Yeah I know this is way overdue and I'm sorry. I would throw you some of the usual excuses like how I couldn't figure out how to lay this chapter out properly and how I've been working lots and been getting generally distracted, blah blah blah, but that's getting boring so I'm gonna make it a little more exciting.
This chapter has taken so long to write because Johnny Galecki texted me to meet him in LA. Therefore I've spent the past week in America with that beautiful man, resulting in the writing of this chapter becoming the last thing on my mind.*
No Sheldon in Sight
"So, have you decided what you are going to do now that Leonard is moving out?" Amy said to Sheldon as he poured their tea in the kitchen of his apartment.
"What I am going to do?" Sheldon asked, confused.
"Yes." She nodded, "In regards to Leonard's room. Are you going to look for a new roommate?"
Narrowing his eyes, Sheldon looked curiously at Amy, "This isn't one of your attempts to worm your way into living in my apartment again is it?"
"No." Amy answered, rolling her eyes. "I understand that is a level of intimacy you just aren't ready for yet and due to your recent progress in other areas," She gave a small smile, "I am quite willing to accept that." She shrugged, "I was simply curious about whether you plan on finding a new roommate or not."
"Oh. Okay," Sheldon shrugged and passed Amy her cup of tea, "I have considered it." He said with a sigh, "However it does seem to be a lot of trouble to go through when there is a much simpler solution to my problem."
"Oh?" Amy asked, raising an eyebrow as she blew on her steaming cup.
Sheldon nodded, "I was actually thinking of not bothering with finding a new roommate at all. The thought of going through that tedious process again gives me a headache… besides, I am no longer in need of one. My paycheque more than covers the rent for this apartment so I could easily live on my own, and for the past four months I have. Finding a new roommate would just disrupt this new form of homeostasis I've created and quite frankly I think I've dealt with enough change recently to last me a lifetime."
Amy couldn't help the smile and barely-there laugh that escaped her after Sheldon's words, the memory of the last big change he had made only a couple of weeks ago still very fresh in her mind.
That kiss they shared was one that hadn't been repeated since, but she was still very much in a state of awe over what had occurred. Not only had she not been expecting it, but the calm and casual demeanour he had afterwards was something that she was surprised by too. The level of comfort he still had with her told her that he was happy with everything that had happened, despite her worry at first that things might have gotten weird between them - weirder than usual anyway.
She had even taken to light-heartedly teasing him about it, making a comment once after dropping him at work as to whether he was going to give her a 'goodbye kiss'. A comment that was met with a disapproving glare as he shook his head and replied, 'I will do no such thing, goodbye.' Despite that rejection, on her drive to her own lab she couldn't wipe the smile from her face. She hadn't expected him to do it really, she knew that despite the fact he had made that jump, it was still going to be some time before he done it regularly without persuasion of any kind.
It was like when they had first held hands, she reasoned. He had fought the idea of any physical contact for so long until finally letting his guard down, holding her hand when she reached out to his as they watched a movie. It had been weird and it had been awkward, but every time they done it afterward that awkwardness faded and he had begun to relax. He became less and less resistant towards it as time went on and now their hand holding was a common occurrence, and one that he even seemed to enjoy. Amy was sure that if she bided her time their kissing would have the same fate, and at some point it would become as natural as breathing, for the both of them.
"So, what are you going to do with the spare room?" She asked, sipping on her tea.
"Hm, I'm not sure." He looked off in the direction of Leonard's old room. "I suppose I could put my desk in there and turn it into an at home office… or some sort of game room." Sheldon furrowed his brow in thought, his mind wandering over the possibilities.
"Or you could just keep it as a spare room. It may come in handy, you know… should anyone need to stay the night." Amy said with a hint of a smile and a twinkle in her eye.
Looking at her, Sheldon considered it for a moment, not catching on to the subtle suggestion she was making, until a better idea came to mind and he let out a short gasp of excitement, "Or, I could set up my many miniature train sets in there!" His eyes twinkled with delight, "It could be like having my own train store!"
Rolling her eyes, Amy stood up from the stool and took her cup of tea to the sofa, sitting down on the middle seat as always.
"Wh-" Sheldon frowned, noticing Amy's displeasure. "Don't you like that idea?" He asked as he picked up his cup and walked to the sofa too.
"No, no, I think it's a great idea," She said as convincingly as she could. "I just wonder if it would maybe be more practical to keep it as a bedroom, just in case it is ever needed."
