Author's Note: Ok, it goes without saying, I'm officially addicted to writing Penny/Sheldon friendship.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own The Big Bang Theory. Nor do I own Sheldon (sadly) or Penny. But I'm very appreciative that the folks at CBS give us such wonderful characters and I hope they don't mind me playing with them, on occasion.
Sheldon slowly resumed his seat in the chair, keeping a wary eye on Penny. It appeared that his unintended outburst calmed her down. She was grinning broadly and seemed quite relaxed and congenial. But he wasn't sure he should trust this transformation. He perched gingerly, ready to jump to the door at the first sign that Penny might once again revert to the personification of Xena, Warrior Princess.
"Ok, Sheldon, no more science-y jibber-jabber. And before we begin, let's get one thing straight. This is not an experiment. You can't treat Amy like she's one of those crazy chain-smoking monkeys of hers. She's a living human being with feelings. Feelings just like you have, even if you don't like to admit it. I know you love her, and you know you love her, but you can very easily hurt her if you're not careful."
Sheldon was about to say something, but Penny lifted one finger and waved it in front of his face. "Ah-ah! Not a word, Sheldon. You're here to learn and I'm going to teach you…" she paused, remembering the intended subject matter, "… well, up to a point."
Penny got up and walked over to a small bookcase set beside the bedroom door. "Just a sec, Sheldon, I'm gonna grab some paper and a pen over here. I think I might need to take some notes."
Sheldon brightened at that. He felt himself relax. Perhaps Penny was finally taking this seriously despite her earlier disparagement of science. After all, any good scientist knew the value of taking notes. Of course, with his eidetic memory, he'd never actually needed to do so, but he recognized the value of them for inferior scientists who were not as gifted as he. He was beginning to feel much more optimistic about the Sheldon-Penny Interpersonal Relationship Collaboration.
Penny was rummaging through a small basket. "I know I had them in here somewhere. Ah! There they are." She turned around and walked back. Sheldon was surprised to see a pair of glasses perched on her nose. "I got these to have some fun with Leonard, but I discovered they really do help when I'm reading." She returned to her seat on the couch facing Sheldon, pad and pencil at the ready. "Or in this case, writing. Plus, if I'm going to be your teacher, they help me get into the character. Now, before I can help you, I'm gonna need the deets on your relationship with Amy. Tell me how far you two have gone."
Sheldon was taken aback. He couldn't imagine what significance this might have, but he supposed he needed to give Penny the benefit of the doubt. She was the experienced one, after all. "Well, as I'm sure you remember, we all went to Big Sur together for the Institute of Interdisciplinary Study Symposium. Big Sur is 309 miles from Pasadena if you take Interstate 5. It's only 298 miles if you take the more scenic route using US 101 and then the California Highway number 1, also known as the Big Sur Coast Highway. I believe that's as far as we've ever gone."
Penny waved a hand. "No, no, no, Sheldon. I'm not talking about the trip to Big Sur."
"Well, Amy once got me to agree to kiss her in Salt Lake City in response to… well… a favor she did for me." Sheldon glanced sideways at Penny. It was probably best she not know what favor he'd asked of Amy. He hoped she wouldn't ask for the details on that. "But we haven't had reason to travel there as of yet."
Penny slapped her notebook on the arm of the couch, exasperated. "No Sheldon, I'm not talking geography. I mean how much intimate contact have you already had with her? I need to know what your current comfort level is. And hers."
"I see." Sheldon grew thoughtful. "She kissed me once when she was in a highly inebriated state, but that was before she was officially my girlfriend and we agreed to reboot our relationship to a point where we mutually agreed it was still working."
He thought some more, scanning his memory for any and all instances of intimacy with Amy. "Of course, you know she also kissed me after I gave her that ridiculously expensive tiara. We recently amended the Relationship Agreement to allow for hand-holding at prescribed times not related to either congratulating the other party on winning a Nobel Prize or to physical or emotional distress. Allowable times include while in a movie theater or while walking together during our agreed upon Date Nights." He paused again, thinking. He was concerned about the amount of detail Penny might need, but realized he should provide her with all pertinent information to facilitate her analysis. He attempted to suppress a blush as he revealed, "We… cuddled… on one occasion when…. well, when Amy was upset about something." He looked up to gauge his neighbor's reaction. "It wasn't about anything I did. It was something else entirely, not related to me or our relationship," he added quickly.
