A/N: I apologize in advance. I have no idea what came over me. Also, I have no idea how to "text speak." It physically hurt to type Penny's texts. Lol.

Canonverse, for what it's worth. I tried to keep it as in-character as possible. Tricky, but I think I did well right up until the ending. *shrug* You'll get over it.

I hereby dedicate this to Risknight, Tribeca, Jislane, and SpaceAnJL, without whom I probably would've lost confidence in myself a long time ago. Thanks guys! You're the best!


*Knock knock knock* "Penny."

*Knock knock knock* "Penny."

*Knock knock knock* "Penny."

"Come in!" was yelled from behind the door. Sheldon opened the door and saw Penny making breakfast, which was odd because it was 6:00pm, not 6:00am.

"Penny, why are you making breakfast at six in the evening?" Sheldon asked.

Penny grinned. "Because I don't have anything else in the fridge, I'm hungry, and I'm not going grocery shopping til tomorrow." She flipped an egg and pushed the bread down to toast then stepped toward Sheldon. "Whatcha need, Moonpie?"

Sheldon looked a little nervous, so she knew something was up. What came out of his mouth surprised her, though. Instead of admonishing her on her use of 'Moonpie' he said, "There's a banquet Friday evening for celebrated individuals at CalTech and I have been invited and instructed to bring a quote unquote 'plus one.' President Seibert informed me that said 'plus one' must be a 'date,' and Amy, who is busy Friday, suggested I ask someone else. I would rather not go, but Amy insisted it would be good for me." He used air quotes and spoke very quickly. "I'm asking you because I am not comfortable with any other female."

Penny was flattered by his last statement, and her heart warmed a little. But as her toast popped up a thought struck her.

She slid her eggs onto a plate and asked, "Sheldon, if this is a CalTech thing, won't Leonard be going?" She felt little uncomfortable with rejecting him. He was being really sweet - for Sheldon. He answered her question a little condescendingly, but then again, it was Sheldon.

"Penny, this banquet is for celebrated individuals," he said smugly. "Leonard was not invited."

She thought about that for a moment. She knew this was going to be a fancy thing, and she'd love to go, if only for an excuse to wear her new dress, but she was worried about Leonard. How would he feel about her going to a fancy work banquet that he wasn't invited to, with his best friend?

"It's Monday now, Sheldon, can I have a day to think about it?"

Sheldon thought for a second - literally, about a second, three tops - and nodded. "I suppose I can put off planning further for one more day." Then he returned to his own apartment.

Penny gave the matter much thought while she ate her breakfast-for-dinner. The more she thought about it the more she wanted to go, and the more she knew Leonard wouldn't want her to.

She popped in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part1, then part 2, to pass the time. She'd seen them a hundred times but they never got old and she cried every time.

Sniffing back her tears, she put the DVD away. I'll sleep on it and decide tomorrow, she thought. With that she undressed and took a long, hot, relaxing bath, making sure to use the coconut shampoo. Whether it was to mollify Leonard (who liked the coconut) or rile up Sheldon (who actually voiced his discontent) or both, she didn't know. But half an hour later the water was turning cold and was no longer relaxing so Penny got out and found her fluffiest towel (courtesy of Sheldon's fabric softener, which she stole while he wasn't looking) and actually found her old pair of flannel pajama pants. Hopefully no one would try to visit her tonight; flannel wasn't something she was exactly proud of, but they were warm and comfy and exactly what she needed right then. She set her alarm for noon just in case and drifted off.

~*DD*~*DD*~*DD*~

When she awoke the next day she decided to ask Leonard what he thought of the situation. She knew he'd be at lunch now, meaning she wouldn't be interrupting anything important, so she fired off a text.

Hey. So Sheldon asked me to that dinner thing on fri. U ok w/ me goin? Or shld I turn him down? He said Amy was busy n told him to ask sum1 else n he said I was the only other person he trusted. Idk wut 2 do.

