Disclaimer: I own nothing.


"Thanks for coming, everyone. Before we eat, I have to tell you all something. You may want to sit down," says Leonard as he leans against the kitchen counter with crossed arms. Sheldon, as usual, claims the far left cushion of the couch. Raj sits on the right, and Penny squeezes in between. Howard takes the armchair.

"What's going on?" Penny asks, eyebrows aloft. "You're scaring us."

Leonard takes a deep breath. "Well, my mom's got cancer," he begins, "and – "

"This is the reason why you've assembled us together?" Sheldon interrupts, tilting his head to the side. "With all due respect, Leonard, I already know this." This is true – Sheldon is the one who told Leonard of his mother's recently diagnosed lymphoma, as Sheldon skypes Dr. Beverly Hofstadter on a regular basis.

Leonard uncrosses his arms. "Yes, Sheldon, but there's more – "

"Oh, God, Leonard," says Penny through her fingers, as she has one hand covering her mouth. "Is she going to be okay?"

"She should be, but – "

"Yes, with the ongoing advancements in medical science, it is likely that she'll be just hunky-dory." Sheldon pauses before quickly muttering, "In addition, I sang her 'Soft Kitty.'" He lifts his eyes from the food on the coffee table and adds, "That being said, I don't see what the disturbance is here, other than the fact that my mi krop is growing steadily colder." He removes a travel-size bottle of liquid hand sanitizer from his pocket and squeezes a dab of it onto his left hand.

"Sheldon," chastises Penny, smacking his shoulder; he gives her a startled look as he vigorously rubs his hands together. She leans towards him and whispers in his ear. "Show some sympathy, sweetie. How would you feel if it were your mother? Or your grandmother?"

Raj nods in wordless agreement as Sheldon straightens rigidly in his seat. "Not Meemaw."

"Please, guys, just listen," says Leonard, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. "Like I said, my mom has cancer. She's getting treatment, but as she's just divorced my dad, she needs someone to take care of her. My siblings and I have drawn straws…" He trails off and clears his throat. "I don't know how long I'll be gone."

Howard shifts in his chair, crossing one leg over the other. His bright blue pants make a groaning sound, as they are so tight. "Wait, Leonard, what are you saying? You're leaving?"

"I'm going back to New Jersey for a while. A couple months. A year? I don't really know. I've notified the university, and I'm trying to secure a part time job in New Jersey."

Penny looks as if she might cry; she turns her face away from Leonard so he can't see her. Sheldon, however, seems the most concerned about this turn of events. He stands up in agitation, abandoning his Thai food, his hands twitching at his sides. "Leonard," he says, crossing the room. "As much as I cherish and respect Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, regardless of her apparent failure with how you turned out, you can't leave – we have a contract. According to the Roommate Agreement, you – "

"Sheldon, forget about the Roommate Agreement for a second," says Leonard. "I'm leaving, and that's final. I know this is hard for you, but I do plan to come back at some point."

"But…But…With whom shall I live?" Sheldon's lower lip is just short of quivering, and Leonard recognizes this as a sign that his roommate is in danger of fleeing and locking himself in his bedroom.

Leonard's voice softens. "We'll find someone. I won't leave until we get someone to sublease my room. I'll even help you come up with the tests for prospective roommates or whatever."

"We?" repeats Sheldon. "Excuse me, but in what universe do you have any authority in the construction of the roommate barriers? Besides, the barriers have already been established and cannot be altered. Any future roommate must meet the same criteria as any past roommate." He meets Leonard with his blue-eyed blaze. "Additionally, as our contract can only be severed by mutual agreement or untimely death, you, Dr. Leonard Hofstadter, are now dead to me." Sheldon falls silent. Then, he spins on his heel and walks swiftly towards his bedroom. His door slams shut behind him.

Leonard sags against the kitchen counter and sighs. He looks to Penny for comfort. "I don't know what to do."

Penny grips her knees with both hands, forcing herself not to cry. She appears to be thinking deeply. Finally, a big breath escapes her parted lips. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'll do it."

Leonard squints at her from over his glasses. "Do what?"

"I'll be his roommate," she says calmly, taking one of the containers off the table and forking some rice into her mouth.

Raj gets off the couch to whisper something in Howard's ear. Howard nods. "Raj wants to know if you're insane." Howard pauses. "Are you insane?"

"Well, I've been thinking about moving to a two-bedroom apartment anyway. I'll save some money with a roommate, and since I'm right across the hall, moving my stuff'll be easy. The pros outweigh the cons, the only con being that, well, it's Sheldon." She winces a little. "Now that I think about it, the pros probably equal the cons."

"Penny," says Leonard, "I know we're friends, but this goes way beyond friendship. I could never ask you to do something like this."

"No, it will be good for both of us. I'll buy him a new train set to make the move easier for him. Plus, we'll be on each other's cases so much; he'll be too distracted to notice you gone." She grins at him, though the smile feels false on her face. She knows that the more likely scenario is that she'll be the one to need a distraction from Leonard's leaving.

A/N: So this is my first TBBT fanfic. Tell me what you think.