Proofs: The Initial Evolution
Spoilers: Vague up to and including "The Terminator Decoupling"
Word Count: 2,602
Disclaimer: They're not mine. All characters belong to their respective creators.
Distribution: my site, , and my LJ, anywhere else, please ask first :)
Summary: In exchange for signing a contract, Penny learns where Sheldon's contract ritual came from.
Author's Notes: Hopefully this will be the first of a series of "proofs" about the evolution of the characters we know today on TBBT and explain why they are who they are. Where to start? Sheldon, of course! I hope you like it. The "young" Sheldon was hard to write, as was Missy because I don't know as much about her- I hope that they translate. It's not exactly romantic, but I think this counts as P/S for the interaction alone.
As always, thanks to gladdecease for the beta. Also, thanks to Michael for the idea for the last bit!
Penny stared at Sheldon, waiting for him to tell her he was kidding. He stayed eerily still. Three seconds ticked by before she moved, the only sound in her quiet apartment the rustling of the papers in her hand. "You're serious?"
"Have you ever known me to joke?" Sheldon asked in response, holding out a pen.
"Good point," She raised her eyebrows at him and looked at the papers in her hand again. "Why do I need to sign this? Can't you just trust me when I say that I'll never go into your room again without permission?" She mustered all of her acting powers, batted her eyes and made them as big and sad as she could. "You really don't trust me?"
Sheldon frowned at her until she let the mask slide away with a shrug. "Penny, while I would like to believe that you are trustworthy, you have already entered my room on more than one occasion."
She stepped forward, pointing a finger in his face, "Okay, only one of those times I wasn't invited, and that time we could have conducted our business in the living room…" she paused, smiling as she said the next part, "but you weren't wearing pants."
Sheldon twitched, his jaw clenching tight. Penny couldn't be sure, but she thought she saw him fight a blush back with sheer willpower. "Regardless," he said after clearing this throat, "I find that a binding contract reminds people of their obligations more so than a promise." He pulled the contract out of her hands. "Sign here, here, and here, and initial here and here."
She moved forward, ready to sign, then stepped back again. "Are you going to sue me if I break the contract?"
Sheldon barked out a laugh. "You obviously have not read the contract. Besides, that would be the definition of a frivolous law suit. No, if you enter my room without permission one of several things will happen depending on the severity of the transgression; from a simple strike to banishment for several days." He watched her eyebrows shoot up to her hairline. "I'll also call your attention to the bottom of page 2. 'The undersigned hereby forfeits any rights to alert any maternal body to the actions of the party of the first part unless the party of the first part is in mortal danger and unable to alert the maternal body itself.'"
Penny's jaw dropped as she desperately tried to follow what he said. "Sweetie…"
"It means you won't call my mom on me unless I'm going to die or it's an emergency and can't call her myself." Sheldon pursed his lips and looked down his nose at Penny. "You have to initial that clause separately."
Penny bit her lip and scanned the pages presented to her. "Okay, I'll sign this-" Sheldon began to speak, but she cut him off, "And read it, on one condition."
"What would that be?"
"You tell me why you started using contracts." She looked at him, waiting expectantly.
His eyes narrowed then his brows lifted. He looked at her, looked at the door, and looked back, a bit confused, a bit nervous, a bit interested. "Why?"
"Why do you want to know?" He narrowed his eyes at her further. "What is your motivation, and furthermore, what will you do with the information once dispensed?"
Penny's face slowly melted from confusion to a blank, vacant look. "I just wanted to know. I thought maybe I would feel better about signing this… and all the future contracts I'm sure there will be, if I knew why."
"You won't make fun of me?" He asked quietly.
She paused, smiling slyly. "Have I called you Moonpie lately?"
He sighed. "Point taken. Okay. In exchange for this anecdote from my past, you will read, and sign, and abide by the contract, and not make fun of me."
Penny smiled, nodding sharply. "Deal."
Sheldon was eight years old when he first heard the term "contract" in a way that interested him. He was trying to figure out the best way to turn his laser pointer into a real, destructive laser gun. He was in the living room, notebooks spread out on his lap, pencil in hand as he considered the structure of his small laser pointer.
"Shelly, move!" Missy bounded into the living room, pompoms flouncing behind her. "I want to watch TV before I have to go to cheering."
