AN: Thank you so much to everyone who reviews and follows this story. I wish I could review reply to all of you, especially some of you guest who leave some pretty stellar reviews.

Also thank you to everyone who is sticking by this story and trusting my plot development. Your support and kind words seriously make all of this worth it.

If you haven't checked it out already, I wrote a one-shot called Colors of the Week that you can find on my profile. Just something quick I whipped up during the week.

Enjoy.


Chapter 19

The following Sunday, Sheldon arrived in the laundry room at exactly 8:15.

"Why are you here?" Penny asked with a sharp voice.

Sheldon licked his lips as he balanced the laundry basket on his hip.

"Since I missed laundry night last week and was forced to wash my clothes on Sunday, my whole rotation is thrown off," he rationalized, a lie he had been spinning to himself the entire week.

Penny frowned and went back to throwing her wet clothes into the dryer. She could feel his eyes glued to her back. Goosebumps rolled up her spine, tickling the bottom of her neck as she tried to hurry.

Sheldon set his laundry basket down on the center washer, watching Penny closely as she leaned forward and transferred her clothes. He hadn't seen her all week. Much to his chagrin, she skipped her Tuesday shift at the Cheesecake Factory. Upon discovery, Sheldon concluded that Penny must be avoiding him which left a sour taste in his mouth. Every time he left or entered his apartment, he looked around hoping to see her, but he was met with no such luck. It was a stroke of probabilistic genius and coincidental bargaining that Sheldon stumbled upon her again this Sunday, the same night he saw her just a week before.

Sheldon noted her beauty in that moment. She wore her thin yellow t-shirt and floral cotton stretch pants with a pair of white flip flops. Her hair was curled in a light wave that reminded Sheldon of all the times he had touched her soft locks. Her skin looked soft and warm and his fingertips itched to reach out and stroke her arm as she tucked herself beneath his chin.

His mesmerized studying was interrupted by Penny spinning around and facing him. She planted a hand on her hip and a frown settled in her eyes.

"So are you going to be here at this time every week?" She asked, pursing her lips in defense. She wasn't sure whether the humming inside her was due to anticipation or dread.

Sheldon nodded, "Will you be skipping your Tuesday shift every week?"

Penny down casted her eyes and turned to slide her quarter in their slots, "Yes."

"Bernadette isn't as good a waitress as you," Sheldon blurted out, remembering the pint-size waitress that substituted in Penny's place (who oddly seemed to not mind Wolowitz's aggressive advances).

Penny shrugged as she pushed her change in to start the machine, "That's not my problem anymore."

Abandoning his basket, Sheldon stepped closer to her, his heart beating to a funny, frantic dance.

"I'm confused as to why we can't still be friends," Sheldon's fingers clenched and unclenched as he held them awkwardly by his sides.

Penny folded her arms over her chest turning her fiery eyes on him as she responded.

"Because you dumped me! And it hurts to even be near you much less pretend to be okay with everything that has happened between us!" Penny didn't mean to shout but her voice wavered in its intensity.

Sheldon blinked several times as he pulled his bottom lip in between his teeth, "I'm sorry that I hurt you. I was only trying –"

"Save it, Sheldon," Penny waved her hand, interrupting him. "I've heard it."

"I want to repair this," Sheldon blurted out, preventing her from leaving. "All the social relationships in my life were supposed to return back to normal, but they haven't."

Penny stared up at him and a small piece of her was able to see past her pain for a moment and observe the insecure twitch in Sheldon's cheek as he wrung his hands together nervously. Something inside of her pinched her senses awake, telling her that this was the source of his motivation behind his actions. But her stubborn, defensive side reminded her of the hurt and isolation she had felt all week and she pulled her anger over herself like a protective cloak.

"You have a lot to say to me before anything can be repaired."

"Tell me what it is I need to say," he bore his blue eyes deeply into hers. "I can't formulate any hypotheses about what I need to do to fix this if you don't tell me."

It was so tempting to just say everything she wanted and felt for him. She could so easily shout, yell, and cry her needs. But Penny had promised herself that she deserved better this time around. She deserved someone wanting to tell her these things not just so she'll always be around for them.

"I told you," Penny shook her head, holding his stare. "You're going to have to figure it out yourself. It can't just be words you repeat back to me because you know that's what I want to hear."

