For damalur, because she said she'd bring cookies to the bridge we lemmings were going to jump off.
Like so many things in my life, this was supposed to be simple, but quickly spun utterly out of control.
middle_cyclone had won one of my help_haiti lightning round auctions for a 500-word story. Her prompt was "Sheldon and Penny on a farm. With cows. And chickens. And sexytimes in the hayloft." Totally simple, right? Ha! The story ended up being 3000 words.
She feels so free, driving a fast red car on this dusty Nebraska highway, Patsy Cline singing sad songs on AM radio.
I'll admit to cannibalizing my own work here. This whole opening scene is a revised version of a tiny little something I wrote for the Paradox Kink Meme. I think the kink in question was Sheldon in jeans. Or his forearms. Or something like that. All wonderful kinks, by the way. Originally, this bit was Sheldon and Penny in Texas, driving to Meemaw's. But it was fairly easy to transpose it to Nebraska.
Sheldon sits next to her, the tip of his nose already reddening from the sun. Her hand creeps over to his thigh, clad in a pair of worn Levi's. All he needs is a Stetson and he'll be the perfect Nebraska wannabe cowboy.
Funny, she never knew he even owned jeans until today.
Whyyyyyy can't we get Sheldon in jeans on the show? Just once? Please?
"Only twenty more miles until we arrive," he announces just before noon. She almost forgot how bright the sun can be in this bright, fertile land.
She pulls the car off onto an anonymous rural road.
"This isn't the correct road," he says, glancing down at the map spread across his lap. Texas is creeping back into his voice, turning his syllables into slow syrup.
If you haven't already noticed, I have a slight fetish for writing Sheldon's Texas accent creeping into his speech. I'm getting help for that.
"Oh, sweetie," she sighs. "Don't you know anything about road trips?"
He has a lot to learn, she thinks. He never went to the drive-in for root beer floats after the game. He never played quarters in someone's rec room. He never made out in the back of a car with the almost head cheerleader.
Sheldon missed out on a lot in his teen years. One reason why I like writing established relationship fic for Sheldon and Penny so much is that I can see Penny sort of introducing Sheldon to some of the things he missed while he was getting 25 PhDs as an adolescent. Including making out in cars.
She licks his neck, tasting salt.
Mmm…salty Sheldon neck.
They arrive just in time for the traditional Sunday afternoon dinner—baked ham, scalloped potatoes, peas and carrots from the garden, rolls fresh from the oven. There's even Penny's favorite Jell-O salad, orange-flavored with mayonnaise, crushed pineapple, grated carrot and walnuts. It sounds disgusting, and it probably is, objectively, but Penny never gets anything like this in California. It tastes like home to her.
Oh, Jell-O "salad." If you're not from the Midwest (or Utah) in the United States, you may not be familiar with the concept. Count yourself as very, very lucky. Gelatin should never be mixed with items like mayo and carrots. I was pretty fortunate. Even though I grew up in the heart of the Midwest, I didn't come from a family that placed much stock in Jell-O. But I've encountered plenty of it at church potlucks and the like and ewwww. On the other hand, I can see how, for Penny, it would be an important taste marker linking her to her childhood. Probably not something she'd ever choose to eat in California, but in the context of being on her parents' farm, it's probably delicious.
Her mouth is dry with nerves. Before they left, she wrote out a three-page list of do's and don't for Sheldon.
In this universe, Penny and Sheldon have been together for a while. Probably just under a year or so. Meeting her parents is a big deal to her. And she knows Sheldon well enough by now to know that she has to set out some very concrete rules for him on how to behave around her family.
1. You don't have a "spot" anywhere in my parents' house. You'll just have to suck it up.
33. Do not make fun of God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, religion, Catholics, priests, nuns, altar boys, crucifixes or the Pope.
I think that this one would definitely be a hard one for Sheldon, although he knows not to push his atheism too hard around his mother, so. In my universe for this story, Penny's parents are fairly devout Catholics. I chose Catholic because that's the faith I was raised in and then I didn't have to do any research. Sneaky!
67. The state of your bowel movement regularity is never an acceptable topic of dinner-table conversation.
98. Offer to help my father with the chores. This is what "real men" do.
123. We do not, ever mention the fact that my brother is in jail. He's just "away." Leave it at that.
This one makes me kind of sad. It's got to be heartbreaking for Penny's parents, who seem like good people who did try to do right by their kids, to have their son in jail. And I can see how they would sort of want to pretend it wasn't happening.
