They’re scared of very different things.
It seemed fitting that the first time she found Sheldon …attractive was on Halloween. It was as if one of her scripts had bled through from the sitcoms she was auditioning for that week into her real life. The power was out and they were each taking turns telling ghost stories with a handful of the flashlights Sheldon had kept stock-piled high in their storage space in the basement. Luckily, Leonard’s story had distracted him long enough to forget the incessant complaining that leaving the batteries on was both a waste and a safety hazard. Since then, both she and Sheldon had poked holes in the sub-par horror plots two of their friends had come up with, easily. Sheldon, urged to try and do any better, had started on about faceless zombies and 1950’s London.
When he finally reached the end, with loathsome Magpie falling to his death with a loud ‘BAM’ for good measure, Penny was almost shaking. “That was an episode of Doctor Who,” Howard replied flatly.
It was her turn to tell a story, but she was seated to Sheldon’s right, her eyes still wide and her hands had been rung sore, without a clue of what to say. She slowly pushed his forearm back upwards so that the flashlight lit up features again and his eyes lingered on where her hand moved and rested on his right elbow. When she finally found her voice and had sufficiently shocked the others into silent gaping, she grinned. “Tell another.”
For the first time, his smug grin surprised her when her stomach lurched up and down in response. It was positively spooky.
They react so differently to important news.
What they considered to be important new was also vastly different, as well. Penny got tanked and danced raunchily to the likes of Kanye West or Lil Wayne with total strangers when she was brought on as a full-time waitress or her car passed inspection (after it’d failed three times). She’d never considered it that strange until she saw Sheldon deem one of his many awards reason enough to celebrate. It wasn’t long before she found that, for once, she preferred his way of doing things.
Sheldon sprung for a fresh, authentically baked king cake four hours after he accepted his two hundredth professional accolade (he received the check for 10,000 dollars in grant money through Caltech and two days after the fact). Sometimes she felt silly about how different they really were. Most of the time she shrugged it off as one more thing that made their friendship so …unique and embraced it. This was definitely one of those times.
It turned out that Sheldon buzzed on alcohol is even better than a drunk Sheldon. Her not being wasted and instead, startlingly sober, seemed unimportant to the festivities. The starch-heavy and massively portioned dessert had made them both sluggish enough that the drinks had merely been drinks; a means of washing down the delicious food. She felt adult and empowered, when he let her make his non-virgin; like she hadn’t already popped in those cherries four years ago at the Cheesecake Factory’s wet-bar.
He was immediately more touchy-feely and smiled far more. Penny took a few minutes to ponder just how attractive he really was, underneath the neuroses and appliquéd t-shirts. Before long, though, she’d convinced herself yet again to leave those thoughts filed that under Things Best Left Up to the Imagination. Just as she had last Halloween and anytime she caught them coming home sweaty and camouflaged from paintball or laser tag.
And it stayed filed away, even when they were the only two left in the room and the Police crooned knowingly on the Adult Alternative channel onscreen.
At least until he started quoting full blocks of Hemingway. Not only was she shocked at his ability to do so, slouched and …being Sheldon, but she was completely turned on by it. She hadn’t even been aware that she’d be attracted to such a skill, but her skin’s soft layer of goose-bumps said otherwise.
She’d started by just staring and gently touching her hand to his arm, in what she hoped came across as encouragingly. Or …only encouraging.
She had a hard time distinguishing between the two, the more she sipped at her own Cuba Libre and the longer she stared at how his neck’s bones protruded a bit more when he pronounced the more lengthy vowels.
By the time her glass was finally emptied, she’d found her way to laying comfortably against his side, her head lolling back and forth as he gestured along with his anecdotes about Hemingway and cold fusion.
It only occurred to her that she didn’t actually give a damn about either and had mostly paid attention for the hypnotic way his voice curled around syllables, and made even the simplest of words sound wonderful when he asked her pointed questions about Nebraska and she couldn’t do anything but grin blankly back.
