AN: Hey guys! I need to thank you so much for continuing to follow this and especially thank you for the very kind and wonderful words of encouragement that you have given me througout this process. I started the prequel to this story, 'The Dactylic Hexameter' a little over a year ago. That makes this saga by far the longest story I have ever written. Even though TPTB seem dead set against this particular idea, I'm glad that this can be viewed as something realistic that could happen between these two characters that we love so much. Read on!
One green eye opened, barely, and closed instantly against the glare coming from the bedroom window. She rolled over slowly and tried again. Colors and shapes melted together, but at least she didn't feel as if her eye was on fire anymore. Leaning up on one elbow, Penny glanced down at her body, her head fuzzy. She was dressed in an oversized Huskers jersey she didn't remember putting on and with a quick glance to her side, noticed a pile of clothes very neatly folded on a chair next to the bed. With a groan, she crawled awkwardly off of her mattress and shuffled toward her bedroom door, one hand to her pounding head.
The shades had been drawn across the windows over her small dining table, leaving the living room in shadows that Penny was grateful for. Without opening her eyes any more than she needed to, her feet moved her to the kitchen cupboard that she knew held the bottle of aspirin that was her only chance of turning back into a human girl. She blindly poured a handful into her palm and dry swallowed them with a grimace. As an afterthought, Penny filled a nearby glass with tap water and drank it down without pause.
It wasn't until she dropped the empty glass to her countertop that she noticed him. He was curled up uncomfortably on her couch, bent awkwardly at the knee with his hands folded under his face.
He hadn't even taken his shoes off.
The feeling that washed over her in that moment threatened to expel stomach acid onto her kitchen floor. Of course he had stayed. Why would she have ever thought that he would leave her to fend for herself? Shaking her head, Penny moved slowly back to her bedroom, bypassing the bed itself on her way to the bathroom. She flipped the shower on and turned the knob all the way to the hot side before turning to take in her reflection.
The person who stared back at her from the mirror was someone Penny didn't want to recognize. Dark circles adorned the sallow skin underneath her eyes. She stared for several long minutes at her green irises, the slight upward quirk of one side of her mouth. She knew she was a bad person. Deep down in the ugly parts of her sub-conscious that she pretended weren't there, she knew that what she was currently doing to her nerdy neighbor would probably cause lasting damage.
She stood under the hot spray, letting it run over her face without trying to wipe it from her eyes. After shampooing her hair aggressively and scrubbing hard enough with her loofah to leave marks on her arms, the blonde turned the water all the way over to cold and stood under the stream until she shivered violently. Penny managed to climb out of the tub and dry off without catching her own reflection at all and flipped off the light on the way back to her bedroom. She pulled on a pair of yoga pants and tank top before lifting her cloud patterned hoodie off of the floor. She sniffed it before zipping it up and re-entering her living room.
As quietly as she could, Penny moved past him and settled herself facing him on the coffee table. His face was unsettled, troubled even in sleep. Wincing inwardly, she leaned forward and gently rubbed his forearm. "Sheldon," she murmured softly. His eyes fluttered open and her blinked in confusion for a moment before focusing on her and sat up slowly. "Hey."
He dug the heals of his hand into his eye and rubbed tiredly before answering. "Hello." His voice was still rough with sleep. Penny wasn't sure if she wanted to climb onto his lap or kiss his forehead. Probably both, honestly.
She took a deep breath before starting. "Sheldon, I am so sorry about last night." She swallowed and ran her fingers nervously through her wet hair. "It was just…too much drama and I can't…." She shook her head. "Anyway, I'm sorry."
Sheldon stared at her in silence for thirty seconds before clearing his throat. "That's quite acceptable, Penny." He stood awkwardly and Penny rose as well. "I have been preparing myself for any exit strategy you might put in place for yourself."
"Huh?" she asked eloquently as she trailed him toward the door.
"It seems rather clear you have no intention of turning this into any real sort of relationship," he said flatly without turning to look at her. "I'm not sure what you're doing. But for that matter, I don't think you know either."
