Title: The Next Door Neighbor Conundrum

Rating: PG

Description: After Sheldon learns that Penny is considering moving to a cheaper apartment, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

Disclaimer: I would own Kaley if I could, but as it is, I own nothing. If I owned these characters you'd be seeing this on television instead of reading it online.

Author's note: This is a response to a challenge at the sheldon_penny lj community. The prompt from the Sheldon/Penny group was this: Leonard lets it slip to Sheldon that Penny mentioned finding a cheaper apartment. He does not like that idea at all, and confronts her about it, resulting in him confessing that he enjoys the fact that she lives next door. As such, this is an AU scene from The Financial Permeability.

This is my first stab at this pairing. I love them, but this story didn't flow as easily as most of my stories do. I didn't have a beta, so if you notice any mistakes or instances of OOC actions, don't hesitate to point it out. As usual, reviews are most welcome.

Sheldon, Raj, and Howard looked up from their board game as Leonard walked into the apartment. Most of what he was said was unintelligible, but all three of them distinctly heard when he mentioned Penny moving out.

"Penny's moving?" Howard asked, slightly crestfallen. "Now I'll never know if she'll eventually succumb to my masculine wiles."

"You don't have any masculine wiles," Leonard replied sardonically. "And Penny is not moving."

"I'd say she isn't," declared Sheldon as he rose to his feet. "That would be completely unacceptable."

"I concur," Leonard said. "But I'm surprised that you even care."

"Of course I care," Sheldon scoffed. "It may have escaped your attention, but the dynamic between Penny and I has developed into what can only be termed a 'friendship,' and I'm given to understand that a difficulty in a friend's housing situation is cause for concern."

"In theory, yes, but you didn't care about my situation when I had to move back in with my mother," Howard retorted.

"Or mine when I got kicked out of university housing," Raj chimed in.

Sheldon stared at them both without replying, and then walked over to stand by Leonard. "So, what is your plan to remedy the Penny situation?"

"Well, she refused my offer to move in with her."

"Shocking," Howard interrupted sarcastically.

Leonard ignored Howard's comment and continued. "Do you remember Penny's ex Kurt?"

"How could we forget such a Neanderthal?" asked Sheldon.

"Well, he owes Penny money, and if he paid her back she wouldn't have to move…"

"I hardly see what that has to do with you."

"Well," Leonard said warily. "I'm going to go and confront him."

"Are you insane?" asked Howard. "The man's neck was as wide as his head. He will destroy you."

Sheldon fixed Leonard in his gaze. "Do you not remember the last time that you encountered Kurt?"

Leonard's shoulders slumped slightly as he replied. "Of course I do, but I don't want Penny to move, and if he pays her back she won't have to, so I'm going and you're coming with me."

Sheldon pursed his lips. "I most certainly am not."

"But I thought you didn't want Penny to move either."

"I don't," Sheldon replied. "But I fail to see how my humiliation at the hands of her ex-boyfriend will in any way cause that not to happen."

"We aren't going to get humiliated. Once we present our argument logically he will be happy to pay Penny back what he owes her."

"Interesting hypothesis; let me know how it turns out." Sheldon looked down at Howard and Raj. "The game will have to be put on hold, but don't worry, I shall return to continue with my complete dominance of the both of you."

Before either could reply, Sheldon turned on his heels and left the apartment.

Penny was well on her way to devouring an entire quart of cookie dough ice cream when Sheldon's familiar knock sounded at her door. She briefly considered not answering, but she knew that Sheldon wouldn't give her any peace until she did.

With a sigh she dropped her spoon into the rapidly softening ice cream and sat the carton on the coffee table. She briskly crossed the room and jerked the door open, crossing her arms and coolly regarding Sheldon as he stood there. "Can I help you?" Sheldon was silent for a moment, and then he brushed past her and entered her apartment. "Come on in, I guess," Penny said sarcastically as she pushed the door closed. "Here to shake me down for your money?"

Sheldon was paced back and forth rapidly. "It has come to my attention the monetary gift that I bestowed upon you earlier was not sufficient, and as such you are looking into an alternate housing situation."

Penny shook her head, slightly bewildered. "I'm not sure exactly what you said there."

Sheldon stopped pacing and looked at her sternly. "Are you or are you not considering moving?"

"Oh. That. Yeah, I may have to find another place if things don't pick up. I'm short on cash, and I can't seem to get an acting job, and the Cheesecake Factory keeps cutting my hours."

Sheldon shook his head vehemently. "No. Penny, that is not acceptable. You cannot move. If you have need of more money, then I will simply loan you more money."

This show of interest surprised Penny. "Why do you care if I move?"

Sheldon looked thoughtful for a moment. "You are the second person to ask me that. Why is it this so surprising to everyone?"

"Um, because they've met you before? And because we fight all the time, and something about me seems to get on your nerves."

"Well," Sheldon replied acidly. "I thought that I had made it perfectly clear that I have grown to like you. Somewhat. I seem to remember keeping you instead of Raj."

Penny was speechless for a moment. Had Sheldon Cooper actually said that he liked her? "I'm sorry, could you say that again?"

"I don't think that I need to repeat myself."

