Assuage Through Altruism 1/4
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters.
ANotes: Second attempt at fanfiction. :)
It started off as an experiment. Amy was the one to initially propose the idea, not the specifics, but the idea nonetheless. After coming to the realization that she was indeed a "bully" in high school, Amy suggested Penny, "assuage her guilt through altruism," which Bernadette kindly interpreted as "feeling better by doing something nice for someone."
The more Penny thought back to the pranks she had pulled in high school, the deeper her heart sunk. What made it worse were the horror stories Bernadette and Amy continued to tell her from their own school days. Yes, they were friends now, but had they all gone to the same school growing up, they would be the ones on the other end of the line when Penny called to apologize for her unacceptable past behavior. Donating some of her clothes was a nice start, but it did little to appease her growing remorse.
A few nights after her acknowledgement that she was a bully in high school, Penny lay sleepless in her bed. It was that night, when she rolled onto her side and caught sight of her Lake House DVD sitting carelessly on her nightstand next to her, when the crazy idea dawned on her.
She was going to "assuage" her guilt through the biggest "altruism" she could possibly think of.
She was going to be nice to Sheldon. No matter what.
No matter how much his wackadoodle behavior annoyed her, or how many jabs he took at her, or even jokes he would unintentionally say at her expense, she vowed she would be nice to him. She would be pleasant, understanding and accepting of him for as long as it took to ease her guilt. Penny thought about the prospect of being nice to Sheldon no matter what, and appreciated the fact that her guilt would probably be eased in less than a week.
So it was settled.
She would forego her own sanity for one week and in turn her nagging guilt will be appeased.
One week of being nice to Sheldon.
She could do it.
The first day was easy enough. Sheldon was in an unusually pleasant mood. He had gained a small but acceptable amount of recognition at Caltech, and so accepted a congratulatory day old cheesecake from Penny without a passively aggressive remark. Instead, he smiled one of his rare and warm smiles at her before taking the cheesecake with a genuine, "thank you."
Penny just could not help the way her heart melted when he was like this, or the way her head reflexively tilted a little to the right. He moved to the kitchen while she took a seat on the couch next to Amy whose new title as "Sheldon's girlfriend" awarded her the seat next to his spot. Penny did not mind the change, but she had to admit after years of usually sitting next to him, she had grown quite accustomed.
"Penny?" Amy said, leaning toward her so that their shoulders were touching, "may I inquire something of you?"
"I know I have missed the first month, but I was only recently enlightened on the topic. Is it a custom to celebrate two months from the conception of a male-female relationship with a substantial endowment?"
Penny eyed her for a moment, her mind trying to process Amy-speak. Like Sheldon-speak wasn't hard enough.
"Are you trying to ask if you should get Sheldon something for your two month anniversary?"
"Yes," Amy nodded happily, "I like that we understand one another. So what is your answer?"
"I wouldn't say it's a custom set in stone, but I've known quite a few girls that like to celebrate the month to month anniversaries, at least for the first year of the relationship. But Sheldon would tell you anniversaries are annual and should only be celebrated if at all, only once a year."
"Yes, I received a similar lecture. However, as the girlfriend, I have decided to fulfill the role accordingly. Would you like to accompany me to acquire this item?" Amy asked.
"Yay! More bestie time," Amy exclaimed excitedly, "will tomorrow after work suffice?"
Penny smiled to herself, being nice to Sheldon also meant helping his girlfriend do thoughtful things for him. Her eyes turned toward the kitchen where Sheldon had just finished sorting out where to put the box of cheesecake. He closed the refrigerator door and headed back to the couch, his eyes meeting hers as he did. She noticed a curious recognition in his soft blue eyes as he got closer. Their gazes remained locked as he took a seat in his spot, his face now thoughtful, one eyebrow slightly higher than the other. Penny could tell he was trying to study her, probably wondering why she was staring at him.
Penny was the first to look away, her attention back on Amy, "I'll pick you up tomorrow after work."
She glanced at Sheldon once more, his eyes still on her, before she focused on the conversation that was taking place between Howard and Leonard. The first day was a success. It was also the first day, Penny decided to start taking notes of her daily interactions with Sheldon. It was, after all, an experiment.
On the second day, she did not see Sheldon till nightfall after she had dropped Amy off at her apartment. She had taken Amy to the comic book store to pick up a gift for Sheldon, something she had instantly regretted when they arrived there. Stuart tried a few times to engage them in small talk, but the conversations were awkward and forced. He was probably still embarrassed and hurt over the whole movie theater incident, Penny mused. However, Amy met his attempts with grace, politely smiling and nodding reassuringly. Penny could not help but smile too. Since the addition of Amy into her life, Penny found it increasingly pleasant to have an actual "bestie." It has been obvious for a while now that Amy's feelings toward Penny mirrored that of a girl crush, but she honestly didn't mind. It was nice to have someone admire her and remind her she was special. As opposed to constant reminders of my annoying flaws. Besides, she was probably Amy's first real friend, so of course, Amy would put her on some sort of pedestal, and Penny wasn't about to disappoint her.
