Disclaimer: I do not own TBBT or its characters and I make no profit from this. It's just for fun.
Summary: One night leads to a re-evaluation of everything she's ever known.
Author's note: This is my first foray outside of Leverage. I don't expect I'll do this too often, but the idea came to me one night and instead of letting it go, I wrote it down instead.
I am fully aware that this isn't an original concept in any fandom, but hopefully I've done it originally enough for your enjoyment.
God knows, she's made more than her fair share of mistakes. Hundreds, maybe thousands in her lifetime.
Take last week, she'd made at least a few dozen. Like the mixed up orders at work (which cost her way too much in tips), and giving her number to that semi-creepy guy just because he had really blue eyes, and forgetting to pay her cable bill, again, which resulted in the cable being shut off, again, and causing her to miss The Vampire Diaries (Ian Somerhalder, how could she not watch that show?)
Yes, Penny knew all about the things you did in life that could be labeled "mistakes."
But, for the life her, she'd never understand how doing something that created a life could ever be called a mistake.
She's not crazy, and she wouldn't want to impose her views on anyone else, and she thinks every woman has the right to do what they want with their own life, but sitting in her bathroom, staring at a pregnancy test, she's not anyone else. She's just her.
And it's not anyone else's child. It's hers.
What led her there was something that anyone else, maybe even the past version of herself, would have called a mistake.
She'd just been dumped (for the third time this year – and it was only June – but who was counting?), and so she'd been drinking. Not enough to get drunk, just enough to feel better, and lower her inhibitions a bit. Okay, maybe more than a bit.
She'd crossed the hall, and if Leonard had done what he was supposed to do, she would not be in the position she was now.
See, Leonard was supposed to be home at 3:20 AM. Like he always was. And he was supposed to answer the door for her, like he always did when she was in such a state. She visited him that way sometimes, and no they didn't always sleep together. Most of the time they just talked, but whatever they ended up doing – sex or talking – all she ever really looked for across the hall was comfort.
Damn Raj and Howard – she could blame them for this, too. Because they'd dragged Leonard out that night, four weeks ago. Which meant that when she'd knocked on the door, Sheldon had answered.
"Penny," he said crisply, "I don't know what you think you're doing here at 3:20 in the morning, but I presume you're looking for Leonard. As he is currently out with Raj and Howard trying to 'get lucky,' I suggest you turn around and go back to your apartment to sleep off whatever state of intoxication you currently find yourself in."
"Come on," she'd brushed by him. "Can't you take a few minutes to talk to me?"
"Why?" He asked suspiciously.
"Because we're friends," she said brightly, and it was true in its own odd way. She was probably the first, and only, female friend Sheldon Cooper had ever had.
She didn't know why he'd agreed to sit on the couch with her and talk. She couldn't blame it on him trying to be nice, because he didn't ever try to be nice.
She likes to think maybe a small part of him really did consider her a friend, and he'd been attempting to make her feel better.
As usual, she'd had to go and screw it up, like she did every good thing in her life, which is why in the middle of lamenting that she'd been left – yet again – she abruptly leaned forward and kissed him.
It's just that she'd always wondered about him. If he were as put off by human contact as he seemed. When he kissed her back, she got her answer and was so shocked by it that she quickly pulled away.
"Penny," he'd said, and if she hadn't been listening, she wouldn't have heard the smallest waver of his voice. "What are you doing?"
"Testing something," she'd whispered, kissing him again. He hadn't pulled away.
She wouldn't lie; it had felt like such a victory, making out with Sheldon on the couch in his living room. Stoic, unapproachable Sheldon, who didn't like men or women, or people in general, but he was making an exception for her. She was the only one who could do that. The only one who, as far as she knew, had ever done that.
It thrilled her, and she let herself get carried away. Though to be entirely fair, it's not like he'd been pushing her away, either. Well, he had made the cursory attempts to stop, insisting she was not in the right state of mind, but she'd convinced him she was more than clear-minded enough to know (and take) what she wanted. That hadn't been a lie, either, because by now she could sure as hell hold her liquor. She'd really wanted him, too.
Afterwards, she didn't regret it, and she had no idea what he thought of it because she left in the middle of the night while he was still sleeping.
She couldn't face him; she didn't know how.
What followed might have been weeks of awkwardness and avoidance, if she'd let that happen. But she was determined not to let any such thing ruin their friendship. She'd waltzed in two days later and cheerfully said good morning to Sheldon, and Leonard.
