Eligible Bachelor for the Holidays
This is a romantic, fluffy one shot featuring Sheldon & Penny. Just a little sweetness for the holidays! Enjoy!
"I've already told you, I refuse to a play a part in any form of prostitution." Sheldon busied himself around his office as Leonard stepped forward, trying to talk his friend into what he considered to be a really fun event.
"And I've already told you, it isn't anything like that. You don't have sex with anyone. You just stand there, let them bid on you, and spend time with the winner that evening."
Leonard was talking about the university's First Annual Eligible Bachelor Holiday Fundraiser. All departments were encouraged to volunteer, with the emphasis being on actually participating. All possible benefactors were invited to the extravaganza, but the event was open to anyone within the university and community.
Howard was overjoyed to be a part of it. Raj was pretty excited, too. Leonard was on board. It was Sheldon who was being the stick in the mud.
"So, you're telling me that not only would I be attending a function I prefer to avoid altogether, that I would have to stand on stage like a piece of meat and allow any random number of women to bid money for my company, and then I have spend the rest of the evening trapped in their company?"
"Pretty much…" though Leonard's respond sounded weak.
"Ah, yes, I thought I heard you griping, Dr. Cooper." Both men looked up at the sound of Dr. Gablehauser's voice. "Did I hear correctly? You two were discussing our Holiday Fundraiser?"
"Yes," Sheldon said, turning back to his whiteboard to continue working. He wasn't planning on being a part of this whole nonsense, so furthering the conversation was pointless.
"Dr. Cooper, you know everyone is participating in this."
"Yes, but it's voluntary. And I choose to not partake." Sheldon's eyes only gazed at his superior a brief moment before turning around again.
"No one would like your absence better than me, but the fact remains we need as many bachelors there as possible. You're a man of numbers. You know it's about money. More men, more bids, more money for the university and our programs."
"I doubt I would be bid on in any case," Sheldon murmured, erasing a specific part of his work.
"You never know. There might be someone out there just waiting to bid of an eccentric physicist who lacks social skills and a decent wardrobe." Dr. Gablehauser just stood there with his hands behind his back as he spoke.
"I beg your pardon." Sheldon turned around slowly, an incredulous look in his eyes. "My social skills are more than adequate and my wardrobe?" He looked down at his multicolored Batman shirt. "Is perfectly fine."
"Yes, it is. If you're fifteen."
"Bottom line, he's saying there is someone for everyone at these things. Right, Dr. Gablehauser?" Leonard quickly interjected before Sheldon turned into The Hulk before their very eyes…or worse, if Dr. Gablehauser fired him again. Leonard couldn't take that break down a second time.
Sheldon crossed his arms. "Absolutely not. In no way, shape or form, will I be participating in such a crude act of raising funds."
Penny adjusted her dress and grabbed her fanciest clutch purse as she headed next door. She crossed the hall, knocked, and slowly turned the knob.
"Hey, you guys?" She peered inside to see if her neighbors were ready to leave to this holiday function they had invited her to.
Leonard strode into the small hallway at the sound of her voice. He was dressed in a tuxedo and was adjusting his cuff links. Penny's eyes lit up.
"Leonard, wow. You look amazing!" She approached him and placed her hands on his tie. "And…" she lifted her purse. "I brought my money! Only a few hundred dollars, though. I have rent."
"Aw, thanks. You look amazing, too! And you don't have to bid on me…but it would help. I'm kind of nervous about getting stuck with some…" Leonard shrugged the rest of the statement.
"Old lady. Kind of like what happened with—"
"Yes!" Leonard cut her off, walking away to get his wallet, a smile on his face.
"Oh. In his room."
"He isn't coming?"
"Unfortunately, I am." They both turned at the sound of Sheldon's voice in the hallway entrance.
Penny's heart stopped for a microsecond and then thudded rapidly in her chest.
"Sheldon," she breathed out, putting her hand on her collarbone. "You look like James Bond!"
He sighed, adjusting the jacket on the tuxedo Leonard made him rent.
"Thank you, Penny," he said almost dismissively, though she knew that was undoubtedly because Sheldon was pouting.
"Dr. Gablehauser made him go," Leonard said under his breath as he passed by Penny towards the door.
Sheldon walked to his desk, checking one more thing on his laptop screen before turning around to Leonard ad Penny. She couldn't help herself; Penny walked up and just had to adjust the bowtie he chose to wear. His tux included a matching black vest under his jacket and he looked taller if that was even possible.
"For someone who doesn't want to go, you seem to care enough to wear cologne," Penny stated, stepping back and giving him a playful look.
Sheldon's response was to narrow his eyes at her, but he wasn't entirely frowning.
"You aren't actually planning on bidding on anyone are you, Penny?" Sheldon said, walking casually to the door and picking up his key from the bowl. "There will be a great many wealthier women there tonight. I doubt you will be able to afford anyone."
"Yes, when no one bids on you, I will offer my twenty dollars," she said, not skipping a beat, a wry smile on her lips.
He sighed heavily, turning and opening the door. "Very well."
