The moment they stepped onto the fourth floor Leonard smoothed his rumpled shirt, walked across to 4B and knocked firmly while the others went into 4A. The door opened and he smiled widely as he looked up.
Meanwhile in 4A, Sheldon hung up with his mother and looked at Raj and Howard smugly. "I cannot wait to see the look on Leslie Winkle's face when she finds out I have proven M theory."
Howard and Raj exchanged worried looks. "Uh, Sheldon," Howard began cautiously, "we need to tell you something."
A couple of minutes later Leonard walked slowly into his apartment, looking shell shocked. He took off his glasses and wiped them on his shirt. "P-Penny moved," he stammered.
Sheldon was twitching wildly. "Leonard, Howard and Raj say my results were corrupted. Tell them to stop joking!"
Leonard rubbed the bridge of his nose. "She's gone!" he groaned miserably.
"Leonard!" Sheldon said loudly. "Tell them!"
Leonard looked up at Sheldon with anger. "Don't you get it?! The woman I love moved!"
"My experiments, Leonard!"
"Experiments fail all the time, Sheldon!" he yelled. "You were driving us nuts! So, we faked a few results! It's nothing! No big deal! PENNY IS GONE!"
Sheldon silently stared at him for a long moment before turning and running back toward his bedroom.
Leonard huffed and grabbed his laptop from his luggage. "Facebook," he muttered. "I can find her through Facebook!"
Howard and Raj looked at each other before quietly leaving the apartment. Now was a good time to lay low. At least until the smoke cleared.
After two days of ridicule, Sheldon turned in his resignation and took a bus home. He and Leonard had not spoken since he learned the truth, so he saw no need to alert his former friend to his leaving. Leonard had spent every waking moment trying to find Penny. This was made more difficult due to the fact that her social media accounts had been deactivated, as well as her phone.
By the time Leonard got home, Sheldon had accomplished a great deal. He had professional movers pack and load all of Leonard's belongings into a U-Haul. All the locks, including the lobby door, had been changed and the landlord and current residents had been notified that Leonard was no longer living there.
When Leonard began yelling from the sidewalk, Sheldon put on his noise-canceling headphones and studied the three white boards he had set up. Each one was dedicated to one of his former friends or treasured acquaintances. Beneath the header was a list of each man's weaknesses. Howard and Raj were easy.
Sheldon knew enough dirt on Raj to have him deported within the week. As for Howard, using the Mars Rover to seduce women would end his security clearance and possibly end with him brought up on charges.
But for Leonard, he needed something truly special. He knew Leonard was the mastermind. The other two were sheep, easily led astray. Sheldon pulled his phone from his pocket and found a number he had never used before, despite his mild curiosity as to why Penny had a second phone she never gave them the number to. He dialed it and took off the headphones, relieved to find that Leonard had apparently given up. It rang several times before being picked up.
… "How did you get this number?" she asked warily.
He rolled his eyes. "Penny, I am a genius. When you understand physics, there is nothing you cannot do."
She sighed softly. "You saw this number on my old phone, huh?"
"Of course," he said simply. "I am calling to invite you to dinner. A celebration, of sorts."
She was silent for several seconds. He began to wonder if she had hung up. "When? Will everyone be there?"
"Tomorrow at 7 o'clock," he said through clenched teeth. "Everyone who matters will be present."
She gave another sigh. "Okay. I'll see you all then."
"Thank you. Goodbye." Sheldon hung up and grinned. "Soon, Dr. Hofstadter. Soon."
Penny parked, questioning herself once again. This wasn't the smartest idea, but the chance to say goodbye was just too tempting. She got out and headed to the lobby door, surprised to see Sheldon waiting for her. When she was near, he held open the door for her.
"Hi, sweetie. You didn't have to watch for me."
"Actually, I did," he said calmly. "The landlord changed the locks and the lobby door is kept secured now."
She felt a tingle of unease creeping up her spine. Something wasn't right about this. "Oh? Why is that?"
Sheldon's expression hardened, making her more hesitant. "So that former tenants cannot enter without permission."
"Maybe I shouldn't be here," she said slowly, pausing on the sixth step.
Sheldon gripped her elbow and urged her forward. "Nonsense," he insisted. "You are my guest, Penny."
She was very glad she had brought her purse. They continued up the stairs silently. Sheldon noticed the stiffening of her shoulders and wondered how much she knew. Had Leonard contacted her first? If so, would she side with his former friend? Could all his planning have been for naught?