Drunk less from the spiced rum and more from close proximity of Mr. Personal Space Issues, she felt bold enough to lazily drag her left leg up and over his knee. His hand immediately flew to her kneecap and she prepared herself for him to knock it down and away. She’d even gritted her teeth in case his reaction would be more violent or forceful than shocked and horrified.
Instead, however, his hand remained stilled and moved only when he made the slightest of movements counter-clockwise. He rubbed, just barely, the worn denim beneath his palm and settled his hand, once more, comfortably atop the bone.
And again, he smoothed a hand around slowly and perhaps not as deliberately as his articulate words but Penny boggled and shivered just the same.
Fully clothed, barely even tipsy and she felt as though she’d begun coming apart at the seams.
He really never failed to surprise her.
She draped even more of herself against and on top of his legs, almost hoping that he would snap out of it and call dibs on his single point of consistency. She needed her single point of consistency and if Sheldon being an uptight nutcase was it, then so be it.
But, still – even half-covered by her warm, deep-breath-taking body – Sheldon continued to do nothing but ramble on about owls and porcupines and God knew what else. He stopped only long enough to rub another small, delicate circle around her leg’s joint before he continued the passage and paused only to interject a third little known fact.
Yes, she definitely enjoyed a slightly buzzed Sheldon. She slipped her hand down onto his leg and trailed it sluggishly up towards his waist, rubbing her own slow sets of counter-clockwise circles …and couldn’t help but notice that very same Sheldon seemed to agree.
“Along with youth,” he mumbled huskily before his eyes fell shut and she watched as a …different type of poetry escaped him.
They’ve got completely different approaches to conflict.
“Sheldon, what do you mean staying?” Penny’s hand hovered to a stop above where she’d left her keys in the ceramic bowl next to the entryway of the apartment. “Staying …for more Halo? To tie your shoe a fourth time? What?”
“Staying,” he paused and pulled his bottom lip nervously behind his front teeth, “…Indefinitely.”
“Oh, come on! We had this talk, already! It was your idea in the first place!” Penny made a point of noisily dropping her bag back down next to the couch and turned to pull the room’s attention to her and off of the ongoing fight between Leonard and Howard’s avatars on the television.
“Penny, my bringing up the socially accepted ‘next step’ in our relationship was only done to make you aware of the fact. You took my notion and …as it’s commonly said, ‘went with it.’” Sheldon couldn’t avoid meeting her eyes for any longer than he already had and winced at her downcast expression. “That’s hardly my fault.”
“Your fault? Fault?!” Penny seethed and balled her hands into tight fists.
Howard paused the game and reached for popcorn slowly and dramatically enough that Leonard rolled his eyes just to his right. “What?” Howard whispered, obviously confused at Leonard’s reaction.
“We’ll let you have some privacy,” Leonard replied, pointedly turning to Penny and nodded his head towards the hallway for his friends to get up and follow him.
“Are you kidding? If this is half as good as the time he showed up to her play wearing a t-shirt a khakis, I’m staying right here.” He grabbed another fistful of popcorn and tried hard not to react as both Penny and Sheldon turned to scowl at him. “What? Come on, we all love a little lovers’ quarrel! Why else do you watch Gossip Girl?”
“HOWARD, just shut up and let’s go!” Leonard grumbled and motioned emphatically for him to leave.
“Aw, come on! We all heard them doing the nasty in the dressing room not five minutes afterwards!” Penny lunged forward quick enough that Howard couldn’t block her smack to the back of his head. “See! Volatile is sexy!” Leonard and Raj cringed.
“Well, as repulsive and completely inappropriate a confession as that was,” Penny paused to sigh and grit her teeth, “you can stay. Maybe you’ll all make better sense of this nonsense than I’ve been able to!”
“And what nonsense is that?” Leonard wondered, hands pulled up with worry at the seriousness in her tone.
“He doesn’t want to move, now. Right? Indefinitely means you’re staying here permanently, as in not moving?” She raised her eyebrows and waited for a response from Sheldon.
“That is the correct interpretation of the word, yes.” Penny threw her arms up and paced around in a huff. Leonard moved back over to sit back down in former seat.
