Work Header

The Gala

Chapter Text

Knock, knock, knock.
Knock, knock, knock.
Knock, knock, knock.

At the first knock, Penny got up from where she'd been sitting on her couch and walked over to the door. She waited until he finished his knocking routine, and then opened the door. "What's awry, Moonpie?" she cheerfully greeted him.

While he was certainly the weirdest person she'd ever met, and that was saying something given a few of the guys she had dated, he was also one of the nicest, in his own weird way, and she enjoyed his visits. Well, most of the time, anyway.

"I need you to be my plus one," he said in his matter-of-fact voice.

She raised her eyebrows and tilted her head at him a little bit, hoping he would explain, but as usual he just stood there looking at her. "Excuse me?"

"I was invited to the California Scientific Gala, and the RSVP says plus one." As he said this, she finally noticed the small, fancy-looking card he was holding in his hand, and it dawned on her what he was talking about. He had apparently been invited to some fancy science thing, which must be quite important if he actually wants to go, and it says he can bring a plus one. But Sheldon being Sheldon, he assumed it means he must bring a plus one, instead of can bring a plus one, so he was asking her to be his plus one. Good grief he could be so infuriating sometimes. Is it really that hard for him to start with the explanation, in English, instead of just assuming everyone knows what you're talking about?

As she looked back up to his expectant eyes, her explanation of how a plus one wasn't a non-optional social convention and how it was completely acceptable for him to go alone (Heaven knew most of these science nerds would be going alone) died in her throat. He was asking her to go with him to this fancy science thing of his, even if it was just because he thought he had to. She couldn't say no. And anyway, as boring as the science talk would be, it still sounded like a fancy party, and she wasn't the type to turn down a party, fancy or otherwise.

"When is it?" she asked, holding out her hand for the card.

"Saturday," he replied, handing her the card.

Well, there goes another date night hanging out with Sheldon instead, she thought to herself as she skimmed the card. Well, more likely Laundry night, since that's what my Saturdays have been recently.'Black Tie Gala' she read on the card. That could be fun, at least I get to dress up fancy, which beats what I've been doing most Saturdays recently.

"One condition," she said. "You let me take you shopping to get you a decent suit to wear to it. Something that isn't plaid." As his face began to twitch slightly, she added, "And I'll take you by the comic book store afterwards."

At this he sighed and nodded his head, and said, "Deal."

The following evening she walked across the hall to Sheldon and Leonard's door.

Knock, knock, knock.
Knock, knock, knock.
Knock, knock, knock.

"Come in," she heard Leonard say with a bit of annoyance. Apparently he did not find Sheldon's knocking as amusing as she did.

"Sheldon ready?" she asked.

"He's in his room, he'll be out in a minute," Leonard replied. After a few seconds of silence, he spoke again. "I still don't understand why you're doing this. All you had to do was tell him a plus one isn't a non-optional social convention, and he could have gone by himself."

"I know, but he asked me to go with him. It's cute."

"He only asked you because you're the only girl he knows to ask," grumbled Leonard. Penny didn't bother to respond as at that moment Sheldon walked into the living room.

"Hi sweetie, you ready?" she asked him.

"I still don't see why I can't wear the suit I have," he grumbled.

"Oh honey, because it looks horrendous," she replied. "And it's the only way I'm taking you to the comic book store. Come on." He reluctantly followed her out the door and down the stairs.

As Sheldon walked out of the changing room, Penny's jaw dropped. It wasn't that Sheldon wasn't attractive, but all he ever wore was superhero shirts (with another shirt underneath it, of course) or his slightly terrifying plaid suit that made Leonard's dress clothes look almost acceptable. This was the first time she had ever seen him properly dressed up, and she was amazed at how nice he looked. It was a simple black suit, but with Sheldon it worked really well. After gaping for a few more seconds, she realized she should probably stop gaping and say something. "You look amazing," she finally managed to say.

"But it's just one color," he whined.

"Trust me, you look incredible. You're a genius at all the sciency stuff, but this is my area of expertise." Sheldon continued to look grumpy, but he didn't say anything else. "Come on, change back into your normal clothes so we can pay for it, and then we can go look for a dress for me to match."

"You didn't say anything about you getting a dress," whined Sheldon. "You said we would go to the comic book store after I got my suit."

Good grief, he's such a child Penny thought to herself, he looks like he's about to start stomping his foot and throw a tantrum. So before he could, she placatingly said, "We will, I promise, but I can't exactly be your plus one if I don't have anything to wear."

He looked as if he wanted to point out the fact that she clearly had more clothes than she could ever possibly need, so she couldn't 'not have anything to wear,' but a quick glare from Penny and he sulked back to the changing room.

When they finally got to the store Penny was looking for, she decided she didn't want Sheldon to see what she would be wearing until the night of the event. Maybe I can get some kind of an actually human reaction out of him if I spring it on him. So she bought him an ice cream and told him to wait on the benches outside the store while she picked out a dress. She quickly found the quite-stunning-if-she-said-so-herself strapless dress she'd noticed on a previous trip to the store, but hadn't had any excuse to buy. Swiftly trying it on, she knew if she had any chance to make Sheldon stare at her, this was it; admittedly, she would also have to put up with Leonard (and of course Howard, who she had no doubt would be hanging out) briefly, but if it made Sheldon notice her, really notice her, it would be worth it.

After they got back to the apartment, they parted ways, setting a time to leave the following evening.

Penny had hoped to be able to meet Sheldon in the hallway and avoid Leonard (and of course Howard), but she finished getting ready ten minutes before they were supposed to leave, and was too anxious about whether Sheldon was going to follow through and wear the suit, that she broke down and crossed the hall to 4A. Opening the door without knocking, she headed straight towards Sheldon's room. She could feel the stares and slack-jawed expressions on the three guys' faces (well, maybe not Raj, one advantage of him not being able to speak to her was that he never seemed quite as infatuated with her as the other two did), but she did not acknowledge them, and she was in the back hallway before they could recover enough to speak.

His door was open, and he was sitting on the end of his bed tying his shoes. As she momentarily stood on the threshold of his bedroom, she wondered how the suit could manage to look even better now than it had when she saw him in it in the store. She mentally shook the thought out of her mind as Sheldon finally sensed she was there and looked up. For a split second she saw his eyes start to grow, before he got control of himself and his expression returned to normal.

"You look lovely this evening," he said, as though it were another non-optional social convention. But she had seen his eyes ever so slightly betray his calm and composed exterior as they lingered over her just a second longer than they normally would have. To most girls, or to Penny with any other guy for that matter, his reaction, or seeming lack thereof, would have been a disappointment. But Penny knew better. She had been around Sheldon long enough to know that those subtle deviations from normal were Sheldon's version of gaping, and inside she was completely screaming. But she kept her expression calm, and replied, "Why thank you, Sheldon. You look very handsome yourself."

And when he didn't respond with any sharp quip, she knew he was rather pleased with how he looked as well, despite all his complaining about the suit the day before (and all that day as well to anyone who would listen, she had no doubt). As he walked past her and out into the hallway, she slid her arm through his, and they walked towards the living room arm in arm; or as arm in arm as could be with his arms hanging straight down as though he was trying to keep his arm from accidentally touching her's. I promise I don't have cooties, Sheldon.

"We're off," she said, hoping to stem off any comments, as they walked back into the living room. Leonard and Howard's faces reassumed the shape they had just finally recovered from. As she hurried Sheldon through the living room to the door, she gave Raj, the only one not gaping at her, a bright smile, and he gave a quick, awkward wave and small smile in return. He really is the nicest of those three, she thought to herself. As they made it across the room, Leonard's face managed to change to a look of jealousy and possessiveness, but it wasn't until they reached the door that his mouth finally came unstuck.

"Enjoy yourselves," he said, in a sulky voice. Fortunately she was already shutting the door behind them, and could just ignore him.

