A Life Full of Laughter

AN: I keep doing weird formats with my stories. Not sure if this one works or not. :| The centered stuff takes place in the past. The normal paragraphs are the current events.

A break-up fic that was inspired by the song "Life After You" by Daughtry, a LJ prompt, and a random forum comment. Though, how I got from "Sheldon has become a regular visitor to LP's bedroom" to this is beyond me. 0_o Also, you can't really tell from the story, but this fic did almost become smutty at one point, but the conversation wound up taking a different turn.

Penny's frustrations are kind of a mix between what I've been through with my boyfriend, what I've seen my mom go through with my dad, and just what I've observed so far in season 3 of the show.

For Story Lottery prompt # 4: a bus. This story kind of got away from me.


Penny cursed and kicked the front tire in frustration. She's not even sure why she got out of the car. It's not like she actually knows about the inner workings of a car engine. Yeah, she's worked on tractor engines before, but that had been just following her father's instructions. There wasn't anyone to give her instructions this time. She was all alone, stranded in a corner of town that was virtually abandoned at this time of night. She dug out her cell phone and tapped the screen. It stayed dark. Of course she would forget to charge her phone. Penny sighed and looked around at the dark, gated shop windows. Damnit! She didn't have time for this crap! She needed to get back to the apartment. She needed to get back home. She had to fix this mess that she'd created.


"That's it! I can't take it anymore!" Penny stormed out

"Penny!" Leonard ran out after her. He caught her in the hallway. "What's the matter?"

"What's the matter? Oh, gee where should I start? I know, how about that bull shit video game you guys bought!"

"It's Metal Gear Solid 4!"

"I don't care what it is! You didn't need it! You have a million video games in there. I bet you never even played half of them!"

"Hey! We've played every video game we own. And we did too need MGS4! It's been out for almost two years, and yet we never got around to buying it."

"How is that a good reason for buying a video game? Do you have to own every video game in existence?"

"Every good video game, yes."

"Ugh!" Penny shouted, frustrated. She turned and marched into her apartment. Leonard followed as she went into her bedroom and pulled out a suitcase.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"You're driving me crazy!" she replied, pulling clothes from the dresser and shoving them into the suitcase.

"Why are you packing?"

"Why do you think, genius?"

"Will you just stop?" Leonard tried to block her path, but she dodged him.

"No! I have to get away from here! Away from you!"

"Over a video game?"

"No, it's not just the video game! It's.. everything. Ugh!" Penny spun around to face him. "I just can't do this anymore!"

Leonard felt a twinge of panic. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

"I don't know," Penny said, shaking her head. She zipped up the suitcase. "I just need to get out of here for a few days."

"Woah, woah, woah! A few days? You're seriously leaving for a few days?"

"No, I need all this for a drive around town." Penny rolled her eyes. She grabbed her suitcase and made her way to the door.

"You can't just take off and leave like this!"

"Sure I can. I'm doing it now."

"No, you can't! Not in the middle of a fight." Leonard managed to cut her off just as she reached the door.

"Move!"

"No! Penny, this is stupid."

"Well, I'm sorry not all of us live up to your level of intelligence!"

"What?"

"Get out of my way!"

"No. I'm not letting you leave."

"You're not letting me leave?"

"Nope."

"Well, guess what, Leonard, you don't really have a say in the matter because it's over!"

"What?"

"Yeah, we're through! Done! Over with!" Penny shouted. "Now get out of my way!" Leonard weakly stepped aside as she pushed past him and rushed down the stairs. She didn't know where she was going. Her heart was pounding so hard she could feel it in her head, and she was far too furious to think straight. Somehow she found herself driving out by the airport. Having no better plan in mind, she pulled off and bought a one-way ticket to Nebraska.


BOOM!

A huge clap of thunder sounded, startling Penny. She looked up at the sky just as the rain began to fall. Perfect. Now she's stranded with a broken car, in the middle of the night, during a storm. Penny hopelessly glanced around again, searching for anything that might help improve her predicament. She caught sight of the street signs and finally realized exactly where she was. There was a bus stop just two blocks away. Maybe if she was lucky, the buses were still running.