“Sheldon! Seriously! My stuff is all already over there and all we’re waiting on is for Mrs. Vartebedian’s nephew and his boyfriend’s loan to go through! What is the issue here? We spent four months narrowing down the options; it meets all of your requirements and has walk-in closets! Walk-in closets!”
Sheldon shifted awkwardly in his spot and averted his eyes to the darkened windows to everyone’s left. Penny huffed and sat down in the middle seat, she narrowed her eyes and waited for him to stop acting as though he was above having this conversation. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to air their dirty laundry in front of their close friends, but she’d been so stressed out with moving and her play rehearsals that she had zero patience left.
If they were going to argue, it was probably better to have a few less biased and mostly level-headed mediators. Besides, she’d found out early on that Sheldon was just as frank when asked about their sex life, as he was when asked anything. If the guys knew even half of those incidents, hearing them squabble over living arrangements was far from out of place.
She’d just hoped that after a year and a half of dating that he’d stop being so impossible and difficult. She wasn’t exactly sure why she expected as much, but she was sure it was something to do with the way he looked at her every time he got home from work or the stockpile of rare gems he’d collected and gifted to her for each month they’d been together (her favorite being the massive Topaz chunk she’d gotten for her birthday, which he’d remembered along with each consecutive anniversary).
He worried the back of his knuckles along his chin and continued to feign ignorance for another minute or so, leaving a heavy silence throughout the room. She figured she should have known better than to get her hopes up and turned back, dejectedly meeting the other three men’s eyes. Even Howard seemed upset at Sheldon’s apparent coldness, as he frowned just as strongly as the others and hadn’t leered in her direction for a full minute.
When she finally got up the nerve to look back over at the non-responsive Sheldon, her mouth fell open. He looked terrified. Nauseated, palms-sweating terrified. Oddly enough, she didn’t need an explanation. It all just hit her; the way he must be feeling, the huge step she’d just glossed over after an hour of moving heavy furniture and three rounds of Halo. They’d been excited, last week, over the closets and the basement and the walk-out deck. Now that it was really happening, that he was being asked to get up and leave; it was all real.
Howard was close to openly groaning when Penny leaned over and whispered out-of-earshot while she rubbed Sheldon’s kneecap gently. Before anyone could make sense of the total shift in atmosphere, Sheldon bolted upright and bid all three a polite, “Goodnight.”
He turned, grabbed his cushion and headed to the front door. “I’ll send for the couch in the morning.”
“Bye, guys!” Penny grinned, smug with Sheldon’s changed mind, and skipped out behind him.
She grabbed the keys and blew a kiss before she pulled the door shut behind her.
Raj was the first to take a break from gaping and cleared his throat. “What just happened?”
“Beats the hell out of me,” Leonard cringed and scratched the back of his head.
“Can you even imagine the kinky sex acts she just promised him?” Howard squeaked out before rushing to Leonard’s computer.
“Howard that’s gross and none of our – what are you doing?” Leonard stood up and moved over to where his friend was swiftly typing things into Google.
“I’m not very good with reading lips, but I think I saw her mouth the words ‘book’ and ‘mahogany.’ I don’t know what those have to do with sex,” he took a second to crack his knuckles, before he returned them to the keyboard. “But I’m going to find out!”
Raj and Leonard sneered at their friend and returned to their seats.
Raj looked around, trying to find a topic to fill the void that their departed friends’ fight and make-up had left. “So, if he’s busy being disgusting – best two out of three?”
Leonard gladly picked up the other controller.
They always give completely different kinds of gifts.
Sheldon buckled his seat-belt and glanced back at where the cushion was safely wedged between Penny’s seat and the back.
“So, when do we start construction?” He asked as casually as possible. Penny smirked, knowing that he was about as thrilled as someone could get at the suggestion and was desperately trying not to let her know just how large an upper hand she held.
“Stuart said they take about a week, at the most. It’s not a big basement, so I don’t think it’ll be longer than a few days.”
“Excellent,” Sheldon replied, calmly. He nodded a few times as they backed out of the parking lot. “Excellent.”
