The Caper Continuum
Chapter 1: Kripke
Sheldon had kissed her.
Ok, so she had kissed Sheldon, but he hadn't been opposed to it, at all. He had barely even hesitated to the sensation of her mouth before adjusting the kiss away from the rash and harsh press of her lips against his, just to make him stop talking, to something far more substantial, softer, and more thrilling. He had been the one to do that, not her.
So Sheldon had kissed her, but it wasn't the kiss that she remembered, it was the feel of his grasp against her body when he clutched at her, his warm breath against her chest as he snickered into her shoulder. She remembered the way he had felt pressed against her, and the way he hadn't let go of her until his mirth dissipated and he stopped laughing.
She would do anything to bring that feeling back. He had kissed her, and she wanted it to happen again, but even more she wanted him to be comfortable with her, to touch her because he wanted to. Instead, he was back to flinching every time she put a hand on his arm, and the idea of getting another kiss seemed even farther away now that he knew it could happen.
"I've got a proposal to make," she said, bursting into the apartment moments after the sound of Leonard closing the door and disappearing down the stairway faded away. "I think we should continue this prank war, only instead of targeting each other, we should target other people. Like, say, Leonard, Howard and Raj? Maybe we can get some Kripke or Wheaton in there too."
Sheldon looked at her in interest. "Why?" he asked.
"Well," Penny said, taking a breath. She had thought about this carefully, but had spent less attention to why he should agree to it and more to the fact that when he did maybe he would hug her to celebrate successful pranks. "Laughter is the best medicine, and I never laughed so hard as I did when Leonard walked into that goop you set up. I felt happy and amused for days. It probably helped you too, I could see your lips twitch every time he got cross towards you."
"Leonard's my best friend," Sheldon said, his eyebrows knitting together. "And I hold Raj and Howard's companionship in regard as well. Would I not jeopardize that?"
"It's all in good fun, Sheldon. If we did it right they might not even know it was us. You're a genius, surely we could find a way to make them think they're pranking each other. Come on Sheldon, your big devious brain is just going to waste on paintball and Halo. This would elevate you to evil mastermind status."
"I'm Batman, not Joker," he said with finality.
Penny laughed, but kept her mouth closed, feeling now was not the time to bring up his creepy false smile.
"Ok, I wasn't going to tell you this, but the reason I think we should do this is because I heard Leonard tell Howard the other day that he didn't think you were clever enough to ever deliberately get one over on him." That was a patent lie, but whatever. She was committed now, and didn't feel bad about playing him. It was probably hugely dysfunctional to try to start a relationship with him by tricking him into it, but Sheldon didn't really respond to her usual seduction techniques. He hadn't even appreciated it when she spent an hour quizzing him on the basic physics textbook she was trying to slog through. "He thinks you have a higher IQ than him, of course," she amended when Sheldon gave her a look of disbelief. "He just doesn't think you're devious."
"I'm not devious," Sheldon pointed out in his righteous voice. "I cannot keep a secret, and underhandedness makes me feel uncomfortable."
He never seemed to have any issue being underhanded around her, starting with breaking into her apartment to clean, cumulating into various schemes and finishing in this last prank war they had. "Sheldon, there's a big different between being unable to keep a secret and being devious. You might not be able to keep a secret, but you're a damn Machiavellian genius. I can take care of the secret part. Are you going to let him talk about you like you're some kind of idiot?"
Sheldon looked shocked and then his eyes narrowed in fury. She always got a thrill when he got that look on his face, especially when it wasn't directed at her. Ok, that was a lie, she got a thrill when it was directed at her as well, but it was a completely different type of thrill. "I assume you have a plan?" he asked her, his voice delightfully low in resentment at the implied slight against his intelligence.
"Oh yes," she breathed. She did have a plan.
Step 1: Get Sheldon to agree with her plan. (crossed out already. Wow, was she making progress or what?)
Step 2: Suggest a prank to play on Leonard/Raj/Howard/Kripke/Wheaton
Step 3: Sit close to Sheldon and plan plans. Argue a lot. Keep alone time going as long as possible.
Step 4: Be sneaky.
Step 5: Snog the pants off Sheldon Lee Cooper. Bonus points for being literal.
Instead of sharing this with him, she gave him a small smile and fluttered her eyelashes, all signs of flirtation that he was likely too obtuse to get, but it made her feel better, as though she were in control. "Is there anyone you would like to prank first?"
