Summary: A meteor shower is the perfect setting for a first kiss.
Word Count: 10,757
Spoilers: A general knowledge of all three seasons thus far. Brief specific spoilers for the Pilot, "The Adhesive Duck Deficiency," "The Maternal Congruence," "The Bozeman Reaction," and "The Large Hadron Collision."
Disclaimer: Sheldon/Penny and all the rest of the gang belong to Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. Yay for them, boo for me.
Betas: A big thank you to my stupendous beta-readers. mixedkindanuts and panadoraandbox were amazing; the story is much better for their assistance.
Notes: Dangit, I swear I began writing this story last May (and erm, took a really, really long time to finish it. I thought of the meteor showers *before* TADD was even scripted).
The quiet joy that came only from the beauty of science began to fill him as he pulled the door to 4A shut with a firm click. Sheldon stood still, anticipating what was to come. A genuine smile, so rare to his features, formed. In the corner of his mind that never stopped thinking, he calculated the number of times that he had felt such happiness and knew even without the occasions specified – one by one, flickering rapidly like a slideshow on speed – that approximately 67% of them revolved around science. The tick-tock of his ever-working brain quickly processed that the other 32% featured either his mother or Meemaw and the remaining single digit percentage belonged to his next-door neighbor. ["Yes, you can take his gold. He's a thief, Penny. He stole it from someone else and now you can use it to purchase a weapon for your quest." Click. "I possess the DNA of Leonard Nimoy!?" Click. "Purr, purr, purr."] The moments were all neatly filed away in the recesses of his mind – alphanumerically listed and appropriately categorized, of course.
From inside the apartment, a sudden racket brought him out of his reverie, and his lips tightened slightly as he once more questioned the wisdom of leaving Wolowitz alone in there. He laid a hand on the doorknob but stopped before turning it. If he walked back in there, Howard might change his mind and decide to join him, and Sheldon had absolutely no interest in sharing the wonder of the Lyrids with him. Leonard and Raj would return shortly with dinner; Howard could be trusted for that long. Certain of his logic, Sheldon removed his hand and turned around decisively, his step lighter as he headed towards the stairwell.
He was only two steps up when he heard the sound of shuffling below, indicating that his friends had indeed returned in a timely manner. Sheldon breathed a quick sigh of relief. It wasn't until the sound grew closer, more recognizable, that his face shifted to a frown and finally a grimace when a perky voice addressed him.
It was Penny. Of course. She passed by him, a bounce in her step and shopping bags of various colors and sizes in tow. He debated ignoring her and continuing his ascent to the roof, but depending on her mood, she'd either (a) come after him, (b) shrug and carry on or, (c) get upset and start yelling at him or threaten bodily harm. With her, one never knew which was the most likely to occur. He turned around and found her pulling her key out of the lock, flashing a smile in his direction.
Sheldon took a moment to take in her appearance. She was an attractive woman; hair and make-up arranged in a pleasing style, he supposed. Per the norm, she wore bright colors that matched her personality exactly. He noted the peach camisole top that she'd worn when she'd blackmailed him into throwing Leonard a birthday party paired with shorts emblazoned with a disorganized mishmash of bright floral patterns and what appeared to be splatters of paint. Very Penny. Gazing at her, Sheldon was – as always – attempting to decipher just why someone like Penny spent time with four self-described nerds, let alone why she had actually formed a romantic attachment – thankfully-ended – with one of them. It was simply one of life's mysteries that he had yet to solve.
"Hold on a sec," she told him, in correlation to no action on his part. Honestly, he hadn't even greeted her yet and now would be unable to do so as proper manners dictated. Sheldon rolled his eyes and pondered the even greater mystery of why she persisted in maintaining any level of a friendship with *him* despite the strain that her longer-than-anticipated involvement with his roommate had placed upon their already bewildering relationship. Penny disappeared into her apartment, presumably to set down her purse and bags, before reappearing a few seconds later. Most likely she'd just thrown them on the floor; it certainly wouldn't have been the first time. Never mind putting the items away, Sheldon thought disdainfully, she couldn't even be bothered to deposit them on the couch or a chair. The concept of organization was apparently beyond her grasp – a constant source of irritation for him, but again, this was Penny, and thus not all that surprising.
"Where're you going?" she asked cheerfully, a ready smile on her face.
"Hello, Penny," he added, determined to follow social protocol despite her decision not to do so. He paused then, the customary salutation out of the way and answered her query. "Upstairs."
A quizzical expression flitted across her face, her lips twisted, and her eyebrows zigzagged as was her wont. "What's upstairs?" she finally asked, leaning against her doorjamb.
With a sigh, Sheldon closed his eyes briefly and accepted the fact that this would not be the quick escape he desired. "The roof," he replied flatly.
"Hello, man of a million words, what's with the two-word responses? What's up on the roof?"
"If you must know …" He paused momentarily, hoping that she would realize – as implausible as the thought was – that, no, it was not necessary for her to know every detail of every occurrence. The silence stretched, and he watched as her eyebrow raised and her lips pursed. Yes, the hope had been very much in vain. Sheldon let out another sigh, defeated in his efforts.
"Every spring, on approximately this date, I enjoy the Lyrid meteor showers from this building's rooftop. Normally, Leonard joins me, but as the circumstances of the last seven months have impaired our friendship, I chose to enjoy the spectacle without him this year." As he spoke, he noticed her bright expression fading and a frown appearing at the mention of his weakened relationship with Leonard. He was unsure as to why it was important, but nevertheless, found himself striving to ease her distress. "Penny, you need not concern yourself with the situation between Leonard and me. We've been best friends for six years, and it's perfectly natural that there will be periods where there is strain and others when camaraderie is abundant; this is merely a period of strain. Now, if you'll excuse me." Sheldon turned once more and was once more stopped cold.
"Wait." He stilled at the sound of Penny's voice, contemplating for a brief moment why she was doing this, and spun around to face her, clasping his hands behind his back.
"Yes?" he asked, rather politely under the circumstances, he thought, ignoring the sharpness that was in his tone since she *was* disturbing him after all.
"What are the Lyrid meteor showers? Isn't that what the guys went to the desert for when I dislocated my shoulder?"
Now the frown was gone, her expression that of a bewildered rabbit. Sheldon longed to erase the confusion. Despite her lack of intelligence in comparison to his own, given some patience, she was generally capable of grasping easier concepts so Sheldon stepped forward, moving down a step as his hands unfolded and he began to speak animatedly.
