On the morning of Christmas Eve, Sheldon wakes Penny with breakfast in bed. She’d only been dozing in the pale morning light before he’d come in with a tray laden with pancakes, bacon, and orange juice.
“Wow, Sheldon,” Penny says, stretching her arms up high above her head and grinning as he settles the tray gently on her knees. “Is this my Christmas present?”
“One of them,” Sheldon answers. “Believe me, I don’t need to spend another holiday listening to how much you want a signed jersey from our local National Football League team.”
“Hey,” Penny offers with a provocative smile. Or at least the attempt at one. It’s hard to be alluring with a piece of bacon on your tongue. “I did promise you I’d model it for you. Just the jersey. Nothing else.”
Penny hears the sharp intake of his breathe and thinks perhaps she won’t be able to eat her pancakes until they are cold, but Sheldon quickly shakes his head and says, “Stop trying to distract me.”
Penny shrugs and starts cutting up her pancake, swirling the pieces through the syrup with her fork for maximum syrup absorption.
“I have something to ask you,” Sheldon states.
“Go for it,” Penny answers, taking a big bite of pancake and dripping syrup onto her bare knee. She swipes a finger through the sticky substance, licking her finger clean once she’s done chewing. Penny has long ago given up trying to anticipate Sheldon’s questions as they could be anything from a genuine question in a subject she has actually heard of to something mostly rhetorical about something sciency she knows nothing about.
Still, this question takes her completely by surprise, even as Sheldon is getting down on one knee and opening a tiny, velvet jewelry box.
“Oh my god,” Penny says.
“Penny,” he starts, “you and I can both attest that this relationship took us by surprise. That said, now that it has progressed, I can’t imagine my life without you. Would you do the honor of marrying me?”
“Oh my god,” Penny repeats, her hands covering her mouth. “Sheldon, yes. Yes, yes, yes!”
She pulls Sheldon up for a kiss, sticky from the syrup that has spilled off her plate onto the sheets but too happy to even care with Sheldon’s hand moving first to slip the ring onto her finger and then down… down… Her eyes flutter shut, the lashes slightly wet with tears that she will never, ever admit to shedding at this moment moistening her eyes.
Later, much later, Penny asks, “so where’d you get the proposal from?”
“What do you mean?” Sheldon asks.
“All the really romantic things you’re ever said to me came from some movie or other. So, spill. Where’d you get that one?”
“There wasn’t a movie this time,” Sheldon answers. “Just me.”
“Yes. Although I hope that you don’t expect me to write my own vows. Took me days to come up with that. I think that’s the extent of my romanticism.”
And Penny just laughs.
They spend the early portion of the day drowsing in bed – for the most part at least; at one point, Sheldon does sneak away to bring back his laptop and attempts to work on his latest paper until Penny persuades him to pay attention to her instead. Using her very nice pair of boobs. Simple, but always effective - just like Sheldon’s lips and tongue sliding over her skin.
All too soon, the morning hours tick over into afternoon and they have to get out of bed and start getting ready for the holiday party held by Sheldon’s department head.
“Are you sure we have to go?” Penny asks, dragging her fingers over a tantalizing bit of skin on Sheldon’s bicep.
“I need the chance to talk to Dr. Blackwood where he can’t hide from me.” He goes on talking about sciency things that Penny doesn’t even try to comprehend.
Penny sighs and pouts until she extracts a promise that he’ll French her under the mistletoe if there happens to be any.
“Amy will be there,” Sheldon reminds her, “as well as the rest of the guys. Don’t you want to show off your ring and new status as engaged to be married? I’m told that it’s custom among most young women.”
And oh shit, she’s going to have to tell Amy; Penny had not spared a thought about it before, but now the enormity of the situation comes hurtling towards her. How does a girl tell her best friend that she’s engaged to said friend’s ex-boyfriend, and oh, yes, would she like to be the maid of honor at their wedding?