"Why would I need another bedroom? The one I have is perfectly functional."
"Not for you, Sheldon." She replied blankly, sitting her mug of tea on the coffee table. "But what if…" She stopped short of floating the possibility of her staying the night again in favour for something that wouldn't freak him out as much. "What if Leonard ever needs to use it again?"
"Why would he need to use it again?"
"Um, well, you know how Leonard and Penny can be, I'm sure it won't take long for them to have some sort of fight that would render Leonard without a bed to sleep in for the night."
"Hmm, you make a valid point. Even a homunculus like Leonard wouldn't be able to get a good nights sleep on that tiny couch in Penny's apartment…" Sitting back on the sofa, Sheldon looked off in thought for a few moments. "But the idea of having all my miniature train models set up in one room is quite exciting…" He shrugged and turned towards Amy, "I'll keep my options open for now… So, how was your day?"
Amy's sentence was cut off by a few quick knocks on the door, before Penny popped her head inside. "Hey you two, I'm not interrupting anything am I?" She said with a grin, receiving a wide eyed glare from Amy.
"Interrupting?" Sheldon frowned, "Of course not. We were ac-"
"Yeah okay that's great," Penny quickly said, cutting him off before he began on some long winded speech about his and Amy's planned activities, "Can I use your laptop?"
"Don't you have your own laptop?"
"I do," Penny said with a sigh as she stepped inside the apartment and closed the door behind her, "but it's going really slow and keeps crashing every time I get on to the college website - it's driving me crazy."
"Ooh are you getting the results from your test?" Amy excitedly asked.
"Oh, no," She gave a dismissive wave, "those aren't due for another couple of weeks. I was just trying to look at - you know… other courses and stuff." She shrugged.
"Oh! You never said you were looking into taking more classes!"
"Yeah," She shrugged again, trying to make it seem like not such a big deal when she knew that it was, "I've enjoyed this one I've been taking so I thought I'd take a look at a few other ones. But I can't do that without a laptop," She turned to Sheldon again, a hopeful smile on her face, "So… can I use yours?"
With a huff, Sheldon stood up, "Fine, however there are a few conditions."
"Yes. Rules which must be followed if you wish you use my stuff. First;" he held up his index finger, "the laptop doesn't leave this apartment. I'm not having you taking it over there," He motioned towards the door as he walked to his desk, "and doing to my laptop whatever it is you have done to your own. Second; you must stay where I can see you while you use it and third; you must – under no circumstances – touch the screen."
"I'm not a child, Sheldon." Penny rolled her eyes before meeting his stubborn glare, crossing her arms across her chest. "I do know how to use a laptop you know, I don't need to be supervised."
"You say that, and yet your own laptop is in such a bad condition that you have deemed it useless. I think you most certainly do need to be supervised whilst using it. I won't have those man hands of yours doing the same damage to my laptop as it has your own."
"Okay," She dropped her arms and huffed, "fine. I'll stay here and I won't touch your screen. Now, please, can I use it?"
"Very well." Sheldon nodded, reaching out to take the laptop and remove all that was plugged into it before handing it to Penny who went immediately to Leonard's chair, Sheldon following swiftly behind to head back to his own spot beside Amy.
"So, Amy," Sheldon said as he sat down and picked up his tea from the coffee table, "back to what you were saying, how was your day?"
"Hey!" Penny exclaimed in Sheldon's direction before Amy had a chance to answer, "How come you never ask me how my day was?"
Huffing, Sheldon turned to Penny, "Because, Penny, I have no interest in learning what the new specials are at The Cheesecake Factory, or how you saw a really cute top in a store and wanted to buy it but couldn't because they didn't have your size left. Or how you-"
"Okay, okay, I get your point." Penny said holding up her palm to encourage him to stop talking, before holding out the laptop to him and smiling, "Can you put in your password, please."
"So, Penny," Amy said as Sheldon took the laptop from Penny's hands, "I believe it's only a couple of weeks until Leonard comes home-"
"Two weeks and three days." She quickly corrected, grinning from ear to ear as Sheldon handed the laptop back to her.
"Right." Amy answered with a nod, "You must be getting pretty excited."