Penny was surprised. She'd heard about the drunken kiss and the relationship reboot from Amy, of course. And she also knew about the hand holding. But Amy never mentioned any cuddling. Usually Amy shared every tiny detail of her relationship with Sheldon. But Sheldon seemed nervous about that particular incident as well. She would have to try and get to the bottom of that at some point, but she knew she couldn't push her physicist friend about it. She wanted this to work out for both of her friends and it was obvious they sorely needed her help to get the hanky-panky portion of their relationship off the ground. She waited for Sheldon to continue, but he sat mutely, his long fingers twisting nervously in his lap. She sighed heavily.
"So then, that's it? Two kisses, some hand-holding and one consoling cuddle?"
"So at the end of a date, you don't kiss her goodnight?"
Sheldon shook his head, "No. It's not in the Agreement."
"You don't put your arm around her while you're watching television, or touch her… at all?"
Sheldon shook his head again, his eyes widening. He snorted derisively. "Of course not, it's not in the Agreement."
Penny rolled her eyes and put the pad and pencil down. "I think the first thing we're going to have to do is ditch that ridiculous Relationship Agreement."
"What?" Sheldon looked horrified. "The Relationship Agreement is a cornerstone. It's the one thing that ensures that we will remain a committed couple. Amy will never agree to dispense with it. She understands the value of clearly defined responsibilities."
Penny sighed. She certainly had her work cut out for her. "I think Sheldon, that you cling to that Agreement as a way to avoid losing Amy. I don't think she appreciates having every moment of your time together dictated by a quasi-legal document. And I'm sure she doesn't like the restrictions it obviously imposes if it doesn't even allow you to kiss her goodnight after a date."
"But it can always be amended by mutual agreement of both parties." Sheldon interrupted. "If good-night kisses are a critical element required for advancement, I can allot some time in the agenda for our next date night to include discussion of a codicil to the Agreement to allow them."
"Sheldon," Penny interjected, "why are you doing this?"
"I don't follow."
"Why do you want my help to sleep with your girlfriend? I'm sure all you have to do is to write up a codicil and add it to the… agenda… for your next date night. I'm quite sure Amy would agree to it. The poor girl is so starved for a little affection from you that she'd agree to just about anything if it meant you might touch her and hold her a bit more. But do you think that's what she really wants? Is that what you really want?"
"I…." Sheldon looked down, suddenly concentrating on his immaculate fingernails. "I… I guess not."
Penny reached over and gently placed a hand on his arm. "Then forget the agreement, Sweetie. Forget how smart you are for one minute and concentrate on your feelings. Tell me how you feel about Amy."
Sheldon stared at Penny's hand on his arm. He was amazed to realize it didn't bother him. It felt warm and comforting. And she wasn't even singing Soft Kitty.
"Penny," he sighed, resigning himself to revealing things he was barely able to admit to himself, "I care very much for Amy. As you so skillfully made me blurt out earlier, I love her. It's quite possible that I am in love with her. And yes, I am aware that there is a connotative difference between the two that carries great significance in romantic relationships. I… find that I think about her often when my mind should be on other things. I think of her when I should be working. As you know, Kripke assumes that my frequent, but entirely fictional coitus with Amy is the cause of the decline in the quality of my work. He's not wrong in assuming that Amy is the cause, it's just the nature of how she distracts me that he doesn't know. I find myself standing at the white board in my office, daydreaming of being with her instead of concentrating on my equations." He paused a moment, the ghost of a smile playing across his features. "Why, last Sunday, within five minutes of the start of my weekly paintball game with Leonard, Raj and Howard, I was shot dead because I was staring at a rise in the terrain that reminded me of the exact slope of Amy's left breast when she's not wearing her brassiere and it's drooping just slightly from the effects of gravity."
Sheldon was about to take a breath to continue when he noticed the soft, warm presence on his forearm had become a painful vice grip.
"Wait!.. Wait just a minute," Penny exclaimed, releasing Sheldon's arm and bringing her hands together in the T formation that Sheldon recognized as the signal from football indicating that a team wished to invoke one of its allotted time-outs. Penny continued, her voice rising to a near squeak. "Are you telling me that you've seen Amy's breasts? Naked? Why didn't you mention that when we were talking about kissing and hand-holding and cuddling?"
