A/N: After the finale, I couldn't help myself with this little ficlet, and my first foray into Big Bang Theory fanfiction as a Shenny shipper. Enjoy!
Summary: A week after Penny's night with Raj, Sheldon and Penny begin to view each other in a new light through the simple touch of a back massage. Shenny. One-shot. Complete.
Disclaimer: None of this is mine. I just like to amuse myself with Chuck Lorre's creations from time to time.
A Simple Touch
Sometimes, the gentle, warm pressure of a simple touch is all it takes to change a relationship's dynamic forever…
The tentative query came from the door, but CalTech's most long-suffered physicist did not turn from his intense scrutiny of the whiteboard before him.
"Penny," he greeted her brusquely, his eyebrows knitting as he studied the long line of numbers and letters before him, "are you trying to gain access to our Wi-Fi again? Because as I told you last week, you need to get your own—"
"No, Sheldon," the woman retorted, huffing a sigh and shaking her blonde hair out of her eyes. "I don't need your Wi-Fi right now."
Appalled that she would so rudely cut him off before he had finished his tirade (but not truly surprised), Sheldon spun around, his left hand coming up to rub against his neck as he leveled her with a glare. "Then why are you interrupting my work?"
Unfazed by his histrionics, Penny flapped a hand at him. "I had no intention of looking for you, Sheldon. I was looking for Leonard. Is he here?"
"No," Sheldon answered sharply, spinning around to study his work again, clearly hoping the conversation was finished.
Penny did not take the hint. "Do you know when he'll be back?"
Heaving a beleaguered sigh, Sheldon made his way over to his spot on the couch, realizing that this conversation may take awhile, and his equations would have to wait until he could rid himself of Penny.
"He went to try to convince Priya that she should not move back to India, and that her best interests would be to stay with him. The endeavor will no doubt take him several hours, and I wish to have my work done before he comes back and insists on regaling me with inane tales I have no interest in hearing. Stories that, as a roommate, I suppose I must tolerate."
Shaking his head in disgust at the social protocol he was forced to endure, Sheldon stood up, his left hand rising again to rub at his neck while he glanced at Penny, hovering just inside the doorway of the apartment. The hopeful expression on her face had faded over the course of his explanation, but still she lingered.
Another heaved sigh, this one laden with impatience. "Is there something I can assist you with, Penny?"
Penny frowned at him. "Could you just tell Leonard I stopped by and I want to talk to him about what happened last week?"
"If you're referring to that disruptive morning when everyone invaded this apartment without permission and we discovered that you and Rajesh engaged in coitus, could you and Leonard discuss it when I'm not present? I find that your arguments are repetitive and tedious, and I would rather not have to listen to them."
Incensed, Penny stepped fully into the apartment. Genius or not, Sheldon Cooper was treading on a dangerous line. One more insult from him, doctor or not, and she would go full junior rodeo on him, consequences be damned.
"I just want to talk to him," she ground out through clenched teeth, glaring daggers at his back. Sheldon, once again engrossed in the board before him, didn't notice the poisonous stare. A sigh was her only reply, and Penny found a grim smile curling her lips. If he gave one more blustering sigh, she was going to drag him into her apartment every morning and use those sighs as her own personal hairdryer so she wouldn't have to pay as much for her electricity.
As she studied the lanky man before her, she noticed that he again reached up to rub his neck, his long fingers reaching down along his shoulder, as if searching for something. The hand withdrew, and then descended again, and Penny found herself mesmerized by the movement.
"Sheldon, why do you keep doing that?"
"Doing what?" The physicist snapped, whirling around and fixing her with a look that plainly told her that he did not appreciate that she had not vacated the apartment yet.
Stepping further into the space, Penny lifted her chin in challenge, her green eyes flashing. "Why do you keep rubbing your neck, Sheldon?"
To her surprise, Sheldon's blue gaze flickered away from hers for a moment, as if guilty. Emboldened by this flash of weakness, Penny moved forward, watching him. "What is it, Sheldon?"
"It's my shoulder," the man admitted, reaching up to again rub at the festering point. "This fragile body seems incapable of keeping up with my mind, so my shoulders begin to tense when I work for long hours. I would sit down and soothe the area myself, but I am busy with this equation, and I refuse to move from my standing position. Therefore, I cannot reach the spot. Perhaps I should redesign my robot, and use it…"
Cutting off what was sure to be a long speech on the benefits of using a robot double, Penny laid her hand on Sheldon's arm, smiling in amusement when he didn't shy away from the touch. "Turn around, Sheldon."
Startled mid-sentence out of his projected upgrades for his new robot self, Sheldon stared down at the woman before him as if she had just inquired as to the purpose of the TARDIS. "What?"
"Turn around, Sheldon," Penny prompted again, suddenly wondering where she found the courage and compassion to perform the act she was about to commence. "I am going to help you."
To her surprise, Sheldon neither launched into a lecture nor gave her a suspicious look, as if measuring her sincerity (well, not one that lasted for any long period of time). "Well, all righty then," he conceded, turning to face his whiteboard again and granting Penny full access to his back.
Penny reached up, laying her hands gently against his superhero t-shirt. Which one was he wearing today? Batman? Oh, did it really matter? The heat of his back against her hands was pleasant (somehow, she could never truly shake the other guys' theory that Sheldon was possibly a robot), and Penny found herself skating her hands against the length of his back, telling herself that she was searching for the tension that Sheldon spoke of. However, if she was completely honest with herself (and she wasn't always), she was marveling at the muscles of his back.
