RATING: R (I think)
WORD COUNT: 2,700 for this part
DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story do not belong to me and no copyright infringement is intended.
NOTES: This is for the lovely juniperlane, who asked for 100 words of nine months past Normal as Blueberry Pie. Instead you get this long thing. You don't need to have read the other story to get this. All you need to know is that this is 1) established relationship, 2) Sheldon has met Penny's parents, 3) Penny has a horse in Nebraska named Justin Timberlake, and 4) this is fluffy, slightly angsty curtainfic, if such a thing is possible. Yeah, IDK either.
THANKS: To The Cinematic Orchestra for the title.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
In the morning, she wakes alone in the new, unfamiliar bed. Something feels different, off, until she realizes that she's in the bedroom of the new house and Sheldon's already left for work.
Everything is different now.
The ring on her finger sparkles in the morning light.
Everything is different now.
So she does what any normal person would do in the midst of the biggest freak-out of their life. She buys a plane ticket online, drives to the airport and gets on the next plane to Omaha.
It starts out as sort of a joke one Sunday, a way to kill a little time between lunch at Athens Deli and the 2:05 showing of the new Coen brothers movie.
Penny is at the wheel, Sheldon riding shotgun. They're driving through Bungalow Heaven (Penny loves that it's the actual name of the neighborhood) and Sheldon is lecturing her about how a number of the Craftsman houses were built from kits ordered from the Sears catalogue at the start of the twentieth century.
"Kind of like my sister's mobile home," Penny says, cracking her gum.
She spots a sign in front of a single-story house with a large porch and stone pillars.
OPEN HOUSE TODAY 12-4 PM
She stops the car. "Want to go take a peek?"
"It'd be a waste of our time and the realtor's, Penny. We're not buying a house."
No shit, Penny thinks. Sheldon can hardly bring himself to share his bedcovers with her, let alone a whole house, even if they could afford a house, which they totally can't. "Just for fun?" she says, batting her eyelashes, a ploy that normally has little effect on Sheldon.
"Well, it is an excellent example of the Craftsman style." He glances at his watch. "We have exactly fifty-seven minutes until the movie starts. It'll take approximately nine minutes to reach the theatre from this location. I suppose no harm would come of a brief visit."
The realtor greets them on the porch. She's a woman of indeterminate early middle years with foofy blonde hair and a cleavage-baring pink sundress that's at least two decades too young for her. Her name is Cyndi.
"Hi!" Penny says brightly. "I'm Penny and this is my fiancé, Dr. Sheldon Cooper."
Cyndi's smile widens at the word "doctor." Penny elbows Sheldon in the ribs before he can explain that he's the poor PhD kind of doctor, not the rich medical kind, and that the two of them are not engaged.
One thing he's learned over the last year is that an elbow in the ribs means, "Shut up and I'll explain later."
The realtor takes them on a tour of the house. There's a living room with shiny wood floors and a working fireplace, a dining room complete with built-in buffet, an eat-in kitchen with granite countertops. At the back of the house are two small bedrooms and there's a large, sunny master bedroom at the front. The bathroom has a soaking tub and a pedestal sink. There are jacaranda trees in the front yard and fruit trees in the back.
"The kitchen and bathroom were completely remodeled three years ago," Cyndi says as they stand on the front porch again. "The owners are moving to Seattle in a few weeks, so it's priced for a quick sale."
She could live here, Penny thinks. With a kitchen like that, maybe she'd learn to cook. Sheldon would be in charge of all cleaning-up duties, of course. The living room would look stunning with a red sofa, maybe some dark gold throw pillows. Sort of an opium den in Southern California look. One of the smaller bedrooms could be an office for Sheldon and the other would do for a nursery—
What the hell? A nursery? What kind of acid did the cook at Athens Deli put in her gyro? She's not even sure she even wants to have kids. The thought of having kids with Sheldon, let alone marrying him and/or sharing living space with him, is completely, utterly insane.
"How much?" Sheldon asks Cyndi, as always a master of tact and subtlety.
"The asking price is $712,000," Cyndi says.
Penny has to make an effort to keep her jaw from bouncing off the floor of the porch. Jesus Fucking Christ on a combine. In Nebraska, $712,000 would get you a 100-acre farm—livestock and equipment included. $712,000 for a three-bedroom, 1,500-square foot bungalow? No wonder everyone she knows rents.
