AN: This fic sprang forth from a paragraph I had apparently written long ago and forgotten about (Well that and about 468 cans of energy drink). The first section is a bit iffy (That's the one I found) but it get's better I promise :P Reviews always appreciated
Taking his laptop off his lap and lowering his headpiece, Sheldon arose from his spot to answer the ringing phone. Pressing the answer button he greeted
"Oh hey Sheldon I figured you'd be home."
Penny's voice was quieter that usual and though this struck Sheldon as a little odd he was eager to return to his game so, putting his curiosity aside he simply said "Hello Penny. Yes I am home it's Wednesday night, Wednesday night is Halo night as you well know."
There was a tiny hint of a smile in Penny's voice as she whispered
"Yeah I do know" continuing the conversation penny asked "So ... erm is Leonard there too"
She was still being very quiet and during her last sentence he definitely detected a quiver to her voice. Opting to reply he answered "No he is working late tonight"
Furrowing his brow he decided that investigation was warranted "Penny are you okay you sound troubled?"
He heard a faint gasp as though she where surprised that he had picked up on that, to be truthful he was a little surprised too.
"Err.. well... yeah I'm, I'm fine, I'm just a little tired." Sheldon didn't fully believe that was all that it was but she didn't want to tell him and he wanted to get back to his game, plus it really was none of his business.
"Okay, is there a particular reason you called?" Sighing again this time in relief at him letting the subject go he imagined she breezily, perhaps a little too breezily replied "Yeah, Yeah I erm lost my bag"
She said with a casual little giggle, he could practically see her waving her hand around distractedly "But I'm gonna be a while and I don't wanna wake you guy's up later so could you leave my spare key under my mat so I can get in to my apartment?"
"Yes certainly, though I must warn you that seems most unsafe" He couldn't let it go without warning that. Penny laughed again but this time it was rather different and entirely more disturbing, more like a maniacal , slightly hysterical giggling "Yeah I really gotta start taking more care of that huh?"
Sheldon was slightly confused by her behavior and if there was one thing in this world that he couldn't stand, and there where many, it was confusion.
And then a thought occurred to him
She was making no sense
Hadn't returned home since finishing work hours ago
And she wouldn't be home until late
Ah yes, she was at a party and was currently intoxicated, that was it.
Unable to keep ALL of the condescending tone out of his voice he simply said.
"Okay well then if your okay with it then I shall do as you asked."
Pausing a second she finally said " okay then thanks ..... bye"
"Morning" A weary Leonard said as he collapsed on the couch. Using that infuriatingly overly-perky tone of voice he always used in the morning Sheldon replied "Good Morning Leonard, I trust you slept well"
"Not really, we got a pizza delivered to the lab, turns out my asking for non-dairy cheese on mine was lost in translation between American and .. you know .. American" There was a definite hostility in his tone indicating that the ludicrously illogical statement was not to be taken literally and so Sheldon refrained from commenting.
As Leonard went to the bathroom all the while cursing the 'Damn' Pizza place Sheldon allowed himself to marvel at the progress he had made in reading people. A few years ago he hadn't considered proper social human interaction to be a worthwhile skill. If one could speak their native language in sufficient quantities to enable the speaker to request the bare-essentials they would be okay, there is very little need in survival to be polite.
However in recent years he had learned that while it may not be necessary, a basic understanding of the subtleties of social interaction could make a lot of things much easier such as making friends at work to greatly increase the chances of being able to use equipment or in ordering food to his specifics, When asked with a smile and a silent promise of a large tip, the waiters and waitresses very seldom made mistakes in his order.
As Sheldon sat down in his spot to enjoy his cereal and watch Doctor Who on BBC America he found that he couldn't quiet concentrate on the show. He was encumbered by thoughts of what had brought on this change. Every effect must be proceeded by a cause. Although really he didn't have to think that hard. It was fairly clear that the change was brought on by the arrival of a certain blonde actress to the building. Since Leonard had insisted on socializing with Penny, Sheldon had been left with little choice but to eventually adapt himself to her personality whenever she was around as she was light-years away from the people he usually spends time around. While it was true that she was fairly similar to his Sister she was really an entity unto her self. One that he had , no matter how begrudgingly, made changes to his life in order to accommodate.
The flushing of the toilet snapped him out of his reverie. Leonard entered the kitchen along with Sheldon - dispose of his now mushy cereal. Leonard went about preparing what appeared to be dry toast and lemon tea. "Hey could you go get the mail, I don't really feel up to it"
Looking at Leonard, Sheldon said "I fail to see how gastrointestinal distress keeps you from retrieving the mail yourself. Now a broken ankle or some form of spinal injury could possibly prohibit you from..." "JUST GO!" Leonard yelled in frustration. At Sheldon's shocked expression Leonard sighed and apologized before asking if Sheldon would PLEASE go get the mail. He agreed and on his way down the stairs he thought to himself 'Perhaps a little more practice in human interaction would be prudent.'
