Gratuitous Author's Note:
I am so very sorry for the long wait. My life has changed dramatically in the last nine months-my wife has become completely disabled and requires assistance with her activities of daily living, my nephew died in a freak accident before Thanksgiving (carbon monoxide poisoning in his car, and not in an enclosed area) and my stepsister died of the same thing on Christmas Day. My mother-in-law had a cardiac catheterization done on New Year's Day and suffered a pulmonary embolus. We've had much tragedy and change to deal with and this stunted my muse quite a bit, but I do promise that all stories will be completed, although I cannot actually tell you exactly when. I appreciate the PMs and continued favoriting and reviews-they bolstered my soul during these dark and troubled times and helped me remember exactly why I loved TBBT when season six (and now, season seven) seemed to take a turn for the worst with all the Penny-bashing and the completely different character that Sheldon has become.
So, with that out of the way-here's the next chapter of our little adventure. Enjoy!
"Howard Joel Wolowitz!"
It sounded like his mother, but he knew that it wasn't. His mother wouldn't be coming through the door of apartment 4A wearing high-heeled shoes and the temper of a harpy.
Bernadette stood by the closed door, shaking like a nervous Chihuahua. "Howard, it's time to go home."
"Bernie, we were just getting ready to watch Babylon 5, since Sheldon has barricaded himself in the apartment with Penny…"
"As well he should. Do you even know what you could have done to him with those pills? They are experimental drugs, Howard! Experimental! That means that they are still in human trials. We've tested them on human beings separately, not together. What if Penny hadn't been here? What if he would have had to go to the hospital? I could have been fired! I could be in jail right now for giving something to the public! I could lose everything! Do you care? Do you even fucking care!?"
"Howard, the FDA monitors every pill that we make. They track every test subject, every participant in every drug trial. They make notes, they do double blinds. You do remember what a double blind study is, don't you? If word got out that we were slipping drugs out of the building for personal use, they could and would shut down the lab and probably fire all of us. They couldn't take my doctorate, but they could suspend my ability to work in a lab situation and what is a microbiologist without a lab? An unemployed microbiologist, that's what."
She threw her purse at Howard and looked at Leonard and Raj. "I'm going to go over to Penny's and check on Sheldon. You better be ready to go when I get back, Howard."
She slammed the door behind her and left him holding the bag.
He looked at his friends and shrugged. "She'll be calmed down by the time we get home."
Leonard frowned. "I don't think so, Howard. She seems pretty upset. After all, it's her job we're talking about and she does have a point."
"But Leonard, nothing happened. Sheldon got a hard on, Penny took care of it, nothing happened."
Raj gave him a pitying look. "Yes, keep telling yourself that, Howard. As upset as Bernadette was, something happened."
Bernadette tapped lightly on Penny's door and called her name. "Penny, its Bernadette. May I speak with you for a moment?"
The door opened a crack and Penny opened it wider when she saw that Bernadette was alone. "Come in, Bernie. I thought that Howard or even Leonard was with you."
She entered the apartment and was surprised to see them both still in robes. Sheldon was curled up on the couch beneath an afghan; the spot next to him was mussed, as if Penny had recently vacated it. Bernadette sat down in the chair next to the couch and Penny returned to her spot, curling up under Sheldon's extended arm, resting her chin on his shoulder to look at her.
"What's up, Bernie. You look pretty upset," Penny said as she wrapped the afghan around her feet.
Bernadette looked away from them, afraid to let them see how fascinating it was that Sheldon was allowing so much physical contact between the two of them and saw the television on, but muted. "Well, I was just wondering how the drug was processing through your system, Sheldon."
"I'm not really finding much of a change in myself, Bernadette."
"Bullshit." Penny interrupted him and he turned to frown at her. "He's changed. His speech patterns are changing; some of his quirkiness is gone. His mysophobia is nearly gone. He probably wouldn't have showered when we got out of bed if we weren't—well, he already told you why we showered. We've been in the same pajamas all day. His compulsions are almost completely absent—he's been in my apartment all day and hasn't forced me to clean at all."
Bernadette picked up a pad of paper off the cluttered coffee table and scrabbled about for a pencil. After a long search, she found a clean sheet of paper and started taking notes. "Tell me more about the changes in his speech patterns."
