"Penny. Penny, I just don't know," Sheldon said wearily, collapsing a little sideways into his favorite spot on the couch.
"What don't you know, sweetie?" Penny offered indulgently, filling a glass with water.
"About why I don't get it," Sheldon whined.
Sheldon was not accustomed to not understanding things that people around him understood. Sometimes he wasn't aware of the existence of a particular social construct, but generally once he'd been informed of it, adaptation was simply a matter of practice. But when Leonard behaved so irrationally about a person just because they were both willing to engage him in conversation of a social nature and of the opposite gender, well, Sheldon just couldn't comprehend it. And it bothered him.
"Sheldon, honey, I think this is just one of those things your brain didn't have time to learn because it was busy being all throbby and veiny like a super villain," Penny offered, handing Sheldon the water and sitting down beside him.
Sheldon considered this for a moment, then realized it was preposterous. He learned new things every day. Learning was one of the many areas of academia in which Sheldon excelled.
"Penny, that's very kind of you," Sheldon said, feeling a bit dizzy around the edges, "but there's really no need to excuse my inability to put into practice a rather basic human function, in every sense of the term." Sheldon fought not the raise his eyebrows in discomfort at the thought.
It wasn't the female form that lacked appeal. In truth, a naked woman was, aesthetically, a very beautiful figure, with lines and shapes designed by nature to appeal to the male viewer so that procreation might take place. It was Darwinian, entirely fathomable. But the idea of touching someone in the intimate and highly scrutinized manner that a sexual relationship would require—it wasn't frightening, it was laughable.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, who said anything about putting it into practice? Sheldon, I don't think Leonard really expected you to run out and pick up some girl just so you'll understand him better," Penny said, smiling and looking mildly concerned.
"Then what do you propose he meant by 'you need to get laid'? Because in my observations, that phrase is a somewhat crude term meaning to engage in sexual intercourse with—"
"I know what it means! Sheldon, Leonard was just angry. You compared his date with Stephanie to a primate mating ritual," Penny said.
"A comparison I stand behind!" Sheldon objected. He sighed. "Penny, I appreciate what you are attempting to do, and your efforts to reassure me will not go unnoticed, but I think Leonard was right. There is something fundamentally lacking in my skill-set that I will simply have to accept missing out on," Sheldon said.
He didn't mean to sigh, but it sort of came out of him. He took another sip of his beer and started to wonder why he didn't drink all the time. It made his head feel delightfully odd.
Penny made a sad face like the one she used when she wanted to purchase something but refrained for financial reasons.
"Aw, I don't think you're all that lacking," she said. "You just have other interests. Like science and comic books and your board."
Sheldon shook his head.
"I'm inept, Penny," he groaned dramatically, feeling dizzy and desperately frustrated. He flopped back against the sofa and let his head loll back. "But I shall soldier on."
"Sheldon, stop it," Penny said, squeezing his arm just above the elbow. Her hand was surprisingly warm, and Sheldon glanced anxiously at the place where she had him, but Penny didn't seem to notice. "You sound like Wolowitz after he got shot down by that stripper with the peg-leg."
She let go of his arm with a brief patting motion and settled back against her end of the couch. Sheldon kept looking at the place on his arm where her hand had been, and for once, felt himself harboring a curiosity for which satisfaction would not be found in a book or even on a forum. He glanced at Penny and she smiled back at him, looking concerned, if somewhat confused.
"Penny, I'd like to try something," he said, holding himself very straight to keep from listing.
Penny's brow furrowed.
"Ok?" she said, without moving.
"Could you please sit up? It would be more efficient," said Sheldon, his voice a little high and tight-sounding.
"Are you going to do that weird Jedi brain-stare thing at me again?" she asked, leaning forward cautiously.
"No. No, I'm not," Sheldon replied, wiping his hands hastily on his pants.
He scooted a few inches closer so that they were sitting side-by-side, except then their bodies had to face the same direction, which was not the ideal for one's neck muscles in this case.
"Stand up," he said, scrambling to his feet.
The floor was a lot less stable than he remembered it being, and he marvelled at how easily fooled the human brain could be by a few tiny ethanol molecules, but it didn't make standing any easier.
