A/N: The story is told in continuous daily snapshots from the gang's lives over a nine month period.
Each day is separated by xTBBTx.
Other scenes taking place on the same day are separated by XxX
The 'Mature' rating applies to Volumes Two and Three due to subject matter.
Of course I don't own The Big Bang Theory. I just like to play in their world.
I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty... you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. ~J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Penny came out of her apartment wearing ankle-breaking high heeled shoes and a clingy purple dress that ended at mid-thigh. Normally she didn't go dancing mid-week but she felt too good to stay home. One phone call later and she had a group of girls ready to hit the clubs. She knew better than to approach apartment 4A to see what was up for 'Anything Can Happen Thursdays' since the last time she did Howard, Raj and Leonard followed her to the bar. It wasn't that she didn't like the guys' company or had a problem with being seen in public with them; it was hard bringing her 'A' game man-hunting skills when Howard utilized his 'charm' on her friends.
Leonard she just felt sorry for since he was so awkward and shy. Penny wished he could take some lessons from Sheldon and at least find some way to entertain himself but that was like asking Howard not to make a pass at a woman in booty shorts. This was the one major difference between Leonard and Sheldon—Leonard liked people and wanted to be around them whereas Sheldon preferred to be alone. Penny wondered if Sheldon ever felt lonely. Surely he must, but she wondered how he 'processed the emoting algorithm' or however he defined emotions.
She made it barely three steps before the door in front of her opened and Howard and Raj stood in the entrance, seemingly stuffed into the doorframe.
"Why hello there pretty lady," Howard preened. "Might I say you look smoldering this evening?"
"Hey guys. So what's with you, tonight?"
"Well, as this is the third Thursday of the month we thought to ourselves 'why spend the night indoors when we could be out and about experiencing all that the city has to offer'," Howard drawled. Raj smiled and nodded his head enthusiastically. "So where are you going this evening?"
"Oh, out dancing with the girls. Kinda need to get out myself." She looked at Leonard for help as he came to the door.
"That's nice. I hope you have a good time," Leonard smiled nervously although his brown eyes clearly communicated his understanding of her plight.
Howard smiled as he turned to face his friend. "Leonard," he mumbled under his breath. "This could prove to be an adventurous night."
"You're engaged, Howard. Besides, sometimes it's nice to have a mono-gender night, right Penny?"
"Sure. I'm in the mood for mono," she said and made a series of kissing sounds.
"Penny," said a voice from within the apartment. "The desire to—oh wait, a double entendre. You mean 'mono' as in singular while at the same time alluding to mononucleosis aka 'the kissing disease'."
"You got me Sheldon."
"Oh Mistress Sarcasm, your language eludes me no longer," he said to himself as he typed away at his computer.
"At least let us walk you to your car since we're heading in the same direction," Howard said.
Leonard took his keys from the bowl by the door. "Only we're going straight to my car just so Howard doesn't spontaneously get lost and follow you to your destination." He gently pushed his two friends through the doorway. "'Night Sheldon."
Sheldon waited until the door closed and the voices and footsteps faded from his Vulcan hearing before he stopped typing and let out a Cheshire grin.
"Alone at last," he purred to himself. "A little chamomile tea and the hunt for that pesky neutrino will commence." He proceeded into the kitchen. He couldn't think of a more perfect way to spend the evening.
Sheldon stood before his whiteboard in his red plaid pajamas and housecoat drinking a cup of warm milk. He'd gone to bed at his usual time but after an unexpected bladder break he found himself unable to fall back asleep. Only now could he admit to himself that his sleep was not undisturbed; he remembered standing at his whiteboard writing out equations, his frustration mounting, until he woke up. Now that he was actually staring at his equations he felt his anxiety subside. It would all come together soon enough.
His head cocked to the left as he heard Leonard and Penny mounting the stairs. While the odds weren't astronomical that they could return from their outings simultaneously he found it highly unlikely and somewhat suspect. Why go through the rig-a-ma-roll of pretending to go their separate ways if in the end they were—
"Good Lord they couldn't be dating again." Sheldon paled at the thought. The woman had caused untold chaos in the apartment the first time they got together and he couldn't afford to have his concentration compromised at this critical junction.
The lock turned and Leonard entered the apartment.
"Oh, hey Sheldon. What are you doing up?" He dumped his keys in the bowl beside the door.
"I couldn't sleep." Sheldon took a sip of his milk. "I heard Penny and you had a good time tonight."
