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The Confrontation Conclusion

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This is my first entry into this fandom or whatnot; it popped into my head when watching the show, specifically the first season. It's definitely an A.U., and something I would have found interesting to happen.

Disclaimer: I do not own  The Big Bang Theory  or any of the characters therein.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Penny did her best to make the party great, but everything seemed to be working against her. Why couldn't things just go her way for once?

"Why'd you invite them?" Lisa asked beside her, and she didn't have to ask who she was talking about. "You think if I flashed them, they'd all faint? Actually, that one would probably just try to take pictures."

"Stop it," she snapped half-heartedly. "Look, they've been really great so far and kind, so I wanted to show them a good time with the party. They're easily the best neighbors I've ever had, and I thought… maybe they'd get out of their shells or something if I invited them."

"Two of them have 'Mommy Issues' written all over them, and that Indian one won't even say a word. That tall one… I don't even know what to make of him."

Penny grimaced. "I know. But look, Sheldon's smart. Like, Einstein smart. The others are smart, too, but… not like him at least."

Lisa stared at her with an eyebrow raised. "If they're so smart, then why they makin' everyone uncomfortable? Robin Hood's lookin' at the riches alright: every pair of breasts. That might be the normalest thing any of them have been doing tonight. They're weird, Pen."

She bit her lip. "I just wanted to help."

"Guys like them can't be helped." Lisa shrugged. "It's too late, and I don't really care. All I care about is having a good time, which those weirdos of yours have made sure isn't happening. Look, if you wanna get over Kurt, stop worrying about your weirdos and find the guy who's gonna make you forget about Kurt. Maybe that guy's here, but you don't know if you don't look."

Penny nodded. "You're right. I mean, they're adults, right? Even if… Sheldon went to college at eleven- "

Lisa's eyes widened. "Eleven? You weren't kidding, were you? His brain's gotta be the size of a planet or something."

"And I'm pretty sure he's got the ego to match it," she murmured. "He has one of those beautiful minds, you know? Remember that movie with Russel Crowe? It's like that. I can't even imagine how his mind works."

"Then don't try. Imagine something else. You with a new guy all hot and sweaty who'll make you forget about Kurt."

"Right." She tried to force herself to stop worrying about Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj, by looking around her apartment. "They can take care of themselves. Sheldon's, like, the tallest person here. I need to stop worrying."

"Yes. That's exa- " Lisa cut herself off abruptly and Penny turned to look at her, but she nodded to the door. "Look."

Penny followed Lisa's gaze and saw Kurt, decked solely in a loincloth, walk through her open door.

Shit.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Sheldon's mind finally started to slow down as a silence fell over the party, a reprieve for which he was grateful, even if the reprieve was a direct result of the appearance of Penny's ex-boyfriend, Kurt, an intellect-atrophied brute. Remaining on the couch, feeling the prickle of fear, he watched.

Beside him, Leonard stared, wide-eyed. "Should we do something?" he whispered. "What if- "

"I believe Penny is handling it," he intervened. "Observe."

"You invite everyone else but me?" Kurt's voice cut through the room; he dwarfed Penny's form. "That hurts. After everything we've been through, babe, you just decide- "

Penny interrupted, "You're damn right you weren't invited. Get out."

Kurt opened his arms. "What? Why would I leave? I just got here."

"You're not welcome," Penny said through gritted teeth. Sheldon was reminded of his mother and Missy. "Get out, Kurt."

According to the social protocols that he had studied, usually, a friend would come to Penny's aid and demand Kurt's departure, but when he observed all of Penny's friends, no one came to her aid.

"Come on." Kurt stepped closer into Penny's space, but she defiantly glared up at him. "Are you still mad at me? It was a mistake- "

"It was a mistake to believe you the last four times it happened!" Penny snapped, arms swinging with the force of her emotions. "I'm done with you, Kurt."

"Done?" Kurt asked lowly. "We're not done, babe. We can never be done."

"We are when you cheat on me with those skanks!" Penny shouted. "How could you sleep with that bitch?"

Kurt laughed. "I slept with you, didn't I?"

Penny stepped back, anger crossing her face. "Get the fuck out, Kurt. I don't want to see you ever again."

Kurt's face flashed and Sheldon stiffened in his seat as those large hands latched onto Penny's shoulders. "You don't get to make that call. I decide when we're done, not you. You hear me?"

"I hear bullshit!"

Kurt snarled and roughly shook Penny for emphasis, whipping her body between his hands with great force.

Lightning suddenly struck, jaded bolts hammering into Sheldon's mind as he was catapulted to the past, memories to which he had sworn never to return surging past every mental barrier he had ever erected. Past and present converged, an unholy union, and he remembered everything. Father holding Mother, violently shaking her, drawing a shaking fist back and then raw flesh smacking against flesh, harsh discolored bruises marring Mother's skin.

Something primal rose inside, a flashback-induced fury; it was an incredible stimulant. While he had never been able to help his mother as a child, he could help a woman who reminded him of her. Epinephrine flooded his body, triggered by his sympathetic nervous system; he felt his heart rate increase and neurons fired faster than ever before.

Sheldon stood to his feet, feeling determined and… eager.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Penny grit her teeth, fear and anger warring against one another in her mind as her party was ruined. She tried to push Kurt's arms away, his rough hands, but he was so much stronger than her.

Suddenly, a movement from the corner of her eye caught her attention - and Kurt's, too, for he turned, grip relaxing. Penny turned her head, expecting maybe Lisa, but it wasn't her 'friend.' While she was beyond grateful to see Sheldon glaring at Kurt, standing to his feet, she was terrified because Kurt would crush him!

Kurt began to laugh mockingly, staring at Sheldon; he let go of Penny to confront his challenger. "You again, string bean? You here to play the hero? And what the fuck are you dressed like anyway? You a retard or something?"

Penny swallowed and was about to try to intervene, but something in Sheldon's blue eyes stopped her; there was a quiet, cold fury lurking in those depths.

"I am dressed as The Doppler Effect, not that a simpleton like you could ever comprehend what it represents." Sheldon, to her shock, drew himself up to look taller as he stepped closer until several feet were between them. "Penny asked you to depart. I would be grateful if you did. I find your presence a hindrance to any notion of intellectual stimulation."

Kurt frowned. "What?"

Sheldon actually rolled his eyes, and Penny's eyes widened even further if that were possible. "In your feeble vernacular, I think you are moronic."

Penny would have laughed if it were any other situation, but she didn't feel like laughing.

Kurt took a threatening step forward. "Yo- you think I'm stupid?"

"Affirmative."

"I'm gonna fuck you up, freak," Kurt snarled, hand curling into fists, and Penny remembered what those fists were capable of. "I'll show you what a 'stupid' person can do to a retard like you."

"Kurt, stop!" she cried out, but it seemed as if neither heard her.

Sheldon stood tall, a true man instead of the overgrown man-child she had pegged him as. "If you attempt to harm me, you will find yourself in worse financial straits. Ones from which you might never recover. Based on the observations I conducted of your apartment when Leonard and I attempted to retrieve Penny's television for her, your possessions are scarce and few. How would it feel to have no possessions?"

Penny looked to the couch and Leonard looked more shocked than she felt, face pale and eyes bulging from their sockets, but none of her 'friends' were standing to their feet to try to stop the inevitable fight and come between the two men - brute versus scientist. Lisa was looking away, glued to the wall like a wallflower.

Kurt blinked rapidly, and she began to realize that Sheldon could talk circles around all of them. "What the fuck are you talkin' about?"

"Based on your semi-nude appearance, it's blatant that you are poverty-stricken, dressed solely in an ostentatious loincloth for that must be all you can afford, which is unsurprising when considering your barren intellect."

Penny hoped that this was all a terrible nightmare because Sheldon was about to be ground into dust.

"Based on the way your countenance has contorted in bemusement, I must speak plainly. Colloquially, if you attempt to harm me, I will sue you for assault."

Kurt's face reddened and Penny feared for Sheldon's life; apparently, he had no sense of self-preservation.

"Just go," she hissed out to Kurt. "He doesn't mean what he's saying." Penny turned to look at Sheldon desperately, urging him with her eyes to agree. "Right, Sheldon?"

Sheldon just blinked at her. "Of course, I mean what I have said. Why would I lie? I will sue him if necessary."

Penny closed her eyes. Yep. He had no sense of self-preservation and no social skill in reading someone's eyes. She shouldn't have been surprised.

"You're a pussy!" Kurt sneered, body vibrating under the force of his rage. "What kinda man are you?"

Sheldon's brows furrowed. "I fail to grasp your colloquial reference to the female anatomy when I have a Y chromosome and functioning penis."

Penny wasn't the only one surprised by the literal reply, for Kurt took a step back. "Yo- you're a fuckin' freak!"

"And you are unwanted," Sheldon countered bluntly to her amazement. "I do not understand why you feel shocked at such news. Your minuscule intellect should attest to your undesirable presence. Having encountered you twice now, although impossible, I feel that my intellect has lessened based solely on being subjected to the presence of the embodiment of idiocy."

She almost choked on the tense silence that descended across her apartment, but her mind was on fire with sheer panic, but somehow, Sheldon simply stood before Kurt. While there was a tightness in his tall, lithe frame, she inherently knew that it wasn't from fear. If she wasn't mistaken, it was from anger.

Taking the moment to her advantage, she placed a hand on Kurt's arm. "Please, leave. This doesn't have to- "

Kurt ignored her, brushing past her to stomp towards Sheldon. "Least I get all the pussy I want. You're a fuckin' freak who has to pay to get any."

Penny's anger erupted. "You liar!" she snarled, propelling herself towards Kurt. "You cheated on me with that strippe- "

"Shut up," Kurt growled out. "This don't have nothin' to do with you."

Her eyes widened at his outrageous claim, hardly believing her ears. "What? Nothing to do with me? You slept with that skanky stripper, but you… Oh, why am I not surprised? Cash talks and bullshit walks!" Penny felt all of the pairs of eyes on her, but ignored them. "Get the fuck out! Now!"

Sheldon nodded. "Your presence is akin to a noxious odor. Desist from- "

"Fuck you! I ain't goin' nowhere. Ain't that right?" Kurt looked around at her guests to the party, and since almost all of them knew him, Penny wasn't surprised when none challenged him like Sheldon did. "See? The party's only begun when I get here."

Her face twisted. "You're drunk."

Kurt laughed. "And the retard has to pay to get pussy!"

Sheldon frowned. "I do not follow."

"Why would you?" Kurt continued to laugh and it was boisterous, ringing in her ears. "This retard here's a fuckin' virgin. Probably doesn't even know where to put it!"

Penny shoved at Kurt's broad chest, but he barely budged. "Leave him alone! Get out! This is the last time- "

Kurt leaned down, rough hands curling across her shoulders once again, squeezing tightly; there would be marks later, she knew. "Last time you'll what? What the fuck you gonna do?"

"Remove yourself from Penny's apartment," Sheldon demanded coldly, and when she tried to jerk away from Kurt's grip, she saw that Sheldon's blue eyes were on fire. He was a mad scientist in all his glory, used to commanding authority and demanding obedience from everyone. "Penny has demanded your departure, and if you will not leave of your own volition, the police will ensure you do."

The mention of the police made Kurt remove his hands from her shoulders and she immediately took several steps back as Kurt stared at her. "Come on, babe. Leave this retarded freak- "

"Don't call him that!" Penny snapped through gritted teeth. "He's smarter than you could ever be!"

Sheldon nodded approvingly when she glanced at him. "Affirmative."

Kurt glared at Sheldon, turning away from her. "Fuck off, retard. You're only playing hero 'cause you want to fuck her, right?"

Was that true? Penny didn't know. When they had first met, there had definitely been interest, but it had vanished probably because of Leonard.

Stupid guys with their stupid bro code or whatever.

Sheldon didn't even blink. "My defense of Penny stems from the chivalric past and experiences that you could never comprehend."

"Well, hero, I get all the women. I had Penny a lot." She tried not to flinch at that fact. That she had been so stupid like all of those other girls to sleep with him and live with him. "Unlike you, I got gifts, the muscles and- "

"History teaches those willing to discover," Sheldon interrupted, voice rising; it demanded attention and comprehension. Penny stared, for this wasn't the man she had come to know, but the actual genius Doctor who had multiple PhDs to his name. It was hot. "All things are subject to decay. You may be on the receiving end of female adulation now, but what happens in a decade? Two decades? Your strength and handsome features will begin to fade, curing all of your misguided admirers of their affliction. You will be ravished by time, and you will have nothing to which to return, for you squander intellectual stimulation in the pursuit of physical, wanton pleasures. You will fail to retain your so-called gifts, whereas I will always have my mind. You will not always have your body, for it will fail until it withers away, and then where will you be? Upon your demise, you will leave no lasting legacy." When Sheldon took a step forward, Kurt took a step back, face pale. "The world will not remember your name, but it will remember mine - Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Galileo. Newton. Planck. Einstein. Bohr. Schrödinger. Feynman. They were the greatest minds in history, and their names are the ones by which mine will reside when my life is concluded. What about you?"

Penny couldn't breathe and couldn't remember a time when she had felt so shocked as Kurt stumbled back towards the opening of the apartment.

"Fuck you!" he shouted before storming away.

Silence.

She wasn't the only one who stared at Sheldon in awe, but he didn't even notice, for he glanced down at his watch, face twisting with horror.

"My schedule! It's been hopelessly disrupted!" Immediately alarmed, he turned to face her, eyes connecting - panicked versus amazed. "It's past my bedtime. I wish you pleasant REM cycles, Penny."

Before she could even try to respond, to thank him and express her sheer gratitude for what he did for her, he swiftly glided out of her apartment and entered his own.

"Woah," Lisa breathed out from behind her, piercing the stunned silence. She didn't look to see the expression on her face, for she knew it was the same one on her own. "He's got that hot professor thing goin' on."

Penny wholeheartedly agreed.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Penny was in a daze since her party ended, staying up past midnight, thinking about everything; even when she changed and took a bath, her mind was somewhere else. Lisa had tried to talk to her, but she had brushed her off, not wanting to talk to her so-called friend who didn't do anything to help her when Kurt upended everything. Instead, her help had come from the most unlikely source.

While Leonard, Howard, and Raj had suddenly become a lot more interesting because of Sheldon's heroics in standing up to Kurt, especially by the women, and they each found a female companion for the night because of it, she found Sheldon much more interesting - incredibly more interesting!

He had stood up for her.

No one had really done that for her before. Sure, guys had fought over her before in high school, but that was so they could get into her pants. Sheldon's reasoning, it sounded like, had been because it was the right thing to do - and that thing with experiences.

In high school, she had read Shakespeare and fallen in love with his grand language, which fueled her desire to become an actress. She had read the work of an undoubted genius, but it seemed that actually knowing a genius was different than she had imagined. Based on everything she had seen of Sheldon, he never slowed down; his brain was in a constant state of processing and analyzing, breaking down situations and problems to find a solution.

It was actually amazing.

Penny liked to think that she was really good at reading people, although her experience with Kurt let her know that she had some definite blind spots. But she thought she had had the boys all pegged.

Leonard was sweet with his blatant crush on her and social awkwardness, the smart nerd in school who always got straight A's. She still didn't know what to make of Raj, having not had a single conversation with him, but he seemed shy and sweet, and then Howard was a total pervert with the worst fashion sense she had ever seen. Most importantly, she had thought she had Sheldon pegged. Thought him to be comparable to the genius who never showed up to school for the entire year except on test days and effortlessly, flawlessly aced the tests in less than five minutes.

But apparently, there was so much more to Sheldon that she had thought. Having watched him stand up to Kurt, verbally dismantle him with such an ease that it stole her breath, she found him attractive, the most attractive guy. Sheldon wasn't an overgrown man-child like she had kind of thought he was. A man-child would never stand up to Kurt to defend her, and a man-child clearly wouldn't be so smart. In their confrontation, when Kurt had been left floundering, Sheldon had been composed. Where Kurt was a boy, no matter how many muscles he had, Sheldon was truly a man. A genius at the top of his field, better than everyone it seemed like. While she wasn't blind to Sheldon's quirks, having already experienced them, those quirks were infinitely better than being forced to deal with Kurt and all of her past boyfriends' shit.

Feeling the inexplicable urge to talk to Sheldon, to thank him, she exited her apartment, crossing the hall in her bare feet. Placing her knuckles to the wood of the door, she knocked and waited.

Nothing.

Inwardly debating, she saw the glimpse of light from under the door and tried the doorknob half-heartedly, stunned when it twisted under her fingers. Penny hesitantly opened the door and entered the apartment, freezing in her tracks when she saw Sheldon sitting in his spot on the couch, dressed in flannel pajamas, a keyboard before him, and his eyes were closed. He had headphones on, and the rhythmic thump of the keys was all that she could hear, but her eyes were mesmerized as his long fingers meticulously, precisely, and rapidly moved across the keys with such familiarity. His fingers blurred so fast that she was certain he had more than ten fingers.

Penny gazed at him, finding that it didn't surprise her that Sheldon could play a piano with his eyes closed - and play it so effortlessly! She didn't know how long she stood there, but it was then she noticed the empty wine glass sitting on the table, a small drop of liquid remaining at the bottom. Before she could even comprehend that Sheldon drank, the man in question's eyes opened, fingers motionless, hovering over the keys.

When he saw her, those eyes bulged from their sockets. "Penny?" he gasped out, pulling off his headphones. "It's past midnight. No one is allowed- "

"I'm sorry," she interrupted, shutting the door. "The door was unlocked." Sheldon's eyes darted in a glare towards Leonard's bedroom. "I wanted to talk to you. I can't sleep."

"An affliction from which I, too, suffer," Sheldon murmured, warily looking at her. "Penny, it is past midnight. No one is allowed- "

"I just want to talk to you. That's it. I mean, we're both up. What's the harm in talking?"

Sheldon twitched. "Why do you wish to talk? Did your party not offer suitable stimulation?"

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about."

"Your lack of suitable stimulation?"

Penny blinked before shaking her head; she walked towards the couch. "Can I sit?"

