100 Ways to Kill a Doctor Halloween Challenge
(my response to Dsnynutz's prompt)
1. Sheldon/Penny - They can be platonic, romantic, smutty, Super Heroes/Villains, etc.
2. Leonard/Amy's death MAY occur anytime from the Pilot thru Season 9.
3. The death must be completed in a single chapter, although you are welcome to contribute as many different forms of death as you like as long as they are a chapter each.
4. The story must be no more than 1,500 words long.
5. Deadline is October 31, 2015.
A/N: I initially called this "The Final Solution", and after I posted it, I remember what that phrase referenced: Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jewish people. I felt horrible, so I changed it a reference for A Tale of Two Cities. Leonard is no Sydney Carton, but maybe for once he can do something right. Also, I ran over the word count just a little. Hope nobody minds.
Leonard huddled miserably alone in his bed. After he and Penny had eloped, they had gotten into a huge argument about his cheating, and now she wasn't talking to him. He thought all of their problems would go away once they got engaged. Then he thought if they just got married, everything would be perfect. Now he could see that his delusions might never become reality.
The next morning, Leonard went to talk to Penny. She was just leaving for work, and she had dark circles under her eyes. She didn't look thrilled to see him, and he knew she still hadn't forgiven him for cheating on her. He was beginning to wonder why on earth she had gone through with the wedding at all. Her nostrils were flared and there was a tight, pinched look to her face that he realized had become her usual expression. He couldn't remember when she had last looked truly happy.
The thought nagged at him throughout the day. Thinking back, it seemed that she hadn't been happy in several years. Am I part of the problem? Leonard wondered. He felt a burning sensation in his gut as he recalled all the times he had pretended to support her while mocking her ambitions to become an actress. The truth was, he had eroded her confidence, made her feel inadequate and trapped her in a miserable relationship. With a sinking heart, he knew that she had agreed to elope not because she loved him, but because she desperately needed some validation that the last seven years of her life hadn't been wasted.
Penny had become the woman he wanted her to be, and it was sapping the life from her. "I love her, and I'm destroying her," he said aloud. It was oddly cathartic because it gave him hope. Not for him, of course. His parents had made sure that no matter how much therapy he went through, he could never have an emotionally healthy relationship. No, his hope was for Penny. She was happy once, and she could be happy again. It was up to him to set her free.
He gave it a lot more thought over the next several days. Sure, they could get the marriage annulled, but that wouldn't solve anything. He considered just disappearing, running away to begin a new life. But to be honest, he already felt too old and weary to start over again. So he began making plans, drawing up a will and purchasing life insurance. The laser lab had instantly come to mind as he considered how he might remove himself quickly and painlessly. Leslie Winkle was no longer at Caltech, but she had done him a favor. She had already set a precedent for fooling around with the lasers. All he had to do was to make it look like an accident.
He waited for two months. During that time, he and Penny had reached an uneasy truce. He was spending more time with just the guys, which pissed her off, but he couldn't tell her why. He was reliving his glory days, reveling in the nostalgia of arguing over comic book minutia or carrying out some crazy experiment in the apartment.
The last variable in the equation was Sheldon. He almost felt sorry for the guy, knowing the burden he was placing on his shoulders, but it had to be done and soon. So he waylaid Sheldon over peppermint tea.
"I need to ask a favor of you," Leonard began. "You know I made up my will recently, and it got me thinking about what would happen if I ever died. With my life insurance policy, I know Penny will be taken care of financially, but… she needs friends. You've always been closest to her. Bernie used to be her best friend, but the more she hung out with Amy, the more the two of them ganged up on her. We've all made fun of her sometimes, and she deserves better." He looked Sheldon straight in the eye. "I need you to promise that if anything ever happens to me, you'll take care of Penny."
"That is a rather broad request-" Sheldon began.
"I know exactly what I'm asking, and it's something I could only ask of my best friend. If she needs anything-anything at all-swear that you'll do whatever she needs you to."
Sheldon paled. "Did your recent medical exam uncover any anomalies?"
