I'm back! This is a rather long one-shot. I've never really done a story quite like this, so forgive me if the experiment doesn't work. I use songs as inspirations for my stories quite a lot and I love Broadway music - as you can probably tell from my last story. This title is a song from the musical "South Pacific". I have always loved the poignant sadness in the song and when listening to it recently I got the idea for this story. The song lyris are in italics. Faithful readers, it is Shenny, so don't be fooled by the first line.
"I'm marrying Leonard." Penny said quietly, chewing on her bottom lip as she finished. Her words were met with silence. Blue eyes stared at her for a several poignant moments, then down at his hands.
She'd wanted to be the one to tell Sheldon. She didn't think Leonard would agree, but for some reason, he'd understood.
Now she almost wished she'd brought him with her. Despite Sheldon's silence, she could feel sadness emanating from him. Not that he'd show it, but she could always sense what he was feeling. Still, she couldn't help but prod him.
"Say something, Sheldon. What do you think about it?"
Blue eyes met green as he looked at her briefly before he turned away again. "It is not my place to render an opinion. You have obviously made a decision."
"He's taking that job in Princeton." She said.
"I am aware of that. He informed me as we will need to dissolve our roommate agreement."
"He wants me to go with him."
"And you wish to go."
"Sheldon, I'm tired of my life going nowhere. I'm never gonna be an actress. I can't spend the rest of my life as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory. I'll be thirty in a couple of years. I want to have a baby someday."
"Of course. A woman of your age will – to put it colloquially – hear that biological clock 'ticking'. Although there is no actual clock. It is a combination of—"
"I don't want to hear any of your science crap! I want to know how you feel about it."
"Well, as you have been pair-bonded with Leonard for some time, it is entirely logical that you should choose him as your spouse and parental partner."
"Sheldon, stop! Don't give me all that Spock logic and all the other crap you like to spout. I want to know what's in your heart."
He avoided looking at her as he said, "I am not comfortable with expressing emotions, as you well know. In any case, it really doesn't matter if I approve or disapprove. I have no say in the matter."
"Sheldon, what about that night?"
He twitched and kept his eyes averted. "If you are referring to the evening that you assaulted me, there is nothing more to say about it."
"I did not assault you. I kissed you. And you kissed me back."
It had happened about six weeks earlier. Amy had finally realized that Sheldon was never going to take their relationship any further than it was and she had ended it. When he went to see Penny to inform her and to ask for her advice on how to proceed on a friendship basis with Amy, she had hugged him to offer comfort. His arms inadvertently went around her waist. She reached a hand up to stroke his cheek – again for comfort – and looked into those beautiful blue eyes. She couldn't resist and reached up to kiss him softly on his lips. When she pulled back, he was staring at her, then he bent down and kissed her, not as softly.
She held on to his lean frame, unable to think of anything except 'this is Sheldon!'
But as quickly as it had started, it ended. Sheldon let go of her, stared at her briefly and ran out of her apartment and back to his.
He avoided her for the next few days, then made sure he only saw her with others around, mostly Leonard. Finally, she realized that he didn't want to face it or even talk about it.
Then Leonard announced the terrific job offer he'd gotten from Princeton and his decision to take it. And that's when she started to think about where her life was headed.
"There is nothing to talk about." He said. "That night was a mistaken effort to comfort me, even though no comfort was needed. I responded so as not to hurt your feelings and express my gratitude for your efforts. That is all."
Bullshit, she thought, but she said, "So you don't care if I marry Leonard?"
He turned away from her so that she wouldn't see his face twitch. "No, I don't."
She knew it twitched, but if the guy was too dense to admit it, she wasn't going to push it.
She'd thought a lot about this decision before she made it. She did love Leonard. He was good to her and he really loved her, more than any other guy ever had. He would make a good husband and father. And she was tired of her life going nowhere. She needed to kick start it. A new place, a husband, maybe a child someday, these were tangible things that she could hold on to and build a life on.
A blue-eyed physicist who was afraid of emotions and physical affection, whom she might have some untapped feelings for was not tangible. There was no future there.
She went to him and kissed him on the cheek. "Goodbye, Sheldon."
Even though there were still two weeks until she left, it was a goodbye for them, for the times they'd spent together as friends and maybe a little more than.
Everything happened very quickly after that. Penny and Leonard applied for a marriage license and started packing. Princeton was providing temporary housing for them until they found a place of their own.
Penny went ahead and quit the Cheesecake Factory so that she'd have time to pack and prepare for her wedding. Leonard had to complete some projects at Cal Tech and turn his work over to others, so he had to pack at night.
They made decisions on what furniture they would take or leave. From 4A, Leonard just took his bedroom and his personal possessions. Neither of them had the heart to take Sheldon's spot away from him, so the leather sofa stayed.
