A/N: A one-shot to fill the time between writing chapters of my multi-fic, Just Like Sheldon. If you enjoy this then please don't hesitate to explore that story in progress.
To Nurture a Penny Blossom
He heard her crying as soon as he entered the apartment. He had knocked his usual and obsessive three knock succession and at no answer he took a chance and twisted the doorknob, relieved for once that she was so careless as to keep it unlocked.
He heard the faint whimpers and broken sobs emanating from her bedroom, fear and uncertainty gripping his body immediately. He could barely manage his own emotions, how were he to try and manage hers?
But she was his neighbour and one of his closest friend for years now, and it was Penny and a girl that he truly cared for in the only way that he knew how. He made the short trek to her room and was proud for only hesitating about ten seconds before turning the handle and entering her sanctuary. The lights were off and the room dark, the moonlight casting faint shadows across the room, and it took him a moment to locate the girl he was looking for. She was curled in the centre of her bed on her side facing away from him, her body jerking with each great heave that produced a heart wrenching sob. She obviously didn't know he was there, which made it even more awkward for him. He thrived on reactions and needed them to communicate; it was so much easier for him to react to other peoples actions than to create his own and make the first move in social situations. Actions and reactions - like physics, he'd say.
He contemplated singing Soft Kitty, knowing that it would help him if he were ever feeling that low, but then decided against it. For some reason he did not understand she had an aversion to the song, although loyally always sung upon request when ever he asked. Penny relied on physical interactions, he had observed over the years, and always walked away with a smile after receiving a hug or affectionate gesture from somebody. For all the times she had sung him Soft Kitty, he was going to try it her way.
He crossed the short distance to her bed and hesitantly perched on the edge. She swung her head around as she obviously felt the extra weight, and he swore his heart broke a little at the sight of her mascara-stained cheeks and bloodshot eyes. She was silent as she took in the sight of him there, and he could faintly see a hint of relief in her wet eyes. He swung his legs onto the bed and rigidly lay down until he was next to her, flat on his back and staring at the ceiling.
"Sheldon," she croaked. "Go away. You don't have to be here for this."
"On the contrary, I believe I do. I am your friend, Penny. I have seen too many television and movie programs to know that friends comfort each other in a time of need."
She sobbed louder at that and furrowed deeper into her bed. "There, there." He said softly, reaching over and patting her gently on her arm. Her sobs ceased and she twisted her head over her shoulder, her tear trained cheeks and bloodshot eyes contradicting so strikingly bright with Sheldon's usual perception of her - bright, bubbly and just so alive. Just so something that was distinctly Penny.
Her lips wobbled and eyes welled again as she took in his concerned and tender expression, and before her courage could run away like the cowardly lion, she rolled over and dug her face into the crook of his neck, pulling her body so it was flush against the side of his and wrapping her arms around his middle. The sobs began to fill the room once more as Sheldon froze, wondering how to continue with a crying woman, let alone a crying woman that was touching him.
She clutched him tighter, so tight his breath was taken from him for a second, before placing one arm around her shoulders, barely touching her exposed skin.
"I'm such a failure," she cried. Sheldon felt the hot tears soak the skin of his neck, but tried to ignore the sensations and instead focus on maintaining his tentative rubbing on her back.
"Look at me," she continued. "My life is a mess! I'm still stuck in a dead end job, I haven't had an audition in months and all my relationships have failed! My Mom's right, I'm such a disappointment."
"Is this what this is all about? Your mother?" Sheldon asked.
"She called earlier today," Penny confirmed. "She never supported my decision to move here but she's never been so vocal about it. My brother's getting his life back on track and he's got a new job and met a girl. I guess that prompted her to remember she had another daughter who is now her biggest disappointment."
He didn't miss the bitter tone she used, and decided that her voice sounded much better when it was filled with laughter and smiles.
"You're not a disappointment," he murmured quietly, and with no hint of insincerity. If there was one thing Sheldon Cooper couldn't do, it was tell a convincing lie.
"Oh, yeah?" She scoffed. "Try telling that to my Mom."
His soothing touch became firmer on her skin, and her tears had turned into little puffs of air that hit his neck and caused a delightful domino effect of goosebumps to travel down his body.
"You have to believe me," he said. "I have an I.Q. of 187 and have an instilled fear of lying passed down from my own mother who said God will strike me with a lightening bolt if I ever dared to fib. I am nothing if not brutally honest."
She gave a weak laugh. "Trust me, I know you are. It's one of the things I like most about you."
His lips quirked into a small smile and he asked almost shyly,"Would you like to know what I like about you?"
He felt her nod against his chest and only then did he become aware of her fingers haphazardly doodling random patterns on the material of his robe.