"Hold on there, cowboy." Penny hurried around him to block his exit. "Where is this coming from?"
Sheldon met her eye line and Penny felt her insides lurch uncomfortably. "It doesn't matter."
"Sheldon," she answered quietly before touching his arm. "You said you wouldn't lie."
He crossed his arms over his chest in a protective manner that made Penny's chest ache slightly. His expression slid from defiant to sad in a mere ten seconds before he was moving backwards to sit on the arm of her couch again. "The night you brought me to orgasm," he started in a low voice and Penny sucked in a surprised breath. "I had the intention of…returning the favor…" He seemed so sweet and uncertain. "But you went to sleep instead." He exhaled a deep breath before meeting her expression.
"Sweetie," she said as she moved to stand between his legs and draped her arms over his shoulders. "You are welcome to give me an orgasm any time you feel like it." He blushed and looked down toward the floor. "I just…I don't ever want to push you, you know?"
"Having goals in life is prudent," Sheldon countered quietly.
Penny chuckled. "You're weird."
"And you're a lush," Sheldon shot back with a roll of his eyes.
"Do you want to do something tonight after I get off?" she asked.
He cleared his throat and stood again. "That would be acceptable," he answered with a slight nod. "If you will excuse me, I have to go get ready for paintball."
"Kill 'em, babe!" she exclaimed before patting him on the butt. His cheeks flushed but beyond that, he failed to acknowledge her. He left silently and Penny yawned to herself before curling up on the still warm couch and letting her eyes slide shut.
She reached up and tugged the hair tie out of her unruly bun and shook her head quickly. Running her fingers through her hair, Penny wrenched the door open and stepped into the lobby of her building. His back was to her, as he retrieved mail from his numbered box and Penny allowed a small smile to quirk her mouth upwards.
"Hey," she greeted him. He turned at the sound of her voice, a calm smile on his own face.
She moved toward him to get her own mail. "Aw, were you down here waiting for me?" she asked in a sarcastically sweet voice. Penny jammed her key into the small slot and turned it before pulling the door open. She turned her head to catch his expression. He was frowning.
"That would have no purpose, as you would be likely to come over to our apartment when you got home," he answered in his gratingly matter-of-fact tone. "It's merely a coincidence that I was in the lobby when you returned from work." He began to look through the stack of mail he held in his hands as he waited for her to grab her own. She did with a sigh and shut the door before turning to face him again.
"Yeah, Sheldon. I know." She smirked at him as they climbed the stairs shoulder to shoulder. "I was just…being stupid." Penny realized he'd stopped moving and looked down a step.
"I don't see how your intelligence has any bearing on this conversation," he said with a furrowed brow.
Penny bit the inside of her cheek to keep from chuckling at his confused expression. "No, I was…." She shook her head slightly. "Never mind. Let's start again, okay?"
"Very well," Sheldon answered as he continued to climb slowly next to her.
"So Sheldon," she began again. "Good afternoon." He rolled his eyes at her bright smile. "How was paintball."
"We lost to a group of radiologists from Sacred Heart Hospital," he replied flatly.
"I'm sorry," she answered truthfully as she looked up at him.
"I was forced once again to broach the topic of conversation that involved replacing Wolowitz with you, but was voted down….again," he added in a pained voice.
"I'm not going to be Yoko more than I already am, thanks." She grinned as she began sorting through her mail.
"I'm not aware of that reference," he stated almost instantly.
"I'm shocked," she chided good-naturedly. He rolled his eyes again. "So, what do you want to do tonight?"
"I was thinking about pizza. And I think it is your turn to pick a movie," he answered hesitantly.
Penny paused as they reached their landing. "Really?" she asked after a moment of silence. "This seems like a trap," she added doubtfully. Sheldon opened his mouth. "Don't," she warned, cutting him off before he could launch into his Corporal Squidface impression.