Penny encountered Sheldon at the mailbox when she arrived at their apartment building. Like so many times in the past, he stood idly for a moment shuffling through his mail before reaching out to lock the box again. She came up behind him, a bright smile on her face as she reached past him to her box.
He side stepped abruptly, startled by her sudden appearance at his side.
"Penny!" he exhaled, his eyes narrowing.
"Oh, hello, Sheldon," she greeted warmly, turning toward him after locking her box. "I'm sorry, did I scare you?"
"Scare me?" he inhaled a chuckle, "hardly. However, given that your sudden arrival went unannounced, I would appreciate if next time you would warn me in advance."
"Noted," she replied with a hint of mockery. Play nice, Penny.
Oh, but it's too much fun sometimes.
They ascended the stairs together, per usual, Sheldon trailing half a step behind.
"Penny," he spoke when they reached the second floor, "I am aware that you and Amy had an outing this evening. I overheard your conversation last night pertaining to it."
Damn, his Vulcan hearing.
"Are you mad?" she asked, her nose crinkling.
He shook his head, his brow creasing, his lips in a slight frown, "if by mad, you mean, angry, then no, I am not. Why would you think so?"
Penny shrugged, "Well, I know how you get about these things…you know, that aren't in the norm of what you're used to. And you have lectured me on the whole anniversary, annual thing."
"Yes, well," he stated as they reached the third floor, "I admit, I am not accustom to this. I believe it to be an outwardly unnecessary social ritual. But I think it best to act the part of boyfriend accordingly. It is, of course, what Amy deserves is it not?"
Her breath caught for a moment, and she instantly wondered why, but she was able to speak nonetheless, timidly replying, "yes, she does."
"So it's agreed then?" He says as they finally reached their landing, "you will pick me up from work before your shift, and we will acquire something presentable for Amy."
Penny's mouth hung open, "huh?"
"You're taking me shopping," he clarified, "if Amy has indeed bought me a gift, it is only customary I give her one in return."
"I guess, but why me?"
His fingers intertwined behind him, his chin lowered as he looked at her through his lashes, "because you are the one that confirmed Amy's nonessential inquiry last night, thus the responsibility falls on you."
"I don't see how it does…" Penny's voice trailed off, she wanted to argue more, but her nagging guilt reared its ugly head again, reminding her of the goal for the week. She quickly shut up, a forced smile now on her face as she spoke, "okay, we'll go shopping tomorrow."
He nodded, quite satisfied with her answer as he turned to open his apartment door. Penny moved toward hers, about to turn the key in the lock when his voice made her slightly jump.
"Leonard, will be home shortly. I request you be punctual tonight, I would like to start on time at least once this month."
Oh, right, Thai tonight. "I'll be over in a few, I'm just going to freshen up."
"I hope your reference to freshen up doesn't imply you are planning to take a shower."
Penny shifted her weight, her hand now crossly on her hip, "what if it does?"
"Then I would advise against it. It would cause significant delay in our schedule if we have to wait an hour for you to finish doing so."
"It doesn't take me an hour to shower, Sheldon," she disputed.
"I disagree. Maybe the specific act of taking a shower does not last for a literal sixty minutes, however, you do tend to take quite a considerable amount of time to choose your wardrobe as well as apply facial cream and conduct maintenance to your hair."
Penny sighed, "I'm a girl, Sheldon, what do you want from me? Wait, how do you know I apply facial cream?"
"Because you smell different," he admitted, clearing his throat nervously, and Penny could not help but notice the subtle pink that was now lightly touching his cheeks, "I have noticed that you only have a particular scent on you after you come over to our apartment after a shower. I do not attribute it to your shampoo and conditioner because the fragrance is considerably different. So I assumed you applied something extra at night, then I observed the skin under your eyes, your nose, forehead, chin and cheeks were noticeably more moisturized. After a prolong observation of this occurrence, I have noticed substantial improvement in overall look and texture of your facial features."
Penny smiled, amazed that she actually understood him, "you think I look prettier?"
"I mean," he said quickly, "one cannot look prettier, if one had not required improvement to begin with." He coughed nervously.
Penny found her head tilting to the right again, her features soft, a small smile playing at her lips. He is so unintentionally sweet sometimes. She chooses not to address the implications of his compliment for fear his already reddening cheeks will catch on fire. Improbable…but not impossible.
"Okay, fine. I'll be quick this time. I'll be over in ten."
He eyed her knowingly.
"Okay, twenty," she corrected, agreeing with him that there was no way she would make a ten minute deadline.