Penny took any of her furniture that wasn't falling apart. They hired a moving van to take everything cross country for them. They decided to drive to New Jersey in Leonard's car, but leave Penny's behind. She knew hers would never be able to make the three thousand mile trip.
Their wedding consisted of just their friends. While Penny's father was ecstatic when she told him she was marrying Leonard, it was too short notice for her parents to come. She promised they'd visit for Thanksgiving.
Sheldon and Amy were best man and maid of honor. They all went to the courthouse. Penny wore a simple yellow sundress, Leonard a suit. Sheldon wore his regular grey suit coat, with a Flash t-shirt beneath it. Amy wore her bridesmaid dress from Bernadette's wedding and her tiara. No one said anything about that.
After the wedding, they all went to the Cheesecake Factory. Penny's now former co-workers wanted to celebrate with her. While they were there, Penny brought a young waitress to their table.
"Sheldon, this is Ellen. I've told her exactly how you like your food and she will be sure to follow your instructions."
"Thank you, Penny." He said quietly.
They spent their wedding night at a fancy hotel in Beverly Hills. The next day, they packed the things they were taking in the car with them. The plan was to spend a few days in Las Vegas for a quick honeymoon. After they were settled in Princeton, Leonard promised Penny a long weekend in New York City.
The entire group gathered outside the apartment building to say goodbye to them. Penny hugged each of her friends in turn. Even though she was happy with her decision and excited to start her new life, there was a certain sadness in saying goodbye. When she hugged Sheldon, she held on just a few seconds longer and kissed his cheek.
"You take care of yourself, Sheldon." She whispered in his ear.
He nodded and let her go. They all watched and waved as Leonard's car drove away. Sheldon held all emotions in as the group dispersed. Everyone headed home, but he stood there for another several minutes, all alone.
One dream in my heart, one love to be living for,
One love to be living for, this nearly was mine…
Five years later…
Penny leaned back in her seat and thought how strange it was to be going back to Pasadena after five years. She said as much to Leonard and he laughed.
"Yeah, I guess it is."
"I can't believe we haven't been back to visit in all that time."
"If it wasn't for Amy's wedding, we probably wouldn't be now."
Penny knew that was true and wondered silently if Leonard had other reasons not to visit. Of course, since Howard and Bernadette moved to Chicago and Raj to London, the only one of Leonard's friends left in Pasadena was Sheldon. And for some reason, Leonard had lost touch with his former roommate.
But Amy had kept in contact with Penny. After finally getting a 'bestie', Amy wasn't about to give her up. They sent emails, texts and even occasionally Skyped. When Amy had become engaged to another scientist from her job, Penny was the first one she told. So of course Penny had to attend her wedding and be a bridesmaid. Amy would have been heartbroken if she hadn't.
At first Penny tried to keep in contact with Sheldon, but it became too painful to see him so lonely, especially after the guys moved away. Amy also talked to him, but only sporadically. And even less once she became engaged.
Penny felt a little guilty about it, but after all, he wasn't one to keep the relationship alive either. And Penny was also busy with her life. Two years after they'd married, Penny had given birth to a son. For some reason that Penny couldn't fathom, Leonard wanted to name the child Angelo. Penny vetoed that, but compromised and named him Anthony. They called him Tony and he was the light of their lives.
Leonard was a really good father. He spent as much time with his son as he possibly could, taking him to museums, Star Trek conventions and even, sometimes, the park. They were really cute together and it made Penny believe that she'd made the right decision in marrying Leonard.
Penny had wanted to go to California a few days before the wedding, but Leonard had refused as he had work to do. So they ended up arriving on Friday morning and would leave Sunday evening.
"I can't wait until we land so I can call your sister." She told him.
"Relax, Tony will be fine. My sister is very responsible."
"I know, I know."
The plane landed and Penny was able to make that call and reassure herself that her baby was fine. They took a taxi to the hotel and she immediately called Amy, who shrieked with joy and promised to be there in fifteen minutes to pick her up.
"Will you be okay by yourself?" She asked her husband.
"Sure. I may go over to Cal Tech and catch up with some people."
"Oh, good. Will you see Sheldon?"
He hesitated. "I don't know. He's never liked people interrupting him when he's working."
Penny thought that someone who had been your roommate for over ten years and whom you hadn't seen in five was more than just 'people', but she didn't say anything about it.
Penny spent the rest of the day with Amy, getting her dress altered and then taking the bride out for her bachelorette party. When she returned to the hotel, it was almost two a.m. Leonard was in bed, but the TV was on and he wasn't asleep. He sat up when she came in.
"How'd everything go?" He asked.
"Good. Amy is so excited. But she hasn't really changed. How was your day?"
"Fine. I stopped by Cal Tech, saw some people, then checked out a few old places, got something to eat and came back here and watched TV."
She didn't ask if he'd seen Sheldon, since he'd seemed reluctant about it earlier. Besides, they'd see him at the wedding. Amy had made him promise to attend.
"Well, as long as you found stuff to do." She said.
