This story was written for Mierke as her main gift for the 2018 Chocolate Box exchange. She requested a "TBBT" story about Sheldon and Penny - specifically one where he was proud of her for something that she had said or done. This story started out with that premise, but then took on a mind and a life of its own... ;)
There is no set timeline for this story. However, there is an emphasis on the characterizations, dialogue, one-liners, and scenarios from the earlier seasons (mainly 1-5) since those were my favorite and I have recently rewatched them in their entirety! :)
THE RELATIONSHIP PARADIGM SHIFT
The Companion Conundrum
Sheldor the Conqueror gazed with satisfaction upon the bodies of their would-be ambushers as they piled up around him on the road leading out of the village. He then turned to his questing companion who had just pulled her blade out of the last kill.
"Well, I must say…that was very well done, Queen Penelope," he stated with a mixture of surprise and pride. "Very well done, indeed! In fact, might I suggest a celebratory mead at the nearest tavern? You have earned it."
"Thank you, Sweetie!" she responded with obvious pleasure as she twirled her bloodied sword in a triumphant flourish. "I would be honored, Sheldon…I mean…Sheldor."
"Sheldor…the Conqueror," he added the rest of his title insistently. "Honestly, woman. You say that you are an actress, so try to stay in character here!"
"Yes…I would be honored to drink to our victory with you…Sheldor the Conqueror," she replied, humoring him as she made sure to emphasize the name and title this time. She then notified the other players with a "Queen Penelope AFK" before she set down her laptop and got up from the sofa. She shook her head at her unlikely choice of Sunday night activity, as well as her companion and his usual borderline-rude-but-now-way-too-familiar-to-actually-offend mannerisms. She had stopped worrying about the quirky things that came out of his mouth a long time ago and consequently found that she had even become quite…fond…of the man. In fact, her friendship with Sheldon had inexplicably flourished in the last year since Amy had chosen to leave California with her fiancé, the Saudi prince. They soon became even closer than that after Penny and Leonard had broken things off for the final time themselves when they finally realized that they were much better as friends than they ever were as a couple.
That also explained why Penny and Sheldon were currently sitting in her apartment playing Age of Conan together. Leonard had patched things up with Leslie Winkle about their future hypothetical and theoretical child-rearing practices and was now having dinner with her in the apartment across the hall. Since Leslie was still Sheldon's nemesis (especially since he had worked things out with Will Wheaton), he had shown up at Penny's door, laptop in hand, and of course she had taken him in like a good friend should.
Therefore, Penny proceeded to pull two bottles of mead (aka ginger ale for him and a wine cooler for her) out of the fridge. As she passed his drink over to him, she pressed a light kiss onto his cheek. "That was fun, Sweetie. Wanna go on another raid now? I am so ready to get all junior rodeo on some orcs!"
Sheldon decided to ignore both her colorful colloquialism and her random invasion of his personal space…this time… since she no longer seemed to aggravate his usual aversion to physical contact like most other people did. In fact, recently he had noticed more and more, that for some reason, he actually felt the need to allow Penny certain concessions that the others just didn't rate – that he had never even granted to Amy during their time together. It was really a puzzling aspect of their friend/neighbor relationship paradigm. However, he just could not afford the time to consider the issue just then…not when there were orcs to slay!
The Missing Mooching Factor
Thursday night was pizza night. Sheldon looked at the empty seat adjacent to him and sighed. "This isn't right," he said.
"What's the matter now, Sheldon?" Leonard asked from his usual chair. "I already made sure that all of the pizza slices were of equal and uniform size and shape."
"No, that's not it, Leonard – even though that slice," here he paused to point, "is several millimeters wider than the one next to it. It's just that...well...Penny is not here."
"So?" Leonard asked, quirking an eyebrow and looking at his roommate over the rim of his glasses while ignoring the crazy part of his statement. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"So?" repeated Sheldon vehemently. "Penny has helped herself to our pizza for…" he paused to think for a moment, "twenty-one out of our last twenty-five pizza nights…and even I have lost count of how many times before that. Therefore, it no longer feels the same without her mooching presence."
"We're no longer enough for you, dude?" questioned Raj, who was sitting in Penny's old seat. It had become his usual spot ever since she had moved to the seat next to Sheldon after her latest breakup with Leonard.
"Don't be ridiculous, Raj!" Sheldon answered with exasperation. Raj actually smiled for a moment until Sheldon added with his usual inflection, "You have never been enough for me."
