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Penny's feet made a loud thumping sound as she ran up the stairs, fumbling in her purse for her apartment keys. It had been the most horrible, disgusting and draining day a person could have and all she wanted to do was to curl up in a foetal position while engulfing large amounts of sweet alcohol.
The day hadn't even started that badly. She went to work in a rather happy mood, thinking, since it was Friday, it had to be a good day. "Huh", she would say to her morning-self, "You deserve that for being such a stupid optimist." The minute she arrived at the restaurant she realized work was not going to be easy. There were tons of last night's plates to wash, and before they were finished, customers started to fill up the place. There were new specials and some discount her boss had made up to attract customers, and in her opinion it had worked a little too well. She and the other waitresses were barely able to keep up. That alone would have been endurable. The real problem happened when some teenagers started shouting and hitting on her, hard, and one of them actually tried to feel her up on his way to the bathroom. She thought it would be over when she left the Factory, but it took her half an hour to change the flat tire on her car and finally drive home.
And there was even a cherry on the top of that cake. She couldn't escape the pouring rain going outside on her way from the car to the building, and now her hair and clothes were dripping wet and sticking to her skin.
Successfully entering the apartment, she rushed to remove and toss away her clothes, not giving much thought to where they were landing. She fished some comfortable, relatively clean and, most importantly, dry clothes from an ever-growing pile on her couch and put them on, while rushing to the fridge to find which types of booze were available.
Not much exploration was necessary here; she found some melon liqueur, an almost empty bottle of vodka and some old hard apple cider someone had given to her. At that, she shrugged, and mixed the full contents of the glasses in her blender with some ice, and took the blender container with her to the couch, turning the TV on some meaningless soap opera. After a few sips, she was starting to relax and appreciate the fact that the day was finally over. But she realized it was all too easy when she heard her name called three times, synchronized with knocks on her front door.
"Oh, come on, Sheldon…" she grunted, as she dragged her body from the couch to open the door, holding tightly to her blender.
"What?" she saw the tall man standing in the hallway, looking at her with an awkward expression. He was holding a pair of woolen mittens, one of which seemed to be ripped where the thumb was supposed to go.
"Well, hello Penny, what is shaking?" he said with a self-assured smile, and yet seeming completely out of place.
Penny sighed impatiently. "Sweetie, I told you, you don't have to force the colloquial sentences, the quicker you say what you want, the quicker you can go away."
He looked to the floor, apparently considering the thought.
"Very well, then. Penny, I came here to request your hand sewing aptitude to my services." He said, lifting the mittens, a smug smile still on his face.
Penny shook her head and frowned, but only for a second. She was happy to realize she was finally beginning to understand Sheldon. She was not, however, happy about his request.
"You want me to fix your mittens?"
He looked at her and nodded emphatically. "Yes."
"Come on, Sheldon, you want me to fix your mittens now? Did you not notice that I'm drinking alcohol straight from the blender? Now is not a good time."
"Well, of course I noticed it, Penny. I'm neither blind nor mentally stagnant. I merely chose not to mention it, due to my recent evaluation that people don't seem to appreciate when you comment on their flaws, even if with the sole intention of giving constructive criticism.", he stated, waving his hand around as usual, and, as usual, clearly proud of his thought processing.
Penny nodded, not seeming happy at all. "That's great, now go away." But before she could close the door on him, he held it open with his right hand.
"Now, wait. I'd like to propose a favor exchange, i.e. you provide me with the favor of sewing my mittens, and in return I provide you with a different favor. As I've observed, this seems to be a typical arrangement among social relationships."
"And what favor could you possibly do for me?"
He leaned his head forward to look in side her apartment, his forehead frowning in a mist of shock and disgust. He went back to look at her, trying not to seem so appalled.
"I could clean you apartment. I mean, good Lord, Penny, how can you live here? It looks as if a pack of wild animals…"
But before he could finish the sentence, large tear drops started to fall out of Penny's eyes as she sobbed, unable to control her blubbering. Sheldon looked around nervously.
"There, there." he tried, uncomfortable.
"Why are you being mean to me?" she got out, in between hiccups. "I've had the most terrible day and now you're being mean to mee…"
"No, I wasn't mean. I…"
Sheldon was getting even more uncomfortable. He tried grabbing the blender from her hands and offering it to her.
"Here, have a drink. Although, it's been tested that the effects of alcohol may actually increase one's depressive state…Hum…"
That just caused her to cry even harder. Unable to watch that scene anymore, he led her inside the apartment and, a little unsure, sat on the couch with her. He tried tapping her back a few times, and when that didn't seem to work, he assumed talking about other things could distract her. He glanced at her television and frowned.
