weeks left little time for personal moments. Penny worked furiously and long hours to make up for the lost wages as Sheldon’s chemotherapy kept him away from work a few extra days each week. His seizure had become common knowledge around the University and Dr. Gabelhouser certainly didn’t want to risk anything happening to Sheldon while he was handling the valuable and dangerous equipment.
Days consisted mostly of Penny and Sheldon waking up, some days she would drive him to work, nearly every day she would drive herself. She would deal with all sorts of customers and give them that bright smile she’d mastered as a waitress and spend the rest of her time sketching anything she could find. She’d grown quite fond of drawing Spiderman and Gwen Stacy in various details and moments that she thought fit the Spiderman world, at least, the parts of it she knew.
After work she would either pick Sheldon up from work or take him to Chemotherapy. Much to his dismay, they’d gotten him a life alert monitor that would sound if he managed to press a button before he might encounter another seizure; he hadn’t seized yet and swore to Penny each morning that he simply wasn’t going too.
Most of the time, she would come home and be exhausted, from lack of sleep on his treatment days and working on her feet six times a week.
Sheldon also noticed that Penny was purchasing more alcohol than usual, he was taught at a young age not to speak of other’s drinking habits. This came from his mother demanding that he not question his father’s drinking. Telling him he was too young or naïve to understand. So he did as told and kept himself quiet. He hated alcohol; he hated what it did to people, to his father… to Penny.
Whenever he was able, Sheldon would tend to her. He enjoyed touching her. It was odd to him, but it was slowly becoming an obsession, like the feel of a new comic book or the way his bed sheets felt when they were freshly washed. Her skin was addictive. He would rub her feet for her and randomly touch her cheek, he never worried about illness with her, with everyone else he was as distant as ever, but he adored the feel of Penny.
They would make love when she was up for it, Penny would tease that Sheldon was a ‘normal human male, with normal male urges’ because if she initiated it (which she always did) he would never pass her up.
It was a random night when Penny was lying on her back as Sheldon drove himself into her with a slow burning precision that matched the pump of an engine piston that she realized she would never find a better love than this. That all the times she’d had sex in her life, this was the first boy she’d ever made love with… that they were making it in that moment together.
“One, two,” and he pushed in. “One, two,” he pulled out and this cycle repeated and Penny arched her back slightly and felt his hands take hold of her hips to steady her.
He continued to count out his rhythm, flattening his palm over her stomach and continuing his motions. “Sheldon,” she whispered and flexed herself around him. His eyes went wide and his counting sped up.
She heard him counting out his ministrations as a device to hold off his climax and she laughed, he glared, she told him she loved him, and they came together.
Raj and Leonard became steadier figures in their lives as well. Leonard would come mostly to play video games and watch new movies that he and Sheldon shared equal interest in. Raj would come for the games and movies too, but more often than not he would spend more time with Penny, when she was home.
They tried to all have at least one meal together a week, they usually only managed twice each month.
Sheldon’s chemotherapy was still as brutal as ever, the nights were almost always spent on the bathroom floor with the two of them exchanging who fell asleep on the other’s shoulder first. At least four times since he’d started his second round, the pair had woken up the next morning on the tile floor of the bathroom.
It was Raj who had said it first, a bit blunter than he’d meant when he showed up early one morning and found them in such a state. He whispered to Penny that next night that he worried about them, about how much they depended on each other.
Penny was easy to agree, to admit that most people would call it an unhealthy reliance, but she countered by telling Raj that it was no different than what a wife would do for her husband.
Raj asked her if she was serious about that.
Penny said yes so quickly he thought she had read his mind. “I’m going to marry him someday.” She said simply and Raj felt the shock of Penny Cooper wash over him for a moment before realizing that there was so much of these two he’d missed out on that it wasn’t his place to wonder.
They were in love, Raj knew it, and Leonard knew it (he certainly told that to himself enough). Their lives weren’t immense, nothing about them was particularly glamorous and at a distance looked nothing like the dreams that they’d had for themselves years before.
But they were in love, and happy… and both insistent on the fact that that was all that mattered.
Two weeks before Thanksgiving had the city of Pasadena in a frenzy for parades and college football. The UCLA Bruins were playing better than they had in years and that drove Penny insane as her Cornhuskers continued to slide.
The city was filled with tourists and teenagers. Every shop in town was having sales and preparing for Black Friday. It was a time for family and friends and good food.
It was two weeks before Thanksgiving and Penny was silently drawing the image of an older man who was sitting across from her in his cushiony chair as he was pumped with medication.
She didn’t know much about him, other than what Virginia Lockhart had told her. He had spent most of his life in hospitals, dealing with his liver disease since he was forty-five years old and now pancreatic cancer. He didn’t have any hair, he was skinny and pale and it usually required two nurses to walk him into the room.
But he had the most wonderful smile and today Penny was seeing it for the first time as he came to his chemotherapy session with what she could only assume was his grandson… a sweet little boy with bright blonde hair, blue eyes and a motor that ran constantly.
The boy sat on the floor, playing with his small hot wheels cars as he persisted that his grandfather be the big semi-truck and help him get the other cars to the top of the treatment chair.
Penny drew them both, forcing detail into every feature, trying to capture that boy’s innocence and the older man’s flint of joy.
Suddenly, she felt a pair of eyes on her and turned to see that Sheldon was watching her from his seat, the green liquid still pumping into his body. He looked down at her drawing then back to her.
“Your tongue protrudes from your mouth when you’re deep in concentration.” He stated simply and watched for her reaction.
She blushed and nodded. “I know, my mom used to tell me that when I was doing homework.”
“Are you going to give them that?” He asked, gesturing towards the pair she was currently recreating on her page.
Penny faltered and her mouth fell open as her brows furrowed as if she were waiting for him to start laughing. When he didn’t, she shook her head hastily. “No, they won’t want this… the stalker drawing of the crazy blonde girl. No.”
Sheldon sighed and pursed his lips before adjusting in his seat slightly. “Your art will never matter to anyone else if you don’t allow yourself be proud of it, Penny.”
“It’s just a silly sketch, Sheldon. It’s not even finished.” She said before handing to his outstretched hand.
He eyed her work. The picture was mostly just shading, the detailed features of a boy and an old man looking at each other happily. There was no background, no real depth or purpose to the moment, but the love between the two was displayed almost magically. To Sheldon it seemed to move like the pictures in Harry Potter.
His gaze turned to Penny; she was chewing on her lip and nervously awaiting his response. He offered her none, and he simply turned to a passing nurse. “Excuse me.” He said and she looked at him almost shocked. Sheldon never spoke to the nurses during his treatments.
“Uh, can I help you with something?” She asked with her smile bright.
Sheldon nodded and extended the drawing as Penny squeaked in a quiet protest. “Could you give this to that gentleman over there, and please inform him that it is from the pretty blonde on his right.”
The nurse eyed the drawing for a moment, her brows rising in surprise as she looked to Penny who had her red cheeks hidden in her hands as blonde hair scattered over her features.
As the nurse walked away, Penny swatted Sheldon’s arm lightly. “Sheldon, now I’m really going to look crazy, they’ll probably make me stay outside from now on!” She cried incredulously
“I wouldn’t allow that.” He said matter-of-factly before turning his attention to the older man as he accepted the drawing.
He nodded at the nurse before looking at the picture for a long moment that seemed like an eternity to Penny. Finally, he turned his head slowly to the couple watching him from their own spot in this pit of despair and he found Penny’s waiting eyes.
Holding up the drawing, he gave her that smile, the one he reserved for his grandson. She covered her mouth and waved him off as he thanked her and asked to keep it. She said yes, of course and then started to tear up when he showed it to the boy and he immediately lost interest in his cars.
A tear streaked down her cheek and Sheldon reached out to brush it away, his hand lingering on her skin. “My belief in you will only go so far, Penny. It’s inevitably up to you.”
She took it into her own and kissed it. “I love you for believing in me.”
It was the best chemotherapy session she could remember.
Knock, knock, knock.
Knock, knock, knock.
Knock, knock, knock.
Before she could say his name the third time, the door was open and Sheldon stood, head cocked to the side and studied her. She was using the frame of the door for support, her eyes were half open and red. Disappointment flooded him immediately. She was robed well enough, her black dress was clean and crisp down her body, but she was heavily intoxicated.
Sheldon sighed. “Penny, it’s seven-thirty.” He stated with annoyance as she shrugged.
“Yeah, I know… that’s what time you wanted to go to this fund-raiser thing… right?”
He shook his head slightly. “It’s an awards banquet, and I am going to be accepting the Faraday Medal and Prize. I—I… you agreed to accompany me.”
Her head fell back as she pushed her way into the apartment. “I know, sweetie, that’s why I’m here and all dressed up. You thought I’d forget but I am showing you now that I didn’t.” She was rambling and slurring and absolutely unacceptable.
“I cannot stress enough how important this night is to me, Penny.” He said flatly as she quirked a smile at him and stuck her tongue out. “Penny!” He cried with a bit more force.
She stepped back and raised her arms in surrender but the smile never left. “Easy, Dr. Cooper, I’ll be there okay? In fact, I’m here… now, let’s do it!” She said in a strange accent that was meant to match something she’d no doubt taken from a movie.
“What could have possibly driven you to become inebriated at this point in the evening?”
Penny curled her lip up in confusion before her eyes went wide and she moved on him quickly. Sheldon back away in a rush, her expression and the stench of alcohol radiating off her was enough to drive him away. “Oh! Let me tell you something, Mister… that rat bastard thinks he can just call me whenever he wants and I’ll sleep with him. Like I’m some kind of hooker! He’s out of his mind!”
Sheldon again sighed and tried to disregard her rant. He couldn’t, ever since Leonard and the others had left he’d noticed a raise in not only her drinking, but her random meetings with various men she’d meet while intoxicated.
She was dear to him when she was clean and sober, when she was herself he wanted to be around her. When she started to self-destruct, as happened tonight and more often each month, he did not enjoy her company at all.
“Please return to your apartment… it is pointless for you to accompany me this evening.”
Her face curled up in offense as she looked as if he’d just slapped her. “What? You don’t want me to go, how the hell are you going to get down there huh? You didn’t think about that did you Dr. Whack-a-doodle?”
“No, I—I suppose I didn’t. Apparently I won’t be accepting my award tonight.” He said in a sad voice before picking up the clothes he’d laid out for himself on the back of the couch and returning them to his room.
“Wait!” Penny cried as she followed him down the hall. “What’s your deal, Sheldon? I thought you’d want me to go… I mean especially now, who knows… you might get a little something.” She said with a quirk of her brow and a slight nudge as he settled his suit into the closet and closed the door.
When he looked at her, she was smirking and licking her lips slowly. He wasn’t a master when it came to sexual arousal and sex appeal, but this was neither, it was embarrassing. “Go home, Penny.” He said, his Texas accent hidden within the words.
“Come on, Sheldon. You and me… we’re all we’ve got. You can’t tell me you’ve never wanted too… taste me.”
The words startled him and he nearly knocked over a standing lamp by his bed. He kept the lamp upright and looked at her dumbfounded. “Please go home, Penny.” He begged as she turned her head to the side and watched him through hooded lashes.
“I know…,” she whispered. A moment later, she reached up and hooked a finger through the strap of her dress and slowly started to pull it down.
Sheldon fought with every ounce of strength he had to keep his eyes on hers. Her skin was being exposed with each movement and eventually the strap fell down her arm.
Suddenly the other went as well and the dress hung around her waist like unlatched overalls. Her bra covered chest exposed to him, it was lace and black and displayed her wonderfully.
Still, he looked at her eyes and saw nothing, just emptiness and alcohol and he drove up his anger and moved to her.
“I asked you politely twice…,” he started as he reached out and pulled her dress up harshly. “To go home!” He turned her around quickly and shoved her out the door of his bedroom.
Penny stumbled and her heel broke in the hallway as she fell hard against the floor.
Knowing he’d gone too far, Sheldon was at her side in a moment and trying to help her when she turned around and slapped him hard across the face.
He stumbled back, covering his burning cheek as the impact brought a stinging heat to his eyes.
She was looking at him with fury for only a moment, then another passed and she was faltering. Eventually her hands were over her mouth and she was crying softly, her tears spilling freely down the back of her hand and onto her dress.
“I’m sorry,” she spoke so softly that if it weren’t for his good hearing, her apology would have gone unnoticed.
She kicked off her heels angrily and pushed herself up again. She was unstable and nearly fell but Sheldon didn’t make an effort to help her again. Penny clutched the wall and stumbled down the one step that led to the living room. She stopped and leaned against the arm of the couch. Her breathing was heavy and her world was spinning.
“I—I hate myself so much, Sheldon.” She cried, her voice more broken than anything he’d seen on television. Even in moments of distress for the characters he loved on TV, their pain couldn’t match what he heard from her. It was raw and real and terrifying. He was unschooled in these subjects, in compassion and comfort.
So he stood still as she broke down and cried. It wasn’t loud sobs like he expected, she just wept in the silence of the apartment and he watched her from the hallway, all the while holding his wounded cheek.
When she fell asleep on the floor, leaning against the side of his couch, Sheldon finally reentered the living room. He sat down in his spot, only a few feet away from where she was snoring.
He turned the television on and watched nothing in particular, all the while ignoring the phone calls from his work, no doubt wondering why he hadn’t shown up to accept his award.
Two nights later, Sheldon was awoken to the very same sounds that he was making the night before. He sat up in his bed in a rush, and listened. Again the soft gags filled the air and he knew it was Penny. He’d kept a watchful eye most of the evening and knew that she hadn’t been drinking.
He rose from his bed and started towards the noise.
They still slept in separate rooms on most nights, after sex or not he would dote off to his room and leave her to her own. They had agreed that once they purchased a larger bed, they would move into one room, he was beginning to think it would be more efficient to merely leave the bed in the bathroom as they spent so much time there.
When he knocked on the door, she opened it slowly and stood, pale faced, in front of him.
On instinct, Sheldon took a step back and covered his face with a pajama sleeved hand. “You’re sick.” He said and she nodded, lowering her head as a mass of hair covered her face.
“Yeah, you can go back to bed… I’m just gonna crawl on the couch and die a little.” She said, moving past him towards the living room.
Sheldon lingered as he watched her shuffle towards the sofa. He struggled with the idea of merely going to bed; he didn’t wish to be exposed to her illness.
But she was exposed, she was sick and he couldn’t abandon her. He kept a hand over his mouth and moved to follow her as she fell heavily onto the red couch.
“Is there something you would like? Medicine, food… a warm beverage?” He asked, standing behind the kitchen counter.
Penny was clutching her stomach as she rolled to her side. “I want my stomach to stop hurting.”
He glanced back to the cabinet they kept their medications in and sighed, he didn’t really have anything suitable. “I—I…,” he stammered and cleared his throat. “Would you like to visit the hospital?”
“No,” she bit harshly but he took no offense. He knew when he offered that he would be declined. Penny would never visit a hospital unless she was bleeding internally.
A thought suddenly struck him.
“Good Lord, you didn’t suffer a blow to the stomach did you?” He questioned with worry.
She looked over to him with a tired glare and shook her head. “No, I woke up feeling like this.”
“Are you running a fever?”
Penny shrugged weakly. “I don’t know, I was sweating in bed but… it’s hot outside.”
Something was wrong and he knew it then, it was hardly in the 50’s outside this evening. He’d put on both hers and his flannel winter sheets weeks ago.
“I think it might be best if we found some help for you, Penny. I could call my mother and maybe ask her for advice.” Sheldon was getting technical and Penny was growing frustrated.
She looked at him with sad eyes and patted the couch softly. “Will you just… sit with me?” She asked innocently.
Sheldon’s mouth opened as a response settled on his tongue, he closed it quickly and took a step back. “Penny,” he started with guilt in his eyes but concern in his voice.
“It’s fine, Sheldon… never mind.” She sighed and laid down gently on the couch, her head in his spot, she closed her eyes as her stomach cramped again.
Seeing her distress, he lifted the collar of his pajamas over his face and moved to her. She looked up at him and smiled before lifting herself up just enough to allow him to sit and she rested her head into his lap.
“Do you mind if I turn on the television?” He asked.
Penny shook her head. “Just keep it down.”
As the light from the TV glowed through the living room, Penny turned herself to face Sheldon’s stomach and closed her eyes; finally falling asleep as he gently stroked her hair and watched the Discovery Channel.
Penny was all alone when she found out.
Raj and Leonard had taken Sheldon to the comic book shop, after spending the last three days there she wasn’t all that up for going.
She doesn’t know what to think. There are parts of her that want to be happy; there are others that are terrified. Her mind travels to the future, perhaps too far and too fast.
The test is sitting on the coffee table; she’ll certainly have to clean it before Sheldon gets home. You don’t take a pregnancy test with a fingerprint.
Her eyes fall shut, she’s scared. When she was younger and scared, Penny had only one real option when it came to comfort. She couldn’t talk to her mother. Mom was always far to pre-occupied with keeping herself happy and Dad didn’t want to be bothered with fears, he wasn’t afraid of anything. Her brother was a jerk and she and him never got along, she would only wish for his safety and well-being as a means to keep her family from collapsing.
Then there was her sister, Abby.
Abby was a different kind of girl, she was rebellious as hell. She enjoyed doing things differently. Penny was a cheerleader, a popular girl and the center of attention in any room she walked into.
Her sister was not and that was exactly how she wanted it. Abby had jet black hair that she colored herself, her green eyes matched Penny’s and their features were similar. She was a dark haired, smaller Penny, but with faded and torn jeans that were two sizes two big and vintage rock band t-shirts and dark eye shadow.