"Hey there," Penny said, quickly getting to her feet and steadying Sheldon by his elbows. "You might want to hang tight on the couch until you've had a chance to dry out, Captain Spock."
"It's Captain Kirk. Traditionally, Spock is referred to by name, not rank," Sheldon explained. If a few words came out backwards and, occasionally, in other languages, well then that was beyond his control.
"Sure. Right. I guess that's just a social construct that I'm never going to get, huh?" Penny said, keeping her hands at Sheldon's arms and looking ready to steer him towards a safe landing if his knees abandoned him.
"That's simply untrue. Now that I've explained it to you, you'll likely have no trouble practicing it in the future," Sheldon said reasonably. "Yours was merely a question of ignorance, which, while undesirable, is not entirely your fault."
Penny narrowed her eyes at him the way she usually did just before forcefully ejecting him from her apartment. But this was his apartment, so what did it matter?
"Mine is an issue of... of cowardice," Sheldon said simply.
And then he looked at Penny and decided he was being foolish to expect her to understand. He tried to sit down, but she seemed to think he was falling, which was, given the circumstances, not an unreasonable assumption. Sheldon twisted out of her grip, but it only made things worse, until finally he toppled backwards onto the couch with Penny landing beside him, leaning close with his right leg crushed by her left one at the shin, and he pressed his lips very quickly against hers because Sheldon was never very good at not knowing things.
Something really weird was going on, but her brain was still trying to process it. Sheldon was drunk, like, drunk drunk, and apparently feeling extremely comfortable around her, which was surprising enough without his mouth on hers.
Penny jerked away.
"Sheldon," she said, her eyes going wide.
"What? I was merely trying to ascertain—"
"No, no, no, no," she said quickly, leaning back, "no ascertaining. What are you, Raj now?"
Sheldon frowned and looked confused.
"Sweetie, you're drunk," she explained, feeling anxious more than anything.
He would probably be horrified to have touched her in the morning and would tell her about it in that completely oblivious yet insanely annoying way of his.
"Yes, I am," Sheldon explained, "but I am also reasonably certain that you're the only female who would ever consent to me doing this, so I was hoping we might overlook my inebriation."
Penny blinked at him.
"Are you serious?" she asked dryly.
Sheldon looked taken aback.
"Of course, why would I lie?" he replied.
"Do you really not see how that might be insulting?" she said, trying not to sound annoyed.
He frowned briefly and stared at a spot just below her face and off to the side.
"No," Sheldon said, meeting her eye, "I'm afraid I don't."
Penny rubbed her eyes and sighed.
"Ok. I'm sure you don't. And that's ok, because I'm not your type anyway—or I wouldn't be, if you had a type—but you have got to start thinking about what it sounds like when you—"
"Of course I find you attractive," Sheldon said matter-of-factly.
It was a moment before Penny reminded herself that this was Sheldon, and he was practically an alien and probably had never consumed so much beer in his entire life.
"Sheldon," she began.
"And if I were given the choice of any female of reproductive age, I would obviously choose you, but—"
"Sheldon," she said again, louder this time.
"Yes?" he said hesitantly.
"You kissed me," she said finally.
"Yes, I did."
"Why did you do that?" she asked exhaustedly.
Sheldon looked at her very seriously and his mouth hung open for a couple of seconds before he said, steady and firm, "because I wanted to."
And Penny barely had time to look gob smacked before he was leaning in again, and this time she saw it coming and still did nothing to stop it.
It was still really, really weird. Sheldon's lips were kind of unsurprisingly tense, and his spine looked like someone was holding a knife to his back, but he closed his eyes really tightly, and Penny couldn't help but do the same, because it was Sheldon, and it was hard to persuade him once his mind was made up about something.
For a few awkward seconds, neither of them breathed, but then slowly, carefully, Sheldon moved his lips a tiny bit against the corner of Penny' mouth and Penny couldn't help but smile. Sheldon must have taken it as encouragement, because soon he was kissing her, actually, really, in a not entirely unpleasant way, and Penny forgot for a second how incredibly, mind-bogglingly weird this was, and kissed him back.
Sheldon could feel Penny breathing. It was strange and a little disturbing, but every time she exhaled, he felt it ghost across his face, and it made his skin feel thin and hot. He could count on his fingers the number of times he'd been this close to another person since the time he learned to walk, and none of those times had felt anything like this.