"Excited?" she asked Sheldon in a cheerful voice, looking up at him as they started to descend the stairs.

"Penny, this is a gathering of the greatest scientific minds in the state. A sharing of recent accomplishments in hopes of bettering oneself in front of peers. It is not something one gets, as you say, 'excited' about. This is not one of your kind of parties."

Not acting like that it certainly isn't. "Wait, peers? I thought you didn't have any peers?"

"Don't be silly, Penny. Of course I don't. But most of the people here are peers to each other; at a lower intellectual level than myself, obviously."

Of course, how silly of me. "Oh, so are you here to lord your superiority over them, then?"

"Of course not, Penny. They already know, or they wouldn't be giving me an award."

Wow, Sheldon, that's arrogant even for— "Wait?! Did you just say award?"

"Yes, an award. Why else did you think I was coming? I don't need to 'hang out', as you put it, with lesser scientific minds like these. I am being awarded the state's Scientist of the Year Award. And while I of course have no interest in insignificant awards such as this, even I know that it is impolite to turn down such an invitation. It gives them a chance to acknowledge the greater scientific minds, and gives them an example to strive towards."

As he talked, Penny's mind was whirring. He had simultaneously insulted everyone else coming to the Gala and revealed that he had won what sounded like the most prestigious award offered at the Gala. She wasn't sure whether to be amazed at the fact he won Scientist of the Year, or smack him for his unending arrogance. In the end she settled for choking out, "You're the star of this gathering?! Why didn't you tell me?!"

"It didn't seem relevant to asking you if you would come as my plus one," he replied matter-of-factly.

Oh Sheldon, you really have so much to learn. "Do Leonard and the guys know you won? Did you tell them you won?" she corrected herself as he started to open his mouth.

"No, I did not tell them. But they may know, Scientist of the Year is not a well kept secret." Penny just shook her head, and continued driving, at a loss for how to explain to Sheldon why he should have told them that he'd won.

Finally arriving at the Gala, they got out of the car and walked towards the entrance. Penny once again wrapped her arm around his; for her part at least she was going to act like a normal plus one. She knew Sheldon wasn't going to do his part as her date, but she still might be able to convince people that they were really together if she played her part well. Wait, why on earth was she trying to convince people they were together? Sheldon certainly didn't care if people thought he had a girlfriend or not; he didn't even realize people would think she was his girlfriend. She brushed the questions out of her mind as they approached the entrance.

At the door, the lady checking everyone in immediately recognized Sheldon. Apparently he really is well known in the scientific community. "Hi Doctor Cooper. And I assume this is your girlfriend?"

As Sheldon opened his mouth to contradict her and start explaining that she was just his plus one (he really doesn't understand what a plus one means, does he?), Penny cut him off. "Yes, I am. My name's Penny," she said, holding out her hand. As the lady shook it and smiled warmly at them, Penny realized what she had said. Of course, it also helped that Sheldon was staring at her like she had lost what little mind she had. Fortunately, the lady didn't notice, and Sheldon had enough sense not to say anything at that moment (or he's too shocked to say anything, she thought). So before he could say anything, she dragged him out into the party.

"Why did you say you were my girlfriend?" So Sheldon had finally found his voice again. Her first thought was to say something along the lines of 'it's a non-optional social convention', but she decided on saying instead, "Sweetie, it's what people expect when you bring a plus one. It'll be a lot easier than constantly having to explain."

"But we aren't girlfriend/boyfriend."

Of course Sheldon would say that.

"Look Moonpie, you know that I'm not your girlfriend, and I know that I'm not your girlfriend, but that's what it looks like to everyone here. Especially with me dressed like this. And it doesn't really make any difference to you, it's not like you'll ever see any of these people again."

Was it just her, or did it sound like she was trying to convince him to let her play his girlfriend?

"What does your clothing choice have to do with whether people think we are having coitus or not?" he asked seriously.

Oh, Sheldon honey, you really can be so clueless sometimes. And blunt.

Fortunately at this point an older gentleman walked up to them.

"Hi Doctor Cooper, I'm Doctor Newton, head of the Gala. You and your girlfriend will be sitting over here with us," he said, shaking Sheldon's hand, and then Penny's.

Penny breathed a sigh of relief when Sheldon followed Dr. Newton without saying anything, and soon found herself seated next to Sheldon at a table with several other obviously prominent scientists. Apparently prominent enough that Sheldon was talking to them as if they were almost equals. Almost.

Completely lost to the scientific discussion going on at the table, Penny decided to occupy her time people watching. She was rather surprised by the number scientists who had brought dates. Apparently not all scientists were as clueless as Sheldon, as bad at understanding girls as Leonard, as creepy as Howard, or as physically incapable of talking to girls as Raj. Genius apparently was the new sexy.

Soon enough dinner was served and then the award ceremony began. After a handful of smaller awards, they presented Sheldon with his. To her surprise, he accepted it almost humanly, and just barely insulted everyone there in his acceptance speech. Which she didn't understand a word of, but it sounded to her like an acceptance speech should. Apparently Sheldon could act like a normal human being when surrounded by people similar to him. Or as normal as any of them, at least.

After he finished speaking, and the award ceremony officially ended, scientists swarmed around Sheldon to congratulate him and ask him questions, leaving Penny by herself off to the side. But not for long, as people began coming up to her as well; well, mostly girlfriends (or boyfriends of the female scientists) like her, but a few of the scientists as well. Most of them were congratulating her on landing the Scientist of the Year, or wanting to know how she did it. By the time the tenth person had asked her how they met, she had a well crafted story that even she would have believed. It wasn't until Sheldon walked back over several minutes later, just as she had launched into the story for a cute couple from Stanford, that she realized just how naturally she was telling the story, as if it really was true, and not something she had made up and tweaked on the spot. She was glad he was too busy asking if they could leave yet to question her story. Maybe he hadn't heard it.

She quickly excused herself from the few people still around her, and started walking with Sheldon towards the exit. "Enjoy the party?" she asked him once they were out in the parking lot.

"It was bearable."

"I never realized how well known you are."

"How many times do I have to tell you I'm the smartest theoretical scientist in the world?"

"I know, I know. I guess I just didn't realize how many scientists there were who could understand you well enough to appreciate what you do. I certainly didn't understand anything you said."

"Of course you didn't, Penny. I'm a theoretical physicist, and you're a community college dropout."

Gee, thanks Sheldon, you always make me feel so good about myself.

"So who and all were the other scientists there?" she asked, climbing into her car. Sheldon then proceeded to spend the rest of the ride back to the apartment telling her all about the other scientists and what they had done. Penny, of course, understood almost nothing of what he was saying (oh, who was she kidding, she didn't understand anything he said), but she knew he was happy to talk science, so she let her mind wander as he rambled on. As much as he might claim it was just 'bearable', if his current ramblings were any indication, he had quite enjoyed the Gala, or at least all the attention he got at it.

As for her, she had had the best Saturday evening she'd had in a long time, which was weird considering the fact she had been on a few actual dates over the past few months. Admittedly, those usually ended with a little more fun than this outing would, but Sheldon's company had been more pleasant than a few (ok, most, if she was being honest with herself) of those guys, even if she didn't understand 90% of what he had said that evening, and 9 out of the remaining 10% was him insulting her (okay, so she might be being a little harsh there). It had to just be the fact she got to dress up and show off in a dress she wouldn't have had any other reason to get, right? Fortunately she didn't have to dwell on this for long as they soon pulled into the apartment parking lot.

"Thank you for inviting me, Sheldon," she said as they climbed the stairs.

"Of course, Penny," he replied.

"Hi, we're back," Penny said as she opened the door to 4A.

"So, how did it go?" asked Leonard as they walked into the living room. Before Penny could reply, Sheldon answered.

"Apparently Penny and I are dating now. I'm not sure why Penny never mentioned it to me, but she was telling everyone how we met and started dating," he said as mater-of-factly as he ever said anything else.

Oh crap. He heard.

