Chapter 13

Since time and a chapter separate these scenes, here's a refresher.

From that point on she was on autopilot. She took the airport shuttle to Pasadena and then a cab to their house not far from the University.

It was lit up like a Christmas tree and she wondered if Missy and Mary had flown in for the funeral and were staying there rather than a hotel. Knowing Leonard, he offered them Sheldon's house for as long as they needed it.

This was going to get awkward fast.


Sheldon sat in his spot on the couch and watched as people milled around a folding church table that Penny had picked up somewhere and had been kept in the mudroom. It was covered with one his white sheets. They made selections from various plates, bowls and trays that had been purchased or brought by those in attendance.

Leonard and Alex had conspired (yes, it had been a conspiracy or so it seemed to Sheldon) with his mother and sister and invited friends and colleagues from the University to a pot-luck dinner party. There was no specific reason, just friends and associates having an impromptu celebration of life.

Tomorrow would be a difficult time for some of them and this was the only reason Sheldon hadn't pitched a fit at this invasion of his home. They needed something to take their minds off the memorial service for one of their own, Dr. Sandra Cooper, MD, PhD, who has expired in the quarantined lab despite his best efforts.

Still, it was very nerve wracking for Sheldon.

He desperately needed a drink. His palms were sweating but since he was wearing khaki-colored Dockers, he couldn't wipe them on his pants. Instead, he pressed his palms flat against the dark brown fabric of the couch and prayed no one approached him and offered their hand to him.

Soft, warm arms wrapped themselves around his neck and chest from behind, palms flat against his chest, over his heart. Bernadette pressed a soft cheek against his and whispered, "Sheldon, you really need to eat something and I'm hungry. You carry the plates and I'll make the selections. I'm hungry and - " As if to emphasize the point, her stomach growled and he gave a very uncharacteristic chuckle.

"Fine. I suppose I'd better feed you then lest you pass out from hunger."


Flashback

The bedroom door was open and she could hear the shower running. Bernadette was suddenly aware of how she smelled and a wicked smile appeared on her elfin face.

She left her clothing in a pile on the bathroom floor and opened up the shower door and slipped between the wall and Sheldon. His arms were raised as he lathered his hair with shampoo so it was easy for her to wrap her arms around him.

He squawked a startled sound but then relaxed into the awkward hug. She was barely 5 feet tall and she always commented that she loved the difference because she could hear his heart beating when they hugged. And it was pounding in his chest from being startled.

"I know you heard what I said, Sheldon. It's true. I do love you and I know you feel something for me. I saw the look on your face in the lab. Don't you dare say that 'it was just a response to the situation'. Don't you dare say 'it's not true'. Don't you – "

"You stink, Little Bit." That was the only thing he'd said to her. He bathed her in the shower, his large hands using the body wash to caress her, to show her what she meant to him, to show her how he felt since words were not enough and try as he might, he could never find the right words.

Her body was thrumming with desire and need. When she wrapped a fist around him and began stroking him, he gently removed her hand and placed it over his heart and continued his cleansing.

He was very good at cleaning.


Bernie handed him two plates and walked around the table adding things and commenting on others. She knew his tastes and knew how structured his eating habits and preferences were. For example, he detested the aftertaste of asparagus, loved water chestnuts but only in certain dishes and preferred his steaks medium rare. His tolerance for spicy foods was amazing and the hotter the better.

"Little Bit, these plates are becoming a burden and you know I abhor – "

"Hush, darlin', you're stronger than you think." It was a veiled reference to how he'd once carried her from the couch where she'd fallen asleep during a Dr. Who Marathon on ScyFy and he'd carried her bridal-style up to their room. She'd awakened as he climbed the stairway and stiffened in fear but he'd merely whispered, "I won't let you fall, Little Bit, I'm stronger than you think."

Mary Cooper hid a smile behind her napkin. Her Shelley-bean finally had a woman in his life that would stay the course. She hadn't been a bit pleased when she'd learned that 'Bernie' was divorced from Shelley's 'little Jew friend' but seeing them together lessened the distaste she felt for those who were divorced.

Missy heard the doorbell. It was probably someone from the University who wasn't really good with clocks. That thought brought a smile to her face and she laughed to herself. Raj had come without his latest attempt at a girlfriend and she'd spent most of the evening with him, plying him with screwdrivers to keep the conversation going.

Even though her mother thought alcohol was the Devil's Drink, she didn't object when others drank, deeming it a sign and opportunity from God for her to pass out one of her many, many pamphlets on temperance. When Missy had first slipped him a screwdriver, she pursed her lips in anticipation of a Demon Alcohol pamphlet being pressed into his hand. Mary had been occupied elsewhere so she kept plying him with booze.

Whoever it was, they were becoming impatient. The doorbell rang twice more.

"Missy, the doorbell. Perhaps it's a late arrival or someone from the CDC come to take more blood samples from poor Bernadette or Sheldon."

"Could be, Raj. One of them government vampires. Well, it is dark. And vampires only come out at night," she tossed over her shoulder, laughing.

Missy opened the door with her usual bright smile but then stepped back and slammed it as hard as she could.

"Missy? You slammed – " started Raj but Missy cut him off with "It is a vampire…oh…my…God!"

She turned around in the foyer and her furious gaze met her brother's and she gave him a signal from childhood and stomped into his den/office and waited.

Sheldon murmured, "What does she want now?" He saw the hand signal they used as children to signify 'Danger, parental argument' and he'd glanced quickly over at his mother but she was raptly listening to something Leonard was saying to her. "I'll be right back, Bernadette. Missy is in the midst of a meltdown over something. I'll just be a moment."

The doorbell sounded again and again as Sheldon crossed the foyer into his office and he asked Raj in passing to "please attend to the door, Rajesh. They're quite insistent," and went into his office where Missy was standing.

Raj opened the door and his first thought was to step back as Missy did but instead he stepped out onto the covered porch, closing the door behind him.

"What are you doing here, Penny?" There was none of the usual Koothrappali joy at seeing an old friend and his mutism had fled him, pushed away by a surge of anger and a liberal lacing of alcohol.

"Hello, Raj. I – I came for Sheldon's funeral. It sounds more like a party than a wake. Can – can I come in, please?"

"I don't think that would be a wise course of action. His friends and family are gathered here and – "

"Please? I – I never realized just how much I loved him until he was gone…" A solitary tear ran down one cheek.


Sheldon's Office

"What do you mean, you knew she was coming?" Missy's eyes were fixed on Sheldon's and if looks could kill…

"She called almost two weeks ago. Her show closed in London and she said she was coming back here. I told here she was no longer welcome in my home and she was quick to point out that she was also a signatory of the lease/purchase agreement…"

The anger fled as she saw her brother's face contort in something she rarely witnessed – indecision. She knew how he adored the structure of a contract and would adhere to the terms and conditions if it killed him.

"Do you remember almost dying after she left? Do you remember how your friends gave you support and love and strength when you had none? And what about Bernadette?"

Gone was the arrogant physics genius. In his place was a just a man unable to decide what to do.

"I – I don't know what to do. I don't want her here and yet – "

Missy seized the reins of this runaway situation and issued him his marching orders.

He looked so grateful that she hugged him tightly and whispered, "It's gonna be okay, Shelley. I'll handle things here. You go fetch Bernadette and stay at her place."

She watched her brother walk like a death row inmate over to where Bernadette sat. He leaned over and said something and her face clouded and she looked like she was going to cry but then she jumped up and grabbed his hand and dragged him out onto the back patio and into the night.