In fact, if he was being completely honest, nothing had ever felt like this, even that time in junior high school when Kelly Stadler cornered him behind the cafeteria and got lip-gloss all over his chin. That had been, frankly, disturbing, but not at all informative, mostly because it was over in about nine seconds, and he spent the first seven of them making sure he hadn't slipped into some sort of psychological delusion.
But this was Penny, and this time he was paying complete attention.
She didn't seem to be screaming in horror or running away, so Sheldon decided to put his hand on top of hers on the couch between them, because for one thing, it was something he'd seen Leonard do with Stephanie on occasion, and also because it felt nice.
Penny laughed softly against his lips, and when her mouth opened, it felt wet and warm.
"Sheldon," she said without opening her eyes, "Are you sure you're not really, really, drunk? Because I promise I won't tell the guys."
"No," Sheldon said urgently. "I'm not. I'm just—I don't know what to—my words are, are all—"
"Right," Penny said, and then her tongue was touching him and Sheldon didn't really have a response.
So, in terms of Stupid Shit Penny Had Done, this was pretty high up on the list. Maybe dating Kurt the second (or third) time was more psychologically damaging, and there was the fact that she once legitimately ate the complementary chips and salsa at Los Casa Grande twice a day for a week because she blew her pay check on new luggage, but still. This really wasn't excusable.
But it wasn't bad, either.
And the thing was, Sheldon seemed so earnest about it that it was hard not to kiss him back and maybe help him a little when he tilted his head too far to the side or didn't move his lips enough.
It was different than kissing Leonard, obviously. For one thing, with Leonard the cat had been alive and kicking. With Sheldon, she wasn't even sure there was a cat, but she wanted to kiss him anyway, partly because she hated the thought of hurting his feelings when deep down he'd never intentionally do anything to endanger their friendship, except be an oblivious moron ninety percent of the time.
Sheldon's hand had found hers on the couch, and Penny was having a hard time not touching him, but somewhere in the back of her mind (or what parts of it were still functional, anyway) she got the feeling he might freak out.
Only then he put his hand against the back of her neck, fingers slipping into her hair, and she realized his eyes were open again and he was watching her with the same intent stare he usually reserved for equations and graphic novels: part curiosity, part determination, part undisguised interest. Penny looked him in the eye and held his gaze as she reached up to fist her hand in the front of his shirt and lean back, so he had no choice but to brace his free arm against the couch and lean over her, close and tense.
It took a few moments of tentative shifting, but eventually Sheldon moved one knee between her legs to steady himself, and she could reach up to tug him closer.
When Sheldon's elbow finally gave out, and he collapsed gently against her chest, his eyes widened in surprise, but he didn't try to get away. In fact, Penny wondered how much alcohol he'd had to be practically lying on top of her without stopping to consider it carefully from several angles and maybe construct a graph about it.
Over the course of about five minutes, Penny managed to not laugh and Sheldon managed to not compare anything to Battlestar Galactica, and somewhere in the midst off all the unexpected pleasantness, Penny realized she wasn't really just kissing him anymore, because one of her legs was hooked over the back of his thighs and her hands were gripping his shoulders very purposefully. Sheldon kept pausing slightly, like he was evaluating his technique in real time and making adjustments accordingly, but then again, he probably was. It was just taking time to get used to, but not nearly as long as Penny would have guessed.
And then suddenly, someone pressed harder and they both kissed harder, and Sheldon had his hands under Penny's shirt, all thin-fingered and careful, and Penny decided that yes, this was probably stupid, and no, she did not have to care yet, and she yanked his t-shirt over his head before he could even look surprised.
To his eternal credit, Sheldon almost contained the shocked sound that came out of his mouth, and perhaps even more impressively, he managed to pull Penny's tank top up and over her head without much help or encouragement. All in all, he wasn't doing as badly as Penny might have expected—though, that mostly meant he was still conscious and not having a mental collapse over the possibility of this complicating their social interactions in the future.