Leonard's mouth dropped for the third time that day, and this time it wasn't because of Penny's dress.

Normally Penny would have dismissed it as a joke, but this was Sheldon, and she wasn't sure he even knew how to joke. He actually thought they were dating now. Ignoring Leonard, she turned to Sheldon and said, "Honey, can we talk for a second?" before walking towards his room. A few seconds later, he entered his room, and she shut the door so that Leonard couldn't eavesdrop.

"Sheldon, I know you think that because I was telling everyone how we met that that means that we are dating. But it really doesn't, sweetie. I made up the story because it was easier than trying to explain that we're really just friends, and you invited me to come as a friend. We aren't actually dating, you don't have to worry." Was what she meant to say. Honestly. She really did mean to say that.

But what actually came out of her mouth was, "Are you upset with me for not telling you that we are dating?"

What. The. HELL?! Where did that come from?

As her mind scrambled to come up with a way to backtrack, she heard him speaking. It took a few seconds for her brain to realize what he had said.

"I do think I should have been informed."

Oh no, he's taking me seriously! Wait, he's taking me seriously but he hasn't told me in no uncertain terms that he is above dating, or kicked me out of his room yet?

"I'm sorry, Moonpie, I should have told you. That was selfish of me."

Wait, was that me? Did I just say that? Well, there's no one else in here, and Sheldon didn't say it, so the only option left would be me.

"But you do understand a relationship with me does require a certain amount of physical contact, right? Not as much as I would normally expect, but there has to be some."

Good grief, there goes my mouth again, she thought. I'm really going to have to get control of it somehow, and quickly, or who knows what it will say or do.

"I am aware that physical contact is an expected part of the relationship paradigm."

By this point her brain had finally caught up to her mouth, and Penny was able to think before she replied. On one hand, she could explain to him that she hadn't really meant that they were dating and that he was free to continue his not dating, not physically intimate life; or, she could go along with what he believed and gain a boyfriend. A boyfriend that was the complete opposite of her normal type, and a boyfriend that she'd never even considered as a potential boyfriend before that night, but a boyfriend who was certainly nicer than most of the guys she had dated, including the jerk who was currently in the living room expecting them to return at any moment and explain that it was all just a joke. She decided to go with the latter.

"Well sweetie, if you really think you can handle that, then we can continue dating."

Oh, she knew she was going to have hell to pay when she finally explained to him that they really hadn't been dating before then, and that there was no reason for him to start dating her then.

He nodded his solemnly.

"All right then, step one."

She slowly reached up and gently took his face in her hands. Then standing on her tiptoes, she lightly met his lips with hers, kissing him gently, but purposefully. She held it for a few seconds before drawing back and dropping her hands. He hadn't kissed back, but he also hadn't tried to push her away, and he wasn't rushing to cleanse his mouth with mouthwash. Baby steps, she thought to herself, baby steps.

"Don't worry, sleeping in the same bed isn't part of step one," she said smiling up at him before turning and opening the door. She walked back into the living room, where Leonard was pretending to work on his laptop, with Sheldon following behind her.

"Sorry about that, I was busy kissing my boyfriend. Well, it's late, I'll see you guys tomorrow," and she was out the door before Leonard could respond.

Leonard turned towards Sheldon, a look of disbelief so etched on his face that it would likely never come off, but before he could formulate a coherent question, Sheldon said, "It's past my bedtime as well," and disappeared into his room, leaving a stunned Leonard sitting completely by himself.

Maybe this is all just a really bad dream. I'll go to bed, wake up tomorrow morning, and none of this will have actually happened. Everything will be exactly the same as it's always been, he thought to himself as he got up and headed to bed.

The following morning, when Leonard woke up, he slowly remembered the events of the previous night. Please let it just be a dream, please let it just be a dream... He slowly got up, and then hesitantly walked towards the kitchen. It had to just be a dream, it had to— His thought was cut short by the image of Penny, wearing what she had obviously slept in, standing in their kitchen, pouring herself a cup of coffee, without Sheldon standing near her glaring at her or complaining about her being in their apartment eating their food.

"Morning, Leonard," she greeted him cheerfully, before walking over to the couch and plopping down next to Sheldon.

So much for it all just being a dream.

Chapter Text

Sheldon flipped on the tv, finding the latest Doctor Who episode. Due to the Gala, he hadn't had the chance to watch it the night before. Penny curled her feet under her, and lightly rested her head on his shoulder. She could feel him tense up, but he didn't bolt, and continued to watch the Twelfth and Clara attempt to subvert the Zygons from invading earth once again. Penny was enraptured as well, but her interest was more in whether Clara and Twelve would finally admit their obvious feelings for each, than who the latest alien to make the incredibly stupid mistake of trying to invade earth was.

Leonard busied himself with breakfast and his laptop so as not to have to look at or think about Penny cuddled up next to Sheldon instead of him. While he certainly wasn't happy about the situation, he could at least relax knowing that when their "relationship" blew up (and this was Sheldon, so it undoubtedly would blow up), and Sheldon's eccentricities eventually drove Penny crazy, he would be there to help Penny pick up the pieces, and he would suddenly look like a quite reasonable option in comparison to Sheldon's crazy. Perhaps this could actually be a good thing, he thought to himself, it'll take Penny less time to fall for me than if she kept going out with jerks.

Absorbed in his dreams, he hadn't heard the conversation between Penny and Sheldon after the show ended. So he was surprised to hear Penny telling him goodbye, and that they would be back from the comic book store before lunch. Leonard grumbled to himself about being left behind as he put his bowl in the dishwasher and contemplated what to do for the day.

Shortly before Sheldon's scheduled lunch time, he and Penny climbed the stairs up to their apartments.

"How about I grab my laptop real quick and we can go on a few quests after lunch, Sheldor?"

Thirty minutes later, after a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches (carefully constructed by Sheldon to have perfect symmetry and exactly the correct ratios of cheese to bread to butter, no crusts), Penny and Sheldon pulled up their computers, put on their headsets, and logged into Age of Conan; Queen Penelope and Sheldor the Conqueror were back in action.

Leonard, who had decided to run a few errands and grab lunch at a non-Sheldon approved restaurant, returned to the apartment a couple hours later. As he arrived on the landing, he heard yelling and loud voices issuing from 4A. Ah, perhaps they're already fighting. This might not take as long as even I thought, he thought to himself happily.

But when he opened the door, he froze. Instead of finding his roommate and next door neighbor yelling at each other, he found them sitting on the couch in their respective places, laptops in their laps, headsets on, and an interactive map up on the tv screen (that's a new one, Sheldon's never done that before), yelling battle commands at a dizzying pace, with an intensity that was bordering on terrifying.

Well, so much for them breaking up today.

Leonard went to grab his laptop and head to the safety of his room, when he realized that it was his computer that Sheldon had hooked up to the tv, and his own Age of Conan character lay brutally murdered on his screen. Wisely deciding not to challenge the maniac (well, either of the maniacs, he didn't particularly want to see Penny go junior rodeo on him, either) over control of his laptop, Leonard quickly scuttled to the safety of his room before he ended up resembling his character.

A few hours later, as it neared supper time, he finally heard it quiet down in the living room. Cautiously making his way out of his room, he found two completely normal-seeming people, Penny in the kitchen and Sheldon in his spot, and Leonard's laptop back on his desk as if it had never been moved.

"How was questing?" he asked cautiously, hoping not to set either of them off.

"It was great, finally conquered that stupid castle we've been going after for several weeks," came the higher pitched voice from the kitchen, while at the same time the lower pitched voice from the living room said, "Queen P leveled up three times, and I leveled up once. She has nearly reached the same level I am."

Remembering the last time Penny had become obsessed with the game, Leonard was relieved to see that both of them appeared to be acting normal (or as normal as possible) after the way they had been when he first came in.

Pretty soon, a knock came at the door, and Penny opened it to the sight of Howard and Raj bearing Sunday's supper.