Leonard was behind the wheel as Sheldon sat in the front, Penny in the back checking her makeup in the small compact mirror she brought with her.
"Is this the only way the university is making money tonight? Just bidding on bachelors?" she asked.
Leonard answered, "No, they have a silent auction with all sorts of stuff. Really expensive donated items."
"Are there any really good looking guys at the university?"
"Maybe in the biology department," Sheldon answered dryly, looking out the window.
"Oh, good!" She clicked the mirror closed and placed it in her small bag. Lifting her body, she leaned up between the guys in the back, lifting her arms to settle her elbows on the edge of their seats. "I'm kind of excited! Hey, do you think anyone will bid on Howard?"
Sheldon glanced back at her. "You should be sitting back with your seatbelt."
"Not in this dress," Penny replied, sitting up and moving her arms down.
Sheldon's eyes moved down to the dress in reference and he studied it. It was red. The thick, soft lacy looking straps attached to the top of the dress that actually fully covered her breasts in layers of similar looking fabric; though Sheldon would have assumed she would be showing cleavage with the way she was talking. Below was a shiny red sash around the waist and the remainder was long and flowy. Classy, sleek, and very becoming. Her hair was pinned up stylistically and her makeup was complimentary without being too much. Sheldon took a quick breath and turned around facing the front again.
"I suppose not," he mumbled, his hands fidgeting in his lap.
"Where is this taking place, Leonard?" Penny asked, trying to ignore the almost lusty gaze she just received from Sheldon.
"At the Sparkling Gardens. They just built it off the highway. It's a huge botanical garden, and has reception halls, art exhibits, you name it. They even have a butterfly exhibit in the summer, I think. Real cool. Butterflies flying everywhere!"
"Cool!" Penny was genuinely excited, and about to suggest a trip but Sheldon cut her off.
"One of the most exotic species of butterfly is in Europe. The two-tailed pasha." His eyes remained before him as the drive continued.
Hearing silence from the back, Sheldon turned to see if Penny had heard him. She was looking out the window and when she turned her head to look at him again, he quickly turned around.
Leonard opened the door for Penny, helping her out of the car as the three of them walked to the entrance. The valet took the keys.
Inside Leonard was pulled away almost immediately by someone who recognized him from a previous meeting. Sheldon started to walk towards the crowd to look for a spot with the least amount of human interaction. He felt a tiny hand slip around his arm as Penny followed him, looking around casually.
He looked at her hand, then at her face, then at her hand again. "Why are you holding onto my arm?"
She turned to face him, sliding her hand away. "I don't want to get lost. There are a lot of people here."
"I'm sufficiently tall. I don't think you could lose me that easily," he stated, a little smile on his lips that Penny was sure he didn't realize he gave.
"Fine," she breathed out, walking ahead of him. She was stopped by fingertips gripping her shoulder. She turned around and followed the fingers up to Sheldon's face.
"But I suppose an act of chivalry isn't entirely inappropriate in this setting." He avoided her eyes as he took her hand and placed it through his arm again. He looked around the room, still searching for a place to remotely hide and possibly avoid the bachelor auction altogether.
Penny turned her head, hiding the smile that grew wider as she walked along with Sheldon. He really did look debonair and she almost considered him a trophy date.
"Oh, good," Sheldon sighed, pulling her near a plant by the bar. He placed Penny in front of him to act as a barrier against anyone else who may have wanted to actually talk to him. He glanced around, pulling at his coat and then looked down at her. "What?"
"Why are you so anti-social?" she asked, grabbing two champagne glasses from the waitress as she passed with a tray of them.
"I'm not. I just prefer limited contact with others." She handed him one of the glasses, and but he waved his hand, shaking his head.
"It's for me, just hold it," she said, sipping from hers. "I just don't want to look like a lush."
"You do realize they walk around more than once…"
Penny gave him a look wondering how he knew that anyway, considering he rarely attended these functions.
Leonard found them and waved his hand, walking up to them. "There you guys are!" Behind him were Howard, Raj and Bernadette.
Raj wore a sleek looking black suit with a green shirt and red tie. Howard managed to wear a suit that incorporated his dickie (that damn dickie) and was black and white, no tie. Penny's eyes widened when she saw Bernadette's dress, which was actually a simple royal blue one. It was the fact that her friend was so petite yet so busty, that her breasts just popped out in the dress, though managed not to pop out of the dress. Sheldon must have seen it, too, because when Penny looked back to avoid staring, Sheldon looked away as well, both giving each other the briefest look of "oh my…"
"Time to get this party started!" Raj exclaimed, happily clutching his champagne glass.
"Yeah, Bernie's gonna bid on her love bug, but," Howard started, putting his arm around her, "I can't help it if she's outbid."
"You're lucky she's bidding on you already," Penny said snidely, rolling her eyes and sipping her drink.
"Gentlemen," came a sweet voice from behind them. They all turned to the sound a young lady holding a clip board. "I assume those of you participating have already signed in. The eligible bachelor auction starts in ten minutes."
