Sheldon comes to consciousness with a start, as he always does when he is awakened by something other than either his internal alarm clock or the Batman digital alarm that Mee Maw gave him twelve Christmases ago. There's a figure on the bed beside him, huddled perilously close to the edge because, really, it's a small bed and there's nowhere to go that isn't in his personal space. He appreciates that she made the effort, however.
His blinds are drawn but he can hear the ratatat of rain pelting against the window, strong winds kicking up a fuss. At the growl of distant thunder, the figure next to him flinches and he sighs. Carefully, without jostling her, he extracts himself from the cocoon of blankets that he's made and pulls back the covers. "Here," he says politely. They've long since moved beyond protestations that she cannot be in his room, though it's still easier to pretend when others are around.
Penny unclenches herself from the ball she's contorted her body into and slips under the blankets gratefully. She slides next to him in a way that is painfully intimate but nonetheless comfortable. Their parts meld together gracefully, as though he was meant to have her knee across his thigh and her fingers splayed against his chest. He puts an arm around her and kisses the top of her head as the storm plays havoc outside.
"Did I tell you that my dog Boo hated storms too?" Penny says quietly. Her tone is a little defiant (she gets angry when she's embarrassed, he has discovered through regrettable trial and error) and a little sad. Boo is a long-gone but much-missed childhood friend. "We'd hide in the closet under a big quilt that my grandmother patched for me when I was a baby. Boo hated the thunder, but lightning never bothered her. Too bad we didn't have storms that were just lightning."
"Thunder is actually just the sound made by lightning," Sheldon responds absently. He is concentrating on her breathing rhythms, trying to discern whether the build up of the storm is increasing her agitation. Her next shift at the Cheesecake Factory is a double, and his observation shows that if she gets less than seven hours of sleep beforehand her performance is hindered enough to cripple her tip earning potential. "Lightning creates a sudden increase in pressure and temperature which in turn produces a rapid expansion of the air surrounding it. Scientists believe that the expansion creates the sonic shock wave that we identify as thunder. However, an alternative theory is that the electrodynamic effects in the plasma of a bolt of lightning--"
Her heartbeat ratchets up as another example of the expansion of air around lightning crawls over them, lashing the exterior of the apartment building built to withstand sunnier times. Sheldon slips his hand under her sleep top and begins rubbing circles on her back, soothing her with the rhythmic stroke of his fingertips. She responds gradually, taut muscles slowly loosening and her grasp on the plaid fabric of his pajamas growing less dire.
It's not hard to shift her so there's a little more space between them, and she's definitely pliant when he strips the top over her head. With a twist of the wrist he manages to fold it before depositing it on the floor, then turns back to her. As he traces the dip between her hips and rib cage with his thumbs, she murmurs, "You don't have to," but her skin is already starting to flush and her breath hitches. He smiles (he's been practicing in the mirror on less condescending, but it's hard to undo a lifetime's habit) and whatever she sees in his expression reassures her. She smiles back. Despite being tired, embarrassed, and frightened, her smile is stunning and he has to kiss her before he says something he'll regret.
Her lips are hungry against his and it's nearly more than he can manage to tear himself away, but somewhere in his itinerary he promised a rendezvous between hands and lips on her breasts and that's where he is determined to go. Penny arches up into him as he licks his way down the swell of one, teasing her nipple to attention with his teeth. His hand occupies the other breast, rubbing the smooth skin down to the nubbed edge and then back. When she cards her fingers through his hair and clutches the fabric of his pajamas demanding skin on skin, he can't help a satisfied smile as he acquiesces. Pajamas and underclothes get folded and stacked neatly on the floor, and when he wriggles back under the covers she has kicked off her own pajama bottoms and is laying spread out so he has no choice but to straddle her or risk falling off the bed. It's not a position that either of them minds, and her eyes sparkle when he leans down to taste the skin at the curve of her belly. Penny stifles a laugh as he turns his head, rubbing the coarse stubble of his cheek against her skin (if Leonard suspects why he has begun shaving in the morning rather than the evening, he has not let on) in a way that she's said tickles.
For a moment he just rests there, head on her abdomen, listening to the sound of her breathing while she traces the shell of his ear with one finger. As the crescendo outside begins to build ominously, however, he dips his head to lick her clit and she squeaks in surprise and pleasure before she can register the next clap of thunder. He nuzzles her, parting her with his tongue, penetrating, keeping an unpredictable rhythm that centers her utterly and completely on first trying to anticipate him, then begging him for release. She tugs sharply on his hair and finally he relents, licking and rubbing steadily until, when he slides a single finger into her, she comes with a choked cry. He kneads the soft flesh at her thighs patiently and, when her tremors have subsided, she uses her legs to push him up.
"Need you," she says simply. "Now."
He's already hard, has been ever since she smiled, and enters her easily. He finds it fascinating that human relationships should be so fraught with complications and endless variations of perplexity and yet sex has turned out to be easy. Give pleasure, get pleasure. Their first time together he had produced a nearly nonstop commentary on the physical and emotional benefits of sex and Penny had let him rattle on until he could no longer form coherent sentences. Later, when she had coerced him into washing her back in the shower, she'd said, "So you want to do it again sometime?" And Sheldon hasn't felt the need to justify it since. It just is.
"Stop thinking," Penny chides him, but her tone is indulgent. She's got one hand balanced on his hip (always trying to set the pace) and the other on his arm, her grip getting steadily tighter. He rocks into her, shifting to adjust the angle, plunging deep then shallow, teasing her every way he's discovered, until his strategy backfires and he realizes he is too close to coming. While no one has ever accused him of being adaptable, Penny has never complained before and she doesn't now as he thumbs her clit, stroking her quickly to bring her to orgasm before he loses all control. When the next roll of thunder claps across the night it swallows their mutual cries.
He cleans them both up with the tissue he keeps on the nightstand, retrieves the pajama bottoms that she discarded and folds them, crawls back into bed, and tucks the blankets around them neatly. She'll have them kicked off in a few minutes, but right now she's on the far edge of sleep, her head resting on his shoulder.
In the morning, he will tell Leonard that he intends to work from home for a few hours and that Penny can drop him off on her way to the restaurant in the afternoon. Penny can sleep in, Leonard will never know the difference and, Sheldon thinks, he really is getting the hang of lies of omission. The trick, Penny has taught him through a system of rewards and punishments, is knowing when to stop one's mouth from talking. I'll be working from home, Leonard, and Penny is asleep in my bed.
Sheldon drifts as he continues to think. Outside, the storm still rages. Penny sleeps.