They decided to wait a month before starting their plan (their plan!). This was mostly due to the fact that LHR were all still wary of the two of them, as if at any moment Sheldon would declare the truce void and they would start pranking each other again.
She imagined that if they knew, Leonard would be the most frightened; but he didn't have to worry.
Sheldon wanted to save him for last.
The last prank war was on the forefront of all their minds, and Penny knew that if they caught her and Sheldon scheming together over a whiteboard, they would understand what was going on and run for the hills. Screaming. Like girls.
So she waited, biding her time. It wasn't as if she never saw Sheldon, she did. She trumped his ass at Halo, and every once and a while let him win just to shake things up. One Saturday morning when she found herself dragging her sorry drunk ass home after 6 am, she stopped by to watch Doctor Who and took a nap on his shoulder, her mouth open wide as she both drooled and snored.
Penny actually considered herself pretty lucky he rarely noticed when she did unattractive things, because that one took the cake. As it was, he spent the five minutes she was sleeping trying to simultaneously push her head away from him without touching her while edging up the arm of the couch to get away. She woke up to her head jerking as it tumbled down his chest and one of his butt-cheeks braced half way up the armrest.
And she realized something while waiting that long month: this wasn't about his comfort level with her person, or about getting to make out with him if she could, this was about showing him that together they could rule the world. She really believed that.
Penny was the one who came up with the idea of discussing their nefarious plans under the ruse of making Penny Blossoms. She had even invited Leonard, Howard and Raj to join them. All three of them would shudder whenever they heard the term "Penny Blossoms" so she wasn't surprised when Howard and Raj begged off, claiming a condition of ennui caused by the hot glue.
She looked it up. She knew what they really meant.
Leonard agreed, a situation which made Sheldon clench his jaw in annoyance, but Penny was undeterred. She figured that might happen, as Leonard hadn't given up on the quest to get in her pants. However, Penny didn't get her reputation for being a sneaky, devious, baby bull castrator for nothing. She figured Leonard might agree to suffer through a few hours of making Penny Blossoms and so she made sure he really suffered for it. Sheldon was in top form, barking orders and leading a rousing rendition of various sea-shanties and work songs. Penny did nothing to stop him, in fact she encouraged him to do his worst. As vulgar as it was, it kind of turned her on.
So, she couldn't really be blamed for accidentally forgetting not to serve Leonard milk produces, what with the state of her panties and all. Plus, it was Leonard's fault he chose to eat said milk products.
After that, Leonard got a pinched expression on his face whenever she invited Sheldon over to make Penny Blossoms and refused the invite.
The best part: she and Sheldon always made Penny Blossoms, just so he would never have to lie about what they were doing. She was making money off this! Sheldon might think he was the mastermind genius, but obviously that title belonged to her.
"So where do you want to start?" she asked him the first time they were alone. She was perched on her side of the couch and he was (as always) to her left. He might find the chair more suited to be his spot, but after sitting on her couch enough times, his mind was swayed into changing his assessment.
She liked the idea that his judgement could be influenced with enough routine exposure to his patterns. Penny saw this as a good sign.
"Where we always start," he responded in surprised lecture-mode tone. "While we wait for the hot glue to reach a temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit, we should ensure the various components are arranged within reaching distance. The glitter needs to be close to your left hand, as it is used the most."
"I meant with the pranking," she correctly gently, picking up the glue gun.
"Oh, you should have elaborated," he told her, easily joining the rhythm of her work. "I have created dossiers on both Kripke and Wheaton, as you have never met them. Each folder contains pertinent information I have gathered or observed, recent photographs, and a brief synopsis of why they are on my 10 Most Hated list." He paused his speech, hands still rapidly moving in rhythm over the Penny Blossoms, and glanced over at his messenger bag beside him on the couch, well within reaching distance. "They're in my bag. Penny! This subterfuge isn't going to work if I can't use my hands."
She reached over and put her hand over his, stilling him. He gave her an askance glance, but didn't jerk his hand away.
Progress, she thought, was sometimes blatantly visible if you knew where to look for it.
"Sheldon, you just said it. The Penny Blossoms are just a ruse, so for now anything prank related takes priority over the efficiency of the production line, ok? Even if we only make one Penny Blossom in the time you're here, you can still go home and tell Leonard you were making Penny Blossoms if he asks and not lie about it."
