A/N-I really don't know what to say about this story except for the following:

There's a Major Character Death—although it doesn't seem to deter him from carrying on in the story.

The story takes place sometime in Season Five. There are scant references to Season Six such as Alex and Professor Proton but they're only mentioned in passing as I haven't been watching too carefully this season to properly employ them.

Some characters do some douche things but I tried to keep it within the scope of possibility. I'm rather frustrated as to how characters are portrayed in Season Six; there is now a nastiness to the lot of them that makes me at times question why they're still friends much less in relationships. For a more positive vision of the show and how things 'should be' (albeit from a Shenny perspective) you can try my other story, 'Daily Occurrences', which was done in the spirit of Seasons One and Two.

This story came to me Boxing Day morning and I'd hoped it would be more of a traditional narrative since that's what I have to work on. I don't think I'm particularly successful but, eh, I tried.

Come take a leap with me. *Lynn

Thank you to Rene' for her enthusiasm for this project.

Each day is separated by a xTBBTx. Note that the days are NOT consecutive.

Events happening on the same day are separated by a XxX.

Of course I don't own 'The Big Bang Theory'. I just like to play in their world.

Science cannot exist except in that which lives. For nothing which is not alive learns anything, and science cannot be in a thing which does not learn. –St. Augustine

xTBBTx

References to 'The Loobenfeld Decay'; 'The Extract Obliteration'; 'The Gorilla Experiment'; 'The Terminator Decoupling'; 'The Gothowitz Deviation'; 'The Habitation Configuration'; 'The Launch Acceleration'; 'The Work-Song Nanocluster'

xTBBTx

Sheldon checked his watch—it was ten after six and Penny still hadn't come to the table. At this rate her tip would be miniscule on his part. Leonard tried several times to explain to Sheldon that Penny's tip should be consistent given that she was their friend. The lanky man thought this was poppycock. Rewarding lackadaisical performances only led to mediocrity passing as the new standard.

A sudden flash of blond hair at the bar caught his attention and in a moment he saw Penny approach with a tray full of drinks.

"Good evening, Penny," Sheldon said. "It's nice you could join us given that our table is situated in your serving area." Penny mashed her lips together and smiled sarcastically as she handed out the drinks.

"And what can I get you kind sirs tonight?" she said with a little too much saccharine. Leonard frowned at his girlfriend.

"Penny is there someth—"

Sheldon interjected. "I'll have the barbecue bacon cheeseburger, barbecue sauce, bac—"

"What a bitch!" Penny snapped. The table was silent.

"Who is?" asked Leonard.

"My agent." Penny put her hand on her hip. "Do you know what I could be doing right now?"

"Taking our order?" suggested Sheldon. The waitress and the physicist glared at each other.

"Wrong. I could be at an audition with Trisha. The role was for a mid-Western blond and hel-lo! Blond from Nebraska here! But did I hear about it? Nope."

"Maybe your agent forgot to call you. I'm sure he or she has lots of clients," soothed her boyfriend. Penny pulled out her pad and pencil and began writing.

"That's what I thought so I called her and gave the old 'what the hell' and you know what I got from her?"

"An order for a barbecue bacon cheeseburger?" scowled Sheldon.

"No," Penny snapped. "She said I was 'too mid-Western'. How the hell can I be too mid-Western for a mid-Western role?"

"Language, Penny," Sheldon murmured. At this rate Penny was going to owe him for his dinner.

Leonard tried to keep Penny's experiences at the junior rodeo and fixing the family tractor from his mind as he cleared his throat. "That seems hard to believe," he said neutrally.

"I know!" Penny picked up her tray. "So I called her on it and do you know what she said? I'm done. Kaput. No one's going to hire me because I'm not what producers want. I'm a dead client and she was waiting for the star shine to leave my eyes so she could talk to me woman to woman about my future."

"Hardly," Sheldon tutted. "If anything your agent was unscrupulously taking your money willy-nilly until you smartened up to the notion that your 'acting career' would never materialize."

Penny caught another table waiving for her attention. "Gee thanks, Sheldon. Maybe I should have made you my agent."

"Oh I don't think so," he countered evenly. "After hearing your attempts at singing while rehearsing for Rent we would have parted ways years ago." Penny's jaw dropped.

"Sheldon!" Leonard snapped.

"What?" Sheldon stared at his roommate. "I could have gotten a ride to cousin Leo's drug intervention with Raj so you could have attended her performance."

