Sheldon had a headache; no, not a headache, because that would be far too simple for a world-class genius such as himself. He had a migraine and right now, vomiting seemed like a good idea, so he dragged himself out of his bed and made his way to the bathroom.
Leonard was in the kitchen and from the sounds he could hear, cooking breakfast. The smells triggered an even greater nausea response and he kneeled before the toilet, cursing the chemoreceptors as he hurled his stomach contents into the bowl.
He heard Howard and Raj's voices outside in the living room. He realized that they had arrived for their planned outing to the paintball venue. He dragged himself from in front of the toilet and shuffled into the living room, his arm over his eyes to shade them from the light.
"Good morning, gentlemen. I am afraid that I will not be joining you for our outing today."
Howard grinned. "Hangover, Sheldon?"
Sheldon just looked at him. "Very humorous, Howard, no, I have a migraine."
He was amazed to see them moving at double speed, dressing and grabbing at their equipment like the house was on fire. He went to the medicine shelf and turned back to face them, quite upset. "We are out of Aleve."
Leonard turned to look at him. "What do you want me to do about it?" he asked, hoping for an out.
Howard, of all people, provided it for him. "Hey, Sheldon, Bernadette gave me a prototype painkiller that is non-addictive and much easier on the liver and kidneys."
"A prototype? You want me to chance side effects because your wife can get you free untested drugs?"
"It's a pill for your headache, Sheldon, not LSD. Take it, for God's sake. It couldn't hurt." Leonard looked at his roommate, exasperated already. Good thing they were leaving for the day, otherwise he might actually have to kill Sheldon. "Bernadette wouldn't chance Howard getting hurt by something she gave him. If he can take it, it must be safe enough for you to take."
"Good point, Leonard. All right, give me your illicit drugs, Howard." Sheldon held out his hand and Howard dropped two pills into his palm. Sheldon tossed them into his mouth, chasing them with tepid water from the tap, and missed Howard's slightly evil smile.
Leonard didn't, though. They closed the curtains in the apartment, made Sheldon comfortable on the couch, and left for paintball. On the way down the stairs, he turned to Howard. "Okay, I saw that smile. What gives?"
"Oh, let's just say that one of those pills was an excellent migraine remedy."
Leonard paused on the landing between the first and second floor. "What was the other pill?"
Howard gave him a patented smarmy look. "Let's just say that it will give Sheldon a whole new perspective when we talk about our drive to find partners for coitus." He made a lip-zipping motion and continued down the stairs and out to Leonard's car. Leonard looked up the stairs, then back to the front door of the building. Oh, well. Sheldon was a big boy and he needed to learn to take care of himself.
Penny was off this weekend, something that pleased her greatly. She only got one weekend off a month; such was the life of a waitress slash actress. Although the tips were great on the weekends, she would rather spend her Saturdays with the guys. There was always something interesting going on across the hall.
She showered as soon as she got out of bed, not willing to waste a moment of her day, then dressed in a pair of shorts and a strappy little top with a built in bra. She slipped on a pair of flip-flops that were hiding behind the front door, then be-bopped across the hall with a smile on her face.
She opened the door to 4A and paused just inside the frame. She had never seen it so dark in the apartment, even during the night. There was always some kind of nightlight, light saber, computer light, something illuminating the room; today, the curtains were closed, the lights were off, and there seemed to be nobody around.
Scratch that, she thought, her eyes surveying the room. There was a large lump on the couch in Sheldon's spot and the only thing that she could think was that he had come down with another migraine. Sometimes she worried about him and his headaches; she wondered if he had seen a doctor, but knowing him and his hypochondriac tendencies, she knew he had. Maybe it was the multiple CAT scans he submitted himself to so many times a year—whatever was causing them, he really needed to get some type of treatment. The Aleve just wasn't cutting it anymore.
She tiptoed across the room and perched on the edge of the couch, next to the shapeless lump. "Sheldon, are you okay?" she asked in a whisper.
"No, Penny, I am not okay. I have a migraine."
"I thought as much. Have you taken anything for it?"
He pulled the blanket off his face and tried to glare at her. "Do you think that I would be sitting here had I not acquired some kind of pain reliever? Howard gave me some migraine medication that Bernadette is working on. He said it would relieve it quickly, but I have not attained any relief as of yet."