Sheldon stared at Penny, wondering how she could be so obtuse. "Yes, I have seen her breasts, but only in the context of bathing her when she was ill and too weak to do so herself. I also saw them in the same context while rubbing Vapo-Rub on her chest. Both incidents were completely devoid of any romantic aspect and entirely innocent."
"Entirely innocent, Sheldon?"
Penny's look made it clear that she was not fooled. Sheldon was beginning to wonder just how much time this woman spent with his mother. It was like she was channeling Mary Cooper's ability to coerce her son into doing her bidding and revealing his deepest secrets. Sheldon pondered his next response. He narrowed his eyes; his gaze boring into Penny's willing her to comply with his next statement.
"Penny, you must swear to me that what I am about to tell you, you will never, on pain of crow's feet and premature age spots, never, ever reveal to another soul. Least of all not to Leonard, no matter how much he may engage you in pillow talk or post-coital confessions. You must take this to your GRAVE!"
Penny was taken aback. "Oh… kay, I… so swear, Sheldon. I'll never tell a living soul."
"You can't tell God or Jesus, either. My mother talks to them all the time and I don't want them to run blabbing to her."
Penny smiled. "You don't believe in God or Jesus, Sheldon. Why would that worry you?"
"No, I don't believe in them," Sheldon answered, "but I don't want to take any chances."
"All right," Penny put up one hand and stuck out her little finger, "I'll pinky-swear. I won't tell God, Jesus, or anyone else, living or dead, what you are about to tell me." Penny waited, barely able to breathe wondering what could have Sheldon so discombobulated.
Sheldon looked at Penny's outstretched pinky, and then looked up into her eyes. He knew she was terrible at keeping secrets. But something in her eyes told him that, for once, he could trust her to hold his confidence. He was surprised to realize that he felt Penny was actually a good friend and someone he could rely on when it really mattered. He briefly linked his own little finger with hers.
"Some time ago," Sheldon began, "I approached Leonard for advice on this very subject." At Penny's confused look, he added, "I mean on the subject of Amy's growing ability to distract me… not about having coitus with her."
Seeing Penny relax, he continued. "I told him that I was thinking of Amy at inappropriate times. He immediately asked if those times were in the shower, or in bed. I told him that no, I was thinking of her while at work, and at the time that was the truth."
Sheldon paused, once again fixing his gaze on his long fingers, lying idly in his lap.
"However," he paused again, taking in a deep breath, "more recently, since I took care of Amy when she was ill, and I saw not just her breasts, but her lady parts and pretty much all of her, I… I do find myself thinking of her when I'm lying in bed at night, and in the shower. It takes me fifteen minutes longer to shower these days. I'm wasting water at a ridiculous rate and I think Leonard has noticed the change in my morning schedule."
Sheldon felt warmth rising up his neck. He knew his face was burning and he turned his head aside, not wanting Penny to see how ashamed he was.
Penny sat silent for a moment. She reached out again, laying her hands gently on his forearm and sliding down to take one of his hands.
"Sweetie," she said softly, "I know you've always believed you were immune to what you term the baser instincts, but it's become pretty obvious that you were just waiting to find the woman you were meant to be with, a woman who is close to your superior intellectual level. It only makes sense that you would begin having these feelings once the right woman came along."
Sheldon turned, his gaze fixed on the hand currently being held in Penny's. Again he marveled that it didn't repulse him. It wasn't like holding Amy's hand. It was more like when his Meemau would hold his hand when he was very small. It felt secure and comforting. He wondered if Leonard ever felt this way with Penny. He supposed not. If he felt this way with Amy he wouldn't be constantly thinking about her the way he was.
Penny saw that she was getting through to him and continued, "Think of it, Sheldon. You always say that you and Amy are like a different species of human, right? Well, would a grizzly bear be turned on looking at a mountain lion? No, of course not. So it's not surprising that you've never had those feelings looking at normal human women like me. But Amy… she's different, isn't she?"