145. My father whistles. A lot. DEAL WITH IT.
161. Making fun of the Nebraska Cornhuskers is the worst thing you could ever possibly do, short of murder, adultery or saying that universal health care is a good idea.
My half-sister lived in Omaha for years and I once went to a Cornhuskers game with her. Cornhuskers football is SERIOUS BUSINESS. You don't mess around with that. EVER. (Oh, and Cornhuskers fans like to start drinking something called "Red Beer" at about seven in the morning before a game. Tomato juice and beer. Yeah.)
184. Eat everything put before you. No whining. Pretend it's delicious.
203. We have never had sex. Never. If you mention anything involving sex I will be forced to defend my purity to the dying breath.
Later on, I like how Penny mentions that her father will be patrolling the hallways with his hunting rifle at night.
The big platters are passed around the table and then Sheldon begins to dig in. Penny kicks him under the table and he sets down his fork.
"Let's thank the Lord being so generous with us today," her father says, in his deep voice that has always reminded Penny of hot fudge.
Penny's parents aren't in this story too much, so I tried to throw in little descriptions of them to allow the reader to be able to picture them. Penny's dad has a voice like hot fudge and smokes cigarillos. Her mom used to be as blonde as Penny but is now graying and her eyes are blue.
He pretends not to notice that Sheldon had started eating before grace.
Everyone bows their heads, Sheldon included, thanks to another pointed kick on Penny's part.
"Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen," everyone recites, except for Sheldon. Penny doesn't kick him for it, though. He probably didn't grow up with this particular prayer. Mary was most likely fond of something more passionate and free-form—a good, solid half-hour of praising Jesus for the tuna casserole and purple Kool-Aid.
And, yes, I'd pay a whole bunch of money to see Mary doing this. We need more Mary on the show. And Missy.
"I wish you'd come in time for Mass," her mother says. "St. Michael's was so pretty today. Jessie Mills brought a whole bunch of flowers from her garden and it smelled like the inside of a perfume bottle."
This is Penny's mom's way of dragging in the "What religion are you, Sheldon?" conversation. Although why she wouldn't have asked her daughter a long time before this escapes me.
Penny cuts her ham. "Sorry. We couldn't find a flight out that early."
"Did you grow up Catholic, Sheldon?" her mother asks. Penny notices that her mother's hair, once as blonde as her own, is now mostly gray.
Sheldon looks up. "No. My mother's a Pentecostal and I'm—."
Penny applies a small, warning kick to Sheldon's shin that says, you're treading on dangerous territory, buddy.
"Do you attend church out in California?" her father asks.
"I'm—I'm currently in a period of examining my faith," Sheldon says, his face guileless. "I am currently without a religious community."
It's not exactly a lie, but not exactly the truth, either. Penny is very proud of him.
Sheldon's learning some tact. It's probably a slow process, but he's learning.
Her father clears his throat. "Penny tells us you're a physicist. What exactly do you do at the university?"
Here we go, Penny thinks, helping herself to more Jell-O salad. She settles in for the long haul.
Penny and her mother clear the table. The two men are hunched over a pad of paper where Sheldon is madly scribbling one of those square chart things Penny remembers learning in high school biology class, even if she can't remember the exact name. Something to do with genetics. She hears Sheldon say words like homozygous genotype and wild type allele and her father say a bunch of things about corn hybrids. The two of them vigorously nod their dark heads, almost in unison.
This comes from a throwaway line from a different story I'd written, Driving Lessons, where Penny tries to imagine Sheldon meeting her parents and deciding that, at least, her father and Sheldon would geek out together over agricultural things. That's sort of the beauty of it. There's a lot of chemistry and botany and genetics to farming, so they'd have that in common. Plus, I sort of hinted around at the fact that Sheldon is probably more like her father than Penny realizes.
She tries not to begrudge the fact that the women are socialized to clean up while the men stay seated at the table, yakking over their blueberry pie.
Blueberry pie! A theme! Or something. Plus, I had to vent my feminist rage about the whole cleaning up after dinner thing. It makes me apoplectic at family events.
