"WOOT-WHHOOO!" came a sharp whistle from behind them. Sheldon jumped at the offending sound, already prone to the dislike of hoots and hollers and the particularly high pitched frequency of a whistle. Penny's smile bubbled as she flipped her hair to check out the offending whistler.
"While I do enjoy midnight openings and fan sponsored re-showings of famous science fiction movies, I am not a fan of the whistling that comes with it."
They were at a midnight showing of the new Star Trek film. Penny had enjoyed watching it when it was new at the movies, but Sheldon was certain she wasn't experiencing the film in the right way.
He had convinced her to dress up for a Trekkie showing. The boys were unable to make it, but it was better this way. He was Spock and she was Uhura. Oh, the teasing he endured! She was having a fabulous time. Sheldon, however, was not.
"You're just jealous because I'm a hot Uhura and your Spock ear fell off."
He reached up to his ear defensively. "Like you are one to talk. Your home made costume is nowhere near standard issue Starfleet quality. It is a disgrace to all things related to Star Trek."
She smiled up at him, "everyone else seems to like it!"
"Penny, you are merely standing in a tight, red, nighty that rises higher than even the skirts in the movie."
"So, your mere attempt at a replica using something out of your closet is an embarrassment."
"It is a timely tradition to create your own replication of a character that you admire."
"It shows dedication and admiration for your chosen fandom! It is a contest to see who loves their fandom more. The person who spent three weeks slaving over a sewing machine to create just the perfect hem and blend of Starfleet blue or a person who raided her drawers the night before."
"…you're going to keep saying 'so?', no matter what I say, aren't you?"
She nodded, her high pony tail bouncing around. Sheldon groaned.
"HEY BLONDE UHURA!" A man dressed like Kirk sounded from somewhere in the line behind them, "MIND IF I TAKE A PICTURE?"
"SURE!" She called back. Turning back to Sheldon, Penny smiled, "now how many people are wanting to take a picture of the perfect hem and blend of Starfleet blue, hmm Spock?"
"At least button up the top of that shirt – a proud and confidant woman such as Uhura would not parade around displaying herself in such a manner."
She rolled her eyes but reached for the buttons anyway, "alright, alright. Happy Spock?"
It threw Penny for a loop the first time someone called her Mrs. Cooper.
It was foreign, unfamiliar, and all together something she was not prepared for. She signed her name, laid the pen down – perfectly aware of what she was doing. She slipped the small and simple ring on her finger – noticing that Sheldon was wearing one very similar to hers. She stood, putting things together in her backpack. Everything was calm and right and perfect.
Then Sheldon said it; "alright, Mrs. Cooper. Let's get you downstairs." The name rolled off of his lips like he was trying it out himself, a smirk appearing afterward. Not the smug smirk he usually carried, but the one where he was proud of himself. It scared her that she liked it.
She liked it so much that she almost wanted to white out to the marriage license and take her chances with the radioactive space rock.
The lady at the check-in called her Mrs. Cooper too. It was all Penny could do to keep inside her own skin. Sheldon's hand was on the small of her back, leading her, holding on to her, acting the part of husband.
She floated through check-in and bag inspection, trying to shake herself of the shock.
They were downstairs before she realized it; they took one elevator down, "this is the main shaft to the facility," he had told her.
"How far down are we going?"
"…really, it's not worth knowing. It has caused some emotional discomfort among some of the people here already. You already look like you are in shock."
She nodded, "a little. I didn't come all this way expecting I'd get married."
"It's still not a real marriage, Penny. We exchanged no vows. It is merely a means to survival."
She tugged on the bottom of Leonard's hoodie, surprised that his words disappointed her, "for all intents and purposes, you are my husband. That's pretty real, Sheldon."
He watched the numbers grow as they went further down. He said nothing.
They exited the elevator to a simple, white hallway. All at once, Penny was reminded of the movie Titanic. Her surroundings were almost identical to the part of the movie where Jack and Rose were running through the bottom parts of the ship. White, small, pipes running along the ceiling – claustrophobia around every turn.
Dread ran through Penny.
"This is only the generators and the storage parts of the facility. The living and work quarters are much nicer."
She nodded, wondering what Sheldon's definition of 'nicer' was.
It was Thai night. Howard and Leonard were busy pouring drinks in the kitchen. Raj was on his way. Penny was out getting the food. And Sheldon was on a peculiar buzz. Penny had called them, checking their orders. Raj and Sheldon ordered the same thing every week, but Leonard and Howard liked to switch it up every now and then.
Except this time, Sheldon was getting something different. He was excited – almost to the point he was considering changing up his orders for the rest of the week.
But that would be foolish.
They were going to sit down and have a mini-marathon of Chuck episodes. Believe it or not, it was Penny's choice. Not that Sheldon minded, as the characters had some knowledge of modern technology, the plots were enticingly engaging, and he always had a soft spot for smart characters that were living in mediocre lives. He felt as though Chuck fell into that category – going through such a respectable school like Stanford just to get kicked out short of his diploma.
Then thrown into a whirlwind of government secrets and annoying blondes that think they know it all… Well, Chuck was secretly Sheldon's favorite show. He refused to claim it as such because Leonard and Howard liked it for the scenes of 'Sarah' in scantily clad underwear and weapons.
He was in charge of getting the DVDs ready for Penny's arrival. He had them laid out, first one in the DVD player, when Raj walked in.
He was obviously not his normal chipper self. Leonard noticed, "Raj, you okay?"
He shook his head and then fell heavy onto the couch, letting his head fall back and then his arm to cover his eyes. Sheldon looked up with mild interest.
