Penny took one last look in the mirror and adjusted her tights one last time. Her costume had to be absolutely perfect. Ever since she admitted to Bernadette and Amy that her relationship with Leonard was kind of boring, she had been feeling really guilty. Leonard tried. He really did. So, obviously the problem had to be with her, right? Maybe if she tried harder, things would be better.
Which is why she was currently in a hotel, scrutinizing her costume. She was going to surprise Leonard by joining him and the guys. She knew Sheldon was the Flash, Howard was Green Lantern, Raj was Superman and Leonard was Batman. That's why she chose Poison Ivy. She had briefly considered Catwoman, but she didn't want to walk around in skin tight leather with a mask over her face. No, the lycra bodysuit and strategically placed vines suited her better.
She grimaced as she reached for the long red wig. The things she went through for her man, she thought to herself. She made sure her own blonde tresses were secured beneath a cap before pulling the wig on. She fluffed the curls to give them some body and slipped her room key into her green suede ankle boot. "Look out, Leonard. Here I come," she said with a grin.
Sheldon frowned when he realized his friends had wandered off while he was bartering with a vendor over the price of a golden age comic he needed. It was too early for dinner, and there were no more panels they had wanted to sit in on this evening, so they had decided to peruse the vendor section of the convention. Now he had been abandoned and Leonard had their hotel key.
"So, who's faster? You or the Man of Steel?" a voice purred from behind him.
Sheldon turned with surprise. "Penny?"
She grinned widely and blew him a kiss. "Hey, Moopie. Surprised to see me?"
He ignored the use of his Meemaw's nickname, happy to see a familiar face. He studied her costume carefully. "Penny! You have created an almost perfect replica of the Heroclix Poison Ivy. Well done."
"Almost perfect?" she pouted.
"Your boots are too short," he pointed out.
Penny rolled her eyes before looking around. "So, where's the others? I wanted to surprise Leonard."
"It would appear they abandoned me while I was negotiating with a vendor." He turned and looked over the crowd. "I was about to search for them. Will you join me?"
She nodded and they began weaving their way through the crowded floor. "Have you had a good time?" she asked, mostly just to make conversation, not out of any real desire to hear about the convention.
"It has been enjoyable," he said with barely concealed excitement. "The Star Trek panel alone was worth the price of our passes."
"That's nice, sweetie," she said sincerely. She may not understand all this sci-fi, geek stuff, but she knew it was important to the guys. She listened with one ear as Sheldon told her all about the sneak peek they had gotten for the new Star Trek movie while she looked around the crowds for her boyfriend.
Sheldon knew Penny was only vaguely listening. He also knew she didn't mean any disrespect. She was just eager to find Leonard. "Are you staying for the rest of the convention?" he asked. He sincerely hoped not. He did not want to have to vacate his room and end up sleeping with Howard and Raj.
"Yep," she said, popping the 'p'. "I got lucky and found a canceled room on one of those discount sites." She looked up at Sheldon and grinned mischievously. "Hope you don't mind me stealing Leonard away."
He shook his head, relieved. "I will be very content having a room to myself." He spotted Howard near a booth and started to point him out, but gasped when he saw Leonard. Oh no!
"Sweetie?" Penny looked at him curiously before turning to try and see what had stunned him.
"Don't look!" he said quickly as the crowd in front of them shifted.
Penny froze. She had a clear view of Howard and Leonard. They were between two booths, oblivious to their surroundings. Howard was flirting with a female Klingon, sputtering guttural noises Penny could only assume was Klingon as she cuddled him. Leonard wasn't talking to the woman in the skimpy Pikachu costume. Mostly because her tongue was down his throat.
Sheldon looked from Penny to Leonard and then back to Penny worriedly. The green makeup around her eyes seemed darker thanks to her now pale skin tone. He fidgeted for a heartbeat before lightly touching her arm. "Penny?"
She dragged her eyes away from Leonard with effort, but she didn't look up at him. Instead, she looked down at her shoes. Sheldon felt a mix of emotions. Anger at Leonard. Disdain for the Pikachu girl. Remorse over his own request to Penny that she not hurt his friend. Mostly, though, he felt compassion for Penny. Surreptitiously he raised his phone and snapped a photo.
Sheldon slid his arm around her shoulders and turned her back the way they had come. Her steps were leaden at first, but soon they became faster. The heels of her boots clunked fiercely on the tiled floor and he had to speed up to keep pace, even with his long legs. They reached the elevators and squeezed into one.
He didn't know what floor Penny's room was on, and he didn't think it would be wise to take her back to his own. Besides, he didn't have his key. He had counted on Leonard being with him when they retired for the night. The elevator rose to the third floor and a couple got off. It went to the fourth floor and a teenager got on. Penny seemed to rouse herself and she reached out to punch the button for the ninth floor.
There was a stop on the sixth floor before it finally stopped on the ninth. Penny got off and stormed down the hallway, Sheldon following closely. She reached room 913 and bent to retrieve her card. She swiped it too fast the first time, took a shaky breath and swiped it more slowly the second. She shoved the door open and crossed to the bed where a suitcase lay open.
Sheldon closed the door and watched as she kicked off the boots and shimmied into a pair of jeans. She grabbed a t-shirt off the floor and pulled it on. It snagged her wig, knocking it askew. She ripped it from her head and threw it into the suitcase. He flinched when she sucked in a harsh breath.
"Penny?" He moved closer, wringing his hands together. "What are you going to do?"
