I've only seen the series up through part of season 4, so imagine this is set some time after Leonard and Penny broke up, but before Amy became an integral part of the show. Enjoy!
You can do this, she thinks, you're a big ol' five, remember?
Penny enters the apartment gracefully, her muscles moving with a seductive slink. She instantly spots Sheldon's recognizable figure hunched over his laptop on his desk. He hasn't looked up.
"Hello Penny, how nice of you to knock and announce your presence." She takes every use of sarcasm as proof of her influence.
"Good to see you too, Sheldon." She says with a beguiling smile. She needn't have bothered as he still doesn't glance at her. Bottling up her irritation, she draws nearer, swaying her hips subtly with every step. He finally looks up when she reaches his side, letting her butt rest on the edge of the table. His eyes sweep over her attire in less than a second and return to her face.
"Are you attending a social gathering?" He asks politely. Penny shakes her head slowly, keeping her gaze trained on his. She deliberately smoothes the hem of her little black dress over her thigh.
"No. I thought I'd stop by." Sheldon returns his attention to his computer screen and she represses a groan.
"Leonard is not in." He informs her. "He, Howard, and Raj wanted to venture to a new restaurant that has yet to meet my standards."
"I know." He has to glance up in surprise at her smug declaration. "They invited me earlier." She can see the cogs turning in that beautiful mind of his.
"You declined, though you have no plans and for all appearances have no purpose for being here other than discussing the fact that you have no social plans." He says with mild confusion. "That makes no logical sense." She decides to dispense with the chitchat, it's lost on him anyways. Penny carefully lays a hand on his computer and slowly shuts it. He watches her movement blankly.
"I have something I want to talk to you about." She tells him, smiling in that way that has lured in so many men before. Sheldon doesn't react, except to puff up at the idea of sharing his knowledge.
"Oh, have you decided to recommit to learning physics? Or perhaps this is a technical question. Your operating system is prone to viruses, I keep urging you to update but—"
"Honey." She interrupts softly. He blinks, suddenly realizing that she has leaned closer as her breath hits his face. She is encouraged when he does not rear back in disgust. Penny gently touches her fingertips to his cheek. His gaze darts from her hand to her eyes, already hooded and dark. "Can you stop talking for like one minute?" She whispers. As her lips brush his, she adds, "Maybe five." Then she captures his mouth in a desperate kiss.
Penny tries her best to keep it gentle. He is new to this. Yet the moment she has his lip between hers it's as if something ignites inside of her. He tastes so pristine, untainted, innocent. He is still, having no idea what to do. It reminds her of a foal learning to stand. There is something incredibly alluring about this kiss, something she can't quite put her finger on. She caresses his face as she pours her heart into his. And for a moment, everything seems perfect.
His lips stutter against hers, and then he wrenches himself away. She can't help the whimper that comes from the abrupt loss. She blinks her eyes open to see him pushing his chair as far from her as possible. He's staring at her, and his mouth is open and gaping. If she wasn't suddenly a bundle of nerves, she'd be incredibly proud of rendering him speechless. Of course, it doesn't last long.
"What are you doing?" Sheldon asks, incredulous. She rolls her eyes, trying to stay calm.
"Well, up until a moment ago I was kissing you."
"I know that!" He snaps, and he's blushing now, though she can't tell if it's because of the kiss or because he was lax with his word choice. It only makes her want to kiss him again. "B-but why?" He sputters at an alarmingly high pitch. "Why, why would you do that?" Penny balls her hands in her perfectly styled hair, embarrassed and frustrated. He would need her to explain everything, wouldn't he? The dumb genius.
"Because Sheldon!" She replies heatedly. "I like you!" He shakes his head.
"Elaborate, 'like' is far too vague a concept."
"Fine. I'm attracted to you, I want to date you, I want to engage in 'coitus' with you, are you happy now?" She's aware she's yelling but she can't seem to lower her voice. She just wants him to understand so they can move past this part. But Sheldon shakes his head again.
"No, I am not happy." He answers her rhetorical statement. "I," He pauses, processing, "I am confused." He admits unhappily. "You have never shown any indications prior to this. Why did these urges arise?" She shuts her eyes and groans.
"I don't know, they're just there!" He looks away, gaze settling on his spot. When he speaks it is with such a detached air that it sends chills down her spine.
"Penny, you have always been irrational, but this latest abnormality takes the proverbial cake." He cooly faces her once more. "Now may I continue informing those on the forum that they are wrong and unintelligent?" He moves to scoot his chair back to the desk but she holds up a hand.
"Hang on." He obediently stops. She watches him with wide eyes as her heart pounds. "I told you how I felt. Now you have to tell me how you feel about me."
"Is this the social convention?"
"Yes." She nods, adding quickly, "It's non-optional."
"Alright." His head cocks to the side in consideration. Penny waits with baited breath. "I enjoy the input you bring to my social circle. It is a perspective I would not formulate, though often for good reason. You prepare my food in an acceptable manner, but you frequently threaten to sully it with your saliva. I dislike when you disregard my rules but I have accepted that you are an especially slow learner." He looks up in anticipation, satisfied with his answer. She feels her hopes sink.
"Is… is there anything, you know… more?" Understanding reaches his eyes.
"You mean do I feel any romantic inclinations towards you."
"No." That single syllable pierces her to the core. It's as if she's fallen through the frozen pond by her house back home. Her head spins as she feels weak. Penny wets her lips, her mouth dry.
"Yes, no." Sheldon repeats innocently. He makes another move to return to his computer but she stops him with her foot. She's still trying to make sense of this. She'd expected him to melt at her touch, to reveal the man under the machine, to proclaim his desire for her as only Sheldon could. At least, that's what she wanted.