Leonard smiled grimly. "Hardly. Howard talked Raj and I into going to an internet café so he could look up some new bars. Unbeknownst to us he was really engaging the GPS in Penny's phone to see where she was. We were all surprised to run into each other until Howard gave one of his Snidely Whiplash smiles." Leonard absentmindedly began cleaning his fingernails. "It seemed the thing to do to drive Penny home since she got a little intoxicated."
Sheldon snorted. "Penny getting 'a little intoxicated' is like getting 'a little pregnant' or having your latest equation 'a little off'." He turned back to rinse his mug in the sink.
"What's wrong with my equation?" Leonard whined. It was much, much too late to be discussing such matters but his pride demanded at least a half-hearted defense of his work.
"Oh, nothing a good night's rest, a hearty breakfast and a lot of common sense couldn't cure."
Scratch that. It is too late for this, thought Leonard as he trudged towards his room.
"I'll give you a hint where you went wrong. Starting with—" Sheldon turned around to find the room empty. "Well, so much for budding enthusiasm for scientific inquiry."
Penny wasn't sure how she made it from her bed to the couch but she was thankful she at least had the coordination to bring her blanket and pillow. By the light streaming into the apartment she figured it was still morning. Rolling over onto her back she absentmindedly rubbed her eyes with the palm of her hand. Man I was wasted.
She thought back on the night and how pissed she was when the guys showed up at the bar. At first it was all chalked up to coincidence until Howard began extolling the odds of random chance. Then it clicked: short stuff had set this up. Leonard was mortified and tried to exit the situation as gracefully as he could but Penny had sighed and said there was no point in going since they were already there. That was a grownup response to the situation; going on to get right hammered was not.
"Man, I've got to work too," she muttered to herself.
Out in the hall Penny heard someone stumble on the steps.
"Dude hurry up," said Raj in a rushed tone.
"Relax," said Howard. "It's 8am. Penny has the 'no rising before 11am' rule."
A quiet knock. Silence. Another knock.
Penny smirked as she reached over to pick up a plastic cup and set it back down on the coffee table with a loud Thunk.
She could almost taste the pause in the hall before she heard a more insistent knock.
"Come on, come on," muttered Howard frantically.
A lock turned and Leonard let out an "Ow, hey—" before the door closed. And locked.
Inside apartment 4A, Leonard was rubbing the knuckles of his left hand as Howard and Raj settled themselves on the couch.
"What are you doing here?" asked Leonard.
Howard looked down and to his right. "Well, it was a tad cold so we thought to drop in early and see you guys."
"Besides, Howard thought Penny would still be sleeping at this hour," said Raj with a pumpkin grin. Howard gave him a dirty stare.
"You know you're going to have to apologize for last night," Leonard began as he crossed into the kitchen to get his mug of coffee. "Penny was really upset."
"Yeah, I suppose I should," Howard agreed.
"Dear Lord please do and let the drama end," said Sheldon as he came down the hall, messenger bag at the ready on his hip. "Leonard had already talked my ear off last night regarding the incident and I sure don't need to begin my day rehashing the same old same old."
Standing up, Howard wiped his palms on his thighs and gave a brave smile to his friends before opening the door and accepting what fate had in store for him.
Penny was just about asleep when she heard a knock at her door. After a moment the knock repeated itself, but not in the machinegun staccato used by Sheldon. Groaning as she got up and trudged over to open the door she knew she was a horrible sight. All of this did not matter as she saw Howard standing in front of her with a sheepish smile. Suddenly Penny was very much awake.
"Yes?" she said brusquely. Howard began to rub his arm with his right hand.
"Good morning Penny. Might I say you look lovely?"
She folded her arms across her chest. "What do you want, Howard?"
"Well, I believe I might have stepped across the line last night."
"Geez, ya think?"
Howard's blush deepened. "Anyways, I just wanted to apologize." He looked up at her. "It wasn't meant to be, well, what it was. It's just that you know where and how to have fun and I wanted to have fun too instead of turning an 'Anything Goes' into another 'wasted and gone'."
In spite of herself Penny felt bad for Howard. While he could be quite disgusting at times with his crudeness at the heart of it all he was only trying to fit in. Sensing a weakness he tried to press home his point.
"Besides, it's not like I can go out and hit on anyone. I figured you and your girlfriends were safe for me to hone my killer instincts."
Well, so much for that, Penny thought. "Oh, they were killer all right. I was ready to go homicidal on your ass." Howard winced. "Look Howard, next time just ask, ok? I might say no and if I do you've got to respect that."