"Is participation optional?" Sheldon asked, perking up at the prospect.
"Uh…no." She gave him a sincere shrug. "Sorry. Talk to—"
"No, it's fine. Thank you," Leonard said, turning to Sheldon and shaking his head at his roommate.
"Well," Howard started, his arms in the air. "Let's get on stage Man Meat!"
Penny excitedly stood in the crowd of mostly women, many of which were many, many….many years older than she. She looked at her clutch and doubted she had enough money for any of the guys.
"Kind of degrading, isn't it?"
Penny looked over at Leslie Winkle, who actually looked like she was laughing.
"I guess," Penny stammered. "Why didn't they ask any women to do this? There are more than just you, right?"
"Yeah…but not by many. Plus, it's much more fun to see the guys sweat. And all these old widows with tons of money need some action." She casually looked around the room, then back at Penny.
Just then, a middle aged, attractive, red headed woman started to speak at the podium that was set off to the side of the stage. "Thank you and welcome to CalTech's First Annual Eligible Bachelor Holiday Fundraiser! All proceeds tonight will go directly to the university's established programs and the winners of tonight's auction will be awarded the night spent with the date of their choice, dinner, dancing, and private walks through the beautiful atrium and gardens."
There was clapping and whistling from the crowd before she continued. "Let's get started with our first bachelor!"
Each person that came out received a brief introduction, and possibly a flirty commentary or two from the Auctioneer, before the bidding started.
There were two men Penny didn't know and she just watched the crowd bidding on each, though the bids seemed relatively modest considering most were supposed to be widows and wealthy. No one so far had gone for more than $800. Then Kripke came up and she was surprised someone bid $400 on a chance for personal time with one of the weirdest guys she'd ever met.
Finally someone she knew came up. Leonard. Penny gleefully clutched her purse and raised her hand as the bidding started.
"I have a hundred, do I have two—two, two hundred, do I have three…"
Penny looked around as the bidding got past $400…then $500…then $600…
She desperately looked at her friend up on stage, who was smiling wider with each number. Penny had stopped bidding at $500 and just watched as hands shot up from a variety of places. Graduate students were even bidding.
"Wow," she murmured.
"Ten thousand dollars!"
Penny's head zipped around and Leonard's face paled in amazement. Had he just gone for five figures? He was just hoping to go for at least $500. He saw it was an older woman in her early sixties. She was nonetheless attractive, or at least one could tell she was considered hot in her day.
Everyone stopped in their tracks and turned to face this woman.
"Little birdie told me I wouldn't regret this one," she said, with a little wink Leonard's way as she brought her glass up in a toast to her bid.
"Ten thousand going once…twice….sold! To the lovely woman the gold dress."
Leonard almost stumbled off the stage as he went down the small stairs. Penny just chuckled, and everyone started to clap.
"Oh, man, he's gonna owe her one…or two." Penny laughed at her own crass joke.
"I can't believe that," Bernadette said as she walked up to Penny. "How is anybody going to top that?"
Penny was still laughing at her own joke as another member of the university stood on stage. He only went for $700 and he sheepishly walked off stage, though prior to Leonard $700 would have been a top three bid. Two more men Penny didn't know but Bernadette did. They did pretty well, one getting a $1500 bid, the other getting $1000.
"The ball is rolling, I guess." Bernadette stood on her tip toes to see. "I think Howie is next."
"Are you actually bidding on him?"
"Well, if I don't, who will?"
Penny nodded and couldn't complain there. Howard was actually next and Bernadette wasn't the first to bid. But she was the one who won him at…$300.
Should have passed on the dickie tonight, Howard, Penny thought, laughing again. "I'm on fire, tonight," she said to herself. She checked her purse and wondered if she would have enough to bid on Raj or Sheldon. Otherwise she would be hanging out by herself while they went on their dates that evening.
The Auction continued on and before too long, Raj came out, smiling his goofy half drunk smile and waiting for the bidding. He actually went for $1700 by a woman in the back. Penny was impressed.
"Good for you, Raj," she commented under her breath.
After a few more men, Penny saw Sheldon being practically shoved on stage. She could see him sigh heavily and give a glare to the audience.
"And finally, we have Dr. Sheldon Cooper," the Auctioneer said. "For you ladies into a tall, dark, handsome man of theoretical physics, this bidding is for you. The bidding starts at one hundred dollars."
Penny barely lifted her hand before she turned around at the sound of graduate students saying, "One hundred!" and shooting her hand up high. She looked around as various other bids were shouted out, from students to colleagues to one wealthy old woman, who Penny guessed was in her seventies!
He shouldn't have gone last. All the good bidders are gone, Penny thought. She looked at her friend's face and he just gazed around the room, looking confused as the bidding continued.
The bidding had seemingly halted at $1100. It was one of the grad students. Penny didn't even notice Sheldon's face and his pursed lips as he looked anxiously at the Auctioneer who was about to call a winner.
"Two thousand dollars!"
Sheldon shot his head in the direction of a bid higher than he ever expected on him.
"Penny? What are you doing?" he asked.