Penny was just starting to wonder how thoroughly Sheldon was planning to test the waters, when his hand skated up her ribcage and came to rest against the side of her breast. There was something hesitant and sweet about the gesture, and Penny gripped his shoulders a little tighter in response. After another few seconds, Sheldon let his palm slide up and over, and suddenly this felt a lot like an actual hook-up with an actual guy and not Sheldon, who had probably never had a romantic thought in his life that didn't involve physics.
Sheldon had never really wanted to have sex. It helped that it was never an option, but it wasn't often an option for Wolowitz, either, and he spent what Sheldon considered to be an inexcusable amount of time and energy trying to rectify the situation. So, really, he wasn't fulfilling any lifelong fantasies or living out any particularly treasured dreams by suddenly finding himself somewhat naked with Penny, who seemed not wholly averse to the idea, judging by the way she was pressed against him.
It was just that he wasn't an alien, and he did sometimes see other people touching and think maybe he would like to touch someone like that, too, and also that he never, ever would. And he had accepted it for a long time, for forever, he'd assumed. Until something about Leonard's rant inflamed something confusing and difficult to label, and irritating like a scratch on the roof of his mouth that he just couldn't keep from tonguing. Only suddenly he couldn't keep from running his hands all over Penny's chest and grinding down into her hips when she pressed up against him, because this was so much better than the times he'd imagined some faceless woman touching him in exactly the right places and nothing more, efficient and perfectly satisfactory and not half as good as the way Penny was hot and soft and solid against his chest.
"Sheldon," she whispered, her hand sliding down his back and lingering just inside the waistband of his jeans.
"Yes?" he answered, one hand moving up her thigh, bunching her skirt against his arm.
"You're sure about this?" she asked, looking like she didn't really want to be talking at all.
"Not really," he said firmly. "I haven't really—"
"I know," Penny said quickly, because she did know, obviously, and she didn't seem to care. "It's ok."
Penny sat up and scrambled out from under him. She was so impossibly attractive, every angle, every arc, every line, and Sheldon felt a little overwhelmed.
"What did I do?" he asked, trying to see things logically and not like someone who was rapidly getting very turned on, so to speak.
"Nothing," Penny said earnestly. "Come here," she said, holding out her hand.
Sheldon looked at her suspiciously, but took hold and let himself be dragged upright. Penny tugged him away from the couch and into his bedroom a few feet away. When she turned them around and pushed Sheldon onto the bed, though, Sheldon stopped worrying about it.
It was just out of curiosity, and then it totally wasn't. Penny unbuttoned Sheldon's jeans with one hand, and she could feel him worrying at the hem of her underwear, thumbing the edge and occasionally slipping his fingers beneath the elastic. When she managed to get his pants unbuttoned and unzipped and mostly pushed aside, it was sort of awkward to be confronted with evidence that Sheldon did, in fact, come complete with fully functioning human parts, but it was sort of reassuring too, to know that she wasn't the only one giving it her all, and also extremely fortunate.
Sheldon was actually oddly attractive, all long and narrow and hard. His eyes were big and blue, and he kept looking at her like she was a really eloquent theory or something. It made her want to touch him carefully and fully, the way he deserved to be touched, and it made her want him to keep looking at her like that for as long as possible.
Before she could talk herself out of it, Penny pressed her hand against him through his boxers and tried not to look too pleased when he made a helpless groaning sound into her mouth. About the same time Sheldon stopped making noise, Penny's underwear stopped being fully on, and it took them both a few awkward moments and unfortunately placed elbows before Penny's underwear were on the floor and Sheldon's jeans were close by.
"Oh my god," Sheldon said flatly, and he looked kind of shell-shocked and intrigued.
Penny laughed, really laughed, and Sheldon frowned.
"There's no need to be rude," he said, crossing his arms.
"I'm sorry," Penny said, trying to control herself.
"Clearly, you are not," Sheldon said, sounding impatient.
"I am, I am," Penny reassured him.
"Top drawer on your left," Sheldon said, and it took Penny a few seconds to figure out what the hell he was talking about.
Finally, she just reached over and felt around in the bedside drawer until she found herself holding a condom and looking really, really confused.
"I like to be prepared for all feasible scenarios," Sheldon said, without being asked.
"You considered this feasible?"
"Everything that is possible is feasible given the correct conditions," Sheldon replied confidently.