"You mean there might be a time you want us to go dancing with you?" Howard said in a shocked voice.
"I said 'might'." Penny began to flush as she thought over her word choice.
Howard positively beamed. "Which is not an absolute. I hear and obey my Queen," bowing slightly as he backed away from the door. He knew a small victory when he saw one and it was best to scamper away with the morsel before it was taken back.
"Sorry Penny got to work." He continued to smile as his hand reached behind him and fumbled with the doorknob. In a burst of speed he turned the knob and was in the apartment. He leaned back against the closed door, eyes wide.
"So how'd it go?" Leonard asked.
"She invited us out dancing," Howard grinned.
Two voices are heard down the hall at the university.
"I'm telling you Sheldon, it doesn't work that way. Cold Dark Matter is the plausible explanation we have for galaxy distribution," said an excited Raj.
"We'll see what's what in 2015, my friend. If the KATRIN experiment goes as I predict it will you can say goodbye to your Cold Dark Matter particle." Sheldon adjusted his messenger bag so it rested more firmly on his left hip, the strap cutting the Green Lantern logo on his t-shirt in half.
Raj frowned as both men stopped in front of Sheldon's office. "Only you can be gleeful at the prospect of disproving modern cosmological theory."
"That's what happens when astrophysics plays in the big-boy league," said Sheldon with a smirk as he removed a note taped to his door. His eyes glanced briefly at the page and in an instant his good mood was gone.
"What's that?" Raj asked.
"Just a faculty memo," said Sheldon darkly as he unlocked his door. "I will see you at lunch."
Too used to his friend's quirkiness Raj merely shrugged his shoulders as the door quickly closed in front of him.
After turning on the light Sheldon took a deep breath to steady himself. Taking off his messenger bag he placed it and the note on his desk and pulled out an antibacterial wipe from his pocket. As he cleaned his hands his eyes flickered to the equation on the white board. He tossed out the wipe and stepped closer to the board, intent on mulling. As the minutes went by Sheldon's jaw began to spasm. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and continued to stare at the board. A sudden thought flashed across his brain, a dismissive scowl in hot pursuit. More minutes passed and color came to his cheeks as he read and reread his calculations. Suddenly he whirled and stepped to his desk, taking up the note. It was comprised of two words but to Sheldon they carried the weight of the world.
Five weeks, it said.
While his face remained stone his hands worked in a frenzy tearing the paper to shreds.
Leonard rolled his eyes as he handed out the food packets, virtually ignoring the questions thrown at him as they required pat answers.
"—chicken diced, not shredded?" Sheldon asked.
"Yes," said Leonard.
"Brown rice, not white?"
"Did you stop by the Korean grocery store for the spicy hot mustard?"
"Low sodium soy sauce?"
Raj paused just as he was about to open his food container. "You know, every week when we get Chinese food you always get a bottle of mustard and soy sauce. What happens to the old bottles? You surely don't use that much mustard in a week."
"As I've gone through the effort of having Chinese food made fresh why should I then entertain the thought of using second-hand condiments?" explained Sheldon, wrinkling his nose at the whole notion.
"So you just throw them out?" asked Howard as he reached for a packet of soy sauce.
"Indeed I do."
"Dude, that is such a waste," said Raj, shaking his head.
Sheldon frowned. "No Raj. 'Waste' is this conversation since it delays me from eating. By thumping a cadaverous Equus ferus caballus regarding my refuse disposal habits I risk consuming my cashew chicken at an unsatisfactory temperature."
"So what's tonight's theme?" Leonard asked in an attempt to change the subject.
Howard grinned. "Well as I managed to get my grubby little hands on an Atari 5200 I thought we should test our skill in a measured twenty minute dash for thirty-two treasures otherwise known as Pitfall."
"Don't forget Pitfall II," added Raj.
"Oh, if only we could," sighed Sheldon.
Leonard leaned back in his chair. "When I found Pitfall I so lived out my Indiana Jones fantasies."
Sheldon made a tutting noise. "Pitfall Harry deserves to be recognized for his own merit, Leonard. Among the many technical achievements the Harry persona is both non-flickering and multicolored. We won't even get into the creative use of polynomials to create two hundred fifty six individual screens within fifty bytes of code."
"So in the jungle there's more to his byte than his bark," Howard quipped. Raj and Leonard laughed.