Sheldon frowned at her for a moment before replying. "I chose the last film we watched together."
"Okay," Penny answered slowly. "You're not going to change your mind on me here?"
"There's no way to answer that truthfully, Penny. I haven't as of yet." He moved toward his door.
"Give me time to change," she called to him. "I'm feeling like maybe….'You've Got Mail' tonight."
Sheldon frowned. "Is there any chance that is about the upstart of AOL?" he asked hopefully.
"No, but it does have Steve Zahn in it," Penny answered helpfully.
"Well then, that's pretty much the same thing," Sheldon replied flatly. Penny chuckled.
"You will love it," she called over her shoulder as she entered her apartment, feeling his eyes on her as she closed her door.
"That movie was extremely predictable, I must say." Sheldon announced as the credits began to roll. He rose from the couch to collect the dirty plates from her coffee table.
"Whatever, Edward Grimley." Penny rolled her eyes at his retreating form.
"Once again, I find you referring to something that I don't understand." He set the plates in the sink and turned to face her. "I am merely stating that it seemed quite obvious that Tom Hanks was going to fall in love with Meg Ryan."
"Really?" Penny asked sarcastically as she climbed off of the couch.
"Of course," Sheldon scoffed. "No one would believe that they were really going to spend their lives hating each other. I have seen very few of these so called 'Rom Coms'," he added with hooked fingers in the air to signify air quotes, "but even I could tell that."
"And why do you think that is?" Penny asked with a straight face. The fact that he was acting even slightly philosophical was quite entertaining.
"It would seem fairly obvious, Penny." Sheldon approached her, his hands clasped behind his back. "Hate, I have come to understand, is quite a strong emotion."
"Agreed," Penny answered with a firm nod.
"But, hate can quite easily turn into love, it would seem." He held her gaze and she felt something inside of her tighten. "Rather, it would seem indifference is really the emotion that would appear to be a lost cause."
Penny moved towards him and place a hand flat against his chest. "Sheldon, if you actually have a secret longing for Kripke, now is the time to tell me." He glared at her in response as he moved past her to pick up their glasses from the table. She turned toward him and collided with him, her eyes widening as she felt Diet Coke slosh down the front of her shirt.
"Well," she noted as she looked down at herself. "That sucked."
"Penny, I apologize," he answered quietly as he set their glasses back down on the table. He looked at her unsurely for a moment and Penny felt her feet moving before her brain could catch up. She grabbed a handful of his t-shirt and pulled him down for a kiss. He returned it fervently, but pulled away a moment later, extracting her hand from him. "You'll stretch my shirt out," he admonished as he flattened it back over his ribs.
"You're such a diva," Penny noted with a giggle.
Sheldon rolled his eyes at her. "Why don't you go shower and I'll finish cleaning up," he said as he bent to once again pick up their dirty drinking glasses.
Penny smiled at him as her right hand touched the sticky stain that was forming on her shirt. "Wow, then everybody wins I guess." She didn't acknowledge the small grin she saw on Sheldon's face. She moved forward and dropped a quick kiss to his jaw line before hurrying toward her bedroom, pulling her shirt over her head before she had the door shut. She carelessly dropped dirty clothes along the floor all the way to the bathroom. Once in there, Penny stepped under the water and began to clean herself quickly.
It had only been about fourteen hours since she'd been here last, but she was honestly just as confused as before. All of her weird stupid girl feelings she'd been having were still present, although not as near the surface. She and Sheldon were fine though, and that was what was important. They were fine. No, they were great. They would have to be. They were. He'd even said he'd wanted to give her a… Penny began to rinse shampoo out of her hair, refusing to focus on what he had implied, no what he had said this morning. She had to be the smarter one here, because she knew he thought he was ready for stuff that he wasn't really.