"May you sit," he corrected.

She normally would have rolled her eyes but didn't have the urge. "May I sit?"

"You may."

Penny slowly lowered herself to the couch, seated next to Sheldon, space between them; her eyes roamed over the keyboard. "I didn't know you played the piano."

"I do, but this is an electronic keyboard."

"What were you playing? Beethoven?"

"Mozart."

"Why him?"

"Mozart is perfect," Sheldon's voice lowered slightly. "His music is structured, balanced, and elegant. Everything music should be. It is how life and people should be."

Penny began to understand. "And you need those things, don't you?"

"Despite my sheer intellectual prowess, I fail to understand people, something undoubtedly foreign to you." Sheldon glanced at her for a moment, and she saw the weight in his eyes. "You possess a gift that I, in some instances, envy. People are complicated. They are chaotic and unpredictable. I prefer order and structure. Balance."

"Like Mozart."

"Affirmative."

She nodded slowly, considering. "Is that why you like physics?"

"According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, all things gravitate towards entropy- "

"Entropy?"

"Chaos. Yet, still, the universe functions. There is order, balance. Everything is structured in its grand design. I enjoy it."

"So you can understand that better than people," she finished in understanding. "Studying the universe is… easier than studying people for you."

Sheldon glanced at her, blue eyes electric. "While the mysteries of the universe remain an enigma to me, if I can eventually decipher those mysteries and win my Nobel, maybe I will then be capable of understanding people."

Penny found that kind of heartbreaking, but she smiled softly. "You know, that… makes sense in a weird way."

"I am well accustomed to being considered 'weird.'"

Her eyes widened. "No, I'm not calling you weird. I just meant tha- that your thinking is unique. I've never met anyone like that before."

Sheldon preened, looking pleased. "You will never encounter someone like me." His face seemed to fall and she leaned forward in concern. "I am superior, but I am still human. I have tested myself numerous times in the hopes that the grand discovery that I am of a superior species would reveal itself, but none were forthcoming. I remain homo sapien, and unfortunately, I fall prey to the same urges and shortcomings."

Penny remembered the fact that when she first met Sheldon and Leonard, they had tried to donate their sperm to a sperm bank, and she remembered what he said to Kurt about a functioning penis. "So everything works down south?"

"Pardon? I do not follow your vernacular."

"You know, the southern part of your body between your legs…" she trailed off, unsure. "Your groin area…"

"My penis?"

She smiled at the bluntness, still slightly surprised despite herself. "Yeah. You said it was fully-functioning earlier. That means you're a guy. You're human, no matter how… superior, I guess."

"Unfortunately. I should be more, but Nature's miracles often have drawbacks. While I have my genius intellect, it fails to impede the urge to extend my bloodline in the hope of siring genii to establish a dynasty like Bernoulli, Bach, Huxley, and Tolkien."

Penny's jaw dropped. "What?"

Sheldon's eyebrows furrowed. "They, too, were genii like myself. They founded intellectual dynasties- "

She shook her head, interrupting, "No, I- I got that part. It just surprised me, that's all." Something suddenly occurred to her. "Wait. Is that why you tried to donate your sperm?"

"Fascinating," he commented, staring at her with those blue eyes. "You possess a striking talent to, colloquially, connect the dots. You are more intelligent than I had initially believed. Although, such an observation is unneeded. While you are much inferior to my intellect, you are clearly above-average."

Penny, stunned, didn't know how to feel about that. "Um… thanks, but what are you talking about?"

"The fact that we are able to communicate attests to your intelligence," he explained as calmly as if he were talking about the weather. But to him, she began to realize, these complex things were as simple as talking about the weather. Maybe even simpler. "Miscommunication is prevalent among those of differing I.Q. ranges. We have shared conversations, and while you are no genius, you are much more than a 'dumb blonde,' Penny."

A brief prickling in her eyes appeared. That might have been the nicest compliment she had ever received, for she was so used to hearing the comparison to Barbie. The fact that a genius like Sheldon - no, Dr. Sheldon Cooper - believed in her that much made her want to punch her past self for being so concerned with the guys like Kurt.

Forcing herself to not hug him, knowing it would ruin any sort of progress she had made in simply talking to him, Penny gestured to the wine glass. "I didn't know you drank wine. By the way, what kind of wine is it? It doesn't look like the kind I drink."

"A 1985 Château Cheval Blanc."

Penny's jaw dropped. "What? Yo- you have that?"

"It was part of my compensation for completing one of my lectures."

She found it quite easy to wrap her mind around that. While she didn't really understand why Sheldon and Leonard lived in her building if they were so smart and gifted, working at CalTech, they knew people who lived in the elite lifestyle. As such, they could receive gifts such as a 1985 Château Cheval Blanc.

"Then are… are you drinking because of what Kurt said?" she asked gently. "About you being a virgin?"

Sheldon looked at her as if she were insane. To him, she might have been. "Of course not. I fail to understand how the attainment of coitus is a measure of a man's worth. It should not be. Before adolescence, I was already more accomplished than Kurt or any man like him will ever be."

"Because you went to college when you were eleven…" Penny whispered, finally realizing how insane that was. Eleven-years-old? She couldn't even imagine how his mind worked to be able to do that. "Then, if you don't mind, why… are you drinking, Sheldon?"

He twitched. "Normally, I would refuse to answer, but the wine has already lowered my inhibitions."

"You don't have to answer if you don't want to," she said quickly, trying not to force him. "I understand."

Sheldon peered at her. "How would you understand? I have yet to answer your question."

Penny blinked. "No, I meant… I meant I understand if you don't want to answer my question."

"Interestingly, I find myself yearning to answer it," he responded, staring at the empty wine glass. "It must be the alcohol. I have never conversed while intoxicated, so this is a new experience."

She laughed, unable to help herself. "There's no way in hell you're intoxicated. You're not drunk off your ass or anything. You're just… feeling the effects. You still sound smarter than anyone I've ever met."

Sheldon nodded. "Perhaps. But I consume the wine for those same effects; it dulls my senses, mind, and memory. It is hard to rest when the brain itself refuses to rest." Penny no longer felt like laughing. "I feel beyond grateful to the genetic mutation and chromosomal alignment that resulted in my perfect recall and genius intellect, but there are… impediments."

"Is that why you weren't able to fall asleep?"

"Partly, but it is more complex. When I engaged that simpleton in a battle of wits, it was from the result of a flashback."

Penny had a terrible feeling. "Flashback?"

"My father abused my mother when I was a child," he explained calmly, but the twitch of his fingers indicated his true emotions. "When Kurt grabbed you, I remembered memories I tried to force myself to forget. I felt angry, and it inspired me to combat your ex-boyfriend."

She stared at him, sifting through everything she was feeling. "Thank you, Sheldon. No one's ever done that for me before. And I'm sorry that… your mom was abused by your dad." She clenched her fists, realizing something, and felt her eyes well with tears. "And I'm sorry that I invited you to the party, making you remember such a horrible memory and then causing you not to be able to sleep, leading you to drink to deal with the pain. It's a- a fucked up butterfly effect."

Sheldon stared at her. "Your analysis operates under a false perception."

Penny angrily wiped away her stray tears. "What false… perception?"

"That I experience peaceful REM cycles every night."

Her eyes widened. "You mean…?"

"With perfect recall, there is no consistent rest. Everything is there. All of my experiences. My joys and shortcomings. My failures. My pain."

"So you… drink a lot?"

"Only when I feel overwhelmed, which is not often." Sheldon's fingers danced across the keys on the keyboard, hovering but not pressing. "I had promised my mother when I went to college that I would never consume drugs, but I failed." His head turned to look down the hallway. "Leonard's coital engagement with one of your female friends also produced noise unpleasant to my ears."

She ignored the part about Leonard, recognizing it as an unconscious deflecting mechanism. "Sweetie, I'm sure that your mom would understand- "

"I made a choice," he interrupted, turning back to face her; his blue eyes looked far away. "The choice I made to consume alcohol to 'deal with the pain' is not a new one; it has been made before by many men, including my father. Unfortunately, I subscribe to the adage 'like father, like son.' My mother would fail to follow my reasoning. My father's dependency on alcohol desecrated their marriage and eventually killed him."

Penny bit her lip, thinking. "Well… don't you have siblings or something? Someone you can talk to?"

"I have a twin sister and an older brother, both of whom are vastly inferior to myself."

"But I'm inferior, aren't I?" she asked, remembering his earlier words, but she realized that Sheldon thought everyone was inferior because technically, in terms of intelligence and education, they were. "Yet, here we are. You're talking to me."

Sheldon frowned. "The wine has lowered my inhibitions. Also, while my brother is not a pillar of the negative facets of testosterone as embodied by your ex-boyfriend, he bears a resemblance. Missy would- "

"Your twin sister?"

"Yes," he answered absentmindedly. "Missy would feel angry and invoke my mother and Meemaw's presence, an unacceptable outcome."

"And Meemaw is who? Your grandma?"

"Whom," he corrected, but his blue eyes gleamed with intriguing interest. "Your talent to connect dots is remarkable."

She waved him off, not wanting to get distracted by her pride. "Yeah, I know. But would it be so hard to talk to your brother and sister? I mean, don't you love them?"

Sheldon tilted his head. "I feel affection, for they are of my blood, but they have always failed to follow my reasoning. They always will."

"That's pretty pessimistic," she pointed out. "How do you know that?"

"Based on the pattern of my life- "

"But people change," she interrupted, waving her hand. "I mean, you like science, so isn't that thing about evolution about someone changing to become someone else? What about that stuff about adaptations?"

Sheldon blinked. "Perhaps my thinking has been operating under a false perception, as well."

Penny sat taller, feeling proud. "See? Maybe you can talk to them, or maybe not. You were talking about choices or whatever earlier. Well, this is one of your choices." She leaned forward, holding his piercing gaze. "And let me tell you, the choice of whether or not to talk and be honest with your siblings has been made before, too."

He nodded in consideration. "By you?"

She froze before nodding herself. "It has to do more with my parents, actually, but yeah. I made a choice like you did. I mean, it has to do more with my mom; I blame her for a lot of things. I'm sure you have some things you blame your mom about."

"It irritates me that my siblings are listed first alphabetically despite my blatant superiority. I blame my mother."

Penny grinned. That was so Sheldon. "Well, it's your choice. I can talk your ear off about it, but you're going to do what you think is best. And if not your brother or sister, what about Leonard? I mean, you guys are friends, right?"

"We signed a Roommate Agreement."

Her brows furrowed. "You mean… a contract?"

"Affirmative."

She found that he had to make a friendship contract pretty heartbreaking, but she understood because the contracts, to Sheldon, were like Mozart's music: perfect and structured. It was how he was able to deal with things complicated to him - and for him, people were super complicated.

"So, since you guys are friends, couldn't you talk to him?"

"I fail to see how that would accomplish anything."

Penny rolled her eyes. "Guys are so weird. You hate to talk about your feelings or anything with each other."

Sheldon held her inquiring, narrowed gaze. "Leonard and I have agreed to never discuss emotional subjects."

"That's exactly what I'm talking about," she muttered, sweeping some stray hair out of her eyes. "In all my life, I can't remember when any guys I know have talked about their feelings. It's like they're afraid they'll catch the plague or something. And I know my memory is good. There's not a moment where I've ever seen guys really say something emotional to each other."

"How powerful is your memory?"

Penny shrugged. "I think it's good. It's worked for me all my life. I remember stuff, you know?"

He tilted his head. "What is your first memory?"

"My first memory?" she echoed before considering. "Well, I don't know. The- there's no beginning, really. I don't know where it starts or anything. I can't pinpoint it. What I remember is just there. You know?"

"I remember everything."

Penny nodded. "That's right. You said that earlier. Yo- you have… what did you call it? A photographic memory?"

"Eidetic memory. Perfect recall."

"So when you say you remember everything, you remember… everything?"

She realized that wasn't a good thing when truly thinking about it; it was a blessing and a curse.

"Affirmative."

"Then… what's your first memory? Do you know?"

Sheldon looked insulted. "Of course. I was an infant watching the Dallas Cowboys play football with my father and brother. I was held in my father's arms."

Penny smiled. "Your dad liked football?"

"His affection for football was surpassed only by his fondness for alcohol."

Her smile slipped from her face. "I'm sorry."

Sheldon's brows furrowed. "Why do you apologize? My father's dependency on alcohol was- "

Penny interrupted, "Because it's the right thing to do. While I don't know how that feels, to have an alcoholic for a dad, I'm… empathizing with you. I'm sorry that your dad was a monster."

"My father was not a monster," Sheldon said, frowning. "Only alcohol evoked his latent violence."

"So… what? You liked your dad?"

"As a child, I felt a sense of awe regarding my father," he murmured and she knew that he was remembering his childhood. He was remembering everything. "I have yet to encounter a single man who has never felt the same."

Penny nodded. "All guys wanna be like their dad. I think that's how it works. When they realize their dad isn't perfect, it's painful."

"When I learned of my father's inferior intelligence, how it failed to match my own, I wept. In my desperation, I attempted to construct a device to amplify his mental aptitude, but I miscalculated. It was a failure. I was five-years-old."

She bit her lip, inwardly amazed at what a child Sheldon was capable of. "I'm sorry."

"You are attempting to empathize?"

"Yeah."

Sheldon looked proud of himself before his fingers twitched; he looked unsure. "I am unfamiliar with these social protocols. No one of my peerages displays kindness to me, not in the way you have."

She found that super heartbreaking, but she smiled. "Well, I'll keep doing it. I'm sure we'll piss each other off, but we'll be okay. I mean, you standing up to Kurt was the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me. You're a good guy, Sheldon, and you deserve kindness. I think everyone does. Well, maybe not Kurt. But I wish your… peers were kind to you."

"As a child, I was not similar to Gig and Missy, both of whom quickly connected with their peers," Sheldon admitted and she sat, listening. "I failed to understand it. My father issued advice when I demanded to know why all of the other children in school abhorred my presence despite my best attempts to 'make friends' as my mother desired." Penny's eyes widened, wanting to hear the advice. "He said that they abhorred my presence because they feared me, for I was different, and regardless of anything I could do, 'different scares people.'" Her eyes welled with tears, knowing exactly how cruel children could be, especially to those who didn't fit into the crowd. "I desperately sought to connect with my peers, but I desisted from all of my efforts when they only assaulted me. I turned my attention away from people to the universe. I made a choice."

"Because if you could understand the universe, then you could learn how to understand people," she whispered.

"Affirmative." His voice didn't carry authority; it was soft like hers. "I despise paradoxes, but surrounding my memory of my father exists a paradox. I loathe how he depended on alcohol and treated my mother, but I feel grateful for his lucid advice regarding people and his desire to teach me."

Penny smiled sadly. "People are complicated, Sheldon, and that means their legacies are complicated, too. Nobody's perfect." She saw his mouth open and immediately knew what he was going to say. "While maybe you're superior, you're not perfect, either. No one is. You said you hate paradoxes. Well, someone being perfect is a paradox because then they wouldn't be human, and you already said that you're homo sapien like the rest of us."

Sheldon frowned, looking sullen. "To my uttermost woe."

"Maybe you should try to be an actor," she said, laughing slightly. "You're so dramatic."

"How can you suggest that?" Sheldon looked horrified. "Are you aware of the copious amount of- "

"It was a joke, sweetie," she interrupted. "I wanna ask you something, okay?"

Sheldon nodded, eyes interested.

She inhaled slowly. "Was the flashback the only reason you stood up for me, or did you mean that chivalry stuff?"

"The classical representations in literature set the precedent. I acted upon it."

Penny considered him. "There wasn't… another reason?"

"I do not follow."

Well, she knew he would be able to follow bluntness. "Do you think I'm beautiful?"

"You are visually appealing," he replied calmly, staring at her just as easily as he had been before.

"So, did you stand up for me because you think I'm beautiful?" She leaned forward. "Because you like me?"

Sheldon nodded. "Affirmative. The combination of your physical appeal, my flashback-inducing anger, and the fact that you have reminded me of my mother and sister provoked my intervention. While your presence in my life has been a disruption, it has not been unbearable."

Penny was beginning to like his bluntness; it made things so much easier. "Are you wanting to date me? I mean, I heard what you said to Kurt, but you didn't really answer his question. You… kind of avoided it."

He twitched. "I have dedicated my life to science; it is my true mistress."

"Then how are you going to get that dynasty you were talking about?"

"Via the donation of my sperm." Sheldon looked proud, blue eyes gleaming at her. "I have conducted a series of simulations to ensure the perfect outcome. My progeny shall grow to influence the world for generations to come, and as a result of donating my sperm, I will not need to sacrifice my work to raise them."

She was quiet for several moments. "But it's not just nature, right? Nurture plays a role in… growing up. In development. What if you sired geniuses- "

"Genii."

"- but they didn't have the guidance that only you could give them?" Penny questioned, pleased when he tilted his head in consideration, clearing thinking over her words. "I mean, it takes a genius to know a genius, right? A prodigy to know a prodigy? How would your genius-prodigy children be able to learn properly or whatever if you weren't there to teach them?"

Sheldon's eyes widened. "They must have proper guidance, which only I, as the superior progenitor, can provide," he breathed out, staring at her in wonder. "Guiding them would provide more ingresses through which success can be attained. The probability of my progeny and their descendants achieving eminence is as great as the success which I could obtain in my own lifetime. It is a mere matter of statistical probability." Penny tried to keep up, but all she understood was that Sheldon was staring at her in awe. "Incredible. Colloquially, you see things that I do not. It is most impressive."

Penny preened, basking in the praise. "I'm not a genius, but I'm not a dummy, either."

"Clearly not. After all, you have chosen me, the rational choice, to father your young."

Her eyes widened, almost sure she had misheard. "Wait. What?"

"You have chosen me, the rational choice, to father your young."

Nope. She hadn't misheard.

She raised her brows in surprise, wondering where she had gotten lost in the conversation; she tried to regain control, steer it back to what she wanted. "You're moving way too fast. Tha- that would only happen if we date and we get married or something. You know that, don't you?"

"You propositioned me."

