The Clothing Expedition


One thing the reader might like to note before delving into this story is that it takes place on a Saturday, a day best reserved for Doctor Who, laundry, and whimsical pursuits. This Saturday was slightly different, due to circumstances described in the earlier portion of this body of work, entitled The Marauder Consideration.

To ask for a silent car ride with Sheldon Cooper is to ask far too much. It was a twelve-minute drive (or would have been, had a certain physicist not insisted on "not breaking the traffic law, Penny!") to the mall, but that drive was filled with at least six different "enjoyable and educational" car games.

"Are you bothering me on purpose so I won't make you buy stuff? Hate to break it to you, babe, but it isn't going to work," the sassy blonde waitress we all know and love said, shooting daggers at the man next to her. He paused his explanation of "Star Trek quote bingo" to give her a scathing look.

Penny sighed (loudly and pointedly) and looked out the window. If we could have looked into her mind at that very instant, we would have discovered that she was thinking something along these lines: "A few hours of sleep and a car ride with Dr. Whack-a-doodle. Yeah, I did end up having a good time last night, other than the crazy fans. That doesn't mean he shouldn't live up to his part of the bargain."

Sheldon's thoughts were more like this: "Why does she so despise Star Trek quote bingo? It is a well-loved occupation for car rides that would otherwise not stimulate the mind. Does she not realize that we would play on the easiest setting, as always? I even let her get away with 'beam me up, Scotty', which did not occur in the canon of the show, despite the way most of our feverishly deluded world seems to recall it."

She reached over and turned on the radio. Her eyes lit up as she recognized the song, and she chimed in with the singer, crooning out the notes in quite a different key than they were intended. Sheldon's attempts to conceal his twitching failed.

"Penny, as if it was not enough that this song is juvenile and repetitive (like most of the fare offered on today's radio), I must ask you to cease that infernal noise before permanent damage is done to my hearing!" He straightened out his seat belt, readjusting his body so that he sat, if possible, even more rigidly.

She sang louder.

"Shopping, yay," Sheldon murmured darkly.

The mall was, of course, brightly lit, and packed with people like WoW is packed with side quests. Penny looked around furtively, her pigtails flipping from side to side, then grabbed Sheldon's shirt sleeve at the elbow. He looked at her with some surprise, but did not protest.

"What is the plan?" he asked, looking at her.

"What plan?" she replied, with genuine confusion, as she made their way through the crowd.

Sheldon pursed his lips. "In what order will we be visiting the stores?"

Penny looked at him, tilting her head. "I don't have an order, just whenever we see something interesting."

"That's incredibly inefficient!"

She raised her eyebrows, as if to remind him of the signed contract. He looked at the floor and sighed. "Very well. May I at least have the privilege of knowing what store we will visit first?"

"Yeah." She pointed. "That department store. I'm not the biggest fan of department stores, but it's harder to find good clothes for men than for women, especially in this mall."

Sheldon nearly smiled. "For once, your reasoning seems to be entirely rational. Congratulations."

The department store was crammed with people and smelled of too many perfumes. Sheldon looked around with a mixture of curiosity and disgust. Penny seemed to be quite content, leading him into the men's section quickly.

They browsed.

"Hmm, this, maybe. No. No, no, no. Not with your skin tone."

"Would this be an acceptable complement?"

"We are not buying you any more plaid, Sheldon!"

"This?"

"No argyle, either."

"Hmph."

"Okay, let's go to the shoes," Penny said, shoving her purse back up to her shoulder. Sheldon looked at her. "Oh, did you forget about that part?"

"I have an eidetic memory," he replied stuffily. "I never forget things."

"You just hoped that I had?"

"Well, yeah." He smiled cheekily. She tried to glare, but her lips curled into a half-smile.

The shoes were on the other side of the store. They walked around in the store, mostly in silence. Then it happened. They were walking through the "baby" department, and Sheldon caught sight of a Superman creeper. His intake of breath was audible, and he quickly crossed over Penny to get a closer look.

"Fascinating," he said with wonder, picking it up carefully. "They even duplicated the original color scheme perfectly!"

Penny raised an eyebrow. She put her hand on his elbow; enraptured, he didn't seem to notice. "Yeah, uh, that's great, sweetie—"

"Look!" he exclaimed, dashing to the back of the section (and taking her with him). "They have Batman, too! And Marvel heroes!" He was breathless with excitement; she appeared uncomfortable. He lifted a "Captain America" outfit gingerly from the rack and held it up to her.

"That's really cute, Sheldon," she said, smiling. He was practically grinning.

"Cute," he repeated, thoughtfully. "Yes. It is cute, isn't it?"

"I never would have figured you for the baby type," she said wryly.

Sheldon didn't raise his eyes from the outfits. "Generally, I am not. However, the thought of a miniature version of myself clothed in these garments...well, it's almost enough to make one desire progeny!"

"What if your kid didn't like superheroes?"

Slowly, he looked up at her. "Not like superheroes? A child of mine? Preposterous, Penny. I wish they had The Flash. Surely it's available online..."

"Oh, isn't that sweet," an older woman said. Penny jumped, and pressed her hand to her heart. The woman seemed friendly, and smiled widely at the pair. Her purple-rimmed glasses were perched on the end of her nose, and her gray hair was done up in a bun. "This your first one?"

