Word Count: 1,080
Summary: The boys are gone and Penny's pining, but her mind and body are at odds.
Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm a Sheldon/Penny fan. Doesn't that make such a disclaimer unnecessary at this point in time?
Spoilers: General knowledge of both seasons 1-2, as well as specific for 2.22: The Classified Materials Turbulence, and 2.23: The Monopolar Expedition; AU for season 3.
Notes: alsaurusrex, thelymachy, damalur and southern_heaven for their help in figuring this one out. It only took a few months for me to do so.
May 15, 2009 – 2:14 pm
Four days after the boys left on their expedition, Penny got an invite from Skype to video conference with them. She could barely contain her excitement and fairly danced around the apartment until she realized that a faded tee-shirt and hip-hugger panties probably wasn't the best choice of attire. And once she decided to change, webcam or not, she wanted to look her best. A little over an hour later, she stood before her mirror and slipped the blue and dark pink Penny Blossom into her carefully arranged curls. Her make-up was perfect, her outfit -- a form-fitting tank-top, a dark pink to match the petals of her hair accessory, and tight-ish blue jean shorts that matched the bud -- looked fabulous. Butterflies fluttered wildly through her stomach as she sat down before her laptop.
The first few days after they had left, Penny had found herself pining for Leonard. She'd recall the way he would look adoringly at her, or how he always found an excuse to help her, be near her. How smart and how funny he could be. What a nice, sweet guy he was. She berated herself constantly for not saying something because she knew that based on their last conversation, he very well might have stayed behind leaving Sheldon and the others to their scientific investigations.
Quickly, her mind shied away from the thought of him. It had been some crazy, mental hiccup; an aberration was the technical term. She'd actually done the research and oddly found comfort in the science of it. Aberration: A disorder or abnormal alteration in one's mental state. Yup, that's what it was; that was all it was. Her subconscious had confused Stuart and Leonard and mixed them up in the form of one Sheldon Cooper. In his presence, it had been easy enough to remember the lunacy that surely involved that aberration, but with him gone ... Well, it was just better not to think about him at all.
"Hey, Penny!" Leonard called out and Penny quickly brought her attention to her laptop screen to see his bespectacled, grinning face. She smiled in anticipation of the rush that would come from seeing Leonard for the first time in four days!!
It was coming.
Any minute now.
"Oh, beauteous lady!" cried Howard who crowded next to Leonard. "What a sight for sore eyes." His gaze dropped to her cleavage with little finesse and he added, "a bountiful sight." And with that, any chance at a rush of joyous emotion evaporated. Fair or not, seeing Howard Wolowitz's leer made it perfectly clear that she had not missed him one teeny bit. Not yet anyway.
Crowding Leonard on the other side came Raj's pearly whites, and despite the fact that when you boiled it down, Penny really didn't know him much at all, she couldn't help but smile because of what she did know of him – from their mostly silent communication along with his interaction with the others – he was a sweet guy. And he did have a *fantastic* smile. He thrust a thumbs-up in front of Leonard's face and Penny couldn't help but giggle.
"Raj," Leonard whined. "Give me a minute to say hi." An uncomfortable knot formed in Penny's stomach. In her delirium over the last few days, she'd not only highlighted all of Leonard's positive qualities, she's also completely ignored his negative ones. Like the whining. Adjusting his glasses, he pushed Raj and Howard out of the frame and winced towards Penny. Moments later, she realized it was a smile and she smiled back.
Even with Howard gone, that joyous rush still remained mysteriously absent. The butterflies stopped fluttering and were at a standstill. "I – I mean, we – we, all of us, miss you." Penny weakly smiled. Yup, this was the Leonard she'd conveniently forgotten about. The one who would never man up and simply tell her how he honestly felt. No ‘I miss you,' but a cop-out of ‘We miss you.'
"Oh, Leonard," Penny sighed and he brightened visibly, unaware that the response wasn't one of mutual feeling, but rather that Leonard was just being so very ... Leonard. Unable to let him down, though, she added the words he obviously expected. "I miss you guys, too." His smile dimmed a bit when she made the statement plural, but, damnit, if he couldn't say it, why the hell should she? He was the one who'd had a crush on her for two years now.
There came a shuffling noise and scathing voice from off-camera and Leonard glanced over his shoulder. "Honestly, Wolowitz, not even five seconds and you're leering."
The butterflies began fluttering. Penny froze and firmly ignored their flight, smiling brightly at Leonard -- too brightly, but he wouldn't notice. "So, how are things?" She asked quickly. Leonard smiled back and opened his mouth to speak.
And then *he* came into view, smoothly pushing Leonard out of the way. The butterflies began beating wings so frantically that she was sure somewhere on the other side of the world -- possibly where the boys were -- a snowstorm was beginning to furiously form. In the back of her mind, Penny knew that her knowledge of the Chaos Theory a.k.a. the stupid Butterfly Effect came from Sheldon's presence in her life, and not that Ashton Kutcher movie. Oh, and speaking of the good doctor ...
"Penny, hello." He stood straight, his hand folded neatly behind his back. "Things, as you so generically put it, are going quite well. We've established base -- and," he paused, a frown crossing his features. "What's wrong with your face?"
Without thought, Penny's hands rose to touch her cheeks. "What's wrong with my face?" She parroted back to him.
Sheldon shook his head, "nothing now. You just had a peculiar smile on it. It appeared to be, as they say, plastered on. Too bright. It wasn't --" and again he paused, his voice faltering slightly as if aware that he was revealing something, but the confusion shading his speech showed that he had no idea what exactly he was revealing. "It wasn't you."
And there went the butterflies, madly, wildly fluttering, flitting, zooming at warp-speed inside her stomach. Penny blinked and allowed the possibility for the first time since she had called out Sheldon Cooper's name in the throes of passion while making-out in the backseat with Stuart. It might not have been a crazy, mental hiccup after all.