Waiting for the door to open was the hardest part of her trip. The knocking had been easy. Imagining what she would say once it was open was almost simple. But waiting for the sound of the handle being turned was making Penny's heart thump and her palms sweat. Her stomach felt as though it was going to fall out onto her feet and roll into the street. The tapping of her foot against the cobblestone was meant to relax, but instead grated on her nerves—she couldn't stop.
Finally. Finally the door in front of her opened. The first and last person Penny every wanted to see was standing over her with a furrowed brow and glaring eyes. She huffed her bangs from her face and grabbed the handle of the rolling suitcase. Pushing past him and into the house was also easier than waiting for the door to open.
One inside, Penny took a moment to recollect her thoughts and shrug off the light jacket she was wearing. She could tell that he was nervous as he shut the door after her entrance. He had every reason to be worried. There was no way he could have predicted that Penny would arrive on his doorstep just to talk to him—to see him in person. Especially when she could have simply called or emailed.
"You ran away." Penny stated simply as she dropped the jacket onto a nearby chair.
"Penny, you—" he tried to interrupt, to get his words in before she was able to talk him into an argument. He wanted to have the last word. Always the last word.
"You ran away, Sheldon. You ran away from me and went to London," when she saw that he was about to speak again, she took a step towards him and held a hand up in defiance. "You ran away from me and didn't tell anyone that you were leaving."
"I was scared!" he finally shouted once he realised it was chance to speak.
Penny slowly lowered down her hand and just stared at him with curious eyes. His bottom lip had now been shoved between his teeth, and she noticed that his fingers were digging into his palms. When she attempted to get his eyes to meet her, Sheldon simply looked away; pretending to be distracted by something outside the window about the sink.
"You could have told me that you were scared instead of just leaving." Penny replied solemnly. "We could have talked and figured everything out together. There might not have even been anything to figure out. But we still could have talked it through."
"I did not want you to be upset." He tried to reason.
"Well now I am upset."
"Would you like a hot beverage?" Penny didn't answer, but he turned on his heel and walked over to the kettle anyway. "I did not think it could work. I do not know how to handle these situations in a delicate way. I knew that in the long run you would be more upset had I stayed."
"You're an idiot."
"You kissed me."
"I'm an idiot too." Penny turned her back to him and rubbed her hands across her tired face. Travelling for the better part of two days had been exhausting. She hadn't slept more than three hours since leaving Pasadena the other night.
"Don't call my best friend an idiot. Especially for something that isn't in the least her fault."
"I kissed you and you ran away not even twelve hours later, Sheldon." Penny said quietly as she watched him pour hot water into their mugs.
"I didn't run away because you kissed me, Penny," he replied, sitting next to her at the table and placing the mugs of hot peppermint tea in front of them both. "The cause of my departure was more so about the reaction I had during and after said kiss."
"But you could have told me that you didn't return my feelings. I would have understood and backed off, and—"
"Penny, you are misunderstanding my meaning." The feeling of his hand reaching out to touch Penny's was both surprising to her, and comforting. "After your departure that night, I had the realisation that perhaps your feelings were shared. However, there was definite concern on my part that your actions were simply as a reaction to the argument you'd had with Leonard prior to my returning home from work."
"I didn't kiss you because I was angry with Leonard, Sheldon." She tentatively reached up with her free hand and gently brushed his cheek with her fingers. The blush colouring his face made his cheek just as warm has his hands. "I kissed you because I'm in love with you."
"So your actions had nothing to do with the argument between yourself and Leonard?"
"Amy told Leonard that she and you broke up for my sake. She realised that I was in love with you, and didn't want to stand in the way of us possibly being together. Leonard thought that I had threatened her to break up with you, or I would stop being her friend."
"He must have misunderstood the conversation he had with Amy. You would never threaten something such as the dissolution of your friendship. Especially over something that may not happen."
"That's exactly what I said!" I threw groaned in exasperation, earning the smallest of chuckles from Sheldon. "I promise you that my kissing you was because I wanted to, and as some sort of retaliation against your stupid roommate for getting me riled up a few hours earlier. Was that really the only reason you came here?"
He shook his head and looked down at where our hands were still joined on the table.
"Admittedly, I have harboured feelings of a romantic nature towards you for quite some time. Of course I'd learned to push those types of distractions aside, given that I knew there was hardly a chance that you would ever reciprocate those feelings. When you kissed me and made your feelings somewhat known, I found myself picturing the future that could possibly lay ahead, and I became fearful of that as well. As you know, I'm not especially experienced in these matters, my relationship with Amy Farrah Fowler aside. I did not wish to disappoint should a relationship paradigm change be made."
"So let me see if I've got this right," Penny shuffled through everything he had told her in the past half hour, and picked out the most important bits. "You were worried that my feelings weren't real, and that I had simply reacted against Leonard. You were also worried that if my feelings were real, and that we began a relationship, that I would be upset just because you aren't experienced when it comes to that sort of thing. That I would be angry just because you might mess up some stuff."
"Should a romantic relationship between us two become a reality, I would not wish for it to be something that has an early or quick expiration date. My feelings for you go beyond a simple 'crush', and hurting you would bring me nothing but despair. I am unable to bare the thought of losing you because of my own faults and imperfections. You are too important for that to happen."
"Did it ever occur to you that I don't want perfect? I just want you."
He seemed to mull Penny's words over in his mind before commenting. His fingers tightened their grip slightly before he managed to speak again,
"That thought did not manage to cross my mind even during the arduous excursion here. I realise now that I should have stayed in Pasadena and spoken with you there rather than making such a rash decision."
They were quiet for a few moments, just taking the time to soak in what was truly being said. Penny took a sip of her tea while Sheldon pretended to be busy looking at the off-white floor tiles. It wasn't like their other silences; filled with knowing glances and wistful thoughts. Instead, Penny and Sheldon had come to a quiet understanding of one another. Their feelings had been spread out in the space between them like a comforting blanket.
"Will you come home now?" Penny finally broke the silence. Sheldon looked up, surprised that she'd said anything, and looking a bit sadden by her words.
"My escape being made to London wasn't without cause," Sheldon tried to explain. "I was offered a brief tenure at one of the local universities as a professor. When the events of the other night occurred, I decided that accepting the position would be for the best."
"So you aren't coming back?" The tears that were welling just beyond Penny's eyelids threatened to pour over as her emotions took over.
"You could stay."
"Stay here? With you?"
"My tenure is only meant to be for a twelve month period, with the chance of renewal. My plan had been to return to Pasadena once the allotted period passed. That being said, the time would feel as though it was passing at a much faster pace with you present. It would also make my time here much more bearable."