She left Sheldon standing in the laundry room staring after her as she walked away. Every step she took up the stairs was heavier than the last. Her body was screaming at her to rush down the stairs and return to him, but her pride knew better.

Sheldon stood in the center of the room for a few long moments, his mind racing with Penny's words. She kept leaving cryptic puzzle pieces that had no logical starting place. Penny used to only speak bluntly to him. It was a trait he admired and took for granted as their friendship blossomed into something more. Her words repeated over and over in his mind, "it hurts to be near you." To Penny, he lost the privilege of her blunt forwardness the second he ended their relationship agreement.


As Sheldon finished his laundry, he wracked his brain, trying to decipher what it was that Penny needed to hear from him.

He understood that women liked to focus on how facts and events made them feel, rather than the actual statement or incident itself. He had tried explaining to Penny exactly why he needed to end things with her from a rational basis, but that seemed to upset her more than it helped. Sheldon had a suspicion that what she wanted from him was a declaration of his feelings for her. Rationality and facts Sheldon could easily maneuver, but feelings – that always left him stupefied and ignorant.

Sheldon was not one to admit ignorance on most things, but even he couldn't deny that many moments in his life he was left lost and scared when it came to other people's emotions. His father's rage frequently was directed either towards himself or his mother. Sheldon tried coding a particular pattern to predict his father's vitriol and violent outbursts, but in his short eleven years living with him, he couldn't successfully avoid his walloping smacks or whiskey breath screaming in his face. His mother's emotions could be just as erratic as his father's. Often he would find her crying, and at a very young age, he could remember her accepting his hugs - a mechanism he determined would console her since it was always something she did that brought him comfort when he cried. But at a certain point, she began pushing away his attempts to comfort her. It left Sheldon feeling helpless from his own emotional security and others. Numbers and formulas had constants and malleable variables all under his own control. People and feelings seemed to operate on a different plane that he long ago conceded he didn't have the capacity to grasp nor deserved his efforts or concentration.

Folding his laundry, he gazed at Penny's dryer which had ended its cycle an hour ago. He hoped she would come down while he still occupied the space and retrieve her clothes. One thing that proved constant in Penny's behavior was her insistence on avoiding him .All week he had moved through his schedule with Leonard, Howard, and Raj like old times, but he could sense a drastic shift in his experience. He had come to realize just how ingrained Penny's presence became in his schedule and without her sunny smile and sarcastic comments that 23/30 times had to be explained to him, his day to day actions colored gray.

Finishing his folding, he looked to Penny's dryer again. Sighing, he walked over and removed the basket from the lid.


Sheldon returned to his apartment finding Raj sitting in the center of the couch with his lap top open and Missy in the leather chair chewing her nails as she stared at him.

"I've told you, I'm a grown man and I will make decisions for myself now. Missy and I are staying married and that's final," Raj said, the finality of his tone matching his words.

Raj's mother's voice sighed from the computer, "If you want to marry an American and turn your back on your family, then that's fine. But you will not take a wedding away from me."

Raj twisted his brows together, "What do you mean? Missy and I already had a wedding."

"She means a real wedding. Not some drunken night in Vegas that you won't be able to tell your grandchildren about," his father corrected.

Raj frowned shamefully..

"So it's settled. In one month, you and your new wife will come to India and we'll have a traditional wedding," his mother annnounced with satisfaction.

Missy's eyes widened and she waved her hands to get Raj's attention, shaking her head furiously back and forth.

Eyeing Missy, Raj tried to interpret her gesture.

"I think that Missy doesn't want that?" he said it as if it were a question.

Missy dropped her head into her hands. Rolling his eyes at the pair, Sheldon left the room to put his clothes away. He still didn't understand why those two were even entertaining the idea of keeping their marriage.

"What do you mean she doesn't want that? Is she there right now? Let me speak to her!" Raj's mother demanded.

Missy turned green as she stared at Raj's face. He shrugged his shoulders, not knowing exactly what it was Missy wanted from him. Her nostrils flared as she shifted over to sit next to Raj. She instantly pushed the corners of her mouth into a fake smile, mentally calculating how she would kill Raj once this Skype session ended.

