100 Ways to Kill a Doctor Challenge
1. Sheldon/Penny: They can be platonic, romantic etc. Platonic, but not really applicable
2. Leonard/Amy: The death may occur anytime from the pilot through Season 9. Yes
3. The death must be completed in a single chapter. Yes
4. The story must be no more than 1500 words long. Oops
5. Deadline is October 31, 2015. Phew
AN: Italicized words are Penny's inner thoughts.
The Beta-2 Receptor Test
It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can't always get what you want in life, you get what you need.
"Well, at least according to Mick Jagger," Penny thought to herself.
The Rolling Stones song resonated in her ears as she sat on her bed, reading. She enjoyed listening to music as she studied. It relaxed her and helped her concentrate on all the information she needed to learn in her pharmacology text.
Penny had been a sales representative for SPC Pharmaceuticals for a little over a year and despite having felt completely overwhelmed at first, she now sensed that she was really starting to master the material. The tongue twisting terminology – Sympathomimetics, Anticholinergics, Corticosteroids etc. - was challenging, but she relished the learning process and could feel her confidence increase with every page she turned in her book.
She particularly savoured the chapter on the pharmacology of the respiratory system.
Penny chuckled to herself. The word reminded her of Saul Blumenthal, the director of Serial Apeist, whom she had met on Melrose Avenue when she first arrived in Los Angeles 10 years ago. In hindsight, Saul had all the trappings of a snake oil salesman but she hadn't seen the red flags at the time. Anyway, that was a lifetime ago. Penny was no longer an actress, and salbutamol was now a bronchodilator drug that enhances the action of the neurotransmitters of the autonomic nervous system that encourage bronchial smooth muscle relaxation within the lungs.
"What a difference 10 years can make," she thought, as a smile crossed her face.
As Penny hummed along with the Stones frontman, she found herself philosophizing his lyrics. "What is it that you truly need?" she asked rhetorically. Food? Shelter? Money?
Penny thought she had found the answer after her elopement with Leonard in Las Vegas nine months ago. But times change and today was February 2nd, the day most people associate with Groundhog Day. It was also, according to the calendar, Leonard's Day: the single day set aside once a year to celebrate all the contributions Leonard has made to people's lives, both real and imagined. As promised, Sheldon had slipped a crummy card under the front door to pay his respects. Penny, on the other hand, had put some real thought into it and planned a very special evening for him.
The "Big Ole Five" closed her textbook and turned off her IPod. She changed into her pink babydoll negligee and scented herself with perfume. Although Leonard was partial to the temperature being warm in the apartment, as his previous battles with Sheldon over the thermostat could attest, Penny knew the homunculus also liked to be LOUD: a penchant for exhibitionism that only increased after Mrs. Gunderson heard her "yee-haw" during their drunken one-night stand. Accordingly, Penny opened the bedroom window in preparation for the night's acoustics. As she did, she caught a glimpse of her warm breath as it suddenly condensed in the cold winter air. For Pasadena, it was an uncharacteristically chilly night that matched a certain prognosticating rodent's earlier forecast of six more weeks of winter. A meteorologist had called the cold air mass a polar vortex.
However, Penny knew other professionals might label the cold something else entirely.
An intrinsic factor
Penny set out some candles in the bedroom, opened a bottle of wine, and removed the phones. Ever since Leonard was forced to retrieve Sheldon from a ball pit in the middle of the night, he hated having phones in the bedroom. He was convinced that Sheldon deliberately tried to interrupt them during their amorous activities, although he had no real proof of this. His subconscious instincts with respect to sabotage were what fuelled his suspicions. Takes one to know one, as they say.
In any event, he hated distractions. They prevented him from remembering what he had researched on Google in the art of female pleasure. Leonard fancied himself the "King of Foreplay." Yet, if asked her true opinion on the matter of his sexual prowess, Penny likened him more to the "Squire of Diddly-Squat." He tried hard, to be sure; nevertheless, many a night Penny found herself relying on her battery operated chew-toy, as Sheldon had so naively called it, in order to achieve personal gratification. Penny predicted that tonight would be no different.
She opened the top drawer of her bedside table and placed her pharmacology book inside. She then positioned the cylindrically shaped object - the very means to her future satisfaction - on top of the book and closed the drawer.