When they reached the fourth floor he opened the door and waved her in. When she didn't register any surprise that there was no one else there, he became convinced Leonard had gotten to her first.
She was completely focused on the possible threat he posed. As soon as he released her elbow, she took five steps, slipped her hand into her purse, then turned and pointed a Glock 30 SF at his heart.
"What do you know?" "What has he told you?"
Both of them froze as they spoke at the same time. Penny tightened her grip on the gun. "How did you know about me?" she asked gruffly.
Sheldon stared at the gun with surprise. "You're pointing a gun at me, Penny? Is this Leonard's idea?"
She kept the barrel steady. "What's Leonard got to do with this? I haven't spoken to him in months."
"I think we may have a misunderstanding." He cleared his throat and gestured toward the white boards, fear making him shiver. "I asked you to come here because Leonard betrayed me."
Penny glanced at the boards, then back at Sheldon. She stepped backwards until she had a peripheral view of the first board. Slowly she lowered the gun as the words written on it registered.
"This wasn't about me?" she asked. "Wait! Leonard fucked up your work?"
Sheldon nodded quickly. "Penny, why were you pointing a gun at me?"
She sighed and put the gun away. "Because I thought you were a threat." She walked over to look at the boards better. "I'm not a waitress," she said, reading what he had wrote. "I'm actually an undercover officer. I was placed here as part of an investigation into prostitution."
She turned and looked at him curiously. "What was supposed to take 6 months took three years. Last month we moved in and took out one of the largest operations I've ever seen. 116 arrests, in all. When you told me the locks had been changed, and I walked into an empty room, I thought I had been wrong about you, and I was in danger."
"Wrong about me?" he squeaked.
She nodded. "I was investigating Cal-Tech personnel. Getting close to you guys gave me access to the school. Through you guys, I could monitor several suspects."
His eyes bugged out. "Wait! You suspected I was involved in prostitution?"
"Not you," she clarified. "But I did suspect Howard and Leonard might have some knowledge of the operation. In fact, Dr. Gabelhauser was one of our high profile arrests. He was recruiting at the school." She turned toward him, her expression steely. "What exactly did Leonard do?"
Sheldon blushed and twitched. "Leonard falsified my results. I am a laughingstock now. My career is finished, Penny."
She looked around the room carefully. "Where were you when you found out what Leonard did?"
He frowned. "Why?"
"Where?" she repeated.
"Beside my desk."
"By the door."
Penny grinned. "Well then, we simply turn him in to the school board."
Sheldon shook his head. "It is my word against his. Howard and Raj would never admit their own involvement. They will back Leonard."
Penny chewed on her bottom lip. "Um, actually, it's possible. See, I bugged this place the day we met. When you two got home, I had already placed mics and cameras all through the apartment."
"You bugged me?" he screeched.
"I suspected Howard and Leonard, remember.? I bugged Howard's home, too. The point is, I never removed the bugs. There's a chance that the bugs are still here, and may have recorded everything."
He opened his mouth to berate her, but her words sunk in and he hesitated. "Evidence?" he said with wonder.
Penny nodded, pulling her phone out. She dialed a number and walked over toward the window. She spoke softly, obviously trying to speak privately. Sheldon had no trouble hearing her, anyway, as she asked someone named Charlie to check on the status of the cameras. Then she hung up and walked back over to the boards.
She studied the other two briefly before turning back to the first one. She reached out and placed her finger under the word 'seduction'. "Care to explain this?"
He blushed and looked down at the floor. "Leonard took my reputation, Penny. I planned to take you from him."
"I was to be your revenge," she stated calmly.
He nodded anxiously. "Are you mad?"
Penny turned to him and quirked an eyebrow. "Gimme your best line."
"What?" he asked, certain she was joking.
Penny smiled and approached him slowly. "Seduce me, Sheldon." His mouth opened and closed in shock, but no words came out. Penny grinned, her eyes twinkling. "Yeah, thought so," she smirked.
Sheldon jerked back, his pride wounded by her amusement. Before he could talk himself out of it, he took three steps, grabbed her upper arms and pulled her in tight against him. "You want to be seduced?" he drawled. "Very well, Penelope."
He dipped his head and pressed his lips to hers firmly. Sheldon had been kissed many times over the years. Usually without his permission. He was not without some experience. Not to mention, when he was a hormonal teen, he had done a great deal of research. He intended to put all that knowledge to good use now.