Waving, Missy greeted his parents, "Hello."

Raj's father's eyes widened as he examined the tall, brunette beauty sitting beside his son. "This is your wife?"

"Mommy, Daddy – this is Missy. Missy, these are my parents," Raj exchanged greetings.

"I'm impressed, son," his dad grinned widely. His mother turned her angry eyes to him which he coward beneath. Missy wished there was a way she could teleport out of the state.

"It's very nice to finally meet you," she said, turning up her southern charm.

Unimpressed, Raj's mother pressed forward, "So you don't want to marry in India, furthering stomping on our family and traditions?"

Shaking her head, Missy let out a laugh, "Oh no ma'am, I swear it's not that. It's just…" she tried to think quickly to save herself. "If we're going to have a wedding, my own family would want to be there for it. They're none too happy about us eloping either."

"So we'll have the wedding in America then," his mother insisted.

Missy exchanged a glance with Raj, hoping he'd save her. Raj remained quiet, not wanting to get between the two women that scared him most.

"Well," Missy turned back to the screen. "I guess maybe that could work but…"

"Excellent! I'll start looking up venues right now. We'll shoot for two weeks but if we have to wait three that will be fine."

It was Missy's turn to bug her eyes out, "Two weeks?! Um, excuse me, ma'am, but don't you think that is a little quick to be planning a wedding?"

Raj's mother snorted, "Please, not one of your simple American weddings. And besides, I want to make sure to see my son marry before I die and the sooner we get out there before you two call this off, the better."


Around eleven, Penny determined it was safe to retrieve her laundry from the dryer without running into Sheldon again. Opening her front door, she almost tripped over her basket sitting at her feet. She looked down and saw that her clothes had been neatly folded and stacked based on size and category. Penny turned her eyes to 4A, her heart pounding loudly in her chest. Picking up the basket, she brought the clothes inside, trying to push away her instinct to read into the gesture.


That night, Sheldon ended up alone with Leonard in the living room for the first time. Ever since his return from Vegas, though Leonard was cordial with him, he did not go out of his way to spend time with Sheldon outside of when Raj and Howard were around. But strangely enough, Leonard didn't hide in his room once Raj and his sister took their leave. They hadn't talked about their fight or his previous relationship with Penny.

Leonard felt ashamed hiding from Sheldon all this time. Though he still felt angry and embarrassed, he knew that his roommate made a big sacrifice and extended him a gesture he never expected or could ever remember receiving from someone. But every time he looked at Sheldon, he remembered his own failures and a hot, suffocating jealousy surged through him. In order to stop himself from saying anything stupid or hurtful, he usually left to wallow in his room. He still couldn't wrap his head around the idea of Sheldon and Penny. Penny wasn't supposed to like guys like them. He had fantasized and dreamed a lot about her seeing past stereotypes and social boundaries, recognizing the nice guy that he knew himself to be. Even if it took a few years, Leonard could imagine himself waiting on the sidelines for her to come around. He never expected her to go for a guy that even nerds found strange and were embarrassed to associate themselves with him. Not that Sheldon embarrassed Leonard… well… not much anyways. He did grow to appreciate and enjoy Sheldon's presence and friendship that he provided, however bizarre and lopsided it was. It's just that Sheldon was the last person he ever expected would be able to snag Penny. Not just from Penny's end but Sheldon's as well. As far as he had reasoned, Sheldon didn't have a deal. He never expressed any interested in women and whenever any of them did try and pursue relations with the opposite sex, Sheldon would chastise them for giving into their animal hindbrain.

Leonard might have verbally forgiven Sheldon, but his gut told him that he still had some issues he had to work through. And unlike what his upbringing taught him, instead of confronting it head on, he had been avoiding his friend and roommate since the discovery. He knew that if the giant elephant in the room was addressed, they'd both end up saying things that could permanently hurt their friendship forever. Leonard had never had luck with women, and addressing what had happened between Sheldon and Penny would force Leonard to look inwards and ask whether all these years of thinking there was just something wrong with guys like him was actually not the issue at all but rather only something wrong with him.

After a half hour of watching a documentary on super novas on the Science channel, with a running Sheldon commentary about the vague explanations and outdated inaccuracies of the program, Leonard excused himself to his bedroom.

