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The Endorphin Substitution

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Penny stares at the metal plate on the door as if it's going to suddenly start telling her all the answers she's seeking. She even squints and wrinkles her nose because maybe if she tries hard enough she'll see what the '4' and the 'A' are hiding in between the lines.

She had become way too used to just walking in to the apartment across the hall. But now that she and Leonard have broken up, she's not sure if she's supposed to knock or what. It's only been five days and she's sure that her face is the last one Leonard wants to see.

So she just does what Sheldon would do.

Knock knock knock. "Sheldon?"

Okay. That was kind of kittenish. She may have actually mewed. So she clears her throat and does it again. Louder.

Knock knock knock. "Sheldon?"

Nothing. Of course, this is Sheldon. He's waiting for the third reiteration and she knows it.

Knock knock knock. "Sheldon!"

The door swings open almost immediately and Sheldon seems taller. Or she feels shorter. She knows neither is true. But forcing herself to go to Sheldon for a favor makes it feel that way.

"I see you've finally learned how to properly ask for admittance to someone's residence."

Penny attempts to look around him to see if he's alone and nods. "Yeah, good for me, right?"

"Leonard's not here."

"Good. I came here to see you actually. I need to ask you something."

Sheldon steps back and motions her inside. "Okay then…"

She hears the door click shut behind her as she takes a seat at the end of the couch. Her fingers tug at the edge of her tank top where the seam is coming apart while Sheldon sits down in his spot.

"Is Leonard okay?"

"Besides the insipid whiny music at all hours of the day and his constant internet searches for hypoallergenic cats, yes. Leonard will be fine. Is that really what you came here to ask me?"

She stops pulling at the thread in her shirt and looks up at him. "No. Are you and I – still friends?"

Sheldon shrugs as if she never needed to ask. And maybe she didn't. "Of course we are. Our relationship was never dependent on whether you and Leonard were engaged in coitus, so I don't see why that should change now."

"That's… uhm… sweet. I guess. Thanks."

Sheldon is still staring at her as she thoughtfully chews at one corner of her lip. "Did you have something else to ask or may I return to watching Shark Week?"

In all her angst, she had forgotten it was Shark Week. Shark Week was like Christmas around here.

"There's something else. A favor. A really big favor."

Now he looks concerned. So she smiles. Awkwardly. That doesn't help. His eyebrows start slowly creeping up his forehead. "Go ahead."

Penny sits up straight, smoothes her hair and tucks it behind her ears as she takes a deep breath in. Because, yeah, that was going to makes this easier. Sure.

"Normally when I break up with a guy, I go out, find some other guy and have like 36 hours of rebound sex, so I –"

Sheldon scoots as far into the corner of the couch as he can go. She is sure that if he could have found a way to slip under the cushion he would have. He turns so pale that she can practically see through his skin.

"Penny – I – I'm not sure that is – I don't think – I mean – well, that would really complicate things. But if you really need a favor – we – well – I -"

Wait. He was actually considering this. Maybe? Oh no.

"Sheldon, no. That's not what I meant. I'm not asking you for sex. Please return to your normal coherent self, okay? Cause this – " she waves her hands at him manically, "This is freaking me out."

Sheldon seems to exhale with his entire body and his attempt at a relieved smile comes off a bit shaky. "Oh good. Okay. No offense but –"

"Don't worry, none taken. I'm asking you, big brain scientist guy, what would you recommend to like… replace that feeling?"

"So you don't want to have sex with anyone?"

Okay. So asking Sheldon for help may not have been one of her best ideas ever.

"Well, not right now. In the past, I don't exactly feel that great after the 36 hours is over… emotionally. You know? But at the same time…"

"You wish to feel the pleasure you get from the release of endorphins during orgasm without actually engaging in intercourse."

Now she wishes she could sink in to the couch cushions.

"Well, when you say it like that… I mean, that was so hot, Sheldon. It really makes me re-consider that offer of sex."

His eyes narrow. "Sarcasm?"

"Oh God, yes. Just tell me how to get those endorphin thingies without you know… sex. Please."

"Okay. You could exercise."

She wrinkles her nose up with distaste. Her idea of exercise is waiting tables. Everything else involves sweat, the outdoors or being ogled at the gym by the creepiest guys in Southern California.

"Ehhhh."

"Well, if not exercise… you need an activity that exerts energy but also allows release of tension."

Penny nods slowly. "Yeah. Release. That's it."

That comes out a bit dirtier than she intends, but it is pretty accurate.

"Okay. I actually have a few ideas that might work. I just have to do some research."

Sheldon stands and heads to his desk, booting up his computer immediately. Penny slumps in her seat and stares at the back of him.

"Uhm. Just one thing. If this involves robots for any reason, then count me out."

Whenever they bring robots in to it, things just don't end well.