"You light up a room when you walk in, Penny. Your smile is warm and friendly, and you can make conversation with practically any one - even three socially awkward, self-confessed nerds and one selectively mute Indian man. Even after no luck with achieving your acting dreams in the time frame you first wanted, you have persisted and show no intentions of quitting any time soon. You try to make others happy and are always aware of others feelings. But most importantly, you sing me Soft Kitty when I'm sick, you don't sit in my spot and make Meemaws spaghetti recipe with the little cut up hot dogs."
He turned his head at her silence, her face painted with a watery smile and welling eyes.
"So contrary to your mothers beliefs, Penny, you are not a disappointment by any means. A little off balance and unstructured but... you embody the true essence of a penny blossom."
Tears were once again cascading down her cheeks, but this time they were accompanied by a beaming smile.
"Oh, no," he said, alarmed. "Did I say something to upset you?"
"No, sweetie," she laughed. "These are happy tears."
"Oh," he said, evidently relieved.
"That was the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me, Sheldon. In my whole life." She said firmly.
"Yes, well." He was flustered, his cheeks tinged with red and he couldn't find the ability to look her in the eyes any more. "You were in distress, you deserved to hear it."
"Still," she said, moving almost imperceptibly closer to his body. "Doesn't make it any less sweet of you."
"Penny," he whined. "Please stop calling me sweet. It's ruining my reputation."
She giggled lightly and he smiled instantly at the tinkling sound. Without thinking she leaned and planted a swift kiss on his cheek, pulling away to gauge his reaction. Any other day Sheldon knew he would of acted outraged and lectured her on germs and baccteria and his personal space. But something so intimate had been shared between them tonight that those things could wait until tomorrow. Instead he smiled and she smiled back and then they both lay back down fully, finding the rhythm of each others heartbeats and succumbing to the melodic beat They lay together still in a tight embrace for many moments, both content and relaxed in the others company, letting the calm atmosphere wash over them.
"Sheldon," Penny said drowsily, her voice muffled from the imminent sleep that moments from overcoming her and from her position on his chest.
"You can leave if you want," she yawned. "I'd hate to interrupt your routine even more than I already have."
The quiet hum was the last sound made between the two as they drifted off in each other's arms.
Leonard arrived home to an empty apartment 4A, which was both strange and unusual since his roommate stuck to a strict schedule that indicated he should be home at this time and playing video games while his friends visited night clubs and bars to meet women.
He called Sheldon's cell, but hung up when the tell-tale sound of his ringtone filled the living room and he saw his best friend's phone vibrating on the coffee table.
It was too late for Sheldon to venture out, so the only other option must be that he was at Penny's apartment. The light was still on underneath the door, indicating she must be awake despite the late hour, so he didn't bother texting or calling. He knocked on her door but received no response, prompting him to check if her door was locked. Luckily for him, it swung open without a hitch.
The apartment was silent but showed signs of a functioning person - plates and cutlery were in the kitchen, the television was on but set to mute and a glass of half drunken wine was sitting on her table next to her cell phone. He slowly walked down her hall, feeling like he was very much trespassing, to find the only door closed in the whole place to be her bedroom and the light off.
Dangerous territory, he thought, I shouldn't go in there. But then where else could Sheldon be? And Penny for that matter? He opened the door as quietly as he could, grateful that her door didn't even emit a single squeak, and peaked into the room.
It would be easy to become angry, he thought. It would be really easy to storm in and turn on the lights, yell at his ex-girlfriend and his best friend for being so intimately entwined on her bed together until his face turned blue and then storm out screaming he didn't want to see either of them again.
But he never was one for the dramatics like his roommate was. He didn't know how to cause a scene, so used to blending into the background, that he didn't think he could even muster a sufficient enraged yell. He wasn't even sure if what he was feeling was rage, after all. It was more of a sort of numbness - completely numb at the fact that his ex-girlfriend and the girl he still loved looked so peaceful and happy in the arms of a man who didn't like to be touched. He was numb as he observed the small, serene smile on his best friends face, his arms so tightly around the blonde and face so completely nuzzled into her familiar hair, their legs entwined in an embrace that looked so natural yet so out of place at the same time.
All he could feel was numb and it was that emotion that caused him to turn around and close the door gently, leaving the couple to a quiet and fulfilling sleep together.
He walked back to his apartment in a daze, the numbness bleeding away with every step he took propelling him further and further from the scene. Each step introduced betrayal, guilt, regret, anger and sadness. By the time he made it back to the solitude of his bedroom, though, only one emotion plagued him; hope. Hope not for him and Penny to reunite, but hope for Sheldon to realise exactly what he was holding in his arms tonight and never make the mistake of letting her go.