"So how is Leo doing?" Leonard said in a chipper than usual tone.

"He's at his second half-way house since the relapse but things look promising," said Sheldon. "Of course you'd know all of this if you'd bothered to read the Christmas card he sends each year."

"And this deals with my problem, how?" asked Penny.

Sheldon cocked his head to the side as he regarded his menu. "Drug dependency does entail deceit in all its forms including monetary theft and bold-faced lying. Perhaps your agent has been leading you on to fuel a drug habit?"

Penny turned and stomped towards the order kiosk.

"Where is she going?" Sheldon closed his menu and set it at the end of the table. "She didn't take our orders."

Leonard put an elbow on the table and leaned his head into his hand.

XxX

What the hell am I going to do now? Penny opened the bottle of wine and began pouring herself a glass.

"Besides kill this bottle, I mean," she said drolly. She tucked her pink fleecy pantsed legs on the couch and leaned wearily against the throw pillows piled at the end. Counting back from when she moved out of her parents' house at eighteen Penny realized that she'd spent six years following her plan: go to California and become a movie star. She took her father's advice to heart about having a backup plan in case things didn't work out the way she thought it would. If plan 'A' didn't come to fruition in the first year she was to resort to plan 'B': become a television star. Penny rolled her eyes as she sipped. In hindsight she couldn't believe what a naïve airhead she sounded like. No wonder her dad went out to the back of the barn and shot up a bunch of old cans the night before she left Nebraska.

She finished off her glass and poured another. She was twenty six years old and only had her high school diploma. There was no doubt she'd have to go back to school given this recession.

"Guess I'll finally have that degree Leonard's always wanted," she snorted before taking a sip. Be nice Penelope. Leonard was only trying to be—what? She sighed. Leonard was always trying. Penny couldn't say their relationship would fail from a lack of trying on both parts. Not that their relationship was in any danger of collapse. She told Leonard she loved him. She told herself the same thing. Sure it wasn't a butterflies in the stomach or wetting of the loins kind of love she saw in romance films but then again this was real life and Leonard Hofstadter was her leading man.

As if on cue there was a knock at her door.

"Come in," said Penny and Leonard entered and closed the door behind him.

"Hey," he said kindly as he sat on the couch. "How are you doing?"

"Pretty shitty, Leonard," Penny snapped. She looked at her boyfriend and sighed. "Sorry."

"Don't worry about it. It's not everyday we get our dreams smashed." Like when you broke up with me at the bowling alley…. "So what are you going to do?"

Penny ran a hand through her hair. "The only thing I can—go back to school. I don't want to be a waitress forever." Here she brightened. "At least I've got that history course under my belt so it's one less elective to take." Immediately Leonard began nervously rubbing his thumbs together at the memory of her paper on slavery.

"There's that," he said in an uncommitted tone. Penny raised an eyebrow and he gave an exaggerated smile. Penny was wonderful but definitely not academically inclined. And yet he wouldn't change her for the world. Well, maybe if she read more she'd fix her sentence structures and broaden her vocabulary and knowledge base but that's about it. He'd already told her about wearing too high a heeled shoe and for the most part she'd been amenable. Unless she was pissed with him. That's when the conundrum came into play because Leonard detested the height difference but at the same time her ass and breasts were prominently displayed; not to mention that Penny couldn't catch his eyes appreciate the aforementioned body parts which he did in liberal doses. In a way it was a close call at what he liked to see more: Penny's body or the eyes of guys who checked her out and then looked enviously—okay perhaps incredulously would be the better word but this was Leonard's fantasy—at the physicist.

"I don't want you to make a big deal out of this," Penny warned. She downed her glass and set it on the coffee table. "I have to be able to do this on my own."

"Of course. But you know that you can always ask me for help when—if—you need it. A lot." She glared. "Or a little. Or maybe not at all." Leonard's mind raced like a hamster. "The down side is that I won't get the chance to see you act again."

"Yeah," Penny pouted. "Just when I thought my acting classes were really paying off."

A little smile came to her boyfriend's face. "Well we could always do a little acting here."

"Oh?" said Penny with a smile before giggling at Leonard's wiggling eyebrows. "And what are we tonight? 'The Pizza Boy and the Slut'?"

The physicist put a hand on her thigh. "Lactose, remember?" He leaned over and they kissed. "We can always try the old standby: 'The Physicist and the Slutty Cop'."