"And how is the stunning lady this evening?" greeted Howard in his most charming (i.e. creepy) voice and a slight bow.

"Shut it," said Penny as she turned to Raj and cheerfully said, "Hi Raj, how are you today?"

Raj squeaked slightly and gave a small wave. Penny turned and headed towards the kitchen, letting the two newcomers find their spots.

Returning from the kitchen, Penny set down her and Sheldon's drinks, before ungracefully plopping down in her spot next to Sheldon, not bothering with how much her arm and leg bumped up against his. Howard and Raj expected a sharp rebuttal from their genius friend, and were surprised when he seemingly didn't notice.

Supper was surprisingly more pleasant than usual, between Leonard not constantly making eyes at Penny, Sheldon not interrupting every third sentence to correct something said (Raj could have sworn he saw Penny's elbow in Sheldon's side several times when it looked as though he was opening his mouth to say something), and Penny talking to Howard rather more pleasantly than normal. After supper, a heated argument on the video game of choice was abruptly cut short by Penny grabbing the controller Sheldon was wielding with a good impression of a broadsword and announcing that they were playing Mario Kart, whether anyone liked it or not. Leonard, Howard and Raj froze when Penny grabbed the controller from his hand, waiting on the impending strikes and banishment, but they never came. Sheldon gave a small growl, but simply glared down at her while she selected the game. She then plopped back down on the couch (dangerously close to his spot), and held his controller up to him. When he reluctantly took it from her, and carefully sat down in his spot as she grabbed her own pink controller off the table, they collectively released a breath they hadn't realized they had been holding.

Raj whispered in Howard's ear, and Howard responded in a low voice, "I don't know what's going on, but you don't question it when Sheldon doesn't go ballistic."

Since Howard was sitting in the third spot on the couch, Penny overheard him (which she knew meant Sheldon's Vulcan hearing probably did, too), but figured there was no hurry to explain why Sheldon was being a little less Sheldon-y.

In fact, she was rather surprised herself with how well Sheldon was behaving. They had been dating for less than twenty-four hours, and yet he'd already seemed to have learned that when she glared at him and nudged him in the side, he should probably shut up. She reckoned all the times she'd gone junior rodeo on his ass over the couple years since she had moved across the hall had finally started to sink in; that, or he had some innate self-preservation to know better than to tick off a glaring girlfriend (something Leonard and Howard could take a lesson or two in). Either way, Sheldon was behaving more like a normal human being for the time being, so she wasn't about to complain.

Once they started Mario Kart, Sheldon's more natural tendencies began to show through again, but Penny didn't mind. After all, she'd been screaming her head off just as much as he had a few hours earlier as Sheldor and Queen P.

After a particularly brutal beating in which Leonard was sure Penny and Sheldon had teamed up to block him from passing, he huffed off to the kitchen grumbling about it not being fair. Raj once again leaned over and whispered in Howard's ear.

"I can see that the two of them have taken almost every first and second, I've been playing this whole time as well."

Penny had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing. They of course hadn't planned anything, and Sheldon certainly wasn't going to give her any wins (and he had several more wins than her to show it), but he didn't seem to have a problem running blocker for her, so they ended up almost subconsciously teaming up in the beginning of races to make it a two way race at the end.

Several races and a few nearly thrown controllers later, and they decided to call it a night. Penny and Sheldon were so far ahead that there was no way any of the other three could possibly catch up. As Raj and Howard started to get up, Penny looked up at Sheldon and said, "Good game, sweetie," and then reached up and quickly pecked him on the lips, before pushing herself up off the couch, using his knee as leverage, and strolling over to the kitchen.

Leonard, Howard and Raj's jaws assumed a position dangerously close to the floor.

"What, I'm not allowed to kiss my girlfriend after a well fought Mario Kart battle?" came Sheldon's matter-of-fact voice, not bothering to look up from where he was arranging the controllers by visible light wavelength.

Their jaws rapidly closed the short distance remaining from their aforementioned position to the floor.

Leonard, who had desperately been hoping that Penny's proclamation the night before about kissing her boyfriend had just been an exaggeration, felt the full reality that Penny was actually and truly dating Sheldon swipe at him like a very alive, and very pissed off Schrödinger's cat that had finally made it out of the box.

Howard and Raj, who had heard nothing about this new paradigm, were still in the initial shock phase. The geekiest of them all, the crazy super-genius that pissed everyone off, not only had a girlfriend when none of them did, he had the hottest girl any of them had ever met (that didn't include some form of stalking).

Raj, who was the quickest to recover partial use of his brain, slowly thought back over the evening, and realized the signs had been there all along (he knew he'd seen Penny elbowing Sheldon to make him shut up).

Howard was still in too much shock to think of anything, and Leonard was still bordering between disbelief and a feeling of resentment towards his roommate that was starting to build up. Penny was his girl, he'd seen her first and was way more normal than Sheldon... His previous assurance that they'd break up and he'd be the one to comfort her (with sex of course, isn't that what she liked?), was beginning to falter.

After several more seconds of gaping, Raj herded Howard towards the door, and waved a small goodbye to everyone.

"See you tomorrow, Moonpie," Penny cheerfully said goodbye a few seconds later, as she headed across the hall to her apartment.

Once safely in her own apartment, she flopped down on her couch, and let her mind wander over the events of the day. She (they) had successfully told (showed) the other two guys about their new relationship. No fists had flown or tempers raged, though that might just have been because the shock hadn't worn off yet. Leonard was beginning to be a jerk, but that wasn't exactly a shock; he'd always seemed to have some kind of entitlement complex, and hadn't been very happy when she'd agreed to go with Sheldon to the Gala in the first place. On a more personal note, they'd spent the entire day together without him completely insulting her and without her needing to go junior rodeo on his ass. She'd got in an unannounced kiss and he hadn't panicked or ran away. That was certainly something. She'd been a little scared to do it, but she didn't want to just tell the guys they were dating (after all, would they really believe her without any proof?), so she'd taken the leap of faith, and Sheldon had done his part just fine (though she was going to have to get him to start kissing back soon, she was still a big ol' five after all). All in all, it had been a wonderful first day of dating, given who it was she'd decided to date.

Monday morning she snuck over to the boys apartment to eat breakfast, since she'd ran out of milk Saturday morning, and hadn't made it to the grocery store yet. She'd managed to eat half of her (his) cereal (she wasn't 100% what his breakfast schedule was yet, so she didn't risk trying to make him anything) before he woke up, and when she heard Leonard stirring ten minutes later she quickly gave Sheldon a peck on the lips and rushed out, leaving Sheldon her empty bowl to clean up (it isn't like he isn't going to clean it himself again after I leave anyway, she argued to herself). She really didn't want to have deal with Leonard's jealousy issues this morning.

Back in 4A, Leonard had grumpily stalked into the kitchen, thinking he'd heard a female voice. When he didn't see her, he turned savagely on the empty cereal bowl. "I thought you ate oatmeal on Mondays," he growled.

"I do," replied Sheldon calmly, getting his oatmeal out of the microwave. "That's Penny's bowl. She just left in quite the hurry, must have been late for something." Having been tolerated at best by Leonard (and everyone else, except Penny) his whole life, Sheldon assumed his roommate's foul mood was just another phase, and thought nothing of it.

Between Penny's shift at the Cheesecake Factory Monday night, having finally gone to the grocery store Monday morning, and Sheldon and Leonard's own work schedules, they didn't see each other again until Tuesday evening. Penny was slightly concerned that her and Sheldon's new relationship might affect the guys willingness to continue with the Tuesday Cheesecake Factory routine, but at six o'clock she saw all four of them walk in; apparently routine outweighed jealousy and shock. Leonard was slightly sulkier than normal, but Raj and Howard had seemed to have recovered from their initial shock. Penny practically skipped over to take their order, even though she already knew what they were going to order; the entire staff knew what they were going to order, for crying out loud; hell, there were probably a few other Tuesday evening regulars that knew what they were going to order.