Penny thought back. "Well… did I? I don't…" she trailed off because it was possible knowing her track record. Had she? She remembered talking about the dynasty thing, but did she say something else? She wished she had Sheldon's perfect memory for just a moment before waving it all away. "Look, Sheldon, are you wanting to date me?"

"It is a possibility for which I had never accounted. I believe that you would be more than suitable to mother my progeny. You possess the necessary traits. Based on the mental calculations I have conducted in the past minutes, you are the ideal candidate."

Amazed, Penny closed her eyes; she needed to get control of the conversation back. "Well, that would only be if we date and reach that point. I mean, I don't think I'd be opposed to it. But we'd need to date first, you know? We have to decide. Both of us. And I'm only twenty-two; there's time to decide. It'd be a long way."

Sheldon blinked. "I am the superior choice. Why must you need more data?"

Penny controlled the brief laugh that wanted to escape. "You're moving too fast and dating is what people do, Sheldon, and unfortunately, you're people just like me. Don't worry. I'll teach you. I mean, how else are we going to learn more about each other? To learn if we're… compatible?"

"I can compose a series of questionnaires and experim- "

"No," she stressed. "That's not happening."

"Why not?"

Was she really going to try to go out with Sheldon? Sure, she found him attractive more than any other guy right now, and she was aware enough to recognize that she was overcompensating, picking a guy that is an utter opposite to the asshole that Kurt will always be, but she wanted a good guy, a smart one who wouldn't treat her like shit. One who would clearly be loyal and stick up for her if she ever needed it. She was sick of having terrible taste in guys; she wanted to stop being the dumb blonde who slept with all of the assholes.

If Kurt and all of her other boyfriends were considered 'normal,' then maybe she needed some crazy - and Sheldon definitely fit that bill.

"Look, Sheldon, I like you," she stated bluntly. Yep. She was going for it. Why not? If Sheldon had been willing to stand up to Kurt for her when he hardly knew her when no one else was willing to, including her so-called friends and Leonard, he would never treat her like Kurt and her prior boyfriends had. "As in, I find you attractive. If we're going to learn things about each other, it has to be through my way."

Sheldon blinked. "In your vernacular, that would be what?"

"Going on dates, talking like we've been talking so far, arguing, helping each other with problems."

"Is that how you conducted yourself with Kurt?"

Penny sighed. "Besides the arguing, no. This is actually kind of new territory for me, too. I mean, although I lived with Kurt and moved to California with him, I was a stupid girl who didn't know what she was doing. Now I do, and with you, if we're going to be anything, I want to get it right. For both our sakes."

"Interesting," Sheldon mused. "You recognize that I am superior to any prior mates, for you do not want any potential relationship between us to fail. Your intelligence clearly surpasses that of what I had assumed. Would you consider taking an I.Q. test?"

She ignored his request. "Kurt's an asshole, a big, hairy one; he cheated on me and made my life miserable. He deserves everything coming."

Sheldon peered at her. "Meaning?"

Penny grinned. "I'll tell everyone that he's hung like a light switch."

"I do not understand your vernacular."

"Well… how would I say it in your vernacular? His penis is small." Her eyes widened, a smile tugging at her lips. "Oh, wait. I got something better! Kurt has not been favorably endowed by Nature."

"An inferior specimen," Sheldon concluded, nodding at her appraisingly. "Well said. Thus, Kurt shall fail to reproduce and punish society with his intellect-atrophied progeny."

The way he kept referring to children as progeny reminded her of something. "This is going fast, and who knows if it will work out, but if this all does work out, we're going to… do it the natural way, okay? Not in a lab or anything. To have kids, you're not just gonna give me your sperm. We're gonna play equal parts in the lust-and-thrust. I'm putting that on the table now if we reach that point. Because I have needs, and clearly, you do, too."

Sheldon stiffened, outrage shining in his eyes. "Are you aware of the copious amount of pathogens that can be transmitted- "

She raised a brow. "If you live in a bubble, afraid of germs, aren't you… proving yourself inferior?"

He froze. "What?"

Penny shrugged carelessly. "I mean, a superior guy wouldn't be afraid of simple germs." She delighted in his bulging eyes, the jaw jerking with tension and indignation, but she kept going; surely she could make him see it from her angle. "If I remember anything from those high school science classes, it's that our bodies need germs to make antibodies. No antibodies mean that a gust of wind could kill you or something. I mean, I get wanting to have hygiene and stuff, and I'm not saying to just go dive into a landfill or anything, but since people have been having sex and children since forever, wouldn't we be extinct if germs were such a big deal?"

Sheldon twitched so hard she was afraid he gave himself a concussion. "Your logic is flawed, but in my intoxicated state, I am unable to rebut your egregious assertion."

"Look, I'm just saying that if we start dating, I'm going to burst your bubble," she murmured gently. "You can do whatever you want when I'm not around, but I expect certain things, which includes sex and all that stuff, you know? Just like you expect certain things. I mean it when I say I don't want to mess this up if it goes anywhere, proves to be an awesome thing, Sheldon. We gotta make compromises if it's gonna work. That much I do know."

"I am not aware of social protocol regarding dating."

"Then we'll take it slow. One day and date at a time, okay?"

"My work is of crucial importance," he stressed, staring at her; she calmly met his intense gaze. "I will decipher the mysteries- "

"I know, and there will be no stopping you," she interrupted with a smile. "I heard what you said to Kurt about your name lasting through history or whatever. Like, with Newton and Einstein and those other guys."

"Galileo, Planck, Bohr, Schrödinger, and Feynman," he recalled.

"Yeah, them. The point is, Sheldon, if I'm gonna understand anything genius-like, it'll be Shakespeare and that's it, you know? I'm never really going to understand your work, but I think you can do it. I think you'll get that Nobel Prize. I believe you. And I believe that you're the smartest guy I'll ever meet."

"Affirmative."

"So, it's okay if we're not the same and don't always have the same interests. Then it'd get boring. We'll be more yin and yang, you know? Balance each other out. Don't get me wrong, we're gonna fight and argue, but I think that even if we don't date, we'd still do that." Penny hesitantly reached out and grabbed Sheldon's forearm, waiting for his tenseness to fade; it did after several moments. "I won't take away from your work because I realize how important it is to you, but I also have things that are important to me, okay? If we date, if it's going to work, we have to realize that. Both of us. It takes two to tango."

"My mother is fond of that colloquialism."

"It's a good one, but do you understand what I'm saying?"

"You speak of reciprocity," Sheldon mused, quiet for several moments. "You have submitted a persuasive contention. Very well. You shall be my mistress."

Penny stared at him, removing her hand from his forearm, wanting him to understand. "Girlfriend, Sheldon."

He frowned. "Wha- "

"Girlfriend," she corrected firmly. "I'll be your girlfriend, okay? You may be a genius with all the science and math stuff, but when it comes to people and - what did you call it? - social protocols, I'm the genius."

Sheldon's eyes lit up. "Our progeny- "

"Children," she corrected firmly again; she was going to nip it in the bud. "When you say progeny, it sounds… cold. Clinical."

"Very well. Our… children will change the world. The union of our genetic codes, although mine is superior, will produce genii."

Penny smiled, kind of blown away at those expectations, but if this whole dating thing with Sheldon worked out, she'd have plenty of time to temper those expectations. At least everything was being put on the table; it was actually nice. There weren't any games; it was all laid out. She was starting to see why Sheldon liked the structure and orderly thing, but hopefully, she'd be able to bring him out of that shell a little bit. And if not, that would be okay, too. Although, who knows how she'd feel when they were fighting?

"Well, maybe," she said slowly. "But not if their daddy changes the world first. And remember, this isn't a sure thing, Sheldon; it's not set in stone."

"Are you referring to Disney's animated film, The Sword in the Stone, which is based on the legend of King Arthur?"

Penny blinked. "Wha- no. I'm just saying, nothing's a sure thing. I'm sure there's a science term for it, but I don't know what it is. I'm not having kids right now, no matter who's kids they are, okay? I'm only twenty-two. We'll reach that point later on. There's plenty of time. Plus, that way, you'd have more time for your work and stuff."

"Thus, you will have time to pursue your career as an actress, as well," he concluded, nodding. "I understand. You wish to wait several years before bearing children, for your fertile beauty will remain illuminating for, statistically, a dozen more years."

That was one way of putting it. "Yes. We're just going to date for now."

"Would this, our encounter tonight, be considered a date, then?"

Penny shrugged, not going to pressure him. "It can be if you want it to. I mean, we've been talking and it's been really, really nice, but- "

"Affirmative."

She glanced at the empty glass of wine. "Are you going to remember any of this? I know you have a perfect memory, but you said the wine… dulls your memory."

"I will remember." Sheldon picked up his keyboard and moved it to the side of the couch before turning back to her, a hopeful gleam in his eyes. "Since my schedule has been hopelessly disrupted, I offer a proposal to continue this date."

Pleasantly surprised, Penny leaned forward. "I'm all ears."

"Penny, do you feel a desire to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark with me?"

She grinned. "A young Harrison Ford? Yes, please."

XxXxXxXxXxX

That's it. I hope that you all enjoyed it.

Stay Safe
ButtonPusher

Chapter Text

As you can see, my muse returned, so I've decided to write more for this. We'll see how it goes. Thank you for the reviews, which I'll admit helped inspire my muse. I appreciate it.

Disclaimer: I do not own  The Big Bang Theory  or any of the characters therein.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Leonard slowly awakened, feeling more satisfied than he could remember. After Sheldon had shockingly, impossibly stood up to Penny's ex-boyfriend - and wasn't that a memory that was going to give him nightmares, for his roommate didn't do things like! - one of Penny's friends, Maddie, had immediately thrown herself at him, turned on by what she called 'your buddy Doctor's heroics.'

While the thought of Penny had definitely crossed his mind, she had clearly not cared when he tried to catch her eye and gesture towards Maddie. But it wasn't every day - actually, ever - when a willing pretty girl wanted to have sex with him. Based on how women had been flocking to the astonished and gleefully excited Raj and Howard, they were of the same mindset as Leonard.

And it was all because of Sheldon.

Leonard almost groaned. Now he'd have to thank Sheldon for what he did, how it opened up possibilities that he hadn't fathomed. That would lead to Sheldon's insufferable gloating and rationale that his superiority was, once more, proven.

He blinked and reached for his glasses, realizing that he was alone in his room. Maddie had left. Feeling the sting of Maddie's regret cloud the air, Leonard sighed before ruffling his hair, grabbing some pants and a shirt.

Exiting his room, he hoped to catch a glimpse of Maddie, but he only saw Sheldon at his whiteboard, working on an equation that had nothing to do with physics.

Leonard didn't want to know and went to the refrigerator, waving at Sheldon even if he couldn't see him. "Morning, Sheldon."

"Greetings, Leonard. You have obtained a strike for your conduct."

He rolled his eyes, turning away from the refrigerator. "I'm sorry that I didn't give you a 24-hour notice about having a girl over, but, Sheldon, that's never happened to me before. Because of what you did- "

"Which was?"

"Standing up to Kurt."

"I merely acted upon the literature precedents set by- "

"I don't care," he said quickly, knowing how Sheldon could unleash a tangent that made him wish he were sometimes deaf. "But regardless of the reasoning, it was the right thing to do. You… were able to do what I couldn't."

Didn't that hurt. He would've never believed it, but he had seen it with his own eyes, watched as Sheldon verbally decimated Kurt. It looked ridiculous, Sheldon in his Doppler Effect costume against the semi-nude, muscle-bulging Kurt, but somehow, it had worked. While he still had no idea who had temporarily taken over Sheldon's body and stood up to Kurt, for it couldn't surely be Sheldon, he was forever thankful. It led to him getting to spend the night with a beautiful girl in Maddie.

"So, thank you, Sheldon," he continued with a grateful smile. "Because of you, Kurt left, and… I got laid."

Sheldon finally turned to face him and blinked. "I am aware. The foul auditory resonances you produced in your coital encounter prohibited me from a peaceful REM cycle."

Leonard winced. "Sorry."

"Your strike is not rescinded."

He threw up his hands. "You know, I don't understand you. I've tried, but- "

"A futile endeavor," Sheldon interrupted blasély. "My intellect is so vast that it is impossible for one to know and understand the depths of my psyche."

Leonard stared at him. "One's intellect and psyche don't correlate."

"False. My psyche is directly influenced by my vast intelligence, proving a stable, working relationship. It might be classified as symbiotic. Perhaps I should consult- "

He gave up. "Fine. So… did you happen to see Maddie? Did she have somewhere to go? Did she… leave a number for me to call?"

"Your conquest departed twenty-seven minutes ago with Penny."

Leonard nodded, trying to stop the brief spark of disappointment; he wasn't successful. "Was there anything else? Did she say anything to you? You were up, weren't you? Because I ruined your REM cycles?"

"Penny conversed with your conquest before their departure. I did not wish to hear their conversation, so I departed to enter my bedroom."

Wait. Why would Sheldon know that Maddie spoke with Penny?

He suddenly knew what happened and wanted to bang his head on the counter. "Did you sneak into Penny's apartment and clean it again? Sheldon, you can't do that! I know it was a mess, but you- "

"Penny was in our apartment. In her words, we completed a marathon."

The first thought to enter Leonard's mind was a sexual marathon, but he brushed it away, knowing that was insane. "What are you talking about, Sheldon?"

"A movie marathon," Sheldon explained, the words strangely falling from his lips, as if he had trouble understanding them. "It is a colloquialism with which I was unfamiliar until Penny introduced it." Sheldon stiffened and his eyes narrowed. Leonard, remembering what happened to Kurt, backed away as his roommate stood to his full height, glaring at him. "I can't believe I nearly forgot. It must be my insomnia-ridden state. You have obtained a second strike."

"What for?" he demanded, shocked.

"Your failure to deadbolt the door after you escorted your conquest into our apartment. It is how Penny entered."

Leonard chuckled weakly. "I'm sorry, but I… kind of had my hands full."

"Feeble explanations will not rescind your strikes."

"Fine. So, then what happened? Penny snuck into the apartment after midnight?"

"Affirmative."

Leonard's face stretched into a hopeful smile. "She was looking for me? That's what happened, isn't it? Oh, she didn't want me to sleep with Maddie!" He began to pull at his hair, distressed. "I just blew my chance! Why didn't she say anything last night?"

Sheldon frowned. "I do not understand your undesirable ability to commit such egregious errors in your presumptions. That is why you focus on entirely derivative work. The conclusions for which you reach are piteous."

He clenched his jaw, well used to hearing Sheldon insulting him, but it always still stung because who could compare to the genius-prodigy of Sheldon? He was just the one stuck with living with him, and while he did consider Sheldon his friend, sometimes that label became less and less sticky. Sometimes he felt like ripping it off - like right now.

"So, Penny wasn't looking for me?"

"Affirmative."

"Then what was she doing in our apartment?"

"When she entered, having since been awake, I attempted to explain that no one is permitted in our apartment after midnight, but she, colloquially, struck up a conversation."

Leonard eyebrows furrowed. "What? You don't just allow a conversation to be 'struck up,' Sheldon. How did that happen?"

"I am still deciphering it." He did have to admit that Sheldon certainly looked confused by that fact, so he just figured that Penny upended everything. "Her and I conversed for fifty-three minutes before- "

"What?" he asked again, astonished. "You don't talk to anyone for that long!"

"False. There have been multiple instances in which I have held a conversation- "

"I don't care," Leonard snapped. "What the hell happened?"

"After our conversation, I proposed… " Leonard almost fainted when Sheldon said nothing else, strength wavering in his legs as Sheldon peered back at his whiteboard, scrawling numbers and symbols that meant nothing to him for several moments before continuing, "... that we watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. Penny agreed and after Raiders, she suggested that we complete the movie marathon by watching Temple of Doom and Last Crusade, as well. Thus, we completed the movie marathon. It is a fascinating concept."

Leonard sagged back against the refrigerator door. "Well, that was nice of you to keep Penny company."

"I agree. I do not know why you seem surprised. I am often nice, Leonard. It is one of the numerous traits that deem me such a worthy friend."

He nearly snorted, rolling his eyes. "If I was allowed only three adjectives to describe you- "

"Prodigious, superior, brilliant," Sheldon immediately supplied.

"- 'nice' wouldn't be one that I'd use."

"Sarcasm?"

"No."

"Perhaps 'nice' is lower on the list, but it is there. You must be more observant, Leonard. A true scientist would- "

Leonard closed his eyes. "Fine. Are you sure Maddie didn't say anything about me? Maybe she said something to Penny."

Sheldon nodded. "Then you must ask Penny, and according to The Roommate Agreement, I must notify you that we, Penny and I, have entered a relationship paradigm."

The words floated in the air with the weight of a mountain and Leonard stared at Sheldon's impassive expression uncomprehendingly, deprived of utterance.

Then his tongue worked. "What?" he cried out. "Tha- this is a bazinga, right?"

"False."

Leonard's face spasmed, disbelief, horror, and anger warring for control. "You… you're dating Penny?"

"Affirmative. Penny is now my mistr- girlfriend."

The betrayal that surged through him left him breathless, face red. "I had dibs!"

"Why does that matter?"

"It's the bro code!" He felt the urge to claw at Sheldon's eyes but refrained from doing so because he knew that Sheldon was stronger than him. And he would get another strike. He really didn't want to take that class again. "It's bros before hoes. That's how it works, Sheldon! You should know the bro code!"

Sheldon frowned. "You failed to add it to The Roommate Agreement."

Leonard threw his arms into the air. "I shouldn't have to!"

"Your belief in a fictitious code of conduct is irrational."

"It's irrational that you need contracts to know how to be a person," Leonard fired back, too angry to think straight. "How's that going to work with Penny? You don't even know how to be a boyfriend."