She reached out and patted what she hoped was his knee. "How about I get you an ice pack for the back of your neck?"
"That would be acceptable. Thank you."
She stood and crossed the room to the kitchen. She grabbed some ice out of the freezer and dumped it into a plastic zipper bag as quietly as she could, adding some salt and a trickle of water before closing it securely. Almost as an afterthought, she turned the teakettle on to boil. She plucked a clean dishtowel out of the drawer and wrapped the homemade ice pack in it as she walked back to the couch. "Lean forward for a second," she said.
Sheldon complied and she put the ice on his neck, careful to ensure that no part of the cold plastic touched his skin. He shivered, and then sighed as he leaned back against the couch to hold the ice in place. "Thank you, Penny."
She couldn't stop herself; she reached out and brushed his hair off his forehead. "You're welcome, Shelly-bean. Do you want some hot tea?"
"That would be very nice." He ignored that she used his mother's nickname for him. It was an improvement over Moonpie, he thought, and closed his eyes and it seemed like only seconds later she stood before him with a steaming cup of chamomile tea. He could smell the honeyed liquid as he breathed in the steam from the cup, waiting for it to cool adequately before drinking to prevent burning his tongue. "Penny, thank you again. You know that I eschew company when I have a headache of this magnitude, but I do appreciate the assistance."
"Would you like me to sing you 'Soft Kitty'?" she asked.
"I am not sick."
"Migraine headache is a kind of sick. I know how bad they are for you. I don't mind."
He set the cup on the table next to him and leaned his head back once again.
Her voice was so soft it was nearly a whisper. He almost had to strain to hear it, but it soothed him, almost as much as his own mother's voice singing the song. She reached out and touched his face, stroking his brow as she sang to him and it crossed his mind how soothing it was to have someone stroke his face. It was a revolutionary idea; usually he shied away from physical contact. He couldn't remember anyone touching him like this since Meemaw, years ago. It relaxed him enough to allow him to fall into a light doze.
Penny watched him fall asleep, her fingertips lingering on his furrowed brow. She moved slightly from her hovering position over him and picked up a Cosmopolitan magazine off the coffee table. It wasn't hers, so Raj must have left it there. Mentally shrugging, she flipped idly through the glossy pages until she heard Sheldon shifting under the afghan.
He opened his eyes and she could see that his headache was better. "I feel almost myself again, Penny. I don't know what Howard gave me, but I do believe that I owe him a debt of gratitude."
"Well, you'll just have to tell him when they get back. When will they be back, anyway? I thought you guys had your whole day planned."
"Yes, we were going to paintball, and then we had planned to drive to Long Beach for a visit to Legoworld. I cannot be certain, but I'm sure that they would not go to Legoworld without me, considering it was my idea."
"Yeah, well, they don't have the best track record when it comes to you being sick. Remember the last time?"
Indeed he did. Leonard had lied about working, broken his glasses, and avoided him until he was over the worst of his illness. "Yes, I do. I also know that they are aware I have a migraine and it is not infectious."
"I don't expect them to come back here, to be honest, and you shouldn't either, Sheldon. Don't get your hopes up, sweetie. I'll take you to LEGOLAND sometime, I promise."
"Legoworld, Penny. Not LEGOLAND." He stood and left the room and she saw that he was still in his pajamas. Definitely not a Sheldon normality, she thought, and then he reappeared in the hall entrance.
"I am going to shower and perform my morning ablutions, Penny. Please, if you would, find us a movie or something to watch when I finish. Nothing very loud or with any explosions, please." Without waiting for her to reply, he turned around and entered the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
She walked around the couch to the movie shelf and ran her fingers over the movies, her nails clicking along their spines. They had watched almost everything the boys owned; she couldn't find anything new that they hadn't see multiple times.
She reached the end of that shelf and squatted down to look at the ones on the bottom shelf. This was the shelf that Sheldon had labeled 'drivel' and so she had never even heard of some of these. She finally chose one that looked interesting from the picture on the front of the cover and popped it into the DVD player.
The start screen was playing on repeat when Sheldon came back into the room, dressed in his usual double tee shirts and khaki pants. She looked up at him and said, "I found one that I haven't seen. It was on the drivel shelf, but it doesn't look bad."
