I wrote this for the Sheldon_Penny Livejournal Fanfiction Friday Challenge "The End of the World." I went crazy again. I don't know what it is about those Friday prompts that make my muses come out and play, but I just get so creative when I see them! This is just another backup so I don't lose it...
It's long, and has a part two (at least). But for now, I give you over 11,000 words!
Penny walked up to the large metal gates with nothing but her old high school backpack filled with some clothes and pictures and her favorite snow globe her grandmother passed down to her before she died. She tugged on the rim of her father's Atlanta Braves baseball cap and had a deadly grip on the one-way- ticket to Life After the Apocalypse that Sheldon had left taped to her front door.
There were hundreds of people surrounding her, all pushing to get through the gates. Some were people fleeing from the island, but most of them were sort, pale, curly headed, sporting superhero logos on their shirts and carried at least a master's degree. In the crowd, she saw Rajs and Leonards and Kripkees and Stuarts and Leslies and Howards and more Sheldons than she was expecting. She knew she was sticking out amongst the crowd, even with her old tennis shoes and CalTech hoodie. Penny pulled her hair back into a ponytail and tried to look as nerdy as possible. Nerds, geeks, losers, freaks – the once "bottom of the social barrel" were all that was left standing at the End of the World.
They would be all that was left.
She could have laughed at the irony of it if she wasn't so freaked out.
The crowd started to jostle, and Penny and a small woman with freckles were almost trampled. The Powers that Be were trying to make the crowd form a line:
"Please, everyone will be seen, but if you have papers that say that you are on the list, please, form a line behind the red doors. Everyone else, please use the yellow doors."
Looking down at the folded notebook paper (it still had the torn edge from the spiral) and then up to the red doors. It wasn't like notebook paper was anything official, but it claimed she could be here. With a surge of bravery, she started pushing toward the red doors.
She heard the small woman next to her mutter, "figures Barbie would get a free-pass," as she passed. Thoughts of her family in Nebraska trapped, waiting, unable to do anything, forced tears to Penny's eyes – worse – the fact that she was here, getting a freaking "free pass" and she couldn't help them. It made her feel so selfish.
"Penelope," her mother's voice, "if you can survive… live. Don't worry about us, we'll be just fine – especially knowing someone might live through this. That our daughter might live through this. Live for us, fight for us, and remember us when no one else will."
So, she fought back tears and pushed toward the red doors clutching the piece of paper that started this whole adventure over 3,000 miles and six days ago. Because screw this "end of the world" shit – she was going to live.
It was the hottest day in August and Penny had just gotten off a double shift. She was sweaty and tired and all she wanted to do was take a nice shower and then curl up in her sheets and never crawl out from under them ever again.
But, she was interrupted by two sheets of paper taped to her door.
One was of a math problem and a bunch of numbers that meant absolutely nothing to Penny. So she ignored it and focused on the other. It looked like it was the back of an old Chinese takeout menu, and it had Sheldon's handwriting on it:
"Penny – You are going to need this soon. Hold on to it. Do not lose it in the waste dump you call an apartment. Do not let anyone know you have this. I cannot say anything else. Follow the directions, and then act the part. If all else fails, say you know me. – Sheldon."
What the crap did that load of wacky mean? What directions? Did Sheldon honestly trust Penny to understand anything over a ninth grade algebra level – if that?
She tore both pieces down – discarding them on her bedside table once she was in her bedroom. Thinking maybe he and Leonard were having another fight over some crazy scientist thing, Penny had a plan to scold them for putting her in the middle again.
'Act the part,' – psh… Sheldon wanted her to not tell Leonard. Whatever – she was tired and sore and she'd think in the morning. Ignoring the notes, she continued with her evening plans and fell asleep happily against her fluffy pillows.
The next morning was Thursday, her day off and the boy's day to start their day late. Something to do with lab times – whatever it was – Penny always went over to the boy's place in the morning of her days off. She walked with purpose, empty coffee mug in hand and made her way across the twenty feet or so that separated their doors. She reached for the handle to let herself in and make herself a cup of warm, delicious, awesome-Sheldon-fresh-coffee-beans.
Then she was met with a locked door.
It was so sudden and strange to her that she almost smacked her head into the wood.
Taking a step back, she stared at the offending door with shock. Leonard always unlocked the door in the mornings when he goes downstairs and gets a paper. Shaking herself free of the disturbance in her routine, she knocked on the door. Leonard probably slept in today, that's all, no biggie – it's not like he's Sheldon – who would spontaneously burst into flames if something like 'sleeping in' would mess up his precious schedule.
No one answered the door, so she called in for them. Nothing continued to happen so her eyebrows furrowed with confusion.
This was strange.
With a mixture of the aforementioned befuddlement and a case of the I-just-woke-up morning blurries, Penny stood for only a moment longer at the door of the empty apartment. Her pause was just long enough to allow perfect Alicia from 5A to come jogging up the stairs to find her standing stupidly in her oversize "Blondes have more fun" t-shirt and her baggy – "that time of the month" pants.
She swore silently to herself.
Penny never really clicked with Alicia after their catfight in the lobby, so she silently seethed that the more successful version of herself came jogging up the stairs in cute little yoga pants and a yellow sports bra to catch Penny like she always does – dressing like a slob.
And, damnit, it wasn't even Penny's time of the month. Sheldon would have reminded her.
Usually, she and Alicia avoided each other like the black plague. On the occasion that they did meet in the stairway or lobby, they would glare at the other while they walked their separate ways. Today, Alicia said something that put an end to all of that – something that changed Penny's entire world.
"So, does the boy's leaving in a hurry last night have anything to do with all the doom and gloom on the news?"
Alicia's face was serious, and curious. There was another expression that Penny couldn't place right away, so Penny blinked. She began to process three things at once. First: Alicia was talking to her, in a serious manner. Second: Doom and gloom on the news. Third: the boys left last night.
"What?" Was all she could get out.
"Yeah," Alicia said, "I came in last night a little after ten. They were in the lobby with a bunch of duffle bags and said they were waiting on the other two to catch up with them." There was something different about the way she was talking, Penny realized. Normally when she talked about the boys… it was in a rude way.
"I thought it was just some kind of geek convention that they were going to or something at the time –" but she was being genuine. It was that third expression Penny couldn't place that was causing this strange turn of events. " – but then I saw the news when I went out jogging today. I came straight home. I figured they are some of the smartest guys around, right? They're probably involved in all this? Right?"
Alicia's face was pale, her eyes wide, and Penny placed the expression. It was the same expression her brother wore when he had crashed the truck into the house late one night – completely drunk at age thirteen. The expression that her mother tried to hide when they learned her Aunt Susan had cancer. The expression millions of Americans wore one day in September a couple of years ago.