Howard continued, "What's wrong, my exotic friend?"
Raj slowly turned his head towards Leonard, "you know that meteor I discovered last year?"
Leonard sat up, "yeah – it's only what we worked on all summer."
"What's the problem?" Howard asked, setting down drinks.
"They launched the ship last week."
Sheldon coughed, "even against my warnings?"
"Oh, you're just jealous that you couldn't do anything more than the math," Leonard said, sitting down with a bottle of water.
"Jealous?" Sheldon questioned, "Oh no, you obviously needed someone to do the math. The math was wrong, and I only pointed out the problems with the equations and mechanics of the plan. I was the one doing the math. The math did not add up. It's not going to work."
Raj sighed, "oh, it worked."
"What?" it was a deadpan query from Sheldon.
"What do you mean?"
"What the hell, man! Tell me, did the Wolowitz timer and launcher work like it was supposed to? Were there any malfunctions? Tell me, am I going down in history books?"
Raj stared at his friend, but his voice was still soft, "yeah, it worked."
Sheldon was still with confusion while Howard jumped up and did a victory dance.
"I was sure that my math was right and yours was wrong. The entire process would have blown the meteor off its original trajectory. If they had continued along with that horrible excuse for a managerial plan, we should be in the pathway of that same meteor now."
Howard stopped dancing, Leonard paused – mid sip.
Raj opened his mouth to answer, but was interrupted by a very cheerful Penny, "I have food, bow down before the sustenance goddess!" She then started handing out food orders.
She had given Howard, Raj and Leonard all their orders, but when she got to Sheldon's she noticed all the sour moods, "what's wrong? Why are you all so quiet?"
"Nothing," Sheldon said a bit too fast, Penny noted the strange looks the other three boys were giving Sheldon. "Nothing. Did you have them chop the chicken instead of shred?"
"Yes, Sheldon…" she rolled her eyes, "I watched them 'chop' all of your order."
"…but I didn't want my vegetables chopped, I wanted them steamed!"
Penny's lips tightened and she put her hands on her hips. Sheldon dropped his head and slowly reached for his order under the scrutiny of her gaze.
"Thank you for the food Penny," he said – like it was rehearsed.
It was soft and forced, the delivery of the line was wrong, but Penny took it.
Sheldon was right; the living quarters were much nicer. They reminded her more of an apartment building. Granted – a long and flat apartment – rather than a tall building, but still, they were like really nice dorm rooms.
"We're this way," he said, pulling her down a hallway. Then he pointed towards another direction, "Kootherpalli and Wolowitz and their families live down that hall. Leonard and his family are a floor below us."
Penny nodded, "I'm never going to learn my way around down here."
"It's not that hard, there are signs every few hundred feet or so."
They walked until they reached the last door in the hall. There looked like there were stairs just beyond that – making Penny wonder how far away Leonard really was.
"This is it!" Sheldon smiled, "4 - A."
"You're kidding me, right?"
"No. We are on the fourth floor of living quarters and the first of rooms that occupy this floor. It is pure coincidence that the numbering system matches that of our apartment building back in California."
Penny stared down the door, "so, I'll be living with you."
"Well," he began digging in his pockets; Penny heard the distinct jingle of keys. "You would need to in order to keep up the guise of marriage, as I mentioned before. I would hate to see all my hard work of saving you go unneeded – not to mention the idea that you would be out there – facing down the failure of man."
"Failure of man?"
He unlocked the door, and paused, "yes Penny. We did this to our home. I told them it wouldn't work, they wouldn't listen. Failure to discover the problem, and then failure to fix the problem once the problem was discovered. The failure of man."
"Right…" Penny was still lost.
Then Sheldon opened the door to their new home and stepped in. Penny smirked as a thought crossed her mind.
"Hey, husband," she threw at him, smirking under her baseball cap, she leaned against the frame of the door, "aren't you going to carry me across the threshold?"
He stared at her like she was crazy; she matched his stare with everything she had.
Leonard stared down at his letter. The one of maybe millions the government was sending out.
…please bring this barcode with you while you proceed to your assigned secure location…
He could bring five relatives or less. But no more unless there were children involved. Then it just got tricky.
Mom, dad, Steven, Marie and her husband. They were his only family. He sighed at his luck, and then glanced up to Sheldon. "Who are you taking?"
Sheldon looked up at him, "what?"
"Have you not got that far? We are allowed to bring five relatives."
Sheldon nodded, uncharacteristically quiet and still. He slowly answered, "Mom, Missy and Madeline."
"You get two more," Leonard suggested. Sheldon sat down his letter, and sat back in his seat.
"I don't have any more family than that."
Penny's new home wasn't that different from the size of her apartment. There weren't any windows, but that was to be expected. There was a small kitchen – there looked like there was a place for a stove, but it was missing. There were rugs on the concrete floor and a desk and white boards full of scratch paper and equations that Penny would never be able to decipher – other than that – there wasn't anything on the walls.
A small television hooked up to a large wire that ran into the wall. She briefly entertained the idea of HBO, and she had to shake her head clear of thoughts like that.
A short couch and big chair sat in the middle of the room facing the television, along with a trunk that was acting as a coffee table. On it was Sheldon's familiar laptop, along with two or three other desktop computers sitting around on the ground. There were the familiar blankets and afghans from Pasadena laid out over the back of the chair and couch. Penny smiled at the familiarity.
Bookshelves went to the ceiling behind the couch. They were full of a mixture of large college-type textbooks and stacks of comic books. There was a frame on one of the shelves that held a single napkin with a messy signature. The Leonard Nimoy Christmas Present. Penny smiled at the idea that he took her gift with him down here.