"But, no." She murmurs, before continuing more strongly, "No! No, you feel something for me, I know you do. We're so close, we have a connection. You have to feel it too." His head shakes again in puzzlement. She feels the hot prickling at the corners of her eyes and the strain in her throat and tries desperately to keep her composure.
"I do not comprehend how you could have acquired this misconception. I have consistently stated that I do not suffer from the affliction of craving physical contact or romantic intimacy." The way he says it is horrible, as if he truly can't believe she's that stupid. Penny struggles to grasp at the evidence she'd accumulated. Bath soaps, blossoms, adhesive ducks…
"But… I'm different. We're special." It comes out far too meek for her liking, but she can't help it. She's still waiting for him to give that awful grin and say 'Bazinga'.
"I am not aware of any discrepancies in my friendships." Something shatters in her chest. She feels the tears run down her face, cooling her flaming cheeks. She chokes on a sob. Sheldon stands in alarm. "You're crying." He points out needlessly. "Why?" His bewilderment makes her glare through her ruined mascara.
"Because I'm sad, you moron!" Penny snaps. "You've," She gasps, "You've just broken my heart and you can't even—" She cuts off coughing. There's a line creasing Sheldon's brow. His thin lips are pulled into a frown.
"It was not my intention to make you cry." He professes, hands fluttering nervously. She just leans against the desk as the tears continue to fall. She hates herself for showing him how much he can hurt her, but there's some sadistic part of her that revels in the fact that he is incredibly uncomfortable with her display of emotion. His feet shuffle closer. "Please desist." He instructs her mechanically. If anything her sobs increase. "Cease crying, please." He urges her more firmly, but there is an undercurrent of begging. He reaches out. "There there." His fingers land lightly on her upper arm. Penny immediately feels tingles radiating from the point of contact. She draws back as if he's burned her. She shoots him one last narrowed glance of loathing and strides past him and out the door. It's only once she's safely ensconced in her bedroom that she realizes just how many tears she's been holding back.
It's the next morning, when she wakes to a headache and a raw throat and feeling strangely dehydrated, that her sadness mutates into anger. She hates Sheldon. She hates herself. She hates the stupid building that brought them together. She hates that it's Tuesday.
Penny cancels her evening shift. The hostess is practically pleading with her to reconsider. Everyone there dreads cheeseburger night. It lifts her spirits to know that she isn't the only one who hates Sheldon.
She spends the late afternoon (prevening, her traitorous mind taunts) watching some action movie. It's a typical guy film: explosions, blood and guts, and hot women. She gets some vague satisfaction from seeing the minor characters die. She supposes another alternative might be Age of Conan. It has been ages since she decapitated some noob. But no. She can't play Conan. She hates Sheldon too much.
Has she mentioned she hates Sheldon?
Knock, knock, knock. "Penny?"
Speak of the devil. She checks her watch. Huh, he must have come straight from the restaurant.
Knock, knock, knock. "Penny?"
"I don't want to talk to you!" She shouts through the door, taking vicious glee in disrupting his routine. There is an exceedingly long pause where she pictures him twitching.
Finally: knock, knock, knock. "…Penny?" She groans, standing from the couch and striding to the door. She pulls it open swiftly
"What?" She demands harshly, giving him the death glare of her life. Sheldon merely blinks it off.
"Penny, you were not at the Cheesecake Factory." He states blankly. She crosses her arms and leans against the door frame.
"It is cheeseburger night. You were not there. You are always there on cheeseburger night." There's part of her, the part that loves him in all his weirdo glory, that regrets making him sound so lost. He is fidgeting, totally undone by this tiny deviation from the norm. She wants to take him in her arms and tell him it'll all be okay, she'll help him control all the little variables.
And that only makes her hate him more.
"What are you doing here, Sheldon?" She asks with mounting irritation.
"I couldn't very well stay, could I? How was I to know that Bernadette could adequately instruct the cook? That she would watch to ensure the integrity of my meal? That she would make some remark about popular culture or a social construct that would be lost on me? It is Tuesday, which means that you bring me my bacon cheeseburger, bacon on the side." In this moment, she can read him so easily. He is doing a poor job of containing his anxiety. She can hear it in the fluctuations of his voice. It's enough to make her melt, but that urge is quickly overpowered by hurt. So, she's nothing but his waitress, is she? Just another part of his routine. He doesn't care about her. He just wants another cog in the Universe under his power.
"I think I'll be skipping the Tuesday shift from now on." She tells him acidly. His face contorts with puzzlement and displeasure.
"But why?" She can't hold it in any longer.
"Because of last night, Sheldon!" She bursts out. "You rejected me! I told you I liked you and you were just the same arrogant self-centered machine you always are!" Sheldon blinks, perfectly still as his face becomes devoid of expression. Penny wonders if there's some sort of switch he flips in his head, going between transparent and inscrutable at a moment's notice. Then his eyes narrow and he's glaring right back at her.
"One could ask that if I was such an 'arrogant self-centered machine', why someone would like me in the first place?" His barbed comment is so shocking, he might as well have slapped her. She gapes at him, then closes her mouth with a snarl.
"That's an excellent question. Get back to me when you've got the answer." She makes to slam the door in his face but he raises a hand and stops it with impressive strength.
"I still don't understand," He says, and his voice has regained some of its neutrality, "Why your inexplicable change in behavior would lead you to avoid me. When Leonard had romantic inclinations for you it did not impair your friendship. Indeed, one could easily argue that it is the only reason he formed a friendship with you at all. Using this as a model, you ought to put more effort into pleasing me, yet you have come to the opposite conclusion. How do these situations differ?" She grits her teeth. She can't remember being this angry at him.
"I'm worth it!" She shoots back. "A bunch of guys realize they'd be lucky to have me! And because you're such an asshole I never want to see you again!"
