Originally written on 10/31/2009 and posted at Paradox, the Sheldon/Penny LiveJournal Community.
Christmas officially sucked.
To Penny's annoyance, once again Sheldon spoke the truth: it was no wonder suicide rates skyrocket this time of year.
Yeah, okay, on the surface she was having fun. She helped Leonard throw together a Christmas party complete with cheesy music and decorations and—duh—alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. (Peppermint Schnapps was a holiday drink, right?) She invited her friends and people at the Cheesecake Factory, Leonard invited people at the university, and the two separate worlds converged in a frighteningly accurate representation of a watering hole à la the Lion King. Except instead of water it was just a lot of alcohol that made the two separate species party it up like it was 1999.
Either way, Penny was still convinced that what she was observing belonged in a zoo. It was as if CalTech was an untapped source of party animals.
Still, she made sure to smile, and flit around to a bunch of different guests, occasionally taking a shot of Schnapps and chasing it down with Hershey's syrup poured directly into her mouth by a not-very-sober chemistry professor, and fending off the advances of a friend-of-a-friend who seemed to think she was drunk enough to totally lower all her standards.
Yeah. Not yet.
Penny picked one of the pre-poured glasses of eggnog off of the bar and made her way over to the radio. Christmas music always pissed her off when she didn't have a date. It reminded her of movies like Love, Actually where everything ended happily and not-realistically on Christmas day, and it reminded her that she was on the losing side of her breakup with Leonard by having no date to their party. Cycling through Wolowitz's iPod, she changed the music to some normal this-is-a-dance-party-and-not-an-I-am-alone-on-Christmas-party music.
"It's Britney, bitch," blared through like the eight thousand speakers set around the apartment (maximized for acoustic effect or whatever according to Wolowitz and, seriously, he really had Britney on his iPod?), and Penny had that nice looseness going on in her brain that made it so her hips found every beat right away. She was still sober enough to be able to dance, turn around, and take a gulp of eggnog at the same time, and clobbered into the chest of whats-his-name (Joe? Jack? John?), the guy that seemed to think he had a chance with her.
He was tall and was wearing a black blazer that probably made him think he was on top of the world, but that coupled with the pencil-thin beard that went from his sideburns along the edge of his jaw—you know, the kind of beard that screamed "sleazeball!"—just made him look like an asshole. And it wasn't even the good-looking asshole, you know, like any of the guys on her list of ex-boyfriends. He wasn't even built, but he walked as if he was, and his stupid face had that smirk that you could see in spades if you were looking at mug shots of sexual predators.
Wrinkling her lip and shuddering from the feeling of his fingers on her upper arms as he tried to 'balance' her, Penny took a step backwards and like basically ended up on top of the bookshelf.
Still. He was nice enough to steady her. Maybe she was being too harsh. Maybe this was her "I had to work an eight-hour shift at the restaurant on Christmas" attitude getting to her. Maybe this was her "I'm in some bizarro world where Leonard has a date and I don't, like, what the fuck?" mood that colored her opinion of him. Maybe he was a nice guy. Maybe, maybe if she got hammered enough she'd be able to make out with him for the sole reason that he reminded her she was still hot.
And then his arm moved up so his hand was dangling above their heads, and she looked up and—
"Mistletoe," he said in a voice that he probably thought was seductive, complete with the sexual-predator-smirk.
...Aaaand maybe not.
For a moment Penny couldn't do much more than stare up at him, mouth open, the red and green from the Christmas disco-ball (everyone thank Howard for that one) reflecting in his dark hair and across his pencil-line-sleazy-beard-thing, and she took the time to actually make sure this was happening and she wasn't in like some really bad reality TV, and Joe or Jack or James or whatever the fuck his name was probably took that as a cue to lean down and stick his tongue down her throat, because that's what he did.
Or, tried to. Penny was still sober enough for her reflexes and self-preservation to work, so she jerked backwards, hit her head on the iPod radio behind her, Britney was cut off and "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas" began playing, and Jimmy/Jack/Jordan missed and ended up licking her upper lip.
Christmas really did suck.