"I did, but it was kinda lonely without you."
"Oh, yeah? Need me to cheer you up?" she asked with a smirk.
He grinned. "That'd be good."
As they made love, she found her mind wandering. That didn't happen to her very often. She attributed it to the weirdness of being back in Pasadena.
Amy and her fiancé had hired a justice of the peace and decided to have the wedding ceremony itself in the reception hall. Everyone gathered around for the brief ceremony and then could move right on to the reception. As Penny walked in before Amy, she couldn't help but let her eyes scan the room as she did.
He was always taller than anyone else and this was no exception. He was behind all of the other people in the room, standing off by himself. As her eyes found him, she could see that he'd been watching her, but when his eyes met hers, he quickly looked away.
She looked forward again and tried to keep calm. She didn't know why she felt so nervous just because she was in the same room with him.
Of course he was assigned to their table. There were also a few scientists that worked with Amy sitting with them. Leonard greeted Sheldon briefly, then began conversing with the other people. Penny found herself sitting between Sheldon and her husband.
"So, Sheldon, how have you been?"
"I assume you are not inquiring about my health or the regularity of my bowel movements."
"No, I'm not. What have you been up to for the last five years?"
"The same things I was 'up to' when you were here. I go to work, I eat my dinner, I play my games or watch a movie."
"Do you hang out with anyone? Did you get another roommate?"
"No to both questions. I am financially able to afford the rent myself, so I did not acquire a new roommate. And as everyone has moved away, there is no one to hang out with."
She thought that was the saddest thing she'd heard, but she didn't say that to him. "How are you getting to work? Please don't tell my you're wearing your bus pants everyday."
"No, I obtained my driver's license. It seemed prudent, as there was no one to drive me."
"You did? That's great! And you got a car?"
"Sheldon, I'm so proud of you!"
For a moment she thought she saw the beginning of a smile on his face, then it vanished and he looked down at the table.
"I need to leave." He said.
"What? Why? It's still early."
"I told Amy I would stay for one hour and it is past that time. I don't enjoy parties. I only attended as Amy is a friend and I promised her. I will bid her farewell. " He turned to Penny. "It was pleasant to see you."
He got up and headed for the bride. She followed him with her eyes, then went to the ladies room to calm herself down. When she came out, she saw Sheldon going out the door of the hall. She walked to the door and watched him walk to the parking lot. Then she saw that he got into a little red car.
Her little red car. What the hell was that?
The next day, after they had breakfast at the hotel, Penny told Leonard, "Look, I hate to desert you again, but an old girlfriend heard I was here and wants to see me. Would you mind?"
"No, of course not. Just remember we need to leave for the airport at three."
"I'll be back." She kissed him and left as quickly as she could. She hadn't really lied to him. Her friend had asked if they could get together, but she had told her she couldn't make it. There was another old friend she had to see.
The taxi dropped her at 2311 N. Los Robles. The building looked the same as it had five years before. She walked to the parking lot and saw the car right away. It was definitely her car, although the passenger side mirror had been fixed and all the scratches and dents were gone. It looked like a new paint job as well, even though it was still red.
She entered the building and saw the elevator was still broken. She shook her head and smiled, then climbed the stairs to the fourth floor. She glanced at the door to 4B and wondered who was living there now. She wished she could tell them to be a friend to Sheldon, but she knew that would be pointless.
She turned to 4A and couldn't resist. She knocked three times and called out "Sheldon", then repeated it twice more. He opened the door and looked at her in confusion.
"Penny? What are you doing here?"
"I needed to talk to you. I need to know what is the matter with you, Sheldon? Why are you brushing me off like this?"
"I believe I greeted you last evening and we engaged in trivial conversation. Isn't that the correct social protocol for acquaintances?"
"Acquaintances? We're friends!"
"Not any longer. When you lived here, you came here to eat or to watch a movie. That is what our friendship consisted of. As you now live three thousand miles away, that is not possible, so our friendship is now ended."
"There was more to our friendship than that! We helped each other. I made you spaghetti and hot dogs, I took you to Disneyland, I punched a bully for you. You loaned me money, helped me make Penny Blossoms and you rescued me when I fell in the tub. And we had fun together."
"True. But all of those things are in the past. And you are no longer here to do those things. "
"We also kissed."
He grew very still. "That was a mistake."
"No, it was…"
"No. You kissed me, then accepted Leonard's marriage proposal."
"You kissed me back! And I waited for you to say something about it, but you pretended it never happened."
"What did you expect me to do, Penny? You were with Leonard. You showed no inclination to end your relationship with him. You know that I have never been comfortable with displays of emotions."
"You have my car."
"No, I have your former car."
"You sent me money and said someone bought it."
"I didn't lie. I bought it."
"I don't understand why you would keep that car. I thought you hated that car."
"I did not hate the car. It is an inanimate object and therefore not capable of eliciting my affection or hatred. What I disliked was your constant disregard of the maintenance of the car."