Leonard shook his head. "Nope, as far as the doctors can tell, I should live into my eighties. I just need you to promise me that you'll look after Penny."
"Very well. Shall I create a contract for our agreement?"
"No!" Leonard yelled. "I mean, no, that won't be necessary. You gave me your word, and I trust you." He breathed a sigh of relief as Sheldon nodded and turned back to his tea.
He left a card for Penny, sliding it under the door to her apartment. Since he couldn't let anyone know what he was planning, he couldn't say goodbye. He did tell her how much he loved her and that he wanted her to follow her dreams. In time, he hoped his last words would be significant.
The lasers were ridiculously easy to rig. Moving a few decimal points in his variables created a beam powerful enough to shear through a heavy steel plate instantly. He pulled a loosely wadded piece of foil from his pocket and placed it so the laser would be redirected to his work station. He practiced with the energy levels at the lowest setting, making sure that the beam would point directly at his head. Then he carefully erased any record of his experimentation and reset the laser. He stood precisely positioned in front of the computer. Reaching for the keyboard, he paused. His hand trembled as it hovered over the keys. One click would activate the lethal rays. A death ray, he thought, I'll go down in the history books. Then one final thought: Penny, I'm sorry. Before he could lose his nerve, he hit the enter key.
Alarms blared as the entire applied sciences building was evacuated. Sheldon thought nothing of the fact that he didn't see his roommate; he was merely upset that he had been interrupted while he was working. As the minutes ticked by, it became apparent that this wasn't a drill or false alarm, and the rumors began to fly. Soon, two fire engines and an ambulance pulled up. The scientists huddled in circles, gossiping about the excitement. About twenty minutes later, two EMT's wheeled out a gurney covered in a sheet. As it jostled over the curb, an arm fell lifelessly from under the sheet. Everyone had been watching in a state of shock, but only Sheldon recognized the shirt sleeve.
"Leonard!" he cried in anguish and crumpled to the ground.
Six friends numbly went through the motions of planning a funeral and memorial service. Or more correctly, five friends: Sheldon was obsessed with the idea that he could have somehow prevented Leonard's death, to the point that he was useless for anything else. Amy, who hadn't spoken to him since she had terminated their relationship agreement months ago, turned up to comfort him. Once he realized that "comfort" was a euphemism for coitus, he banished her from his apartment for life.
He found the letter a week later, tucked into the folds of his Tuesday pajamas. Leonard clearly meant for him to find it after his death. In the letter, Leonard reminded Sheldon of his promise and explained how he realized he was destroying the woman he loved. "Only you know the truth, and you don't need to worry about lying convincingly because I set it all up to look like an accident." Leonard wrote. "I did it for her. Help her to be happy again." Sheldon's throat constricted as he laid the letter down on his bed. He had no choice but to keep this secret for Penny's sake. For once in his life, Leonard had executed a plan flawlessly.
Over the next several months, Sheldon became the one constant in Penny's life that she could utterly rely on. He processed mounds of legal documents so that she could receive the insurance payout. When she was too distraught to drive, he got behind the wheel, and gritting his teeth, made his way along busy streets at a snail's pace. Whatever she needed, he was there for her, day or night. His door was always open to her, even his bedroom door. Sometimes, she would steal into Leonard's room in the middle of the night and cry herself to sleep on his bed. Sometimes she crawled into Sheldon's bed, and then he would hold her and stroke her hair until she fell asleep. One night, she wasn't interested in sleep, and Sheldon kept his promise to his late best friend. They carried on their affair quietly for several months, until Penny got her big break. She left for ten weeks to film her first movie role in Vancouver. When she got back, she was aglow with happiness and confidence. That was the night Sheldon told her he loved her. He hadn't meant to fall in love; in fact, it had crept up on him so gradually that he was almost as surprised as she was when he said it.
She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately, and then her face grew sober. "It's been less than two years since Leonard's gone, and sometimes thinking about him makes me feel guilty. Do you think he would be upset about us?"
He lifted her chin with one finger. "I can say with absolute certainty that he desired nothing more than your happiness."