"Huh. So I did hear you right." Penny stepped over to the couch and slumped onto it. "So that's what that was? I've been wondering why you kept me." She studied Sheldon for a moment. "I was actually surprised that you gave me that quiz in the first place. You always seem put out when I refer to us as friends."

Sheldon delicately lifted some of Penny's laundry out of his chosen chair and sat down. "Penny, despite all my efforts to the contrary, you have managed to integrate yourself quite thoroughly into my everyday life. Now that you have done so, I can't really just go back to not having you around. It wouldn't be..."


"Exactly," Sheldon said, looking satisfied.

Penny smiled. "Well that's really sweet and all, but I still can't take any more of your money."

"Why? Does accepting money from me somehow offend your pride?"

Penny bit her lower lip. "Well, yeah."

"That's absurd."

"Besides, I already took most of your peanut brittle money."

Sheldon laughed. "Now Penny, let me explain something to you. What you saw in my apartment was but one of my covert monetary caches."

"Oh yeah, I forgot about the action figure."

"Please, Penny," Sheldon scoffed. "Do you actually think that I would reveal all of my secrets to you?"

"I hadn't thought about it that much," Penny countered wryly.

"Obviously." Sheldon stood and began to walk around Penny's apartment, absently picking up the laundry that was strewn about the room. "As part of my disaster readiness kit, I keep a relatively large amount of cash on hand."

"What do you mean by relatively large?"

"Well, assuming that your rent is the same as mine and Leonard's, and assuming that your bills are roughly in line with ours, there's enough money to support you for at least three months. It may be possible to double the duration if you supplemented it with a portion of your own income. That should be a sufficient amount of time for you to come up with an alternate solution."

Penny's eyes bulged. "You keep that amount of cash in your apartment? Are you one of those weirdos who don't believe in keeping money in banks?"

"Penny, any simpleton knows that it is prudent to keep a certain amount of liquid assets around in case of emergency."

"A certain amount and thousands of dollars are two different things."

"Penny, if there were a nuclear war tomorrow, do you really think that I could run down to the ATM to get some money?"

"Point taken." Penny sighed and buried her face in her hands. "It's just…I wouldn't feel comfortable taking that much money from you. I mean, look at me! I just borrowed enough for this month's rent, and I'm a basket-case."

Sheldon dropped the pile of laundry he had accumulated into an empty basket in the corner. "Penny, would you rather be a 'basket-case,' or would you rather be living under a bridge somewhere?"

"I don't think it'll come to that."

"If you'd simply take my money then it definitely won't."

Penny sighed again. "Sheldon, sweetie, come sit down." She waited for Sheldon to settle into his customary chair before continuing. "I love that you care enough to do this, but I don't really want you to be my sugar-daddy."

"Your sugar-daddy? I'm confused."

"Oh, well sweetie, a sugar daddy is…"

"I know what a 'sugar-daddy' is. I'm not completely without plebian knowledge." Sheldon regarded her silently for a moment before continuing. "What I'm confused about is that I'm given to understand that a 'sugar-daddy' provides offers monetary assistance in return for physical satisfaction, forming what is basically a thinly veiled prostitution arrangement."

"I guess that's true in a way."

"But I don't possess that sort of relationship with you, nor have I asked to." Sheldon looked genuinely confused. "Have I in some way indicated that I expect that sort of compensation?"

Penny shook her head. "Of course not Sheldon. You are being too literal."

Sheldon looked placated. "Well, that's good. I never meant to imply anything of the sort. I simply sought to convey how your sudden absence would adversely impact the way that I my psychological functions."

"Aww. Sheldon. Are you trying to say that you'd miss me?"

"If you want to reduce my statement to its basest terms, then yes."

The implication of the statement wasn't lost on Penny. She quickly closed the distance between them and flung her arms around him. Her momentum caused to lose her balance and fall into Sheldon's lap. He stiffened slightly at the contact, but to her surprise he didn't cringe away. In fact, she felt his arms slowly creep around her waist and apply a minuscule amount of pressure. After a moment, she released him and kissed his cheek, grinning to herself as his face instantly flared red.

"Am I to take this response as your acquiescence to my offer of monetary assistance?" Sheldon asked.

Penny was slightly distracted by the fact that Sheldon's right arm was still around her, resting against the small of her back. "Aqu-what?"

"Do you agree to let me loan you money?"

"I guess I do." The knot of despair that had been growing in her stomach began to unravel slightly. Impulsively, Penny leaned closer to Sheldon, resting her head on his shoulder. Once again she was surprised that he didn't shrink away from her. "I can't believe that you admitted that you like me."

"I'm a constant surprise."

Penny's eyes widened slightly as she realized that not only were Sheldon's hands still touching her, they were actually rubbing lazy circles on the small of her back. "Yes. Yes you are." They sat that way in silence for several minutes before Penny spoke again. "Sheldon, what's happening here?"

"What do you mean?"

Penny leaned back so she could face Sheldon. "All of this. Usually you freeze like a deer in the headlights if I even brush against you, but now I'm sitting in your lap, and you're fine."