"My superior intelligence attests that I am a rapid learner- "

"So, you're choosing her over your loyalty to me?" he asked in disbelief. "I'm your best friend! Your roommate! I can actually have a conversation with you. I can challenge you intellectually, but Penny- "

Sheldon stared at him, bemused. "You certainly do not challenge me intellectually. Come now, Leonard. No one does." Leonard rolled his eyes at the arrogance but was unable to retort because Sheldon continued, "I have reached the conclusion that Penny can challenge me in alternative ways. During our conversation, she enlightened me on several things that had, to my astonishment, not occurred to me. She is well-versed in social protocols, quite like my sister, and I find her visually appealing. I believe she is the chaos element. In Greek mythology, the primordial force of chaos preceded the ordered formation of the cosmos, before Ouranos pulverized stars and shifted the planets into alignment. While fictitious deities, what they represent remains true. Chaos was needed before order was achieved. Ergo, as you already know, order emerges from chaos."

Leonard stared at him. "What are you talking about?"

"I, as a firm believer of order and reason, need the manifestation of chaos and emotion so that I may evolve into the manifestation of order and reason. So that I may reach my highest potential. It is a natural evolution, Leonard. As the soon-to-be manifestation of order and reason, I need a counterbalance in the manifestation of chaos and emotion. It could be considered similar to the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang. Thus, Penny is that manifesta- "

"Not even you're that arrogant!" Leonard cried out, pinching his arm, trying to awaken from this horrible nightmare where nothing made sense. Where Sheldon had somehow managed to impossibly woo the beautiful next-door neighbor who Leonard was already halfway in love with. "The manifestation of ord- … You're out of your mind. I definitely shouldn't have brought Maddie here. You needed sleep. Oh, I brought this on myself, didn't I? It's too early in the morning for cosmological theory, Sheldon!"

"It is merely the formula of the harmonious, dynamic, and balanced- "

"I just said it's too early!" he snapped, running a hand through his hair. "I don't believe this. I can't believe it," he muttered, mind racing. Something suddenly occurred to him, inspiring hope to blossom in his heart. "Wait. Are you sure that you're dating Penny? Maybe you misunderstood what was happening."

"Do not posit insulting paradoxes, Leonard. I misunderstand nothing."

"What about that time when you didn't meet the paintball requirements when I told you- "

"You failed to specify- "

"Oh, forget it!" he cried out. "But why would you date Penny? You don't even have a deal!"

"Deal? I am unfamiliar with your vernacular."

"Just like you're unfamiliar with how to even be a person, let alone a boyfriend!"

"Your mother has notified me that you often deflect from subjects- "

"Do not bring my mother into this!" Leonard yelled, chest heaving. "You don't talk to me about her. Got it?"

"Very well. What is a deal?"

He exhaled deeply, trying to find his control. "What arouses you sexually. But you're like a monk, celibate by choice. You don't have a deal because you're not sexually interested in women."

Sheldon looked astonished. "Leonard, you are an unworthy scientist. Your powers of observation are non-existent! I visited the sperm bank with you. I have issued compliments to the visual of feminine perfection. I am certainly no eunuch."

Leonard sputtered, "Bu- but tha- that's different. That's just rubbing one out, you know? It's not really coitus. It's self-gratification!"

"Your pursuit of women to engage in coitus is about achieving self-gratification, for you- "

"I said not to bring my mother into this!"

"It was an observation," Sheldon retorted, nonplussed. "The manner through which we have achieved our self-gratification differs, but the results are the same - ejaculation."

"That's definitely what a girl wants to hear when she walks into a room."

Leonard gasped and turned to see Penny standing in the now-open doorway - he nor Sheldon had heard the door open! - and all thoughts of stuttering out apologies vanished. She looked so beautiful. She was like the sun, glowing with radiance, smiling. He had never seen her look so perfect, not even in that amazing kitty costume last night, so she had clearly wanted to make an impression.

But then he realized that she did it for Sheldon. His heart dropped to his stomach.

"Social protocol dictates that our discussion transfers to a later time," Sheldon notified him, but he barely heard him. "When do you wish to continue, Leonard?"

He dejectedly walked over to the chair, sliding down into the cushion. "I don't know, Sheldon. Let's say never."

"Leonard, you just committed a paradox. That is unacceptable. I loathe paradoxes."

"Did I come at a bad time?" Penny asked, smiling apologetically and he couldn't keep his eyes off of her. "I can leave- "

"That, too, is unacceptable," Sheldon interrupted, and Leonard finally looked away from the glorious sight of Penny to stare at his roommate in shock. Huh. Maybe Sheldon did have a deal. "Before Leonard's conquest invaded, we reached an agreement- "

Penny's smile faded and she finally shut the door. "Maddie. Her name is Maddie, Sheldon. Don't call her a conquest."

"Why?"

"Be- because it's insulting. Why would you even call her that?"

Leonard suddenly, frantically tried to get Sheldon's attention, but he was ignored. "It is the term used by Wolowitz and Koothrapali when describing their coital encounters."

Penny's eyes glinted like flint and Leonard swore to never get on her bad side. "I see. I'll be having words with them."

"That implies sharing a conversation," Sheldon pointed out. "Koothrapali's mutism will hinder any conversation you wish to share."

"Don't worry about that, Sheldon," Penny said, smiling coldly. "I'll speak in a language he'll understand."

Sheldon's eyes lit up and Leonard's eyebrows rose; that was an expression he didn't see very often. "I was not aware that you speak Hindi, Penny?"

Penny faltered, beautiful face expressing bemusement and then realization. "No, sweetie. I meant that the language of violence would do the talking."

"Violence is not- "

"I know," she said quickly. "It's a… Damn it, what did you call it? Oh, a colloquialism! It's a colloquialism."

"Ahh, I understand." Leonard was certain that he didn't. "What term would I use to describe your friend, then?"

Penny shrugged. "How about her name?"

"That implies familiarity. I do not know her."

"You don't know Mozart," she replied easily. "I mean, it's hard to know a dead person, but you still call him by his name. You could just call him 'composer' or 'genius' or 'prodigy' or something, but you don't. If you can do it for Mozart, why not Maddie?"

Sheldon looked thunderstruck, but Leonard's eyebrows furrowed. "Mozart?" he asked, incredulous. "What happened last night?"

Penny turned to face him, eyes wide. "Oh, I thought Sheldon told you. Sorry. We're dating now. We decided last ni- well, technically this morning."

Leonard tried to smile, he really did, but it was more of a grimace. "Congratulations."

"I already notified Leonard of our relationship paradigm," Sheldon informed, twitching. Leonard knew a rant about how much better Mozart was in comparison to anything that Maddie could achieve was coming. "Mozart was- "

"A genius-prodigy like you except with music," Penny interrupted, smartly avoiding catastrophe. Leonard stared at her, and it wasn't just because of her beauty. "I took Music Class in high school. He was the one who died super young and was buried in an unmarked grave, right?"

"Affirmative. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died when he was 35-years-old. Did you know that the cause of his demise- "

"Look, I'm hungry," Penny interrupted again. "I don't wanna talk about death. I came over to eat, remember? What's for breakfast?"

Sheldon's eyes widened and turned around to enter the kitchen. "Of course. We will have- "

"Aren't you forgetting something, Sheldon?" Penny asked coyly, teasingly, voice drifting in the air with a melodious harmony. It made Leonard's stomach flip.

Sheldon frowned, looking back at Penny in bemusement. "I have reminded Leonard that I loathe paradoxes twice, yet you, too, forward one. To my displeasure, I am repeating myself a lot this morning. I forget nothing, Penny. My eidetic memory ensures it."

For some reason, Penny smiled gently. "Sheldon, don't I look good?" She gestured to herself and Leonard wanted to scream to the heavens about how good she looked, but he was suddenly mute like Raj. "Don't I look - what did you call it? - visually appealing?"

Leonard paled. Penny had been standing there that long?

"Affirmative. I have yet to observe any fault in your physical appearance since meeting you. You are thus classified as feminine perfection."

Penny preened and Leonard could only stare because this couldn't be happening.

To what kind of alternate universe had he been transported?

XxXxXxXxXxX

What a charade.

That's all Leonard could think while he sat, eating breakfast with Sheldon and Penny. He smiled and talked, but inwardly, he felt like he was gasping for air, drowning. About halfway through the meal, he couldn't take it anymore and stormed out of the apartment, ignoring Sheldon's squawks of protest.

He paced in front of the broken elevator, unsure of what further course of action to take since he was still in, pretty much, pajamas.

Suddenly, the door opened and then Penny tentatively stepped out. Leonard almost groaned.

"Hey," she said quietly, shutting the door. "I thought we should talk. Just the two of us."

"About what? That you're dating Sheldon?"

Penny nodded. "If that's wha- "

"Why couldn't you have noticed me?" he demanded desperately. "I mean, why? I'd be so much better than him!"

"So, we're doing this?"

"Yes! Why not me?"

"Because I've known guys like you before," she said gently, eyes soft. "Look, I think you're sweet and everything- "

"I know what that means," he groaned out. "You see me like a brother, right?"

"No." Leonard stared at her in surprise and she shrugged. "Honestly, I hardly know you. I have to be attracted to someone I'm dating." She immediately winced and Leonard almost felt like emptying his stomach of their breakfast. "Sorry. That came out way harsher than I meant it to. But seriously, Leonard, you hardly know me and you're ready to give me your heart. That's not me. And why do you want to give me your heart already? I mean, it can't be because you know me because you don't know me. It's because yo- you… you've already judged who I am without knowing who I am. I mean, how can I even compare to th- the fantasy that you've already built up in your mind? I can't measure up to that!"

"That's not true," Leonard protested. "I don't have a fantasy built up in my mind. I see you for who you really are."

"And what is that? The hot neighbor chick you'd bang or something? You don't know me. You have a view in your mind, but that's… fake. You don't know what I like and dislike. But you're primed to hand me your heart because you have a fake me built in your head. No girl would put herself through that. I mean, I just met you."

Leonard's jaw clenched. "But you're trying it with Sheldon! That makes no sense! You're willing to date Sheldon when you hardly know him either! You have a fake Sheldon built in your head because of what he did to Kurt last night! I've known Sheldon for years and I can't fathom why he did that. It was an absolute break from his programming! Oh, he'll give me a complete history of literature precedents spanning back to, probably, Ancient Greece, and then a full college course on the ethics of chivalry, but I know him."

"You don't know everything about Sheldon."

"And suddenly you do? Based on a conversation that should've never happened? Because that guy Sheldon turned into last night, that's not him, believe me. It was a stranger with Sheldon's face, vocabulary, and logical arrogance."

"How do you know that?"

"I do! I know Sheldon. I've known him for years. I know who he is, and you'll see who he is soon enough. You two, you'll never work. Maybe Sheldon thinks you're visually appealing - only a blind man wouldn't think so - but he has systems and schedules- "

Penny rolled her eyes. "You know, I'm not the dumb blonde, Leonard. I'm the hot blonde. But yet I'm more than that. I didn't go into this thing with Sheldon with blinders on or something. I made a conscious choice. Maybe I don't fully understand what I've gotten into, but I know what I'm doing right now, and both Sheldon and I will learn as we go along. Before I met him and you guys, I was a bitch. I didn't like how I was. I think with Sheldon and you guys, I can learn how to be a better person. Someone I'm proud to be. And maybe my expectations are insane, like Sheldon's expectations for our children if we- "

"What?" he cried out, horrified, sliding down the closed elevator door, strength vanished from his legs. "Chi- children? Are you pregnant?"

"No." Penny looked both apologetic and annoyed. "Sorry, I was getting away from the main point. It was something him and I talked about last ni- this morning."

Leonard felt a fog descend over him, freezing particles smashing into his flesh, depriving him of strength. "Children with Sheldon?" His voice sounded different, far away, barely piercing through the darkness that had enveloped his mind and senses. "They'd rule the world."

"Change the world," Penny corrected. "Those are the expectations I'm talking about. Sheldon thinks they'd all be like him, a genius-prodigy or something, but they wouldn't all be that way. Most likely. He doesn't get that children are people, so they'll disappoint you and piss you off, even if you love them. My genes would surely give those kids some rebellious attitudes and average-ness, so he'd have to deal with that because… I mean, he's obsessed with… creating a dynasty or something like Rock and Tolstoy."

"Dynasty?" Leonard echoed, shaking his head. "A bloodline?"

"Yeah."

"Rock and… Tolstoy? He said that? Them?"

"I think so- "

"Who is Rock? Isn't that the movie actor or something? And Sheldon hates Tolstoy. I was once subjected to a rant about Tolstoy, and to appease him, I swore to never read Tolstoy."

Penny looked sheepish. "Well, now that you've been saying those names, they don't sound right."

It took Leonard seven tense seconds to understand to whom she was alluding, people who Sheldon had spoken of in the past, however briefly. "Do you mean Bach and Tolkien?"

"Yes! Them. He wants to create a dynasty like they did."

"Wait. That's why he went to the sperm bank? He never told me that."

Penny didn't look surprised. "There's a lot you don't know about Sheldon."

"Like that he had a crush on you," he mumbled bitterly.

"Like that. And with Sheldon, everything's on the table. It's actually really nice. There are no games. I know what to expect and I know he'll treat me right - with a little practice. I mean, I can't really explain it, but… it made sense. Sheldon's clueless about dating and I think that's a plus. He has no expectations, except following his schedule and stuff and getting his Nobel Prize and I can do that. I can learn who I want to be. No one's ever really given me that chance before."

"Sheldon doesn't even know that he's given you that chance."

"That's another plus. He'd never hold it over my head. Also, Leonard, Sheldon stood up for me when Kurt showed up."

Leonard paled. "Tha- that was- "

"No one else did." Something vulnerable crossed her features. "Not my so-called friends. Not Lisa. Not Maddie. And then you didn't, either. Sheldon was the only one. And I'll be honest, it was hot to watch him handle Kurt. I mean, that Doppler Effect costume was really unflattering, but then he more than made up for it. Then when we got to talking after the party while you were asleep, we just talked about a lot. I learned a lot and I want to be there when he wins that Nobel Prize. If it's possible, I'd like to help him get there."

He bowed his head in defeat. "I thought I was hiding my crush."

"Girls have a sixth sense for these things, Leonard. Well, usually we do. I never fathomed- " Leonard was certain that she had learned that word from Sheldon. "- that Sheldon likes me, too. I mean, I never thought he did until he stood out to Kurt. Never would have guessed. He was really good at hiding it."

"And I wasn't."

Penny winced. "Sorry. I saw right through you. But Sheldon was… totally aloof. That's the right word, right?"

Leonard grit his teeth. "Yes."

"Exactly. And I kind of had to bend Sheldon's arm to get him to admit that he even thought I was beautiful and would like to date me, and that was also only because he was- " she abruptly cut herself off, staring down at him apologetically. "No, that's none of your business. But the point is- "

"That I'm not good enough," he finished bitterly. "I never am. It's always those blockheaded jocks bursting with testosterone, but when the beautiful girl who could see me as a better guy than any of those jocks finally comes along, she goes for Sheldon. Or maybe your point is that I'm not smart enough. Maybe that's it." Leonard laughed and he could hear the hysteria in it, but he didn't care. He felt hollow. "Because who can compare to Shel- no, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, genius-prodigy who's lauded as one of our generation's greatest minds? Certainly not me."

Penny's eyes were wide with disbelief. "You'd think for someone so smart you'd smell the bullshit you're spewing."

"What?"

"Haven't you learned in life that there'll always be people better than you? I mean, if there's anything I've learned from failing auditions, it's that. Same with Kurt and my other boyfriends cheating on me. There'll always be someone better, someone hotter. Someone with bigger boobs. Someone with a better ass."

Leonard stared up at her, stunned. "But Sheldon- "

"And if Sheldon is the smartest guy in the world, then he's not the smartest guy in history. There's always someone better - and I'm pretty sure he knows it." Penny shrugged and pointed at her apartment. "I mean, last night he was going on about how his name, when he dies, will be up there with Einstein and Newton and those other geniuses. That means he's not there yet. He's not better than them. They're better than him."

He blinked. "Huh. That… actually kind of helps."

Penny beamed and the sight hurt; she was so beautiful. "Plus, to get back at those jocks, do what I always do when I learn that there's someone better-suited for a role. Or when Kurt and all the other guys cheated on me."

"What did you do?"

"I pulled a Joe Pesci from that Casino movie and said 'Fuck 'em.'"

Leonard's eyebrows rose. "I've never seen that movie."

"My dad loved it. The minute I turned sixteen, he made me watch it. Something about seeing the effects of what drugs and alcohol are on a pretty blonde, and how violent guys can be. The point is, Leonard, a girl will come along who does see you. Who thinks you're amazing and so smart. You've got your whole life ahead of you. She'll come along. Just focus on you now. Take care of yourself and things will work out."

He smiled slightly, and while it still hurt a lot, like it was a gaping wound that threatened his sanity, something shifted inside. "Thanks, Penny."

XxXxXxXxXxX

Walking around with Sheldon after convincing him that it was okay to go outside, to feel the sun on your skin, after he had rejected her idea of going to the mall, Penny could feel his awkwardness. The tightness in his frame that indicated his anxiety. When she had tried to hold his hand, he had panicked, but she had been expecting it, not pushing him. She was playing a long game.

So, she began to talk. "You know, in ten years, I know I'm not going to be able to pull an all-nighter. That's gonna suck. But when you're in your twenties, you feel like you can do anything. But it doesn't last. It's kind of like what you said to Kurt last night. When's the last time you pulled an all-nighter?"

Sheldon's eyes were darting everywhere, observing everything, but he answered. "Are you referring to my insomnia-ridden state?"

"I wasn't kidding about that actor thing," she said, rolling her eyes. "You've got the drama thing down. But, yeah, I was. We can talk about something else, but I'm curious since you said that with your perfect memory, it's hard to rest because, and I quote, 'the brain itself refuses to rest.'"

"An… all-nighter- " It sounded so foreign coming from Sheldon's lips but she appreciated the effort he took to speak a colloquialism. "- is rare. It has happened in the past. To prevent such a dismal existence, I often transport my whiteboard into my bedroom and work until I can no longer work."

"You work yourself to exhaustion?"

"Affirmative."

Penny felt the urge to grab his hand but refrained, remaining quiet as they continued walking. "I think there'll be other ways to exhaust you."