She turned back to face Sheldon. He had his hands behind his back and his eyebrows raised. "What do you think?"
She sighed, "It's nicer than I was expecting. Where are your mom and sisters?"
"Next door," he answered simply. "Well, this door is the bathroom," Penny nodded, "this door is a closet," Penny chuckled, "and this door is the bedroom."
Penny licked her lips, adjusting her backpack. Staring at the door to the bedroom, she seemed to be caught in some kind of time warp. The door did that wacky, crazy thing that happens in movies where it gets closer, but everything else just seems to get further away… She felt herself getting dizzy – and then realized she hadn't answered Sheldon.
"Oh, okay," she said, not sure of how to proceed.
But she didn't have to worry about that because right at that moment, Howard barged in carrying a huge box that was bursting with wires. Penny stood, smiling at her friend.
He didn't notice it was her at first, as he kept walking in – intent on setting the box down, "alright, Sheldon – I've got the basic Ethernet cords and speaker wires. I'm sure with some adjustment, we could ge-"
Penny smiled at his sudden stop in the middle of the room. He was the same Howard… tight pants and all.
"Hi," Penny offered.
Standing shocked still, he dropped the wires he was holding and turned to Sheldon, "what did you do?"
Penny was taken aback, everything she had been through so far seemed legal enough – granted they were committing marriage fraud – but the people in charge didn't mind her being here. All at once, her left arm started to weigh her down, and she felt like her left hand was practically glowing.
She stuffed her hands in the hoodie pocket.
Sheldon answered, "I found a way."
Excitement seemed to burst out of her short friend – his face broke out into a brilliant smile. "You found a way? You found a way to get someone here? To get Penny here? She's staying? I mean –" he turned to her, "– you're here to stay?"
She shrugged, "Looks like it…"
He blinked, and then he jumped up and down like a small child. "I've got to go get Raj and Leonard!"
He was out of the room like a bad Flash impersonator – quick and ungraceful with arms flailing. Penny couldn't help but smile.
She turned to Sheldon, face in a similar goofy smile. She melted for a second, "are we going to tell them we're married?"
"I don't see why not," he answered with a curt nod – she noted he didn't look her in eye, "they will surely assist us in making our lie easier."
"Right," she felt her face fall, "… a lie."
He noticed her change in demeanor, "Penny?"
"It's okay, Sheldon. Really."
He didn't say anything – maybe he found the whole situation just as awkward as she did.
"This is Dr. Sheldon Cooper, I have a few questions regarding the family and relatives law…" He was pacing, and had been on the phone for over an hour. The government was sending him in circles and he was getting a bit frustrated.
Penny walked in, at the least opportune moment. He sighed at her lack of knocking and knowledge of personal space. It was rude, but at the same time, it was Penny. He let it slide.
"No, this is not about children…"
Her face was curious as she walked up to the counter. He was standing in the kitchen, phone to his ear. She was wearing that yellow blouse that made her eyes seem greener. Needless to say, he never could quite understand why he was so distracted around her – especially when she wore that blouse.
He was drawn back into the phone conversation.
"I have talked to the people at that office, my good sir; I need to speak to someone that understands the laws laid out by the…" he was cut off my the extremely rude man on the other side of the line.
Penny reached for an apple sitting in the middle of the kitchen island, Sheldon gave her a stare – she winked.
He lowered the phone momentarily to quickly whisper, "I thought I told you not to eat the apples!"
She swallowed her first bite, "forbidden fruit and all that…" He rolled his eyes and then continued his argument with the man on the phone.
"What do you mean, it's impossible?"
Penny sat on one of the barstools.
"So you're saying, just so I know you and I are on the same level of conversation, that I can't give one of my barcodes to someone who will benefit using it? You do realize that it will go to waste if it were to just sit, unused in my bedroom?"
Sheldon was still while he awaited his answer, Penny took another bite.
"Well – in the words of my mother – forgive my French, but damn that law! This are li…"
Penny sat up straighter, waiting for more. She was a small town, gossip girl at heart and Sheldon getting worked up enough to cuss? Must be juicy stuff.
"You better believe that I will take it up with your superiors! Do you not understand who I am? No? Then go ask your boss who Dr. Sheldon Cooper is, and then we'll see how smart you think you are."
He pressed the tiny red phone key as roughly and as rudely as he could.
Penny blinked. He never used his name like that in a conversation – well, yeah he did – but never intentionally like that.
"Everything okay?" Penny asked.
He looked up at her, frustration falling off him in waves at the sight of her green eyes. A whole new frustration was taking its place, "it would be if you would stop eating my apples."
"Then stop telling me not to, silly!" She laughed and jumped off the barstool, "where are the guys?"
"Unable to make it tonight. They were unprepared for the new Halo Night."
She shrugged, "yeah, I thought Thursday nights were strange for Halo. You switchin' it up, huh?"
She sat down on the couch, "come on. First one to kill the other in a Halo showdown has to buy the winner new laundry detergent!"
"But you always win in a Halo showdown."
"I know," she turned to him with a smile and a waving of a game controller, "and I need laundry detergent!"
Today was the day. The first wave of meteors were going to hit the Earth. The devastation that was about to occur was keeping the new members of the facility up and biting their nails. They had maybe three hours until impact.
Penny was tossing and turning on the pull-out couch.
She and Sheldon decided that, because he was a whole foot taller than the length of the couch mattress, that she would be the one to live on the couch. He would live in the room.