Penny sat her cell phone on the table next to the pregnancy test and studied them both. She hadn’t spoken to anyone in her family in over eighteen months. She didn’t worry as much about Abby holding any grudges; Abby grew up in that house and knew how horrible it could be. Still, it had been eighteen months and that was just talking to her mother, she hadn’t spoken to her sister in longer than that.
Running her hands over her sweats, Penny reached out and grabbed her phone. She found the number in her contacts and hit the call button, only to end the conversation before the first ring and set it back down again.
She groaned in frustration and repeated the process, this time forcing the first ring to sound. Now if she hung up, her sister would still see who called. She was stuck now.
“Hello?” The voice was apprehensive, almost as if she were expecting this call to be a part of some strange dream.
Penny felt herself falter at the sound of her sister’s voice. “Abby?” She offered, her tone soft and hopeful.
“Well holy shit, if it isn’t Queen Penelope herself.” That was Abby’s term of endearment for her baby sister; it was the birthplace of her name on video games and email addresses. “What rock did you crawl out of?”
“I—I know it’s been a while…,” Penny started but was cut off quickly.
“No… I haven’t had sex in a while, Penelope. I haven’t talked to you in two and a half years.” Abby was upset, her words were sharp and stung.
Had it really been that long? Penny wondered before letting her hang slightly. “I’m sorry.”
“You should be!” Abby spat but the next time she spoke there was calm in her voice. “I had to deal with our crazy ass parents for EVERY holiday and birthday. We even got together for your birthday, but God forbid if Mom could be an adult and call you, she just pouted all day.” Penny was about to speak again but Abby was on a roll. “So there’s gotta be something right? I mean I highly doubt that you just stopped doing… whatever the hell it is you do now and decided to call. How would I know what you do… I didn’t have your number in my phone when you called. So what is it? You need money? You get kicked out by your boyfriend or are you going to actually be on TV, cause we’ve only been waiting on that for eight years now.”
Checking the clock, Penny knew that the boys would be coming home at any time, so she gathered up the test from the table and quickly walked to the bathroom and shut the door. “Can I talk now?” Penny said, trying to match her sister’s tone which was a feat in itself. It was hard to match the anger that Abby could throw out at times.
“Does it sound like I’m done?” Abby asked angrily.
Penny sighed. “Abby…,” she tried but was again ignored.
“Dammit Kid will you just…,” it was then that Abby took a heavy and sharp breath into the phone. Then a longer and slower one and when she spoke again, her voice was filled with no malice or anger, just concern. “Why did you stop talking to me?”
That was it, Penny was gone. She sat down on the toilet and started to cry. Her emotions had been a wreck all day as it was and to hear her sister, the sister that she knew and the one that she was searching for in this phone call was all it took.
“I’m so sorry… I was so mad at Mom and Dad that I just… I’m sorry, I’ve missed you so much.” Penny sobbed into the phone and frantically wiped at her eyes, she didn’t need Sheldon seeing the remnants of her tears and worrying like he would, and she was certain that he’d pay enough attention to notice.
Abby laughed softly. “Calm down, Penelope of course you missed me, I never doubted that… I just thought maybe you found a way to get on without me, I should have known better.” Penny chuckled despite her broken appearance. “So according to our lovely family… you’re in quite the mess over there in California.”
“It’s been hard.” Penny admitted as she mindlessly started to clean the scattering of things that spread around the sink. They were all hers, of course, Sheldon kept all his stuff in the drawers and medicine cabinet.
“A boy, right? Sheldon? Mommy dearests worst enemy.”
Penny frowned at the way her mother always thought of Sheldon. “Yeah, Sheldon.”
“Right,” Abby drew out the word and sighed. “So he’s pretty sick from what they tell me. Is he okay? I only ask cause Mom seems to think you’re gonna go bat shit crazy if you lose that boy.”
Biting her lip, Penny nodded to no one in particular. She couldn’t deny the truth her sister had just spoken, but she wasn’t about to acknowledge it. “He’s staying strong but… that’s not why I called.” Abby didn’t speak, she wanted too and Penny knew it, but she gave her sister time and eventually Penny couldn’t hold it in. “I’m pregnant.”
“I knew it!” Abby burst out, her shout startling Penny a bit. “I was so going with pregnant next… shit, pregnant out of wedlock… mom and dad are gonna be so proud.”
Penny sighed softly. “You can’t tell them.”
“Yeah, that’s a conversation I want to have with your judgmental ass mother.” Sometimes it bothered Penny how harsh Abby was towards their mother. Penny didn’t get along with the woman, but she had good reasons. Their mom would go out of her way to make Penny feel like crap, she would go out of her way to protect their brother even though he didn’t deserve it.
With Abby… their mom didn’t do anything unique. She didn’t really go out of her way to make her feel special or worthless.
That’s when it hit Penny, maybe it was her new found maturity or the life growing inside of her, but Penny realized that her mother would hardly even notice Abby when they were growing up. She tried to think back to any memory or moment where Abby and their mom would have interacted. Something special they might have shared or even a significant argument they may have had.
There was nothing, it was as if they grew up in two different parts of Penny’s life. “So… are you scared, exciting, happy, sad… do you want to have a baby?”
“I do,” Penny said simply and the words surprised her a bit. Most of her life she never wanted kids, even now she questioned her own skills as a mother because of the lack of good teaching she had in her own life.
But she wanted to have a baby, this baby.
“All right, what about that geeky boy of yours, I mean… is he even gonna be around to raise his child?” If it were anyone else Penny would have lost it. Her mother certainly couldn’t have gotten away with that comment. But Penny knew that Abby was merely asking the question, a question that Penny herself was afraid to ask.
She thought of losing Sheldon every day. She never said it out loud and when it came she fought like hell to rid of herself of such tragedies. Still, it never changed, the first thought she had each morning was of losing him and of how alone she would really be. Penny had walked herself into this life, the distance and dependence that she had with him and vice versa, it was all of her own doing.
If she lost him, Penny feared what she may become. “I don’t know, Abby. He’s not going to die today or tomorrow; I know that but… nine months from now, if we don’t get the okay for surgery, who knows.” It was as honest as she had even been when it came to Sheldon’s sickness.
“Sounds like you’ve been pretty lonely over there?”
She sighed into the receiver and nodded to no one. “I have Sheldon and if that’s all I ever have than that’s enough but… yeah, I get lonely.”
“I think I’d like to move to Pasadena, Penny.” Abby said simply, her tone soft and strong.
Penny’s brows furrowed in confusion. “What? Why?”
There was a small pause on the other end and then Abby’s voice filled with a smile. “Because my job sucks, I hate Nebraska. Because you’re the only person in the family that I could ever stand to be around and—,” her words lingered for a moment, Penny feeling the love swell with each passing second for her big sister . “Because if you do happen to lose that boy of yours… I want to be there first.”
Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
To anyone who used to read my stories over on ff.net before I took my profile down. I will be reposting all of my Shenny/TBBT stories over here now. And much faster then I have been. Probably a chapter a day, maybe two. And to anyone new to my stories, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy.
T e n
Sheldon had already finished brushing his teeth when he noticed the note on the bottom corner of the mirror. He felt a bit silly for having missed it but he was still coming out of his REM sleep and hadn’t all his faculties yet.
Something we need to talk about in morning
didn’t want to bring it up tonight and ruin our evening so just (the next word was scratched out)
we can talk in the morning okay.
I love you.
He frowned at the note; conversations that worried Penny worried him more. He began to wonder what they had done last night that had been so special that she couldn’t have brought this up then. Why she was being so sneaky and leaving him notes.
All they’d done last night was go up to the roof and watch the stars through his telescope. They made a small picnic, despite his protests of eating outside as the insects and dust particles invaded his meal. He had enjoyed their close proximity on his Thundercats blanket, but it was nothing so unique that she couldn’t talk to him.
It was her day off and it was well before her preferred time to be woken. Despite the nagging in his head and the constant questions of what she could be holding inside, he knew she needed sleep and wasn’t about to take that from her just yet.
So he went through the rest of his Saturday morning, which consisted of a decent cereal and early episodes of Dr. Who. Just as he was about to turn on the television, he heard the sound of clipping footsteps in the hallway. Turning his head, he watched as Penny scurried into the bathroom. He listened for a moment to hear if she was vomiting, she wasn’t.
Debating on whether to go to her or let his cereal grow soggy, he opted to stay with his cereal unless she called for his assistance.
When the toilet flushed he looked back to the hallway and watched as she stepped out with ragged hair and her eyes half shut. She didn’t look his way at all before stumbling back to her room and closing the door.
She was awake now; he could ask her if she was awake enough to talk, but her disheveled state from the bathroom to the bedroom was reason enough to allow her more sleep.
He was only into the first commercial break of his show when he heard her door open again. This time she didn’t rush to the bathroom, just stomped angrily and shut the door with more force.
Again on her exit she didn’t look at him, no doubt she knew he was there, no one knew his routine better. Still, she looked half asleep as she returned to her room.
Ten minutes later, she shouted from her room. “Son of a bitch!” Suddenly her door was open again. Sheldon stood up this time and paused his show. He shuffled down the hall but she was in the bathroom before he could reach her.
He thought about knocking but her outburst earlier deterred him. So he waited, hands behind his back and watched the door.
When she came out again, she wore frustration on her face and looked at him sharply. “What?” She asked and he looked away. “I am NOT awake yet.” She groaned, pointing a finger at him as she shuffled down the hall again, her slippers squeaking against the floor
“Penny?” He called before she could shut her door.
“Not awake!” She called back and shut her door.
Sheldon moved to her room and stopped. He went through his knocking ritual and listened.
“I am not awake yet, Sheldon.”
He sighed. “You’ve been urinating more frequently than normal this morning, Penny.”
“Yeah, I noticed! Sleep please!” She cried out her beg, but Sheldon’s mind was already moving too fast.
“Abnormal urination patterns can sometimes be a sign of kidney failure or early onset diabetes. Are you feeling ill? Your stomach distress the other night may be related.” There was genuine concern in his voice.
Penny’s sigh from the other side of the door was loud enough for him to hear. After a few moments, her door opened just enough and he knew it was a sign to step inside. When he did, she was sitting on her bed and tying the strap of her robe together. “Sit.” She offered and patted the spot on the bed next to her.
“Is this about your note?” He asked before taking a seat on the edge of her bed. “I’ve been racking my mind trying to come up with something, Penny if this is another serious illness I’m not sure we’re capable of handling it.”
Her smile did what it was built to do, it calmed his nerves and he settled a bit more comfortable on the bed. “It is serious, Sheldon… but it’s nothing bad. You know that I would never keep anything from you or lie to you. I also want you to understand that if you’re scared or worried or…,” she swallowed the lump in her throat and fought off the troubles in her mind. “If you’re not okay with this… I won’t be mad.”
“Penny, you are, as they would say, beating around the proverbial bush here. What is it?” His tone was soft and much like her smile for him, it soothed the knot in her stomach.
She closed her eyes and looked to her fidgeting hands. “I—I’m pregnant.” She whispered and then looked up into his eyes. “We’re pregnant.”
The silent moment that fell between them seemed like an eternity to Penny. She watched him look away from her to the wall but really he was looking at some sort of images or numbers in his mind. She worried that he was trying to calculate how this could have happened, that he was trying to figure out the best possible way to tell her that he wanted nothing to do with a child.
Finally, when he looked at her again, he simply nodded. “This is very good news, Penny.” He said with a smile on his face and she fell over into his arms with a relieved chuckle and wiped the stray tears from her eyes. “I always assumed that once we began to engage in sexual congress that we would eventually reach this point.”
“But we’ve always used protection, Sweetie.” She said softly before wrapping her arms around his waist.
He shook his head and laid an arm over her shoulder. “Not true, our first time we didn’t use protection or remove our shirts, I remember it being very spontaneous.” He pursed his lips slightly. “I was quite nervous.”
Penny looked up at him and grinned softly. “So your first time and you get the girl pregnant, you really are an overachiever aren’t you.”
“Quite the contrary, Penny,” he started boastfully. “I am simply superior in a number of ways, apparently my seed are as well.”
She laughed and swatted his arm and told him not to be so technical when talking about their intimacy.
“So…,” She smiled. “You’re happy?”
Sheldon nodded simply. “On the bordering point of ecstatic, though there is much work to do.” He said simply and she nodded. Having a baby was a big deal and there were so many unanswered questions about the both of them and the way they lived, where they lived.
It wasn’t the right time to think about that now; she just wanted to be with the boy she loved and revel in this moment.
“Sweetie?” she said to fill the silence that had encompassed their moment. “Would you want to… I don’t know… celebrate?”
He gave her a confused look. “It’s a little early to make a cake, Penny and I don’t believe that our frie—“ His sentence was cut off as she rose up and captured his lips with her own.
Sheldon froze for only a moment before applying his own pressure to her.
Just as he was staring to lay her back onto the bed, she pushed him off and rose to her feet. “Hang on!” She called as she exited the room and raced to the bathroom.
He watched her leave with frustration and physical discomfort. Reaching over, he grabbed one of her pillows and laid it across his lap.
When she returned, she was without her robe and her sleep shorts had been removed as well. She stood in nothing more than his red Flash T-shirt and her beautiful smile.
Sheldon carefully placed her pillow back on the bed. “I thought you’d abandoned the situation.”
“No, I’ve just been peeing all morning.”
He nodded. “Ah yes, a routine symptom of the human pregnancy.”
Penny shook her head and took a slow step towards him. “So… do you wanna?” She asked before kissing him softly once more.
Sheldon’s response was to hook his arms around her back and stand, lifting her in the process and gently sitting her on the bed. Making love brought out a different side in him, he was precise and sweet; he aimed to please and was always seeking approval.
Discarding his robe, Sheldon ran his hand up Penny’s bare leg and continued to kiss her with intensity. She hooked his neck with her arms and tried to coax him onto the bed. He refused and pulled away from her, ignoring her pouted lip.
She sat on the edge of the bed and he positioned himself between her legs, still in his pajamas. He grasped the bottom of her shirt and lifted it over her head. Her eyes were shy, they always were when she was naked in front of him. It was his gaze, so affectionate and passionate.
He adored her and she knew it.
Sheldon started at her jawline, a soft kiss. He then moved to the sweet spot of her neck and gently kissed her skin. He hit her collarbone and shoulder before finally stopping at her breasts. He cupped one gently and suckled on the other while she laid her head against his shoulder and clutched onto the back of his head.
“Mmm… that’s nice.” She cooed and he looked up at her with gleaming eyes.
He reached up and touched her cheek with the back of his hand and ran it down her jaw. “I am a man of absolute meticulousness.”
Penny smiled. “You are...”
Holding the back of her head, Sheldon coaxed her onto her back and dropped a kiss between her breasts and all the way down her stomach. He was digging well into his box of tricks from all her soap operas that featured far cheesier dialogue, overbearing music and much less nudity.
He kissed her hip bone and Penny let out three sharp breaths and opened her legs for him.
Slowly, he ran his tongue over her mound and she quivered but smiled as he glanced up at her from his position. He wasn’t sure what he was doing, it was hot down here and his legs were shaking but he tested out spots on her that made her cry out more than others and found that sweetest spot and drew it between his lips.
“Oh!” She whimpered and grasped his hair with her hand.
The motions continued and with each smack of his lips, Penny could feel the heat rising in her stomach and threatening to boil over. Just as she was about to release, she called to him.
“Sheldon, sweetie….” He looked up with concern.
“Are you okay?” He asked, it was the simplest question he’d ever asked her.
Penny nodded and used her feet to push down his pajama bottoms and gestured that he should remove his shirt. He did and she looked him in the eyes and beamed. “I love you.”
He nodded. “You are my love as well, Penny.” The words made her float and she watched as he stepped in close to her. “May I?” He asked and she nodded gently.
In a moment, he was inside of her and Penny was arching her back off the bed as he clutched her hips and slowly pulled himself in and out in that steady rhythm he’d gradually been mastering over the last few weeks.
“Oh, Sheldon…,” Penny moaned but looked a bit distressed. “We forgot the condom again.” She said and his eyes went wide but he was in his cadence and couldn’t stop.
“Do you wish for me to remove myself?” He asked and she shook her head. She was so close.
“No.” She said before lungs let out a heavy cry of pleasure. “Don’t stop, Sheldon… don’t stop.” She began to thrash a bit and he leaned down to cradle her in his arms.
Penny came furiously as she bit into his shoulder and nearly broke the skin. He would chastise her for passing bacteria to him later, but for now he was in the thralls of pleasure and lost in the moment.
“I’m about too—,” he panted and she clenched herself around him as he rode out the wave of his orgasm and slid carefully to the floor, bringing her along with him.
They were a mess as they lay on the carpet. Penny atop him, Sheldon still inside of her with his arms covering her sweat laced back.
For a good three minutes they just laid there like this, together and in love. Celebrating what was coming in their lives, not paying one thought to the horrors that still plagued them. It was the truest moment of happiness that Penny had ever felt in her life.
“Sheldon,” she said and he offered a soft ‘hmm’ into her ear. “I have to pee.”
Penny and Sheldon lay together on her bed, the day washing away as Penny drifted off to sleep and Sheldon made shapes out of the drywall on her ceiling.
All of this was so new to him, love and the feeling of her in his arms. It was startling how good it made him feel. It immensely challenged the feeling of any new discovery that he made in physics and far outweighed the excitement of new comic book day or any new video game.
He had always assumed that entering into any sort of emotional relationship would be the demise of who he had become throughout the years of his life. That he would have to give up his passions and the things he enjoyed, that he would have less time for science and comic books.
