Title: Lucky's Requiem
Pairing: Sheldon/Penny, friendship
Summary: On a rooftop meeting, Sheldon and Penny find common ground in an unusual way, maybe some thing more.
Word Count: 2,015
Disclaimer: I don't own these character, just using them for catharsis.
Notes: My cat, Pascal, died today, rather horribly, and I can't even . . . so I wrote this. I am open to critique because I want this to be good.
. . . . . . . . . .
When Sheldon Cooper thought about loss, of the common human expression of grief, he thought of Lucky, their ill-fated pet cat.
He had come home from the library to find Missy. Sitting on the front porch of their trailer, her arms wrapped around her knees tucked close. He could tell that the status quo had changed. Something was off. When Missy cried or was upset, her feeling boiled quietly under the surface, and Sheldon would think there was nothing noteworthy about her demeanor except for her eyes. Anger radiated off her like heat from the asphalt on an afternoon in July.
He was nearly positive that the idea of twins sharing some kind of special psychic link was pure hokum, but times like these...he just was not absolutely certain of it.
. . . . . . . . . .
After several days of not encountering Penny by chance in the comings and goings of every day affairs, he finally encountered her on the roof of their apartment building.
He stopped short at the doorway, shocked to see her here, as he had never before, and unsure as to whether or not to continue with the task he had come up there to perform or to turn right around and head back down into his apartment, staying there for a suitable amount of time until the chill from the cool night air had driven her back inside and to her own abode. It was a strange quandary indeed, as Sheldon had not expected to feel so . . .conflicted by the mere sight of her.
And then she turned to him. Her eyes widened (surprise? he was never sure), but then she gave him a wan smile, and he found his feet had made the decision to move forward without giving much thought to what his brain may have had to say about the matter.
"Penny," he nodded as he came to stand a few feet in front of her when she turned around.
"What's up," she said.
"Nothing in particular," Sheldon replied. "Will you be out here long?"
"Uhm...I'm not sure. Why?" Penny asked.
Sheldon opened his mouth and then closed it again. He did not know how to explain his purpose for venturing out on the roof this evening. His purpose was simple enough to state, but Penny had a habit of not being satisfied with a simple answer. There would inevitable be more questions, if his experience with her was to be used a gauge of future social interactions. She had already asked 'why.'
"The reason is not important. I simply wished not to disturb . . . whatever it is that you are doing."
"Oh," she said. She blew out a breath, glanced down at her feet as she responded further. "I'm just up here to get some air."
"Is the ventilation in your apartment not adequate? Or perhaps you should check the battery on your carbon monoxide filter."
Penny held up her hand and made a motion that he recognized as one expression her desire for him to cease speaking. "No. It's fine, Sheldon," She smiled tightly. "I mean that things have been really tense lately and coming up here, looking out . . .It helps, ya know?"
"Ah," Sheldon said, the meaning finally dawning on him. "Would this tension be due to the recent inevitable end to your ill-conceived relationship with Leonard?"
Penny's countenance changed abruptly. Her back straightened and her eyes flew back to his face, narrowing as she stared at him for several seconds. Then she sighed and looked away, laughing in a way that lacked any indication of being stimulated by the recognition of humor.
"Is it fun for you, to be right all the time, even when it makes you a complete jerk?"
"Well, I wouldn't classify the feeling as fun. It's certainly better than a life perpetuated by embarrassing mistakes—" he stopped when he saw Penny wiping at her eyes.
"The roof's all yours," she said through gritted teeth.
She charged forward, and Sheldon barely had time to move out of her way, and she brushed past him, stalking toward the exit stairwell.
She had already flung the door open, and Sheldon had already steeled himself for the slamming sound that would surely follow. Her arm remained outstretched, holding the door. He say the tension evident in her shoulders as she turned stiffly, her profile visible over her right shoulder.
"When our family cat died when we were twelve." The words came out almost in a rush. It was not was Sheldon had meant to say, not what he even knew he wanted to say, if say anything at all to keep Penny from leaving his presence.
"What?" She turned around now. She hand still clasped the doorknob, though looser than before.
"She was inconsolable. My father had been drinking, and as he stormed out of the house, he somehow broke the latch on the screen, leaving the door open for Lucky to escape. My sister came home from the skating rink that night and found him in the road. She was inconsolable."
Sheldon had found an interesting speck of discarded chewing gum on the ground to stare at as he spoke. He lifted his eyes to see Penny had stepped away from the door.
He kept talking. "She made me help her bury it with a threat to my testicles and we even had a funeral service, though I protested that I was hardly qualified to perform last rites over the deceased."
Penny's brow was furrowed and her lips were pursed. She seemed to be trying to follow the narrative, waiting patiently for him to get to the eventual point of the matter. "Sweetie, what's your point?" she urged him.