"No, those were the Leonid meteor showers. I, myself, have always preferred the Lyrids, as they came first. They are, in fact, the oldest documented meteor shower known to astronomers. An early reference to the Lyrids is as follows, 'at night, fixed stars are invisible, at midnight, stars dropped down like rain.' The quote was written during the Chou dynasty period in 687 B.C. by a Chinese observer."
Nodding slightly, Penny muttered a soft "hmm" and then shut her door. Tilting her head to the side, her bemusement eased into consideration. "So, they're like fireworks?"
"Like firewo—?! No, they are not like fireworks. Fireworks are devices consisting of a combination of explosives and combustibles, set off to generate colored lights, smoke, and noise for amusement. A meteor shower is a celestial event in which a number of meteors are observed to radiate from one point in the night sky. They are caused by streams of cosmic debris – meteoroids – entering the Earth's atmosphere at an exceptionally altitudinous speed on parallel trajectories. Most are smaller than a grain of sand, so almost all meteoroids disintegrate and never hit the Earth's surface."
"Riiight," she dragged out the word, an impish grin lighting her face. "So they're like nature's fireworks." The smirk sharpened and her eyebrow rose as if daring him to challenge her. Sheldon settled for a severe glare, and then, without a word, turned around once more and began heading up the stairs.
And then froze.
Penny was coming up behind him.
Twisting slightly, he looked down and over his shoulder to find her to his left, a step below. "I wanna see," she informed him, and she smiled brightly, before skipping up ahead, flowers and paint splats bouncing before his eyes.
"Sheldon!" Leonard called as he sat down his roommate's food. "Dinner's here." Glancing over his shoulder, Leonard huffed with irritation knowing that if Sheldon didn't come into the living room in the next five seconds, he'd complain about the food being cold and somehow it would be Leonard's fault. He looked over at Howard, "Where's Sheldon?"
Howard pulled away from Raj, "I know. I swear I will tell Bernadette that this upcoming weekend is reserved for buddy-time." He faced Leonard, but Raj wasn't done with him yet.
"You promise?" Raj pushed. "The last time we made plans, you forgot to tell her and she made her own plans with you and because I won't have sex with you and she will, guess who got left out in the cold?" Before Howard could respond, Raj nodded emphatically. "That's right, me. So promise."
"I promise, I promise. Next time I see her, I swear, I'm telling her." He shook his head, his Beatles-styled mop-top flying. Looking at Leonard, he grinned. "Geez, you'd think Raj didn't have a girlfriend and just can't understand. " Slapping his thigh, he laughed. "Oh, right, he doesn't." His laughter froze as he met Raj's glare. Throwing up his hands, he grew conciliatory, "I kid, I kid. You know I kid. Buddy."
Rolling his eyes, Leonard sighed heavily. "If you two are done, would you mind telling me where Sheldon is, Howard? His food is going to get cold, and guess who will get blamed?" He looked pointedly at Raj. "That's right, me."
"Oh, Sheldon's not here."
"What?" both Leonard and Raj said at the same time, surprise widening their eyes.
"But, but, but," Raj spoke first. "It's Wednesday at 7:40. We eat pizza and then play Halo at 8:00 every Wednesday."
Nodding, Leonard pulled out his phone to make sure that it was indeed Wednesday and he hadn't screwed up the evening's plans horribly. "Yeah, yeah, it's definitely Wednesday. What do you mean Sheldon's not here? What happened? What did you do?"
"Yeah, Howard, what did you do?" Raj demanded. "I know you're not happy about all the time I'm spending with Sheldon, but you're still my best friend. And besides, you have Bernadette, dude! She's much prettier than Sheldon."
"Hey! Nothing, nothing, I did nothing." Howard stood up and backed away at the expressions on Raj and Leonard's faces. "He said he was going up to the roof to watch the Lyrid meteor showers and that he would prefer to be alone. I got the impression that he doesn't want you to join him up there this year, Leonard. He's still annoyed with you over, I dunno, whatever."
Leonard looked away from the two, his face twisted in confusion, before looking at Howard defensively. "I didn't do anything! Ever since Penny and I broke up, I've been the model roommate." Struck with an even stronger argument, he pointed his finger, exclaiming his position. "Besides, he hasn't said a single word to me of complaint, and, hello, this is Sheldon! If he had an issue with me, I would know. You would know. The whole world would know." Satisfied, he sat down.
Raj shook his head, "You have no idea, dude." Meeting Leonard's bewildered gaze, he continued. "Sheldon so has an issue with you."
Nodding, Raj sat down as well, facing Leonard. "Yes, he so does. He's still mad, firstly, that you came up with the plan to sabotage his arctic research even though, quote, you're supposed to be his very best friend, end quote. Then you didn't care when he found out and was very upset just because you wanted to," he paused and used air quotes, "'have coitus with Penny.' Finally, after you managed that – even if it wasn't all that, you proceeded to make his life difficult by entering into an ill-advised relationship with her that had as much of a chance of succeeding as your likelihood of ever winning a Nobel prize. The inevitable end of that disastrous relationship has now led to a breakdown of the overall friendship our group shares with her."
Raj met Leonard's befuddled expression with a sheepish look. "You know, something like that. I'm not quoting him exactly word for word," his voice dropped as he glanced away. "Just a pretty good representation of something he's mentioned a few times."
The three of them were silent for a moment before Leonard straightened up and clapped his hands together decisively. "Fine, fine. That's okay, I can't completely disagree with most of those specific issues, so I'll give him his space about this. After missing the Leonids, I know he's been especially looking forward to these, and he's always preferred the Lyrids to the Leonids." Sighing, he picked up Sheldon's specially-ordered pizza and headed to the refrigerator.
"Well," Howard spoke up, "we can practice until he comes back, or flip a coin to see who gets an extra teammate. Or," he sent a considering look Leonard's way, "we can ask Penny if she wants to play?"
Leonard looked up at him and shook his head slightly. "Nah, she mentioned that she was going shopping for some wedding when she came by for coffee this morning."
Taking that as an excuse to delve into the state of the duo's current relationship, Howard smiled. "So, does that mean that things are hunky-dory with you now, or," he twisted his expression, "still awkward and tense?"
"No, we're okay. I mean, we're not like what we were before we started dating, but that's to be expected. I'm not pining anymore and she's not trying to pretend she doesn't know I'm pining in order to avoid hurting my feelings. We're navigating a new, completely platonic friendship." He raised his chin, pride sketched upon his features. "It's nice. Well, I mean it will be nice once the edges are mostly smoothed off. We were really good as friends, you know? Remember when Stephanie and I were dating?"