"Then might I suggest you redirect your attentions to a male who will be more receptive." He replies, and Penny gets distracted by his eyes. The usual piercing sky blue now resembles steel. She hates him, hates what he does to her. She can't help spouting more lies, trying desperately to hurt him as much as he's hurt her.
"You know what?" She exclaims, louder than she'd like and far too warbling. "Fine. Fine! I should just go back to screwing Leonard! He appreciated me! He loved me! Which is far more than you could ever hope to feel! I'd be much better off with him! So, thank you, Sheldon, thank you for saving me from a fate worse than death: spending any more time with you!" For a second, she thinks he looks upset, pained. Has she finally succeeded in cracking his armor? A pang of guilt hits her hard. Her arms raise to offer comfort. Then he looks down and begins to twitch and he's the same imperturbable Sheldon again.
"Very well." He says flatly. He turns on his heel and walks quickly across the hall. He doesn't glance back as he enters his apartment. She's left standing with her arms out in a rejected hug like an idiot. A fresh wave of tears threatens. She retreats back onto her couch feeling conflicted. God, how could she hate someone so much but still love them all the same?
Penny quickly tunes back in to the movie, hoping for some distraction. It's when the hero has finally murdered all of his foes (though she couldn't tell you how) that she hears the rest of the guys climbing the stairs. They're laughing, and from what she can make out they seem in very high spirits, having spent dinner without Sheldon. They go into 4A and the noise is abruptly muted. A couple moments pass. She watches resentfully as the male lead sweeps the heroine into a passionate kiss. Then someone knocks on her door.
"Hey Penny? It's Leonard." She wearily gets up to greet him. Leonard stands awkwardly in the hallway, looking up at her through his ill-fitting glasses.
"Hey." She responds with lackluster enthusiasm. "How was dinner?"
"Fine. We missed you there though. Sheldon practically had a fit and ran out of the restaurant. The meal picked up from there." She laughs hollowly at his observation. He frowns in concern at her obvious insincerity. "So what made you miss work?" She levels him a shrewd look.
"You mean he didn't tell you?" That was odd. That man was horrible at keeping secrets. Leonard shook his head.
"No. Sheldon said he'd asked you what was wrong, but that you were, um, uncooperative. He actually suggested I come over and talk to you about it, since we were, uh, as he put it, 'pair-bonded'." Penny perks up, having spent much of her time with the boys learning Sheldonese. Oh no. He wouldn't.
"He told you to come over here?" She asks, her tone turning dangerous. Leonard gulps.
"Y-yes." He replies in confusion and trepidation. "He said you were probably in need of comforting interpersonal relations. It was kinda hard to hear him, he was mumbling a lot." She looks at him then, really studies him. Earnest, dependable, dopey Leonard. A voice pipes up in the back of her mind that tells her to just let go. Let herself fall back into that old pattern. Lose her mind and her heart in some tequila and Leonard's eager arms. She wavers on the precipice until her gaze moves past him and onto his door. She can imagine Sheldon on the other side of that door, grinning that evil looking grin, so smug that his little plan worked out, that he wouldn't have to deal with silly ol' Penny and her ridiculous feelings. That reignites her fury, and anger bubbles up from her core.
"You're so dead, Cooper." She mutters, striding swiftly past him towards the other apartment. Leonard follows hesitantly behind. She raps on the door sharply. "Sheldon Lee Cooper!" She yells. "You idiot! You freaking idiot! You cannot pimp out your best friend just because I gave you cooties!" She's vaguely aware that both Leonard and the other boys inside are stock still in bewildered disbelief. She pushes them from her thoughts, focusing on giving the object of her ire a piece of her mind. "You have no idea what's going on here since you're such a stupid, stupid genius! Don't ever talk to me again you… you…" She thinks she might be crying again because the word won't come out right. "Idiot." Penny mumbles in defeat, sagging suddenly. She spins and walks back to her apartment, not registering Leonard's inquisitive gaze and open mouth. She shuts the door behind her and sinks to the floor. She clutches her knees to her chest and ignores the subsequent knocks. They're not from him.
Over the next couple of days, they fall into a sort of pattern: Penny takes on more shifts to make up for her lost Tuesday nights, Sheldon effectively avoids her but sends Leonard over every night as some sort of substitute. Leonard for his part grows ever more annoyed and persistent. One night she finally concedes.
He's at her door with the sourest look yet and his arms crossed. It's clear that he is fed up with whatever is going on between her and his roommate and the strange part he's been drafted to play. Penny sighs a little, glancing briefly at the door behind him, and beckons him in. As soon as he's crossed the threshold he's whining.
"Alright, I don't know what you did or he did but this has to stop." He declares. She walks past him and plops down onto her couch. Leonard stays standing. "I can't be your go-between forever and Sheldon is driving me up the wall." She hates how hopeful that makes her feel.
"Why, what's wrong with him?"
"You know how he is, he hates when people fight and when something doesn't go his way. He's all jittery and insufferable." She sinks back into the cushions dejectedly. Leonard finally seems to notice her exhaustion. "Hey, whatever it is, I'm sure it can be fixed. Just tell me what happened and I'll talk to him for you." She looks up at him cautiously. She's been so worried about what he would think. Well, what everyone would think, but him in particular. Could she tell him? He'd find out sooner or later, no matter how this thing went. There is a long and uncomfortable silence.
Deciding to bite the bullet, she says quickly, "I kissed him." Leonard blinks. Frowns. Blinks again.
"You… kissed… Sheldon?" He asks, trying to put the pieces together and not believing when they fit. His eyes widen. "You kissed Sheldon!" Penny buries her face in her hands.
"Yes." She answers sheepishly.