It was fear.
"…you haven't turned on your television yet today, have you?"
Penny shook her head, her loose ponytail flopping from side to side.
"Well come on," Alicia headed into Penny's apartment where she let herself in, sat on the couch, and flipped on the TV.
Penny was about to blow a casket up one side of that girl and down the other when the TV reporter interrupted her:
"…again, experts are predicting this to be an Extinction Level Event. Which means a significant number of our species and the millions of other species we share this world with will all be at risk for extinction within the week…"
And for the next five hours, Penny and Alicia put aside their petty differences and sat on that aqua couch and watched news report after news report. It was like something out of a bad comic book plot. Radioactive shards of meteor were plummeting toward Earth.
Penny learned a lot over the next five hours. That it was originally much bigger – about the size of the moon. Its original path was not Earth, but instead, Saturn. There was a joint Space Venture between China, America, and Russia to blow up the thing and save Saturn.
They used a Chinese nuclear war head, deployed by an American ship with the best astronauts from Russia, and the US.
It is known that something went wrong – the rock reacted badly to the explosion – something even the smartest people in the world couldn't have accounted for; now, parts of the meteor were heading toward Earth in sizes ranging from baseballs to small houses.
The meteor shower would go on for days. No one would be safe, even if you survived it; there was enough radiation from the rock to cause serious problems for the decades to come.
At 9:56 they announced the astrologer that discovered the meteor in the first place: Rajesh Kootherpalli. Penny fell against Alicia. Raj had known about this? She called him, he did not answer.
At 10:24, the President made an announcement that said that there would be no price gouging. Some expert said it would be seven days or so before the first of it would start. Travelers in other countries would have to go home, and Americans would have to travel by certain roads for safety.
At 10:32, Alicia's mother called her, waking Penny up from a CNN coma. She said a hurried and deliberate goodbye to Penny and let herself out.
Penny blinked at the closed door, and then at the television. Then, she made the journey to her kitchen for a much needed and overdue glass of vodka.
At 11:36, she was just a little bit drunk. She was not a genius that could witness a giant meteor heading toward our solar system and calculate its trajectory and speed months before anyone else. She is not clever or skilled enough to build a mechanism that will deploy from a space shuttle that will aid in destroying said meteor.
She was not on the team that tested that machine in a small laboratory in the North Pole during the winter months a year ago. Or was she the scientist that predicted that this plan would fail miserably only to be ignored.
Penny only lived next to the theoretical physicist that put all the different math together on one piece of paper and said, "um… this isn't going to work."
Of course, she didn't know any of that, all she knew was that Raj found the thing, and now it's the end of the world as she knows it. But it's not the whole world that was going to be destroyed, but a definite class 3A Apocalyptic event was about to occur.
Riiiing… Riiiing… Riiiing…
"Come on Sheldon…"
Riiiing… Riiiing… Riiiing…
"Please answer, Sheldon…"
Riiiing… Riiiing… Riiiing…
For the last hour, Penny had called everyone she knew. Drunk she may be, but damn if she wasn't scared. She started with her mom. It took three tries to get the call to go through the crowded cell towers (too many people had done the same after CNN started broadcasting with the images of the stupid space rocks heading toward Earth) and cried into her phone for a third of the hour.
Her second call was her neighbor that went through the first time – straight to voicemail:
"This is Dr. Sheldon Cooper. I am unable to answer my phone. Leave a message and I will return your call as soon as my time permits. Thank you. This is Dr. Sheldon Cooper."
"Sheldon. Come home. I don't care what you are doing. I'm sure you've heard the news. Get home. I need you right now. Did you know Raj found the thing? Anyway – I'm scared and I need figures thrown at me. Get here, Sheldon."
Then she called her brother and talked about his graduation that would never come. Then she called her big sister and talked about her 13 year old nephew who thought it was the coolest thing ever. And finally her grandfather, who told her to calm down and sober up.
"Now is not the time to be drinking my little Copper Penny…"
They were all different conversations, but they all had similar themes. They all wanted her to come home to safe Nebraska until the worst of it passed.
From what the news was saying, Penny was certain that nowhere was safe. But this was a big California city. If there was going to be panic in the streets, it would be in a big city. Safe was in the middle of a big farm in Nebraska, was where she needed to be. Telling her family that she would make a decision soon, she hung up her phone and decided to get her facts straight.
She tried calling Sheldon again.
Fifteen tries and three voicemails later, Penny was sitting on her couch – CNN muted, yelling at her phone for Sheldon to pick up his goddamn phone. Isn't he one of those awesome go-to-smart-guys that all the government people go to in the movies with big meteors? Surely, he knows more than the average news broadcasting channel.
Raj was the guy that discovered it, for goodness sake.
She needed some answers.
Penny was pushing toward the red doors, trudging through a horde of superhero logos and potent aftershave. The guards – or whatever they were – were pushing people into lines. Families and married couples one way, singles another. They began filing Penny's line down a wide hallway – three or four people wide. It was dreadfully dull hallway – stale and slow and grey – except for the pictures that lined the walls.
They were of the same creepy, strange looking creature swimming in bright, blue, clear water. Some of them were striped, they all had tentacles sticking out of one end, and they vaguely reminded Penny of the shape of a Hermit Crab.
Deciding not to ask questions to find out what it was and warrant the risk of being kicked out for being mediocre, Penny kept her mouth shut and tugged on her father's cap again.
"Artisans to the left, science and mathematic fields to the right." The loud speakers blared again. Penny looked around, wondering which direction she should take. On one hand, she was an actress – so technically she was an artist. In the other held Sheldon's note – and it was defiantly math. Standing on her toes, it wasn't like she could turn around. The hallway was turning into a maze. She half wondered if she had walked into some awful horror film where they slaughter everyone.
But the people around her were calm and sure of what they were doing. She pulled at her dad's hat again and tried to blend in.
"I just feel so bad I couldn't talk the government into letting my girlfriend come," a taller man said behind her. He was defiantly a Raj – type.
He must have been with a friend, because someone replied, "oh, like you have a girlfriend."
"I do! I love her, and I was even going to marry her so she could come, but after they shut down all the government buildings, we couldn't get a license. I was going to stay in Florida, but she convinced me to come here anyway. To do good for all of humanity after all of this is over."
"Yeah… you're a glorified math teacher. What are you going to do?"
"Teach the youth of the future?"
"Yeah, yeah…" the second guy said.