"So I'm guessing the check engine light isn't on?"
"Most assuredly not. In fact, I had a new engine installed, not to mention brakes and all of the other requirements."
"Sheldon, that makes no sense! You paid me three thousand dollars and probably spent several thousand more to get it fixed. You could have bought a new car for all of that money."
He was silent.
"Sheldon, why? Talk to me."
"What do you want of me, Penny? You are married. You have a child. There is nothing left for us."
"No. Penny, please leave. Return to your husband. Goodbye, Penny."
She walked out the door. He stood there for a long time watching the door before resuming his day.
One girl for my dreams, one partner in paradise,
This promise of paradise, this nearly was mine.
Ten years later…
"Are you sure you don't want to come?" Penny asked her husband.
"I can't. This work won't wait. It's crucial."
"You can't leave it for a weekend?"
"Penny, we've been over this. I can't."
"It's not every day that your friend wins a Nobel Prize."
"Former friend. I've spoken to Sheldon all of two times in the last fifteen years. And we weren't invited to Stockholm. It's only a party given by Cal Tech."
"A gala. It's a big deal."
"Besides I sent him a congratulatory email. You're going, so you can represent me."
She sighed and knew she wasn't going to convince him.
She arrived in Pasadena on the morning of the gala and immediately called Amy.
"Hey, Ames, I'm here. Are we going to have fun tonight!"
"Penny, I'm so sorry. My daughter is sick. She has a stomach virus and has been suffering from alternate bouts of vomiting and diarrhea since very early this morning. I can't leave her."
"Oh, no, Amy! That's terrible! But can't your husband stay with her?"
"He's out of town at a conference. And as she is only four and very clingy, I must stay with her."
"Sure, I understand. But Sheldon will be disappointed."
"I already contacted him. As he fears I may be the carrier of sickness, he would prefer that I do not attend. He does not wish to contract anything before he goes to Stockholm."
"Of course, he doesn't."
"But I told him that you would be attending and he seemed pleased."
"He did?" Penny asked. "I didn't think he'd really care one way or another."
"Of course he does. Now you go and have a wonderful time for both of us."
Penny thought that of everyone, Amy would be the one to attend the gala. She was the only one of the group to stay in contact with Sheldon over the years. None of the guys did.
Penny had tried. In the beginning, she had sent him texts and emails, pictures when Tony was born. Other than a 'congratulations' email and two one hundred dollar savings bonds for the baby, she never heard anything more from him.
After their encounter at Amy's wedding, she just about gave up. But she still sent him birthday and Christmas greetings. Actually she made sure the latter were 'Newtonmas' greetings.
And still he never responded.
She almost passed on this party, but when she realized no one else among his former friends was attending, she just felt that she had to. After all, this was the Nobel Prize, the thing that Sheldon had dreamt of his entire life. And since the guys had been responsible for sabotaging his winning the prize years ago when they went to the Arctic, she was doubly determined. Someone that cared about him should be there.
Because even after fifteen years, she still cared about him. Perhaps it was foolish to remember the one kiss that they'd shared, but even more she remembered how sweet he could be and sad he'd looked when she'd been leaving. Somehow she felt like she'd deserted him and she couldn't let go, despite his unwillingness to respond.
Her dress was a rich royal blue, long and very simple. She wasn't quite as thin as she'd been fifteen years earlier, but she kept herself in good shape and still looked good. The dress clung to her in the right places and flowed where there might be a little excess flesh. She'd gone to New York to get it and she really loved it. She rationalized that she could wear it again to one of Princeton's fundraisers that she usually had to attend with Leonard.
She arrived at the party before the guest of honor. She asked a woman if Sheldon was there, but she shook her head.
"No. There were bets on whether he would actually attend. Everyone knows how weird he is. But President Siebert sent a limo for him with a big guy as the driver and orders that he had to bring Dr. Cooper even if he had to kidnap him."
The woman laughed derisively. Penny walked away. She did not want to get into a fight with someone at Sheldon's party. Not to mention, most of the people here probably felt the same way about him. She took a glass of champagne and sipped it. She had cut down on her drinking a great deal since her son was born. Now she usually only drank in social settings and never so much that she got wasted.
A few minutes after she arrived, she heard a small commotion, then some light applause. She turned and he was there. She had to smile. He was wearing the black suit that she'd helped him buy for the Chancellor's dinner. Even though it was over fifteen years out of style, he still looked as good in it as he did the first time she'd seen him in the store.
She waited a bit. A few people approached him, but she could see that they weren't friends. She saw some young women, probably graduate students like that scary Ramona who were trying to get what they could out of the Nobel Prize winner. But then again so was everyone else that approached him. She heard their snickers as they walked away from him and the comments.
"Yeah, he may be brilliant, but man is he ever nuts.'
"Are you kidding? He's out and out weird!"