Everyone stopped and looked at her. The grad student's face dropped and she attempted to glare at Penny. Penny shrugged and the girl stormed off.
"Two thousand going once…going twice…sold to the stunning blond in the red dress!"
Penny smiled and waved at Sheldon as she made her way to the stage. His mouth was open a bit as he shook his head at her.
"That concludes tonight's auction. Women, you may pay and collect your dates over at the table to the right. Please enjoy the remainder of your evening and the special dinner and dancing will be awaiting you in the Sparkling Hall. Please visit the silent auction being held till midnight." With that, the beautiful Auctioneer left the stage.
Penny walked over to the area to pay up, and tried not to think of the fact that she just bid the next two months' rent and utilities money on Sheldon Cooper.
As soon as the transaction was done, she turned around and tried looking for him.
"Ma'am. You have to meet your date in the Sparkling Hall. Here is your ticket to indicate you've paid." It was the young lady from before with the clip board.
"Thanks." Penny smiled and nodded, taking her small ticket and following others to the Hall. Everyone else would enjoy food and drink in the main area and in the amazing garden. Penny passed the room with the silent auction in it and saw a few people already perusing the items.
No sooner had she stepped in, Sheldon approached her from the side, causing her to jump.
"Penny," he hissed. "What were you thinking? You can't afford two thousand dollars!"
"Don't worry about it, Sheldon. I afford what I want to afford." She looked around trying to find Leonard.
"And you wanted to afford paying for a man who lives across the hall?"
She looked back at him. "Did you honestly want to be stuck with that other girl?"
Sheldon just slumped his shoulders slightly. "…No."
"Well, you're welcome. Come on, let's eat." She grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the tables, hoping to get a seat with her friends.
They both sat down and Howard, Bernadette, Raj and his date sat with them. Sheldon looked at Howard and was at least glad he was auctioned off for more than him. Should have skipped the dickie, he thought to himself, picking up his napkin and opening it up on his lap.
"Oh, there's Leonard," Sheldon said, pointing to a table across the way. He was with his date, and presumably all her friends and dates, one of which included Kripke.
"Hey, Sheldon," Bernadette leaned over in a whisper. "You remind me of James Bond." She giggled and sat back.
He looked between her and Penny, both smiling at him.
"Perhaps you expect me to now order a Vodka Martini?" He adjusted his bowtie and looked at Bernadette. "Shaken, not stirred?"
Penny saw a smug smirk dance on Sheldon's lips and she was pleased he was attempting charm. The small blonde giggled again and nodded.
"He's a real Man of Mystery," Howard grumbled, shaking his head, still upset he got the lowest bid of all his friends.
"That's Austin Powers," Sheldon retorted calmly. "And that, I'm not." Sighing, he finally turned to Penny.
She casually ripped off bread from a small bun she got from the bread basket and was people watching as she ate. "Oh, look, there's—" When she turned her head to continue, she noticed Sheldon was staring at her and she forgot what she was going to say. "What?"
He blinked. "What do you mean by 'what'? What were you going to say?"
"Oh, I was just pointing at the Crypt Keeper's wife over there with her date. Feel sorry for that guy," Penny responded, again laughing at her own joke.
Sheldon shook his head and placed another bun on her plate. "Eat more. You drank too much." But she saw that Sheldon was trying his hardest not to smile.
Dinner came and went with light conversation. Penny really wanted to get away from the others to have some time with Sheldon in the garden. If for no other reason, than to simply get her money's worth rather than doing what she does almost every night: have dinner with Sheldon and his friends (minus Leonard, of course, who looked like he was trying his best to have a good time at his table). She wasn't sure what would happen but even hearing him tell her the history of every flower they passed was something… she just paid two-friggin'-thousand-dollars.
Plus, she wanted to show him off. He was actually getting some regretful stares from women who felt they should have held out for him. And it made her feel kind of…proud.
If only they knew the real Sheldon, Penny thought. She looked at her neighbor and sighed, not realizing she had done it so loud until he looked at her.
"I gotta go to the restroom," Penny said quickly, standing up and placing her napkin on the table.
Bernadette got up, too and the girls left. In the bathroom, Penny's friend looked at her as they stood side by side in front of the mirror.
"Two thousand dollars? You actually bid that much? I refused to go that high on Howard." She checked her hair out.
"I just wanted to help him. But now that I think of it, it might have been fun to see what he would have done on a real—well, kind of real—date…" Penny touched up her makeup.
"Well, it just seems like a lot for a man who lives across the hall…"
"Hey!" Penny turned to her friend. "I bid on Leonard, too!"
"Yeah, but you stopped at five hundred."
Penny crossed her arms and huffed. "What are you saying?"
"I'm not saying anything your actions aren't saying," Bernadette said, walking around Penny to the door. "It's okay to like someone—"
"Oh, you stop right there, Bernadette. I do not like Sheldon."
"Big words for a girl who just bid big money on a man she barely tolerates." With that her friend opened the door and walked out.