"I regret leaving her alone…"
Penny turned around then, looked the man straight in the eye, "don't." He was taken aback for a moment. "She loved you enough that she wanted you to live. She gave you the chance to live. Don't waste that gift by regretting it and living with sad memories of her. In a couple of weeks, those memories might be all that's left of her." She stared at him for only a moment longer before she turned back around.
Penny and the two men behind her walked in silence for the next few steps through the hall. Then, he leaned down and whispered, "thank you." She nodded without looking back at him. The tears were already flowing again.
Sheldon's note was heavy in her hand, but her father's hat was heavier on her head. She took a step toward the mathematics' line.
She couldn't get a hold of any of the guys after Alicia left. She went over to Howard's home to talk to his mother. No one was home and the neighbors said they left in the middle of the night. Lost, alone, confused, she went back to her apartment – to search the boy's apartment for clues.
She was wiping at her eyes when she saw Sheldon's room – the normally pristine room was almost empty and some things were left discarded. There was one thing left on the bed – the box of letters from his Mee Maw. Actual proof that her tin man had a heart, right here in front of her – Sheldon loves his grandmother and he left them, or forgot them – she wasn't sure what was going on, exactly.
Wondering back in the boy's living room, she collapsed into Sheldon's seat, clutching the box of letters to her chest. She almost missed the clean coffee table with a single notebook sitting on it. This time from Leonard:
No doubt you have started to worry about us being gone. You are if you are reading this, cause you let yourself into the apartment. Maybe you know about the meteor by now or not… I don't know. Just know we are safe. The four of us.
I don't know what to say. I wish I knew you better than I did, and that I treated you more like a friend rather than a girl that wouldn't notice me.
I'm sorry about that.
At the bottom of the page, written small and without paying attention to spacing or lines was Sheldon's handwriting.
If you're in the house, you've invaded private property. I would ask you not to touch anything, but I doubt that will stop you, especially when it comes to property that is sentimental in value. I hope that if there is anything of that nature left behind you will look after it. Leonard doesn't know about what I left on your door, no one can know where I'm going. Not until you get there, at least.
Where was she going?
Her mind went back to the night before, the pages taped to the door.
Do not let anyone know you have this.
She stood, clutching both Leonard's note and Sheldon's box, and rushed back to her apartment – she needed to take a second look at those notes.
"…scientists say that we have seven days before the first wave of meteors hit Earth. Again, if you are just joining us, no doubt a loved one has called you to inform you of this awful news…"
Penny tried to push the reporter's voice out of her mind as she rushed to her room. The math-note still didn't make any sense. The words "Aut viam inveniam aut facium" were written at the top. Was that science speak? Where in Sheldon's wackadoodle mind did he think she'd understand any of this?
"…Earth is in the direct path for a meteor shower. Estimates of damage are incalculable right now. I'm sure, somewhere someone has done the math, just it's too horrible to announce…"
Blocking out the TV wasn't really working for Penny. It was like a bad drug, once she had heard one phrase, she was locked in.
"…They are calling it an Extinction Level Event. When scientists and the world's governments joined together to blow up the meteor, it threw it's thousands of shards in the direction of Earth. And now those same shards are loaded with radioactive particles that are being expected to survive the fall through our atmosphere…"
Penny realized she was sitting down again, watching the news with Sheldon's notes and box of letters. Shaking her head, she decided she needed a quick shower before she decided anything. She placed both the box and the notes very carefully on her bed and shut her door. After all, Sheldon told her not to let anyone know she had them.
It was starting to smell. Penny was certain that it was all the people in such a confined space.
"Why are you here?" It was a tall woman next to her. She had sharp eyes and a small smile. Penny looked up with fear.
"Everybody here has a specialty. Chemists, Physicists, Environmental Sciences, Internal Medicine, Agricultural whatsits. You know; the basic cocktail of every nerd convention." Penny decided she liked this woman – she talked in laymen's terms. "What's yours?"
This is where Penny stalled. She didn't have a specialty – at least not in this particular cocktail. "…um…"
Lucky for Penny, the woman seemed content to just keep talking, "I'm a Nutrition Specialist, myself. Never thought telling people what to eat would get me into a place like this at the end of the world, ya' know?"
Penny nodded, hoping she could just keep her mouth shut. She didn't have a back story planned; she didn't even know what this place was exactly. How was a tiny island facility going to save them from falling space rock? She didn't understand everything she knew.
But Sheldon was here. She could feel it in her bones. That was enough for her.
"I'm Morgan," said the woman, holding out her hand.
"Penny," she answered, taking the hand.
"Nice to meet you."
"So… why are you here?"
Penny gulped and tried to think like Sheldon, "Um… I'm here as a catalyst for behavior and attitude in higher level members of intellect and government positions."
"…please tell me that's not a fancy way of saying prostitute…"
"Oh, no!" Penny laughed, trying to shake that off and searching her mind for something that would fit her and still fit this place, "No. Therapist. That's what I do. Therapy."
"Oh," Morgan laughed, "that makes more sense. You look the type. So, you ready for 8,000 new patients?"
8,000 people? That's it? That's all that was in this place? Alright… the island was not that big… "Hopefully I'm not the only one."
Morgan let out a sigh, "let's hope." And then she started talking about the kinds of food that would be available and what all she had to work with…
Penny nodded along, biting her lip with worry. She didn't know how much farther she'd get, but she'd have to try. She and Morgan took another step.
"…ic event. Authorities are asking us not to panic. President Obama has issued a stop on all prices. Violators of this Executive Order will be persecuted. These are our last days as the human race as we know it. Let's try to be the civilization we say we are…"
Slipping into a fuzzy, purple towel, she shut her eyes tight. She should have turned the TV off. The shower helped right up until she could hear her television again. For the ten minutes, she was in her own world – not caring about anything but the water in her hair.
Now she was back in the real world.
"…Authorities are asking people to stay off highways and interstates unless they are traveling out of state. This will help on the traffic of people who are no doubt traveling to be with their loved ones right now…"
Her mom and dad floated through her mind, her brother Cole, her sister Judy. They all wanted her to come home, be safe, and be with them. Then, standing in her bathroom in Pasadena (the place she had been trying to get to for sixteen years of her life) – still soaked from her shower – Penny decided to go back home.
She slipped on some jeans and threw on a yellow shirt – the one that Sheldon complimented. It always made her fell so empowered when she wore it if Sheldon thought it looked great on her.
Okay, so his exact words were "that blouse is both proper and appropriate" but whatever. It was yellow and yellow was her favorite color.
She quickly dried her hair and pushed herself into a pair of running shoes that she hadn't worn in months. She dug in her closet for her old duffle bag and started throwing in clothes. She grabbed her purse and then tore apart her apartment looking for her birth certificate and passport – she didn't need them now, but with the way the world was going – she might soon.