She shut the tap off and climbed out to dry off. Once that was done, she quickly put on the only clean pair of pajamas she could find. The blue flannel ones that made her feel like a kindergartener. She exited the bedroom to find Sheldon bent over her sink washing dishes. He turned and she watched his eyes rake over her slowly before offering her a weak smile and turning back to the sink. She silently picked up a towel and began drying the clean dishes, standing as close to him as she could.
"Can we talk?" she asked after several minutes of silence.
Sheldon turned to take her in. "It would seem, as we each have vocal chords, that-"
"Sheldon," Penny cut in, a pleading tone in her voice.
He stopped and reached into the sink to drain the water from it before gesturing toward the couch. Penny handed him the towel she was holding so he could dry his hands before turning to walk to her couch. They sat in silence for another moment before he finally cleared his throat.
"Was there something specific you wanted to discuss?" he asked.
"I just feel like…" Penny collapsed onto the couch cushion, tucking her feet underneath her. She sighed and pulled the ends of her sleeves over her hands nervously. "We've been doing…this," she gestured the air between them. "…whatever this is…for a while now." She raked her fingers through her wet hair and flipped it over her shoulder.
"Three months, three weeks and six days," Sheldon answered with a slow nod.
Penny froze and looked over at him for a moment. "I'll take your word on that, sweetie."
"However, I am counting from New Year's. If you wanted to count from our first actual…date, it's less than that obviously. We-"
"Sheldon," she cut him off, grabbing his hand in order to get his attention. "Hold onto the Rain Man routine for a minute, okay?"
"It's really just basic math Penny," Sheldon corrected.
"Do you see this going somewhere?" she asked quietly, ignoring his statement.
He raised his eyebrows. "Everything has to go somewhere."
"No," Penny responded slowly with a shake of her head. "It could stay put right where it is."
He flinched slightly before shrugging his shoulders in silence. She watched as the muscle in the left cheek twitched and he blinked three times before opening his mouth to speak. "I…enjoy the relationship that we have built for ourselves."
Penny turned more toward him and laced her fingers with his. "What do you like about it?" she asked.
"Well," he replied after a moment of surprise. He glanced down at their hands and then up at her patient face. She smiled encouragingly at him and squeezed his hand. His cheeks colored. "I always have someone who will side with me when I get into arguments with Leonard or Howard or Raj." He paused and looked back down at their hands. "And someone to make sure nobody touches my food when I go to the bathroom." He met her gaze with a leveling stare. "You would never let anyone else touch my food."
"I've learned my lesson," Penny said with a mockingly straight face. His eyes narrowed at her, but there was an unmistakable glint of humor there. "And that is enough for you?"
"What else would you be thinking of?" he asked.
"I am thinking of….I don't know, Sheldon." She pulled her hand away and dug through her wet hair again. "The future? My biological clock?" She bit her lip and shook her head. "I'm talking about being three months into a relationship where we still don't even sit next to each other if our friends are around."
"Do you wish to make out in front of Wolowitz?" Sheldon asked as he rubbed his hands down the fronts of his pants.
"God," Penny groaned and fell back against the cushions of the couch. "No."
"Penny," he continued in a low tone. "Leonard still isn't comfortable with our…current arrangement. And I feel strangely guilty when he is around, as if I have done something wrong." He paused and then shrugged. "Which I know I haven't." He paused and she watched as he focused his attention on her knee. "Do you wish to procreate with me?"
Penny choked slightly and felt her face heat up. "Don't call it that."
"Those…" She rose from the couch and crossed her arms over her chest. "Those were just stupid examples of…I don't know." She threw her arms over her head. "I'm not getting any younger."
"It would be impossible to get younger," Sheldon answered as he stood up to approach her. "You are only twenty-four years old as it is." He crossed his arms over his chest and came to a stop in front of her. "Are children important to you?"
Penny shrugged and refused to meet his eyes. "I don't know." She sighed. "Yes, when I know that I'm with the right guy and that it is going to last."
She knew he was studying her again, and ignored the impulse to move toward him, ask for an embrace. God, what was wrong with her anyway? She had a great guy who seemed to really like her and she managed to both hold him at arm's length and demand that he wasn't close enough to her? She crossed her arms over her chest protectively and stared down at Sheldon's shoes.