"I can't wait!" She beamed, crossing both her legs on the chair as she sat back, resting the laptop on her legs. "I've got just about everything ready for him coming back. I fixed up the apartment a little more, found a place for all his DVDs and stuff – oh and, Sheldon," She looked in his direction, "at some point I'm gonna need you to give me whatever one of those consoles belongs to Leonard so I can bring that over too and set it up - well you could set it up because i dont know how." Penny turned her attention back to Amy, "I've booked myself an appointment with the hairdressers and the salon and made some pretty fun purchases from Victoria's Secret for him."
As Penny and Amy grinned knowingly at each other, Sheldon frowned in Penny's direction. "You bought Leonard something from a girls store?"
"What?" Penny frowned, her gaze shifting from Amy and back to him.
"You said you got him something from Victoria's Secret and I think I am correct in assuming that that is a girl's store. So I'll ask again, why are you buying my friend a gift from a girls store?"
Stifling a laugh, Penny shook her head, "Oh sweetie. It isn't for him… well it is for him, but its mine, he just… gets to enjoy the benefits of it."
After looking thoughtfully at her for a moment, a look of realisation came across his face, "Oh! I think I understand what you mean."
"You do?" Penny and Amy both replied in disbelief.
"Yes. I have actually purchased a few things like that myself." He stated, the girls' confused stares only becoming more prominent. "Things that are for me but that Leonard will get to enjoy too."
"Like what?" Penny asked with a hint of hesitation.
"Well today I got Star Trek: Into the Darkness on Blu Ray in my mailbox and I purchased Iron Man 3 last week. I have also pre-ordered the new Grand Theft Auto game so that should be here in time for him coming home." Stopping, he looked over towards Penny, "Those aren't the things you have bought are they?"
With a laugh, Penny shook her head. "No. Trust me, the enjoyment he gets out of the things I bought will be completely different from the enjoyment he gets from yours."
At that Penny turned back to the laptop, quickly typing in the address for the college website she had been on earlier while Sheldon looked curiously at her.
"You'll figure it out one day, Sheldon."
"Hopefully." Amy mumbled, causing Sheldon's stare to turn towards her as Penny once again stifled a laugh. "So, do you uh…" She quickly said in Penny's direction, trying to change the subject before Sheldon pressed her on what she had said, "Do you have any plans for when he gets home?"
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know," Amy shrugged, "like a surprise party or something. We could set it up here whilst you or…" Amy stopped, a frown forming on her face, "Wait, who is getting Leonard from the airport?"
"I am." Sheldon and Penny answered almost in unison before turning to one another.
"Woah, hold on, I'm getting him from the airport, Sheldon - not you."
"Well obviously you would have to be there to drive but I will be there too."
"No." Penny replied defiantly, probably a little more annoyed about the prospect than perhaps she should be.
"Yes. No. I'm getting him on my own Sheldon I'm not having you come and ruin it like you did the last time."
"Excuse me?" Sheldon replied, looking quite offended, "Ruin what?"
"When we were saying goodbye and you kept on interrupting us."
"That was for your own safety you were-"
"Yeah I know we were parked in the wrong zone." She rolled her eyes, her words coming out quick "It doesn't matter. I'm getting him on my own."
"Well that's a little selfish don't you think?"
Penny scoffed with surprise, "I'm selfish?!"
"Yes. You are completely dismissing the fact that Leonard is my friend too, and that I am also excited about his homecoming and would like to be there to welcome him back to California."
"You can welcome him back; when he gets home." Penny quickly replied, the anger evident in her tone. "Is it too much to ask that I get to pick up my boyfriend that I've missed so much, on my own?"
Sitting back against the chair, Penny stared at the laptop screen, her jaw clenched with the anger she was trying to keep inside as a few tense moments passed by. She wasn't exactly being unreasonable. All that she wanted was to be able to welcome him home without Sheldon nipping in their ears every few minutes like he had when she had dropped him off almost four months ago, but trying to explain that to him and get him to undersand was something that she knew would be difficult.
"You're not the only one that has missed him you know."
The words had been said so softly that Penny could have sworn it wasn't him that spoke them. As her jaw loosened back to normal and her expression softened, she looked over to see him glumly facing his knees, his hands resting on his lap as Amy placed a comforting hand on his forearm.
He never flinched at the touch, she noticed, and as she and Amy shared sympathetic looks, her heart began to melt. "I know that Sheldon it's just…" Trailing off, Penny chewed on her lip as she thought hard about what to say. As much as she felt bad for him, she wasn't quite willing to give up on what she wanted. "Look, I have an idea, how about you guys stay here and get the little surprise party that Amy was talking about ready and then I will collect him and bring him straight here."