Sheldon might still be squandering over what to do about turning back the clock on his relationship with Penny, but he understood enough to keep the issue with Leonard swept under the rug. He had done the only thing that demonstrated his loyalties to friendship, and it was now on Leonard to either truly accept his apology and move on or forever leave this wedge between them. Sheldon hoped it wasn't the latter because the possibility that he permanently damaged things with Penny and not be able to salvage his relationship with his best friend in the process casted a black worry over him.

As Sheldon moved about the rest of the evening, in the back of his mind he had been trying to figure out his situation with her. He wasn't sure what it was he exactly wanted from it, but he knew that where they stood now left him feeling queasy and on edge. Outside of his own reactions, what concerned him the most was Penny's obvious hurt and anguish due to his actions. If anything, he needed to find a way to right this again, if only for her sake.

The only conclusion that Sheldon kept returning to, no matter how uncomfortable it left him and the infinite number of alternative solutions he considered, was to explain to Penny his own feelings on their break up and the days following. While Sheldon Cooper operated under the guise that yes, he indeed had feelings though he strived to ignore them and live his life based on logic and reason, he still had a sensory and perceptive experience colored and affected by his emotional state. He denied it often both to others and himself, but due to recent events, Sheldon had been faced with a highly active limbic system that caused his mood to fluctuate severely. He wasn't sure how to convey to Penny his feelings when he didn't even fully understand them himself.

Finding a composition notebook in his bedroom, Sheldon relaxed over his covers, resting his head on the still unwashed pillowcase that Penny slept on a week before and started writing.


On Tuesday, Penny ignored the series of knocks at her front door.

After a few minutes, her cell phone vibrated on the coffee table.

Missy: I know you're in there and I'm not leaving until you open the door.

Sighing, Penny sagged her shoulders in defeat as she answered the door.

Leaning against the door frame, Missy smiled as Penny cracked the door to look out at her. Penny found comfort in Missy's blue eyes, so she opened the door wider to signal that she could enter.

"You doing okay, hun?" Missy asked as she set her purse down on Penny's side table. She just got off work at the University and had the boys drop her off at the apartment before they headed to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Already hearing Sheldon complain about the possibility of not having Penny waitress for them, Missy thought that she could finally corner Penny.

Penny shook her head, curling up on the couch and covering herself in her blanket.

"I'm sorry my brother is a bull-headed moron," Missy shook her head as she sat next to her on the couch.

"It's okay," Penny sighed. "I already knew he was a bull-headed moron before I got into this."

Missy gave Penny a once over before asking, "How have you been handling this?"

Penny shrugged her shoulders, "Fine, I guess."

It scared Penny just how much Missy resembled Sheldon when she gave her all-knowing, you-can't-fool-me expression

"I've been a mess, okay," Penny surrendered.

"That's understandable, sugar," Missy leaned forward and patted Penny's knee. "But you don't gotta shut me out, okay? I've been worried sick."

Penny's lips pouted out as she tried to hold back her tears. It seemed like the only thing she was good at these days was crying. "I thought that maybe you wouldn't want to talk to me anymore now that Sheldon and me aren't together."

Missy scoffed, "Hell no! I am so upset with Shelly for doing this to you! He's gotten more than an earful from me about it all."

A watery smiled pulled up Penny's features, "Really?"

"Yep. It's not right what he did. I know that he meant well and he was trying to fix that stupid spat between him and Leonard, but he shouldn't have just made that decision for the both of you," Missy explained.

"Thank you!" Penny shouted, throwing an arm out at Missy. "That's exactly what I've been thinking this whole time! He could have at least consulted me on this before just breaking it off." Sinking back into her cushions she added, "He probably just doesn't care what I think."

"Now that isn't true," Missy folded her legs up on the couch, preparing for a long discussion. "I can't explain to you completely what's going on in my brother's head, but I can tell when he's upset, and I can see that he is missing you."

Penny's eyes danced as she looked in wonder at Missy, "Really?"

Missy nodded, "He's moping around the apartment. He gets distracted and can't keep up with conversations half the time. And anytime that damn front door opens, he looks up all excited as if he's just waiting for it to be you to walk through."