With Penny, it was nothing like that at all. She just accepted him, as no one, not even his own family had accepted him before.
He loved her; she was his favorite thing in the world. His sister used to tease him that if he ever found a girl he might actually be normal. Penny didn’t make him feel normal, she made him feel extraordinary.
The sound of his cell phone ringing disturbed his quiet moment and drew a soft mumble from Penny as she awake and removed her sticky palm from his chest and let him roll over to answer.
“Hello.” He said softly into the phone. Penny watched him as he took in a few words. “Yes, hello Dr. Hathaway.”
Penny felt her chest tighten, it was his oncologist.
Sheldon shifted himself away from her and sat up in the bed. “I understand, so you’re saying that the progress is not significant enough for any sort of continuation.” His voice was stoic and solid as he licked his lips and continued to listen. Penny was desperate to hear the voice on the other end, but couldn’t make out anything. “New York City? That is quite a distance for a hunch you are carrying Dr. Hathaway.”
“What?” Penny whispered, unable to control herself. He looked at her and then back to the phone.
“Very well, I’ll talk with… I’ll be sure and respond to you promptly about whether or not to set up the appointment. Goodbye.” With that he hung up the phone and sat it on the nightstand.
Penny was holding him, her arms laced through his as he let out a heavy sigh and looked back to her. “That was Dr. Hathaway.”
“I know that, Sheldon!” She grumbled. “What did he say?”
His features fell a bit and she wilted. “The treatments, while doing their respective job, aren’t shrinking the tumor at a rate that is viable for surgery in time, with this resources, to remove the ailment before it could potentially spread. He stated that if we continued what we were doing that we could reach seventy-percent survival rate of surgery by next summer, but he informed me that by then the tumor could spread to other regions of the brain, including speech and cognitive thought process.”
Tears threatened her as she held him tighter. “So he can’t help us?”
“Not personally, but he seemed very optimistic about a Dr. Scott at the New York Presbyterian Hospital. He is supposedly well advanced in the field of cancer removal and a close friend with Dr. Hathaway, he said he could set up a meeting.”
Penny’s face lit up as the tears that had filled her eyes spilled over. “So set it up, Sheldon!”
“New York is a tremendous journey, and you’re pregnant now Penny, can we really afford it?”
Her face scrunched up and she shook her head violently. “Who cares about that, we’re going to New York to meet with this man, Sheldon. We have too.”
“I don’t like to fly.”
Her laugh was sad and it confused him. “I know you don’t but… we can do this, Sheldon. We can afford this and I’ll be okay… we have to try.”
“Very well,” he nodded and smiled again though he wasn’t allowing his hopes to rise. “I’ll call and set everything up. We’ll have to inform Leonard and Koothrapalli so they’ll keep tabs on our residence.”
A thought suddenly struck Penny. “Oh, my sister’s coming to town!” She squealed and gave him a bright smile that he did not match.
“And you’re informing me of this now?” He said shortly.
Penny opened her mouth to defend herself but couldn’t, she’d known for a couple days but had simply forgotten to tell him. “I—I… yeah.” She finished lamely.
He glared softly at her. “Penny, you know I don’t enjoy surprises. Is your sister planning on staying with us?”
“Yeah, just until she finds a place of her own.”
Sheldon nodded. “So she’s going to be living in Pasadena permanently then?” Penny nodded. “I have yet to meet your sister; she isn’t like your mother is she?”
Penny laughed incredulously. “Oh… God no. She isn’t anything like her.”
“I see,” Sheldon said, a bit more settled now. “I suppose that if it will make you happy, I will comply with her arrival accordingly.”
The blonde next to him beamed before reaching across his body and grabbing his cell phone. “Good,” she said before shoving the phone into his hand. “Now call Dr. Hathaway back and set us up a trip to New York.”
Penny wrung her hands for the thousandth time since she’d arrived at the airport. She sat in her car, the windows up and the air conditioning blasting as the heat of the day bellowed in.
It felt strange to be this nervous about the arrival of her own sister, but in a lot of ways Abby felt like she was from some other life Penny had only dreamt about. The person she was in Nebraska was a part of her but it was rare for Penny to ever think of her childhood. She wouldn’t allow herself to remember being called stupid by her father or trying to explain to her mom that she was groped at a school dance only to have her mom go off on her own stories of childhood trauma and end up running to her own room crying.
Sheldon never asked Penny about her life before him, she had told him things certainly and when she did he was always attentive and listening. Still, she appreciated the fact that he didn’t have to know her past in order to enjoy who she was now. The things she did growing up, the boys and the parties were all just a part of her figuring out that she wasn’t that person. That she wasn’t her mother and that she wanted to be better than her father ever thought she could be.
There was a little bit of worry in Penny that she might not recognize her sister, it had been over four years since she’d actually seen her. The concern was all for not, Abby hadn’t changed a bit. She wore a t-shirt that was too big and hung over her jeans that wore like sweat pants. She had her hair down and it was jet black, with her sunglasses on you could barely see her face.
But Penny knew her sister and as she stepped out of the car, she watched as Abby took of her sunglasses, sat down her two big suitcases and two smaller bags that hung over each shoulder. She smirked. “Still blonde?”
“Still goth?” Penny countered and Abby rolled her eyes .
“I told you, I am not goth, I’m original.”
Penny scoffed. “You’re thirty-four and you’re wearing a groupie rock t-shirt.”
Abby cocked her head to the side and looked her sister up and down. “You’re a mother to be and I can guarantee your sweat pants say ‘Juicy’ on the ass. By the way, you wore sweat pants to pick me up at the airport? ”
The words made Penny flush with embarrassment and a coy grin. Her sweats were red and yellow and certainly didn’t say ‘Juicy’ on the ass.
Though they did have a little yellow lightning bolt on them, of course Penny turned around to display that proudly. “Oh God, what happened to my little sister who would rather buy new clothes than do laundry?”
“I found someone who loved me for who I was and not what I looked like. Plus my boy totally thinks I’m sexy in these.” Penny said simply and her beaming smile actually surprised Abby. She had to admit, she was a bit skeptical. Penny was never one for real feelings; she jumped through a lot of boys in high school and always found just the right kind of asshole to break her heart.
It was when she saw her now that Penny realized how long it had been since she’d actually seen her sister smile that genuinely.
“All right, don’t get corny. Give your wonderfully original sister a hug.” That was all it took and Penny swiftly took Abby into her arms. Penny’s hair was overgrowing and nearly covered Abby’s face as she spat out bits of it and laughed softly. “Shit Rapunzel, do you ever cut your hair?”
Penny chuckled but didn’t let go of the hug. “I’ve been a little busy.”
“Right,” Abby said, pulling Penny back to arm’s length. “Dammit Queen Penelope, I missed you kid.”
The blonde nodded slowly and lowered her head. “Missed you too.”
They broke the hug, gathered up Abby’s four suitcases and climbed into Penny’s car. Well after they’d left the airport and were driving back to the apartment, neither had said anything to one another but it was a comfortable silence. Penny would look over from time to time as her sister took in the sights of the city. She wanted to see that her sister really was here, that the first eighteen years of her life hadn’t been a failure.
“I’m not going to jump out of the damn car, Penelope.” Abby says flatly but doesn’t take her eyes away from the scenery out the window.
The blonde and stopped staring. “Sorry.”
Abby finally looked to her sister again. “Now, I’m hoping to avoid a whole gushing monologue here but… I’m going to ask anyways. Tell me about this boy of yours.”
Penny smiled almost immediately and Abby rolled her eyes but the corners of her mouth twisted up slightly.
“Well, he’s a physicist, a brilliant man and if he doesn’t win a Nobel Prize soon I’m going to figure out who decides that sort of thing, then hogtie and castrate them all. “ Penny took a breath and Abby used the small break to chime in.
“All right, he’s crazy smart, I already knew that… tell me what he looks like, what he acts like.”
This made Penny laugh. “He can act like a child sometimes, with his rules and rituals. He collects comic books and action figures and his DVD collection puts Blockbuster to shame. But he’s sweet and caring; he supports me in whatever I do. He found me a job and is pushing me to pursue a career in art and—“
“Wait, art?” Abby cut in with confusion. “Since when do you do art?”
“I’ve always drawn, Abby. I just never showed it to anyone because I thought it was a silly hobby.” Penny’s voice was shy as she turned onto the next road and pulled down her visor to block the sun.
Abby was quiet for a moment, looking at this stranger in the driver’s seat. Penny was never this… deep before. She was the popular girl who wanted to be a cheerleader. The girl who could ride rope and reassemble a tractor engine by herself, she was so different now, so complete.
“—kinda skinny but has nice arms and these blue eyes that look at me like I’m the most important thing in the world and he’s got me on this crazy diet for my pregnancy, well It’s not really a diet cause he has me eating all the time but it’s good food for the babies development and—,” Penny looked a bit sheepishly at her sister and blushed. “Sorry, I’m rambling. You’ll know more about him when you meet him.”
“Your life sounds pretty perfect. In love and a baby on the way, all you have to do is beat this cancer thing and you’ll be in a happily ever after montage.” Abby said with a slight smirk before squeezing her sister’s hand and missing Penny’s pensive eyes. “I’m glad you’re doing good, Mom always thought you’d fuck it up.”
Penny nodded and licked her lips, fighting the tears in her eyes and the taste of vodka on her tongue. It was one sip, one little drink before she left… it won’t hurt. It can’t hurt.
Abby presence must be rubbing off on her because she can only think one thing.
Fuck… it hurts.
“Okay seriously…,” Abby groaned as they started up the next flight of steps. Penny was carrying one suitcase and a bag, Abby was doing the same. “How long have you lived here? Eight years.”
Penny smiled. “Nine in February.”
“And all this time the fuckin’ elevator has been broken?” Abby asked bitterly and Penny answered with a nod and a laugh. “Shit, no wonder you’re in such good shape. My bow legged, seventeen year smoker ass isn’t built for this.”
Once they finally reached her apartment, Penny placed the key in the lock only to have the door open for her. There stood Sheldon, his eyes scanning over the girls as they stood in the doorway. “Hello.” He offered to Abby who nodded shortly.
“So you’re the rat bastard that got my sister pregnant?” Abby said in a hot tone that made Sheldon draw away for a moment. Penny’s eyes went wide in shock but when she looked to her sister, the brunette was smirking. “Kidding man, better you knocking her up than some dumbass weightlifter.”
Abby stepped into the apartment and sat her bags down on the floor as she stood face to face with Sheldon. She looked him up and down and turned back to Penny. “Nice arms and eyes, you were right. The shirt is a little lame but so are your sweats I guess.” Sheldon glanced down at his batman shirt and leveled a glare on Abby. “Oh he doesn’t take shit from people, I like that.” That was when Abby pulled Sheldon in for a hug. Of course he kept his arms at his sides and looked at Penny over his shoulder.
She smiled brightly and gestured that he hug her back. Hesitantly, he touched the small of her back with his hands and offered a quick squeeze.
After a short moment, Abby pulled away and smiled. “Good to meet you, Dr. Cooper.”
“And you Abigail.” Sheldon said as politely as possible.
Penny cringed, she knew it was coming. “Please God don’t call me Abigail, your lucky Penny’s mother used to call me that whenever I cut into her drinking time.”
Sheldon was intrigued by the statement. “I apologize… Abby. So your mother was a drinker?” He asked, avoiding Penny’s eyes.
“Like a fish in water. Now get those bags away from the pregnant girl, it’s bad enough I made her drag them up here.” Abby ordered and Sheldon hastily rushed to take the things off Penny’s shoulders.
“Hello.” He said and she looked at him shyly.
Abby had moved down the hallway with her things when Penny kissed him. “I missed your presence this morning, you left before I was awake and… that was strange.” He pulled back and licked his lips. “You taste of… beans?”
Penny offered him a small smile as the relief washed over her. She insisted that they stop for food as she claimed her hunger and cravings, but truth was she needed something to hide the vodka. “Yeah, I got a burrito at a gas station outside of town.”
“You ate that horrendous filth? Penny that sort of food can cause great stomach disorder, things you cannot have during the baby and… it looks like gooey excrement.”
Her hands are on her mouth just in time to hold back the vomit that’s lurched in her throat. She jumps over the suitcase and bounds down the hall past Abby who’s reentering the living room.
“Whoa, is it always like that when you two reconnect?” Abby asked teasingly.
Sheldon was not amused. “No, but it is like that when Penny haphazardly eats gas station burritos. You should not have allowed her to do such a thing.” He said accusatorily.
Abby leveled a hard stare on him, the one she used at the bar to keep the losers away and the one she used at her old bartending job when she made someone sober drive the drunks home. It was her go to ‘back the hell off’ move and Sheldon Cooper didn’t flinch.
“Okay,” Abby said, her face shifting into a respect filled smile. She’d been worried about Penny dating someone who collected figures and comics not being able to stand up for her or take care of her. She was clearly mistaken. “I assume you’re the kind of person who makes lists. Do you have one of what Penny should and should not be eating.”
That settled Sheldon immensely as he nodded with a grin and moved to his computer table. “Yes, right here with this indefinite guest waiver I’ll need you to read and consider carefully before signing.”
Her eyes went wide as he handed her first the thick set of foods for Penny and then the seventeen page waiver. “You’re crazy as hell aren’t you?” She said with a chuckle.
“No he’s not, his momma had him tested.” Penny said with a hand on her head as she returned to the living room. “You can cross burritos off the list.” She said, flopping down in Sheldon’s spot.
“Burritos aren’t on the list.” He countered.
“Well then put them on there and cross them off with a big, red X okay?” She said, lying her head back on the cushion as it smelled of Sheldon’s shampoo and she happily smiled and closed her eyes.
A silence fell over the room as Abby looked at her new documents and Sheldon went to the kitchen to make Penny some herbal tea and snacks.
“So…,” Abby chirped, rolling the papers up and putting them in the pocket of her jeans. “What do you guys do for fun around here?”
Of course, Sheldon was quick to respond. “Oh! I got the new Mass Effect game, Penny.”
She looked at him as he handed her the mug of tea. She smiled. “That’s cool, sweetie.”
“Yes it is.” A little disappointed in her lack of excitement, then again, not many were as excited as he was. “Shall I play?”
Penny nodded and scooted over as he put his game in the turned on the TV. He sits down happy and the game fires up, Penny sipping her tea and picking at the snacks while Sheldon loses himself in the game.
Abby stares at them blankly, as if she’s waiting for them to jump up and shout that they are joking.
They don’t, Penny pats on the couch next to her. “Sit, you can be my cushion while I sleep.”
“I—I thought California was supposed to be fun?”
Sheldon glared at Abby as she moved to sit next to her sister. “In what universe is Mass Effect 3 not fun?”
“Watch out for the Batarians, Sweetie!” She said mostly to distract him. He returned his focus to the television with a ‘Dear Lord!’ and a mass pressing of his controller buttons. “We’ll do fun later, just do sleep now.” Penny whispered before she rested her head on Abby’s shoulder.
“Penelope, it’s like 10:30 in the morning.”
The blonde nodded half asleep. “Mmm… and I had wake up to pick you up from LAX at five this morning. Shh… sleep now.”
Penny curled her feet up to press at Sheldon’s side while she lay heavily against her sister.
Abby had clearly fallen into domestic hell.
The thunder clapped loudly outside as the lightning splashed through the apartment. Penny turned her gaze to the window and listened as the rain continued to fall. It was late and the rest of the world around her was asleep.
When she turned her eyes back to the task, she saw that the bottle was nearly empty, the clear liquid pouring down the sink. It was all too much; she couldn’t help herself from looking up what happens to a child when the mother drinks. Penny knew it couldn’t be good but the articles had put the fear of God into her. She had to quit, she had to be strong and she had to do it on her own. Sheldon couldn’t rescue her from this. He was far too touchy on the subject of alcohol as it was and her drinking didn’t help that one bit.
Her throat was dry and she wanted to drink, she was desperate for one but she couldn’t. She had to be strong for her baby.
Once the vodka was gone, she tossed the bottle into the trash and shuffled some of the fast food boxes and empty paper plates around to bury it.
It wasn’t even midnight yet but she couldn’t sleep. Her head hurt and her stomach was in knots. She took solace in Sheldon’s spot and curled herself up.
It was ten minutes later when she heard the footsteps down the hall. She knew the sound of their shuffle and didn’t have to look back. With Abby here now Penny had moved into Sheldon’s room, his bed wasn’t very big though but it did the job for now.
She didn’t move from his spot and was thankful when he didn’t ask her too. “Why are you awake, Penny? A good night’s rest is imperative for someone in your condition.”
“I know, it’s just a little insomnia, Sweetie. You can go back to bed.” She said in her most comforting tone.
He looked back to the clock and then to her. “I spoke with Dr. Hathaway while you were away; we’ve got an appointment in two weeks. Though I don’t know how we’ll manage it financially.”
Penny smiled. “We’ll figure it out.”
“I’ve already began a rough draft of a housesitting contract for your sister.” He hesitated off her look. “Just to give her an idea of what’s expected, there are no consequences or outrageous demands.” Her eyes were still leveled on him and he shrugged. “You must know I am a man of structure by now, Penny. You are the only aspect of my life that goes forward without a written document. The unknown variable, if you will.”
Her head slid to the side of the cushion and landed on his thigh. He reached down and stroked the side of her face with the back of his hand. “Do you like Abby?”
“She’s acceptable. I’ll need more time to evaluate a true opinion of her but… for the time being, her presence is tolerable.” It wasn’t much, but for Sheldon it was a good sign. “I—I had a bit of an idea, Penny, that I wish to run by you.” She offered a soft hum in response as his gentle fingers across her skin was putting her to sleep. “I believe we should invite both of our families over here for Christmas.”
