It is Friday—vintage game night. The seven of them are ensconced in the living room of 4A in varying states of relaxation. Penny doesn’t always get Friday nights off, but it is still familiar enough; it has been five years since she moved in across the hall and she’s become a permanent fixture among this group since then. They’ve collected Bernadette and Amy over the years and Penny is sometimes amazed that she feels so at home with this hodgepodge group of scientists.
On the couch Sheldon is sitting primly in his spot, Amy next to him, and Raj on the end. Howard and Bernadette are sharing the chair. Penny is next to them in the wooden chair and Leonard has pulled his desk chair over near Raj. The take-out Chinese is long gone and the games are wrapping up. Penny had impressed everyone with her skill at PONG and they were still arguing over technicalities and cheating as Sheldon begins cleaning up.
Amy is the first to leave, citing a need to check on one of her monkeys before bed, and they all begin to say goodbye. Sheldon is walking her to the door and saying something quietly and brusquely. He pauses as he opens the door and Amy looks up at him in a mixture of hope and already sheltered disappointment. The remaining members of the group are watching them in barely veiled curiosity.
“Oh, Sheldon, just kiss her already!” Penny catcalls, unable to resist.
And Sheldon immediately tenses and straightens up fully. The look he throws at Penny surprises them all with its anger.
“I believe it is past the time for me to retire in order to obtain my optimal REM. Good evening, Amy Farrah Fowler.” He says blankly and turns on his heel and all but stalks back to his room.
After they watch him retreat, all five of them turn to stare at Penny. Amy seems stuck at the door, halfway between leaving and frozen.
“Well damn,” Penny breathes out. “What the hell was that?”
Leonard is still staring at Penny in shock, Raj is staring towards the hallway as if it holds answers to the universe, Howard and Bernadette are glancing between the two of them, and, going by the look on her face, Amy can’t seem to decide how she feels. Penny feels awful and blindsided.
“I’m sorry, Amy. I didn’t mean to make him… go all Sheldonny on you.” She finishes lamely, still shocked at his reaction. She and Sheldon had settled lately, she thought, into a comfortable friend zone.
Amy’s face looks resigned as she replies. “Don’t feel bad, bestie. I am beginning to believe that Sheldon and I have a divide between us that I am not sure can be overcome. Don’t let it ruin your beautiful and transcendent smile. Good night, everyone.”
As soon as Amy leaves it seems to break whatever spell is hanging over them all and Raj begins whispering furiously to Howard, Bernadette is looking at Penny with too much concentration to make her comfortable, and Leonard walks over to Penny and begins berating her.
“What was that, Penny?”
“I don’t know Leonard. I just… gah! Watching their relationship is painful sometimes and I just thought I’d give him a little encouragement.”
“Well, good job at that. You don’t have to live with him. He’s going to be so bitchy,” he says with a sigh.
“I’ll talk to him, I promise. I thought it would help, I’m sorry,” she responds lamely.
“I know,” he says quietly. “Their ‘relationship’ is too weird for me; I just try to ignore it.” He says, as if being helpful.
She heads across the hall after that and is too frustrated to sleep. The bottle of wine on her counter calls her name but she stomps around for a bit and does some cleaning, trying to figure out why she feels so out of sorts. Among her old friends, that comment would hardly have even been noticed, yet alone been an issue. Sometimes she still doesn’t quite get Sheldon, despite the frankly ridiculous amount of time they’ve spent together.
It is something that brings her up short, thinking of the percentage of the last five years that she has probably spent with him. Sure, they’re together as a group a lot of the time, and she and Leonard had done their stint at dating, but really, she’s spent more time with Sheldon than any of them. And she suddenly can’t seem to reconcile that in her mind. It is with that thought heavy in her mind that she finally gives in and drags herself to bed, more tired and worn out than 11:00 on a Friday should warrant.
She wakes up in the morning feeling hung-over, which is completely unfair as she hadn’t had anything to drink the night before. The ache in her body leaves her with the impression that she didn’t sleep well, tossing and turning. And it is eight o’clock on a Saturday and she can’t fathom why she is awake. After fifteen minutes of trying to fall back asleep she gives up and climbs into the shower.
