A/N: Hello again, everyone! It's been way too long since I've posted a story for The Big Bang Theory, I know, but real life intruded and all that jazz. I'm actually working on a multi-chapter Big Bang Theory story, but I've written myself into a corner. What you're about to read is my way of fighting through the writer's block.
As always, I'm flying without a beta (if anyone wants to beta my longer story, please PM me and we'll talk!) so all mistakes are mine. Hopefully it's at least legible – crayon can smudge so sometimes.
Any resemblance to any real people, places, or events is entirely coincidental. The writer claims no ownership of the characters, settings, or show as a whole. Especially the show. At this point there's no way I'd claim that dreck they're shoveling with a ten-foot clown pole. I also don't claim to own the particular…video…featured
The Chew Toy Catalyst
Fallout, n: the settling to the ground of airborne particles ejected into the atmosphere from the earth by explosions, eruptions, forest fires, etc., especially such settling from nuclear explosions; the particles themselves; an unexpected outcome or product; effects or results
While the primary definition of the term fallout was scientific in nature, it had come to acquire a social meaning as well, referring to the residual bad feelings that were the aftermath of a particularly nasty event among a group of people.
Sheldon Cooper had never understood the second context, finding it odd and distantly offensive that a purely scientific word had been appropriated in such a way. Until recently.
Until the Boat.
Until the Movie Incident.
When Leonard was dumb enough to let it slip that he had shown the video of her nude scene from Serial Apist to his colleagues on the boat, she had indeed gone nuclear. Her screech rattled the glass doors in the lobby as he got his mail that fateful evening. As he ascended the stairs, the sound of crashing and smashing throughout her apartment grew ever louder, until it seemed she was intent on destroying everything she owned.
He'd stormed to her door, intent on berating her for the noise, but when he opened her door, she'd launched herself at him, wrapping him in a tearful, snotty hug. Between sniffs and whimpers, he'd been able to discern what Leonard had done. His first impulse, after getting through the overwhelming outrage at his roommate's – Leonard ceased to be a friend in that moment – conduct was to find his way out to the boat and teach Leonard how an anchor worked. It had taken every iota of his strength to rein in the Texas gentleman he'd been raised and suppress the urge.
Penny was more important.
They'd stayed in that embrace for over an hour. Sheldon had waited for the twitches, the urges to fling himself away from human contact, but they never came. The need to be there for Penny, to do whatever he could to lessen her pain, feeble though his skills at calming a hysterical woman might be, was paramount. Something he was doing seemed to work at any rate, as her painful, ragged breathing seemed to lessen and even out over time. Tracing slow circles over her back, murmuring soothing noises, and caressing her hair seemed to help the most.
As he held his blonde friend, Sheldon marveled at the complete and utter lack of any urges to flee or douse himself in hand sanitizer. When Amy draped herself over him or forced him to hold her hand, his entire mind was focused on an imaginary countdown clock, waiting for the experience to last long enough to be considered socially acceptable. With Penny, he was hard pressed to remember a time when he'd felt more comfortable. Taking a long sniff of her hair, she smelled like safety, like home.
Searching his mind, Sheldon went over the Roommate Agreement and all its associated Friendship Clauses. When he'd redone the contract after the Priya Fiasco – as he'd come to term the experience in his mind – he'd included a number of clauses designed to trap Leonard. After the Arctic trip and his roommate's treachery, he refused to trust the man again. Thus when his lawyer girlfriend Priya picked apart his Roommate Contract, he'd jumped at the opportunity to lay strategically-placed traps in the language that he was sure Leonard would never see.
He never read anything that he signed, after all.
And Leonard had just sprung the trap with the most serious consequences: hurting a member of their group.
Given the circumstances, certain accommodations would have to be made. He'd have to email Leonard the eviction documentation and arrange for his belongings to be packed up and stored until Leonard returned, but that was a small matter. With Penny's shrieked declaration that she never wanted to see her ex-boyfriend again, he'd been sure removing his presence from the premises would go a long way to helping her regain her equilibrium.
And so it had. In the several weeks since they'd learned about Leonard's treachery, having all traces of him removed from apartment 4A definitely helped Penny deal with his ghost, not that he would ever admit the existence of ghosts.
One of the unexpected casualties of the fallout was Amy. After Penny told Leonard they were over, Amy seemed to take it personally, and made it her mission, wine bottle in hand, to get Penny to take Leonard back, telling her why it was a mistake and that Leonard was the best boyfriend she'd ever have.
Newly empowered, Penny had seen the move for what it was and told Amy much the same thing that she'd told Leonard: the neuroscientist's motives were far from altruistic and were in fact suffocating her.
Furious and betrayed at being thrown out of her bestie's life, Amy demanded Sheldon support her and walk out. Everyone in the room was stunned when he stood straight-backed and told her he had no intentions of leaving. Her stomps had echoed down the entire stairwell.
All of which led him to this point.
Penny hadn't withdrawn from the group after her latest breakup with Leonard. Even if she'd had the same initial impulse to absent herself from their circle after the last time she and Leonard broke up, Bernadette, Howard, Raj, and Sheldon himself rallied around her. Their combined actions made it clear that she wouldn't be excluded no matter what demands Leonard made. To that end, he was standing in front of Penny's door, waiting until the clock struck 11:00 AM, intending to offer her the cup of tea in his hand if she needed and to invite her to join the group for paintball.
Raising his hand to knock, a soft noise from within arrested his motion. Straining his ears to hear whatever he could through the fiberboard, he heard the noise again, clearer this time. A soft moan, as if someone was in pain wafted under the door. All thoughts of paintball fled his mind as Sheldon imagined dozens of possible scenarios where strong, independent Penny was fending off a burglar or worse.