"So, same as usual?" she asked cheerfully, resting her hand on Sheldon's shoulder. Two affirmatives, a grumble that sounded close to 'yes', and a silent nod later, she whisked back to the kitchen to grab their drinks that would already be waiting for her, but not before lightly brushing Sheldon's hair as she left.

When she got back to the apartment after her shift, she decided to stop by the boys apartment. She was starving, but she wanted to say hi to Sheldon first, and see how his day had been. It'd been almost two days since she'd really got to talk to him.

When she entered (without bothering to knock, of course), she saw Sheldon pacing back and forth between his laptop and three whiteboards he'd set up (one of which looked suspiciously like it had previously contained Leonard's equations, that had been sloppily erased). When she closed the door behind her, with just enough noise to let him know she was there, but hopefully not enough to startle him, he looked up.

"Oh hi, Penny. I was hoping you were going to come by. I made the guys stop and pick up Chinese for you on our way home from the Cheesecake Factory. It's in the fridge," he said, pointing back over his shoulders towards the kitchen, and resuming his pacing. "I'm afraid there isn't any alcohol to go with it, though."

After standing frozen in shock for a few seconds, Penny rushed over to Sheldon and engulfed him in a hug. "Aw, thank you, sweetie! That's really sweet of you!"

A minute later she was comfily situated in her spot on the couch, eating the supper Sheldon had thought to get for her, and watching her tall genius pace back and forth, occasionally writing on one of the boards or flipping tabs on his computer. About halfway through her supper, she finally broke the silence.

"Moonpie, come take a break for a second," she said, patting the cushion next her. "I know you're busy, but just take two seconds to sit down and say hi."

"I already said hi when you walked in, and it would take longer than two seconds to walk over there, sit down, say 'hi', and get back up again," he argued, pausing to look at her. Penny's eye-roll while he was talking turned into a cocked eyebrow, and he grumblingly made his way over to his spot and sat down.

"So how was work today, other than whatever this is that's got you all in a tizzy," she asked waving her chopsticks in the general direction of his boards, before stuffing her mouth with a large bite of Chinese.

"Penny, my work is far too complicated to explain to you, and besides, this," he waved towards his boards, "is what I worked on all day."

"I'm sorry to hear that, sweetie," she replied with her mouth still partially full of food.

He turned away with a shudder, before saying, "And I suppose that I'm now supposed to ask how your day went."

"Aw, thanks for asking," she replied chipperly, even though he hadn't actually asked. "It was okay, a few annoying customers, but mostly rather pleasant. And a decent amount of tips. Plus, I got to see my favorite customers," smiling up at him brightly. "I might be—" she began, but at that moment Sheldon leaped up from the couch and rushed to the whiteboards, and began scribbling furiously.

Penny watched in surprise as equations and symbols filled the board. She'd never really seen him work before, and it was really quite impressive. She didn't have a clue what anything meant, but seeing him so immersed in his work made her happy. By the time she'd finished the rest of her supper, he'd finished whatever it was he was working on, and turned to her with a glow on his face.

"So, I take it you figured out whatever it was that was puzzling you?" Penny asked him, unable to keep a smile off her face.

"Yes, I did," he replied succinctly, before walking over and closing the lid on his laptop.

"So where's Leonard tonight, anyway? I thought he'd be here, but I haven't seen or heard him."

"I believe he, with Howard and Raj, decided 'hit some bars', as they put it."

"On a Tuesday? They must really be desperate. Well, I have to go, but tomorrow's comic book store night, right? Want me to drive you?"

"That would be acceptable. Are you coming over for supper beforehand?"

"Of course. Wouldn't miss it for the world." And with that she gave him a kiss, before leaving. As she walked back across the hall to her room, she could have almost sworn his lips had moved ever so slightly while she kissed him.

Perhaps he's slowly learning after all.

Chapter Text

The following evening, when she returned from her afternoon shift, she headed straight for 4A, not bothering to stop by her apartment to change. It had been a long shift, and she just wanted to collapse into a puddle of nothing for a while. She knew Sheldon would be wanting to go to the comic book store soon, and that she'd have to change before they went, but at that moment she really didn't care.

Opening the door without knocking, she walked in and collapsed in her spot on the couch; or rather, sprawled out, taking up all of her spot, half of Sheldon's spot, and part of the spot to the other side of her. She looked around, and noticed that none of the guys were there. A few seconds later Sheldon walked out of his bedroom and into the living room. He stopped and looked at her, and she stared back at him, daring him to comment about her being partly in her spot. After a long moment, that would have been awkward if Penny wasn't so tired and Sheldon wasn't so Sheldon, he finally broke the silence.

"Hi Penny. You look tired."

Gee, really? Surely not.

"Hi Sheldon. Long day at work. Where is everyone? I thought they'd be here for supper by now."

"They went to eat at an unapproved restaurant when I told them I was going to the comic book store with you. I guess they assumed we would eat together, too."

Penny groaned, and somehow managed to sink further into the couch. Sheldon continued to just stand there and look at her, as Penny continued her rather accurate imitation of an immovable blob. He finally said, "Perhaps you would rather I cook something than get takeout Chinese?"

She looked up at him in surprise. "I thought Wednesday was always Chinese night. The last time the guys tried to get something else on a Wednesday…"

She could see the internal struggle of his mind for a few moments, before he mumbled, "Yes, well… Perhaps this one time 'Anything-can-happen Thursday' could be 'Anything-can-happen Wednesday'." Though obviously tomorrow would no longer be 'Anything-can-happen Thursday'," he finished in a more normal voice.

Obviously, Penny thought to herself. "You would do that for me?"

"As you do not currently seem to be in condition to drive to pick us up Chinese, yes. Though I do expect you to be in condition after supper to drive me to the comic book store."

And, there's the Sheldon we all know.

But Sheldon cooking supper did sound good, and if he was as good at cooking as he was at everything else that didn't involve being social, then she probably would be 'fit to drive' as Sheldon would say by the time supper was over.

By the time these thoughts finished their rounds in her mind and she looked back at Sheldon, he was already in the kitchen setting out pans. Penny had always enjoyed watching Sheldon while he worked, and this was no different. Since he didn't appear as if he needed any help, and would probably tell her she was doing everything wrong if she did try to help, she was content to continue impersonating a couch cushion, and just watch him.

Next thing she knew, a hand was lightly tapping her on her shoulder. She blinked a few times, realizing she had apparently fallen asleep watching Sheldon cook. And not just fallen asleep, but fallen asleep in his spot, she now realized. Which made the words slowly reaching her brain make more sense; "Penny, if you would be so kind as to remove your head from my spot, I have supper for you," he was saying, holding his own plate in one hand and pointing to hers sitting on the table in front of her spot with the one that had just been tapping her on the shoulder.

"Oh, of course," she replied, straightening up, finally having fully woken up and realized what was going on. "Thank you, sweetie," she said, grabbing her plate as he sat down next to her.

After supper, Sheldon grabbed their plates and proceeded to the kitchen to clean them. The home cooked meal had done even better than she could have imagined to pep her back up again. "Sweetie, I'm going to go across the hall to change into something more appropriate. I'll be back in five minutes to drive you to the comic book store."

By the time she got back (more than 300 seconds later, she knew), Sheldon had cleaned up all the plates and dishes, and was sitting in his chair at his desk, messenger bag over his shoulder, staring at the door waiting for her.

"Ready?" she said as she opened the door and saw him sitting there.

"Of course I'm ready. I've been ready for the past two minutes and thirty-eight seconds."

Well, she wasn't as late as she thought she probably was. Some of Sheldon's timeliness must be wearing off on her after all this time.

As they got out of the car at the comic book store and walked to the door, they saw the other three guys walking out of the store.

"You're late. What happen, your girlfriend mess up your finally tuned schedule?" smirked Leonard.

