Alright, here we are. The Epilogue.
The Talent Showcase
Epilogue: The Piano
"Choose your wife as you wish your children to be."
Sheldon smiled as he signaled the movers to the exact spot of where to place his anniversary gift to Penny. According to the internet, it was traditional to get a wife a musical instrument for a 24th wedding anniversary. So he'd gotten her a baby grand, a considerable upgrade to the second-hand upright they'd bought on their six-month anniversary.
Besides, Kate was taking that one to Pasadena.
In twenty-four glorious years, Penny had given him three children. Their oldest, 23, was Katharina Lee Cooper, PhD. She had studied at MIT, before teaching at Cambridge, but had eventually moved back to Houston to research quarks with her father. Unlike Sheldon, Kate had had a mother who had refused to allow all of her genius to get in the way of her life. She hadn't gotten her first PhD at sixteen. She'd gotten it at eighteen. She'd had to incorporate dance, piano, and soccer into her life.
Sheldon was tremendously proud of his daughter for being so normal and still maintaining such a high IQ (187). She had also accepted a position at CalTech recently, and was moving from their home in Houston into a certain apartment 4A. Sheldon just hoped Pasadena could handle her. The good Lord knew Texas couldn't.
Their middle child was 22. Isaac Newton Cooper was a senior at the University of Texas, working toward a career in Architecture. He was also the starting quarterback of the UT football team. He was as tall as Sheldon, but far more heavily muscled. While he hadn't been a beautiful mind genius, he was incredibly practical, and definitely a visionary in his field (football and architecture). Just like his mother. Sheldon was also very pleased with his middle son, despite not being a genius. Instead of physics (as he and Kate had bonded over), he and Newt had bonded over football. He'd been surprised to find he'd enjoyed the game far more than he'd thought he would. Penny had said it was because his son was involved, not the PeeWee division in Galveston. He thought that had summed it up quite nicely.
Their youngest child was 20, and a sophomore at UT. Malcolm Luke Cooper was, like his elder brother, not a beautiful mind genius. He was, however, extremely good at math and business and was currently double majoring. The boy was a math savant, and had taken over the "accounting department" of Penny Blossoms at ten. He'd taken over the "business department" at fourteen. He was also incredibly computer savvy. Sheldon had yet to protect his computer well enough that Luke couldn't hack it. Amazingly, they'd bonded over this too, even through the trouble Luke had gotten into at school because he'd hacked the school's system. Sheldon still maintained that she school obviously needed to be more stringent in their firewalls.
All three of them were watching Sheldon rearrange the living room to accommodate the new piano. All three of them were in various states of amusement.
Kate, for the most part, thought it was incredibly sweet. Newt thought his father was being neurotic. Luke was wondering when his father was going to figure out the angle of the piano was all wrong for the acoustics of the room.
He glanced at them, smirking. He knew the angle was all wrong, but Penny would want the piano there so she could look out the window and watch and talk to her children while she played. Sometimes it wasn't about science, it was about happiness. And happiness wasn't always logical. He'd learned that in twenty-four years.
"Dad," Newt said, trying not to laugh.
"Where is Mom?"
Sheldon smiled, his devious side showing. "She went out shopping for tonight's celebration."
Various sounds of disgust, ranging from gagging (Luke) to "Dad!" (Kate) when through the room.
"Bazinga. She went to get her hair done. We're going to the ballet."
Penny was right. That was never going to get old.
"So you bought her a piano and you're taking her to the ballet. Smooth," Kate said, nodding her head. She was so happy for her parents that it wasn't funny. "Hope you two are taking notes."
Newt and Luke, both at least a foot taller than their petite, blonde sister, glared.
Sheldon tried not to laugh, but looking at the three stare down one another was too good.
Newt and Luke were both well over six feet tall, and had his dark hair with Penny's green eyes. Kate was smaller, like her mother, with the blond hair and blue eyes.
"Luke here's the only one that needs to take notes," Newt grumbled.
"Um, excuse me. I seem to recall that you're the one who can't seem to date a girl longer than ten minutes," his lanky youngest said.
"Every girl out there is completely into the whole football thing. When they find out I actually have a brain, and I'm a decent guy, they leave. Not my fault."