She couldn't take it any longer. She approached him. The look on his face was pure misery. Strangers coming up to him and trying to shake his hand. She could tell by his eyes that he knew they were all phonies, trying to use him for their own advancement.
She pushed through the people, and when she got next to him, she said softly, "Sheldon."
Even though his head was turned in the other direction at that moment, he smiled when he heard her voice. He turned and looked at her. "Hello, Penny."
She smiled and pulled him into a hug. Others were shocked that he didn't pull back, but instead allowed her to hug him. He'd always allowed Penny to hug him as no one else could.
Sheldon was greeted by more faculty members, investors and guests. Anyone who wanted to be sure they could say they shook hands with the Nobel Prize winner. Penny, thinking ahead of this happening, had brought hand sanitizer and handed it to him after each encounter.
"Thank you, Penny, for remembering that. May I ask that you remain by my side to continue this?'
"Where else would I go, sweetie? You're the only person I know here."
He smiled at her.
"Sheldon, I am so happy for you! I always knew you would do this."
"Thank you, Penny."
She could see that he was distressed nonetheless by the continual wave of strangers trying to claim him. A waiter passed with a tray of champagne glasses and she grabbed two off of it. She handed one to him. "Have some champagne."
"I don't drink, Penny. You should recall that."
"Come on, it's a celebration! One glass won't hurt."
"As you know, every time I have imbibed an alcoholic beverage, I have behaved abominably. I have performed Broadway show tunes to a restaurant filled with strangers. I have threatened physical violence upon Will Wheaton. I have exposed myself to my colleagues and other dignitaries. And as you will also recall, on each occasion, you were the one to provide me with the alcohol."
She grinned. "Yep, I did. I always thought you needed to loosen up a bit."
"I don't intend to loosen up this evening."
"Why not? One glass won't do you any harm. And everyone will be toasting your achievement. It would be rude not to. Besides, are you saying that the great Sheldon Cooper can't control his behavior after only one glass of champagne?"
He pierced her with his gaze. She knew something was happening in that beautiful mind of his. Finally, he spoke: "Very well. I will have some champagne."
She handed him the glass and her took a sip.
"It's fizzy." He said.
"It is. Do you like it?"
"Yes, I do."
For the rest of the evening, she saw him with a glass in his hand. She only had a few glasses herself and even that was making her feel a bit fuzzy. She decided some exercise would help her.
"Sheldon, dance with me."
"As I have told you previously, I don't dance."
"But you do dance. You danced with Amy when we all went out together."
"No excuses, Sheldon, you're dancing with me." She grabbed his hand and led him to the dance floor.
Throughout the evening, she watched him pick up several glasses of champagne. He started to become a lot less inhibited. He danced with her and even put his own arms around her as they did.
After an hour or so of the insincere compliments that he tried to avoid by dancing with Penny, he'd had enough.
"I'm going home." He told Penny. "Are you staying?"
"Why should I stay? You're the only one I know here."
"Then may I offer you a ride home?"
"Oh, right they got a limo for you. Sure! I'd love a ride in a limo."
They slipped out and the car was waiting outside for him. They got in and the car sped off. A few minutes later it pulled up in front of a familiar apartment building.
Penny was confused. "Sheldon, I thought you were taking me home?"
"Yes, so I said. I just didn't specify whose home."
"Please, Penny, I would like to spend more time with you this evening."
She sighed. How could refuse him. "Okay, I can stay for a little while."
They entered the building and the first thing she noticed was there was no yellow tape on the elevator. Sheldon went to it and pushed the button.
"The elevator works?" she asked.
"Why else would I be pushing the button?"
"Six years and five months ago when I broke my foot and was unable to ascend the stairs on a daily basis. I contacted the landlord and informed him that the building was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and unless it was fixed post haste, there was a lawsuit in his immediate future."
"Why didn't you ever do that when I was living here?"
"I was not in need of the elevator then."
She shook her head. Sheldon was always Sheldon. The elevator opened ont eh fourth floor and as they approached 4A, she glanced t her old apartment.
"Who's living there now?"
"I have gotten out of the habit of conversing with neighbors, however I believe it is a homosexual designer."
He unlocked his door and they went inside.
She walked straight in and couldn't believe that the place hadn't changed at all. She turned to tell him and found him right behind her, so close they were almost touching.
"Sheldon!" She took a step back and he followed her. "What are you doing?"
"Conversing with you."
"It's the champagne. You've had way too much and I've had more than I normally do."
He smiled at her. "You indicated that you wanted me to lose my inhibitions."
"Perhaps." He stood even closer to her. She couldn't resist, she leaned up and kissed him softly on his lips and she felt him respond. His arms went around her and her kissed her hard. She got lost in the sensation for several moments.
Then he abruptly let her go. "No, I can't do that. I cannot lie to you."
"Lie? What are you talking about?"
"Penny, I am not inebriated. And if you are, it would be less than moral of me to take advantage of that."