Now she was awake. “What?”
“The task of telling them of the results of our copulating is a difficult one, one that I believe will be much easier to tackle in one swift movement. Like the swing of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.”
Penny looked up at him with desperate eyes. “Sheldon, you don’t want my family here. I’ll tell them over the phone or… you know… with a text message or something.”
“Penny,” he sighed. “You must try and mend the fence with your parents, I—I am aware of the distress it causes you. I can see it in your expression at times.”
“Sheldon, Sweetie,” she pulled him closer and he knelt down to look into her eyes. “I would love to be okay with my parents but it’s not going to happen. They’ll come and they’ll ask me to come home and demand that I leave you and it’ll only make things worse.”
Again he touched her face, cupping her jaw in the palm of his hand. “Perhaps if they could see the life that you and I have built here they would then be more lenient in the idea of you living here.”
Penny closed her eyes and let out a long breath. “All they’ll see is your tumor and an unborn baby. That’ll be all the ammunition they need, honey. I—I don’t want them here.”
“Very well,” he conceded though she could tell he was sincerely hoping she would reconsider. “I would still like to bring my parents here, if that would be okay. If we’re already going to be traveling to New York than a trip to Texas for Christmas may be a bit harsh on our financial situation.”
She grinned tiredly. “I agree.”
“Would you care to return to bed? You know I don’t enjoy the sound of thunderstorms at night.” He asked as he stood and offered his hand to her.
Penny accepted it gently and rose to her feet. Sheldon entwined their fingers and she followed him down the hallway.
Her eyes lingered on the sink where she’d let her last bottle of liquor wash away.
She was strong enough, she could do this…
Please God let me get through this…
Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven
E l e v e n
“So you don’t know what the big news is?” Raj’s voice was meant for only Leonard as the pair made their way up those familiar steps of the apartment complex.
Both of them were dressed rather nicely, as per request from Penny who wanted to throw a bit of a formal party. A party that Sheldon agreed to partly because she promised him it wouldn’t turn into a ‘ruckus event’ and she promised that they could have a Wii Mario Party tournament after dinner.
Raj held a small container in his hands; they were asked to bring the desert so of course they purchased sixteen small apple pies from the local KFC and designed them nicely in a Tupperware dish. Neither of them were the greatest bakers in the world so it seemed well enough. Penny loved apple pie anyways. Leonard smiled at this thought as they finally reached his old apartment.
It was strange for him to be a guest here, to look across the hall where Penny used to live and know that she wasn’t there anymore, that she slept in his old room, well on nights she wasn’t in Sheldon’s room.
He shook his head to wash away that thought as Raj knocked on the door.
When Penny opened the door, her bright smile and long, elegant blue dress was on display for the boys as they took in the sight of her. “Hey guys!” She beamed before pulling them both in for slightly awkward hugs and letting them inside.
“You look nice.” Leonard said with a goofy smile and Penny blushed slightly.
“Thanks, I really wanted to see if this dress still fit me and it does so…,” she was about to add more to that, but that conversation was meant for later.
Raj and Leonard took in the sight of the apartment and were surprised at the people here. There was Leslie and two little miniature Leslie’s running around the living room. Sheldon was in the kitchen rambling on about something while Kripke and a beautiful, dark skinned girl tried to look both enthralled and interested, but seemed more bored than anything else.
Then there was another girl, she looked a lot like Penny but her hair was dark and clashed with her pale skin. She was sitting cross legged on the opposite end of Sheldon’s spot on the couch, flipping through a Fantastic Four comic book.
Penny’s laugh then filled the room as she took the Tupperware from Raj. “I should have known, thank you both.” She said sincerely before taking the dish to the kitchen as Raj followed.
“Hello.” Leonard offered to the girl sitting on the couch and she took a moment to place her finger in the comic before closing it and looking up at him. “My name’s Leonard.” He said extending his hand, she accepted quickly. “I’m a friend of Penny and Sheldon’s.”
“Abby, Penny’s reject sister.” She said bluntly and Leonard furrowed his brow but calmed when she smirked. “No I know you, you and Penelope dated for a while didn’t you. You were her first nerd.” Abby said with a soft chuckle and Leonard flushed and looked down at his shoes. “Penny didn’t give you enough credit,” she said and he felt his confidence return. “But the corduroy suit? Really?”
Leonard shrugged and took a seat on the edge of the coffee table. Not too close to her, but not far enough away that he looked like a scared child. “I don’t buy a lot of fancy clothes.”
“Yeah, me either… as you can probably tell.” It wasn’t a lie, she was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans that were a few sizes too big and long sleeved T-shirt that had some sort of strange symbol on it, a skull that he didn’t recognize and the band Metallica emblazed across her chest. He tried not to look, he failed. “I got a camera phone if you wanna take a picture.”
His face turned bright red and he even started to stand up. “I—I’m sorry… I was,”
She laughed heartily. “I meant the logo, you don’t really strike me as a Metallica fan.”
“Yeah, not really.” He couldn’t force himself to look at her. “It is a really cool shirt though.”
Abby nodded teasingly. “The stuff underneath it is better.” His eyes went wide as saucers and she again let out a heavy chuckle. “Relax man, you slept with my sister I’m so not going to go there with you too, see… now there’s no tension. You stared at my breasts, I’m cool with it… it’s actually been awhile since anyone has done that so… thank you.”
She was so different than he ever expected Penny’s sister to be, she wasn’t a country girl, she wasn’t giggly and sweet like Penny had been. She was just simple and he found himself enjoying that. “Uh… yeah… you’re welcome. If you ever need an ego boost just let me know.”
The conversations around the room were all easy and of nothing of any real importance. Even with so much company around, Sheldon and Penny found themselves staying rather close to one another. It was just their way, for so long it had been just the two of them that they were drawn to one another. They weren’t unapproachable by any means, but they stayed close.
By the time Stuart arrived, though he was curious to his invitation but Penny insisted, he, Raj, Kripke and Leonard were sitting around the television taking turns playing Mortal Kombat. Sheldon had promised to come and play soon but he was busy helping Penny finish dinner. Leslie and Gabrielle were chatting by the window at the far end of the room while Leslie’s husband was on the phone talking with someone from work.
“A party without booze is a bit strange… right?” Raj asked, taking a sip from his orange juice.
“Penny said no liquor tonight,” Leonard shrugged. “They’re cooking breakfast for dinner so it seems weird to have pancakes with tequila right?”
“Cweawly you’ve never been to Mardi Gwa befowe.” Kripke chirped.
“So Stuart, you and Kripke have been here through most of it, how did Penny and Sheldon get so close?” It was Leonard who asked, in the distance between them and with the right company, he was finally able to dig into the topic that had been bothering him for months.
Stuart shrugged and took the controller from Raj who was intently listening now as well. “I don’t know I guess… they just kept doing what you guys always did. They’d come to the comic book store when the new releases were out but there was a lot less chatter about it all. Penny would mostly follow Sheldon around as he picked out his stuff. I do remember her sitting up with him in line all night before we had Steve Ditko do a signing for the new Spiderman Anthology book.”
“Steve Ditko!” Raj beamed as Stuart’s character died and Kripke gloated before Raj took the controller back. “That’s awesome, dude. The unsung hero of the Marvel Comic universe!”
Leonard’s face scrunched up a bit. “Yeah that’s cool and all but… she really sat out with him in line… like… overnight?”
“Yep,” Stuart nodded. “Sleeping bag and lawn chairs. Sheldon brought three street cones with him to maintain a distance between them and the other people in line. It was a pretty rowdy group so I don’t think Penny minded much. Not many of the guys have the nerve to actually talk to her, though I don’t know if it’s cause they’re more scared of her or of the looks Sheldon gives them. I’m pretty sure she had a baseball bat in the big backpack she brought with her.”
It was then that the four boys turned to watch as Sheldon and Penny worked on the food. They were standing side by side over the stove, neither of them saying anything as Penny gestured to her left and Sheldon shuffled past her, his hand lingering on the small of her back before he opened a cupboard. He pulled out a small container, a spice of some kind and handed it to her without a second glance. She accepted it, used it and handed it back to him as he put it away.
They never said a word to each other.
“I down’t see it.” Kripke said, his tone dismissive as he started another game. “She’s way ouwt of his weague.”
Raj looked over his shoulder to Gabrielle, a woman who was strikingly beautiful and then turned back to Kripke as he stuck his tongue out during an intense battle with Stuart. He then looked to Leonard who merely rolled his eyes and shrugged.
“Okay,” Penny interrupted the meal that had brought everyone together and they all turned their attention to her. She sat next to Sheldon, her hand grasping his over the table as he fidgeted slightly before pulling away and taking another bite of his has browns. “So there is a reason that we’ve called you all over here tonight.”
Penny turned and looked to Sheldon who looked surprised that she’d drawn the attention to him and quickly covered his mouth as he started to chew his food. She smiled and he gestured for her to continue. “We’re pregnant. We’re gonna have a baby.” She let it all fall out right there and waited, watched their faces as Raj’s eyes went misty and Leonard swallowed his water wrong. Leslie smirked as if she were trying to figure out how someone like Sheldon could have a child when he clearly couldn’t tell his penis from a misfortunately shaped sausage link.
But it was Gabrielle who clapped her hands together and drew everyone out of their own minds and suddenly the congratulations were piling in.
Leonard came over to Sheldon first while the girls talked about this and that and Penny blushed and nodded. He clapped his former roommate on the back and shook his head with a smile. “Never thought I’d see the day, buddy.” He said simply and Sheldon shrugged his shoulders.
“I must admit that I hadn’t foreseen this turn of events either.”
Kripke was still sitting in his seat as he looked from Penny and back to Sheldon. “So youw actuwally had sex wif her?”
Sheldon glared at him and Gabrielle, with hearing that would rival Spock, reached across the table and slapped him across the back of the head.
Once all the celebrating had calmed down and everyone was back in their seats, it was Abby who looked to her sister with a prodding gaze. “What else?” She asked and Penny faltered for a moment and sighed.
“We will be heading to New York City.” It was Sheldon who spoke and his tone was loud and washed over with excitement, which meant that he wasn’t excited at all.
Penny took his hand in her own and nodded. “For a week, yeah. There’s a doctor there that is going to look at Sheldon and see if he can help us out with his… situation.”
Everyone nodded very slowly but were hoping for more of an explanation.
Again it was Abby who spoke up. “That’s a little vague, Penelope.”
“We’re going to see if Dr. Scott, apparently at the top of his field in this country, can successfully operate on my tumor.” Sheldon said matter-of-factly before looking to Penny as she thanked him for talking about what she still struggled to.
Gabrielle was the first to speak again, her voice hopeful. “So this guy can help you then… make you better?”
“That’s the hope.” Penny said distantly as she found herself desperate for a drink.
Leonard spoke up next. “So this guy is good?”
“Oh the best, I’ve done extensive research on his patient history and schooling, top of the field.”
“So,” It was Abby again, her voice a bit sarcastic in tone. “Let me get this straight, I move all the way from Nebraska to be with my sister and now ya’ll are leaving me here alone for a week to fend for myself?”
Penny smiled. “I’ll be back, and Stuart I’ll need a week off, I hope that’s okay but if not… well you know.”
Stuart nodded briskly. “No, yeah… that’s fine.”
“Leonard you wanna come over while they’re gone and get nasty?” Abby said and Leonard briskly dropped his fork onto the floor.
Everyone laughed and Sheldon glared. “There will be no nudity in this house during our absence.”
Penny sat on the floor of her bedroom and packed while Sheldon was on her bed going through the cost of their trip on his laptop. She was singing happily to herself, silently hating that this newfound optimism has crept into her mind so evilly. She blamed the baby brewing in her stomach but knows that’s a lie. It’s this trip to New York and a new set of eyes to possibly dissect the invader in Sheldon’s mind.
She’d never say anything outright, she wouldn’t try and build his hopes up as her own have been so prudently boosted, but she was sure he had noticed her smile. She’d been talking more and bouncing around the house all day, she joked and laughed. He had noticed because he watched her, he studied her like the equation that he’ll never figure out but will constantly carry in his back pocket.
“This trip is going to do severe damage to our budget.” Sheldon stated as he continued to type away at his keyboard.
Penny shrugged as she folded some of his favorite t-shirts into his suitcase. Normally Sheldon wouldn’t let anyone pack for him, but she knows how his things go for travel, so he allows her full access.
“It’s worth the money, Sweetie. We’ll catch up when we get back.”
Sheldon sighed and shook his head. “This could very well cost us our trip to Comic-Con this year.” He said with slight devastation. Penny didn’t have the heart to tell him that with a newborn on the way, they most likely would have had to forgo Comic-Con this year anyway. “Not to mention that we had to reserve our plane tickets in coach and get a weeklong stay at the Gershwin hotel, which according to the reviews, may as well be a refrigerator box duct taped across two adjoining fire hydrants.”
Her laugh filled the room as she stood, suitcase in hand and sat it on the bed in front of him. “It’ll be fine, Sheldon. We can handle this, okay? You have to trust me.”
His sigh is the signal of defeat, he can’t argue with her statement, he has to trust her and he does.
Penny turned to the window and noticed that the light of the day had burnt off and it was night. She knew they had an early flight and so she moved the suitcase to the floor and set it on the ground.
They didn’t speak as they prepared for bed, usually they went to separate rooms but since Abby was here now they were sleeping together while she took Penny’s room. They didn’t mind really.
After the pair went through their nightly routine, Sheldon and Penny were lying in the dark next to each other. Both on their backs, staring up at the ceiling and not making a sound. Wondering if the other was asleep, neither of them able too.
It wasn’t until Penny let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding that Sheldon finally spoke.
“Penny?” He called softly into the dark room and she responded with a gentle ‘hmm?’
“I can’t sleep.”
She smiled. “Yeah, me either. You will eventually though.”
Again the silence befell the room, only this time Sheldon had placed his hand softly on top of her own and Penny grasped it tightly.
“Penny?” He spoke her name again.
She smiled, her eyes closed. “Yeah?”
There was a hesitation in his voice as he swallowed heavily and turned his head on the pillow to look at her. “If we visit this doctor in New York and he determines that he cannot help me. Will you be reasonable with the decision to cease future treatment opportunities?”
Penny turned her head to face him and he was inches away. She could see the blue of his eyes faintly through the darkness and watched as he studied her expression.
“You mean… stop chemotherapy?”
Sheldon nodded. “I mean stop everything.”
“Sheldon…,” she whispered, her voice breaking.
He lifted himself up slightly and looked down at her, his hand running through her hair. “I am physically at my breaking point, Penny.” He starts and can tell by his expression that he’s asking her to hear him out. “We have a child on the horizon. I’ve read and researched that people can live with brain tumors up to two or three years, good years until the very end. But the rigors of Chemotherapy can merely keep me alive longer; they cannot increase the quality of my life, merely the quantity.” She took his hand from her hair and kissed it sweetly. Sheldon continued. “I don’t want my progeny’s only memories of me being that of a broken man, helplessly invalid in hospitals and on bathroom floors. If Dr. Scott cannot help us, I’m asking you to let me stop.”
“I don’t want to lose you.” She said breathlessly, her heart breaking in her chest.
He kissed her forehead. “I know.”
Closing her eyes, Penny pulled Sheldon back down onto the bed and cradled his head in her hands. His face wound up buried in her mass of hair and she kissed his temple softly. “If this doesn’t work… we’ll stop.”
Silence fell over the room again as Sheldon wrapped his arms around her under the blankets.
“I do… love you, Penny.
It was the first time he’d said it, it’s the thousandth time she’d felt it.
“I love you too.”
Penny listened intently as his voice rang through her ears passionately. She had no idea what this lecture was about, monopoles or something, but the science didn’t matter to her, it was his dedication to it that calmed her.
She had never told Sheldon that she had his lectures on her iPad, that she’d stolen them from his laptop one day and would take more with each new one he put on there. She never really imagined that he’d mind, it wasn’t as if she was doing anything terrible with them, like sending them off to Asian spies or anything. No… she just enjoyed his voice, his cadence and rhythm.
There were a lot of instances with Sheldon where she enjoyed his cadence and rhythm.
The thought made her blush and smirk and then she turned to see Sheldon looking at her oddly.
“What music are you listening too?” He asked, bewildered.
Penny shrugged and let her mind race. “M—Michael Jackson.” She said flatly and he nodded.
“And… his music makes your face turn crimson and your lips twitch.”
She sighed and laughed, he was always so focused on her. “Well… sometimes, I don’t know.” She finished lamely and rolled her eyes at herself when he looked away.
Sheldon began scanning around at his fellow passengers. Penny watched as he eyed a baby a few rows up when it coughed, he almost glared at the child. “I certainly hope that toddler isn’t sick up there.”
“I don’t think you’re going to catch his cold up here, Sweetie.” Penny stated calmly but he shook his head again.
“Oh it’s much more than that. What if his mother attempts to check his temperature with a standard issue thermometer? Did you know that commercial airlines prohibit the carry-on of mercury thermometers because of the way mercury reacts with aluminum? If such a thermometer were to break and spill on a plane, even a tiny amount of mercury could badly damage the plane's aluminum frame.
Aluminum is used in the frames of airplanes because it is light and strong. Unfortunately, it is also highly reactive. It reacts strongly with the oxygen in air, but quickly forms a thin, protective coating of aluminum oxide.
