This story is definitely not canon, nor are Sheldon and Penny the same people from the show. So, before you start reading and then get upset, let me explain a few things so you can decide if you want to continue. Sheldon is not neurotic in this universe, although he still has one or two little quirks. Penny, well, she has a few quirks of her own, but she earned them the hard way. Sheldon is more or less a normal guy. Don't get me wrong, he's still got his genius IQ, but he's better able to interact with the world around him. Seriously, this is REALLY OOC. This is a Sheldon and Penny who met in Germany in their teens.

I do not own The Big Bang Theory, or it's characters.

October 1996

Sheldon wrapped his scarf around his neck more securely. The wind was chilly, blowing the snow around in swirls. He looked around carefully, trying to decide which way to go. He was slowly exploring Hamburg when he had the time. He was 16 and on his own as a guest lecturer in the field of physics. When the chancellor had asked, he had jumped at the chance. Anything that got him out of Texas was a good thing. So, for the past 8 months he had been lecturing, working on his theories and walking around the city.

Sheldon had an IQ of 187. He was a child prodigy in the sciences. He had respect, admiration, and even some jealousy from his peers. He also had more money than he knew what to do with, thanks to the very hefty lecturing fees he was being paid. And because of all that, he had freedom to do as he saw fit.

A group of kids went running by heading up the street. An exchange group if he remembered correctly (and he did). He could tell by the badges on their coats. They were being housed in the college dormitory for their two week stay. He turned and walked down the street away from them. He was just glancing at a cathedral when he saw one of the kids slip inside. He looked around but didn't see a chaperone, or other students. Was the kid stealing?

Sheldon walked across the road and looked inside. He couldn't see the kid, so he entered the vestibule. He looked around some more and was about to leave when he heard a soft sound. He frowned and followed the noise. It was coming from the confessional. It sounded like crying. Sheldon opened the other door and stepped inside. He had barely closed the door when she began talking.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Umm, I've never done this before, so please don't get angry if I do it wrong," she whispered. Her voice held a tone that even Sheldon could recognize as a plea. "Father, I don't want to go back home on Saturday. Please? Can't God do something? Do I have to go back to her?"

Sheldon heard her sob brokenly and he felt the urge to comfort her.

"I hate her," she mumbled. "Almost as much as she hates me. What do I do? I know what will happen as soon as I get home. She'll find a reason to hit me again. Or lock me in the shed again. Please, sir! Could you ask God to help me? I try to pray but I don't think he hears me," she confessed timidly. "Is mommy right? Does he not hear me because I'm wrong inside? Am I bad?"

Sheldon's eyes squeezed shut tightly. He steadied his voice, trying to sound soothing. "What is your name?"

"Penelope," she said softly.

"No, Penelope. You are not wrong or bad. No one deserves to be abused. I'll tell you a secret. I was abused too. My father is an alcoholic. He used to beat me." He could hear her sniffling and he bit his lip to keep from telling her everything was going to be okay. He knew empty platitudes would only hurt her.

"What do I do?" she begged.

"You stay strong," he replied. "You refuse to give up. Focus your mind and will on something you love, Penelope. Be the very best you can at it. Do not allow the pain and misery of someone's hate to pollute you." For several minutes there was no sound, but her gentle breathing.

"Thank you, Father," she whispered. "I wish I had you to help me in Omaha, too." Then he heard the door open and she was gone.

Sheldon sat there for a couple of minutes, allowing her time to leave unseen. He stepped out of the confessional and made his way to the doors. Snow was no longer falling, but it was chilly still. He wondered if she would be okay as he followed the same path she had taken back to the university.

December 1996

Mrs. Slater walked into the classroom and whispered into Mr. Gabe's ear. He nodded and looked toward the back of the room. "Penny Queen? You're wanted in the principle's office. Gather your things and follow Mrs. Slater, please."

Penny blushed with mortification as the rest of the 7th graders snickered and stared at her. She threw her books into her backpack and hurried from the class. Stepping into the principle's office was scary. Even more so when she saw her parents and Papaw there. There was a strange man behind the desk beside Principle Carlson.

"Come in, Penny. Don't worry, you aren't in any trouble," Mr. Carlson said. Penny stood beside her Papaw and bit the inside of her mouth.

Mr. Carlson cleared his throat. "This is Mr. Bruce Finley. He is an attorney and he has some interesting news for all of you."

Mr. Finley opened his briefcase and pulled out a paper. "I'll begin by reading you a letter," he said.

To the parents or guardians of Penelope Queen,

I had the great honor of briefly meeting Penelope during her stay in Hamburg, Germany. Out of all the children I met, she stood out the most. She is bright, eager to learn and polite. She displayed great appreciation for the city and it's people.

There is a fund that provides educational opportunities to children. It provides tuition, board, travel expenses and a small allowance to it's beneficiaries. It would be a great honor if you would allow us to enter Penelope into this program.

She would have a choice of 6 different schools. Two are in France, two in England, one in Italy and one in New York. All six are very well respected in the academic world, and are exclusively girl's schools. Penelope has great potential. It is our hope that she learns to develop and use it.

Mr. Finley set six brochures on the desk, along with two separate folders. "The author wishes to remain anonymous. He is a member of the governing board for the program. These booklets will give you an idea of what each school is like. The blue folder is the contract for the program. The yellow folder is a detailed description of what the program provides, if you chose to accept."

"I get to go away to school?" Penny asked with awe.

A sharp noise of derision made Penny cringe slightly. She glanced over for a brief second. Her dad looked stunned, but it was her mom's expression that made her wish she hadn't spoken. Penny inched closer to her Papaw instinctively.

Penny's dad reached over and looked at the contract. "It's a great opportunity for Penny, Julie."

Penny's mom laughed loudly. "Wyatt, what does she need that for? Is a boarding school going to teach her how to milk a cow, or shuck beans? No. So why bother?"

Penny bit the inside of her mouth harder to keep silent.

"She's going."

Everyone looked over at Papaw with surprise. He turned and looked at his daughter and son-in-law. "She wants to go. She should be allowed to take this chance," he said calmly.

"She's not your kid, Dad!" Julie growled.

Wyatt stared at Penny for a moment. "She's not yours either," he said softly. He ignored the gasp from his wife and watched Penny. "This is your call, slugger. What do you want?"

Penny looked around the room fearfully. She felt Papaw squeeze her hand gently. Finally she looked at her dad. "I want to go to England."