Sheldon looked thoughtful, as if the situation was only just dawning on him. "That is odd. I didn't even notice." He looked her up and down. "I have to say, the situation isn't entirely non-enjoyable."

"That's good to hear I guess."

"It's definitely not how I theorized it would be."

Penny raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? You've theorized about this?"

Sheldon nodded. "Oh yes, many times. I'd be the first to admit that I had no inclination to interact with you whatsoever during the early stages of our acquaintance, but with repeated exposure to you I find myself reacting in a completely different and unexpected ways."

"Is that so?" Penny asked with a playful glint in her eye.

"It is. As you've pointed out, physical contact has previously been as appealing to me as the Cylons were to Admiral Adama, but lately I find my mind contemplating past physical encounters and postulating my reactions should said encounters happen again in the future."

"Physical encounters?"

"For example: after you presented me with that wonderful Christmas gift, you may remember that I attempted to hug you."

Penny smiled. "Yeah. I remember."

Sheldon looked pleased. "Well, recently I've been revisiting that scenario in my mind and postulating how the experience would have differed if I were to attempt it with current level of knowledge and experience."

"Well, now you know," Penny said simply.

"Indeed." Sheldon replied. He fell into a thoughtful silence, his eyes staring into space. As the silence continued, Penny began to study Sheldon's face. She idly traced the contour of his cheekbones with her gaze and followed the slope of his jaw before settling on his lips. They were pursed slightly as they did when Sheldon was thinking intently. Penny was hit by a sudden urge to kiss Sheldon, and without thinking she leaned forward and placed her lips on his.

As she expected, his entire body went rigid in response to this new sensation. Penny kept her lips pressed against his, partly because she wanted to see how long he'd allow the kiss to go on, and partly to see if he would return it. To her great surprise, after a few seconds Sheldon relaxed slightly, and his arms tightened around her. His lips softened against hers, and he timidly began to kiss her back. Penny was surprised by the warm rush that filled her stomach when Sheldon began kissing her back, and she had to force herself not to plunge her tongue into his mouth.

After a few more moments of semi-chaste kissing, Sheldon broke contact and leaned back. "Well, now there's a sensation that can not adequately be quantified by observation alone."

"Kissing me?"

Sheldon shook his head. "I mean kissing anyone."

Penny was stunned. "You mean that was your first kiss?"

"Not my first kiss per se. My mother often kissed me good night, and my sister has kissed me on occasion, mostly to annoy me, but that was my first kiss in what could be considered a romantic situation."

Penny still couldn't believe her ears. "You're saying that I was your first kiss?"

Sheldon nodded. "Yes. And, although I have no frame of reference to compare it to, I have to say it was a pretty remarkable one. If this is the sort of sensation that Leonard felt while kissing you then completely I understand his persistence in trying to duplicate the experience."

Penny smiled. "That's sweet Sheldon." She stared at him thoughtfully. "Does that mean you want to 'replicate the experience?'" she asked coyly.

"Very much so," Sheldon responded. Penny grinned and leaned forward, bringing their lips into contact. This time Sheldon didn't stiffen at all, in fact he pulled her closer, working his lips hungrily against hers. Their bodies settled comfortably together, and they stayed in that position for a long moment, their lips locked in an increasingly passionate kiss. Since she was already down the rabbit-hole, Penny decided to try an experiment of her own. She opened her mouth slightly letting the tip of her tongue peek out and slip between Sheldon's lips. To her great delight, Sheldon's lips parted as well, and soon their tongues engaged in an intricate dance.

Sheldon's hands drifted upward his fingers tangling in her hair as he delicately cupped her face. He fingers urged her face even closer to his, but the resulting moan that escaped from Penny's throat seemed to spook him because he drew back and broke contact. "That was amazing," he said, a little breathlessly. "I guess even great minds aren't above a base reaction to carnal stimuli."

"Run that by me again..."

Sheldon studied her intensely, and for a moment Penny thought he was going to kiss her. "All my life I considered myself above physical temptation, but this encounter has called that assertion into question."

"Has it now?"

"Oh yes," Sheldon replied. "Instead of the clinical detachment I envisioned, I find myself almost uncontrollably moved to keep physical contact with you. And not just lip to lip. My hands want to go places that I've never considered putting them before. It's quite fascinating and more than a bit confusing."

Penny couldn't help but grin at Sheldon's obvious discombobulation. "Shockingly, Sheldon, I am reacting the same way. Before a few minutes ago I'd never thought of you outside of a strictly friendly context, and now I'm struggling to not kiss you again."

A shadow of a smile flitted across Sheldon's features. "It's good to know that I'm not alone in my dementia." He dropped his hands from her hair, but left his forearms resting lightly on her shoulders. "I hope my actions haven't left you with the impression that I expect this behavior to continue because of our monetary arrangement."

"Of course not."

"That's good." Sheldon was silent for another moment. "I would, however, be open to a repeat of these events, if the situation were to present itself again."

Penny considered for a moment. "I'd be open to that too." Sheldon smiled the first real smile she'd seen from him in a long time. She was surprised how happy it made her to see that smile. She snuggled closer to him, wrapping her arms around his torso and drawing him into another hug. "This day certainly turned out way better than it started."