Knowing she needs to deal with Sheldon and the situation she’d created the night before, she pours herself a big cup of coffee and drinks half of it before she heads across the hall. The door is unlocked as always and she knocks even as she is opening it. Leonard is nowhere in sight but Sheldon is at his desk, typing away on his computer.
“Sheldon, can we talk?” She asks as she approaches him, taking another drink from her coffee to brace herself.
“Well of course we can, Penny. I believe, however, that you may be attempting to ask if we may talk. And, if so, proceed.”
She sighs. Sometimes talking to him is like riding on that spinning contraption at the county fair back in Nebraska as a child—it makes her sick and dizzy but also happy. And very confused.
“I just want to apologize for last night.”
“And what exactly, may I ask, are you apologizing for?”
“Well… my comment about kissing Amy obviously upset you, and I didn’t mean for it to do that, so I’m sorry. Your guys’ relationship isn’t my business so I should have stayed out of it.”
“Yes, you should have. Your apology is accepted. Thank you.” He says shortly, and immediately turns back to his computer and whatever complex document he is working on, effectively blocking her out. She leaves with a sigh, unwilling to force the issue more than she obviously already has.
It is two days later and Penny, despite having apologized to Sheldon and him having accepted it with equal aplomb, is still walking slightly on eggshells around him. Something shifted in their dynamic that night and she can’t quite identify it. It isn’t negative per se, but she still feels like something is different.
Tired after a day filled with making a full order of Penny Blossoms that morning, an audition, and a shift at The Cheesecake Factory, she heads across the hall to unwind before she calls it a night and crawls into bed. She isn’t sure where everyone else is, but it turns out to be just her and Sheldon on the couch, watching Doctor Who reruns.
Halfway through the current episode (series 2, episode 7—one of Penny’s favorites, but she isn’t about to tell Sheldon that, he’ll never play it again probably; he still doesn’t seem aware that she’s actually grown to like the show) Sheldon suddenly presses pause on the remote and turns towards Penny. She’s startled. Sheldon never pauses Doctor Who.
“Do you think I’m leading her on?”
“I’m gonna need some context here, MoonPie.”
“Penny, don’t call me MoonPie. You know my stated feelings and regulations on that. And you pushed this issue so I am placing blame solely on you for this ensuing conversation. Amy Farrah Fowler.” He stops with a sigh. “I don’t see myself ever desiring physical touches from her and I am decidedly uninterested in coitus. Am I being unfair to her?” And he annunciates the last sentence slowly and succinctly.
“Oh, sweetie. Really? You don’t feel anything for her?”
“Not in that sense. She is highly intelligent, and not at all bothersome to be around, usually. She doesn’t always respect my work and isn’t as fun or challenging as you, but it balances out. However, I am lead to believe, by both you and the rest of the world, that romantic relationships require physical closeness as well as intellectual.”
“You know Sheldon, there’s a reason the phrase ‘no, means no’ came into play. You don’t have to do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing. But I think you need to be honest with Amy. If you truly don’t see yourself headed that way, she needs to be able to make an informed decision. I don’t think you’re being mean, but I do think you need to talk to her. Are you even happy?”
“I am not unhappy,” he responds stiffly.
“Sheldon, sweetie. That’s not the point in life. You deserve to be happy.”
“Really? I think most of our acquaintances would disagree with you.”
“Yeah, well they’re all asses.” She says darkly. She loves her boys and their group, she does, but they aren’t always the best friends one could ask for. They’re all just a little too clueless and a little too unsure sometimes, the sad side effect of always being the odd ones out. She tries to balance it out with her social understanding, but can’t carry all the weight.
His breathy laugh comes out and then turns r a genuine smile. “Thank you, Penny, for your undeniable show of support.”
She whacks him lightly on the arm. “I just want you to be happy.”
He pauses for a moment, obviously choosing carefully what he is about to say. “That is harder than I'd anticipated in this world so overly dominated by sexuality. Everyone seems to see sexual congress as their end game and since I do not it automatically sets me apart. I had thought simply having my work and its results would be enough, but some days I am no longer sure of that.”