"Elaborate."

"Ways of a physical nature," she said, smiling. "When two people are alone in a bed…"

"Coitus?"

"Yeah."

Sheldon twitched. "It is improbable that coitus would exhaust me."

Penny raised her brows in interest. "Are you trying to say something about your stamina? You think you're some kind of beast between the sheets?"

"I am superior. My self-control augments any performance in which I concentrate. Thus, I would not exhaust easily."

She grinned wickedly. "It wouldn't hurt to test that theory- "

"Coitus is prohibited."

Penny rolled her eyes, smile slipping. "It's just an idea." An idea that they'd definitely be returning to. She was playing the long game and she could work with that. "No one likes a know-it-all."

"My sister often remarked that."

"Oh, she sounds smart."

"False. I am much superior to any sparks of intellect that she can muster."

"That just proves my point. No one likes a know-it-all."

"As I have learned throughout my life. I do not understand it. Another undesirable, irrational trait plaguing my inferior brethren. Even those of my kin, my blood succumb to such irrationality. It saddens me."

"You're not the only one disappointed with family, remember?" she pointed out as they passed a newsstand. "I have siblings, too, and… I didn't leave on the best of terms."

"How many siblings do you have?"

"Two. I'm the youngest. I have a brother and a sister. My sister and I fought all the time, and my brother… he's an idiot. I mean, my mom always said that he was dropped as a baby, but I think he was actually thrown."

"I believe your brother and my brother could be considered kindred spirits, then," Sheldon mused. "My mother often remarked that whatever 'smarts' Gig had, I 'stole them' when I was born. While an impossible theory, Gig believed it. He unleashed vengeance, inflicting insufferable pranks against my person, but my own vengeance for such depravity was swift and agonizing. Our feud lasted for years."

Penny began to feel worried. "Well, what brother wouldn't play pranks on their brother? I mean, you're also like a football field smarter than everyone else. You- "

"Football fie- "

"It's a colloquialism," she said quickly. "You didn't… build a ray gun to turn your brother into ashes or something, did you?"

Sheldon stared at her, affronted. "What a ridiculous notion."

She felt guilty. "Sorry- "

"I was never going to target my brother with my ray gun."

Her eyes widened. "What? Yo- you actually built a ray gun?"

"Affirmative. However, before I could experiment, it was confiscated by my parents; they were mistakenly horrified. Our neighbor's dog was to be my first target. I would never target my brother with it. Nor my sister."

Penny shook her head in disbelief. That's her boyfriend.

"One of my most memorable acts of vengeance against Gig was when I convinced him through deceptive means that the Dallas Cowboys were relocating."

She laughed. "What? How'd you pull that off?"

"I composed fake newspaper articles and edited sports broadcasts. Gig wept. How he could feel such devastation at a substitute for tribalistic war, I do not understand. The universe is much simpler."

Penny looked up at him. "To me, that seems impossible, but I understand people, so I guess it makes sense. But is that all you like about the universe? That it's structured and balanced in ways that people aren't? I mean, you want to study the universe. But we've been to the moon. We already know that there are other planets. Isn't that enough?"

Sheldon looked horrified, insulted. "False. It is the linear progression of exploration and discovery. First, man withdrew from their caves and observed fire, harnessing its properties to advance the foundation of civilization. Much later, our ancestors voyaged across the ocean and pioneered the West. Then man tamed the sky and space. The history of our species is dependent on a pattern of exploration and discovery. Thus, the universe is next. I will decipher its secrets, utilizing the principles and theories established by my worthy forebears."

"And that's how your name will be next to Einstein and Newton's."

"Affirmative."

Penny nodded, impressed by his confidence - or arrogance. "Well, you've convinced me. I think you'll get there. I guess being the king of whatever room you walk into- "

"I am not a king- "

"Colloquialism. I guess that being king has its perks, huh?"

"Perks?"

"Your name will be remembered like those geniuses- "

"Genii."

She smiled, feeling a little annoyed. Did the man not know how to take a compliment? You'd think someone with the ego the size of a planet would. "- and that definitely sounds like a perk. I mean, you talked about the Trojan War earlier before we left. Everyone knows Achilles' name thousands of years later. It's like the Troy movie." She felt her face twist in consideration. "Or… it might be because a part of our body is named after him. Who knows? But maybe that'll be you. Everyone knowing your name, I mean. You'd kind of be immortal."

Sheldon peered down at her, eyes wide and panicked; he stopped walking. "I feel a sudden surge in my body."

Penny felt worried. "Surge? Are you feeling okay?"

"This is a foreign, albeit pleasurable experience stimulated by affection," he said, head tilted. "Suddenly, I feel the inexplicable urge to hold your hand for reasons that I can't quantify."

She laughed after several moments in disbelief. "Are you trying to say that I caused a surge of affection to pass through you because of what I said? About you becoming immortal?"

Sheldon nodded slowly, uncertainly. "I… believe so."

Penny immediately grabbed his hand; it was stiff, completely tense. She ignored that fact, smiling. "See? This isn't so bad, right? Germs aren't that bad- "

"False!" he squawked out, horrified. "Germs are the precursor to death! This irrational acceptance of germs may doom a large percentage of our population. People fear guns with an unmatched intensity, which kill many fewer people in a single year than germs. Germs are man's scourge! The history of our species is stained with incidents, citing that fact. The most well-known example is The Bubonic Plague, colloquially known as The Black Death, which nearly eradicated half of the entire European population in the 14th century…"

She just listened as he talked, occasionally asking a question or two as she guided him back to their building. She didn't really understand what Sheldon was talking about, especially when he started ranting about something to do with evolution, but what she did know is that his hand relaxed in hers the further they walked. He never once tried to let go; he even started to unconsciously squeeze back.

Progress was being made.

XxXxXxXxXxX

"Sheldon's dating Penny," Leonard informed immediately when Raj and Howard entered the apartment.

Howard laughed as the door shut. "I see you had a great time last night, able to crack jokes. Man, I gotta thank Sheldon. That girl I was with, woah. She definitely- "

He interrupted, "I wasn't joking. Sheldon and Penny are dating. He told me this morning."

Raj's mouth gaped like a fish. "What? Are you sure?"

"Penny confirmed it when she came over."

"Wait. Sheldon has a deal?" Howard whispered, thunderstruck. "That's impossible."

"He's broken from his programming!" Raj whispered fiercely, looking around the apartment and Leonard instinctively knew that he was looking to see if Sheldon appeared out of thin air like a demon. "He must have bought an add-on!"

Howard's eyes were horrified, bulging from their sockets, face a terrified mass of sheer hysteria. "Now I know why there was blood pouring from my faucets this morning! Armageddon is upon us! Sheldon's the new Loki! He's the harbinger! It's like the Norse Ragnarök!"

"Don't say his name!" Raj hissed out, eyes wide. "He may appear, thinking we were summoning him via a chant. There may be a hidden pentagram on the floor. You-know-who might have- "

Leonard rolled his eyes, although he could understand their hysteria. "It's fine. He's not here right now. He went out with Penny."

"But he could still appear at any moment! We can't say his name!"

"The only way he's coming in here is through the front door."

Raj looked at Howard, alarmed. "The doorway might be a portal to a netherworld. To a dimension of fire and death!"

"To Hell?" Leonard asked flatly.

"Yes!"

"Quick!" Howard cried out. "Call his cell phone! We'll know if he's hiding and attempting to ambush us! You know his number, right?"

Raj whipped out his phone. "6-6-6!"

"Enough!" Leonard called out. "Nobody's calling Sheldon. I just told you, he's with Penny. He's not gonna become a demon or something with her around."

Howard finally began to calm down. "But it's Sheldon. He doesn't do spontaneous."

"I know. When Penny asked him to go out to do something with her, she learned that." Leonard paused, feeling an internal delight when both Raj and Howard eagerly leaned forward. "Pretty much, she took a sledgehammer to it."

Raj gasped. "Did Sheldon break up with her?"

Howard rolled his eyes. "Of course not. Leonard said Sheldon is dating her, not that he was dating her."

Raj flushed. "Dude, it's Sheldon."

Howard nodded. "True."

"So, what did Penny say? How did she take a sledgehammer- "

"She said he needs to get out more to see the universe he loves so much. When he resisted, she said, and I quote, 'Well, you have to come down from Olympus sometime to learn to talk and live with us mortals, right?' Sheldon was delighted by the comparison that he's a superior being."

Silence.

"Why haven't we tried that?" Howard asked, dumbfounded. "Surely we could've thought of something like that."

"It's Sheldon," Raj said simply. "Dude, we see him too much as it is. Why do we want him going out more with us?"

"True."

Leonard cut in, "To which Sheldon replied, 'I must show my inferior brethren the way.' Then he started talking about how he is the superior being, a prime case of deification for his intelligence could equate to Athena's. He wondered if Zeus was actually the best example instead of Athena, but then he remembered that Prometheus tricked Zeus and stole fire from Olympus. That led to him talking about how Athena influenced the Greeks to achieve victory in the Trojan War and how, if he is to follow her example, he must influence humanity. Thankfully, Penny then interrupted him and dragged him out of the apartment. That was an hour ago."

"And Penny didn't run away?" Raj asked in disbelief. "Why?"

"Based on last night, Sheldon speaking 'nerd' must be a turn on for her," Howard mused. "Huh. Maybe if I start talking that way, she'd- "

Raj snorted. "There's no way you'll out-'nerd' Sheldon."

"True. But isn't it strange?" Howard asked, finally sitting down on the couch, Raj following his lead. "It seems that Penny's a lot smarter than we thought. Somehow, she knew that if she provoked his arrogance by knowingly equating him to a superior being, he'd comply a lot easier. It took us years to learn that. It seems like she learned it in a few weeks."

"By using a twist of logic, she got him to easily do what she wanted," Raj breathed out. "Which was to go out with her. We clearly underestimated her. Maybe she is the superior being - a goddess. She is radiant in her looks and has intelligence. Why couldn't it have been me to beguile that goddess?"

Leonard raised a brow. "Because you can't even talk to her?"

"Oh. Good point."

Howard suddenly paled. "Soon, she'll be the master. What if she turns Sheldon against us? She'll have all the power. We must start taking notes from her, observing and then mimicking what she does. Alleviating the threat- "

Leonard shook his head, feeling a peace settle in his heart. "Some instinct, call it primitive, tells me that only Penny will ever be able to achieve such success with Sheldon."

Before either could respond, the door opened and both Sheldon and Penny entered.

"Hey, guys," Penny greeted, closing the door while Sheldon went straight to the bathroom to probably wash his hands, Leonard would guess. "What are you guys talking about?"

Leonard glanced at Howard, who stared at her in sick fascination. "That you're dating Sheldon."

"It's true. Blew my socks off, but it's working so far. It's making sense, you know?"

"No, we don't know," Howard breathed out. "How does it make sense? It's Sheldon! You must have tampered with his programming somehow." Raj suddenly whispered something in Howard's ear and Howard nodded eagerly. "Exactly. It must be your radiance- " he cut himself off, glaring back at Raj. "Radiance? Really? How about hotness? It has to be hotness because that same hotness tampered with Sheldon's programming! Also, the party must have stimulated him beyond his normal parameters, and ever since, he's been short-circuiting."

Before Penny could respond, Sheldon reappeared and strode towards his desk to look at his computer.

Penny smiled hesitantly. "I'm just going to ignore that because I don't know if I should be flattered or insulted. Listen, I'm sorry that the party was kind of awkward last night. I mean, I'm not sorry about Kurt showing up because it led to me dating Sheldon, but- "

Howard immediately jumped to his feet, almost running towards Penny, a huge grin on his face. "If that's all it took for you to see the worth in dating one of us, I could have easily challenged that guy myself."

"False," Sheldon informed, still not looking at any of them, now seated at his desk. "You possess the integrity of a paramecium."

Howard's grin vanished and he sputtered as Raj placed a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "Tha- you're the paramecium, Sheldon."

Even Leonard winced and saw Penny do the same, hiding a laugh. That was a lame comeback.

Sheldon spun around in his chair and Leonard knew that the only thing missing was the cat to complete the evil villain look. "Again, false. I loathe repeating myself, Howard."

"Yeah? I loathe being called a paramecium!"

"People are displeased to hear the truth, for it shatters their delusions about the world and themselves. Do you know who I am paraphrasing?"

Leonard took the bait, "Who?"

"Nietzsche. In my experience, his observation is true. Penny's intellect-atrophied ex-boyfriend would not have fled if what I observed was not true. It is replicated in Howard's- "

"Sheldon, be nice," Penny warned. "Why don't you keep working on The Relationship Agreement?"

Sheldon's eyes brightened and he looked delighted, spinning back around in his chair. "Affirmative. It shall take me precisely thirty minutes."

Penny sat on the cushion next to Sheldon's spot. "Take all the time you need, sweetie."

"You're gonna let him make a Relationship Agreement?" Howard asked in disbelief.

Penny shrugged. "You gotta pick your battles, you know? I have bigger fish to fry. Plus, he said I can 'posit amendments.' The contracts help him, so I'm okay with it."

Leonard leaned forward in his chair. "Well, I recommend trying to get rid of the three-strike system."

"A futile endeavor you are attempting, Leonard," Sheldon suddenly said from where he was typing away at his computer. "I will not rescind your strikes."

Penny raised an eyebrow while Leonard groaned. "Three-strike system?"

Howard grumbled, "Yeah. If you get three strikes, you have to take a class and all he does is tell you all of the ways you've disappointed him."

Leonard nodded in agreement while Penny was clearly listening intently. "Yes. The entire thing is- "

"Rational," Sheldon supplied from his position, still facing the computer.

Leonard glared at his back. "Extreme."

"Balanced."

"Childish."

"Structured."

"... Crass."

"Baroque."

"Never mind!" he cried out, wondering why he bothered to verbally spar with Sheldon. He always lost. Leonard looked back at Penny with a tight smile. "Maybe you'll have better luck."

Penny stared at Sheldon's back with a speculative gaze. "I think I will."

Raj whispered something in Howard's ear and Howard rolled his eyes. "Raj thinks the three-strike system is elegant and wishes more people would implement its use."

Sheldon perked up in his seat, but he still continued to type away. "I agree, Rajesh, but your blatant sycophancy will not rescind the strike you have incurred."

Penny pursed her lips while Raj sulked. "Huh. I might have my work cut out for me."

"You think?" Howard asked sarcastically. "You sure know how to pick 'em. You know, you can still make a different selection. If you pick me- "

"I think I'd be too hugely distracted by the fact that every other man in the world is dead."

Howard's eyes lit up. "So, there's a chance?"

Penny sighed. "You don't give up, do you?"

"I don't know how." Howard shrugged in what he clearly thought was a suave manner, but his shoulders jerked unevenly. "It's not in my D.N.A., you know? The sting of rejection is nonexistent. It just happens so fast that- "

"I bet that's what happened when you took Jill home last night," Penny drawled. "It all just happened so fast. Too fast."

Howard flushed and chuckled awkwardly. "Well, we were kind of drunk- "

"I'm not having this conversation with you," Penny interrupted adamantly before looking towards Sheldon's back. "Sheldon, you know your three-strike system? I don't agree with it."

Leonard inhaled sharply and all eyes watched as Sheldon stopped typing. Then he achingly turned around in his chair, electric eyes meeting Penny's. "That is unacceptable."

Penny frowned. "Why do you think it's needed?"

"How else does one learn to better their egregious conduct?"

"Apparently, it hasn't worked for Leonard, Raj, and Howard," Penny said bluntly, shooting them apologetic looks. "If it won't work for them, it won't work for me."

Sheldon peered at her, eyebrows furrowed. "I do not understand."

Penny was quiet for several moments, contemplative. "Well, how would you feel if I gave you strikes?"

"An excellent proposal, Penny."

"Well, that didn't work like I thought it would," she muttered before shaking her head. "Then can strikes be… backdated?"

While surprised that Penny knew that word, Leonard stared at Sheldon with bated breath.

"I suppose," Sheldon pondered. "It might aid you- "

"Then you already have four strikes since this morning," Penny informed, smiling.

Silence.

Leonard looked at Penny in horror and he wasn't the only one. Raj and Howard were tripping over themselves to get away from her, springing from the couch as if being near her was dangerous, and he couldn't blame them. Knowing Sheldon, anyone in Penny's vicinity would be fair game.

Sheldon stared at her, twitching. "What were my offenses?"

Penny twirled her hair with her fingers, looking innocent. "Well, when Maddie walked out of Leonard's room this morning- " Leonard tried to quell the pain over knowing that Maddie had fled at first light. "- you disappeared into your room instead of greeting her. Then, when I first came over after Maddie left, I had to remind you to compliment how I looked."

Howard grinned. "I'll need no such reminders- "

"Shut up. Then you called Maddie Leonard's conquest- " Penny cut herself off, turning to glare at the abruptly terrified Raj and Howard. "We'll be having words, believe me. And don't worry, Raj. You won't need to talk."

Raj swallowed and clutched at Howard's arm, eyes bulging from their sockets; he whispered in Howard's ear.

Howard's jaw quivered. "Raj said that he apologies for his… egregious conduct - and I do, too! We- we didn't mean anything by it. You know, it's just what guys say!"

Penny didn't look convinced but turned back to Sheldon. "Where was I?"

"You switched your attention to Wolowitz and Koothrappali when you mentioned my third strike," Sheldon notified stiffly. "The term 'conquest.'"

Penny beamed and it made Leonard's heart beat faster. "Thanks, sweetie. That's right. So that's three. And then after we left, you said that my choice to go to the mall was absurd because, and I quote, 'only the mediocrity venture to and loiter in such a cesspit.'"

Leonard wondered if Penny was beginning to see the hazards in dating Sheldon, but based on her expression, she wasn't angry; she actually looked amused, confident, triumphant.

"I understand," Sheldon said quietly, twitching violently. Leonard was amazed he hadn't fled to his room in sheer outrage. "I see we must compromise. What is your proposal?"