Sheldon looked at him quizzically. "Yes, I suppose you could say that, although I don't know what—" His eyes narrowed as he thought over Howard's words. Given the context of my previous statement the dog's 'bite' must be a 'byte'. Oh wait! 'Bark'. Harry's swinging from trees so bark is floral, not aural, in nature and in this case is comprised solely of bytes.
Sheldon took a series of internal breaths as a little smile crossed his face.
There was an extra kick to Sheldon's step as he strolled into the kitchen. Normally this would be a well-orchestrated routine like every other Saturday but this day was a little extra special—BBC America was airing the conclusion to a two-part Dr. Who story. In a whimsical moment to mark the occasion he bypassed the higher fiber content cereal for his Honey Puffs. After pouring out the cereal and adding a quarter-cup of 2% milk he carried the bowl to his end of the couch, sat down and turned on the television.
About half-way through the program he heard a noise from the hall and nonchalantly grabbed the remote and engaged the captioning feature. A few minutes later he heard a knock at Penny's door. Thock Thock
"Someone has a death-wish," Sheldon commented, remembering Penny's 'I'll punch you in the throat' rule if she's woken up before 11am.
The knock came again, deeper in tone. Thunk Thunk Thunk
Sheldon leaned towards the television with a scowl on his face.
Thunk Thunk Thunk Thunk
"Good Lord what is this, annoyance by increments?" He relaxed slightly as he heard Penny's lock turn.
"Mr. Webley," said a familiar voice—Penny's. "I was told to come here if I wanted a part?" The door closed.
Thunk Thunk Thunk
"Mr. Webley…. I was told to come here if I wanted a part." Again her door closed.
Sheldon rolled his eyes. During the climax to a two-part Dr. Who story was surely one of the worst times to have a neighbor succumb to a psychotic break. Minutes went by and Sheldon was completely absorbed as the Doctor made his last-ditch effort to spoil the Master's plans.
Thock Thock Thock Thock
"Mr. Webley….I was told to come—"
"Oh, this is quite intolerable," Sheldon growled as Leonard made his way down the hall. "Leonard, please have Penny refrain from making noise until Dr. Who's finished."
"What's she doing?" Leonard yawned as he poured himself a cup of coffee. Thank goodness for programmable coffee makers.
"It sounds like she's perfecting a call-back to a casting couch." Leonard spewed out his coffee.
"Leonard, my program."
Thock Thock Thock Thock
Mug in hand, Leonard opened the front door and stepped into the hall to find Penny standing at her door.
"Mr. Webley…. I was told to come here if I wanted a part?" After a moment's pause she opened her door and stepped inside. While he couldn't make out what she was saying Leonard thought she was having what sounded like a one-sided conversation. Penny's door opened. She was startled to see Leonard.
"Whatcha doing?" he asked.
"Oh, hi Leonard. I didn't wake you did I?"
"No, but you're perilously close to a strike."
Penny was confused for a moment before she remembered. That's right: Dr. Who. She wasn't sure what strike she was on; all she knew was that there was no way she was going to take a course from Dr. Whackadoodle.
"So? What's all this?"
Penny stood on her tip toes in excitement. "I've got an audition at eight am. A friend of mine who works in casting got me a shot at CSI. Can you believe it?" Leonard opened his mouth to speak. "I know I couldn't," Penny continued. "Even better she gave me the script of the part. It's not a big role but I've so got to nail this."
"What's the part?"
"I'm an aspiring actress auditioning for a musical, only the producer is dead and I walk in on the crime scene."
Leonard shuddered involuntarily at the word 'musical'. After viewing Penny's performance in 'Rent' he'd force-fed himself 'Fiddler on the Roof' for three consecutive nights so he didn't lose all interest in the format.
"You don't have to sing, do you?" he asked tentatively.
"The producer's already dead, Leonard." Penny grinned. "I'm the opening sequence in the show. Oh wait!" She clamped her hand over her mouth. "Chickens—hatch. Chickens—hatch."
Leonard gave an encouraging smile. "I'm sure you'll get the part."
"I hope so."
"Wait, I thought CSI was shot in Las Vegas?"
Penny shrugged. "Except for parts that can be done on set, I guess. Anyways, I don't mean to be rude but I've got to keep practicing."
Excusing himself, Leonard went back into the apartment.
"Well?" Sheldon asked as he placed his bowl in the drain rack.
"Penny's practicing for an audition this morning."
"I see. Well, given the disturbance she's causing I hope it proves fruitful because this cannot continue."
"It's just a cameo, Sheldon."
"Nevertheless, as she's yet to 'land a role' it's important that she start somewhere."