Then she had a thought – in the middle of putting her bathroom stuff into a plastic baggy.
Knock knock knock.
Penny waited patiently at the door, swallowing deep at what she was about to do. Alicia answered. Penny spoke.
"I'm going home to Nebraska. You said once that you were from Denver. I always drive through there on my way home. Would you like a ride home? I'd like the company."
The blonde was shocked still. "Um…"
Penny continued, "I'm leaving in about a half hour. If you want to come, I'll meet you down in the lobby. If not, that's okay too. But I have to go pack." She turned to head down the stairs and back to packing.
"Penny!" Alicia yelled at her, Penny turned back to face her. "Can you give me forty five? I need to make a few calls and take a shower…"
Smiling, Penny nodded, "sure."
Twenty minutes later, she had loaded up her car with two suitcases and a backpack. She had grabbed all the alcohol she had – not knowing if Nebraska would have any other than her grandfather's old stock – and stashed it in her trunk. She was ready to go and waiting on Alicia. Taking a once over on her apartment, she locked the door.
Then she started to walk through the boy's apartment. She figured she'd go once-over at their place for any forgotten valuables – Like Sheldon's letter box. She knew she might never see them again, and that thought alone sent Penny into the tears that she had been trying to fight for the last hour.
That's where Alicia found her, in a ball in the white chair in the boy's apartment, using an old CalTech hoodie of Leonard's like a blanket.
Alicia drove until they stopped for the night in Vegas.
They were outside now, some kind of garden. It reminded Penny of when her high school turned a nothing square between hallways into a controlled garden. It was nice to be outside, to breathe fresh air. They were in the crowded hall for over an hour – Penny had timed it – walking slow and steady steps. Morgan had not stopped talking the entire time, but Penny was grateful for the reason not to talk to anyone else. She did not need to stick out more than she already was.
Sure that there was some kind of check in station at the front of this line; Penny tried to tell herself to be patient. Now, they were in the open waiting area outside with chairs and benches. Men and women were handing out cups of water, which Morgan and Penny took happily.
It was nighttime, and it was hot like a storm was about to hit. Looking up at the stars, Penny felt a wave of relief from being in the hallway and the cool water running down her throat was nice.
The line moved again, a couple of men moving off a few of the benches and Morgan and Penny jumped at the chance to sit down.
The line kinda reminded Penny of the traffic into Denver only five days ago.
A normal half a day's drive into Colorado was now looking like a full day's drive.
"I bet it has something to do with Colorado being an international airport."
"Yeah, that and the world's about to end…" Penny joked. It had become a thing for the last few hours – one of them would comment about something outside the window and the other would say "well, the world's about to end, what do you expect?"
It was a little sick, but it kept them going.
You see, the speed limit was 75, but they were going 50 and it was driving Penny insane.
"You'd think that we are all going the same way, we'd all be going the same speed," Alicia had commented.
"Theory of Relativity," Penny had said, like it was the answer to everything.
"Theory of Relativity is the closer you are to something to an object of great mass, the time around you slows down."
"Oh, my God." Penny said, "I sound like Sheldon."
Alicia laughed, "That's expected, I mean, considering all the time you two spend together."
It was Penny's turn, "What?"
Flipping her hair, Alicia turned to Penny, "I have always kinda wanted to know… what's the big smart guy like in time sack?"
"Huh? Who? Sheldon?"
Penny gripped the wheel with both hands when the visual went through her mind, "What makes you think I've slept with Sheldon?"
"…well," Alicia took a moment, thinking maybe she misread the situation and had a sudden urge to change the subject. "What's this about The Theory of Reality?"
"It's Theory of Relativity, and you don't get to change the subject!" Alicia bit her lip at being caught, and then she opened her mouth to try to fix the situation when Penny cut her off, "Me and Sheldon are not involved!"
"Could've fooled me," Alicia offered.
"What makes you say that?!?"
"Well… you spend a lot of time together, every time I walk up the stairs, you're either in his apartment or he's in yours. He goes to the Cheesecake Factory every week, you drive him places all the time. For God's sake – the two of you spend your Saturday nights doing laundry together. What single Californian does that?"
Penny took a sip of her drink they bought at the last rest stop. Alicia was telling the truth about all those things. But it was Sheldon…
"If you ask me, I think he has a thing for you."
"But it's Sheldon…"
"Girl, just because the man doesn't know what to do, doesn't mean that nature is in the same boat."
"But it's Sheldon…"
"You've said that."
"BUT IT'S SHELDON. He doesn't do relationships. He kinda had one awhile back without even knowing it. I mean… it's Sheldon."
"It kinda sounds like you have a thing for the tall guy in plaid."
Penny looked sidewise at her companion. "Alicia, I'm glad you've been keeping me company, but which one is your exit."
Alicia laughed again, "look, he may be strange, but if you like him enough to keep him around… I mean for more than just tech support… why don't you do something about it?"
Penny gripped her steering wheel, thinking over Sheldon. All the little things that made him … him. The reasons he was her favorite among the guys – the fact he's so socially inept, how he cares so much about his collectables, how much he loves his sisters, how much he loves his grandmother, how much he won't talk about his father (meaning there is something there that he's not saying), the fact he doesn't talk stupid around her just so she'll understand. Yeah, he explains it – but expecting more from her makes her feel smart and special – worthy.
Her mind went to the math he left on her door. He put the notes there, not because he knows she'll understand it, but because he wanted her to figure it out. Like that should be obvious. He trusted her with that much.
…if only they had more time, maybe he'd trust her with more than that…
"Penny?" Alicia asked.
"You've been quiet for awhile."
A smile crept up on Alicia's face, "I knew it. So," and like one of her friends out of high school asking who asked her to the prom, she asked, "What are you gonna do?"
"It's the end of the world. And he's gone. What can I do?"
Alicia's smile fell, but Penny's mind was on the notes in her purse in the back seat. Sheldon obviously thought she could do something – proof of that was in her back seat.
"So, you got a family?" Morgan asked suddenly, and Penny was torn out of her memory.
"Yeah," Penny said, smiling, "A brother and a sister. Parents. The usual."
"Yeah, I guess most of us in this line are in that boat. They made the families go the other way."
"What about you?" Penny asked.
"Nah, nobody. It was just me and dad growing up and he passed a few years ago."
"It's alright. You learn to survive, you know?"
The irony was not lost on Penny as she nodded, "did you have a boyfriend?"