She'd caught one brief moment of hesitation on Sheldon's face, as he narrowed his eyes at her behind Leonard's back. She'd smiled brightly and the emotion in his expression vanished. Sheldon Cooper may have been socially awkward at times, but he was no idiot, and he read what she wanted – to pretend nothing had happened.
He must have agreed, because it had been four weeks since then, and they acted entirely as they always had. He hadn't had one question for her, or a single comment about that night.
She knew he hadn't told any of the others, either, because they weren't good actors, and she would have been able to catch on within a day if they did know (Howard would have upped his creepy come-ons ten-fold, Raj would have stared at her with shock every time he saw her, and Leonard…well Leonard would probably have fainted dead away and never recovered).
She whole-heartedly believed they might have been able to simply ignore that night forever.
Except for, well…the fact that they'd created another human being. It completely derailed her plans for an eternity of denial.
She was ashamed to admit it, but she had entertained the thought of simply never telling him, or trying to pass the baby off as her ex-boyfriend's. That didn't make her proud, but for the first three days after finding out, she was in complete denial and not thinking coherently anyways.
Some part of her had known, the whole time, that she would tell him. She had to. He had a right to know he was going to be a father.
She'd been truly afraid of his response. She had no idea how he'd react to that kind of news.
As it turned out, after a few minutes of staring at her in silence, he told her, in very stilted language, that he'd be there for her no matter what. Then he'd berated himself for not even thinking about birth control that night (she couldn't blame him there, as it had been the last thing on her mind, too).
Finally, he said, he had a lot of planning to do, and would she mind coming back the next day?
She should have been offended at the way he quickly cast her out, but she was actually relieved she had gotten it over with and just wanted to go to sleep and forget for a few blissful hours – and this was something she'd carefully hidden from Sheldon – about how God damn terrified she was.
The next day he'd given her a prospectus that had probably taken him all night to draw up. It included financial arrangements, custodial agreements, and essentially every need a child could possibly have. She was perplexed, but grateful, because if he was worrying about those things, that meant she didn't have to. At least, not as much.
The next two months went along those same lines. Every other day he had a new graph or chart about infant development, or projected college tuition costs of 2029, or a detailed analysis of the top 50 pediatricians (not just in their city, but in Nevada and Arizona as well – "Our child's health will not be compromised because of the mere formality of an arbitrary state line, Penny.")
He had good intentions, but no way in hell was she driving four hours to see a pediatrician. And that thought alone caused her tremors of fear (and somewhere deeper, a kind of excitement she'd never known before).
At first, she'd been flattered by his attention – the three marriage proposals notwithstanding ("A child deserves a stable home with a mother and father, Penny!" was his argument every time).
She hoped, by now, that she'd convinced him that their child would be fine without having parents who were married (though she wouldn't be surprised by continued future proposals).
But really, the way he seemed to think of every small detail – it lifted a weight from her she'd barely realized she shouldered. She had appreciated it, until somewhere around week 12.
He'd been rambling on about the consensus of financial analysts' assessments of the state of the economy in 2020, and how much they should have in savings for their child during that year, and she snapped.
"I don't care!" She'd yelled, unaware, even as she got increasingly upset, where the emotions were coming from. "Stop with the graphs and charts!"
He stared at her in shock, no idea what was going on. Until that point, she'd always happily listened to his presentations and, most of the time, agreed with his plans for the future.
"Penny," he said tentatively, "I'm not sure what has brought this on, but my thinking is that it's a complex mixture of pregnancy hormones causing you to –" He never got to finish, on account of her storming out and slamming the door behind her.
She paced her apartment, trying to determine why she felt such a rising sense of fury at him. He'd been nothing but supportive for the past two months, and he appeared to have thought of every need their child could ever possibly have.
What, then, was grating so badly that she almost didn't want to look at him?
She knew, though, even as she wondered. She had tried to forgive him for it, because this was the way Sheldon operated. Clinical. Detached. Practical.
But when had that ever successfully come into play when raising a child?
He entered her apartment without knocking or calling her name, and that alone told her that he was as upset as she was.
"Penny," he said, leaning back against her front door after he'd shut it behind him, "what is the problem?"
"You!" She exclaimed, against her better judgment. "You are the problem!"
"I have done –" he broke off frustrated. "What more do you want me to do? All you need to do is ask."
"That's it, Sheldon," she cried. "That's it! I shouldn't have to ask for this." To her horror, she found she was on the brink of tears.
When he spoke next it was with trepidation, and fear. "Penny, tell me what I've done to offend you so I can rectify it immediately."
"No, I can't tell you what you've done wrong. You should know."