Sheldon was not like the other guys she had dated: the beefy football players of high school, who had seemed to be nothing but muscle, or the geeky guys like Leonard—who were few and far between—who had some muscle, but not a lot. Sheldon was in between: there was muscle evident on his lanky frame, but his shirts hid it well. Resting her hands on the planes of his shoulder blades, Penny ran her fingers against his back, enjoying the feel of the muscles against her hands. There was strength there, a strength that Sheldon hid and rarely felt compelled to use. Penny remembered glances on him during their short tenure as exercise partners, and even then, she could see the musculature under the wire-thin frame, the potential. But Sheldon did not enjoy the outdoors that often. Why would he? There was no outlet, no Internet jack.
"Penny?" Sheldon's voice startled the woman, and Penny ducked her head, grateful that she was standing behind the man and his body hid her blush. Was she checking Sheldon out? Shaking her head, Penny banished the thought. No. Not possible.
"Now, Penny," Sheldon instructed, "you are looking for the tension beneath my shoulder blade…"
Seeking the spot he was currently explaining, Penny blocked out the medical jargon floating over his shoulder and let her fingers give her the information she needed. Beneath his shoulder blade, there was a tight knot, something that nearly felt like a small knob, or a ball. Feeling it give under the light pressure of her fingers, Penny exerted more pressure, smiling at the thought of experimenting on Sheldon.
Sheldon's reaction was not was she had been expecting, no matter what results she might have predicted.
The man nearly melted onto the floor before her, and Penny jumped back with a squeak, staring in disbelief. Had Sheldon moaned? Did his knees just buckle?
"Holy crap on a cracker," she breathed, moving forward when Sheldon straightened. When the man turned towards her, Penny could only catch her breath at the sight. Sheldon's gaze was heavy, the half-lidded eyes of a man who has experienced pleasure of the deepest kind.
"Penny?" Sheldon inquired, his voice thick, "why did you stop?"
Penny was sure that her jaw was on the floor. Her mind was an incoherent jumble, and she could do nothing but stare. After all these years, had she just discovered that Sheldon might have a deal? That he wasn't as asexual as everyone thought?
Wait, why was she turned on by the huskiness in his voice, the timbre that spoke of other things done in bed, things that required less clothes and more touching than a simple shoulder massage? What was happening to her?
Flustered and confused, Penny backed away from Sheldon, attempting to beat a hasty retreat. "I-I-I-I should really go," she stuttered, hoping she could make it back to her apartment before the shock paralyzed her.
Sheldon had apparently returned to normal, for he drew himself up and pinned her where she stood with a withering stare. "You offered to help me, Penny," he reminded her, "and the social norms dictate that you finish what you started."
Unsure whether to laugh, cry, or flee, Penny stared, helplessly rooted to the spot. "All right," she said tremulously, cautiously stepping forward.
"Thank you," Sheldon said pompously, once again presenting his back to her.
Reaching up carefully, Penny again applied pressure to the same spot, kneading gently, wary of using intense pressure. Sheldon tipped his head back, his eyes closing, and a low humming noise came from the back of his throat—a gentle sound of contentment.
After several minutes, Penny was sure that she had satisfied the social norms that Sheldon was apparently starting to adhere to. Drawing her fingers away from his back, she found that she had enjoyed the heat of his body against her palms. Banishing the regret, she stepped away.
"Well, I think that does it for me. Your back should be fine now, Sheldon, and I'll just stop back some time when Leonard is here and—"
The warmth of two hands on her shoulders nearly had her smothering a shriek, but whether in fear or surprise, she didn't know. Was Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D., self-proclaimed Homo novus and genius, willingly touching another human being? What was going on? Had she been sucked into one of those mirror universes where everything was backwards?
Turning slightly, she glanced up at him, green eyes wide, strands of blonde hair drifting into her face, softening the worry lines in her young visage and returning some of the vulnerability to it.
"I believe I owe you the same courtesy."
While the words had tone had been stiff and formal, the fingers currently kneading her back and shoulder blades were anything but. Sheldon's long fingers were good for more than just grasping whiteboard markers and spending time against the computer keys. When put the proper and right use, they were magic.
And, yes, this was a right and proper use for them! The pressure of his fingers against her back was enough to soothe, but not to irritate, and the pads of his fingertips worked against the muscles, smoothing away knots and creases and stress spots that Penny had been unaware of until that moment.
Unconsciously echoing Sheldon's hum of pleasure, Penny sagged back against Sheldon's strong hands, trusting him to support her. There was a slight shift in his stance, a quick exhalation of breath as he adjusted to her weight, but his hands never faltered.
Several pleasurable minutes paused in a blur, and Penny would have believed anyone who told her she had died and gone to heaven. Disappointment and regret washed over her as she realized that the magical fingers were slowing their progress, but that withdrawal was washed away by the knowledge that she had never felt so relaxed.
However, some of the tension returned as Penny's faculties resumed function again, and she realized where she was, who she was with, and what had just happened. Once again flustered, Penny stepped away, mumbling apologies and half completed sentences about trying to find Leonard and coming back later and heat and warmth and relaxation and spas and—
Sheldon stared after her for several long moments once Penny had made the escape back to her own apartment, the door closing softly behind her. There was a warmth that lingered on his hands that he could not attribute to his own body temperature—after all, he took his temperature regularly, and knew when he could possibly be contracting an illness—but it seemed impossible that it could have come from Penny. Her body heat would have dissipated as she moved away from him, and she had been gone from the apartment for over a minute.
Pushing the conundrum away, Sheldon turned back to his board, grateful for the peace and quiet that now reigned over the apartment. He had wasted too much time with that knotted muscle; now he could return to work.
As he picked up the cool marker and it slid against his fingers, Sheldon marveled—only for a moment—that the cylinder, imperative to the recording of his equations as it might be, could not compare to the warmth of Penny's skin, or the gentle brush of the ends of her golden hair against his fingertips.
Such foolish thoughts. There was work to be done. Shaking his head, Sheldon once again applied himself to his equations.