"Yeah, a little hard to forget considering the circumstances," Howard muttered, a slight tinge of annoyance in his voice. Leonard met his gaze, guilty frustration evident and Howard smiled. "Nah, I'm kidding. Spilled milk, I'm just giving you a hard time. I've got Bernadette now. So, you and Stephanie …"
Leonard brightened and continued, "Well, Penny really helped me out there. She gave me good advice, and steered me in the right direction for what was best for me." He smiled at the memory and with renewed conviction continued. "Yeah, we're doing good. If she wasn't shopping, we could invite her to play with us, sure. It would probably be a little awkward at first, but it would pass pretty quickly."
Sitting down, Leonard opened the pizza box, gesturing for the others to dig in. "So, he went up to the roof, huh?" He nodded and then froze, cheese-less pizza halfway to his mouth. "He went up to the roof?!"
Howard glanced up, "Uh, yeah, that's what I said."
"Ohnononononono!" Leonard sat down his pizza and stood up, wringing his hands. "Oh no!"
"What?!" Raj and Howard cried simultaneously.
"The roof door was broken two months ago. Sheldon freaked out and kept saying that the same hoodlums who broke into our place before were coming back again. I couldn't deal with it anymore, so after a few days, I lied and told him that I got the notice that it was fixed, but threw it away. I mean when does he ever go up on the roof?" Leonard looked at Raj and Howard. "There was no notice; it's not fixed. He's up on the roof."
"Leonard, I'm sure it was fixed." Howard offered. "He went up there about ten minutes ago and if it were still broken, he would have been back here eight minutes ago. Relax." He reached for a slice of pizza.
Instead of relaxing, Leonard began pacing, twisting his hoodie strings around and around his finger. "No, it wasn't broken like that. It wasn't kids, just …" He sighed. "The lock is broken from the outside. If Sheldon's up on the roof, he's not coming down until we go and open the door."
Howard set his pizza back in the box with a sigh. "Okay, so we go and open the door."
Leonard quickly shook his head. "No, let's wait until the Lyrids are over. He wanted to enjoy the spectacle himself without me ruining the mood. I owe him. Let's give it another twenty minutes and then we'll go up and get him. He'll still be annoyed that we didn't get him right away, but I think it will be the lesser of two evils."
"Sounds good to me," Howard said as he and Raj both reached for the same slice of pizza. Their eyes met and Howard slowly pulled his hand back. "You go ahead; it's all yours, buddy."
It was a pleasant night, Sheldon reflected, as he and Penny sat on one of the giant fan boxes atop the roof. And, surprisingly, Penny had been quiet, presumably enjoying the beauty around them. The wind was gentle; the moon was high and the smog not as dense. In other words, it was perfect viewing for the Lyrids. A rattling kick made him jump slightly, and he turned to glare at Penny. She smiled sheepishly.
"Sorry, swinging my legs. Swung too far back." He continued to glare; she continued to explain the obvious. "I kicked the metal. Loud bang." Her grin turned impish. "Boom!" Rolling his eyes slightly, Sheldon looked away and up at the night sky. After a few more moments passed, she could apparently keep silent no longer. "So," she ventured. "Tell me about these Lyrids."
Sheldon sighed in mild exasperation, but did appreciate the soft tone she used. Stealing a quick look in her direction, he saw her looking upwards with a slight smile on her lips. He wondered if perhaps she was admiring the view as he had been. As if feeling his eyes on her face, Penny turned to look at him and her smile grew.
Sheldon stilled for a moment, suddenly suspicious of the unexpected joy on her face; his brow evidenced a quizzical turn. "Sarcasm?"
Closing her eyes briefly, Penny chuckled and then met his gaze with pursed lips. "No, not sarcasm," she replied. "I'm genuinely curious, so lecture away." She gestured with her hand and leaned back a bit, her feet once more making a light kick against the metal as she did so. She winced, but said nothing further, just waited.
Sparing her one more hesitant glance, Sheldon decided to take her at her word. Folding his hands into his lap, he tilted his head slightly and began to speak. "For the past 2600 years, sky-gazers such as ourselves have observed Lyrid meteor showers. The source of the shower is the periodic Comet C/1861 Thatcher – named after A.E. Thatcher who first identified it. Occasionally, observers are treated to what is called a Lyrid Fireball. This happens –"
"Yeah, okay, lecture time's over. Sorry." Penny interrupted blithely.
Sniffing in irritation, Sheldon rolled his eyes and turned her way, a glare ready and present on his face in order to admonish her without words. Naturally, it did no good; she was already looking at him, a saucy smile on her face. This softened as she leaned over slightly and patted his thigh.
"Sorry, I overestimated my attention span." She tilted her head and added brightly, "What can I say, Sheldon? You inspire me to think I care more than I actually do." She pouted slightly and her tone softened. "Really, sorry. I was interested, but you went all academic and science-y, and just …" Penny paused and sat up straighter. She threw her arms out, gesturing to the world around them. "Look at this. The sky is clear and beautiful, the stars are shining. The moon is high and bright, and pretty soon those meteors are going to start flying. This is beauty, not dry and dusty like some old, boring schoolbook that takes the fun out of it."
Pursing his lips tightly, Sheldon refused to look at her and was quiet for a moment before crisply spitting out a rebuttal. "Just because you find factual information about the universe 'dry' and 'dusty and 'boring,'" and, oh, yes, he used finger quotations, "It doesn't mean that everyone finds it so. I happen to find things academic and —" Here came the finger quotes again, this time for a word that did not exist. "— 'Sciency-y' fascinating. I like to know why and how things happen. Being aware of the history and scientific data behind the clarity of the sky, the brightness of the stars and moon, as well as compounds that helped create the Lyrids adds to the overall beauty of the experience."
Penny nodded, and then shrugged with a slight smile. "You say 'tomato,' I say 'to-mah-to.'"
Shaking his head, confusion flying across his features, he looked at her again, at last. "That's preposterous. We both say tomato; I have never once heard you say the other. And frankly, I've never heard anyone use that pronunciation unless they were parroting that ridiculous colloquialism." He hardened his glare for good measure and then looked away, pouting himself.
This was supposed to be a wonderful night, a wonderful experience and instead Penny had to come with him and take away all of the fun. He was so put out that he decided to forgo his manners and tell her so. She had invited herself after all. Without looking at her, he repeated that thought aloud. "This was supposed to be a wonderful night of beauty and science, Penny, and you're ruining it."
