Penny was climbing the stairs to the fourth floor in her apartment building, when her ex-boyfriend Leonard brushed past her, talking into his cell phone. It would have saved her a lot trouble had she remembered what “Code Milky- Green” meant. But, she was really tired after a long shift at the Cheesecake Factory encompassing both lunch and dinner. Her synapses weren’t firing on all thrusters.
She reached the landing and started to unlock her door. Even later, when she was more alert, she would not be able to say what she thought she heard that made her cross over to 4A. She knocked, and there was no answer. About to turn away, she tried the door and found it unlocked. Knowing that she was courting a scolding from Sheldon, she entered. Seeing no one in the living room, she eased her way over to the hallway that led to the bedrooms and bathroom. There, a low moan. It could only be Sheldon. Hoping that she was not interrupting a private moment (she hadn’t forgotten that the guys had been to a sperm bank the day she’d met them, no matter how hard she’d tried.), she opened Sheldon’s bedroom door.
Sheldon was lying on his bed, in his flannel PJ’s, and his face was blood red. She hurried to his side, as she suddenly remembered “Code Milky-Green” meant Sheldon was sick. Her hand rose of its own volition to feel Sheldon’s forehead, even as she cursed Leonard under her breath for not warning her. He was burning up with fever. “Sheldon, honey, I’m going to get a thermometer, okay?” She said soothingly. Sheldon either heard her or her tone, for his tense body relaxed back into his pillows. She fetched the thermometer, and took his temp. It was 104, and Penny allowed herself a moment of panic. How long did it have to be that high before the beautiful mind of her friend would be damaged? She was going to KILL Leonard, for leaving him like this. “Honey, I need to get you to the hospital.”
“NO.” His voice got small, “no, please, Penny.” His fever bright eyes looked at her pleadingly, and she could not resist, no matter how much she thought that she should defy his wishes.
“Okay, Sweetie, but if we can’t get your fever down quickly, you’ll have to go, or risk brain damage. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” He said, his voice still small.
She considered for a few minutes, and finally said, with a wry grin, “I guess you’re getting that sponge bath after all. But no enemas.” She finished mock sternly.
His lips quirked in the tiniest hint of a smile.
She went to the bathroom to gather what she thought that she’d need, and returned as quickly as she could. She grabbed a clean blanket and helped Sheldon shift so that she could get it under him to protect his sheets. She also removed his pajama top at the same time. She pulled his bottoms down his legs, and removed his socks. She noticed absently that his legs were as thin as she remembered, and that he really needed fattening up a little. Her eyes skittered away from his briefs.
She gently pulled his t-shirt up and started to wipe his chest with the cold rag. She remembered to rub counter-clockwise, which seemed to soothe him. She wiped his stomach, arms and his legs. She then helped him to sit up, pulled the undershirt completely off and rested him against her as she wiped his shoulders and back. She was a little startled to feel his arms slide around her waist, but focused on trying to cool him down. She tried to stay as clinical as possible, considering that he was one of her dearest friends, and in real danger.
Still holding him against her and his head resting on her shoulder she reached for the thermometer, and took his temp again. Thank God, 103, it was coming down. Not fast, but down. She gently eased him back down onto the bed. But he didn’t release his hold on her. Leaving his arms around her for the moment, she wiped his face and neck with the wet cloth. Remembering something, she focused on his pulse points, and was able to finally get his temp down another half a point. Feeling that drastic measures were called for if she was going to keep from having to call 911, she shook his shoulder.
“Sheldon, do you think that you can make it to the bathroom?”
He blinked dazedly up at her and allowed his arms to slip from her waist. She repeated the question gently.
“I think so,” he said finally.
She helped him shift on the bed, and together they shuffled to the bathroom. It took a lot longer than it normally would have, as Sheldon was not steady on his feet, and leaned heavily on her shorter frame. Once in the bathroom, she sat him on the commode and started the shower. She turned back to see him slipping to port, and caught him against her. Realizing that she was going to have to get in the shower with him, she let him lean against her as she kicked off her shoes, and unzipped her skirt and let it drop to the floor. His arms were back around her as if she was his only port in the feverish storm he found himself in. She eased his head away from her chest long enough to pull her yellow sweater over her head. He head fell back against her breast, and for a minute she hugged him to her. “It’s going to be okay, honey.” She said quietly. She felt him nod against her.
Finally, she helped him stand, his long body sliding against her. She gave herself a mental slap for even being aware that he was pressed against her, and it had been a really long time since a man had been. She guided him into the cool shower, and held him steady as the water fell on them. She was shivering but was willing to stay as it seemed to be helping Sheldon.