She looks up at Sheldon, tries to give him a Significant Glance, even though he usually doesn't catch them until she points them out to him later. "The house is lovely but we'll have to give it some thought. We have to get going or we'll miss our movie."
Back in the car, Sheldon asks, "Why did you refer to me as your fiancé when we're not engaged?"
Penny buckles her seatbelt and puts on her sunglasses. "I was just being silly, Sheldon."
He's silent for a long moment. "I see," he finally says, although Penny knows he actually doesn't.
"So, are you going to share your popcorn with me this time?"
"Do I ever share my popcorn?"
"Nope," she says, shaking her head and smiling. "If I want my own popcorn I should buy my own popcorn. You've taught me well." She puts the key in the ignition.
It was all a joke, this looking for a house business, but apparently she forgot to tell Sheldon because the next Sunday morning, before she's even halfway through her first cup of coffee, he shoves a thick sheaf of papers in her face.
"What's this?" she mumbles.
"I've been searching the MLS database for houses that would be suitable for our requirements and our separate and collective financial situations."
She takes a huge gulp of coffee. "We're not looking for a house. We're not even living together now."
Sheldon butters his toast—non-Cylon toast since they're at her place, which is a Cylon-free zone. "I've been thinking about this all week. It seems foolish that we're paying two rents when we spend most of our nights at your apartment. Rent is wasteful because it doesn't build equity. Really, Penny, buying a house seems like the only logical course of action."
Penny sighs. She's lived with someone before—almost four years with Kurt. They'd co-signed a lease together, bought furniture and electronics. She'd thought they'd been building a life together but Kurt had been operating under the assumption that their apartment was merely a comfortable place to crash between banging random girls he met at the gym and the club where he was a bouncer.
Not that Sheldon would ever cheat on her. If anyone is less likely to stray, she'd like to meet that guy and possibly exhibit him at the California Science Center as the Man Least Likely to Cheat in the World.
It's not that. It's that she remembers how hard it was to pack up a carload of her stuff and move into an empty apartment. To admit defeat and leave Kurt. The first few nights in her new apartment, she was kind of afraid to sleep alone. Her new bed just didn't feel right without Kurt's familiar bulk next to her. She remembers how scared she was to be alone, really on her own for the first time in her adult life.
It took her months to feel steady on her own two feet after she left Kurt, despite her sunny smiles and assurances to everyone that she was doing just fine. She's settled now. She's with Sheldon, but she's also independent. And she's pretty sure she likes it.
"Sheldon, no. We've never talked about living together and now you want to buy a house? A house we couldn't afford even if we wanted to buy a house?"
He lifts his morning-stubbled chin. "If money's the issue, may I remind you that you've done four commercials in the last six months and there's your guest spots on—"
She cuts him off. "No," she says firmly. "Maybe we can talk about this later, but for right now can't we just enjoy things as they are? You're the one who hates change, not me."
"Fine," Sheldon huffs, tapping the stack of papers back into order. "I'll table this discussion for a later date."
And that's the end of that, she thinks.
Penny flies up to Vancouver for a week to shoot a Lifetime movie. It's something about a woman who is impregnated with her fertility doctor's sperm. In other words, it's total crap, but it's a paycheck, and a nice one at that. She'll finally be able to buy a new car. She's playing the woman's sister and all it really requires from her is the ability to look alternately sympathetic and outraged.
Vancouver is damp and chilly, just as it's supposed to be. It's a nice break from the unrelentingly sunny warmth of L.A. While she appreciates not freezing her butt off all winter, experiencing an actual season is a nice change of pace.
She's surprised at how much she misses Sheldon. This is the first time they've been apart more than a day or two in the seventeen months they've been together.
Sheldon is often annoying, sometimes infuriating. Half the time it feels like she's involved with a strong-willed four year-old. They probably argue more than they should. Sometimes it feels like they're speaking two different languages and their translator has wandered off and gotten drunk.
But Sheldon can also be unexpectedly sweet. Just when she's ready to beam him in the head with her Gilmore Girls box set, he'll go and do something like scratching her back as they're watching a movie. Scratching her back when she didn't even consciously notice it was itchy, but he did notice that she was rubbing her back against the couch cushions. Or there was the time he brought her chicken soup and ginger ale when she was down with the flu. True, he wore a surgical mask every time he crossed her threshold, but he also went out and bought her the trashy magazines he so often scorned and he brushed the tangles out of her hair when she was too weak to lift a brush to her head.
