A/N: Awww, my poor friends were frustrated with the last chapter. *pats all of your heads tenderly* If you can believe it, I'm just as, if not more so, frustrated, and I'm the one writing this fic!
Our patience shall be rewarded soon. Enjoy chapter 12. :]
He was still wearing his khaki-colored windbreaker as he lied on his bed, now facing his ceiling. He fidgeted with the zipper, running it up and down slowly, listening to the subtle zzzip of the plastic teeth meeting, then pulling apart.
Sheldon was missing something, the simple yet vital something which would have allowed him to go all the way with Penny tonight. He wanted to more than anything; it was all he had thought about at night and even during the most inappropriate times during the day when he should have been doing his part in postulating the super symmetry of bosons and fermions while he worked. If he was being truly honest with himself, the constant touching, the grinding of their genitals against each other without ever removing their clothing, the mutual masturbation-it was killing him. He was suffering physically and mentally.
So when the opportunity was in his hands, what made him stop? Besides the obvious mass production of epinephrine manufactured by his adrenal medulla that caused him to fly out of Penny's apartment like a bat out of hell, what the hell was wrong with him?
He felt sick to his stomach with guilt and shame; no equation on a whiteboard was going to help him solve this problem.
Why had it been so easy to copulate with Amy twice a week? Sure, it had been years coming before he even agreed to become intimate with his ex-girlfriend, but once he got the hang of it, it became as simple as following his anatomical mating instinct. Their sexual encounters were calculated carefully, down to the minutes it would take, positions they would assume, who was in charge of cleaning afterward, and the like. It was all very…scientific, but never emotionally satisfying. Sheldon never believed that sexual intercourse was meant to be emotionally satisfying, until…
Just then, a fleeting thought dashed across Sheldon's mind, playing keep away with his sensibility as he chased after it.
He wanted more than just to insert himself into Penny until he achieved orgasm, hell, he achieved orgasm all the time when they were together, whether it was by her hand or mouth or friction itself. No, Sheldon didn't want to schedule coitus with her—he wanted to sneak up on her from behind while she wasn't expecting it. He wanted to push her up against a wall and hear her laugh with exhilaration and a hint of fear, that high-pitched giggle that made her eyes glint. He wanted to see her blossom before him as he spread her legs and consumed her. He wanted to watch the blush crawl up her chest, stain her neck, then bubble out of her lips in the form of his name. He wanted to scale her entire body with his lips, then drill into her, every inch of him, until he lost his way. He wanted to holler her name in return, and feel her scratching her nails down his back, feel her red, plump skin wobble beneath his hand after he smacked it not too soft, not too hard, but just right, just enough to make her growl for another. He wanted to sink his fingers into places on Penny that no other man had ever dreamt of discovering.
It hit him in waves, every craving that had previously been locked away in a cage, like a beast, where he never let it see daylight, and he gasped at the air, sucking in oxygen as he felt his nearly fully erect penis protest against his slacks.
After he closed his eyes and willed himself to relax, reason came seeping back in. He bit his lower lip and looked to the side, staring at the dark corner of his room. It was pure drivel, the babbling of a lesser man, these desires. It was as nonsensical as one of Raj's beloved Sandra Bullock romance movies; Sheldon Cooper didn't have it in him to elicit the reactions from Penny that he wanted. He simply didn't have it in him to bring himself to that level of wild abandonment. He was no romantic lead, he had no tricks up his sleeve.
Never had being a prodigy that dedicated his life solely to set out on a one-way track of acquiring the Nobel Prize, never had his brilliant mind that only came once every generation, never had all of his scientific achievements seemed so lacking, than at this moment.
He sat up suddenly, his back straight and his neck snapping to turn towards his closed bedroom door. What had Penny asked of him a month ago, when all of this started?
"Don't hurt me. Please. I couldn't take it."
He jumped up from his bed and nervously shuffled out of his room until he scuttled down the hall and met eyes with Leonard, who was sitting on the isolated arm chair, lazily holding the remote control and pointing it towards the television. He barely acknowledged Sheldon and went back to his program as he made it to the front door and opened it quickly. He looked up at the suddenly intimidating closed door of apartment 4B. He gulped, knowing that he owed Penny an explanation, and walked slowly over before he began to knock.