Quickly, she grabbed her purse, locked the car (out of habit; honestly, she couldn't care less if someone broke into her car at this point), and made her way south towards the bus stop. The rain had already become a heavy downpour, and Penny was soon soaked. Luckily, it was only a five minute walk to the stop. She ducked inside the plastic shelter and scanned the sign for the schedule. Shit! The last bus came by 20 minutes ago. Now what was she supposed to do?

Penny plopped down on the bench and rested her head in her hands.


The music blared and the lights strobed, illuminating the dancers on the floor in waves. Her sister's suggestion of hitting a club sounded brilliant earlier, but it didn't seem to be distracting Penny like she had hoped it would. Instead the crowd and noise irritated her.

"Hit me again!" she shouted over to the bartender. He obliged, but not without commenting on how much she'd already had.

"Hey! I've just become single again. I'll tell you when I've had enough!" The bartender simply muttered something and walked away, shaking his head. Penny ignored him and downed the shot of tequila. She slammed the glass back on the counter as a man slid over to sit next to her.

"Hi!"

Penny glanced at him. "Hi."

"So you just got out of a relationship, huh? That sucks!"

"Yep."

The man shook his head. "Can't believe someone let a gorgeous woman like you go."

"Oh, I dumped him!"

"Really?"

"Yep! He was ignoring me."

"No!" The man feigned a look of shock.

"Yeah! For a video game!"

"So you just dumped him for it, then?"

"Yep! Well, and for other things," Penny said, dismissively. She frowned briefly at her empty shot glass. The man saw this and ordered a couple more shots from the bartender. He turned back to Penny. "Well, it just goes to show you that technology hurts us more than it helps."

Penny squinted at him. "You're right. Screw technology!" She held up her shot glass.

"Screw technology!" The man agreed. They clinked glasses and knocked back the shots. "Hey, you want to go dance?" the man asked. Penny nodded and let him drag her out to floor. They began to move and sway to the current remix blasting from the speakers. The man slid his hot, sweaty hands around her waist and pulled her closer. Penny took a deep breath and closed her eyes, letting the music and the alcohol take over. Bumping, twisting, twirling, she lost herself in the beat.

The man leaned in. She felt his breath tickle her neck as he said, "Your ex is an idiot." She pulled back to look at him, and he took the opportunity to swoop in and kiss her. Alcohol dulling her reaction time, Penny allowed the kiss to go on for several seconds before shoving him away. The man tried tugging her to him again, but she twisted away and began scanning the club for her sister.

She finally located her sister at the bar and rushed over to her.

"I want to go home," Penny said, tears sparkling in her eyes. "Take me home."

"Okay," her sister nodded, grabbing their purses. "Okay."

***

Her sister thought it best for Penny to stay the night at her house rather than risk an interrogation from their parents. Penny didn't argue. In fact, she didn't say anything during the entire drive or when they reached the house. Her sister finally turned to her after making up the couch.

"So you going to tell me what happened, yet?" Penny shook her head and went to lie down. Her sister shook her head and started to leave the room when a quiet voice made her pause.

"He didn't kiss right."

Her sister turned around, confused. "What?"

"He didn't kiss right," Penny repeated.

"Who didn't? Leonard?" Her sister walked back over to the couch.

Penny frowned. "No! That guy at the bar. He didn't kiss right."

"Oh, okay." Her sister nodded and pretended to follow along.

"Leonard kissed right," Penny mumbled.

"Ah," her sister said, starting to catch on.

"He's not an idiot either. He called him an idiot, but he's not. He's smart, like super smart. I'm not, though. I'm stupid."

"Hey, now! Of course, you're not stupid."

"Yes! Yes, I am!" Penny shouted. The tears were starting to form again. She squeezed her eyes shut, letting a couple escape and trickle down her face.

"Penny, sweetie, you're not stupid. You're just drunk right now. You should get some sleep." She laid a blanket over Penny and started to walk away again.

Penny sniffed. "I miss him."

"I know, sweetie. But remember, you dumped him for a reason."

"What if I didn't?"

"What?"

"I don't think I did, though. It just kind of came out. I didn't want to dump him. I should call him!" Penny sat up to find her phone, but was instantly woozy. Her sister rushed back over to her side.

"Penny, no! You're not calling him. And you did too mean it. Remember? You went through the same thing when you broke up with Kurt."