As Sheldon locked the mail box back up and sorted thought the mail he heard the door open and looked up to see Penny enter wearing rather large sunglasses. "Good morning Penny" Sheldon greeted. He was surprised however when she responded to his greeting by jumping as though he had introduced a few hundred vaults of electricity to her body. "Oh .. God Sheldon you scared me" she said stating the obvious.
Sheldon took note of her appearance which at the moment seemed uncharacteristically disheveled, she was wearing pants that must be at least 2 sizes too big for her and where likely only staying in place because they had been rolled at the top. She was also wearing a plain hooded sweater and her hair was up in a messy bun and no discernible make-up. Also, though she was now inside she showed now sign of removing her sunglasses.
Drawing the only conclusion he could think of he decided to comment.
"I see that you had fun last night if your clearly hung-over demeanor is anything to go by."
To which Penny responded with a slightly sardonic laugh before biting out "Yeah lots fun" before turning to ascend the stairs. Sheldon followed up behind her.
As they reached their floor Penny, who had still not removed her sunglasses, turned to him "Hey Sheldon do you know anything about installing an alarm system?" Sheldon replied "Of course I do" "Right what was I thinking" she said somewhat under her breath "Anyway I got this from the hardware store" Indicating the plastic bag she had been holding "And the cost of installing it was more or less the same price as buying the damn thing. I just don't have the money so you think you could help me out?" At that moment Sheldon had a choice. He could comment to her how typical it was of her to attempt to circumvent the cost of something by expecting them to do it for her or he could take to heart what she had said a few weeks ago about them being friends, understand that she needed help and do her, as she would put it, 'A favor'.
Where this anyone else he would reply with the first option, however like he had said to himself earlier, he had to adapt to being friends with her. Also there was something he couldn't quite pick up on about her demeanor, he had the impression that something was wrong, something that urged him to help her.
"I am due into work this morning however I will be able to spare some time tonight. If it is permissible by you I will come around at Seven O'clock pm"
He could tell by her expression that she was shocked by his unusual level of co-operation but then just clearly decided to accept it and thanked him.
"No no you don't get it, the man's planet had been destroyed and his mother killed and in that universe he had even less control over his emotions so that just pushed him. That's why he was macking Uhura in front of everyone. He didn't care anymore." Woolowitz had been trying to get this through to them for the last 15 minutes and it seemed to be working on Kuthrapali and Leonard but Sheldon was never going to accept any form of explanation for that particular betrayal of not only Vulcan culture but of the character of Spock himself.
Finishing his slice of pizza he rose to get ready to assist Penny. As he passed he noticed with a small amount of amusement Leonard eating his pasta. Given the event's of the previous night he had wisely decided to forgo pizza night. As Sheldon walked towards the door Leonard asked him where he was going.
"I told Penny that I would assist her with installation of an alarm system" Leonard looked a little surprised at that "An alarm system really, that seems a little unlike her" Puzzled Sheldon asked what he meant "I don't know really, I mean it's smart, I just never really pictured her going to the trouble"
Sheldon agreed that he had never really considered installing an alarm system as something that Penny would normally do but, as Leonard had said, it was wise. And Sheldon always supported the advancement of intelligence. "Well she is and she is unable to do so alone therefore I shall see you later."
And with a slight wave he left.
Knock knock knock
Knock knock knock
Knock knock knock
The woman in question answered the door with a smile but when Sheldon looked at her it wasn't the smile, appealing as it was, that drew his attention but rather the large, very painful looking bruise marring her left eye
"Dear lord Penny are you alright?" Sheldon asked with copious amounts of concern.
"Yeah sweetie I'm fine I ...just .....I fell last night, you where right I was drunk" She said with an over-exaggerated self deprecating smile that made Sheldon disbelieve what she was saying. Though what she said made sense given what he knew of the previous night so after ensuring that she was really fine he decided to let the matter drop and get started.
Penny seemed much more energized than she had this morning however Sheldon still could not rid himself of the irritating sense that there was something wrong. why would he be feeling that way. Perhaps it was just seeing Penny injured. He had always had a very weak disposition towards physical harm, even seeing evidence of it on others.
"Alright, the alarm is installed and functioning perfectly" Sheldon said with a proud smile. He always enjoyed the satisfaction of accomplishing a task he never had before.
Penny smiled gratefully at him and said "Oh thank you sweetie, you have no idea how much you've helped me out"
"Of course I do, I am the one who did it." He realized as soon as he had said that, that she had been using a simple figure of speech and hadn't meant that to be taken literally. Sometimes old habit's really did die hard. However by now Penny had grown used to statements like that and just smiled at him and said "I know you did and I am eternally grateful"
Deciding this time to forgo commenting on that 'eternally' thing he simply smiled back at her. It was then that they both realized they where just standing there smiling at each other like maniacs. Penny let out a little giggle and said "Let me make you a drink to properly thank you, hot coco okay?" nodding his head in acceptance Sheldon said "Thank you that would be lovely".