"True," agreed Leonard. "Well you can't say she won't get the part through lack of trying."
Thock Thock Thock Thock
"Indeed," Sheldon said as he went down the hall to brush his teeth. "Once she figures out she's one knock redundant I'm sure everything else will fall into place."
A red t-shirt was placed carefully on a plastic frame. Three distinct folds—arm, arm, body—were made and the resulting perfectly pressed t-shirt was carefully lifted and put on the pile of other clean laundry.
Spying Sheldon working diligently as she entered the laundry room, Penny couldn't help but smile.
"Good evening Penny," he responded as he fluffed out another t-shirt before laying it gently on the rack. "As you show no obvious signs of discomfort I will hazard a guess and say you are well."
"Very well," she laughed as she opened up the dryer to pull out her laundry. "And how are you this evening?"
"I find myself in good health." Sheldon gave a twitchy half-smile before looking away.
"Well that's good," Penny replied, not knowing what more to say. She pulled out a tank top and spun a strap on her finger for a moment before folding it properly and putting it in her basket. Reaching into the dryer she grabbed a sweatshirt sleeve and drew it out with the flair reserved for magicians doing the 'silk scarves pulled from a pocket' trick.
The flamboyant actions played havoc with Sheldon's peripheral vision so he straightened up and looked head-on at Penny. He knew social protocol dictated he ask her what was the source of her good mood but was unsure how to proceed until he remembered the audition. He frowned, thinking about the Dr. Who disturbance, before realizing that in the social scheme of things he should be benevolent given the circumstances. I shall refrain from giving her a strike, settling instead for a lecture on noise levels and neighbor relations. That settled, he returned to the matter at hand.
"From your display of jubilant clothes-folding I'm to understand today's audition went well?" he asked.
Penny clutched a skirt to her chest as she leaned towards Sheldon. "It was amazing! I mean it's not like I got to see anyone big because it was Saturday morning but to go to the studio and see 'CSI' written on the door I just couldn't believe it."
Sheldon looked down to straighten the arm of his shirt but couldn't contain a quick smile. While he wouldn't mention it aloud lest it promote unnecessary overreactions in the future he did enjoy Penny when her level of enthusiasm surpassed normal parameters. As she continued to describe her audition his mind casually distinguished the cadence of her tone from her vocabulary in an attempt to extrapolate the emotional content for closer analysis. Sheldon prided himself on being able to learn anything he needed to know by study alone. He never thought he'd need the help of a college dropout to understand how to detect and process another's feelings, however.
"So when will you know if you're successful?" he asked when Penny finished detailing her day.
"Tomorrow afternoon at the latest. The shooting's Monday so it doesn't give me a lot of time to practice." Penny squealed as she bounced on the balls of her feet. "Oh I hope I hope I get it."
"I'm sure your talent will see you through," Sheldon said as he began sorting out his socks.
"Aw, thank you sweetie." Penny continued folding her laundry. "So what did you do today?"
Sheldon stopped what he was doing and looked up. "Well, as you are aware I have in the past year diverted my attention from bosonic to heterotic string theory as its combination of bosonic and superstring models offer an intriguing recombination of dimensions on a self-dual lattice."
"Erk?" said Penny.
The urgency in Sheldon's tone continued to escalate as he talked. "In string theory the left-moving and the right-moving excitations almost do not interact with each other. But, what if it's possible to construct a string theory whose left-moving excitations function on a bosonic string propagating in D = 26 dimensions, while the right-moving excitations function as if they belong to a superstring in D = 10 dimensions?"
Sheldon waited expectantly with a smile on his face for Penny to fill in the blank. Unfortunately all he got was a blank look on her face.
"Well as can be seen through basic mathematics there is a 16 dimension discrepancy between both strings that must be compactified on a self-dual lattice," he said slowly. He waited a moment before a frustrated sigh slipped from between his pursed lips. Cocking his head to the left, Sheldon looked Penny in the eye and gave a pleasant, though awkward, smirk. "I spent my day thinking," he said simply.
"Ah," Penny said casually as she turned to get more of her laundry from the dryer. She could feel her cheeks growing hot and hoped Sheldon wouldn't notice. Not like he'd understand her embarrassment over not knowing what he was talking about. No, that wasn't quite it. There were plenty of times when Sheldon said things that were way over her head and it didn't bother her. In this instance he was truly excited about his research and wanted to share his enthusiasm. Sheldon rarely shared anything truly personal and she feared one day he might give up all together and not share anything else with her. "Well, good luck finding your string thingies."
