The click of the lock sounded final in Penny's ears though she knew she'd only be gone for six months. Half a year living the dream, her dream, in New York City. This was her big break, her chance to shine. Her gaze caught on 4A and she let out a shaky breath. She hated goodbyes, and had purposely set aside time during the past few weeks to say her farewells. She'd spent an enjoyable evening watching a silent film with Raj and he managed to whisper, "I'll miss you," before he left. She went bowling with Amy and Leonard and while at first it had been weird to see the two of them holding hands, she now couldn't imagine them apart. They fit together somehow, like odd-shaped puzzle pieces. Last week, she had dinner with Bernadette and Howard. Unlike Sheldon, they were supportive and encouraging. They didn't mention the high crime rates, levels of toxic pollution, or statistical odds for traffic accidents.
She knew Sheldon hated having his routine disrupted, but he didn't have to be such a jerk about her leaving. She'd finally threatened to tear open his mint edition Batman doll to get him to shut up. It worked, but if anyone mentioned her upcoming trip, he'd get up and head to his room, shutting the door quietly behind him.
It wasn't fair.
Last year, he'd referred to her and him as dreamers and now he was punishing her for following her dream. He was a big, fat hypocrite. Her fingers gripped the handle of her luggage bag. She was going to give him a piece of her mind before she left.
She threw open the door to 4A and swept inside. Sheldon was watching an episode of Doctor Who, one she knew for a fact he'd already seen at least twenty-seven times. His gaze flicked to her, to her rolling bag, and then back to the television.
"I'm leaving," she said, her chin tilted at a defiant angle.
Grabbing the remote, he turned up the volume.
Penny stepped in front of the TV and put her hands on her hips, making sure she was completely blocking his view. "Didn't you hear me?"
He paused the show, shoulders stiff. "Yes, I heard you, yet for some unknown reason you're still here. The exit is that way," he said, pointing to the door.
Her mouth fell open and her heart gave a painful throb. Anger rushed through her veins dulling the hurt. She stalked towards him until she was towering over him. "Really, Sheldon? This is how it's going to be? You're not even going to say goodbye?"
How could he be so unsupportive? After everything they'd been through? Hadn't she spent nearly every single evening with him for the past eight months? With most of their group paired off or busy with work, the attendance for Classic Game Night, Anything Can Happen Thursday, and Thai Night had dwindled.
But not her. She made sure to be there and had only missed a few nights when she hadn't been able to swap a shift. She'd been there for him. Why couldn't he be there for her now?
His eyes were cold. "You've already said goodbye to all your friends. Clearly, I'm not numbered among them."
Penny glared at him. "Don't be stupid, Sheldon! The only reason I didn't set aside an evening with you was because you've been acting like a gigantic dick."
Sheldon leapt to his feet, his blue eyes blazing. "I'd have to lose one hundred and seventeen IQ points to be considered stupid, Penny! And I recommend you get your eyes checked because in no shape or form do I resemble an overly large phallus."
"Why are you making this so hard?" she cried, her hands balling into fists at her sides.
"Because everyone is utterly blind to the ramifications of you leaving, especially you," he said, his rigid stance, flaring nostrils, and narrowed gaze, the picture of angry arrogance. "I know you're not coming back."
Her brow furrowed. "Of course I'm coming back. It's only for six months."
Shoving past her, he headed to his desk and turned his monitor on. "I ran the numbers!"
She stared at the screen, but it was all gibberish to her. "What do you mean?"
"Taking into account the genre of film you'll be starring in, the current trends for blockbuster movies, and the originality of the script, I've calculated the success of this venture to be 97%. The timing couldn't be better suited for you, as somehow you perfectly fit the profile for films which will be produced for the next decade. Directors will be clamoring for you to star in their next big film. You won't be coming back, Penny."
She shook her head. "My choices aren't dictated by numbers, Sheldon."
His gaze was still glued to the computer. "The probability of you returning in six months is 2%. Numbers don't lie."
