Late night update for you guys! Well, for the ones in the UK anyway! My internet has been playing up thats why its so late, and I figured I would get this out now since im working tomorrow morning! This chapter was supposed to contain whats going to happen in the next chapter, but as i was writing that all changed. Mainly because it hit me that Penny is nearing her 30s! It freaked me out. Anyway, hope you enjoy it!

Growing Up

Penny placed her iPod in its docking station, and pressed play as she got her apartment ready for Amy and Bernadette coming over. She hummed, danced and sang along to whatever song it was that played as she tidied away the magazines, clothes and other little bits and pieces that cluttered her coffee table, breakfast bar and dining area.

Once she was done straightening up the apartment, Penny quickly headed into her bedroom to take a look at her hair and make-up before the girls arrived. She glanced over her grey skinny jeans and pattered top, tilting her head to the side and running her hand through her tousled hair, wondering if she should change into something fancier – something dressier, put on more make-up and give her hair a once over with her straighteners. She wasn't sure if they were going to go out anywhere tonight or if it was just going to be one of those nights where they just sat in, talked, drank wine and listened to music, but she wanted to be prepared in case one of them was insistent on going out to a bar or club. Amy was usually the first to suggest doing that these days. She hadn't gotten enough of these girls nights in her teens and early twenties, so she was really trying to make up for it now.

Penny walked back out of her bedroom and into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine, before grabbing another two glasses and sitting them on her coffee table. She quickly headed back to the kitchen to grab the bottle of wine and sat that down beside the glasses as she relaxed back in her sofa, her glass in hand as she waited on her friends to arrive, the music from her speakers still filling the otherwise quiet room.

If she was honest, she wasn't really bothered whether they went out or not. She was happy to just stay in and relax this Saturday evening; something that a few years ago she would never have thought possible. She still enjoyed having a good drink but she didn't feel the need to always get drunk, or to go out to a club to have a good time, and sometimes she much preferred just staying in. It meant she didn't have to go through the effort of getting dressed up, she didn't have to fix up her hair, or wake up in the morning with a ringing in her ears, an aching headache and throbbing feet. It also meant that she didn't have to deal with the men that would hit on her while she was at those sorts of places. It was something that never really bothered her before, in fact it was quite flattering - unless the men were particularly persistent or creepy - but it was something that was beginning to bother her now. These days, she found she would much rather sit in a fairly quiet bar or sit at home and be able to talk and gossip with her friends. It was fun going out to Vegas or partying hard into the night in the city, and she still enjoyed doing it, but not all the time and a lot less often these days.

Penny let out a quiet laugh as she shook her head at her own thoughts. Maybe she was getting too old for it now. She frowned. No, not too old, just… more mature; too mature to want to go out and party like a reckless teenager.

It certainly was a far cry from how she was a few years ago, Penny thought as she sipped on her wine, but that was okay. She was closing in on her thirties and she was happy with her life the way it was; she had realized that a while ago. She was enrolled in a college course that she enjoyed, she had friends and family that she loved and loved her back, and she had a boyfriend that she simply adored. A boyfriend that was much more than a boyfriend. He was her best friend. He was the only one that really understood her and the only one that knew how to make her body feel things it never had before. The one that, like she had said in the past, she was passionate about. She had never felt this passionate about a man before, and it still surprised her that it was her little nerd next door that had brought that sort of passion out. No-one had touched her heart like he had and she knew no-one else ever would. He was her soul-mate, as some might say, and she wondered in that moment if she believed in such a thing. It was something she had never really thought about in the past, but she was almost certain that if such a thing did exist, that he was hers.

Smiling a small, contented smile, she sipped on her wine and glanced over her apartment. This was another part of her life she was happy with. She loved her home. She loved the colours and little things she had in it to decorate it. It was cute and quirky and different. It expressed her vibrant personality perfectly. The only thing she would remove was the huge painting of herself and Amy, but even then she was sure something wouldn't feel right it that was gone, she had sort of gotten used to it and while she wasn't too fond of the actual picture, the sentiment behind it meant more to her than its outward appearance.

The only problem with it these days was that not having Leonard sharing this place with her every so often made it feel just that bit emptier. It was only really something she noticed at dinner time when he would usually be sitting across from her, or in the evening when they would cuddle on the sofa before going to bed. The rest of the time it was easier to handle. It still sucked. She still missed him, but it was easier.