"Sheldon!" He repeats incredulously. "Neurotic, mysophobic, Homo Novus Sheldon?"
"Yeah, yeah, I get it!" She snaps, glaring at him. "You don't have to tell me I'm an idiot, Sheldon already beat you to it." She sags as she says the last few words. Leonard loses some of his skepticism, looking thoughtful.
"Huh." He murmurs simply. He pauses, studying her for a moment. "So why'd you do it?" She shrugs uncomfortably.
"I dunno." She mutters. "'Cause I wanted to? Isn't that why we do anything?" Leonard shoots her a look.
"That's it? You wanted to? You haven't tried to analyze further than that?"
"Look," She starts, standing as well and beginning to pace, "I just went over there 'cause I was thinking about it, and he can be really sweet sometimes, and I thought we were special, but I was wrong, okay? He doesn't like me that way. It was a mistake and he freaked and then I freaked and then I said some really mean stuff because of my stupid pride and now I don't know what to do!" Leonard appears unfazed by her emotional run-on sentences. His head tilts in contemplation. She stops in front of him. "What?"
"It's just… What if he does?" He asks slowly. She shook her head in confusion.
"He does what?"
"Reciprocate." Leonard answers. "What if he actually does like you in his own Sheldon-y way?" Penny drops her gaze with a sigh.
"You weren't there, Leonard. He sounded pretty clear to me." Leonard sits on the couch, suddenly eager to share his ideas.
"Yeah, but this is Sheldon! He wouldn't know a genuine emotion unless it socked him in the face! Now that I think about it, it kinda makes sense. He's been so obnoxious since Tuesday, but I just thought it was because he missed his cheeseburger. But it has to be that he's upset you're avoiding him!" She looks at him for a while.
"You think so?" She asks quietly. Leonard shrugs.
"I can't be sure, but you're right about one thing: you are different to Sheldon. He's always bent the rules for you. He's hugged you for crying out loud! That's gotta mean something. Don't give up on him just yet." Penny bites her lip. Could she really put herself out there again?
"I'll think about it." Leonard nods, standing and giving her that dopey smile. Some remnant of a feeling flutters in her chest. On impulse she leans forward and kisses his cheek. He lets out a soft sigh, but there's something stronger than neediness in his eyes: support for a friend. She holds the door for him and beams at him as he goes. She's turning her back when he opens his own door.
"Hey Sheldon." He greets. She freezes, her head whipping around. Leonard is in the doorway, and past him the object of their conversation stands awkwardly in the middle of the room. He's staring at her and something about him takes her breath away. She tries very hard not to put an emotion to his expression, but she can't help herself. Sadness? Longing? Resignation? Then he refocuses on his roommate, ignoring her.
"Leonard, it's new comic book night. Drive me to the store." Penny shuts the door carefully, letting her eyes linger on the scene for as long as possible. It's easy to interpret her own feelings.
She misses him.
As she smoothes out the wrinkles in her skirt, Penny gets a spike of unease at the deja vu moment. She hopes that tonight won't end in a similarly disastrous way. She's dressed much more casually than that night, just a pink top and a jean skirt, but it is undeniably her best 'normal' outfit. It fills her with the confidence only a good look can bring.
She hears a knock and knows instantly that it's Leonard. She opens the door with a large grin. Surprised, he takes in her appearance.
"Wow Penny, you look great!" He compliments her earnestly.
"Aw, thanks sweetie!"
"Coming to movie night?"
"You betcha!" She chirrups. She lays a hand on his shoulder to steady herself as she bends down to put her shoes on. She hears a whistling catcall and looks up. The door to 4A is still open, and through it she can see Howard and Raj and… Sheldon. For some reason, he seems more attractive tonight. His hair is mussed, as if he's been running his fingers through it in agitation. He's wearing a Flash t-shirt, and the sleeves of his undershirt are rolled up to the elbow. Her eyes trace the length of his arms to the intricacy of his hands. For a moment she is entranced.
Howard makes a growling noise this time and she realizes that her scoop-neck top is giving them a perfect view. She straightens with a blush. They're standing in Rock Band formation, and while the rest of the boys are still gaping at her unabashedly, Sheldon is studiously looking away and fussing with his guitar strap.
Fighting the feeling of dejection, she leans a little closer to Leonard and whispers, "How is he?" Clearly he understands she's not talking about Howard. Leonard shifts uneasily.
"Weird. Weirder than usual. One minute he's chipper, then he's morose, and I think I even caught him glaring at me once or twice." Penny grows regretful.
"Maybe this isn't such a good idea after all." He quickly shakes his head.
"No, we've gotta go through with it. If anyone's going to make him crack, it's gonna be you." She smiles faintly at his assurance, then squares her shoulders and walks into the apartment. The guys are packing up their fake instruments and getting the DVD out. Penny heads for the kitchen and grabs a beer, knowing she'll need the courage.
"So what are we watching?" She asks, leaning against the kitchen island and keeping her eyes on Sheldon. He's spending more time than usual going through their remotes. He still hasn't looked at her.
"The new Indiana Jones movie." Leonard answers, taking his usual armchair. She smiles brightly.
"Oh, with Shia LeBeouf? I love him!" Her exclamation has attracted Howard's attention. He swaggers over to her with his awful smirk.
"You know," He begins, oozing smarm, "I have been told many a time that I resemble a young Shia LeBeouf. Wanna play Even Stevens?" She is about to shoot down the vaguely incestuous suggestion when someone beats her to it.
"Oh please, Wolowitz, you'd have to mutate about 5% of your DNA to even come close to looking like Shia LeBeouf. 10% to have any chance of Penny dating you." They're all staring at Sheldon as he settles himself into his spot. Leonard breaks the incredulous silence.