"Excuse me, I was in here first. I will not move." He closed his notebook and stared at his sister, hands in fists in his lap. "You are going to the game; you have to leave in five minutes. Why should I leave when I'm already here? You're actually leaving!" He gestured to the various books he'd scattered around himself. "I'm working!"
"Oh Shelly. Trying to make a telereporter again?" She laughed and threw her pompoms at him. "Mom said we're not leaving for ten minutes. I get to watch television until we leave."
"It's 'teleporter' and Mom said I could work in here while you're gone!" Sheldon whined standing and dumping the plastic cheerleading monstrosities on the floor as he did. Missy stuck her tongue out at him and sat on the floor in front of the television, switching the channel manually rather than look for the remote under all of Sheldon's stuff. "Mom!"
"She's out trying to get the car started. Dad didn't get the battery changed again," Missy mumbled as she flipped through the channels.
"Why is it that you always get what you want?" Sheldon asked, gathering his books. He couldn't work if she was going to watch television in here.
"Because I don't blow things up. And I want normal things!"
"That was once!" Sheldon let the air deflate from his lungs. "And if it's not normal to want to provide the world with, clean, renewable energy by dismantling a microwave to use its parts, then I don't know what is."
"No, you don't!" She yelled over her shoulder as she switched channels. He hung in the doorway, leaning against the jamb, trying to figure out what he should do. Missy stopped flipping the channels, huffing when she didn't find what she wanted. She stopped on "The People's Court,"looking back at her twin. She knew he was still there, and she knew that he hated this show for it's tendency to glorify imbeciles and frivolous lawsuits. "I think I'll watch this."
"You dislike that show as much as I do." He narrowed his eyes at her, pouting, but unwilling to leave the room.
"I don't like you more than I don't like The People's Court!" She grabbed her pompoms and ruffled them at him, just to annoy him more.
He leaned into the doorway, thinking about what the next best course of action would be. His father was at work and would be of no help. His mother would be in a bad mood now that the car wasn't working again. He could try to get her to referee their disagreement, but past instances told him she wouldn't be of any help, either.
Your honor, he signed this contract stating that he would complete the work on the house by the end of the month.
Let me see a copy of that. Is this true?
She didn't hold up her end of the agreement, your honor. She broke the contract; therefore I didn't have to complete the work.
Sheldon's ears perked up. By the time he was really paying attention the people on the television had started arguing about emotional distress, but the seed had been planted in his head. "Enjoy your television," he said, turning away and nearly running for his room.
"Weirdo," Missy whispered as she changed the channel. If he wasn't going to suffer, nether was she.
Two days later, Sheldon presented his mother with three neatly handwritten pages as she was starting to make dinner.
"What's this?" She asked, putting her recipe book down on the kitchen table and taking the papers from him.
"A contract." He said proudly, his hands behind his back as he rocked on the balls of his feet.
"Well, I see that, Sweetie. Why?" She flipped through the pages.
"Because Missy doesn't keep her word. She is always interrupting my work, taking over communal spaces after I've claimed them, belittling what I do-"
"Well, that's because she's jealous, Sweetie," His mother replied automatically.
"She shows her jealousy by breaking my Popsicle Stick scale model of the Enterprise?" He stamped his foot. "That's beside the point! I want written evidence that she knows what she is and is not allowed to do, and that there will be consequences if she doesn't abide."
"Now Sheldon, isn't that a bit much? It's also not very Christian of you, not trusting your own sister." His mother stood, pointing at him with the papers. "Where did you get all of this about contracts, anyway?"
"Missy was trying to irritate me with The People's Court. I heard the term on there and researched extensively in several different sources, including three different encyclopedias." He smiled a bit, waiting for the praise she usually gave him about his initiative to learn on his own. It never came.
"Sheldon, this is frivolous and unnecessary. I will not sign it and neither will your sister. You need to have more faith in people." She handed it back to him and turned back to the counter to get ready for dinner.
"What if I could prove she's not keeping her word?" Sheldon asked, upset and confused.
"Sheldon…I don't want to hear anymore of this nonsense!" She started chopping an onion, dismissing him.
"Wait, so what happened?" Penny asked, clutching a pillow in her lap as she faced him on her couch.
Sheldon shrugged. "Well, I left, upset that my Mother didn't seem to think that Missy not keeping her word was important. I then engaged in a bit of deceit."