Penny stubbornly shook her head. "No! No, but he's not Kurt. He's Leonard!" Her sister tried to get her to lay down, but Penny just yelled, "No!" again.

"Fine! Maybe, you didn't mean it. But you can't do anything about that now. You need to go to sleep. You can figure things out tomorrow, okay?" Penny finally settled down and laid back on the couch. Head swimming from alcohol and regrets, she slipped into an uneasy sleep.


The wind shifted, now blowing the rain into the bus stop shelter. Penny shivered. This is ridiculous! She couldn't just sit out here all night, hoping someone would come along that could help her. Looking around, she spied a pay phone ten feet away. Searching through her wallet, she came up with a few coins and ran over to the phone. She slipped the coins in and punched in some numbers. The line rang once. Twice. Three times, and then someone picked up.

"Hello?"

"Leonard?" Penny's heart was racing after hearing his voice.

"Penny?" He sounded confused. "What are you doing?"

"My car broke down. I was driving back from the airport and it just died."

"Okay...."

"Can you come get me?" Silence. "I know I don't have any right to ask you that. I know! But I really need to talk to you, and I can't get back to the apartment now because my car is dead and it's storming and I'm stranded and just please? Please, Leonard can you come get me?"

There was silence for another couple of seconds.

"Where are you?"

Penny rested her forehead against the pay phone stand, relieved. She quickly told him her location. "Thank you, Leonard! Thank you." She hung up the phone. Shivering again, she looked for some sort of shelter to stand by while she waited for Leonard to get there.

***

Twelve minutes later, she spotted Leonard's car pulling up and walked over to the curb. He parked and got out.

"Where's your car?"

"A couple of blocks that way," Penny said, pointing.

"Why didn't you wait over there so you weren't in the rain?" Penny blinked.

"I didn't think of that." Leonard raised an eyebrow and Penny shrugged. "Whatever, I was already soaked from walking over here to check the buses."

"The buses stop running at ten-thirty," Leonard said.

"Yeah! I know that now, thanks!" Penny sighed. "I'm sorry. Can we just go home, please?"

Leonard nodded. "Yeah, get in."

***

The drive home was tense. Penny kept glancing at Leonard. She'd open her mouth to say something and then shut again when she realized she had no idea what to say. When they finally arrived at the apartment building, Leonard parked, and they both got out and walked inside. They were on the second floor landing when Leonard finally broke the silence.

"You said you needed to talk to me?"

"Oh! Uh huh, yeah I did." Penny bit her lip, nervously.

"About what?"

"Oh, nothing much," Penny said, shrugging. "Just wanted to check on you."

"Check on me?" Leonard asked, skeptically.

"Uh huh, yeah." Penny nodded. Leonard didn't say anything else. "So, how are you?" Penny prompted. They reached the third floor landing, and Leonard spun around.

"Seriously, Penny? Are you really going to play that game?"

"What game?" she asked, confused.

"The whole 'how are you doing' game. You don't need to check on me. I've been dumped before. I can handle it." Leonard said, coldly. He turned around and continued up the stairs. Penny stood frozen for a second, a storm of emotions racing through her.

"Leonard, wait!" She raced after him, catching him on the second set. He ignored her and kept walking. "Hey, stop!" She caught his arm, and he spun around.

"What, Penny?" he shouted. "What could you possibly have to say right now?" Penny was startled by the anger and bitterness in his voice.

"I, I'm sorry," Penny stammered.

"You're sorry? What exactly are you sorry for? Dumping me? Running away to god knows where only to call me a week later and drag me out of bed in the middle of the night to come pick you up?" Penny wished he'd stop shouting.

"I didn't mean to.." she tried, but Leonard wasn't done.

"I mean, who does that, Penny? Who declares 'it's over' in the middle of an argument and then takes off? No discussion. No phone call. Just nothing! Where the hell were you?"

"Nebraska," she answered, voice oddly quiet. "I visited my sister in Nebraska." She felt like she should be defending herself or shouting offenses back at him, but the only thought in her mind right then was the desperate desire to fix this. Unfortunately, she had no idea how to do that. "I'm sorry," she added.

