For a while, he thought she was unconscious, her body limp on the ground beside him. His height, his mind, had not protected him or her. Even her mid-western rodeo tricks had not been enough to defend them when the intruders came.
At first it had seemed like a prank, but then the bat had connected with his shoulder, and realization sunk in. This was not Raj, Howard or Leonard. It wasn't even Kripke, or one of the other dimbulbs from Caltech.
After the first blow, he had tried to fight- his games, his comics, his work, all at risk. But after seeing Penny crumple to the ground, he had sat down in defeat. These people, in their black masks, were prepared to kill.
They must be after his work. His latest calculations were leading him to something momentous, he had bragged far and wide of the new doors he was opening with his brilliant mind.
Even Penny had seemed interested, paying attention long enough to get a faint grasp of what he was saying. She would never truly understand, he accepted that, but she tried. It was more than most people did.
Penny had a particular knack of knowing when he was rambling, trying to make his work more than it was, she would turn her eyes away and whisper the word that intimated her displeasure. Boring. He wished he could say that his work was never boring, but sometimes it was. Double and triple checking the numbers, the allowance of protons and neutrons, comparing masses and distortion levels, to an untrained mind it was tediously boring.
But when he made a discovery, contributed something new to the world of Physics, she knew. Her eyes would stay on him, focused and clear, absorbing. He felt like the only person in the whole world when she did that. It didn't matter that she was uneducated in the post-grad sense, that her IQ had never been officially tested. She made him feel like the king. Sheldon dearly liked being the king.
Under the sights of a gun, he had crawled over to her, his fingers hovering over her curved neck before pressing down, checking for a pulse. It was the first time he had ever prayed, and really meant it.
A faint, rhythmic motion under her flesh had made him sigh in relief. Alive.
He sat there, unresisting as they gagged him and bound him with rope. They didn't do a very good job of it, but he didn't say a word, just watched as they grabbed Penny's limp form by the arms and drug her behind the couch to the closet. There was a thud as her head hit the floor, and he winced, knowing he was next.
The closet really wasn't that big.
He was still bound and gagged, and they had gagged Penny too, though she was still motionless and unresponsive. It was dark, and the ropes kept him from stretching out his legs, though he wouldn't have been able to stretch them out fully in any case, due to the restrictive dimensions. He could feel Penny's hair on his arm, and as his other senses dulled he was able to hear her breathing. On the other side of the door he heard foreign voices, cupboards banging and the sound of electronics being destroyed. With his eyes squeezed shut he willed himself to turn into the flash, escape his binds and escort the intruders to jail, then whiz back and rescue Penny, but nothing happened.
After what seemed like an eternity, the room beyond the closet door grew quiet, the footsteps and voices gone.
Three intruders. Three sets of feet thundering down the stairs. They were gone. But he was still stuck ignominiously behind the locked door, robbed of his voice and any means of communication, his cell phone destroyed with everything else, crushed under the heel of his foe.
At first, he thought her fingers were fumbling to see where she was, stretching out in the blackness. They touched him, trailed along his thigh, his mind revolting until it occurred to him what she was searching for.
His hand. He shifted, ignoring the cramp that sprang up as he manipulated the rope until he could slid his hand over, brush it against hers. He knew instinctively that she didn't want to hold hands. Penny wasn't the sort to hold hands when she was scared. Penny always went for the chest hairs, her hand clutching at the shirt.
Her fingers slid over his hand, searching for his palm, stroking against it.
He waited. It felt nice, but what was she doing? Within a few strokes, he knew it wasn't morse code. Curse being blind and mute he raved inside his mind, which conjured up a picture of a book he had read in his youth.
Of course. Sign language. Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind, had used a form of sign language which was written per say, on the palm of the hand.
His mind flitted through the pages of the book, matching symbols with words, supplying meaning to what Penny was doing.
Are you ok? She was asking.
He shifted awkwardly, twisting his bound hands so that he could feel her palm. Yes. Because he was. He was outraged, furious, and fit to kill, but he was ok.
Her fingers were moving again, and he had to focus. Me too. What were they after?
My work, I think. His fingers replied. The rope was cutting into his wrists and he felt a trickle of liquid slide down his palm. He wasn't sure if it was blood, sweat, or possibly on of Penny's tears, but it unnerved him. Can you untie me?
She waited for a minute, and then he heard her move, trying to sit up, her hands crawling up his arms, around his waist and knees, trying to find the knot. Her hair swayed in front of his face, tickling his nose as she worked, and finally, he felt the binds loosen.
The rope slid to the floor and in relief he shifted his legs, rubbed his wrists together. Her hands smoothed over his face, but did not pull at the duct tape that was wound around his head.
He felt her shift again, and sit down beside him, her hands searching for his again. I can't pull it off without tearing out hair.
I know. Is yours also?
Yes. Her fingers replied. I'm going to have to cut my hair.