Penny grabbed her purse and stormed out, about to call for Bernadette when she felt a hand grip her wrist. Swinging around, her heart skipped a beat as she met Sheldon's blue eyed gaze.
"Where are you going?"
"Oh," Penny swallowed, trying to catch her breath. Why was she holding it? "I was…going to get you."
"I decided to meet you here. It got awkward and I was sick of Howard's bellyaching at how little he was bid on."
They both looked at each other, annoyance in their faces as they both said in unison, "Should have skipped the dickie." Sheldon's eyes widened and he smiled. Penny just laughed shortly, slapping his arm lightly.
Sheldon looked around, letting a breath out. "I suppose we could descend to the garden. That's seems to be the prevailing next step. And I don't want to dance."
Penny nodded and slipped her hand through his arm. She gave a purposeful gaze towards the graduate students who were staring at her, and she smiled smugly. That incited gossipy whispers from them. Sheldon noticed nothing as he opened the door for her leading to the beautiful gardens that the place was known for.
He held his hands behind his back as they strolled along with idle conversation. Sheldon explained the various steps of taking care of prized plants and flowers, and the history of the Sparkling Family of whom the establishment was named.
She just walked along, nodding, smiling up at him politely, and looking around. The night was surprisingly warm. Lines of white holiday lights danced around the trees, the rails along the garden, and a beautiful white gazebo. Penny thought how perfect the gazebo was for an outdoor wedding and figured Sparkling Gardens probably received much business because of that.
She turned back at Sheldon who was casually talking her ear off about the various flowers. He seemingly avoided her gaze as he kept looking at each thing he was talking about. There were a few of the couples outside walking around, the men with women on their arms, one couple (one of the younger women with her scientist) kissing under the gazebo. Sheldon stopped to point out one of the small marble fountains as Penny gazed at the couple. She unconsciously slipped her hand under his arm again. This caused him to stop and look at her, then up at where she glanced.
He watched the scene for a minute and seemingly dipped his head slightly to observe something else. The same thing Penny saw.
"So sweet," she mused. "Mistletoe."
Sheldon's gaze turned to Penny and he was glad she couldn't see his eyes widen and his brow slightly furrow. He gently pulled away from her and she barely noticed until he spoke again.
"Interesting fact about mistletoe, in cultures across pre-Christian Europe, mistletoe was seen as a representation of divine male essence and thus romance, fertility and vitality. This was possibly due to a resemblance between the berries and semen." Penny's wide eye found their way up to Sheldon's face and he blushed. Why had he said that? There is so much more information on mistletoe, he chose that to tell her? He had already been talking her ear off, avoiding any romantic notions she may have been considering this evening to be. He failed to admit it, but Sheldon was…nervous. He cleared his throat and continued, "The Christian custom of a man and woman kissing once meeting under the mistletoe may be from Scandinavian origin." He swallowed and looked away, wondering when his bowtie got so tight around his neck.
Penny smiled and shook her head lightly. "I think it's sweet." She looked at the couple once more and then started to walk again. "Tell me about this—" She began but her words were hushed by the feel of something sliding in her hand. It was warm and had a firm softness to it. It was…Sheldon's hand.
His heart beat wildly in his chest as he did the boldest thing he had done all night, and a first time for him at all. He willingly chose to hold someone's hand and a woman's at that.
"I've been ill-mannered tonight, Penny."
"What do you mean?"
His gentle eyes looked away for a moment and then returned back to her with questioning eyes. "I forgot to tell you I think you look—" He took a quick breath and continued, almost forcing the out. "Lovely." Bewitching, he thought to himself though he left that word inside his head.
She squeezed his hand, her smile widening but somehow turning shy. "Thank you, Sheldon."
They paused for a moment, but it was Sheldon who broke the silence and continued walking, his hand in hers. He began chatting once again about this or that, but his voice just provided background noise as Penny looked at their hands together. His grip was solid, and she even found him squeezing it as he spoke—and usually when a point he was making was slightly more emphatic.
She turned her attention to his voice as he spoke. He had a melodic and reassuring tone when he was telling facts about things, educating her, and wondered why he couldn't be like this in front of a group of students. How could someone not be attentive when he made everything sound simple, or was that the ambiance talking?
Sheldon finally stopped talking, took a deep breath, and looked down at her. He smiled and looked back up.
"James Bond," Penny whispered, leaning into him to give his body a small nudge.
Sheldon laughed lightly, his quirky little laugh. Penny's heart skipped a beat. "Double Oh Seven. Always featured with a gorgeous woman."
Sheldon hadn't intended the comment to be charming or complimentary. He was merely making a commentary on the franchise, but decided to let it be without back tracking on what he said. He let Penny think what she wanted about it and allowed himself to be grateful that his mind went there and his mouth spoke it. It was actually a flirty statement that was subtle enough to compliment his beautiful friend without being aggressive.
Just then, Sheldon took in the realization that he was trying to hit on Penny. His heart began thudding a little harder in his chest and he swallowed. Clearing his throat, he tried leading her to a bench. He felt he needed to sit down.
"Hey, there's Leonard," Penny said, pointing.