Sheldon brightened. A new excitement lit his eyes. "I never thought of it like that!" he expounded. "Biology really isn't my field, but now that you mention it, it makes perfect sense. As a superior species, biological imperatives would prevent me from being aroused in the presence of females of an inferior and incompatible species, but, having met a female who can help me ensure the continuation of Homo Novus, it's only natural that I would be compelled to do so." Sheldon awkwardly reached out to hug Penny, but paused and settled for patting her hand. "Oh, thank you Penny! You've restored my faith in my superior species!"
Penny smiled, doing her best to overlook Sheldon's overwhelming egotism to concentrate on the problem at hand. "That's terrific, Sheldon. But I suggest you keep this knowledge to yourself. Amy wouldn't appreciate you bragging about your shower fantasies to the guys. I don't think she'd want to hear about it all, really. She may be a… Homo Novus… but she's still a woman and we generally have mixed feelings about what men think about us when they're… um… showering."
Sheldon's face fell. "Oh! Are you sure, Penny? I had assumed that I would simply relate to Amy the details of one of my shower sessions and then we would re-enact it, but in tandem rather than solo. As a neuroscientist, she surely is in a better position than I to grasp the necessity for us to perpetuate our species."
"Oh, Sheldon," Penny patted his hand, "you still don't really get it, do you?" She thought a moment, trying to think how to put this in words Sheldon would understand. This conversation was really taxing her limited memory of high school science, but it was a challenge and, she had to admit, she was enjoying getting the better of Sheldon Cooper, on one of the topics she might actually know more about than he. "I think that maybe Amy is what you might call a Missing Link. Intellectually, she's a Homo Novus like you, but I think emotionally, she's still very much human female. So while she might go along with your idea intellectually, emotionally she would be hurt. And you don't want that do you?"
Sheldon shook his head.
"And since you guys are a pretty rare species, it's not like you can afford to drive her away, right? I mean, you might never find another woman like her, isn't that true?"
Sheldon nodded, "Yes, of course. It's likely we are the only ones of our kind."
"Ok then," Penny went on, "just to on the safe side, you need to woo Amy, just as if she was a normal human woman. Just to make sure that little bit of human left in her stays happy, ok?"
Sheldon nodded again, but warily, "Oh… kay. But how do I do that, exactly?"
Penny sighed heavily, "Well, I'd like to say it's easy, but something tells me that for you, it might take a little work. Most other men take years to get it right, if they ever do. But you've got me to help you, right?" She brightened. "The first thing you need to understand, Sheldon, is that you can't go from zero to 60 in two seconds, ok? Most good relationships are like a sporty stock car; they can start off pretty fast but they really don't accelerate like a drag racer. It's more like a quick build-up to cruising speed. Your relationship with Amy has been more like a horse-and-buggy, but we can fix that as long as you don't try to pretend you're driving a Maserati all of a sudden. You can't expect to go from hand-holding to… coitus… all at once. You have to lead up to it, ok?"
Sheldon was mute, but he was nodding, so Penny hoped he understood.
"Ok, to start with, I'm going to give you two assignments to move things forward, ok?" Penny grinned as Sheldon reached for the pad and pencil. "I thought you had that fabulous memory thing going. You're going to write this down?"
Sheldon looked at her with his normal condescending Sheldon smirk. "This is different. This is a task list and I like task lists. They're organized and fun!"
Penny chuckled, "Okay, here are your tasks: One. You're going to work on touching Amy more often, in a romantic way. Holding hands is fine, but you need to touch her casually in other ways. Put a hand on her shoulder or around her waist when you're standing together somewhere, or put an arm around her when you're watching television. Casual touching tells her you enjoy her company and want to be closer."
Sheldon stopped writing and look up from the paper. "But Amy knows I enjoy her company. Why else would I spend so much time with her, even outside of our agreed upon Date Nights? I've even been at her apartment after dark! And we Skype all the time."
Penny huffed, she'd been right to think this would be hard, but she didn't realize how hard it would be for her! "Sheldon, touching communicates in a non-verbal way that feels more honest to the person being touched. People lie." She waved a hand as Sheldon opened his mouth to speak. "I know you don't but people in general do, and so women don't always believe what a man says. But we can tell when a guy holds us a certain way that he really cares. And that's what you need to communicate to Amy."
Sheldon frowned. "Oh all right." He made some more notes.
