Just a little clarification with this one, I don't watch the show anymore, but my husband does, so I've kept up with what's going on. Leonard and Penny never got engaged in this timeline. They ended up breaking up long before it got to that point. Sheldon did, however, leave for a short time.
Penny was relaxing after a particularly hard film shoot when he started knocking.
The quick repetitions and scream-like calling of her name wiped away the weariness she felt. She stood quickly and opened the door. "Sheldon? What's.. oh, my.."
Her voice trailed off when she took in the sight of her 6'2" neighbor wearing only a towel. Water dripped from his wet hair, trailing down his slender chest, and soaking into the red towel he gripped tightly in his right hand. More water ran down his legs onto the hallway carpet, and all she could think was 'yummy'.
Sheldon didn't appear to notice her perusal. He twitched and shivered fiercely. "Penny, your assistance is urgently required in my domicile as my bathroom has been overtaken by a Hogna carolinensis of extraordinary proportions! Hurry, before it devours someone!"
Penny stared at him for several seconds blankly. Finally he sighed with irritation and grabbed her wrist with his free hand. "A spider, Penny! Come kill it!"
Penny rolled her eyes as her mostly naked friend pulled her across the hall and into his apartment. It's ironic, she thought to herself. I've dreamed of something very similar to this for months, only there wasn't a bug involved.
When they reached the bathroom, Sheldon gave her a not so subtle shove toward the door. Penny smirked over her shoulder at him and walked through the door. Sheldon craned his neck around the edge to watch her pull back the shower curtain. She frowned slightly and looked around the floor. He twitched as she moved toward the linen shelf. Penny knelt down and looked under it. She held out a hand and he scuttled forward to hand her some toilet paper before running back to the doorframe.
He watched Penny bend over and something pulled his attention from her search. Sheldon leaned a bit closer and stared at the skin revealed by her stretching. There, just under the waistband of her yellow boy shorts was a new tattoo. All he could see of it was the top edge of a yellow circle.
Thousands of possibilities ran through his mind in the blink of an eye. He mentally compared it to every popular logo, character, and symbol he could think of that Penny might have inked into her skin. Nothing quite fit the small arc he was looking at, yet it seemed so familiar. With a grunt Penny sat back, the paper clutched tightly in her hand.
"Got it," she said triumphantly. She walked over and flushed it down the toilet before stepping into the hall. She patted his bare shoulder and smiled. "All gone, sweetie. Enjoy your shower."
He murmured a quick thank you while he watched her exit the apartment, pulling the front door closed behind her. After a couple more seconds of contemplation he returned to the shower and finished getting ready for bed. He put the tattoo out of his mind, deciding to ask her about it at a later date.
Sheldon sat down on Amy's couch and took off his messenger bag. "Since it is date night," he began," I have decided to let you chose our activity. We can watch Arrow, or we can watch my blu-ray of the original Godzilla."
Amy sat down beside him and took a deep breath. "Sheldon, I do not want to do either." She picked up an envelope from her coffee table and handed it to him. "This is my request to terminate our romantic relationship."
Sheldon stared at her with confusion. "You are breaking up with me?"
Amy nodded. "Yes. I would like to continue our friendship, but while you were gone I met someone I would like to pursue a relationship with. I have spent the last six weeks since your return trying to decide who I want. I want Jonathon."
Sheldon stared at her for a moment before picking up the envelope and pulling the papers from it. He read them quickly and pulled a pen from his bag. "Very well," he said softly. He signed the papers with a small precise signature. He stood and held out a hand. "Good night, Amy Farrah Fowler. I look forward to continuing our friendship."
Amy stood and shook his hand. With a heavy heart she watched him leave. She hoped they could move past this, because she really did care for him. She knew he cared for her. Just not in the way she had always hoped he would.
Sheldon was stoic as he waited in the lobby of Amy's building for Penny to pick him up. When he had called her, she had sounded tired but had not argued about his request for a ride. He watched the gathering clouds and sighed softly.
Lately it seemed as if Penny was the only person he could rely on. Leonard was always gone, having entered into a second relationship with Priya during his absence. Howard was on a tight leash with Bernadette over his spending habits. Raj was back in therapy, and only visited on the weekends now.
Penny's car drove into view and he stepped out into the gathering gloom. He buckled up once he was in the car, and gave Penny a nod. Without a word, she pulled out of the parking lot and back into traffic. Neither of them spoke as they moved closer to home. By the time they reached their building it was beginning to rain softly.
Penny parked as close to the building as possible and with an unspoken agreement they both made a mad dash for the lobby. Once inside Penny bent and shook her hair to knock some rain out of it. Sheldon paused, his eyes drawn once more to the edge of the new tattoo peeking above her low rider jeans. He drew a bit closer, the image tugging at the recesses of his mind. The sun colored arch wasn't all he could see this time. There were four more barely visible circles on either side of the yellow one now. One side held green and blue arcs while the other side had red and orange.