Aluminum's reaction with mercury is not so benign. Mercury breaks through the protective layer of oxide, releasing lots of heat in the process, and eats away the aluminum metal.” He finished with a heavy breath and Penny quirked her brow at him, trying to soak everything up. Sheldon was courteous enough that he always stopped after a rant to allow her time to process.
She smiled and removed her headphones, if he was going to talk this much, she didn’t need his lectures. “I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about that, Sheldon.”
“Oh,” he started, his gaze intense. “I think we should definitely worry about it. You know Penny, if something happens on an airplane, there’s nowhere to run.”
His tone was so serious and his words were so filled with emotion that she just burst out laughing. Her chuckle drew the attention of the nearest passengers for a moment and Sheldon was quick to shush her.
“I don’t understand the humor in a crashing airplane, Penny.”
She smiled at him brightly and shook her head. “I know, Sweetie. I was just thinking…,” her voice drifted a bit absently.
“About what?” He asked in a bit of a huff.
Penny shrugged slightly. “How we ended up here.”
“We nearly didn’t. If you’d had your way you would have stopped our car and bludgeoned that old man with his own cane.”
He was right but she felt like arguing. “If he walked any slower down that parking lot we would have missed our flight.”
Sheldon shrugged. “The gesture he gave you was rude.”
“That wasn’t really what I was talking about anyways.” Penny said almost absentmindedly as she laid her head back comfortably against the chair she sat in.
“You are all over the place this morning.” Sheldon said with a soft tone in his voice.
Penny smiled and closed her eyes as she took his hand. “I know, you doing okay? With the flying and everything?”
Sheldon shrugged slightly but his eyes were heavy as he looked to her. “I seem to be very aware of everything around me. I’m also quite tired.”
“I figured you would be, you were up most of the night.”
“How would you know?” He challenged worriedly and Penny laid her head on his shoulder.
“Because I was too.” Penny whispered as she nestled herself into the crook of Sheldon’s neck. “I hope Abby doesn’t make a mess of the apartment.”
She could feel Sheldon’s eyes on her. “Your sister is not well versed in following directions.”
“Don’t worry; she’ll take care of the place.” Penny could feel Sheldon slowly resting his own head atop hers. “She’ll just take care of herself first.”
A bit of quiet fell between them as the passengers around them went about their various conversations. The pilot came over the intercom as they crossed over Colorado and said there was still six hours remaining on the flight.
Just as Penny was about to fall asleep, Sheldon spoke again. “May I ask why your sister has decided to live with us? You know how I feel about house guests but I think I was quite lenient about this one.”
Sheldon was surprisingly okay with Abby moving in with them, but immediately went to writing a long list of rules and trying to fit Penny’s sister into his schedule.
Abby immediately agreed to meet his every demand.
She always was the best liar in the family.
“I think she’s lonely. And… I’ve missed my family. Abby is about as distant from my parents as maybe even I am but… it’s been nice to have that again.”
The air around them fell silent again as Penny closed her eyes and felt Sheldon against her. She was fading into sleep as the plane moved steadily through the air.
When she felt her hand was squeezed, she nestled into Sheldon a bit more.
Then he spoke and startled her. “Penny?”
“What?” She said a bit frustrated.
He hesitated for a moment and spoke. “I think I should write a formal complaint about that sick baby being allowed access on this aircraft.”
Penny loved Sheldon.
She did, she loved so much about him, the way he looked at her, the way he touched her and cared for her when she drank too much. The way he talked to her and stayed with her. How on her birthday he would plan out extravagant days of doing so many different and exciting things that they wouldn’t ever be able to fit them all into twenty-four hours.
Penny loved Sheldon, and she was forced to remind herself of the reasons over and over again today.
Because as they walked into their fourth different hotel room at the Gershwin (the other three weren’t up to standard) she was about ready to kill him.
“I hope this will be satisfactory?” The nice bellboy said as he adjusted his bottle cap glasses and ran a hand through is overgrowing hair. He had been quite sweet about it all.
Penny stood in the doorway with the two suitcases in either arm and watched as he began to meander around the room.
He ran his finger over the dresser and checked for dust, the second room was far too dusty and would have ‘wreaked havoc on his sinuses’. He went to the bathroom and made sure that there were no offending floaters in the toilet. The first room had that… Penny was actually okay with leaving that room.
The third room was virtually perfect, no dust, no un-flushed toilets and the sheets were clean and fresh. Until the person in the room right next to there’s started screaming at a football game on television and then Penny just picked up the suitcases and walked out.
It was then that Sheldon pressed his ear up against the wall and Penny was done. She needed a drink in the worst way.
“All right!” She beckoned as both Sheldon and the bellboy turned to her. She put on a smile and sat the suitcases on the bed. “This will be fine, thank you.” Penny dug into her purse and pulled out a fresh twenty dollar bill and a five for good measure. “Thank you for your patience.”
The boy shrugged and smiled. “My kid brother’s retarted… it’s cool.”
Before he could finish his little chuckle, Penny had snatched away the twenty and shown him the door.
As Penny started to unpack her suitcase, Sheldon continued his inspection of the room. She knew that if he found an offender of any kind he’d be ready to leave. For Penny, she was tired and sore and hungry and he could find a dead body in the closet and they weren’t going anywhere.
“So…,” Penny said as she turned around and ignored Sheldon as he ran his fingers through the curtains. “We don’t go see Dr. Scott until tomorrow, what would you like to do tonight?”
Sheldon didn’t look at her, but his answer was swift. “Sleep.”
That was all Penny needed as she collapsed onto the bed with a smile. “You read my mind, Sweetie.”
“Psychologically impossible.” He whispered.
“Not for me it isn’t.” Penny challenged with a mischievous grin on her face. “I can read you like a book, Honey.”
Dropping the phone book he’d been scanning through for possible hiding spaces of drugs and sexual paraphernalia, Sheldon leveled his eyes on her as she lay on the bed watching him. “Very well, what am I thinking now?” He was grinning at her almost seductively (as best he could) but Penny knew it was a façade.
“You’re thinking…,” she smiled. “About how much you hate the patters on these comforters and you worry they’re too lite and we’ll be cold all night and won’t sleep.”
His right eye started to twitch as he glared at her and took a step closer. “You are not a mind reader.” He said but his heart wasn’t in the angry tone he was going for.
“Not every mind, Sweetie.” She sat up and kissed him. “Just yours.”
With that, Penny stood and took off her brown, leather jacket and let it fall on the bed. Sheldon immediately picked it up and folded it properly. “Shower?” She asked as she headed for the bathroom.
“A wise idea after that horrendous flight with that baby and all those other unclean masses. Would you be inclined to me having the facilities first as I…,” He looked up just as she turned her back to him and shed her shirt and discarded it to the floor.
She looked over her shoulder at him, her hair falling haphazardly over her face but not doing nearly enough to hide her beautiful eyes from him. “Sheldon… shower?”
“Yes, I do believe a shower is a wonderful idea right now.” And with that he pulled his clothes own shirt off and laid it on the floor next to hers.
This was the most ridiculous piece of furniture that Sheldon Cooper had ever seen. A circular couch with cushiony pillar that stuck right in the middle of it that was means for support. Of course Penny wanted to try it, she was always experimenting and he admired that, he loved experiments as well but most of his didn’t have the potential for long term back problems.
The entire lobby of this hospital was a disaster really, just a matter of having too much space and money and filling it with every obscene piece of decor they could find.
So they sat on the circular couch, Penny on one side and Sheldon on the other, facing opposite directions but their heads side by side atop the peak of the cushiony pillar.
He heard her quietly counting and turned his head. Their proximity was quite close and he could smell the vanilla in her hair. “What are you counting?” He asked simply.
“Look.” She said quickly before resuming her tally.
Sheldon stared up at the ceiling and saw there were hundreds of tiny black, marble tiles that covered the walls. They were exactly the same as the ones under their feet. “You do realize that you’ll never have the time to count all these tiles.”
“I don’t know,” she said but she’d stopped counting. “You had seven hours of tests yesterday while they studied your brain, Sweetie. Who knows how long we’ll be waiting today.”
She never complained.
It was a thought that struck Sheldon in that moment and he found himself watching her again. Through it all she was never absent. She sat with him through chemotherapy, every single time. She slept with him on the floor of the bathroom when he simply couldn’t return to his room. She was loyal and consistent and beautiful.
Gently, he moved over just a bit and let his cheek touch hers atop the pillar their heads rested on.
Penny smiled. “What are you doing?” She asked softly.
“I—I feel as if it is important for me to convey how much you mean to me.” She closed her eyes and chuckled gently. “No, Penny… I believe you are misinterpreting my meaning. Perhaps I should elaborate.” He pulled away from her and turned his head as she did the same, their eyes meeting. “I—I believe that you and I should join.”
“I—I think we’ve done that… Sheldon. Twice last night.” He snorted quietly and glared at her. She smirked.
“I didn’t mean that, Penny. I meant… we should be married.”
Her eyes went wide as saucers and immediately started to turn glossy. She didn’t move and neither did he, she just started at him intensely for a good minute. “You want to get married?”
“There is a chance that this doctor may end our fight today… I would prefer to spend my remaining days as your husband if that is the case. Plus the tax benefits alone make it a logical choice.” He spoke so evenly that she had hard time really deciphering all he said, all she heard was an offbeat marriage proposal.
Penny sat up and readjusted in the couch, now on her knees and looking at him over the cushiony top of the little sombrero couch. Sheldon did the same.
Looking at him, stray tears threatening to fall, she smiled. “Ask me.” She said and he groaned but kept his eyes leveled on her.
“Penny… will you marry me?”
She beamed at him and nodded. “Yes.”
Just as she was about to kiss him, the receptionists voice called.
“Dr. Cooper, Dr. Scott will see you now.”
Penny had never been happier and more terrified in her entire life.
They made their way into the man’s office; it was empty when they arrived. It was quite typical, scattered with diplomas and awards on every well but also a great deal of personal photos. Dr. Scott was a rather good looking man, he was tall and well built, dark hair that Penny knew he spent thirty minutes on each morning getting ready as not a single strand was out of place. His smile was short but made his cheeks dimple. He looked to be in his mid-forties.
Before they could even sit down, the door opened again and Dr. Scott strode into the room with a smile. “Dr. Cooper, good to see you again.” He said, not extending his hand for a shake as he learned Sheldon wasn’t big on shaking yesterday. “And this is your lovely…,” he let the words hang as he eyed Penny and graciously shook her hand.
“Fiancée,” Penny finished with a smile and looked as Sheldon flushed a bit before the pair sat and Dr. Scott went around his desk.
“Wonderful.” Scott said before pulling out a tan folder and flipping it open. Penny knew they were Sheldon’s brain scans. Her heart was absolutely thumping in her chest as the man studied them and seemed to take his sweet time. “Okay, so I’m sure you’ve been told by numerous doctors in California that your tumor is too large to operate on?”
Sheldon nodded, he was in full scientist mode and Penny knew that made him feel better. “They’ve said that it’s far too close to the Temporal Lobe, that a procedure could render me speechless and thoughtless.”
Dr. Scott nodded but the smile on his face made Penny’s stomach flutter. “Well, sadly the doctors in California have not caught up to the work we’re doing here. Dr. Cooper… I have performed numerous surgeries to remove tumors over the last twelve years and I can promise you that your case is not hopeful, in fact, I’ve done more with less hope and those patients are still flourishing today.”
“You can remove it?” Penny said, nearly jumping out of her chair.
“Not only can I remove it, but I can get you on a treatment regimen and recovery that you will be able to perform in the comforts of your home town, the same one I recommend to all my patients with similar conditions, eighty percent of whom are cancer free after one year.”
Sheldon’s mouth fell open in shock as he soaked everything in.
Penny just broke down and started crying.
As Dr. Scott stood from behind his desk, Sheldon snapped out of his trance and tended to Penny who hugged him violently. Dr. Scott came around the desk with a bright smile on his face. Penny settled into Sheldon’s chest and turned to face the Dr. as well, tears streaking down her face as her smile threated to expand right off her face.
“When can you… I—I… when?” Sheldon asked and hated himself for sounding foolish.
Dr. Scott grinned. “Tell you what, we’ll let you get through Christmas and be with your fiancée and your family and then… we’ll set it up for January second, I have my schedule memorized in my head, the second will be just fine, great way to ring in the new year right?” He said with a slight nudge at Penny who laughed almost giddily before she jumped out of Sheldon’s arms to hug Dr. Scott.
As she pulled away a bit embarrassed, Sheldon ran a hand through his hair and slowly extended his hand out. “Thank you… Dr. Scott.”
“It’s what we do, right Doctor?” He said softly as he shook Sheldon’s hand. Sheldon smiled, and it was real and true and it made Penny feel like she was floating. “Tell you what, go talk with the front desk, we’ll get you all set up and scheduled and… we’ll see you in January.”
Dr. Scott left shortly after as Penny and Sheldon stayed in each other’s arms in his office for a moment.
She was crying again and he was holding her and running his hands through her hair and down her back. “Are you still in the same mindset as I am on the terms of our engagement?” He asked and she looked up at him beautifully.
“Absolutely, I love you so much.”
Sheldon nodded and sighed and pulled her to arm’s length. “I have reached an overwhelming level of compassion for you… and our child. For the first time in years I find myself at the cusp of an actual future and… I’m unsure of what to do.”
Penny leaned in close to him. “Kiss me.” She said simply and he smirked.
“That’s your answer for everything, woman.” He said but drew himself inches from her face.
“Well if you don’t wanna.” She teased but they were face to face now.
He rolled his eyes. “Now you’re the one being illogical.” Sheldon said before he kissed her.
T w e l v e
Abby didn’t like comic books. She always thought they were childish and lame. But staying alone at Penny and Sheldon’s apartment, knowing no one in Pasadena except a few boys she’d met at a party whose names she could barely remember, there was nothing else to do.
So she started reading whatever she could find. She had been told strictly by both Sheldon and Penny not to go into Sheldon’s room. So of course she did on the very first night alone and began to dig through his comic book collection. She was careful not to open any of his sealed books, but he had a complete set of something called Deathstroke which she read through quite briskly and was, of course, left hanging story wise.
She was curious by nature and venturing into Penny’s room was a lot less daunting. She wasn’t surprised by much she saw, the blue walls and variously uplifting paintings scattered on the walls. Penny was a positive person for the most part, even when she was miserable and her dress and design styles favored that.
Everything was exactly as Abby had expected, until she looked in the bottom drawer of Penny’s dresser.
There were books, dozens of them and every single one was filled. There were scrapbooks and sketchbooks. She pulled out a scrapbook first.
It was decorated with strange hair clips shaped like flowers and a beautiful outlined drawing of an oak tree.
The first page she opened too read simply.
Our Trip to the Lincoln City Science and Arts Symposium
Most of the pictures were of various sights and buildings. The ocean of course as Abby knew Penny’s first love was always the ocean. She dreamed of living their when she was little, she would play ocean sounds in her CD player at night to help her sleep.
The first picture that had either of them in it was a photo of Sheldon sleeping. Penny was certainly taking the picture but she had climbed onto the bed and captured the moment. It would seem odd to take such a dull photo, but Sheldon was grinning a bit in his sleep and clutching his pillow like a teddy bear. For those who knew Sheldon Cooper, it was a rare show of joy.
The next picture with them in it was a photo taken in front of a mirror, Penny holding the camera and Sheldon all decked out in his suit and tie. Abby couldn’t help but notice that her sister was absolutely beaming, a smile and an expression that she had never seen before.
After discarding that scrapbook back where she found it, Abby went through the rest and it was more of the same. There were photos of costume parties and Comic Conventions, symposiums and trips to Disneyland, all of them featuring Penny and Sheldon absolutely inseparable.
Abby had never felt a more obvious mixture of bliss and jealousy in that one moment. Her sister had found it, the one, that soul-mate-till-the-end-of-time kind of love. The boy was awkward and twitchy, he didn’t allow people in his room and made her sign a guest visitor waver, but he had captured Penny’s heart.
The boy had caught smoke with his bare hands.
That was when her cell phone went off with the familiar sounds of Elton John’s ‘The Bitch is Back’ and she groaned.
Still, the dutiful daughter she was, she answered. “Hello.” She said, continuing her quest through Sheldon and Penny’s past.
“Is it awful?” Her mother asked first, skipping pleasantries altogether.
Abby sighed. “It’s not bad.”
“Right, that boy makes you wash your hands ever hour? He had your father washing his hands constantly.” The tone of her mother’s voice was condescending and bitter.
“No, they’re not even here.”
A pause, “Is he at the hospital?” The older woman asked.
“No mom,” Abby responded, but her attention was on the Disneyland album and how Sheldon kept looking at Penny in all the photos. “They’re in New York trying to see if Sheldon can get a surgery up there.”
Her mother scoffed. “Oh good heavens, that sister of yours…,”
“What?” Abby countered. “She’s supporting her boyfriend, Mom.”
“Don’t call him that, boy’s a thief if anything. He has to know that Penelope can’t afford to be missing work and dragging him around to doctors on the other side of the US.”
Closing the book, Abby put them back as best she could and shut the drawer. “Mom, you have to accept that she’s in love with him, they’re…,” Abby bit her tongue, Penny hadn’t told her about the baby, Abby sure as hell wasn’t going to have that conversation.
There was another moment of silence on the line and Abby prayed like hell that her mother had hung up the phone. “You should talk to her.”
“Try and get her to come back home, honey. Tell her that we can get her a job here, get her own place. Her life didn’t work there, she should be with her family.” The voice that spoke was so sure of itself that Abby wondered if she should even argue or just toss her phone out the window.
She was stubborn though, so of course she argued. “What do you even know about her life here?”