"AND," Penny stressed, "you're going to start giving Amy a goodbye kiss whenever you've been with her. You can start with a kiss on the cheek or the forehead, if you're more comfortable with that, but before the end of next week, I want you to kiss her on the lips, ok?"
"Oh dear LORD! Is that really necessary?" Sheldon set the pad down again. "Penny, the human mouth is a veritable warehouse of bacteria and microbes of all kinds. We'd be exchanging untold numbers of germs on a regular basis."
Penny laughed almost manically. She was nearly at the end of her rope. "Sheldon, Sheldon! How many germs do you think you'll be exchanging with Amy once you do have sex? Don't you think it might be a good idea to let your body get used to them slowly, a little at a time rather than subjecting yourself to a sudden onslaught? If you start with a few kisses, you and Amy will be able to build up some immunity to each other's germs."
Sheldon thought for a few moments. "I suppose that theory does have some merit. I'll stock up on some small bottles of mouthwash that I can carry with me so that I can rinse immediately afterwards. That should help to reduce the exposure to a manageable level."
"Ok." Penny wanted to give him one more assignment and then get the boy out of there. She was exhausted. She had gained a whole new respect for the teachers who had struggled for years to push English, Math and History into her.
"Your second assignment has to do with Valentine's Day. It's coming up next week, you know. Now you hurt Amy's feelings when you said she couldn't be your roommate." Again, she held up a hand when Sheldon was about to speak. "I know – you were right to do that. You wouldn't be able to live with Amy as just a roommate. Someday, when you two do live together, it will be as boyfriend/girlfriend, not as roommates. I totally get that. But you still hurt her feelings, just like I hurt Leonard's feelings when he found out I wasn't ready for him to move in here. But we can't help it if we're not on the same page they are, right? Still, Sheldon, you can do something to make it up to Amy and let her know how important she is to you. So your second assignment is to find a Valentine's gift for her that will do that. But you can't just tell her, and you can't write it in a card. You need to give her something that says how important she is, without actually saying it in words. Do you understand?"
Sheldon looked up from his notes. "I suppose another tiara would be redundant?"
Penny smiled. "Yes, she can really only wear one of those at a time. And jewelry is always a lovely gift, but this, Sheldon, should be a gift that not only tells her you care about her, but also that you know what is important to her. It has to be something that speaks to her in her own language."
"Penny," Sheldon began, confused, "Amy's native language is English, just like yours and mine. Although sometimes I do think you speak a very different dialect. Are you suggesting I get her an audio book that will speak to her in English?"
Penny sighed yet again, "No, no, Sheldon, I didn't mean that literally. I mean a gift that is meaningful to her. Something that shows you've been paying attention to what her interests, her likes and dislikes are."
"I see," Sheldon grew thoughtful, "I hope this is an extra credit assignment, because it will likely be much more difficult than the touching and kissing."
Penny rose, and gestured for Sheldon to get up as well. "Do your best, Sheldon. And I'll expect an oral report next week on your progress. If you've mastered this step, we'll work on heavy petting. But remember, I'll be getting progress reports from Amy, as well, so no fudging!" She ushered him towards the door. "Now get on out of here, I need to go out and get some lunch. I've had WAY too much wine for this early in the day."
Sheldon quickly tore the sheet of notes from the pad and put the pad and pencil back down on the table. He thanked Penny and left, ambling slowly across the hall to his own apartment, reviewing his notes and wondering just what sort of gift he could get that would fulfill Penny's criteria. Perhaps he could get some help with that. Penny hadn't said that he had to actually select the gift himself, after all. Alex! This would be the perfect assignment for his assistant. After all, with all her girly juices running around, she was the perfect person to come up with the perfect gift for the emotional, human side of Amy. He would talk to her about it first thing in the morning!
Author's Note: Can I just say this was not easy? Being new to the TBBT fandom, I'm not that familiar with the episodes and I had to do a lot of research to get the timing of things correct. I hope I did a decent job. But it's really fun and I'm reliving some of my favorite scenes, so it's all good. Unfortunately, I've got a week of work coming up, so I probably won't update again for several days. But as you've probably guessed, in the next chapter Sheldon will be working on his assignments, so Amy will be finally making an appearance. Sheldon is shooting for an A-Plus, of course. We'll see if Penny grades on a curve.