Almost instantaneously, his inner Texan gentleman sprang to the fore and despite his lack of physical attributes, he swung the door open, intending to do whatever he could to rescue what sounded like a damsel in distress, even if all he could do was distract the intruder enough to allow Penny to whale on him.
What he found wasn't even in the list of possible outcomes he'd anticipated.
Sheldon was far too stunned to feel the hot tea splashing over his feet and ankles as the ceramic mug shattered on her floor.
Catalyst: in chemistry, a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected; something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected; a person or thing that precipitates an event or change
Instead of Penny moaning in pain at the mercy of a black-clad burglar, her moans were from an entirely different reason. She was sitting on a towel on her couch, stark naked and legs spread as wide as they would go. There was a humming coming from between her legs that, he realized, was the battery-operated chew toy he'd once found in her closet, but she wasn't chewing on it. Not by a long shot.
Her attention swung from the television to him. "What the hell? Sheldon?!" she shrieked as about fifteen different expressions flitted across her face. No expert in human emotional displays, he nevertheless was an expert at Penny's expressions after years of studying her. Embarrassment and outrage quickly gave way to yearning and – he almost dared not hope – yearning.
Gaping, he tried to think of anything to say to mask his own mortification, but his mouth refused to obey his brain's commands. He was about to apologize and make his escape when a noise from the television pierced his mental fog.
Turning to look, his amazement increased – a feat thirty seconds ago he would have sworn to his mother's God would have been impossible – to see Star Trek on her television. Looking closer, it was an episode that he had never seen, something else he would have thought impossible. As he watched, a shapely Uhura deftly removed Spock's uniform. His eyes goggled.
"Penny?" he whispered, turning back to his friend.
"Um, surprise?" she said, attempting to appear casual with a shrug of her shoulders, as if one could appear casual lying nude on a couch.
"What are you doing?" he asked, starting with the first question that popped into his mind.
"Really, Sheldon?" she rolled her eyes. "What does it look like I'm doing?"
"Well just from the outside it looks like you're self-stimulating with a battery-operated chew toy to an episode of Star Trek that I've never seen," he turned wide eyes back to the television, shifting to hide any visible evidence of his growing arousal.
She giggled at him as she left her toy embedded in her vulva and reached for a DVD case on her end table. "Oh sweetie. This ain't a chew toy, and that isn't Star Trek."
Taking the case, Sheldon's eyes bulged even further. "This is a pornographic version of Star Trek?" he asked, incredulity dripping from his voice.
"Sort of," Penny replied, keeping her focus on him and not the voluptuous blonde currently being bent over a desk on the screen, "It's a parody. They're not making fun of Star Trek, just spoofing it."
"And you're watching it willingly, by yourself?" he questioned, understanding slowly dawning.
"Obviously," she said with so much sarcasm even he had no doubts as to her meaning. "Unless you want to join in?"
As her voice trailed off, Sheldon's face snapped up to see the familiar challenging smirk from their prank war and so many other times they'd gone toe-to-toe.
A distant part of his mind focused on the seemingly irrelevant definition. Irrelevant, because as he stared at his nude neighbor, the relevant definition was again the social application. He and Penny were standing on the precipice. He could turn around and walk out of Penny's apartment, allowing them each to pretend the whole incident never happened; or he could sit down next to her, pretend to ignore what she was doing and participate.
An action that he never even imagined performing in front of another person.
But this was not just any person. This was Penny. The one person that he didn't feel the need to bathe in hand sanitizer when she touched him; the one person who he could bend his routines for without suffering a full-body twitching attack.
He set his jaw and made his decision.
Watershed: the ridge or crest line dividing two drainage areas, where water parts; an important point of division or transition between two phases or conditions.
Later, much later, when her moans and his grunts had finally trailed off, Sheldon looked at the goddess next to him on the couch only to see that she was already gazing at him. Seeing the mess they'd made – more him than her – they burst into laughter that was nowhere near as awkward as it should have been.
She leaned over and kissed his cheek before going into the bathroom for a damp washrag so he could clean up his finish. Far more fascinating than the movie they'd given up any pretenses of watching, Sheldon was mesmerized by the sway she put into her hips. The bouncing flesh was hypnotic, holding his attention even while she was out of the room. Seeing her return was even better.
"Penny?" he asked after accepting the rag and wiping his torso clean.
A sharp inhalation was the only clue that she'd heard him.
Deciding that the time for chickening out was long past, he plunged ahead. "What does this mean?"
She paused for a long time, long enough that he wasn't sure she wanted to answer him at all. Afraid that he'd offended her or worse – scared her – he started to get to his feet. Maybe if he could escape before she shot him down, the damage wouldn't be as severe.
Before he could even pull his briefs up, a soft hand on his forearm stilled his movement. "I don't know what it means, sweetie. I know I'm not ready for anything even close to serious after what he did, and I can guess that you're not really ready to try another relationship after what happened with Amy, right?"
There was only one honest response to that. Sheldon nodded.
"So maybe this doesn't have to mean anything. Maybe we can just treat this as a way to blow off steam until we're ready for something more?" her inflection rose on the last few words, turning it into a question.
Sheldon thought about all the ramifications of what she was asking. It was true that he'd never sought out female company, certainly never for the purposes of sexual gratification, but as always, Penny was different. Ever since their fateful encounter when she'd dislocated her shoulder and he'd gotten both an eyeful and a handful, her touch had never set off his mysophobia like everyone else did.
She was Penny.
She was his catalyst. She was his watershed. She was the exception to all his rules.
There was only one possible answer.
"I think that's a great idea."
A/N: Well that wasn't too bad, was it? Hope you liked it!