Penny can anticipate the reaction she’ll get from almost every person she knows when she shares her news. Her mother will ask if she’s pregnant. Her father will tell her he liked that nice Leonard boy better and does Penny ever see him around anymore? The guys may or may not already know, but either way, they will make cracks about Sheldon’s love of contracts and a pre-nup. Bernadette will ohh and aww over the ring before breaking out the bridal magazines. That bitchy waitress from The Cheesecake Factory that Penny has never liked will glare when Penny casually drops the fact she’s engaged to a doctor into the conversation. And Amy - well, Penny has no idea what Amy will say.
In this instance, she’s a wild card – at least that’s what Penny would call her. Sheldon would devise a long, intricate equation to predict how she might respond. Or he would, if he knew anything about human behavior beyond it’s very basic level. In that way, Penny can feel they are equals – Sheldon may be a genius, but Penny gets people. When she’d been dating Leonard, who was both smart and even more understanding and forgiving of human nature than Penny herself, she’d felt all she brought to their relationship was a pretty face and a pair of boobs. Granted, they’re nice boobs, but still, that’s not enough to build a lasting relationship on.
Penny has never been sure exactly why Amy and Sheldon had broken up. Well, she knew that they had been destined to peter out from the very start, Sheldon oblivious to Amy’s affection and Amy growing increasingly less patient with his romantic obtuseness. But as to the exact moment that the two of them had said, that’s it, that’s enough, she doesn’t know. If there was a fight, heated words, or an argument of any kind, she couldn’t say as now Amy and Sheldon are friends in the same way they had been before their dating contract.
Penny had thought that the attraction between her and Sheldon would be exactly the opposite – something that burned out fast. She’d never planned on dating him, not even after the scorching kiss they’d shared nearly a year ago, a stir of the moment sort of thing. Likewise, she hadn’t expected Sheldon to pursue her with a well-researched and surprisingly successful effort to court her (it’d been like something right out of a rom-com movie, which is, incidentally, exactly where he had conducted his research). She can never quite put her finger on why she and Sheldon work together so well as a couple or try to explain it to other people, but they do all the same.
At the time, Amy had given them her blessing, said it didn’t bother her at all and didn’t seem to change her mind, but now Penny wonders if Amy will have second thoughts now that their relationship is going to be so much more permanent. She worries that Amy's okay only applies to their relationship as a passing thing, something casual and fleeting, not meant to last. She's worried that even though Amy is over Sheldon she'll be upset that she wasn’t a keeper, that she wasn’t the one who was good enough for a proposal.
Penny tries to put this all in the back of her mind while she pulls on the strapless, shiny pink dress that she’d purchased months ago for this very occasion.
“Sheldon,” she says, coming into the bathroom where he is carefully shaving. “I need a zip.”
Though he blanches about her coming into the bathroom when he’s using it, he eventually obliges after a short tirade that amuses Penny, dropping a quick kiss to her bare shoulder as he slides her zipper all the way up.
In the car, Penny sings along with Christmas songs on the way there to hide her nervousness. She figures that Sheldon must really love her to simply look over with a smile of indulgence and let her go on because she’s never had much of a voice. Either that or they’re both equally tone-deaf, but she’s fairly certain it’s the former over that latter and the trait of tone-deafness is hers alone.
“When we finally kiss goodnight, how I hate going out in the storm,
But if you really hold me tight, all the way home I’ll be warm,” Penny sings.
“I do like this song,” Sheldon states. “Although it has very little to do with our weather here in Pasadena. A golden Christmas would be more fitting. Or maybe dirt brown to describe the desert.”
Penny laughs. She always loves the way Sheldon takes things so literally. She’s seen the way it frustrates other people at times, but it always makes her smile. “A sepia Christmas,” she chimes in.
When they arrive, Penny carefully arranges her clutch purse in her left hand so that it hides her ring finger. She wants Amy to be the first person she tells, in a controlled conversation. The last thing she wants is for Amy to find out she and Sheldon are engaged by walking into the middle of a conversation in which someone at this party – one of the doctors Sheldon works with or their wives, people who Penny doesn’t know – is offering polite congratulations.
Penny stakes out a spot by near the fireplace that gives her an unobstructed view of the room, a glass of pricey wine in her free hand, and watches the door for Amy’s arrival. She knows that Amy and Leonard would be arriving together – Leonard being Amy’s ticket in to this shin-dig.