Penny shook her head in disbelief, "I - I just can't imagine that. He was so cold and uncaring when he broke up with me. And when I've seen him… I don't know. I want to think he is hurting too, but I can't afford to think that way."

"Shelly doesn't know how to talk to people or express his feelings. He's also very proud and if he is regretting his decision like I think he is, I'm not sure how long it'll take him to come around and admit that he made a mistake."

Penny's eyes began to water and she threw herself forward, burying her face into Missy's shoulder. Her sobs shook her body as she clung to Missy's sweater.

"I just love him so much," she moaned as Missy patted her back. "It wasn't supposed to be this way. I wasn't supposed to be the vulnerable one."

"I know, I know."

Penny sat up wiping her nose, "And I can't even hope for anything until I hear him tell me something real. Like, I'm not saying I don't believe you, but none of that matters unless he actually makes the effort to fix this. I can't go to him and try to make everything okay after he did that to me."

"And I don't think you should," Missy replied. "Shelly's gotta learn that people aren't disposable." An old anger billowed in her stomach as the words left her tongue.

Penny shook her head, "I just don't understand why I had to be the one thrown aside! I mean, I know he and Leonard have been friends forever, but why is it that all the burden falls on me when I did nothing wrong? I never owed Leonard anything. I wasn't the one who had any ties. Yet I'm the one suffering."

Missy reached over and grabbed a Kleenex box for Penny. "Thank you," Penny said as she pulled a sheet to wipe her eyes.

"I just had these hopes and ideas. I thought that maybe if I waited long enough, he would realize his feelings for me or want something more than what we were," her throat closed up again. "I'm just so stupid."

"You're not stupid," Missy fiercely said. "Leonard is stupid for taking his anger too far and Sheldon is stupid for getting into this with you behind his friends' back and then not standing by you when it blew up in his face."

"Look," Missy continued. "I haven't known Sheldon since we were kids, but I think that what I do know makes me a pretty good judge of him. And he has never acted like this with anyone before. Aside from sex since we both know he never has tried it until you. Even our mother and Meemaw, who Sheldon adores more than anyone in this world, he never made room for them in that head of his like he did for you. Despite what he says, Sheldon feels a lot. Maybe even more than us and that's why he is so confused all the time about what it all means. And even though he messed up and he still hasn't come to you yet, I know that you're special to him. You might be the only chance he has at having anything like that in his life. And I'm gonna make sure he sees that."

Penny launched forward and wrapped her arms around Missy's neck, "Thank you."

After pulling away, Penny wiped her eyes again. "You know, I've had a lot of friends in my life, but I don't think I've ever had one be this nice. I never really liked to show my friends when I was upset."

Missy nodded her head in understanding, "Well, you were so nice to me when I got here and made me feel welcome. Even though I didn't know anybody."

"I understand what it's like to be a stranger somewhere."

After a few quiet moments, Penny turned her attention to the tall brunette.

"So what's been going on with you recently? I know we haven't talked in a while."

"Oh," Missy cheeks blushed crimson. She had completely forgotten to tell Penny about her and Raj. "Well, I got married."

Penny snorted, "No you didn't."

Missy bit her lip and looked up at her through her lashes.

Penny gasped, "Shut up! Who? When?"

"Raj and when we went to Vegas."

Penny's jaw dropped, "Holy crap on a cracker! Were you drunk?"

"Very," Missy rolled her eyes. "But we decided that we're going to give it a try. The wedding – well, our "real" wedding as our moms are putting it – is in two weeks."

Her mouth still open, Penny's eyes opened wide, "Two weeks?"

"I know. You don't gotta to tell me. I think it's craziness but his mom is hell-bent on seeing us get married and she seems to think there is a quick expiration date on all this. And as soon as she got a hold of my mom, they've been conspiring together. Well, when they aren't fighting over what kind of religious ceremony it's gonna be."

Penny shook her head, "I just…. This is so bizarre. You and Raj. Do you even like him?"

Missy smiled shyly as she looked down at her nails, "Yeah, he's definitely a sweet heart. I had a bit of a thing for him before, but I didn't really know him. Still don't. I moved into his place and gave up my apartment search. We thought since we're giving this a try, might as well go all the way with it. He still won't share a bed with me though. He gets too nervous and moves to the couch. It's strange. We're husband and wife but it's like he's courting me. We've just been trying to get to know each other. Sitting around and talking about our lives."