"Penny, why are you watching a documentary about storks?"
She lifted her head confused, but no longer crying.
"What? No, I was watching a soap opera…" She looked at the TV. "Oh, that's why there were no humans…" She started crying again. "I'm so stupid, I can' even watch a soap opera properly…"
"Oh, no, she had stopped crying. Oh, what now? Look, Penny, it's not so bad, this documentary is actually quite interesting." He seemed amused. "See? There, did you know that storks only appear to be monogamous? In fact, they may change mates after migrations."
Penny gave Sheldon a mean look, which made him squint away from her, as she grabbed the blender and drank a large sip.
"Who cares? So storks are not so good on the long-distance relationship thing. Is anyone?"
"Well, I don't think comparing species is a valid way of constructing a hypothesis. It's known that evolution favored different species in different environments, therefore, making it highly unlikely that a somewhat similar behavior between different species shows any kind of correlation amidst them."
Penny just stared at him, unimpressed, and took another gulp of her drink. Sheldon gave her beverage a disgusted look.
"What…hum…what is that?"
She smiled. "It's green apple cider, you want some?" The thought of getting Sheldon drunk enough to sing L'chaim again made her feel less melancholic.
"Is it made out of green apples?" He seemed interested.
"Sure." She knew it wasn't, but why bother.
"I don't like green apples."
"What's the difference?"
"What's the difference? The green apple is a hybrid of the Malus domestica and Malus sylvestris originally grown in Australia by Maria Ann Smith. As the actual, real red apple… "
"Oh, God, fine. This isn't actually made out of green apple, okay? It's apple cider, liqueur and vodka."
"Then why on earth is it called the green apple cider? It certainly isn't green in any way."
"Look, you still want me to fix your mittens?" Penny put the blender on the floor and looked at him. She felt tired, drunk and incredibly sad. For some reason she had the notion that helping Sheldon would make her feel better, maybe her mind was playing devilish tricks on her. But when she stared at his eyes waiting for a response, she noticed an expression she had never seen in him before. It wasn't his usual smugness or even the awkward look he had whenever he was a part of a social or personal situation he wasn't used to (come to think of it, would he ever be used to any?). No, much to Penny's surprise, this look was one of an actual human emotion. But she couldn't figure out which. His eyebrows were coming close together, but his forehead lacked any creases, so it couldn't be confusion. It seemed almost like…pity. Was she so deep under even Sheldon was capable of noticing and feeling sorry for her? She knew her misery went beyond the bad day she had, but was it so obvious how frustrating her life was being? She didn't want it to be.
"Perhaps another time." He said simply, making a move to get up from the couch. She grasped his hand impulsively. He looked at their hands, now, definitely looking confused, but didn't shudder away as she would have expected. They stayed silent for a moment, looking at their hands together. His hand was soft and warm and for the briefest of seconds she wondered what it would be like to kiss it. And then she let go of his hand abruptly. She looked at his eyes again, but he avoided hers and she forgot what she meant to say when she held his hand in the first place. To her immense relief he spoke again, and she realized how silly the whole thing was. He was just Sheldon.
"I had certain urgency on getting these fixed, since they are my Saturday mittens, and it is almost Saturday…But I sense you wouldn't be very coordinated at the moment. I suppose I could," he swallowed hard, "wear different mittens," he managed to say, appearing to be in profound pain.
She was actually able to smile at his OCD. "I can fix it Sheldon. But why do you need them anyway?"
"Oh, did I forget to mention? Wolowitz, Koothrappali, Leonard and I are going to the snow festival tomorrow." He snickered, excited. "There's a snowman building contest, which I intend to win. Of course, my understanding of the laws of physics should prove to be a great advantage against my competitors."
"Aw. Snow festival? That sounds nice. Can I come if I fix your mittens?"
He smiled in response, and handed her the fingerless gloves.
"Yes. Oh, but I have two conditions."
She scowled, puzzled. "What?"
His smile grew wider.
"Don't bring any cider and look less, hum…"
"Less what?" She was a little upset by this, which prompted her to stand up fast. The sudden headache she felt warned her it had been a mistake.
Sheldon had that mixed confusion and fear look he always got when she tried to intimidate him. "I… well, you've changed your patterns and I can barely recognize you right now."
"Alright, you can come if you promise me you will be Penny."
She laughed. Sheldon made her laugh, she realized. That was her terrible day and Sheldon had made her laugh. Something bad was happening.
He smiled awkwardly again and left in a hurry. Penny sat back on the couch and looked at his mittens. She smiled and thought that maybe the day had ended quite well. And tomorrow was promising to be, at the very least, interesting.