A/N: I've crawled out of my cave and started writing again! Amazing, I know. Sometimes I'm just too lazy for words. In any case...this little story would not leave me alone until I started writing it. It hasn't been checked over by a beta, and I haven't written anything in quite some time, so...go easy on me.

The Paradigm Alteration

If her head hurt any worse, Penny thought she just might fall over and die. Clutching her forehead with one hand and her keys in the other, she slowly made her way to the entrance to her apartment building. Her apron hung loose on her hips, but she couldn't find the strength to reach down and tighten it. She had gone in for her shift and stayed for just two hours before a searing pain in her head made her drop a tray of dishes in the kitchen. Luckily, Bernadette and several others immediately ran over to help her pick everything up before the manager could come in and see the mess.

"Are you okay?" Bernadette had asked Penny once everything was picked up.

"I'm fine," she had answered and managed to give a convincing smile before slowly getting back to her tables, ignoring the massive headache that was still pounding in her head.

Twenty minutes later, she knew that she wasn't going to last the entire shift. Her manager was disappointed, but reluctantly allowed her to leave early. After her remaining customers had left, Penny immediately went home, driving five miles under the speed limit and clutching her head the whole way home.

"Asprin. Bed." She whispered over and over as she walked up to open the entrance. Staring at the ground as she passed through it, she turned and was about to reach the first step when a familiar voice reached her ears.

"Oh, hello Penny." A mailbox shut with a loud clang.


"Hey Sheldon," she replied, her voice barely above a whisper as she began climbing the stairs. As much as she hated to be rude and walk away, her head was throbbing to the point where she felt as if she could burst into tears at any moment.

"Why aren't you at work? It's Tuesday night. We eat there on Tuesday nights. Why are you not there on a Tuesday night?" His voice began to climb higher and higher, alarmed at the sudden change to his regular schedule.

"Sheldon, I'm sick," She whispered, still climbing. She could hear him climbing the stairs right behind her.

"What kind of sick?" He immediately backed away, and she could see him in her mind pulling a sleeve over his nose and mouth.

"I have a massive headache," She explained slowly. "And can you please lower your voice? It really hurts," She closed her eyes and let the wall guide her, hoping that a lack of light would lessen the pain.

"Nothing contagious?" He whispered loudly, still following her but from much further behind.

"No, Sheldon, I'm not contagious. I just have a headache," She sighed and stepped onto the second floor landing.

"Oh," He was suddenly back at her side. "Well if it's just a headache, then why aren't you at work? It's Tuesday."

"Yes, Sheldon, I realize that it's Tuesday," She snapped and immediately regretted it. Her head throbbed and she had to stop on the stairs to recover from the pain. "Ohh, this is the worst headache ever."

They reached the third floor. Sheldon had thankfully stopped talking, but continued to match her pace as they slowly ascended to the fourth floor.

"Sheldon?" She sighed as she reached the final step on the fourth floor and held out her hand in his direction. "Bernadette is working tonight. She knows to keep an eye on your food to make sure nobody touches it. Ask to be seated in her section. I'm going to bed."

"But,-" he sputtered behind her, most likely trying to wrap his brain around the idea that Penny would not be serving his cheeseburger that night.

She quickly opened the door to her apartment, trying to get inside before Sheldon could stop her again. Unfortunately, she was attempting to move at a faster pace than her limbs were able to function in her present condition. As she stepped inside and attempted to turn around and shut the door, she tripped over her own foot and fell forward.

Penny barely saw the corner of her coffee table as her head came crashing down upon it. Her vision immediately blacked out.