Penny smiled. "Okay. Only this time I get to play the physicist." Leonard nuzzled her neck.

"You know physics?" he murmured.

"Physics comes form the ancient Greek word 'physika' meaning 'the science of natural things'." Her boyfriend raised his head in shock to look Penny in the eyes. She winked and he smiled.

"Do you have any idea how fast you were driving, missy?" he said in a gruff voice.

xTBBTx

"Bill, bill, bill—ooo a credit card application!" squealed Penny as she went through her mail. This one had a six month introductory low rate she could take advantage of by transferring her current card's debt. "Things are looking up." She closed her mail box and tossed the book bag on her shoulder and ascended the stairs. For the last three hours she'd been at Pasadena City College going over her options at the guidance office with a very sexy and very gay man who knew how to work a tight pair of jeans. He decided that since Penny was unsure as to what she wanted to do it would be best if she kept her options open and therefore suggested she take her universal breadth requirements of math and English. The waitress was a little dubious about the math but the counselor assured her that it wasn't much above high school level.

"Out of the way!" A voice from behind—Raj's. Suddenly Penny heard what sounded like a herd of Tauntauns—God I can't bo-leeve I know that!—coming up the stairs. "Howard, I'm going to pee my pants if you don't let me pass!"

"Too bad your math skills didn't employ earlier. Sixteen ounce bladder. Thirty two ounce Slurpee," teased Howard. "This is what denial does to you, my friend."

"If you don't move there'll be a Nile flowing down the staircaaaa…." Raj quieted as Howard and he turned the corner and saw Penny.

"Hey guys," she said brightly as she unconsciously put a protective hand on her book bag while flattening herself against the wall. Raj smiled weakly before tearing past her. She smirked at the grinning engineer. "Going after him?"

"At my own pace. It's hard to look out for signs of dribble or puddles if I take the stairs too fast."

"Ew," said Penny although she found she couldn't take her eyes off the carpet ahead of her as they continued to the fourth floor.

"So, any luck finding a new job?" asked Howard. Penny was shocked.

"Did Leonard say anything to you?" she said, more than a little upset. The little man chuckled.

"Penny, you pretty much said your dreams went off a cliff at the restaurant. I might not have a doctorate but I've been known to put two and two together."

"True," blushed the waitress. "I'm looking into my options." Not that there are many. "You know, I don't want to jump into anything." Like I did my 'acting career'.

Howard nodded and the pair finished their climb in silence. For as long as he'd known Penny he couldn't say that they'd had a lot of heart-to-heart chats so he'd come to the end of his line of conversation. Truth be told, ever since he'd married Bernadette he barely spoke to the waitress since it wasn't exactly proper to hit on another woman. Even for Howard Wolowitz.

With a smile Penny parted from the engineer and entered her apartment. After she set her book bag on the coffee table she went into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine and put on a pot of water to boil. As she sipped her wine Penny looked first at her books and then the rest of her living room. Suddenly an idea popped into her head and she went to her entertainment stand. Setting her glass on the floor she plunked down beside it and removed the dvds from the drawer. She leaned back to snag the book bag and proceeded to store the books in the drawer and shut it with a click.

Penny took a sip of wine as she thought about dinner. Would it be mac and cheese? Mac without cheese? The choices, the choices. Her phone rang and she scooted over on her butt to reach her purse. She dug out her phone and checked to see who was calling.

"Oh, hey Amy," she said.

"Hello Bestie. How is my budding ray of sunshine?"

"Eh, not bad. You?"

"Grand. I've just submitted a proposal for another addiction study. These tobacco companies are doing their best to show their product isn't addictive and aren't afraid to shell out the bucks to do so."

"I thought cigarettes were more addictive than cocaine?"

"Heroin too. Let's just say that by the end it was a good thing Ricky hadn't had access to any switchblades because he was edgy enough to gut me good when I forgot to get him a pack of smokes."

"Yikes."

"As for the purpose of my call I thought since I now had some free time we could catch up. What do ya say? Wanna be my ample-bosomed buddy?"

"Sure. … How about Ikea? I need something to store my dvds in."

"Sounds like a plan."

"I've got dinner on the stove so I'll call you after I've eaten."

