A/N: Sorry if the Saturnalia Miracle (!) is too cliche a point from which to start a story-I've been working on it since before it was so many years old (and I'm new here, so I claim ignorance). The story of how Penny and Sheldon's relationship changes after *that* Christmas, told in alternating Penny/Sheldon-centric narration. I'm about 20 chapters in - they get progressively longer as more...stuff...happens. Rated for eventual coitus. Copious coitus, even.

Thursday, December 25th 1:42pm

It's incredibly awkward: his long limbs wrapped loosely around her, pinning her arms to her sides, his back bent down to close the gap in their heights, several inches for Jesus between their torsos. But she goes with it because how often does someone get hugged by the world's biggest germaphobe? Plus, she kind of likes him, and she's always wanted to feel like he actually likes her back. That's really why he got the personalized napkin instead of one of the other guys. It had been a brief battle – mostly between Sheldon and Leonard – but she had made her decision quickly. She knows just enough about StarTrek to know that Nimoy played Spock, and she knows that Sheldon feels some affinity for the alien guy.

She knew he would love it as she stood there spelling his name for Mr. Nimoy, but the extent to which he's freaking out is actually a little surprising.

"Leonard, Sheldon's hugging me!" She squeals the words at her friend because, really, Sheldon's hugging her, and even if it's like being hugged by a robot, it's making her happy.

Best Christmas present ever.

She tries to hug him back as best she can with his arms around her shoulders, and sighs, a little disappointed, when he loosens his grip as though he's about to let her go. Instead, he adjusts his hands so that her arms are freed enough to wrap around him, and he pulls her in tighter.

And all at once, it feels less like being hugged by a robot and more like being hugged by a person. She breathes in and smiles. It's like being hugged by a man, who actually smells pretty good.

She relaxes a little into this, the world's longest hug, and Sheldon relaxes a little, too, and it feels comfortable. It's nice, and she lets her head drift so it's pressing against his shoulder and breathes in deeply. As she exhales, she feels him tremble slightly and hug her tighter, making her aware of his breath on her neck. The way it whispers over her skin makes the tiny hairs on her arms stand on end. She bites back a gasp at the new sensation, but the goosebumps double when he speaks softly, his lips still a hairsbreadth from her neck.

"Please inform me of the appropriate duration for a hug." His voice is low, and she isn't sure whether his lips actually brush her neck or if it's just the nerves there tingling from his proximity. Either way, it takes her a long moment to process the question, and it ends up being Leonard who answers it.

"You passed appropriate duration at least sixty seconds ago." She can practically hear his eyes roll. Sheldon immediately lets her go, and Penny finds herself missing the warmth of him. He smiles softly at her, though; a real smile. It's genuine, with no cynicism behind it, and she can't remember the last time she saw him look this innocently happy. It's sort of weird to realize that he's actually really cute, and while it's not the first time she's had the thought, it's the first time it's crossed the 'yeah, buthe'scrazy' barrier in her mind since the first time he explained why he had chosen his particular seat.

"I apologize for overextending the socially acceptable duration of the hug, Penny. I am not particularly familiar with the protocol regarding hugging." He looks bashful as Leonard rolls his eyes again on the couch, and Penny can't help but smile and reassure Sheldon.

"It was a good hug, sweetie." And she grasps his wrist for a moment, waiting until his nervous gaze meets hers to let go.

"Would you like to join us for a movie? You may choose the film." He looks oddly hopeful, and Penny wonders if maybe she's reading into things.

"Will you let me pick a Christmas movie?" She grins up at him, watching his eye twitch slightly as he looks down at her. She can imagine him holding back the urge to correct her, to remind her that this is Saturnalia.

"When I informed you that you could choose a movie, I was fully aware that you would most likely choose one involving the holiday." He's nodding, but his face looks slightly pained, and she decides to take pity on him.

"My cousin sent me a DVD of a really weird sounding Christmas anime from a few years ago about, like, three hobos finding a baby," she offers, and Sheldon's eyes light up.

"Tokyo Godfathers?" He seems happy, and even though she's unsure about the whole venture and the movie was really a gag gift (Jeff knows she's freaked out by anime and has sent her one every year since he moved up from Pokemon), she goes with it. Why, exactly, making Sheldon happy is worth watching a movie that she probably would have just thrown away or regifted...she's not sure. The question nags at her as she goes across the hall to get the box, and it's still there, making her wonder, when Sheldon puts it in the player.

He sits in his seat, and she sits on the middle cushion between him and Leonard. It's a little creepy for a moment, trying to figure out how to sit, because Leonard essentially told her yesterday that he's still got a thing for her, and she just got goosebumps when Sheldon's lips may or may not have brushed her neck. And now she's in between them on the couch, and she's pretty much got to pick which one she's going to lean towards when she crosses her legs. She chooses Sheldon because she doesn't want to give Leonard any more of the wrong idea than she already has, and as the taller man navigates the menu, she crosses her legs primly in his direction. Within fifteen minutes, she scoots just a little closer to him and curls her legs under her on the couch, wrapped up in the movie.

It isn't bad, actually; it's a good story, certainly not scary, and it makes her tear up a little at the end. When Sheldon sees her discretely wipe a little excess moisture from under her eye, he rests his hand against her shoulder awkwardly and pats it.

"There there." His mouth is twisted into something resembling a smile, and he keeps his hand on her arm. But just like with the hug, after a lifetime of extremely awkward seconds, it's nice. His lips relax, he figures out how to bend his elbow and his wrist, and he's patting her shoulder like a normal person. Well, if normal people patted shoulders.

Still, the normality of it is...weird. And she's not sure if it's weirder that he seems to be making a conscious effort to be nice, or that she actually kind of likes it.