No, I have a chemical solution to break the bonds of the glue, but it is.. out there. The closet door is locked.
I know, I heard.
He frowned in the darkness. You were faking being unconscious?
Hey, that blow really hurt, I knew they meant business!
Impressive. She was a better actress than he had thought. How is your cranium?
Hurts. They didn't have to drop me like that. Her fingers moved quick and sure.
Where did you learn this? He paused, intent on her answer. It had never occurred to him that Penny might know a non verbal form of language.
Never mind. How do we get out of here?
His lips tried to purse in annoyance, but the tape held them firm. I don't know. He finally admitted. He knew that you banged on a locker door to get the attention of a passing teacher or kind hearted student, but there was nobody in the apartment to signal in such a way. Logically, if there had been other people in the apartment, they would be in the closet now too, and thus useless and taking up valuable space.
He stood abruptly, rattling the doorknob, checking to see if it was possible to unlock the door from the inside.
He felt her standing behind him, the smell of her creeping into his nose.
In his mind, he catalogued the contents of the closet, searching for something which might help them, but there was nothing.
Turning to face her, his hand searched for hers in the dark, scribbling as soon as he found it we're stuck until Leonard comes home or someone comes looking for us.
She pushed at him, then kicked at the door, but her espadrille sandals were no match for the heavy oak. Behind the tape, he could hear her teeth grinding together.
Desperately he found her hand again. Stop that!
Aside from ruining your teeth it is extremely annoying!
Sue me, I'm pissed, I should have kicked their asses!
They had a gun, and a baseball bat.
You had your eyes closed.
There was a pause as they both sat back down, their backs to the far wall, their feet towards the door, preparing to wait.
Were you worried about me? She signed finally.
Yes. He admitted. He had been. His work he could recreate, in fact he had several thumb sticks scattered around with the crucial bits saved on them, it would take him a matter of minutes. But Penny he could not re-create, or even make better. He wasn't that kind of Doctor.
Don't bleed on my camping gear. He downplayed his concern.
Penny's fingers froze, then she shifted, her hands touching his head, fingers searching again. Irritated, he grabbed at her hand, what are you doing?
I'm not bleeding! She signed, then shook his hand off and went back to her search, her fingers scanning over him, searching for the source of the blood.
He sat frozen, his eyes wide, seeing nothing but the visions in his head.
Her fingers brushed over a spot on his shoulder, and he flinched, noting the tender spots that she found, remembering the blows .
Shoulder- baseball bat
Rib. Steel toed kick
She checked him over thoroughly, then he heard fabric tearing, and something being tied tightly around his left wrist.
It's not bleeding too badly. She signed onto his palm.
He relaxed slightly, but wondered why she had applied a bandage if it was not bleeding badly. Where had she gotten the fabric from, he wondered, before pushing the thought out of his mind.
I hate this. He noted.
Someone will come.
It seemed like it took hours. Every time someone came up the stairs, they kicked out at the door, to no avail. An eternity later, the front door clicked, and someone cried out in alarm.
Perversely, neither Sheldon nor Penny heard it. Hours of kicking and the stress of the attack had overcome them.
Leonard called the police, it was them who noticed the chair propped against the closet, holding it closed.
By the time Leonard had found the key, the police officer had picked the lock, and was talking into his radio.
Ambulance sirens wailed as they drew near the building, as Leonard waited, afraid to look.
Alive, the police officer commented to the radio. Unconscious. Trauma to the head, blood loss.
Leonard sunk onto the staircase beside Penny's apartment, his head in his hands.. Sheldon. His friend. He shouldn't have been home alone.
The gurneys came in, and the orderlies went to work, Leonard staring at the second gurney with a frown.
Sheldon wasn't tall enough to need TWO.
It wasn't till he caught sight of the blond hair cascading over the edge of the gurney. Penny. Sheldon hadn't been alone.
They whisked her down the stairs, before bringing the next one out. A limp hand hung over the edge, the long fingers looking lonely without a green marker in between them.
At the hospital, doctors rushed around. Leonard sat, with Raj and Howard, waiting. Wondering.
The police had said it was a break-in gone wrong, home invasions weren't as rare as they used to be, but they still wanted to talk to Sheldon and Penny.
So when the doctors came in to say they were conscious, it was the police who were first in the room.
And then, curiously, some men in black suits.
Finally, the nurse said they could go in.
Penny had a black eye, and a bruise on her cheek, a split lip from the tape and there was a bandage holding an ice pack to her head. Her bed was right next to Sheldon's, who looked both pale and pissed off. His arm was heavily bandaged, as were his ribs and shoulder, bruises appearing over most of his upper body, which was bare.
His unbundled hand was in Penny's, and the boys watched as his fingers moved, and Penny laughed, then scowled, holding her other hand to her head.
A man in a black suit stepped forward, drawing the guys attention.
"They're not allowed to talk about it."