However, the moment he felt her lips under his, knowledge flew out the window. Along with cognitive reasoning. Then she relaxed and began to return the kiss. The feel of her lips moving along his brought out a gasp. Then he felt the tip of her tongue probing at the seam of his lips. It only seemed natural to open for her.
Penny slid her hands up his arms, around his shoulders and linked them behind his neck. How many times had she dreamed of this over the last three years? Too many times to count. She slowly maneuvered them backwards until her butt hit the kitchen counter.
She was surprised when he suddenly reached down and lifted her up onto the edge. She released his neck and groped for the bottom of his shirts. She shoved them up as far as she could so she could drag her nails across his ribs. Sheldon gasped and drew away. Penny expected him to run for the nearest bottle of sanitizer, so when he whipped his shirts over his head and reached for her own, she was a little slow to raise her arms.
"This won't work if you remain limp," he said in a husky Texas accent.
Penny immediately grinned impishly. "Isn't that supposed to be my line?"
With a growl Sheldon pushed his hips between her knees, pressing his hard length against her core. "I do not believe it applies," he drawled.
Her eyes widened and she struggled not to rip the rest of his clothes off him. "Sheldon, if this goes any further..."
He kissed her hard for a moment. When he pulled away he reached up to thread his fingers in her hair. "I know what everyone thinks of me," he whispered. "I purposely encouraged that image, because I have always considered romance and sex to be distractions from my goals. Just because I do not indulge in sexual activities does not mean I do not feel those things. I know exactly what I am doing. I know what I want."
Penny leaned into his touch. "What do you want?" she asked. She had to hear the words or else she would always wonder if she had taken advantage of him.
Sheldon threw caution to the wind and, for the first time since puberty, gave in to his desires. "Penny, I want to kiss you," he said. "I want to touch you. I want to know what it is like to have you in my arms, not just in my imagination."
Penny sucked in a shaky breath. "Good answer," she whispered before pulling him back in tight for another kiss.
Sheldon stood the water spray and tried to calm his racing mind. In the space of 96 hours he had gone through several life changes. From shining star in the world of physics to ridiculed outcast. From steady employment to joblessness. From having friends to having sworn enemies. From virgin to...
With a heavy heart he leaned a forearm against the shower wall and rested his head on it. How could he go back? How could he move forward? He knew so much now. Knew what it was like to be one with someone else. Knew what it was like to feel as if he was flying and falling all at once. Knew what it was like to have Penny in his arms.
The last eight hours had been beyond his wildest imaginings. What would happen when she awoke? Would she leave? Would she stay? He knew what he wanted. He wanted everything. His reputation, his career, Penny.
He sighed and wiped water from his face before reaching for a wash cloth. The shower curtain suddenly shifted and Penny stepped into the tub. Sheldon gasped and immediately dropped his hands to his crotch.
Penny yawned sleepily and moved forward to put her face into the water. She blinked away droplets, looking a little more awake before reaching up to kiss his jaw. "Mornin'," she mumbled, taking the cloth from him and soaping it up. She handed it back and turned away from him. "Wash my back?"
Sheldon swallowed before gently beginning to rub the cloth along her shoulder blades. With each passing second he relaxed a little more. He moved down her back slowly, washing her skin tenderly. When he reached her buttocks he stroked a little more firmly, which resulted in heavier breathing from Penny.
His own body was reacting, as well. He moved closer and moved the cloth around to her stomach. She nestled back into him, trapping his erection between them. He couldn't stop himself from flexing his hips slowly. Penny leaned her head back and gave him a lusty smile. He dropped the cloth and reached up to cup her breasts. Penny tilted her head and offered him her lips
They kissed and rubbed their bodies together until he was afraid he would embarrass himself. He moved back to catch his breath and she turned to face him. She pressed him back against the wall and dropped to her knees. Sheldon had only a second to steel himself before her mouth closed around his erection.
He tried to recite the digits of Pi in his head to keep himself distracted. Then Penny relaxed her throat and pushed him deeper into her mouth. Three seconds later he came unglued and erupted. His shoulders sagged as Penny stood and reached for the shampoo bottle. She lathered his hair, rinsed it and did the same with the conditioner. Next she did the same for her own. By the time she was done, he was feeling steadier.
They both stepped out of the shower and dried off. Sheldon dressed in fresh clothes while Penny pulled back on the ones she had worn yesterday. He followed her out of the bathroom and into the kitchen. Penny had apparently made coffee and tea before joining him in the shower. She poured them both drinks before facing him.
"We should talk," she said quietly.