Morgan shook her head, "not for the lack of trying. There was this guy across the hall in my apartment building. We didn't talk much – but… we did everything together. Laundry, getting the mail, elevator rides, morning runs, that sort of thing. But man, if that man had given any kind of sign, I would have jumped him."
Laughing, Penny's mind was on Sheldon and all the things they used to do and how it felt like so long ago. It was only six days ago that she saw him, but it felt like a life time. She took a glance to the front of the line and thought about the chance she might actually see Sheldon again. Shivers ran up her back and down her arms.
She chuckled, "Theory of Relativity."
"What?" Morgan asked.
"The closer you are to something you want, the longer it seems to take."
Morgan smiled an obviously forced smile, probably thinking back on her neighbor back home. Penny did the same.
And then the line moved.
She had said her goodbyes to Alicia with a heavy heart. She made sure to make it a nice goodbye, she may have not liked the girl but the world was ending. Everyone deserved to be known. As she drove away from Alicia's home and family, Penny felt the dread that came with knowing you'll never see someone again. Suddenly, she had an abrupt urge to get to Omaha.
She didn't want to miss saying goodbye to anyone, ever again.
Penny drove through the night, and the next five hours went smoothly – there wasn't a lot of traffic that late. She called her mom when she got to North Plate – a small town just off the highway. It was three o'clock in the morning, but Penny's mother didn't care. She had called to say she just couldn't drive any longer and had found a small Motel Eight just off the side of the road.
She decided to do a little investigating on Sheldon's note. It was an equation; Penny knew that much, but an equation that even the internet couldn't explain to her.
It had to do with Fibonacci, a mathematician from the middle ages. Penny found a bunch of things about numbers and sequences and surprisingly: rabbits and flowers. Apparently, this guy could predict how many babies a rabbit would have based on a series of numbers. There were also drawings that would explain the spiral that was sloppily drawn under the equation.
She was still lost, even with the World Wide Web at her fingertips.
Eventually, she fell asleep on her laptop and was awoken by a rude knock on her door.
"Hey lady? You alive?"
Penny sat up straight and checked her phone… it was only nine o'clock, hotel guy was crazy.
"Yeah, yeah! I'm alive."
"Check out in thirty minutes or I'm charging you another night!"
Penny rolled her eyes and decided to skip her shower in favor of getting on the road. All her research on "Fibonacci" totally didn't do her any good. She left North Plate in a sour mood. By noon, she was hitting the familiar surroundings of Lincoln, Nebraska and her mood was lightened. She was going to see her family, granted it was under horrible situations, but it had really been far too long since she last visited.
By two in the afternoon on the Friday after Penny learned the world was going to end, she saw her entire family waiting for her on the porch. They crowded around and everyone was smiling and reaching for a hug. She hugged her father the longest – he smelt like cut grass and sawdust and she wouldn't have it any other way. Her Aunt Milly had made her famous chocolate chip cookies, her nephew wanted to show her how he could throw his baseball now and she met her brother's girlfriend. Her mother had a big roast cooking in the oven and everyone was excited to see Penny home.
Even despite the circumstance, it was the best Penny had felt in a long while.
By six in the evening on the Friday after Penny learned the world was going to end, Penny knew what Sheldon was trying to tell her, and her big sister figured it out.
"Judy, I don't know what it means," she showed her sister Sheldon's note. Yeah, he had said not to show anyone, but screw that. She needed her big sister. She needed to talk about boys to the one woman that would never judge her about her choices.
They were in their childhood room, in all its purple and yellow glory. Judy and Penny thought it was the coolest thing when they were little, now it just reminded Penny of a bad bruise – especially when you added in the bright red window curtains.
"Aut viam inveniam aut facium," Judy read. She was wise and talented in the eyes of Penny; of course she'd be able to read it. Born early to their parents, Judy followed in the same footsteps, having her son when she was only seventeen. Penny craved Judy's opinion and thoughts and words of wisdom.
"Yeah… mumbo jumbo, right? I mean… how in the world am I-" Penny was cut off.
"I'll either find a way or make one."
"That's what it means. 'I'll either find a way or make one.' Pretty famous Latin phrase."
"Since when do you know Latin?"
"Since I started going back to school. I'm learning Art History, Penny. I want a run a museum." She laughed, throwing her blonde hair up into a ponytail, "at least wanted to run one. Guess that's all null and void, now, huh?" Penny didn't know what to say, "Now what's with all the numbers and fancy math for?"
"I don't know. Sheldon's the super smart one that doesn't slow down for anyone. I'm lost. And he thinks I'm going to meet him somewhere, but I don't know where. I don't understand what he's told me."
Judy smiled, "Sheldon – the tall one that's always driving you up a wall?"
"That's the one," Penny fingered the note.
"Every time you call and chat, it turns into a thirty minute conversation about Sheldon – the crazy wackadoodle next door," Judy pushed on.
Penny laughed, "Yeah, I'm sorry about that."
"It's alright Penny. I like hearing you talk about something you love. You get so animated about it; it makes me smile on even my worst days."
"I don't love Sheldon. I mean yeah, he's a great friend, but I'm not with him or anything like that…"
"Um, hum," it was her 'yeah, you keep telling yourself that' tone. The one that made anyone think twice about what they just said.
"Seriously, Jude – this guy isn't my type."
Judy readjusted on the bed, "if I remember correctly, you type is as follows:" she sat up straight and started number off her fingers, "Tall. Blue eyes. Great arms. Funny. Has friends that like him despite knowing him. Loves his mother. Can down a cheeseburger faster than you. Doesn't mind when a woman drives. Would do anything for you."
"Yeah. That's 'bout right."
"Is Sheldon tall and have blue eyes?"
"Is he funny?"
"He has his moments – although he doesn't realize it."
"It counts. You've talked about the three others that seem to hang out with him, and I'm counting you as a friend that likes him despite knowing him."
"No buts Penelope Jane!" Her mouth shut at the sounding of her middle name. Judy was one of only two people could use it and make the girl shut up. Penny's shoulder's fell. Judy moved again, this time to sit next to her little sister. He tone softened, "does he love his mom?"
"Yeah. And he adores his grandmother."
Judy smiled and threw her arms around her sister, "Does he like cheeseburgers?"
"BBQ, no mayo, well done, with everything on the side – sliced pickles, not dill. He likes to build them himself."
Judy smiled, "what?"
"I'm a waitress. He and his friends are regulars."
"Does he let you drive?"
Penny smiled eyes off in a far off place, "he doesn't have a license. And trust me; you don't want him behind a wheel."