"You said something last night as you were in the process of…passing out," he said quietly. She heard him swallow and glanced up at him nervously. His face reflected every nerve she was feeling. "You told me you loved me."
Penny felt like crawling under the bed for a week. She closed her eyes tightly and wrapped her arms more tightly around her midsection. "I'm sorry."
Sheldon gave a small cough. "Telling someone you love them is customary when you've been dating for a certain duration."
"That's only right if you mean it," Penny mumbled and in the next instant wished she could have pulled it back into her mouth. The color drained from Sheldon's face.
He exhaled slowly. "You're apologizing because you didn't mean it," he ascertained in a soft voice.
"No," Penny answered in a slow tone as she moved toward him. "I'm apologizing because while…" She sighed. "It should be a great thing to say and a great thing to have said to you, it wasn't the right time to….do that." She shook her head sadly. "Sheldon, quite frankly I never known when something is going to freak you out and you'll flake on me." She stepped forward and placed her hands on his upper arms. "I'm worried…about it constantly and the fact that your leaving me has me this worried is…completely fucked up, Sheldon." He swallowed and tightened his jaw. "Because yes, I do and I know the second I say it and you're not ready to hear it and you tell me that you can't or…" She feels tears forming in the corners of her eyes and looks up at the ceiling in an effort to keep them at bay. "Or won't, it gets that much sadder to be me. I just…" She shook her head and wiped angrily at the single tear that rolled down her cheek before letting a humorless bark of laughter escape her throat.
She felt his arms move underneath her fingertips and then they were wrapped around her firmly, pulling her against his form completely. She nestled herself against him, breathing into his neck. "Penny, I don't know…what it really means to love." Penny pulled far enough away to take in his expression. "I mean, I know I love my family in a 'They're my family' kind of way." Penny felt herself nodding and his hands tightened on her back. "But the way I feel when I'm around you… is something I can't really seem to be able to put into words." He flinched ever so slightly. "I don't know what it is, but it…makes me quite uncomfortable a great deal of the time." Penny opened her mouth, but couldn't make any words come out. "But it is a rather pleasant uncomfortable," he added, staring at her meaningfully. "Like the sensation that people incorrectly refer to as butterflies in their stomach I imagine." Penny grinned and launched herself more fully into his embrace. He hugged her back in silence for a moment. "You know," he continued, "Your worries about my leaving you are clearly unfounded, as you are most definitely the flakier of the two of us."
Penny shoved him playfully and glared up at him.
"Honestly, you are a part of my schedule now," Sheldon stated softly. "Taking you back out is quite a bit more work than I am up to." He shrugged. Penny smiled widely at him before yawning suddenly. "You didn't really sleep all that well last night," he pointed out to her in a mothering tone of voice. "You should go to bed."
He would never have to say it to her. Penny knew he loved her. She grinned again and stood up on her tip toes. "You know, last night you slept on the couch," she whispered.
"Yes, well I didn't want to get vomited on," Sheldon whispered back, even as his mouth moved closer to hers.
"I think you're safe tonight," Penny answered with a smile. "I mean, if you're up for it." Penny kissed him quickly before stepping away. His mouth followed hers for a moment before remembering himself and straightening back up again.
"Your couch is very short," Sheldon noted with a disdainful glance backwards at the offending piece of furniture. "It hurt my neck."
"Why didn't you just go back to your apartment?" Penny asked with an empathetic chuckle.
Sheldon looked at her as if she'd said something in Mandarin Chinese. "I didn't want to leave you in case you weren't okay." Penny kissed him again, cupping his cheeks with her fingertips fiercely.
"You are very sweet," she murmured before taking his hand and leading him toward the bedroom.
"Yes, it's a curse."
And now I ask you to chime in with your opinions on something for a future chapter. Awesomest female superhero? The less obvious, the better!