The Lone Star Substitution

"But mother" Sheldon whined down the phone as he continued to pace the apartment, "I understand…" his tone of voice was flat and clearly far from understanding, "…what I cannot conceive is how you can possibly come to the conclusion that a visit from Paul the quack is more important than our…" he stopped pacing as his eyes darted nervously around the room. They came to rest suspiciously on Leonard, who simply sat bemused on the sofa. "…Than our regular engagement." He eventually finished in a hushed tone. There were several long moments of silence during which Sheldons shoulders hunched and stooped lower and lower. Judging by his now defeated demeanor, a few moments was all it took for Mrs. Cooper to deliver a verbal ear bashing from the other end of the phone. "Yes mother, I'll find someone else to accompany me, and I'm sorry for calling him a quack, give my love to Meemaw." With that Sheldon hung up. His roommate now raised a quizzical eyebrow from his position on the couch. "Faith healing has absolutely no scientific credentials, and as such, should be held in the same light as other such hokum as horoscopes and dating websites." Sheldon stated matter of factly, assuming that was the only question Leonard would offer. Whilst he wasn't going to disagree, at this moment in time Leonard was more intrigued by the commitment, or lack thereof which had clearly raised the ire of his fellow physicist.

"You know, I can take you to get tested if your mum's busy" he jokingly shrugged, pushing his glasses on the bridge of his nose. Sheldon responded with a trademark smirk. "As amusing as that is Leonard, if my mother did indeed insist on having me tested annually then it would be by definition her who was insane." He crossed the room in a couple of strides, stopping only to announce he was going for a walk. As Dr Hofstadter watched the door shut behind his tall and eccentric friend he let out a sigh of relief. He didn't know what was going on, but if it had Sheldon going for walks, then he was sure he didn't want to be a part of it.

Working at the Cheesecake factory, Penny got to see a great many of Pasadena's residents, most of them were regulars who ate the same thing and sat in the same spot. She had yet to see anyone reach the level of OCD possessed by her neighbor. That was why when Sheldon's round head popped into the little window of the service area she damn near had a heart attack and smashed all the plates she was carrying.

He gestured for her to come outside. As the shock wore off Penny managed to shake her head vigorously. She was on thin ice at the minute, the last thing she needed was to be caught taking an impromptu break. She saw his face fall and his shoulders hunch. Dammit Sheldon you're like a damn puppy she cursed as she found herself pushing the door open.

"Is this urgent Sheldon, because I'm kinda busy?" maybe it sounded a little harsher than she had hoped. He didn't answer at first. He clenched and unclenched his fists, face twitching. She was worried now, worried that she had upset him. "Sweetie…"

"Penelope, as you may or may not know, my father has not been with us for some time know, as much as the man was the epitome of a lot of the things I dislike in this world, he was still my father." He paused now and took a deep breath, clearly struggling to express himself. If this were a less touchy subject, Penny would have probably found it entertaining. She opened her mouth to say something, but Sheldon beat her to the punch.

"He had a love of football my father, forever talking about formations, positions, schemes. I was exposed to this at a young age, and as you can imagine did not enjoy it."

Penny took a step forward, placing her and on the top of his arm and rubbing gently. She still didn't understand why he was saying all this, but she did understand why he was saying it to her. He needed support, proper emotional support, not the jokes and general awkwardness he would get from Leonard, Howard and Raj.

"As a Texas native, it was almost mandatory for my father to be a Longhorn, he wanted to send me there, and even as I was studying elsewhere he often bemoaned the fact that I could not write a paper on why Ricky Williams is the greatest college running back ever." Sheldon's otherwise straight face cracked into a week half smirk. "A notion that still seems utterly ridiculous to this day"

Penny returned his smile. "Of course sweetie, everyone knows that the best college running back was Reggie Bush" Sheldon's withering look returned, he obviously disagreed. In truth, she was glad he responded like he did, it was normal, at least for Sheldon.

"He used to take me to watch the Texas- Teaxas A &M game every year, I hated it of course, but after his passing I decided it would be fitting to continue the tradition. Until this year my mother has accompanied me.

Penny's eyes grew wide as she saw a new side to her gangly neighbor, a side which wasn't quite as robotic. Even though she now understood why he was here, she knew it was better to let him finish.

"As a Nebraska native cornhuskers fan I assume your knowledge of football is sound, and as my friend, I am asking you to accompany me, free of charge, to the Lone Star Showdown."

Penny was actually tearing. Tearing up at the way Sheldon remembered his dad, but even more taken aback by the fact that he had come to her. None of the others knew Sheldon attended the game. He valued their friendship enough to want her there for something that was obviously very important. And he had told her this, without actually telling her, typical Sheldon.

"Of course I will Sheldon", she closed the last couple of feet between them, and pulled him into a hug." Taken aback, he stiffened, but he wasn't stupid, slowly he relaxed and slowly put his arms round her back, returning the hug. She cared, the least he could do was reciprocate.

A/N I told you if I had enough time I'd post a oneshot, This ones been in my head for ages. Just something meant to show how much Sheldon values Penny's friendship.