"...and then she tried to blame me for her table was complaining about their food being late just because I was supervising that night, and what, I'm supposed to go back and help cook as well when exactly did that become part of my job description?"
"I have no idea, Penny" Sheldon's voice held evidence of how weary he was and he had long since given up on trying to hide it. It was way past his usual bed time and Penny would just not let him leave. "I apologize for being blunt Penny but I really must be going."
"Are you sure I have more coco." Penny pleaded. She seemed very eager to keep him here but if he had one more cup of coco he would be sick all night.
No thank you. I shall see you tomorrow" As he rose to leave Penny jumped up and shouted his name. Surprised Sheldon spun around to see Penny displaying a look of ... desperation?. "Is there something wrong Penny?" "No, I.. just, hey I know why don't you stay here tonight huh, you can have the bed, I'll sleep on the couch again, what do ya say?" She asked with a large, very false, smile on her face.
Sheldon now knew that there had to be something wrong. Then he heard a familiar voice in his head. It was the voice that told him when he had missed something and right now it was practically shouting 'You know something is wrong, think about it' So for the first time since the odd feeling began, instead of focusing on why he was feeling that way he focused on what could be wrong. Her tone of voice on the phone last night, she had lost her bag, she wanted an alarm system and she appeared not to want him to leave.
When he thought of all this tied together with the large bruise on her face he felt incredibly shamed. How could he have the nerve to call himself a scientist, a genius, when it had taken him this long to see what was so clear. He needed to know for sure, but he would have to tread carefully, Penny was very strong-headed and wouldn't respond well if he was too upfront.
"Penny,... did .. something happen last night?"
Taking a deep breath Penny tried to put on a confident face but the vulnerability was there beneath the surface. He realized it had been there all along. How could he be so blind. Just this morning he was thinking how much he had improved at this very subject and here in front of him was irrefutable evidence of how incorrect he had been.
When Penny responded she did so with a slight quiver in her voice.
"No, Why would you say that?"
"Penny, you can trust that I would not mock or judge you" Sheldon said gently. And that was apparently the right thing to say as her face crumbled and she sat heavily on the couch. Moving over to her he sat on the coffee table in front of her and, quelling his germ phobia, placed his hands carefully on hers.
After a few seconds she finally spoke in a tone so quiet he could barely hear her. "I was mugged"
Thinking of the right thing to say he settled on "Did you inform the authorities?" It wasn't exactly comforting however he was still new to this. "Yeah, that's why I was out so late last night." She was still very quiet. It unnerved him. He liked certain things to be a certain way and he had come to know Penny as very outspoken and forthright... and in no way quiet.
"What happened" Sheldon was uncertain as to whether she would be up to talking about this yet however he still didn't really know what to say. It didn't matter anyway as she answered him.
"I was walking back from the Cheesecake Factory and some guy in a hood jumped out and grabbed my purse. I tried yanking it back but he hit me really hard in the face and ran off."
She sniffed a little before crying out "God I just feel so pathetic crying and acting all scared and weak. I really thought I was stronger than this ya know" She lowered her head again and started sobbing. Sheldon knew that he should feel out of his depths but fortunately he actually knew what to say about this. The only thing he had to make sure was that he didn't cloud what he was saying in too complicated a way.
"Penny, I can assure you that you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. The fact that you attempted to fight back shows that you are strong. Being afraid now is simply a natural response to any attack. It is a feature of evolution designed to prepare the body for another attack. Everybody on this planet would react the same when faced with previously unprecedented levels of violence." Looking back up penny wiped across her upper lip with her sleeve, a sleeve he would make sure not to touch, and asked
"Really, your not just trying to make me feel better"
"I am telling the truth and trying to make you feel better." Sheldon replied. Penny burst out laughing. "Thank you Sheldon. You are an amazing friend." Sheldon was a lot more touched by that sentiment that he would have guessed. All he could muster up was a heartfelt
When Sheldon walked in the front door of his apartment he saw Leonard putting the leftover pizza in the fridge. When Leonard saw him he said "Hey you've been gone nearly all night, what where you doing over there?"
"Installing the alarm system, drinking coco....and......talking"
'Damn!' Sheldon had tried really hard not to hesitate, he had promised Penny that he wouldn't tell anyone about her attack until she was ready and this was one secret he was determined to keep.
Seems that he needn't have worried for Leonard, likely very tired, simply said "Oh Well I'm gonna go to bed"
"Yes well good night"
A few minutes later Leonard emerged from the bathroom to find Sheldon, pajamas in hand, closing his bedroom door seemingly on his way out.
"Erm Sheldon, what are you doing?"
He simply answered "I am staying at Penny's tonight, see you in the morning" before leaving a rather confused Leonard to try to make sense of the situation before he finally gave up and went to bed.