"And Penny has?" Howard asked and wagged his eyebrows suggestively. He then laughed at his own preposterous insinuation.
Sheldon did not answer the question, however – not even with his usual snort of derision. When the guys looked at him, they noticed that he was deep in thought instead and his eyes just gazed off into the distance - exactly like they did when he was contemplating a complex mathematical equation with an elusive solution. However, Sheldon had always been a mystery to them, therefore after a moment, they just shrugged and continued to talk among themselves – not realizing that Sheldon was attempting to figure out the answer to the question that was just posed to him. That answer was apparently not as clear as it used to be.
The Explosive Interaction Enigma
It was Halo night. Since Leonard was on a date with Leslie, Sheldon insisted that Penny be his partner against Howard and Raj. This was due somewhat to the baffling fact that he now found that he preferred her company over theirs, but also because she had a vexing tendency to blow up his head during the game whenever they were on opposite sides. However, he had no such compunction against her using the same strategy on their opponents. Therefore, he reveled in every "That's not fair!" whine from Howard or "Ooohhh, mannnn!" complaint from Raj (after his second beer allowed him to speak freely in Penny's presence, of course).
"You have got to be cheating!" Howard insisted to Penny after the Rajward team was soundly stomped by the Shenny team for a second time in the same night.
"Nope," Sheldon gave his little hitching laugh before he replied smugly in a paraphrase of an earlier statement he himself had made about his neighbor. "She just happens to be that attractive and good at video games, too!" He then turned to grin broadly in triumph at his partner while Howard and Raj just looked at each other and shook their heads in defeat.
"Aww! Sheldon thinks I am attractive!" Penny crowed happily while she favored him with a bright smile that set his heart thumping in his chest. He paused, puzzled for a moment as to what could have caused such a reaction. Then he considered that maybe he should schedule his biannual EKG a month early this year…just to be sure. After all, he did want to keep his body around long enough to transfer his consciousness into a cybernetic form.
The Genitalia Generalization
Sheldon heard the ping of his email notification and checked his inbox. Sure enough, there was a message from PennyBlossom.
Thank you so much for hooking me up with an email address from your private account. When I find out who hacked my last one, I am going to go all Nebraska on their ass! I mean it! It got to the point where every time I opened my email, there was a picture of someone's junk. It just makes me want to scream! I mean, who does that? I can't imagine a gentleman like you ever being so rude and crude! You are such a good friend.
Thanks again, Sweetie!
A short time later, Penny checked her own email and found a message from FunWithFlags.
I do have genitals. They are both functional and quite aesthetically pleasing. However, you are correct in your assumption that I would never place a photographic image of them in your email.
However, I would hazard an educated guess that the perpetrator is likely one of your previous paramours. Did you not recognize the "junk" in question? Perhaps it was that Neanderthal, Kurt? If he is capable of stealing pants, who knows what kind of cyber crimes he could commit.
If I were you, I would also consider our mutual acquaintance, Howard Wolowitz, as a likely suspect. If that is indeed the case, might I suggest telling on him to his mother? I found that to be quite an effective deterrent when you did it to me.
At any rate, no thanks are necessary since I understand that returning favors is a social convention among friends. You killed the spider in my bathtub...and I provided you with a new email address. Tit for tat – that is apparently the way that the world works.
Dr. Sheldon Cooper
After reading the message, Penny spent most of the evening devising many painful and embarrassing punishments for Howard if he turned out to be the pervert who was sending her penis pictures. Then, in an ironic twist, she spent the rest of the night wondering what in the hell was wrong with her because she couldn't seem to get the thought of Sheldon's aesthetically pleasing genitals out of her mind! Just how pleasing could they be? she asked herself. Then her mind wandered even further than that as she started to consider his soft smooth skin and his long slender fingers that could...
"Oh, god!" she exclaimed out loud and buried her face in her hands. Exactly, how long has it been since I have had sex? I obviously need to get laid! she thought vehemently. However, for some reason, the thought of a casual encounter with a random man just didn't appeal to her anymore. Therefore, she settled for a glass of wine…and obviously insane thoughts about her unconventional neighbor, instead.