“I know she’s being held down by that boy and his disease. She’s sure gonna be sorry when God takes him away and she’s all alone.”
Abby growled in frustration. “Do you even fucking hear yourself, Mother?” She shouted angrily.
She gasped. “Do not take that tone with me young lady; I will still whip your hide.”
“Bull shit, you never disciplined any of us, just dad and his fucking belt… God he used to make Penny cry. Nothing from you though… that would have required actual parenting and effort!” Abby was beyond cognitive thought at this point. “Penny is happy now, maybe for the first time in her whole life. She is in love and… mom,” Abby softened; she wanted her mother to understand. “If you could see her face when she looks at Sheldon… it’s like cheesy ass movie love.”
The silence that fell over the line this time carried for a while, Abby had moved to the living and was sitting in on the back of the couch staring out the window.
Finally, her mother spoke. “Penny always was childish; you need to talk to her Abby. She’ll listen to you, she can come home! We want our daughter’s, both of you, to come home.”
Abby let out a long and tired breath. She tried, she had really and truly tried to get through to her mother and it failed miserably.
She was done.
“I think I figured out why Penny’s happy now.” Abby let her words hang, she wanted her mother to ask.
She did. “Why?”
“Because she let go of you… don’t call me again.”
She ended the call and fell backwards over the back of the couch and stared up at the ceiling. She missed her sister desperately in that moment.
“This seems incredibly unwise, Penny.” Sheldon said as they walked arm in arm through the crowded streets of New York.
Penny, of course, was enjoying everything since they talked to Dr. Scott. “You have to walk Times Square when you visit New York, Sheldon. It’s the definition of a non-optional social convention.”
“So you believe that being mugged and beaten is social convention?”
She sighed and held him tighter. “We’re not going to get mugged.”
Sheldon rolled his eyes. “Please, every man we pass looks at you and I as if we’re some sort of abomination.”
“They’re just jealous, let them be.” They continued down the streets, so many people were out and it was already past ten at night. Sheldon knew New York was constantly moving, but to see it was pretty enticing.
“Oh!” Penny shouted, startling Sheldon and a few people around them. “Papaya King! Oh Sheldon we need to get one, they always look so good.”
His face scrunched up immediately. “I’ve found that they look quite overwhelming, so much cheese and toppings, you can’t really enjoy a hot dog that way.”
She was already dragging him inside. “Sweetie, your pregnant fiancée is seriously craving right now and you’re not going to deny me of my Papaya King, okay?” She demanded in the sweetest of tones.
Sheldon purchased Penny her hot dog and himself nothing as they sat at an open table for two and he watched people passing by aimlessly out the window.
“Mmm, oh God.” She all but moaned and he looked at her wide eyed and flustered. “Sheldon, sweetie you have to try this.” Penny held the hot dog out to him and he recoiled.
“I’ll pass, you’ve already left bits of saliva on the end and… no thank you.”
Penny shrugged and took another large bite.
He shook his head the whole time as he watched her but the corners of his mouth couldn’t help but twist up. She was so content here. Eating with conviction and he could feel her legs swinging under the table as the chairs they sat in were so high off the ground.
“I could have lived here, you know?” She said off-handedly as she ran her finger over the cheese that covered her food.
Sheldon looked into her eyes and raised a brow. “New York? You wished too?”
Penny shrugged. “It was east or west when I decided to leave. I was gonna be a screen actress in California or a theatre actress on Broadway.”
“But either way you had planned to leave?” He asked, it wasn’t really in his nature to pry from her past, but he saw her mood and took a chance.
Her eyes went a bit distant for a moment, she looked past him and the wall behind them. “Yeah, either way I was leaving… I couldn’t lose myself in that town, you know?”
“I believe Galveston has that kind of hold as well, my sister is one of its captives.”
Penny sat her dog down and used a napkin on her hands. “It wasn’t so much the town, I mean growing up I was at all the parties and all the football games. School was fun, it was going home after that wasn’t.” She finished sadly and Sheldon felt compelled to push.
“Your mother wasn’t ideal?” He asked, already knowing the answer.
She laughed bitterly. “No, definitely not ideal. When I was young she would just ignore me, she’d talk down to me and call me stupid when I didn’t know things that no seven year old girl should know. I always thought when I got older that she’d be easier to get along with, but then she just got jealous of me. When I was named homecoming queen… she got drunk at the ceremony and climbed on the stage and…,” Penny took a heavy breath and licked her lips. Sheldon suddenly felt very wrong for pushing and ruining her mood. “She took my tiara, stepped on it and said that queens shouldn’t be whores. She laughed, everyone else cringed and she fell off the stage.”
Sheldon looked at her, she was still smiling a bit at the day but he wanted to pull her out of her past. “All that negative nurturing and poor judgment surrounding you and yet you have still become an ideal person, a beautiful and wonderful woman, Penny. You are stronger than you will ever give yourself credit for.”
“Thank you,” she said in a whisper as she took another massive bite of her hot dog.
“You have a bit of cheese,” he directed but she wiped the wrong side of her mouth. Sheldon groaned and grabbed a napkin. He reached out and gently dabbed at her lips and she smiled against his touch. “You really are quite aggressive with that hot dog this evening, Penny.”
She smirked. “Just imagine what I’ll do to you when we get back to the hotel room.”
Sheldon nearly slipped off his stool. “Please finish quicker.”
So of course Penny took her time the rest of the way because she was feeling quite mischievous tonight.
Just as she was about to take the last bite, Penny balked. “Do you think we should do a conventional wedding or something different?”
“I—I,” he stammered and glared as she sat down her last piece of food and stared at him. “Conventional.”
Penny smiled. “Me too, I want the beautiful dress and flowers everywhere. We should go to the ocean!” She cried and Sheldon chuckled softly.
“I had already assumed that was where it would be, I know of your love for the beach.”
Her smile faded by the happiness in her eyes didn’t. “This really has been a wonderful day.”
Sheldon nodded. “Agreed.”
“I love you.” She then ran her hand over her stomach and smiled. “Both of you.”
“Penny,” Sheldon said softly. She looked up at him and he was staring deeply into her eyes. “I’m quite sure our child isn’t mature enough yet to have developed any sense of hearing.” Heis expression never changed and she glared at him. He then smiled and pushed her piece of hot dog closer. “Now please finish so we can get back to the hotel room. I’m feeling a bit like the proverbial second wheel between you and the hot dog.”
She finished her bite and they were off.
Of course she threw it up as soon as they reached the hotel, but she would leave that part out of the story.
Knock, knock, knock
Knock, knock, knock.
Knock, knock, knock
Over the last six years, Penny couldn’t begin to tell you how many times that had served as her alarm clock. It had been seven months since Leonard left, four for Howard and Bernadette and two for Raj. Now it was just her and that crazy boy across the hall. He was the same boy who knew better than to wake her before eleven on a weekend.
As she rolled to her right amidst the mass of pillows that had surrounded her through her mass of tossing and turning through the night, she noticed that it was still a bit dark outside.
That sight made her worry a bit. Sheldon never got out of bed before seven, especially not on a weekend as he would allot himself an extra thirty minutes to sleep before he had to catch old episodes of some animated series on TV.
Rolling out of bed, Penny opted not to grab her robe and immediately regretted it as she left her bedroom and was hit with the chilly air of a January morning. Checking the clock she’d hung above her r door, she read 4:21 and knew something wasn’t right.
“What’s wrong?” She asked, trying to keep her voice steady and not put in any bitterness or frustration in her early waking.
Sheldon glanced back at his own apartment across the hall and then looked again at Penny. “I have to urinate.”
Penny felt all her worry dissipates and that frustration she’d been holding back encompassed her. “So pee! I don’t think you need my permission.”
Suddenly, Sheldon’s glare was steady enough to match her own. “I know that, however the building manager has yet to fix the toilet in my apartment and I wouldn’t be able to sleep knowing that my urine was just floating around in the bowl. Do you have any idea…”
Penny was quick to cut him off. “No, I don’t and I don’t want too.” Taking a step back from the door, she conceded. “Go pee, you’ve got thirty seconds.” She ordered and in an instant he was marching off to the bathroom, all the while counting.
Leaning her head against the side of her open door, Penny began to wonder why she put up with this craziness. Why she would always give into him, why no was so hard for her, but this certainly wasn’t the first time she’d had these thoughts and it wouldn’t be the last because she wasn’t about to start turning him away now. She was just as alone as he was, that’s why she was so scared to tell him what was coming, she didn’t want to abandon him.
“28, 29… 30.” He finished a bit smugly as he came out of her bathroom and smiled slightly. “Under thirty seconds, I guess I’ve bested your challenge.”
Penny rolled her eyes and nodded. “Right, well you go celebrate in your own apartment, okay? I’m going back to bed.” She said all the while ushering him towards the door.
“Will you be coming over for breakfast?” Sheldon asked, halfway out the door.
“Maybe, not too early though.”
Sheldon shook his head vehemently. “No, breakfast is at 8:00, right after Thundercats. As they say on the street, be there or be square.”
With a heavy sigh and a forced smile, she nodded. “I’ll try, but I’ll never make it if I don’t get some sleep.” Just as he was about to leave, she forced herself to speak. “Sheldon… honey I need to talk to you… tonight when I get home from work, okay?”
“Is it something distressing, oh Lord we’re not getting a new landlord are we, because I heard Mr. Arnold talking about going to Canada but I thought he was being sarcastic.” Sheldon said in agony.
Penny groaned , “I don’t know, sweetie, that’s not what this is about. Just… wait for tonight okay? Besides you need rest remember, Thundercats?”
“You’re right, G’night Penny.”
This time her smile was real. “Night, sweetie.” Shutting the door, she sighed, laughed to herself and rested her forehead against the door. She never expected any of this, it certainly wasn’t in the cards when she first moved her ten years ago. But she was stuck here, having happily poured the cement around her own feet for years. Unfortunately she was sinking now. Failure was doing what it had always done… biting her in the ass.
The rest of the day passed with nothing but unanswered questions in his mind.
Sheldon was uncomfortable. He knew there had to be something big about to happen because Penny hated schedules and she’d scheduled this meeting between them.
Maybe scheduled was a bit of an overstatement, she’d merely asked him to join her tonight when she came home from work, but still it was distressing. She was probably going to inform him that she could no longer drive him to work or that his favorite pizza place was closing down.
He heard her footsteps before she entered the room and he plastered on his best smile. When Penny walked into the apartment, she looked shaky. Her eyes were heavy, her hair was a mess and she was holding her shoes in her hands.
“Are you… well?” He asked, concerned as he leaned away from her in his spot.
Penny glowered. “Yes, I’ve been working for eleven hours, Sheldon. I’m sore and tired.”
“Right,” he nodded and settled back more evenly. “You had something that you wished to discuss with me?”
“I do, but… I was hoping to shower and change first, I just came over to see if you could loan me some shampoo.” Her voice was soft and shy as she prodded for hair products.
Sheldon eyed her quizzically. “I—I only have No More Tears shampoo, Penny.”
She sighed. “Yeah well it’s more than I have, can I borrow it?” He hesitated for a moment but nodded and stood.
He returned moments later, Chewbacca shaped bottle in his hand and he offered it to her. “I shall await your return.”
“I’ll be quick,” she murmured sleepily before crossing the hall to her apartment.
Sheldon did what he said he would, he waited in his spot watching television and when she returned, minus his shampoo bottle, she looked exceptionally better. Her hair was down, cascading across her shoulders and back, she wore a grey t-shirt with a small ‘N’ logo on the breast where Sheldon thought there should be a pocket of some kind.
Penny fell heavily onto the couch and Sheldon was bounced a bit by the impact. He looked over at her, her head lying back against the cushions and her eyes were closed.
That was when she opened her eyes and they were watery. She looked at him and Sheldon felt his stomach twist into a knot. “Oh no, what is it?” He asked worriedly.
“I’m getting evicted.” She said flatly and Sheldon swallowed hard. “I just can’t afford the rent and the landlord won’t let me slide anymore. Sheldon this was one of the best apartments I’d ever found for the money I earn… good neighborhood and… neighbors,” she said with a sad smile. “I—I don’t want to leave but… I have too.”
He shook his head. “This is unacceptable.” He stood up in a rush and Penny was drawn back by the very real anger he was displaying. “You could have asked me for money, Penny. It is of no concern to me if you borrow some.”
“It wouldn’t have solved the problem, Sheldon. I don’t make enough each month, and I don’t even spend it on silly things anymore, no shoes and I had to drop my acting classes.”
Sheldon was pacing his living room floor. He couldn’t let her leave, then what would he have? He would be isolated here in this apartment, he couldn’t drive and he hated the bus. He would lose the comic book store, the cheesecake factory and… he would lose the only friend he had left.
“How much do you pay in rent?” He asked.
Penny sighed. “740 a month.”
He did the math rather quickly in his head. “I pay 989 dollars per every month, if we were to share the payments, your half would only be 494 dollars per every month. Would that be acceptable?”
“I—I… well, yeah I mean I could afford it but… are you asking me to move in here with you?”
Sheldon groaned internally. “Penny, I have a bedroom that is doing nothing but gathering carbon monoxide. You come over here every night; you and I already shop for groceries together.” The look on his face suggested that he could go on with these reasons.
Standing to meet him, Penny tilted her head and looked into his eyes. “You’re serious.”
“I’ve hardly ever playful, especially with important matters.” He said matter-of-factly. “Unless of course you wish to return to Nebraska?”
She shook her head vigorously. “Oh… God no.” The thought of returning to that life made her stomach ache, her heart ache. “Sweetie, I would love to live with you.”
“Wonderful,” his eyes lit up and he smiled a bit. “I’ll get started on a roommate agreement tonight and have a draft ready for you to sign tomorrow, then we’ll talk with the landlord.”
“Wait… wait…,” she stopped him as he was bounding to his room. “I have to sign a roommate agreement?”
Sheldon nodded. “It is standard protocol.”
Penny’s brow furrowed. “No it isn’t.”
“For me it is.” He countered with a bit of smugness.
She wanted to fight and argue but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She was tired and in truth… she was grateful. Sheldon didn’t know what he’d kept her from. What waited for her in Nebraska. A shift job at her mother’s General Store or a life on the farm trying to please her daddy. A task she would never accomplish with forty years on the farm. “Thank you, Sheldon.” She offered with a bright smile as she moved to where he stood.
He knew it was coming and held his hands out to stop her. She barreled right through the blockade and held him close. Her head rested against his chest as she sighed.
Awkwardly, he patted her back. “It really is the logical option.” She pulled away from him and looked as if she were floating. Sheldon hated the thought as it ran through his head, but she was smiling and he found a strange sense of accomplishment in that. “So… you’re happy?”
Penny nodded and blushed. “Very.”
Penny was a mess the entire flight home.
Her back hurt, she was cramping and it seemed like every pregnancy symptom was hitting her all at once.
As she continued to fidget in her seat, Sheldon slid as far away from her as he could in his own. There was an empty seat next to them and Penny glared at him and pointed. “Sit in the other seat if I’m bothering you.” She said flatly and he was quick to unbuckle his seat belt and do just that.
Of course, this upset Penny and she looked away from him as tears threatened in her eyes. Sheldon wondered if he should move again, but he had his own space now and was starting to calm a bit as the plane hit a small bit of turbulence. He didn’t move.
She went out of her way not to look at him the rest of the flight home and when they landed he escorted her off the plane at a distance. Sheldon knew she hadn’t slept well their last night in the hotel.
After collecting their bags, they made their way into the parking lot and Penny moved at a rather slow pace as her back continued to give her fits.
Sheldon would have offered his help but he was already carrying two bags and a very large suitcase.
Eventually they spotted Leonard’s car, Abby and Raj both with them and this bristled Penny to no end because Raj was in the front seat and she’d have to sit in the back with Sheldon and Abby.
She was being picky and bitter and she really didn’t care because she wanted to run away from all of them and go back to being that single girl that moved here eight years ago and didn’t give a fuck about anything.
Penny offered smiles to them that were short and contrite. She sat down with a bit of a huff and shut her eyes to feign sleep and avoid conversation.
She left it to Sheldon to tell them about the doctor in New York and she was so happy about that but she never opened her eyes to join in the joyful exchange between everyone else.
“That’s wonderful, Sheldon.” Leonard beamed. “So Dr. Scott really is the top of his field?”
Sheldon nodded. “Oh yes, his work is renowned around the world, I am going to have to send Dr. Hathaway a gift card to Best Buy for his directing of us to him. Garnering an appointment with the man on our own would have been quite difficult.”
“I see the trip really did a number on Mommy Dearest.” Abby said feistily. “Or maybe your celebrating the good news wore her out.”
This made Sheldon blush furiously and Penny was sure he was staring at her but she maintained her sleeping façade.
When he reached over and tried to take her hand, she jerked it away to keep him from feeling it tremor. She was shaking and her stomach was in knots. Sheldon was put off by her reaction to him, he was hardly the first to offer physical contact and she never turned away from that.
Suddenly her throat tightened and she cried out in a rush. “Pull over!” She screamed and then realized they were on the highway.
Leonard balked and was surrounded by cars. Abby shot her eyes across Sheldon and Raj nearly ripped his seatbelt out of the holster.
They weren’t pulled over when Penny started throwing up yellow bile into the floor of Leonard’s car.
Abby had removed herself from the seat and was at Sheldon’s knees and cradling her baby sister in her arms as she continued to dry heave and try to catch her breath.
“Hey, breath kid… come on.” Abby cooed as she ran her fingers through Penny’s blonde hair. “God… you’re burning up, Penelope.”
