It's Saturnalia time again! I've written Christmas fics for Roxanne and Brit and made a vid for Amber, and today is the first day I'm posting one of these presents. This fic originated in May; I've altered it ever so slightly to fit the timeline now. It goes AU from soon after The Good Guy Fluctuation.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own squat.
"Hey guys," Penny said. She always smiled when a knock at her door brought both Bernadette and Amy. "I was just getting some ice cream, want some?"
"I'd love some, I love ice cream, is there alcohol?"
Penny and Bernadette exchanged amused glances. "Amy, have you already been drinking?"
The neurobiologist looked suddenly confused. "No. However, I did try some of those energy boosting drugs college students take."
Penny cocked her head. "Why?"
"To see what all the fuss was about," Amy said. "I never took them in college; I had no friends so no one to party with. I always had my time budgeted sufficiently enough that I didn't require those pills.
Penny grabbed Amy's wrist and led her over to the counter. "Here, sweetie," she said, scooping some ice cream and sliding it across the counter.
Bernadette grabbed a spoon and scooped a few chunks into her bowl. "So, Penny," the microbiologist said, "Leonard broke up with Priya."
"Turns out she slept with her ex," Amy piped up.
"I'm going to get you some Ritalin on the way home," Bernadette informed her.
"I heard about that," Penny said. "And I've only seen him a time or two since, but he seemed strangely okay with it."
"Well, that wasn't the most compatible relationship on the planet," Bernadette said.
"Still," Penny said, swirling her spoon around. "Sometimes not – totally – compatible relationships are the ones that turn out the best."
Amy glanced at Bernadette, who nodded. "I can agree with that. And speaking of those couples, what are you going to do?"
Penny cocked her head, putting her spoon back in the ice cream bowl. "What do you mean?"
"The entire time that Leonard was in a committed relationship with Priya you were upset and jealous and uncomfortable." Amy sat down on the couch next to the waitress. "So now that you know that Leonard and Priya are no longer pair bonded, what are you going to do?"
Penny looked at her. "Oh." She put her bowl down on the coffee table. "Nothing."
Amy cocked her head, craning her head around to look at Bernadette, who stood behind her. "I'm confused. Don't you want to be with him?"
Penny looked at the floor. "No. Yes. No!" she put her head in her hands. "I don't know."
"Yes, you do," Amy said. "You told Koothrapali that you never should have broken up with him, and while a drunk person is very likely to spill secerets, it surprises us even greater that you admitted it to us while sober. Granted, tired and upset, but sober. I'm not as socially gifted as you are, of course, but does that not mean that you still want to be with him?"
Penny couldn't take her eyes away from Amy's, it was as if the neuroscientist had locked them together, daring her to look away and deny it. The truth was, she wanted to be with him again more than anything in the world. But "I'm going to tell you the truth," she said, finally dropping her eyes. "I'm still afraid."
"Of what?" Amy asked. "Leonard is who you want to be with. Has he ever done anything to make you doubt his affection for you?"
Penny sighed. "It's a lot more complicated than that. I've done stuff to make him doubt me," she said, holding up one finger, "he thinks that I slept with Raj." She held up a second finger. "And he just got out of a relationship." Her third finger went up. "Give me one reason why I should tell him that I love him. One reason. Just one."
"You just gave yourself one," Bernadette said.
Penny cocked her head. "What?"
"You love him." Bernadette moved around the back of the couch and sat on the back of the couch, putting her hands on Penny's shoulder. "Leonard wants to be loved. Leonard wants to be happy, Leonard wants you – he loved you once, didn't he?"
Penny nodded. "He did." She felt her eyes begin to grow hot.
"And what do you want now?" Amy asked, glancing quickly at Bernadette, who nodded.
Penny sniffed. "I want that feeling back." She took in a long, shaky breath. When Leonard had told her that he loved her, a plethora of feelings had swarmed her, her fear overcoming all the rest so that she'd never been able to bask in the feeling of knowing she was loved by someone that she cared for, too. The last time she'd had that wonderful feeling of mutual love was when she was with Kurt. But he hadn't really loved her. And of course there had been Mike, but neither of them had really, totally loved the other.