Penny scrambled to make sense of everything, wracking her brain to try to reason with him somehow, to prove that he was wrong. "You couldn't have possibly included every...variable...in your calculation. There's way too many."
He finally looked at her and she noticed now the dark circles beneath his eyes and the lines of strain around his mouth. "Minor variables have a negligible effect. I developed an algorithm to measure your desire for fame, fortune, and fashion and weighed it against your contentment with your current circle of friends and financial circumstances. There's no contest."
A lump formed in Penny's throat. Did he really think so little of her? "You actually think I'm going to become famous and just drop all my friends?"
His jaw tightened. "Not all at once. As your fame increases, your contact with us will conversely decline until it disappears completely."
She stared at him, at a loss for words.
"It's inevitable, Penny. Once you make this film, you'll have no reason to come back."
Her stomach lurched. He was wrong. "You're saying that you couldn't find any reason that would make me come back to Pasadena?"
"There are only three possibilities that could result in you returning."
"What are they?"
"The Zombie Apocalypse, a death within our group," he said, then paused, his gaze shifting away from her to fixate on the wall behind her. "Or an enduring romantic attachment."
He ignored her. "While I strive to be prepared, currently, there are no known traces of an infection that will result in a Zombie Apocalypse. Also, despite Leonard's chronic asthma and allergy to bees, it is statistically unlikely that anyone in our group will expire in the next year. And finally, barring your failed drunken solicitation towards the gentleman in 4C following your break-up with Leonard eight months ago, you haven't expressed an interest in pursuing a romantic relationship with anyone."
Penny's heart twisted inside her chest. "I was waiting," she whispered.
His knuckles whitened as his hand tightened on the back of the computer chair. When his eyes met hers they were the bluest shade she'd ever seen. "For what?"
She swallowed, her mouth unbearably dry. "For the guy to realize I'm the girl."
He went still and she swore he stopped breathing for a moment, his face void of all expression.
Her hands and feet began to tingle like the first time she'd stepped on stage in junior high, but much worse. Should she say anything more? The rapid beat of her heart told her the risk was worth taking. She took a step forward, moving into his personal space, and tilted her head back to meet his gaze. "Give me a reason to come back, Sheldon."
He sucked in a startled breath, then somewhere between one heartbeat and the next, his mouth came crashing down on hers with bruising force. There was the scraping of teeth, slide of lips and the mingling of shared breaths. His hand came up to firmly cradle the back of her head, his fingers tangling in her hair, holding her to him as if he was afraid she'd disappear. She gripped at his shoulders, pulling him flush against her, finally able to freely enjoy the feel of him and the heat of his skin through his Flash t-shirt.
As he changed the angle of their kiss, his mouth opened, and she gasped as his tongue darted out to caress her bottom lip. She returned the favor and she was rewarded with a strangled groan as she sucked on his tongue. He tasted of mint, Mountain Dew, and the mysteries of the Universe. She bit back a whimper as he drew back, then relaxed as he rested his forehead against hers, their breathing ragged.
"Penny." He brushed a kiss across her left cheek.
"Penny." Another on her right.
"Penny." The last one lingered on her mouth, before he drew back slightly.
"You have to come back," he murmured, his lips barely brushing against her own.
She smiled. "You're the scientist with the big, beautiful brain. What's your algorithm telling you now?"
He cleared his throat. "Judging by the positive nature of your response, I'd estimate the probability of you now returning to be around 95%, though that's merely a conjecture since I will need to include this unexpected addition of data into my calculations."
She lifted an eyebrow. "Are you sure you're through gathering data?"
His arm tightened around her lower back and she watched in fascination as he licked his lips. "As a scientist, I pride myself in being thorough. While I'm aware you need to leave in the next fifteen minutes, I strongly suggest we make the most of our remaining time and continue to gather as much information as possible."
Penny slid her hands up his chest and wrapped them around the back of his neck, feeling him shiver as she ran her fingers up and down his nape. "Gather away, Dr. Cooper."
Quick as The Flash, he was kissing her again and against all odds it felt even better than before.
For the first time in her life, Penny loved science.