Stop it! If you cry, then I'll cry and we'll all be crying and get all splotchy!
It was a large gathering, but for once Sheldon didn't mind. His mind was empty but for one thing. His Meemaw. He didn't hear a word the preacher said as they placed her in the ground beside her long deceased husband. He could feel Penny's hand in his. He knew, somewhere in his mind, that his friends and family were all around him, but he was stuck in a loop of memories. All the special moments with Meemaw. Making cookies at Christmas (she would never call it Saturnalia no matter how many times he asked) his first day in fifth grade at age 7, the day he ended up in the ER with a broken arm because he fell off the barn roof trying to test wind resistance to prove Superman could fly, the night before he left for Germany, the day he got his second doctorate and she had cried with pride, the day he brought Penny home to meet her and she had embraced his wife with the same love and joy she had always given him.
Her last words floated through his mind and it helped him focus on the here and now. "Moon Pie, I have spent a lifetime trying to be the best woman I could be. Whatever my role, be it daughter, wife, friend, mother, grandmother, I did my very best. There has never been anything in my life that gave me as much happiness as my family. You have a new role now. You aren't just a genius, or a physicist, or even a husband. You are a father. You have a daughter to raise, teach and guide through life. But never forget that above all else, love her. Love her with all your heart. You love her like I've loved you and you'll have the same joy I did. Life is about love and the people you share it with."
He looked over at Penny and Abby. Even as heartbroken as he was, he felt that sense of peace and happiness that only they could create in him. He squeezed Penny's hand gently and she looked up at him. Tears were flowing down her cheeks steadily, but she still managed to give him a small smile. She laid her head against his shoulder and he released her hand to place his arm around her shoulders.
After the service they made their way back to Meemaw's house. Sheldon followed Penny upstairs and watched her get settled and begin feeding Abby. He reached out and smoothed the fluff of dark hair with a smile. Penny had made a tiny Penny-Blossom but it wouldn't stay on the fine strands.
"How are you handling everything?" Penny asked gently. He looked into her hazel eyes and saw worry and a carefully restrained fear. She was concerned for him, he knew. He leaned down and gave her a soft kiss.
"I am heartbroken," he admitted. "I have always known that no matter what happened, Meemaw was here, and that she would always love me."
Penny caressed his nape comfortingly. She drew him down beside her on the bedside. He placed a finger in Abby's tiny hand and slid his other arm around Penny's waist. He was still incredibly sad, but a layer of contentment settled over the pain and dampened it down.
Sheldon listened to the lawyer going over the will without much interest. He already knew what it said. Meemaw had made her will out several years ago and they all knew the contents. So, it was a bit of a surprise when the lawyer got to the end and cleared his throat.
"Abigail came to see me a couple of months ago. She had a change to make to her will," Mr. Stillson said nervously. He knew how upset people could get when someone changed their will. "To Penelope Cooper I leave not just my gratitude and everlasting love, but also my pearls. When my husband gave them to me, he told me an old story about how pearls were supposed to promote marital happiness and keep love strong. I don't know if that is true, but I know that every time I looked at that necklace I remembered the love in my husband's eyes. I wish for you and my grandson the same love and joy I had."
Mr. Stillson placed a jewelry box on the desk and slid it across to Sheldon, since Penny was still at Mary's home with the baby and their friends. Sheldon picked it up gently. He could remember her wearing these only on her wedding anniversaries, even long after Poppa had passed away. He looked at his mom, who Meemaw had left the rest of her jewelry. She was smiling softly. Sheldon placed them in his jacket pocket and imagined how they would look around Penny's neck.
Mr. Stillson finished not long after that. They thanked him and made their way out of the lawyer's office. Mary paused on the sidewalk. "Shelly, walk with me over to the park. I want to talk to you for a few minutes." Missy and Junior settled on a bench to wait and Sheldon walked across the street with his mom. They stopped under a huge elm and he pulled the jewelry box from his pocket. Mary shook her head and waved away the box.
"That's not what I want to talk about, Shelly." She took a moment to compose her thoughts. "Honey, I always thought that when Mother passed away, you would retreat into your shell and nothing and no one would be able to draw you out. I feared we would lose you." Tears wavered in her eyes and she brushed them away quickly. "I was wrong about your marriage. And I'm glad I was. I thought it was a convenience thing. A marriage to make Mother happy, or to accomplish some goal I just didn't know about. But the way you and Penny are with each other is so much more than what you said this marriage was. You love that girl and she loves you. So, I want you to have this." Mary pulled a small envelope from her purse and handed it to him.
Sheldon opened it curiously and frowned. "Mom, this is the deed for Daddy's cabin."
Mary nodded. She smiled wistfully. "Your father and I had our problems. We fought a lot. But when things got bad, he would take me there. In that small cabin, just the two of us, our problems melted away. I have nothing but happy memories of that place. It's almost magical to me, Shelly. There's something so very precious about that cabin. When you're there, nothing in the world matters but you and the person you love. I want you and Penny to have that same magic."
Sheldon placed the envelope in his pocket and stunned his mom by pulling her close for a hug. "Thank you," he mumbled.
Mary patted his back and they walked back over to the car. Mary watched him buckle in and she smiled. Her little boy was all grown up now. He still had his quirks and phobias, but he had a better handle on them now. He was a man with a wife and a child, not the man-child she feared would never change. She sent a silent prayer of thanks to God for sending her son Penny.
Getting everyone out of Texas was a bit of a chore. Penny was determined to never, ever, ride in that minivan again. Missy offered to drive her, Sheldon and Abby back to Pasadena. Penny suspected it was Missy's way of spending more time with Abby. She had bonded with her niece in her grief and was reluctant to see her leave. Penny would have found the way Missy and Sheldon fought for possession of Abby amusing if it wasn't for the fact they kept waking her up just as Penny got her to sleep.