“Oh, sweetie. I won't say I understand it, ‘cause I don't, you know I’m a big ‘ol five, but I respect you and, somehow, over the years, you've become my best friend, if you can believe that. And your work is amazing and important, that should mean something!”
“Well of course, Penny. Our friendship contract was updated to stipulate our change in status almost two years ago,” he says as if she is slow.
“Really? We have a friendship contract? Did I sign it?”
He falters slightly but then smiles his bazinga smile, “You did. You may have been otherwise engaged, and possibly intoxicated, at the time however.”
“Oh my god, Sheldon. What did I sign away?”
“Nothing too serious.” He replies with yet another smile. “Though you are required to take me with you to Switzerland, should you ever happen upon going. And you are supposed to clean your apartment at least twice a month, but I’m not sure you’ve been holding up that end of the bargain. You have been doing well with your driving requirements though.”
She whacks him again. “Kind of hard to follow through on something I wasn’t aware of.”
“I’ll email you the digital copy.”
Her life was crazy she decided with a smile as he pressed play and the episode resumed. Maybe not as crazy as Rose’s, but it was still incredibly different from what she’d imagined when she’d moved out here over eight years ago. She is happy though, she realizes, for the most part. Maybe acting isn’t panning out quite as well as she’d thought, or hoped, but she has a set of friends she loves and she isn’t struggling quite as much as she used to.
Two days later she receives a call from Amy.
“Sheldon and I have terminated our relationship agreement,” She announces without preamble after Penny greets her.
“Oh, sweetie. I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
“I am slightly unsure of what your questions covers, bestie, but I am not overly distraught in regards to the termination if that is what you are attempting to ascertain. I had hoped Sheldon would be ‘the one’, but it was becoming painfully obvious to both of us, that, despite our intellectual compatibility, we were not otherwise compatible. We’ve agreed to give each other some space and then resume our relationship under the previous friendship paradigm.”
“I’m sorry, Amy. I want you both to be happy, you know that, right? Do you want me to come over?”
“No, that is not necessary. Though I would possibly be interested in a ‘girl’s night’ as you call them this weekend.”
“Of course. I’ll call Bernadette and we’ll plan something.”
After she hangs up with Amy she hesitates for only a moment before heading across the hall. She knocks and calls out his name before she even has the door all the way open—thankfully he is used to it after all this time, though a sigh does still escape his lips.
“Hello, Penny. Do come in.” He states sarcastically.
She can’t help but smile as she goes to sit next to him on the couch. And if she sits slightly closer to him than normal, she chalks it up to wanting to offer a small bit of comfort. She opens her mouth to say something, but suddenly can’t think of what exactly should be said.
“Have you suffered some kind of selective muteism similar to Rajesh’s?” He asks her as he glances away from whatever public television special he is watching. There is something on it about black holes, and she is pretty sure she’s watched it with him before.
“No. I. I just got off the phone with Amy,” she says lamely.
“Ahh. Have you come to yell at me?” He asks.
“What?! No! Why would I yell at you? Should I yell at you?” She asks, confused. Amy hadn’t seemed upset, which Penny thought was odd, but their relationship had always been odd so she didn’t think much of it.
He looks uncomfortable for a moment. “You are Amy’s self-proclaimed ‘bestie’, so I was unsure of protocol between us now.”
“Sweetie. Amy is my friend, but you are my best friend. And she didn’t seem tragically scorned. In fact, she hardly commented on why. I just didn’t know how you were doing or if you maybe needed someone to talk to.”
“I am not upset exactly. I spent a large part of the last few days going over the conversation you and I had in regards to the situation I had found myself in with Amy.”
“Oh, god,” Penny breathes out. Had she broken the two of them up?
“Please don’t, Penny. Your words helped me to approach Amy and we had a discussion about what we were both hoping to get out of our relationship. It became glaringly obvious that we were on very different wavelengths. Neither of us wanted to hurt the other and we decided it was best if we terminated the additional aspects of our relationship and resumed it under our initial friendship agreement.”
“And you’re okay?”