"I think that was Sheldon's way of calling you a dog, Howard." He says, sounding torn between shock and amusement. Sheldon looks back at him innocently.
"Was I unclear?" They silently but unanimously decide to let the strange insult slide. Penny is still watching him closely though, and lucky she is or she'd have missed it. For a second, his eyes slide to her. There's almost a challenge there. He looks away quickly, but it's already strengthened her resolve. She takes a long swig of her drink. She's about to issue a challenge of her own.
She moves to the couch and claims the middle cushion. Normally, this wouldn't be so strange, she's sat sandwiched between the guys before. Except no one's sitting on her other side. Howard and Raj are still standing and are in fact sharing quizzical looks. Given the tension between her and Sheldon, no one was expecting her to willingly be close to him. Especially not the man himself. He is suddenly stiff beside her. Penny doesn't have to look to know he is extremely uncertain.
Slowly the rest of them get situated and the movie begins to play. Sheldon relaxes somewhat, becoming more engrossed in Harrison Ford's latest adventure. It's when Indie's hiding in a fridge to escape a bomb that she decides to make her move. She shifts her weight subtly so that their shoulders connect. Immediately Sheldon gives a jolt. She can see him looking at her out of the corner of her eye, but she keeps watching the movie as if she hadn't noticed. Eventually he gives up on his staring and reluctantly returns his attention to the screen. He sinks back down and their shoulders stay in contact. She can feel his heat through his shirt. Interesting.
A couple minutes pass. Gradually she leans more and more of her weight on his side. The tension in his muscles is the only indication that he's noticed her movements. Deciding to up the ante, she sighs a little, raising her hand and resting it lightly on Sheldon's exposed forearm. He gives an involuntary yelp, and in alarm she withdraws. She's aware that the guys are looking at them curiously. She tries to ignore it and pretends to watch the movie again, praying the others follow suit. Sheldon has begun to shift away from her, inching bit by bit to the side. She refuses to give up that easily and copies his movements, ensuring that their bodies are still touching. This strange dance goes on for a while. He's almost vaulted over the armrest when someone speaks.
"How should I know what's going on?" Howard snaps at Raj who still has his hands around the other's ear. "Why don't you ask Penny?" Sheldon appears to snap out of it. He's blushing a bright scarlet. He gives her a swift glare and sullenly returns to his seat. His arms are crossed and he's rigid as a board. His eyes are watching Harrison Ford and Shia LeBeouf as if they've wronged him terribly. Penny eases away from him slightly, enough that she's just barely leaning on him. She casts Leonard a hesitant look but he nods encouragingly. She breathes deep.
It takes her almost 20 minutes to build up her courage again. This time she lays her hand on his knee with determination. There's no question what she's doing now, even Sheldon must get it. He doesn't react though. Irked, she moves her hand up his leg in a slow caress. He inhales sharply at her sensuous touch. No one is watching the movie at this point. It seems as though the room is holding its breath, waiting to see how far he'll let her go. He's close to breaking. Penny feels the thrill of rebellion as she comes to the start of his thigh, curving downward the way she has for so many men. Her fingertips brush over him.
His hand darts out and closes over her wrist. She glances up and recoils at the look in his eyes. They are filled with a frosty fire. With impressive strength, he stands and pulls her towards the door. Penny has just enough time to look over her shoulder. Howard and Raj are whispering furiously together. Leonard is watching her go with sad eyes. His lips mouth 'Sorry'. Then Sheldon's dragged her over the threshold and slammed the door behind them.
"An explanation, please." He orders curtly, voice shaking, presumably with rage. Penny feels very small as she looks up at him helplessly.
"I-I… I just wanted to get some sort of response from you." She answers, crossing her arms and not meeting his eyes.
"Penny, this was inappropriate and unwarranted behavior." He's scolding her, and it makes her feel so stupid. Just stupid little slutty Penny. She knew it would end this way. She'd tried to tell Leonard but he hadn't believed her. Of course he doesn't like her, why would he? She's so locked in self-recrimination she almost doesn't hear him when he continues, "I'd thought your hormones would have regained equilibrium after rekindling your relationship with Leonard." Her head snaps up in disbelief.
"What? I'm not back together with Leonard." Sheldon blinks rapidly, looking confused. She thinks she can register several flashes of emotion on his face, but with Sheldon it's so hard to be sure.
"But… yesterday he came back from your apartment happy with your lip product smeared on his face, and tonight you joined us for movie night after avoiding such social activities for the past week. It is the logical conclusion." She can't help but smile. This theory is so him: rational but lacking common sense.
"Honey, I don't really want to be with Leonard. I thought I made that clear." He's still confused, so she prompts him further. "Monday, remember?"
"Of course I remember, I remember everything." He says, looking flustered. Right, a perfect memory. She wonders how that must be, to be able to replay her kiss exactly as it happened. She envies that. But, she realizes, he probably doesn't want to. He's standing there so uncertainly, conflicted almost. Maybe he's wishing he could forget. "Your…" He begins then falters. He clears his throat. "Your actions tonight are still not tolerated. Honestly, I am considering removing you from my social circle if such behavior persists." Penny feels a powerful wave of regret. She steps closer to him and rests her hand on his shoulder. It's a natural action for her, one that she doesn't think about.
"I'm sorry." She tells him seriously. Sheldon's gaze darts quickly from her face to her hand. When he meets her eyes again the anger is back, and it shocks her into stillness. He steps closer to her, making her hand slide to his chest. His extra couple of inches seem to tower over her.
"I would like to remind you that I have an IQ that is incapable of being adequately measured. I have degrees that you had not even heard of prior to our meeting. I unravel the fabric of the Universe for a living." He leans even closer and a gasp catches in her throat. His voice is dangerously low and gravelly. It sends pangs to all the wrong places. "I am not one of the protohumans you tend to gravitate to and I will not dance at your behest."