Penny was just grateful that the crowd that had gathered to welcome her arrival had disappeared. Howard had sent in Sheldon's family, and had then sent in everyone that Penny might know down in this place.
Which was, surprisingly, a lot of people.
Leonard was jubilant, to say the least, and had dogged on Sheldon for not letting him know what was going on. Penny gave him an extra tight hug and told him she was never giving him his hoodie back.
"It's alright Penny," he smiled, "it looks good on you. Fitting."
She bit her lip at that one…
They were celebrating and talking to her and she had more hugs than she could handle from people she barely knew. Then Leonard's mother threw a wrench and asked just how the two of us had gotten around the 'DNA or vows' law.
It was then that Sheldon's little sister, Maddy, saw the ring on her big brother's finger and a matching one on Penny's.
They announced that they were, in fact, legally wed.
Leonard left soon after that, and Penny began to worry – even after Sheldon's 'it's only to ensure her survival' speech.
But that was hours ago.
And now, the Earth was about to be hit with radioactive meteors. Big expansive spaces of land were surely big targets.
She knew there were other places that were larger, but Penny couldn't think of a bigger expanse of land that was larger than Nebraska. It was killing her, not knowing. It was killing her, being alone. And most of all, it was killing her, not being able to do anything about it.
That's how she found herself knocking on the bedroom door, "Sheldon?"
His answer was quick, and it was strong, "Yes, Penny?" he wasn't asleep.
"Can I come in?" She cursed herself when her words cracked.
It was the first time she had ever been in the room. Maybe half the size of the living space, it was just as dark and bare as the rest of the bunker. There was a massive bed, though – at least a Queen Size mattress – sitting in the middle of the room. A cocooned Sheldon was sitting up on the far side, staring at her.
"I know we said that this would be your room," she said, picking at her fingernails – and then at her ring. "But for tonight, of all nights, I really don't want to be alone." Her eyes were welling up, she sniffed.
"Your family?" he asked.
She nodded as the first tear fell.
He sat still for only a moment, biting his lip, "come on." He pushed back the covers and motioned for her to crawl in.
"Thank you," she whispered, as she wrapped her arms around his waist in an attempt at a hug.
"It is scientifically prophesized that we, as survivors, would have some kind of survivor's guilt during or after the shower," he didn't move to hug her back, but he let her hold him.
He laid back down, Penny still clinging to him. Honestly, he didn't mind – as he couldn't sleep. His thoughts just kept going back to all the people left on the surface. Penny's presence was soothing in the new, giant, unappealing room.
"…do you think I'm selfish?" he asked after awhile.
"What?" she moved her face so she could see his. He was staring up at the ceiling.
"Selfish. My mom says that it is morally right that we put others before ourselves."
Penny readjusted a pillow underneath her shoulder, "no. You saved my life, Sheldon. If that isn't selfless, I don't know what is."
"Yeah, but I did all this so I wouldn't be upset."
Penny readjusted again, "you'd be upset if something happened to me?"
Through the darkness of the room, Penny saw Sheldon's blue eyes look down at her from above his shoulder, "yes, Penny. You have woven yourself into the very fabric of my life. The very thought of your absence from my life was causing distress that I don't think I would have been able to function through if it were to become a tangible situation. I need to be at the top of my physical, psychological, and emotional game if I were to do any good for humanity down here."
Did Sheldon, in his own, crazy, wacky, wordy way, tell Penny that he couldn't function if she were gone? She was suddenly very glad for all the years she had forced herself to learn Sheldon-speak.
Penny sat up and looked down at him, "that's very sweet, Sheldon. And not at all selfish."
"If saving you was for my own needs, then how does that not fall under the category of selfish?"
She bit her lip, "Sheldon. Why are you so interested in the idea of selflessness all the sudden? Two weeks ago you were kicking me out of your apartment for going in your room."
It was late after a night of Sheldon getting his ass handed to him by a short blonde via Halo, maybe two or three in the morning. Leonard had gone home to New Jersey to warn his family and to announce when they'd be leaving.
And Sheldon was having a nightmare.
In his nightmare, he was on the phone with Penny. She was scared, and was calling him for comfort. The meteors were hitting Earth and she didn't know what to do. He didn't know what to tell her, how to tell her that she'd likely not survive. He was safe, underground, where – even if a meteor had hit the water, he wouldn't be harmed by the tidal wave. But Penny…
Penny, however, was standing outside watching the show with her own eyes. And Sheldon couldn't do anything about it.
"MOVE!" he screamed, "RUN!" he yelled, "I'M SORRY!" he cried. No matter what he did and yelled into his phone, they were both helpless.
And then he was being shaken awake by the same blonde he was worried for.
"Sheldon, sweetie," she ran a hand down the side of his face, "it's just a nightmare, wake up!"
Eyes wide, he stared at her, gathering his surroundings. And all at once – he realized she was in his room.
"Penny! Nobody comes into my room!" He jumped out of bed and pulled her out into the living room.
"You were screaming, Sheldon!" She argued back, being drug by her forearm. "Leonard isn't home, I was worried!"
"Nobody goes into my room!"
"Sheldon, I'm sorry – the way you were yelling it was like a robber came through your window or something! I had to help!"
He was groggy and still had adrenaline pumping from his dream. It was a strange hormonal mix. He rubbed his eye furiously, "a robber, Penny? Four stories up?"
"…maybe! I didn't know, Sheldon! I'm sorry for being concerned about your life!"
She started to storm out, angry, her hair blazing out behind her. He was reminded of her voice in his dream. Scared, quiet, helpless… not at all like she really was…
She paused at the door, her mouth still a thin line, still very much angry.