"I saw you drink at least five glasses of champagne."
"No, you saw me pick up six glasses of champagne. I took no more than a sip out of each before discreetly discarding it."
"Why would you do that?"
"I wished to have you believe that I was intoxicated."
"So that you might believe I was not in control of my actions and you might allow me to…I am sorry, it was very wrong of me to attempt to perpetrate a ruse upon you."
"Might allow you to what?"
"You said thought I might allow you to do something. To do what?"
"To engage in …a carnal act." He said in a low voice.
"You wanted to have sex with me?"
"Forgive me, Penny, it was entirely inappropriate."
She turned away and bit her lip. This was wrong. She knew it was wrong. She was a married woman, a mother. It was so wrong.
But she'd spent the last fifteen years – and even longer than that – fantasizing about this. About having sex with Sheldon Cooper.
They said at the end of your life you regretted the things you didn't do more than the things you did. This might be her only chance to actually fulfill a fantasy.
She turned around and looked into those blue, blue eyes.
"Yes." She said simply.
"Pardon me?" Sheldon asked.
"I said yes. I'll have sex with you."
"You said you wanted it. I do too. If you still do, let's do it."
"Penny, are you sure? What about—"
"No, there is nothing to think about. No one else exists right now. There is only Sheldon and Penny, in this place and this time. I want it."
He approached her and pulled her into his arms and kissed her. They moved into his bedroom. She slipped out of her dress and stood in her lacy underwear. Slowly she removed the bra, then slipped the panties down her legs. She stood there watching him. He swallowed hard and removed his jacket, laying carefully on the chair. She smiled. Sheldon was still Sheldon. She walked to him and unbuttoned his shirt, pulled it off, then worked on his belt and his fly. She didn't allow him the time to fold the clothes, before she was pressed up to him and kissing him.
They fell onto the bed and flesh moved against flesh. When he slipped inside her, she felt complete.
Afterwards, they lay comfortably in each other's arms.
"Are you sure you've never done that before?" she asked him.
"While I did not perform the act previously, I am a scientist and I have done extensive research. The internet provides an abundance of material."
She giggled. "Sheldon Cooper watching porn! I would love to see that. But, sweetie, if you were that interested in it, why didn't you just do it?"
"There was no one with whom I could accomplish that."
"Come on, I saw those grad students hanging all over you. Any one of them would have obliged you."
"But Penny, they were not you."
She fell silent, taking in those words. "What are you talking about?"
"I am unable to resist you."
She sat up, a little angry. "What? What the hell are you talking about? You haven't seen me in ten years and haven't communicated with me in even longer. I've tried, but you just ignore me."
"And why do you think I've done that?"
"I wish I knew! You either have no emotions or are so afraid of them that you can't tell anyone how you feel. But it's not because you can't resist me."
He stared at her for several long moments, until she felt like a blue laser was burning into her soul. "What do you think would happen to me if I tried to keep in contact with another man's wife that I am in love with?"
She was speechless. It took a while before she stammered out, "You're in love with me."
"Well, why the hell am I just finding this out now?"
"What would you want me to do? You have a husband and a child."
"I didn't fifteen years ago before I left. I told you myself to give you a chance to say something. All it would have taken was two words, Sheldon, and I wouldn't have married Leonard. All you had to say was 'don't go.' But you didn't say that. You didn't say anything."
"Penny, you wanted to marry Leonard. He was the man that could give you the secure, happy life that you desired. You've told me how good he is with your son. That he spends time with him, plays ball with him, all of those things. I would never be able to do that."
"Okay, maybe playing ball isn't your thing. It isn't really Leonard's comfort zone. But he does it for his son. He moves out of his comfort zone."
"I like my comfort zone. I tend to stay there."
"Yeah, I know that. That doesn't mean you wouldn't do that if you had a child."
"Perhaps. But that hand was not dealt to me. You are married to Leonard and the mother of his child. And I am a man who is unable to express emotions."
"Looks like you're trying to do that right now. And l tonight was a pretty good indication as well."
He looked despondent. "Tonight was about giving in to physical urges that I have suppressed my entire life. While it would be a lie to say that I did not enjoy the experience, I am not proud of my behavior. I am a man who prides himself on his strong moral character. Having sexual intercourse with another man's wife is not indicative of that."
"Well, I'm not proud of myself either, but what happened, happened. There is no reason to beat ourselves up about it. We acted on some leftover sexual chemistry."
"If that were the only reason for the event, I would be able to put it behind me and move on. But it is not."
"No. As I said at the start of this conversation, I am unable to resist you."
"Sheldon, you resisted me for fifteen years!"
"No, I avoided you for fifteen years. It would have been too painful to stay in contact with you. As you were determined to keep me in your life, I was unable to avoid seeing your happy life with Leonard, the birth of his son and the other events that I would not be able to share with you. As I did not try to communicate, the contact, and in direct correlation, my pain, was minimal."