"As a matter of fact, my dinner schedule was thrown off kilter by my girlfriend. It took longer to make her supper than getting takeout does. But it did make for a decent 'Anything-can-happen Wednesday'," he concluded, brushing past Leonard and walking into the store.

"Yeah, I think 'Anything-can-happen Thursday' is off," Penny said with a fake sympathetic smile and pat on Leonard's shoulder, before following Sheldon into the store.

Leonard stared at her retreating back, mouth agape. He had lived with Sheldon for over seven years, and never once had convinced Sheldon to move 'Anything-can-happen' to a day other than Thursday; and once a month only. Hell, it had been an all out fight just to get 'Anything-can-happen-Thursday' into the schedule. And now Penny gets him to change it with seemingly no ill will, four days after they somehow started dating. He didn't even want to think about all the other times she'd successfully disrupted his schedule since she'd moved in across the hall two years ago.

As Sheldon opened the door to the store, Penny looped her arm in Sheldon's. While Sheldon might not care if everyone else in there was jealous of him for having a hot girlfriend, that didn't mean she couldn't enjoy making everyone jealous of him. So she made sure to keep her arm around his as he walked through the store, and occasionally 'accidentally' bump into him. She knew he didn't like her touching him, but he did a good job of not showing it. Sure enough, every head in the store was soon surreptitiously glancing at them.

"I assume you are hanging on my arm like a monkey in an attempt to elicit jealousy out of all the other males here?" he said quietly, without looking at her, as he perused the latest issue of Black Widow.

How does he even know what that is?

"Well, yes. You're clearly not going to flaunt me around, so someone's got to flaunt the fact that you landed a hottie like me," she replied in her most sultry voice, smiling up at him.

"Very well, if you insist," he said in a bored voice as he put down the comic he was looking at and picked up another one.

He really is the only nerd in the universe who could be dating the hottest chick in town and not try to show her off like a trophy. Then again, it is nice to have a boyfriend that doesn't just care about my looks and the sex.

When they got to the cash register to check out, Stuart asked her, "Did you or Sheldon lose a bet to the guys and have to pretend you're a couple?"

"Of course not! Sheldon and I are dating. For real," Penny added, in response to Stuart's raised eyebrow. And to prove it she stretched up on her tiptoes and gave him a soft kiss on his lips.

While Stuart still had his doubts (Sheldon? Dating anyone, let alone Penny?!), the fact Sheldon hadn't panicked or otherwise ran away screaming about germs was pretty damning evidence. Especially when Sheldon wrapped his arm around her waist as they walked out of the store.

Stuart watched them walk through the parking lot to Penny's car, where Sheldon took his customary seat on the passenger side, and Penny got in on the driver's side.

"Well, at least some things never change."

Chapter Text

Thursday afternoon, Penny arrived home from her lunch shift. She knew Sheldon was still at work for another hour or so, so she was in no hurry to get up to her (or his) apartment. As she strolled up to the entrance to their apartment building, she saw a little ball of fur next to the bench, mewing. She immediately hurried over to it.

"Oh, look at you poor thing!" she said as she picked it up and sat down on the bench. Softly stroking it, she looked for a tag, or some kind of identification. Finding none, she proceeded to carefully check the little ball of fur for any injuries. Thankfully, she found none. As she continued to cuddle and pet him, he slowly stopped his mewing, and a soft purr took its place.

After a few minutes, she realized she was in kind of a pickle. She had this poor, innocent kitty sleeping in her arms, and no idea who's it was. And even if she did, she wasn't sure she'd want to give it up. But that meant she now had a cat to take care of. But then again, she hadn't had a cat since she'd moved from Nebraska, and she really was falling in love with the adorable little thing. She glanced around to see if she saw a mother cat anywhere, but not seeing one, she came to the conclusion that someone (a very mean someone) had probably dumped her. At this thought, she immediately decided to adopt the poor thing.

The problem was, she didn't exactly have the cash flow at the moment to take in a stray. Especially one that drank milk, which she never had around. As she walked up the stairs, a fabulous idea came to her; all she had to do was convince Sheldon to adopt the poor little kitty, and then she could play with it whenever she wanted. But how to get Sheldon to adopt it?

When she reached the fourth floor, her legs carried her to 4A, and she found herself unlocking her neighbors door. She dropped the kitten off in Sheldon's spot, and headed to the kitchen to get some milk and a saucer. Filling the saucer, she carried it back to the couch, and setting it on the table, she moved the fuzzball from Sheldon's spot over to the table, and then sat down in her own spot.

The kitty immediately started lapping up the milk, as if it were half starved (which it very likely was, she reminded herself). Looking around, hoping to see something that would spark an idea for how to get Sheldon to willingly take in the kitten, her eyes fell on his bedroom door.

Sheldon Cooper, PhD (x2) had had a very annoying day. His schedule had been messed up several times, and all he wanted was to get home, and finally be able to relax in the set schedule that was Thursday evening. As he climbed the stairs to his apartment, he mentally thanked Penny for forcing him to change 'Anything-Can-Happen' to yesterday. No possible surprises to further mess up his day.

He unlocked the door to his apartment, and headed to his bedroom to put away his messenger bag. When he opened his bedroom door, he quickly realized his Thursday evening was not going to be quite the predictable schedule he had desperately been expecting. Seconds later, he blew past Leonard, who had just made it into the apartment.

For a brief moment Leonard thought Sheldon had been carrying something, something soft and fuzzy. But then he shook his head; I must have been hallucinating. It almost looked like kitten.

Slam! Slam! Slam!
Slam! Slam! Slam!
Slam! Slam! Slam!

"Yes?" she asked as she opened her door, smiling up at him innocently.

"What was this doing on my bed?" he demanded, holding out his hand.

Looking down with a look of fake curiosity, her eyes popped open for real. She knew he had large hands, he was over six feet tall after all, but she was still taken aback by the sight of the kitten curled up in the palm of his hand, his hand slightly cupped and his long fingers lightly curled around it to keep it from falling. The sight was too adorable for words.

"Why did you put a kitten on my bed?" he asked again, as Penny continued to stare at the kitten.

Her brain finally unsticking, she reached out with one hand to stroke the sleeping kitty, and looked up at Sheldon. She thought about saying 'How did you know it was me?', but didn't really want his lecture on how she could be the only possible person who put it there. "I found the poor thing abandoned outside our apartment building when I got home from work this afternoon."

"That might explain why you have a kitten in your apartment, or even why you have a kitten in your lap sitting in your spot on my couch, but not why I found a kitten on my bed. Especially since no one is allowed in my bedroom, kittens included."

"Well," she said sheepishly, looking down at the floor, "I was kind of hoping you might take him in. I don't exactly have a lot of spare money right now to take care of a cat, so I thought maybe if you adopted him, and then I could come over and play with him," a pleading look in her eyes. "And look, he really likes you!" she finished, pointing at the now purring fluffball asleep in Sheldon's hand.

"If it's a matter of financial instability, then why didn't you just ask me to help pay for it's upkeep?"

"Because I always feel bad about asking you for money," she replied embarrassingly, looking back down at her feet and shifting her weight.

"Is that why you steal our food, our wifi, our cable, and generally anything else you can scrounge, instead of asking for help?"

Why did he have to be so darn observant?

"Yeah, kind of," she mumbled, still not looking up from the floor.

Sheldon didn't say anything for a few seconds. "We probably have time for a quest before Howard arrives with supper, if you'd like," he finally said, before turning on his heels and walking back into his apartment, leaving the door open behind him.

That was an abrupt change of subject, she thought to herself. But then again, this is Sheldon, he probably doesn't know how he is supposed to respond, so he just changed the subject. But she ran into her room to grab her laptop and followed after him anyway; a quick quest would at least take her mind off the fact she didn't have enough money to spare for a kitten.

Unbeknownst to her, as Sheldon sat down in his spot, he had sent a quick text to Howard.

