The Paradigm Alteration

Chapter Twenty-Six

Leonard sighed as he finally reached the top of the stairs. Juggling his messenger bag, the mail from downstairs, and a plastic bag full of new comic books, he found his key ring and slid it into the lock of his front door. Frowning slightly, he realized that it was unlocked. Pulling the key back out, he turned the knob and opened the door.

"There's nothing disgusting about it. It's just another life form, that's all. You get used to those things."

Leonard froze in the doorway, his hand halfway to the key bowl. Penny and Sheldon were sitting on the couch watching Star Trek. Penny was leaned into Sheldon's shoulder, totally focused on what was happening on the screen. Sheldon was sitting in his usual spot, a water bottle between his hands on his lap. He, too, was engrossed in the television screen.

Leonard coughed, hoping to shake away a sudden feeling of being uncomfortable. "Um, hey?" He called out to the pair, kicking the door shut behind him.

"Oh, hello," Sheldon turned his head and called out. Leonard could have swore he saw the slightest hint of a smile in the corner of his mouth.

"What are you guys doing?" Leonard asked cautiously, removing his messenger bag and dropping his comic books on his desk. His eyes never once left the odd pair sitting on the couch. He couldn't believe Penny was actually watching Star Trek. He looked around for her phone, maybe she was playing with it and just pretending to watch?

No, that couldn't be it, Leonard frowned as he noticed her cell phone, turned back on, was lying on the kitchen counter, charging.

"We're watching Star Trek," Sheldon replied, this time with a definite curve in his lips as he continued to watch the show.

"I can see that," Leonard fiddled with the cuff of his jacket. "Penny? What are you up to?"

Before she could answer, Sheldon's eyebrows furrowed. "She's watching Star Trek. Can't you see that, Leonard?"

"Yeah, I see it," Leonard muttered, mostly to himself. "I just don't quite understand it," he trailed off.

"It's Anything-Can-Happen-Thursday," Penny said happily before laughing at something McCoy said. "You know, I really like McCoy. He's funny."

"He does provide a certain comical experience to an otherwise humorless occupation on board the ship," Sheldon replied.

Leonard felt his facial featured contort in confusion. She was actually watching the show enough to know the characters' names? Whenever he put Star Trek on, she either buried her face in her phone or left to go back to her apartment.

Shaking his head, Leonard removed his jacket and placed it on his desk chair. "I thought Anything-Can-Happen-Thusdays were only once every three weeks," he mumbled.

"Yeah, so did we," Penny's voice reached him. It sounded a bit sharp.

Leonard hung his head slightly. Yeah, he supposed they had turned it into a weekly thing...mainly to get rid of Sheldon for an evening. But hey, who could blame them? They needed a break from Sheldon every once in a while. He was a lot to handle.

"I'm going to get changed," Leonard said as he began walking toward his room. "A pen exploded all over my shirt today." He quickly ducked into the hallway, avoiding the two people on the couch, who seemed a bit too comfortable with one another.

Penny watched as Leonard disappeared from view. "What's his problem?" She asked.

"I assume a large stain of ink that is unlikely to wash out," Sheldon replied automatically, not looking up from the television.

Penny snorted. "I meant his behaviour," she clarified. "He's acting funny."

"I see no difference in how he usually acts." Penny felt Sheldon's shoulder shrug lightly against her head.

"Really? Well, maybe it's just me," she turned back to the episode they were currently watching. She sighed happily. If anybody had told her six weeks ago that she would be happy to sit on a couch with Sheldon and watch Star Trek, she would have laughed. Things have changed, Penny thought to herself. She was enjoying spending time with Sheldon. Nothing unusual or special had really occurred since Sheldon had informed her that he would like to start dating last week. She hadn't really expected anything to. He seemed more at ease with her touches, and he even once tolerated a quick hug goodbye before Penny had left to spend time with her girlfriends (not without attempting a lecture on the various diseases that could be transferred through touch, naturally).

Of course, he wasn't seeking out physical contact, either. Penny was quite content to lean on his shoulder, even if a tiny voice in her head reminded her that it would also be nice if Sheldon would put his arm around her.

Quelling those little reminders seemed to be easy for Penny. She knew that Sheldon was just coming around to the idea of being in close proximity with her on a daily basis.

"Hey," Penny said suddenly as her stomach growled. "What are we doing for dinner?" She sat up and looked over at Sheldon.

"Well," Sheldon reached for the remote and paused the episode. "On Thursdays we usually order pizza."

"Yeah, but this is Anything-Can-Happen-Thursdays," Penny reminded him. "Any chance I can drag you to that great Mexican restaurant around the corner?"

"Highly unlikely," Sheldon replied, and Penny's heart sank a little. "I doubt you could even drag me out the door."

Penny blinked.


She laughed, and felt a little thrill somewhere in her belly as Sheldon's face cracked the tiniest of grins.

"What's going on?" Leonard asked as he came into the room once more, smoothing out his new shirt.

"I'm going to try and drag Sheldon to that Mexican restaurant around the corner," she gave a little wink Sheldon's way. "Want to come with?" She asked, fully expecting him to decline.

"Actually, yeah, that sounds great!"

"Oh," Penny's smile faltered slightly. "Really?"

"Sure, I had no other plans for dinner. Raj and Howard are going over to Howard's place tonight. Howard's mom made a brisket," he explained as he rifled through the mail pile and threw two envelopes on Sheldon's desk.

"Oh, okay," Penny slowly stood up. It wasn't exactly how she had planned on tonight going, but it was okay. She couldn't see a problem with Leonard coming with them. After all, she could get more alone time with Sheldon later, when they came home to finish the episode they had started.