He started to speak, but footfalls made both of them look toward the stairs. Leonard and Priya appeared on the landing, holding hands. Penny gave them both a tight nod before edging around them and hurrying up the stairs. Leonard watched her go sheepishly, while Priya glared.
"Good evening," Sheldon said, drawing Priya's attention away from Penny's retreating back. "Are you going out?"
Priya looked at him haughtily. "Yes. Leonard and I have tickets for a play."
Sheldon nodded blandly. "Well, have fun." He headed up the stairs, his mind once more comparing the slight view of Penny's newest tattoo to pop culture symbols. He walked up the stairs, only to find Penny's door closed and the faint strains of Sex and the City drifting toward him. He turned and entered his own apartment with a sigh. Another evening alone it would seem.
Sheldon kept the excitement off his face with effort when he saw Penny sitting on a dryer in the laundry room. It seemed as though Penny was the only person he was able to relax with anymore. "Good evening, Penny. I am surprised to see you here before me."
"I got through with work earlier than normal," she said with a shrug. "How was your week?"
"I have received two new grants to further my research. I have a paper that is being published and I have eaten from the lower fiber end of my cereal group three days in a row," he replied.
"That's good," she grinned. "Well, we finished filming Serial Apist 2 finally. Wil and I went out for lunch, and he asked me to have you call him. He's thinking of hosting a Warlords of Ka'A tournament soon."
"Hmm." He leaned against the table, crossing his arms over his chest. "That could be interesting."
Penny's washer buzzed and she hopped down to retrieve her wet laundry. Sheldon's eyes wandered down to the top edge of the tattoo again. His fingers twitched with the desire to draw away her waistband so he could see the entire image. Red, orange, yellow, green and blue arcs tempted his mind. It was some sort of rainbow, yet it nagged and teased his mind, hinting at familiarity.
Sheldon hated not knowing something. "Penny? You seem to have a new tattoo. May I ask what it is?"
She straightened, a slight blush creeping up her cheeks. She shoved her clothes into a dryer and hopped back up. A teasing light danced in her eyes. "No."
He jolted slightly. "What?"
Penny grinned mysteriously. "No, you may not ask what it is."
"Why not?" he whined.
"It's a test," Penny said. "I know you saw it a few weeks ago. If you can figure out what it is before it's finished, you get a prize."
"What kind of prize," he asked, thoroughly intrigued now.
"That, too, is a surprise," she answered. "But it'll be worth it, I promise. I should warn you, I only have two more sessions before it's complete. That gives you three weeks, Moon Pie."
Sheldon took a step forward. "And if I don't want to play your game?"
Penny laughed with amusement. "Sweetie, are you really going to pass up the chance to solve a mystery and prove how smart you are again? Surely you aren't going to let me win."
He gritted his teeth with frustration. "You are infuriating!"
Penny shrugged and swung her feet. "I'll even give you an edge. You can have one question and one guess each laundry night for three weeks. I promise to be honest. If you are as smart as you think, you should only need one."
Sheldon paced as he thought hard about the tattoo. All he had seen is the top quarter inch on five colored circles. It was obviously some sort of rainbow from the sequence of colors. But a rainbow indicating what?
He jumped slightly when his washer and her dryer went off simultaneously. Penny jumped down and began shoving her clothes into her basket. He was stunned by how quickly the time had passed. He had wasted almost all of laundry time with Penny in deep thought! He raced through the possibilities he had considered so far. "It is a rainbow," he said quickly.
"Wrong," Penny said gleefully as she picked up her basket. " Good night, sweetie. See you later."
Before he could reply, she was gone.
Sheldon hurried down the stairs, smugly certain he knew the answer to Penny's mystery. He stepped into the laundry room and nodded a greeting to Penny. She smirked and set her magazine aside. They had agreed to one question each laundry night, so he set his basket on the table. Why waste the opportunity to question Penny before revealing the truth of her tattoo?
"Did you steal my Mounds chocolate bar on Tuesday?" he asked. "Remember, you promised honesty."
Penny giggled. "Nope. I took four Red Vines, but Priya ate your Mounds bar."
He frowned angrily. "Darn! If I had known that earlier, I could have berated her this afternoon. Now I must wait until Monday." He began placing his laundry in the washing machine and added detergent. "The answer to your riddle was simple, Penny. I must admit, I expected more from you in a battle. The tattoo is a line of Carebear symbols."
Penny clapped her hands and laughed. "Wrong!"
Sheldon's jaw dropped and he took a step closer. "It is so!"
"Nope," Penny replied, popping the 'p' sound loudly. "I promised to be honest, didn't I? It's not Carebears, Moon Pie."
He gritted his teeth with frustration. He had been so sure! Plus, he had wasted his question asking about the candy bar!
Penny hopped down from her machine and patted his arm. "Don't pout, sweetie. Look, I brought a deck of cards. How about some gin rummy?"
Sheldon sighed as she shuffled the deck. He picked up the cards she dealt him and rearranged them. He wouldn't be so careless next week. He would solve this riddle! He had to!
