AN: Okay, how can you NOT like Shenny? And Sheldon is completely ooc, but I really liked the idea. Enjoy?
It all started with Age of Conan.
It seems like everything starts with Age of Conan these days, Penny thought vaguely, watching Sheldon freak out. Somewhere inside she knew she just wanted to detach herself from the conversation. Every word was like some sort of hurt insult that a person would normally hurl at a misbehaved puppy. He was hurt. He felt betrayed. So he was hurting others, because he didn't know how else to handle his hurt.
It was like a vicious cycle and she wondered when, exactly, she had become so adept at handling Sheldon Cooper. Or understanding him anyways.
When had this gotten so out of hand again?
Right. Age of Conan. Damn that game.
She walked into the guys' apartment (and, okay, ten o'clock was not an "ungodly hour"), again requesting Sheldon's help on a quest.
Leonard was glued to the television watching something Penny assumed included aliens, space ships and guns that shot lasers. He had given her some half-hearted wave that she thought looked more like a dismissal than a greeting, so she sashayed into Sheldon's room after a quick knock (she had resisted the amusing urge to do it three times).
He looked up from his own laptop in alarm, blue eyes roving from her face, to the pink laptop balanced expertly in her hand, back to her face.
"Penny," he began. She suppressed an eye roll. He was the only one who could make her name sound like it was an explicit warning. "You're not supposed to be in my—"
"Yeah, yeah," she waved her hand, coming over to sit on a corner of his bed. He flinched away, looking aghast. "Yes or no?"
Sheldon shook his head and peered over her shoulder. "No," he muttered, then snapped his gaze up to her eyes. "Now get out."
She did roll her eyes this time. Wackadoodle. "Fine, I'm leaving." Penny assured him, pushing herself off his scifi comforter. "Thanks."
And then, like it was a perfectly natural occurrence, bent down and pecked him on the cheek.
Oops, she thought in instant dread, remembering who it was just as she got to his doorway.
She turned around. "Yeah?" Pretend it wasn't a big deal.
He looked wary. "What was," he glanced between them, "that?"
Pretend? With Sheldon? That was a good one, Penny.
Penny shifted uncomfortably, regretting the mistake. "It was just…don't worry about it, Sheldon."
He straightened in his bed. "Don't worry about it?" His voice was rising to a hysterical level and Penny flailed her hands again, trying to get him to calm down.
"Look, Sheldon. It's just a thing girls might do to their friends to say 'thank you'." She searched for some way to explain it. "We're friends, right?"
"Yeees." He drew the word out, looking more skeptical than worried now. "Why haven't I seen you do that to Wolowitz or Koothrappali, then?"
She blinked. Why? Raj and Howard were…Raj and Howard, that's why. Raj couldn't speak or make eye contact with her and Howard was a total creep most of the time. Like she'd give the guy encouragement.
"Never mind," Sheldon said after a moment of silence. "I believe I can understand your lack of response concerning those two."
Of course he could.
"Kay," she chirped. "Well, I'll see you later then."
He had a hesitant look on his face and Penny cocked her head, intrigued. "It's not a non-optional social convention, is it?"
Penny's curled fingers tightened around the edge of her laptop. I wish it was, sweetheart. "Ah, no. It was optional. Kay, thanks, bye!"
And she whirled and walked out before he could stop her again. Before she had to try to make sense of his expression then.
Sheldon was still ranting now and for some reason she was still sitting here, taking it. She didn't know why exactly. Howard, Leonard and Raj clearly didn't either. She could tell that much from their confused, knit eyebrows and unsure glances around at each other.
She crossed and uncrossed her legs. So what had happened the second time? Oh, that's right.
It was about three days later at almost nine o'clock on the dot when she heard the strange rythmitic knocking on her door. She knew it was him, even before he said her name. She let him run through it three times. When had this become normal to her?
"Hello, Sheldon," she said after opening the door, attempting to wipe the smirk off her face.
He nodded and seemed to stoop a fraction. He always seemed to be doing that lately when talking to her or Leonard in close proximity. It warmed her heart a little to see that he was at least trying to come down to their level. Physically, at least.
He thrust a sheet of something at her. The plastic covering reflected the glow of her apartment.
"I noticed the other night when you came into my room," he would emphasize that point, "that your laptop was devoid of any decorative stickers."