"Penny, this guy is one of the smartest guys in the world, right?" Penny nodded. "He's probably working on a way of fixing this whole mess, or maybe trying to find a way around it. He's off doing important work for humanity, and he left you these notes." Judy grabbed one, "I'll either find a way or make one.' That sounds like he'd do anything for you. He thought of you at the end of the world. That's pretty damn big, Penny."
She was right. Sheldon cared about her.
And at that thought, Penny couldn't hold it in anymore. She sobbed into her sister's chest, letting out all her fear and regret fall down in her first real cry. Judy tried to make her feel better but soon joined her. And the two fell asleep in their old childhood room.
"Line's moving," said Morgan pointing ahead of them. Penny had spaced out; she had fallen back into her and Judy's room, back when she first wept for the world.
Her tears had started falling again.
"Hey," Morgan had said, "If the therapist can't handle all this, how are you supposed to handle some of us?"
"I'm not a robot."
Morgan hesitated, "…sorry. Attempt at humor. I'm going to classify that one as a failure."
Penny didn't register Morgan, or the line around her, or even the loud speakers that were sounding, "if you do not appear on our list, or are not a legal family member of someone on the list, you will be sent back to the mainland of the United States…"
Saturday morning, Penny's little brother, Cole, woke them up with a bang.
Every time one of the girls came home, it was the same ritualistic waking up to ice cubes poured on them. You see, Cole had gotten so good at this particular prank, that he could pour the cubes on a person without waking them. So the person gradually got colder and wetter before finally waking up.
Penny always hated it, but for some reason, she didn't mind it so much this time.
After a huge effort (with the help of Uncle Chris, Judy and her husband) Penny successfully soaked Cole with the water hose. In front of his new girlfriend. It was glorious payback.
"Penny," Morgan pushed on her shoulder – most likely to get her attention. "Are you alright?"
Penny nodded, "yeah. I'm just exhausted. The last couple of days of travel are catching up on me, I guess."
Morgan laughed; it was starting to annoy Penny how chipper this woman was. She was alright, but come on – it was the end of the world – stop trying to convince yourself you're fine.
"…and then Judy grabbed the gun out of the closet and shot at me!"
The room burst with laughter. It was the same "Judy shot her husband" story they had been telling for over a decade every time more than five family members were in the same room, but it never got old.
"Oh, come on, I thought you were a burglar."
"What burglar says, "honey, I'm home!" to you Judy? Honestly, I want to meet him."
The room roared with laughter again. The room was full of Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and their husbands and wives and their children. The tiny living room was stuffed to the brim with almost thirty well-fed Midwestern farmers laughing at an old gun story.
Everyone was laughing and carrying on and having a good time.
Penny was thinking about Sheldon, and how well he wouldn't fit in. Granted, he might be used to it, from his big family in Texas… She guessed, she'd never know.
"Penny?" one of her younger cousins, Stacy, sounded from the hallway, "Is this yours?"
The cousin was holding up Sheldon's note. The one with the Latin and the Bunny Population Equation. Penny's eyes widened.
"Do you know where these coordinates are?"
"Yeah, these numbers, here," her cousin pointed to a list of what Penny thought was six numbers.
Her cousin nodded, "I think so. We just started them in geography last week!"
"What is that, Penelope?" asked one of her Uncles.
"A note from her Boyfriend," sounded Judy who then received a very dark look from her little sister.
Her mother stuck her head out of the kitchen and her father sat up in his chair, and at the same time, like they rehearsed it, "boyfriend?"
"He's not my boyfriend."
"Right," said Judy. "Sorry." She turned back to the family, "It's from Penny's soul mate." The women swooned a little and the men grunted and suddenly Penny was reminded exactly why she left home.
She gave in, "he's name's Sheldon. He's crazy smart, and is probably apart of some government Think Tank right now. He and his roommate are my neighbors; they left in a hurry Wednesday night. He left this for me."
"Supposedly he wants Penny to meet him somewhere, but she doesn't know where."
"Maybe that's what the coordinates are for?" her father asked. Penny stared at her father, shocked. Cole had stolen the notebook page from his cousin and had already opened his laptop, typing away at the keyboard.
"You believe in this?"
The room was quiet when Bob stood and walked towards Penny, "sweetie," he said and Penny's heart melted, "when you call, you talk about this guy – and it sounds like he doesn't treat you like every other guy treats you. He treats you like a human, an equal. With your string of bad boyfriends, something like that is rare."
Penny blinked and then fought back more tears, "thank you, daddy."
"Anytime, my lucky Penny."
"Found it!" Cole sounded. All thirty heads in the room swung around to him. "It's ocean area just off of Bermuda Island."
Penny's youngest cousin, Billy, was nine. He piped up, "what if it's the Bermuda Triangle."
"There's no such thing, Billy," Cole retorted.
Billy stuck out his tongue.
"So, Sheldon wants me to meet him in Bermuda?"
"Cole," Stacy said, looking over his shoulder, "you only used one of the coordinates. There are two more."
"Well," Aunt Milly said from behind Penny's mother, "what are you waiting for, son? Look 'em up!"
"I'm not supposed to be here," Penny said quietly.
"What?" Morgan asked her.
"Here. I'm not supposed to be here. I'm just lucky that I know people that know things. I don't know anything. I'm supposed to be waiting the meteor shower out at a small farm in Omaha. They're not gonna let me in."
"Foolishness," Morgan laughed, "If you're on the list, you're in. No questions asked."
"Yeah," Penny mumbled. Morgan seemed happy with herself for cheering up her new friend. Silently to herself, Penny added, "but I might not be on the list."
Through the power of the internet, Cole had discovered that the coordinates that Sheldon had given her were, in fact, coordinates for the Bermuda Triangle. Billy did a little victory dance. With a little more investigation, Cole learned that on Tuesday, the FAA was going to be grounding all flights in preparation.
All flights except for those between North Carolina and the island of Bermuda.
"Cole," his father hummed, "How'd you get that information?"
"I wanted a four wheeler. You got me a laptop."
Penny laughed, thinking that Sheldon might be more at home here than she once thought.
The entire family was buzzing with the idea that Penny might have a runaway romance at the end of the world. They went so far as to buy her plane tickets to first Tulsa, then North Carolina, then finally to Bermuda.
Her aunts began packing bags and food and maps all before Penny could say "wait a minute."
She pulled her mother aside, "mom, I don't want to be stuck on some island when all this happens. I want to be here, I want to be home."
"Sweetie," she sat Penny down in the kitchen admits all the baking pans and boiling pots, "you said it yourself. This guy is probably in a think tank somewhere. The government wants him safe. What if where he is sending you is the safest place anyone could be?"
"Penny. Listen to me."
Penny reached for a paper towel to wipe her eyes.