"Technically, based on your reasoning, it is your fault," Kate said, clearly seeing the missing piece of logic.
"So I should be a complete douche?"
"No, you should find a different type of girl. One that doesn't like football, likes guys with brains, and wouldn't mind a decent guy."
Luke's eyebrows came together. "Are there girls like that?"
"Yes. My friend Bethany…although she does like football. Just not you."
"Not seeing the point here Kate."
"I think what Kate is trying to point out, is that you have given out the wrong signals, or simply that others have given out the wrong signals about you. Bethany, who has never met you, assumes that you are the typical college quarterback based on word of mouth. While this is a wrong assumption, it is a logical one. I would suggest trying to change your image," Sheldon said, fiddling with the position of the coffee table a little.
Newt rolled his eyes. "And why should I change for one girl?"
Sheldon didn't know if now was the time to tell him that Penny had already taught the girl how to make his mother's peach cobbler (Newt's greatest weakness, and the tribal scourge of the Cooper men) just as Mary had taught Penny. It was a recipe, and rite of passage, passed down from Mother-in-law to daughter-in-law, and the men folk were never allowed to see it. At Kate's look, he figured he ought not to.
"It's not about changing for the girl son; it's about the girl changing you."
Luke and Newt both looked flummoxed, and Kate just beamed at him.
"Bethany's coming over tonight to help me pack. You can meet her then. She's really cute. She's about my height. She's got brown hair and eyes. She's got glasses, but with all the reading she does, it was only a matter of time before she had to get them."
Sheldon, who had met (and rather liked) Bethany, noticed that she'd forgotten to mention that Bethany was somewhat like the Katharina after whom Kate was named. The girl was all country—having grown up with seven older brothers on a wheat farm and cattle ranch in the panhandle. The girl could talk to him in Mandarin Chinese and to Penny about rebuilding tractor engines. To Sheldon and Penny, she was perfect for a daughter-in-law, and perfect for Newt.
"How do you even know her?"
"She works in the library at UT. She's studying 19th century Russian literature and is fluent in four languages."
Newt rolled his eyes. "Great. Thanks. I'll be so glad to meet her."
Luke was trying not to laugh.
"I'd stop laughing Luke. You're probably next."
Sheldon wasn't about to tell them that indeed he was. Penny had found that one when he ten. She was a small, sprite of a thing that had been in Kate's dance lessons, about four years her junior. She was currently a freshman at UT, studying graphic design while dancing for a local ballet company. She was an up-and-coming Prima ballerina. Penny and her mother were constantly getting coffee. Penny thought Lauren and Luke would be perfect for each other. Lauren's mother agreed. Sheldon had met her as well, and had had to agree that Penny could pick them.
Lauren had known the cobbler recipe for years.
Judging by Kate's look, he'd keep that a secret too.
Penny sighed deep in thought as she drove home. Her hair and nails were done for tonight and she was really looking forward to the ballet, but she didn't know how she was going to tell Sheldon.
He'd taken it in stride when it came to the boys, but Kate was her daddy's little girl. She didn't think it would go over so well. Honestly, the boys were boys; they could handle what was thrown at them, be it footballs, finals, or wives. But she was dreading seeing Sheldon's face when he found out that Penny had picked out Kate's future husband. She wasn't quite sure about Kate, but she expected the girl already had a hunch. And she didn't seem to mind the choice.
He was perfect. She just knew it—deep down in her gut.
A month ago, she'd gone with Kate to look for an apartment in Pasadena. They'd found out that, by some strange twist of fate (it was really funny how life worked out sometimes), her old apartment was for rent. They'd gone to look at it, and Penny couldn't help but be nostalgic. ("You know, you were conceived in this apartment." "Oh my GOD, Mom! Really? Did I REALLY need to know that?")
They'd been standing in the living room, door open when a young (late twenties) man brought out the key to the apartment in 4B, after climbing the stairs. ("Well, it might have been in his apartment." "Mom!")
That outburst had brought a look from said young man.
Penny walked out, and said, "I'm sorry, but I was just wondering. How long has the elevator been broken?"