Leonard read the text and looked at Sheldon, confused and just a tiny bit angry. "You asked Penny to the banquet?"

Sheldon, whom Leonard had interrupted, scowled. "It's rude to interrupt when one is trying to educate others on the correct canon of the Marvel universe. And yes, I asked Penny. Amy suggested I go, but can't attend, herself. She posited that I invite someone else, and Penny is the only other woman I know that is neither related to me nor married." He saw Leslie Winkle walk by, for once not stopping to insult him, and amended. "Or Leslie Winkle."

Leonard saw the logic in this, but was still a little apprehensive. He was always cautious of losing his girlfriend. A thought occured to him then.

"What about Alex?" he asked. For his trouble he received a glare.

"Really, Leonard. How appropriate would it be for an employer to bring his employee as a date to a banquet?" Sheldon scoffed.

"Well it would be more appropriate than bringing your best friend's girlfriend," Leonard mumbled. Sheldon had a point, even if no one else would've thought twice about it.

Hey Penny. Yeah, I got the details from him. If you wanna go I guess it's alright. Just promise you won't fall in love with anyone else. Lol.

He added 'lol' so she wouldn't think he was serious. Except he kind of was.

Thx! xoxo

'Yeah, that's reassuring,' Leonard thought.

~*DD*~*DD*~*DD*~

The boys came in for their Tuesday dinner right on time.

"The usual, then?" Penny asked, already writing everything down.

Everyone nodded except Sheldon, who retorted with, "If by 'usual' you mean a barbecue bacon cheeseburger with barbecue sauce, bacon, and cheese on the side and a glass of lemonade with three ice cubes, then yes. I'll have 'the usual.'" The only thing keeping Penny from smacking him with his own menu was the gleam in his eye and the twitching of the corner of his mouth. She knew he was hiding a smirk.

"Don't back-sass the Queen, Sheldor," she deadpanned, bumping him with her hip. She expected him to go bat-shit, but nothing happened. Raj was giving them a strange look, but without alcohol he couldn't express his thoughts with Penny around. Howard and Leonard seemed engrossed in their menus and didn't even notice. Truthfully they were purposely ignoring the situation. They took the verbal sparring in stride, not bothering to even acknowledge it anymore. It was a fact. Penny and Sheldon traded barbs. They'd learned to live with it.

Leonard finally looked back up and handed her his menu, Howard doing the same across from him. "Yeah, we'll just have our regular."

"Alrighty then," Penny said. "I'll be right back with your drinks."

"Dude, what was that?" Raj asked when she'd gone.

"What was what?" Sheldon busied himself with his napkin, refusing to make eye contact.

"That gleam in your eye when she bumped you," he elaborated. "And don't think I missed that almost-smirk. Please don't tell me you're starting another prank war, I don't think we can take it."

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Raj. I have no plans of another prank war with Penny. She was merely taking our meal orders, as she does every Tuesday night." He was still deliberately keeping his eyes down, and was saved when Penny came back with their drinks.

~*DD*~*DD*~*DD*~

After her shift, Penny changed into her lounge clothes and texted Sheldon to come over and to not bother knocking.

She could hear his door shut and she could tell he hesitated before opening her door, possibly uncomfortable with the break in routine, possibly uncomfortable with simply walking into a home that was not his, or both. When he did enter it was clear he had shored up his confidence once more.

"You asked for me?" he said, shutting the door behind him.

Penny got up from the couch and walked toward her bedroom. "Yes. I want your opinion on something, since it affects you, too." When he didn't follow she poked her head out the door and beckoned.

"Now," she opened her closet door. "I've got a few options, but only two that I think are really appropriate." She held up her long green dress and a slightly shorter white one. She was more inclined to the green one for a CalTech banquet, but the white was also cute, and she hadn't had a chance to wear it yet. It was Sheldon's decision at this point.

Sheldon's eyes slid right past the green one and onto the white one. He couldn't explain why, but that had to be the dress. It was just...the dress. His heart rate increased the more he stared at it, picturing her in it. She'd be divine, the goddess Aphrodite herself.