In the kitchen, her mother washes and Penny wipes. Penny almost forgot how strangely soothing it is to do the dishes with her mother in a sunny kitchen. It's somehow much different than her half-hearted attempts to wash out her stained coffee mugs and wineglasses at home.
I truly believe that Penny is happier living out in California but that there are certain aspects of communal farm living that she misses.
"So," she finally says to her mother. "What do you think of Sheldon?"
Her mother swishes the dishcloth around in the soapy water. "He's...different," she finally says.
Penny raises her eyebrows. "Different?" In her family's language, different is not always a good thing.
This seems to be a Midwestern thing in general. "How did you like that Ethiopian restaurant?" "Well, it was different..."
But I give Penny's mother credit for being tactful. Sheldon probably weirds her out a little. He's not like any other guy she's met, but she knows her daughter cares about him and she isn't going to burst Penny's bubble. On the other hand, there's a part of me that wishes the story were a bit longer and that I'd gone into more depth about her parents' reaction to Sheldon.
"Well, he's sure different than any of your other boyfriends I've met." Her mom hands her the casserole dish.
"Is that good or bad?" Penny's not sure why she wants her mother's approval so badly, but she does.
"He's really smart. And he's kind of good-looking, if you like that skinny type."
"Penny, does he cheat on you?"
"No!" Like Sheldon ever would.
"Does he hit you?"
"God, no. I'd kick his ass."
Her mother stares straight into her eyes, blue into green. "Does he do drugs?"
Penny snorts. "Sheldon? Drugs? Mom, he doesn't even drink coffee. At least he shouldn't..."
I wrote her mother's interrogation to hint that Penny has had some truly awful relationships in the past. The asshattery of Kurt on the show would seem to bear this out.
"Is he nice to you?"
"Yeah, he's really nice to me, Mom." Penny stands on tiptoe to put the ham platter on the top shelf of the cupboard.
"Do you love him?" Her mother raises one pale eyebrow.
"I do. I really do," Penny says. If she knows anything, she knows this.
Her mother nods decisively. "Then I can already say that he's the best boyfriend you've ever had."
Penny smiles, relieved.
"And I think your father has a crush on him."
"A crush?" Penny shudders.
Her mother playfully smacks her in the arm. "Not that kind of crush, Penny! But didn't you notice that after ten minutes your dad told him to call him Pete, not Mister?"
I had a hard time wiggling around the lack of last name thing for Penny's family. I've never assigned her a last name before, because I worry that I'll just get jossed in the end.
"Oh God," Penny says, rolling her eyes. "He really does have a crush on Sheldon."
Yeah, mancrushes. My father had a mancrush on my now-husband when they first met because N knew his WWII history and could geek out about Patrick O'Brien's books and stuff like that. It was really cute.
Penny takes Sheldon on a walk through the fields of corn and soybeans. It's one of those hot, endless Nebraska days, not a cloud in the sky or a whisper of a breeze to rustle the plants.
I have to admit that I've never really been on a farm before. I'm from the Midwest, all right, but I'm from a large city and barely have any friends or relatives from the suburbs, let alone farms. I had a few friends in college who were from farms, but I never got a chance to visit. My husband grew up in rural Virginia, but not on a farm. So this story is probably rife with inaccuracies as the details are gleaned from all the times I've driven through farm country, Wikipedia and the Nebraska Corn Growers' Association web site.
"How much land is here?" Sheldon asks, wiping his damp brow.
"Almost two thousand acres." She stops and touches one of the corn stalks. "My great-great-grandparents bought most of this land in the 1900s. Our family has been farming here for more than a hundred years and now..." Her voice trails off.
"And now, what?"
"My parents will be the last." It feels sad to her that someday this land will be sold to strangers, that someone who doesn't bear her last name will work these fields.
This is one of the reasons why the family farm is dying, besides economic reasons. Relatively few farm kids want to stay on the farm. It's a hard life. None of my friends who came from farms ended up farming after college. All of them live in big cities now, working professional jobs.
"Your siblings don't want to have it either?" Sheldon knows well that Penny has no interest in farming or living in rural Nebraska.
She shakes her head. "My sister is happier living in town. And my brother...he'd just piss it all away on meth."
And then there's meth, which has devastated huge swaths of rural America. Can you see why this story ended up ballooning to six times its intended size? I just kept coming across all these issues I wanted to explore.