There was only one part of her life that she wasn't completely satisfied with, and that was her career. She realized now, that she had been naïve to think that becoming a world famous actress was going to be easy, and that it wouldn't take longer than six months; a year tops. She had figured that she would be much further along in her career than she was now though. A few plays and a haemorrhoid commercial certainly weren't all she imagined to have under her belt at this stage in her life, and a small part of her wondered if she was really that bothered any more. If she really still wanted all the fame that would completely disrupt her life the way it was, the way she was happy with it being. She thought about all the things that would change if she suddenly became a household name and shot into the world of the rich and famous. She wondered how it would affect her and Leonard's relationship if she constantly had to travel to movie shoots or red carpet events. There was no doubt that he would become insecure over the men that would follow her career, as well as the actors she would film with, and she couldn't blame him, she knew she would feel the same if the tables were turned. She already felt that way because of the woman he was spending time with on that boat.

There was no way she would risk losing Leonard, and that was enough to convince her that she was happy without the fame, but she enjoyed acting. She loved her classes and being on stage in front of all those people, and just performing. Maybe she didn't need to become rich and famous and star in movies, but she would love to act in more plays and maybe end up, at some point, on Broadway. She certainly didn't want to be in The Cheesecake Factory for the rest of her life.

There was a couple of knocks on her door and Penny quickly snapped her head to the side with a smile. Glad that her friends had turned up before she got too far into her own thoughts, down to the parts that freaked her out. Tonight was a girls night. It was about having a few drinks and being silly and talking to each other about their men and work and everything else. It wasn't the time to sit and revaluate her whole life. Taking a quick gulp of her wine as she lowered the music on her docking station a little, Penny stood up and answered her door to two very excited women.

"Bestie!" Amy exclaimed as she entered the apartment and pulled Penny in for a hug.

"Hey Ames." Penny replied with a laugh as she let go of her and she gave Bernadette a quick hug too. "The wine and glasses are on the table girls, help yourself." She said as she let go of Bernadette and closed the door to her apartment.

"Great! You have no idea how much I've been looking forward to tonight!" Bernadette said as she put down her purse and sat down on the sofa. "Howard has been driving me crazy!"

Laughing, Penny walked around the sofa and sat on the right side in between the two girls. She then poured each of them a glass of wine as Bernadette complained about her constant struggle to domesticate Howard; the man who was used to having his mother doing absolutely everything for him.

Penny found it funny to listen to. She still often found the idea of Howard being married hard to comprehend. Part of her still thought of him as Leonard's creepy little friend. She still remembered all the different ways he would shamelessly hit on her when she had first moved in. She found it funny now, but at the time it had been quite disturbing. She had never thought in a million years he would have gotten married to someone like Bernadette. Even when she had set them up she hadn't thought it would go past the first date. She was glad it had though. Bernadette really had brought out the best in him, and when she thought back to that speech he had given only a year or so ago when he had thought she was leaving him, it still almost brought her to tears. She was still surprised that something as beautiful as that had come out of his once sleaze filled mouth.

Sitting back in the sofa as she handed the girls their glasses and crossed her legs, she listened to the last of Bernadette's complaints, until she had gotten it all out of her system.

"So," Amy said with wide eyes, "anything new happening with you lately Penny?"

"Um…" Penny thought for a second. "No, not really. I had my exam a couple of days ago - that went well, but nothing much else. Works been crazy, but it always is." She said with a shrug.

Amy nodded and sipped on her wine, "Did you hear back from your audition yet?"

Penny shook her head and sighed. "No. Not yet, but those things can take a while sometimes."

Both Amy and Penny then snapped their heads to the left, in the direction of a giggling Bernadette, her phone in hand.

"What's so funny?" Penny asked, scooting a little closer in an attempt to see what her friend had found so funny on that screen.

"Oh… nothing." She said dismissively as she put her phone back down on the table and took a sip of her wine, unable to contain the little grin still on her face.

Penny's eyes narrowed. "Tell us! What is it?!"

"Nothing!" She replied with a hint of a giggle.

"Bernadette, there is no point in continuing to protest. You know we are not going to stop until you tell us what you are smiling at! So give it up!" Amy exclaimed as she leaned in a little closer.

Penny nodded her agreement. "Spill it, Bernie!"

Bernadette smiled and thought it over in her head for a few seconds before sighing, "Fine!" She said, putting her glass back on the table and grabbing her phone, causing Amy and Penny to grin triumphantly. "Howard and I just downloaded this new app called Snapchat. It's so much fun. He just sent me a picture of…" She paused, "well… let's just say he's been doing some 'creative manscaping'" She giggled.

Penny grimaced. "Eww, Bernie, I think I just got a little sick in my mouth." She said, only half-joking as she took another sip of her wine and Bernadette lightly hit her on the arm. "What was that for!? Sorry, but…" She shook her head, "Ew!"

"I don't understand." Amy shook her head and looked at them both in confusion. "Would one of you care to expand on what exactly 'manscaping' is, why Howard is doing it, and what is a 'Snapchat'?"

"Uh…" Penny said, looking towards Bernadette, eyes wide. "Manscaping is…"

"Um…" Bernadette added, tilting her head as she tried to think of the best way to describe what she was talking about.