He gave a nervous nod, his eyes fixed on his cup.
"First of all, I heard back from Charlie. He has video and audio of Raj and Howard telling you about the can opener trick and of Leonard blowing it off as nothing."
Sheldon hadn't told her the details of the betrayal, so he knew she spoke the truth. "What are you going to do with them?"
"Nothing," she said calmly. "He's sending an officer over with them. You can do what you want with them."
"What do you mean?
She set aside her untouched coffee and stepped closer to him. "It's your choice," she clarified. "You can expose them, or you can do nothing. The decision should be yours, sweetie. Whatever you decide to do, I'll support it."
Sheldon placed his own cup on the counter and took a step closer to her. "Penny? Will I... Are you..."
Penny reached up and placed the tips of her fingers against his lips. "Second, he's also shut down the devices now, and he personally erased the recordings from last night."
Sheldon froze. Last night? He had not even considered that! Oh lord! Last night they had been...on his counter...in the hallway... Oh lord!
"Third," Penny closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around his waist, "last night was very important to me. I know it was for you, too."
"You do?' he asked with relief.
Penny gave him one of his superior looks. "Sheldon, you aren't the type to fall into bed with someone unless you really care for them. I want you to know that, despite the act I put on for the last three years, neither am I. I'm no monk, but I have only had two boyfriends in the last four years."
His eyes widened. "But all those men..."
"Most were fellow officers who were helping me maintain my cover of an easy girl," she interrupted. "I swear I have only slept with two men in the entire time you've known me."
He could see the honesty in her eyes. His last few fears evaporated and he hugged her to him tightly. "I love you," he whispered against her hair.
Penny nestled against his chest happily. "I love you, too."
A knock on the door forced them apart so that Sheldon could walk over and open the door. He looked at Penny's former boyfriend Kurt with surprise. "How did you get inside the building?"
Penny walked over and took the package from him. "Thanks, Charlie. I appreciate it."
"No biggie, sis," he said with a wink. He looked back at Sheldon and shrugged. "I'd be a poor hacker if I couldn't open a simple lock."
Penny smiled at Sheldon's confusion. "His name's Charlie, not Kurt. He's one of the best hackers world wide. He's also my step-brother."
Charlie nodded to the discs in Penny's hands. "So, what are you gonna do about those?"
Sheldon reached out and took them unto his hand thoughtfully.
Leonard, Howard and Raj stood huddled together in the parking lot as security carried their few personal possessions out of the building. Early this morning all three of them had been called into an emergency board meeting. Leonard had assumed it was over Sheldon resigning.
President Seibert had stiffly introduced them to all the board, then he loaded a DVD player. 14 minutes later all three were terminated and being escorted from the building. All around them hundreds of student and former colleagues whispered or snapped pictures. Apparently there had been some sort of scandal a month ago and Cal-Tech was taking a hard nosed approach to further embarrassments.
"Do you think Sheldon..?" Howard whispered.
"Who else?" bit out Leonard roughly.
"Oh dear. This doesn't look promising."
The three men spun to find Sheldon standing a few feet away. Leonard took a step toward him but jerked to a stop when Penny appeared at Sheldon's side. He felt a second of joy before confusion and anger took over. Watching Sheldon draw Penny in against his side, he felt as if he had been hit by a truck.
Penny smiled up at Sheldon warmly. "Ready to go, sweetie?"
Sheldon turned to face each man squarely in the eye. "I do believe I've gotten everything I wanted," he replied.
Before any of them could push through their shock to respond, Penny and Sheldon were gone. A hand landed on Leonard's shoulder and he shoved it away roughly. The hand reappeared a second later, only this time it gripped his arm tightly.
"Dr. Hofstadter, Dr. Koothrappali, and Mr. Wolowitz, you need to come with us." a man in a suit said firmly.
"What for?" demanded Leonard, trying to look over the crowd.
"The university is pressing charges," the man said. "You have some questions to answer."
Raj burst into tears. Howard fainted. Leonard threw up.
Sheldon slipped into Penny's car and smiled shyly. "As you sure this isn't too soon?" he asked.
Penny looked at him happily. "You've already secured a very good position at UCLA. You don't drive. Living with me in Inglewood makes sense." She leaned over and kissed him gently. "Besides, I want you there."
He returned the kiss and smiled happily. "Let's go home, Penny."
A/N: I'm really looking forward to the trolls who want to argue that Sheldon is to blame for the arctic. They really seem to take exception whenever we correct that piece of toxic canon.