Shoving him away and sort-of-accidentally pouring some eggnog down the front of his white shirt, Penny managed to run smack into Leonard, who was talking to his date-thing with a glass of champagne in his hand. He was considerably more sober than she was, and he managed to grasp her elbow so she wouldn't fall over and completely embarrass herself in front of a bunch intoxicated waitresses and waiters and college professors and grad students.
"You alright, Penny?" His voice was sweetly earnest and it made her almost cry in frustration or something for being a horrible person and a crybaby.
Penny wanted to hug him right there to apologize for being a downer. Geez, her and Leonard had the best breakup in the history of breakups. Hardly any awkwardness and not only did she feel closer to him than ever but there was absolutely no confusion in how she now felt about him since they finally Went There and decided that There wasn't really the best place for them to be.
She didn't hug him, though, because Leonard also had a date (unlike some people) who was watching the pair of them with something like suspicion. And Penny definitely wasn't drunk enough to act like Sheldon and throw all social convention out the window, one of which was "don't hug your exboyfriend-now-friend in front of his date." Not that, you know, Sheldon would ever do that, because as far as Penny knew he didn't have an ex-anything. But still.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine—just—" She checked over her shoulder, and didn't see tall-blazer-wearing-sleazebag. "—escaping I guess. I dunno. I'll go pour some more eggnog or something, hope you're having fun."
She didn't know how but she managed a friendly smile at both Leonard and his date, but on the way to the counter she was coerced by the chemistry professor and another waitress to do another Peppermint-Schnapps-and-chocolate-syrup shot with them. Her vision was getting fuzzy, and the loud Christmas music thrummed through her bones, and for a moment after the shot she watched as Howard offered tequila to her friend Marsha, and as a few twenty-something grad students tried to teach some of her friends how to square dance (to Christmas music?), and as some tall beefy guys who she didn't really know took apart Sheldon's DNA-thingy to throw the pieces into cups in what looked like an improvised game of eggnog-pong.
Shaking her head, Penny went to the relative peace of the kitchen and started to mix more eggnog. At first she was glad that Sheldon wasn't going to be at this party, because who needed a twenty-seven year old physicist continually flipping a bitch at everything all night? Penny certainly didn't; this party was hard enough to host what with her desire to just go back to her apartment and collapse into bed and sleep.
Sheldon had had some Christmas gala to go to, something full of donors, and Penny had planned the alcohol consumption so that by the time he got back, everyone would have left or passed out, so when he threw his shit fit she wouldn't have to deal with the consequences. But now she found herself missing him. He would be someone sober to talk to, for one, and his commentary as to what was happening around him was bound to be entertaining. And maybe if she was talking to a guy she'd be left alone by the drunken jackasses of Pasadena that seemed to gravitate toward her.
Penny sighed, sloppily pouring some rum into a new eggnog container and shaking it as hard as she could, trying to ignore everyone kissing/dancing/having fun around her.
God. She was so pathetic. She took a swig right out of the container; at this point she was getting past buzzed and into full-on-drunk, and now she didn't care. She was lonely, dammit. Maybe she'd find someone to bum a cigarette off of, go outside, and make great drunken conversation with a stranger. That sounded like a plan. And maybe if this stranger was good-looking enough (after a few drinks) she'd fool around with him.
She cast her eyes around the living room. It was dark and the strobing lights of the Christmas disco ball made it hard to see clearly. Tall-dark-blazer-asshole was standing underneath the entrance to the hallway leading to the bathroom with his back to her, talking to someone she didn't really recognize but looked as if he was one of Leonard's colleagues. And—
—oh, fuck it. She was drunk enough to lower all her standards.
Penny marched over to him. He may be a jerk, but it was Christmas, so why not make out with him. At least she wouldn't be the only one alone and lonely at this party. And maybe she could shut her eyes and pretend he was Pierce Bosnan or something.
Penny stopped behind him and just stood there, gathering her resolve. The person with whom Jimmy/John/Jack was talking caught sight of her, and looked at her, confused. Penny ignored him and just as blazer-asshole-jerk was turning around, she said, loudly, "Mistletoe," gestured up to the hanging flower above their heads, screwed her eyes shut, and pulled his head down to hers.