When he completed his three rounds, he waited, listening carefully for any sign of life on the other side, finding none.
It wasn't until he shuddered, the cold air from the AC blasting him from above as he sat on the ground, slumped against her still closed door, that Sheldon finally gave up. He shakily rose to his feet, the knuckles on his left hand slightly sore after 24 knocks, and went home.
Back in his room, he paced for a little while, hands on his hips, his face permanently twisted in a painful grimace. He finally sat down on his bed and swiped at his phone sitting on his nightstand to check for any last minute e-mails before he retired early for the night.
His heart lurched forward, almost pushing itself up his throat until he swallowed and opened the one text message he had-it was from Penny.
- Heard ur knocks but I need a little time 2 myself. Will C U tomorrow. Gnight.
He texted her back quickly, his thumbs shaking so bad he had to keep deleting until he got the words right.
Goodnight, Penny. I'm sorry.
- Me 2.
At least she responded, but Sheldon didn't feel any better. She said she would see him tomorrow, and he was betting on it. He had to tell her…well, he didn't know what he would say. He didn't know how to explain any of it. He was way too conscientious to describe his desires for her; it wouldn't be prudent. Maybe he would finally put an end to this. Where was it going anyway? What would happen after he had sex with Penny? Would any of this torment end?
If the past was any indication for Sheldon, nothing happened, only growing resentment towards each other and the realization that he was not the man that Penny needed him to be, just like he wasn't the man Amy wanted him to become.
There was no such thing as happily ever after.
Sheldon felt as though his efforts and yearning to achieve his heart's desires belonged to physics. And if he could make a clean break from Penny now, perhaps it would hurt less for the both of them, and he could salvage what was left of their friendship because it was what mattered most to him, regardless of what the nagging trickle of longing down his spine that said otherwise.
Penny would not cry. She could not cry. There was too much to do.
Whenever she had a problem, old Penny would thrash out, get really drunk, and grab Leonard to climb on top of him until this cowgirl's problems had rode off into the sunset. Silly Penny, the old Penny who thought the quickest way to a man's heart was through his pants. The old Penny who truly thought she was not worthy of someone as accomplished, as complicated and as intelligent as Dr. Sheldon Cooper. The Penny she was before Sheldon opened himself to her, maybe not by much, but enough to let her take a peek inside and realize that she liked what she saw.
After Amy left, Penny was overcome with sinking feeling of culpability like no other. She did not agree to talk to Sheldon or try to make him see reason and take Amy back because in her heart, she knew it would have been a slight against how she felt. She gave Amy the excuse of not wanting to 'get involved in their affairs', which her friend had graciously accepted, but deep down, Penny was petrified.
There was no way she could be sure that Sheldon wouldn't very well go back to Amy, too, because why wouldn't he? Amy was his intellectual equal in every way. She had a steady job, she was sharp as a tack, and her car didn't have a blinking 'check engine' light.
In a world, Sheldon's world, where intelligence reigned, Penny's sexuality was not enough. No matter how hard she tried to make it so just an hour before.
When Sheldon arrived, she had pounced on him, pouring her desperation into every kiss, every stroke of his dick in her hand, she wanted him, needed him to feel how much she wanted him to choose her. Pick Penny! her wet kisses shrieked, leaving a blazing trail against his throat. And she pushed too hard. She saw him jump off her bed like someone had lit it on fire and leave her alone in her apartment, shocking her into silence.
But she would not cry. After all, thanks to the stinging rejection of what could have been, she was not upset with him. This was not what he was used to. Instead of being upset, Penny had a revelation.
Why should she lie down and let Amy win? Why should Sheldon choose the neuroscientist over the waitress? Though Penny lacked the college degrees, she did not lack the will power, the strength, or the common sense that only birthed from doing for one's self. She knew that she could replace the front-end loader of a John Deere in less than an hour and Amy probably couldn't even fix a leaky pipe in her apartment, just like Amy could slice open your brain and poke a spot that could make you speak like seven languages when Penny couldn't even think of grey matter without wanting to vomit and faint. The two women were on either sides of the spectrum, but they were on level playing ground.