“You know that was supposed to be your birthday gift. Now I don’t know what to get you,” she huffed and hit her turn signal’s lever.
“Nonsense. I have given you several lists of acceptable gifts in the past, why not choose from there?”
“Choose from there? What’s the fun in that? You’re obviously in love with this surprise, so I clearly am not that far off base.”
“First of all, I’m in love with you and your tremendous gift-giving abilities. The gift itself is only in existence because you birthed the idea, so without you there is no gift. Please don’t imply that my affections can be bought simply with the presentation of material goods. As you know, I’ve turned down many offers of free dinner because I value our romantic enterprise. Secondly, yes, I concede that an entire room for my comic books is a fun and enjoyable gift. That was likely to be expected, however, since it is obviously tailored to my personal preferences. I was merely suggesting other gift ideas, should you need to replace this gift in the future.”
Penny waited a moment to be sure he was actually finished. “Aww, Sheldon that’s sweet. Thank you.”
“You don’t have to, you know.” He said this quieter and Penny watched out of the corner of her eye as he stared at his hands, nervously.
“Don’t have to what?”
“Get me anything for my birthday. This can serve as a birthday present as well. You’ve been giving me gifts that I can’t possibly reciprocate with any fairness for as long as I’ve known you. It seems ludicrous that you’re worrying over finding yet another.”
“Sheldon, I give you gifts because I love you. Sure, maybe they’re inventive and unique, but that’s just because you’re you and I try to put the kind of brilliance you’re so well-known for into it.”
He gave a small, kind smile before he turned his attention back to the road. “Still. I’d like give you something equally moving in return, for once.”
Penny slowed at as the light ahead of them turned yellow and smiled warmly over at Sheldon. “Sweetie, you see that cushion behind me?”
Sheldon turned and looked at the cushion plainly. “Yes.”
“You already have.” She leaned over and kissed him quickly, before he could protest or the light could flick to green.
Sheldon wiped a hand across his mouth when they finally broke apart and Penny’s Cabrio shifted back into traffic. “Good. I’m glad.”
“There is something else you could give me, though. I’m thinking we need to christen the new place at least once.”
“Penny, you know I’m not a big drinker and I don’t think we even have any alcohol stored away over there. Also, broken glass is a nuisance to clean up. It blends in with everything!”
Penny snickered. “Not that kind of christening, Sheldon. “
Sheldon turned; slack jawed and scandalized looking when she wagged her eyebrows at him. “If you’re implying that we have sex, it’s being done rather crudely.”
“Is that a no?”
“Absolutely not! And I think we should begin in the Lair.”
Penny guffawed at his outburst, but couldn’t help herself from wondering what he meant by that. “Lair?”
“What I’m going to call the basement. I decided on the stairwell. It was between that and Bat Cave. I still like Bat Cave, but if I ever gain notoriety for my collection there could be infringement issues. The Lair sounds a bit more ominous, as well.”
“Kind of kinky, too.”
“Penny, honestly! You’d find a way to interpret anything I say as ‘kinky.’”
“Take me to your Lair, Sheldon.” Penny tried to make her voice as breathy and ridiculous as possible.
“Oh.” Sheldon fidgeted to her right. “I see what you mean. Well, I stand by my choice. And if you drove slightly over the speed limit while still maintaining a safe following distance to the cars ahead of us, I wouldn’t protest.”
Penny had long ago made her peace that she was ending up with a guy that wouldn’t be likely to drive her around town on the back of a motorcycle or be compelled to make-out with her in the middle of lunch in a public place. But, for the most part she didn’t care.
She’d gotten all of that out of her system early and was fine with a quiet night playing Halo with friends before returning home to her shared apartment. The fact that Sheldon got equally neurotic about ‘completing the set’ and ‘christening’ all eight rooms in their new place, was just an added bonus.
The Golden Age Flash rare issue she found had made a decent replacement for her early give-away of the custom comic book room she had built. Though, it wasn’t nearly as stunning a gift as the four carat diamond and topaz setting she got in return, but not much else could compare to that.
She’d grown to love that they’d always have their differences.