She had never doubted Leonard's love for her. But now that she had come to that realization herself, she feared that karma would come back to bite her and she'd tell him what she felt and find herself in the same position that Leonard was in before. Left broken and alone after bearing her heart. And she wouldn't really blame him if he did. It would be her bitter just deserts.
"You'll get it," Bernadette said. "I mean, come on, Penny. It's you and Leonard."
Amy shifted her weight. "I wasn't around for your relationship, but were you not happy?" She cocked her head. "You appeared to have been happy, Leonard was clearly happy, I have so much energy I'm happy and that's not relevant, this is you we're talking about here. Were you happy?"
"I was!" Penny jumped up, almost knocking Bernadette off the couch. "I was. I was happy. And I was in love. But I was too stupid, and I lost it, and just because Leonard is single now doesn't mean he's going to want me back."
"No," Amy said. "But what is wrong with taking the chance?"
Penny sank down on the coffee table and crossed one leg over the other. "I can't. But I want to." She put her head in her hands. "Oh God, I want to."
Amy and Bernadette jumped up, moving to Penny's side and sinking down on the floor on either side of her. "Then do it," Bernadette said, an intense look in her eyes that would have intimidated Penny if she had been looking.
"But…" Penny sighed. "I don't want to lose him. As a friend."
"If you don't risk anything you risk even more," Amy said. "And I'm not just saying that. That's a quotation."
Penny looked at her, feeling that she shouldn't be this confused. "I don't know!" She stood up again and moved toward the kitchen.
Amy and Bernadette glanced at each other, then got up, following her. "Penny," Bernadette said. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." She grabbed her friend's wrist and spun her around. "That's from Mark Twain." She put on her best fierce look. "You know that you want to do this. And if you don't, someone else is going to come along. She's going to take Leonard just like Priya did. And if that one doesn't work out, another will. And one day, they'll be happy. And you'll be over here regretting."
Penny looked away. "I'm going to my room." She pulled away from them. "Don't follow me."
"Did we break her down?" Amy asked Bernadette in a low voice. "Did I do well?"
"You did," Bernadette said. "And she's not quite there yet. But it's time to go and pressure Leonard."
Leonard lay on his stomach, head turned to one side. He felt like crap. No, he felt worse than crap.
He'd just wasted a year of his life in a relationship that it turned out was nothing more than two people fooling themselves. He'd been allowed to reach that place, that place where he was over the one woman he'd loved, and then been told that that place wasn't where he was. It was somewhere else.
If it even existed at all. He knew now, for sure, that Priya wasn't what he wanted. But the can of worms to be opened by even thinking about Penny right now wasn't what he wanted either. He didn't know what the hell he was doing, or where he was going. And at this point, he didn't care. Because it was too much effort to think.
He heard a knock at the door a split second before the voice. "Leonard, can we see your genitals?"
His eyebrows shot up. "Amy?"
"And Bernadette," Bernadette called. "And Amy means, 'are you dressed to receive', or 'would we be able to see anything should we walk in,' not 'please show us yourself'."
"You can come in," Leonard said. "But only because I know that's what you mean."
"Go," he could barely hear Bernadette whisper to Amy. "Brief. Just like we talked about."
The door swung open, and Amy stood in the threshold. "Penny still has feelings for you but is afraid that you aren't in the same place." Spinning on her heel, she exited the room, and Leonard saw Bernadette's arm reach out to pull the door shut.
Leonard watched them go, his body still flat against the bed, not wanting to move. Then he reacted to what Amy had said, closing his eyes. That wasn't funny. If they were joking, they were cruel. But Penny wasn't the type of woman to tell them to joke about something like that, and how would they come up with something like that? Especially now, when he was newly single and so conflicted, at this very moment, over his feelings for the woman whom Amy just said had feelings for him as well.
