Disclaimer: I don't own The Big Bang Theory. (I don't own the music of G.F. Handel, either, but it's in the public domain.)
Author's Note: Originally posted at Archive of Our Own.
Penny walked through the front door of 2311 Los Robles Avenue after a long shift at work. As she retrieved her mail, she saw Sheldon walk down the stairs with his laundry basket in hand.
"It's Saturday night. Saturday is laundry night. Plus, I'm holding my laundry in my hands, so of course I'm doing laundry. You really should be more observant," Sheldon said.
"Funny you should mention being more observant. For your information, I'm getting up at some ungodly hour tomorrow morning to attend a sunrise Easter service."
Sheldon was about to compliment Penny on her clever pun, but then Penny's destination registered. He mentally interrupted himself and said, "May I come with you?"
"You want to come to church with me? I thought you were an atheist."
"My mother and I have a deal that she won't pester me about my disbelief in God as long as I attend church at least once per year," Sheldon said.
"Okay. I'm leaving at 5:30."
Penny headed upstairs, changed into her pajamas, washed her face, brushed her teeth, and went to bed.
Her alarm clock went off at 4:30 on Sunday morning. She contemplated turning it off and going back to sleep, but she knew that Sheldon would be prompt, so she got up. Penny wasn't much of a churchgoer, and she wasn't sure what she really believed about the whole religion thing, but she was a good Midwest girl, and good Midwest girls go to church on Easter.
She stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee. After drinking her first cup, she headed to the shower. When she got out, she rifled through her closet and found a lavender sundress. She paired it with a white sweater. She saw the white Easter hat her mother had given her when she turned 16, and she decided to wear it.
She put on her shoes and looked up at the clock. 5:29 AM. As she grabbed her purse, she heard the door across the hall creak open. Seconds later, she heard the familiar refrain.
Knock, knock, knock. "Penny."
Knock, knock, knock. "Penny."
Knock, knock, knock. "Penny."
She opened the door and saw Sheldon standing with his hands protecting his neck. "Good morning, Sheldon. Why do you look like you're afraid of me?"
"You said if I ever knocked on your door before 11:00 in the morning, you would punch me in the throat."
"Sweetie, it doesn't count today. We have plans."
Penny noticed that Sheldon was wearing a suit, and not that awful Plaid suit he wears for university lectures. "You look nice. Your mother would be proud."
"Thank you," Sheldon replied. "You look nice, too. Did you know that the tradition of wearing hats to church originated because of a passage in Paul's epistle to the Corinthians..."
Penny tuned out Sheldon's lecture and nodded at all of the proper times. They headed to Penny's car and got in. Penny began to drive, and Sheldon said, "Are you aware that your check engine light is still on?"
"Yes, sweetie. It's fine."
Sheldon didn't think it was fine, but he decided it would be unwise to press the issue so early in the morning.
They arrived at the church and picked up programs.
The Pasadena Interfaith Council Proudly Presents
Easter Sunrise Service
Sermon presented by Reverend Christine Johnson
Selections from Messiah by G.F. Handel presented by the Pasadena Chamber Singers
They sat down, and Penny whispered, "Isn't Messiah Christmas music? Why are they singing it at Easter?"
Sheldon said, "While it is commonly performed at Christmas time, Handel wrote the oratorio for Easter, and most of the music is more Easter themed than Christmas themed."
Penny was relieved that Sheldon didn't refer to it as Saturnalia. She wasn't superstitious, but she still didn't want to risk sitting next to him if he said anything that would merit a lightning bolt from on high.
The service began with the congregation singing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today", and then Reverend Johnson offered a prayer.
After the prayer, she began her sermon.
"On this day, we celebrate the most significant event in human history, the victory of our God over death. Let us read from the Gospel of Matthew..."
As the sermon concluded, Reverend Johnson said, "Please rise and greet your brothers and sisters in the spirit of love and fellowship."
Penny expected Sheldon to bolt at this point; he hated being touched. So she was shocked when Sheldon turned toward her, shook her hand, and said, "Peace be with you."
Penny gave the traditional response, "And also with you."
They greeted those around them in the same manner. After they sat down, Penny noticed that Sheldon reached into his pocket for some hand sanitizer. She smiled. That's the Sheldon she has come to know.
The choir got up, and the haunting melody that begins Part II of Messiah rang out.
Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world...
Penny got caught up in the music and nearly forgot about those around her. A few songs later, during And With His Stripes We Are Healed, she looked over at Sheldon, and she was amazed at what she saw. Sheldon sat transfixed, and a tear rolled down his cheek.
She must have slipped into one of those alternate universes Sheldon was always going on about, because she certainly couldn't be in the one she's used to. Dr. Sheldon Cooper, her atheistic, robotic Vulcan neighbor, came to church willingly and was moved to tears by sacred music.
As the Hallelujah Chorus began, the congregation stood. By the concluding "Hallelujah", Penny saw sheer joy on Sheldon's face. He had a smile that rivaled the light of a thousand suns.
When the service was over, Sheldon said, "Thank you for bringing me."
"You're welcome. Getting up in the middle of the night was worth it just to see that the great Dr. Sheldon Cooper can experience emotion," Penny replied.
A wistful look flickered across Sheldon's face. "When I was a child, my Meemaw listened to a recording of Messiah every Sunday. I would sneak over after church and we would listen to it while we prepared Sunday dinner. By the time my parents and Missy arrived, it would be over. It was something that Meemaw and I shared just for the two of us."
They got in the car and headed home. Sheldon was back to normal, prattling on about how Easter had its origins in a Pagan fertility ritual.
When they arrived, they walked upstairs. Sheldon put his hand on the door of his apartment and said, "Thank you, Penny. I had a wonderful time."
"You're welcome, sweetie. If you ever want to do it again, just let me know."
Leonard was standing in the kitchen. He looked at the clock, which said 8:32 AM. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, confused at the conversation he heard through the door. He shook his head for a moment, and when Sheldon came inside, he said, "Do you want to catch me up?"