"No three-strike system," Penny said firmly. "No strikes at all. If we mess up or… make a mistake, then we'll tell each other. There's no point in keeping track of our mistakes. I mean… it'd be like the Nazis burning all those books in Last Crusade: Pointless, and like what Leonard said earlier, crass."

Just like that, Leonard knew that Penny had gotten to Sheldon. Her elegant reference to Indiana Jones had sealed the deal.

Sheldon nodded, turning back to his computer. "Very well."

Despite himself, Leonard wasn't the only one amazed.

Howard's jaw dropped. "Sheldon, are you okay?"

"Affirmative. Why?"

"Because with all of that sucking up you just did by abolishing the three-strike system solely for Penny, I was afraid that you had burst a lung or something."

Sheldon turned back around, frowning. "Sucking up?"

Howard faltered. "You know, being a kiss-ass?"

"A sycophant?"

"Yes," Leonard supplied when Howard looked confused.

"Ahh, I understand." Sheldon clasped his hands together. "An excellent jest. I shall parry: Are you feeling okay, Howard?"

"I feel- "

"Bazinga. I do not care."

Leonard closed his eyes, knowing that some things would never change, regardless of Penny's influence.

XxXxXxXxXxX

That's it. I hope that you all enjoyed it.

Stay Safe
ButtonPusher

Chapter Text

Thank you for the reviews. I appreciate it.

Disclaimer: I do not own  The Big Bang Theory  or any of the characters therein.

XxXxXxXxXxX

It shouldn't have surprised her. Honestly, she was expecting it to happen sooner, but now, as she stared at Sheldon's passive face, Penny felt anger brim in her mind; she felt slapped in the face.

"What did you say?" she demanded, eyes narrowed. "Because it couldn't be what I think it was."

Sheldon blinked. "I sense I committed a misstep."

"You think?"

"False. I said, 'sense.' Are your ears functioning correctly? This is the second time in mere seconds where you fail to comprehend what I have remarked."

Penny closed her eyes, calling upon all the patience she could muster; it wasn't much. "I was being sarcastic."

"Penny, I loathe sarcasm. It is the lowest form of wit."

"Sheldon," she murmured dangerously. "Are you insulting me?"

"I am comparing- "

"Never mind!"

"Uh, Penny," Leonard said hesitantly, and Penny glared at him, watching him meekly gesture to their surroundings. "Everyone's watching."

Penny exhaled roughly, suddenly aware of all the eyes in The Cheesecake Factory watching them. "Is that all I can get you?"

Sheldon frowned from his spot at their assigned table. "Penny, it is customary of- "

"Oh, you're so lucky that I said there'd be no strikes," she hissed out through clenched teeth. "You'd be working yours off for a year! And it's only been three days!"

"I do not understand."

Her anger spiked. "Because you're insane!"

"False. My mother once mistakenly thought the same. She had me tested."

"Then she should have done it again! Clearly, the results were wrong."

"Sarcasm?"

"No!"

"Fascinating," Sheldon commented, nonplussed by her anger; instead, the jackass looked intrigued. "You are of the same mindset that my mother was. Thrice, she demanded me to be tested, and each time, I aptly demonstrated my sanity and intellect."

Penny inhaled slowly and smiled tightly, gripping her pad with shaking hands. "Your food will be out shortly. If you'll excuse me, I think there's a mess in the kitchen. Which is apparently where I belong!"

With that, she stormed away, anger and disbelief and hurt coursing through her.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Leonard shook his head in disbelief. "Unbelievable. I don't know how you do it."

Sheldon stared at him, clearly bemused. "Elaborate."

"We don't know how you hold onto her!" Howard exploded, hands flying into the air; he looked in awe. "If I said that to her, she'd castrate me!"

"I think if you said that, Penny's reaction would stem more from it being you rather than what you said," Raj pointed out, taking a sip from his drink. "On the other hand, if I said that to her- "

"Hell would have frozen over," Howard snapped. "Newsflash! You can't talk to her! And I wouldn't say it for you if you whispered it in my ear."

"But we made a pact," Raj protested.

Leonard cut in, rolling his eyes. "Sheldon, you can't say that to her."

Sheldon blinked innocently, and Leonard wondered how his friend had survived in the world this long. "What was my misstep?"

Raj's jaw dropped. "Dude, you said that she belongs in the kitchen."

"False. When Penny began speaking about a wristwatch she wished to procure from a store, she lamented that it could become stained with food while she works, so she did not purchase it. I reminded her that it is customary for clocks to be situated on stoves, thus nullifying the need for a wristwatch at work. Waitresses pass into the kitchen approximately every four minutes, providing ample opportunities for Penny to observe the time."

Leonard sighed. "Well, that's not how she took it. All you said was, 'There is a clock situated on the stove.' She thought you were in 1950."

"Impossible. A functional time machine has yet- "

"I meant your mindset," he corrected tiredly. "To Penny, it sounded like the only job she could ever get was working in the kitchen, serving men or something."

Sheldon looked flabbergasted. "While Penny's intelligence is much inferior to my own, I never expected such a case of miscommunication to affect us. Perhaps I overestimated her capabilities."

Leonard groaned and put his head in his hands, wondering how he could have possibly lost his chance with Penny because of Sheldon - Sheldon!

Howard perked up. "If you're thinking about dumping her, I'll definitely take her off your hands."

"Dumping her?"

Raj translated, "Terminating your Relationship Agreement."

"Why would I wish to terminate The Relationship Agreement?"

Leonard glanced at Sheldon, removing his hands from his face. "Isn't that what you just implied? You said you overestimated Penny's intelligence."

"It is perhaps possible that I have overestimated her intelligence, but based on past encounters between Penny and myself, our unique dynamic, there must be extenuating circumstances for Penny's irrational reaction," Sheldon explained, completely unaffected. "Arguments are permitted in our Relationship Agreement. Penny demanded it, and after consideration, I agreed."

Howard leaned forward, a sick fascination on his face. "Really? You want to argue? Does it… turn you on? I mean, arouse you?"

Before Sheldon could respond, and Leonard did and didn't want to hear his response, Penny reappeared, a blatant fake smile on her beautiful but flushed face, holding a tray with their food. "Here's your meals."

"Penny, it is obvious that the current year is not 1950," Sheldon abruptly said, eyes locked onto Penny. "If you mistakenly believe it is 1950, as Leonard remarked, then- "

"That's not what I said," Leonard groaned out, smiling apologetically at Penny. "Sorry, I just tried to- "

"What are you talking about?" Penny demanded, fire in her eyes.

Sheldon tilted his head. "You misunderstood my reasoning behind my observation."

Penny smiled - it was all teeth. Leonard saw Howard and Raj cower, and honestly, he wasn't much better. "I think I understood just fine."

"False. When you began speaking about a wristwatch you wished to procure from a store, you lamented that it could become stained with food while you work, so you did not purchase it. I reminded you that it is customary for clocks to be situated on stoves, thus nullifying the need for a wristwatch at work. Waitresses pass into the kitchen approximately every four minutes, providing ample opportunities for you to observe the time."

Silence.

"Oh, sweetie, I'm so sorry," Penny rushed out, eyes wide, all signs of her anger vanishing; they were replaced by embarrassment and relief. "It's just… it's been a really long day. And I've heard guys say that in here before, and my old boyfriends, and… I wasn't thinking. I'm sorry."

Sheldon blinked. "All days are the same in length- "

"Colloquialism."

"Ahh. Would you like a hot, refreshing beverage?"

Howard finally gained his courage. "She can get one if she frees her hands by giving us our food."

Penny immediately handed out their meals. "Sorry. I was just- "

"Not thinking, although impossible," Sheldon supplied, and Leonard almost feared another argument, seeing Raj and Howard fearing one as well, but he was surprised when Penny laughed.

"Yeah, I wasn't," she said, eyes soft, focused solely on Sheldon. Leonard wished she'd look at him like that, but he knew it was pointless. While he was working towards making peace with Penny choosing Sheldon, he still had a way to go. He was only human. "I've had enough of the coffee today. I'll pass on the hot beverage, okay?"

Sheldon, for reasons Leonard couldn't determine, looked delighted. "Did you intentionally create your rhyming couplet?"

Penny blinked and paused before hesitantly nodding. "Yes?"

Leonard didn't call her out on her blatant lie, and thankfully, Howard was too hungry to care.

"Remarkable," Sheldon praised. "Clearly, I did not overestimate your capabilities. You may possess the talent of a poet. It may be a vocation in which you can find success."

"I'll keep that in mind," she said, glancing behind her. "Look, there's a table waving me down. I'll be back."

Then she was gone.

Sheldon began to eat his burger, and Leonard, while hungry, had to ask, "Do you realize how lucky you are? You get all the intelligence, and you get the hot girl."

"Are you currently associating yourself with the color green, Leonard?"

Leonard blinked before frowning. "I'm not jealous. Okay, maybe I am a little, but don't you realize how lucky you are?"

"Of course, he doesn't," Howard chortled out, mouth full of food. "He doesn't even believe in the concept of luck."

Sheldon nodded approvingly, swallowing his food before speaking. "Luck is a concept believed in only by the many vessels of mediocrity in the world. Believing in mere chance is irrational and a- "

"A 'squalor of one's intellect,'" Leonard finished, sighing. "We know. But how don't you see it? You wooed Penny!"

"Leonard's right," Raj said, wiping his mouth with a napkin. "You managed to beguile a goddess. I wish it was me. Maybe if I- "

Sheldon put down his burger, face serious. "I merely acted, and for every action, there is- "

"An equal and opposite reaction," Howard concluded, waving a finger at Sheldon. "I know Newtonian stuff, too, you know?"

"False. You are a mere engineer."

Howard glared. "And you're a mere pain in the ass. I don't know what Penny sees in you. Maybe she's not as smart as we thought."

"Why won't you admit that you got lucky, Sheldon?" Raj asked. "You got intelligence and the girl. You didn't ask for it."

"Of course not," Sheldon said, insulted, and Leonard gave up, finally eating his food. "I was born, and this is what I am. The genetic mutation and chromosomal alignment that resulted in my superior intelligence and perfect recall- "

"Was the luck of the draw!" Howard erupted, hands flying in the air, nearly smashing into his plate. "Can't you just admit that you got lucky?"

Penny suddenly reappeared. "Got lucky with what?"

Howard turned towards her before Sheldon could speak. "That Sheldon got you! That he got his- "

"Well, I am quite the catch, aren't I?" Penny grinned, stepping closer to Sheldon's seated form, and Leonard waited for the order for her to step away, but it never came. "Maybe luck had something to do with it, maybe it didn't. I'm not smart enough to know the difference."

Sheldon perked up. "I can offer assistance- "

"Sweetie, when I said I'm not smart enough, I kind of meant that I don't care enough to know the difference."

"But that is- "

Penny frowned. "If you say irrational, I'll get angry all over again."

"- illogical."

"Semantics isn't gonna save you."

"Conceptual or lexical?"

"Oh, I'm getting angry."

Sheldon deflated, and Leonard nearly groaned, wishing he could have that level of success with Sheldon. He inherently knew that Sheldon did have a deal; it had to be that Penny's visual appeal was so great that he yearned for her companionship, so he was willing to let certain matters slide that he wouldn't for anyone else.

He still remembered his roommate rightly calling Penny feminine perfection.

"Plus, saying that it's all luck makes it seem that we don't have a choice," Penny said in consideration, eyebrows furrowed. "I made a choice and Sheldon made a choice. To just say it's luck is… well, actually, irrational."

"I concur with Penny," Sheldon informed.

Howard rolled his eyes. "We'll try to contain our shock."

"Sarcasm?"

Penny smiled. "Good job."

Sheldon nodded, looking pleased. "It is my superior intellect."

"I'm sure it is."

"Sarcasm?"

Penny's eyebrows rose, surprised. "No."

Sheldon deflated again. "Oh."

"You'll get the hang of it eventually. That giant brain of yours has to do something." Penny smiled apologetically. "I've got to get back. I can feel the daggers in my back coming from my manager."

Leonard noticed that Sheldon's eyes widened, shocked. "Daggers? Danger!" He started wildly looking for the manager. "Danger!"

"No, no!" Penny shushed, panicked, eyes wide. Leonard didn't even try to interrupt and Howard and Raj simply ate their food, well-used to being embarrassed by Sheldon. "No, it's okay. It's jus- it was a colloquialism."

Sheldon immediately calmed, looking disgruntled. "I disapprove of such expressions. They are most irritating and vexing. Completely irrational."

Penny sighed. "Sorry. I guess I should've spoken more carefully. You take things literally."

"How else does one comprehend information?"

"Um… figuratively?"

Sheldon clasped his hands in front of him and Leonard groaned, prepared for a lecture. "There is no measure by which to determine- "

Penny easily interrupted, backing away. "Sorry, I gotta go. Enjoy your food."

Then she was gone again.

"Dude, she's got your number," Raj immediately said. "I don't even think we have your number like that."

Howard swallowed a bite of food. "We don't."

Sheldon frowned. "Penny already has my phone number. To what are you referring?"

Leonard felt a pressure start to build behind his eyes. "It was… another colloquialism. And before you start: Yes, colloquialisms are irritants and wholly vexing. We know."

"Then why have you not desisted from speaking in such adolescent terms?"

He gave up. "Oh, you totally got lucky."

XxXxXxXxXxX

Penny glanced at her phone when it rang and huffed in exasperation; it was her sister. She had been calling for the past several days, and Penny hadn't wanted to deal with her. Maybe it was the conversation with Sheldon about siblings, but something made Penny answer.

"Hey, Katie," she said, turning the volume down on the T.V. as she prepared herself. "Sorry I missed your calls. I was just about to call you."

"Save the excuses for someone who'd believe them, Pen."

She grit her teeth. "I answered, didn't I?"

"Mom was going off the other day and it made me think of you."

"Did you really call me just to bitch about Mom?"

"Call it repayment for all those years I listened to you bitch about her 'cause I was your big sister."

Penny rolled her head back into the cushion, feeling a pressure begin to build in her skull. "I don't know why I thought you might have something good to say for once."

"Maybe if you were here instead of the West Coast I'd share some good things," Katie snapped. "Because, believe me, there's great stuff. I've been having a damn good life since you jumped ship."

Anger rushed through her, and just like that, her inner bitch reared its ugly head; she shouldn't have been surprised. It's what always happened when she talked to Katie.

"You're pissed 'cause I did what you couldn't! I'm the one that had the courage. I left. And I never looked back. You wish you did what I did, but I'm the one that did it."

Katie inhaled roughly and Penny had the brief thought that she might hang up, but her sister spoke, "I wanna talk about Mom."

"What was it this time?" she asked, inner bitch retreating, fingers anxiously brushing through her hair. "She drive Dad to the bar again? What about Tommy? Make him run off with that stripper he calls a girlfriend again?"

"You remember who gave him that idea? You did after you ran off with Kurt, leaving us all to eat Omaha dust."

"You were talking about Mom," she reminded through clenched teeth.

"She's thinking about getting a divorce."

Penny sat up straight. "What? No, no, she wouldn't."

"Dad's been at the bar a lot lately."

"Because she drove him there!" she cried out, memories flooding her. She jumped to her feet and began to pace in front of the muted T.V., disbelief and rage warring for control. "That's all she's ever done! I guess we know who we get our bitchiness from - her!"

Katie was quiet for several moments. "It's not a done deal, but… don't be surprised if it happens. Mom thinks Dad's been going to that bar so much because he met someone. She thinks it's- "

"Then she's as blind as she is bitch-y," she hissed out. "And if that is true, it's because she ran him off."

"Must be a family trait or something," Katie mused, but the bitter anger peeked through. "Mom runs Dad off, you run away, Tommy runs away- "

"Aren't you a shining virtue or something?" Penny snapped, feeling the urge to throw her phone. "Is that what this is? You tryin' to rub your virtue or whatever in my face because you stayed there? Stayed with Mom and Dad?"

"At least I'm loyal!" Katie fired back, words echoing. "I've stayed by my man for years. Ricky and I have stuck together. Just as I've stuck with family. But you? You seemed to go through a new boy every week in high school! Then you run off with the king of the dumb crop in Kurt, fuckin' around to go to the West Coast to get away from Omaha and make it with those pretty-boy actors that probably have small packages!"

Penny gnashed her teeth together; her inner bitch thrashed and screamed in outrage. "Speaking of small packages, how is Ricky?"

"You bitch!"

"Takes one to know one, doesn't it?" she snapped, voice rising. "By the way, you still wearing those stupid heels that are a stand-in for your small boobs?"

Katie seemed to howl. "If mine are a stand-in, then what are yours?"

"Bigger!" Penny retorted fiercely. "And by the way, I'm done with my small package. Kurt and I are done."

"You gave up on the body that wouldn't quit?"

"It didn't have to quit; it was fired! I'm done with assholes. I've more than upgraded. I'm dating a Doctor now."

Katie scoffed. "Bullshit."

"Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D., Ph.D., S.T.U.D., and you can look him up if you don't believe me," she said slowly, making sure Katie understood every word. "That's right. He's got two Ph.D.s, and he's a total stud. You'll easily find him. He'll win the Nobel Prize someday; he's a genius. And what is Ricky? A deadbeat that can't even hold a job!"

"Fuck you, Pen. You know, when Mom was going off the other day, she was saying how you're such an ungrateful daughter and everything, and I didn't correct her when I should have! You're an ungrateful sister, too!"

Penny gasped. "You've always been jealous of me! That I was hotter, had prettier hair, bigger boobs, and a better ass! That I've started to make a life for myself! That I followed my dreams! That I dared to leave!" She twisted the knife even deeper, unable to stop; she didn't want to. "Meanwhile, you're stuck with deadbeats! Mom's one, and so is Ricky. You know what they say, right? You are who you hang around with. So, if you're always around deadbeats, what does that say about you, Katie?"

"Bitch!" Katie screamed before hanging up the phone.

Silence.

Penny was breathing heavily and collapsed back onto her couch, feeling buzzed. Glancing at the clock, she noted that it was nearly time for Halo, as outlined in Sheldon's schedule, and she figured that killing a bunch of things in a video game would do her a whole lot of good right now.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Sheldon observed Penny's flushed cheeks when he answered the door, feeling alarmed at the glow in her eyes; he immediately stretched his shirt to cover his nose and mouth. "Has your body succumbed to pathogens?"

