A/N: An AU from Season 3, Episode 16: The Excelsior Acquisition. Some misspelling is intentional in Penny's dialogue.
I don't own Big Bang. Special thanks to Big Bang Transcript on word press for scribing Sheldon's long-winded speech patterns.
The Marital Divergence
Penny squirmed in her seat on the bench. Usually she dreamed of being front row and center for a good show; especially when it was Sheldon pissing off important people because hey, the guy could use a huge, steaming pile of… humble pie.
However, he was about to get his ass thrown into jail for helping her out.
Her spot afforded a close view of the vein standing out prominently near the judge's graying temple. The more Sheldon talked, the further it bulged.
She had to intervene before Sheldon yapped his trap.
"WAIT! Your Honor!" Her entire face reddened as every unhappy face turned to look at her. It took everything she had not to stare at her shoes from where she stood, clutching the little wooden gate separating her from Sheldon.
C'mon, Penelope. How many times did you charm your way out of a ticket? And you get 50+ on your charisma stat because you're blond.
Penny relaxed as she reflexively thought about the time her mother had unfairly accused her of stealing money out of her purse, and by the time she exhaled sobbingly, her cheeks were appropriately damp and her nose was snuffly.
"Don't make him pay. It's my fault. He was driving me to the hospital when I h- h- hurt my shoulder in the tub because cuz 'cuz I didn't use those l'il duck stickers."
Sheldon had turned in her direction and somehow his confusion reassured her.
"Young lady, step forward. You are his eyewitness, I presume," the judge said, his stern expression not changing in the slightest.
She mopped at her face with her hands, wishing that she hadn't left her tissues in her purse in the trunk of her car. But the bag didn't match her Elle Woods get-up.
"You don't need to cry, my dear. If you'll explain what happened more in-depth, I'll see what I can do for you." The judge gestured to the bailiff, who went up to the stand and grabbed a box of tissues and the Bible to walk over to Penny.
"State your full name, Miss."
She did, wrinkling her nose as she admitted to her middle name "Leslie." Too many smart asses in grade school managed to twist "Penelope Leslie" to "Penny Less."
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"
"I do." Her right hand twitched when she took it off the Bible, but other than that, she had no other tells.
Thank God I went with Revlon, Penny thought as she delicately dabbed at her perfectly made-up eyes and under her nose. She was pleased to see no unsightly black clumps or streaks on her tissue.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude, your Honor, but I couldn't stand there and let Shelly…" Take that, Sheldon! "…take the rap. He don't drive none, on account of his lack a focus, but he still took me to the hospital. I was learning him to drive 'fore I hurt my shoulder, so when I told him to "go" at that red light, he wint. He wouldn't a broke no laws if it weren't fer me."
Everything that came out of her well-glossed, quivering lips was more or less the truth, with a more or less genuine twang.
"What exactly is your relationship to Mr. Cooper?"
Double hell. Sheldon was going to correct the judge, again, Penny could see it.
"He's my fiancée! I know he broke the law, your Honor, but he was doing it outta love and not for nothing less. It don't figure he needs to pay for lovin' me. He's innocent."
This time, Sheldon's mouth gaped so wide that his jaw hit the floor. Luckily, he was still facing Penny, evaluating her for other symptoms of mental illness.
"I love you, Moon Pie. I'll pay back every red cent of your money, I swar."
When Penny leaned into Sheldon and she put her arms around him, she whispered into his ear, "Play along. Or you can go to jail. Think real hard, genius." She felt him shiver in disgust from the contact, and for some reason, it kinda hurt.
The judge coughed, and they drew apart, one more emphatically than the other.
"Well, Mr. Cooper. Is this true? You ran a traffic light for the woman that you are going to marry?"
Penny kissed Sheldon, quickly, on his neck before he could get into it with the judge and blow her cover. She would've planted one on his shoulder, but there was no way in hell that her lips were touching that suit.
"Nod, genius," Penny gritted through her smile.
Sheldon's head bobbed up and down several times as he swallowed convulsively. Penny was still close enough to notice every movement of his Adam's apple.
"While you did not follow the law, I pronounce you…"
Somehow, her hand gripped his, which was surprisingly dry and warm despite being limper than cooked fish.
"…on one condition."
"True love doesn't happen every day, you know. Because you are such fine young folks, I hope you'll accept my offer to officiate at your wedding. I won't charge you a dime now, and I wouldn't charge you a dime then. Son, with all that money I'm saving you, you can spend it on that pretty young thing on your arm."
Before Sheldon could think fast enough or Penny could react, the judge banged the gavel. The bailiff handed them a card with the judge's name and titles and his contact information.
"Call me in a week to make arrangements. Don't make me issue a subpoena," the judge said, in what he thought was a joking matter.
The gavel came down again, hard.
"Next up: Mrs. Doubtfire. Public indecency."