The two women said their goodbyes and Penny set the phone on the counter as she lifted the lid on her boiling water. She checked her stove clock and realized she'd have to eat quickly if she wanted time to shop. With a 'why not' shrug of the shoulders she pulled out a soup mug and poured in the hot water.

"Cheese soup it is," Penny said as she went to the drawer for a spoon.

XxX

"Talk to me, Cortana," purred Raj as he clicked merrily away on the game controller.

"Actually it's more amazing you can talk to her," grinned Leonard before joining Howard and Sheldon in a snicker. Raj pursed his lips.

"Yeah, well, you suck," huffed the astrophysicist.

"Now, now," soothed Howard. "Maybe you're on to something Leonard. First there was Siri and now Cortana—"

"Excuse me but my crush on Cortana came with Halo 2—well before the beautiful Siri came into being," amended Raj. Sheldon raised an eyebrow.

"How can Siri be aesthetically pleasing? She isn't corporeal."

"The power of the mind," replied Raj.

"You mean the power of the desperate," laughed Leonard.

The engineer scoffed. "Aka Leonard's pseudo relationship with Penny during the first two years of knowing each other." Now it was Leonard's turn to pout as his friends guffawed.

"As a bright side, the Japanese are making great strides in android technology," said Sheldon.

"Until they get to the quality of Cameron the Terminator I'm not interested." Raj sighed as he thought of his train trip with Summer Glau. Things were going so well until Howard pointed out that the beer was nonalcoholic. Thanks 'pal'.

"John Connor was a fool. I know if I reprogrammed her she'd have a few more party tricks up her sleeve if you know what I mean," smirked Howard.

"Yeah, she'd be a regular Stepford Wife," replied Leonard. "Shop for groceries, do the laundry and crush you like a tin can between her thighs."

"In the meantime, Raj, you could always find a young, impressionable woman, perhaps from the Mid-West and modify her behavior through positive reinforcement," offered Sheldon as he hid his avatar behind a wall so he could get a sip from his bottled water.

Howard laughed at Leonard. "You were training Penny? I thought you were the whipped one?"

"Of course he wasn't training her, I was," sniffed Sheldon. "And doing a very good job at it I may add."

"And yet Amy has you whupped like a dog so don't act all superior," Leonard reminded him.

The lanky man frowned. "Amy Farrah Fowler doesn't have me 'whupped'."

Leonard paused the game. "Okay Sheldon, fill in the rest of this phrase: when Amy argues with your friend—even if she's wrong and belligerent towards him—you must always…?" A twitch passed over Sheldon's face. The curly-haired man smirked. "That's right! Shelly must always 'side with her'."

Sheldon jumped at the sound of Raj's whip sound App from his phone.

"Who'd ever think that Sheldon could be emasculated?" said Howard before taking a swig of pop. "Well, by someone other than a female family member."

"I am not emasculated," scowled the theoretical physicist.

"My mistake. Reprogrammed," grinned Howard.

"Hardly."

Leonard wiped his hand on his pant leg before resuming the game. "Face it Sheldon, you're a 'Stepford Husband' just like the rest of us."

"The 'Stepford Wives' were humans replaced by robots, Leonard," reminded his roommate.

"The same principle applies," shrugged Howard. "Only Amy's replacing the Shelbot with a human."

Raj glanced at Sheldon, his friend flushed with emotion, and realized that the humanization of Sheldon Cooper began long before Amy came into the picture. Leonard had done a lot to improve his sociability over the years but it took the magic of a certain blond-haired waitress moving in across the hall to push Pinocchio into becoming a real man.

XxX

"Sheldon is positively frustrating sometimes," sighed Amy as Penny and she wandered down the path in IKEA towards the living room furnishings.

"What's he done now?" Penny asked, distracted by a cute storage container.

Amy huffed. "It's more like what hasn't he done. I got him to be a Junior Engineer, played Star Trek 'doctor', made his favorite meal—including Strawberry Quick—and you know what I've gotten in return? Bupkiss."

Nope, I'd need two and got no room for that. Penny set the container down and resumed walking. "So what is it you're expecting?"

"Anything at this point: a kiss on the cheek, a snuggle he initiates, minor public displays of affection like hand-holding."

"Well you know he's a germaphobe," Penny said slowly. "It took him a while to hug me and even then I had to cough up Leonard Nimoy's DNA."

"I shouldn't have to 'cough something up'. He's my boyfriend. Boyfriends are supposed to get giggy and I'm ready to be giggled."