She gave a loud bark of laughter and gripped the sides of the case tight enough to whiten her knuckles. "Do? What am I going to do?" She closed her eyes and clenched her jaw. They were both silent for a long moment.
Sheldon watched her struggle to calm herself. It hurt him to see her in so much pain. Slowly he approached her and slipped his arms around her shoulders. "There, there. Sheldon's here," he whispered.
Slowly Penny relaxed into him. "I'm going home," she said softly.
Sheldon sighed and nodded his head. "I owe you an apology," he said just as softly. "I should never have asked you to stay with Leonard."
Penny reached up to pat his arm before pulling away. "I don't care what you tell him," she said stiffly. "But I want you to make it perfectly clear that the next time I see him, I'll break his nose."
She finished shoving everything back into her suitcase, zipped it up and pulled it off the bed. She paused and looked up at Sheldon for a couple of seconds before raising up on her tiptoes and kissing his cheek. "And no matter what anyone else says, you've always been my real best friend. I love you, Sheldon. No matter what happens next, never forget that."
Sheldon watched silently, his heart constricting, as she extended the handle on the case and pulled it behind her as she left the hotel room. After a few minutes he picked up the room card and put it in his pocket. Then he took an elevator back down the convention and went in search of Raj. He would tell Leonard he had secured a room for himself, but nothing else. Leonard deserved to get his nose broken when they got home.
He paused and pulled out his phone. He composed a quick message and hit send. Howard deserved a punch, as well.
Penny grabbed the two bags of groceries from her trunk and headed for the garage door. She loved the little bungalow she shared with Bernadette. Six months ago her world had crashed down around her feet. When she got home she immediately began looking for new apartments. When Bernadette had shown up, crying, she had been oddly (guiltily) grateful that she wasn't alone in her misery.
Bernadette had told her, over a glass of wine and lots of tears, that Sheldon had sent her a picture of Howard and Leonard making out with two women. When she realized Penny was planning on moving, she had immediately offered to let Penny stay with her until she found a new place. Penny took her up on the offer. By the time the guys returned from San Diego Penny had vacated 4B.
Leonard tried to contact her, but she ignored all his calls and messages. Bernadette did the same with Howard. When the two of them showed up at The Cheesecake Factory parking lot with roses and pitiful expressions, it was Bernadette who ended up punching Leonard while Penny planted her knee in Howard's crotch.
Amy tried to play advocate for the guys, insisting the girls needed to fix their relationships because it was causing strain in her relationship with Sheldon. That was the last time Amy was invited to a girl's night. Things got tense, since Leonard and Howard made it a point to show up at their job and sit in a corner booth, watching them sadly.
Then Penny saw an ad for a small two bedroom bungalow outside Los Angeles. Between the two of them, they could swing the rent and utilities easily. The place was nice. In addition to the two bedrooms, there was a garage, kitchen, living room, office, laundry room and one and a half baths. Penny ran into Wil Wheaton not long after they moved. He told her about a closed audition, even going so far as to get her on the list. The day she got cast was the same day she quit the restaurant. Between Bernadette's salary at the lab and her increased salary from the sitcom she was in, they were doing better than ever.
"Bernadette? I'm back!"
"I'm in the study," Bernadette called back.
Penny set the groceries on the table and headed in that direction. Bernadette stood in the doorway, looking nervous. Penny studied her worriedly.
Bernadette bit at her bottom lip and twisted her hands together. "We have company," she said quietly. A figure appeared beside Bernadette and Penny gasped aloud. A second later she was throwing her arms around the thin waist, tears in her eyes.
He smiled softly and wrapped his own arms around her shoulders. Bernadette relaxed and nodded her head toward the kitchen before walking away. Sheldon gave a nod and laid his cheek on Penny's head. "Hello, Penny," he whispered into her hair.
After a long moment she kept her arms around him, but pulled back far enough to look into his face. "What are you doing here?"
He twitched slightly. When she started to release him, his own arms tightened, keeping her in place. "I missed you," he said simply.
"How long can you stay?" she asked happily.
Sheldon flushed slightly and looked away. "Actually I have a request to make of you."
Penny pulled away warily, remembering his last request of her. Sheldon reluctantly let her move out of arm's reach. "What kind of request?"
"I am no longer content to remain in Pasadena. I cannot abide my former friends, with the exception of Raj. So, I stored most of my possessions, and moved out. I am currently staying at a hotel, and am in need of a new abode."
Penny's jaw dropped comically. "You moved out? Why? What about Amy?"
"I have ended my relationship with Amy. I wish her the best, but I cannot give her the affection she craves." He smiled shyly and looked at Penny. "I wish, more than anything, to resume our friendships."
"You know, we don't use that study," Bernadette said from behind them. She met Penny's eyes hopefully. "It could easily be turned into a third bedroom."
Penny looked from Bernadette to Sheldon. Peace filled her as she smiled happily. "Laundry night is Saturday at 8:15. Monday is pizza and classic movies. Thursday is Taco night. And you take over mowing the lawn."
Sheldon quickly reached out and pulled Penny back into a tight hug. Penny held out a hand to Bernadette who hurried over to join them. Like puzzle pieces falling into place, Penny felt as if her world was suddenly made right. She had her two best friends, a beautiful home and her dream job. She had never been happier.
A/N: For Dsnynutz who asked for this story a very long time ago. Sorry it took so long, but inspiration didn't hit until a few days ago.