His head tilted to the side, "Thirty-three years, seven months, twenty-three days, eighteen hours, nine minutes, and thirteen seconds."
Penny had frowned. They'd never fixed it?
"Is that the elevator Uncle Leonard…"
"Shh. Yes, dear. How did you know that it's been exactly that long?" she asked, still not looking at her daughter. She finally took a good look at him.
He was tall, maybe taller than Sheldon (though not by much), and good looking, in that nerdy kind of way that she loved so much. He was wearing a vintage Iron Man t-shirt, a white, long sleeve undershirt, with a pair of dark wash jeans. His hair was dark, cut neatly, and he had beautiful brown eyes. He also had a messenger bag strapped across his chest. While lanky, there was a quiet strength to his shoulders, and his forarms.
"Judging by the layers of dust, rust, and evidence of a rocket fuel not mixed properly, that was the time frame I was able to conclude."
Kate was too busy looking at the elevator.
"I'm sorry. My name is Penny Cooper. This is my daughter Kate. She's moving in next door."
"Mom, I'm totally not moving into the apartment you just told me I was conceived in."
"Yes you are. Besides, I told you, it may well have been his. Although, it may have also been the laundry room."
Kate turned then, to make a snarky comment, but stopped at seeing the (gorgeous!) man. He looked incredibly ill at what her mother had just said. She didn't think she could blame him.
"I'm Dr. Montgomery Callum. Call me Mont."
Kate frowned a little. She knew the name, knew of the man, and knew of his work. He was considered to be the smartest Physics genius since her father. With her coming in a close second. And only because he'd gotten his PhD at fifteen. He'd also won the Stevenson award a year before she had.
Penny was grinning widely, standing between them. They'd give her beautiful and smart grandbabies when they finally got around to it.
"So you won't be moving into 4A?" He asked, nervous he'd breached protocol. He was in uncharted territory, but his roommate John wasn't here to save him.
"No, I'll probably move in, after I get over the weirdness," she said, nodding. "And disinfect. Everything."
"Sweetheart, it's been over twenty-four years."
"Don't care Mom. That weirdness won't go away until the entire apartment as been sanitized and sterilized."
"While your sentiments are illogical, I do understand the basis for such actions on your part," Mont conceded, fiddling oddly with his bag.
Kate just smiled.
"So! Mont. Are you from Pasadena?"
"No ma'am. I'm from Kentucky. My parents breed and train horses," he said shyly, his southern drawl coming out a little in saying that.
"We're from Texas. Houston, actually. Well, I'm originally from Omaha. But I moved out here to get into acting. I met Kate's father instead. In this building actually!"
Mont nodded, his head a little jerky. He was trying to be polite. Kate almost pitied him. Almost. He was now the focus of her mother's attention (meaning she wasn't) and she wondered what the older woman was up to.
"I never did quite do much acting, but I did some. I turned down the part in a TV show to raise my family. After we moved to Texas, my husband is originally from there, I didn't do any more acting."
She left out that she had started writing plays instead. She had several currently on Broadway, and had done tons of directing at the local city playhouse. She was huge in the modern literature scene. Several of her plays had even become movies.
Kate just smiled. "Mom, I'm sure Dr. Callum would like to go eat his supper now."
Penny looked down. Chang's Chinese. "Is Chang's still around?"
Mont simply nodded. "It's a well-known establishment."
"Do you eat it often? Is it still good, I mean?" What she wanted to know is did he have a psychotic tendency to stick to a routine.
"I eat Chang's every Friday. And sometimes on Anything Can Happen Tuesdays."
Penny knew then he was definitely a keeper.
"Well, thank you so much Mont. You're so kind to stay and chat with me. I'm glad to know Kate's neighbors will be such nice young men."
Mont frowned. "How do you know I have a roommate?"
"You have two boxes, and that apartment has two bedrooms. You're not wearing a ring, so I assume you're available. If you had a female roommate, or some sort of girlfriend, she'd be here with you this evening."
Mont raised one eyebrow. "You are correct, Mrs. Cooper—"
"Penny…I have a roommate. John. He's currently on his way home from work."
"Well, I guess we had better be leaving. Kate, say goodbye to Mont, dear."
