A/N I've been falling behind on my first draft writing, because I've been acting in a play. Fortunately, I had quite a few chapters (20) backlogged, so I was able to continue to publish once a week. Just for reference, my first draft of the story is currently in mid October (note that this one starts on August 21) Our show ended on Sunday, (along with finishing painting the house last week), so I'll have more time for writing. I hope to catch up, and then get a bit ahead, so I can publish possibly three times every two weeks. I'm not promising, as I have to get ahead first.

Chapter 22

Laser Lab Office 7:50 AM Tuesday August 21, 2012

Leonard had come in early to prepare for the testing of the various lasers. He had spent the first part of the morning going over his checklist for each of the lasers he intended to have the students check today. First they were going to check the three smaller lasers in his office. Then move on to the lasers in the small laser lab. Then the control suite to run the tests for the two big lasers.

For the final test, he was going to use the big laser to verify some of his preliminary ideas for particle detection. He had his calculations, all he needed was to run some observations on each particle, and maybe he could figure out how to match his calculations to those observations. He sat back, waiting for his doc students to arrive.

Right at 8:00AM, the four students walked in. He offered them coffee, then passed out a sheet and while doing this he began talking. "Ok, we're going to start at 8:30 AM, the order in which we will be checking the lasers is on the sheet. Now, we'll be doing this in pairs. Roger, Keith, you're team 1 and you'll do the first one. Kevin, Gary, you're team two, and will watch them. After we finish the first laser, you'll switch, with team 2 working, and team 1 watching. After that, each team will alternate, as to who is working."

"I have three lasers in this office, they should take 30 minutes each. All we're doing with those is setting them to low power and checking the target screen for positioning. If they aren't correct, we adjust and test again. Then, we move on to the small laser lab, where we have three more. Those will require a bit more precision, and a bit more power, so I'm thinking it's going to take up to an hour on each one. That takes us to around 1:00 PM, so we'll break for lunch then."

Leonard looked over the rest of the day, and said, "At 2 PM, we'll head over to the main lab control room. the final two will require all of us working on the lasers. The controls for our most powerful lasers are there. Alpha, our most powerful laser, and Beta, at about 70% of the power of Alpha, is our second most powerful. We'll test Beta first. Again, it will be set on very low power, so we can use the position screen to check it, figure another hour."

"Finally, at 3 PM, we'll start working on Alpha. We are actually going to run a complete experiment on Alpha. First low power to get the position right, then we'll increase the power to 50%, to do a final check. Then we'll position the target and run it up to full power, to run the experiment."

"That should take us until five, and we should be finished. I'll get you guys the money for your pizza, or whatever else you want, and your beer, then."

They looked at each other, then one of the guys spoke up, "Dr Hofstadter, you paid for four nights of food and beer so far. We were wondering if you would mind us taking you out for dinner and beers."

Leonard looked surprised, "You sure? I remember how I was scraping by when I was working on my doctorate."

They looked at each other, "Oh, we realize that," Roger said, "but, you've been so kind, so helpful, we just want to take you out, to show our appreciation. We can scrape up enough between us to take you to dinner, at least once."

Leonard was blushing when he smiled at them, "OK, dinner is on all of you tonight. Now lets get to work."

Studio 44, 10:30 PM Tuesday August 21, 2012

The show had finished taping, and the barriers had been put away, the curtains were all up, and the entire stage could be seen from the stands. The stands were emptying out, as the audience left the studio.

Jeanie and Penny were talking when Dave walked up. "Hey, you two, want to stop for a drink? Jim, Kelli, Tina, Brent are all going. Just wanted to ask you." Penny and Jeanie looked at each other, nodded then turned to Dave and both said…"Sure".

"Great," said Dave, "We're going to Jake's Saloon, it's on your way home, the corner of 10th and 57th. We'll be there at 11, see you."

Penny and Jeanie both headed for their dressing rooms to change and about 15 minutes later they were walking out of the studio, then out of the broadcast center for the half block walk to the bar. Entering, they looked for their friends and found them at a table in the back. Jeanie and Penny sat down next to each other, with Tina on the other side of Penny, and Jim asked them what they wanted. They both told him a white wine, and he headed toward the bar. Dave and Brent were the last to arrive, with Kelli getting them their drinks.