Penny started shaking her head violently in her sister’s arms. “Something’s wrong.” She whispered and Sheldon was on alert.
“Leonard, take us to the closest hospital!”
Raj was on full alert looking for hospitals on the GPS while Leonard gripped the steering wheel with everything he had.
When Abby took Penny’s face between her hands and looked into her eyes, she saw a fear in them she hadn’t seen since her little sister was seven and about to be punished by her father. “You’re gonna be okay. I’m sure it’s nothing… just pregnancy stuff that they can fix with medicine or… you know… ice cream.” She offered a smile and Penny started to cry. Abby looked up to Sheldon. “Scoot,” she said and he moved to the left and stopped as he reached the door. Abby then moved herself into where Penny had been sitting and now the blonde was in between the both of them. “Here,” Abby said, gently leaning Penny towards Sheldon. “Hold your girl.”
He didn’t hesitate; he took her up into his arms and felt his heart drop at the perspiration that was coming off of her. She was still shaking but not as badly.
Sheldon Cooper was relentless. When the doctors took Penny into be examined, he ignored their gentle ‘please wait here’ and followed them to the back. When the doctor tried to have the nurse escort him from the room, he wouldn’t move. When Leonard tried to convince him that she was in good hands, Sheldon sent him away.
Abby finally came in and physically shoved Sheldon out of the room and threated to drag him outside by the testicles if he didn’t let the doctors do their work. So he paced, he wrung his hands and wore a whole in the linoleum floor of the waiting room.
This whole hospital reeked of second rate. It wasn’t their hospital. It wasn’t where they went when he got sick or when Penny dislocated her shoulder. No, he didn’t know this place, for all he knew they were running some sort of covert, underground organ stealing program and were ripping out Penny’s kidneys.
He began to move quickly to where they’d taken her again but Abby was on him like a Hawk.
“Hey!” She shouted and he stopped. “She’s fine, Sheldon. These people know what they’re doing.”
Sheldon glared at her. “And you know this how, have your recently watched a documentary on this particular hospital and seen the inner workings of its staff, for all we know they could be making it worse, what if they give her medicine, Penny might be in no state to tell them she’d pregnant, certain medicines aren’t…,”
Abby shut him down with a shake of his shoulders. “Calm down! You told them she was pregnant sixty times from the car to her room. You know, I know your love ridden eyes can’t see it, but Penny is putting on weight in that pregnant sort of way, lucky bitch of course she’d get one of those cute pregnancy bellies, if it ever happens to me I’ll blow up like Rosie O’ Donnell, but not Penny.”
“But…,” Sheldon started, he was nervous and twitching. “What if she’s not okay?”
“Wake up, String Bean… this is Penelope we’re talking about. Girl packed up her life and moved away at eighteen, she left everything and… never looked back. If she can handle that, she can handle anything because believe me, getting out of Omaha requires a toughness I couldn’t find until I was thirty. She’ll be okay.”
Even though he lowered his head in defeat, Sheldon was still a wreck. He didn’t stop pacing but he made no move towards where Penny was.
When the doctor returned a few moments later, he had his hands behind his back, his face downtrodden and somber.
Sheldon nearly lost it there.
“Dr. Cooper,” the man, who couldn’t have been a day of sixteen by the looks of him, called out. “Penny is…?”
“My fiancée.” Sheldon said simply, almost irritably as if he didn’t deserve this information.
The doctor nodded. “Right, well your fiancée is fine and her baby is doing well.” Sheldon felt his stomach drop to his knees. He was not built for this kind of stress. “Penny is suffering from alcohol withdrawal, Dr. Cooper.”
The words seemed foreign to Sheldon, he looked as if the Doctor had just told him they were going to stop making comic books, there was absolute disbelief in his eyes. “Penny hasn’t been drinking.” He said angrily.
“No, she hasn’t, and because she hasn’t… her body is going through withdrawals.”
“Wait,” it was Abby this time as she stepped in front of Sheldon who was still trying to process everything. “You’re saying my sister is so dependent on alcohol that she’s sick from not drinking?”
The young man nodded gently. “In some cases, alcoholics do not know they have a problem… until they’re forced to stop.” Hearing her sister be called an alcoholic was like a punch in the stomach. “Penny confessed to me that she has taken drinks since the conception of her child, but she hasn’t in some time and isn’t planning on it.”
Suddenly, Sheldon’s mind was racing with texts and website articles. He’d read about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the affects it could have on an unborn child. He felt betrayed, she’d kept this from him, she’d hidden from him and put the future of their family in jeopardy.
He didn’t know how to react. Part of him wanted to run into the room and yell at her, the other wanted to hold her. He was shaking with anger and boiling over with worry, all of it being countered by the absolute uncertainty coursing through him.
Instead of taking any action towards Penny, he turned on his heel and stormed off.
Abby opened her mouth to stop him but Leonard offered a smile and started after his former roommate.
“She’s asking for him.” The doctor said and Abby turned back to him with a nod. “You are?”
“I’m her sister,” Abby said sadly. “Can I see her?”
The man nodded with a forced smile. “Of course.”
She followed him down the hallway of closed doors and peered through a few of the openings. There were patients of various age and some of them looked horrible while others appeared to be in no more need of a hospital than a marathon runner.
When they finally reached Penny’s room, the doctor smiled. “Go in when you’re ready, I’ll be back to check on her shortly.”
Abby peered through the window; Penny was sitting up a bit and staring out the window to her right. She was in a hospital gown and had an IV of some clear liquid, most likely for dehydration, pumping into her arm. Her blonde hair was wet and sticky, she had splotches on her face from tears and runny makeup.
Just as Abby was about to open the door, her cell phone buzzed.
She pulled it from her pocket quickly, a text message that she was praying was from Sheldon.
It was her mother.
Decided to come to Pasadena for Christmas!! Can’t wait to see my girls!
Abby let her head fall back in pure agony and groaned as the fear of impending doom washed over her.
T h i r t e e n
After tossing out what had to be the hundredth empty beer bottle of the night, Penny grabbed her wash rag and started to clean the row of glasses she had left. It was late, well past ten and she was appreciative that he’d stayed the entire time. Of course he’d offended a woman who hit on him, almost started into a fight with a couple of drunk metrosexuals after he asked them to leave the premises as because their hair products were making him nauseous.
It surprised the hell out both those guys though when they started picking on the nerd with his laptop at the bar only to have the blonde bartender round on them with absolute fury and demanded they make their exit. She caught hell from her boss but she didn’t care, Sheldon was here with her tonight and she wasn’t about to let a couple of losers take that away from her.
By the time she finished cleaning up and greeted Kelly Weathers who was going to be spelling her for the rest of the night, Penny found Sheldon face down in the keyboard of his laptop. She smiled sweetly at the sight of him.
He didn’t have to come, she hadn’t even really asked him too, but she knew he got lonely at home when she worked nights so when he brought up the idea of accompanying her, she was quick to accept.
“Hey,” she nudged him lightly and he stirred with a quick mumble about barbeque sauce. “Time to go home, Sweetie.”
Sheldon nodded with a soft smacking of his lips and brushed a hand over his face. He gathered up his things and followed her out the door. “Did you do well this evening?” He asked as they entered the chilly parking lot.
Penny nodded and unlocked her car with a press of a button. “Yeah, bartenders get way better tips than waitresses. Guess people liked being served alcohol more than overpriced cheesecake.”
“That and the lack of judgment that comes from inebriation.” Sheldon stated simply as he climbed into the passenger seat.
She laughed softly as she started the car and her mind pictured the bottle of wine and her own impending inebriation waiting at home. She’d wait till Sheldon went to bed, which was no doubt the moment they stepped inside, then crawl into her blankets and wash the night away.
“Penny?” Sheldon called and she glanced at him as they pulled onto Los Robles. “Would you be inclined to accompany me to my mother’s house in two weeks for Thanksgiving? I am under the impression that you have no plans yourself as I heard you saying that wild horses couldn’t drag you to Nebraska.”
There was a strange sense of relief that washed over her in his question. She had actually been dreading the idea of a Thanksgiving alone in Pasadena because there was no doubt that Mary Cooper had been calling so much lately to try and court her little boy back home to eat turkey.
Still, she had to pry for more information. “Is your mom okay with me coming?”
Sheldon nodded. “It was her idea, actually.”
“Do you want me to come?” She asked tentatively.
“I see no reason as to why it would be a problem. I do hope you realize though that I only take the train from Pasadena to Galveston, I don’t fly or subject myself to extended bus rides.”
Penny smiled, of course he took the train. The boy loved them more than Rachel Dawes loved Bruce Wayne. “The train is fine, I—I… thank you, sweetie. I really was terrified of spending Thanksgiving alone.”
Their voices were rather muffled but Penny didn’t need to know the words to understand that Sheldon and Abby were arguing about her. She’d seen her sister for only a moment before Leonard came in and whispered something that drew her away. They spoke now as if she was a child and Penny couldn’t help but wonder if she deserved such treatment.
She hadn’t exactly been smart when she decided to take those shots with a child inside of her.
Her eyes were heavy and she was dead tired but wouldn’t allow herself to sleep without seeing him first. She had to apologize to him. He had yet to come in and check on her which could only mean that he was extremely upset. Sheldon was good at bottling emotions, one morning after ruining his evening and preventing him from being present to accept an award with her drinking, he didn’t scold her when she woke. No, he made her breakfast and accepted her apologies and empty promises her saying it would never happen again.
He wasn’t equipped to deal with her issues, the same issues he’d seen in his own father.
All she needed was a chance to tell him that it was over, that she was done drinking and focused solely on protecting their child.
The rest of the day went along and he never came. Abby was around through most of it, the doctor gave her some places to go for her problems and strongly suggested she enter into a program and head to a few AA meetings.
Penny didn’t want help, she didn’t want to stand in front of people and admit her faults. She knew what they were and how to fix them, she didn’t need anyone else telling her how to get better.
Just as it was about time for her to go home, Abby was standing behind her and helping her put on her ever shrinking brown jacket when she finally spoke. “You really fucked up, Penelope.”
“I know.” Penny bit out as she slid an arm through the leather. “I just want to go home and get past this… we’re supposed to be celebrating Sheldon’s good news, remember?”
Abby sighed as she and Penny walked for the exit where Leonard and Raj were waiting with fake smiles and discomfort.
The ride home was quiet, Raj and Leonard got into a small conversation about the newest edition of a Fantastic Four comic they’d both picked up earlier that day but other than that, it was silent.
Penny got halfway up the steps to her apartment when her back started to ache and she had to use Abby for support the rest of the way. She was exhausted and desperate for her bed and for Sheldon to be there waiting to hold her.
When they stepped inside, it was chilly and empty and Penny knew he wasn’t waiting for her. She could see down the hall from where she stood and his bedroom door was closed.
“You can sleep in your own room… I’ll take the couch tonight.”
The blonde nodded and started to shuffle for the kitchen where she was hoping to find something to eat. As she opened the fridge, her heart swelled and her eyes burned as she saw four different Tupperware containers with food all written out with marker by Sheldon. She picked up the dishes of grilled chicken and rice and heated it up in the microwave. As she went back to pull out a bottle of juice, Abby was hovering.
“Abby, I’m okay… you can back off now.” Penny said evenly as she shook her drink and opened it.
Her older sister however did not budge. “Uh… no I can’t and I definitely am not going too. You don’t get it do you? Kid you were falling apart, you thought you were dying, I could see how scared you were… that isn’t something people who love you just forget. I’m gonna be on your ass from here on out until I know that you’re okay.”
The microwave beeped loudly. “I’m handling it.” Penny said but her voice was faltering through the argument that Abby was clearly winning.
“Yeah, cause when I held you and then you cried and vomited all over little Leonard’s car you looked like you were handling it.” Penny tried to ignore her as she made her plate. “You scared the hell out of that boy, Pen.”
Penny sighed. “I’ll pay to clean his car.”
“I’m not talking about Leonard, you could have thrown up on him and he’d have shrugged it off.” The statement drew Penny’s attention because she knew Abby was talking about Sheldon. “He was a mess and… I swear he just didn’t know what to do. Penny you have told me that if he left, if he… died that you’d fall apart. Do you think that’s one sided, do you think that boy would be able to function without you? You cannot fuck this up, Penny.”
Tears were falling again and she hated them so much, she was SO tired of crying. “I know I can’t! Penny hollered. “But that’s what I do, isn’t it? I fuck up my life and the lives of EVERYONE around me!”
“Yeah you do,” Abby countered as Penny’s rice went cold. “And you know why you do, because you have it stuck in your head that you’re not good enough when really you’re the only one of us that has EVER been good enough! Mom was never jealous of me, you know why? Because I was never better than her, but you are… you’re so much better and yeah… maybe a part of her hates you for it but fuck her, and fuck you if you don’t see it!”
It was the first time in a long time that Penny could remember seeing her big sister cry. Of course Abby was an angry crier, her face scrunched up as she violently wiped away the moisture from her eyes.
Clutching onto the table firmly, Penny let out a strong breath and forced herself to stop crying. “I—I want to beat this.”
“Then beat it.” Abby said steadfastly. “Go into that room and make that boy see you mean it and apologize like hell and I promise Penny, I saw it in his face, he’ll move the earth to help you.”
Penny woke up with a sick feeling in her stomach. Her bed was empty and she was naked under the sheets. Her head hurt, her body hurt and she knew the guy last night had been too rough. She rolled over and checked the clock, it was only 6:30 and he’d already bailed.
Oh he was a real prize.
She sat up and held the sheet close to her body as she eyed her room, the door was open. She could hear voices in the other room
Penny was up quick and putting on a pair of shorts and the first t-shirt she could find, it was a red flash shirt that she’d found in her laundry basket by accident last Saturday. She shuffled down the hallway just as Sheldon was preparing his breakfast. Her smile widened at the normalcy of his actions but that was until she saw her ‘date’ sitting on the couch… in Sheldon’s spot.
Jeff was a big guy, 6’3” and he worked a damn gym. He was built like a brick shit house. He was an idiot and a spoiled man who’d never been told once in his life that he had to earn anything.
That was when she noticed that Sheldon was eyeing his spot angrily and picked up his bowl and headed in that direction. “Good morning,” Penny said, hoping it would draw Jeff to his feet to greet her.
He had ESPN on the TV and was enthralled as he barely waved in her direction and she cursed silently.
Sheldon reached the couch and spoke flatly. “You’re in my spot.”
“Yeah,” Jeff said brushing him off as he turned up the TV.
Penny felt her chest tighten; Sheldon wasn’t going to give up. “This is my spot, could you please move and allow me access to the remote so I can watch Dr. Who.”
Jeff finally looked away from the TV as a commercial came up. Penny started to move towards the boys. “Dr. What? No I won’t move, just sit somewhere else dude.”
“Jeff, why don’t we go back to the room?” Penny called, wearing a sexy smile as her stomach twisted in bitter knots. She didn’t want this bastard in her house at all, let alone back in her bed, but she had to get him away from Sheldon.
“Send your brother to his room and come over here.” He said and then actually started to unbuckle his jeans as he stayed seated on their couch.
Her eyes found Sheldon as he looked at her as if she’d betrayed him and she mouthed an apology and his expression softened a bit. He eyed his soggy shredded wheat and cringed. “I am not Penny’s brother, I am her roommate and as this is my apartment, I’m asking you to remove yourself from my spot.”
Jeff paused the TV and started to stand which caused Penny to move swiftly between this overgrown ape and her boy. “Jeff, come on… let’s go back to the room.” She tried to sound seductive or sexy but her voice was just anxious. She didn’t want to sleep with him.
“I’m watching TV, and the shitty little thing in your room won’t cut it, send him away and we’ll do it here on the couch, this is your apartment too right babe.”
She was done, to hell with this guy. “You know what, you should go Jeff.”
“Yes, you certainly should.” Sheldon added as he slipped into his spot.
Anger flooded into Jeff’s senses as he reached down and pulled Sheldon back up and held him face to face by his robe.
That was all Penny needed. She shuffled behind him and lifted the tips of her left foot right into his crotch and he dropped Sheldon heavily onto the couch.
Jeff turned to look at her, his eyes were watery and he groaned in pain. “What the fuck!” He shouted but she wasn’t about to back down.
‘Get out! How dare you put your hands on him!” Penny screamed as she pushed him towards the door. He grabbed her arms and threw them back but continued to make his way out of the apartment.
Still holding himself, Jeff took a breath as he opened the door and glared at her. “Fine, stupid slut I got what I wanted.” He then held up two fingers and licked in between them and she felt the bile rise in her throat.
His exit left the pair in the room alone and Penny turned to see Sheldon sitting on the couch with his head down in what is obviously embarrassment.
Guilt washed over her in that moment and she knew it was wrong to bring anyone here. “Sweetie, I’m so sorry are you okay?” She asked as she slid in to sit next to him.
“I’m fine, Penny. My robe is a bit ruffled but no lasting effects.” He finally looked at her and she wanted to hug him for the chastising look on his face. “I do not appreciate being disrupted from my daily routine.”
Penny nodded swiftly and patted his knee gently. “I promise that I won’t do that again, I won’t bring anyone else here.”
“I have never seen that man before.” Sheldon said and she withered.
“I know, I—I met him last night.” She said shamefully.
He eyed her evenly for a moment before looking away and grabbing his remote. “Yes well… not everyone is aggressive with self-respect I suppose.” The television came on and Penny spent the rest of the day in a disgraceful haze.
Penny tapped on the door of his bedroom.
“Sheldon?” She called softly. He didn’t answer and she hadn’t really expected him too. She knocked again as she opened the door slowly and peered inside.