He waited for the expected response, her outraged exclamation that it was his fault, and that she had done nothing wrong. And he waited. And waited. Finally, he turned to look at her. Her shoulders were slumped, and she was looking down at her clasped fingers. She let out a deep exhalation and he waited once more. Still silent. He was just about to ask her if she had even heard him, when she made a small sound.
"I'm sorry, Sheldon." That was it, or so he thought. She turned to face him with what looked like genuine contrition on her face. "You're right. I just thought we could spend some time together. It feels like you've been avoiding me ever since Leonard and I broke up, and I dunno, I just thought this would be fun, but, yeah, this is your thing; I butted in." She hopped up, a sad smile twisting her lips. "I'm sorry," she repeated and took a few steps backwards. "I'll leave you alone to enjoy your meteors." And then she turned and headed towards the door, and with each step she took, Sheldon felt dismay building. He'd gone and hurt her feelings; his mother would not be happy. He wasn't happy.
"Penny, wait." The words were out and he was on his feet before he had even realized he was going to stop her.
She turned to him, "No, it's alright, Sheldon. I was wrong and I am sorry." She placed her hand on the doorknob, and Sheldon stood up.
"No, you weren't. Penny, come back and join me." She was still, looking at him in hesitation. "All right, well, yes, you were wrong to encourage my discussion of the topic and then cut me off mere moments into the explanation, but I realize that to do so was not your intention." He took a deep breath, and looked down at his feet. "And I shouldn't have said what I did to you. For that I apologize." After a quiet moment, he glanced back up at her. "I'm used to sharing the Lyrids with Leonard and we do discuss the scientific composition of the meteors. You're not Leonard and therefore you wouldn't find the same type of discussion fascinating."
Her hand let go of the knob and she drifted towards him. "You really want me to stay?"
"Yes," he said, nodding. "I'm finding that I don't look forward to the prospect of seeing the showers on my own after all. So, yes, stay." He wasn't exactly sure why it was so important that she stay, but there was a little voice inside telling him that if she walked away now, the attempts she had been making to keep their friendship alive would cease. This realization was not pleasing, and suddenly elucidated his own hypocrisy in the matter. He had maintained their relationship while she was with Leonard with the knowledge that it would end soon and things would resume their normalcy.
And yet when that inevitable break-up did occur, he had begun to distance himself from Penny, even more so than Leonard. Knowing that she could date and then discard the most socially acceptable of them without a qualm had an unsettling effect on Sheldon, one that he could not – or would not – diagnose.
"You're sure?" Penny asked once more.
"Absolutely sure," he responded with conviction. He could not explain the tightening in his chest when a beaming smile broke across her face and she bounded towards him.
Throwing her arms around his stiff body, she gave him a quick hug before pulling back, that smile still plastered to her face. "Okay."
He stood still for a moment, surprised at the warmth that had filled him for those few seconds that Penny was pressed against him. It felt different somehow from when he had hugged her for giving up the Switzerland trip, or the Christmas before last, or even the first time that she had hugged him the day they met. Shaking off the thought, he watched her as she stepped over to the fan box and hopped up once more.
She tilted her head and sent him a mischievous smile, patting the space next to her. And Sheldon was once again taken back to that first day when Penny had sat in his spot and encouraged him to sit beside her in much the same manner. He believed he knew her well enough now to know that such a move was a flirtatious one but that she was only teasing now. He wondered, thinking back on that first meeting, if she'd been teasing him then as well or if there had genuinely been interest on her part. Penny upped the pat on the metal to a bang bringing his attention to the present and he looked at her curiously.
"Sheldon. Sit." She produced another loud bang, the sound reverberating in the air and he spared one more thought for the notion, and then quickly dismissed it. As he'd told Leonard then, a woman like her would never become involved with men like them. He sat down on the fan box, sparing her an affronted look at her unnecessary use of noise. She shrugged with a grin, and Sheldon was reminded of two things.
The first, ever obvious, was that she was beautiful and the second, pertaining to the thoughts at the foremost of his mind, was that she had become involved with Leonard. He stilled, thinking on that contradiction but upon further reflection he decided that his original reasoning was sound. Penny had admitted to him one Saturday night over laundry when she'd had a few drinks too many (her words) that the relationship had been based on the 'what if?' question. What if Leonard had been the one, so sweet, so into her, and she'd never given him a chance because he wasn't her type?
She told Sheldon how she had built up this fantasy of how perfect things would be with Leonard when he returned from his three-month absence. After he and the boys came back, it took some time before she'd admitted the truth of that unrealistic expectation to herself, even when reality made it clear that nothing approaching perfection would ever happen with Leonard. She had never been in love with him, not even close. Naturally, since it was Penny, this had led to a series of questions that had left him baffled and floundering.
How was he to know if that lack of emotion would send her to hell? Or if she was doomed to a long life of boyfriends she loved who treated her badly, or boyfriends she settled for who treated her like a goddess? She knew that he wasn't religious, and as fascinating as it would be to have such a gift – to actually know the date that he would win the Nobel Prize! – he certainly wasn't a psychic either. And on and so forth she had rambled away, until his clothes had thankfully finished and he'd escaped from the laundry room and her questions.
A low couple of bangs tore him from the memory, and he turned to look at Penny once more. "Yeah," she said dryly, "I am kicking our chair. And I'm not stopping … so there."
"What?" She scrunched her face up at him.
"You said: 'I'm not stopping … so there.' There what?"
Penny shook her head. "There is no what, it's just, you know, so there." At his continued look of confusion, she sighed heavily. "It's like, deal with it; it just is."
Shrugging slightly, Sheldon looked away and up to the skies. "All right."
The two were silent; the only sounds were the light bangs that Penny's shoes made against the fan box. After a few more moments, it ceased to matter when the first Lyrid danced across the sky. He heard Penny inhale sharply and he found himself doing the same as he turned to gaze at her reaction as opposed to watching the phenomenon itself. She was mostly quiet after that, only murmuring occasionally in wonder.
Much to his surprise, Sheldon found that while Penny was focused on the Lyrids, he couldn't stop himself from glancing her way more than he gazed up into the night sky. He found himself gauging her reaction, and taking note of the light playing upon her hair and face from the meteors falling. In the past he had watched the shower with Leonard, but he realized now that he had never actually shared the experience with him. The two had sat side by side, discussed the science, and then quietly, separately enjoyed the beauty. But when Penny herself turned his way now and again throughout the show, a smile beaming across her face, and their eyes met before she turned her attention heavenward, Sheldon felt a connection with her that he had had never felt with Leonard.