Once everyone had their drinks and was seated, Jim raised his glass and said, "Here's to a successful run, may we be on for ten years." There were various "here, here" or "toast" and everyone took a sip. Over the next hour everyone was going back and forth talking about the show, about New York, about their lives, and other small talk.

Jeanie was talking to Dave, and Penny noticed Tina was quiet, not rushing around talking as Penny was used to seeing her. Penny asked the question that was on her mind. "Tina," said Penny, "were Jim and Kelli upset with me? You know, because I didn't know where I was supposed to stand and my missing all those lines?"

Tina took a sip of her beer, then said, "I haven't heard them say anything about it. But, I would be less than honest to not tell you they seemed a bit frustrated by it."

Penny's face fell, and Tina must have seen it. "I wouldn't worry about it Penelope, I've also heard them say they are willing to give you some extra time to get it. They know it's your first series, and they now know you are learning, but they do expect you to work on it, so just make sure you do."

"Oh, I will," said Penny. "I'm getting with Jeanie tomorrow, she's going to show me how to mark my blocking in the script."

Tina looked shocked, "Wait, you haven't been putting you blocking in the script?"

Penny shook her head, "I've been finding out I didn't learn a lot of what I should have learned.

"That's really amazing," said Tina shaking her head, "I'm surprised you've been getting as close as you have been. OK, work with Jeanie, start putting it in your script. You know, if you have a question on blocking, you can come to me. I have everyone's blocking in my script."

"Oh, I didn't know that," said Penny, "I'll remem…"

Penny felt an arm go around her shoulders. Turning, she saw Brent next to her, it was his arm. He looked down at her and said, "Hey, I see you've been struggling with your lines and blocking. How about after we get done with the table read tomorrow, you come over to my place and we can go over some tips I have for you to get through it easier?"

He sounded very reasonable to Penny, but she still felt wary around him. His arm around her contributing to that, because it just felt creepy. Fortunately, she had a built-in excuse, "Sorry Brent, Jeanie is going to work with me tomorrow and through the week, along with at night at my apartment, to help me get it."

Brent pressed ahead, "Well then maybe you can come over some other night, and I can go over and check it with you."

"Maybe," said Penny, "If Jeanie can't help me, maybe I'll talk to you." Brent's arm was removed from her shoulders, and he walked off.

Tina was looking at Penny, "He bothers you, doesn't he?"

"Yeah," said Penny, "how can you tell."

"The expression on your face," said Tina.

Penny nodded, "He reminds me of how a friend of mine used to act. He was really creepy too, thinking he was God's gift to women. He changed, but Brent…" she trailed off, shaking her head.

"Yeah, I can see that," said Tina. "I've got to go talk to Kelli for a bit, about tomorrow's schedule, so keep working hard and I'll see you in the morning."

Penny looked around and saw Tina was standing between Jim and Kelli, talking to them, while Jeanie was talking to Dave. She didn't see Brent, but was thankful for that. Suddenly Penny felt lonely and wished Leonard was there to talk to her. After about ten minutes Jim came over to ask her how the taping went for her, and the feeling, of loneliness, left her.

An hour later, both Penny and Jeanie were saying their goodbyes, as they were leaving to go home. Everyone else said goodbye to them and as they headed toward the door, near the front, Penny saw something. She turned and pointed out to Jeanie that Brent and a blond were making out in one of the front corners. Jeanie and Penny both turned to each other and broke out laughing.

It was a short walk home and they said their goodbyes when Penny left the elevator on the third floor. Jeanie reminded Penny they had their table read at ten, and then she would be coming over in the afternoon, to teach Penny how to mark the script for her blocking and drill her on the symbols.

Apt 314, 9:30 PM Wednesday August 22, 2012

Penny was studying the marks Jeanie had given her that afternoon. She had left her a sheet with all the symbols on it, along with what each symbol or letter meant. After the table read, Penny and Jeanie returned to Penny's apartment, and Jeanie started explaining to Penny what letters or symbols to use, what each of them meant, when to use them, and where she should write them down in the script.

It was evening and she was now staring at all those "Xs", arrows, and an "S" with an arrow at the top, one with the arrow at the bottom, two letter abbreviations, and various other symbols and letters, trying to learn make sure she knew what they all meant.

Penny wasn't sure she was ever going to get it. Jeanie had also pushed Penny, and had her write blocking Jeanie had given her on a couple of pages of dialogue Jeanie had brought with her. She didn't make it easy for her, as Jeanie had made her write it down on the pages of dialogue, as Jeanie told her what her blocking was.

