Title: All Things Considered
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters.
Notes: I'm sure this could be much better. Some of the science and technical terms may be off, but I have weathered hurricanes before, probably more than is wise. Having weathered Ivan and Katrina, I can truly say that it's a surreal experience.
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All things considered, Sheldon mused, waking up with an armful of Penny was far from the worst thing that had happened that week.
Distracted by her soft warm breaths against his collarbone, he made a list...
1. The hurricane. Global warming, which he was almost positive to be a contributing factor in the unpredictable weather patterns that had resulted in the storm increasing in strength from a low Category 2 to borderline Category 3 in the span of eight hours.
2. Leonard, Howard, and Raj deciding that to avoid the storm by taking another trip to Las Vegas. Having already planned to spend the weekend in the lab to monitor his experiment, Sheldon found no reason to alter them. The college buildings were structurally sound and he wouldn't have to worry about being the sole occupant of the grounds, holding down the fort, as it were, because the meteorology students were bunking down in campus facilities to track the storm.
3. Penny not following the disaster preparedness plan as advised by the U.S. Government.
4. Penny's financial situation causing her to choose to work at the Cheesecake Factory to help lock things down for the storm. It was time that could have been better spent preparing for the storm, and really if her lack of funds to travel out of time or properly prepare for the storm were that dire, he would have gladly loaned her the funds.
5. Penny's car stalling down a flooded street. She was relatively close the the college campus when it happened. He'd left one of the outer doors unlocked for her, so he he was surprised that her sour mood continued once she was safely inside the building.
He tugged the door hard against the wind, getting misted several times by the torrential downpour before it finally slammed shut.
"Penny, you're soaked," he observed.
"It's raining outside, genius."
The ire in her voice made him wonder if she didn't mean genius in the conventionally accepted sense of the word. The floral hooded jacket she'd been wearing was soaked through and she peeled it off her body as she followed him down the hall, her sneakers making a squish-squeak sound as she walked across the tiled floor.
She continued to glare at him when he tried to put a towel at her feet so the water dripping from her body would not create a breeding ground for mildew and bacteria. Penny reach down and ripped the towel from his hands. She then proceeded to dry her face and hair.
Suddenly, Penny pulled the towel down away from her face and burst into tears.
Sheldon's eyes widened and he stopped in his tracks, paralyzed with the inexplicable fear that accompanied a crying woman. His stomach felt as though it had dropped to reside somewhere near his knees, which he knew to be a biological impossibility.
She was standing closer than an arm's length away. Sheldon lifted his arms, awkwardly, not knowing if he should touch her, but wanting her to resume walking. She must have mistaken his actions as some sort of invitation to embrace him, because suddenly her damp head was buried in his shoulder as her sniffles turned into sobs.
He gently placed his hand on her back, against her shoulder blades and patted a few times. That's what people did, wasn't it? "There, there."
"I'm sorry," she sniffed. "I know you hate me crying on you," she tried to pull away, and Sheldon felt no compulsion to release her. She tipped her head back, looking at him in confusion before she leaned against his side.
"Trying and stressful events, such as impending natural disasters, particularly the prospect of death through submersion in and inhalation of water, can oftentimes bring on an overwhelming emotional response," Sheldon said, as he took the opportunity to guide her down the hall, and she followed his lead.
"But my car..." she whined, as fresh tears sprung to her eyes.
"It is true, your car was not the most reliable model, as you purposefully ignored my advice to get your engine diagnosed. Perhaps you could view this as an opportunity to start fresh..."
Penny started shaking against him, and for a horrifying moment, Sheldon felt that he had made things worst, until he heard a watery giggle coming from his side. "Gee, Sheldon, you sure know how to cheer a girl up."
The fact that she prefaced the statement with "gee" along with the deadpan delivery of the words that was in sharp contrast to the usual cheeriness of her voice alerted him that she was employing sarcasm.
"I am glad you escaped from your flooded vehicle and were able to make arrive here relatively unscathed. And, as I know how much nostalgic value you place on your material possessions, I am almost certain that your clothes can be laundered and returned to their former condition."
The moisture from her clothing was soaking into his side now, even moreso as she wrapped her cool arms around him, squeezing his midsection, but he decided this momentary physical discomfort was of little consequence.
6. Penny wearing his clothes vintage The Flash t-shirt.
"Why are you here anyway, Sheldon? I figured you'd be the first one out of the city."
He didn't look up from the monitor as he replied, "Normally you would be correct. However, given the delayed evacuation order and the fact that I had an experiment running, the importance of which I couldn't bear to lose the results through some unforeseen failure of the universities generators, I decided my presence was most needed here.
"Additionally, I'm used to this kind of thing."
"Oh, right. You lived on the coast. I guess when your aluminum house slips off the cinder blocks, this isn't so bad in comparison."
He' heard the chair creak under her weight and finally turned to regard her, just in time to see her draw her legs up to her chest. Her feet were clad in his brown striped socks— the ones that matched the shirt she was wearing—the fabric pulled up to just below her knee.
"Sheldon," His head jerked up to her face as she snapped her fingers in front of his eyes.
"What is it, Penny?" Sheldon replied with annoyance, as he turned his gaze to her face
"You were staring at my legs," she said with a strange lilt to her voice, and the slight smirk that followed her statement unsettled him.
"Are you cold?" he asked.