"Well, without my mother's signature as someone over the legal age of consent in Texas, the contract would be null and void. However," Sheldon smirked and leaned in closer to Penny, "Missy didn't know that."
"You didn't?" Penny asked, her eyes wide with mischief.
"I did!" He announced, as proud of himself now as he was back then. "I drew up a new contract, using much simpler words for her benefit, which stipulated for each infraction of hers, I would cause havoc of equal or grater value in her world." Sheldon inched towards her conspiratorially. "She abided by the contract for nearly six blissful years before I slipped in front of my mother and mentioned it. One of my main arguments that got her to sign was that Mom knew about it and would help me enforce it." His smile drooped. "Once the proverbial cat was out of the bag she redoubled her efforts to make my life more difficult, but by then I was well on my way to my doctorate, so we didn't travel in the same social circles."
"So you just started using them all the time?" Penny asked, loving that she knew something new about Sheldon.
"Not at first. Since I had used deceit as my main tactic the first time around I didn't realize how effective they could be. It was when I was a little older and had to sign my own contracts when I entered boarding school regarding the consequences for poor conduct that I realized how useful they could be. I slowly integrated them into my working life, and then into my personal life."
"And they work?" Penny was curious now as to who would actually sign contracts on a regular basis.
"Oh yes! They work wonderfully. Like I said before, there's some sort of effect from signing a contract that makes people behave more in line with what they've discussed. I postulate that it's the written list of provisions and consequences instead of simply having them implied, but I have not yet come up with a solid method with which to test my hypothesis."
"Have you ever had someone break a contract?" Penny asked, biting her lip a bit, looking over at the papers on her table.
"I've occasionally had to hand out a strike or two, but most people will reassess their intentions once I mention the fact that they're in violation of a legal, binding contract." Sheldon smiled proudly.
Penny picked up the papers and quietly read them as Sheldon sat next to her, barely moving as she read all four pages. "Pen please?" She looked up, holding out her hand expectantly. She started writing at the bottom of the last page, and he leaned in to read over her shoulder. She stopped, her head tilted down towards the papers but with her eyes focused completely on him until he leaned back, then continued. She signed in the places he'd indicated, and initialed in the rest of the appropriate areas before holding the packet and pen out to him. "Now you."
Sheldon scrunched up his face, "I don't know if I can sign it now that you've altered it." He flipped through to the last page and read out loud, "'The undersigned will not reveal any or part of what has been said in this room today unless she is threatened with bodily harm.' Aw, Penny, that was a very nice, appropriate addition to the contract." Sheldon smirked, looking pleased that she had actually participated in the exchange instead of just indulging him in it.
"You know that this is going to be a thing now, even if I have to sign a thousand contracts." Penny shrugged slyly at Sheldon. She almost leaned in to nudge him, but thought better of it at the last second.
"What will be a thing?" Sheldon asked as he signed, making the contract binding.
"I've gotten a peek… I'm going to want to know more." Penny stood and walked around the couch, leaning over his shoulder. "You're not getting off that easy, Moonpie."
Sheldon's jaw tightened and ticked, his eye twitched, and he stood stiffly. "Be prepared for more binding agreements in the future, then, Madam." He walked to the door, opened it, then turned back. "And may I remind you about clause at the bottom of page two!"
Sheldon left quickly, not quite slamming the door after himself. Penny smiled at the door; she'd initial her butt off if it meant learning a little bit more about that man.
Two days later, as per Sheldon's calculations and requests, apartments Four A and B had their windows and doors open, creating a cross breeze on the first nice spring day to air out the musty feel of winter. Leonard reached the landing to the fourth floor, only to hear Penny's mumbling spill out of her apartment. He quietly walked over, not wanting to interrupt her if she was on the phone.
He found her sitting cross-legged on her couch, typing furiously on her laptop, the words she was typing spilling quietly from her mouth. "…wherein the party of the first part… Wait- was that the party of the first part or the second part? No. It was the first part. …the party of the first part will not reveal, infer or… or… oh, hell, who talks like this anyway?" She sighed, swiped at her bangs, and returned to typing. "Stupid contracts. I wonder what he'd do if I wrote it in crayon."
Penny laughed, and Leonard backed away from her apartment slowly. 'Oh dear,' he thought, 'it's spreading.'