Penny hasn't seen her brother in almost three years. While there's an outside chance that he'll clean up and go straight after he gets out of jail, she seriously doubts it. Shane has had so many chances and he's fucked them all up.
"No," Penny says, lifting her face to the hot sun. "My parents will be the last."
She takes Sheldon through the barns, showing him all the equipment—the tractor, the combine. He seems to have a lot of fun geeking out on the machinery, even climbing up into the cab of the tractor.
Sheldon on a farm would be pretty damn hilarious.
"How come you don't have any cows?" he asks. "I like cows."
There was a part that got cut where Sheldon and Penny are out in the fields and she's talking about the parties they used to have in pastures (the rural kids I knew had the wildest parties in high school, much crazier than anything we had in this city, mostly because in the city the houses were close together and the cops would show up after a few hours). And Sheldon asks her if they ever cow-tipped. I guess he picked that up on Wikipedia or something. Penny snorts and says of course not, that real farm kids would never do that because they know how much livestock is worth and you don't mess with someone's livelihood.
"Because this isn't a beef or dairy operation. Shane and I raised a couple of calves for 4-H when we were kids and showed them at the state fair. My mom had chickens for years. She sold the eggs in Omaha at the farmer's market. But now that none of us are around to help, she's given them up." She blows some loose strands of hair out of her face. "Bummer. Those were some good eggs."
They walk out of the barn, towards the pasture. "This seems like a good place to grow up. I wouldn't have enjoyed it," Sheldon says. "But I can visualize how you would have."
Look, look! Sheldon's learning to empathize with others' experiences! Progress!
"It was. When I was a kid we were outdoors all day. Doing chores, running around, riding horses. I was barefoot so much that when I was nine I stepped on a rusty nail I didn't even feel it at first. My feet were tougher than leather."
I envision that, on the whole, Penny had a pretty happy childhood. It was only later, as a teenager, that farm life became too small for her and she began to crave the bright lights of the city.
In the pasture, the two horses, gray and brown, are grazing. Penny's heart lurches at the sight of them and she runs straight for them. She wraps her arms around the brown horse's neck, breathing in his familiar, unmistakably horsey scent.
Horses! This is something I know a bit about, having spent two summers riding them and taking care of them at this dude ranch-type summer camp.
"The gray horse is Cloud," she says, running her fingers through the horse's mane. "And this is my horse, Justin Timberlake."
This comes from a friend of my husband's, whose daughter named their cat Kristi Yamaguchi. Not just Kristi. It's Kristi Yamaguchi.
Sheldon stares at her. "You named your horse for the singer of a second-rate boy group?"
She's actually surprised that Sheldon has any idea who Justin Timberlake is."What can I say? I loved 'N SYNC. And I loved this horse. Sometimes I think he was my first love." Justin Timberlake nickers softly as she scratches him behind his ears.
I know so many girls who were totally in love with horses between the ages of 8 and 14 or so. It would seem like horses are safe, uncomplicated beings to love. I wasn't one of them, despite the horse camp.
"Are you telling me that you indulged in bestiality, Penny?" Sheldon's mouth is hanging open
"Must you be so literal? No! I just loved him a whole lot. I couldn't wait to get home from school and finish my chores so I could ride him. We'd just go and it felt like we were one person." She sighs, feeling like she's somehow betrayed Justin Timberlake by being gone for so long.
In my brain, that's one of the few things about farm life that Penny wholeheartedly misses.
"Will you ride him while you're here?"
She nods, suddenly feeling so flush with happiness that she can hardly contain it. She twirls in the pasture, singing an old favorite from South Pacific:
I'm as corny as Kansas in August,
I'm as normal as blueberry pie.
No more a smart little girl with no heart,
I have found me a wonderful guy!
I am in a conventional dither,
With a conventional star in my eye.
And you will note there's a lump in my throat
When I speak of that...
Have I mentioned that I'm not really a fan of most musicals? Well, I'm not. But my mom used to always sing this song around the house and when I started this story it got stuck in my head and I knew I had to use it somehow.
Sheldon interrupts her. "Penny, I must insist. Cease that infernal racket!"
Thousands of dollars worth of singing lessons and she still can't carry a tune. "But it's a song about how a girl has found a wonderful guy," she protests.
"The song is about Kansas. We're in Nebraska, Penny."
