If you asked me where I got this idea, I don't know what I'd tell you. It's raining outside. Roxanne just published a fic showing more of how Priya has destroyed the group dynamic. Maybe this stemmed from those. Maybe it also stemmed from the fact that while I don't like Priya, I can kind of understand her and why she does some things. She knows that Penny's a legitimate threat to her, and who wouldn't act like she is, at least to some extent? This fic is about that, but less clear and more wandering in its portrayal, since its Penny's point of view.
I don't own anything.
Penny hated the rain. It just constantly drummed down on California, splattering against the pavement and soaking through her shoes. They were expensive, and a gift, and it was so rare that she saw Howard and Bernadette in between holidays and she hated to be out like this, ruining the shoes that she knew Bernadette spent some serious money on, even considering her high salary. But the rain didn't care, just as it didn't have the consideration to hold off until the car was out of the shop. Penny missed her old red car; the newer one consistently conked out just days after the check engine light went on.
She headed for the bus stop. Yet another instance of bad timing. Check engine light goes on, car breaks down. Car breaks down, Penny becomes reliant on the bus. Penny becomes reliant on the bus, rain starts bringing the second Great Flood to California. Second Great Flood means everyone without cars takes the bus. Everyone without cars taking the bus means the bus stations will be crowded.
Penny hated the damn check engine light. It just started a whole chain of misery in motion.
She walked down the slight hill leading to the old bus stop. She remembered being here with Sheldon before, trying to coax him onto the bus while knowing that it wouldn't do any good; he was not wearing his bus pants. That was another instance that could be avoided if it hadn't rained.
Penny hated the damn rain.
She approached the bus stop and discovered that only one person sat on the damp bench inside, hood over her head not hiding the dark, wet hair that was plastered to her face. Clearly, she'd been caught unprepared in the rain.
Penny opened the door and got underneath the roof. "Mind if I sit here?" She asked cheerfully.
"No," said the woman in a thick accent. "No, not at all."
Penny froze as she heard the words. "Priya?" She said incredulously, and before she could stop herself.
The woman did a double take upon looking at Penny for the first time since the ex-waitress had entered the bus stop. "Penny. Hello."
Penny hesitated. This was awkward. And it was all the stupid rain's fault. But she couldn't just leave; that would be rude and obvious and, she thought to herself happily, there was no reason to have animosity toward Raj's sister anymore. She smiled and sat down, leaving just enough space between her and the Indian woman. "How are you?"
"Fine, fine," Priya said, brushing her hair back. "Wet. And you…yourself? It's been…"
"Years?" Penny offered.
She nodded. "Yes. Yes, years. So…how's…your life?" She asked, adding a low, barely audible "I guess" to the end of the sentence.
"Well," Penny said, putting her hands on her knees and letting out a deep breath. "I'm married, I have an eighteen month old little girl, I've got a better job now than when we first met…I guess I can't complain." She looked down at her feet. Aside from this rain. These shoes are going to be ruined.
"That's wonderful," Priya said, smiling.
"And you," Penny said. "You…you're back in the country."
"Yes," Priya said. "I actually live here now. In Oregon. I was down here for a case but about ready to head back now."
"Oh, well, that's good," Penny said, shifting her weight. She wanted to leave this bus station, she wanted other people there to talk to, she wanted to be alone. She didn't want to be stuck here with her, because she couldn't even imagine the awkwardness that just one innocent question could provide. And she had a sick feeling that the question was going to come up, because how, honestly, could it not?
"Do you still see the group, then?" Priya asked.
Penny felt a tad bit of anger that Priya referred to it as "the group" as if she had been a part of it. But she worked that anger down. It had been a long time since they'd spoken, and she was sure that Raj's sister wasn't trying to stir up any old anger. "Well, Howard and Bernadette have moved a few hours away. I haven't seen Raj since he moved back to India to take care of your father…"
"Oh, he'll be coming back in a month," Priya said. "Papi's doing fine now."