Penny had to shepherd him to the car; that was how much shock Sheldon was clearly suffering.
It was when they were going down Euclid Avenue that a particularly jarring bump shook him out of his unnerving silence.
"I don't wanna get married to you."
"I don't wanna get married ever."
"I know, sweetie. We'll figure something out."
"I don't know how I'm going to explain this to my Meemaw. She always wanted me to marry a nice girl."
"You don't exactly dress like a nun, Miss Juicy Pants."
This wasn't news to Penny, but his half-hearted gripes about her shortcomings were really starting to smart.
"Your family is in Texas, Sheldon. They don't have to know if you don't tell them. Meanwhile, news flash: I have a serious boyfriend who is your best friend and your room mate!"
"Are you listening to yourself, woman? I can't keep things from my Meemaw! My Meemaw will always be my Meemaw. Qualitatively speaking, the likelihood of you being Leonard's Penny and him being your Leonard is less than that of you marrying me."
"As proven by the bizarre events of the afternoon."
Before Penny knew it, they were past the dratted stairs in their apartment building and shuffling to their respective doors. She didn't know how it happened, but every time they were together, she didn't feel a thing when she climbed every step, not even when she was coming in from a shift and he was on his way up.
He annoyed her that much, Penny groused as she slammed the door and pounced head-first on to the couch in her heels. Her feet, her head, and her heart throbbed; she was beat, and she was covering for Bernadette who had an exam in the morning.
And she really needed a drink.
Knock, knock, knock.
Make that two shots.
Rounded off with three bottles.
"The door's unlocked!" Penny hollered. She put a cushion over her face and kicked off her shoes.
She heard him knocking on something, maybe her table. "Penny."
"I want you to drive me to the comic book store, Penny."
She cussed through her pillow, and it didn't take a genius to figure out what she was saying. Unfortunately, Sheldon wasn't a normal genius. He removed the pillow from her face, his neutral expression unyielding despite her scowl.
"If there is one up-side to your theatrics, you got us out of the hearing rather quickly, especially with your Speedracer tendencies. If you take me to the comic book store now, even without ignoring traffic signals, I will get my autographed Batman #686 and give Stan Lee a friendly hand touch. Oh, the things that hand has done!" Sheldon cried, clutching the cushion to his chest. He swooned and perched on the arm rest, wedging her stocking feet into the hard backing of the couch.
Penny curled into a fetal position and shoved her other pillow over her ear. "I'm working tomorrow. Early. I need to fill up and buy groceries. Today."
"Even more of a reason to drive me," Sheldon said, confiscating her second pillow. "I'm running low on Purell and Germ-X, as I have not yet ascertained whether the brand or the generic version delivers superior results."
"No, Sheldon. I'm not knuckling under."
"… Think of this as a wedding present to your groom. Considering how much debt couples pile on themselves to demonstrate affection for one another, my requirements are modest."
"Don't you start on that, Sheldon! We aren't getting married. We'll fake it, or something."
"A little difficult to fake a wedding with a certified officiate, don't you think? Bazinga!" He hit her with the cushion, or he tried but it completely glanced off the sliver of couch not occupied by Penny.
"I mean, we'll let him marry us, and then we can get divorced. Like, immediately. It'll be like the 5 second rule. It doesn't count if I'm only married for five seconds, according to some cousins on my mom's side."
From the way Sheldon sprang to rescue her cushion that he dropped on the floor, Penny could guess what he thought of the "five second rule."
"Despite your horrifying standards on sanitation, that is not an illegal course of action," Sheldon admitted grudgingly. "However, won't the expenses related to the divorce null the amount your perjured declarations of love saved me?"
"It can't be that expensive. People drunk-marriage in Vegas all the time."
"I also do not approve of the legal fall-out. For all I know, you could secretly be a mithril miner. How do I know you won't sic a lawyer on me for my priceless collectibles? Because I'll tell you now, half of a collection is no collection! You can't flip it for anything."
"Sheldon," Penny almost growled. "I gave you one of those collectibles!"
"Right," Sheldon drawled, as his brows knit at the memory. "Well, it comes down to this: If you don't take me to see Stan Lee this instant, I will immediately notify Leonard of our borderline adulterous predicament, instead of extending to you the privilege of informing him in your own special way at a time of your choosing."
"Might I add that it is completely illogical that you would marry me but deny me passage in your vehicle?"
"I thought I was only dropping you off at Stuart's," Penny groaned, rolling off the couch and snatching at the car keys on her coffee table.
"When Leonard finds out we're engaged, he'll blow a gasket, thus making it necessary for me to discern an alternate mode of private travel and possibly a separate abode altogether. I speak in strictly figurative terms about Leonard's "gasket." Were he partially bionic, Leonard wouldn't be as vulnerable to emotional pit falls."
A/N: Dunno when I'll update again. It just seemed a waste not to share this.