"Oh, Sheldon," she says. "How many times do we have to talk about being overly literal?"
In my head, they have this conversation at least a half-dozen times a day. And poor Penny. She's using the song to express how she feels about Sheldon and he's totally missing the point.
"No, Penny, I won't do it."
"But, Sheldon, you have to while you're here," she wheedles. "It's all part of the experience."
He crosses his arms at the chest. "I must stand firm. No."
"I'll even give you a cowboy hat to wear."
"I have no desire to be a cowboy."
I don't know. I think that somewhere deep inside him, Sheldon does want to be a cowboy.
She bats her eyelashes at him. "Pretty please with sugar on top? I've always wanted to do this."
"Sugar on top of what?" He glares at her and exhales sharply. "All right. Fine. I'll sit on the horse, but if it actually goes anywhere there'll be hell to pay."
She saddles up Cloud, the more placid of the two horses. She hands Sheldon an old Stetson she found in the house. It probably belonged to her brother once.
Sheldon examines the hat. "The hatband has sweat stains on it," he says, wrinkling his nose.
"Quit being such a city boy and put on the damn hat," she says.
I liked having Penny pull the "city boy" card here.
He puts on the hat and whoa. Not bad at all. Sheldon in blue jeans, a plain white t-shirt and a Stetson is one long, lean cowboy. If he were wearing cowboy boots and had a pack of smokes rolled up in his sleeve, she'd probably rip his clothes off right here in the barn with the horses looking on.
Yeah. I really need to see Cowboy!Sheldon. Because it would kill me with the hot.
Penny helps him climb up into the saddle. There it is, Sheldon on a horse.
It totally ruins her cowboy fantasy. If there's anything more awkward and goofy-looking than Sheldon sitting in a saddle, Penny would like to know what it is. He's sitting so stiffly it looks like his spine is made of iron and his eyes are round and terrified.
"Oh my God," she gasps with laughter. "That's just...it's just so wrong."
Until he gets on a horse, that is.
If looks could kill, she'd be gushing blood all over the barn.
Cloud lifts her head and whinnies. "Penny, the horse is making noises." Sheldon looks panicked.
It can be a little scary being on a horse for the first time. Factor in Sheldon's Sheldonness, and it would be terrifying.
She pats the horse on the head. "Yeah, she's a horse."
"Penny, take the picture and let me down from here immediately."
She takes the picture with her iPhone and helps him down off Cloud. He looks incredibly happy to be on solid ground.
Sheldon takes the cowboy hat off and hands it to her. "So help me, Penny, if you show that picture to anyone, you're dead."
She's already sent it to Leonard, Raj and Howard. Four bars of coverage, even out here in Bumfuck Egypt. Technology is beautiful.
This might be my favorite line in the story. I love naughty!sneaky!Penny.
The building farthest from the house is the old barn, sagging a little and its paint peeling. Her great-grandparents put it up in the 1930s; it's no longer used for anything except to store some broken equipment. At least once a year her mother begs her father to tear it down and every year he says he'll get to it. He never does.
"This is where Lori and I would hide when we didn't want to help our dad," Penny says, opening the door. "We kept a stash of Barbie dolls in here."
The inside smells musty, like dust and old hay and machine oil.
Sheldon delicately sneezes, like a cat.
"Your allergies are all in your head," she reminds him.
I like the idea that 99% of Sheldon's physical ailments are all hypochondria and instead of accepting it, Penny calls him on it and tells him to get over it.
"What are we doing?" he asks. "As far as I can see, there's nothing to actually see in here."
"That's what you think," she says.
She takes him by hand to the far end of the barn. There's a wooden ladder there, leading to the hayloft. Penny starts climbing the ladder.
"Where are you going?" he says, sounding fretful.
"Up. Are you coming?"
"How do you know that ladder's structurally sound?"
She climbs another two rungs. "I don't. Life's an adventure, Sheldon."
"Sure it is. Today so far you've been on an airplane ride, made out in a car, eaten orange Jell-O salad, learned all about corn and sat on a horse. There have been lots of adventures! Try this one on for size." She looks down at him and his face is very white.
And I like the idea of Penny getting Sheldon to break out of his routines and consider the randomness of life to be an adventure.
"I hate ladders," he says. "My dad used to make me climb on the ladder to clean the gutters."
