I watched Sheldon on stage half horrified and half amused. That boy could not hold his liquor. Wine. Whatever. Did I feel a little guilty for these unfolding events? I was the one who suggested he drink the wine to combat his stage freight and fear of fainting. Now look. There was almost this manic look in his eyes. Would he remember any of this tomorrow?

Raj, Howard, and Leonard all had the same half horrified, half amused look I did. We couldn't take our eyes off of him. What would he say or do next?

"Penny, can you believe this?" Raj said to me, and I heard the slur in his words. Sheldon was taking his pants off and kicking them across the stage, and I started to feel really guilty. I'd never let him drink again, I promised to someone, to God or myself or Sheldon. Never again.

Now some vaguely official looking guy was dragging Sheldon off the stage despite his protests. Poor Sheldon. Leonard pushed his glasses up his nose and licked his lips. Raj nearly feel backwards in his chair, he was really drunk.

"Okay," Leonard said, and I knew he had a plan, he had a way to salvage something from this night.

"Howard, you bring Raj home, he doesn't look well enough to drive," Raj smiled a goofy smile at that and Howard gave him a frustrated look, but he nodded.

"Penny, you find Sheldon back stage and bring him home, here," he said, struggling to get his apartment key off of his key ring, "I'm going to go smooth this over with the university officials,"

I blinked, suddenly worried about Sheldon's job.

"They won't fire him, will they?" I said, biting my lip.

"No, of course not. He's too valuable to the university. But this will require some smoothing over, don't worry, I'll take care of it," I was thankful for Leonard and his plan, and we all stood up, ready to put it into action. Howard put his arm around Raj as he stumbled. Leonard headed for the offices of the officials, or wherever they were, I was sure Leonard knew. And I headed backstage to collect Sheldon and bring him home.

I went up the three stairs that led to the side of the stage and pushed aside the dusty velour curtain. I blinked in the dimness and saw Sheldon, protesting being dragged off stage to a baffled looking guy in a suit. He wasn't wearing his pants and I didn't see them, didn't have time to look for them.

"Excuse me," I said, smiling slightly, touching the baffled looking guy's arm. He turned to me, looking like a deer in headlights.

"Penny," Sheldon said, looking at me through half closed and drunk eyes, "tell him that I wasn't finished my speech, tell him-"

"Okay, sweetie," I said reassuringly, hoping he would be quiet for a moment.

"I'm Penny, Sheldon's friend, and I'm going to bring him home now," I told the guy. He looked relieved.

"Good. Take him," he said, and I glanced around once more for his pants but didn't see them, and he started ranting again, and I couldn't understand much of it. When he was sober, I could see now, he spoke in a way that maybe you could understand, but drunk that went away, and none of it made any sense. He was using a lot of physics terms, and some foreign language that might have been Latin. Jesus, he was odd.

"Sheldon, c'mon," I said, trying to pull him away, trying to get him to come with me. He shrugged out of my grasp.

"Sheldon!" I said, taking his arm firmly and pulling him with me. I got him to the car and helped him into the seat.

"Where are we going?" he said, confusion filling those large blue eyes of his.

"Home. We're going home,"

I got in the car and pulled out into traffic. I thought he might be drunk enough to pass out, but he didn't. He watched the passing scenery out his window and he was blessedly quiet. Good. Maybe he would just go home and go to sleep. If he did pass out in this car I didn't know how I'd get him up all those flights of stairs or even out of the car. He was skinny but he was tall, and he outweighed me by at least 20 pounds.

We made it, and I wondered how Leonard was doing with his "smoothing over". I parked the car and then went to Sheldon's door and helped him out.

"C'mon, we have a lot of stairs to go up," I said, putting my arm around his waist. He was so thin, I could feel his hip bones jutting into me. He was leaning on me a bit too much up the stairs, and I felt like I was almost dragging him up the stairs.

"Sheldon, can you stand up more, you're crushing me," I said, holding onto him with one hand and gripping the bannister with the other.

"Sorry," he said, and he let up. We made it to his apartment and I let go of him to dig Leonard's key out of my pocketbook. I unlocked the door, half hoping Leonard would be home, but the place was dim and empty.

"Leonard!" I called, stepping inside, Sheldon following me. He stumbled, bumping into the couch. No answer. I could tell by the deadness of the air that no one was here.

"Sheldon, c'mon, time to go to bed," I said, tugging on his sleeve, and he came with me as I lead him to his bedroom. It was excruciatingly neat, everything in its place. I felt like my room, my whole apartment would be good if it was half as neat as this room. Every knick knack on every shelf gleamed. Every book and every DVD was alphabetized.

Sheldon stood in the doorway, and I noticed again that he was quite handsome. I'd noticed it when he put on that black suit in the store, I noticed how the black sheen of the suit brought out the pale blue of his eyes. I sucked in my breath. My God, he was good looking. And was I imagining the look in his eyes? I knew lust and desire when I saw it, and I felt pinned in his blue stare.

"Sheldon," I said softly, and he came toward me.

"Penny," he said in a low and throaty way, a way I had never heard him use before.

"No one can be in my bedroom," he said, and it was almost ironic, the way he said it and kept coming toward me, forcing me back into his bed and there was nowhere to go so I sat on the bed, my legs spread slightly under my long gown. I looked up at him, at his eyes looking down at me, and there was drunkenness in them and there was desire, and I swallowed hard, realizing I had never actually thought of him like this, like a man capable of animal wants and needs.

He leaned in toward me, he was going to kiss me. I felt a kind of soft shock as his lips grazed mine, and I felt this electric little charge. Was I actually kissing Sheldon? He kind of crawled onto the bed over me, forcing me to lay down under his weight, and the kiss deepened, and I flicked his tongue away with mine.

"Sheldon," I said between kisses, and instead of answering his mouth covered mine again, and there was nothing I could do but kiss him back. But it was so unexpected, so new, that it was intoxicating to be kissing him, as intoxicating as all the wine I had drank at that banquet.