"Wow." Her voice was soft, a hushed reverence present in her tone. She laughed then, a merry laugh that filled the air, and she grabbed onto Sheldon's arm, rubbing it vigorously for a moment before leaning against him and laughing again. "That was amazing," she said and looked at him. Her eyes were bright, her face glowing in the moonlight and Sheldon, once again, felt that tightness enter his chest and his breath was caught suddenly. He froze, completely unaware of what was happening to him, and Penny pulled back suddenly, dropping her arm quickly. "I'm sorry," she giggled, "I just got caught up in the moment."
Shaking his head slightly, Sheldon pulled at the bottom of his tee-shirt and moved an inch or two away from her. He didn't speak, quite unsure of what to say at the moment; Penny did not have the same problem.
"You know," she began, and he looked at her out of the corner of his eye, still uneasy. "This would be the perfect moment for a kiss." She sighed deeply and looked up and around her, nodding. "But not just any kiss, a first kiss. I mean, the weather's not too hot, isn't too cool, and there's a gentle breeze. The moon is shining and we just saw such an amazing thing." She nodded again when she turned to look at him, her lips twisting. "My first kiss sucked. Truly, truly sucked."
Sheldon pulled back slightly, more confused than before, absolutely flummoxed as to how she had meandered onto this subject of conversation. "Big-time sucked." She continued speaking about one of the few things in the world of which he knew practically nothing. "He was all slobbery, and his hands were sweaty and he bit my lip! Ugh, it was awful. Just terrible." She shook her head, and then pushed against his side slightly. "What about you? What was your first kiss like?" He looked up and away from her, mystification clear as Einstein's theory of relativity writ upon his face. "Sheldon?"
Looking down at a wrinkle in his pants, he opened his mouth to speak, but then turned back to meet her expectant gaze first. "Technically, I suppose my first kiss was awful as well." There, he thought to himself, now the conversation was over. They could leave and this odd sensation coursing through him – the tightening, a slight flush tingling his skin – would go away.
"What do you mean technically it was awful? Either it was, or it wasn't."
He rolled his eyes in exasperation. Obviously, the conversation was not over. He sighed and considered simply telling her that he no longer wished to discuss the matter. He was about to do so when he remembered that he was talking to Penny and it was always best to think before he spoke. So he thought, and realized immediately that if he told Penny that, she might get upset and leave in a huff. He had asked her to stay with him because he had accepted that he did not, in fact, want their friendship to end. And, once more, he was struck with the thought that if the two of them left this roof on cool terms, their friendship would be no more. So he took a deep breath, sat up straighter, and endeavored to answer her questions.
"I don't mean that it was technically awful. It was terribly awful, but calling it a first kiss is doing so only on a technicality." Penny looked blankly at him, and for once, he understood her confusion. He sought to further elucidate the matter. "I am, of course, talking about when —" And he paused, a slight shudder running through his form at the memory. "Dr. Hofstadter forced herself upon my person after you —" And he could not help the accusing glare he shot Penny. "— got her intoxicated."
Penny's mouth fell open; her eyes widened before a sound issued forth. "Oh," is what she said. She began to speak again before falling silent with a slump of her shoulders and a pout. And then she straightened up, a considering look upon her face. "No, I wouldn't say that it was even technically a first kiss. You didn't kiss her back. So if you didn't actually kiss her, then it wasn't your first kiss, you know –" She stopped mid-sentence, her eyebrows dancing crazily upon her forehead. "Wait! That was your, I mean – "And again, she cut herself off before continuing, shock evident in her voice. "You've never kissed anyone before?"
"No." His response was matter-of-fact. Honestly, did she not know him at all? When would he have time to go about kissing people? And who would have any interest – other than, and he shuddered slightly once more, Leonard's inebriated mother?
"Oh, Sheldon," she cried out softly, her eyes wide and tender as she gazed at him. "I am so, so sorry that I got her drunk and it led to … that." She shook her head, casting her eyes downward. Sheldon was once more at a loss, unable to comprehend her sudden sadness. Awkwardly, he reached out a hand and patted her shoulder.
Her shoulders shook slightly, and she muffled a quietly hysterical giggle. Sheldon quickly pulled his hand back. He simply had no idea what to do, so he decided to just sit there and do nothing. He watched Penny and waited for her to say or do something, anything to give him his cue as to what he should be doing. She turned to face him, a look of consideration on her face, and then her eyes lowered, resting upon his lips. Without thought, Sheldon licked them, and Penny's gaze rose back up to meet his eyes.
"Sheldon," she said, determination in her voice, as she straightened her shoulders. "I'm going to make it up to you. This is a perfect night, a perfect setting, a perfect moment for a first kiss." She nodded decisively. "I'm going to give you your first real kiss."
He gasped, and then gathering himself, offered a sharp shake of his head. Seeking to make his objection perfectly clear, he added a vocal component, horror heightening his tone. "No!"
She burst out laughing at his response. "Why not?" she managed to ask through her giggles.
His eyes widened and, before responding, he stared her down for a few seconds until her laughter subsided. "Why not?" Incredulity was rampant in his voice. "Penny, are you suddenly suffering from short-term memory loss?"
"No," she sputtered, all trace of mirth gone, indignation in her tone and expression.
"Well, then I don't understand the question," he explained primly. "'Why not?' indeed. I just explained my distaste with kissing." He shook his head slightly and then shifted his body, his knees pressed together and facing away from her.
Penny brushed against his shoulder with her own and he looked back at her. His eyes narrowed, but his body held its position away from her as he waited for the inevitable reply. "Sheldon, that was different –"
"How so?" He cut her off abruptly, swiveling around to face her once more, and he raised an eyebrow in query.
"Well," Penny drew out the word, thought puckering her brow before her eyes widened, and her words sped up as she figured out her reasoning. "Because I'm not a mother figure and, you know, like forty years older than you. Plus, it's not like I'm going to just grab you; you'll be expecting it." She smiled brightly, the matter clearly settled in her mind.
He paused, and was quiet in reflection before conceding her point. "True," and then immediately, he offered his earlier response, "but still … no."
Penny did not respond, instead she looked away from him and down at her legs, still lightly banging away on the metal. He carefully watched her expression. She was thinking of a rebuttal, that much he could tell and based on the seconds ticking by, he was certain that she was finding herself incapable of coming up with one. A smug sense of satisfaction filled him; besting Penny in their verbal matches had once upon a time (before the ridiculous relationship with Leonard) been a particular thrill of his. Why he had found it such then – and again, at this moment – was something he had pondered at length due to her inferior intellect. However, after much thought, a perusal of the last twenty years of his daily journals of social interaction, and working on one of the many especially-created Penny formulas, he'd come to a satisfying conclusion.