"Thank you for being concerned about my well being." Staring at him a moment longer, she nodded, and turned to leave. "It's just…"
She turned back, curious.
"…it's my room Penny."
Her eyebrows furrowed, "I know." It was short and sharp.
"My room," he continued. "No one else's. Not Leonard's, not my sister's, not yours, or anyone else's but mine."
Penny's head bobbed up and down slowly, understanding. It was his place to be a human, she realized. With his childhood, he probably never had a room to himself…
"No one goes in my room, Penny."
"I know." Her voice was tender and kind. His tense shoulders fell. "But even you have nightmares and need someone to wake you up." He watched her leave, and felt the loneliness of the apartment take over his adrenaline.
He did not fall asleep again that night.
He took a deep breath at the memory. Penny's soap smelled like smooth vanilla and it mixed with the already stale smell of the room with a sharp contrast.
"A lot has changed in two weeks, Penny," she could see a gleam off his left hand.
"Yeah…" she trailed, "I guess so."
Their eyes met. Penny was particularly vulnerable at the moment, and she knew if Sheldon was any less of a person, he would have had her naked and wreathing beneath him as soon as he could undo her bra hooks. But he was Sheldon. He was laying still, hands crossed at his chest, staring at her.
She smiled, and sat up on her knees, "Sheldon?"
"Yeah?" he responded.
"I'm going to kiss you."
He moved away from her, just enough that it hurt her feelings, "why?"
She huffed with frustration, "because. Tonight is the end of the world. I just agreed to act as your wife. And you just said some of the sweetest things I've ever heard you say. Hell, some of the sweetest things I've ever heard any guy say."
"What if I do not agree to this action?"
"Sheldon," she licked her lips, "shut up."
Placing a hand on each side of his face, she leaned down and lingered – just as their noses touched. Butterflies erupted in Penny's stomach, her breath began to hurry, and she shivered with anticipation. But before she could hold off any longer, or enjoy the few precious moments that occurred before a first kiss – like his smell, or the feel of his five o'clock shadow – Sheldon had reached up and captured her lips with his.
Once, Penny was told the story of the perfect kiss through her favorite movie called "The Princess Bride." How, in all of history, there had only been five kisses that had been the most romantic and the most pure. And the perfect kiss had left them all behind.
The kiss she had just shared with Sheldon was, in no way, competition for that amazing, perfect kiss. Or even the five that it had beat out. That kiss was quick and fast and not at all enjoyable. Penny was caught off guard by Sheldon's sudden eagerness and pulled back.
That first kiss was nowhere near memorable and almost not worth mentioning, but the one after that – the one where Sheldon reached up with his left hand, tangled his fingers in her hair, gently cupped the back of her head, and pulled her back down to meet his warm lips in an embrace that made them both forget that humanity might be facing its end – now that kiss was.
It had been almost half a year since the last time Missy saw her twin brother. He came home for Easter weekend at the request of their mother five months ago. That was the last time she had seen her brother in person. He was supposed to come home for their birthday last June, but he was called away to the freakin' North Pole.
When she first heard his excuse for missin' their twenty fourth, she thought it was some elaborate lie. Sheldon did always lie with an extraordinary flair. He didn't do little white lies – he created concrete and elaborate back-story to support whatever excuse he was creating in order to make that excuse reality.
Once, he told the little girl in the trailer next door that he was an only child. That was a miserable three weeks, two days, and forty two minutes.
So, excuse her if she didn't believe he was going to the North Pole.
But Sheldon had called their mother, announcing he would be coming home for a few days. It was a random Tuesday in August when he showed up in the Dallas Airport, one suitcase and three envelopes in hand.
"Hello," he had said, shrugging his shoulders.
Now, Missy loved her brother. She had always been proud to say that her twin had the brains that Einstein would be jealous of, but during the times like this – the times when he came home and stood at the exit of the airport with an annoyed look – she thought that maybe he was ashamed to be related to the three women waiting for him.
He was normally very tall and very proud. He walked, clad in an orange t-shirt and green plaid pants, like he was better than everyone else. It was a trait that Missy had sometimes wished she shared with him. How she wished she could walk around not caring what people thought of her. But today he walked toward them with his shoulders hunched forward and with weight in his steps.
Maddy, their little sister – who had actually just turned twenty one – ran up to their big brother. She was the only person Sheldon would actually open his arms for. At least, of what Missy could remember.
"Shelly!" enthusiasm practically radiated off the young woman.
"Madeline!" he returned, hugging her.
Missy and Mary exchanged smiles. Mary's was genuine, Missy's was forced.
It was going to be a long drive back to the trailer park.
Closing the door, he was unsure of where to go or what to do. It was an unfamiliar feeling – not knowing what he was doing – and he didn't like it too much.
Sheldon left Penny alone in the bunker. She wanted to be alone for awhile, she had told him. Something about personal space to take a shower and to think. He was confused, naturally, as any guy would be after a beautiful woman kicked him out the morning after sex.
But he was Sheldon, and every social protocol that he had studied and witnessed dictated that they were to wake up, enjoy breakfast together and then proceed with their separate days in a timely manner.
But here he was, standing outside in the hall, with the sudden need to speak to someone. Howard would likely make jokes concerning the situation. Taking into account Leonard's past with Penny's liaisons, Sheldon thought it best not to alarm his best friend with the details just yet. Talking to Raj about Penny was just out of the question – although he did have the most experience in this field.
So he went to the next person he could think of:
Knock, Knock, Knock
Knock, Knock, Knock
Knock, Knock, Knock
His sister threw open the door, clad in a bathrobe and wet hair. "You know, Sheldon, that knock was for when we were little and you needed to pee."
