"Why couldn't mom have booked a nice mid-morning flight?" Emma whined. She was gathering up the last of her things that had become scattered around the apartment over the last week. "Or even an afternoon flight."
"Well, it seems pretty clear that she hates you." Penny smiled at the red head. Despite the early hour, Penny was feeling better today than she had in years.
"I know," Emma sighed. "At least I'll be able to sleep on the plane."
"Sure, planes are always great places to get rest," Penny quipped.
Emma pulled her iPod off the charger, checking the lock function. "So, what were you talking to mom about last night?"
Penny surveyed her niece. "Grown up stuff," she eventually said.
"So, what was the decision on Dr. Strangelove?" Emma asked, smiling innocently. Penny rolled her eyes, grinning.
"None of your business," Penny said, lifting a bag to her shoulder.
"Aww," Emma pouted. "I don't get to find out how it all ends? That is so unfair."
Penny grabbed her keys off the table by the door. "Em, there is no 'all'. It'll probably blow over." She shrugged and opened the door.
"And what about the astounding cave discovery?" Emma questioned.
Penny laughed at this, steering the young girl out the door. "Um…." She thought for a moment. "I'm pretty sure the entire thing would have fizzled before anything could happen anyway."
Emma started down the steps in front of her. Penny glanced at the closed door of 4A before following. "Why do you say that?"
"Because," Penny rationalized. "He is too…obtuse to ever understand what I'm saying, to understand a normal relationship. Add that to my clear mental breakdown, and bazinga!" Emma giggled tiredly. "Disaster."
"I think you're wrong."
"Lang- oh, you're leaving. I don't care." Penny responded. "What's wrong?"
"I unplugged my iPod, but didn't grab the cord," Emma explained. "I'll be right back." She dropped her bags and trudged back up the four flights of stairs they'd just descended. Penny stepped past the pile of luggage Emma had left in the lobby and continued out to the parking lot.
Things would be better this way.
She was almost partly convinced.
"Here's an interesting fact."
Penny looked up, startled. There he stood, hands clasped behind his back, the sun rising behind him in the distance.
"The line 'Scarecrow, I think I'll miss you most of all' is taken out of context."
She suddenly felt like there was an elephant sitting on her chest. She swallowed, her throat uncomfortably dry. "Really?"
"Mmm, yes." He took a step toward her. "There was an earlier draft of the script in which there was a subplot involving a romance between Dorothy and the Scarecrow. The producers cut all of the scenes suggesting such a storyline, but left in that small moment." Another step. "The way the film stands, there really is no reason as to why Dorothy would miss the Scarecrow any more than, say, the Cowardly Lion."
Penny opened and then closed her mouth several times before she could get any words to come out. "Oh" was all she managed. She bit her lower lip, narrowing her eyes at the sunlight.
"Yes." He took another small step toward her. "Were you aware of that trivia fact?"
It was not until this moment that Penny noticed that Sheldon wasn't actually making eye contact with her, but looking over her shoulder, his eye twitching.
But, he was here. He'd planned this. Changed his schedule for her. Could that mean…? Penny shook her head dumbly, continuing to stare at him wide-eyed.
"She was going home," Penny finally said quietly.
"She was running away," Sheldon shot back quickly.
"No, she was running away to Oz," Penny pointed out. "But she realized there was no place like home."
"This is your home."
Even though his face was hidden in his own shadow, she saw a defiance there that she'd never seen with such clarity. He took another step toward her, closing most of the gap that had stood between them.
"No, no. I got it all, thanks."
Penny turned to see Emma struggling toward them with her suitcases, sunglasses on her face. "Hey Stretch, come to see me off?"
"I hope your flight back is satisfactory," Sheldon responded sincerely.
Emma stared at him blankly for a moment. "Well, I guess that's as good as it's gonna get, huh?" She walked over to the car and opened the back door with a flourish. Then pulling out her cell phone, she acknowledged them again. "If you're gonna kiss her, could you get on with it? We have a plane to catch."
Penny's stared at her relative, slack-jawed in shock.
"Is your whole family crazy?" Sheldon intoned.
"Yes," she answered quickly. She turned her head to watch Emma struggle with her bags, stuffing them into the tiny car.