"Your flesh appears to have contracted around the hair follicles on your arms and legs, an evolutionary response in order to preserve body heat. Given the way you've curled your limbs close to your body, I assumed your are unable to sustain a level of body heat to prevent such a reaction. Ergo," he nodded to her pimpled flesh, "Are you cold?"
"Oh." She blinked and pulled her legs closer to her chest. "Yeah, I guess," she mumbled.
Sheldon stood and picked up the blanket he had brought down and draped over the back of his chair. He could feel Penny's eyes on him as he unfolded the material walked around behind her and wrapped the fabric around her shoulders.
"Thank you," Penny said, smiling up at him. It was a lot like the smile she gave him when she became a Level 3 Warrior while still a newb at Age of Conan.
"You're welcome," he replied before turning his attention back to the monitor, a shock of warmth spreading down his neck as he took his former place before the console.
Several minutes later, Penny got up and walked out of his line of vision. "Don't touch anything," he called.
She didn't respond and a few seconds later he heard the rubber of the air mattress being disturbed. He whirled around in his chair. He stared as she settled down on the cushion, folding the blanket in half and inserting her body between the two side.
"Penny," he started.
"Yeah, Sheldon," she said as she continued to smooth the cover.
"That's where I sleep," he stated, trying to keep his voice even so as not to trigger her unpredictable temper.
"I know Sheldon, you've got the whole other side," she acknowledged, gesturing vaguely to the opposite end of the mattress.
"Yes, but I didn't plan for this contingency. I sleep in the middle of the mattress, and—"
His words halted as Penny bolted upright simply to glare at him. "And. What. Sheldon." She cocked her eyebrow in challenge.
Apparently he had violated some type of social protocol.
"I know you don't expect me to sleep on the floor." It was a cross between a statement and a question, and judging from the set of Penny's jaw and the narrow slits around her green eyes, Sheldon deduced that if his response was less than appropriate, he would make he would live to regret surrendering to sleep in her presence.
Sheldon chewed the inside of his lip and averted his eyes from her seething gaze. "No."
"No what?" Penny asked.
"No...I do not expect you to sleep on the floor," he sighed, hazarding a glance in her direction. In his mind's eye he pictured his mother's pleased smile and wondered why his mind had conjured up that image. He attributed it to the low barometric pressure wreaking havoc on his hypothalamus.
Seeming to find his answer satisfactory, Penny sighed and plopped back against the cushion, pulling the cover back over her shoulder.
"Don't worry, I should have no problem suppressing my libido or whatever. If I move over to your side, just nudge me back over," she yawned.
For some reason, Sheldon found Penny's last words to him that night less than comforting.
7. Penny's lack of respect for his personal space.
It wasn't his maladjusted circadian rhythm that awakened him. Something tickled his chin and bottom lip and Sheldon scrunched his face against the sensation. His limbs heavy with the haze of sleep, he attempted to move his right hand to brush away whatever creature had invaded his sleeping area. This is why he hated sleeping on the floor, or being resigned the the low level of the air mattress.
There was a weight against his arm, though, preventing him from moving it, and it was then that Sheldon tensed and opened his eyes. He peered down, a blur of yellow meeting his eyes, before they focused and he realized it was hair...a head...a blond, vanilla oil-scented head.
He lifted his head, careful not to stir her and glanced over the top of her head. Her left shoulder was pressed against his right side, her torso nearly completely on top of his, and he was hyperaware the soft curves of her body warm against him.
Even more alarming was the placement of his hands. Instead of it's usual place flat against his chest, his right arm was wrapped around her back, his hand resting on her upper arm. His left hand was resided just a little lower on her body, the traitorous appendage placed just above her right side of her waist. Most peculiar.
Carefully, Sheldon sat back and pondered on his current predicament. He had no well of knowledge from which to draw as to the correct social protocol for a situation such as this. His first thought was to attempt to move her back to her side of the air mattress. But how did one go about doing such thing?
Sheldon slowly slid his body to the left. When he'd moved what he deduced to be only a few inches, Penny made a soft mewing sound, and curled her body around him even more. She must imagine him to be some steroid addled lover, no doubt.
He tensed again and looked down at the head of hair. It remained unmoved, and for several seconds, he feared he was experiencing some stress-induced hallucination.
"Sheldon, what time is it?"
This time he was sure he heard it, and he felt Penny's light breath against his chest. He swallowed against the sudden dryness against his throat, lifted his left wrist and looked down at the glowing face of his watch.
"It's 8:03 a.m.," he told her.
"You remember my rule about knocking on my door before 11 a.m..."
"Or you punch me in the throat? Yes, I recall," he affirmed watching with interest as his fingers lifted up and then touched back down to her body as he spoke. Most curious, he noted. "But what does that have to do with...Oh."
He felt her cheek move against his chest in a way that made him conclude that she was smiling, or at least smirking, which was strange to him, because he saw no humor in this situation.
"You stayed up late last night, way past your bedtime. If you wake me up in 30 minutes, I promise not to punch you in the throat."
Sheldon's eyebrows knitted in confusion. Penny must have taken his silence as acquiescence, for she sighed and relaxed against him. Her fingers smoothed the fabric of his pajamas across his chest before gently resting against the space right above his heart.
At that, the whiteboard of Sheldon's mind was wiped clean of all the retorts that fought their way to be the first out of his mouth. Just as quickly, he forgot to set his alarm to go off in thirty minutes, and as he listed all the things that had gone wrong with that week, he fell asleep and didn't wake up again until nearly noon.
All things considered, waking up to an armful of Penny, not having slept long at all, but deep and well, wasn't so bad.