He shrugged, "I was under the assumption that I was to knock three times if I were to get your attention if the situation was important. I wasn't aware that this rule only applied to our adolescence."
"You only knock like that with me, so its okay," she smiled.
"Actually," he pushed up onto his toes and clasped his hands behind his back, "I knock like that in order to get Penny's attention as well."
Missy's face fell, "What is it, Sheldon?"
Sheldon's confusion doubled. Not only did he have his current predicament with Penny to deal with and the calculations sent to him from the astrology and radiation departments, but he was also staring at his twin sister's sad face and from her voice, he could tell she was not pleased with something.
"I need to speak to someone, and I feel you are the best for this particular conversation."
Her face lightened, and her lips stretched over her teeth in a smile, "come in, Shelly."
"Thank you, Melissa."
"Sheldon," she began, "only daddy calls me Melissa."
He nodded, understanding.
Maddy sunk down onto the old couch – which also happened to be Sheldon's old bed – hugging a throw pillow. Her hair had gotten so much longer since Sheldon last saw her. It was at least at her shoulder blades, and she no longer had bangs, but instead let that hair that frame her face.
He decided he liked it much better on his little sister. More aesthetically pleasing. He told her so.
Missy had chopped off all her hair just a week before.
Sheldon didn't say a thing.
Sheldon was sitting next to Maddy – Missy and Mary at the table across from them. They were all pointedly ignoring the lay-z-boy sitting against the window.
That chair was James Cooper's chair. He never sat anywhere else, sometimes even falling asleep in that old, ratty, blue chair. If Mr. Cooper was to come home from a long day's work to find any of his three children sitting in that chair – well, they only needed to learn that lesson once. No one ever sat in that chair – not even when they were telling their family about the end of the world.
"So, in less than two weeks…" the sentence got stuck in Maddy's throat.
"An estimated 70 percent of the world's population will be dead, yes." Sheldon answered.
"Holy hell, Sheldon!" Missy exclaimed.
Their mother, who had been unusually quiet throughout the entire conversation finally spoke, "Missy Leigh Cooper – you may be a grown woman – but you watch your language."
"Mom," she started, "my brother just told me that the world is pretty much over. I'm gonna fuckin' cuss."
Mary gave her a dark look, but Missy did not back down.
"So, what do we do?" Maddy softly asked.
Sheldon reached for the three envelopes, each with their own barcodes, "we have been assigned to the Bermuda base in the Atlantic Ocean."
"What?" Mary asked.
"I'm saving the lives of three of the four women that are the most important in my life," he said it with his usually, 'I can't believe you can't keep up,' tone, but the words he chose were beyond important to Missy.
He wanted to save their lives – Mr. I-don't-need-Texas. He came all the way home to save their lives. After years of acting out and trying to win his attention and loyalty, Missy finally won it. It took the end of the world, but he admitted that his family was important to him. That she was important to him.
Missy didn't mind coming in a tie with her mother and sister in the eyes of her brother – there was no way she'd be able to choose between any of them either. But it was the closest she felt to her brother in years.
And then Maddy asked her stupid, awful, brainless question. The question that permanently ruined Missy's good mood.
"Who's the fourth?"
But Maddy was right. He had mentioned a fourth. Because no matter how she tried, Missy was still tied for second.
It was Leonard. Penny stared at the bunker door, trying to swallow her anxiety. There was a part of her that was relieved by his visit and another that wanted to stay curled up in a tiny ball rather than face him.
"Come in," she said weakly.
He didn't look at her, at first, but she couldn't take her eyes off him. His opinion was important to her, dire to her survival. If he wasn't okay with her and Sheldon...
"Leonard," she started, unable to hold it in anymore, "I wanted to-"
He held up a single finger. She closed her mouth.
He took a deep breath, and then steadied himself with the edge of Sheldon's desk, looking over the endless whiteboard equations without really reading them.
"I should have known."
He began picking at the sleeve of his jacket, looking smaller than she felt. She didn't dare move.
"He's very … deep, isn't he?"
Penny wasn't sure if she was supposed to answer.
"I mean. He complains about you every chance he gets. Every chance. About you being a slob, about you disrupting our norm, about any little thing he can think of."
He turned and met eyes with her for the first time since she announced she was a married woman, "but I didn't even know he was trying to save you."
"That makes two of us."
He huffed a laugh and then shook his head, "it figures, right? One of the most selfless things he ever does, something that would have people start looking at him like a normal human and he keeps it to himself…" She wasn't sure if that was compliment or not. Deciding she was going to take it for one, she smiled.
"I wanted to apologize for running out on everyone last night."
She bit her lip, "it's alright. I wish I could have done the same. There were so many people and I had so much to deal with…"
"But I've been thinking ever since," he sat down in the chair next to her. "I should have known."
"How could you? I mean, from the sounds of it, the last thing he did before you left was put those notes on my door."
"No," he went back to picking at his sleeve. "That's not what I'm talking about."
She pushed her feet out from under her and leaned toward him, "…Leonard…"
"He complains about your clothes. How your tops are too low or your shorts are too high. It's not out of modesty. It's because he hates it when other guys look at you." His eyes were serious, his voice becoming stronger. "He complains about you stealing our food, but yet he stocks foods only you eat. He'd only do that if he wanted you to eat it. He readjusted Halo night. And while that is a miracle in itself, it is because your work schedule changed. He adjusted his schedule for you, Penny. So you could be there to kick his ass."
