… a final comfort that is small, but not cold: The heart is the only broken instrument that works. ~ T. E. Kalem

Apartment 4B

It had only been that one time but apparently that was all it took. Just one time without a condom. Penny looked at the pregnancy test stick in her hand and marveled once again at how calmly she was taking this. Her hand was steady and her breathing was calm but beneath that calm exterior, flights of butterflies were swooping and fluttering throughout her stomach.

Two bars. She read the box and saw the code: Two Bars – YES! Adding insult to injury, there was a big smiley face symbol beside the 'YES!' on the box.

'Well, some people might be happy. I'd be happy if I were older, married to someone I loved, and had a future but what do I have going for me? Nothing and no one.'

She walked out into her bedroom and sat on her bed and started to cry quietly as if she might disturb someone, anyone, but she was alone in her apartment and in her situation.

She didn't think she would ever laugh again.

Apartment 4A

"Sheldon, what's up with you and Penny? You two have a fight or something?" It had been nearly two months since Howard and Bernadette's wedding.

"Leonard, I do not wish to talk about it. Under Section 7, Paragraph 4, Subsection 2a, it clearly states that once one party indicates to the other party that a subject is not to be discussed, it shall not be discussed. Do you still have your copy of the Roommate Agreement or should I print out another for your review and familiarization?"

Leonard had at least 4 copies of the Agreement, all provided to him by Sheldon in similar circumstances. He decided to try another tack, avoiding sailing directly into the wind this time.

"Should I not have invited her over for Thai tonight? It's our standing arrangement, Sheldon, that we invite others over for – "

"I shall not be here for dinner, Leonard. I have something to finish up at work. I'll take the bus so don't worry about driving me. I've been involved in a project that is off-the-books and so I have to make adjustments to my schedule to ensure access to the Cray Super Computers. It's been on-going for the past month or haven't you been aware of my repeated absences?"

"All right, Sheldon Cooper, that's enough of this. You don't have anything to 'finish up at work'. You don't want to be around Penny, I get it. What I don't understand is 'why'? She's been our friend – "

"She's been your ex-girlfriend twice over. We were never friends. A friend wouldn't have – oh, no, Leonard, this is clearly a violation of Section 7, Para – "

"I get it. I just – I just don't want it to feel awkward tonight."

"My absence will hardly make things 'awkward' for any of the attendees. They're your friends, not mine, Leonard. I'm just the roommate. They were your friends before I met you and they'll remain your friends long after I'm gone."

Sheldon closed his laptop and stuffed it into the messenger bag and looped the bag over his shoulder and stalked out of the apartment.

He stopped in the front of the apartment door across from his and listened intently but couldn't hear anything so he proceeded down the stairs and out onto the street. He needed to think and decide what to do about what had happened to him.

Later that evening

Leonard knocked hesitantly at Penny's door. Since the Beta Test failure, he'd avoided Penny but not to the extent that Sheldon did. He didn't change his entire schedule around simply to avoid her on the stairs like Sheldon did. He didn't change Laundry Night from Saturday to Fridays to avoid her like Sheldon did. He didn't create projects to absent himself from the apartment on nights they got together for dinner or video games like Sheldon did.

They were both his dear friends and even though things were through between them, he felt that Penny held the key to Sheldon's weird behavior and he wanted answers. The tension that seemed to permeate the apartment whenever one of the two of them was there was palpable and even newly-married Howard, oblivious to most things since his marriage, had detected it.

Penny heard the knocking and recognized it as Leonard's. An idea, a horrible, despicable idea, came to her and she resolved to follow through on it.

She wiped the tears from her eyes and then walked calmly to the door and opened it.

"Hi, Leonard, we have to talk. Please come in." She was calmly about to destroy three lives and she didn't know if she could do it. 'Four lives. Mine, his, Sheldon's and my baby's. Is it worth it?'

Leonard sat on the couch and watched as Penny walked over and sat down beside him, closer than one would expect considering how they'd ended their second attempt at a relationship and all his defenses were suddenly on full.

"Leonard, you know my OB/Gyn took me off the pill three months ago because I was having dizzy spells and she was concerned. We were still together and – "

"I used condoms every time, Penny. You know that. You put them on me doing that thing with your mouth – "

"They're not infallible, Leonard. Nothing is. I'm pregnant." 'Dear God, forgive me…'

"I want a paternity test run as soon as it's safe for your baby. Let me know what is required of me. Of course, I'll pay for it, Penny. I just have to be sure it's mine."

"Wha – what? You don't think it's yours? What kind of girl do you think I am, Leonard Hofstadter? And what kind of man are you to – "

"Just do it, Penny. Then we'll talk and make plans."

Some things had become instantly clear to Leonard. Sheldon would have been proud of his logical thought processes and of his conclusion.

Point: Sheldon and Penny disappeared together early during the wedding reception. Sheldon had caught a cab back to their apartment and was gone early in the morning when Leonard came back, hung over.

Point: Sheldon began regressing, covering himself with layers of new habits, creating tasks at CalTech that required his presence almost all the time. When he was in the apartment, he really wasn't.

Point: Penny never came to the apartment to borrow anything nor did she agree to attend Vintage Game Night or Thai Night until after she'd hinted around that she might have something else to do if Sheldon were going to be there.

Something had happened between Penny and Sheldon that night and it had destroyed his friend's self image and self esteem. Penny had destroyed them.

Something had happened between Penny and Sheldon at the wedding reception and made Penny almost afraid to be in the same room with Sheldon.

He stopped at the door, his back to her. He still had feelings for her but because he did, he would take the high road.

"Penny, did you know that Sheldon was a virgin? Do you have any idea how much he cares for you? Loves you, even? If I can see it, why can't you? Maybe, maybe you need to ask the father of your baby to take the test, not the runner-up."

Leonard closed the door quietly and walked over to his own apartment and sat down and tried to put his emotional house in order. His friend, his best friend, was in a dark place and he had been so cavalier about it and now that his suspicions were confirmed, he needed an action plan to get those two together.

He loved Penny but above all, he wanted her happy and if she couldn't be happy with him then he was quite content to see that she was happy with someone else. Even if it was Sheldon.

Penny poured herself a large glass of vodka and then stopped. 'What am I doing?' She poured the glass out into the sink and then poured the contents of all her liquor and wine down the same drain. She put the palms of her hands over her lower abdomen and pushed gently, trying to feel it – her child.

She had no money. She was behind on her rent and light bills. She had no future that she could see. She could go on state aid until after the baby came but what then? She couldn't afford a baby and keep the apartment. How could she survive when she had to quit work? And what about day care and…it was too much to think about.