"Its… remember when we took you to get your bikini area waxed?" Penny said and Amy nodded with a slight grimace at the memory of the pain. "It's kinda like that. But for guys. And well, more gross because it Howard."

"HEY!" Bernadette exclaimed, hitting Penny on the arm again.

"I'm not sorry." Penny said with a smile, "I stand by my statement!"

"Oh, okay. And Snapchat?" Amy asked, sipping from her glass and Penny glanced Bernadette's, confused about what that one was herself.

"You guys haven't heard of it before?" She asked and they both shook their heads. "Even you Penny?"

Penny shook her head again and gave a small shrug. "Nope. Never heard of it."

"Oh." Bernadette said, slightly shocked. "Okay," She held up her phone and began tapping at it as she spoke. "It's like this messaging thing, but you send pictures to each other. You can write a little message or whatever on the screen with it but you have to send a picture."

"Oh…" Penny said, a little unimpressed. "So its just like messaging pictures to each other." She raised her glass to her lips, "Exciting." She said sarcastically.

"It's fun!" Bernadette defended, "What makes it even better is the picture you send isn't saved. Like, if I sent a picture of myself to Howie right now, he would only have it for a few seconds and then it gets deleted." A sly grin came over Bernadette's face. "Trust me, it can be a lot of fun!" She giggled.

Penny grimaced a little again. "Okay, ew again…" She said before a small smile appeared on her face and she bit lightly on her lip, her head suddenly filling with all the fun she could have with such an app. "Although… that does sound interesting. What is it called again?"

"Snapchat." Bernadette replied and Penny instantly went to her own phone to find it. "Amy you should get it too and we can all message each other! You could even get Sheldon to get it!"

Penny smiled for a second as she flicked through her phone until the mention of Sheldon made her head click on to something she had wanted to bring up. "That reminds me, Amy, what's been going on with Sheldon?" She asked as she put her phone down, took a sip of wine and focused her attention on her brunette friend.

"Huh?" Amy asked, slightly taken aback, "What do you mean?"

"Sheldon. He's… different these days." Tilting her head, Penny thought over her next words, trying to find the right way to describe what she wanted to say. She took a quick sip of wine, still in thought, before shaking her head a little. "I can't describe it... He's just different. More… normal, but in a Sheldon-y kind of way. Still weird, but… not as weird." She looked at Amy, who still had a blank expression on her face and then looked to Bernadette for some support.

Bernadette nodded, "Yeah, she's right Amy. Sheldon's different these days. Especially with you. Has something happened that we don't know about?"

Both Penny and Bernadette stared at Amy expectantly and she continued to stare blankly back at them, her heart beginning to race. These girls always knew when she had something to tell. It wasn't exactly hard to read her body language in these types of situations. Slowly, she raised her glass to her lips with both hands and took a cautious sip as she thought over what to say next. She had known these girls a while, and she knew that they weren't ones for giving up on something until they were satisfied with the answer they got. She had been on the other end of it many times, pushing Penny to give them details about her relationship and her feelings towards it. She had never been on the receiving end though, and she was realizing just how unsettling it was. No wonder Penny often flipped out.

What did she tell them? She still stood by her earlier decision of not wanting to give away the details of the Special Sheldon Cooper Coupons, and she did consider just telling them that she didn't know what they were talking about, but she wouldn't, for a few different reasons.

She had been spending the most time with Sheldon ever since Leonard had left, so if anyone, in their minds, were to know what was going on with him, it was her. She also didn't want to lie to her friends. She knew part of what it was that was bringing out these changes in Sheldon. She knew he was trying to further their relationship along in his own special way, and since these girls had told her the truth in the past, she would feel guilty if she didn't extend them the same courtesy. And then there was the final reason that she just couldn't dismiss the question; she wanted to talk about it. She wanted to tell them how he had hugged her and explain all the feelings that had come with it. She wanted to tell them of all the offers he had given her with those little laminated cards, she wanted to tell them about the sweet, caring side of Sheldon that they just didn't see like she did. She wanted to do it because she had never gotten the chance to do it before. It was always them, gushing about all the different things their men had done for them. Like the snowflake Leonard had brought home from the North Pole for Penny and the star necklace that Howard had actually taken to space for Bernadette. Amy wanted to spill all the details of how her man was just as sweet, just in a completely different way, and she knew they would get why such a small thing was so important too; maybe not as well as she did, but they would still understand to a certain degree.

"Amy, we can tell that there's something you're not telling us." Penny said as she glared at her, almost like a teacher talking to a naughty student. "You've been sipping on that wine for the past minute and a half. What's going on?"

Ohh look, I even put in a tiny little cliffhanger. HA! :)