On the way back up the stairs he couldn't help but notice there were indigo and violet arcs now too.
Sheldon placed his clothes in the dryer and looked around the empty room with disgruntlement. He had not seen or heard from Penny all week. Usually they spent each Monday and Thursday together at least. Often it was just the two of them, and he had come to enjoy those evenings a great deal. In fact, now that he had missed out on both nights, he had to admit he was quite upset. He missed Penny. She was probably with some meat headed ape.
He was just pulling his clothes from the dryer to fold them when the door opened. Penny stepped in, her basket nowhere in sight. He glared over his shoulder for a second before turning back to his flip-and-fold. "Laundry night begins at 8:15, Penny. You know that," he said stiffly.
"Sorry," she said softly.
Her tone was so unusual, Sheldon paused and looked back at her. He actually felt himself pale. A large bruise marred Penny's jaw on the right side, and her upper arm was bandaged with gauze.
She gave him a wry smile. "Had a bit of an accident on the way home from work. A taxi shot out of an alley and sideswiped me. I was beginning the think the nurses were never going to let me leave."
Sheldon considered her words carefully. "You left the hospital just to attend laundry night?" he asked hesitantly.
Penny shrugged, which caused her to grimace with discomfort. "I know how much routine means to you."
He set down the t-shirt he was holding and walked over to Penny. He shyly eased his arms around her and hugged her close. Penny relaxed and moved her unbandaged arm around his back. Sheldon swallowed as warmth spread through him.
He swallowed a second time before placing his lips near her ear. "Do the circles contain symbols?"
Penny nodded. Her hair shifting against his cheek. "Yes."
He felt his skin tingle at every spot touching Penny. "The tattoo is of Zodiac signs."
Penny giggled against his neck, making him shudder and step back quickly. Her eyes sparkled with mischief. "Nope."
Sheldon turned back to his laundry quickly as a blush colored his cheeks. "Infuriating," he muttered to himself. He heard Penny moving away so he looked back at her.
"Do you mean the tattoo or the hug?" she asked, walking out the door.
Sheldon fiddled with the hem of his shirts before drawing a steadying breath and knocking firmly on Penny's door. After a moment she opened it up with a smile.
"Hey sweetie. What's up? Laundry doesn't start for another hour."
Sheldon stepped inside and looked down at Penny. "You said the tattoo would be finished by today. Is it?"
She smiled widely and nodded. "Yep. I had my last sitting on Friday. Are you here to guess?"
Sheldon clenched his hands behind his back. "May I see the top edge?"
Penny studied him for a moment before turning around and easing her shorts down a quarter inch. Sheldon looked at the barely revealed arches closely. On the right side a black arch now appeared and on the left, a white one was visible. Penny turned back around and he hesitated only for a heartbeat.
"Penny, why have you tattooed the Green Lantern Corp emotional spectrum across your lower back?"
Penny laughed, her eyes lit up with joy. "I knew you'd figure it out. I have to admit, I was hoping it would take you longer." She turned and walked to the kitchen to grab some sodas for them.
Sheldon followed, curiosity burning inside him. "You have yet to tell me why."
She looked at him and sighed. "Because of you," she admitted softly. She bit her lip nervously before setting her can on the counter. "I got the yellow one before you left. I wanted something symbolic of our friendship, and so I did a bit of research. I thought about the Flash bolt, but then I saw the Green Lantern symbols. When I read that each one conveyed some emotion, I knew it was exactly what I wanted. The yellow one first because I was afraid. I was scared of where my life was going and you were the only one to support me. Then the red and orange because I had wanted you to come back so much. I am greedy for your presence and I was mad while you were gone. The blue and green are for willpower and hope. I have to believe you are back for good, and I need the willpower to not beg you to never go away again. Violet and indigo because you're my best friend, Sheldon. Love and compassion. Pretty self-explanatory, I think."
Sheldon watched as Penny twisted her hands together, looking more and more nervous. She licked her lips and met his eyes. "Black and white are death and life, you know." He nodded, waiting for her to finish. Penny gave him a soft smile. "Black and white because I'll love you for the rest of my life."
Sheldon took a step closer to her. "And my prize?" he asked hopefully.
Penny straightened her shoulders and took a step, closing the distance between them. "Me, if you want me."
Sheldon's heart thudded in his chest and he tentatively bent down, placing his lips on hers innocently. Penny stunned him by wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing against his body. His arms wound around her and he trembled. He pulled back and blushed. "I want," he whispered.
They kept things low key for a few months. In fact, none of the others found out Sheldon and Penny were together until Leonard moved out to live with Priya. Raj asked about taking over Leonard's room, and was informed Penny was moving in. He ended up taking over Penny's lease.
Once the group found out, they began to notice something they had never noticed before. Whenever Penny and Sheldon were standing beside each other, Sheldon's hand rested on Penny's lower back, often caressing the spot.