My Fair Penny
Chapter One: "I've come for lessons, I 'ave!"
Sheldon could remember the exact moment he'd gotten himself into this mess. It had been the first time he'd heard Penny singing. Well, the term "singing" would have to be used in its loosest sense, but, yes, it had been that exact moment that his nightmare had begun.
Unbeknownst to Leonard, Sheldon had offered to pay for singing lessons for Penny that very night. Leonard was operating under the impression that Penny was the party being deceived in Sheldon's brilliant "Poor drug addicted cousin Leopold" lie, but it was really Leonard who had been left in the dark:
Knock knock knock
Knock knock knock
Knock knock knock
She had opened the door and been surprised when he had requested entrance. Nonetheless, she had let him in.
Sheldon shuffled nervously on his feet, his eyes locked to some spot on the floor. After a moment, he took a deep breath and looked up into Penny's curious face.
"At the risk of my physical well-being in the face of your potential wrath, I am going to be honest with you. Don't perform in that showcase tonight. You can't sing."
Penny's mouth dropped open and her eyes flashed angrily.
Sheldon wondered how she could possibly have not heard him given their close proximity, but he repeated himself for the sake of clarity.
She cut him off with a raised hand and a loud "SHH!"
Sheldon quickly snapped his mouth shut.
Penny folded her arms, a thoughtful frown on her face. Finally, she sighed and relaxed her defensive posture.
"Well, I guess at least you told me before I made an ass out of myself in front of an audience."
She smiled at him weakly and then burst into tears.
Sheldon just stared at her awkwardly for a few moments and then patted her shoulder.
Penny began to cry harder and threw her arms around him.
Sheldon stood straight as a board, patiently waiting for this episode to subside.
After a while, her tears were reduced to sniffling and her breathing calmed. She maintained her position however.
"What am I going to do? How can I want to make it big in musical theatre when I can't even sing?"
A moment passed before he realized her question wasn't rhetorical. "Well, you could always take some voice lessons."
Penny finally released her hold on him and stepped back.
"I can't afford lessons, Sheldon. I'm barely making end's meet as it is," she said, plopping herself down on the couch.
Sheldon took a seat next to her and surprised himself by taking her hand and giving it a comforting squeeze. He would ponder over the origins of that particular gesture later, but for now he said "I can."
"You can, what?"
"I can afford them Penny."
She began to shake her head in embarrassed protest.
"No, Sheldon honey, that'd be asking way too much of you."
"Not at all. I have the available funds. In addition, they offer such classes at CalTech and I would receive a substantial discount if I wished to enroll. I will sign up and you will go in my place. It's very simple, really."
"Sheldon, I can't ask you to pay for my lessons."
"You are not asking, I am offering. I have been researching the different functions of a friendship paradigm, and it has come to my attention that when one sees a friend in need, it is a non-optional social convention to come to his or her aid. You require voice lessons if you ever want your career to advance and I am fulfilling my role in our paradigm by providing them for you."
Penny was crying again. This time she was smiling through her tears. She threw her arms around him once more and kissed him on the cheek.
"Oh Sheldon, thank you. I swear I'll pay you back."
"I know you will, Penny."
The two of them then concocted the lie they fed to Leonard and Penny pretended to go to her showcase.
Sheldon had thought that everything was going swimmingly. Penny attended her lessons regularly and was making great progress. Occasionally, she would sing for Sheldon when they had a moment alone. Her voice was becoming surprisingly lilting and melodic.
Sheldon had been the first person Penny had called when she landed the role of Eliza Doolittle in a one-night-only showcase of "My Fair Lady." Sheldon had felt an unfamiliar warm sensation in his chest when she had told him the news. He wrote it off as indigestion and told her how very pleased he was.
Then disaster struck. It was the night of the showcase, and Penny had come scrambling into the boys' apartment, looking frantic.
"Sheldon, I need your help!"
He looked up from his work to ask what was the matter but the words died in his throat. Penny looked lovely. Her hair was arranged in loose curls and she had on a simple dress, presumably so changing into her costume at the theater would go more smoothly.
"Sheldon?" she pleaded.
He snapped out of his reverie.
"What is it Penny?"
"Will you please, please, please, please, please play Professor Higgins tonight?"
Sheldon's eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets.
"I'm sorry Penny, but I did not understand your question."
She wrung her hands and tried to take a calming breath.
"The guy who was supposed to play Henry Higgins had to drop out suddenly because of a family emergency. He has no understudy, and unless we can find someone to fill the role, we'll have to cancel the show. I told the director that you'd been running lines with me and that you knew the story and the music inside and out and he said you're our only chance right now. Please Sheldon, please come. This is my big chance; I just know it."
As he looked into Penny's pleading, hopeful eyes, Sheldon felt that curious warm sensation in his chest again. He nodded curtly and Penny threw her arms around his neck in grateful relief.
A very surprised Leonard had driven them to the theater and then gone to find a seat in the audience with Howard and Raj.
It was five minutes to show time and Sheldon stood backstage, inwardly cursing his susceptibility to the pleading eyes of his pretty neighbor.
"Damn, damn, damn," he muttered under his breath.