"Why, if Dorothy cares for the Scarecrow, does she go back to Kansas?"
"Because he never asks her to stay." Penny clapped a hand over her mouth in horror, before trying to brush it off with a little cough and a rub of her nose. She continued to watch her niece, determined not to look at the man standing before her.
He cleared his throat, drawing attention to himself. "Stay." It's quiet, but as serious as she'd ever heard him. Penny felt her lip quivering, and she needed to blink rapidly to keep the sudden wetness in her eyes from rolling down her cheeks.
He fidgeted, opening and then closing his mouth several times. "I…I can't, I don't…."
Penny took a cautious step toward him. This was it, she had to make him understand, realize. "'The Wizard Of Oz' is my favorite movie of all time." Sheldon flinched slightly, but stayed where he was. " "When I was eleven, my mother bought me this…" Penny took a deep breath. "This trivia book. Basically everything nobody knows about the movie." The tall physicist tilted his head back, appraising her. "I... knew what I was saying." Penny, stealing herself, brought her hands up and placed them palm down on on his thin but sturdy chest. "Why should I stay, Sheldon?" She tilted her head up toward him, swallowing around the lump in her throat.
He hesitantly lowered his own face to her, placing a soft kiss on her mouth before straightening up.
The car horn honked suddenly, and Emma squealed from the front seat of the car. "Wooooo!"
Penny glanced over at her niece before turning her attention back to Sheldon, who seemed completely unsure of himself. She couldn't help the rush of affection she felt bubble up inside of her. She smiled at him warmly.
Sheldon narrowed his eyes at the blonde. "Were you testing me?"
Penny feigned shock for a moment. "Of course not, I just...." She tried to think of how to say it. "I thought it would be more of an inside joke between...well, me and me."
"So, it was a joke?" He was frowning now.
"No, sweetie." She chuckled. "I just thought it would be something you wouldn't understand."
"Like almost everything that comes out of your mouth." She glared at him.
"It was just my way of saying something without actually saying something." She shrugged, screwing her face up.
"I looked it up on Wikipedia," he offered.
Penny grinned at him. "Well, but anyone can post stuff on there."
"Ugh, I am aware."
Here she went.
"Sheldon, have you heard of 'Short Circuit'?"
"It's a robot movie," he said by way of answer, rolling his eyes.
"Okay," she said, shaking off the urge to slug him. "Well here's the thing. It's apparently being redone, and I'm friends with the casting director. She slipped my head shot to the director and he loved my look." She stopped to breathe, afraid she might burst with excitement. "They called last night and he wants me to come in on Friday. He thinks I might be perfect for the Ally Sheedy part."
Sheldon smiled at her, his eyes twinkling in the early morning sunlight. "Congratulations, Penny."
"Thank you," she answered, not able to keep the smile off her face.
"So you're….not leaving then?" She shook her head. "Were you never planning on leaving?"
Penny tilted her head to the side, gazing at him affectionately. "No, I was. In fact, I'm still packed. But...it turns out I'm not done with California yet."
He gave her a wavering smile. Grinning widely, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down, kissing him eagerly. He flailed for the tiniest moment before placing his fingertips gingerly on her ribcage. He was a rookie, that much was clear. But there was a gentle grace to him, even now as his lips danced over hers. Things would only get better.
"Seems that California isn't done with you, either," he muttered when they'd finally broken apart. Penny threw her head back, laughing.
"Guys, seriously…" Emma had climbed out of the car now and was taking her last bag from Penny. "I don't have a license, so I shouldn't really drive myself." She looked between the two adults. Penny shook herself, trying to clear her head.
"Okay kid, let's get you home." Emma hauled the bag back to the car as Penny turned to Sheldon again.
"I have to work," Sheldon said immediately. Penny raised her eyebrows. "I don't have the time or brain faculties to come up with a lie the likes of which I would need to call in sick."
"Okay," she nodded reassuringly. Gently, she touched his side, just above his hip.
He glanced down at her hand, but she boldly kept it where it was. He licked his lips quickly and she felt herself grin widely.
"But you'll be home later, when I get home?"
"Oh good, then you can drive me to the comic book store."
Okay, so that's all she wrote. Literally. There's no more. Hope everyone liked it!