She climbs one more rung. "Come on, don't you want to see what a real, live hayloft is like?"
"Or what having sex in a real, live hayloft is like?"
"I prefer to have sex in a real bed, thank you."
I can see this being a bit of a problem for the two of them. Penny likes the adventurous places and Sheldon likes to play it safe. She probably has to do a lot of coaxing like this.
"Mmm, too bad. Because we'll be sleeping in separate beds for the next three days and if you don't think my dad is going to patrol the hallway with his hunting rifle, you're dead wrong, buster." She reaches the top of the ladder.
Sheldon is all the way up that ladder in eighteen seconds, flat. Like a little monkey, she thinks later with the afterglow blooming through her body, Sheldon panting beside her and covered with bits of hay. Totally like a little monkey.
On the other hand, when faced with the possibility of no sex for the whole trip, Sheldon will get himself up that ladder. Which is funny when you consider that before he's in a relationship with Penny, Sheldon was probably celibate. But I envision that once he's properly introduced to sex with Penny, he absolutely loves it and wants to have as much of it as he can, within the limits set by his schedule.
By the way, I was planning on making this story really smutty with an explicit hayloft scene but in the end, I didn't feel like explicit sex would suit the sort of family-friendly farm feel of the story. <---alliteration alert!
After supper she stands on the front porch with her dad while he smokes one of his cigarillos. Her mother is mopping the kitchen floor and Sheldon is showering off "that pungent equine odor."
Seriously? He spent two minutes on the horse.
"When's your TV show going to be on again, Pen?" He's the only person on the planet who can get away with calling her "Pen."
I had a childhood nickname that I now hate. But for some reason, my brother's best friend can still call me by that name and it doesn't bug me.
"In October. But it's no big deal, really." She has two scenes on an episode of Bones, playing smart-mouthed cop. But her character did get to flirt a little bit with Booth, which was fun.
Penny/Career! Of course I had to include Penny/Career!
"I don't know. Sounds like a big deal to me. Your mother's already planning the party. She's inviting half the county."
"Oh, God." Somehow, this embarrasses her.
But she's also secretly pleased.
"You should see her. She shows your Crest commercial to everyone who sets foot on the property."
"She's turning into a stage mother."
Her father blows smoke rings. "I like your Sheldon. He's a good guy."
She smiles. "I'm glad, Dad."
He turns to her and gives her one of his rare full smiles. "I'm proud of you, Penny."
"Because I finally caught myself a decent man?" She fights the urge to roll her eyes.
It really irritates me when Penny is only concerned with her lovely love with Sheldon in fic. I like to think of her, at least in fic, as being much more multi-faceted than that. Sure, she loves her some Sheldon, but she also wants to be a successful actress, she has friends, she's learning to like geeking out, and she has a past.
"No, honey. Because you've made a successful life for yourself."
She shrugs. "A commercial and a guest spot on a TV show aren't exactly raging success."
"Pen, look at it like this. You've never been in jail. You don't have any kids out of wedlock. You made it all the way out in Los Angeles with a suitcase and five hundred bucks. You pay your bills. You keep your head down, work hard and never ask us for anything. I call that success."
She wraps her arms around her father and hugs him close. Like Sheldon, he's stiff at first but he eventually relaxes into her embrace. "Thanks, Daddy," she says.
It was really important to me that the story have this scene. We've definitely seen on the show that Penny has always wanted validation from her father. And here she finally gets it. Not because she's pretty or because she has a neat-o boyfriend, but because she's made it. True, in this story she's not a star, but she's getting some success in acting, she's made it all on her own, and doesn't need help from her family. And compared to her siblings, she's a raging success.
It's almost sundown, but before the mosquitoes have come out in full force. Her parents and Sheldon sit on the front porch, sipping iced tea.
She watches them from her vantage point atop Justin Timberlake.
Out of context, this could sound dirty.
The three of them make a nice picture.
She digs her heels into the horse's side. "Let's go," she tells him.
Justin Timberlake has not forgotten her voice or her commands. He takes off into a full-tilt gallop.
And they ride off into the sunset.
I wanted the story to end with Penny riding by herself off into the sunset. Not because Sheldon isn't important to her or she doesn't love him, but because she's her own person and she can make it on her own. Or with the help of Justin Timberlake.