She shook her head, "Leonard…"
His words began to pick up speed, "He emailed you every day – if not more – while we were at the North Pole. He doesn't pretend he's someone else when we're out in public. That's not so people will say that he hangs out with a hot girl, Penny."
She rolled her eyes.
"He doesn't slow down when he geeks out about something. That's not because he thinks he's smarter than you, it's because he thinks you can keep up with him. Do you understand how big that is for Sheldon?"
"I know that you and I had something once upon a time," he pushed his glasses up his nose.
Oh no… "Leonard."
"Maybe if circumstances were different maybe that Fairy Tale could have been end-game…"
"I'm almost at my point, Penny, I swear!"
She licked her lips and motioned for him to continue, "fine."
"What I'm trying to say is this: I think, in some weird and bizarre way, Sheldon would be perfect for you."
Penny gulped. Relief washed over her. A shiver of happiness ran up her arms and painted itself on her face. And then she reached for Leonard's hands, "I know."
She nodded. "I'm glad you feel that way, Leonard. I'm going to need a friend like you down here."
Then he did something that reminded her of Cole the morning after the ice cube incident. He leaned forward with an evil little smile and asked, "so what's it like being married to Sheldon Cooper?"
She groaned, but happy that the mood had lifted, "please don't tease me just yet…"
His shoulders fell, disappointed, "Awe… you're no fun."
"Let me ask you something." She needed to change the subject, "What do you know about Fibonacci?"
"Sheldon!" Leonard ran into the apartment, "Sheldon, our evacuation has been moved up to today!"
Dr. Cooper was in the middle of a bowl of ramen. He had not yet told Penny of his plan. Worry bubbled to the top of his equilibrium. "But our pick up day isn't for another three days."
Leonard waved around his I-phone in answer, "Well, not according to the email I just got!"
Sheldon blinked, but it was long enough to process the new information. There was the chance that he might be leaving Penny… He had to blink again, "how long until they arrive?"
"We have until 10:30 to pack everything."
Sheldon stood, placing his napkin in his bowl, "correction. You have until 10:30 to pack everything. Over the course of the last three weeks, I have been steadily packing. I only have clothes and other such items to collect. If you had listened to my warnings of waiting to pack you would not be in this predicament."
Leonard's mouth dropped open, "yeah yeah, just help be pack up what we need from the living room. We can separate once we get there." He turned to start stacking things.
"Fine," he said, washing out his bowl in the sink, mind already formulating a new plan to accommodate the hasty new time-table. He was trying to find time to speak with Penny. The math was coming out unsuccessful. He then realized he was worried he wouldn't be able to talk to Penny in time, "I get the afghans."
"Fine!" Leonard shouted from under his desk – he was unplugging as fast as he could. "Just go get the boxes!"
Three hours later, they were standing in the lobby of their apartment building waiting on Howard, his mother, and Raj with everything they owned. That was about four suitcases and three boxes each and four big trunks full of comic books, memorabilia, and computer parts between the two of them.
Sheldon was unable to make contact with Penny. He was pacing, clawing to the strap of his bag, worrying the hell out of Leonard.
Then, they ran into Alicia.
"Hello boys!" she entered the lobby cheerily, flirting laced in her voice. "Goin' somewhere?"
"Oh, you know," Leonard shrugged.
"Have you seen Penny?" Sheldon asked suddenly, drawing an eyebrow from Leonard. "I knocked many times, she didn't answer."
Alicia's face went sour at the mention of Penny, "yeah." Her tone was no longer flirty, but deadpan. "I saw her come in this afternoon. She looked worn out from being on her feet all day. She's probably asleep."
"Right," Sheldon said as Alicia retreated up the stairs.
"It feels wrong without saying goodbye to Penny."
Sheldon nodded, 'it felt wrong leaving without Penny.' He added silently.
"We should email her or leave a note or something," Leonard had said. And suddenly it was clear as day as to what Sheldon had to do.
"Get out your notebook. I left something important upstairs; I'll go tape it to her door."
Sheldon was arriving at his bunker just as Leonard was leaving.
"Hello, Leonard," a greeting was the social protocol when running into a friend. Sheldon didn't know if that were still the same if you had married said friend's love interest.
"Hey Sheldon," he glanced at Missy's door, "been talking to your sister?"
The taller man nodded, "yes. I find her advice to be very helpful."
"What did you need advice about?"
"Penny," he said it without thinking of the implications that would have on his friend.
"Oh," Leonard blurted. "You do know that Missy's not the only one you can talk to about Penny, right?"
Sheldon's eyebrows met with confusion.
"You've got me too."
Sheldon let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding, "thank you Leonard. That is good to know."
Leonard smiled, and then clapped his friend on the arm, "I'll see you at work on Monday."
Nodding, Sheldon was certain that Leonard just gave him his blessing. "Of course. Goodbye Leonard."
Leonard disappeared around the corner and Sheldon was faced with a whole new obstacle; his front door.
He was back in Texas. Sitting with Missy alone in their trailer. He had told his family that they needed to begin packing in order to avoid stress and chaos at a later date. Maddy had told him they'd start packing tomorrow after they broke in her new kitchen for diner.
She was proud of her new apartment.
Maddy and their mother had left to begin cooking. Missy wanted to stay and share a piece of her mind with Sheldon.
But Sheldon burst before Missy could even open her mouth. He spoke of the fourth woman. Of Penny.
The way he spoke of Penny said volumes about his true feelings for the girl. He spoke of her shortcomings, her horrible taste in men, her clothes, her eyes, her Penny Blossoms, her ambitions, her drinking problem, her on-again off-again thing with Leonard.