Except that Amy had waited three years for Sheldon to come around, but Penny had waited for seven.
So when Sheldon up and left her, Penny did not cry. She could not. She had things to do, stuff to plan. It was time to put her money where her mouth was; she was tired of harping over the same assholes that had all let her down all the time, the men that she let trip over themselves to woo her.
Who says she couldn't do a little wooing herself?
Her daddy Wyatt had always taught her that there was nothing out of reach if she worked hard for it. She could get anything she wanted as long as she gave everything she had to get it.
And she wanted Sheldon Cooper.
Leonard had seen the Sheldon and Penny situation going one of three ways:
Sheldon would inevitably annoy Penny to the point of no return and she would swiftly beat him to a bloody pulp after a few days.
Or, Sheldon would grow tired of Penny's bullish approach to life and certain inelegance that was sort of endearing about her since she came in a beautiful package, then he would banish her from the apartment forever.
Last, perhaps they would ultimately burn out. Knuckle under the pressure and resentment from their social group and just implode from within. How could they do this to him? To Amy?
But when none of the above happened after a few weeks, Leonard had begun to sweat.
His relationship with Alex was in the shitter. She had grown impatient with him not committing to her further by moving in or acknowledging her 'I love you's with more than a meek thanks and kiss on the lips. Leonard wasn't an idiot—he was Penny incarnate with his sudden aversion to commitment. And not for the first time in recent weeks had he finally begun to understand that he moved Penny way too fast in their relationship, demanded more out of her than she was able to give, and it ultimately led to their demise long before he cheated on her.
Everyone was so sure that Leonard just craved love and acceptance: needy baby, greedy baby. But in truth, he only wanted it from Penny. Alex was no substitute, and he knew that he had been an idiot for cheating, but it had felt right at the time because Alex was better suited for him than Penny was, more willing to please, as much as he hated to admit it. He had been selfish. And he was not proud of himself for one minute, but he made his bed and he was lying in it.
He knew now that Penny and he could never be. Even though he still longed for her body and her let's wing it philosophy of life, these were superficial desires that even someone like him would never demand of her again. He had hurt her far beyond repair, and he wasn't low enough to try and slither his way back into her life. It was a done deal: Penny and Leonard were completely over.
So why did seeing her spare key on Sheldon's nightstand hurt so damn much? Like a bullet with an exit wound, he had been walking around bleeding for the last week since the night he had seen it and returned it to her. Not that anyone noticed; for reasons still unknown to him, he still had not told Raj or even Howard about them. Although Sheldon was still his best friend and Penny was someone he cared for and didn't want them to hate him, he was sure his reasons for not spilling the beans wasn't for being noble as much as it was for saving face. How could he face his friends knowing that the object of his affection preferred Sheldon Cooper over him?
Leonard figured they would find out eventually, and he would try to act shocked like the rest of them. In the meantime, he had bigger fish to fry; he had to figure out how to keep Alex happy. He had invited her over tonight to stay with him and would shove in Sheldon's face that he had a new place to sleep at night, Penny's apartment, if he didn't like it.
So he waited for her on the couch when Sheldon came storming down the hall, his eyes beady and nervous as he hesitated at the step. He threw a quick glance in Leonard's direction before he continued to walk slowly towards the door, like as if he was marching to his doom. He slipped out and Leonard muted the television, listening acutely, his body physically leaning closer to the direction of the door, for what might happen. He heard the sharp raps of Sheldon's signature knock on the apartment across the hall and he waited for a few seconds before shaking his head and pointing the remote again at the television.
When his thumb hovered over the button to unmute the program, he stopped short when another sound invaded his ears instead.
Knock – Knock – Knock – "Penny?"
Knock – Knock – Knock – "Penny?"
Knock – Knock – Knock – "Penny?"
