A loud slam from across the hall alerted the inhabitants of 4A to Penny's arrival after her date with what's-his-name, her latest body builder with the IQ of a garden snail. Leonard pressed the pause button, effectively stopping the halo battle they had been enjoying. The two physicists shared a look and Leonard pointedly raised an eyebrow. Sheldon shook his head. Leonard raised his fist, and they began a murmured rendition of Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock, Raj and Howard doing the same.
Sometimes things Sheldon knew like the back of his hand didn't seem to make sense, though he knew that they were logical, sound theories. But according to the rule of large numbers, there was an equal chance of him losing or winning against Leonard. The same applied for both Raj and Howard. But it just didn't add up.
Sheldon frowned, staring at his fingers in the V formation. Why did he always choose Spock?
He always lost.
Knock knock knock
Knock knock knock
Knock knock knock
The lanky scientist lifted his fist to knock again, but a muffled 'Go away, Sheldon' made him stop. Looking around to ensure that no one would witness what he was about to do, Sheldon began talking to the door. He was well aware that if he could hear her, the woman inside could hear him.
"Penny, may I please come in? I merely wish to talk, and I promise to endeavour not to irritate you as you seem to be in a current state of distre-"
His last word was interrupted by the door opening, revealing Penny in her 'home clothes'. Her grey sweatpants just hiding her bare feet, and a patterned jumper her Granma had knitted her swamped the petite blonde. Sheldon immediately noted the 'breakup attire' as it had been christened by himself and Leonard, and recognized that this was going to be an uncomfortable evening. Behind her on the kitchen island was a bottle of vodka. He ignored it, and turned his attention back to the dishevelled girl in front of him. Her face was slightly blotchy and her eyes were puffy. She had been crying, and let out a rather choked sob as he followed her back into her apartment without a word, and sat down at the kitchen island.
She began to cry in earnest, and he looked anywhere but at the woman next to him, feeling extremely uncomfortable. He picked up the bottle off her bench and placed it in the fridge. When she ran out of tissues, she simply stood and moved to stand closer to him near the sink. She used his shoulder. He did his best not to think of her invasion of his space, instead lifting two gangly arms and placing them delicately around her in an inept hug, giving an awkward 'There, there' at the same time. He briefly wondered if he should empty the bottle in the fridge so it would not be there for her later.
Penny calmed after a while, her tears abiding. She pulled out her phone and with Sheldon watching intently over her shoulder, deleted 'what's-his-face's' number from her address book. Sheldon restarted his comfort technique, his large hand smoothing itself over her shoulder in a calming way. She briefly wondered why he wasn't jumping away from her, blathering nervously about personal space and contamination.
She closed her phone with a snap, casually checking the time.
8:23pm, on Wednesday the 19th of November, 2008.
Sheldon was still rubbing her shoulder, (counter-clock wise, she noted) murmuring 'There there'. Across the hall Raj, Howard and Leonard were playing Halo3, because it was Halo night. They would be playing one on one because they didn't have the right numbers, because one of them – because Sheldon was at her place, making her feel better about her lack of ability to meet trustworthy men.
Penny turned back towards Sheldon, and looped her arms around his waist, giving him a quick hug. To his credit he did bring his arms up to hug back, even if it was stiffly.
"You're a good friend Sheldon."
"I came over here on the basis that I lost rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock. I'm not a good friend." He said bluntly back.
Penny squeezed her arms tighter around him, knowing full well the conditions under which he was there.
"A friend is someone who is there for you when he'd rather be somewhere else." She whispered, and when he gave her a confused look, she gestured to the door, letting him know she realised what it was he had given up.
"I thought it was a non-optional social convention, taking care of ones friends?" Sheldon inquired, making Penny laugh.
"It is Sheldon. But you're just especially good at it."
He gave her that half shrug of his, a slight blush creeping into his pale cheeks.
This was why he always chose Spock.