Disclaimer: I don't own TBBT.
A/N: I'll just come right out and say it: this is a sad story. It's been on my computer for two years for that simple fact alone. But every time I read it, I think that it really needs to be posted. So I apologize in advance for any sadness that may occur, but please note that with the hurt comes comfort.
Season 1: I place this in season 1 as I want it to be an event that cements Sheldon and Penny's friendship.
It started out harmlessly enough. If Penny had known that opening her apartment door to Sheldon that day would lead to her baring her soul, she might have ignored his three knocks and his promises of baked goods. But he did make one heck of a banana loaf.
"Penny, I'm sick," he managed to say as soon as she opened the door despite his sore throat.
"So?" she asked though she knew what he wanted.
"Leonard's gone to work. Will you take care of me?"
He looked so sweet, wrapped up in his comforter. His eyes were watery, and his face was flushed with fever. Her maternal instincts flopped at the sight of him, but she had to stay resolved. "This isn't a good time, Sheldon. I have some things to take care of today."
"But who will take care of me if you don't?" If possible, his eyes watered more, and Penny felt her determination wavering. "Please, Penny."
She wondered how a man with all those fancy degrees could manage to sound so much like a lost little boy.
"Okay, sweetie," she finally gave in. "But only for a little while. Like I said, I have stuff I need to do today."
"Do you have soup?" Sheldon checked before entering.
Penny nodded. "Yeah, I have soup."
"What kind?" Sheldon asked, still not entering.
Penny sighed heavily. "What kind do you want? I have tomato, chicken noodle, cream of celery..."
"Tomato soup would be nice," he decided, finally entering her apartment and setting himself down on his spot on her couch. "With grilled cheese please."
Penny closed her eyes for a moment before getting the can of soup out of her cupboard. She took out her frying pan and turned on the stove element for Sheldon's sandwich.
She peered over at the back of his head and shoulders while she stirred the soup, took in the way the back of his neck was flushed red, and her eyes softened.
"When did you start feeling sick, Sheldon?"
"At precisely 11:35 last night. I've kept an hourly log of my symptoms if you'd like to read it," he offered.
"Ah, no. That's okay, sweetie," she assured him. She carried over his soup and sandwich and set them on the coffee table in front of him. "Here you go."
"Thank you, Penny." Sheldon took a bite out of his sandwich but turned around when Penny didn't join him on the couch. "Aren't you going to eat with me?"
Penny was already back in the kitchen making a pot of coffee. "I'm not really hungry. Maybe later."
"Are you ill as well? When did your symptoms start? I can help you make a symptom log book. It can be very helpful in..."
Penny held up her hand and shook her head to interrupt him. "No, Sheldon, I'm fine. Really. Just not hungry."
Sheldon squinted his eyes as he observed her, trying to diagnose her despite her denial of illness. She turned away from him, pretending to look for a coffee cup in her cupboard even though her favourite was sitting front and center.
Sheldon was not deterred. He set down his sandwich and hobbled over to her, blanket and all. "Penny?"
"What, Sheldon?" she asked, not turning around.
"Are you certain you are not ill? You're skin is very pale, and you have dark smudges under your eyes."
"Yes, I'm certain."
"Are you... upset?"
Penny smiled in spite of herself. He sounded so uncertain and uncomfortable at the idea of emotional concerns.
"A little," she admitted.
Sheldon considered her response for a moment. "Have I done something to upset you?"
"No, of course not," Penny turned around, finally facing him. "You didn't do anything wrong, sweetie. Today's just... It's just a bad day for me."
"Is that why you're not at work today?" he wondered.
Penny nodded. "Yeah."
Sheldon waited for further explanation. Penny waivered under his wide-eyed gaze.
"Today's an anniversary of sorts. Every year, I take this day off."
"An anniversary? Of what? The death of a family member?"
Penny swallowed hard and looked away, blinking back tears. "Something like that."
"I see," Sheldon said, even though Penny was certain he didn't. She knew he'd lost his dad and granddad, but still.
"This is different, Sheldon. It's not... um, it's just different." She crossed her arms over her chest as two tears fell from her eyes – quickly, but not so fast that Sheldon didn't notice.
"I see," he said again, and Penny wondered if I see was his patented response to these types of situations. She waited for him to say there there, but he didn't.
"You're sandwich is probably getting cold," she offered him an out.
"Will you sit with me?" he asked.
Penny nodded and sniffled. "Yeah. Thanks."
She settled beside Sheldon, silent sobs affecting her breathing. She was grateful that Sheldon focused on finishing his meal instead of questioning her. By the time he was done, her tears were held in check once more. Still close to the surface though.
"I don't mean to rush you, Sheldon, but I need to go out for a bit. Do you want to stay here while I'm gone?"
Sheldon looked shocked. "Not hardly. Penny, I can't be left alone in my condition."
"Sheldon, I'm not staying here with you."