"If he's as smart as you keep braggin' about, then he is going to be safe if there is a place to be safe. He gave you all this information for a reason, Penny. I'd say 'listen to it."
"But mom, I don't know what's there, or I'd be going there. I don't even know what to look for once I'm there. Bermuda looks like it's a big island. I wouldn't know where to start or finish, or even what to do. I want to be home, momma, I'm scared."
"Penelope Jane. Snap out of it. We are your family. We all love you; we wouldn't be doing all this if we thought it would be bad for you."
She laid her head down on her mother's hands, "then don't make me go. I'd miss you too much."
"Penelope," her mother's voice was soft and kind, "if you can survive… live. Don't worry about us, we'll be just fine – especially knowing someone might live through this. That our daughter might live through this. Live for us, fight for us, and remember us when no one else will."
"It's okay, baby," she cooed. "Every thing will be just fine."
"How do you know?"
"Because life wouldn't have made a girl like you out here in the middle of nothing if you were just supposed to stay out here until the end of days. No, sweetie, life made you to get out of this town and do something for the world."
So, three days later, Penny's entire family showed up at the airport to see her off to Tulsa. With only a backpack on her back, Penny left her family in the waiting room. She hugged her mother and brother and sister all goodbye. And as hard as they were, they were nothing compared to saying goodbye to her father.
Bob, in what Penny was certain their last moments together, told his daughter that he loved her, and put his baseball cap on her head. "I'm gonna miss you Penny."
Penny cried, "me too daddy."
She walked away backwards, unable to get herself to turn around and put her back to her family. The family that was making her do this, the family that had her back, no matter what.
The family that she was leaving alone to face the end of the world while she went off in search of a math equation. She really hated the circumstances, but walked through airport security anyway.
Then she was on a plane with sixty other people heading south toward Tulsa.
Three hours after that, she was heading toward the East Coast. And then towards Sheldon. Unsure, exactly, how she was going to get to him.
"Next!" she heard someone yell.
"You hear that?" Morgan asked next to her, "we're getting close."
Penny nodded, a bit anxious. It had been one long hallway so far, with the one break outside. It was about time they got to the front of the line. "How long have we been in line for?" Penny asked.
Morgan checked her watch, "an hour and twenty minutes."
"Damn," said the man behind them, "that's a lot of people they are checking in."
"Well, that's good isn't it?" Penny said. "Saving a lot of people is good, right?"
"Sure, I'm all for that," Said the man, "But this old facility can't hold much more than 10,000. That's if you don't want to hold enough storage for food and supplies. 8,000 is pushing it, if you ask me."
"Well, I won't complain about the elbow room," Penny shot back at him. "Not if 2,000 more people are safe."
That shut the man up. Penny was proud of herself.
She had made it to Bermuda. Everyone else on the plane seemed to be in the same boat as her, scared, packing light, and American. Once in North Carolina, there were eight flights a day going to the Island. Penny knew right away something was up, and she was on the right path.
At the airport on the island, there were buses taking all American to the southern side of the island, and Penny got on one without anyone noticing too much.
When they dropped her and the rest of her bus mates off just past a military post, Penny began to get worried. Maybe she was in the wrong place, or she'd get in major trouble for trying to show up at some government facility when she shouldn't have been. Then she realized it was the end of the world and she said screw it; what did she have to lose, exactly?
Then she was at the gates, the tall, metal, grey gates, being forced into lines and meeting a talkative woman named Morgan, and walking slowly toward an unknown fate.
"When all else fails, say you know me."
It was Morgan's turn as the tall woman walked up to the counter with a bounce in her curly brown hair. The world around her slowed as Penny thought about what was next. Morgan handed the lady behind the counter an envelope, which was opened and then scanned. Morgan was placed through a metal detector and then she was escorted off.
She turned to Penny with a wave, "find me later, kay!" Penny nodded and sighed at the same time. The feeling of seeing someone for the last time washed over her again. It was becoming an all too familiar feeling.
Penny walked up, a big gulp stuck in her throat.
"Envelope," the lady asked, not looking up.
"I don't have one." The lady sighed, and then turned to the computer, finger ready at the keyboard.
"Spell your last name."
The lady shook her head, "I'm sorry, you're not in here. I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Penny's heart fell, "wait. Um… I'm here with Sheldon Cooper. We just got separated, that's all."
The lady looked at Penny for a moment, eyebrow lifted, "the Sheldon Cooper?"
"Uh, huh. And I'm President Obama. Now please, go so I can check in people that are supposed to be here."
"Wait! Really! I know him!"
One of the guards came and took Penny by the forearm, "yeah, lady, we do too. We used to live across the hall from him and ate Mexican food with him every Friday night."
It was all sarcasm and it was driving Penny up a wall. "It's Thai food, every Monday night." She began attract some indifferent faces; she was sure one of the guards thought she had gone mental. Everything stalled, "Okay, okay, I'll go. Gently and without a fight and everything, if you'd just call him down here so I can say goodbye!"
Something about the way Penny said it made the check in lady think twice before saying "NEXT!" as she picked up the phone and Penny was escorted into a waiting area to wait on the arrival of Sheldon Cooper.
She was sat down in a CSI-type interrogation room with a single guard. There was a table in the middle of the room, and a few chairs – not much else. She fingered the paper Sheldon taped on the door over almost a week ago.
"What's that?" the guard motioned to the note.
"Directions," she said sincerely, and then she added, for a little extra umph, "from Sheldon."
"Can I see them?" Penny handed it over, staring the man down. He did a double take at what was written, and then another double take up at her. "Maybe you do know him."
It had been over a week since she last saw Sheldon and a lot had happened to her and her thoughts regarding him, but the first moment she saw him after the long and emotional week, her world sunk and the corners of her mouth rose.
She stood up, causing all the guards to jump at her movement. She stood for a moment, staring at him. His face filtered through a few emotions; first confusion, then recognition, and relief, and then finally pride. He took a step toward her, and she did something that even surprised her – she flew herself at him and clung to him. She buried her face in his neck and didn't care that he stiffened under her grasp. She didn't care that the guards still had their hands on their taser guns. She was just so relieved that he was here, and slowly, he hugged her back, sending warmth through her arms.
"I knew you'd understand my notes."
She pulled her head back from his neck, "You could've made it easier."
He blinked, "how so?"
"Writing in English, for one. Then, instead of coordinates, you could have just said, 'Penny – meet me in Bermuda."
He smiled, "would you have taken such a note seriously?"
Penny stared at him, her arms still resting on his shoulders, his around her waist, "no." Penny discovered, "I guess I not."
He nodded, knowingly. She hated it when he was smug about being smarter.