He looked at the splash screen and groaned. "Not that one. Please, Penny."
"Why not? It sounds interesting and it has a strong female lead. Please, Sheldon—I've been nice to you."
He rolled his eyes and returned to his spot on the couch. "All right then."
"Just think—you can explain the scientific impossibilities and continuity errors to me while we watch. You know how much you love to do that."
"Just press play before I change my mind." She grabbed the remote control and did as he asked.
Sheldon really didn't care for this movie. Perhaps it was because it was a treatise on sex robots and interpersonal relationships or just because the acting really was sub-par. Whatever the reason, he just allowed his mind to drift and wander while paying minimal attention to the action on the screen.
Inadvertently, his mind wandered to his female neighbor sitting with him. She was sitting close enough to touch his shoulder with hers, her thigh pressed against his. He really didn't mind such close contact with her; he had no explanation except Penny was different from any other person he had ever come in contact with, including his family. He tolerated actions from her that would earn anyone else a strike and let her touch him indiscriminately. In his world, Penny was, for lack of a better word, special.
She shifted next to him and he caught her scent as it drifted around her. It was strange—she almost smelled like home. "What type shower gel did you use today?" he asked unconsciously.
"It was one that you got me for Christmas that year—apple blossom, I think. I'm still working my way through all those baskets," she finished with a smile, and then she turned her attention back to the television.
Warm. He felt warm, from not only her comment or the reminder of the best gift he had ever received. No, he felt almost feverish, burning from the inside out.
"Penny, please pause the movie. I need you to take my temperature."
She did as he asked and fetched the thermometer from the bathroom. He noticed that she wiped it with an alcohol wipe and let it dry as she crossed the room to him. She really was a good, caring friend, he thought.
She stuck the digital thermometer under his tongue and waited for it to beep before reading it. "Perfect 98.6, Sheldon, why? Do you feel like you're running a temp?"
"I just feel so warm, like I am burning up."
She rested her hand on his forehead as she stood there between his feet, leaning over him to reach him. "You feel fine to me. Not feverish at all."
Sheldon doubled over, a foreign sensation so strong erupting across his skin and blooming in his private parts that he couldn't help himself. "Oh, Penny, something is wrong with me."
She kneeled down between his knees, looking up into his face. "What is it, Sheldon?"
"I am experiencing some unknown distress and it seems to be…centered in…my loins." Slight gasping breaths that verged on wheezing punctuated his words. She lifted her hand and touched his cheek, wondering if there was an emergency inhaler in the bathroom cabinet and whether she should go get it.
"Sheldon, it's me. What's happening?" she asked concern evident on her face.
He blushed. "It is something that I usually deal with on my own, Penny. I do not require assistance." She had never heard that tone of voice from him; it was extremely private and she instinctively knew that he was talking about self-abuse.
"Oh." She backed off, but left her hands on his knees. "Sheldon…." Her voice trailed off as she looked straight ahead and noticed something that she had never seen before. "Sheldon, do you have an erection?"
His face grew even redder and he wanted to crawl away and hide his embarrassment. "Yes, I do, and I do not know why." He brought his knees together and crossed his hands to cover the shameful evidence of his masculinity.
"And you said that you felt hot all over just before, right?" She stood and dug her phone out of her pocket, thumbing through her phone list before letting her finger hover over one particular name.
"I still do; extremely warm. Tingling…in my…in my scrotum. Penny, it is starting to hurt."
"I'm gonna kill Howard," she muttered, then pressed her finger on the screen to call Bernadette.
She picked up almost immediately. "Hey, Penny, what's up?"
Penny was too worried to skirt the issue. "Bernadette, Howard gave Sheldon some pills for his migraine earlier, but now he's having a much localized reaction and I was wondering if you could tell me what to do?"
"Localized where?" Bernadette asked. Surely, Howard wouldn't…
"Tingling in the scrotum, a painful erection, and general feelings of warmth to the point I had to check him for a fever."
"Oh, no, Howard what did you do?!"
"What is it Bernadette?"
"It's an experimental libido enhancer. Penny, I have to warn you, it's a very, very powerful drug. Sheldon won't be able to deal with it. They have it in trials right now, but if the current results are any indication, masturbation does not relieve the situation at all."