"Yes, I've never visited a baby clothing section before," Sheldon confessed, still holding onto the Superman creeper.

"Well, they can be pretty expensive, but they're worth it. I'm on the third grandchild, myself," she said. Penny opened her mouth, but before she had a chance to reply, the woman asked, "So how far along are you? Can't be very far, you're hardly showing at all!"

"Hardly—" Penny began.

"We're not very far at all, just getting started. I was a little unsure," he added confidentially, "but she insisted. I'm finding it to be rather interesting, to be honest."

She grinned. "Oh, that's how it always is. My husband was the same way. I'm Dolores, by the way."

"Dr. Sheldon Cooper," he said, with a tight, professional smile. "And this is Penny."

"Hello," Penny put in weakly.

"Lovely to meet you both," Dolores said cheerfully, picking up a package of socks. "I wish you all the best! By the way, there's a store down the road that specializes in baby clothes and things, might want to stop by there if you can't find what you're looking for. Are you registered, my dear?"

Penny blinked. "Well, no—"

"Registered for what?" Sheldon interrupted keenly.

"For a shower, of course! Help your friends figure out what gifts to get you."

"You can do that?" His eyes were wide.

Dolores chuckled. "I certainly believe that this is your first time! I need to get going, but I hope it goes well for you!" She walked off.

Penny snapped her fingers in front of Sheldon's face. As if by instinct, he grabbed her hand, and then looked at it. He seemed to be surprised that he could touch her. His eyes shifted up to hers, but he did not relinquish his grip.

All of this seemed to escape her. "The hell was that about?" she hissed.

He blinked innocently. "The hell was what about?"

"That! With the baby thing!" She gesticulated wildly with her free hand. Sheldon looked thoughtful.

"I am sorry. Did I violate social protocol by something I said or did? I certainly can't recall—"

"You told that woman that we were having a baby!"

He drew back, finally letting go of her. "I did nothing of the sort!"

"Yeah, you did. Check your freakin' 'communication logs'." She made air quotes and jutted out her hip.

Sheldon thought for a second. His eyes widened. "Oh, Lord. How was I supposed to decipher that subtext?"

"Subtext? It wasn't subtext! It was...it was just text!" Penny looked pained.

"It isn't as if we will ever see her again," he said patiently. "While I do have slight feelings of guilt for misleading her, it is not my fault that she made herself so darn unclear."

"Sheldon. You told her that we were having a baby."

"Good Lord, woman, how can you be so slow? We covered this already."

Penny threw up her hands (as a small crowd congregated around them, partly because it was interesting, and partly because blocking traffic, hello). "Why is this not a big deal to you?"

"Why is it such a 'big deal' to you?" Sheldon shot back, eyes narrowing.

The crowd murmured.

"Why is this a big deal to me? Why is this a big deal to me. Oh my God, Sheldon! You're not...you don't have a deal! You're like an alien or, or like a robot from another planet or something! You're crazy Tuesday cheeseburger guy! You're 'that's my spot because air currents' guy! For you to just sally up and nonchalantly tell people that we're having a baby..."

Sources would later report that her eyes flashed red as she delivered this speech. She was breathing heavily by the end of it.

"Penny," Sheldon replied, scarily calm. "Who are you to tell me what I do or do not feel? As exhilarating as it would be, I am not a robot nor an alien. I am a human man, perfectly capable (much more than the common herd) in any arena."

She laughed. "Come on, Sheldon, what are ya gonna do? Kiss me?"

His eye twitched as he drew himself up to tower over her. "Yes."

They stood that way for a minute, locked in what could have been an eternal battle of wills. A man shouted, "Just kiss her already!"

"Have you sanitized your mouth today?" Sheldon asked quietly.

"Why don't you find out?" she taunted.

He leaned forward, and for an everlasting moment it seemed as if their lips would never touch. He nearly fell into her, but put his hands on her shoulders for balance. Her face froze in an expression of shock.

Sheldon wrapped his arms more tightly around her form, tilting his head to a more fitting angle. She leaned forward, into the kiss, her face softening. Their eyes were closed.

"Aww," commented the audience.

That seemed to break the trance. They broke apart slowly, dizzily. Penny's eyes still fluttered as she looked up at him. "Guh..." she managed.

He smiled smugly. "My sentiments are much the same."

They returned to 4A with no less than eleven shopping bags. Shoes for Penny, shirts and slacks for Sheldon (their collective favorite was a breathtaking blue), a pair of socks, and a "The Flash" themed creeper. Dolores had been right. That store really did have it all.

"Why did you buy baby clothes?" Leonard asked, later that night.

Sheldon merely smirked. "It will be put to good use someday, Leonard."

Someday, indeed. The twelfth purchase had not come in a bag, but had been safely tucked away in his "pocketses". That night, he put the second most precious ring that he had ever possessed into a secret drawer, to rest until the time was right. Sheldon smiled to himself, and began to whistle.


End Notes: According to my stories, Penny always wears pigtails, Sheldon is the best kisser ever, she constantly calls him "babe", and the mall is the best place to find love. I don't plan on another sequel, but you never know. I know I promised a multi-chapter...I am a filthy, filthy liar.