"String theory, Penny. Only a unifying formula for the creation and structure of the universe."
"Well I hope you don't get all strung out looking for them."
Again Sheldon stopped. "That's sarcasm."
"Can't get it past you anymore, Moonpie," she said with a mischievous grin.
"Don't call me Moonpie. Only Meemaw calls me that."
"Sorry. I'll do my best to keep it under wraps so I don't 'moon' you in future." Penny folded a tank top and plunked it in her basket.
Sheldon frowned but said nothing. Good Lord but this woman was frustrating.
"Knock, Knock," said Howard as he opened the door to apartment 4A.
"Hey Howard, I'm almost ready to go," greeted Leonard as he grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair.
Raj leaned against the doorframe. "Hey Sheldon, you're sure you don't want to come to the museum? The dinosaur hall won't be the same without you."
Sheldon turned away from his whiteboard. "While I admit the opportunity to view dinosaurs typically trump all other activities I find myself at a particularly intriguing crossroads that I must puzzle out before dinner so that I may enjoy our time Wii bowling without distraction."
"Well I suppose we can spend more time in the mammal halls," piped in Howard.
"I guess," pouted Leonard; he wanted to see the dinosaurs.
"A very good idea, Howard," said Sheldon. "Did you know in the African Hall you can see an example of a kudu or African antelope—an extremely shy animal which is rarely seen in the wild. Male kudu can be found in bachelor groups and displays of dominance are generally fairly peaceful, consisting of one male making himself look big by standing his hair on end."
"No kidding?" said Leonard as he unconsciously checked his hair to see if it had fluffed up after his shower.
"Leonard, why would I jest about something like this? Biology is an organic offshoot of scientific inquiry whose significance, granted, is analogous to examining toe nails on a disembodied brain but nevertheless those that do study it are most sincere." Sheldon returned to his whiteboard.
"Have fun," replied Leonard as all three friends left the apartment.
Sheldon cracked his knuckles before swinging his arms in a circular motion to stimulate circulation. He raised and lowered himself on the balls of his feet. Sufficiently relaxed, he took a step back to a comfortable distance and began calculating.
Time went by.
Around one thirty pm Sheldon heard music from apartment 4B.
He continued to think.
Near prevening, Sheldon erased and replaced a number in his equation.
As the minutes ticked by it slowly dawned on him that the music had stopped in Penny's apartment. He could not recall hearing her step out.
"Perhaps she's decided to take a nap," he said to himself.
He looked at a number sequence and thought some more.
Sheldon felt his jaw muscles tighten.
He looked at his watch before calculating out the variables on a small part of the board. Putting down the marker he stepped back to look out the window before checking his new equation. It seemed sound:
There was a high probability Penny did not receive the news she was hoping for.
Hearing voices in the stairwell, Sheldon quickly erased the Penny equation and ran into his room to fetch his messenger bag. He returned just as Leonard, Howard and Raj came in the door.
"Be prepared to turn around," said Sheldon as he approached the group. "We're eating out tonight."
Howard was stunned. "Why Sheldon—a change."
Sheldon scowled. "I think my ability to adapt has been documented on a few occasions."
"So have polar shifts," smiled Raj.
"Nevertheless, I believe this is a moment of spontaneity that shouldn't be wasted."
"Shotgun," Howard cried as Sheldon closed the door.
"Not fair," pouted Raj. "You rode shotgun all the way to the museum and back."
"All right you two," said Leonard as he followed Raj and Howard down the stairs. "Keep this up and it'll be no dessert."
Sheldon waited by the door until the boys had cleared the lower landing before he crossed over to Penny's apartment. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, unsure if he should knock. While he could not be absolutely certain things were not well with Penny unless he asked her outright he thought such an interruption if things were unwell would be unwelcome. And awkward.
Granted, things wouldn't resolve themselves until he conferred with Penny but Sheldon was nevertheless pleased with himself for realizing that if Penny was sad and uncommunicative the last thing she'd want to hear was laughter emanating from her neighbors' apartment; therefore he had proposed eating out.
As he turned, Sheldon heard a cork pop from behind Penny's door.
He noted no celebratory exclamation.
A/N Thanks to Wikipedia for the consult: Dark Matter; Pitfall; Heterotic String Theory; Kudu.
Yes, I donated money to the campaign so I don't feel guilty referencing it every six seconds.
cadaverous Equus ferus caballus: dead horse
Thanks for reading!