The Silly Stocking Supposition
By: TriplePirouette aka 3Pirouette
Spoilers: through the middle of season 5
Word Count: 3315
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The plot is all mine. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Amy leaves Sheldon to pursue more funding, and Penny is just looking for a fun way to cheer him up. Her gesture ends up meaning more than either of them anticipates.
Author's Notes: I decided to offer holiday drabbles on my Live Journal this year. Trippy41 was the only one who partook, so I knew I was going to write her more than a drabble, but then she said she'd beta my Saturnalia fic for me, too, so I knew I had to write her something special. Her prompt: "I would love a S/P BBT Christmas drabble - perhaps Penny makes/fills a stocking for that Grinch Sheldon to cheer him up?" It went a little sideways, so I hope you enjoy!
PS- I made up a bit of back story for Sheldon. I don't think anything contradicts cannon, but if I did it wasn't on purpose!
Distribution: ff. net and my LJ, anywhere else, please ask first :)
Feedback PLEASE at: I love anything constructive! Blatant flames, however, will be disregarded and used to roast s'mores...
Penny shoved the Santa hat back on her head, watching as the reeling cyclone known as Sheldon Cooper stalked past and holed himself up in his room.
"Hello to you, too," Penny bit out. She looked at Leonard, partly confused, partly hurt. She'd spent a week away in the woods in the middle of nowhere filming for an indie movie. Leonard's huff of frustration and Sheldon's back were not the welcome home she'd been expecting. "What has his particles excited?"
Leonard scowled at her. He really was in a foul mood. "Was that a science joke?"
She sat on the edge of the couch, pulling on the sleeves of her hoodie and trying to gain some footing in the situation. "Guess not. What's going on?"
Leonard tossed his bag next to his chair and barely looked at her while he shuffled papers and random junk around on his desk. "I'm surprised you don't know. I thought you two were 'besties.'"
"Amy?" Penny pulled the Santa hat off her head and played with the pouf ball, trying to work off the nervous energy that Leonard was making her feel. "She left a message for me right after I left, but my phone met with an unfortunate accident involving a handsy Production Assistant, a pine tree, and a very agitated turkey. The message she left didn't sound like it was important, and I haven't been able to get a hold of her since. Why? What's going on?"
Leonard looked askance at her, and it almost seemed like he wanted to question her entire story, but he plowed ahead anyway. "Amy broke up with Sheldon. Her Middle Eastern fiance called and told her he'd stop funding her research if she didn't actually marry him."
"That F-guy? Farsi, Farquad, Fred... I don't- wait, really?" She sat up, gripping the hat between her hands. It took a second for everything to sink in, and the confusion and panic she felt for both of her friends was real.
"Yup." Leonard sank into his desk chair and threw his hands up. "She filled out the form and everything."
Penny leaned forward, not surprised that there was a form to fill out, and tried to get more information. "So they're over? Just like that?"
"Just like that," Leonard agreed. He turned and pointed to an array of small metal parts on Sheldon's desk. "And just like that we're a couple of steps closer to a death ray," he tilted his head thoughtfully, "or thirty cats."
After a moment of relative quiet where Leonard consequently went back to whatever shuffling he was doing on his desk, Penny stood and walked down the hall, right to Sheldon's door. Leonard looked at her like she was crazy as she knocked, grabbed his bag and keys, and slid out the door before she was even finished. "Sheldon?" Penny tried to coax him out, she knew he was int here after all. "Do you- do you want to talk about Amy?"
Sheldon slowly opened the door, only enough for his face to be visible. "No." He closed it again.
"Are you sure?" Penny asked through the door.
The door opened again. "Yes." It shut just as quickly.
Penny laid a hand on the wood. "How about a hot beverage? Or some Christmas- Saturnalia carols? Decorating your tree?" Her voice rose hopefully with each suggestion, but only quiet greeted her.
She stepped away, thinking no answer was forthcoming, when he opened the door again. It was only a few inches this time- enough for a hand to shoot out and press a sign to the door before it slammed closed again.
She huffed at the slightly crooked sign. No soliciting. Go Away.