"I realize now that it may not have been prudent to remind you of your pattern of failed relationships—"
"Sheldon," Penny said in a warning tone.
"I had never seen my sister as upset as when Lucky died." He met her eyes. "Not even at the death of our father."
Penny's mouth dropped open in a near-perfect "oh."
Sheldon knew that Penny was aware of his father's alcoholism and the contentious relationship between his parents. He did not like conflict between the people in his social circle, and when Leonard and Penny had begun dating, he loathed the inevitable adjustments that would be made to their friendship paradigm. He had advised Penny that she and Leonard could always go back to being just friends, but as the relationship between the two stretched on, he began to doubt his previous assessment.
"I do not pretend to understand all of the complexities of human emotion, especially from that of your gender. I asked my sister why she had been so upset over Lucky, and animal with a significantly shorter lifespan and an organism that made no contribution to physical well-being, i.e, such as my father in his role as provider for our family."
"I can guess what she said," Penny broke in. She was standing next to him now, and she leaned her hip against the parapet.
Sheldon looked at her and cocked a brow, curious as to her response.
"Because you just love animals no matter what. You take care of them and they love you back and don't judge you or call you a failure . . . even if you feel like the biggest one on the planet."
And maybe you didn't have the best dad, and you can't control that. Animals, though, you feel responsible for, like, you should have some control over what happens to them."
"I suppose." Sheldon allowed that before he discovered his allergy to feline, Lucky was not unpleasant to have around.
"You may feel that since you willfully engaged in a sexual relationship with Leonard, you should have had more control over the outcome. Though, any scientist knows that it is foolish not to at least be prepared for unfavorable results in any experiment."
"Like finding monopoles in the Arctic."
Sheldon looked at her, startled. "Touche. An accurate comparison."
"Yeah. Maybe you were right about me and Leonard."
Sheldon scoffed, but he stopped at Penny's glare.
"So. . .why did you come up here?"
Sheldon sighed. "Today is the anniversary of my father's death. At the funeral, my sister made me promise that wherever I was on this day, to go out to and area where I could view the moon and she would do the same." He shook his head as the words for an adequate explanation of the ritual failed to come to his lips. "I think she believes it will bring us close even though we are far apart."
"You don't," Penny stated.
"I promised I would, so I do," Sheldon admitted. There may have been a threat to the health of his reproductive organs involved in the initial pledge.
Sheldon felt a pressure in the crook of his elbow, and he looked down to see Penny's fingers and hand sliding into the space, a familiar sensation from the incident resulting from a lack of adhesive ducks. He doubted she remembered it. Still, he turned toward her, wondering where she was going with this line of physical contact and why his body was reacting in a way not unfavorable to it.
Once he was facing her, she the hand that had grabbed his arm slid around his waist, round his back to meet her other arm that had done the same.
She was hugging him.
His arms remained raised slightly from his sides for a moment before he let them down, mimicking her actions (and learning from his experience on a Saturnalia past) he wrapped his arms loosely around her form.
"I'm sorry about your dad." She whispered it into his shoulder; anyone with lesser hearing may not have heard. Her body was pressed fully against his, and she tightened the circled of her arms around his midsection, and he was aware of the place of her hands and seemingly each one of her fingers splayed across his back.
It felt...different, somehow, than their last physical embrace.
Sheldon dipped his head down. Penny's hair tickled his nose, the smell of brown sugar and fig tantalized his senses, sweet and earthy and reminiscent of Summer's making fig preserves with Meemaw.
He blinked and dropped his arms from her frame. Penny stepped back and pulled her arms away.
"Thanks for letting me do that. I kinda needed a hug, too," she shrugged.
"You're welcome, Penny."
Penny stepped to him quickly she grabbed his forearm gently and tugged, and he bend down to her, a questioning expression on his face. She appeared to hesitate for a mere second, then she inhaled, put her left hand on the side of his neck and then her lips were on his cheek, dangerously close to the corner of his mouth.
Sheldon stiffened for a moment, not knowing how to respond. By the time he turned his head to look at her, as if he could see the motives or reasoning behind this abrupt breach of personal space, she was pulling away, but her nose brushed his briefly and in that moment, Sheldon Cooper felt the sensation of both having the ground ripped from beneath his feet and his stomach falling to his knees, the latter of which was biologically impossible.
And then he almost missed what Penny was saying.
"You're a good friend, Moonpie."
She squeezed his arm, and then her hand was gone. He watched her back as she walked away. When the door shut behind her, he finally breathed.
Missy Cooper sat on the porch swing of Meemaw's house. One of great-grandma's patchwork quilts covered her lap, and a large mug of honeysuckle tea warmed her hands. A warm sensation spread through her middle, unrelated to anything she was experiencing in her current state.
She looked up at the moon and smiled.