Okay, I think Penny is really under-rated by the writers. She's absolutely my favorite character (or at least in a tie with Sheldon) and I think she needs to be given a little more credit.
This takes place after The Wheaton Reoccurrence, and is AU from there..
The Talent Showcase
Part One: The Sonata
"Life is like a piano…what you get out of it depends on how you play it."
The piano had been delivered last week. The old keyboard in the corner had been replaced with a real piano, but this was the first time she'd been able to sit down at it. Her fingers were itching to play a real piano since she had moved to California. She still played, occasionally, when she went home for a visit, but that had been since Thanksgiving of last year. Eight months.
It was after work, the clock showing 12:30 in the morning on a Sunday. Oddly enough, Sheldon was waiting on her. After breaking up with Leonard, he seemed to be the only one still speaking to her, still wanting to be around her.
Honestly, it was as if Sheldon was her only true friend.
Leonard not wanting to be around her, she could understand. She had broken his heart into tiny pieces.
Raj and Howard…that had hurt, but she guessed she might have deserved it. Raj didn't talk to her anyway and Howard…well, she hadn't exactly been patient with them.
But losing Sheldon out of this…that would have killed her.
He was her best friend. He helped her whenever she needed it, be it lending her money to allowing her to cry on his shoulder.
Even now, hours past his bedtime, he was waiting to walk her home because she'd gotten stuck with the late shift and wasn't comfortable with her going home by herself.
Sheldon watched as one tragic, quiet tear made its way down her face. Penny was not made for crying. And she certainly wasn't made for crying over Leonard. She was supposed to be happy. But in the few months since she couldn't tell Leonard that she loved him, and had lost the friendship of the other three, she hadn't smiled or been happy. The light wasn't in her eyes anymore.
He wanted the old Penny back, and was trying to draw her out of the shell she'd put around herself. He would have felt better about the whole issue had she gone out and gotten a new boyfriend, but she hadn't. She went to work and went home. She took on more hours at the Cheesecake Factory, stopped going to auditions, and certainly stopped shopping.
He believed her finances had improved considerably.
At the beginning, Sheldon had followed his friends' example and avoided Penny, despite his having placed her into his schedule and life. After a couple of weeks of this, he consulted his mother on the protocol. His mother had said Penny was just depressed. That she was the one being broken up with, not the one doing the breaking up. Sheldon didn't see how that was possible. Mary had asked her son who had left Leonard's side in this whole shakable. He'd said Penny. Mary asked who left Penny. His only reply had been "Everyone." His mother had pointed out something so obvious from over a thousand miles away, when he—Sheldon Lee Cooper, PhD—was only across the hall.
That's when he'd changed schedule. Right after talking to his mother, Sheldon went out and bought ice cream. He'd come back, grabbed Star Trek, the original, first season, and let himself into her apartment.
Penny, who'd been on the couch, had stared at him like he'd gone bat-crap crazy. He'd assured her he wasn't, and had proceeded to apologize profusely for his behavior.
The didn't eat the ice cream and they didn't watch Star Trek. She did hold him and cry, like he'd come back from the dead.
For once, Sheldon had held her, and simply said, "There, there" occasionally.
They'd gone back to routine after that, with the minor exception of him now coming to her apartment instead of her coming to his.
He had thought Leonard would be angry with him, but the shorter man had just nodded and said he was glad that Sheldon and Penny were still friends. That he'd been worried about their blonde neighbor, and how she was doing.
So now, three months later, he was sitting in the Cheesecake Factory well past his bedtime, waiting on said neighbor to move away from the piano. She sat at it, with such a look of longing on her face that Sheldon wondered what she could possibly be thinking.
Penny was such a mystery to him. Him! Of all people, Sheldon Lee Cooper, the future winner of a Nobel prize; smartest man in the Western Hemisphere (the world, even), mystified over a woman.
But not just any woman, Penny.
Though he wanted to go home, he waited. Afraid to disturb her now.
A few keys coughed out a sound, as she pressed the keys gently down, as if she was scared to death someone would hear and be angry.
Penny looked away and scoffed. She didn't know what she was doing still sitting here in the dark. But her hands itched to play, and Sheldon was being patient for once.
So she put her hands back, and felt another tear roll down her cheek. She found formation at middle C and finally played the song that her soul had been playing on repeat the last few months.
Sheldon's breath stopped a little as Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" wafted through the still, warm air.
The only sound in the entire restaurant was the sad, mournful notes, swelling up, taking over all the oxygen from the room.
She played the tune perfectly, and from memory, as her eyes were tightly closed, and Sheldon doubted seriously that she could have seen through her tears anyway.
Each note was a shimmering silver dust hung in their air. Penny could see them dancing blue and purple in her mind, like fabric in moonlight.
She finished the tune after the first movement, and carefully folded her hands into her lap.
She gently got up, and walked out, knowing Sheldon would follow.
As they got into her car, she was silently screaming for him to say something.
And Sheldon, for once able to sense that, simply said "Penny, your check engine light is still on."
Also, look up Horowitz's performance of "Moonlight Sonata"