The Collective Comic Confusion
Wednesday night was comic book store night. Therefore, Stuart was not surprised to see Sheldon at his place of business. However, he did watch in no small amount of amazement as Sheldon held the door open for Penny as the two of them entered the store together. Neither one of them noticed, however, because they were both intensely engaged in their conversation. Stuart edged closer to hear what was being said. After all, everyone knew that Leonard and Penny were not together anymore, so maybe he had a chance to sneak back into her life.
"Thank you for bringing me to the comic book store, Penny." He heard Sheldon say politely. "Leonard never seems to have the time anymore since he started seeing that Leslie Winkle again. She is evil, you know."
"I know, Sweetie, and it is no problem," Penny assured him. "In fact, it's the least I could do after you helped me with another one of my Penny Blossom orders last night. That East Rutherford, New Jersey Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Alliance sure does have a lot of luaus, don't they? At least we didn't have to work all night this time…and I absolutely loved how you created the new work song from a compilation of the ones on my favorite CD!"
Stuart continued to watch and listen as Sheldon did his little hitching laugh. "I must admit that it was quite amusing to see how disappointed Koothrappali was when he realized that Barenaked Ladies was the name of the band on the CD and not a DVD of questionable moral content." Penny laughed, too, at what Raj had tried to play off as a cultural misunderstanding when she found him trying to "watch" her CD in the DVD player. Still giggling at the thought, she then bumped Sheldon's shoulder affectionately with her own…and he actually smiled at her before heading towards the bins on the table.
After greeting an obviously confused Stuart, Penny headed over to the table, as well, and shook her head in amusement at Sheldon's "Got it! Got it! Got it!" browsing technique before idly flipping through the comics on the opposite side of the table herself. After a moment, she stopped and shrieked in delight – causing all of the men in the store to look in her direction – those that were not already doing so, anyway.
"Oooh, Sheldon! Look! Here is the #17 issue of The Batman Chronicles that you have been missing!"
"Oh, goody goody!" exclaimed Sheldon excitedly and reached for it before the look of delight on his face was replaced with one of puzzlement instead. "Wait just a moment, Penny. How in the world did you know that I was missing #17 of that particular series?"
"Don't look so surprised, Sweetie. I do listen when you talk to me," she responded with an eye roll. "Well, most of the time, anyway!" she added, truthfully.
Sheldon responded with a little pleased smile. "Well, there might be hope for you after all then!" He stated warmly before stopping to think for a moment. "I believe that social convention requires me to return your sentiment and imply that I also listen to you," Sheldon went on to explain in his usual pedantic manner. "However, I find that I cannot do that." Just when Penny started to frown at that statement, Sheldon smirked and exclaimed, "Bazinga! You have just fallen victim to one of my classic practical jokes." He gave his little laugh again before adding, in a more sincere tone this time, "I really do listen, you know - unless you are talking about shoes…or menstruation…or coitus with Leonard." He shook his head and his lip curled a little with disgust. "I really don't want to hear about any of that."
Penny just shook her head at him and smiled fondly for a moment while thinking about how much things had changed between them since the first time she had stepped foot in this store with this man. Who knew then that they would become such good friends? She then turned her attention back to the bins. "Help me to find one about a really kickass woman superhero, Sheldon," she requested. "I'm going to need something good if I am going to sit around and read comic books with you tonight."
"Well, that does sound like fun!" Sheldon agreed with enthusiasm. "Technically, however, such a character would be called a superheroine - not a superhero…but unfortunately that just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?" he answered as he eagerly threw himself into the task. "What about this one?" He held up a copy of X-Men with a busty blonde on the cover. "Emma Frost looks a bit like you - except with considerably more bosom."
"I will have you know that my bosom is perfect, thank you very much!" Penny retorted. "You should know. You have seen me naked, after all." The store fell into an almost eerie silence at this declaration, and as one, every man turned their awestruck eyes towards Sheldon to await his answer. In fact, Captain Sweatpants looked like he might have a heart attack right then and there.
"Indeed…and I have always considered you…and your bosom…to be quite aesthetically pleasing. Therefore, please don't worry about comparing yourself to a fictional character," Sheldon responded in an offhand way as he continued to sift unconcernedly through the comic books – completely oblivious to the shocked attention that he and Penny had garnered from the other patrons.
"Aww, thank you, Sweetie!" Penny murmured, quite pleased that Sheldon had at least noticed and appreciated the gals. Trying to shake that intriguing, but completely crazy (Wasn't it?) thought out of her mind, she then turned her attention to the comic book that he picked out for her – also unaware of the astonished eyes upon them. She was so used to being stared at in Stuart's store that she did not even notice it anymore.