"That would be a lie," Sheldon pointed out. "I would have to tell him we made Penny Blossom. Singular."
"So we'll make two!" she snapped.
He nodded, reaching over and retrieving the files. "Guard these with your life," he told her in all seriousness. "They cannot fall into enemy hands or we will have to cancel the entire campaign. If you like, I will devise a safe hiding place for you."
She should have said yes, just to see what he came up with and so she could spend a little bit of extra time with him, but his implication that she couldn't find a safe hiding place for a couple of sheets of paper put her back up. "I have my own hiding places!" she told him.
"If you're referring to the shoebox under your bed, that isn't a hiding spot. It's a joke."
Penny blushed. She hadn't been talking about that, actually, and the idea that he knew it was there was embarrassing. "Sheldon," she warned. "When a girl has a shoebox under her bed with the type of stuff that shoebox is filled with, you don't bring it up in conversation. You pretend you don't know about it."
"I wouldn't have to pretend if you hid it better," he responded, confused.
"It's not exactly hidden," she said through gritted teeth. "It's just kept out of the way but within easy access if I need it. Don't you get it, it's embarrassing."
"I don't understand why a Barbie collection is embarrassing."
"Because I take them out and play with them sometimes, ok!" Penny snapped defensively. Then, she remembered who she was talking to. Sheldon, the man who had a room full of comic books, action figurines (and dolls), and various toy collectables. He wouldn't care if she played with Barbies. On whimsical days he probably arranged his mint condition Trek action figures, still in their boxes of course, in various tableaus of scenes from the show. "I'll tell you what. Give me a chance to look at the files. I'll hide them, and then you can search my apartment looking for them. If you find them too easily, you can hide them yourself. Would that make you happy?"
Sheldon gave her an impenetrable glance. "My happiness is contingent on winning the Nobel. In fact, that sounds like a waste of precious time I could be using to work on my current equations."
"Rhetorical question, Sheldon," Penny said, a tad impatiently. "I'll hide the files, ok? How about we move on. Who do you want to prank first?"
"No, no, no," Sheldon responded firmly. "We must discuss the contract first," he told her and handed her a packet of papers.
Oh joy, how could she have forgotten? Penny was tempted to just sign the stupid thing without reading it, but Sheldon had once inserted a hidden clause in one of their contracts that said she had to make herself available to drive him to work in the event that Leonard was ill or was working nights. It had taken her three months to have the clause repealed and had only won her case eventually by being sneaky.
Maybe if show business didn't work out for her she should consider being a lawyer. Better yet, maybe she should try to play one on television.
So she slogged through the contract, pleased to note that he hadn't made any of the steps in her own plan impossible. Basically, it just said they had to agree on everything before a prank could be implemented. While she rarely agreed with Sheldon on anything, she could probably keep her end of the deal. It was for the greater good, so long as the greater good was her lips on Sheldon's.
And really, he hadn't even contractually forbidden her from touching him. His mouth was fair game.
So Penny signed away her freedom and didn't even feel that pit of dread heavy in her stomach like she usually did when dealing with Sheldon and contracts.
"Now what?" she asked, shuffling closer to Sheldon on the couch.
"There's a step ladder in here," Sheldon said, his Caltech keys heavy in his hand as he opened the door to the supply closet.
"We're evil," Penny declared with a grin to him, sidling past him before he had a chance to move out of the way. Within moments, he was directing her down the hallway towards Kripke's office. "I always wanted to do the whole glue-things-to-the-ceiling prank."
Sheldon's lips curled up in his slightly evil megalomaniac grin. "This isn't just a glue-things-to-the-ceiling prank, Penny. Kripke has been working on creating a device to prove the Saha equation. If it were to work, an unfortunate side effect would be ionization of particles in the surrounding air."
"So basically he's gonna walk in here tomorrow morning and think his latest experiment worked?" Penny asked, lugging the ladder down the hallway. It banged uncomfortably against her shins, and she wondered why she was the one carrying it. Sheldon usually at least tried to act gentlemanly, though Penny usually shut down his insistence to help carry her groceries or open the door for her. Her feminist ideals had nothing to do with it; rather, it was a combination of independent pig-headedness and a worry that he would drop all her eggs. Now that she was trying to establish some kind of relationship with him, she wanted him to offer to do things for her, and just when she had managed to train him out of it too.
"Precisely," Sheldon told her, that same slight smile on his face as he held the door to Kripke's office open for her.