She stared at him. She wasn't sure what to say. When she finally spoke, her voice was little more than a whisper. "For fifteen years, you have been in the back of my mind and the back of my heart. I thought it was okay that I married Leonard because after all, you didn't love me and I was having a good life. Now you tell me this! What am I supposed to say, to do?"
"I'm not sure what you should do. You will need to make that decision. I must tell you though, that we will not do these activities again as long as you are Leonard's wife. I could not live with myself if that happened. But should you decide that you wish to change your circumstances, I will be here."
"What do you mean?"
"I will be here. You need not ask me, you only need to come to me. I will be here."
Twelve hours later, she was on an airplane, heading back to New Jersey, wondering what the hell she should do.
On the one hand, there was Sheldon. For over twenty years, she'd had a love/hate relationship with him that she had never had the opportunity to explore. Until this weekend. And man, had it been worth it. The sex was amazing. And his declaration about his feelings for her had been a revelation.
But he wanted her to give up her life for him. To leave Leonard. And that would mean leaving her son as well. Because there was no way that she could take Tony away from his father. Those two had a terrific relationship and to separate them for her wants would be unbelievably selfish.
So to be with Sheldon, she would have to leave Leonard and that meant leaving her son.
And there was no way that she could leave her son. She had told Sheldon that and he'd understood.
"I can appreciate those sentiments. I will simply reiterate, should you decide to change your circumstances, I will be here."
So she was heading east and to continue her life three thousand miles away from the man she'd always wanted. She would put him out of her mind and not think about him.
Six weeks later, she found that would be impossible when a pregnancy test came out positive. Considering the timing of when she'd had sex with Leonard, there was no doubt in her mind whose child it was.
She sent Sheldon an email, as she felt it was only right to let him know. His only response was, "Understood. I will repeat, I will be here."
She gave birth to a little girl that she named Michelle. Sometimes when it was only the two of them, she called the child "Shelly." It made her feel good to do that. And she sent pictures of the baby to Sheldon on a regular basis. He never responded, but she liked to imagine that he at least he looked at them.
In Pasadena, Sheldon had a file on his laptop labeled 'Personal'. At the times that he felt the most lonely, he would open it up and look at the pictures of the little girl with big blue eyes.
Close to my heart she came, only to fly away.
Only to fly as day flies from moonlight.
Now, now I'm alone, still dreaming of paradise.
Still saying that paradise once nearly was mine.
Five years later…
"Happy birthday." Leonard said, with very little emotion.
"Thanks." She replied, heading to the bathroom.
"Do you want to go out to dinner or something?"
She shrugged. "If you want."
"The kids would like it." He said.
She nodded. It wasn't as if she didn't know that he wouldn't want it to be just the two of them. To be truthful, she didn't want that either. What in the world would they talk about?
He said goodbye and headed out. She stood at the bathroom mirror and stared at her reflection.
Forty-eight years old.
She really didn't look too bad for forty-eight. Of course, she worked at it. She kept her body in shape through exercise and healthy eating. Her looks had always been paramount to her and she wasn't going to let them go without a fight.
Besides, they were probably the only thing that kept her husband with her. She realized that was a small-minded thought the moment it entered her head. Leonard wasn't a bad husband and she had no right to think like that.
Forty-eight. In a flash, she realized that in two more years she would be fifty. Her next thought was, "Is this how I want to spend the rest of my life?"
Her life wasn't what you would call bad. Her kids were amazing. Tony had just started at Princeton. He hadn't decided which of the sciences he would major in, but it would be one of them. He also played football. It pleased her that he was such a great combination of the two of them.
Even though the college was local, since he was living there, she didn't see him much and she missed him.
Michelle was a little sweetheart with her blue eyes and deep dimples. She was already really smart, a five year old who could read at a fifth grade level. She was also a musical prodigy. At two, she had climbed upon a piano bench and started playing songs she knew. She did the same thing with a guitar. Now she was working with a music teacher who taught her to read music and hone her skills. They were about to start the violin.
Because Penny didn't want her to neglect her body, she also enrolled her in dance classes and karate. And because socialization was also important, she was a Daisy Girl Scout as well.
Even though all of that was crucial to her daughter's development, in her heart, Penny knew that most of it was arranged to keep Penny from having to spend too much time alone with her husband.
They were really a very agreeable couple. They never argued. Maybe that was part of the problem. She remembered arguments she used to have with someone who was not Leonard. There was a lot of passion there.
Leonard had never said anything about Michelle. When she'd told him she was pregnant, he'd been silent for awhile, then he'd nodded and said, "It will be good for Tony to have a sibling."
And he was a good father to her as well. He took her to science museums and all the places he'd taken Tony at that age.
No, he never said a word. Never doubted her. Even though before she'd gone to California, they hadn't had sex in over a month and ten days after she returned, he went away for three weeks and they didn't have sex at all during that time.