Nearly three hours later, the door slammed open and Bernadette stomped in, grabbed Howard by the ear, and dragged him off the couch. "Howard, you may be the luckiest man alive. Now, get down to the car and drive me home, you little worm." She turned to Raj and Leonard. "Don't count on seeing him outside work for a while, boys—he's going to be too busy making things up to me. And it's going to take quite a while."
In a flurry, they were gone, leaving Raj and Leonard alone in 4A once more. With a look and a shrug, Leonard turned Babylon 5 back on. They really didn't have much sympathy for Howard right now.
After Bernadette left, they necked on the couch for a while, and then flipped the channels on the television to find something to watch. Penny found a marathon of "Quantum Leap" and let it play for a distraction to keep them out of the bedroom. At least, for the time being—they were both pretty chafed, to be honest.
Sheldon watched without comment, which was strange. Stranger yet, Penny felt him playing with her hair, running his fingers through the long blonde strands and gently separating any tangles that his fingers ran into. She looked up to find that his eyes weren't on the TV; he was looking at her, watching her, memorizing her movements and expressions even now as she consciously watched him.
"What are you doing?" she asked him.
"'Bout what?" she asked lazily.
"Many things, Penny. The softness of your hair and the way that it slips through my fingers. The way that you smell. Wondering if my false friends have departed my apartment. Wondering if I will be sleeping there tonight, or if you would allow me to remain here. Considering calling my mother, although it isn't Friday night and she is probably at church. Thinking about my Meemaw. Pondering why I waited and glad that I did."
"Waited? For what, honey?"
"There were many times that I considered approaching you. I do not believe that any of those were the right time. Neither one of us were emotionally available."
"You were vested in the catastrophic relationship with Leonard and I was too stunted to appreciate a warm, loving person such as yourself."
"Oh." She could understand why that was a barrier for her, but what about his statement about himself? "What do you mean, you were too stunted?"
He looked directly in her eyes and she quelled at the fires within them. "I was not able to release my inhibitions and allow what was already present to flourish. You have always disturbed what I believed was a well-ordered life, but now I can see how lonely and hollow it actually was. You have always been a wild card, a variable that I have never been able to quantify or predict. If I thought that you would behave one way, you did exactly the opposite and it always has thrown me, your casual disregard." He pinched her chin between his fingers and thumb and studied her face openly. "You have no idea how difficult and wonderful it is."
"Sheldon," she started. He pressed his finger to her lips.
"Wait. I want to get this out. I need to, while I can. Even at this moment, I can feel it all coming back, constricting me. It feels like my emotions are being stuffed inside a tiny box and stowed away. I have had almost forty hours of freedom for the first time since I was a child and I want to enjoy every minute of it."
"Why is that, Sheldon? What happened back then?"
He looked almost sad. "Oh, Penny, there is too much. I was too young, too intelligent for my own good. I had the IQ and the drive to learn everything that I could about science, but I had not attained the maturity to handle the daily social interactions that were part of that atmosphere."
"I can imagine."
"No, I don't believe that anyone could." He shuffled his feet on the floor, and then looked at her with eyes that suddenly seemed old. "Everyone tried to take advantage of me, Penny, in one way or another. From the time I turned fifteen, women and men alike tried to take advantage of my uncontrollable hormonal urges to further their own careers. Professors picked my brain, students tried to use their sexual prowess and lack of parental supervision against me. I felt like a piece of meat. I shut it all down as best I could, burying any desire for pleasure deep inside, shutting it off and holding myself apart from everything and everyone."
Penny stared at him, sickened by the thought of what he must have been forced to experience. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it, providing silent support as he continued.
"All my little quirks, as you call them? They are the way that I cope. Rigid schedules, planning my wardrobe on a calendar, the layers of clothing, the mysophobia—they all have their roots. If I would allow Beverly to work with me, I am quite confident that I could overcome some of them, but as a whole? I will never be rid of them. Never."
"Do you want to be? Rid of them, you know?"
He glanced at her, at their joined hands. "If it meant that I could enjoy something as simple as this? Yes. Before I took that pill, I would have had a panic attack at the thought of not showering, sleeping on dirty sheets, touching your hand. And sex? Sex would have never happened, not in a millennium. Now, I find myself hoping that it can be rectified. That I can continue to enjoy these things because they aren't the fearsome actions that I had previously perceived."
