Author's Note: Spoiler for a line in "The Work Song Nanocluster" and "The Maternal Capacitance" in season two. The end for the Resolution Disillusion will be up soon too; but honestly that one sends me through an emotional wringer trying to write it. So in the meantime, more fluff.
Knock. Knock. Knock. "Penny?" Knock. Knock. Knock. "Penny?" Knock. Knock. Knock. "Penny?"
Between the second and third knocks Penny managed to get to her apartment door. "You know, you never used to do that," she muttered as she swung open the door.
"Do what?" Sheldon asked, baffled.
"That whole knocking... ritual. Thing." Penny gestured at the open door.
Sheldon stared back at her, not quite grasping where she was going with this. Wasting time, yet again. No wonder she never got as much done as she claimed she wanted to.
"I wanted to tell you something." Sheldon announced, ignoring the tangential topic that Penny apparently wanted to dissect.
Penny waited with less interest than he would have hoped for.
"I know who Radiohead is," Sheldon announced, shifting a little as he adopted a smugly superior expression.
Penny smirked. "Great, so you can work google. That's wonderful Sheldon, sweetie." She pursed her lips. She kept leaning on the door. She knew how these things worked.
Sheldon looked at her disapprovingly. "You're supposed to ask me how I gained this knowledge."
Penny raised her eyebrows. Apparently suggesting he could look it up on the oh so mighty internets wasn't enough of a clue. "Oh," she intoned with a complete lack of enthusiasm.
Seconds ticked by.
Penny caved. "Fine, Sheldon, how did you and your beautiful brain figure out the identity of one of the most interesting alternative bands of the 90's and beyond?"
Sheldon preened as Penny played into his game by asking the question, but his look turned sour as she gave away the surprise. He glared for a moment. "They have a song on rock band." He stated. Sheldon turned away. "I don't agree with it," he said, maintaining his aloof air.
"Creep?" Penny asked, dubiously. "Why do you think it-"
"It highlights a morose state of mind which belittles the singer through the lyrics and promotes the superiority of an unnamed female for trivial matters and the supposed quality of being somehow special." Sheldon interrupted.
Penny was done standing by the door. She walked away shaking her head, aiming for the couch. "It's a pretty song," she defended it half-heartedly.
"Leonard likes it too," Sheldon paused to look back to his apartment door. It was another mark against the music in his mind. "Although he has no hope of hitting those high notes..."
Penny had to raise her eyebrows again. "Really? You, of soft kitty fame, won't sing it?"
"I don't agree with the lyrics. Also, I play bass. I'm the bass player," Sheldon reminded Penny dryly. Really, it should be obvious. He didn't sing in groups. At all, really, the few people he'd sing around could be counted on one hand.
One was in front of him.
He narrowed his eyes as he watched Penny pick up her iPod and scroll through it. Sheldon remained oblivious to human conventions of dismissal. He eyed the reckless chaos in Penny's living room like an explorer to some foreign jungle, where everything within was a potential threat. His steps were cautious as he entered.
She looked up.
"Why do you know Radiohead?"
She gave Sheldon a funny look. "They get played on the radio."
"One would, from your upbringing, hazard that you'd listen to feisty, yet lamentatious country ballads. Maybe rock. Judging from the music you play loudly, most of your collection features dance beats and" he cringed, "pop." He couldn't keep his lip from curling. "Why was an alternative British band your example of choice to illustrate my lack of musical knowledge?"
Penny froze. Her neck started to hurt from looking up at Sheldon. She turned back to her iPod, considering.
Here he was, all scientific curiosity, trying to piece his universe together, trying to understand every little aspect of it. She knew he didn't really care for music; he preferred silence. He'd told her so before. There were very few men – few people – in her life that would ask her questions the way he did; trying to get down to her very soul and make up, figure out exactly what made her tick, made her act the way she did. She considered a moment. She could throw him out. She could ignore it. Or she could let him in, a little, and have him understand something about her that few people wanted to.
She guardedly set down the iPod. "I had a boyfriend, back in High School. He was a musician, a guitarist. He loved them." And Penny had loved to love what he loved. "We'd spend hours driving around, listening to their disks, and dreaming about breaking out, driving all the way to the coast, touring with his band, becoming famous."
She smiled wistfully as she thought of those days, laying around in the back of a pick-up truck, nothing but waving corn beyond their toes. "It's always the dreamers that leave – the artists, the ambitious, the creative. It's why small towns always stay the same – the people that stay behind are the ones that can't imagine it any other way."
"Did you follow him to the coast?" Sheldon asked, for once not sounding too judgemental.
"No, we broke up over something stupid before senior year and then he got his next girlfriend pregnant. They have a farm back in Nebraska now. I doubt he has time to play guitar at all anymore."
She picked up the iPod and turned away, abruptly leaving her reverie. "Here," she said. "This one's called 'I might be wrong'." She hit the volume as she plugged her iPod into the stereo.
There was a soft scoff at the name. "Hardly." Sheldon muttered from examining potential seats. "And you? Do you consider yourself an 'ambitious dreamer'?" he pried further, trying to glean some understanding of what made Penny stay out here, working a meaningless job.
Penny smiled. "Yeah, I decided I was. I'll make it someday, Sheldon. I just need to keep trying."
She flipped forward a few songs. "Ok. This one's called 'Like Spinning Plates'. You can't be offended by that name..."
**She loved to love what he loved – this line is borrowed in spirit from Neil Gaiman, who writes some of the most stunningly beautiful and emotional short stories I've ever read.