"The white one," he said after a moment.

"Are you sure? I thought the green one would've been more appropriate." She held them both in front of her, and then looked at the fronts, giving Sheldon a view of the backs - or lackthereof, in the case of the white dress. That was the final nail in the coffin for him. He had to see her in that white dress.

"Definitely."

Penny thought she detected a bit of desire in his voice, but shook it off. It couldn't have been. He's got Amy and she has Leonard. There was absolutely no attraction between Sheldon and Penny. There couldn't be. Nope. Nothing.

The rest of the week passed by normally. Wednesday saw Sheldon and Howard battling over Penny, with Sheldon winning rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock ("He didn't explain the rules clearly enough! How do scissors decapitate a lizard anyway? The lizard would just run away!"). Anything Can Happen Thursday was made Friday's Chinese and Vintage Video Game night because Sheldon and Penny would be at the banquet (and they all knew that while Sheldon was gone they'd go whatever they wanted, so it didn't matter to them).

Friday came and Penny was ready right on time. Her single-strap white dress clung elegantly and her hair was twisted and pinned and not a one was out of place.

She thought she was prepared for the sight of Sheldon in a suit, but she was sorely mistaken. She opened her door after his customary knocks and actually stumbled a bit in her heels. He had gotten a new suit after he lost his pants. He'd found them, but since he didn't know what happened to them between him taking them off and Leonard finding them, he trashed them and bought an entirely new suit, complete with vest. Charcoal gray, lighter gray vest, and a white shirt with a white tie. Penny's eyes almost leaped out of her skull. Sheldon's blue eyes sparkled, and she wasn't blind to the look in them. He was looking at her the way Leonard would. The way she was looking at him right now.

"Wow," they breathed simultaneously, neither blinking. A noise upstairs broke the moment and Penny shook her head. "I'll just grab my purse."

Penny drove, after assuring Sheldon that she'd had her engine checked. In reality, she'd placed electrical tape over the check engine light to shut him up. She still hadn't saved up enough money to fix her car and pay her bills and eat. They arrived a few minutes late according to Sheldon, but people were still being seated so Penny didn't think it mattered.

"Dr. Cooper plus one."

They were seated in the front, right by the podium. President Siebert stood behind it, waiting for everyone to be seated.

"Welcome, honored guests and friends, to the California Institue of Technology banquet. We're here tonight to recognize the contributions our employees have made to science. Now, I'm sure you don't want to hear me talk any more than necessary, so I'll just introduce them so we can eat. Honorees, if you could please stand when your name is called."

An hour later everyone had made their thank-you speeches (Sheldon had been able to give his, as there weren't a lot of people attending) and their food had arrived. The podium had been removed and behind was a modest dance floor. A cello quartet sat in a corner (among them Leslie Winkle, who hadn't been invited either, but not Leonard, as he had declined. He didn't feel like playing at a banquet of which he wasn't a guest). They started with Pachelbel's Canon while the guests ate.

Sheldon and Penny were seated alone. Everyone knew Dr. Cooper didn't do 'banal chit-chat' and seeing as that's all that would be discussed during dinner President Siebert had planned for it and sat him and his 'plus one' at a table alone. Sheldon and Penny were grateful for his foresight.

"From what I've seen everyone here is old and stuffy and somehow married," Penny noted. "How did they manage that when I can't even sustain a healthy relationship?" She popped a green bean in her mouth and chewed, looking a bit put-out.

Sheldon looked at her slouching form and contemplated her relationship with his roommate. He didn't have an answer for her that didn't sound rude, even to him, so he wisely kept his mouth shut. When she had finished eating the song had changed once again. Sheldon had paid the quartet (Winkle double to shut her up) to play a particular song he had arranged for four cellos. It wasn't quite the same, but still beautiful. Penny looked bored already. Sheldon held his hand out to her and stood.

"Care to dance, Penny?"

Penny looked up at him, confused, and said, "You don't dance, Sheldon."

