Disclaimer: Sadly, all recognizable characters belong to someone else. I own nothing.
Spoilers: Through Season 4
As Sheldon Cooper stood surveying his clothes for non-plaid pants for his date with Penny, he reflected again on how she had outwitted Leonard. He gave a breathy laugh. Leonard had no idea that he'd been out-maneuvered, and might not believe it if it were pointed out to him.
Sheldon finally pulled out a pair of khakis. Penny was well aware of the fact that Sheldon's pants consisted of plaids and khakis. And if she thought that she was going to change him…well, then this was not going to work. The sooner that was clear, the better for all parties concerned. With a decisive nod, Sheldon proceeded to dress.
He walked into the living room, to find his three friends waiting. "Is that what you're wearing?" Leonard asked with a snicker at Sheldon's khakis and double layer thermal/t-shirt.
"Yes." Sheldon replied in a voice that brooked to no further discussion. Raj and Howard just grinned obnoxiously.
At precisely 6 o'clock, he knocked on Penny's door.
Knock, knock, knock. "Penny."
Knock, knock, knock. "Penny."
Knock, knock, knock. "Penny."
Penny waited for Sheldon to finish, and then swung the door open. "Good evening, Sheldon." She said a twinkle in her eye that belied the formal tone.
"Penny." He nodded, hyper aware that the others were watching and listening. "Are you ready?"
"Yes." She cleared her throat. "Even though it's 'Anything-can-happen-Thursday,' I thought that we would go for pizza. That way, you'll have some of your routine in a situation that is out of your routine."
Sheldon's eyebrows shot up in pleased surprise. "Why, Penny, thank you, that's very thoughtful."
She smiled sunnily up at him. "Shall we? It's the place that you guys usually have delivered; the restaurant is actually quite nice and clean."
"Indeed, that sounds acceptable."
She pulled her door closed, and together they left. The other three stood gaping. They hadn't thought that Penny would let him slide on the clothes. "They'll never make it through dinner." Leonard said smugly. "Penny'll strangle him before he's done trying to order."
"Dude," said Raj, "Penny is used to the way that Sheldon orders."
"Yeah, but she won't tolerate that crap on a date. Believe me; I used to get looks for ordering lactose-free. They'll come back in about a half hour, tails between their legs."
"Really?" Howard asked. "I never noticed her doing that when we doubled."
"Oh, it was there. You must not have been paying attention."
"To Penny?" Howard asked incredulously. "Always."
Leonard shot him a look.
At the restaurant, Sheldon found that Penny had been correct. It was clean, and cozy. They were seated immediately, and the server came to take their order. "Sheldon, do you mind if I order for us?" Penny asked, gently.
"I supposed not."
As Penny rattled off the order, exactly to his specifications, he was reminded again of her explanation of his spot to Bernadette. He found that he was smiling. And since the server didn't seem intractable, Penny had managed to order it without upsetting her. Something that Sheldon rarely managed.
"Now, while we're waiting, I would like to discuss something with you." She waited for him to nod. "I know that we agreed that…um, number 10 on the list was important. " He looked nervous. She continued. "But I am aware that you've never dated. With both of those factors in mind, I have, well, I made us guidelines. You never went to high school, and never learned the way these situations go, so…. Here." She handed him a sheaf of paper that she had rolled up in her purse. "This has my expectations, things that I won't do, because they'd make you uncomfortable and a tentative timeline for us."
Sheldon skimmed through the packet, more impressed than he would ever admit. He looked at her timeline, and saw that she didn't have them engaging in coitus, making love as she had it on her paper, for another 5 weeks. His eyes met hers. "I thought that…."
"I know, and I was kind of tempted to just go for it, but, if things don't work out, you may never want to date again, and you should get all the experiences you missed by skipping high school. Hand-holding, making out, and so on. And I really don't want you to feel rushed or pressured. Neither of us would enjoy that. So, we'll ease into it, take our time, and slowly expand your comfort level."
"You've spelled out your expectations." He pointed out.
"Yes, I couldn't see how else you would know that I expect a kiss on the cheek when you walk me to my door, if I didn't tell you. And if there's anything you need to add to the 'Will make Sheldon Uncomfortable' list then you need to let me know."
"I will." He promised/threatened.
"I know, Sweetie. I've met you, remember." They shared a smile. "Now, review it and let me know if you have any questions on our next date."
"Which, according to your schedule is Saturday."
"Laundry night. We'll figure something out."
Their food came, and Sheldon's met his requirements. He smiled once more at Penny.
While they ate, Penny asked Sheldon about his day, listened to his replies, and told him a few funny things that had happened to her at work. They talked, both striving for patience even when the topic wasn't their first choice of subject matter.
When they finished eating, Sheldon paid the check, and Penny left a generous tip. Sheldon quirked an eyebrow at her. "Trust me, Sheldon, I'm a waitress, and they earn every cent." She grinned at him mischievously. "Especially with you as a customer."
"Very amusing." He said drily.
They climbed the steps to the fourth floor, and as per Penny's instructions, Sheldon walked her to her door. "I had an enjoyable evening, Penny."
"Me, too, Sheldon. Thank you." She put her hand on his shoulder, and leaned up to kiss his cheek. He met her half way. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight." He echoed.
He let himself into his apartment, afraid that he would find the others lying in wait. But there was a note, they had done to a bar, and would be back late. Sheldon sat at his desk, and went over Penny's guidelines. He was impressed at her thoroughness; she covered what she expected in terms of physicality, as well as verbalizing compliments.
She had also noted that she wouldn't touch him public, which did not include his apartment if the guys were present. Also, that she would not try to eat off of his plate, even though it was a social convention to share one's food, and even feed one's partner. He shuddered, trying once again to forget that he had hand-fed her chocolates when he was attempting to modify her behavior.
Seeing Penny in this new light, he would probably just ask her to cease doing whatever it was, if the situation arose again. As he continued to look through the guidelines, he saw that she had even mentioned that. He realized that she must have put quite a lot of thought, time and effort into it.
It was a very thoughtful Sheldon Cooper who got ready for bed that night. In the beginning, he had only been trying to find an ideal partner for Penny. Now, it occurred to him that he might just be acquiring an ideal partner for himself as well. What a fortunate turn of events.
He assumed his comfortable sleep position, and fell asleep wondering what he should do for their second date.
A/N Thank you SpaceAnJL for pointing out that Sheldon skipping High School meant that he had very little social training, and certainly none in dating. Thank you!