Title: Of Detectives and Childhood Encounters

Author: amtrak12

Rating: PG

Warnings: Set at some point in season 3, but no actual spoilers

Characters/Pairings: Leonard, Penny/Leonard

Genre: (very) AU, Fluff-lite

Summary: Leonard recalls an encounter in a park from long ago.

Word Count: 1362

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters!! Or the show. Or anything. Except my laptop. I do own my laptop.

Author's Notes: This popped into my head late last night after I finished reading the second installment of this Teen Rose/Ten series goldencinders is writing on the Time and Chips LJ comm. (So awesome!) The idea of young versions of my favorite characters running around was so intriguing and was just begging to be written. This was the result. I hope it's not too weird! A second round of author's notes are at the end, because I didn't want to give anything away before you read the fic.

***~~***

Leonard was annoyed. He was struggling with his proof of the Central Limit Theorem. Not because it was hard, but because a) he was annoyed that this was his form of punishment and b) the park that he was sitting in had just become overran with some sort of family reunion. Great. Just what he needed. He had came to the park to work in order to escape his neurotic family and now this huge family has to move in and flaunt just how happy and normal they are right in front of him. Bet none of those kids had to perform mathematical proofs when they forgot one decimal point on their calculus exam. Bet they got to celebrate their birthdays too.

Leonard sighed and tried to refocus his attention on his proof. After 16 years of growing up with very analytical and emotionally detached parents, one would think Leonard was used to the odd punishments and lack of hugs and other expressions of support, but there were times when that deep longing feeling would lodge itself in his gut and Leonard would wish so desperately that he could belong to any other family, but his.

Fifteen minutes later, the self-pity had cleared enough that he was actually able to get some work done again. He was just coming up on the final steps when a young voice pulled his attention away.

"What are you doing?" Leonard looked up to see a little girl sitting across from him at the park table. She was blonde and was already sporting a tan despite it only being May. She was looking at him curiously.

"Um," Leonard started, uncomfortable, "I'm working on a mathematical proof." The girl raised an eyebrow.

"You're proving math? Like the way detectives prove who the bad guy was?" Leonard shrugged.

"Yeah, basically."

"Can I see?" The girl clambered up so she was kneeling on the stone seat and leaned over to look at Leonard's notebook. "There's letters in that."

"Yeah, they're variables," Leonard answered. Why was this kid talking to him?

"Math doesn't have letters. It only has numbers," the girl stated matter-of-factly as she settled back into her seat. Leonard was terrible at guessing childrens' ages, but obviously this girl hadn't reached algebra in school yet.

"No sometimes math uses letters. Like in the place of unknowns. Or in the place of constants. Using g instead of 9.8 m/s2 is sometimes better because it makes the equations neater until you need to solve for the answer." The girl stared blankly at him. "Sorry, I tend to ramble." Leonard bit his lip. He really was not comfortable talking to young children. Or girls. This kid was both. What was he supposed to be saying to her?

The girl suddenly broke out into a smile. "It's okay. I think you're funny. So are you some sort of math detective then?"

Leonard scrunched up his nose. "No," he said. "I'm just a high school student right now." The girl's eyes lit up.

"You're in high school? That is so cool! Which year are you? Can you drive?" Leonard was startled by her sudden enthusiasm.

"Well, I'm actually a senior. I'm getting ready to graduate. Yes, I can drive. I just got my license last month."

"Wow! Does that mean you're going to college now? I can't wait until I grow up. My sister is all grown up. She just got married. Actually she eloped the night before her high school graduation. I thought that was silly. She didn't get a big wedding with cake and pretty dresses! When I grow up, I'm going to wait until I'm rich and famous to get married." The girl paused for a breath, and Leonard blinked. How could she talk that fast? It must be a child thing. Probably correlates to a sugar-high. He realized the girl had just asked him something.

"What?"

"I asked what are you being now that you're all grown up?" the girl restated.

"I'm not all grown up." Leonard denied.

"Well you're pretty much grown up if you're going off to college," the girl replied. "Are you going to become a famous math detective?" Leonard was amused by how stuck the girl was on that phrase.