“It was not the most pleasant conversation of my life, but I think, in the end, it will be for the better. I no longer feel the daunting pressure to make her happy through means that make me decidedly uncomfortable.”
She wants to say or do something to make him feel better but isn’t sure what. More aware than ever about his issues with physical overtures, she hesitates before she lightly pats his knee. He startles, but only slightly.
“There, there,” she says with a smile. His breathy laugh comes out and, while he moves his leg slightly away, he doesn’t chastise her, and she feels better.
And somehow almost three more years seemed to pass Penny by and now she is about to turn thirty. The idea is more daunting than she had thought it would be. She’s been at 2311 N. Los Roblos Avenue for almost eight years now. And while things are similar, other parts have changed over the years, both slowly and quickly.
Howard and Bernadette had married. Leonard had moved away and come back twice. The way his current relationship was going, Penny had a feeling he’d be moving out again soon. She loved Lauren though and was glad they’d found each other. Amy was still a part of their group and she and Sheldon had settled into an amicable friendship after the breakup. Raj had finally been able to talk to women, though he’d not been able to keep any of the women he’d dated around for very long. It was nice to be able to talk to him regularly though, when he wasn’t drunk and insulting.
She’d finally landed some acting jobs, one steady one and enough on-and-off again ones that she was no longer at The Cheesecake Factory. She supplemented the acting by working in a boutique where she sold Penny Blossoms as well as sometimes worked the counter. The guys were still all at Caltech, and while their routines were still somewhat there, they were all more flexible as their lives had changed, even Sheldon to some degree. It was usually him and Penny most days, and over the course of the years she wasn’t always sure what to think of that exactly. They were self-confessed best friends though. She’d dated off and on over the years, but more and more lately, it was more for the sex than the companionship. And it made her feel old and tired when she thought about it, so she generally tried not to.
Looking back on it, they’d all come pretty far in those years, and in the time moved both closer and further apart from each other. It was sad but expected as they all settled into more adult roles in their lives.
“Oh, hello, Penny,” Sheldon intones as she throws the door to 4A open. “Are you not partaking in the routine debauchery of 'Anything Can Happen Thursday'?”
She sighs and flops down onto the couch in “her spot”. The guys still held to that once a month ritual, though it had become more of a group night than anything else, now that they each have such separate lives and aren’t always together as frequently as before. And Sheldon actually joins them sometimes these days.
“Am I pathetic, Sheldon?” She asks morosely.
“In what context, Penny? I could quite easily say that in regards to your knowledge of physics but not exclusively to your knowledge of human emotions and the such.”
Penny laughs, she can't stop herself.
“I’m almost thirty, Sheldon.”
“Is that supposed to mean something? I’ve been thirty for a few years now, you realize. Did I miss some remarkable passage that I should have participated in?”
“No, sweetie. Just feeling sorry for myself I guess. Thought I’d be married and settled down by now.”
“Have you not successfully engaged in coitus lately, Penny? You know that makes you irritable.”
“Sheldon!” She exclaims, mortified and amused all at once.
“What? I thought we’d established this quite a few years ago?”
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean you need to bring it up. And, no, I haven’t, not that it is any of your business.”
“Of course it’s my business, Penny. Your emotional state varies directly in relation to that, and as we spend the majority of our time together, that means I suffer the consequences.”
“You suffer the consequences?”
“Must your voice be at that decibel right now?”
She sighs. God, but he’s infuriating some times.
“I was trying to wallow in a bit of self-pity here, Sheldon.”
“Well you came to the wrong person. And I thought you were happy? When did this change? I’ve not noticed any change in your frequency of work. And you’ve been smiling at your usual rate and consuming your usual number of calories. It is also at least three days too early for your cycle.”
She sighs, yet again. Sometimes being friends with Sheldon is hard. He just doesn’t understand some things, though he tries. “I am happy, Sheldon. I just realized that I am happy in a very different way than I pictured and it made me a little unsure.”
“Oh,” he responds, somewhat dumbly for him.
“Are you happy, sweetie? Don’t you ever wonder about companionship?”