When Amy eventually enters the room on Leonard’s arm, she scans the room and gives Penny an exuberant wave accompanied by a big smile. She accompanies Leonard to the bar to get drinks and then, rather than coming over to join Penny, she follows Leonard over to group of physicists across the room. Penny, who’d been drawn in to a conversation with the elderly wife of one of Sheldon’s co-workers early on and found it impossible to escape her and still remain polite, hides a frown by taking a sip her own drink. She’d hoped that once Amy or Bernadette had arrived she’d be able to tear herself away. When Amy continues to work her way around the room without coming anywhere near Penny and her little old biddy, Penny starts to think that something is amiss. If she didn’t know better, she’d say that Amy was avoiding her. She wonders if it’s true, that Amy found out about the engagement and she doesn’t want to talk about it.
A short time later, she find out that isn’t at all the case. There, across the room and under the mistletoe, Amy has just pulled Leonard into a kiss and Leonard is not only kissing back (she’s pretty sure she just saw some tongue action), he dips her backwards the way guys do in those cheesy romantic movies that Penny has a love/hate relationship with. This kiss is clearly not a nervous first kiss, but one that indicates there had been quite a few before.
“Oh. My. God,” Penny breathes. Penny weaves her way through the crowd to grab Amy firmly by the arm.
“I think we have something we need to talk about. Now,” Penny says, pulling Amy into the semi-privacy of the hallway leading to the stairs. “When were you going to tell me that you started dating Leonard?” she demands. “I can’t believe you were holding out on me.”
“You’re not mad?” Amy asks.
“Mad? Why would I be mad?”
“Because I didn’t ask you first if it was okay,” Amy answers so matter-of-factly. “You and Leonard had a history and I wanted to be respectful of your feelings in this matter.”
“Amy, sweetheart, I am thrilled - absolutely thrilled that you and Leonard are dating.”
“Are you sure? Because I would understand completely if you weren’t. We can give you as much time as you want to get used to the idea, I made him promise me that we would be light on the PDA in front of you if it bothered you.” Penny smiles when she realizes that Amy had offered her time to get used to her and Leonard’s relationship rather than breaking it off.
“No, it’s fine. I just want the two of you to be happy. You most definitely have my blessing.”
“Oh. Okay,” Amy says, radiating a quite happiness. “Thank you. You have no idea how worried I was about tonight.”
“To be honest, I’ve been pretty nervous about the same thing.”
“You were worried that you were going to pull Leonard into the bathroom and convince him to ravish you?”
“Okay, I guess not the exact same thing, but-“ in lieu of any better way to put it, Penny holds out her left hand.
“Is that?” Amy asks.
“Uh-huh,” Penny answers.
“You and Sheldon are engaged!” Amy says, flinging her arms around Penny’s shoulders and tugging her close for a hug. “I’m so happy for you. Have you thought about a date yet? Do you know where you’re going on your honeymoon? Will you have a themed wedding, like winter, or superheroes, or western?”
Laughing, Penny says, “Hold on, slow down. I don’t know yet. I haven’t thought about any of that. He only asked me this morning. But there is one thing I do know for sure.”
“And that is?” Amy is practically bouncing up and down on her toes in anticipation of the next question. If she was a puppy, her tail would be wagging in wide arcs of happiness.
“Would you be my maid of honor?”
“Really? You want me?” Amy pulls her in for another exuberant hug. “Of course I will!”
Chattering away about all her plans, Amy calls Leonard over to share the news – firstly, that she’s going to be a maid of honor, secondly, that Penny and Sheldon are getting married which will enable her to do so. Sheldon follows him, slipping his hand into Penny’s free hand as she shows off her ring. Leonard studies it with a smile on his face, his arm wrapped comfortably around Amy’s shoulder, as much to keep her calm as it is to show affection. He and Penny share a private look of contented amusement – both surprisingly but profoundly pleased at the way their lives have gone, who their hearts have fallen for – better matches than either of them had been for each other.
Amy wants to ferry Penny around and share “her” – by which Penny knows Amy secretly means herself – good news, but Penny tells her it’ll have to wait.
“I have a promise for my own kiss underneath the mistletoe,” Penny says, giving a gentle tug on Sheldon’s hand, “and I intend to collect.”