Nothing happened for a moment, probably because the guy was wondering if this blonde chick who spilled her drink on him was schizophrenic or something, but no matter how bad this decision was, by all hell, she already made it, so she kept her eyes shut and pretended that the guy she was kissing didn't have a idiotic beard but was clean-shaven, and that his blazer was part of a suit like in 007, and so with this image firmly in mind she opened her mouth and slid her tongue along his lips.
What she didn't expect was his response, which was surprisingly—how would she put it?—sweet. He didn't open his mouth, something she was not expecting, but rested his hands at her waist, sliding them so they met at her lower back. She was wondering at the sudden chasteness—this was the same guy that licked her upper lip earlier—when her bottom lip was encased between his. He wasn't sucking it or using his tongue much at all, but it was as if he was exploring. It was unorthodox compared to her usual history of kisses. And compared to all of her expectations of him. It wasn't a kiss that promised her that he wanted inside her pants, but just a kiss, and, wow, maybe Penny was wrong about this guy. She didn't realize until now how much her mood could color her opinions of people, but hey, maybe she found something here, it was Christmas after all—
She ran her hand down from his neck along his jacket, feeling the surprisingly nice material, and she tugged a little at the lapel to bring him closer before running her fingers to the front of his throat, pulling at the knot in his tie and—
Wait wait wait.
The douchebag hadn't been wearing a tie.
Who the hell was she kissing?
Jerking herself away with a gasp, Penny opened her eyes and—
Whoashit. Holy crap.
He looked flabbergasted as well, but Penny didn't think it was for the same reasons. She stepped back, clumsily, hitting the wall behind her, her mind still reeling. He was wearing a suit, the nice one she had helped him pick out after his plaid one "mysteriously" disappeared, and she hadn't looked at his pants when she approached him because the idiot was wearing dark jeans but it was dark so wow she must have mistaken them why was Sheldon home already, why was he standing there, why was he still looking at her, and holyshit she just kinda sorta made out with Sheldon and—
"Penny," he said.
"That happened," she observed, a safe two feet away from him.
This statement seemed to have brought him back to his senses. "Well of course it happened." His voice was falling into its usual annoyed rhythm, but his words were a little less precise than usual, and Penny somehow even with all of this drunkenness she was feeling was able to deduce he probably had a glass of wine or two at his gala thing. And thinking about this she wasn't even listening to his lecture about no matter what people say, dream sequences don't ever feel as real as they think they do, so of course what happened just happened, it can't have not happened, and seriously, Sheldon wasn't any closer to shutting up.
And then she remembered that he had, like, kissed her back.
And it had felt nice.
Wow wow wow.
"Sheldon," she interrupted.
He stopped talking. Yup. He definitely had had a few glasses of wine.
They stared at each other.
She was about ask exactly what was going on, did this mean he had a deal? Why was he home, why did he kiss her, where did he learn to, but. They had both been drinking and maybe she just kinda experienced something she had been wondering for a while what it would be like to experience.
"Yes," he agreed.
"We just kissed."
"Is there a reason you're stating the obvious again?"
"No. Just. Trying to, you know, wrap my head around it. I'm drunk."
"Yes. I tasted it."
Hearing him say those words so casually, like it wasn't the end of the world that they had kissed, sobered her up a little. He wasn't even freaking out or pouring the contents of a Listerine bottle down his throat, it was like it was the most natural thing in the world and natural and social interaction didn't go in the same sentence together when it came to Sheldon.
So Penny nodded.
"Alright," she said. "Come sit with me."
He followed her to the kitchen and they sat on a pair of stools, watching the destruction of both his apartment and the self-respect of most of the individuals within it. In the light of the kitchen, his face was a little red, and he assured her that the living room needed a deep-cleaning anyway and he had mentally prepared himself for this sight on the taxi ride home, and Penny even smiled as he cut himself off in order to have a miniature freak-out session about the destruction of his silicone DNA model.
She stopped his tirade with another kiss, pulling him away from the eggnog-pong game and back into the kitchen.
And maybe, just maybe, Christmas didn't suck so hard after all.