They both watched as the woman with the winning bid pulled him into a vigorous kiss under a tree. Leonard looked like he was startled at first then eased into it. What can a person do after a ten thousand dollar payment for one's company?
"Oh, prostitution," Sheldon murmured, shaking his head. "Like a common street walker." Penny couldn't be too upset. For one thing, Sheldon's voice actually sounded jovial as he spoke rather than his regular condescension.
"She isn't sleeping with him." They both sat on the bench and watched.
"Not yet," Sheldon said, shaking his head at her a little.
"You're bad, Dr. Cooper." Penny giggled, still holding his hand and resting her head on his shoulder.
Sheldon smirked. It was a rarity when she referred to him in a proper manner.
They both turned around at Howard and Bernadette coming up from behind.
Astounding how the mere presence of another couple so greatly reduces the libido, Sheldon thought crudely, turning back around to face front.
"Hi!" Penny said, though her voice was lined with disappointment.
She broke away from the grasp on Sheldon's hand and he frowned at her though she didn't see it.
"How's it goin'?" Bernadette asked in a small sing song voice, eyeing Penny in a way that made Sheldon uncomfortable.
"Good. Are you guys having a good night?" Penny asked a little urgently, hoping to appease small chat and get them to move on.
"Great. Me and Howie danced. Then we had some drinks. Then…we came out here. Are you guys having a good night?"
Sheldon and Penny both nodded.
"We're gonna go inside the botanical maze. I heard it's lit up inside and sounds very romantic." Bernadette was gushy and clinging to her man.
"Get lost, maybe fool around…" Howard responded towards Bernadette, obviously over his pouting session from before.
Penny stomach churned and Sheldon sat straighter up.
"That sounds like the least pleasant thing I've heard all night," Sheldon said, shaking his head lightly.
"Okaaay…" Bernadette's sing song voice teased, walking away with Howard.
They both heard Howard's voice as he talked in his girlfriend's ear, his arm around her. She giggled.
"I don't know what it is, but that man repulses me." Penny pursed her lips.
Penny didn't know where to go from here, and neither did Sheldon. He was beginning to get anxious and longed for familiarity…but at the same time, he was intoxicated by not knowing what this current situation would bring. When Penny looked up at him and smiled, he couldn't help but wish he could have all his childhood bullies there and throw in their face the fact that he was with a beautiful woman that other men wanted. That she outbid all others to be with him, with money better spent on bills. Then he realized…she outbid others to be with him…
"Penny, may I ask you something?" Sheldon folded his hands in front of him and gave her a serious look.
"Yeah, sure. What's up?"
"Why didn't you bid on anyone else?"
"I did. I bid on Leonard…and Raj."
"So, I was the option left over…?"
"No. I was just outbid on both of them. And you came out last! I didn't want to risk spending the night alone." She cringed, hating the sound of her statement. It came out all wrong! However, Sheldon didn't seem offended.
"Mm…" Sheldon thought for a moment. "We all heard the bidding from the waiting room we sat in. Leonard clearly had a rather enormous bid, Lord knows what that's all about, but you stopped before you hit even half of what you held in your purse. And with Raj…he only went for seventeen hundred, still less than what you carried."
"What's your point? Did you want me to win my date with Raj."
"Not necessarily." Sheldon tried to think of way to phrase what he said next. Then he turned fully to her, his blue eyes filled with concern and question. "I'm just baffled, I suppose."
"About what?" Penny shrugged and wished he would get his point out.
"Why you would pay to spend time with someone you see almost every day."
Not that question again, groaned Penny mentally.
"Because I wanted to, ok?"
"And even so, you would have won the bidding at twelve hundred dollars. Why—"
"Because I wanted to, OK?" Penny stood up, a little angry now at the interrogation.
Sheldon stood up next to her, but mostly as a startled reaction.
"Well, ok…" Sheldon fidgeting where he stood and he looked less like James Bond and more like Sheldon…in a tux.
"Come on," Penny said, walking towards the gazebo.
They continued on in silence, and Penny saw that more people were coming out and milling around, both winners and their dates and the rest of the guests. She was disappointed when another couple went to the gazebo before them.
She wanted what Sheldon wanted earlier that evening, a tiny spot away from everyone else to avoid being stopped to engage in conversation. She wasn't sure why, but she wanted a minute to talk to him. She didn't know what she wanted to say—just that she wanted a quiet moment away from others. Finally, she spotted a small fountain surrounded by little roses of all colors. The water trickled out and it was the only sound other than the hum of talking and very distant music.
She stood there and turned to Sheldon who just looked around and then up at the sky. Penny found herself fumbling with her purse for no particular reason and finally just set it on the fountain's edge, praying silently that it wouldn't fall in.
"Listen, Sheldon…I don't know why I bid so much. I just did, ok? Stop bringing it up before I start to regret it."
"Do you regret your decision?"
"I only regret not knocking out that grad student sooner. I could have had you for $200." She chuckled at her own joke but Sheldon wasn't laughing.
He shook his head.
"What's wrong?" Penny asked.