He talked about her smile, and how seeing it would temporarily make him lose focus. He talked about her hair and how he liked it better on the days she let it curl. Like it was more natural, free, and light, and just all around her. He talked about how she had slowly and surely buried herself into his life.
He complained about just how deep she had gotten.
After he was finished, after he had said all that he was willing to say, he turned to Missy.
"I have never had one single person take up this much of my time and thought process. I am unsure as to how to proceed without her."
Missy was in shock at her brother's words. He spoke like he loved her and, coming from Sheldon's mouth, that did not compute. So, she stood up and smoothed out her skirt before sitting down again next to her twin brother. She chose her words wisely.
"If you care for Penny this much, Shelly, you've got to do somethin'."
"I know," he replied. He knew that he cared for her, that he needed to save her.
"So, what are you going to do?"
He looked up to the ratty blue chair next to the window and took a deep breath, "I'll either find a way, or make one."
Missy mused, "A dad saying." She shoved his shoulder, "look at you."
His eyes didn't leave the chair and he didn't say anything else.
Missy laid her head on her brother's shoulder, "I think Penny'd be good for you."
He turned to look at her, "really?"
Missy looked up at her brother and tried to focus all her sincerity into her next words, "if she's got you quotin' daddy again, defiantly."
Penny was sitting at the small table in the kitchen when Sheldon came home. She had curly hair and was wearing his favorite yellow blouse.
He smiled at the sight, and then she looked up.
"Come here," she said – reaching out for him.
He didn't say anything, but did as she requested of him, sitting down at the table with her. He noticed she had a piece of paper smoothed out in front of her.
It was the same note he had taped to her door over a week ago.
She pushed the paper toward him, "I know what all this means," she said, not a hint of sadness or anger in her voice. From his assessment, his confusion doubled.
"Aut viam inveniam aut faciam," she said, "find a way or make one."
She then pointed to the coordinates, "these were the only real directions you gave me, weren't they?"
Sheldon nodded again.
"You see, I did research on Fibonacci. How his math was also called the Bunny Population Equation and how all these numbers showed up in nature.
"But I never understood why you wrote this on what could have been your last words to me."
He opened his mouth; Penny held a finger to it, shushing him.
"The Golden Spiral?"
He nodded yet again.
"Leonard says it has a lot of meanings. Aesthetically pleasing, and used in architecture and all that. So why'd you use it?"
"It's the symbol for natural beauty and balance," he said. "You know what the sequence is, right?"
She shook her head.
"Of course. One plus one is two. Two plus one is three. Three plus two is five. So on, so forth. Adding the last two numbers in the sequence together to create the next number in the sequence. It can go on forever, growing exponentially."
Penny was kinda following, "all right."
"You are right, The Golden Spiral is found in nature. It is the geometrical blueprint of life itself. It shows up in plant life, aquatic animals, and even the human umbilical cord."
"Wow," Penny sat back, "that's a pretty important piece of math, isn't it?"
Sheldon licked his lips, "without it, shapes and colors and evolutionary processes would not be what they have been for the last couple million years. We, as in the creatures of this planet, would be nothing without the Golden Spiral."
Penny ran a hand through her hair. He leaned over the table and looked Penny straight in the eye, "some have called it key to the cosmos."
"So why did you put that on this note?"
He blinked, "I thought it would be obvious by now," he said. Her lips met in a tight line at his words. She hated it when he held his smarts over her head, "You are my Golden Spiral, Penny."
She didn't move.
He began to worry, "Penny?"
"Sheldon…" she whispered. "This was your geeky way of tell me that you love me?"
He stared at the note, thinking back to when he drew that quick Fibonacci spiral. It was messy and uncalculated.
Leonard had written his quick note in his notebook, and Sheldon was making his quick trip upstairs. He stopped on the fourth floor landing, with one last attempt to wake Penny.
Leaving her here was physically hurting him, and he was confused as to why. And as any scientist would do, he began to look at it like an experiment. Process information, construct hypothesis, test, and process information, publish results.
Process information: he was worried that he was leaving Penny to her death.
Construct hypothesis: could he have feelings beyond neighborly and friendship?
Test: he stared at her door. Yes, his mind concluded.
Process information, publish results: that's when it hit him; she was like a math equation. He pulled out a pen and began writing out his thought process.
Leaving her was like getting further and further away from the Golden Mean. Away from his center.
Venturing one last time into his apartment for some scotch tape, Sheldon left the notebook on the table – only tearing out his math problem. And ran back into the hallway, locking the door behind him.
He had forgotten Leonard's note left alone in the apartment on the coffee table. He had forgotten his own – written quickly and messy at the bottom of Leonard's. He wasn't concerned with penmanship at the moment; he was in the middle of the greatest personal discovery of his life.
"Yes," he answered Penny. "I guess it is."
Then the brightest smile he had ever witnessed burst across her face. She leaped across the table and threw her arms around him – kissing him with every ounce of anxiety and apprehension that had been building up to this point. He was thrown off by her sudden movement, and barely had time to catch her before his lips were distracted.
She pulled back with a sigh, "you love me."
Sheldon nodded, watching her eyes shine. He was addicted to her face, her eyes, her nose, and her mouth – her beautiful mouth.
He had once thought it impossible, but her smile only grew brighter.
Six hours later, they were putting in a request for a new kitchen table. As much as Sheldon loved her, and as much as Penny tried to convince him it was okay (with the use of Lysol spray and other cleaning products), eating off that table just wasn't sanitary.
Not to mention, the very thought of that evening would just be a distraction for Sheldon for the rest of his life…