“Of course I am happy, Penny. My work is satisfying, there is talk of my name being brandied about for the Nobel Prize in the next few years after my most recent paper, and I have a respectable abode and friends and hobbies. And why would I wonder about companionship? I have you.”
Penny is struck dumb as he turns his attention back to the television after his words. Holy crap on a cracker; when did she and Sheldon become companions? But…it was true. She spent almost as much time at his place as she did hers, they often rode to work together, they ate a majority of their meals together, and she’d even gone to Texas with him last year for Christmas. Turning to stare at Sheldon she goes over her life in her head quickly as she takes in the picture he makes. He is in his usual get up—khaki pants and layered tee shirts. She’d been slowly ruining pairs of his plaid pants and replacing them with either plain colored slacks or, even once, a pair of jeans. He’d caught on after a few times and the resulting argument had been loud but short lived. And she’d come out victorious, or at least not required to return the pants she’d bought him. She hasn’t been able to convince him on his tops though, and, really, she quite likes most of them—they fit him. A few of the more vivid colors had possibly found themselves lost over the years, but not many.
“Penny, is there a reason you are staring at my chest?”
“I don’t get you, Sweetie,” she confesses, still stuck on the summation of their lives he’d brought to the forefront.
“I know. I often find myself not understanding you as well.”
“Still love you though.”
“Likewise,” he responds and pauses for a moment. “I still often find comfort in your presence. You challenge me; I like that, even if it also makes me annoyed.” He seems slightly confused by that, which surprises her because he’d seemed so matter of fact about their relationship earlier.
“Ditto. I want you to be happy you know, no matter how that happens. Well, unless you suddenly decide you do want to invent that death ray and become a mass murderer, then we might have to talk. But just because you’re different, we’re different, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.”
“Thank you. Knowing your penchant for coitus, that means a lot to me.”
“You’re more important to me than sex, sweetie. Well, most days,” she adds with a little smile and a wink.
The rest of the group plans a big party for her thirtieth. They are out at a club, having rented the entire thing for the night, dancing and drinking. The whole group is there and they’ve invited some of her other friends and co-workers and Penny is surprised really by the number of people there—it makes her happy though. It is fun and she feels light-hearted. It is made even better by the fact that Sheldon has come along. She’d been shocked when he had, and sure, he is sitting in the corner at one of the few high top tables they have and is nursing a virgin diet cuba libre, complete with lime; but he is here.
There are two drinks in her at this point, not enough to be questioning judgment, but just enough that she is feeling extremely happy and unstoppable. It is under those conditions, she justifies, that she approaches him and tries to drag him out onto the dance floor, wanting at least one dance with her best friend.
“Oh what fresh hell is this?” He asks as he attempts to dig his heels in, quite literally.
“Sheldon, this is a non-optional social situation that you need to partake in to help celebrate your best friend’s thirtieth birthday.” She argues.
He looks at her dubiously. “Dancing is non-optional?”
She pouts. “Please, Sheldon. One dance? I’ll even let you pick the song, you can request something, anything.” She counter argues.
His expressions changes slightly and she knows she has him convinced. There is something loud and pounding on right now but he makes his way towards where the DJ is set up. She can see him trying to yell at him before pulling out his phone and tapping on it a few times before holding it up for him to see. The DJ nods and Sheldon makes his way to where Penny has slowly trailed behind him as the music fades.
“And a special request for the birthday girl,” the DJ announces loudly. The crowd seems to part as Sheldon continues his trek towards her and holds out his hand awkwardly. The opening strands of a song start, slower than the last and familiar, but Penny can’t place it. Until Sheldon takes the first few steps to lead her in a waltz, and then it all comes back to her.
The smile that breaks out on her face is blinding, despite the blush. It’d been almost two years ago since Penny had needed to learn a formal dance for a show she was in for a few episodes. She’d panicked initially and then remembered that night, years ago, when they’d gone dancing with Amy and Bernadette. Sheldon had obviously known what he was doing and she had coaxed him into agreeing to teach her. ‘Here we Go’ had been one of the few songs they’d both liked enough to be able to agree to dance to. It had been fun back then and they fall back into the rhythm easily tonight and Penny loses herself in the steps and turns, forgetting all else.