"Very well," he said, accepting her premise, he turned and entered his apartment.
Penny opened her notebook when she got inside, jotting down a quick note before throwing the book back on her coffee table and hurrying to the shower.
Sheldon thinks I'm pretty.
How is this relevant to the experiment?
To be determined.
Her entrance into 4A a half hour later was met with a stern, annoyed expression from the blue eyed physicist. She apologized as she stepped past Raj and Howard to place herself next to him. He rolled his eyes before handing her food to her, and proceeded to press the 'play' button.
Penny pulled into the Caltech employee parking lot to find an already waiting Sheldon standing in front of his never occupied assigned parking space. She sighed heavily as she pulled up to the curb, glaring at him as he tapped his watch, giving her a half-hearted glare of his own.
Keep your cool, Penny. It's only day three.
He opened his mouth to speak when he got into the car, but she cut him off, "I know, I know, I'm late. Let's just get this over with."
"I meant to merely offer a hello." He said weakly.
"Oh," she said, guilt immediately washing over her, "sorry." She perked up, offering him a pouty smile, "hi, Sheldon."
"Though, I appreciate the effort, you need not bother with the pleasantries. I know you would prefer to be doing something other than taking me to the mall."
"No, of course not. I'm happy to take you to the mall, sweetie," she assured him, silently still amazed that she could easily follow his unique speak. Maybe not word for word, but she understood the gist of it, that counts for a lot.
The ride to the mall was in majority a quiet one, both listening to the neutral music coming from the Sheldon approved radio station as they sat in comfortable silence. The mall was unusually crowded for a Tuesday when they arrived, and Penny found herself quickly drawn to Macy's big red sale signs like a busy bee to a flower.
A loud 'ahem' behind her, pulled Penny from her trance as she turned to look at Sheldon standing a few feet away, his hands clasped behind his back, and a somewhat amused expression on his face.
"Penny, I am aware you have difficulties suppressing your urge to indulge in needless shoe shopping, but may I remind you, we are here to buy a gift for Amy. And our time is limited, your shift starts in an hour."
"Right…Amy…" she said, surveying the surrounding stores with her fingers tapping lightly on her chin, "okay, come on."
Sheldon picked up his stride to catch up with her as she entered into a nearby jewelry store. He frowned when he entered.
"Penny, I hardly think jewelry would be a proper gift."
"Sheldon, trust me, okay? Any girl would love a little jewelry. And need I remind you, Amy is a girl," she mirrored his earlier tone, "look around, tell me if you see anything that catches your eye."
They parted, Sheldon moving to look at the bracelets, while the heart shaped necklaces across the room caught Penny's attention. She stood eyeing up a sterling silver necklace with a small simple heart as an older gentleman approached her from behind the counter. He smiled, welcoming her to the store.
"Is there any piece you would like me to hint to your boyfriend about?" He asked grinning, his eyes glancing behind her quickly, before returning to hers.
Penny looked over her shoulder, her gaze falling on Sheldon who stood a few feet away, contemplating the choices in front of him. She turned quickly back to the worker.
She laughed, "oh, no, we're not together."
"Oh?" he said, a little too surprised, for Penny's liking.
"Yeah, we're not. He's actually dating my best friend. We're looking for something for her."
The man nodded, "I see. May I suggest this?" He pulled open the display case, reaching in and pulling out a delicate sterling silver necklace with a heart encrusted with dark blue crystals hanging in the middle of a circular pendant.
Penny took it from him to examine closer, and let out a small gasp, "this is beautiful."
The man smiled approvingly.
Penny turned to where Sheldon was now rubbing the side of his face, apparently deep in thought, "Sheldon," she called over her shoulder, "come over here."
He instantly obeyed, reaching her in a few steps, his expression now twisted with anxiety, "Penny, I find none of these selections to be appropriate."
"What about this one?" She said, lifting the necklace in her hands. He considered it for a moment, his brow creasing. He glanced at the case behind her, and then back at the necklace in her hands. "Well?"
"I prefer the green one," he stated a matter of factly.
"Green? Why green?" Penny asked, her face clearly indicating she favored the dark blue.
"Well, it's the color of..." he stopped himself.
Penny looked up, wondering why he didn't finish. She found herself staring into Sheldon's steady gaze. His expression was one of unsure discomfort, but his clear blue eyes closely studied hers. Penny's eyes widened slightly as she forced herself to not look away, realizing what he was not willing to finish out loud.
Penny frowned, mentally cursing at herself because she knew her cheeks had gone a noticeable shade of pink. She turned to give the necklace back to the waiting man, thanking him politely before quickly moving toward the exit, gesturing for Sheldon to follow her.
She cleared her throat awkwardly, "you're right, nothing here is appropriate."
When Penny got home late that night, she only had one note to write in her journal.
My eyes are green.