Penny Alexander had become an amalgam of his mother, sister, Meemaw and all of the girls he'd had to deal with growing up in Denton. She was all of the good and bad of femininity in his life, with an added touch of just Penny. When he succeeded in outwitting her with all of her social superiority, it felt like a hard-won victory, with the added bonus that when she chose not to glare, he was rewarded with one of her bright smiles. He always reacted with a frown, in part because he should, and in part because he never quite understood the accompanying shake of her head. Still locked somewhere alongside all of his other irrational desires and responses, was the delight that someone was sharing – even if it was she whom he had bested – in his triumph.
"Sheldon?" She interrupted his train of thought, and he met her gaze again. "That's kinda insulting." Her face scrunched up and she nodded with pursed lips, her eyes wide and guileless.
He began to speak, and then stopped mid-sound. What, he wondered, could she possibly find insulting. He thought about it for a few moments and came up blank. Frowning, he acquiesced to put the mystery into words. "Why?"
Sighing heavily, she cocked her head to the side and made a clucking noise before responding. "Because, Sheldon, to have someone so quickly refuse an offer of a kiss ..." she trailed off with a sideways look in his direction. Sighing again, she looked momentarily frustrated and then further explained her point. "What I mean is that a person wants to feel wanted, and, you know, attractive, and by saying 'no' like that so quickly, it's insulting." Then she nodded once more as if confirming her own point.
Sheldon found it very annoying. He also found her logic extremely faulty. And he told her so. "Penny, that's absurd. You're well aware of your beauty, and, as well, are made aware of that fact from others on a fairly consistent basis." He paused, and then nodded, confirming his own point. Hah, take that!, he thought and allowed a small smile to hover on his lips.
"Okay, I see." She said, and his smile grew.
She spoke again. "Well, I think you're stupid." His smile died.
"Wha – I'm not stupid!" He exclaimed in indignation. "Might I remind you, Penny, that I happen to have an IQ of 187? What's your IQ? You're undoubtedly unaware of it, but I can assure you that it is nowhere near mine." He sat up straighter, bristling still. "Stupid?! That's the most ridiculous – I also have two PhDs. You don't even have one. You don't even have a Bachelor's degree. I have that, plus a Master's." He stood up and bent down slightly in her direction; Penny leaned back, her eyes wide with what he tried to convince himself was regret at her statement, but which even he could see was amusement.
"Did you know that I am the youngest recipient of the Stevenson award? Hmm?" Clearing his throat, he straightened up, forced to admit the truth. "Well, I am once again the youngest since Dennis Kim's honor was rescinded when it was discovered that his work was cribbed off of Turkish physicist, Durmus Ali Demi." Smoothly sliding back down onto the fan box, he tilted his head slightly and looked at her from under narrowed eyes. "The point is that I, Penny, am not stupid."
"Says you," was her succinct response.
This sent Sheldon into another sputtering state He paused, searching for some further bit of evidence he could fling her way as proof of his genius, and found himself at a rare loss for words He so longed to put her in her place, yet he knew that a recitation of his awards and commendations throughout his career would mean nothing to her. He was so irritated with her statement and lack of comprehension. And to think that mere minutes ago, he had been bothered by the idea of her departure. Now, looking at her calm demeanor and dancing eyes, he would happily see her on her merry way, never to return. Suddenly, he had the childish urge to stick his tongue out at her. However, that would not do. He was a grown man, not a child. Narrowing his eyes, he glanced at her through the squint and finally responded. "Yes, I do say I'm not stupid, Penny. And several others would do so as well." It was not enough. "So there." He nodded; that would have to suffice.
Penny, the heartless woman, ignored his upset and simply nodded. "So, you're telling me that you know you're not stupid?"
"Yes, Penny, that is one of the things I have told you, That and proof of my lack of stupidity." He pointed a finger at her, "my glaring lack of stupidity."
She merely nodded again. "And others tell you so on a –" she paused and pursed her lips before continuing, "fairly consistent basis, yes?"
Sheldon nodded slowly, knowing her by now well enough that this was leading to a trap somewhere; he just could not see it.
"So …" she trailed off, an expression of expectation on her face as she waved her hands in a circular motion.
Sheldon was still lost. "Why are you looking at me like that?" He looked down at her rotating hands. "And what are you doing?"
Penny dropped her hands with a sigh. "Sheldon, just because you know you're scary-smart and others know it, doesn't make it sting any less when someone you care about tells you you're stupid." That look of expectation once more appeared. "Get it?" She asked, a hint of encouragement in her tone.
He paused, bringing one hand to his chin as he reflected upon their conversation from the last few minutes. Dropping his hand, he turned and looked at her, and she smiled hopefully. Sheldon shook his head quickly and glanced upward, thinking some more. And then … his lips parted and his eyes widened. He looked at the blonde next to him once more.
"Ohhh." He frowned, working out his theory aloud. "I hurt your feelings with my quick refusal to allow you liberties with my person, implying that I didn't find you attractive even though we both are already aware of that fact?" She nodded, and he continued with more assurance. "Just as you did the same when you called me stupid even though, again, we are both aware of my superior intellect," he finished with a smile.
"Yes." She beamed back at him.
"So," he clarified. "You don't think I'm stupid?"
Her smile dimmed slightly and her shoulders slumped just a bit, "No, Sheldon, I don't."
"Alright then." He sat quietly, as quiet as she did beside him. Once again, he contemplated their dialogue since the showers had ended, and he kept coming back to one particular point: She wanted to kiss him. Sheldon recalled the moment when Dr. Hofstadter had done so. It had not been pleasant. Unexpected, dry and shocking to his system once he realized what horror she was inflicting upon him. The woman truly was like the mother he'd always dreamed of having, which had lead very quickly to the abhorrent thought of his own actual mother kissing him. Had Dr. Hofstadter not pulled away when she had, Sheldon would have done so himself in revulsion, not in relation to the kiss itself, true enough, but rather because of the association. He glanced sideways consideringly at Penny; she was correct in her point that such a correlation would not exist should they kiss. Nor would it be unexpected and if not unexpected, likely not dry as well. He licked his lips subconsciously. No, not dry. He closed his eyes briefly and then, with his mind made up, turned his entire body to face Penny.
"You may kiss me."
Penny smiled, but she had an expression on her face that he could not decipher. Her eyelashes fluttered as she looked down, and a slight giggle escaped from her. "Okay, uhm …" she began, and while he wasn't certain, Sheldon was fairly sure that Penny was displaying signs of nervousness. However, he could not fathom why this would be so, but before he could ask her, she spoke again.