She misses him with a pang that actually feels physical—something empty and yawning at the pit of her stomach. She misses his clean, minty smell when he comes to bed fresh from the shower. She even misses his lectures on stuff like the importance of twice-daily flossing. But what she misses most of all is how he practically purrs like a kitten at her touch, something that seems extra special to her because she knows she's the only one whose touch he welcomes, let alone tolerates.
It's a long week of sitting around on the set and then sitting around in her hotel room, watching Canadian cable TV. The guy playing the evil doctor, some soap star, keeps flashing his capped teeth at her and asking her out for sushi. She says no every time. Maybe a few years ago she would have found him handsome, thought that he was interesting, but everything's different now.
All she wants is to go home. To Sheldon.
Leonard is nice enough to pick her up from the airport. On the phone, she'd gotten the impression that Sheldon would be there, too, but Leonard pulls up outside baggage claim solo. He explains that Sheldon got stuck on a conference call and that they'll pick him up at Caltech on their way home.
It's a little awkward. They haven't been together in more than two years and Leonard handled the news about her and Sheldon much better than she could have ever imagined, but still. They haven't spent any time alone since the breakup. There's always been Sheldon, Raj, or Howard to act as a buffer and keep things from getting tense.
She fills the car with chatter and gossip about the shoot in Vancover. It almost lasts them the whole way up 110, but she finally runs out of steam with a good five minutes of driving left.
"So, how are you?" she asks, tapping her fingers on the dashboard.
"I'm good, I'm good," he says. He turns his head to glance at her and then brings his eyes back to the freeway. "What's this I hear about you and Sheldon buying a house?"
She nearly spits caramel Frappuccino all over the car. "What?"
"Sheldon told me you guys are looking for a house."
A flush rises in her cheeks. "We are not buying a house, Leonard. I don't know what Sheldon's been smoking but I'm thinking I'd like some of that."
"You might want to tell Sheldon that. He's been searching for houses online every spare minute he has."
She shakes her head in disgust. "What kind of monster did I create? I dragged him to an open house last month and somehow he decided that we need to buy a house. But I thought we'd straightened that all out."
"Penny, Penny, Penny," Leonard chides. "You know Sheldon better than that. When he gets something in his head, like buying a house, he's not going to just let it go."
"Jesus," she says. "You're so right."
"I've been waiting for years for you to say that," Leonard says with a sad little chuckle. They exit onto South Arroyo.
She feels a small twinge of regret that she and Leonard hadn't been able to work it out. He's a nice guy. Really, he is. But they didn't make sense together. Not that she and Sheldon make any sense, at least on paper, but somehow they do. At least, most of the time. No, she doesn't understand it, either. But Leonard is doing all right. He and Leslie get back together and break up every few weeks. It seems to work for them.
They pull up in front of Lauritsen and Sheldon is waiting outside for them, resplendent in a red t-shirt and orange thermal underneath, his messenger bag strap across his chest.
"You're seven minutes late," he says to Leonard, climbing into the car.
"Hello to you, too, sweetheart," she says.
"Hello, Penny," Sheldon says.
She turns around to give him a raised-eyebrow look. "Miss me?" She knows he did. He told her on the phone in his stilted Sheldon fashion but it never hurts to get a little reassurance.
"Of course I did."
"Enough, you two," Leonard says, a little grumpily. "Let's go pick up some Chinese. Howard and Raj are coming over at seven."
She manages to detach Sheldon from Defender around midnight and drag him across the hall, much to the amusement of Howard and Raj. She shudders to think what those two have to say when she and Sheldon leave for the night.
As soon as the door closes behind them, Penny kisses Sheldon.
It's always a little awkward at first whenever she starts up anything physical with Sheldon. It takes a few minutes for his overactive brain to power down and his hormones to ramp up but when they do, he seems to transform into another person. His movements become fluid and his voice turns lower, softer. In the dark of the bedroom, Sheldon isn't a socially stunted boy-man. He's just a man, like any other.
She arches her back as he enters her. She's missed this so much, this coming together, where everything fits and makes perfect sense for a change.
Later, she's almost asleep, still wrapped in a warm blanket of contentedness, when she realizes she never asked Sheldon about the house thing. Tomorrow, she thinks, as her eyes involuntarily close. We'll definitely talk about this tomorrow.