She raised their hands and kissed his fingertips, then the back. "This would have sent you screaming for hand sanitizer."
"So would this."
His hand wound in her hair and drew her head back, back, exposing her throat. His eyes flashed and she tried like hell to keep her eyes open, but her overloaded senses had other ideas and she lost sight of his face when her eyes fluttered shut. It crossed her mind for a moment, the word swooning and what it brought to mind, but swoon she did as his tongue peeked from between his lips and tasted the skin above her pulse. It throbbed in her neck, drawing his attention as it sped up to rival his own tachycardia.
He wanted to…could he? He had to try. For the sake of science, their burgeoning relationship, the gift that she had given him since the first touch—for all these reasons and more, he had to try.
With her hair still clutched in his fist, he reached down and covered her breast with one hand as he gave her neck an experimental nibble. He was rewarded with a deep, throaty moan that shot a frisson of pleasure down his spine.
He quickly stripped her of her clothing and laid her there on the couch, her legs splayed on either side of his shoulders as he touched her, teased her, tested the limits of her sanity with his attention to detail and his quest for complete understanding. He flicked her nipple and watched as it changed, from a flat disc to a fully erect, engorged thing of beauty silhouetted against the light from the lamp. He tried to use all his senses to learn her reactions and responses, from the soft sighs and changes in her breathing patterns to the silken sensation of her skin as his fingers skittered over dips and valleys that were missing from his own body.
Penny, on her part, let herself relax into his touch, allowing him ample time to look and learn her. If they had a limited time, if his expiration date was counting down, she wanted to hold inside her as many memories as she could stand. He watched her, paralyzing her as he mapped erogenous zones with his fingers, teeth, and tongue, pinning her in place with the deepening blue of his eyes.
She had never really looked into his eyes. Not really. If she had, she would have never been able to look away.
Such was the case as his hand left her hair to hold her stomach in place, as he dipped his head and touched her with his mouth. She gasped and arched and he felt his nose bump her pelvic bone as his mouth was filled with her flavor, fresh and salty and so incredibly intimate that he thought his mind would explode with the enormity of it.
He closed his eyes and relished in the sensation of knowing her so completely. He set about learning every delicate fold, every fleshy inch of her as she writhed, held in place by one large hand. The other hand occupied with her breasts, her face, her hair, whatever fell beneath it; it seemed to have a mind of its own, seeking out the different textures and sensations, questing for the solution to the puzzle.
A small nodule of nerves seemed to draw the largest gasp yet and he focused his attention on that spot (his spot), cupping her buttocks in his hands and drawing her hips up to his mouth to suckle at the small protrusion. Her fingers grabbed at his hair as her words urged him onward, encouraging and instructing in breathy, half-formed words that fell from her lips and seemed to galvanize his will, allowing him to overcome any residual hesitance on his part.
He spread her wider with his thumbs and flicked her clitoris and she bowed her spine until her only contact points with solid surfaces were her shoulders and her heels, one on the floor and one buried in the crack behind the cushions of the couch. He speared her with his tongue and she let out a guttural plea that erupted from deep in her solar plexus. "Oh my God, Sheldon, please. I need you inside me."
He obliged her, though not in the way that she expected. His fingers slipped easily inside her and he scissored them, widening her before skewering her with yet another finger. He dragged them in and out of her roughly, listening to her ragged breathing as she closed in on an elusive peak that seemed just out of her reach.
Not that far. She twisted her own nipples, closed her eyes, threw her head back, and let herself go.
He drank in the sight of her as she bucked and bent double, her mouth forming a silent scream as she came, her pleas unheard by an uncertain deity but thrilling to him nonetheless. He had slight difficulty with the tightening of her legs and the movement of her body, but he kept her in place and continued his oral worship until she was begging him to stop, limp and spent, her hair sticking to her forehead and a pool of sweat between her breasts.
He withdrew from her carefully and she watched him as he licked her juices off his fingers. His eyes were half lidded with desire and she knew that there was another marathon sexcapade in her future and, despite chafing, despite the problems beyond the door, she was looking forward to it.
Then, someone knocked on the door, shattering the mood.