"Why not?" She asked, becoming a little exasperated.
"We can't have a surprise party for him on the evening he returns because his flight is due to land at quarter past ten. If we take into account delays and traffic, by the time he gets home it could be after half eleven and that is no time to begin a party."
"Well," Amy chipped in, "what about if Penny collected him, and then they both came here for a visit before going back to Penny's. That way you could both see him and then we can have the party for him the next day?"
Nodding, Penny looked hopefully towards Sheldon, "I think that's a pretty good idea."
Sheldon seemed to think this over for a second before stubbornly shaking his head. "I still don't see why you get to be the one to pick him up. He's my best friend, not to mention the fact that I have known him longer than you have, so I should be there to welcome him home, just like I was there to bid him farewell."
Rolling her eyes, Penny shook her head and sighed, "You know what? We obviously aren't going to reach a decision on this tonight so why don't we forget about it and think about it closer to the time. We still have two weeks to figure something out."
"Okay, I suggest we both think over some ideas and we will discuss it again in next week, agreed?"
"Yeah, sure." Penny answered, before focusing her attention back on the task she had come there for in the first place, smiling a little as Sheldon asked Amy how her day had been for the third time since she had arrived and finally receiving an answer.
After typing in the name of her school into the search engine, Penny clicked on the site she had been on briefly earlier. Flicking through pages with information on different classes and degrees, but she found herself unable to pay attention to the screen for more than a few moments, her mind becoming ever more distracted by the possibility that Sheldon could come in the way of how she had been picturing her and Leonard's reunion. She had imagined it in many ways, seeing him walk into the arrivals area as she waited anxiously for him, spotting him in the crowd as he looked carefully for her amongst the masses of people. She had imagined running to him and throwing her arms around him, grabbing on to him for dear life and promising herself she would never let him go for that long again, and she had pictured standing there, still and overwhelmed by the whole moment, unable to say a word as happy tears fell from her eyes. She had imagined touching him, holding him and kissing him for the first time, gently and full of love, and intense and full of passion. She had imagined the drive home from the airport, full of tension and an overwhelming need to get home, or giddy and full of talk of his trip and excitement at introducing him to the apartment that he knew so well but that had changed dramatically whilst he was gone.
In none of these pictures was there any sign of Sheldon. Not a single beautiful moment was interrupted by his neurotic personality or his incessant need to have Leonard's attention. Of course she understood that he had missed Leonard too, that he was just as excited about having him home as she was, and that maybe she was being a little selfish by insisting that she have that moment alone with him when she had just moved him over to her apartment, ensuring that there would be an abundance of moments to have alone with him. But she still wanted that one, and after spending so long missing him as much as she had, she felt like she deserved it.
The problem was that explaining that to Sheldon would be like talking to a brick wall. He would more than likely take none of it on board and continue to insist that he be at that airport too, and she just wasn't sure she had the energy or patience to deal with it. Right now she was probably the happiest she had been in a long time and she didn't want to spoil that by fighting with him for the next couple of weeks. Maybe the only solution was to let him come too and just do what she often had to and put up with him.
Maybe Amy should come too, Penny thought as she took a quick glance his way and spotted just how comfortable and close they were being as they spoke to each other. Not close enough for any outsider to think they were a couple at first glance but certainly close enough for her and the rest of their group to notice a definite change from their usual behaviour. The way they sat with their bodies tilted slightly in one another's direction, their knees touching and looking into one another's eyes as they spoke and held on to their mugs of tea, a small smile covering Sheldon's face as Amy spoke, one that she very rarely seen him give anyone else. Amy was one of the few people he really listened too, one of the few who could get through to him and get him to stop being so – for lack of a better word – Sheldon-y. Having her there to keep him from being so over the top was probably the best option, but then that was just one more person she would have to share that moment with, a moment she still wanted to be between just them.
With a short sigh Penny turned her attention back to the laptop, shaking her head clear of her thoughts in favour of trying to get back to what she had originally planned on doing, and trying to see if there were any other courses that she might like to take up when the school year starts again. Sticking to her promise that she would focus on getting her whole life on track, and for the first time it actually felt like she was. Her acting career seemed to be picking up, although she wouldn't really know for sure about that until she heard about that call-back, and she still felt confident about what the results of her test a couple of months ago would show. Confident enough to be able to look at some of the more challenging courses on offer and not be instantly scared away through fear of trying and failing.