It was an interesting development when nearly twenty minutes later and about a half-dozen more knocks and Penny's, Sheldon trudged back into 4A looking very nearly defeated and didn't award Leonard another glance as he headed towards his bedroom, shoulders sagged and face long.
"Interesting indeed," Leonard said under his breath, a little smugly, as he stared at his closed front door.
Sheldon awoke the next day to his work alarm and before he performed his morning vocal test, before he stretched his limbs and did a routine window check to make sure the world had not succumbed to a zombie apocalypse or foreign enemy invasion as he slept like he did every day, he grabbed his cell phone and scoured his text message inbox for a message from Penny.
Sighing heavily, he put two feet on the ground and proceeded with his morning routines. Distracted, he poured orange juice into his corn flakes. He walked past Alex Jensen twice, both times waving hello to her. He grunted in reply to Leonard's inquiry of his well-being, not truly hearing the crass way he phrased it, but not caring anyhow. As the three of them vacated the apartment and started down the stairs, Sheldon paused, torn between joining Leonard and Alex on the drive to work and pounding on Penny's door again.
She said she would see you today, he reminded himself. He had the text saved on his phone; it was as good as any contractual agreement. If she had not shown herself to him by 11:59PM that evening, he would have to show up on her door step and remind her of her promise. He sighed heavily again, unsure he could wait that long, and hurried down the steps, meeting his roommate and his girlfriend before they hit the second floor landing.
But Sheldon didn't have to wait as long as he had feared. As he packed up satchel and sent one last quick e-mail before lunch (he really would have to get around to hiring a new assistant as answering tedious correspondence was truly a waste of his precious time), he heard a faint knock on his closed office door.
"Out to lunch," he called firmly, not looking up from his laptop screen until he heard the knob turn. He looked up indignantly, wondering who had the gall to enter an office without being welcomed. "I said I am headed to lunch, whatever you need can wait—"
"I'm afraid it can't, Dr. Cooper," Penny said apologetically as she slipped into the suddenly warm office. "I have a hot meal that needs to be eaten." She held up a brown paper sack before bringing it back to her chest and waited for Sheldon's reaction.
"Penny," he breathed, truly taken at the sight of her. She was dressed in a simple, baby pink checkered button-down shirt, sleeves rolled up to her elbows and dark denim blue jeans that, as always, looked as though they had been painted on her shapely thighs and round backside. Her boots scuffed against the carpet as she walked closer to Sheldon's desk, the grin on her face never faltering. "What are you doing here?" he couldn't help but ask, as her presence in his office was most welcomed and almost too good to be true.
"Like I said," she grunted as she hauled the brown sack over and positioned it on the corner of his desk. "I've got a hot meal. Would you care to join me?"
It took a few seconds for Sheldon to find his voice as a familiar, saucy smell invaded his nostrils. "Sure," he said, his smile lighting up the lower half of his face as he removed his satchel from his shoulders and cleared some room on his desk that would allow for enough elbow room for the both of them.
"Good," Penny said happily as she reached into the sack, elbow deep, and began to pull out items to place on the desk between them. What she presented first was not food at all, but a pair of candles on cheap porcelain holders, followed by a matchbox, one large bottle of Smart water, and one ice cold Diet Coke, covered in condensation. Closely behind followed two heavy duty paper plates and a half roll of paper towels.
"Judging by the fine china that you are lying out, I assume this is a home-cooked hot meal?" Sheldon couldn't help but point out and was rewarded with a classic, heavy-lidded stare of unimpressed irritation from Penny. He clamped both of his hands together in front of him and smiled friendlily as she continued to pull out the last of the items from the bag.
"Very funny," she murmured, flipping her bangs that were loose from her messy pig tails out of her eyes. Sheldon's heart gave a small flutter. "But yes, this is a home-cooked meal. One that I think you'll appreciate." And with that, she pulled out medium-sized pot with a glass top covered from the inside with steam, but it did little to hamper the view of the contents inside.
His mouth watered and his eyes widened to the size of yo-yo's. "Spaghetti with little pieces of hot dog cut up in it," he whispered.