"So you got me some?" She felt her voice catch a little as she looked at the various brightly colored flower and letter stickers. Wait. Sheldon had gotten her something. What was the catch?
"Is this some non-optional social convention thingy?" She asked with slanted eyes.
He blinked. "I'm usually the one asking that question." He sighed at her piercing expression. "I saw them while Leonard was purchasing a flash drive and happened to remember that your laptop was—"
"Stickerless?" Penny queried, smiling.
He nodded with a grin. "Exactly." Then he frowned. Maybe her finishing one of his sentences was throwing him off.
"Well, thank you, sweetie. That was very nice of you."
She stepped back to close the door, but…Sheldon was still standing there, looking expectant.
So she stood there, too, puzzled. Well, what? Does he want something in return?
Then suddenly, it clicked. She gawked. No way, Penny thought in disbelief. Not Sheldon for God's sake.
But, being herself, as well as having a curious mind, she decided to conduct a mini-experiment of her own.
So she stood up on her tiptoes and brushed her lips against his cheek.
She watched, still disbelieving as Sheldon gave her a funny, little wavery smile and disappeared into his apartment across the hall. Who knew Sheldon would be her test subject?
And she hadn't been aiming for the corner of his mouth like that.
Penny brought herself back to the present, studying Sheldon pace back and forth, waiting for him to take a breath so she could interrupt his nonstop tirade.
You know, she mused. I blame my laptop for all of this.
It was on Facebook that she had seen it was Sheldon's birthday.
He finally paused for a millisecond and Penny sprang up. "Look, Sheldon, it's not a big deal." He flinched as if something had hit him and she wondered why. "It was all my idea, so don't include them." She gestured around at the others who were looking exhausted. "Besides, it's just a birthday cake. Not even technically a birthday party."
He spun around and then stalked up to her. "But what on earth gave you the idea that I wanted a birthday cake?"
"N—Nothing," she stammered, but refused to back down. She glanced at the blue and gray rocket ship cake. "I just knew it was your birthday today. I saw it and thought of you." He flinched again and Penny felt some sort of grim satisfaction.
"I'm going to my room," he announced.
Penny stared. Wait. So do I win?
"And no one is going to follow me!" He gave them all a final glare before heading down the hall.
"Thanks for saving us, Penny," Leonard murmured. "And sorry about that," he looked up at her sympathetically and she smiled sweetly.
"Don't worry about it. I should have—"
Oh no! His present is on his—!
Penny closed her lips on her sentence and sprinted to Sheldon's room. She hesitated only briefly before rapping on the door three times. "Sheldon."
She looked up towards the ceiling in an I-can't-believe-I'm-really-going-to-do-this fashion and repeated the action twice more before the door finally opened.
He leaned against his doorway in an oddly relaxed way, looking significantly calmer as well as slightly amused, despite the fact that she had been in his room (again) without his permission. "Penny."
She sighed. "Sheldon, I'm sorry. I didn't know a birthday cake was going to get you all in a tizzy…" Why was he looking at her like that? "What?"
He narrowed his bright eyes before haltingly wrapping his long fingers around her wrist, pulling her lips to his for way-too-fast moment. "Thank you."
Penny opened and closed her mouth as Sheldon let go of her. She wanted to giggle for some reason. "But…?"
"You weren't very specific with when this optional social convention was appropriate." He shrugged. "So I took matters into my own hands, as people would say." He squinted. "And that an expression of gratitude for the gift, not the party, FYI."
She cleared her throat. "It was just a—"
"You're welcome," she mumbled and turned around, feeling embarrassed.
"What's wrong?" Howard asked her as she sat down in the armchair. Leonard handed her a piece of cake.
Penny stabbed her fork into it and Raj jumped. "I'm still trying to figure that out," she told them.
But the next day and every day after that, Sheldon wore her birthday present on is left wrist. She noticed it had been his left hand that had reached out to her that night. She wondered if that held any significance.
The birthday present…It was rather plain. It was braided leather bracelet she'd found at some preppy store in the mall. It was new and stiff, just like him.
Penny liked the idea behind it, though. That, as he wore it, the bracelet would stretch and loosen and be worn down a little each day. Hopefully, just like him.
But for now, Penny sat eating her unbirthday cake, eager to see if the 'gratitude' would continue.