Disclaimer: I don't own The Big Bang Theory, just some dvd's. If I did, "Shenny" would be real. And the only profit I get from writing fan fic is my own personal enjoyment.

Chapter 1

Knock, knock, knock. "Penny."

Knock, knock, knock. "Penny."

Knock, knock, knock. "Penny."

"Come in, Sheldon," Penny called tiredly as she set down her third glass—well, mug, actually, since all of her wine glasses were already dirty—of cheap Chablis. Sheldon entered her apartment and paused a few feet from the doorway. He observed her carefully, taking in her slightly flushed face and glassy-eyed mien.

"Perhaps it would be best if I were to return another time," he said, half turning toward the door which he had left standing open.

"You're already here, Sheldon. Just tell me what you want," Penny said wearily.

He turned back to face her with an indecipherable look. He then carefully closed the apartment door and took a few steps into the living area. "I-I require your assistance," he blurted out.

"Sweetie, if you need a ride, I don't think that's such a good idea right now," Penny said, frowning.

"No, I don't need a ride," Sheldon stated, followed by another long pause.

Penny got up from her perch on the kitchen stool, mug in hand, and plopped herself onto the sofa. "I think you'd better sit down and tell me what this is all about," she said, patting the chair which was Sheldon's habitual seat whenever he visited her apartment. He lowered himself a bit gingerly, folding his long limbs at precise angles.

"So what's put a bug in your britches, Moonpie?" Penny drawled, knowing she could goad him into some sort of reaction by using his Meemaw's pet name for him.

Sure enough, "Don't call me that. Only my Meemaw is allowed to call me that," Sheldon retorted half-heartedly. Penny waited patiently for him to begin, knowing that Sheldon could not resist the opportunity to talk about himself for long. He was outrageously egotistical, as all his friends knew, but Penny believed that his social development was stunted at the level of a preschooler, so in an odd way, his narcissism made sense to her.

"Penny, I have always considered my research into theoretical physics my gift to the world," Sheldon began. "It is my contribution to prevent the general degradation of society back to primitive Neanderthalistic idiocy. But it has recently been impressed upon me, by a certain Amy Farrah Fowler, that it would be a great tragedy to deprive the world of my superior intellectual progeny." He hesitated, glancing at Penny to gauge her reaction.

She raised an eyebrow. "In English, sweetie. What the hell are you talking about?"

"Descendants, offspring… children," he replied, annoyed that he had had to spell it out for her.

Penny was glad that she didn't have a mouthful of wine when Sheldon uttered the word "children", because she was certain that if she had, it would have been sprayed all over her coffee table. As it was, her jaw dropped open and she just stared at Sheldon, speechless for a moment.

"Children? You want children?" she gasped.

"Well, if Darwin's theory of natural selection is to be believed, children are a biological imperative," he replied stiffly.

"A biological whatsit?" Penny asked, wondering if she had actually passed out and this was some bizarre, Chablis-fueled dream she was having.

"It means that if I am to pass along my intellectual genius to future generations, then having children of my own is, ipso facto, a necessity," Sheldon replied.

"So you want to have a child… with Amy?" Penny asked incredulously. Maybe she was hallucinating, she thought. She would sooner have believed that aliens would land on earth looking to take Sheldon back to his home planet than what she was hearing right now.

"The problem is—" Sheldon forged on, "—the problem is that Amy Farrah Fowler is only a few years shy of thirty; twenty-eight exactly, and to be frank, she's running out of time. It is a proven scientific fact that men are capable of procreating well into their sixth or seventh decade; however, the female reproductive system is viable for only a fraction of that time."

"So why are you telling all this to me?" Penny asked, feeling completely dumbfounded.

A tinge of pink stained Sheldon's cheeks and neck, and he looked down at his hands fidgeting on his lap. He said softly, "While there is no flaw in the logic that leads to my conclusion, and I infer that Amy would not be adverse to that shift in our relationship paradigm, I am having some difficulty with the practical implications of said conclusion." He turned wide, panic-stricken eyes to Penny. "While I do fully comprehend the mechanics of the act of procreation, I—I don't think I could actually bring myself to do it," he cried wildly, then dropped his gaze once more. He looked so distressed that Penny's heart went out to him.

"Sweetie, no one's going to make you do anything you don't want to," she said comfortingly, rubbing his arm. He flinched and then turned to stare at her.

"I am a man of science. I should not allow such ridiculous phobias to impede scientific progress."

Penny tried unsuccessfully to hide her smirk at realizing that Sheldon was assuming that any child of his would make some great contribution to science, but she also felt a deep compassion for her friend, whose fear of germs and invasion of his personal space crippled his ability to develop an intimate relationship. "Sheldon, don't you think this is something you and Amy need to work out together?" she asked gently.

"No!" he cried, jerking his head up once more. "No, Penny, I can't. Amy is—Amy is much too clinical. Her background in neurobiology would cause her to approach this as some kind of experiment. This is one instance in which your lack of education might actually be an asset."

Penny shot him a dirty look at that "lack of education" comment, but let it pass for the moment. "Sweetie, I'm not sure that there's anything I can do to help," she began. "I'm not a therapist or a counselor. Maybe you really need to go talk to a professional instead of just to a friend."

"My mother had me tested," he muttered, wrapping his long arms around his body tightly. "Penny, I underwent a rigorous period of psychiatric evaluation at the age of eight. I spent four weeks in a mental health facility, away from my home and family. I will never willingly submit to such treatment again."

For the second time that evening, Penny was shocked. She had heard him mention that his mother had once had him tested to see if he was insane, but she had no idea of the scarring it had left on the psyche of a frightened little boy. And she knew without a doubt that he had been scared, terrified even. She knew Sheldon often reverted to childish behavior, like throwing a temper tantrum when he didn't get his own way or exhibiting manic glee over comic books or trains. Now, his current stress had given her greater insight into the complex mind of Sheldon Cooper.

"What is it that you think I can do to help you?" she asked, feeling as though she would walk over hot coals to help heal her damaged friend.

He drew himself up straighter. "Well, you're an actress. I thought you might know some theatrical techniques that would help me to acclimate myself to the sensation of being touched," he replied.

Penny frowned thoughtfully. "I'm not sure any acting methods would apply here. I do have some ideas… but you would have to get Amy's permission before we start anything. I'd hate for her to find out the wrong way and think I was trying to put the moves on her boyfriend."

Sheldon considered her statement for a moment, and then nodded his head curtly. "Agreed." He abruptly stood, brushing invisible lint off the front of his trousers. "I will obtain Amy's consent before we begin any desensitizing regimen." He strode toward the door in a preoccupied manner, but before he left, he paused in the threshold with his hand on the door jamb. He looked back at Penny, still sitting on the sofa.

"Thank you, Penny. You really are my best friend," he said softly as he closed the door behind him. He added that last sentence under his breath. It wasn't something he was sure he wanted Penny to know, yet it was true nonetheless. Ever since the fateful Arctic expedition, Sheldon's opinion of his roommate had changed. Of course, he didn't mind practical jokes. He had been the perpetrator of some classic bazingas in the past. But for Leonard to sabotage his prestigious, grant-funded research and then to cause Sheldon to make a fool of himself to the academic community at large was a malfeasance that Sheldon could not forget. Forgive, yes, but not forget. So in Sheldon's mind, Leonard had been downgraded to a mere friend and roommate, one whom he could no longer fully trust.