"Well, how long will you be gone?" his voice was getting higher with panic.
"I don't know," she admitted. "A couple hours. Maybe more."
Sheldon considered this, obviously displeased at her vague response. "I'm coming with you," he finally decided. "If my symptoms worsen, you can take me to the nearest emergency room. Not that they would be able to do much for me."
The fact that she actually wanted his company took her by surprise. She waited for him to get his symptom log book, a thermometer, a warm coat, and his knit hat, and then they left the building.
Penny hoped the drive would be silent as she drank out of her travel mug, but Sheldon had other ideas.
"Where are we going?" he asked.
"To a flower shop first." She decided to answer him. He'd find out soon enough anyway.
"Ah, yes. To purchase flowers for your deceased loved one. But you are not from California, Penny. How will you place flowers at a gravesite?"
"Remember how I said this is different, Sheldon?"
"Yes, I do," he nodded.
"Well, I won't be bringing the flowers to a gravesite, because there isn't one to bring them to."
"Oh," was all he said. His expression told her that his brain was working very hard at solving this puzzle while trying to respect her emotional state by not asking too many questions.
She parked outside the florist's, but hesitated leaving the safety of her car.
"Sheldon? Will you come with me?"
"Yes, of course. Am I given to understand that I am taking the role as your emotional supporter during your transaction here?"
"What? Um, yeah." She shook her head to clear it then managed to get herself out of her car and stand steady on her feet. Her hands shook as she opened the door. Sheldon stayed slightly behind her as she moved around the shop, analyzing the items on the shelves. She picked up a soft yellow teddy bear from one shelf displaying baby gifts and held it tightly against her.
Eventually, they made their way to the display fridge where bouquets and arrangements of flowers were kept fresh behind clear glass doors. Penny's eyes settled on a bouquet of small pink teacup roses when the shop keeper approached them.
She was quick to take in Penny's emotional state, and asked, "Can I wrap those up for you?"
Penny nodded. "Can I have them without the vase?" she managed to say quietly.
"Of course, dear. Anything you want." She took the arrangement out of the fridge and went to the back of the store to wrap them up. Sheldon looked like he wanted to follow the woman to ask her how she seemed to know what was wrong with Penny when he himself didn't have a clue.
When Penny paid for the flowers, she put the bear on the counter to purchase as well, but Sheldon noticed that the store owner did not charge her for the soft toy. He was pretty sure the flowers should have cost more as well, but he held his tongue.
When they were back outside, Sheldon felt the need to ask, "Will you be alright to drive, Penny? I still have my beginner's permit. If I drive slowly enough, I may be able to take us to your next stop relatively safely."
"It's okay, Sheldon. I appreciate the offer, but I should be okay to drive. Just give me a minute, okay?"
"Of course," he said. They sat in the car for more than a minute until Penny finally managed to put the key in the ignition and pulled back into traffic.
"May I ask where we are going now?" Sheldon asked.
"You'll see," she said.
Sheldon bit his tongue against quarrelling with her for a straight answer. A few minutes later, they pulled into a parking lot. Sheldon read the sign out loud. "The Pasadena Garden Society."
"Come on," she said, getting out of the car. "I'll show you."
They followed a dirt path lined with high bushes until the bushes gave way to a large cleared space filled with fountains and gardens and delicate ornamental trees. Benches were placed randomly around the grounds.
Even Sheldon's over-analytical, scientific mind perceived that this was truly the most beautiful place he had ever seen.
Penny went over to a bench beside a large fountain, and Sheldon sat beside her.
"When I was seventeen," she began, her fingers playing with the soft rose petals, "I found out I was pregnant. Six weeks later, when I went for an ultrasound, I found out I wasn't pregnant anymore. The doctors said it was a vanishing pregnancy. It happens sometimes, they said." She held her bear close against her stomach. "I know I was young, but... I really wanted that baby. I would have been a good mom." She swiped at her eyes.
Sheldon was at a complete loss. He struggled to clear his throat. "I know you would have been a wonderful mother, Penny. You always take good care of me."
Penny smiled through her tears at his carefully chosen words. "Thanks, sweetie." She reached over and took his hand. They sat for a long time, the sun shining brilliantly around them and reflecting off the water in the fountain.
Eventually, Penny stood up and carefully placed her flowers in the water of the fountain as though making a wish. She closed her eyes for a while, and Sheldon found his eyes closing too, unsure whether she was praying or meditating or speaking internally to the baby she'd lost.
Penny placed a hand on his shoulder to let him know when she was ready to go.
They drove in relative silence on the way home, until Sheldon said, "Penny, I am sorry for the child you lost. But I also wish to tell you that in the future, I believe you will have another chance at motherhood."
"Thanks for coming with me today, Sheldon," Penny glanced over at him before turning her eyes back to the road.
"I believe that is what... friends... are for."
Penny smiled a full smile, her eyes a little lighter. "Well, I'm glad."