When Penny walked in, Sheldon was already sitting in his spot, Age of Conan booted up, headset on, ready to start. She quickly followed suit, sitting down in her spot next to him. It wasn't until she was ready to start and looked over at him to tell him so that she realized he had the kitten curled up in his lap.

Forty-five minutes and two quests later, Howard came in with the food. Sheldon and Penny quickly closed their laptops and put them on the table. Sheldon then unexpectedly dropped the kitten into Penny's lap (from about six inches above her lap).

"Sheldon! Don't drop the kitty, you'll break him," she admonished.

He grumbled something about too close and how you couldn't 'break' a kitten by dropping it a measly six inches as he walked into the kitchen to wash his hands before eating supper. At the word 'kitty', the other three guys' heads jerked towards Penny so quickly she was surprised they didn't get whiplash.

"His name is 'Quark'," she said proudly, holding up the kitten. "I found him outside the building this afternoon when I got back from work." By this point, Sheldon had finished washing his hands, and walked back over to the couch with two drinks in his hands. Setting them down on the table, he sat down in his spot and picked up his pasta. Watching her pet Quark for a few seconds, whom she had set back down in her lap, he finally said in an undertone that only she could hear, "I'm not feeding you," before tucking into his food.

It took Penny a few seconds to realize what he was implying, but when she did, she chuckled softly, and picked up her own food. "That's okay," she replied quietly, "I think Quark can survive without petting for a few minutes."

The other three had finally overcome their shock enough to start eating their own food.

"So," said Leonard after a couple of minutes, "You're keeping a cat in your apartment now?"

"Oh, no. Sheldon's keeping him over here. He might get lost in all my mess if I keep him at my place," Penny replied cheerfully.

Leonard almost choked. After he finally stopped coughing, he said, "Here? Sheldon's keeping him?" He turned on Sheldon. "You never let me get a cat!"

"You're not Penny, and Penny didn't get him because she was sulking after a breakup. Anyways, once the kitten either grows to a sufficient size that it is no longer at risk of getting lost in all her mess, or she finally cleans up her apartment, Quark will be able to move in with her. If you got a cat, it would be here forever."

Penny was pretty sure 'no longer at risk of getting lost' and 'clean up her apartment' were code for 'get enough money to support a cat', but being Sheldon, she couldn't quite be sure. It could easily be a combination of both.

Leonard continued to grumble to himself, something about "of course Penny gets whatever she wants", but Howard and Raj were taking a much happier view of things. Or at least Penny thought Raj was, it was kind of hard to tell what exactly he was thinking, not being able to speak at all, but he was at least smiling. As for Howard, he was going through an extensive list of 'pussy' jokes so quickly that Penny was actually slightly impressed by the fact he both had that many jokes (okay, that was mostly disturbing, but still slightly impressive in a disturbing kind of way) and was able to remember and say them all in a constant steady stream.

When he finally stopped, she looked at him and said, "Get 'em all out of your system?"

Howard nodded, slightly out of breath.

"Good," she said smiling at him tightly. "Never do that again."

As soon as supper was finished, the weekly trouncing of Team Perpetual-Motion Squad by Team Sheldor-Queen P began. Better known as Halo night.

After solidly getting trounced yet again (with liberal amounts of grumbling about how couples should not be allowed to play together, and counter-arguments about how it's two against three and if they still can't win then they're getting what they deserve, and counter-counter-arguments about extra practice Age of Conan questing, and counter-counter-counter-arguments (that really no longer qualified as 'arguments') about some people just sucking at Halo and that they should grow up and stop being wimps (only the word 'wimps' wasn't used)), Howard and Raj eventually had had enough, and called it a night.

Leonard agreed to take Sheldon to the grocery store (he needed more dairy-free milk, anyway, and no one else was going to get it for him) to get necessities for keeping the cat, while Penny stayed at the apartment and played with Quark. When they got back from the store, Leonard was fed up with Sheldon, and grabbing his milk-less milk, he stormed up to the apartment, quickly threw his lactose-free liquid into the fridge and retired to his room, leaving Sheldon to carry all the cat stuff up to the apartment by himself.

By the time Sheldon reached the apartment, Leonard was already sulking in his room. Sheldon quickly put everything up, before making a bottle of kitten food for Quark. He had noticed that Penny and Quark were nowhere to be found, so before heading over to Penny's apartment to find them, he quickly headed to his room to put away his coat.

When he reached the door, he saw that it was already open, and cautiously looked in. On his bed lay Quark, similar to how he had found him earlier in the day, and Penny, sprawled across half of his bed, sound asleep. When Sheldon flipped on the light and walked in, Quark woke up, and started mewing lightly. Penny remained sound asleep.

Sheldon carefully sat down on the other side of his bed, and scooped up Quark, bringing the bottle to Quark's mouth, who quickly began to drink. When he had finished the bottle, Sheldon gently set him down. He quickly scampered across the smooth comforter, and curled up next to Penny's stomach, instantly falling asleep.

Sheldon got up from the bed and walked back into the kitchen. As he cleaned Quark's bottle, Sheldon looked at the clock. He was in trouble. Or rather, Penny was in trouble. It was 15 minutes till his bedtime, and she was sleeping on his bed. Beside the obvious problem that she was in his bedroom in the first place, there was no way for him to be asleep on time unless she was out of his room in less than 15 minutes, and that did not seem particularly likely. He had already been very flexible with her that day, what with her introducing a infant feline into his life, the least she could do is respect his scheduled bedtime.

After he finished cleaning Quark's bottle and putting it up, he went back into his room. Gathering up his Thursday pajamas, he paused next to Penny's sprawled figure as he headed to the bathroom. Very gently, he poked her in the calf. She didn't even flinch, so he carefully prodded her a little bit harder; she stirred slightly, but stayed soundly asleep.

By this point, Sheldon was really starting to get worried. He hurried into the bathroom so that he would at least be ready for bed on time, even if he couldn't actually be in bed on time. Walking back out of the bathroom, he hoped she had magically disappeared while he was in the bathroom. But as he got to his door, he could tell that magic was just as much a bunch of hocus as he had always thought.

He tapped on her arm a few times, but she remained resolutely asleep.

Sheldon really didn't want to sleep on the couch; it was longer than Penny's, but it still offered horrendous lumbar support, and his back would be aching all day if he did. He briefly considered going to Penny's apartment and sleeping in her bed, but he didn't know when the last time she had washed her sheets was. After a brief moment's struggle, the fear of unwashed sheets overruled his need for personal space and fear of physical contact, and he very carefully slipped under the covers on the far side of the bed from where Penny lay sprawled out with Quark sleeping contentedly curled up against her. Sheldon made sure to stay as close to the edge as humanly possible, in order to maintain as much of a space gap between himself and Penny as possible. It took him nearly twice as long as normal to fall asleep, but eventually he did. His rigid, coffin-like sleeping style for once proving advantageous, as he didn't have to worry about accidentally rolling off the side of his bed (or rolling towards her, which would be even worse).

Around 04:00, Penny awoke, to find herself in an unfamiliar, yet not that unfamiliar bed. After a few seconds, she realized she had apparently fallen asleep on Sheldon's bed while playing with Quark, who was nestled up next to her. She could see Sheldon's rigid form on the far side of the bed, as was surprised he hadn't fallen off, as close as he must be to the edge. Knowing that Sheldon did not approve of her being there, she very carefully shifted Quark over next to Sheldon, and got off the bed. As quietly as possible, she left his room, making sure to shut the door back behind her, and headed across the hall to her own apartment.

Despite having the evening shift that day, Penny awoke early, and headed back across the hall for breakfast. Normally she would have just rolled over and went back to sleep, but she wanted to see Quark, and she felt bad about making Sheldon sleep next to her, and wanted to make sure he was okay.