They carefully stepped back out of the shower, and Penny reached for a towel and began patting Sheldon dry. He rested his hands on her shoulders, trying to stay steady. “Sheldon, sweetie, you’re gonna’ have to take off those wet underwear.” She wrapped the towel around his waist, and held him steady as he reached down and slid his underpants down narrow hips. He kicked them free when they reached his feet.
Then he patted himself dry in his more intimate areas. She guided him back to the commode and grabbed a dry towel for herself. She dried herself off as quickly as she could, and then the two of them made their way back to the bedroom. They stopped at the dresser for Sheldon to pick out dry underwear; Penny got them up to his knees, and then he pulled them the rest of the way up. “Do you want a t-shirt?” She asked him.
“Yes, please.” His voice sounded a little stronger, she was glad to hear. She grabbed a fresh shirt, and he sat on the side of the bed as she helped him pull it on. She took his temperature again and waited anxiously for the reading. It was 99.5 degrees and she breathed a sigh of relief.
“You’re under a hundred, Sheldon. Do you feel better?”
“Yes, a little. Still congested, but not as ….” He trailed off, not sure what word best fit how he had felt before.
“Good, I was getting really worried. As long as your temp doesn’t go back up, you won’t have to go to the ER.”
“That’s good.” His big blue eyes held hers. “Thank you for taking care of me, Penny.”
“You’re welcome, Sweetie.” She answered, even as she braced herself for the zinger that always seemed to follow Sheldon saying something nice to her.
“Some man will be very fortunate to have you as his mate and mother to his progeny.”
Startled green eyes stared into innocent blue. “Thank you, Sheldon.” She was a little stunned.
Then he continued. “As long as he doesn’t care about your poor housekeeping skills.”
Ah, there was that other shoe. “I’ll be sure to mention that when I’m looking for a mate.”
“Really?” He seemed pleased that she was taking his words into account. “Then you may be interested….” He paused to cough into a tissue. “I can compile a list for you. What you need in a mate.”
She knew she shouldn’t, but she just couldn’t help herself. “You do that, Sweetie. Maybe you’ll have better luck than I do.” She finished under her breath.
But she’d forgotten his Vulcan hearing. “There’s no luck involved, Penny. A carefully researched list based on your needs and the traits that you possess, and I can create an algorithm that takes all of the ‘luck’ out of your search for a mate.” He paused to cough again.
“Why don’t you rest for a while, and I’ll go get dressed. When I get back, I’ll make you some soup.”
He actually looked at her. White shirt, damp and sticking to her chest and bare legs. He blinked. Then shut his eyes. “Okay.” He opened them again. “Sing Soft Kitty first.” She was shaking her head, but then he started, “please, please, please.”
She sighed. “Okay, but only once.”
He nodded, coughed, and shut his eyes. She smoothed the covers over him, and quietly sang “Soft Kitty”. When she finished, she kissed his forehead, and left.
When she returned, she was wearing her “Hello Kitty” shorts and a tank top and bearing a bowl of soup on a lap tray. “Sheldon?” He sat up.
“Danger…cough….” He blinked at her. “Penny.”
“Sheldon…sit up straight, Sweetie.” He followed her instruction, and she placed the tray on his lap.
After he finished, she collected the tray, and sang “Soft Kitty” again until he fell back asleep.
When Leonard and the other guys came in much later, Sheldon was sitting in his spot on the couch, wrapped snugly in a blanket, with a grilled cheese sandwich. Penny was sitting next to him, dozing, with her head resting on Sheldon shoulder. The guys stopped and stared. Leonard opened his mouth, but Sheldon coughed. Penny sat bolt upright, her hand flying to Sheldon’s forehead. “Still good.” She said, finally. She caught sight of the guys and stood up. “You are a dead man.” She informed Leonard, advancing on him with menace written all over her.
“Why…what I do?” He sputtered.
“You left him here, alone, with a temperature of 104. That’s brain damage, do you understand? Permanent brain damage to Dr. Beautiful Mind. That was selfish and not something you do to your best friend.” Her eyes were narrowed, but not in the sort of friendly way they usually were at Sheldon when they did battle. This was real anger and disappointment. “I can’t believe you would risk that.”
Leonard started to defend himself, Raj and Howard watching in wide-eyed enthrallment. But Penny cut him off, ranting. Before she got too into it, Sheldon coughed again, and her attention swung back to him. With a final disdainful look at Leonard she moved back to Sheldon’s side. “Do you want more juice, Honey?”
“Yes, please, Penny.”
The guys were standing there, at a loss, when Penny rounded on them. “You, go to the pharmacy and get Nyquil.” She shot a look at Sheldon. “Make that children’s Nyquil, more tissues, something with electrolytes, and a box of those VapoRub patches. Don’t be long.”
They just nodded and shuffled back out.
She barely heard Sheldon’s very quiet voice. “Very fortunate indeed.”