Penny blinked. "Pathogens? Are you asking if I'm sick?"

"Affirmative."

"No. I was just talking to someone on the phone and I got a little worked up. But thanks for worrying."

Sheldon critically observed her for several moments before nodding curtly, allowing her to pass into the apartment; he released his shirt.

"So, you were on the phone, were you?" Wolowitz immediately asked, lips pulled back into a leer. "And it made you all hot and flushed and worked up. Interesting. Was it with- "

"If you finish that sentence, I'll punch you in the balls," Penny threatened and Sheldon nodded approvingly at the vernacular that Missy had said to him in their childhood; it never worked on him, but on the inferior Wolowitz, it would suffice.

"Excellent concision, Penny," he praised as he sat next to her on the couch, each in their assigned spots.

"Exactly." Penny continued to glare at Wolowitz. "I'd be doing the world a favor. And if you don't believe me, try me. 'Cause I'm angry enough to do it. I've dealt with enough shit today."

Sheldon cataloged the colloquialism in his mind and found the reference to a prior incident in which it was spoken, comprehending the meaning of what she remarked. According to The Relationship Agreement, the act of comforting was required.

Thus, Sheldon hesitantly placed a hand on her tense shoulder, patting and rubbing as his mother had instructed twenty-three years and two-hundred eighty-one days ago. "There, there. Would you like a hot, refreshing beverage?"

Penny smiled softly. "Sweetie, that's really sweet and all, but right now, I just want to kill something."

Sheldon brightened. "Activate Halo, Leonard!"

XxXxXxXxXxX

Penny grinned and laughed in elation when she killed Howard for what she guessed was the hundredth time. "You guys suck!"

"They are in possession of poor hand-eye coordination," Sheldon agreed next to her; they were crushing them. She hadn't expected to have so much fun; it was pretty awesome. "It is most puzzling considering their numerous 'gaming experiences.'"

"They're just not 'superior' like we are," she said, quoting him with a smile.

"But we have perfectly functional ears, you know?" Leonard reminded, and she felt a little guilty. "I mean, we're right here."

"Yes!" Howard cried out, pointing at the T.V. "We gotta move! You're just standing there! No wonder they're killing us!"

Leonard stood to his feet, dropping the controller in Raj's hands. "No, I'm done. I can take a lot, but being murdered over fifty times isn't one I'll take."

Penny felt Sheldon shake his head in disapproval, but she was focused on the screen, hunting Howard; she was so close. "How else does one adapt- "

"By knowing when to quit!" Howard yelled, flailing as Penny killed him again. "That's it. I'm done, too. At least the teams used to kind of be fair, but now, it's murder."

She looked at them, unimpressed. "We can't help it. You guys just suck. If you can't handle it, then leave."

Howard perked up, eyes gleaming at her; she immediately knew where his mind had headed. "Was that the plan? Your phone conversation made you so hot and bothered that you want to be alone with Sheldon? You want us to leave you two alone?" His eyebrows wiggled suggestively. "Maybe perform a little missionary?"

Penny stared at him, eyes narrowed, and placed a hand on Sheldon's arm when she saw him about to speak, probably to ask what missionary meant. Maybe even ask what Howard was talking about as a whole. "First of all, I'm surprised you even know what that is. If I didn't, unfortunately, know better, going by the way you dress, I'd think you were a virgin."

"I'm not a- "

"And second of all," she easily interrupted, steamrolling him, "I'm not ruled by my hormones like I'm sure you think I am. I know how to control myself or whatever. It's you who'd probably do it with anything that moves."

Howard grinned. "I don't care if they're moving."

She reeled back, face twisting. "You're disgusting. And you wonder why you can't find a girl to stay with you, there it is. That, and your fashion sense."

Leonard groaned, rubbing his eyes. "I can't listen to any of this anymore. I'm leaving."

Raj nodded eagerly and stood, mute, but Howard shrugged, following suit. "Well, we're just doing what Penny wants us to. She wants some alone time with Sheldon."

"To what are you referring?" Sheldon finally demanded, words tumbling past his lips in a rush; she was surprised he had remained silent for so long.

Leonard grabbed Howard by the arm. "Nothing. We're leaving. Maybe you and Penny can play Halo against each other. We'll be going to a bar."

Sheldon nodded in understanding. "Ahh, I see. You wish to obtain coitus."

"Who doesn't?" Howard asked as the door opened. "Penny's thinking like we do!"

Penny rolled her eyes. "If I ever thought like you, I'd blow my brains out. I'm not gross like you are."

"But I bet you are in the bedroom!" Howard cackled and she briefly wondered if he was drunk; he was resisting Raj's tug on his arm. "All the sex must be amazing. Right, Sheldon?"

Sheldon blinked. "Forgive me, Howard. I failed to comprehend what you remarked, for your penis was producing such feeble resonance."

After taking a moment to translate that to something she could understand, Penny laughed, nodding her head in agreement.

"Your incessant folderol is unacceptable," Sheldon continued. "You have obtained your first strike."

"Fine. But none of this makes sense!" Howard threw his arms into the air. "I'm an engineer- "

"A mere engineer," Sheldon corrected, nonplussed.

Howard glared and Penny sighed, watching as a stand-off commenced. "An engineer."

Sheldon peered at Howard. "In which dominance display seen in Nature do you wish to partake? The baring of one's teeth, the pounding of the chest, or the uncovering of the genitals?"

Leonard groaned, looking up at the doorway. "Oh, here we go."

Penny laughed. "He won't want to expose himself. He'd definitely lose, wouldn't he?"

Howard stood taller. "I'll have you know that I'm well-endowed! Better than anyone, too. Matter of fact, mine's tucked in my sock right now. It's like I have a third leg; it's the envy of all- "

"Are you referring to your penis?"

"Yes."

Sheldon leaned forward, lecture face on. "False and impossible. When erect, your- "

Penny quickly interrupted, wishing she hadn't said anything. "What did you mean by you were an engineer? Was there a point to that?"

"Of course," Howard said, insulted. "But someone had to- "

"Spit it out," she commanded.

Howard pointed at her and Sheldon. "There has to always be structural integrity! But you two? You have no structural integrity!"

"We're building it," Penny defended. "We're gonna have some kick-ass structural integrity. We only just started dating. I was getting tired of assholes like Kurt, okay? Sheldon's not an asshole."

Leonard snorted but didn't say anything.

Raj leaned over to whisper in Howard's ear and Howard nodded in agreement. "Raj says to hold off on making such an assessment. I have to agree."

"A flawed premise," Sheldon commented. "Your findings are skewed with an irrational sentiment."

"Whatever."

Penny jumped in, "Besides, you don't even know what it's like, Howard. You've never had a girlfriend, have you?"

Howard puffed out his non-existent chest. "I've had plenty of girlfriends. In fact, when I get tired of my girlfriends- "

"Your fake girlfriends," she interrupted.

"- and if the sex isn't good- "

"That problem comes from your end."

Howard glared at her. "- then I dump her and get a better one. Or I just get a mistress."

Penny raised a brow. "Via an agency?"

Before Howard could respond, Leonard finally yanked him out of the doorway with an apologetic smile. "This is stupid. And sorry about him. We'll see you guys later. Or maybe not. Anyway, have fun."

Then they were gone.

"I don't know how you deal with him," she muttered, shaking her head. "You're totally right. His penis is what's talking all the time. That was a good one."

Sheldon peered at her. "Elaborate."

She smiled, thinking back to what he had called it the other day. "It was a good jest."

"I concur. I thought it beneficial to remind him of his inferiority, for he persistently submits to his piteous, primitive impulses."

Penny snorted. "Oh, you have a way with words, Sheldon."

"Of course. I am a genius. My grasp and command of the English language- "

Sensing a rant, she quickly changed the subject. "My sister called me earlier. That's who I talked to on the phone."

"She provoked your angered disposition?"

"Yeah."

"I see. Would you like a hot, refreshing beverage?"

Penny tilted her head, something clicking in her mind. "Did someone teach you that? To ask someone if they would like a hot, refreshing beverage when they've had a bad day or are feeling sad or something?"

"Affirmative."

"Who?"

"My mother."

She nodded. "Well, she knows those social cues. But for me, I like a glass of wine a lot better than coffee or tea." She blatantly batted her eyelashes, although she was sure it wouldn't affect him - at least right now. "I could use some of that good wine that you drink, Sheldon."

Sheldon stiffened. "No one is permitted to- "

"But I'm your girlfriend," she reminded, patient. "And I've had a bad day. I had to talk to my sister. Drinking some good wine would help 'heal' my trauma."

He twitched. "My collection of wine- "

"You have a collection?" she demanded, not sure what she was so surprised. "Where?"

"In a compartment in my room- "

"Oh, is that why no one's allowed in your room? You're afraid they'll steal your valuable bottles of wine?"

"False. My bedroom is my sanctum, a place where I am at my most vulnerable, thus- "

"Because you're sleeping?"

"Affirmative."

Penny got back to the issue at hand. "Why can't I have some of your wine, Sheldon? It would mean a lot to me. You don't want me to get angry, do you?"

Sheldon's eyes brightened with delight. "An excellent allusion to The Hulk, Penny. In the spirit of B.F. Skinner, I shall reward you through positive reinforcement."

She blinked, processing that, trying to translate it into something understandable. "So… you'll let me drink some of your wine?"

"Affirmative."

"Oh, how gracious of you," she gasped out. "Let me just commit this moment to memory. After waiting for so long to have the chance- "

"I was not aware that your cognitive aptitude allowed you to record- "

"Sarcasm, sweetie."

XxXxXxXxXxX

The wine was amazing.

Penny was certain that she needed to have a lot more shit days or conversations with her sister so that Sheldon would 'permit her access to his collection.' Maybe she could try to add an amendment to The Relationship Agreement that would help her have more of the wine, but she wasn't about to push her luck.

She'd try it later. But until then, she'd be stuck with the cheap wine that, when compared to Sheldon's awesome ones, tasted like Satan's piss.

On second thought, maybe she would try her luck...

"Penny, according to social protocols and The Relationship Agreement, I must ask if you wish to speak about your traumatic experience with your sister."

She took a small sip of her wine, savoring it, smiling at him. "You don't have to do that."

"But I am required to. I am superior. Thus, I must always act in accordance with all systems relevant, which only I can accomplish. No one matches my superiority."

Penny stared at him, wondering if she would ever meet someone as arrogant as him. "I don't want to get angry again."

Sheldon nodded. "Your anger is impressive. It reminds me of my mother. When enraged, you resemble a fierce, vengeful Valkyrie."

"Is that a compliment?"

"Affirmative."

"Good boy," she praised, raising a wicked brow. "Maybe I should reward you."

Sheldon perked up and she gleefully wondered if he understood her meaning. "Through what method of positive reinforcement were you contemplating?"

"Sex."

Penny almost groaned when Sheldon looked disappointed - disappointed! Wasn't that a first? Never before would she have ever thought that a guy could look disappointed at the possibility of having sex.

Talk about a paradox - Sheldon hates paradoxes!

"While you are the blatant incarnation of feminine perfection, coitus remains prohibited."

She blinked and then beamed. Maybe she was closer to getting through to him than she thought. The incarnation of feminine perfection? It didn't get much better than that.

"Alright, alright," she conceded, feeling a high at his compliment. "So, what do you want to talk about?"

"According to social protocols and The Relationship Agreement, I must ask if you wish to speak about your traumatic experience with your sister."

Penny rolled her eyes. "Sweetie, you already asked, and it's fine if you don't want to."

"You failed to remark that you did not want to speak of it."

Damn his geniusness.

She sighed, taking a bigger sip of her wine. "Well, she's been calling for several days and I finally answered. I don't know why I did. I learned that my parents may be getting a divorce."

"I offer you my condolences."

"Thanks. But that's not what got me upset, not really. My mom and dad have always fought a lot. She drives him to the bar all the time. It was Katie that got me mad. We fought like we always do. We're always fighting. Always yelling, and every time, it always ends in either one of us hanging up on the other."

"What was the subject of your quarrel?"

"Girl stuff. It's always the same. She's pissed that I left home, and that I'm way hotter than she is. And she's always held the fact that she's older over my head. There's no winning with her."

Sheldon peered at her. "You are the youngest of your siblings as I am."

"What's your point?"

"Are you aware of the adage, 'Third time is the charm?'"

Penny blinked before a slow smile spread across her lips. "Are you talking about superiority?"

"Affirmative. My Memaw remarked that to me when I once felt similar. We are paradigms of superiority, and it was not until the third attempt that the commingling of our parents' genetic material produced such superiority."

She laughed and felt lighter. "That was the right thing to say." She wanted to reward him in the bedroom but just settled for patting his hand, which he didn't pull away. "Good job. And thanks."

"Do you wish me to educate your inferior sister on your superiority?"

A snort escaped her. "That'd probably just make it worse."

"Then how are we to solve your predicament?"

"The 'predicament' of what exactly?"

"Your sister's idiocy."

"Some people can't be cured."

Sheldon nodded, staring at her appraisingly; he was actually smiling slightly! "Well said, Penny. You have correctly alluded to Einstein."

Penny frowned, totally taken aback. She didn't remember even thinking about Einstein, let alone talking about him. "What are you talking about?"

He clasped his hands together. "Two things are infinite: The universe and human stupidity."

"What?"

"Einstein correctly observed that, and you correctly alluded to it."

She was quiet for several moments. "You know, just because Einstein says something doesn't mean it's true."

"False. Penny, you are aware of my distinct loathing for paradoxes. Why do you insist on positing them?"

Penny sighed, not sure why she had challenged him about Einstein. "Just wanted to see what you'd say."

"I am consistent in all things- "

"Okay. But it's fine, Sheldon. You don't need to call my sister. That's how she and I have always been. She's a bitch and I'm a bitch right back. We bring out the worst in each other. We get it from our mom."

"That is not a hereditary trait."

"She set an example and we followed it," she corrected, rolling her eyes. "Like, how your dad set an example by drinking alcohol which you later followed."

Sheldon shifted in his spot. "Only when I feel overwhelmed. My father, at his worst, consumed alcohol daily."

That painted a much broader picture of his childhood, and Penny nodded, taking several moments to think of what to say. "Well, you're superior to your old man, aren't you? You hardly ever need to drink, right?"

"Affirmative. I eclipsed my father long ago. It is rare when I succumb to the urge to drink alcohol."

"How do you… succumb to your other urges?" she asked, taking another sip of the wine, staring at him through her lashes. "Ones of a sexual nature?"

"I pleasure myself."

Penny, despite being prepared for a blunt reply, was still surprised. "So, it works like it's supposed to?"

"Pardon?"

"Your penis, it works like it's supposed to?"

"Affirmative. I can urinate and ejaculate. You have already questioned me on this subject. I loath repeating myself, Penny."

Feeling the mood vanish, she grumbled, "That was way too much information."

Sheldon tilted his head. "You asked- "

"I was kind of trying to seduce you," she huffed out. "I was starting at the beginner's level because I don't know what would happen if I started on the boss level. Although, maybe nothing would. You might not feel anything."

"As I reminded Leonard on Sunday, I am no harem eunuch. Arousing stimuli affects me, and as the incarnation of feminine perfection, your attempts at seduction would affect me."

Penny grinned, excited. "Would they blow your socks off?"

"Colloquialism?"

"Yeah. I mean, would it make your heart race super fast?"

"Perhaps."

"Would you feel so turned on- I mean, so aroused that you'd lose control?"

Sheldon frowned. "Of my mental faculties?"

"Sure. So full of lust that the only thing on your mind is sealing the deal." Penny paused when she noticed Sheldon's eyebrows furrow. "Or… ejaculation," she said, cringing at how callous and clinical it sounded.

"Ahh. Perhaps. I have yet to experience coitus, so I cannot accurately answer. Although, I must observe that I refuse to succumb to such impulses. I may not be affected."

Penny saw her opening, ignoring that last part. "So, why do you hate it - sex - so much if you've never tried it? I know we've kinda already talked about this, but you don't knock it until you try it. That's a colloquialism."

"Coitus consists of primitive impulses. Rational, balanced beings should never succumb to such piteous impulses."

Maybe she should have waited for a bigger opening.

"You are such a contradiction," she said, shaking her head in wonder. "You don't like sex because it's not 'rational,' but the only way you'll get those genius-prodigy kids is through sex. Plus, you can't say you don't like it when you haven't tried it. That's irrational!"

Sheldon looked like a child, sullenly nodding his head. "I am aware. It is a conundrum that has stolen many peaceful REM cycles from me."

Penny laughed in amazement and downed the rest of her wine. "Well, all I do know is that I'll try to blow your socks off when we get there, okay? I'll wear something that will make your brain short-circuit."

"Impossible."

"I know. But a girl can dream, right?" Penny's eyes widened and leaned forward, and she noticed that Sheldon didn't back away or even react at her closer proximity. Small victories. "Speaking of what I've been dreaming about doing, I get to dress you, pick out what you wear once a week, remember? It's in The Relationship Agreement."

"An amendment I still do not understand."

"It's a girl thing," she said quickly. "So, tomorrow we're going to go on a date and I'm going to pick out what you're going to wear. It's Anything Can Happen Thursday."

"The restaurant must meet my standards."

Penny had a feeling that she was going to regret it, but she shrugged. "Fine. But I still get to dress you. Wait. You have nice clothes, right?"

Sheldon looked insulted. "Of course."

She sighed in relief. "Good. 'Cause I was thinking- "

"I am currently wearing my nicest pair of pants."

Penny stared at his plaid pants, horrified.

She was doomed.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Thankfully, Sheldon's opinion on which pair of his pants is the best was opinion-based. When Penny had forced his way into his room, ignoring his squawks of protest, she found a pair of unworn blue jeans with the tags still on. She suspected they were from his mother or sister.

"Let me tell you something, this is your best pair of pants." She waved them at him. "Take it from a woman."