They took the 'secret passage' that cut directly into the living room area. Penny immediately spotted the media section.

"What if Sheldon isn't ready?" asked the waitress.

"Of course he's ready," snapped Amy. "Face it: I'm the best girlfriend Sheldon's ever going to get. I'm intelligent, sassy and can stand his idiosyncrasies." The neurobiologist stayed in the aisle as Penny waltzed between the various dvd racks. "After waiting two years he owes me. He owes my eggs."

Penny turned to her friend, mouth open. "You want kids?"

"Kids, a ring on my finger, steamy sex every night."

The waitress cracked a smile. "And this is Sheldon we're talking about?"

A crooked smile came to Amy's face. "Penny, it's not like I've had a plethora of boyfriends to choose from. Whether he likes it or not Sheldon's 'it' and like heck if I'm going to let him get in the way of my becoming Amy Farrah Cooper."

"Gotcha," Penny answered. Amy was a good friend and a good person yet for some reason Penny felt a twinge of sympathy for the reluctant physicist. There was nothing worse than being forced to deepen the level of commitment in a relationship if you weren't ready for it. Fortunately she didn't have that with Leonard. Penny loved him. She said so and so did he so everything was okay.

Right?

xTBBTx

Penny flipped her pencil onto her math textbook in disgust and took a sip of wine. She'd been at this for nearly two hours and still had a whack of questions to go. This is what she got for procrastinating all week. There was a mini quiz tomorrow and she needed to know the formulas.

"Come on, Penny, think," she mumbled to herself. She turned and stared at her door. There was no way she'd ask Leonard for help. He'd hold it over her head forever. Besides, she wanted to do this on her own. She came out to California on her own—okay with Kurt but she paid half the rent at their apartment; she took care of her own bills—except for the times she needed loans from Sheldon and Leonard; she ran her small business—after Sheldon organized it and Howard, Leonard and Raj helped produce a thousand Penny Blossoms…. Penny frowned. Okay, maybe she did get a hand or two every once in a while. Nothing wrong with that, right?

She got up and grabbed her notebook and pencil. Leonard was off at a non-Sheldon approved theater tonight and Penny knew his roommate was at home so this was the perfect opportunity for her to sneak across for help. Sheldon would complain about the interruption from reading comic books or playing video games but as this offered him the opportunity to demonstrate his intellectual superiority Penny was sure she could rope him in.

Sheldon was at his computer as Penny entered apartment 4A.

"Hey Sheldon," she said cheerily.

"Leonard's not here," he replied, not taking his eyes off the screen.

"Yeah I know." She crossed over to stand behind his shoulder. "Since you're only playing Tetris I was wondering if you could give me a hand with something." Sheldon snorted derisively.

"Penny, I've an IQ of one hundred and eighty seven"—here she rolled her eyes—"and as such can multitask with little effort. In this case I'm puzzling out the implications if it's found that the discovered Higgs boson doesn't follow the standard-model Higgs. Depending on its properties it may be a Higgs I'd expect in a supersymmetric model."

The Nebraskan stood for a moment watching the Tetris blocks disappearing at an alarming rate. The physicist might not be athletically inclined but if video games could give great cardio he'd beat the Kenyan marathon runners any day of the week.

"Well, this will give you a chance to add another pin to your juggling act. It's math-oriented so it's right up your alley."

"Are you calculating the luminosity of a black body by the Stefan-Boltzmann formula?"

"No."

"Are you calculating the operators of the second quantification of Quantum Field Theory?"

"No."

"Then I doubt you're doing something worth my effort," he said dismissively.

"Come on Sheldon. I really need your help and I don't have a lot of time before Leonard's home." Sheldon sighed.

"What is it you're working on?"

"Algebra."

"Leonard would be your better option since his formulas are similarly basic. Ask him."

"I can't," pouted Penny. "I want to do this without him."

"Why does it matter who helps you since the purpose is to render aid?" Sometimes he really didn't understand his neighbor. She often made things more complex than they needed to be.

Penny pursed her lips. "So you're telling me if you had a problem with your math you'd go to Leonard for help?" The physicist paused his game and turned his chair to face her.

"Not that such a scenario is possible but nevertheless I see your point." He took Penny's proffered notebook and scanned the pages as they crossed over and sat on the couch.