For the first time in a week and a half, Penny felt a small glow in her heart, "That's really cute, Missy. I'm happy for you."

"Would you be in my wedding," Missy suddenly blurted out just as the idea dawned on her.

"Me?"

"Yeah, I want you to be my maid of honor."

"Oh, Missy, I don't know," Penny quickly backtracked, panicked over the idea. "Shouldn't you ask someone in your family or a really close friend?"

Missy shook her head, "I don't really have anyone else to ask. It's just gonna me my mother and Meemaw coming up from Texas. Please, Penny, I know this is a lot to ask."

Penny considered the idea. Her first instinct was to flee. This would be a lot of time she had to spend around Sheldon when she could barely hold herself together as it is. On the other hand, Missy had been a really good friend to her – much more than she could say of anyone else that she had met since coming to California. She didn't want to force her to ask someone randomly.

"I really want to do this for you, but I'm worried," Penny admitted.

"About being around Shelly?" Missy asked.

Penny nodded.

"If you don't want to talk to him, you don't have to. I'll make sure he knows that. But we'll be so busy with doing all that bridal stuff that I don't think you'll even be around him much."

Penny could already feel herself giving in but she considered it for a few moments.

"And your family? Do they know about us?"

"Not unless Sheldon told anyone, which I highly doubt. Mom has been so concerned with me leaving and now this wedding. Which she's none too happy about but I think she's giving in cause she always hated me "living in sin" with my previous boyfriends."

Penny nodded her head, "Okay, I'll do it. I'll be your maid of honor."

Missy smiled widely and pulled Penny into another hug, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"


Penny thumbed through a bridal magazine while she sat on top of the washer, looking at the choices in maid of honor dresses that Missy had marked. They had shopped for Missy's dress earlier that week. Missy wanted to get it out of the way before her mother arrived so that she didn't end up in something poofy with a long train. Penny found that shopping with Missy and getting lost in this wedding planning really took her mind off of spending all her time being sad in her apartment. For the most part, Missy was an efficient and carefree bride, leaving most of the tasks like logistics, color schemes, seating arrangements, and catering to her and Raj's parents – mostly because Raj's mother had demanded control over the situation since she and Raj's father were paying for the wedding. After many executive decisions by both Raj and Missy that forbid more traditional Indian ceremonies as well as Mary's insistence that they get married in a Baptist church that Raj could be baptized in – they decided on a stylistic American/Indian blend that was more low key and manageable for the time-frame they were given.

Penny couldn't really say why she decided to do her laundry on a Sunday evening again. Sheldon explicitly told her that this was his new routine. She had purposely made it so that she avoided him at all other costs, but as it approached eight, Penny grew antsier. Though the thought of seeing him terrified her, a large, consuming force wanted to use this safe space to put herself in his way just to see what he would do. She already suspected that changing laundry night last weekend was an excuse by him. She knew that he could easily just go back to Saturday night. He'd have one less day of laundry to do but soon he'd be right on track again. That fact had been nagging her all week, and she had set it up in her mind that if he showed up tonight, maybe there would be a possibility of them having another chance.

As it got closer to 8:15, Penny turned the pages more frantically, to nervous to pay attention to the pictures anymore. Her stomach hurt and she felt like at any second her nerves would become too much and she'd bolt from the room. As her hair prickled on the back of her neck, she saw out of the corner of her eye Sheldon appearing with his laundry basket.

"Hello, Penny," Sheldon greeted her, setting his basket down on the middle washer adjacent to her. She didn't jump away, intending to play nonchalance and remain where she sat. She nodded her reply, her skin was set ablaze at his closeness.

Sheldon set aside his composition notebook as he began his washing routine. He gave himself a mental pep talk, practicing once more how he'd begin this proposition to Penny. He had been worried that after last week, she wouldn't be here again, but her presence in the laundry room indicated that he had an open invitation to try out this next experiment. Starting the washer and letting his eyes trail down Penny's body as she continued to stare at the magazine in her hands, he picked up the notebook and repositioned himself in front of her.

Penny blinked her eyes up at the sound of Sheldon clearing his throat. She caught sight of him hugging a black and white notebook to his chest, standing expectantly in front of her.