"Dr. Callum," she said softly, looking at him from under her lashes. She nodded and followed her mother down the stairs.
Penny was headed down the stairs, already buzzing with excitement.
"Will I see you at CalTech soon, Dr. Cooper?"
Kate, already starting down the steps after her mother, turned back to look at the man on the landing. His brown eyes were intense and clinical. And something else. "Enjoy your evening Dr. Callum."
He nodded briskly and disappeared into his apartment. Oh yeah, she was definitely taking 4A.
Penny and Sheldon were on their way to the theater, she was still smiling crazily at the gift of the piano. God bless her whack-a-doodle, he really knew how to make her happy.
She figured, though, now was the time. In the quiet of the theater, she knew he wouldn't make a scene.
"Sweetheart, what I'm about to say with probably upset you some. But I want you to think about it first."
"Alright," he said. He'd been waiting on this. Ever since she'd come back from Pasadena, she'd been thinking over something in her head. Kate had been staring off into space much more as well.
"I found Kate a husband."
Sheldon took a deep breath. That was not what he wanted to hear, but he guessed it was going to happen eventually.
"Tell me about him."
"His name is Montgomery Callum—"
"The theoretical particle physicist?"
Sheldon thought he could breathe again. Dr. Callum was highly respected, and well on his way to achieving a Nobel prize. Very acceptable.
"Alright. Sounds good."
"Don't you want to know anything else?"
"No. I trust you. He's a scientist whose work I respect and admire. He's said to be slightly eccentric, but all-in-all a decent man with high moral values. He has an excellent work ethic. Leonard also says he's the modern version of me."
Leonard Hofstadter was now the head of CalTech, taking over from Gablehauser some years ago. He and his wife Stephanie (the red-haired doctor) still lived in Pasadena.
"So that's it. You trust me?"
Sheldon looked at Penny and just smiled. "Penny, you have many talents. You can play the piano, practically rebuild cars from scrap metal, dance, sew, and act. You can ride a horse and lasso cows. At the same time. You can write, direct, and manage a business when our son lets you. But you have four very specific talents that are the most valued to me."
Penny smiled. "And those are?"
"You are an excellent wife and mother. Which does require a great deal of talent. You are also a fantastic matchmaker. Just look at Howard and Bernadette, Raj and Missy, and if his reaction was anything to go by, Newt and Beth. I have no doubt that Luke and Lauren will follow quickly. Kate and Dr. Callum—"
"Kate and Mont, as far as I am concerned, are a case that I trust you implicitly in. Not only that, over the years, you have become an excellent judge of character. And I am completely certain that you would not find this man so perfect for our daughter if you did not believe him to be a good man. These are traits you have passed down to our children, and I have truly enjoyed helping you raise them. Kate will know a good man when she sees him, just as you have."
Penny's bottom lip and chin quivered. It was times like these she wondered what on earth had taken her so long in seeing what a good man Sheldon was. "I love you."
"I love you too Penny. Even more than physics."
Now he'd gone and done it.
She performed a perfect u-turn.
"Where are we going."
"Home. We can kick the kids out for a few hours."
Sheldon smiled. "Now that's the best idea you've had all day."
As it turned out, Newt and Beth got married a little over six months later.
Luke and Lauren were best man and maid of honor. They'd eloped the night before, though had yet to tell anyone.
Kate had brought Mont along as her date for the wedding. He and Sheldon had discussed physics all day.
Sheldon liked Mont a great deal. He agreed that it would be another year or two before Kate wore him down completely, but they were definitely going to be married before the decade was out.
A year or two was an over-estimation. Or, at least, they'd underestimated Kate. Eight months later, she'd called to say she was pregnant, and they were getting married. Sorry they hadn't given any heads up, but it was a spur of the moment thing.
Sheldon had baulked. Penny had sighed.
She'd pointed out that the same thing had happened to them.
Sheldon said he should have known. He'd cursed apartment 4A for weeks after.
Kate had assured her it had been the laundry room. Penny didn't think Sheldon ought to know that. She also didn't think that Kate (or Sheldon for that matter) ought to know it had been the kitchen of 4B either.