"Consider this the one reality in which I do."

Penny smiled and took his hand, something she thought she'd never be allowed to do. She happened to glance at President Siebert, sitting next to some professor (Eric something or other. She was never good with last names). They were both staring at Sheldon and Penny. Sheldon payed them no heed, or anyone else, for that matter, except Penny. It was disconcerting the degree of focus she garnered from him. All of a sudden she was pulled toward him and she was his marker dancing out a complicated equation on his white board. The music was the basic formula but Sheldon directed them as variables and integers and created a completely new equation, much more complicated to them than 1+1, and yet much simpler to those watching.

"The Wedding of River Song," Sheldon murmured after a minute of dancing silently. "I arranged it for four cellos and payed them to play it. It's from the Doctor Who soundtrack. Beautiful, isn't it?"

"It is, Sheldon," Penny smiled. "I'd like to hear the full version. I'd imagine it'd be way prettier with more than four instruments."

"It is," he smiled back fondly. Music was always a comfort to him. "I'll play it for you when we return home."

"I'd like that."

He continued to twirl her around the dance floor, avoiding the few couples who decided to follow their example. He thought of the similarities between Penny and River Song. Penny couldn't compete with River intellectually, but in almost every other aspect they were similar. River was very outgoing, as was Penny. They were both 'big ol' fives' if "I'm a screamer" was any indication, both going after whatever they set their minds to.

He didn't fail to see the other connection between them either. River and the Doctor always met in the wrong order, while Penny and Sheldon always met at the wrong times. Either she was with Leonard, he wasn't ready, or he was with Amy. At least River and the Doctor knew their feelings were reciprocated. Sheldon had been attracted to Penny since he laid eyes on her, but Penny's feelings were never clear. And now they were both unavailable.

And yet they were attending a banquet together, and he was dancing with her, and her head now lay on his chest. He rested his chin on her head and sighed. He hadn't asked her out all that time ago as a way to make Amy jealous. Amy had gone on a date with Stuart and Sheldon had thought he finally found a window of opportunity. Apparently Penny thought differently. So Sheldon dated Amy while he waited for Penny to be ready and they missed again when she and Leonard got back together. He stayed with Amy now because it was easy.

The song ended and they stepped away from each other. Sheldon bowed politely and Penny curtsied, following his example. They returned to their table and had a glass of champagne each.

"One glass shouldn't hurt," Sheldon said. "As long as we both drink water for the remainder of the night. You especially, since you're driving."

"To friends," Penny toasted.

"Best friends," Sheldon added, then sipped.

Penny faultered for half a moment, then sipped as well. Best friends? Well, I suppose we would be. We rely on each other for so much, emotionally and otherwise. I guess he is my best friend. She smiled. Even though we haven't spent much time together the last few months he's my best friend. Separation happens. He has a girlfriend, I have a boyfriend. It's only logical that we'd spend time apart. I just wish we spent more time together.

"I'm glad you asked me to come, Sheldon. I miss spending time with you."

Sheldon looked her in the eye with his piercing blues. "I do too, Penny. I do too." He held her gaze for a moment more, then took another sip of champagne.

"Sheldon-"

"Penny-"

Sheldon motioned for her to precede him.

"Sheldon, are you...happy with Amy?"

He deliberated a moment, wondering if he was truly understanding what she was asking. He worded his response carefully.

"I am not unhappy. Amy is intellectually stimulating, but becoming more and more hormone-driven. I am content with our relationship as it is, but she seems to want...more."

Penny nodded. Amy talked of nothing else lately. She wanted in Sheldon's pants and nothing could stop her "five year plan."

"Are you happy with Leonard?"

Penny sighed. "Sometimes."

Sheldon's silence prompted her to elaborate.