She finally talked to Amy. On Skype. Three days later. The conversation rolls by in a quick blur, but she remembers three things:
"I'm sorry, bestie, but Fiesel says he'll build me my own laboratory and fund anything I want as long as I stay here. So, you see, I won't be coming back."
"Sheldon and I didn't really have that kind of relationship. In essence, I've swapped one contract for another. Plus, I think the new hubby might actually be interested in some lovin'."
"Do you think Omaha Steaks delivers to other countries? I could really use a good New York Strip right now."
Penny sank in the couch with her knees under her chin. She understood Sheldon's depression- she'd come to love Amy in her own way, and Amy's indifference hurt more than she thought it would.
Penny picked up her purse and stalked out of the apartment. There was only one thing to do: shop.
She ended up at the Target down the road because her bank account won't allow much else even if her soul screams for a department store shoe selection. She ran her tongue over her teeth while she stared at the candy on display before her. An entire aisle to choose from, and one very empty basket on her arm. She grabbed a bag of holiday Hershey's Kisses and tossed them in. She took a step away and turned back, tossing another bag in.
Two steps to the left and she's absentmindedly grabbed a small pack of Red Vines, too.
She's three aisles down when she sees a tiny toy train with a clearance sticker on the wrong shelf next to the nail polish she's perusing. She can just imagine some harried mother tossing it to the side and hauling a cranky child away by the hand.
The train (and the image of the cranky child) remind her of Sheldon.
And it is on clearance. She taps her nails on the edge of the basket, but it only takes a second to decide.
The train and a bottle of "Tinsel Tree" silver go in her basket.
She's trying on a pair of cushy, fuzzy slippers when she finally sees what she's been doing. Staring straight down into her basket she sees the split of the dozen or so items as clearly as if they were labeled: one for her, one for Sheldon. For every item she picked up for herself, there's one for him, too. She sat back on the bench and stared down into her basket.
It was Christmas soon after all.
And if shopping made her feel better, getting a surprise (because that's what she would have to get him, a surprise not a gift) might make him feel better.
And Leonard sure as hell won't do anything until they had twenty cats or a doomsday device.
Penny tosses the slippers back on the shelf and heads back out into the aisles with more determination and a cheerful glint to her eye.
She knocks on his front door two days later when she knows Leonard is out. "Sheldon, I know you're in there!" she yells when he doesn't answer right away.
"No, I'm not," came the tired sounding reply. "Go away."
"Nope." Penny twists the knob but finds it locked. "Besides, I have a surprise for you and you can't have it unless you open the door."
She hears him moving, then his voice: quieter and closer to the door, "A surprise? For me?"
"For you." She smiles: she has him.
The door opens wide enough for her to walk through, and she can see him poking out from behind it. "Why?" he asks cautiously.
She swings the bag in her hands out to him, waiting as he carefully closes the door before he takes it, still somewhat suspicious. "Because I can," Penny says confidently, looking into his slightly dulled eyes. "And I know that you're... not feeling the same since Amy left."
Sheldon holds up the glitter covered bag, watching it rotate in the light. "You're trying to cheer me up?" he asks, almost resigned.
Penny walks over to Leonard's arm chair, formulating her words very carefully. "It's a non-optional social convention for friends. Like a hot beverage- but better."
Sheldon nods, the tick in his jaw showing that he's fighting a smile. "Ok, then." He looks over to her, still holding the bag aloft. "Thank you."
Penny smiles. "You're welcome, now come over here and open it."
Sheldon holds up a finger, carefully walks over to the kitchen, dips slowly and pulls out a black garbage bag.
"Foregone conclusion?" Penny asks, hurt. "You might like it, you know..."
Sheldon huffs, shakes his head, and hands her the bag. "While you may not mind existing in a swirling vortex of glitter and holiday cheer, I have no intention to do so. Plus, I already vacuumed this morning and the Doctor Who Christmas special is on tonight so I won't have time to pick pieces of glitter out of the carpet."
She thrusts the bag at him. "So you're just going to throw it away?" Her tone is high, frustrated, and spoiling for a fight.
Sheldon just rolls his eyes and points at the table. "If you spread the garbage bag on the table it will catch all of the extraneous glitter when I put the bag down and when I take the items out, making clean-up very easy."