He shook his head. Anything right now seemed too much to handle.
He needed sleep, but it wouldn't come to him. Leonard's brain kept recycling maybe she really does still have feelings for you, and he couldn't get it to stop. Amy might not realize when she crossed a line, but Bernadette sure did, and if she let Amy tell him that Penny still cared she was either permitting it because Amy spoke the truth or one hell of an actress.
"Oh," he said, getting up. "What the hell." It couldn't hurt to go over there and see her; they still talked, sometimes, and maybe she'd give him a vibe. Well, she'd definitely give him a vibe. Maybe she'd give him the one that he wanted.
Penny looked up at the knock and smiled. "Hey."
"Hey," Leonard said, standing in the door way. He cocked his head. "Amy and Bernadette were just over."
"Oh my God," she said, putting her hands to her mouth.
Leonard put his head the other way. "They're worried about you. They said that you weren't yourself."
"Uh huh." Penny said, nodding. "And they thought you were the best one to make me feel better?"
It was all it took for Leonard to not spill what they had really said. "Is it your career? Because that commercial, let me tell you, you looked great. You sounded nice and…and clear, you…"
"It's not my career, okay?" she snapped. "It's everything. I can't pay my damn rent on time and your stupid roommate has made me feel so guilty for borrowing money from you that I feel like scum every time that I do even though you always help me out anyway, and now Amy and Bernadette won't get off my back about not telling you that I'm in love with…Aaaamy," she finished, looking guarded enough to convince Leonard that she had realized what she was saying too late.
He crossed his arms. "Amy?" He asked.
He could tell that Penny knew he knew she was lying. She put her hands up to her face. "Oh, God…"
She dropped onto the couch and kept her hands over her face, and Leonard moved over to sit beside her. "Penny?"
She looked at him for a long moment, unblinking, unmoving, and then her shoulders stiffened as she looked at the floor, resigned. "What? I love you, okay?" she said defensively. "And you loved me before so you can't be angry."
Leonard gave a little laugh. "Angry?"
She sniffed. "Yeah, because, you know, when you said it I…I kinda broke up with you."
"I know," he said. "I was there. Hey," he said gently, reaching over and grabbing her chin to turn it to him. "Don't be upset. You've never lost me."
"Oh, I lost you," she whispered. "You just kept finding me again."
"I guess I always needed to know where you were."
Her eyes were shifting, back and forth, searching his, and then darting rapidly from his lips to his eyes, down again, up again. He knew what this was, this was "the signal", and he'd seen it hundreds of times before. If he asked her, she might confirm or deny, but she was sending him such a strong sign that he didn't have to overanalyze, didn't have to ask. He just moved, leaning forward and closing the foot between them. She leaned forward a bit too, and then froze. "Leonard!"
He pulled back a tiny bit, looking confused. "What?"
Penny swallowed, looking into his eyes again. "I didn't sleep with Raj. I swear."
He cocked his head slightly, holding her gaze for a moment, and then nodded. "Okay." She smiled, he smiled, she closed her eyes and leaned forward again, and just like that, their lips met in the middle.
And there was the rush. He had known that he would feel it, but it was made more evident when she kissed him back, making the intimacy mutual and fueling the feelings that he'd spent the past year beating down. He felt her hands come to rest on his knees, and then slide up to his jacket, and he reached his own arms out to pull her closer.
Penny felt him draw her near and shuddered, finally, after that forever of regret after the breakup, after those months she could pretend she was moving on, after an agonizing New Year's Eve and after almost a year of suffering while watching him with Priya, they were here, he was holding her, he was kissing her, and she wouldn't have been able to end the kiss even if she wanted to because the force holding her there was way too powerful.
Neither of them were sure how long it had been before they pulled back, and their eyes locked on each other, just staring. Then Penny spoke. "Holy crap. The Cat."
In the actual show (I almost wrote 'in real life' and caught myself) I don't see the reunion to be this easy. But hey, this is a Christmas one shot, anything goes, right? :D