As she had anticipated, they were in the middle of a game. She watched as Raj, without looking up or saying a word, automatically moved out of Sheldon's seat for him. Sheldon walked behind the couch and sat down rather awkwardly, his back stiff and his hands on his knees. Penny headed for the kitchen, noticing the fight had a little over two minutes left. Two minutes of agony. She grabbed a bottle of water and leaned against the island counter. She could feel the blood pulsing throughout her entire body. She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer for Sheldon to do this right.
The full two minutes weren't needed. Within a few seconds of her twisting the cap off the bottle the battle was over. The boys started cheering slightly, going on about who killed who and how. Well, Howard and Leonard did. Raj just smiled and nodded like always. Leonard grabbed the fourth controller and threw it to Sheldon.
"What took you so long?" Howard asked. "I thought you were just going to Best Buy."
Sheldon opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. Leonard, who wasn't looking at him, answered. "Howard. Really? It's Sheldon. They probably ended up having to kick him out at closing time."
Howard seemed satisfied and turned his attention back to the tv. Sheldon glanced at Penny. Oh man, he was gonna choke. This was not gonna be good. She widened her eyes and mouthed the words "Go On" to him. He nodded and cleared his throat.
"I have some news to share. I warn you, it may come as a shock" he said, his voice breaking a bit.
They all turned their heads to him at once. "Is this really news? Or is this like the time you got us all together just to announce that you were boycotting the Lego company because there was a piece missing from your Millennium Falcon set?" Howard asked.
Raj started laughing. Despite the fact that she felt like she was going to throw up her own heart, Penny laughed too.
"This surpasses that ordeal, I do believe," he continued, ignoring the snickers. Good boy. "Something has happened to me within the past week that nobody would have ever foreseen. I've kept it a secret, which was a very daunting thing to do."
The boys were no longer snickering. They must have detected a real sense of importance. Penny was sort of impressed with such a quick change in demeanor in them. Hell, they even looked a little concerned now. Sheldon seemed to notice it too because he stopped talking again. His eyes were darting back and forth between his friends but he couldn't say anything.
"Sheldon, are you going to tell us or what?" Leonard finally asked.
"I HAVE A GIRLFRIEND!" Sheldon suddenly yelled.
Penny turned her back from them and leaned against the counter, her head in her hands. She was sure they weren't looking at her. Her face must be beet red. Well, at least he tried...
"Come again?" Howard asked.
"I have a girlfriend," Sheldon said again, with a little more control.
The questions were gonna start any second. Penny braced her self for....laughter? They were all laughing at him! Rude, so rude...Oh! They think he is messing with them. Shit, she should have thought about that! She turned back around to check out the scene. Poor baby, being laughed at like that. This was already hard enough for him...
"Yeah right, Sheldon. Did you build her?" Leonard asked, wiping tears from the corner of his eyes.
"No, Leonard. She is not an android."
"Did you meet her on Second Life?" Howard asked.
"No. She is a real person. I was on a date tonight."
They all stopped laughing.
"Jesus, Sheldon, you're serious?" Leonard asked.
Leonard asked "who?" and Howard asked "how?" Penny crossed her fingers and hoped he would ignore Leonard's question. Sheldon looked at all of them again and froze. Shit, she was gonna have to do this. Shit, shit, shit!
"Sheldon, tell them what you told me," Penny said, walking toward them. All eyes flew to her now. She sat on the arm of the couch where Sheldon was. "Remember, you were having disrupted thoughts and you were getting butterflies in your stomach anytime you thought about this girl?"
"Penny, it wasn't literal butterflies but yes," Sheldon said. Alright. She brought him back. "Yes, so through research and interpretation I realized that these were the product of deep positive emotional responses to a particular person."
Raj and Howard's mouths were wide open. Leonard was still listening intently. Sheldon had frozen again. She kinda of shook him on the shoulder. He didn't respond. She shook her head.
"So, Sheldon decided to tell the girl about his new development. As it turns out, she felt the same. Now they are dating," Penny said, trying to keep her tone even.
Raj narrowed his eyes and looked away from Sheldon. Howard sighed and shook his head. "Is it Katie Lukins? Or Marsha Jan? Rachel Ortega?"
Penny raised an eyebrow. Who were all these girls?
"Howard, that's ridiculous," Leonard said. "Have you even met those girls? Katie has a unibrow. Marsha looks like she was hit in the face with a frying pan and Rachel is certifiably crazy. Like, she is on medication for it."
"I know that. Those are the only people who it could possibly be. No one else in their right mind would go out with Sheldon," Howard said. He turned back to him and patted his knee. "No offense buddy."
Penny did not like that. Not at all. There was no reason to be such an ass, especially when his friend is putting his heart on the line (well, as much as Sheldon can anyway). So she took a deep breath, put her hands right under his jaw line and kissed him. She concentrated hard to make the kiss passionate but not too crazy. Enough to prove her point and make them believe it. She could feel Sheldon kissing her back and was thankful. That would make it more believable. She pulled away from it and said simply. "It's me."
His friends were indeed shocked. Raj looked at him, then Penny and then back at him. He stood up slowly and said "I'm out" and walked out the door. Howard was shaking his head in obvious disbelief.
"This is an elaborate, completely unfunny practical joke right?" Howard asked.