"A mistaken woman," Sheldon corrected sullenly.

Penny rolled her eyes. "Don't be such a baby. Tomorrow, you're wearing those jeans. And…" She observed his closet, trying to find something suitable. There! She grabbed the dress shirt. "And then this shirt. That's it. Okay? You can throw on superhero socks or underwear underneath if you want, but wear the shirt and jeans."

Sheldon's eyes brightened. "My Superman socks will be perfect."

"Superman?"

"The Last Son of Krypton, Kal-El."

She closed her eyes briefly. "No. I know who Superman is. I meant, why Superman socks? Don't you have Batman socks or something?"

"Superman is my favorite superhero."

Penny raised her eyebrows. "Why?"

"He is superior to all humans, just as I am. He is of a superior race that values reason and logic. I have conducted numerous tests on myself through the years to determine if I am of the fictitious Kryptonian race with dampened superhuman attributes except for my superior intelligence, but my morale has been devastated each time when I only rediscover that I am human."

The urge to roll her eyes was super strong - pun intended! - but she barely kept from doing so. "You're just the gift that keeps on giving, aren't you? And before you ask, colloquialism." Penny laid out the shirt on his bed, next to the jeans. "Go ahead and wear Superman socks, but make sure you wear the shirt and jeans, okay? Don't forget."

"It is impossible for me to forget."

Penny grinned. That was another plus to having him as a boyfriend; he would never be able to weasel his way out of something by saying 'I forgot.'

She looked around his room. "Am I the first girl you've ever had in here?"

"False. My mother has been in my room."

"Am I the first girl you've had in your room that isn't part of your family."

"Affirmative."

"I'll make sure to put it in my diary."

"Sarcasm?"

Her smile curled across her lips. "Good job."

Sheldon nodded and she didn't fail to notice how he stood just a little taller. "It is an arduous process, but my superior intellect ensures I will learn the fundamentals to understanding sarcasm, despite it being the lowest form of wit."

Penny hoped that his superior intellect ensured he would learn the fundamentals of understanding why sex was amazing.

XxXxXxXxXxX

"Dude, Sheldon's on a date right now," Raj said, disbelief tangible. "What does that say?"

"That we're a bunch of losers who can't get any?" Howard guessed, sullen. "Not to mention it may be with the hottest girl any of us have ever seen."

Raj nodded. "She is a goddess."

"I just don't get it," Howard continued, disheartened. "I mean, why?"

"She must have gotten her fill of good-looking guys and wants a change."

"No, Raj. Moving on to Sheldon? That's not a change. That's insanity."

"More like a complete reversal," Leonard corrected, sighing as he rubbed his fingers across his jaw.

He was more concerned that Sheldon and Penny were out longer than had been expected. Knowing Sheldon, he could raise hell like no one else alive, so… he didn't know what he hoped. If Sheldon terminated The Relationship Agreement, it would free Penny, but that was pure selfishness talking. If he was going to be a good friend, to both Sheldon and Penny, then he couldn't do that. And he did want to be a good friend.

But sometimes it was hard.

"Do you remember where they said they're going?" Howard asked. "Maybe we could call and make sure Sheldon didn't burn the place down."

"It was some steak place," he said. "Apparently, Penny had a 'hankering' for food from Nebraska, and when she mentioned to Sheldon that his dad must have grilled him steak as a kid, he agreed to go - why, I don't know. There's probably some Freudian analysis in there or something. Sheldon's never talked about his father."

"I thought Freud was all about Moms."

"He was, but it doesn't mean that it can't apply to fathers." Leonard glanced at the phone. "Besides, I don't know if we'll be able to call; they may have banned our number. Sheldon spent at least half an hour on the phone before they left raising hell, making sure that the restaurant met all of his requirements."

"And Penny didn't throw a fit?" Raj asked, shocked.

"She's the one who gave him the number." Leonard looked up at the ceiling, head craned back on the chair. "She- … I don't know. She seems to get it. Get his need for systems and schedules."

Howard leaned forward. "You think if I started acting like Sheldon, making systems and stuff, she'd take an interest in me?"

Raj looked at Howard like he was insane. "Dude, nobody can act like Sheldon but Sheldon. Can you imagine two Sheldons?"

They all collectively shuddered.

"Thanks, Raj," Howard grumbled, crossing his arms. "Now I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight."

"Better you not sleeping than Sheldon," Leonard said, rubbing his eyes. "Sunday morning, after staying up all night with Penny, he was reciting cosmological theory that tied into his decision to date her. Something about chaos and order's relationship. How order emerges from chaos. He thinks that Penny will help him evolve into the manifestation of order and reason."

Raj's eyes widened in horror. "We have to break them up!"

Howard nodded eagerly, looking terrified. "Raj's right! We can't even keep-up with Sheldon, now! Can you imagine what it'd be like if he evolves to his next form? If he levels-up?"

Leonard rolled his eyes. "We're not breaking up Sheldon and Penny. Besides, I don't think we'd be able to outsmart Penny about it. She's more clever than we are."

"Three nerds can outsmart one hot blonde, no matter how hot and clever," Howard said passionately. "We can sabotage them or something."

"It may be like Icarus," Raj whispered in warning. "We may fly too close to her radiance and fall to our deaths."

"Cut it out," Leonard cut in. "We're not doing anything to sabotage their relationship, okay?"

Howard stared at him, confused. "Don't you want Penny?"

"Of course, I want Penny, but she doesn't want me," he said, feeling the sting of the words but the sting wasn't as painful as he had expected. "She and I had a conversation, and she made me see some things. She's clearly happy with Sheldon - at least for now. Who are we to mess it up?"

"We're nerds who know Sheldon!"

Leonard shook his head. "Maybe. But soon enough, Penny will pass us on the list of who knows Sheldon best. She may already be there, for all we know. She's scary good at reasoning with him."

"It's terrifying," Howard corrected. "I've been observing, and I think I've finally got the tone of voice down right."

"It's not the tone of voice that reasons with Sheldon, it's Penny. We can't copy her. That's her gift."

"One of her many gifts," Raj said in a daze. "A goddess like her has so many."

"But foresight isn't one of them," Howard said, shrugging. "I don't see how it all works out. He'll drive her insane as he does us. They have no structural integrity."

Leonard sighed, knowing that it was a real possibility. It took a special kind of person to be able to deal with Sheldon on a good day. "Penny's not like us, though. Maybe that will be enough, maybe it won't be. I don't know. 'Cause I don't have foresight, either."

"Wouldn't it be awesome if we did?" Howard's eyes were suddenly bright with ideas. "Can you imagine everything we could do with it?"

Raj gasped. "I could see if my parents will finally get off of my back about everything!"

"I'd know if I meet a hot girl who'll give me all the sex in the world!"

Leonard rolled his eyes.

XxXxXxXxXxX

"This isn't bad, right?" Penny asked, finding his eyes over her wine glass. "Good steak is awesome."

"It is a rare novelty," Sheldon concluded, nodding. He had surprised her with his appetite. For such a lean guy, he could eat a lot. It must be all the nutrients going straight to that big, amazing brain of his. "This establishment has passed my evaluations."

To keep from rolling her eyes, she ate some of her green beans. "I'm sure they'll be so thrilled. And yes, sarcasm."

"That had been my assumption."

"Good job," she praised, swallowing the green beans. "Speaking of a good job, you're not afraid of being seen with me right now?"

Sheldon blinked at her innocently. "Because of your attire?"

"No, not- " she cut herself off, looking down at her dress, hurt. Did she look bad? "What's wrong with how I'm dressed? I look good."

"Affirmative. There is nothing displeasing about your appearance."

"Well… good," she said, off-kilter. "How could you- never mind. I meant that you're a genius Doctor and I'm just a waitress. You're not afraid of being seen with me? Not afraid of who you're… dating? Going out in public with?"

Sheldon peered at her, and to her amazement, he looked confused. "I have 'gone out in public' with Wolowitz and Koothrapali."

Penny blinked. "Oh. I guess when you put it like that… I've got nothing to worry about."

"I am constantly surrounded by my inferiors, but your inferiority is different," he remarked, and she decided to take it as a compliment. "It is not as vexing. I am not afraid of associating myself with you in public."

Taking it as a compliment had been the right call.

She perked up, sipping her wine. "So, no fight-or-flight if you see someone you know while you're out with me?"

"Affirmative."

"Good. So, speaking of fight-or-flight, have you thought about calling your siblings?" she asked curiously. "I'm just asking. We can talk about something else if you want."

"I have considered your postulation."

"Well…? Are you going to call them or not?"

"When I feel inclined to do so."

Penny raised her brows. "So, you're avoiding it? I know talking with siblings sucks. Believe me, I know. I mean, I was so worked up yesterday from talking to Katie that you thought I was sick. And don't even get me started on what Howard was thinking. But I know where she and I stand. I know where Tommy - he's my brother - and I stand. Do you know where you stand with your siblings? With… Gig and Missy?"

"I stand behind them in photographs, for I am taller- "

"No," she corrected, feeling a laugh escape her. "I meant, do you know what your relationship is with your siblings? Is it worth, I don't know, saving or something? Do you want to try being honest with them? For all you know, they may want to talk to you."

"Unlikely. They never wished to converse with me as children."

"But people change, remember? When's the last time you talked to them?"

"Gig: Eleven months and seventeen days. Missy: Eight months and nine days."

"When you talked to them back then, did either one of you hang up the phone while yelling at the other?"

"False."

Penny shrugged. "So, there's a chance. It's your choice if you want to… pursue that chance. I guess that's the right word."

Sheldon's eyes darted away from hers. "They do not possess your ability to understand me."

Despite the sadness of that statement, she felt a little warmth spread through her when he said it. "I didn't understand you immediately, I thought you were crazy at first. It wasn't until I got to know you that I began to understand, but… you know, Sheldon, you're a genius. No one's ever gonna fully understand you."

He was quiet for several moments. "I must further ponder your postulation."

Penny nodded and looked down at her empty plate, switching the subject. "This was a great meal. I'm gonna sleep well tonight."

Sheldon frowned, beginning to look around the restaurant; she suddenly knew he was looking for the waiter. "While the food has been delectable, the service is poor. I must reconsider my evaluations pertaining to this restaurant. My plate has been cleared of sustenance for seven minutes."

Well, at least she could always expect honesty in their relationship.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Eventually, they had moved into the kitchen and become consumed in a heated discussion about what foresight actually is, and how it would be used. And Leonard couldn't remember how it had started.

"I could see everything!" Raj cried out, fiercely pointing his finger at Leonard and Howard. "All of the possible paths one's life could take!"

Leonard rolled his eyes. "No. How many times do we have to go through this?"

"So Howard understands it? A million times!"

"Just because I don't have a Doctorate like you doesn't make me dumber than you, Raj!"

"No, it makes you lazier, you-who-sleeps-with-your-own-cousin!"

Leonard began to laugh while Howard gasped, eyes wide. "I told you that in confidence!"

"Don't blame me, dude," Raj said, pointing at the accumulation of beer bottles on the table. "You're the one who wanted us to start drinking."

"Because you can't understand what foresight is!" Howard exploded. "And I'm so telling your parents about that little accident you told me about!"

"We made a pact!"

"Which you broke when you told Leonard I slept with my cousin!"

Leonard finally cut in, trying to control his laughter. "Wait. Did you willingly sleep with your cousin, or did you find out she was your cousin after you had already slept with her?"

Howard faltered. "She's my second-cousin, and… it was after."

Raj giggled. "If you had had foresight, you could have seen that little path!"

"It's like talking to a wall," Leonard groaned out, rolling his eyes again. He was doing it a lot. "If you have foresight, you can't see everything."

"That's what it is," Raj protested vehemently, pointing a stubborn finger at them. Leonard, if he was stronger, might have reached out and broken it. "Foresight is seeing the future!"

Howard nodded. "Yes, but not everything. You wouldn't be seeing all possible realities!"

"Too bad you didn't see the reality in which you slept with your cousin!"

Leonard immediately grabbed onto Howard as he lunged for Raj, pulling him back. "Take it back!"

"You can't even take it back! You want to go through your family like a common cold!"

Howard squinted obnoxiously, fingers drifting over his temples. "Oh, wait! I'm using foresight now! You know what I see, Raj?"

"What?"

"My foot up your ass! Now take it back!"

"Fine!" Raj snapped, rolling his eyes. "I'm sorry. When I'm drunk, I tend to regress into an asshole."

"It's noticeable," Leonard cut in.

"Apology accepted," Howard muttered. "But I'm still thinking about telling your parents about that accident."

"That's fair, but only if I get to tell your mother about you sleeping with your cousin."

"Now can we get back to the real conversation?" he asked, interrupting what looked like another furious argument. "We need to agree on what foresight actually entails."

"Seeing the future," Raj immediately said.

Leonard nodded. "Okay, we agree on that, right? Foresight entails seeing the future, but you can't see everything."

"No, that's not how it works."

Howard groaned. "We're never going to agree on this, are we? If you see all realities, you're omniscient. That's not having foresight, Raj! Your entire reasoning is hard to listen to. How I can be best friends with a blind man, I'll never know."

"How I can be friends with a non-Ph.D.-holder, I'll never know," Raj shot back, defensive, and Leonard hung his head when Howard's eyes filled with fire once more.

"That's it!" Howard yelled, standing tall. "I'm going to build a guillotine because I'm an awesome engineer and test it out on you! And if you have foresight- "

"You'd have noticed that we've been standing here for, like, ten seconds," Penny's dry voice cut through the apartment.

Leonard jumped, startled, and turned to see Penny - she was so beautiful! - and his roommate standing in the open doorway.

"Finally!" Howard cried out, throwing his arms into the air, all signs of his anger forgotten. "Sheldon can say who's right. He'll be the tie-breaker!"

"We're already the tie-breaker," Leonard reminded, pointing at Raj. "It's already us versus him."

"Then let's rub in how wrong he is by having Sheldon side with us!"

"Sheldon will side with me!" Raj fired back and then he blinked, and Leonard took in Penny's gobsmacked expression. "Hello, Penny," his friend said smoothly and walked towards her. "I haven't had a chance to properly introduce myself- "

Penny interrupted, looking at Raj worriedly. "What the hell is going on? You're talking now, Raj? And are you okay? Wait. Didn't I hear something about a guillotine? Wasn't that the thing from The French Revolution?"

"Affirmative," Sheldon said, finally stepping into the apartment, and Leonard couldn't help but stare at the blue jeans Penny had gotten him to wear. While he had seen it earlier, it still looked so strange. So impossible. "Howard, do you require assistance with the construction of the guillotine? I propose that we test its fatality rate on the mediocrity."

Penny's eyes widened, and she rushed past Raj, grabbing Sheldon's arm. Leonard waited for his roommate to jump away in a panic, but he didn't. "No! You're not building a guillotine, okay?"

"I am being historical."

"I think you mean hysterical."

Sheldon clasped his hands in front of him, head tilted in a condescending manner. "Penny, you must think of the benefits for the human genome- "

Penny merely crossed her arms. "Not happening."

"It would be a missed opportunity- "

"Then at least you'll be missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. You like balance - there you go."

"But- "

"No."

Sheldon deflated like a devastated child.

Leonard watched the whole thing in awe, dimly noting that he wasn't the only one; he began to see what Howard meant about observing Penny and mimicking what she does and how she talks to Sheldon. Her success rate was astounding.

"That dress is amazing," Raj immediately said, walking to Penny when Sheldon didn't say anything else. "It's revealing but not slutty."

Penny's eyebrows rose. "Um… that's what I was going for. I'm glad somebody at least noticed I look good."

Sheldon frowned. "I complimented your visual appearance."

"That was only after you said I didn't look good."

"You misunderstood."

"Probably," she said, shrugging. "So, what is this, Raj? You can talk to me now?"

"It's the alcohol," Leonard supplied from his position in the kitchen. "It literally loosens his tongue."

"And turns him into a complete jackass," Howard added, ignoring Raj's glare. "Seriously, he's a total dick."

Penny shook her head. "For what it's worth, I like Mute Raj better, Raj. Drunk Raj does seem like a jackass; you're looking at me like I'm a piece of meat."

"Like a goddess," Raj corrected heatedly. "Your splendor is more- "

"I think that's enough, Romeo," Penny cut in, steamrolling him; she turned to look at Leonard. "So, did you guys take teams or something? What does Sheldon have to decide on?"

"What the ability of foresight entails," he informed, looking at Sheldon. "What does foresight entail, Sheldon? Your word decides it all."

"As it always should." Sheldon looked up from his computer. "Foresight entails glimpsing what will happen, not what can."

Howard whooped in jubilation and Leonard wasn't much better while Raj pouted. Penny looked amused by the whole situation and Sheldon went back to his computer.

"Foresight?" Penny asked over Howard's cheers. "You mean, seeing the future, right?"

Leonard turned to her in horror. "We're not having this whole conversation again. But yes."

"How do you know that you guys are right, though? No one can actually see the future, so… it's just guesswork."

"We have proof," Howard assured confidently, grinning.

Penny raised her brows, face pinching; she looked at the beer bottles. "It looks and smells like 80 proof."

Sheldon immediately stiffened, and Leonard paled when he began to sniff the air. "I concur with Penny's assessment." Sheldon turned to him, holding him in that terrible gaze. "Leonard, you have obtained your third strike."

Leonard stared at Penny, distressed. "Why'd you bring that up? Now I have to retake his stupid class!"

She winced. "Sorry."

Howard and Raj high-fived. "Better him than us!"

Sheldon shook his head. "Gloating is unacceptable. You have each- "

Immediately, Leonard watched as Howard and Raj bolted out of the apartment and down the stairs.

"What's that, Sheldon?" Raj's echoing voice drifted into the apartment.

"Yeah!" Howard shouted. "We can't hear you!"

Then all sounds of them were gone.

Sheldon blinked. "Now, they have incurred two strikes. They will join you in re-education, Leonard."

Leonard sighed in relief. At least he wouldn't be alone.

XxXxXxXxXxX

That's it. I hope that you all enjoyed it.

Stay Safe
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