"Hold on, Bernadette, I'm going to put you on speakerphone." She did, and then sat down by Sheldon. "Okay, we're both listening. Go ahead."
"First, Sheldon, I'm so sorry."
He groaned, clutching himself through his clothing. "Never mind that, Bernadette. Please, what were those pills?"
"I don't know what he gave you. One of them was for headaches—the trials are going well and it looks like I've come up with a winner."
"Enough. What did your husband give me?"
"Well, it's a new libido enhancer. It works in the genitalia to promote an erection, but also works in the brain to relax the inhibitions that prevent orgasm. It's only supposed to be for the hard cases that have psychological blocks to intercourse. I never meant for Howard to give it to you, Sheldon."
"Understood, now, how long does it take to wear off?" He was starting to rock back and forth and it was causing Penny to worry even more.
"That's just it, Sheldon. The medication attaches to the pleasure sensors in the brain and it doesn't wear off until dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and hormones knock it loose. The only way to get rid of it is to use it."
"Very well, I can take care of it. Penny, you will have to leave…"
"No, Sheldon, you do not understand me. It won't go away with masturbation. In fact, some of the participants of the drug trial have had to have surgery to relieve the pressure. If not, it can lead to impotence and gangrene of the penis."
His eyes grew wide with shock and he folded in on himself even further. "Priapism? Requiring surgical intervention? Oh my, that's not acceptable at all. Not at all."
Penny felt sorry for him. Sorry and more than a bit curious. "So you're saying that unless Sheldon uses it on someone, he will have to go to the hospital for surgery?"
"Yeah, sucks, huh? We're thinking of pulling it."
Penny grimaced at the double-entendre. "Bernadette, you may be a widow before this is over. I'll talk to you later, okay? Please, don't mention this to anyone."
"I won't, Penny. You don't know how much trouble I'll get into if this gets out."
"Not nearly as much as Howard is in, trust me." Penny ended the call and tossed her phone onto the coffee table.
Turning to Sheldon, she said, "Okay, you heard her. Do you want me to call someone? Maybe Amy?"
He looked up at her, horrified by her suggestion. "Heavens no! Amy is a friend, not…not someone that I would do that with."
Penny sat down on the edge of the couch next to him and touched his leg gently. "Sheldon, this won't go away on its own. You have to—participate in coitus. I know that is something that Homo Novus is not accustomed to, but you don't want to lose your genitals because you're too stubborn to do what you have to do to save them. Now, what's it gonna be. Or who, I guess."
"Why not you?"
Her eyes widened comically and she flopped back on the couch, completely flabbergasted by his question. "Clarify, please."
He turned toward her and she could clearly see his erection tenting his pants. It was, in a word, massive. Huge, big, monstrous; she felt some localized throbbing of her own before she tore her eyes away and looked at his face once again.
"Penny, since you moved in, I have been ill approximately seven times with various ailments, mostly migraine headaches. In that time, you have cared for me each time. You know my requirements and preferences and follow them to the letter, whether it concerns my Tuesday barbeque bacon cheeseburger or my tea with honey. You are considerate and kind and I cannot imagine doing…that…with anyone else. I trust you, Penny. You won't laugh or comment and I know that you can maintain confidences. I'm sure that you would agree this would be a major confidence."
She started to smile and he continued. "You have a wide variety of experience due to your history of promiscuity and multiple sexual partners that will be beneficial to the situation since I have only experienced coitus on one other occasion. Therefore, if I were to choose a person to care adequately for something of this nature, it would be you.
Her heart swelled in her chest and she smiled at him wryly. "Thank you, I think. So, how do you want to proceed?"
She licked her lips and looked down at his obvious problem again. "I don't think that the couch is the place to do this."
"I concur. It would be more comfortable if we were in a bed." A panicky look crossed his face and he stuttered to a halt. "We cannot do that in my bed!"
Testing the waters, Penny reached out and touched his hand. Which was very, very close to his tent; the pressure of her hand on his shifted the material of his khakis and he groaned aloud. "Sheldon, its Saturday. You can wash your sheets when we're done."
"Penny, it hurts. I have never had an erection that hurts. That is not normal."
"So let's go take care of it."