Penny smiles sheepishly and stands, "Oh." She spreads it out and does her best Vanna White impression as she sits back down.
Sheldon reaches over and gently deposits the glittery gift bag down in a flurry of iridescent fake snow falling from its sides. He raises his eyebrows, but doesn't say a word as he steps around the table to sit in his spot. He reaches in and pulls out a handful of equally glittery tissue paper and gently deposits it to the side, carefully brushing the plastic flakes off his hands and onto the garbage bag.
Penny smiles when his eyes go wide. He pulls out a Batman stocking, complete with a cape and his name emblazoned at the top in puffy glitter paint. "I didn't know you were so adverse to glitter, but that kind is in glue, so it shouldn't shed."
Sheldon places the stocking on his lap and gently runs his fingers over his name. "In theory," his voice is soft, slightly reminiscent, "I have nothing against glitter. It's the hallmark of homemade and childhood crafts, and when contained to a bowl or shaker decorates Penny Blossoms nicely." Penny thrusts her chin out and tips her head with a smile, wanting to interrupt with an "aw" or thanks, but doesn't dare.
She's surprised when he continues to look at the stocking instead of pulling out the small, wrapped gifts. "Sweetie?" she asks carefully, "You alright there?"
Sheldon clears his throat, not in false gesture or bravado, but because he's choked with emotion. The Texas thickens in his voice as he speaks, "Much like my childhood, I hid behind Missy in the womb, too. My mother thought she was only having one baby, so only knit one stocking with Missy's name on it. Every year, she'd tack on a piece of paper that had my name on it, but never managed to finish the one she started for me. By the time she got back 'round to it I was headed off to Germany and told her not to bother." He clears his throat to his carefully crafted tone. "I've never had my own stocking before. Thank you."
Penny almost cries. She almost loses it right there, but she bites her lip and forces a smile and sits on her hands so she doesn't hug him. "You're welcome, sweetie." Even though she wasn't really sure about this (...stockings and small toys and chocolate and she's never really understood Sheldon so why try when she's probably just going to fail...) she is absolutely ecstatic that she decided to do this right now. Penny takes a deep breath: she needs to break the tension before she starts crying in earnest. She clears her throat and puts on her best smile. "Well, you do get to open the presents, too, you know."
Sheldon looks up at her and smiles- one of his rare, real smiles. It isn't forced, isn't cutting his face from ear to ear like the Joker, just real happiness radiating from him so innocently it's hard not to picture him as a little excited boy on Christmas morning. "Of course," he says happily, his sad memory all but forgotten as he pulls out the Candy Cane hanging from the top and gently places it on the table.
Without a word he pulls out all the gifts methodically, laying them side by side on the black plastic in the order he pulls them out, and places the handful of Hershey's Kisses that had fallen to the toe of the stocking in a little pile at the end. He looks at the stocking for a second and then stands and walks purposefully to his desk. He pulls open a drawer, pulls out a single paperclip, bends it with a few quick strokes, and hangs it off the edge weighted by his Gollum figurine. His chin sticks out, pleased with himself, as he gently hangs the stocking on the protruding end of the paperclip. "That will do," he says, coming back to the couch, "but I'll find a more permanent solution later."
He hung it up. Penny's heart is pounding in her chest. It doesn't even matter what he thinks about the rest of the trinkets anymore- he hug up the stocking.
Sheldon opens them wordlessly, one by one. The toy train, the Red Vines, a tiny plush cat that purrs, socks with a Superman "S" emblazoned on them, a USB drive in the shape of Boba Fett, a sword-shaped letter opener, and an LED sonic screwdriver key-chain. He stares at them on the black plastic, his expression dark and hands folded, the wrapping paper stacked neatly at the side. The order of it is almost too much for Penny, she could feel her pulse fluttering at her throat, part excitement, part nervousness.
Sheldon finally turned to her, his face as blank and serious as if he were giving a lecture. "When Amy left," his voice cracked just enough so that Penny knew she wasn't imagining it, "she gave me her termination of contract form and we exchanged traditional holiday gifts we've already bought." He didn't move, didn't flinch, and Penny fought the urge to pull back from the emotional moment and make a joke. "I bought her a set of superior electrodes for use in her whimsical experiments. She bought me a medical grade UV light for sanitation purposes. We both found the gifts desirable and acceptable."