"Close your eyes."
That brought to mind another question completely, and he dismissed his earlier inquiry as irrelevant. He flipped through a series of onscreen kisses – Han and Leia during repairs, the rebooted Spock and Uhura in the lift, Trinity bringing Neo back to life, Wesley and Buttercup's perfect kiss, Spiderman and MaryJane in the rain – and realized that they all had their eyes closed, but he had never thought to wonder why. With all of the working knowledge of the important things in the universe circulating in his brain, he had never been a fan of extraneous data. Now that it was information pertinent to his life, he put the question to Penny. "Why?"
Penny shot him a quizzical glance before answering. "Uh, with your eyes closed, your other senses are heightened. Something like that, I think." She shrugged.
"Yes," he responded as if she was unsure and he was providing confirmation, and had not asked the initial question. Sheldon reasoned that if was he not in this unfamiliar situation right now, he would have deduced the answer on his own. Heightening the other senses sounded logical; with an unexpected shiver of what was definitely nervousness and not anticipation, he closed his eyes.
There was silence and he almost peeked, but stopped himself, letting out a breathy sigh. While waiting for her mouth to touch his, he reflected on the truth of the heightened senses. With his eyes closed, he was aware of the soft wind whispering around them, her quiet breathing and subtle movements. It was strangely enticing; Sheldon shifted slightly, feeling himself go warm much like he had his last semester of college when at fourteen, his twenty-one year old dormmate's girlfriend did a striptease. At the beginning of her performance, the emphasis had been on the 'strip,' but by the end, it very much had been nothing but a tease. He had decided in that humiliating moment when she had burst into laughter at his reaction that he would never be controlled by biological urges again.
And yet here he was.
It started with a soft brush against his mouth, just the whisper of moist heat with the slightest bit of pressure. He inhaled quickly, his eyes shooting open at the sudden spark that seemed to erupt in the epigastric region. Her eyes were closed, the flesh of her eyelids a pale peach, slightly creased, and her lashes fluttered just the slightest bit upon her face. One more press of moist heat and he felt his eyes close again, this time of their own volition, and she disappeared from his sight as thought a shade had been pulled down. There was only darkness with the subtlest hint of a glimmer, and he felt her lips capture his bottom one between hers and she suckled lightly. He inhaled sharply and found himself leaning in as Penny pulled back just the slightest. His hands fell to her waist as he drew her closer, and parted his lips, pressed against her mouth and then tentatively closed them over her upper lip, mimicking her earlier action.
Sheldon felt her warm breath as she let out a shaky sigh, a sound that seemed to echo in his ears. The tightening of his skin, the heat flushing over his body that had happened before when she hugged him appeared to triple in strength, and a growing sense of urgency began to fill him as his mouth moved with more assurance over hers. His hands slid around her back as he twisted his body to draw her fully against him. A slight pinch at the base of his neck made him suddenly aware that Penny's arms were wrapped around his shoulders, her hands tousled in his hair, her fingers pulling at the short strands. He found that he did not care in the slightest. His heart was beating so fast, and Sheldon tried to count the beats, but he could hear her breath, could feel it against his skin and he could not concentrate on anything but the sound, the sensation, the taste of Penny seeming to fill every one of his senses.
And then it was gone; her lips, her breath, her touch, her arms and all he felt was warm air where she had been. He sat still for a moment, adjusting to the emptiness, and then he slowly opened his eyes. She was sitting as she'd been before the kiss, her legs crossed at the ankle, quietly banging against the metal with a dull repetitive thud. Her arms were stretched behind her, her palms lying flat on the surface. The only difference was that she was looking away from him. She appeared calm, although he did detect a flush to her face, clavicle and upper chest. His eyes dipped lower, drawn to the rising slopes of her breasts peeking over the dark peach top. He looked away sharply as the remembered feel of one of those breasts cupped in his hand hit him like a punch to the alimentary canal. Sheldon had to forcibly stop his brain from mapping her proportions and pairing them with the visual of a naked breast to diagram what hers would possibly look like. He let out a sudden exhalation of breath, trying to control the rampant, primal human sexuality that was coursing through him, unleashed by that kiss.
"So …." Penny said softly, still not looking at him. "That was your first kiss."
Taking several quiet, but deep breaths, Sheldon began looking about him, searching for something, anything to say that could possibly distract him from all of these … feelings. He licked his dry lips and swore that he could taste Penny on them. If not Penny, then definitely her lip gloss. And all of the accompanying germs.
"Penny, did you know that the human mouth is awash with bacteria? More than one hundred species of bacteria, and hundreds of species of fungi, protozoa, and viruses have taken up residence in our mouths. Frankly, it's quite difficult to fathom the number." And he breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, this was an area of comfort. He could already begin to feel his heartbeat slow down, resuming its normal pace. He continued just as Penny began to slowly turn to face him, a look confusion on her face.
"Microbiologists estimate that, in addition to these known species, there are up to five hundred other living, breathing organisms inhabiting our mouths," He nodded as her eyebrows rose. "Yes," he said, as if confirming her unspoken question. Cocking his head to the side, he added an addendum to the information he'd shared already. "Although only fifty have been identified and named. But still, the sheer number of these creatures is astronomical, considering the fact that our mouths contain more bacteria than the entire world's population, and the fact that our bodies house approximately one trillion bacteria."
"Really?" She asked, in a dry voice that he believed was indicative of sarcasm, but he wasn't sure and wasn't in the mood to clarify the true interest of her statement.
"Yes, really. Some of the bacteria present are Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus mitis, Streptococcus salivarius, Streptococcus mutans –"
"So don't care, Sheldon –"
"Penny, it's quite fascinating. In fact –"
"Yeah, I get it, Sheldon. Long story short, blah, blah, blah, Penny gave me cooties. Moving on."
Leonard shut the door behind him, taking his time as he twisted the knob back and forth to make sure that it was unlocked. He turned, expecting to see Raj and Howard on the stairs, but the two stood still watching him.
"This was your bad, dude, you're going first," Raj explained and Howard nodded with raised brows in agreement. Leonard shot them an insulted look, but when neither budged, he rolled his eyes with a sigh, and shoulders slumping, walked ahead of the two.
Instead of heading up the stairs, however, he stopped at Penny's door, but before he could raise his hand, Howard stepped up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. Turning around, Leonard faced him. Howard looked at him with an insincere smile. "You do realize we realize that you're stalling? Man up, you lied to Sheldon about the door, so let's get up there so you can face the music. The Lyrids ended five minutes ago, he's probably freaking out and trying to go all Hulk on the door."