He had to know. She often thought that, but she didn't say it. And neither did he. But sometimes when she was alone with Michelle, and she called her Shelly, she knew that she probably slipped and said it when Leonard could hear.
So they never argued and were perfectly agreeable to each other and had very few conversations. And had sex when one or both of them was feeling the need for a physical release, usually about every few months.
And so on her forty-eighth birthday, Penny wondered if this was all her life should be. Fifty in two years and sixty ten years after that. How long would she live like this? And what the hell would they do once Michelle was grown and gone?
He'd said he'd be there if she could ever leave her husband and child. And she couldn't leave her child. What mother could? But her son was in college. He didn't need her now. She could bring Michelle with her.
But could she do it? Disrupt her life? Disrupt Leonard's life? But could he really be happy like this?
It wasn't the first time she'd asked herself those questions, but her birthday made them more urgent. If she was going to do anything, now was the time to do it.
She almost didn't say anything. She got Michelle to sleep, telling her the usual stories that the child loved. Then instead of going to her bedroom to watch TV as she usually did, she went down to the den where Leonard watched TV.
He looked up when she entered and that's when she almost lost her nerve. He gave her a brief smile and said, "Did you have a nice birthday?"
The problem was that life was easy. She could answer him that yes, that she'd had a fine birthday, that she'd taken Michelle to her classes and had coffee with a friend and then she could go to bed, watch some TV and that would be it and it would be the same for the rest of her life.
But if she spoke up, she'd ruin everything and change her children's lives and for what? A man who may not even still want her?
She looked at her husband. Leonard in his early fifties had actually gotten more attractive. He didn't look so awkward anymore. When she thought about it, she realized that he was probably treading water as much as she was. This wasn't fair to him either.
"No, I didn't have a nice birthday. I've come to a decision, Leonard. I don't think we should go on like this any longer. We both deserve so much more."
He looked confused at first, as if he had no idea what she was talking about.
"What happened? Did I do something?"
"Leonard, can you honestly tell me that you're happy living like this? We barely talk to each other. We don't do anything together that doesn't involve the kids. This isn't a marriage, not really."
He looked at the floor. "I know. You're right. You deserve more than this."
"Not just me. You deserve more too. You deserve a woman who is happy to see you at the end of the day."
"And you're not." It wasn't a question.
"Are you happy to see me?"
"Of course I am!"
She looked at him and he shook his head, "Okay, maybe not that much. But only because I know that you're not happy."
"I'm not unhappy, sweetie. I just need... oh, I don't really know what I need. Maybe if I move out of here, get an apartment and a real job. Maybe I could go to New York…"
"No." He said.
"You're not going to New York; you're not getting an apartment."
"Because that isn't what you want to do."
"What do I want to do?"
He hesitated, then sighed and said, "You're going back to Pasadena."
"What…no, that isn't the reason that I…"
"Of course it is, Penny. I've always known that. It's always been there. The fear that I would lose you to him."
"You thought that? All these years?"
"Pretty much. For a long time it was kind of in the back of my mind and just a funny thought. But as you two got closer, it became a real fear. That's why I jumped at this job. Either I would be able to take you and get you away from him, or you'd stay and I wouldn't have to watch you with him."
She sat down, unable to fathom that Leonard had known this for the last twenty years.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"What was I supposed to say? I know you're in love with my best friend, but could you please marry me anyway? I hoped that maybe if you didn't realize it, we could make a life and it would be okay."
She was silent for a bit, then said, "What about Michelle?"
"What about her? Did you think I didn't know the truth? I know how a woman's body works and I know math."
"But you never acted like—"
"She's a little girl. It's not her fault. And I grew up in a house with no love and affection. I could never do that to another kid."
Her eyes started to water. "Leonard, you are amazing. I really don't deserve you."
"Penny, we've had a good life. I wasn't unhappy. And there's Tony. And Michelle. I've loved being a dad. I'm just sorry that you had to waste twenty years on me when you could have been with him. "
"You need to go to him. And you need to take Michelle. He should know his daughter. Just let me know that you're okay, that's all I ask."
The tears were rolling down her cheeks now. "I will let you know. And Leonard? I didn't waste twenty years."
"Thank you, Penny."
Less than a week later, she stood at the doorway of apartment 4A, holding Michelle's hand on one side and her suitcase in the other. She took a deep breath and knocked. He opened it, looked at her, then down at Michelle, nodded and stepped aside to let her in.
In New Jersey, Leonard received a text from his soon to be ex-wife with a picture of the three of them and the message, "Thank you."
He smiled sadly, sat back in his chair and closed his eyes.
One dream in my heart, one love to be living for.
One love to be living for, this nearly was mine.
I'm not going to beg for reviews, as I've been terribly derelict in giving them myself. But if you're so inclined, I won't protest!
And I just want to say that I've just heard spoilers for the season finale, when I was finished with the story.