Dedicated to The Great Romance.
A/N: The idea of Sheldon working at the Cheesecake Factory gave me this idea. Yay for plot bunnies! (For those of you who are curious as to why I haven't updated TA, I'm sorry.)
Disclaimer: (Insert witticism here.)
Double-shifts were torture. Often, Penny would play guessing games to keep her mind off her feet, her back, and her tips. Whenever she approached new tables in her section, she would scrutinize the customers with a sharp eye and label the type of people she thought they were. For example, the couple she walked toward that Tuesday night was a classic stereotype she came across all too often. An old, fat, rich, bald creeper and a young, busty, beautiful, exotic whore.
Penny gave them names. Hugh and Delilah. She also gave them a story, which involved Hollywood subterfuge. Doing so made it easier to say, "Hi, I'm Penny, I'll be your server this evening. Tonight's specials are grilled salmon and--"
His voice set her teeth on edge. Where she normally scribbled a preemptive Thank You at the bottom of the guest check, she faltered at the sound of her name, writing Tha off the corner of her checkpad. Penny pursed her lips and waited for Sheldon to say something along the lines of: "Release me from my oath." But he didn't. So she looked over her shoulder, smacked her mouth open, and asked, "What?"
Sheldon tilted his head to one side. He pointed. "Tha is not a word. Unless you're referring to the Texas Hospital Association--"
"Thank you, Sheldon," Penny snapped.
He smiled, proud of himself for educating the mediocre stock. "You're welcome."
Penny returned her attention to the two-top. She smiled an award-winning smile as fake as Delilah's implants. "As I was--"
Sheldon cleared his throat. Uhm-uhm-uhm. "Penny."
She let him finish.
"I'm working," she threatened him.
"It has come to my attention that some people..." Sheldon gestured to his table, where Leonard, Raj, and Howard sat sniggering behind their menus. (Penny made a mental note to go all Nebraska when she got home.) "...think that, while my intellect is markedly superior than--say--yours or your co-workers, I am incapable of what Leonard described as honest labor." Sheldon sniffed. "I must invalidate his presumption or surrender myself to ridicule."
Penny contemplated several courses of action. The least of which involved driving to the hospital to get her foot removed from Sheldon's backside. In the end, after a few moments hesitation, she handed Sheldon her checkpad, folded her arms across her chest, and said, "Fine. Take their order."
He wouldn't last a minute.
Hugh and Delilah blinked their confusion.
"Alrighty." Sheldon stood heel-to-heel, poised to write. It was odd how appropriate he looked cradling her pen with his nimble fingers. Such confidence. Such blasted confidence. The ambiance of clinking silverware and polite laughter did nothing to dissuade Penny's wayward thoughts. "Hello. My name is Dr. Sheldon Cooper. I'll be your server this evening."
"Doctor?" Hugh harrumphed, ill at ease with the twinkle in Delilah's eyes. "What kind of doctor?"
"I'm a Physicist, but your question is irrelevant. Seeing as I am your waiter, I should be asking what it is you would like to order."
Hugh grumbled incomprehensibly.
"A cheeseburger and lemonade, please," Delilah ventured.
Sheldon smiled a Sheldon smile. "Ah. Nice choice."
Penny was surprised to see him jot the correct abbreviations for the burger and the beverage as if he had been working at the Cheesecake Factory his whole life. (He must have picked it up from watching her.) Still, she smirked at the inevitable, gracing Sheldon with a sarcastic/approving nod when he glanced her way, his eyes heavy-lidded and pompous.
"And for you, sir?"
Hugh was a large man. It was of no surprise when Sheldon cut him off at his third entrée.
"Might I suggest a Caesar Salad? Your girth insinuates--" Sheldon proceeded to explicate body fat, cardio, and congestive heart failure all in one breath. Penny couldn't hear him well for all her efforts not to laugh, but the gist of his spiel was unquestionable.
Hugh sputtered. "Why, I never--"
"Sheldon!" Penny silently applauded her friend and neighbor. "You can't tell this man what he can and can't eat."
Sheldon furrowed his brow. "Of course I can. Didn't you hear me?"
"No, sweetie." Penny dropped the bomb: "In food service, the customer is always right."
Sheldon's eyebrows prepared for liftoff.
"Always," Penny emphasized.
"But that would imply that I am always wrong." Sheldon looked positively terrified at the prospect.
"But I'm always right."
"In your world, maybe. In my world?" Penny wagged her finger. "Sorry, Moonpie."
Sheldon's face twitched. He jerked his head to one side, rolled his shoulders, and spoke a clipped, "Oh." He handed Penny her checkpad. "I see." He folded his hands against his chest and wrinkled his nose like he smelt something ghastly. Then he shot a death-glare at Leonard, Raj, and Howard before he regarded Hugh. "Congestive heart failure. You've been forewarned. And Penny?" Whatever Sheldon intended to say must have pained him physically, considering his tics. "In this instance, you are right. Food service is--" He swallowed. "--too humbling a task for someone such as myself and I commend you wholeheartedly."
Penny beamed. "Sheldon, did you just praise me?"
Sheldon retreated to his table without another word.