Leonard sighed. "Fine, whatever." He turned to go inside his apartment. Penny panicked. She didn't want the conversation to be over yet.

"I didn't want to break-up!" she called out. Leonard paused and turned back to her.

"Then why did you do it?"

Penny shook her head and shrugged. "I don't know."

"And then you just left."

"I know."

"Why?"

Penny shook her head again. "I don't know. I was just mad. I was so mad! And frustrated and I just needed to get away." She took a deep breath.

"Yeah, but what were you so mad about? Was it seriously the video game?"

"No! It wasn't the video game. It was just," she took another deep breath, trying to figure out how to word the problem. "It's just been more... just more. And I don't know how to handle that, and it was all becoming too much and I was getting frustrated and just, I don't know." She let out a sigh, and looked at Leonard. He seemed completely lost.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he said, shaking his head.

Penny groaned, "Ugh, it's because I don't know how to explain it!" She walked over to stairs leading up to the 5th floor and sat down.

"Well, try," Leonard said, walking over and sitting next to her. "What exactly was frustrating you? Name something specific."

Penny thought. "Well, like Sheldon, for instance! He's always around and waking us up or bugging us or just being Sheldon. It drives me crazy!"

"So you're breaking up with me because of Sheldon?"

"No! That's not it!"

"Then what, Penny? I'm trying to figure it out!"

"I don't know! God! Why is this so hard?" She looked over at Leonard. "It's not supposed to be this hard, is it?"

Leonard just shrugged. "I don't know."

Penny sighed and looked down at her feet. "It irritates me. The comic books, the video games, the random gadgets, the action figures, all of it drives me crazy!You drive me crazy! Every time you ramble on about Star Trek, every time you ignore me for a video game, every time you bring home garage sale junk instead of food," Leonard shifted uncomfortably and stared down at his feet, too. "but you know what frustrates me even more than any of that?" Penny looked over at Leonard again, tears clearly shining in her eyes. "That I actually love all of that about you." Leonard brought his head up, eyes wide in shock. Penny gave a half smile and shrugged. "And I just don't know what to do with that."

"So let me get this straight, you both hate and love basically every thing I do?" Leonard asked, confused.

Penny gave a little laugh. "Pretty much, yeah," she agreed. She swiped at a couple of tears that had spilled over.

Leonard looked like he was still trying to process this. "So, what exactly does that mean?"

Penny took a deep breath, trying to clear the tears. "It means, that as much as you irritate me sometimes, I'd still rather be with you than with anyone else, and I definitely do not want to break-up. Provided, of course, that you still want me." She nervously bit her lip.

Leonard watched her carefully for a few moments, seeming to search her face for something. Finally, he said, "Okay, but I think we're going to need some new ground rules."

Penny scrunched up her face in confusion. "Ground rules?"

"Yeah, first off, no running off to Nebraska in the middle of an argument."

"Okay," Penny said slowly, worried about what the rest of these ground rules would be.

"Second, if you feel like I'm ignoring you, will you please say something instead of just storming off? Because honestly, I don't mean to ignore you."

"I know," Penny said, smiling slightly. And she did. She understood how deeply emerged he could get in his geek toys or university work. It didn't make it any less annoying at times, though.

"Okay," Leonard said, finally smiling too.

When he didn't follow up with a third ground rule, Penny asked, "Wait, that's it?"

"For right now," Leonard nodded. "The rest will be brought up when we revamp the Roommate Agreement tomorrow." Penny raised an eyebrow.

"You're revamping the Roommate Agreement?"

"Oh, yeah!" Leonard replied. "Sheldon is driving me crazy too." Penny laughed for a moment, then looked at Leonard a bit apprehensively.

"So are we okay then?"

Leonard nodded. "Yeah, we're okay." Penny grinned in relief.

"Good." She leaned in to kiss him. It started slow and tentative at first, then it grew deeper and more passionate. They pulled back after a few moments to catch their breaths. "Much better," Penny mumbled to herself.

"What?"

"Nothing," Penny replied, quickly. She titled her head and gave him a slow grin. "So, do you maybe want to stay over at my place tonight?"

Leonard pretended to think for a moment. "Well, you did make me pick you up in the middle of the night." Penny giggled and tugged him back in for another kiss.