I would say "I don't own anything," but it occurs to me that I do own the baby. It also occurs to me that that sentence could very easily be taken out of context.

Penny never expected to go into labor alone. Despite the fact that she'd thought up pretty much every horrible childbirth scenario in her head, her conscious had always tried to comfort her while putting Leonard with her in her thoughts. She'd always imagined waking up in the middle of the night, rolling over, and shaking Leonard awake. She didn't expect the Braxton Hicks contractions that she'd been feeling off and on for a month to start strengthening and causing real discomfort while Leonard was at New Comic Book Night with Sheldon, Howard, Raj, and Amy.

At least they weren't too bad yet. They were coming about every twenty minutes, and the pain wasn't even bad enough for her to stop what she was doing. But they were there enough for her to notice – she'd pretty much blocked the real Braxton Hicks ones out – and after the first few, Penny went into her room and spooned the pillow Leonard had gotten her in an attempt to take pressure off of her back. She didn't call anyone. It would just worry Leonard, and she didn't need anyone yet. These contractions could very likely go away; she was ten days from her due date and while that wasn't terribly early it wasn't close enough to guarantee that this was it. She passed some of the time trying to decide if she wanted them to go away. She most certainly did not feel ready for this, but who actually did? What first time mother felt labor start and punched the air with a rousing "let's get this party started!" Sure, there was probably someone who had actually done that, but Penny had never been unique, and most of the other women in this position were likely feeling just as not – ready as Penny felt now. But, she reasoned, she was likely to feel unprepared no matter when this happened, and it's not like she had a choice in the matter, anyway. And she was excited…Penny decided that she hoped that they'd keep it up. She didn't want to have to walk this line between excitement and panic more than once per child.

More than once per child. Damn, she was already thinking about more. Penny shook her head. This is most definitely not the time for that.

She shifted her weight slightly. After this next step she'd be able to sleep better again, if not for long periods of time a deep sleep when she did doze off; she was never a big fan of sleeping on her stomach, or at least she hadn't been since adolescence had made doing so more uncomfortable than before, but since she hadn't been physically capable of doing so in several months, she was really wanting to. Penny wondered momentarily if she'd lose this interest in doing what she hardly ever did once it was possible that she could again; she was contrary like that. She had fallen asleep on her stomach once in the past year, but that had been one of the nights where she and Leonard had feared cancer and it was the best way to be close to him. She was fooling herself, anyway, she knew she wouldn't be sleeping through the night for a long time. She selfishly wondered if it wasn't too late to buy formula and bottle feed so Leonard could do it too. Then she wondered if she'd be hit with the mother instinct and not want Leonard or anyone else anywhere near their daughter. She decided that she liked showing off more than anything else, so she'd probably be throwing out nets, both to gather people in to look at the baby and to keep Sheldon away if he got too obnoxious.

Her thoughts went to Leonard. It was a half an hour past when he was usually home. And he was never late. She lifted her head and looked at the clock, feeling panic rising as the digital numbers all switched simultaneously to signal the beginning of a new hour. He was late. He was never late. Something must have happened. They'd call her, or they'd show up at her door, he's been hurt, he's been killed, and she'd be the little girlfriend to receive the news and then have the baby in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, causing the news reporters to document her grief and the little ray of sunshine in her dark world and God, this isn't how she wanted to appear on television. It was too cliché, too Hollywood, and as much as Penny had dreamed of the H word she didn't want to be some stereotypical, seemingly scripted reality drama. Ten years ago that would have been her dream, Hell, half that many years ago she'd have still jumped at the chance, she sure had been desperate enough to do anything short of porn, but not now, now she had more self – respect, she had friends, she had Leonard, and she had this baby and she wasn't going to be one of those mothers who sold their privacy out to the cameras.

Penny felt her breath coming shorter, like it had when she'd first read about the ovarian cancer, and she wondered if being aware of a panic attack meant it was harder or easier to come out of while alone. She sat up and sucked in a long, deep breath, closing her eyes. This was California. California had traffic. Stuart had expressed an interest in the presentation Leonard was going to give tomorrow. He could be taking the time to explain it while fending off Sheldon's insulting remarks. Perhaps Sheldon was holding them up, trying to get Amy interested in whatever he was buying. There were a million reasons why he wasn't home. It was only a half an hour, after all.

She took in another breath, closing her eyes and letting out slowly. She could no longer feel her heart pounding and felt proud at her success in calming down.

Penny laid back down and curled her arms and legs around the pillow, resting her cheek on it and closing her eyes again. She could feel herself start to relax and put a hand on her stomach as if to relieve any tension the baby might have gotten from her. But the baby appeared relatively indifferent; she kicked her mother in the hand. "Little brat," Penny murmured fondly.

"Penny?"

Her head shot up at the sound of Leonard's voice. "In here!"

He entered her bedroom and smiled. "I got you something."

She propped herself up on an elbow. "Give me."

"It's in the living room," Leonard said. "I got you a birthing ball. For when we're waiting out the early stages at home. Sitting on it can help take pressure off of you, as well as helping to get the baby in the correct position."

"Mmmm." Penny shifted her weight. "Well, you picked that up just in time," she said, putting a hand on her stomach. "I think she's ready to make her appearance."

Leonard's eyebrows shot up. "It's starting? Oh my God…"

She nodded. "But they're really sparse. Don't freak out." She wondered if it would bother her to stretch and decided not to try it. "Nothing's going to happen tonight." She patted the bed beside her. "Come to me?"

Leonard moved toward the bed and climbed into it, taking her face in his hands and kissing her. When he pulled back, she smiled at him. "Spoon you?" he asked, and she nodded, shifting her weight again to get into the correct position. His arm came around her to rest on her stomach. "Does that feel good?"

"Mmmhmm," she affirmed, closing her eyes. "Ugh," she said, putting her own hand on her bump.

"You okay?" Leonard asked in a whisper, his mouth near her ear.

"Uh-huh," she said. "Right now they're just more uncomfortable than anything else."

"Try to get some sleep tonight," Leonard said. "Then in the morning we can…oh, crap." He sat up, running his hand gently down her side. "I'll need to call in on that presentation I'm doing tomorrow."

"No," Penny said, sliding her hand over his and squeezing it. "You've been looking forward to that for two weeks. Nothing's going to happen while you're gone, okay? Do your lecture."

"I'm not going to leave you alone tomorrow," Leonard said firmly.

Penny rolled her eyes. "Don't play hero, Leonard. It's okay. If anything starts accelerating while you're gone, I call you. You can leave. People will understand. It's not a big deal, okay?"

"But-"

"No," she said, craning her neck around to see his face as she tapped him on the nose. "Go do your science guy thing."

"I will if you promise to get some sleep," he whispered, readjusting his position so he could run the fingers of his free hand through her hair. "We've got a big day tomorrow."

Penny smiled. "Deal, Dr. Hofstadter."