Penny yanked out two plastic forks, one black and one transparent, and nodded. "The only meal I ever cooked for you that you didn't complain about."
They stared at each other for a long time, the smell of home mixed with Penny's fresh scent of green apple shampoo wafting around both of them, so strong and insistent that Sheldon was positive he would never get the smell of either of his favorite things, spaghetti with little pieces of hot dog and Penny, out of his office. And this made him smile even wider.
Penny had forgotten to bring the serving spoon, but Sheldon seemed so happy that he didn't even complain when one of the tongs on her fork broke off in the pot as she tried to serve them both. He tutted slightly, but grinned nonetheless, taking both of their forks and electing himself in charge to serve the plates instead.
She busied herself with popping open the tab on his Diet Coke and placing a candle on either side of their plates. After she lit both, she snuck a glance at Sheldon's round face, and he was positively beaming.
So far, so good, she awarded herself quietly as they both dug into their meal. All morning, Penny had racked her brain with what she could do for Sheldon that would woo him. She knew her best friend; he had no time for nonsense like romance or sweet nothings. But he was of the male species, therefore the next best thing? Food.
"How does it taste?" she asked, licking a bit of sauce from her bottom lip as Sheldon watched. She noticed the way his eyes lingered on her mouth and she purposely drew a napkin to it to distract him. It worked, as his crystal blue stare flitted up to meet her gaze. Her heart did a tiny backflip, she was sure of it. But she had to stick to the plan.
"It's delicious, Penny, thank you," he said quickly before looking down at his plate and devouring another large forkful.
"You're welcome, sweetie," she gushed, truly happy that he was enjoying himself.
Make it about him, not you, for a change, she reminded herself.
"Please do not misconstrue my question as rude or unappreciative, but why did you do this for me?"
She took a long swig of her water before placing the bottle down, then snuck a glance at the small candles lit beside them. A small part of her panicked—was this all too cheesy? Too much? When she took awhile to answer, she felt Sheldon's large, warm hand enclose hers, right beside the candle on her left. She looked up at him and saw in his eyes no reservations or disgust. And Penny decided it was time to be honest.
"Sheldon, I'm going to court you."
She flinched when he sputtered, choking on seemingly his own spit as he ripped his hand away from hers and clutched his throat.
"I'm sorry, what?" he finally managed to say after he swallowed a few gulps of his soda and wiped away the tears from his eyes. "What did you say?"
She frowned and her eyebrows furrowed together. "I said, I'm going to court you." She waited as he took a few steadying breaths and looked down at his nearly empty plate of spaghetti.
"I thought that's what you said," he muttered.
"Is there a problem?" she asked him, her tone inferring that there had better not be.
"Penny," he began. "I think we should talk about last night."
"Okay, I'll begin." She cleared her throat and reached over until her hand grasped his and she pulled on his wrist until he relented and held her hand too, their arms outstretched over the desk top. "I want to apologize to you, first and foremost, Sheldon. Just because we have become…" she paused and bit her lip before deciding, "familiar with each other over the past month, does not mean I can jump you any time I want, without asking or understanding how you feel about it. And that's what I did to you last night. I ambushed you and nearly forced you into doing something that you clearly were not ready to do."
"Let me finish," she begged, then continued after he gave her a slow nod. "And when I say I'm going to court you, I mean it. Because this is how it works when people care about each other. They take their time getting to know one another before they jump into bed. At least, that's what I've learned after the majority of my twenties consisted of doing the exact opposite." Sheldon frowned disapprovingly and she shook her head. "But I digress. Anyway, Sheldon, do you remember what you texted me yesterday before you came over?"
He thought for a second. "That I do not want to conduct our secret experiment anymore."
"Exactly," she said, her eyes sparkling. "Neither do I. Instead, I propose another experiment. I don't want to lose you Sheldon. And it is no secret that I am extremely attracted to you physically, as you are me, right?"
He nodded in confirmation as a blush dotted his cheek bones. "Of course I am attracted to you."