"No, I'm not going to be a math detective. I'm actually going to school to become a physicist." The girl scrunched up her nose in confusion.

"What's that?"

"It's a scientist who studies how the universe works." Leonard explained.

"Why?"

Now Leonard was confused again. "Why what?"

"Why do you study how the universe works?"

"Because it's fun," Leonard shrugged. "And because we don't know how everything in the universe works and I want to help find the solutions."

The girl stared thoughtfully at him for a minute. "So you want to be a science detective?" This girl really likes detectives, Leonard thought.

"Sure. I'm going to be a science detective." It was true in a way. Actually, now that Leonard heard someone say it like that, he kind of liked the sound of 'science detective'. "I'm going to hunt down all the clues and figure out what put the universe into motion." Leonard added, smiling.

The girl giggled. "Sounds more fun than math detective."

"Penny!!" yelled a man from the pavilion hosting the family reunion.

"Ooops! Gotta go." The girl stood up to return to her family. "Good luck, science detective!" The girl turned and raced over to the man who had called her. Leonard smiled again and returned to his proof. Somehow life didn't seem so annoying anymore.

***~~***

"Hi, honey!" Penny said walking into the guys' apartment.

"Hi," Leonard said, not looking up from his laptop. He was trying to get two data points to reconcile, but they weren't cooperating.

"Uh, oh. One of your experiments giving you trouble?" Penny asked, recognizing the look on his face. She walked over to him and peered over his shoulder at the graph he was concentrating on.

"Yeah. I know these two points represent the spin of the electron, but for some reason this one is out of phase with the other. That can't be right." Leonard frowned and started scrolling through other pages of data and paragraphs that Penny couldn't comprehend.

"Well it's alright. I'm sure you'll figure it out," Penny said. She kissed him on the cheek and added, "My physics detective." Leonard's head shot up.

"Wait, what did you just call me?" He asked.

Penny hesitated. "Um, my physics detective. Why what's wrong with that?"

"Nothing. It just sounds familiar that's all." Leonard frowned. "Have you called me that before?"

Penny shook her head. "No. Who called you their physics detective?" Penny hated being jealous, but she couldn't help the small knot that formed in her stomach when she thought of one Leonard's past girlfriends referring to him as 'my physics detective'. She bet it was Stephanie. Dammit!

Leonard shook his head. "No, it wasn't quite like that. It's just that phrase 'physics detective'. It sounds familiar." He searched his brain trying to remember.

Good luck science detective!

"Oh!" Leonard exclaimed. "It was just this random time in a park. I was still in high school and some kid started talking to me and called me a science detective." He smiled in relief that he remembered and turned to Penny. "That's what it was!" Penny raised an eyebrow at him.

"Some kid in a park called you a science detective?"

"Yeah. I was working on a math proof, and she came over and talked to me. No idea why." He turned back around to his laptop. Penny, deep in thought, went over and sat down on the couch.

"Maybe she was bored of her cousins picking on her and wanted to know why you were sitting alone scribbling in a notebook," Penny finally said after a couple of minutes.

"Huh? Oh, yeah maybe. I think there was a family reunion going on at the time." Leonard said distractedly. It took another minute for her words to sink in. "Hang on. Penny, were you ever in New Jersey?" He looked over at her on the couch. Penny just smiled.

***~~***

Author's Notes - Part 2: Yeah, I had to completely fudge and BS all over the place in this fic. Sorry guys! I didn't really want to fill in back-story that wasn't revealed in the show, but this idea wouldn't leave me alone! :( I forced my roommate to help me reason out the ages of the characters and pick an appropriate time line. I didn't give Penny an exact age in the fic, but I had her at about 10 years old in my head. I don't want to ramble too much on my time lines used in this fic (because it would go on forever), but feel free to message me if you really want to know my thoughts/reasoning! Or if you want to criticize them. Whichever. :P

Though, I have no idea why Penny randomly had a family reunion in New Jersey. Maybe her family decided to make their reunion into a vacation one year. *shrugs*

Also my roommate chose the Central Limit Theorem for Leonard's punishment. She has her stats final tonight.