Once Sheldon saw that he had her attention he began.

"Last Sunday, you told me that I needed to say "things" to make up for the way that I have wronged you. You were very cryptic in what these "things" were that you needed to hear, but I've taken it upon myself to try and figure out this puzzle you've presented me. I call this Experiment 1 to my Penny Apology Study."

Penny set aside her magazine, holding her breath as she looked at him more openly.

"For the past week, I've been writing down my observations of the feelings I've been having since our departure. I'm not positive that this is exactly what you meant, but this is the first test of my hypothesis."

Sheldon opened his notebook and began reading.

"Sunday 11:10 pm: Penny told me today that I needed to tell her things before I can fix what I've done to her. Every time I see her, her facial expressions resemble hose that I've come to associate with sadness and anger. I don't like making Penny sad. When Penny smiles, I feel a calm peace knowing that she's happy."

"Tuesday 7:45 pm: Penny wasn't at the Cheesecake Factory and we once again had to be served by Bernadette. She's a fine waitress by most standards, but she isn't Penny. Penny would talk with us and touch my shoulder when taking our order. I hate being touched, but when it's Penny's hand, I don't think about the germs. It feels right when Penny touches me even though I don't have a scientific explanation of why that is."

"Wednesday 8:00 am: Every time I wake up, I still smell Penny's hair on my pillow. The only way I can describe the feeling in my chest is that there is a hole that grows larger every day. Were I a hypochondriac, I'd get a CAT scan to see what's wrong. But I know this isn't an issue with physiology. It's in the mornings that I miss Penny the most. I don't usually remember my dreams, and my nights since I terminated the relationship agreement between us have been long and dreamless. My only explanation for the intense questioning and longing I experience in the mornings is that I must have dreamt of Penny during my REM cycles."

"Friday 3:45 pm: Today at lunch was the first time anyone broke the unspoken silent ceasefire about my relationship with Penny. Wolowitz made a joke questioning whether we ever engaged in carnal relations at all because of my presumed status as an asexual and lack of functioning genitals. I felt a violent anger come over me that I don't usually experience from Wolowitz's berating jokes. He does only have a Master's degree after all, so what merit does his opinion hold? It occurred to me now that what made this moment different than other incidences that people have teased my lack of experience with women is that their jokes involved Penny. I don't like the idea of people thinking we were nothing. I'm not sure what we were or what all of this means, but we weren't something that should be a joke passed around a lunch table by fools dictated by jealousy."

When Sheldon finally stopped reading, he looked up at Penny. Her green eyes watered as she stared back at him, her hands firmly clenched to the edge of the washer on either side of her thighs. Sheldon panicked, worried that her tears meant he had only made things worse.

"I've upset you," he stated, his eyes scrunching in concern.

Penny shook her head and let out a tense, nervous laugh as tears streamed down her face, "No, you didn't upset me."

"But you're crying again," Sheldon pointed out. "I've written extensively about your crying also in my observations."

"You have?" Penny asked.

Sheldon opened his notebook again.

"Penny cried when I told her that we should end our friends-with-benefits arrangement so that I could apologize to Leonard. She also cried when I saw her in the laundry room on Sunday. Her quick need to escape my presence reminded me of my torment and isolation in childhood when people were afraid of my intelligence. I know though that Penny doesn't think of me in this manner so her need to flee must be indicative of just how badly I have wronged her. I don't like it when Penny cries. It turns my stomach and the dread I feel paralyzes me. I have no idea what to do to make her stop."

Penny wiped her eyes, her tears falling faster.

"These aren't exactly sad tears, Sheldon," she clarified.

"Then what are they?"

"Some happy and some sad. Thank you for sharing that with me."

Sheldon smiled at her, "So then I can write that this experiment was a success?"

They held eye contact for several moments. Penny had the strongest urge to kiss him and forget about her pain and their break up. After hearing his journal entries, Missy's words seemed truer to her now. She could tell this was his way of opening himself up to her, but Penny knew that she couldn't settle for just this. He had to realize what all of these feelings meant. He had to say the words to her and tell her that he wanted to be with her before she could let him inside again.

"It's a good start."


AN2: Let me know what you thought of this chapter by leaving your thoughts in the box below!