Author's Note: Takes place during and after 3.19, "The Wheaton Recurrence." All of the parts are drabbles, except for parts seven and nine, which are double-drabbles.
i. I am trying to say what it is I want to say
Three little words – all she had to say were three little words, and this would have been swept under the rug.
She liked Leonard; she liked him a lot. He was nice, he was sweet, and he was everything she could ever want in a boyfriend.
And maybe one day, she would have repeated the words back to him – repeated the declaration of love he gave her.
Not the right time, not the right place, not here, not now.
"I love you."
The words sounded foreign to her ears as she mouthed them, so she didn't repeat them out loud.
ii. I'm not gonna fade as soon as you close your eyes
Leaving the bowling alley was one of the hardest things she had ever done, and in the grand scheme of her life, she had done a lot of hard things.
She played her girl power music loudly; she wore ratty pajamas and called in sick to work with well-placed coughing; she ignored Sheldon's persistent knocking and his claims made that she and Leonard were playing the same songs.
It was all on her, and she realized that as his face danced before her in her dreams, it wasn't going to go away with cartons of ice cream and angst-riddled music.
iii. may your hands always be busy
The words stayed with her, as the reality of what happened sank in. No going back, no saying "oh, sorry, Leonard, I didn't mean to completely brush us aside," just stark reality, brush strokes of black and white across her life's canvas.
She threw herself into work after a few days – something resonated within her, some phrase her parents gave her as a life lesson back home. "Hard work never did anyone any harm," they said, with matching grins.
It wasn't as much fun as spending time with Leonard.
But since he was ignoring her, it was the best way.
iv. there's still a little bit of your taste in my mouth
It'd been a few months since Wil Wheaton and bowling, and all the weight that those two concepts carried. She tried to date other men – there was a guy named Trent that one of the girls at the Cheesecake Factory set her up with. He was very good-looking, and the sex was okay, but there was something missing.
Maybe it was the fact that the most reading he did in a month was the back of a cereal box; maybe it was that he'd rather work out than spend time with her.
Or maybe it was that he wasn't Leonard.
v. left alone with just a memory
Talking to Sheldon can be an exercise in futility, at times, especially when she's asking for something.
"Sheldon, has he been, you know, since the breakup –"
"Interacting with any females?"
"Yeah, that, I guess."
"Does he –"
"How am I supposed to know? Ask him yourself."
The look on Leonard's eyes, the sad look – almost like she broke his heart and she probably did, in retrospect – nearly broke something inside her. "I – I'm sorry," she said, "I'm not ready for this."
Later that night, the snowflake he gave her caught her eye, and an idea began to form.
vi. there are many things that I would like to say to you, but I don't know how
She stood in a small boutique she'd never been to before, but heard they had a very good selection of jewelry. Looking through the racks of necklaces, she saw stars, hearts – not the exact message she was hoping to convey, though in a pinch, it'd work – every sort of necklace imaginable except for the one she wanted.
"May I help you?" a sales clerk asked.
She smiled hopefully. "Do you have any necklaces with snowflakes on them?"
Fifteen minutes later, she walked out of the boutique, a small bag tucked into her purse. Step one could be considered a success.
vii. oh, take me back to the start
He opened the door; she stood there, waiting. "Penny? What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Is Sheldon around?"
"What? No. He's at the comic book store with Raj and Howard."
She smiled. "Good." They stood there for a few moments, watching each other out of the corner of their eyes. "Can I come in?" Penny asked hesitantly, "I don't want to be standing out here in the hall."
He nodded and she walked in. "What's that?" he asked, gesturing to her necklace.
"It's a snowflake," she said, "don't you remember?"
"How could I forget?"
"I bought it because it," she paused, directing her gaze directly at him, "because it reminds me of you."
"Yes." She saw a flickering of hope in his eyes, mixed in with the sadness she had grown accustomed to seeing.
"Are you trying –"
"Don't do this to me again."
"I won't," she said, "I promise."
"Oh, Penny," he said, all but the most lingering of the sadness vanishing without a trace, "I've missed you."
"I've missed you too."
His lips were warm against hers, and they stumbled blindly backward, clothing being tugged at all the while, steps re-tracing an old, familiar route.
viii. I hear you call my name, and it feels like home
She felt a breath tickling at the back of her neck and an arm resting around her waist. Rubbing her eyes and turning over, she saw Leonard laying there – not a dream, either. And then what happened that night came back to her, in a rush of vivid colors and deep contrast.
"Penny," he murmured.
He was somewhere between awake and asleep – anything said, she couldn't be sure that he'd hear her.
"Leonard," she said, softly, her mouth pressed against his cheek, "I – you know what? We'll talk about this later."
She fell asleep, and a smile crossed Leonard's face.
ix. these words are my own
In the morning, over breakfast – they had shooed Sheldon away, and so the apartment was quiet save for the sound of deep breathing and chewing – Penny was lost in her thoughts. The night before had been – she couldn't, no, wouldn't go back to how things had been.
Being together was infinitely preferable to being apart, she discovered.
As she washed down a bite of waffle with orange juice, she looked over at Leonard and smiled. "I think," she said, laying the fork on the edge of her plate, "that I love you."
His fork clattered on the counter. "Thank you," he said.
"Seriously?" Talk about déjà vu.
"You already know how I feel about you."
"I do," she said, cutting off another piece of waffle.
"I love you too," he said and took her fork from her hand, setting it down, before kissing her – kissing her the way she should have been kissed the night before, with passion and longing, desire and hope.
"How long until Sheldon gets back?" Penny asked, gasping quietly for air.
"I don't know."
"Good enough," she said, and dragged him back into his bedroom.
Their waffles would get cold; waffles were replaceable.
Their relationship wasn't.
title: Alison Krauss – Ghost in this House
i. Stars – What I'm Trying to Say
ii. Alanis Morissette – You Oughta Know
iii. Bob Dylan – Forever Young
iv. Damien Rice - Cannonball
v. Dusty Springfield – You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
vi. Oasis – Wonderwall
vii. Coldplay – The Scientist
viii. Madonna – Like a Prayer
ix. Natasha Bedingfield – These Words