Penny shook her head. "No. This is serious."
Leonard said not a word. Sheldon couldn't even be sure he was still breathing. His stomach gave a jolt, a different kind than Penny gave him. This one reminded him of the feeling he had when he destroyed his sister Missy's dollhouse. Guilt, was it? Why did he feel guilty? He knew the most probable cause. You are apparently not supposed to date your best friend's ex. But Leonard and Penny didn't date. They had one failed date. There was no romantic relationship. So it wasn't as if he destroyed that. That was months and months ago. Leonard had moved on. He had Stephanie. He had no reason to feel guilty, right?
Penny's face was difficult to read. Well, more so than usual. Sheldon wished he could hear her thoughts. She stood up and headed back toward the kitchen. Was she upset? Nervous? Regretful? Oh, please not regretful. He didn't want their relationship to end over this. At the same time he didn't want his friendships to suffer. This was absurd. All he wanted to do now was go sit in his room alone and block it all out. Einstein never went through this madness. Or Newton. His head began to throb. He closed his eyes and tried to go over the second season of Battlestar Galactica in his head.
Howard suddenly stood up and walked toward Penny. He backtracked and went toward Sheldon. He was concerned by the look on Howard's face that he may actually strike him. He flinched when he grabbed his arm, forcing him to stand up, and lead him to Penny. Howard then pushed them together, side by side, shoulder to arm (he was much taller than her). He just stood there and stared at them, stroking his chin. Sheldon did like being gawked at. He was fairly certain Penny didn't either.
"I...I just don't understand," Howard said. He sounded very confused. Sheldon was about to explain it again to Howard, breaking it into sections to help him understand, but when Penny placed her hand in his he shut up. Howard's eyes were drawn to their hands and sighed. "Well, that's all for me. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to head home to hang myself." He headed for the door.
"Howard!" Penny protested. "Don't be stupid!"
He turned back to her. "No, Penny. The day Sheldon gets a girlfriend, a smokin' hot one at that, and I can't...well. That's it for me."
Penny made a disgusted sound as Howard closed the door behind him.
"Don't worry. He's threatened suicide several times before. He has no will. He won't go through with it," Sheldon said.
She let go of his hand and he watched as she sat on the couch, next to his spot, and turned her attention to Leonard. Oh Lord. He was not looking forward to this confrontation at all. Leonard was not smiling. Or frowning. Or furrowing his brow. He was just staring out at nothing with a blank expression
"Leonard, please say something," Penny pleaded.
"What do you want me to say?" Leonard asked very softly.
"Anything," Penny said.
"I'm a little overwhelmed right now," Leonard said, finally moving, sitting back in his chair. "I'll be right back." He left and went into his room and shut the door.
Penny felt terrible. She knew she shouldn't, but she did. Sure, she had purposely dated other guys when she knew others had crushes on her. But that was in grade school. This was different. She didn't want to be the cause of Sheldon and Leonard breaking up. Ha. She smiled to herself. They were like an old married couple when you really think about it. But still, she was a firm advocate of the ol' "Bros before Ho's" standard, though she highly doubted either would use that term. Or have even heard of it. Regardless, she would not be the cause of the loss of friendship.
All she was waiting for was Leonard's response. It was going to determine how she would move forward from here. She had been wrestling with the thought all week, but she was pretty much decided that if Leonard would not or could not accept it, and it would cause problems with Sheldon, she would end it. She knew in her heart that it would break hers, even more so it would break Sheldon's. She was willing to hurt herself and him to keep his friendship intact. Even if the end result would be losing both of them in the process. She went over the possible outcomes a thousand times over. The minutes ticked by. Sheldon never said a word, just sat next to her, holding her hand.
It took all of her will to not break down into tears.
Leonard finally came into to the living room.
"You two weren't planning on telling anyone tonight were you?" Leonard asked.
Penny answered. "Not tonight, no. We were gonna plan it a little better. You got a text from that jerk didn't you?"
Leonard half-smiled. "Kripke is an ass. And yes. I understand why you would want to tell everyone and not him." He turned to Sheldon. "You didn't really run into the cabinets did you?"
Sheldon cleared his throat. "I did not."
Leonard just nodded. "Well, if it's any relief to you, I'm not mad."
Sheldon sighed. "Thank heavens."
Penny didn't looked convinced. "Honestly?" she asked.
"Maybe just a little. But I think it's just a hint of jealousy really. I'm just shocked. I mean, no offense Sheldon...but you are the last person I thought in our circle that would be in a relationship. I had Raj ahead of you, even with the fact he can't speak in front of woman."
Sheldon just nodded. This was true. He couldn't be offended by such logical thought process. He himself probably would have had the same bet. Penny still looked uncertain. Leonard detected that.
"I'm serious, Penny. If this were several months ago, I might think differently. I came to terms with the fact we would never be in a relationship a while ago. I'm happy with Stephanie. It's just...bizarre."
Penny jumped up and hugged him. "Leonard, you have no idea how happy that makes me."
"I just have one favor."
"What's that?" she asked.
"Please, please, please. Try not to make out in front of me. It's like a weird dream and it makes me uncomfortable. I'll get used to it, but like...I don't know. I'll get warmed up to it, but a little at a time please."
"I promise," Penny said.
Sheldon ran to the computer to put it writing.