Penny grinned at him, wrestling the ladder through the door. "We're evil," she said again, giving the second word emphasis.
"Indeed," Sheldon agreed with a nod.
Penny stopped short once inside Kripke's office cum working space. She'd been worried it would be a mess and it would take hours to glue everything to the ceiling, but instead the office was completely spare of items lying around. "Ah man," she said, leaning the ladder against a table. "This guy makes you look like a pack rat."
"I don't understand," Sheldon said, looking around with a perplexed expression. "He cleaned? How did he know we were coming?"
"It's probably just a coincidence," Penny said, jumping up on the counter.
"I don't believe in coincidences," Sheldon declared, looking around suspiciously.
"Well he couldn't have known unless he has my apartment bugged," Penny pointed out. "We've been careful not to leave an electronic trail." Which Sheldon had insisted on, paranoid that Leonard, Howard or Raj would try to hack her email account. "And even if Leonard or the guys figured it out, they wouldn't warn Kripke. They hate him almost as much as you do."
Sheldon still didn't look convinced.
"We'll come back," Penny promised. "If we don't use this pwank on Kwipke, we'ww use it on Weonawd, Howawd, or Waj. You know Coopew, I think I know why Kwipke isn't fwiends with any of you guys. He can't say youw names."
Sheldon gave her a stern look and Penny simply grinned at him. "Rhotacism isn't a joking matter. It is a legitimate speech impediment and is common among speakers of languages with a trilled R."
"You've got no moral ground to stand on Sheldon Lee Cooper, you're standing in this office about to prank some guy you don't like. A prank, I might add, that will make him think he successfully proved some Sahara equation until he finds the glue. I mean, that's evil."
"You're right," Sheldon said with wide eyes. "I can't do that. Who knows what implications it could have on the scientific community if Kripke doesn't realize it is a joke?"
Well, she hadn't meant to talk him out of it, but whatever. "Come here," she said. "I have something we can do that's even better."
"What?" Sheldon asked, stepping closer to her. He was so easy sometimes. "Contractually, any pranks need to be mutually agreed upon by both parties."
Penny reached out and grabbed Sheldon, tugging him off balance so he careened into her and settled with his arms braced on either side of her hips. She brought her arms around his shoulders, keeping him in place with the weight of her embrace and her calves sliding around the back of his knees.
"Penny!" Sheldon expressed, voice in the higher decibels he was capable of.
"Sheldon," Penny responded with a smirk and then leaned forward and pressed her lips against his. "I think we should..." she broke off as he leaned forward, lips against hers. Penny's eyes widened in surprise and she tilted into the kiss, pressing her mouth against his pouty lower lip and teasing it with a quick dart of her tongue. His mouth opened slightly, relaxing against hers, and suddenly it wasn't just a chaste and innocent pressure of lips against lips, but outright making out, his body moving closer to hers as she explored his mouth with her tongue. Wow, just wow, she thought, curling her tongue behind his teeth. He hadn't responded much beyond allowing her access, but every so often he would tentatively press the tip of his tongue against hers before quickly drawing away.
She really hadn't expected this. She thought it would take months of closed-mouth, innocent kisses before he even let her tongue emerge from her mouth. Now he was nibbling at her bottom lip, teeth sharp against the sensitive skin before he let go.
"...make out," she finished, pulling away to catch her breath.
Holy shit holy shit holy shit, Penny thought. She and Sheldon were totally making out in Barry Kripke's office and she hadn't even had to suggest it first.
"I'm not convinced that's a good idea. I don't see how it would be beneficial to our quest to be prank champions," he argued, mouth teasing a certain spot beneath her ear that had her fighting against the urge to simultaneously throw back her head in a moan and jerk his hips towards her. He'd probably freak and run, she rationalized, though she couldn't help but wonder if that was true. He was kissing her and wasn't even acting weird about it.
His hand slid over her hip, long fingers moulding to the contours of her body. At the same time, his teeth scraped across the erogenous point just above the pulse in her neck and Penny arched against him. "Ooooh," she breathed. "I don't know. It's an excellent idea. The next time he taunts you, you can just smirk at him and think 'I made out in your office.' I bet he's never made out in here."
"You have no way of knowing that," Sheldon pointed out, stepping away from her.
What? What the hell? Penny asked herself, staring at him in shock. She was pretty sure her mouth was gaping unattractively. Was he serious? She really needed to justify a reason why making out would be a good prank?