"It's alright," he turned to the guards, but he did not let go of her. "She is not here to harm me."
They stepped back and their hands fell to their sides.
He leaned down and hugged her again – she was shocked frozen. He was hugging her, for a second time – voluntarily. He lowered his head and whispered, "act the part."
Needless to say, she was speechless.
"Dr. Cooper, sir…" one of the guards started, "I'm sorry but we need to get her on the next flight off the island."
"But I was under the assumption that family members were allowed to accompany us."
"…that's true, but Miss Sorena is no-"
"She's my wife." Penny blinked, but did not move.
"Do you have proof of this?" one of the guards asked.
It took Penny a moment, "I'm your what?"
Sheldon stared down at her, throwing her his keen "we talked about this" face, Penny was used to it, as they kept things from the other boys all the time – but problem was, Penny never remembered having a conversation about marrying him – real or otherwise.
When Penny didn't respond, Sheldon huffed, turned to the guards and said, "Can I have a moment alone with my wife, please?"
Penny was in shock, but she patiently waited for the guards to nod and leave the room, giving Sheldon knowing looks.
"Um, when did we get married?"
He sighed, "Penny, Penny, Penny – we have more important issues. First, did you go into my room?"
"Sheldon! Now is not the time to be worrying about me breaking your precious apartment contract!"
"So, you did you or did you not go into my room?"
"Yes, Sheldon," She sighed, surrendering. "I did, now will you please tell me why you told those men I'm your wife?"
He ignored her completely, "upon entering my room, did you notice something peculiar?"
She was started to get annoyed again, "no, it was just messy from packing fast."
"Yes, but I left something on my bed – neatly, I might add – to distract you from the utter dismay I left the room in, did you happen to procure it?"
"Your box of letters from your grandma?"
"That's what all this about?"
Sheldon nodded again.
Penny's mouth tightened. She tried to take soothing breaths, but nothing was working. "Why didn't you just take the damn box with you instead of leading me to believe that there was something here for me? Didn't you think I could be home right now, with my family!"
Sheldon's face fell, "Penny, I'm here."
"What the hell, Sheldon?"
"Do you have the box?"
Roughly, Penny turned to backpack and threw the zipper open. She yanked out the brown box and stuffed it in his chest. "There." She was angry. He didn't need a menstrual calendar to tell him that much.
His eyebrows met in the middle of his face, "did you not open it?"
"No, I didn't open it, but I knew it was important to you…"
He placed the box down on the table, "come here." He opened it.
Inside were not only his grandmother's letters, but another very important piece of paper.
"I knew that this evacuation was coming weeks ago, Penny. I knew that my sisters and my mother would be fine. Leonard and his family, Howard and his mother, Raj and his parents. We'd all be invited and protected down here. Then I realized something."
He reached for a pen from one of the side tables, and laid on the table in front of them.
"It upset me that I could not save you."
The document inside the box was a marriage license.
Penny sat down – knees failing her, clearly misjudging the entire situation. He wasn't just using her in a last ditch effort to annoy her, he genuinely cared for her.
Her sister's voice floated through her mind, "..he thought about you at the end of the world. That's pretty damn big, Penny."
"So I did research, and obtained a marriage license. It doesn't take much more than our signatures on this paper to fool everyone here into thinking we are married. It was selfish of me to keep this from you, but they called for our evacuation three days sooner than originally planned. I had to … improvise."
Penny watched as he pulled out the sheet of paper and flattened it against the table.
"I'll either find a way or make one… You were trying to save me." Penny realized, happy that her original theory was true. "But why didn't you tell me to look in the box, and tell me what to do? Why all the mysterious math and Latin? Why not just tell me?"
He sat down in the seat next to her, "My father had a saying, I never really paid much attention to it, but lately things my father once said seem to have more meaning. He once told Missy, that "if you have to tell a guy to do anything for you, how are you ever going to know what he'll do if you're not there."
"…it was a test."
"Of sorts. We were also under strict orders not to tell anyone. In fact, there are many families that came here expecting a family vacation. Not a humanity bunker."
"Is that what this is? How do you know the meteors won't…"
"In the 1940s, the US Government started a project to protect high government officials and other important people if ever there was a problem with nuclear fallout. A headquarters of sorts. Over the last seventy years, it's just been added to. It's one big city down there. Most of the facility is underground – way below the floor of the ocean. Only a small part is up here."
He adjusted in his chair, "they built it here so any suspicious activity could just be written off as crazy conspiracy. We were to say nothing of our location. Not even to our families that were joining us."
"You broke rules for me?"
He nodded, not reaching her eye.
It took him a second to answer her, leaning forward onto the table, "You have and slowly and surely taken over everything in my world and it is quite annoying. Missy seems to think I have a 'thing' for you. I assure you, this is just to save your life. I would not require anything from you, other than the help to keep up the guise of marriage so as we do not get caught in our lie. At least for awhile."
"You want to marry me?"
"I want to save your life."
"You want to marry me."
"Yes, Penny – this is the way."
"And this is the only way you could think of. I mean, hell Sheldon, people were putting "the" in front of your name. Sounds like you've got a lot of pull around here."
"That is true, but I still have to follow the same laws as everyone else. That is including the law about family members. We have to be legally related. That means either we share DNA, or we share vows."
Penny stared at the sheet in front of her, realizing this hadn't left her side in almost a week, riding along in a box in her backpack. The note Sheldon left was not the ticket – but the directions. The ticket had been in her bag the entire time.
"What are you waiting for? Sign it, so you can get situated downstairs."
"I'm sorry Sheldon; I've just never thought that this would be the way I'd be proposed to."
"It's not really marriage; look at it like a green card."
"Still… it's you. And it's marriage. And it's big."
They fell quiet for a moment, each taking deep breaths. Sheldon reached inside the box, then he stared down at his hands – Penny missed all that while she was staring at the license.
She did notice when he went down on one knee. She noticed when he held up a small gold wedding band. She noticed when he licked his lips and gulped.
"Penny," he started, "Will you marry me?"
Penny said the first thing that came to her mind, "yes."
It's not over. Seriously, it's not. But 28 pages and over 11,000 words is plenty for what started out as a small drabble in my book. Look at this as part one. Part two as Penny adjusting to life underground and part three as Penny adjusting to what comes after that.
Um… it's hella long, I realize. But screw it; I'm in love with writing this and I've been enjoying writing it so much that I don't want it to stop. I hope someone out there likes it enough so that I can continue it.
Um, quick note: Cooper = masculine. Sorena = feminine. IDK, I needed a last name thought it was cool.
So yeah, let me know if you liked it.