And now, after Jeanie had left for the evening, Penny was trying to make sense of that page. It wasn't easy as in trying to write it down quickly, she had written it down sloppily, and parts of it didn't make sense.

Penny sighed, and got up, heading to the kitchen. There, she poured herself her fifth glass of wine, emptying the bottle, and went back to her couch. She sat down and picked up the papers with the symbols, and started to go back to studying, but she was feeling the alcohol and was feeling lonely, and decided to call Leonard.

She placed all of her pages together on the table, and opened her computer, entering Leonard's number. It rang twice before Leonard picked up.

"Hi Penny," he said, "how is everything."

"Hi sweetie," said Penny, "I was just missing you. I didn't talk to you last night, and I've been studying some stuff Jeanie gave me, and I just wanted to talk to you."

"Awwwwwww," said Leonard, "That's sweet." He looked down, "I was missing you too, and was going to call if I didn't hear from you by seven. So, how are things going?"

"Well, you know how bad things were," said Penny. "There was that drunk call and I talked to you the next day. Jeanie showed me some ways to mark my script, so I know where and when to move, which way to face, all of that. So, I don't have to worry about it. Of course, now I'll have to memorize even more stuff, sooooo…"

"I'm sure you can do it."

"I hope so," said Penny. "Jeanie has offered to help me, she told me to just ask." Penny paused for a few seconds, "Leonard, remember when I told you we got along so well at the auditions?"

"Yeah, you said something, about you giggling and making each other laugh."

"OK," said Penny, "we're starting to get along even better. It's like I can talk to her about anything. She likes wine, we go to work together. When I'm feeling down, about being away from you, I can talk to her and she understands. We're getting to be real good friends."

"That's a good thing, right?" asked Leonard. "You're making a new friend in your new job."

"Yes, it is," said Penny, "but, I miss my old friends not seeing them, not talking to them, not being able to see them."

"I'm not sure what to say," said Leonard, "except I'm sorry."

"Don't be," said Penny, "Talking to you means a great deal to me. I miss you so much."

"Well, I miss seeing you," said Leonard. "At least we talk almost every day. So I have that."

"And I have that and I'm grateful for it," said Penny, "But, talking sometimes isn't enough. Last night, I was in the middle of a bar, and was feeling lonely. I wanted you there, I wanted to hug you, and I couldn't. It made me feel sad for a second."

"I miss hugging you too, and snuggling on the couch, and kissing, and… I better stop."

"No, you better go to your bedroom," said Penny seriously, "you're making me horny, too. Go."

Learned and Penny both jumped up and headed for their bedrooms.

Studio 44, 3 PM, August 23 2012

Penny was in her dressing room, rubbing her eyes. She had just taken some Tylenol, for the third time today, she still had the headache from her hangover. And today was the first day she had tried to write down her blocking and she had struggled.

The morning had gone well enough. They did a walk-through, with the director giving the actors their blocking. Penny had gotten that, writing down her movements with the symbols Jeanie had showed her. After lunch, they started setting up the cameras, which included which way Penny, and the others, were supposed to look.

In addition, there were changes to the script, and Penny had to make changes to her blocking, and writing it down on the new pages. Writing and re-writing everything down left her with no time to review everything before starting. She had to try and look at it while doing the run through, leading to her missing several of her cues, which caused the director to restart the scenes.

Penny had been getting frustrated, even when she was off set, while they worked on other scenes. She continued to press herself to study, wanting to get it right. But, without enough time to actually review the changes, before getting to the next scene, she was still getting confused about where or when to move. This was in addition to getting more changes before running the scene, which had her looking at the wrong blocking. By the end of the day, she was almost in tears and after her last scene, ran to her dressing room.

She laid on her dressing room couch, waiting for Jeanie to finish her last two scenes. She closed her eyes, trying to think about her blocking, as she wrote it down, but without actually looking at it, she couldn't picture it, and with her headache, she didn't want to get off of the couch, just to look. I'll see if Jeanie is willing to stop at the store on the way home. I need to pickup some food, and I definitely need some wine, that should help me relax.

Penny heard a knock on her door, and Jeanie saying, "Give me about five minutes, Penny, then we can go." Penny got up from the couch and started putting things away, getting ready to leave.