Yeah, she had nothing, she thought with a pout as he watched her expectantly as if she had all the answers. The best she had was 'you were into it a moment ago' which probably wouldn't go over very well. Penny shrugged a shoulder, leaning back suggestively as she stared back at him. She licked her lips. "What do you suggest we do?"
"We already have the glue. We could adhere work supplies to his desk."
"There's nothing on his desk," Penny pointed out with a smirk, pleased that her cognitive functions weren't the only ones all addled and fuzzied because Sheldon's hand had totally been sliding towards her ass.
Sheldon opened the top drawer and tossed a calculator on the wooden desk top.
Yeah, Sheldon Cooper probably wasn't aware just how evil he was.
Leonard was shocked.
Penny and Sheldon were dating, Leonard was sure of it. At first he tried to deny what was right in front of him, believing Sheldon's explanation for the scene he, Howard and Raj walked in on in the kitchen as being the truth. Sheldon couldn't lie, and the idea that Penny glued herself to the floor was far more believable than the idea that they had actually heard what he thought they heard.
But now he was starting to wonder. They had been awfully cosy that day he had the horrid green goop dropped on him, and at first he thought he had hallucinated the fact that they had been kissing when he walked in. It was Sheldon. And Penny. Sheldon and Penny. The equation didn't even make sense in his mind.
But now he had actual proof for his hypothesis. Penny and Sheldon were definitely dating. When he had arrived to help make Penny Blossoms, the two sat side-by-side on the couch.
When Sheldon barked, "Pick up the pace, Leonard!" Penny had hid a smile.
When Sheldon had claimed "For someone whose work is highly derivative, I'd thought you'd be used to turning off your higher brain functions," Penny giggled.
When Sheldon demanded "WORK FASTER," Penny had given him an appreciative look. She thought he didn't notice, but he did. It was hard not to notice when the girl you couldn't take your eyes off kept shooting lusty glances at your best friend, the asexual guy.
So Leonard got the hint when Penny said "No, I swear these are vegan cookies" and he ended up clutching the side of the sink in distress as it became obvious that the cookies were not vegan, but were actually made with milk. From a cow.
And Sheldon had smiled at her when she offered him the plate.
Fuck his life, like seriously. He was figuring out his hopes and dreams of marrying the beautiful girl next door were pretty much down the shitter, while on the shitter. He couldn't have figured it out earlier before consuming eight cookies?
Though they had been quite tasty.
So a week later when Sheldon came back from his date with Penny, Leonard asked "What were you and Penny up to?"
"We were making Penny Blossoms. Did you know that waitresses only make minimum wage, most times less than minimum wage, and are forced to rely on the benevolence of their customers to make up the difference? It's no wonder Penny's financials are in ruins. If that's any indication towards the goodwill of waitresses in the establishments we frequent, it's no wonder service is habitually subpar."
No tic. Sheldon wasn't lying. Apparently a fishing expedition was in order. "What else did you do? Surely you didn't spend the entire three hours just making Penny Blossoms."
"Don't be absurd," Sheldon said scathingly. "On cannot simply make Penny Blossoms for three hours, not with someone as gregarious as Penny for company. She and I sang the usual songs we use to measure production, we chatted idly. I recollected the time you took up skateboarding to impress Wolowitz and lacerated your chin with the back of the deck when you grabbed it out of the back seat of your car. Penny laughed."
"That's ALL?" Leonard asked.
"Yes," Sheldon responded with a tic.
Oh God, Leonard realized. Sheldon and Penny were having sex.
Boring A/N: Sorry about the delay in getting this up, but there were so many fantastic fics to read over Christmas that I'm sure you don't hate me too badly! A small note about the canon of this fic. Overly enthusiastic about the concept, I didn't really pay much attention to where it was supposed to happen in the TBBT timeline and honestly thought the Wil Wheaton episode happened early season 2. It did not, so please suspend disbelief and either pretend it did, or allow this to be an AU season 3. Or just enjoy the story and don't pay much attention to pesky things like timelines (which is what I eventually went with). For a brief while I toyed with the idea of making this a early season 3 revenge fic (because aspects of Continuum would be AMAZING thus), but then I realized it would go into FAR too serious territory for what I intended to be an amusingly fun time fic.
Fun A/N: Thank you Talitha Koum for reminding me that this Leonard is so much more fun than douche Leonard. This story is dedicated to you.