Sheldon opened his mouth to talk, but just sighed.
"I was kidding. I would have bid higher, Sheldon. I was joking."
He slumped his shoulders, seemingly at a loss for the right words.
What Penny didn't know was Sheldon knew exactly what he wanted to say, and was always so blunt to speak anything on his mind. But just now, it was hard to address certain things with Penny when she was only spending this time with him due to some auction.
She slipped her hand around his waist, something he couldn't remember her doing in the past. His chest warmed. His arm gracefully fell around her shoulder in response to her closeness. She looked up at the sky and said, "Tell me about the stars."
"Oh, you should have won a date with Koothrapali for that one," Sheldon teased, suppressing a witty grin.
"No, I know who I'm with." Penny was matter-of-fact in her statement, glancing at him only for a brief moment.
Sheldon did know about the stars, and the moon, and all the planets… He knew everything, except what Penny was thinking.
He took a breath to start off his explanation of the constellation that they were actually standing under, using his free hand to point and talk about the mythology behind it. Penny's arm tingled as Sheldon's fingers moved gently across her upper arm as he spoke. She was on every word, in great part because it was actually interesting to her despite some of the more scientific words.
"That's amazing," Penny said through a breath.
"The stars? I suppose, they're just balls of—"
"No. You." She pulled her body away, but kept her hand on his arm. "Sheldon, I meant what I said the first day we met. You have a beautiful mind. When I'm not being annoyed with you always being a know-it-all, I'm actually really impressed with everything you know. It's amazing."
"Well, thank you, Penny." Sheldon graciously nodded, ignoring her 'being annoying' comment. He had no delusions on how others perceived him.
"You're welcome, sweetie."
She slid her hand around his waist again to get into the same position as before but he pulled her at arm's length. Blushing, Penny realized she was probably making Sheldon very uneasy. While he had held her hand a few times, and let her cling to his arm all night, he hadn't really invited much more than that.
She stepped back and picked up her tiny purse, about to apologize in embarrassment. Just as she lifted her head to talk, Sheldon stepped into her personal space in one long stride. Lifting her chin, he dipped his head down and kissed her gently on the lips.
Penny felt her breath catch in her throat. Her hands froze and her heart beat rapidly. Sheldon pulled back, opened his eyes to look at her, and licked his lips. He was obviously a little surprised with himself, and Penny could see that.
"Sheldon," Penny nervously giggled, raising her hand to the side of her neck. Her face was burning and she felt flustered.
Sheldon stood straight, looked away and considered something for a moment. Penny was about to bring his attention back to her, and possibly try to lean in for a deeper kiss, but Sheldon was already facing her again. His warm hands slid up her neck to her jaw line, pulling her in for a prolonged kiss. Penny grasped at his shoulders, dropping her purse and sliding her arms around his neck. This caused him to move his hands. His fingers now gently gripped her hips as she pulled him down further to meet her lips. Then he realized, she didn't pull him down. It was almost as if she had momentarily buckled... His kiss had literally made her weak in the knees.
He took a sharp breath as Penny now stood on her tip toes, and his delicate touch on her hips turned into a full slide to her back, pulling her closer to him. Her lips were so full, so soft… They finally pulled away, and Penny couldn't quite meet his gaze as she settled back on her feet.
"What was that for?" She asked, swallowing as she caught her breath.
He shrugged. "It was the mistletoe."
"Oh," Penny responded, feeling foolish. Of course…that's what you do. Kiss under the …wait, what? "Sheldon, there isn't any—"
But he cut her off with a last small peck on the lips, a smile on his face, and a gleam in shy eyes.
"Mistletoe," she finished quietly under her breath.
The rest of the evening was a daze for both Sheldon and Penny as they strolled through the rest of the garden, sometimes holding hands, sometimes with Penny's hand in the crook of his arm. Sheldon felt lighter on his feet, despite the fact that he hated being constrained in a tuxedo. He told Penny he felt like the ground beneath them had softened up. She laughed and explained the sensation was what people referred to as "walking on a cloud."
"I've never heard this expression before."
"Probably because you've never felt it before."
Sheldon frowned a little. "Why does one feel it?"
Penny pulled his arm close to her. "When they're feeling a type of happiness that runs through their whole body."
He stood in thought and remembered feeling whole body happiness every time he got a new comic book or video game…but never felt this cloud walking sensation. He looked at Penny and trusted her words anyway, and responded with a nod and a tiny smirk.
The end of the evening came and Penny and Sheldon shared in the sentiment that they were sad to see it go, though neither voiced it to each other. They saw Raj clinging to his date, who seemed to be either annoyed or playing hard to get. Howard and Bernadette did, in fact, look like they had fooled around in the botanical maze. Leonard was nowhere to be seen at first, but then reappeared, his coat in hand and his fingers adjusting his tie.
"Hey, guys," he said casually, but they all knew what Leonard had just taken part in.
During the ride home, with Sheldon in the front seat and Penny in the back, everyone was quiet for the most part. Sheldon asked a few questions of Leonard's evening and Penny explained how all the girls were jealous of her (and explained with a good natured laugh).
