I know that bottle opener is around here somewhere, Raj thought as he moved the books and papers around his desk – the cold bottle hurting his hand. He had CNN on in the background. All day it had been covering some historic court case. Raj didn't pay attention much to the news, especially not now. He had to be at Leonard and Sheldon's in twenty minutes to have dinner with Sheldon's mother. If he didn't polish off this beer first, how would he be able to compliment her on her delicious fried chicken?
Or maybe it's a twist off? He gripped the bottle cap and applied pressure. Ow! Why is it never a twist-off?
He was distracted from his pain by a sharp knock at the door.
"Raj! I need you!" a familiar voice cried. Oh great, Penny's dropping by and I'm sober as a Mormon.
He wiped his ailing hand on his back pocket and felt a bulge. He rolled his eyes. The bottle opener. He'd just have to chug the beer as Penny spoke.
Raj opened the door. After one look at what he saw, he dropped the beer straight to the floor.
"It's six twenty-seven," Sheldon sighed after Leonard announced he was going to take a shower. "Penny and Raj will be here in three minutes."
"Sheldon, I thought by now you'd learn Penny and Raj are never on time."
"And I thought by now they'd learn that a dinner party should start at the time promised, not after the proper amount of flat ironing and concealor blending."
"And that's not even counting whatever Penny does to get ready," Howard said. No one laughed. He hung his head; his joke gone unappreciated.
Howard clicked on the TV. Leonard winced as CNN came to life. They had been covering the court's reversal of Proposition 8 all day. The images of men in love hugging after years of invalidation gave him a particular ache. The ache of buried feelings clawing to the surface. He loved Penny, he really did. He loved her eyes, the way her skin felt, her personality. And for years he convinced himself what drew him to her initially was her soft, feminine form. But every once in a while the familiar longing would strike him. A new assistant at the lab with a 5 o'clock shadow. A man passing by on the street with a strong jaw line. Heck, he even gave Sheldon a double take that time he wore the black suit to accept that award. He knew he had this within him but he didn't want to release it. Not if it meant he couldn't have Penny.
Short blonde hair. Baggy jeans. A Dodgers shirt pulled over a broad, flat chest.
"Penny!" Raj said, "Is this for a play?" As he looked at the beer foaming and spreading over his carpet, he realized he hadn't had a sip.
"It worked!" Penny squealed. "I mean," she cleared her throat, "it worked."
Her voiced changed in that moment. It was deeper, more confident.
"What is happening?" Raj said as he grabbed paper towels to sop up the mess.
"This is me," Penny said in the new voice, "I had some doubts but hearing you talk in front of me lets me know for sure. I'm a trans man."
"What are you talking about?" Raj said, "What about the make-up and the ruffled tank tops? Your shoe collection? God, what about Leonard?"
"That's just it," Penny said, grabbing a towel and helping Raj clean up, "I've always felt this way since I was a little kid in Nebraska. I tried to bury it under dresses and hair clips and vanilla perfume. And I thought maybe when I moved to LA I would find the courage to live like I'm truly supposed to be. But then I fell in love with Leonard. I want a wedding and a marriage and a registry. And I thought I couldn't have that as my true self. Until today." She pointed to the TV.
"Pen," she corrected.
"Pen, you don't know if Leonard is going to accept this."
"It's a risk I have to take. I'm tired of living a lie."
"And that is precisely why you should never touch the door knob in a public restroom," Sheldon said. Howard and Leonard dropped their drumsticks; their appetites ruined by Sheldon's graphic descriptions of bacteria and viruses.
"Sheldon, would you start being a good host to your friends?" his mother said, slapping him on the shoulder, "It's bad enough you started eating before everyone was here."
"Well I just think people have the right to know about how easy fecal matter can—"
A knock at the door saved the group from another disgusting speech. Leonard opened the door to see Raj.
"Finally! Raj, come in."
"Um, why don't you step outside for just a minute?" Raj asked.
Leonard didn't get an answer. Raj pushed passed him, shoved Leonard out the apartment and slammed the door in his face. Leonard was about to re-enter his apartment but something told him to turn around. There in the apartment hallway, was the most beautiful man he'd ever seen.
"Penny?" he said, not believing it as he looked into those familiar eyes.
"It's me," Pen said, those eyes filling with tears, "Leonard, I'm a transman. But I love you. I love you so much and I hope you still love me. I was tired of lying to you."
Tired of lying. Tired of running from the truth. The familiar ache inside Leonard made its way up his throat until it was released into a sharp cry as he pulled Pen towards him and had the first kiss that truly satisfied him.
"But what will we tell everyone else?" Pen said as Leonard's hand caressed his face.
"We'll tell them we're not lying any more."
The two men held hands and opened the door, ready to face their new lives together.