"You're not applying binomial theorem properly," he said as he pointed to a question. "In this instance (a + b)3 = a3 + 3a2b + 3ab2 + b3 ."

"Oh. Okay." She jotted down the answer as Sheldon got up. He looked at his board before crossing over and dragging Leonard's board to the center of the room. He scanned the formulas before wiping them with the dry eraser.

"Leonard, Leonard, what are you thinking?" he tsked. Sheldon took up a marker and began writing out equations on the board. "As you know," he said to Penny. "Binomials start out as basic problems such as (a + b)1 = a + b."

"Yeah I got that."

"The trick is to discern whether a binomial is a binomial or subject to the laws of exponents." He wrote them out beside the other formulas.

"(am)(an) = am+n . Got it."

"Then we get to your problem." He wrote down the equation. "And this is solved by using?"

Penny scanned the formulas and looked at the question. "Oh! It's an exponent." She began writing.

"Very good," Sheldon said evenly. "Now for the solution."

Between them they finished off all the questions Penny had trouble with. Beaming, the waitress stood up and stretched.

"That's that. Thanks so much, Sheldon."

He raised an eyebrow. "You mean you don't want to correct the other questions?" Penny's smile faltered.

"What do you mean?"

"You have quite a few errors: 2a, c, d, g; 3b through e, g, h; 4—" Penny dropped to the couch, her knees weak.

"That's nearly half."

"Sixty three percent actually," corrected Sheldon.

The waitress stared at her book before dropping it on the table.

"I don't fucking believe this!" she hissed. The lanky man pursed his lips.

"Language, Penny." He erased the last question and wrote out question 2b. "Now, since we've gone over the formulas this should be easy even for you." He turned to see Penny still sitting with her head down. "It would help if you paid attention." A sudden sob from his neighbor brought instant horror to his face. "What are you doing? There's no crying in math." This only made his friend cry harder. Sheldon bit his lip. He really wasn't very good at consoling, particularly when he wasn't sure as to why she was so upset. "There, there," he said tentatively.

"I'm going to fail tomorrow," she said in tears.

"The odds aren't in your favor, no, particularly when you take time out for an emotional collapse. Now grab your pencil and let's continue," he said in what he hoped was an upbeat tone.

"You don't get it," sniffed Penny as she wiped an eye with the heel of her palm. "I'm a failure, Sheldon. Me. My acting career's over and I'm stuck in a dead end job."

"Technically an acting career is comprised of more than one paying gig and a single commercial hardly—" He stopped talking as she glared at him. A twitch came to his face. "Go on," he said, even though he wished she wouldn't. Why didn't she call Amy? The neurobiologist was more than able to provide comfort.

"This course is supposed to be a Gen. Ed. but I suck at math. I don't even know why I picked it."

Sheldon cocked his head. "Penny, why are you at school?"

"I need a degree or something." The physicist pursed his lips.

"'Or something'. Good Lord." He erased Leonard's board and wrote down 'school' in the center. "Why do you need a degree?"

Penny's green eyes lifted as she sat back on the couch. "I need a better job."

"Alright. So your goal isn't schooling but to secure satisfactory employment." He erased the board and put 'career' in the center. "Right now we're here"—at the top he wrote 'waitress'. "One of the ways we can get to our goal is through education." He drew a line and wrote 'school'. "Since this is proving difficult and will also incur a monetary cost you can ill afford given your current state of affairs a far simpler method would be for you to procure another job."

"All I've ever done is work on the farm and at the Cheesecake Factory—and before you start, no, I don't want a better waitressing job."

"So what deters you is an inadequate résumé," he said as he jotted the word in big letters. "Therefore we need to bolster your credentials. The simpler way to do that would be through education but that's dependent on what you wish to do." He turned to his neighbor. "Since acting is not an option what do you want to do?"

"I don't know."

"Let's work on what you do know. What do you like doing?"

Penny bit her lip as she thought. "I like meeting new people so long as they aren't jerks. I love talking on the phone and I don't mind working long shifts although I wouldn't be too keen on lots of overtime. Well, unless it's before Black Friday. Could always use the extra cash then."

"So you'd like a subordinate role where you deal with civilized clientele both in person and on the phone with structured hours." Penny snapped her fingers.

"I could be a secretary!" Sheldon rolled his eyes.

"Have you seen the state of your apartment?" he asked incredulously as he thought about the assorted laundry and magazines strewn across the room. "A clerical assistant requires organizational skills you have yet to demonstrate."