They stayed at the same hotel Penny and the others had stopped at on the way down, and got home pretty late. Bernadette and Howard dropped Raj and Amy off. Missy helped pack their bags into the house and then she crashed in the spare room. Penny placed Abby in the crib Leonard and Raj had gotten them and walked into their bedroom. She wearily changed into her pajamas while Sheldon showered.
When he came back to the bedroom he climbed into the bed beside her and she cuddled up close. "There's a note on the fridge from Leonard that he'll stop by tomorrow to return my key and see Abby."
Sheldon nodded slightly, sleep creeping up on him. "Okay," he muttered. "Love you."
Penny yawned as she drifted off. "Love you, too," she mumbled.
Sheldon was in the bathroom shaving when he remembered their final words before they both fell asleep. His razor hit the sink with a clatter. He searched his memory carefully, trying to see if he had only dreamed it, or if it had really happened. He stared at his face in the mirror. He had admitted his feeling to her. Penny had said she loved him also. Was it true? Could she really care for him as much as he cared for her?
After a moment he picked up the razor and finished shaving. He walked into the bedroom and dressed slowly. He wondered if she realized what they had said last night. How would she react when she did? Should he say something? Should he wait for her to say something?
He headed to the living room and walked over to the bassinet. Abby was staring at the mobile of jungle animals. He smiled and reached for her.
"Don't you dare!" Penny said from the kitchen. He looked up, startled. She set a glass of orange juice on the table beside a plate of French toast. "Eat first. Then play."
Sheldon walked over and took a seat at the table. Missy looked up from her own half eaten plate and smiled. "First come, first served, first to play with my niece."
Sheldon glared at her and picked up his fork. He looked over at Penny. "This is my house. Shouldn't she have to ask permission to play with my things?"
Penny pointed the spatula at the both of them. "No fighting. I'm not spending my day playing referee to you two. Now eat!" Sheldon narrowed his eyes at his sister who stuck her tongue out. Penny turned back to the stove to hide her grin. She was just placing the last French toast on a plate when the doorbell rang. She walked into the living room and opened the door. Leonard and Amy smiled widely and she stepped back.
Amy walked immediately to the bassinet and picked up Abby. Leonard waved at Missy and Sheldon who were glaring at Amy. Penny rolled her eyes and hugged Leonard. "Thanks for taking care of everything for us," she said. "Would you two like some breakfast?"
Amy shook her head. "Leonard and I had breakfast at the iHop before coming over." She sat down on the armchair and gently rocked back and forth. Abby yawned widely and her eyes drifted closed.
Penny left her to it, and went back to the kitchen to eat. She sat down with a tired smile and dug into her breakfast. Leonard accepted a glass of juice from Sheldon and asked how he was doing.
Sheldon sighed. Penny reached out and took his hand in hers and he smiled at her. "I am alright," he said in a soft voice. "I will always grieve for Meemaw, I think. I, too, would like to thank you for taking care of our home for us while we were gone. I noticed you mowed the lawn, also. I am indebted to you."
Leonard shrugged it off. "No big deal. It's what friends do." He looked at Missy. "How long are you staying?"
She finished her juice and nodded toward Abby. "Just a few days. I wanted to spend more time with Abby. Did you see her? Isn't she beautiful?" Missy stood and Leonard rose with her. They walked into the living room and crowded around Amy to watch the baby sleep.
Sheldon looked over at Penny shyly. She was eating mechanically, her eyes scanning the various mail Leonard had brought with him. Sheldon licked his lips and cleared his throat nervously. "Penny?"
"Hmm?" she asked absently.
Sheldon looked at her inquiring expression and almost chickened out. "I love you," he said softly.
Penny nodded as she opened their bank statement. "Love you, too, sweetie. Now, finish your breakfast and go rescue our daughter from those crazy people."
Sheldon reached out and took the papers from Penny's hand. "Penny, did you hear what I said? What you said?"
She smiled softly. "Yes, Sheldon. You love me. I love you. Did you think I didn't know?"
Sheldon blinked several times. "You knew? How? When? Why didn't you say anything before?"
Penny leaned in to give him a soft kiss. "I realized I was already in love with you the day I punched Junior. I realized you love me the day Aunt Tom showed up at the hospital."
Sheldon smiled and drew her over onto his lap. "I've loved you longer than that," he admitted. "Longer even than our marriage."
Penny kissed him deeply as he cuddled her close. She peeked over her shoulder into the other room. "Think they would notice if we snuck away?"
Sheldon pushed back the desire building in him. "Penny, we have to wait another four weeks according to the doctor."
She pouted slightly and laid her head on his shoulder. "Can't blame a girl for trying."
Sheldon watched his sister laugh at something Leonard was saying. The doorbell rung and Amy walked over to let Bernadette, Howard and Raj in. They immediately crowded around Abby. "Penny? How would you feel about taking a small weekend trip somewhere next month?"
"Where to?" she asked contentedly.
Sheldon smiled softly. "There's this cabin I know of, near a small lake. I am told it's quite magical."
"That sounds wonderful, sweetie."
Sheldon nodded and continued to hold her close. He watched his friends and sister dote over his daughter in the other room. Meemaw was right. This was what life was about.
Sorry for the delay in posting. I had to pull some extra hours at work the last two days and I haven't had much time for anything except work-eat-sleep. :/
Anyway, this is it, the end of this story. The ideas keep coming, so I'll probably write a sequel when I finish my other ones. But that's a ways off, yet. I hope you've enjoyed this little piece of fluff as much as I did. I tried to keep it light, and to make the passing of Meemaw as gentle and non-heartbreaking as I could. Thank you to everyone who reviewed. I appreciate you all!