Later that night, after Penny had left to go home to bed, Sheldon looked down at the cover of the X-Men comic that she had left on the coffee table in his apartment. To his surprise, he realized that he found Penny to be much more attractive than Emma Frost – even if she was not as well endowed. At that thought, the memory of the time that he accidentally grabbed Penny's breast flashed through his mind…and he realized that her bosom was more than adequate, indeed! In fact, he could not seem to get the image out of his mind (After all, the hero always peeks!) Nor could he forget the feeling of the soft, overflowing handful – no matter how hard he tried. He did have an eidetic memory, after all!
The Seating Deliberation Dilemma
The whole gang had made plans to assemble at Apartment 4A for Chinese. Sheldon and Raj were running late, however, due to an experiment that they were conducting in the supercomputer lab at the university. When they finally arrived, though, Sheldon noticed immediately that Penny was in his seat. Apparently, she had slid over in order to make room so that Howard and Bernadette could sit next to each other and she was currently so engrossed in a conversation with the female half of that couple, that she had not yet registered his presence. His mouth opened automatically to say, "You're in my spot," but for some mysterious reason, he stopped…just in time…and he closed it again with a confused snap. Bewildered by his own reluctance to lay claim to his rightful seat, he crossed over to the kitchen to get a cold beverage out of the refrigerator and to buy himself some time in order to figure out his next move.
Beverage in hand, he stood uncertainly at the kitchen island and grimaced as he wondered what to do next. He looked longingly over at his couch cushion, which seemed to beckon to him. However, he also contemplated Penny, who was talking merrily away while seated on said spot – oblivious to his dilemma. He found that he was uncharacteristically loathe to disturb her, especially since she seemed so happy and comfortable at the moment. Therefore, he reluctantly glanced around the room to look for other possible seating options. First, he perched on the edge of one of the stools at the island, but that was obviously not going to work. He then started to inch discretely towards his desk chair when Leonard called out to him. The man had been watching his roommate's unusual behavior for the last few minutes, but was unable to understand exactly what he was doing besides sidling around the room and making bizarre facial expressions.
"Sheldon, are you alright?" he finally asked, both concerned and perplexed about his friend's even-stranger-than-normal actions.
At the sound of his name, Penny's head shot up and she looked straight at him and smiled. "Oh, Sheldon, Sweetie, I'm so sorry. I'm in your spot, aren't I?" She then stood up and patted the cushion. "Here, I've got it all warmed up for you," she said before walking over and taking the desk chair for herself. She touched his arm in a friendly gesture as she passed by him and this, combined with his bewildering reaction from earlier, flustered Sheldon so much that he barely managed to mumble some thanks before he sank gratefully down to his location.
Asking Leonard the standard questions about his dinner preparations (Did you ask for the broccoli to be shredded and not diced?) did not require any extra brain power, but did provide him with a few more minutes in order to gain back his self-control. What is happening to me? he wondered. One look up at Penny and her cheerful smile seemed to settle him, however, and he was even able to answer Howard's questions about the supercomputer experiment results with his usual oxymoronic combination of condescension and juvenile enthusiasm. Raj, who was drinking a soda instead of something alcoholic, was understandably silent in the presence of the ladies. Therefore, he could not answer such questions himself.
Meanwhile, Leonard just looked between Sheldon and Penny with suspicion. He knew them both well enough to know that somethingwas going on, but he just couldn't figure out what it was. To be sure they aren't…? he thought to himself incredulously as he resolved to definitely have a talk with Sheldon about it later.
After dinner, Penny and Bernadette left to go across the hall for some girl time so the guys could participate in their usual vintage video game night. As soon they had left the room, Leonard turned to Sheldon. "What's going on with you and Penny?" he asked, not entirely sure that he really wanted to know the answer.
"I don't know what you are talking about," Sheldon answered honestly as he dragged his eyes away from the door through which she had just left. He really did not know what was happening, but he certainly was not going to discuss whatever it was with Leonard! "Now, who is up for an exciting game of Zork?" he asked instead, as he went to retrieve his laptop.