She is overwhelmed by him, his surprising display of emotion and his permeating presence, so all she can get out is, "Huh?" Sheldon rolls his eyes and lets out an exasperated huff. She nearly loses her mind when he draws back, folding his arms and glaring at her with disappointment.
"I am not your boytoy." He says it slowly and clearly, obviously miffed at having to dumb it down for her. Penny takes a couple of steps back, reeling from yet another rebuff. Strangely, this time she doesn't feel like crying or hitting him or… anything really.
"I know." She tells him, and her voice doesn't sound like hers. It isn't peppy or sweet or even challenging. It's defeated. Sheldon must notice the change because his eyes are wide and fixed on her. His face has lost the angular sharpness it carried before. She thinks he looks concerned, remorseful even, but writes it off as just another hopeful mistake. She's just about to leave, when she remembers something. "Please don't banish me from your 'social circle'. I'll stop. Really." With one last wisp of a smile, she turns her back on him and makes for her apartment. As she's closing the door behind her, she thinks she hears him speak.
"Alright." It's very soft. She must be misreading the sorrow in his voice.
Knock, knock, knock. "Penny?"
She doesn't move.
Knock, knock, knock. "Penny?"
She hasn't moved since getting off her shift four hours ago.
Knock, knock, knock. "Penny?"
She sees no reason to break her streak.
She's curled up on the couch in her sweaty and stained uniform. The TV is on but she isn't watching it. She doesn't think or feel anything. She's just staring listlessly into space.
"Penny, I know you are home." The voice at the door tells her. She stays silent. "If you do not respond I will use my spare key." She continues to ignore him. "It is a gross invasion of privacy and you should stop me." Another long pause. "I am growing worried." Ha. Yeah right. "Okay, I'm coming in now." The key scratches against the lock and the door swings open. She tilts her head a fraction of an inch to get a glimpse of him. Sheldon's standing in the doorway with a brown paper bag in his hands. His bright blue eyes survey her apartment carefully before landing on her pitiful form. He takes a couple hesitant steps in, letting the door fall closed behind him. "Are you alright?" He asks. She realizes then that he really is concerned for her. His brow is furrowed and his fingers are crinkling the bag. She feels contrite. This isn't his problem.
"Yeah." She rasps, struggling to sit up a little. Sheldon shifts his weight uneasily. "Come in." She says, patting the space next to her on the sofa. He obliges, crossing and uncrossing his limbs awkwardly as he settles into the seat. Penny watches him curiously. "What are you doing here?" Sheldon takes out a tupperware container from the brown bag sitting in his lap. Inside is a perfectly crafted cheeseburger.
"It is Tuesday." He reminds her simply. Of course. She can't deny him this. She's already obliterated his routine, she can't fault him for trying to maintain some semblance of order. So Penny smiles and nods, redirecting her attention to the TV. Sheldon mimics her. "What are you watching?" He politely inquires. She shakes her head.
"I dunno." He looks confused but must decide not to pry. He begins to eat while she flicks disinterestedly through the channels. Finally, after coming up with nothing, she turns it off. She slumps back into the couch, letting her head loll back so she's staring at the ceiling. She can hear a rustling and turns to look at him. Sheldon's packing up the tupperware, having just finished his food. She watches him, taking note of his gangly grace and the strange beauty he so easily possesses. It's funny, she hadn't thought of him as so attractive before. But then, she hadn't thought of his idiosyncrasies as cute before either. That's what love does to a person. She can't smother a sigh. He glances at her. After a couple of seconds of scrutinizing her expression, he speaks.
"You lied to me, didn't you?" He says plainly. Her head tilts and he elaborates. "When I asked if you were alright." Penny smiles sadly at him. Maybe he isn't such a hopeless case after all. "Because," He goes on, sounding almost nervous, "You have not acted in a manner consistent with your normally upbeat personality. You have not changed your clothes since getting out of work, something you have previously stated is necessary for you to fully relax. You have remained in your apartment for several hours on end when usually you would seek out social companions to 'let off steam' as you put it. You showed no interest in the television or in eating and appeared to be lying on the sofa doing nothing when I entered, something very out of character for you as you require constant stimulation to—"
"Hey Sheldon?" She interrupts. He blinks but does not seem perturbed.
"Yes?" She shifts closer to him and rests her head on his shoulder. She can feel his muscles contracting under her touch but he makes no move to shake her off.
"Sing Soft Kitty to me?" She requests, watching him with doleful eyes. Sheldon cranes his neck to look down at her.
"But Penny, Soft Kitty is for when you're sick." His brow furrows again. "Are you sick?" She lowers her gaze and snuggles more securely against him. His arm slides behind her back to encircle her waist.
"Love-sick is a kind of sick." She murmurs. She isn't sure if he heard her or not. There is a long pause where she simply takes comfort in this rare show of physical affection. She's too tired to read anything into it. Sheldon clears his throat.
"Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur.
Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr…"
"Hey guys." Penny greets them with a valiant attempt at her usual grin. They're in the middle of playing Halo, so they only spare her a quick glance. She stands hesitantly by the door. She's wearing her pajamas, doing her best to return to the old Penny, who didn't care how the boys saw her. She is self-conscious despite herself. It doesn't help that her stomach is in knots at what she's about to do. "Sheldon?" He looks up obediently. She gestures over her shoulder. "Do you mind talking to me for a bit?" His gaze flits from the controller, to the screen, then back to her uncertain face. He's obviously conflicted. Finally he removes his headset and stands, following her out the door. The others' stares bore into them. Raj doesn't even notice that he's being teabagged.
