I don't own The Big Bang Theory, or the characters. Which makes me sad. Can someone sing me Soft Kitty? Sad and Shenny-less is a type of sick, right?
Howard wondered why the others couldn't see it. It was so obvious to him. Penny was in so much pain, it broke his heart. She was in love with her best friend, who was dating a woman who considered Penny her best friend. The longer Sheldon and Amy dated, the closer they became, the more Penny hurt. She kept it to herself though. She refused to let either of them see how much she hated seeing them together. Howard saw it though. Maybe because he spent so much time watching her, his habit of woman watching granting him the ability to recognize the dynamic playing out. It also showed him that Penny was slowly and methodically withdrawing from their circle.
It started with her picking up more evening shifts, so she had an excuse not to come over. She took up yoga and dance classes on the weekends, giving herself more time away from the building. And when Amy was over, she sat across the room from them. Her spot had always been beside Sheldon, ever since the first day. Occasionally she had sat on the armchair on Sheldon's other side, but only if she was irritated with him for his pick up lines. Now she sat on the wooden chair on the other side of the armchair. Not that she was there very often anymore.
One month she missed a night of Halo and Thai night. The next month, she missed Halo twice and a Vintage Video Game night. Last month, she had only played once. The day they all found out Sheldon had initiated a kiss with Amy for the first time, Penny left before the meal was even over, claiming nausea due to a bad taco. That was the first night he sent her a text.
She had initially denied his theory. But over the course of a week long texting session, she had broken down and admitted it. That was two months ago. Now they regularly "spoke" every night via texts and chatting online. They didn't always speak of her feelings for Sheldon, either. They would chat about their day, or a movie. They discovered they actually had a few things in common. They both liked musicals (their favorite was Grease). They liked go-carts, and he finally had someone who would watch action movies with him! Raj, Leonard and Sheldon weren't that into movies with lots of guns, knives and fighting. The day Sheldon, Amy, Leonard, Raj and Raj's girlfriend, Bernadette, went to Disneyland, he was home sick. Penny brought his mom a cheesecake, and then knocked on his door with the Die Hard quadrilogy. They spent the day watching John McClain single-handedly stop several terrorist groups.
Then came the day Sheldon and Amy celebrated their first anniversary. Sheldon, oblivious as he was, had asked Penny to help him select a gift. Penny, because she loved him and really wanted him to be happy, agreed. She drove him around and helped him select a DVD boxset of Downtown Abbey and a pretty tea set he and Amy could use when they spent time together. Afterwards he had shown up with ice cream, knowing she would be down in the dumps. He and Penny were both shocked when he suddenly blurted out "I wish this was a movie, so we knew there would be a happy ending." She was shocked he was a closet romantic, since he usually only showed his horny Jewish side.
It was strange trying to talk to Penny as a friend at first, but they found a groove that worked. She didn't even mind much if he slipped up and hit on her. Their new closeness made it easy for her to see past the pervert to the emotionally scarred, lonely guy inside.