The Attraction Realization
For her part, later that night Penny just laid in bed and reviewed the events of the day since she was having quite a bit of trouble falling asleep. It wasn't long before thoughts of Sheldon started to take over – just as they had been doing at an increasingly alarming rate lately. As she reviewed their interactions throughout the evening in her head, she soon realized that she had been sitting in Sheldon's spot for quite some time after his arrival, but he had not asked her to move! In the end, she had just moved on her own. The thought that Sheldon, of all people, was trying to be considerate to her, triggered a warm feeling inside of her. It made her think about all of the ways that things had changed between the two of them over the years.
She knew without a doubt that Sheldon had really mellowed out since they had met. Sure, he was still rude and neurotic…and he still drove her bat crap crazy…but he was no longer the antisocial robot that he used to come across as. Now, he could be surprisingly warm, thoughtful, and very human, as well. However, she also knew that he was not the only one who had changed. She was no longer the wild party girl that she had been when she had first arrived in California – the one who drank too much and who probably slept with too many men too quickly after meeting them. She realized that she and Sheldon had both influenced each other for the better over the years - just like she also realized with a shock that he was now the only man that she wanted to be with.
"Oh…my…god!" she exclaimed loudly as she bolted upright in her bed only to lose her balance in her shock and painfully hit the floor instead. As she sat there on the cold hard surface with a throbbing tailbone, she finally accepted the truth. "I'm in love with Sheldon Cooper! How in the hell did that happen?"
For his part, Sheldon could not sleep, either. He just stood there staring at the equation on the whiteboard in front of him – without seeing it at all. His mind had disengaged from his eyes and was pondering the recent events with Penny and the alarming feelings which had accompanied them. He had never felt this way before – never - not even with Amy Farrah Fowler. He had been fond of Amy, had enjoyed spending time with her, and had participated in his first acts of physical intimacy with her. He had even experienced quite a bit of unhappiness when she decided that she wanted to live a life of wealth and prestige with her prince in Riyadh instead of staying in Pasadena with him. However, he had still not felt this way about her. She had never caused him physical distress by making his palms sweaty or his heart threaten to jump out of his chest - and he certainly had never been willing to give up his spot for her.
In fact, Penny was the only one who had ever extracted those kinds of feeling from him and caused such chaos in what used to be his strict and orderly mind. He knew that she would never be on the same intellectual level as Amy, that she still occasionally exhibited her unrefined and vigorous Nebraska upbringing in the strangest of ways, that she frequently drove him to distraction with her off-key caterwauling excuse for singing, and...perhaps most importantly...that she was the one who kept stealing his milk. However, he was a smart enough man to realize that none of those things really mattered. He still wanted to be with Penny in any way possible, as much as possible.
"Dear Lord!" he exclaimed in dawning comprehension as the elusive answer to the metaphorical equation finally became clear to him. "I am in love with Penny!" Just as he started to wonder about what to do with this startling information, he heard a loud Thud! from across the hall.
"Penny!" he exclaimed in surprise and concern, as he remembered the time she fell in the shower and dislocated her shoulder. He was out of the door, across the hall, and frantically doing his customary knocking pattern on her door before he even had a chance to think about it.
Knock, knock, knock, "Penny!"
Knock, knock, knock, "Penny!"
Knock, knock, knock, "Penny!"
"Are you in distress? Do you require assistance?"
Penny heard him and grimaced from both nerves and embarrassment. There was no way that she could face him right now – especially not after what she had just realized. She needed some time to figure out what to do. Therefore, she just spoke to him through her door. "I'm okay, Sheldon. I just…fell."
"You fell - again? Are you hurt? Do you require first aid? I placed a kit in the emergency bag that I packed for you in case of an earthquake…or the apocalypse."
"Wait! You packed an emergency bag for me?" His surprising comment caused her to temporarily forget why she was hiding and she swung the door open to talk to him.
"Yes…I placed it in the top of your bedroom closet." He clarified, as his eyes took in her tiny sleeping outfit. He had seen it many times before. However, this was the first time that the sight of Penny wearing it caused him to experience those symptoms of physical distress about which he had just been thinking. "Your survival is…um…important…to me."
"That's so sweet!" Penny exclaimed in all honesty. "Thank you for thinking about me…and for rushing over here. You really are my knight in…striped pajamas."
"These are just my usual Friday pajamas," Sheldon clarified, "and you are welcome. Are you sure that you are not distressed and in need of a hot beverage?" He paused as she shook her head. "Soft Kitty?" he asked and this time she could not stop the smile that slipped out as she shook her head again. He gave her an indecipherable look for just a moment before he continued. "If my presence is not required, then I should probably go home to bed." He meant the words as he spoke them. Yet, for some inexplicable reason his feet refused to move and he continued to stand in her doorway.