"I know how to clean and organize, Sheldon," Penny said with a frown. "Just because I'm lazy at home doesn't mean I'm a slob at work."

"Alright," Sheldon said after a moment. "Let's say you're correct and you can manage to constrain your chaos. What do you need to do?" At this Penny popped off the couch.

"I can see if they have a secretarial course," she said excitedly.

"Clerical assistant," Sheldon amended.

"Maybe I won't have to take math after all," she grinned as she took up her notebook. "Thanks Sheldon." Before he could say another word she zipped out of the apartment.

"Huh. That didn't go too badly." He looked back at the board in thought. Surely there was a better algorithm than this….

xTBBTx

Knock Knock Knock "Penny."

Knock Knock Knock "Penny."

Knock Knock Knock "Penny."

Penny opened the door to find her neighbor standing in the hall with his hands behind his back and a pleased expression on his face.

"Yes, Sheldon?"

"Not that I care but social protocol dictates I ask how your test went?" At this Penny grabbed his arm and yanked him into the apartment, checking to make sure the hall was clear before closing the door.

"We don't talk about schooling around Leon— Oh my God you didn't tell him about last night did you?" Her face went ashen.

"Why would last night be of any concern to Leonard?" asked a puzzled Sheldon. At this Penny smiled in relief.

"You're right. It isn't." She went to the counter to get her glass of iced water. "Anyways, I probably bombed it but at least I gave it a try. Oh, but in more important news I looked it up and the college does have a receptionist course. It's already booked for the fall but I can start it next year when I've got money saved up."

"Clerical assistant," corrected Sheldon. "Yes, well, I've given your problem thought and have drawn up a satisfactory course of action."

"Continue," Penny said formally before taking a sip of her water.

"Your problem is that you've managed to create a series of infinite loops thus leaving you unable to attain your goal." Penny's blank face wasn't exactly encouraging but he decided to soldier onward. "You want a better job but you lack the skills and funds necessary to persevere so you're relegated to working at the Cheesecake Factory."

"YuP."

"Furthermore we've yet to determine whether or not you are suited to work as an assistant so it would be beneficial to find out before incurring the expense of school," he continued.

"Know anyone who needs a secretary with no experience?" the Nebraskan chuckled.

"Not 'need', no," he said with a twitchy mouth. "Although I do know someone who is willing to 'take you on' as it were to 'show you the ropes'." Penny raised an inquisitive eyebrow to which Sheldon responded with an exaggerated smile.

She nearly choked on her water. "You?"

"Not only will you learn proper office procedure but you will also have something to add to your résumé in your chosen field."

"So I'd be working with Alex?" said Penny with a frown. "I don't know if I can do that." Not after the way the tramp had gone after Leonard.

"Alex is in Europe for the year working on her thesis."

"Ah ok. Sure, I could do what she did—only no reading any poop journals."

"You won't be doing that," assured the physicist. "You lack the skills necessary to be even an adequate research assistant."

"Gee thanks," Penny said flatly. Still it would give her a taste of being a secretary without costing her anything. Except maybe my sanity. "All right I'll do it." Sheldon nodded.

"So solves the first loop. As for your schooling you require a loan to secure your placement in class which I'm willing to provide."

"Sheldon, I can't take your money," Penny protested.

"'Borrow'." His blue eyes were serious. "Penny, you're twenty six. You need more than your comeliness and a high school education to get you by, particularly in a recession."

Penny shyly shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know when I can pay you back."

"When you're able," he said simply.

"Thanks Sheldon." Penny crossed the floor to stand in front of him. "Please don't tell Leonard about this."

"As you'll be at the university he'll know eventually," he pointed out.

"Just tell him I'm helping you out. I want to surprise him when I get a receptionist job."

"Clerical assistant." Sheldon pursed his lips. "You know I'm not good at lying."

"It's not a lie," said Penny. "I will be helping you out." Green eyes met blue.

"Well, we're off to an auspicious start as we work under the cloak of subterfuge," the physicist huffed.

"Thank you Sheldon." He stiffened as she wrapped her arms around him in a hug. Penny stood back and grinned.

"Rule one," Sheldon said evenly. "No hugging your boss."

xTBBTx

Complex math questions: Yahoo Answers

Algebraic Formulas: FF site is not allowing me to post them properly. Please excuse.

Thanks for reading!