"Well good!" Penny said, much too cheerfully. "I'm glad."
They sat in silence for a while. Penny wished she had the bus schedule just so she'd have something to look at. She knew Priya wasn't really interested in where Howard and Bernadette lived. She knew that it didn't matter to Priya if Penny cared about Dr. Koothrapali or not. She knew what Priya really wanted to know. And she knew and was proud of the answer, which made her dread the asking of it all the more. Part of her wanted to blurt it right out, just to show the other woman that she had won, but part of her felt that that was too childish, that it had been too long.
"Well, I'm glad you've been well," Priya said, rising and straightening out her coat. "And…and it looks as if all my suspicions were right."
That was when Penny realized how stupid she was being. Priya didn't need to ask the question. She was Raj's sister, for crying out loud. Raj had stood up in the wedding. Priya already knew. From the moment she laid eyes on her upon entering the damp bus stop, Priya had never intended to ask the question.
Penny looked up and gave the other woman a small smile, without a hint of the gloating that would have been displayed years earlier. "Yeah," she said. "I guess so."
Priya, back when she had been dating Penny's husband, had been threatened by Penny. And it turned out that she had a damn good reason to be. But Penny had somehow, deep inside her, known that all along. And that was what had kept her coming, and had kept her fighting. Because every ounce of jealousy she'd ever felt towards this woman had been bred from the knowledge that she was supposed to be with him instead. And Priya's dislike of her, Priya's need to push her away, stemmed from that same realization, the realization that she was trying to stop from becoming reality.
And there, in the rain at a bustop in Pasadena, Priya and Penny had finally reached that unspoken understanding. What had kept them enemies wasn't their dislike of each other. It had been what they both knew was supposed to be, on the deepest of unconscious levels. It had been destiny that one was trying to fulfill as desperately as the other one was trying to prevent.
"It was nice seeing you again," Priya said, extending her hand.
Penny took it and gave it a firm, short shake. "Aren't you waiting for the bus?"
"No," Priya said. "I called for a car. I just needed a roof – not that it helped, now did it?" She said, putting a hand on her hair and giving Penny a smile.
"Nice to see you," Penny said, a delayed echo of Priya's original farewell.
A car pulled up to the curb, and Priya waved to it. She turned back to Penny and managed another smile. "Tell Leonard that I said hi."
"I will," Penny said, confirming what she already knew Priya knew. She watched the woman gracefully glide to the car and slide in on the passenger side. Awkward, she thought to herself, shivering as she watched the bus come over the hill, slowly making its way down the road.
She turned the other way, watching the car that held Leonard's ex-girlfriend disappear around the corner. She knew she and Priya would probably never speak again unless confined to a space like this. They still weren't friends. They never would be, the animosity of the past was too strong.
But of course there was that part of Penny that was glad of the part she played in the Awkward Bus Stop Run In. She played the part of the woman who actually got the guy, the one that, had she been a work of fiction, the people would root for, not the one that everyone wanted gone for many reasons that varied greatly in terms of how good and valid they were. But she didn't care.
She was the girl who got him in the end. And now, years later, it didn't matter what she had to do, how many awkward conversations she had had to have, how many confessions she had had to make while a bundle of nerves. It had all worked out for her and Leonard. And that made Penny want to go and relive those agonizing days around the turn of the last decade, and cherish every moment of jealousy and frustration, because it had gotten her to the point where she could go home to him every night. Where she could cuddle their child. Where they could lie together and whisper how they felt without any fear.
Yes, Penny had been a terrible threat to Priya back then. Now, with hindsight, Penny could see why the lawyer had been so insistent that she back out of Leonard's life. Priya had known that had Penny been allowed in, she would have taken Leonard from her faster than Sheldon could sing the Element Song, or faster than the water could soak through the shoes.
And yet, somehow, Penny'd managed to anyway.
The bus came to a stop and the doors opened. Penny left the bus stop and walked toward it, hardly noticing the rain.