"Good," she said with a wink. "Then with this new experiment, I propose that we hold off on physical contact until we are comfortable again." Penny didn't know whether to be saddened or relieved by the small lift of Sheldon's lips, showing that he agreed with her idea, but she soldiered on. "In this experiment, though, you have to promise not to jump up and run out on me, like you did last night. That hurt, but I understand why you did it. Just…don't ever do that to me again, okay?"
"Okay, Penny," Sheldon agreed eagerly, rubbing his thumb along her fingers as they continued to hold hands. Suddenly, he blinked and frowned, meeting her eyes with a small hint of despair. "But, how will we know when we're ready to resume physical contact? Sometimes, I can't control myself. I have to touch you. Maybe we should draw up a contract."
"Nope," she disagreed, popping her lips. "No agreements, nothing. It's just you and me, pal. We listen to our bodies."
"My body says one thing," he said softly, a hint of hesitation on his face. "But it's not always how I feel."
"I can't tell you how to feel, Sheldon," Penny admitted sadly. "But this is why we can't put any boundaries on each other. We have to do what feels natural. And believe me, I love when you touch me. But not at the expense of your comfort." They were quiet for a few beats before she spoke again. "It also occurs to me that you don't exactly have experience in letting yourself be woo-ed."
He cocked his head to the side. "Woo-ed?" He looked down at the candles and the food. "Am I being woo-ed right now?"
"You bet your ass you are," she confirmed. "I am going to court you, Sheldon Cooper. I am going to make it so that not only will you be comfortable enough with me to let me touch you again, but ultimately, you know, we will be able to…have coitus." She rolled her eyes as Sheldon snorted. "I am going to give us both an opportunity to have something we never had before; a choice, rather than a demand, to fall in love."
As soon as the last three words left her mouth, she bit her tongue and ripped her hands out of Sheldon's.
Love?! she yelled at her brain, the blush covering every square inch of her face and neck as she avoided Sheldon's eyes. Slow your roll, Penny!
"I meant," she croaked, coughing into her fist as she stared at her plate of food. "I didn't mean to say that word, I just…I'm sorry, I—"
She was quieted by the feel of Sheldon's large hand once again enveloping hers. Her ears had just started to burn brightly when he spoke.
"You said 'coitus'," he offered with a lopsided grin. "I sort of stopped listening after that."
"Good," she laughed lightly, knowing he was only joking and trying to ease her discomfort. It was odd for Sheldon to be so calm and collected after her serious flub (love, Penny, what the hell are you thinking?) and even pinpoint her discomfort and try to relieve her, but she was finally able to meet his eyes and she allowed herself to relax, seeing in those blue orbs an agreement.
An agreement that was solidified seconds later when he said, "Okay, Penny. I agree to the terms of your new experiment."
"Before you do that," she said silkily, recovering quickly from her embarrassment and standing up from her chair to round the desk and meet him on the other side. He leaned back in his large, leather chair and she noticed the way he reacted to her close proximity; chest heaving, eyes widening, hands clenching the arm rests. She nudged his knee with hers before she bent at the waist and braced herself by putting her hands on top of his. "I wanted to give you this to remind you of what waits for us once this experiment is completed."
Sheldon moaned into Penny's mouth as she pressed her lips eagerly against his, tasting him fully, playfully smacking his hands away as they reached up to grope her ass. Though she did allow him to tenderly cup her cheek with one hand, rubbing his thumb lightly across her face as their kiss ended. He didn't release her and instead rested his forehead against hers.
"Thank you, Penny," he whispered with so much feeling and sincerity that Penny's knees wobbled and she could only nod. She had to remind herself several times that this was a good idea, regardless of the obvious tent in Sheldon's plaid slacks, teasing her from beyond her reach.
A/N pt 2: Sorry the chapter is shorter than usual, but I've got to stop holding myself to a standard of no less than 7K words. It makes the times between updates so long! Especially with the crazy whirlwind that is my life (finals are next week, blah), I have to be a little more realistic with chapter length to get you guys the updates you deserve. Next one is already in the works. Thanks again for all the love you guys show me and this story. ;]