He dips her going into the last chord and the applause that breaks out seems to startle them both and Sheldon is obviously embarrassed as they both straighten. Leonard is giving her looks that she doesn’t want to decipher and Sheldon has tensed completely. She tries to distract everyone as a fast song comes back on and allows him to retreat back to his corner. She smiles at him in acceptance a few minutes later as he slips out the door. He had given her more than she’d hoped for by not only showing up but dancing, so she can forgive him slipping out early.
She doesn’t want to think about it, spends a lot of time over the next few days doing exactly that. Yes, it probably appeared pretty romantic to everyone at that party, to everyone who didn’t know her and Sheldon. Okay, and maybe even those that do, she thought as she remembered Leonard’s knowing looks. But they weren’t like that, it wasn’t how they operated, wasn’t how Sheldon operated. She’d been happy in his arms there though—content and safe. And she knows that must mean something, but she can’t quite figure out what, isn’t quite ready to face it.
Sheldon, in his usual way, is able to force the issue for her. He, too, had been a bit odd since her party, and she wonders if it affected him as well. If he even understood some of the implications a waltz could convey. He breaks his few days of silent contemplation one evening when it is just the two of them again.
“Penny. I am not sure on the social rules and rituals that might surround this, and there is a very good chance I am going to screw this up. I ask for your patience as I attempt it,” he begins after they’ve sat down on the couch with their dinner. His words make her nervous and she turns towards him, bracing herself.
“It has been brought to my attention that sometimes, people in situations similar to ours—friends who have reached a certain age and spent a majority of their time together and enjoy each other’s company—would perhaps come to an arrangement. And it is one of my Meemaw’s wishes that she would like to see me married in her lifetime. And, as you I am sure noticed on our last visit to Texas, I am becoming concerned that there is not much time left to fulfill that obligation. And Missy makes continued overtures that we ought to formalize our union, and despite the fact that she often follows that statement up with either a laugh or a wink, I believe she is serious. I am honestly unsure of most of this, but I do know that you make me happy, something which, when we initially met, I could not have imagined. And it would make financial sense, something I know you are constantly aware of. And I would perhaps someday like progeny, and I do believe my mother would attempt to make me ‘meet her maker’ as she often says, if that were to occur out of wedlock,” he suddenly stops, as if aware of what he has now rambled out.
Penny is staring at him, in shock but also unable to quite understand everything he has blurted out. That one word sticks in her mind though. She stands up, paces around for a moment.
“Are you…are you asking me to marry you, Sheldon?”
“I… yes? I think so.”
The fact that he isn’t quite sure actually makes Penny feel better. “Why, sweetie?”
He huffs. “I thought I just explained that all.”
“Well, yes. But… you don’t want to have sex with me, Sheldon. And I don’t want to have sex with you.”
“Correct, Penny. I was hoping for…committed companionship, perhaps would be nice terminology for it?”
“This is a little overwhelming, Sheldon. God, couldn’t we just like move in together first or something?”
“That is an excellent idea, Penny! Now that Leonard has vacated his room, it is open. And it is silly for you to spend most of your time here and still pay for your own place.”
Oh god, had she just suggested moving in with Sheldon? And had he also just proposed, if half-assed? Had she stepped into an alternate universe?
She flops back down onto the couch and Sheldon settles in again cautiously next to her.
“I find myself not wanting you to leave me,” he says quietly and even more cautiously than his movements. She can tell it took a lot for him to admit that.
Her eyes are tearing up a little bit. “Sweetie, I don’t think I could if I tried. I don't know. We’ve spent so much of our lives the last few years together, and there is a part of me feeling this pull to you. And I don't know what to do about it. But you do make me comfortable and happy and there isn't all that crap there like when I'm dating someone or trying to pick them up. I feel like it’s been you and me against the world for a while now. But, formalizing it, that’s a whole other step. And, I know you are asexual, but I’m not. I honestly am not sure how that would work out for me. You know how I feel about cheating.”
“I had hoped between my intelligence and your social skills we could perhaps come to a solution for that.”
