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The HVAC Insufficiency

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Knock, knock, knock. “Penny!”

Knock, knock, knock. “Penny!”

Knock, knock, knock. “Penny!”

Penny looked up from the sofa where she was sitting with separators inserted between her toes while her nail polish dried. She sighed and placed the celebrity gossip rag she had been reading on the seat beside her. If she didn’t answer the door, he would keep at it all night, and she would never get any peace. Rolling her eyes, she got to her feet and hobbled to the entrance of her apartment, trying her best not to smear the black and orange paint on her nails.

When she opened the door, Sheldon Cooper was standing there with a panicked look on his face. “I am cold,” he stated matter-of-factly.

Penny fixed him with a death glare. “So?” she asked, one hand on her hip.

“So?” he countered. “So?!” His voiced raised comically in pitch, and it was all she could do to keep a straight face. “I was sitting in my spot. And I. Was. Cold.” Sure enough, his teeth were chattering and he looked utterly miserable. “Clearly,” he continued as if what he were about to say next should be quite obvious, “there is something wrong with the HVAC system, and you need to fix it.”

Penny gawped at her annoying, yet oddly endearing neighbor. “What makes you think I can fix the air conditioning?” she queried incredulously.

“Well,” he said, averting his luminous blue eyes as he did often when speaking face-to-face with someone. “As I’ve told you before: you do have the largest man-hands I’ve ever seen on a girl.”

Penny stomped her foot and a foam toe separator shot into the hallway. “Really, Sheldon?”

Unaware of her sarcasm, he responded. “Why, yes. I really don’t know how you manage to handle the delicate instruments required to apply color to the cutaneous plates on your tarsals.”

“The what?”

He threw his arms out in exasperation. “Your toenails. Good lord, woman. Read a book.”

“I don’t know how to fix the AC,” she admitted. “But if you’d like me to, I will check the temperature in your apartment. If it seems off, we can call the super.”

“I’ve already tried that,” he whined pitifully. “But for some reason, every time I call, it goes right to voicemail.”

“Gee, I wonder why,” she muttered as she carefully picked her way over to the flat across the hall.

Upon entering, she didn’t notice even the slightest temperature difference. “Uh, Sheldon?”

Sheldon ran a hand distractedly through his short brown hair. “I know, I know. I would offer you a hot beverage, but it would probably fall to room temperature before I even handed it to you.”

“That isn’t what I was about to say,” she explained. “I was just going to tell you that it isn’t any colder in here than it is in the hallway. Or in my apartment for that matter.”

“That’s because you aren’t sitting in my spot,” he insisted, pointing at the brown cushion enthusiastically. “Normally, I would never let you desecrate it, but I suppose I will have to allow it this time. For science.”

“Oh, thank you,” she returned with more than a touch of snark.

He nodded curtly. “You’re welcome.”

She scooted over to the intersection of the sofa and the end table beside it and sat down. Frowning, she looked up at her friend. “Nope. Still not feeling it.”

Sheldon wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. “You’re right. It actually seems hotter in here now.”

Suddenly, a light bulb went on in Penny’s head. “Aw, Sheldon,” she purred sympathetically. “You have a fever.”

Sheldon’s eyes, which suddenly seemed brighter than usual, widened in dismay. “N-no, I don’t,” he stammered. “It’s the air vents.”

Quickly, removing the rest of the toe separators, she walked up to him and placed her large “man-hand” on his forehead. “You’re burning up!”

“Did you seriously just touch your feet and then touch me!?” he exclaimed in disgust. “Purell. Purell. Purell.”

Penny ignored his ramblings. “You need to go to bed,” she insisted, gesturing in the direction of his room. “Where’s Leonard anyway?”

“Out of t-town at a c-conference,” he explained, shivering violently.

“Then I guess it’s up to me to take care of you,” she said with a dramatic exhale of breath. “Come on, Sheldon.” She gave him a gentle shove, and he reluctantly made his way toward his bedroom.

Once he was tucked snugly under the covers, Penny asked, “Would you like me to make you a hot beverage?”

“But that’s all backwards,” he insisted. “You are the visitor. Therefore, I should be the one offering hot beverages.”

“Sheldon,” she began warningly.

“Chamomile tea, please,” he replied meekly. She half-expected him to bat his eyes at her, but he simply gazed at her pleadingly.

As soon as she came back with the tea, he said, “Now sing ‘Soft Kitty.’”

She couldn’t help smiling, despite her annoyance. “You’re really milking this, aren’t you?”

“Speaking of milk,” he drawled casually. “There isn’t any in this tea, is there? Milk is terrible for upper-respiratory infections. It thickens the mucus, you know.”

“Honey, no milk,” she agreed with a playful wink as she sat beside him on the bed. “Just the way you like it.”

He sighed in contentment sipping the lightly sweetened tea. “You really are the perfect woman.”

Penny smirked. “Now I know you’re delirious.”

“‘Soft Kitty,’” he insisted, sticking his lower lip out in an adorable pout.

As she sang him the ridiculous nursery song he loved, his eyelids began to droop. Still humming softly, she carefully removed the teacup from his hand and set it on the nightstand.

“I love you,” he murmured almost inaudibly as he drifted off to sleep.

Penny’s heart warmed toward the impossible yet surprisingly sweet man in the bed beside her. “I love you, too, you weirdo,” she whispered, planting a gentle kiss on his forehead.