Scrolling down the list, Penny passed by all computer and business related courses, simply because it didn't interest her at all; she knew all she needed to know about computers and that pretty much begun and ended with online shopping. She scrolled past the science courses with a small grin; maybe one day she would attempt one of those, if only for the fun of adding new science-y words to her vocabulary to put to good use the next time she put on those glasses. Penny bit on her lower lip with a smirk, Leonard would most definitely enjoy that. After grinning to herself she continued to scroll down, raising an eyebrow at the beauty courses because they seemed like something she would enjoy but continuing past it because she wasn't sure what she would actually learn from it. The only one that really caught her eye as she scrolled further down was psychology. She wasn't even completely sure why but it sounded interesting, something she could really get her teeth into and enjoy at the same time.
Sitting up straight, Penny eagerly clicked on the link to learn more about the course, grinning as the more she learnt the more interested she became in the subject, until a flashing ad at the side of the page caught her eye.
Her brow raised with intrigue, Penny moved the cursor to hover over the advertisement that offered her the chance to 'fly to Europe for the best prices around'. A quick thought of how flying to the Britain to see Leonard as he arrived on land would solve all her Sheldon related problems flitted across her mind, before being instantly dismissed as she begun to continue reading about her course.
But she was now completely distracted, her head filling with wonderings of why she had chosen to completely dismiss the idea of it. Sure it was a little crazy and despite how cheap those ads claimed the flights were, she knew they would still be pretty expensive.
But she was working more now, her bank balance had been steadily rising over these past few months with the extra shifts she had been doing to fill up her free time. Plus with having Leonard moving in with her, there would be one half of what she usually paid towards rent, food and electricity free to be spent, and what better way to spend it. It would be a great surprise too, she reasoned, one that Leonard wouldn't be expecting and was sure to make him incredibly happy. Getting away from Sheldon was definitely another highlight. She would get the reunion she wanted with maybe a day or so extra, as they waited on their flights home, where it was just the two of them. It would be better for Sheldon too, he probably wouldn't be too pleased about her going away to see Leonard without him but as soon as they got back Leonard would be free to go over and see him and she wouldn't be so upset about it after having those days alone with him already.
All in all it seemed like a pretty good idea, but it was crazy, right? She would have to get time off work and there wasn't just the flight to pay for either. When she arrived she would have to have somewhere to stay which meant booking a hotel and if she was honest she wasn't even completely sure where Leonard's ship was docking and on what day.
That was stuff she could easily find out though, all it would take was one casual phone call, and all she would have to really buy was a one night stay in the hotel. The rest would probably be spent in whatever hotel Leonard was being put up in, and getting time off from The Cheesecake Factory had never been something that bothered her before either.
The more she thought about it, the less crazy and more reasonable the idea became; her mind highlighting both how excited Leonard would be and the fact that there would be no Sheldon. Those two points were heavy enough to outweigh any other negative that came with spontaneously leaving.
With her heart rate beginning to speed up, Penny clicked the ad before she changed her mind. After being directed on to the site, she typed in the details of the approximate dates she would be leaving and returning on, wondering at that moment if she would be able to get herself on whatever flight it was Leonard was due to be returning to California on, or if she could put him on hers. That was a journey she really didnt want them doing separately. After quickly deciding that that was something she could figure out later, she continued to put in the dates before hitting the 'Book' button to see what prices it hit her with.
Tilting her head, Penny lifted her hand to the locket around her neck, playing absent-mindedly with it as she often did while she thought over what to do. The price wasn't exactly what she would consider cheap, but it wasn't unreasonable either. She could pay it and still have plenty of money left in her bank account, making it a pretty good idea in her mind. Hearing Sheldon yattering away in the background only continued to cement just how great of an idea this was.
No Sheldon in sight. Just her and Leonard, a hotel room and maybe one of those outfits she had purchased from Victoria's Secret. She grinned as she sat back in the chair, her fingers still loosely playing with the chain around her neck as she realised she would have to pull her trips to the salon and hairdressers forward too, but that was easily done. There was nothing stopping her really. Plus, she thought with a grin, she really did love British accents.
*This possibly, more than likely, probably and definitely did not happen. But a girl can dream right?