“This is a really big deal, Sheldon. I’m going to have to think about it. And did you say children?” Penny suddenly exclaimed, more of the conversation catching up with her.
He blushes and looks down quickly. “Yes. I quite feel like I am quoting Leonard at this point, but we would make babies that had the potential to be both very smart and very aesthetically pleasing.”
“And how would we make those babies?” Penny asks, half in indignation and half in teasing.
“Well most certainly not in the usual way,” he responds primly. “I am quite certain I could be able to perform sufficiently if a donation were required.”
“You really want to make a test tube baby with me?” She clarifies.
“I think you would make a very good maternal figure, and that our personalities would work rather well together for child rearing.”
“Oh, honey, you say the most romantic things,” she drawls.
“Sarcasm?” He asks. She taps him on the nose before she leans back against the cushions and sighs.
“Give me a few days, sweetie. Let me think it over, okay?”
She talks to both Leonard and Amy for advice, gets them to promise not to say anything. Neither seems truly shocked and Leonard not so tactfully points out that they are already in a relationship, just a really weird one.
“But I’m not even getting sex out of it, how fair is that?” She whines.
“Is that really so important anymore?” He asks. And she can’t help it, but she laughs. A moment later he joins in.
“Our past selves would never believe this conversation,” Penny barely gets out between her cackles.
Leonard agrees with another chuckle before he turns serious. “Can you really imagine leaving him for another guy at this point though? Would you be able to walk away from him?”
“No,” she whispers after a moment, knowing that her answer had truly already been decided since the moment Sheldon asked the question. Perhaps even before that, as early as that first day all those years ago when she’d looked up into her doorway and seen a tall, nervous man in plaid pants with beautiful blue eyes.
It is ten years later now; Penny is turning 40 this month. She is still acting regularly, though her schedule is more flexible these days. Sheldon won his Nobel Prize five years ago and the trip had coincided perfectly with their four year anniversary. They’d spent a week doing science things related to his award, and then a week doing a mix of couple things and Penny things. He still technically works for Caltech, but he is more often than not found elsewhere—working from home, guest lecturing, or doing hands on research around the country. He makes sure he is home as often as he can be though.
They’d talked about doing another shindig for her fortieth similar to what they’d done for her thirtieth, but neither of them feels quite up for it. Lying in bed together, they discuss it and opt for a quieter affair instead, a joint party they’re hosting at their own house. They exchange a smile at that and Penny can’t help but think they’re probably happier than most of the couples she knows. She may have given up sex, at least the usual kind, but what she got in return was so much better, because Sheldon and their love were worth it. Their family was worth it.
They host a joint party because it is also the twins’ fourth birthday. Lee and Lucy are, as they’ve often discussed, the best parts of themselves. Despite its role in their initial conversation those ten years ago, children had not come up between them again. Until after Sheldon had won his Nobel. He’d simply announced one evening while they were out to dinner that he wondered if it wasn’t time to consider it, now that their lives had settled a bit and he would have the pressure of the Nobel off his mind. She’d agreed, hopefully besotted suddenly with the idea of small little copies of herself and Sheldon running around. It’d taken a few times before the process worked, but when it did; they’d got both Lee and Lucy out of the deal. She wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Sheldon as content as he was the first time he held them.
The party is a success. It is loud and boisterous and Sheldon disappears halfway through for a while, hiding out in his study for a breather. She lets him go, knowing he needs it, that he’ll come back to her as he always does. Their friends are all there—Leonard and Lauren, Howard and Bernadette, Amy and her husband, Raj and his current partners. There are others milling about as well, and there are a handful of children and their parents from the twins’ preschool class. The twins are just about to open their gifts when Sheldon slips back in, wraps an arm around her waist and takes in the scene.
“Thank you,” Penny says.
“Whatever for?” Sheldon asks with a quirk of his eyebrow.
“For everything. For making this possible, for loving me, for making sure I realized that I loved you.”
“Always. And you are the one that is owed the thanks. I’d honestly assumed I would go through life as I’d always been and I had accepted that. That you accepted me was a cosmic blip in the universe I felt.”
“Sweetie, you brought that universe to me, how I could I do anything but love you for that?”