"I have a plan," Leonard said as he turned to Penny's again. He knocked, waiting for a response but when none came, he rapped on the door a second time with more force.
"Leonard, she's not there. Let's go." Howard pointed out, and swung his arms towards the stairs. Raj finally walked over to the stairwell, but stopped short of taking a step up. He too looked expectantly at Leonard.
Turning and leaning against 4B, Leonard began twisting the strings of his hoodie and looked between Howard and Raj. "Look, you said it yourself Raj, Sheldon hasn't exactly been buddy-buddy with me for a while now, he's gonna be upset when we get up there. He'll think me making up the notice is yet another –" out came the air quotes, and his voice turned sulky, '"betrayal.'"
With a look of consideration, Raj was silent and then, with a smile, pointed out the fact of the matter. "It is. Let's go."
"It is not!" Leonard returned sharply. "I was just trying to make things … easier for –"
"Sheldon?" Raj cut him off. "I don't think so. No, I take it back, I don't know so. It made things easier for you. You tell him little white lies all the time to make things easier for you. Not that I blame you, it's Sheldon, but, dude, it's Sheldon! Did you really think he has no idea? He's a frickin' genius. Like a geniuses' genius. You deliberately misled him about certain information, therefore, yeah, you betrayed his trust." He smiled sweetly, and then gestured towards the stairs. "After you?"
"Fine, fine, it was a betrayal. I lied to Sheldon, I'm a terrible friend." He paused and then said in a rush, "We can't go up there yet."
"Leonard!" came two raised voices.
"No, look, let's just wait until Penny gets back from shopping. He's nicer to her than he is to anyone else, so if she's with us … or, you know, goes up there herself, he might not get upset."
Howard and Raj looked at him.
"Less upset?" Leonard tried again.
Howard looked at Raj, and shrugged, saying, "He doesn't give her strikes."
Raj nodded and added, "Plus, he barely complains when she messes up his schedule. I mean, for Sheldon."
"Right! So we wait for Penny." Leonard clapped his hands together and began heading back toward his apartment.
"Not so fast, buddy," Howard called out. Leonard stopped. "Do you know when Penny will be done shopping?" Leonard opened his mouth to speak, and then without a word, closed it.
"Let's go get Sheldon," Howard continued. "The longer we wait, the worse he'll be."
Leonard sighed heavily and made no move forward.
"Leonard," Howard ground out. "We either do this now, or you do it alone with no back-up!"
Leonard looked over at Raj who nodded emphatically.
"Does she say 'fierce' inexplicably?" Sheldon asked with a deep look of concentration.
Penny nodded, a huge smile breaking out on her face. "Yes!" She bounced slightly on the fan box, her feet banging against the metal in her delight.
"You're Tyra Banks," Sheldon announced confidently.
"Very good, Sheldon!" Penny exclaimed, reaching over to give him a quick hug. Sheldon endured it stoically, but was unable to control the flush of heat upon his face. Just the quick feel of her pressed against him was enough to bring back the feeling of her arms wrapped around his shoulders, her lips against his, her breasts –
"Sheldon, Penny, wanna catch us up?" Leonard said, and Sheldon turned quickly, Penny pulling away from him. Leonard stood at the door with Raj and Howard, all wearing looks of confusion upon their faces.
Penny slipped completely from him and stood up, and Sheldon noted that her cheeks were pinker than normal. He froze, and ignoring his friends, rose to his feet as well and faced her, horror in his expression. "Penny, please tell me you're not feeling unwell?" As she turned from the others to face him once more, he waited in agony for her response, recalling the two embraces, not to mention that kiss filled with millions of germs. He felt suddenly heated and sat back down quickly. Oh, he just knew it; she was sick and now he had whatever she did. Again. Suddenly, all of the odd sensations he'd been feeling all night in her presence made perfect sense.
"I'm fine, Sheldon," she laughed slightly and rolled her eyes. "Hey guys –"
"But you're all flushed. Why would you be flushed –"
"It's hot up here." She smiled at him, but truth be told, her smile looked more like a grimace.
"Penny, the temperature –"
"I said drop it, sweetie," she spat out, her smile definitely a grimace now.
"You did not –" He began, but she cut him off by facing the others and ignored him completely.
"I was just watching those Lyrids with Sheldon. They were beautiful, and then we were playing twenty questions." She glanced down at him, a true smile once more in place. "He was Spock; I got it." Her shoulders rose briefly in a charming manner; the moonlight caught strands of gold in her hair and their eyes met. Sheldon found he could not speak as her smile softened, and he was unable to call her out on the fact that she plainly put words in his mouth.
"You watched the Lyrids? You liked the Lyrids?" Leonard asked, surprise in his voice, then before waiting for an answer, he opened the door wider, and continued, "We should get back downstairs."
Howard and Raj each nodded. "Sheldon?" Leonard called out, and Sheldon stood up, heading towards the door.
As Penny moved ahead of him, Sheldon had the strangest urge to place his hand on the small of her back, not so much to move her along as her speed was quite adequate, but simply … to touch her again, to capture one last moment of connection between the two of them. And so he did. Placing his fingers against the peach fabric, he flattened the palm of his hand and felt the heat of her body through the material. Penny paused just the slightest, and then continued moving forward. She glanced over her shoulder and met his eyes, that same soft smile from before playing upon her lips.
"Penny." Howard called out her name, and she abruptly looked away to face the engineer, and moved more quickly. Sheldon's hand dropped away.
"Yeah," she responded, and if the others noticed the slight breathlessness in her voice, they didn't remark upon it. Sheldon found himself unwilling to bring it to their attention in an effort to enlighten his own comprehension on the why of it.
"Sheldon's always Spock," Howard said as they began heading down the stairs, Penny in front. "Everybody knows that."
Passing the others, Sheldon caught up with her at the turn of the stairwell just in time to see Penny's face fall just the slightest. He felt a twinge of irritation at Howard. Nudging her side with his arm, he spoke up so that the three behind him could hear. "Yes, but this is the first time that Penny has guessed correctly." Penny looked up at him, her face beaming, and really, he must have caught something from her because yet again he felt that tightening sensation in his chest, and the breath was momentarily knocked out of him.
Whispered words behind brought him back to the moment. "Thank God, we didn't have to tell him about the broken door."
All thoughts of breathlessness, chest pains, illnesses, soft breasts and moonlit kisses fled his mind. "What broken door?" There was a cessation of noise on the stairs behind him. Sheldon stopped as well.