Penny's hand twitched as it settled on her leg. She wanted to reach out and stroke Sheldon's soft head of hair, or rub his shoulder, but she couldn't. The moments they had shared passed and faded with each mile closer to home.
Walking up the stairs, Leonard opened their apartment door, said good bye, thanked Penny for coming, and stepped inside, immediately stripping himself of the tie as he did so. Sheldon lingered, looking at her standing there in her red dress, her shoes now in her hands with her purse.
"Good night, Sheldon," she said, walking to her door.
"Good night." He watched her walk into her place and then moved his way into his own, closing the door and allowing his hand to clutch the door knob for a brief moment afterwards.
Pulling his t-shirt over his longer sleeved shirt, Sheldon looked down and was glad to see his familiar style again. It was no James Bond, but boy was it comfortable! He strode out of the room, grabbed an envelope on his desk, and breezed past Leonard who was half awake on the couch watching TV.
He'd been up most of the rest of the night, his mind swimming with memories, what-ifs, and solutions to predicaments that he felt arose and will arise. He was just unsettled and needed to remedy the situation.
Knocking on her door in his usual manner—that he refused to call obsessive compulsive (people always ended up knocking twice or more before someone answered the door, why not get it all done at one time)—he stood patiently waiting for Penny to answer.
When she did, he found her already showered and dressed.
"You're up early." Sheldon tried not to seem too eager as he forced himself not to bum rush her with the words that were on his tongue.
"It's 11:05. Not that early," Penny responded, smiling and stepping back to allow him in.
"Leonard's still in his robe," he explained, walking to the couch.
"Yeah, well he had some geriatric lovin' last night." Penny closed the door. "I'm sure that'll put anyone out."
Sheldon handed her the envelope he held in his hand. "Here. Take it."
"What…is this?" Penny accepted it and slowly opened the flap. "Sheldon, I can't accept this."
Her fingers grazed over quite a few bills and she looked up at him with sincere eyes.
"It's two thousand dollars."
"You don't need to pay me back. I chose to spend that money last night, plus it's a tax write off." She extended the envelope towards him again. "Don't give me your money."
"Please keep it, Penny. I want you to have it."
She lowered her arm, slumped her shoulders, and gave him an irritated look. "Why?"
Sheldon had rehearsed his words in bed over and over, but still felt jitters just standing close to Penny about to say them.
"Because," he started, taking a deep breath. "You shouldn't have to pay for my company."
"It was a fundraiser, Shel—"
"No. It's more than that, Penny. I'm a beautiful mind, you said that last night and, of course, when we met—though you didn't actually say it, you asked me and I said yes." He shook his head, hating that he just got off topic. He held up his hand slightly, mostly to remind himself to continue. "I am able to decipher some emotions, you know."
He approached her, taking the envelope and putting it on the couch as he held her other hand gently in his. He looked back at her, and she could feel his hand shaking. He placed the other hand heavily on her shoulder and looked directly at her, so intense that Penny almost looked away.
"You shouldn't have to pay for someone you could have gotten for free."
Penny's face paled and she didn't know where to start with her own words. She had wondered what would happen to their friendship since last night; stayed up thinking about it, about their kisses, his large hands holding hers securely, his arm wrapping casually around her shoulder. Neither was really being themselves…right?
They just stared at each other, Sheldon waiting for her to say something, Penny trying to think of what to say.
Then it clicked, whatever it was that was between them all these years bridged in an unspoken way as Penny grabbed a hold of his hand harder, pulling him closer as he met her half way for a simple kiss. Penny looked up and watched as Sheldon's eyes changed from nervous to passionate in a moment's time, as he slid the hand that was on her shoulder around her waist.
He slid his other hand around the other side of her waist. "What was that for?"
She smiled, tilting her head slightly up at him. She knew he was referring to last night's conversation. "It was the mistletoe."
He actually did look up and responded with a light hearted "Huh" as he indeed spotted the little plant hanging from the ceiling.
It was another brief pause before the silence was broken again.
"Sheldon, you'll still be my James Bond, right?"
His mouth twisted into a very simple small smile, his blue eyes smiling with it.
He rubbed her back causing her to inch closer, her hands sliding up his shoulders. She brought her fingers up and did what she had been craving to do during last night's ride home. She ran her fingers through his hair and was pleasantly surprised when he closed his and leaned into the touch. He gazed back at her and before he knew what was happening, her soft lips acquainted themselves with his again.
When their kiss finally took a break, he looked down at the blonde beauty in front of him, his heart thudding so loudly it almost rocked his body. Had all this just happened? But it had. It had happened to him…with Penny.
He must have been lost in thought because Penny asked, "What are you thinking?"
He shook his head, not knowing how to answer. He smoothed his hand over her hair and sighed mildly.
He lifted her chin. "Thanks for bidding on me."
She smiled widely. "You're welcome, sweetie."
And with that, Sheldon gave her one more sweet kiss, another to add to the many kisses the two would share for a long time to come.