I know I should be writing more of "The Twin Bed Affinity," but this wouldn't go away, so I wrote it. It is now late at night, and I have just posted it rather badly on Paradox. (I messed up the LJ cut or something, and I'm too tired and stupid to figure out how to fix it.)
3AM. Crap. Ought to be in bed. I'm in almost as foul a mood as Penny will shortly be …
Penny stormed into her apartment, trying her best not to cry or scream or break anything she would regret destroying. Impulsively she pulled out a large suitcase from the back of her closet before collapsing onto her bed, slamming her face into her pillow and letting out a long moan.
Packing wouldn't do a damn thing. She still had three months left on her lease, and she definitely couldn't afford to move and eat the rent on this apartment. Besides, it wasn't as if she was aching to go back to Nebraska, even if she and Leonard had split up.
Knock knock knock. "Penny?" She looked up, surprised. Sheldon stood in the doorway to her darkened bedroom, a corona of light illuminating his lanky figure.
"Sheldon," she whispered, and for some reason, just saying his name made her burst into the angry, frustrated tears she had managed to hold back while talking- then shouting- at Leonard.
He tensed, but after a moment of indecision, he moved slowly toward the bed and sat down next to where she was sprawled. His hand hovered for a moment before dropping into an awkward tapping pattern. "There, there." Leaning over, not interrupting the patting motion, he liberated a tissue box from the pile of crap at the foot of her bed.
"Thanks," she said, taking one of the proffered tissues and loudly blowing her nose. "I take it you heard." Once the yelling had started, Sheldon had turned a funny shade of violet and fled to his room, but surely the argument would have been audible to his weird Vulcan super-ears.
"Yes." Pat pat pat. Pause. Pat pat pat. Pause. He had fallen into the familiar knocking pattern, only it was on her arm instead of her door.
"So I guess this was the inevitable and messy end you kept talking about," Penny said, her voice sounding a lot more bitter than she intended.
The patting hand jerked to a stop. "I wasn't going to mention that," Sheldon said, watching her warily from the corners of his eyes, "as I assumed it would fall under the category of 'told you so.' But if you want to delve into that subject-"
Penny shuddered. "Oh, hell no!" Sitting up, she shoved the suitcase off the bed and onto the floor, crawling toward the edge to sit next to Sheldon.
Sheldon's blue eyes immediately fixed on the suitcase. "Are you packing?"
"No," she said, a little embarrassed. "I don't know why I brought it out. I guess I just wanted to feel like I was doing something."
"Your lease does not expire for three months, three weeks and six days," Sheldon pointed out.
"I know!" Penny exclaimed, throwing her hands (and a used tissue) up in the air. "Well, wait, I didn't really. Not down to the day. But I get the general time frame, and I won't move until my lease is up."
"Move?" Sheldon's eyes widened until she could see the white all round his blue irises. "You can't move!"
"Oh, sweetie," she said, and this time it was she who was patting his arm comfortingly (pat pat pat). "It would be too awkward to live across the hall from Leonard. It was weird enough last year, when we had just one failed date between us. But now-" and here she swallowed, because it was so hard, she didn't want to give up the wonderful routine that had given her life such stability for the first time ever. It was just beginning to hit her, just how much she was losing. Leonard, for one, that was a given; but then she remembered dinners around the crowded coffee table, Halo nights, and impromptu movie nights; sweet, speechless Raj, and even Howard, with his disgusting bravado masking a truly dependable friend.
And Sheldon, who was sitting silently and patiently beside her as her breathing quickened to a rasping, hysterical pace. If she moved away from this building, she doubted she would ever see him again.
"Penny, are you in respiratory distress?"
She took several gulping breaths, and managed a choked "no." Her shoulders slumped a little bit more, and she nervously fiddled with her disgusting damp Kleenex. "It's just," she began weakly, mortified by the quaver in her voice, "I don't want to move. I don't want things to change. It's too scary."
"Penny." Something in his voice made her tilt her head back to meet his eyes. The absolutely gentle, kind, compassionate look on his face made her breath hitch. "I understand," he told her, solemnly, and Penny thought of all of his neuroses and habits and plans, and how each of these things were Sheldon's only defenses against change and chaos.
"I know you do." Weary, she let her head drop onto his shoulder, and felt a fluttering hand hesitantly moving around her back before finally landing on her waist. Warm tears dripped unheeded from her eyes, trailing down the tip of her nose and onto her lap, leaving little wet patches on her leg.
She expelled a little shuddering sigh. "Thank you."
"Any time," he replied, giving her shoulder a soft squeeze, and she looked up at him, shocked. Sheldon never used unqualified platitudes. "I do mean it. Even if you quit this apartment, or move back to Nebraska, or … if you wish, I can draw up a contract."
"Sheldon," Penny said, touched. Stretching her neck upward, because even sitting he was so much taller, she pressed a gentle kiss to his cheek. "Thank you," she repeated, as he turned his face, astonished, toward her.
He watched her intently, his blue eyes earnest, maybe even a little bright. "I choose you," he said sincerely, emotion deepening his voice, his hand trembling on her waist. "Over Leonard, over anyone. You are my best friend."
Tears filled Penny's eyes, but this time they were not brought on by despair. "Oh, Sheldon," she cried, before hugging him tightly, burying her face into his bright t-shirt. He smelled like soap and Red Vines, and also like a man. It was comforting, visceral. Arousing. And Penny began to realize the love she felt for Sheldon unexpectedly fell into more than one category.
"I choose you, too," she told him, her voice muffled, before pressing a second kiss to his shoulder through his layers of shirts. She didn't stop to think; she always went with her instincts when it came to these things. Lifting her head, she kissed the side of his exposed neck, feeling the rapid thrum of his heartbeat under her lips, and then her lips moved to his cheek, where her first chaste kiss had landed.
"Penny," he exhaled, and she looked at him. With some relief, she noted that there was none of the horror (or the abject disgust) he had shown that awful night when Dr. Beverly Hofstadter had drunkenly laid one on him. Instead, his half-lidded eyes glinted with desire, without reservation, just honest-to-God hunger and fierce triumph, and suddenly she was drowning in it, she was the one whose breath was being taken away, and -
A loud cough made both of them jump and look up; Sheldon's arms closed spastically around her. Leonard stood in the doorway, a hard expression on his face, harder than Penny had ever imagined Leonard could look. His eyes darted from Sheldon to Penny to Sheldon again, his eyes growing cold.
"As glad as I am that you both are choosing, I'll make it much, much easier," Leonard spat out, lips tight. "I'm moving out. Enjoy each other." The door slammed behind him.