A/N: Just a short chapter. This idea popped up unexpectedly and needed to be written immediately. Part of it is inspired by bfm10's wonderful fic The Corollary Theory: The Celebration Abberation.
This chapter is set in the early morning of Penny's fortieth birthday; Cassandra is about seven, Bridget about five and Richard about three.
Penny was laying in bed awaiting her husband and three kids to bring her her birthday breakfast in bed. It had become the standard in the Hofstadter household: breakfast in bed for birthdays - rounded to the nearest weekend - and both Mother's day and Father's day. And breakfast would only be the start of the day; the entire day would be about giving that person the best day of their lives.
Today, she was the center of their little world. And she had something fun planned: laser tag. She'd invited her kids' best friends and their parents, so they'd be with a larger group, allowing them to alternate watching over the younger children who wouldn't be able to participate.
It wasn't unusual for Leonard and her to choose something the kids would enjoy as much, if not more, as they did. Though in this case, she wasn't quite so sure the kids would enjoy it more; true, it'd been a while since she'd played laser tag, and the same was probably true for Leonard, but she was pretty sure she was going to have a blast. She'd go easy on the kids, but she was so looking forward to repeatedly shoot the adults with the laser gun.
She grinned when she heard Cassie and Bridget argue softly; well, compared to their regular arguments, it was soft, and she couldn't quite make out the words. Those two argued a lot, but they always came to a compromise in the end, and there was no doubt those two loved each other. Of course at some point Cassie, being the oldest, would go through a phase of not wanting to be seen with her younger sister, but Penny had gone through the same thing with her big sister, and knew it would all work out fine.
Penny shifted slightly in her bed, finding the most comfortable position to pretend to be sleeping in. She never slept in, not after Cassie was born. She found that even as the kids had grown older, she still preferred getting out of bed early, often even waking up a few minutes before any alarm would go off. Leonard had called it her Mommy clock, born from her motherly instincts to care for their children.
He'd probably been right; from the moment Cassie was born, she'd become a mother. Not in the sense of 'hey, I'm the woman who pushed this child out of her vagina', but in the sense that she'd willingly give up anything and everything if it would help her baby girl in anyway. The same was true for her two other children once they'd been born; nothing would be too much to help her babies.
She'd found her place. Not just in the bed, but in life, in her family. Like a puzzle piece in a jigsaw, she was not just part of something bigger, she fit perfectly, completed the picture. She'd only had to find the right place and the right orientation. She'd found her place with Leonard, but finding the right orientation had been a bit of a struggle in their early days. Their break-ups stemmed from that; without the correct orientation, it had seemed like they didn't belong together, and they'd tried with other puzzle pieces.
But somehow, the both of them had always known they needed to be close together within the bigger picture, and had tried again and again to find their correct orientation in relation to each other and to the other pieces - friends, family - already placed carefully and correctly. Penny was glad they'd finally found it, that they were now happily married for nearly a decade, with three children, the three smaller puzzle pieces that just so happen to fit perfectly within the section of the puzzle that was their family.
Hearing the footstep come up the stairs, Penny closed her eyes and began to snore softly; it wasn't likely to fool Cassie, and Bridget might be wondering, but it would definitely fool little Richie. She heard him giggle seconds later, either from anticipation of surprising her or because of her snoring, which he seemed to find funny. She felt the bed indent four times and a small hand landed on her shoulder and shaking it.
She heard Leonard whisper to her son that she may need to be kissed awake, playing on her sons infatuation with the story of Sleeping Beauty. Richie took his assigned task seriously and vigorously attacked her cheek, raining down kisses wherever he could reach. After a good ten seconds, Penny hummed, turned onto her back and pretended to yawn. "Who's the handsome prince that finally woke me?"
Richie grinned widely, pointing at himself. "Me, mommy! Me the prince!" He glanced briefly to his sisters, then Leonard, before turning back to her. "I made b'kfast!" He pointed at the tray Leonard was holding.
"Oh, I do love handsome princes who make me breakfast," she said, smiling at him. "Didn't anyone help?"
He shook his head. "Only I, mommy. Cos I lub you!"
She looked dubiously at him. "You're not lying, are you? Because mommy doesn't like lying princes, no matter how handsome they are."
He paused for a moment, his smile disappearing. "Daddy and sis'ers helped," he admitted, still not entirely truthful about the exact roles each had played. He brightened almost immediately and added, "but I really lub you!"
She grabbed him and pulled him into her lap. "Mommy loves you too, sweetie." She looked at her daughters and husband. "Mommy loves all of you."
Cassie and Bridget both moved to her side, Cassie to her left, Bridget to her right, sitting down beside her on the bed, hugging her. "Happy birthday, mom," they both said in unison.
"Thank you, sweeties," she answered, kissing them both on the forehead. She looked at Leonard who'd moved to sit beside Bridget, joining in the hug. Their jigsaw puzzle was complete, all pieces fitting perfectly. In the future, their children would begin their own jigsaw puzzle, each of them finding that one companion piece, and possibly adding some smaller pieces to fill in the gaps. But this puzzle would always remain in tact, nothing would, or could, ever break it up. Penny was sure of that.
A/N2: I have finally picked up working on the next chapter of Penny vs. The Brain Deterioration, the third story in my Agent Penny series. Still going slowly, but progress is progress, I suppose.