Penny leads him into her apartment, closing the door softly behind him. Sheldon stands in the middle of the room, watching her with sharp eyes. She is disconcerted and cowardly tries to backpedal.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have — You probably want to keep playing, this can wait."
"It is alright." He replies, still giving her that intense attention. She fidgets with her hands as she tries to explain herself.
"Look, honey, I just…" She groans a little at her lack of eloquence. "I wanted to tell you again that I'm sorry. Last time you didn't seem to believe me, but I am. I'm really, really sorry for how I've been acting and how that's effected you." He remains silent, but his jaw twitches. She sees this and continues hurriedly, "I mean, you're not used to so much affection, and I'm just super forward about these kinds of things that I didn't… think it through, I guess. I know now that I shouldn't have put you in that position when you couldn't deal with it."
"Sorry," She cuts off his interjection, "But, um, I wanna get this out before you say anything." He nods amiably. She licks her lips. "So, anyway, sorry. And I wanted to let you know that I'm not going to pursue you anymore." Sheldon lowers his head and averts his gaze. "I know, I'm repeating myself, sorry, but I needed you to know that for sure. I won't touch you or kiss you or anything. Nothing romantic. Okay? You're safe."
"No. Not yet." She takes a deep breath to steady herself. He's looking at her again with those piercing blue eyes and Penny thinks she's going to die from the school girl angst she's feeling. She tries to go on, but she's trembling and her voice is wavering. "These feelings I have for you, they're my problem. I won't make it yours. I'll do my best to make them go away, but I can't make any promises. Obviously I'll need some time away from you to get my head back on straight. Maybe I'll stay with someone for a while. Hopefully, once this is over, we can still be friends. That's what I want, at least. We can never really go back to how it was before, but I'm willing to try anything to come close." She nods to herself, satisfied that she's said all she wanted to say. She chances a glance at his face. He is facing the floor, and what she can see is an discouraging blankness. "Sheldon?" She prompts softly. "Is this okay?" He meets her eyes.
"'These feelings'." He murmurs in deep contemplation, like she's a gravity well or a quark or something else very complicated. "You referred to it as 'these feelings'." She shakes her head, not comprehending.
"Yeah… so?" He looks down again, and if she was pressed she'd have to say he seemed bashful.
"I believe you used a different word the other night." Oh. So he had heard. Her shoulders slump a little.
"Yeah," She admits, "Yeah, I did." Sheldon straightens, appearing bolstered by this confirmation. Holding his head high, there's a hint of a challenge there, the same challenge he issued on movie night. He takes a single step closer to her and clasps his hands behind his back.
"On the Monday before last, the night you kissed me," He says it with surprising confidence, not cringing away from the memory, "You asked me to describe my feelings for you. I admit, I didn't think much of it. I gave it a cursory effort. You have always been Penny, and I saw no reason to examine whatever attachment I had formed with you." He takes another step, leaving less than three feet between them. "However, since that night I have been forced to confront our relationship, due to your emotional upheaval in the following week. I must also confess that, in the Howard Gardner model of multiple intelligences, I am very much lacking in both inter- and intrapersonal intelligence, where you excel." She pinches the bridge of her nose. She does not need another reminder of how much smarter he is.
"I'm not good with emotions or human interactions." He explains. "You are a veritable social butterfly. In this field, you are superior to me."
"Wait, you're complimenting me?"
"Yes, now may I continue." She nods silently, both awed and cowed. "I want to relate my findings to you as best I can, and see if you can make sense of them. You may direct our course of action thereafter. Is this acceptable?" Penny looks back at him blankly for a moment before wearily moving to her couch. She sits forward with her hands on her knees. She's trying very hard not to get her hopes up this time, but he makes it so difficult when he fidgets under her gaze.
"Sure, Sheldon." She answers flatly. "I'll do my best." He bounces on the balls of his feet, appearing to not know where to begin. It's so endearing that she smiles softly up at him. He stills at the sight.
"I don't like it when you cry." Sheldon begins simply. "It makes me anxious to discover and rectify the cause. It is even worse when I am the reason for your sadness. I feel the urge to comfort you and have no idea how." He starts to pace, seeming filled with a restless energy. "You have the power to make me doubt myself. I have never suffered from low self-esteem, but a couple of sharp words from you makes my phenomenal achievements seem inconsequential and unimportant."
"I'm sorry," She cuts in, feeling guilty again, "I shouldn't have said such mean things."
"I believe you had your turn to speak." He tells her pointedly. Penny, taking his hint, falls silent once more. He continues striding back and forth across the room. When he speaks, it's clear that his emotions are getting the better of him, something she hadn't thought possible. "I hate that you consistently choose Leonard as a mate. I have told you time and time again that it is a mistake. Subconsciously you must realize this as well, or else you wouldn't feel the need to be inebriated in order to engage in coitus with him. His genes are inferior: he's short, lactose intolerant, and has extremely poor eyesight. He goes through life expecting the world to go easy on him and whines when it does not. Lord, he's an experimental physicist, Penny!" He stops in place, as if his sudden outburst had shocked him as well. She imagines her eyes are as wide as dinner plates. It's not like he tried to hide his opinion of her and Leonard's relationship, but he's never spoken to her about it like this. Sheldon sighs a little.
"Nonetheless," He says with an air of forced neutrality, "He has his redeeming qualities. You must recognize them, or else you wouldn't…" He clears his throat. "Leonard certainly has a better grasp of the relationship paradigm than I." She tilts her head contemplatively.
"Is that why you—"
"Yes, that's why I sent Leonard over here. That and you expressed desire for him. I understand this was an instance of lying in the heat of an argument, though at the time I believed you. I figured that once you and he resumed your sexual relationship, things would return to normal." His voice sounds strained, like he's in pain. "When I was under the mistaken impression that my machinations had succeeded, I… I am not exactly sure what I felt. On the one hand I was glad that there would be no more anomalies like Monday night. On the other…" He trails off and his pacing slows. Penny sits up a little straighter. Her heart is beating fast. She can't quite believe what she's hearing and she can't wait to hear more.