After 21 seconds of excitation, Leonard rolled over exhausted. Penny uttered the obligatory "genius" comparisons since she knew it stroked his ego. As she rose from the bed, she briefly caught a glimpse of the stuffed puppy dog toy that sat on her dresser and couldn't help but feel temporarily mesmerized by its puppy dog eyes.
"Never again," she thought to herself.
Penny went to the bathroom and closed the door. She really wanted a shower. Leonard wished he could join her but his breath hadn't yet caught up with him. Penny had a habit of doing that - leaving him winded after sex. He always considered it to be a badge of honour, a masochistic sense of achievement really, when the tightness and wheezing inevitably started to develop within his chest. And like clockwork, he opened the top drawer of Penny's bedside table and grabbed the cylindrically shaped object on the top of her pharmacology book. He put the mouthpiece in his mouth and depressed the canister as he inhaled.
It startled him when nothing came out of the chamber.
He tried again, thinking that perhaps he hadn't pressed hard enough on the aerosol can. "Inhale, then exhale, then a slow deep breath. Two puffs," he told himself, trying to remain calm as his anxiety levels slowly started to rise.
He vigorously shook the canister and tried again with the same results as before. It was all for naught as the dawning realization spread over him like a wave.
His inhaler was empty.
"Impossible," he thought. The romance ninja knew intuitively to keep a full puffer available at the bedside. Moreover, he had just recently refilled his prescription - hadn't he?
Leonard tried to yell out to Penny for help; however, the lack of air was making the ability to speak extremely difficult. He attempted to enter the bathroom but the door was locked, so he was left with little recourse other than to bang on the door to try and get Penny's attention.
There was no response.
All he could hear was the shower running, and Penny channelling her inner Nellie Forbush from the musical South Pacific. He frantically searched for a phone - any phone - in the desperate hope of calling 911, but to no avail. He simply couldn't find one.
Leonard's wheezing was getting more pronounced and he started to cough profusely. He could feel the palpitations as his heart began to race. His chest felt tighter by the second and it took concentrated effort just to catch a single breath. He started to sweat uncontrollably, and an anxiety set in like none he had ever felt before in his life: the real fear that he was actually going to die. He stumbled out of the bedroom and into the living room, hoping to make it to apartment 4A to get help, but he collapsed on his way to the front door.
Penny eventually came out of the bathroom, hair wet, and wrapped in a towel. The shower had been invigorating. She changed into her pink robe and walked out of the bedroom. As she did, she found Leonard lying next to the sofa, barely breathing. He was pale and clammy, and a bluish discoloration was beginning to envelope his lips and face.
Penny felt for his pulse but she could scarcely feel a thing. Interestingly enough, pulses (like light, as Leonard had once told her) can act as paradoxes too. Lower on inspiration, higher on expiration. Chest movements can behave in the exact same way. In any event, both were not good signs.
Penny had taken a CPR course since it was a mandatory part of her hiring at the pharmaceutical company. "A, B, C," her instructor had told her. "Airway. Breathing. Circulation. In that order, they are the keys to resuscitation. Always start with the airway as it is the gateway to the single most important thing everyone needs in life."
"Remember your ABC's indeed," Penny told herself as she sniggered.
She leaned down over Leonard and repositioned his head. She opened his mouth, then her own, and took a deep breath. She expelled the air from her lungs directly into his mouth. And just as she had easily anticipated, her breaths were only met with resistance. It was confirmation that Leonard's bronchial passages had severely narrowed, allowing little air into or out of his lungs. Penny knew there was only one thing now that could possibly save him.
However, she also knew Leonard's salbutamol inhaler was absolutely and completely empty, as she had drained it of its medicinal contents three hours before.
Leonard was essentially unconscious at this point with no ability to communicate. He did feel Penny's mouth on his again in what he mistakenly assumed would be an attempt at a rescue breath. But it felt different - much more like a kiss than anything else.
And then he heard it.
In fact, it would be the last thing Leonard ever heard. It was Penny's voice, barely a whisper, directed intentionally towards his ear. The word she spoke was clear, concise, and undeniably…. spelled correctly.
Addendum: I should note that in 2010 the American Heart Association and the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation changed their guidelines and now advocate circulation, airway, breathing as the protocol to be followed, in most cases, for basic cardiac life support. However, the mnemonic CAB just doesn't work as well as ABC in the context of this story, so I used the previous standard.