"I'm okay," she insisted softly, touched by his sincere concern. "Go back to bed, Sheldon. I will see you tomorrow." He nodded, as a feeling of what he could only call disappointment washed over him. Just as he turned away, though, she called him back.
"Sheldon, wait!" As he turned back, she moved closer and placed a hand on his chest. Sheldon froze and looked so much like a deer caught in the headlights that Penny couldn't help but to smile again. Ironically, his obvious nervousness actually gave her the courage to make the first move. I can't believe that I am doing this! This is crazy! This is crazy! This is crazy! she thought frantically before she asked him, anyway, "Would you like to come over for dinner tomorrow night?"
"Penny," he said seriously, even though he was still a bit distracted by her touch, "tomorrow night is laundry night."
"Yes, I know, Sheldon. However, I am asking you if you would like to come over here and have dinner with me, anyway – just you and me."
"Oh," he answered speculatively. Then the realization of what she was really asking him washed over him. "Oh...I see!" he breathed. Then he just looked at her in wonder for a moment while strange thoughts and feelings swirled around inside of him. Finally, he took a deep breath and nodded. "I suppose that it would be acceptable to do my laundry tomorrow afternoon instead – just this once."
Another smile, this one of relief, flashed across her face since she knew how hard it was for Sheldon to deviate from his usual routine. She leaned up and placed a kiss on his cheek. "Good! I will see you then, Sweetie," she said softly before she stepped back into her apartment and quietly shut the door behind her. She leaned up against it for just a moment trying to come to terms with the incredible fact that she had just asked Sheldon out...and he had accepted!
Sheldon just stood in the corridor for a moment, absentmindedly rubbing the cheek that she had kissed. "Well, that was unexpected," he murmured. He had certainly realized that his own feelings towards Penny had changed, but he had not seriously considered the idea that she might have experienced an emotional shift regarding him, as well. A little smile played across his lips at the thought before he slipped back into his own apartment, trying to be extra quiet as to not wake up Leonard.
The Relationship Revelation
The next afternoon, Leonard turned around from his desk and watched in confusion as Sheldon headed out of the apartment with his laundry basket. "What's going on Sheldon? Saturday night is laundry night." Then he laughed and asked with a considerable amount of amusement, "Do you have a hot date later?"
To Leonard's surprise, Sheldon stopped and leveled a serious look at his roommate for a moment before he answered. "Leonard, you are my best friend. Therefore, I do not wish to lie to you. However, you may not want to ask questions for which you probably do not want to hear the answers." With those words, he automatically glanced at the door across the hall before he continued to head out their own door and down to the laundry room.
Leonard was a smart man. Therefore, as he pondered his friend's cryptic words, he also thought back to Sheldon's odd actions on the previous night. Only then, did Leonard remember waking up briefly in the middle of the night to the sound of Sheldon's bedroom door closing…as if he had gone somewhere and returned. He then looked through the still-open apartment door to the closed door of 4B directly across the hall. "Oh god!" he suddenly exclaimed. "He was right. I don't want to know!" Then, he grabbed his keys, left the apartment himself, and headed straight to Leslie's place, instead.
"Hello, Leonard," Leslie greeted him when she opened the door. "You are quite early. I thought that you were not coming over until tonight. Hmm…What did he do this time?"
Leonard crashed down on her sofa and just looked up at her. "You are not going to believe this," he declared, "but I think that Sheldon and Penny are seeing each other!"
"Of course they are - even if they don't know it, yet!" she said insightfully. She then shook her head at his look of bewilderment. "Oh, catch up, Leonard! The thing between Doctor Dumbass and Barbie is quite obvious when you think about it. Who helped him to get over his breakup with that weird neurobiologist chick? Who did he bring to the University's Christmas party? Who goes to that comic book store with him? Whose apartment is the first place he always runs to whenever I come over to your place and insult his intelligence and life's work?"
"That's right," she smirked as the understanding finally dawned in his eyes. "Just because I don't like the man, doesn't mean that I don't notice these things. Therefore, who is the dumbass now?"
"I am," he said with resignation, even though he was completely disconcerted by this surprising revelation.
"Damn right!" she answered, but softened the blow with a kiss. He was the future father of her children, after all.