"Great, let's go," Leonard grinned and grabbed his coat.

"Hey wait a minute," Leonard turned around from the driver's seat to glance at Penny. "This isn't a Sheldon-approved restaurant," he exclaimed suddenly as they pulled into the parking lot.

"It's fine," Penny waved a hand as if to wave away his concerns. She unbuckled her seat belt as Leonard parked the car.

"How is it oka-," Leonard began.

"Penny is familiar with the restaurant criteria I require," Sheldon replied, unbuckling himself and stepping out of the car.

"What does that mean?" Leonard came around the car as they began walking toward the entrance to the restaurant.

"One of my friends works here," Penny explained. "She assured me that they have a special cleaning crew to clean the kitchen, they use an outside, Sheldon-approved laundry company to clean their napkins, and I checked out their health inspection reports online."

Leonard stared at her for a few moments while they entered and waited for a waitress to seat them.

"You did all of that?" He asked, perplexed.

"Yeah," Penny sighed.

"Why?" He asked, bewildered. "Why go through all that trouble just for Sheldon?"

"It wasn't for Sheldon," Penny grumbled. "I wanted to eat somewhere different for a change. If I had to go through all of that just to eat something other than thai, chinese, or pizza, then I didn't have much of a choice, now did I?"

"Oh," Leonard nodded, satisfied. "I'm surprised Sheldon trusts you enough to-,"

"Hey Penny!" Leonard was cut off as a waitress with dark hair hurried over to give Penny a quick hug. She was quickly introduced to Sheldon and Leonard before the waitress motioned them to follow her to a table. After taking their drink order, she quickly ran off to fill it. Leonard watched as Sheldon began arranging his napkin and cutlery.

"Well, this is exciting," Leonard exclaimed happily. "I haven't been to a Mexican restaurant in years. This is going to be great!"

"We have to leave," Sheldon said suddenly.

"What?" Penny asked, startled. "Why?"

Sheldon merely pointed to his fork. A three-tine fork.

Leonard sighed.

"You have got to be kidding me," Penny glared at Sheldon. "Seriously? I'm not going to walk out on my friend after she's already taken our drink order."

"I would like to refer you to page twenty-six of the relationship agreement," Sheldon said as he pulled out a mini-composition book out of his back pocket. "A non-approved restaurant may be deemed acceptable should the following conditions be met," He turned to the next page. "2c: The restaurant in question must have standard cutlery. Three-tine forks are not standard cutlery," Sheldon finished, holding up the fork in question.

"Wh-, wait, the what agreement?" Leonard demanded, his voice higher than usual.

"Wait a minute," Penny grumbled as she reached inside her purse, pulling out a similar-looking composition book. Flipping through the pages, she triumphantly slapped the book down on the table and reached back into her purse. Pulling out a little sealed packet containing a plastic fork, knife, spoon, and napkin, she put it on Sheldon's plate. "There. Standard, unused cutlery. An acceptable substitution."

"Can somebody answer-, wait, you walk around with take-out cutlery in your purse?" Leonard asked, bewildered.

"I work for the stereotypical absent-minded professor," Penny replied, tucking her composition book back into her purse. "I also carry tissues, red pens, and extra copies of her meeting schedule."

"And you're okay with that?" Leonard asked.

"Leonard, she pays me enough to buy a new purse every week. She can put whatever she wants in there," Penny snapped her purse shut and turned to Sheldon, watching as he carefully lifted the take-out cutlery packet, a frown on his face. His lips were pressed tight, as if he were holding back objections, but everyone knew that he had no recourse. He had written the agreement himself.

"Back to my original guys have a relationship agreement?" Leonard asked, trying to reason with himself. Surely it wasn't referring to an actual relationship in a dating sense. It must have been that Sheldon and Penny were at odds with each other often enough that Sheldon had decided to draw up an agreement for their friendship. Friendships are technically relationships, right?

"Oh, yeah," Penny smiled. "Sheldon and I are testing out a new relationship," she beamed.

"What kind of relationship?" Leonard asked slowly, eyes moving between Penny and Sheldon.

"We're dating," Sheldon said simply, his attention focused on opening his cutlery and arranging it around his plate.

Leonard felt his stomach and jaw drop at the same time. Recovering slightly, he slowly closed his mouth, watching absently as Penny accepted the unacceptable three-tine fork from Sheldon and place it amongst her own forks.

"Okay, I have your drinks," the waitress walked back and placed a cup in front of each of them. "Are you guys ready to order?" She asked, pulling out an order pad.

"I am," Penny said.

"Is there any chance I could get a barbeque bacon cheeseburger, barbeque, bacon, and cheese on the side?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Sheldon! This is a Mexican restaurant. They don't have cheeseburgers. Just pick something from the menu!"

The waitress watched as Penny and her friend squabbled over the menu. Turning to the other person at the table, she smiled at his open menu. "Are you ready to order?" She smiled, pen at the ready. The man continued to stare at the other two people at the table, a bewildered look on his face.

"Sir? Are you ready to order? …sir?"

A/N: I'm so sorry I abandoned this story for so long. :/ Well, I didn't really abandon was always in the back of my mind. I've been so busy lately. x_x However, I should have more time now to finish the story! Yay!

Sorry if this chapter isn't up to my usual's probably going to take a chapter or two to get back into the swing of things. I watched all four seasons of TBBT to get back into the characters' mindsets. It's so difficult now because I think Amy's character is hilarious and I'd like to add her in, but I'm afraid that might change the story entirely. :/ Oh well. Hope you enjoyed this chapter! Thank you so much for reading and sticking with me all this time.

More to come soon!