"Despite what you may think, I am not able to read minds, Penny."
"Did you ever stop and think about what we're doing?"
"You mean embarking on parenthood in an entirely unconventional way?" He shrugged. "I have given thought to that matter, but it's too late to change anything about it."
"No," she shook her head, and wondered if he would ever get it. "Sheldon, you can make up a dozen charts and graphs. Or a hundred. Or a million! But this baby isn't a work assignment. It's not a project! You can't do x, y, and z, and, at the end of eighteen years, have a healthy, perfect adult."
"I don't see why not," he protested.
"That's the problem," she said, brokenly. She was sure that he'd never see it. "You can't put all these expectations on a child and then…when they don't meet them…" her voice hitched.
He stared at her in an entirely too piercing way. "Penny, I am not your father. I will not spend my life being disappointed in our child."
She had to look away so he wouldn't see the tears that flooded her eyes. How had he known that? How had Sheldon Cooper, the man who never picked up on anything, known that about her?
"Maybe not," she managed to get out, once she'd more or less pulled herself together. She crossed the room until she was standing in front of him, mere inches away. She realized that they probably hadn't been this close in three months. "But Sheldon, what about love?"
He tilted his head, assessing her. "I don't follow."
"A child – our child – isn't going to care about lists and graphs and plans! What really matters is that you love it! Will you?"
His face darkened and he took a step toward her, which closed the final inches between them. He held onto her arms and stared down at her. "What I find fascinating is the fact that you are unaware that I already love this child."
"Really?" She couldn't hide the surprise in her voice. "Do you mean that? It's just that…the past few months, you haven't really shown that."
"What do you think all these preparations were for?" He asked, incredulous. "Why would I have spent that much time and energy on our child if I didn't already love him or her?"
She realized, then, that though he might show it in a different way, Sheldon Cooper could never be accused of not loving his child. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "It's only that…the way you've been acting…at times you seem almost cold. I mean…to me."
"What, exactly, were you expecting of me?" He asked, gripping her arms more tightly, a bitterness in his voice that she hadn't been aware he had in him. "How else am I supposed to show my affection for you when we both know that you don't love me?"
She inhaled sharply and couldn't speak for a minute. "Do you...do you love me?"
He closed his eyes, and that was answer enough for her.
"I'm sorry, Sheldon, I didn't know that –"
"Don't," he ordered, "don't try to placate me with lies. I know what our relationship is and I am completely fine with it, so long as we both play an active role in our child's life."
He had no idea why she smiled at him, in that tender way he'd always thought was reserved for Leonard. "You have no idea, do you?"
"No idea about what?" He asked cautiously.
"That I've cared for you for a very long time," she said quietly. "And when did I fall in love with you? I'm not entirely sure, but it was sometime during the past few months, seeing the plans you made for our child, how much you were invested in its future…maybe it was long before then, but I only realized it recently."
"Penny," he said, his voice shaking, "don't try to make me feel better."
"That's not what this is," she said, leaning up to kiss him briefly. "Some things are meant to be, Sheldon. Maybe this was meant to be."
"I don't know if I believe in your version of destiny," he said, and it was so like him that she grinned. "But, for my part, I've always believed this child was a mi –"
"Don't!" She gasped, suddenly on edge. "Don't even think it, Sheldon Cooper."
"I know you're not religious," he said, confused. "And God knows – no pun intended – that neither am I. But what possible objection could you have to thinking that this child is a miracle?"
She stared at him in astonishment, both because it was miles away from what she thought he was going to say, and because of the fact that Sheldon himself thought it. "None. I have no objection to that, whatsoever."
Yes, that had been the word she'd been in search of, for about two months now.
After that night, she stopped worrying so much – at least, in the way she had before.
After all, when both of a child's parents thought that, what else did it need?
(Well, Sheldon thought about a few hundred more graphs).
But as for Penny, she was content with the way things had turned out, and as the years went on, she was very, very happy. It was a feeling that, when she used to think of her future, she'd never been able to touch, because the reality was so far from what she'd ever imagined.
Sometimes she dreamed about it. About what she'd have done if someone had told her, once upon a time, that she would one day be that happy with the man from the apartment across the hall, (no not the shorter one with glasses, but the taller one who at times seemed to hate her). That she would marry him and have children with him, and spend her life with him because she wanted to – it would have been incomprehensible. (Because back then she'd never known this kind of happiness existed).
Sheldon had been right. It was a miracle, indeed.
The end! Reviews much appreciated, especially considering this is my first (perhaps only) attempt at TBBT.