Promptly at 8:00, Sheldon rapped on Penny's door. However, he was so distracted with his thoughts that he only did tworounds of knocking instead of his usual three. He just couldn't get Leonard's question out of his mind and it was throwing him mentally off-balance.
Penny noticed the missing knock and opened the door immediately with concern. "Sheldon, are you alright?"
He just stood in the doorway and looked at the lovely and brash woman who had somehow, against all odds, come to mean so much to him. However, he was still uncertain about what was between them – especially on her part - and he cleared his throat nervously before he spoke. "Penny, you know that even though I am brilliant, I am not very skilled in social conventions and I do not really understand societal expectations. Therefore, in order to be sure…I need to ask…" here he paused, unsure of exactly how to ask what he desperately needed to know.
"Yes, Sheldon?" Penny prompted him gently.
"Is this a date?" he finally asked, bluntly.
"Do you want for it to be a date, Sweetie?" she asked softly, sounding a bit unsure herself. She had spent the entire day questioning both her judgement and her sanity, after all.
He looked at her carefully and noted the warm feeling that seemed to embrace him when she did not immediately outright deny the possibility of this social engagement being an actual romantic endeavor. He knew her well enough by now to know that she would have no trouble being extremely frank with her answer if she had not agreed with him.
Consequently, he could not help but to respond in the affirmative. "Yes," he answered simply with a nod. "I believe I would enjoy that."
"Oh, Sweetie, I would like that too!" Penny exclaimed, with a relieved smile that lit up her entire face.
His heart also lightened at these words. However, Sheldon did not immediately allow himself to become complacent because he just wanted to be certain. Nothing about this situation was normal and he was completely out of his comfort zone. Therefore, he still was not sure. Consequently, he had to ask her one more question…
"Was that sarcasm?"
"No, it wasn't. I really meant it!" She tried to assure him.
He thought for a moment. "Was that sarcasm?" he asked, still unsure and uncertain.
"Not, it wasn't, Sheldon. I really meant that, too. I want to be with you! Oh my god, you are such a whack-a-doodle!"
Now that sounded more like his Penny! Her exasperation ironically put him at ease and he found that he could not stop smiling as he answered her with uncharacteristic levity. "That's Doctor Whack-a-doodle. I do have two PhDs, you know."
"What I am getting myself into?" Penny asked, shaking her head before she closed the distance to kiss him. It was simple and sweet, with just two sets of lips gently brushing against each other. However, it caught Sheldon completely off guard and he actually blushed as they moved apart. Penny giggled a little as she saw the adorable flush on his pale cheeks and neck before she suddenly realized that they were both still standing in the doorway. She grabbed his hand, pulled him into the apartment, and shut the door behind them.
Sheldon looked around the familiar space, but barely saw it since he was completely distracted by the fact that Penny had just kissed him and was still holding his hand. However, he was brought back to his senses when a familiar smell caught his attention. He turned to her in delight and asked, "Is that Mama Italia's marinara sauce? Ooh! Are we having spaghetti?"
"Yes, we are…and I even cut up little pieces of hot dog in it. I know that it's your favorite."
This time, Penny was the one who was caught off guard when Sheldon kissed her. He was finally sure!
Penny and Bernadette had become the best of friends over the years – even more so after Amy's abrupt departure. Therefore, Bernadette, much like Leslie, had seen all of the signs of the increasing attraction between her two friends. Therefore, even if they did make a very unlikely couple, she wasn't completely surprised by the new development when Penny shared her news – especially since she knew very well that men like Sheldon and her own Howie were an acquired taste. However, to say that the male members of their group were shocked by the new relationship in their midst was a mild understatement. Things soon settled down, though, when everyone realized that nothing had really changed in their group dynamics. Sheldon was still the same brilliant and condescending man who never let anybody but his new girlfriend sit in his spot. As for Penny, she still could kick their asses if she really wanted to - which, coincidentally, was one of the major reasons why they did not make a bigger deal out of the situation in the first place. It was still disconcerting to see how much Sheldon smiled now, though, or to walk in on the two of them kissing or touching. However, it soon became obvious that Sheldon and Penny were really happy together…and that was all that mattered in the long run!
The Spontaneity Epiphany
Even though they were happy, their different personalities still frequently clashed. In fact, their very first argument as a couple occurred when Penny refused to sign what Sheldon considered to be an essential relationship agreement. She did try to explain her reasoning to him, however.