He was sitting on the edge of his bed with his back to the door. There was a notebook on his knees and he was writing furiously.
She bit her lip as she took a step inside and shut the door behind her. “Sweetie?”
His writing stopped almost too quickly. He looked up at the wall in front of him and took a quick breath. “Are you feeling well?”
“I’m fi—,” she was prepared to give the typical answer but when she saw the muscles in his back tighten, Penny stopped herself. “I made a mistake.”
He eased a bit and turned his focus back to the notebook in his lap. She carefully sat herself on the edge of his bed, her back to him but she watched with a crooked neck as he looked at her for the first time all day.
“Are you well?” He asked again firmly.
Penny swallowed the lump in her throat and nodded. “I feel okay now, I’m not sick and the rice you made me was wonderful… thank you.” He didn’t respond and this worried her, he kept looking back to his notebook. “What’re you writing?” She asked warily.
Again he looked at her but this time he lifted the pad he’d been working with as well. “I’ve made you a list.”
“A list?” She worried it was going to be demands or rules of how she was to act. She wouldn’t really hold it against him. His structure might be the only way to keep her from ruining their child.
“Yes,” he said, moving from his spot and sitting down next to her. He didn’t sit too closely, she noticed. “A list of all the attributes about you that I adore, along with reasons why I believe you should find even more worth in yourself. I can only conclude that I have not done a sufficient enough job of telling you what you mean to me… I hope a more upfront approach will display this better.”
Tentatively, she took the notebook and eyed it for a moment.
-Her laugh makes me smile
-She doesn’t mock me with malice
-She doesn’t ignore me when I ramble, even if her mind does wander
-She plays video games she doesn’t like so I don’t have to play them alone
-She bought me a train set for Christmas three years ago and helped me set it up
-During out last party she told Leslie Winkle not to sit in my spot
It went on like this but Penny stopped reading and looked up at him. “Honey… what is this? I know that you love me, you don’t have to write it down.”
“Don’t I?” He asked and confusion furrowed across her face. “I—I am not well versed in displaying affection, I understand this but I do my best and yet… for all the time I’ve known you, you’ve used alcohol to drown out your own inhibitions and forget who you are. Alcohol makes you feel better about yourself because, clearly, I have been unable too.” There was so much defeat in his voice that Penny absently wished she’d just left him alone those years ago when everyone else moved away. So many things had brought Sheldon pain in his life. Penny was ashamed to be one of those today.
“You are enough, Sheldon. I love you.” She said definitively before sidling up next to him and wrapping her arms over his shoulders.
He was still in her embrace. “But you lead the life of someone who is battling serious cases of depression. Drinking has always been dangerous to you, Penny. But you endangered our child.”
She let him go but kept her head on his shoulder and nodded. “I know, I—I knew it was wrong when I did it and I dumped the bottle down the sink right after and I swear to you that I haven’t had a drink since.”
“I don’t deny that, you’re suffering in Leonard’s car that led us to that horrible excuse for a hospital proved that you hadn’t been drinking.” He looked at her, the boy she loved in every inch of those blue eyes. “I just wish you had confided in me for help.”
Penny bit her lip hard and refused to start crying, this wasn’t the venue for her to break down, she had to make it up to him and prove that she could still be strong. “I’m sorry, and I’m here now… asking for your help. I’ll do whatever it takes, I’ll go to AA meetings or do a program… tell me to do anything, and I’ll do it.”
“I only ask that you never lie to me or keep things from me. I had thought we’d reached a point in our relationship that you wouldn’t withhold things from me, that you’d have enough respect for me… to tell me when you are struggling. If television has taught us anything, it’s that lying can only lead to horribly long running plots that extend the length of the series but not the quality.”
Her head shook violently. “I won’t, I promise. I’m done drinking and… I know it’s going to be hard and I can set up some meetings and get help. I won’t hurt our baby.” Her voice was serious and heavy.
“Today was the most terrifying moment of my entire existence, Penny. This was quadruple the encompassing fear that the chicken who chased me up the tree carried. I refuse to marry an alcoholic; I’ve already experienced what life with one of those is like.”
“You won’t have too.” And he believed her
Sheldon smiled a bit. “I will assist you in any way I can.”
She kissed his cheek. “I know you will.” Penny finally nestled against him and though he didn’t wrap her up, she knew he was happy to have her so close.
“I’ve spoken with my mother, she informs me that she and Missy are, as she put it, giddier than Elton John in the Everglades, to come and visit.”
This made Penny smile as she pulled away from him but the pair still sat side by side on the bed. “Your mom is going to be so happy that she’s got a grandchild on the way.”
“That she has,” Sheldon said without really thinking and Penny sent him a soft smirk and a weak glare. “Sorry and yes… she will be quite enthusiastic.”
Penny pursed her lips and nodded as she let her mind wander. “She’ll make a great grandmother.”
This drew Sheldon’s eyes back to her hesitantly. “It is still not out of the question to invite—,”
“Yes, it is.” She said matter-of-factly and Sheldon frustratingly dropped his argument. “So… I’ve kinda stole the spotlight from you and your good news in New York… how do you feel about that, the surgery?”
He took in a heavy breath and started to fidget with his hands. Penny knew he was nervous, she could tell just by the way he sat. It was a ray of hope but it was at the end of a primrose path. Like walking through hell to reach heaven, it was laced with fire.
Truth was, Penny hadn’t let herself think too much about what could happen during a brain surgery. She only thought about his recovery and how she would be pregnant and he would be better and they could finally make their lives.
It was in this moment, sitting next to him and waiting for his answer that she truly thought about what would happen if he didn’t survive.
She would be heartbroken and alone and raising a child. She could barely take care of herself, hell she couldn’t today and if he was gone she wouldn’t be fit to be a parent to this baby.
That’s when he spoke and she forced herself not to go there. “I am well aware of the risks, I know what the surgery entails and have started a document of each step the doctors will be taking as I’m in the procedure, and timed them accordingly with the 9o’clock start so that you can follow along as you wait.”
“Yeah right, I’ll probably just spend most of the time driving those poor nurses crazy. I really need to get back to work so we can save up for another trip.”
He flashed a look at her. “Are you sure that’s wise?”
“You, going back to work?” He seemed as if he expected her to agree, she didn’t.
Penny scoffed a bit. “I’m not an invalid.”
His eyes hardened. “No… but you are a recovering, pregnant alcoholic who would most likely be better served resting in the comforts of our apartment.”
“I’m not staying at home all day, Sheldon. I can handle going to the comic book store. It’s not like it’s a brewery.”
Sheldon looked away. “There’s no telling what goes on behind that door on the other side of the checkout counter.”
Suddenly provocative animated girls flashed in Penny’s mind and she cringed. “Yeah… but I don’t think it’s booze. You’re going to have to trust me a little, Sheldon.” She said, exasperated.
“You’re going to have to regain my trust, Penny.” Sheldon countered in a matching tone.
Her argument was cocked and ready but she bit it back, she had just come home from the hospital and a serious case of withdrawal. “I’ll be okay, you can come with me tomorrow and scout Stuart’s store for booze and drugs.”
“Good idea.” He said with a bit brighter smile and Penny couldn’t help but laugh. It was smothering and controlling and she’d earned every bit of it and loved every second of his compassion. “That reminds me, there are a number of new comic books that have come out during our absence, perhaps we should go out to the comic book store now.”
Penny smiled softly. “Not tonight, okay? I don’t feel up for car rides tonight.”
He nodded in defeat. “I suppose not. However, I do have one more analysis.” Penny’s brow raised in anticipation. “Perhaps we should see where your sister stands on the possibility of her finding a job.”
“There’s a set of molecules waiting to combust.”
That’s when the conversation ended as a soft knock rapped at the door of the bedroom. “It’s open, Abby.” Penny said, knowingly.
Slowly, the door opened and Abby stepped in cautiously. “So… how are we doing?”
“Better than we were at 3:46 when we reached the hospital.” Sheldon said, glancing over his shoulder at Abby.
Penny nodded in harmony. “We’re gonna get through it.”
“Good… good. Okay, three quick things. Sheldon; while you were gone they ran a four part documentary on SyFy about the origins of Battlestar Galactica, both the original and new series. Talking about plot lines and characters.” Sheldon’s face lit up for a moment then dropped in disappointment as he realized he’d missed it. “And, being the bad ass person I am, I recorded them for you.” Abby finished proudly as her sister’s fiancée perked up in a silly grin. “Secondly… Penny, I think that the money I saved up in Nebraska would be way better off being used to send you guys to New York next month. A little thank you gift for letting me stay here rent free for the past few weeks.” Penny’s jaw fell open as a smile crept on the corners of her lips.
Abby hesitated for a moment and Sheldon caught this. “You said there was a third inquiry?”
“Oh right,” Abby started as she backed out the door of the room. “Mom and Dad are coming for Christmas, G’night!”
The reflection of herself in the full length mirror was ripping at Penny’s heart. She was starting to show more and more each day, she could feel an overwhelming sense of pride in her growing belly. She was excited to be a mother, to have the chance to offer more than she was given.
Hate was a strong word, and Penny certainly didn’t hate her mother. There were moments between them that she hated. Homecoming and those nights when her mother would hit on her dates or make fun of the way she dressed. Penny spent the most of her childhood simply trying to impress her mom, a feat that she realized now was impossible. She wasn’t given love or compassion from her parents; she was ignored by her father and teased by her mother.
Penny hated her childhood, and she wondered most of the time if her own mom actually hated her.
It had been three days since her stay in the hospital and the apartment had been on edge with the impending in-law invasion.
She wanted a drink, she wanted to cry, she wanted to run away and go back to the easy life she’d led with Kurt, even though she didn’t want him there anymore. It was so much easier than, to be naïve and living life as if tomorrow was the day for the hangover and tonight was meant for letting loose. Penny realized that growing up she never really let loose because she was never buckled down. She was always wild and crazy, partying or running off to meet a random boy and buy clothes she couldn’t afford. She’d never been a grown up before, until she had to be for Sheldon.
Cancer raised her to be the woman she was today, she was proud of staying with him. She was proud of loving him and being washed away in his feelings for her. It was the best thing she had ever done with her life.
The alcohol was proving to be hard and standing up at that first AA meeting was extremely humbling, but she was committed to getting better. She wasn’t about to hurt her child anymore.
Tomorrow they would go to the doctor and find out the sex of the baby. She was interested in not knowing, but Sheldon hated surprises and she couldn’t survive knowing that he knew and she didn’t. So tomorrow they would know, they would have an image in their mind and could start hunting for that perfect name.
Suddenly, there was a knock on their front door. Penny, standing in her underwear in front of the mirror was startled and peered out her bedroom door. “Sheldon, sweetie can you get that!” She called but there was no answer. Another knock sounded and she grumbled. “Sheldon! Abby… where are you?” Penny cried.
“I’m in the bathroom!” Abby hollered with frustration and Penny sighed.
She quickly slid her robe on and tied it as she shuffled down the hallway. Her eyes scanned the apartment; Sheldon was nowhere to be seen.
“Sorry, I was…,” when she opened the door, her eyes went wide at the sight before her.
Sheldon was standing at the door with a bouquet of flowers in his hands and was wearing a very un-Sheldon like suit. It was black and fit perfectly; the tie was dark blue with white checker patters on it. He looked wonderful and Penny felt her heart hammering in her chest.
“Honey, look at you. What are you doing?” She asked with an irremovable smile on her face.
Sheldon extended the flowers in her direction. “I’m here to inquire about your plans for this evening.”
She took the daisies he’d brought her and held them close to her chest. “I was going to make you spaghetti… I didn’t know it was formal.”
“As much as I enjoy your spaghetti, I’m afraid it may have to wait for another evening as I have reserved us a spot at a very highly touted restaurant outside of Los Angeles.”
Penny was at a loss for any comprehensible word. She licked her dry lips and looked him up and down again. “Are you asking me on a date?” He nodded shortly. “I—I’m going to have to shower and change… it’ll take me a while.”
“I’m quite certain I can find something in your apartment to entertain myself.” He said in a teasing voice.
She flushed and stepped aside so he could come in. “What brought this on?” She asked as he settled into his spot on the couch.
Sheldon shrugged. “It was actually the idea of your sister. She informed me that it was odd for a man to have never had an official date with his fiancée. She also said that it would be a good way for us to; as she put it, take our minds off all the damn drama.”
“Remind me to buy her a car.” She said before leaning down to drop a soft kiss on his cheek. “Give me thirty minutes.” Penny said before moving as fast as she could down the hall. She stopped by the bathroom just as Abby was stepping out with a sheepish smile. “I love you, sis.” She said before hugging her big sister.
Abby rolled her eyes with a shy smile. “Of course you do, I kinda kick ass. Now go get ready.”
Penny was in the backseat of the car, driven by Abby, with Sheldon at her side.
It took her a while but she finally found a dress that fit well enough, it was dark blue and meant to hang lower down her legs, but she’d stretched it a bit and it hung at knee level. The neck dipped low and showed off her growing breasts well, she had actually caught Sheldon staring twice since they climbed in the car. He had no idea how beautiful he could make her feel.
The only thought racing through her mind was how much she didn’t deserve all this love from these two. Her smile felt as if it might be permanent.
“You look lovely this evening, Penny.” Sheldon said softly as he took her hand into his own.
“Thank you sweetie, you look… fantastic tonight. I didn’t even know you had a suit like that.”
Sheldon shrugged slightly. “I don’t, I’ve borrowed this from a Men’s Warehouse at the far end of Colorado Boulevard.”
When the car stopped, Abby glanced back at the pair. “Okay, you two have a good time and text me when you’re ready to come home and I’ll come get you.” Penny watched as Sheldon stepped out of the car and made his way around to her side. Abby took this time to whisper to her sister. “He’s been researching proper first date etiquette online for the last couple days.”
Penny felt her love for him overflow as her door opened and he extended his hand. She accepted it gratefully and the pair walked arm in arm into the restaurant.
“Dr. Cooper.” Sheldon said with that slight hint of arrogance to the maître d that made Penny smile and roll her eyes at the same time.
The young man scanned through his list and nodded. “Right this way Sir.” He then led them through the dining area and Penny could smell the various foods as she passed and her hunger rose. She felt like she was in some kind of movie, dressed up and on a date with a boy she really loved. There was no tension or worry that he might be insane, well he was, but in a beautiful way.
They were seated and sitting across from each other. Penny staring at Sheldon with a bright smile as he scanned through the menu, he glanced up at her and did a double take at her expression. “I’ve missed that.” He stated simply.
“Me too,” she said in return and flushed before picking up her menu. “Wow, this place isn’t cheap is it?”
Sheldon shrugged. “We will be able to afford a decent meal this evening; don’t let the prices worry you.”
She looked up at him. “Sweetie, this place could catch on fire and I don’t think it would worry me.”
“It would certainly worry me, you’re pregnant and most of these troglodytes in here would just as easily trample you as opposed to see you as a top priority for escape.”
Penny laughed and returned to the menu.
Eventually they ordered and, per Sheldon’s request, they agreed not to speak of anything distressing as a tumor or a drinking problem nor the terrifying date that was December 25.
Instead, they found a topic that easily delighted them both.
“Okay, if you could pick, what would you rather have… a boy or a girl?” Penny asked as she cut into her steak.
Sheldon unfolded his napkin and gently laid it across his knee and then unfolded the other three he’d requested. “It would be nice to have a boy to share my love of Star Trek with.”
“Girls can be into Star Trek too, we ran into hundreds of Uhura’s at Comic Con.” Penny countered.
“Yes but there’s nothing quite like two guys sitting on the couch and losing themselves in a great episode of Star Trek.” His voice was dreamy and filled with thoughts that Penny was sure were racing through his mind. “However, a girl would be acceptable as well, though I must say I am quite outnumbered in my life now when it comes to the male female ratio.”
Penny chuckled. “Women do kinda run your life don’t they?” He merely raised his brows and smirked before starting on his pasta. “I want a little girl.” Penny said and Sheldon nodded as if he was already in on that secret. “No comment?”
He looked up at her. “It isn’t a surprising admission; it is actually how I have pictured you as a mother. Dotting on our daughter and taking her shopping, lying with her on the couch after a hard day at work. I can see you drawing pictures for her and telling her stories. In spite of your lack of reading history and very little knowledge of good American literature… you are a very well versed story teller.”
“Why do you say that?” She asked softly, still glowing from his words.
Sheldon shrugged again. “Everything you speak about is carried across with emotion and feeling, it is the passion you bring into life that makes you unique, that makes me want to see you heal from all your perils and makes me want to heal from mine.”
“You’re such a romantic, even when you aren’t trying to be.” She said sweetly before laying her hand across the table and feeling him hesitantly drop his on top of hers. “We need to get married before your surgery. When your mom and Missy come to town… we should get everyone together and have a Christmas wedding.” She spoke so easily that Sheldon had a hard time really comprehending what she was saying. He had every intention of marrying her, but he thought it would be well after his surgery, perhaps after their child was born so she could wear a slim dress.
Still, the idea wasn’t terrible. “It would cut down on the stress of planning, although my mother will be a terror and Missy will go crazy.” His eyes then went wide with terror. “And your mother.”
Penny dismissed him with a fevered headshake. “It’s not about her, she can either get on board or go home. I just want to be your wife.”
“Very well, a Christmas wedding.”
Sheldon’s smile was as true as any she’d ever seen from him. She sighed in absolute content. “I am going to be such a slut tonight.” His brow furrowed in concern and confusion. “I’m gonna have sex on a first date, so slutty.”
They quickly texted Abby and got their check.