"But?" Penny squirms, keeping her hands under her thighs.
"But..." he avoids it and takes the toy train in his hands. "You know I like trains, and don't mind. Despite Amy's enjoyment of things I don't understand, I had always tried to be supportive."
Penny bites her lip, "Like going out dancing with us, or when you tried to get Zack to sleep with her?"
He nods once sharply, " Exactly. I did not understand the impulses, but I was willing to help her in any ways necessary." He shrugged and turned the toy over in his hands. "And yet I feel that, after her sharp and completely non-sarcastic criticisms of many of the pass-times that I enjoy such as trains, she would never have done this for me."
Penny doesn't know what to say, so she bites her lip again and tries to come up with something. He's speaking again before anything comes out of her mouth. "You've increased my happiness two-fold today, Penny. First, with the joy of being the recipient of surprise presents which rest in the categories of whimsical and things I enjoy. Second, by making me rethink the ramifications of Amy leaving. Perhaps..." he tilts his head, rolling the train through his fingers as he thinks.
Penny can't hold herself still any longer, and shoots her hand out, letting it grasp the side of the arm chair as she holds back the emotion that has welled up in her throat. The moment is unnaturally raw for them- they're not used to sharing something so profound, they're more comfortable sharing sarcasm and barbs. Sheldon turns the train over in his hands once more, and in a rare moment of playfulness, reaches out and runs the wheels of the train up her fingers, over the back of her hand, and up her forearm.
Penny shivers. Their eyes meet, and his smile is real. "Perhaps I have not lost as much as I thought."
Leonard, Howard, and Raj are standing in 4A's small kitchen, staring across at the two on the couch. "I really don't understand it," Howard mumbles, his fist at his mouth. Raj leans over and whispers in his ear. Howard stares at him when he leans back, throwing his hands in the air. "Either, Raj. Sheldon and Penny being a thing. The rules of Counterfactuals. Sheldon and Penny playing Counterfactuals. Take your pick."
Leonard made a face and shrugged. "I've given up on figuring out Counterfactuals long ago, but I'm still stuck on those two."
"You live with him," Howard's eyebrows knit. "There must have been some notable transition from 'brokenhearted-hermit-supervillian Sheldon' to 'attached-to-Penny-at-the-hip Sheldon.'"
Leonard just rolls his eyes and goes back to staring at the two on the couch, Penny in a New Year's tiara and Sheldon in a shiny cardboard top hat, as Ryan Seacrest drones on the television. Sheldon pulls up a card and nods, "In a world where Superman is real, who would be President of the United States?"
Penny thinks for a second and smiles. "Harrison Ford."
"Interesting." Sheldon tips his head and clasps his hands in his lap. "Defend."
Penny clears her throat and re-adjusts her crown. "Superman is real, so that means all the crazy fighting is real, too. Since real life is more hectic and dangerous than any action movie, no one makes action movies anymore. Hence, Indiana Jones and all of his other movies are never made. After American Graffiti and Star Wars, he goes back to being a carpenter. But, because of all the super fighting and rioting and super destruction on a daily basis, building and carpentry companies become our top industry. After building a successful Fortune 500 company based on rebuilding and guarding against super villain attacks, Ford runs for office and wins by landslide." Penny smiles, wagging her eyebrows.
Sheldon's face can't help but reveal how impressed he is, but adjusts his top hat and steels his features. "Rebuttal?"
She nods, "Proceed."
"In a world without action movies, Air Force One is never made. Who votes for Harrison Ford for President without seeing Air Force One?"
Sheldon thinks he's won, but her face reveals a large smile. "Without other films by him to gravitate to, his female fan base becomes rabid Star Wars fans. Besides, he was Han Solo- who doesn't vote for Han Solo?"
He shrugs happily. "Ah, so true!" Sheldon turns to the men across the room as Penny picks up the next card. "Good thing you guys decided not to play- she'd crush you."
Sheldon's hand lands on Penny's knee, and even though they can't believe it, there's nothing for the men to do but stare and try to wrap their minds around it when Penny smiles.