"Couples do things for each other because they want to, Sheldon - not because they are contractually obligated to do so," she told him firmly. "New relationships should be spontaneous. It's part of the fun!"
"Spontaneous? Oh, what fresh unpredictable hell is this?" he exclaimed in dismay, even though part of him was quite impressed with her for actually using the words "contractually obligated." Then she kissed him, and even Sheldon soon had to admit that maybe spontaneity was not such a bad thing after all – especially when their first argument unexpectedly segued right into their first night together.
That turned out to be an eye-opening experience for both of them. Even though he was no longer completely inexperienced in that area, Sheldon had no idea that certain energetic, and quite possibly unhygienic, activities could be so enjoyable! For her part, Penny had not realized that having an eidetic memory meant that Sheldon could literally remember everything...including every technique and every map of the female anatomy from that book that the gang had given him several years earlier – plus the ones that he had read since then, including the questionable materials that he had perused on several occasions while visiting both Raj and Howard. Consequently, he knew about things that she had never even heard of before, much less actually done! Needless to say, their first time together was a delightfully surprising experience that they were both eager to repeat as often as possible!
The Maternal Approval Correlation
Mary Cooper was ecstatic when she heard the news. Even though it was obvious that the girl had no problems with giving the milk away for free, she had always liked her son's pretty neighbor and realized, with a mother's perception, just how much the girl's friendship had done for her boy over the years. It also helped that Penny reminded her strongly of herself at that age.
At any rate, even though she had liked the Amy girl just fine, that one had been too similar to her boy for it to ever work out in the long run. In fact, Ms. Cooper was a firm believer in opposites attract, and she knew that the Penny's solid down-to-earth attitude would be a good counterbalance to her son's head-in-the-theoretical-clouds mentality. She also knew that the confident young woman would be able to guide him through the often shark-infested waters of social life that had always confounded her little Shelly. It was always obvious that his lack of social understanding was what had held him back for all of these years. Therefore, who knew where her brilliant little boy could end up now with such a woman to help him along?
Also, Mary could not help but to notice that Penny had a fine pair of birthing hips and that the possibility of becoming a grandmother one day was now much more likely than it had ever been before. Don't tell me that God doesn't answer prayers! she crowed triumphantly to herself as she booked a flight to Pasadena. Once she got there she was going to teach Shelly's new girlfriend how to make his favorite fried chicken! Even though she knew that her boy was finally on the right track with the right girl, she figured that a little insurance just couldn't hurt.
The Epilogue Expectation
Eleven years later, Mary Cooper was extremely pleased to come to the modest home, located in the Pasadena suburbs near both the University and the Wolowitz family, in order to stay with her two grandchildren (who were indeed both smart and beautiful). Only their Meemaw would do when the two precocious children needed a babysitter while their parents traveled to Sweden so that Sheldon could finally accept his long coveted Noble Prize for his breakthrough work in Physics. During his speech, in addition to reading what Penny had written out for him, he also sweetly thanked both his wonderfully patient wife of ten years - and his best friend, Leonard Hoftstadter, for bringing them together in the first place.*
The couple had to leave soon after the ceremony, however, (after Sheldon had met all of his favorite scientists, of course) because the month of December was the busy season for Penny's company, Fandom Fashion & Flair. Once she thought about combining her penny blossom idea with her husband's love of geeky paraphernalia, her multi-fandom themed accessory company had really taken off! Over time, she was discovered by the various convention crowds, and the rest was history. Even though she still occasionally starred in the odd TV commercial here and there for fun, she now also had a small manufacturing center, a successful online business, a storefront in Pasadena, and a vendor booth at every major science fiction, comic, and gaming convention across the country. She also had a dedicated staff - led by Stuart, who was hired by the Coopers after he had lost his comic book store in a fire.
Best of all, Sheldon was even prouder of his wife than he was of the new impressive accolade that he had waited his whole life to receive.** After all, his wife and children had finally taught him about the things that were really important in this world. He did not even need to do the math in order to figure that one out!
*Howard and Raj were not mentioned in the official speech, but Sheldon was true to his word and they did get a footnote mention when he wrote his professional memoirs several years later.
**He was still really, really, really proud of his Nobel prize, however, and never wasted an opportunity to bring it up in casual conversation with his colleagues – sometimes incorporating a "Neener neener" into the conversation, as well. He was still Sheldon Cooper, after all! ;)