"Yeah?" She prompts eagerly. Sheldon glances at her swiftly.
"I couldn't stop picturing you reciting the words you said to me," He says, averting his eyes, "Only instead of me you were confessing attraction to Leonard. I imagined you kissing him as you had me, and…" His hands ball into fists, and he holds them up to examine them with idle curiosity. "It happened again. It's very peculiar. My abdomen clenches and I feel at once both hot and cold. I don't understand it, which frustrates me to no end." He shakes his head and drops his hands. "Of course, once I realized my miscalculation I wasn't sure how to feel either. Surprisingly, I think my first reaction was relief. Mere speculation, however." Penny swallows thickly, overwhelmed.
"Sheldon, this is—"
"Hold on." He instructs her firmly. "I am almost finished." Sheldon comes to stand in the center of the floor and speaks looking directly into her eyes. "These are just a couple of the ways you affect me. When you are gone I feel your absence keenly, but when you are here I can't stand the sensations you induce. You discombobulate me, yet I don't want you to stop." His hands twist nervously in front of him. "Your sudden romantic actions left me bemused and befuddled. I tried numerous times to hypothesize the cause of your actions, but failed to adequately explain it. It didn't help that I kept irrationally discarding those that suggested that you did not mean what you initially told me. I'm not sure why the idea of your declaration being the product of insincerity bothered me to such a degree. Similarly, the prospect of your behavior coming to a close is also disturbing." Sheldon stops to draw breath.
"And I very much like kissing you." She gapes at him. She can barely hear him over the rushing in her ears. "It is counterintuitive, since I have never enjoyed the sensation much before, but I do. Physical contact is not something I've ever desired. However, with you, I find it pleasant. You stimulate me in a way I have never previously experienced. Perhaps this is my natural scientific curiosity, but I wish to explore this further." He pauses, then reiterates more strongly, "I wish to kiss you again."
Penny staggers to her feet. In a few quick steps she's launched herself at him. Her arms wrap around his neck and pull him down. Their lips collide with bruising force. He makes a faint hum in the back of his throat. She feels his hands on her back, long fingers spread out to cover her entirely. He holds her close as she kisses him over and over. She's never known closed-mouthed caresses to feel so thrilling, but then everything is different with Sheldon. Her hand moves to cradle the back of his head, feeling the short strands of his hair prick her fingers. He makes a noise of protest and she realizes she's been holding him to her mouth for too long. Unwillingly, she relents and breaks the kiss, making sure not to stray far from his embrace. Sheldon gulps down air, and the fact that this incredible genius doesn't know how to breathe through his nose when he kisses makes her giggle. His eyes cut sharply to hers and she quiets, worried that she's offended him.
"Thank you for reveling in my near suffocation." He snipes, and it's so characteristic that she can't help but start laughing again. This time Sheldon lets out his brief breathy chuckle as well. He looks so funny with his hair sticking up and his lips bright red. She grins at him and, because she can, she raises herself on her toes and pecks him on the cheek. He grows serious again. "What is your conclusion?" He asks, as if her recent actions weren't clear enough for him. Shy, she lowers her gaze to his neck.
"Sheldon, what you described, it's…" One of his hands is rubbing circles through her shirt. It gives her the courage to meet his eyes again. The blue is even more mesmerizing up close. "It's exactly how I feel about you." She murmurs. He blinks. His arms tighten around her. Slowly, he lowers his head so their forehead rest against each other. He exhales and she shivers when it hits her swollen lips.
"And… what was it you termed this phenomenon?" Sheldon asks quietly. Penny sighs in contentment.
"Love." She answers breathlessly, eyelids falling shut.
"I see." She opens them again as he raises his head. He's looking at her intently. "I love you." He says. It makes her breath catch. It isn't the first time someone's said those words to her, but no one's ever said them like this. He doesn't sound pleading, lustful, frustrated, or needy. He says 'I love you' as if it is empirical fact, something that no one could ever question, like it is as fixed as the speed of light. It makes her conviction even stronger that she will not let this one go.
Sheldon tentatively leans closer. He starts and stops a couple of times. She smiles when she realizes what he's trying to do. She waits patiently as his face draws nearer. He pauses when his mouth is inches away from hers. She can feel his shallow breathing on her face. Nothing happens.
"Sheldon?" She says softly.
"Yes." He whispers in reply. She shifts her body subtly against his.
"Are you going to kiss me?" She asks encouragingly. Her hand tenderly strokes the back of his neck. His eyes are closed. He inhales deeply.
"Yes." He answers again, the word barely audible in his sigh. The pure serenity in his voice makes her heart melt.
"Would you do it soon, please?" She requests, the anticipation becoming too great for her frantically fluttering heart.
"Alright." He responds after a moment. Sheldon moves closer, his lips gently brushing against hers. He is warm and soft and oh so sweet. It is a chaste kiss filled with innocence. It reminds her of their first, that fateful Monday evening. Penny smiles against him, the corners of her mouth quirking against his. She kisses him back with all she has, like she always will.
Thank you for reading this incredibly long one-shot. I had no idea it would be nearly 10,000 words, so since I concieved of it as a one-shot and I don't have the time to post a multi-fic right now, you better have enjoyed it!
I have no idea why I love this couple so much. It's my first non-canon couple that I've honestly rooted for. They're just too adorable! And I realize this fic is rather angsty and bleak in some places, but I wanted to approach this realisticly. Sheldon will always be Sheldon-y and insensitive.
Shoot me a review if you liked it.