“What do you mean, the store was out of soy sauce?”
“I don’t know, Sheldon, in English it means that the store didn’t have any more soy sauce, but maybe it means something totally different on whatever planet you’re from!” Leonard has that not this shit again look on his face.
“I’m from Earth,” Sheldon says, sounding miffed. Penny groans internally and gets up from the couch.
“Maybe there’s some in the cupboard,” she suggests, mostly to herself because the boys are engaged in a glaring match, and goes to check. If this is going to be one of Sheldon’s more epic tantrums, she’s just glad that they don't have more of an audience.
“I get that you’re dealing with being OCD, but this is downright ridiculous!” Leonard’s voice is getting louder. Penny paws through the cupboard. Peanut butter, jelly, lemon curd, a couple thousand other jars and bottles -- seriously, how do they all fit, it’s like some kind of TARDIS in there or something -- but there is a definite lack of soy sauce.
“Ridiculous? You’re calling my rituals ridiculous?”
“There’s no soy sauce,” Penny says, going back and sitting down. Her own dinner is calling to her. “Sheldon, you’ll just have to go without. It’s not like one night is going to give you a deficiency.”
He turns his glare on her. Funny, she’s never noticed that thin red line around the blue of his irises before. “You have no idea what deficiencies my body may or may not react badly to.”
“Penny,” Leonard interrupts, shredding a napkin between his fingers. “You might not want to antagonize him while he’s PMSing.”
That does it. “Sheldon? PMSing? Excuse me, but you can’t just appropriate terminology to--”
Sheldon’s stomach growls.
Like, not a regular I need food growl. This is a full-bodied snarl, and it’s directed at her.
Leonard sighs. “Sheldon. Calm down. Penny’s going to go and find your soy sauce for you.”
“Like hell Penny is,” Penny says. She’s still on the couch but now, she realizes, she’s sitting on the arm, and her feet are tucked up on the seat, ready to jump. “What was that?”
Sheldon hisses at her.
“Whoa. Calm down, buddy.” Leonard puts his hand on Sheldon’s shoulder. Something whips out of the collar of Sheldon’s shirts and slaps it away, and it sure as shit isn’t Sheldon’s hand. “Okay... it’s okay... Penny, run.”
She’s seen enough Doctor Who to know that that word in that tone of voice precludes fucking around, throws herself backward, and runs.
Her apartment has a lock and a chain and a baseball bat. She secures the former two, picks up the latter, and then stops moving altogether when she hears a thin scream from across the hall.
She can’t leave Leonard alone over there, even if she has no idea what’s going on. But there’s something she needs before she goes anywhere. She rakes through her own cupboards with her free hand, because no way is she putting the bat down, and finds what she’s searching for. She jams the bottle into her jeans pocket.
Then she takes a deep breath, opens the door again, and walks back across the hall.
The boys’ door is open a little way. Penny peeks through the gap. Leonard’s still in his seat but there’s something coiled around his throat and Sheldon is leaning over him and she can see that Leonard’s face is mottled purple even from across the room. Sheldon’s midsection is bulging and writhing, held back only by what he has assured her is a hilarious image of a Ferris wheel all made out of lines and letters.
She doesn’t think, she just moves. Three bounding steps to the couch, one up onto the seat, and Sheldon’s head whirls around to her and she sees his eyes are fucking glowing now, right before she nails him between them with the bat. His head snaps back on his neck and he falls back, out for the count. Penny uses her forward momentum instead of letting it fell her, dropping into a shoulder-roll across the coffee table and landing on her feet, bat cocked back over her shoulder in case she needs to hit him again.
In the middle of it all she has time to think that hey, if she ever lands an action movie part, she can do her own stunts.
The thing is still around Leonard’s neck and Penny tosses the bat aside, grabs the end of the thing, and starts untwisting it. She will not think tentacle. She will not. Not when the other end of the thing disappears underneath the hem of Sheldon’s shirts.
Leonard coughs and coughs and overbalances into her arms. She holds him, and gropes with one hand for his bottle of water, and rubs his back as he gulps greedily and then throws up into her hair.
“What the hell is that thing and what the hell did it do with Sheldon?”
“That is Sheldon,” Leonard croaks.
“He’s going through Pre-Madness Syndrome.”
“You couldn’t have come up with something more creative?”
“You try being creative when your roommate’s attempting to throw you across the kitchen because his chicken’s the wrong shape.”
“Point.” The comment about the chicken makes Penny remember what she brought over from her own kitchen. She has to let go of Leonard to get to Sheldon, but considering the sigh of relief that she hears when she inverts the soy sauce bottle over Sheldon’s mouth and squeezes, Leonard doesn’t mind.
(She sure as shit minds that he threw up on her, but under the circumstances it’s the least of her worries.)
Sheldon gurgles a little. Penny looks around for the bat, which landed near the door, but Sheldon doesn’t move. The bulges under his shirts are subsiding, though, and she can’t see any more -- all right, tentacles -- poking out of anywhere. There’s an ugly goose egg on his forehead, but he seems to be breathing normally.
Leonard hauls himself to his feet via the coffee table. “I think he’ll be all right now.”
“Yeah, all right for a whatever the hell he is.”
“He’s just Sheldon,” Leonard says. “Just Sheldon.” He sits down on the couch and smooths Sheldon’s hair back from his forehead in an unexpectedly tender gesture.
“Then what was -- what were -- just fucking explain what just happened, okay?”
“Well, uh. PMS is Pre-Madness Syndrome, it’s what happens if it seems like the containment rituals aren’t going to be performed correctly. His food, his TV shows, everything -- it’s all part of keeping a routine together that, you know, keeps things in equilibrium.”
“Keeps what in equilibrium.” If he doesn’t get to the point soon she’s going to hit him with the bat as well.
“Well, he’s an OCD.”
“Don’t you mean he has OCD?”
“No. Oviductal C-- Depository.” The word in the middle sounds like he’s gargling with soggy feta cheese and is in no way shape or form English.
“Say what now?”
Leonard gives her a faintly impatient look. “He’s an egg-bearer, Penny. He’s incubating the eggs of -- well. There are a lot of names, but Great Old Ones is the easiest to pronounce. They take a long time to gestate, but they’ve been getting restless lately, so I don’t think it’ll be much longer.”
Penny edges toward the bat. “Uh-huh. Right. I see.”
“Oh, good. Maybe I’ll be able to break it to Howard and Raj with your help. Howard keeps bringing him the wrong pizza and I’m sure one day he’ll just snap.” Leonard rests his hand on Sheldon’s stomach. “I think they’ve stopped moving. Lie dreaming, little ones,” he croons.
“So he’s an egg-bearer even though he’s a guy?”
“Any human can be an egg-bearer. It’s just a matter of rearranging some internal organs.”
“And, uh. He told you all of this when?”
Leonard smiles gently at her. “When I was asking him to mate with me, silly. Why else would I still be living with him?”
Penny desperately wants to say, “What?” again, but her flight instincts have kicked in and she’s halfway down the stairs, bat in hand, before she realizes that she’s even moved.
She stops, panting, outside the building, and looks up at the light streaming from the window of 4A. She thinks that she can hear very faint singing, a lullaby by the sound of it, in a language that makes her spine prickle.
She has the clothes she’s standing up in, her baseball bat, and Leonard’s vomit in her hair, but she also knows exactly who else in Pasadena has an encyclopedic knowledge of this kind of shit, and if she hurries she can probably catch him before his store closes.