She had just poured her first cup of coffee when she heard a soft mewing and saw the ball of fur padding across the floor towards her, soon followed by a still yawning Sheldon. After a succinct "Good morning", he set to making Quark her breakfast bottle. As Penny watched him, she stuck a bagel in the toaster, and grabbed the peanut butter out of it's spot in the cabinet. By the time Sheldon finished making Quark's bottle, Penny had sat down on of the island chairs. She reached down and scooped Quark up.

"Here you go," she said, holding her hand out, "let me feed him while you make your breakfast."

So Sheldon handed Penny the bottle, and proceeded to prepare his own bagel. He had just sat down on the chair next to Penny with his bagel and morning tea, when Leonard wandered in, looking typically disheveled. He took one look at the couple, Penny feeding Quark with one hand, whilst feeding herself with the other, and Sheldon carefully sipping his tea, before turning towards the fridge so that he didn't have to look at them. They were looking far too domestic for his liking; Sheldon wasn't supposed to look domestic next to a girl, especially not someone as hot as Penny. And while it was just a kitten, if he let his mind stray slightly he knew where it would go, and that was way too much to think about this early in the morning. He grabbed a bowl out of the cabinet.

"Oh, by the way, Sheldon, thanks for not kicking me out of your room last night," Penny said nonchalantly as Leonard poured his bovine-free breakfast juice into his bowl.

Leonard nearly sloshed the entire thing onto the counter.

When Quark finished his bottle, and Penny finished her bagel, she carried him over to the couch, and sat down to play with him. As Sheldon began to clean his and Penny's plates, and Quark's bottle, Penny said, "I'm going to go take a shower real quick before you guys leave for work," picking up Quark and starting to put him in the spot next to her.

"Don't put him in my spot."

She looked up, to see Sheldon's back as he took something out of the cabinet. How on earth did he know?! Does he have eyes in the back of his head or something?! But she turned at put Quark down in her spot.

When Penny walked back across the hall, she hadn't even managed to close the door behind her before Sheldon went into lecture mode. Tuning him out, Penny picked up Quark from where he was still sleeping in her spot, and carried him over to where Sheldon was standing in the kitchen. Setting Quark down on the chair, she put her chin in her hands, and looked up at him expectantly. "You were saying?"

After glaring at her for a few seconds, he firmly put Quark's bottle down in front of her. "Give him one at eight, twelve, and four. The other two are in the fridge."

With a final glare, he headed around the bar to get his laptop in order to leave for work. But as he came around the bar, Penny grabbed his arm, gave him a quick peck on the lips, and let him go before he could even react. "Of course, Sweetie."

Just before twelve, Penny walked across the hall to 4B to get herself lunch before feeding Quark. She thought about stealing some of Sheldon's food, but considering how much he was already doing taking care of the cat she had adopted and then dumped on him, she figured she probably ought not. So she wandered into her kitchen, wondering what she might have. What she certainly knew she did not have was the four to-go containers that were neatly stacked on top of one another that she saw when she opened her fridge door. She looked at them carefully, before noticing the note on top:

Sheldon ordered these for you last night while Howard and I were picking up supper. They are safe to eat, Sheldon insisted I be the one to put them in your fridge (along with this note), as opposed to Howard. He did insist you eat them within three days (Sunday, 17:30), as even though they are somewhat sealed and put into the fridge hot, they will still grow mold over time (though seriously not that quickly, eat them within a week and you'll be fine. Just don't tell him I said that).


She gaped at the note for a whole minute, before finally shaking her head. Sheldon really did do the sweetest things sometimes, even if he was a complete Whack-a-Doodle the rest of the time. Grabbing one of the containers, she headed back across the hall.

Saturday morning, Sheldon woke up five minutes before his normal time, a small paw with sharp little claws bopping his nose. As soon as he awoke, he smelt coffee, the telltale sign that a certain neighbor was stealing his milk yet again.

"You're up earlier than normal," she said, glancing down at her watch, as he walked into the kitchen.

"Yes, well, this little guy hasn't learned my schedule yet, and he has informed me that he is hungry."

"Sheldon, honey, he's a cat. Cats tend to follow their own schedules. I don't think he's going to learn your schedule, no matter how many strikes you give him."

"Like a certain neighbor that lives across the hall?"

Okay, so she walked right into that one.

"Hardy, har, har. So when is Quark going to be old enough to start eating regular food? He drank milk out of bowl the afternoon I found him."

"He should be able to start eating solid food within a week or two. He might be able to now, but as malnourished as he was when you found him, it would be safest to continue feeding him cat milk for a while longer."

Sheldon then launched into a lecture about how actual cat milk would be best, but the store-bought formula he had gotten was close enough to make do, and Penny tuned him out and carefully took Quark from Sheldon and went over to the couch and began petting him. As Sheldon continued to ramble, he made Quark's milk for the day, and after putting the rest of the bottles in the fridge, he carried one over to the couch and handed it to Penny. While Penny fed Quark, Sheldon made breakfast. Minutes to spare before seven o'clock, Sheldon sat down in his spot on the couch, placed the plate of pancakes he'd made on the table, handed Penny one of the two empty plates he had, keeping the other for himself, and flipped on the tv to Classic Who.

"Oh, by the way, Sheldon," she said during the first advertisement break, "thanks for the extra pasta. You really didn't have to do that."

"You said you were running low on money, and Howard and Raj were already at the restaurant. It wasn't any inconvenience to anyone. And if you would let me look at your finances, I'm sure I could easily find a way to make you more financially solvent."

"That's really sweet of you, dear, but this is where you normally just say 'you're welcome'," she replied, lightly rubbing his arm.

"Oh. Well then, you're welcome." He paused for a few seconds, and then said, "I suppose this is where I should thank you for not staying in my room two nights ago."

"Of course, Moonpie!" she said, leaning over to hug him. He still slightly tensed up, but not as bad as he used to. "I know you don't like people in your room. I didn't mean to fall asleep, I was just putting Quark in there so he'd be there when you got back, and then I started playing with him and apparently was more tired than I thought, and, well, obviously fell asleep," she finished with a rush. "So when I woke up in the middle of the night, and realized I was in your bed…" she trailed off. Fortunately the show returned a few seconds later, and she didn't have to continue.

"Why didn't you wake me up, though?" she asked when the next advertisement came on.

"Believe me, I tried," replied Sheldon. "Several times, in fact, but you never woke up. I contemplated sleeping on the couch, but it doesn't supply enough lumber support, or sleeping in your bed since you were sleeping in mine, but I didn't know when the last time you washed your sheets was."

Penny was about to snap back that her sheets were plenty clean, but she knew that Sheldon probably considered sheets that she'd slept in once to be too unclean for him to sleep in, so she kept her mouth shut. They continued eating pancakes and watching the follies of Fourth Doctor in silence for a while. As the episode ended and the credits began, Penny broke the comfortable silence once more.

"You know, Sheldon, you're eventually going to have to get over your fear of physical contact. Just because I'm not pushing you, doesn't mean I'm not still a big ol' five."

"Have I not acquiesced to your continual touching of me and the highly unsanitary act of you putting your mouth on mine?" he replied, looking surprised and slightly offended. "I do believe I even 'kissed back' once, as you refer to it."

At that, Penny couldn't help but roll her eyes.

"Yes, Sheldon, you have definitely improved. But it has to keep moving forwards. And it can't just be a one way thing. I know things like getting me extra food, and taking over the main responsibilities for Quark are much more comfortable ways for you to show you care, but you're eventually going to have to take a more active roll in the physical side of the relationship."

"Oh." replied Sheldon in a way that made her wonder if perhaps he really had thought simply letting her be affectionate towards him was enough. After all, he hadn't ran away from any contact she had made, although she had thought that was mostly because she had been careful to take it slow. Perhaps he was more receptive to physical contact than she had thought, even if he did still tense up. At this thought, she placed her arm around his shoulders, and leaned her head against him. To her surprise, he very slightly turned his head, and very lightly and quickly pressed his lips against her hair before turning back to the tv, where the next episode had just started.