She drew a deep breath and explained. "Sometimes I'm perfectly happy to be with Leonard. We were in his lab one day. He showed me this...hologram thingy. It looked like something straight out of Ironman. The way he was describing the things shown...it was sweet, and beautiful, and perfect." She took a moderate drink and resumed. "And then there are the times when all he wants to do is talk about him." Sheldon nodded, knowing all too well just how selfish Leonard could be. "He tries to...mollify me, butter me up with things I like and then just dives right in with things I don't wanna talk about. And it's always at the worst of times, like when I'm dead tired after work and just wanna relax. It's aggravating."

Sheldon thought that might mean she was unhappy, but he asked just to be sure. "Which occurs more often?"

She remained silent, and he knew what that meant. Despite not being profficient at reading social situations, he was profficient at reading Penny. They may have their moments of happiness, but overall they were unhappy with their respective partners. But there was nothing either of them could do without upsetting the delicate balance within their social circle, and neither were ready to rock the boat, so to speak.

"Much like River Song and the Doctor meeting at different points in their respective time lines, we keep meeting at the wrong moments as well." At Penny's furrowed brow, he elaborated. "Circumstances have never been right for us, have they? When we met, Leonard called dibs, so I backed off. When you two broke up, I wasn't ready for...someone else in my life. Then time passed and Amy came. Now neither of us are available, but we're together here. And only here, I think." He turned back to her and ran a finger down her cheek. "Now is not our time. But maybe someday." He saw the agreement in her eyes and in her smile, and smiled back at her. Someday. He knew it now. Someday they would have their moment.

In the meantime, they would enjoy this night of dancing and ignore the incredulous looks of his colleagues.

~*DD*~*DD*~*DD*~

The banquet had started at 7pm, and Sheldon had told them they'd be there a minimum of two hours, so when Amy came over at 10 and they still weren't home she was a little worried. Leonard was home, though, and told her that if anything had happened Penny or Sheldon would've let him know.

"You can wait here for them if you'd like," Leonard offered. "I was just gonna have a glass of wine and read a book, but we could put on a movie. Have you watched the series Firefly?"

"I have seen a few episodes, but I find it lacks something. I have yet to put my finger on what."

"Well there goes Serenity. Have you seen the new Marvel movies? The Avengers?"

"I've seen Captain America. I was always interested in World War II and Penny assured me that Chris Evans was a beautiful hunk of man meat."

"Ok, then," Leonard tried to ignore that last part. "How about Thor? Part of the Avengers and you haven't seen it."

"Norse mythology mixed with the heroism of comic books," she nodded and sat down on the middle couch cushion. "Why not?"

Leonard thought she was kind of cute when she smiled.

~*DD*~*DD*~*DD*~

Sheldon and Penny walked up the stairs arm in arm. Mostly to keep Sheldon from tripping over his own feet. He had had two glasses of champagne to her one, against his own rule. Neither cared. He was pleasantly buzzed, but four flights of stairs could be tricky and Penny didn't want an accident. They had had fun. The night should end well.

When they reached the fourth floor Sheldon told her she was beautiful. She wanted to kiss him, but heard the unmistakable sound of Thor and Loki yelling behind the door. Leonard's still up, probably waiting for us. She opened the door.

"Hey guys," Penny greeted. When she saw Amy on the couch she unhooked her arm from Sheldon's and moved her hand to the middle of his back. "He's a little buzzed. I just wanted to make sure he didn't trip over his own feet."

Sheldon grinned down at her from the step of the hallway. "Thank you Penny for a wonderful night. I'm feeling sleepy now."

She swiped the hair out of his eyes and said, "You can show me that song tomorrow. Go to bed, sweetie."

The sounds of Thor and Loki fighting in the background were ignored as Amy and Leonard watched Penny lead Sheldon to his bedroom. Leonard sighed in relief when a few moments later Penny returned, holding her shoes and yawning.

"I'm going to bed, too," she said, kissing Leonard on the cheek. "Goodnight, Leonard. It was nice seeing you, Amy. I'll call you tomorrow."

When Sheldon woke up for his Saturday cerial and Doctor Who he noticed a kiss on his forehead and was glad he woke up before Leonard.