"Of course it is," Penny said, moving off of Sheldon's hips to take off his boxers. Sheldon's eyes went round and he did his deer-on-the-highway impression for a good five seconds before Penny could move back on top of him.
"Relax," said Penny.
She wasn't too worried, actually, because she could tell all the systems that mattered were 'go', and what more could she ask for? Without waiting for him to get onboard, Penny rolled the condom onto him, and Sheldon stared down at her hands in disbelief.
"Penny, I feel I should warn you I—"
"I know," she reassured him, "I know."
Without further discussion, Penny took hold of him and pressed him into her slowly. Sheldon's eyes doubled in size, and he gazed up at her with a look of complete surprise mixed with want and need and innocent wonder.
And maybe this was the point at which she should have considered the implications of taking Sheldon Cooper's probable virginity on a Thursday night while he was drunk and pissed off at Leonard—but in reality, this was the point at which Penny considered how good it felt to be with someone who really, truly adored you for it, and didn't have an ulterior motive.
"Penny?" Sheldon said in a small voice.
He looked tense and completely out of his element.
"Could you move, please?" he asked, his face strained and his hair at odd angles all over his head, thick with sweat.
"Sure, sweetie," said Penny, and she did.
Sheldon's hands found their way to her hips, and after a few off-kilter strokes, he figured out how to guide her, and that was enough, at first. Every now and then, he would let go to run his hands all over her chest, to cup her breasts and grab her ass possessively.
"Oh," Sheldon murmured against her shoulder.
"That's right," Penny said without thinking.
And suddenly the world swung around and Penny realized a second too late to comment that she was being rolled over, so that Sheldon was over her and between her legs, and somehow still inside her.
For a second, it looked like he might say something, but then Sheldon bit his lip and thrust, and nobody talked very much.
Somehow, he never knew what his own body was capable of. In some abstract, disbelieving way, he obviously knew the human body had x-number of nerve endings in locations a, b, and c, but knowing something like this was possible and actually experiencing it was as different as believing in the Big Bang and witnessing it first hand.
Everything about Penny was taut and flushed and so sexual it almost overwhelmed him. Her hair was damp and curled at her temples, and it hung in soft strands all over her shoulders. Her breasts were, all euphemisms aside, rather spectacular in the context of her delicate collarbone and her smooth waist and the small bumps of her hipbones.
And then none of it mattered anymore, because Penny was moving against him, and all around him, and it just was.
And it was incredible.
"Penny," Sheldon said softly, wondering if she was asleep.
He knew that people habitually rested after acts of sexual intercourse, and understood all the chemical reactions that made this so natural, but no one ever told him how nice it felt to put your head on someone's shoulder and listen to their circulatory system returning to a normal rate of function.
"Yeah, Sheldon?" she said.
He fingers were stroking his hair rhythmically, and he found that likewise his hand on her abdomen was moving in up and down slowly.
"I realize I am lacking a certain amount of referential data, but in my admittedly limited understanding of—of what just occurred—you... I enjoyed that," he said finally, feeling himself collapse beneath the weight of his own inexplicable anxiety.
"I'm glad," Penny said. "I did, too."
Sheldon considered whether he should continue to express himself, but Penny sounded sleepy and unconcerned.
"I just hope you feel the same way in the morning," she said, tugging the covers up to her chin and stretching out.
"Penny," he whispered.
There was a pause, then Penny turned to face him again.
"Yes, Sheldon?" she said, in the careful, patient tone she always used around him.
"Thank you," he said softly.
Penny smiled and lay back down, tucking in close to his chest.
Somehow, it felt correct to wrap his arm around her waist and tuck his knees into the backs of her legs. He wondered if he should tell her how much he liked the way her body felt beneath his hands—small and compact and alive—or how much he liked it when her hair had fallen into her eyes and she let him push it behind her ears as they moved against each other. He knew that her fingernails had dug into his back, and that her feet were touching his shins, and that this degree of physical proximity was completely inappropriate given the nature of their previous encounters—
But then she made a small sighing sound and found his hand beneath the covers, and Sheldon decided that in the interest of mental clarity, which he would undoubtedly require to process the potential effects of this encounter, he should go to sleep.