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Title: The Providential Dismissal Quandary, 8/8
Author: htbthomas
Fandom: The Big Bang Theory
Spoilers: set a year or so in the future
Rating: PG
Word Count: Part 8: 5,232 words
Disclaimer: If I owned them, I'd get to see them at Comic-Con again this year. *sigh*
Betas: 3pirouette, foxtwin, fujiidom, van_el

Summary: Sheldon’s to blame. Penny’s furious. The guys are helpless. What’s a string theorist to do? Episode-style fic featuring the full cast, with a focus on Sheldon/Penny. Based on the prompt “pinkslip” from sheldon_penny’s Fiction Friday. Awesome banner by patronuscharms.

Author’s Note: Well, it took me eight weeks to update, but I'm finally done with this story! To make up for the delay, you get a chapter twice as long as most of the others. Also, I think this chapter can stand alone, almost like a Comic-Con one-shot. ;)

I got lots and lots of help and advice with this chapter, and my writing buddies really kept me focused. I was determined to get this done this week! So thanks to: the SQZ chat group, ishie and northern_star. ♥

Previously: Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3 // Part 4 // Part 5 // Part 6 // Part 7

~o~o~o~o~o~



Four months later:

“C’mon, Sheldon!” Penny beckoned with her hand for Sheldon to come out of the hotel room. The show had put them each up in rooms at the Marriott next to the San Diego Convention Center, which definitely beat driving down from Pasadena.

Leonard, Howard and Raj shared a room several floors up. They were now out in the hallway dressed in their Comic-Con best, Howard shifting excitedly from foot to foot. “Yeah, Sheldon, c’mon! If we don’t get there soon, we’re going to have to wait in a hell of a line.”

“Not everyone has a Presenter’s Badge, you know,” Leonard added. Raj nodded his agreement, eying Penny’s lanyard with envy.

“If you would just make us part of your posse, we wouldn’t have to worry about getting there in time.” Howard was edging his way toward the elevators. “We could just waltz up to the front of the line, past the little people...”

Sheldon’s voice drifted out of the room. “It would not be possible, Wolowitz, that’s why. I’m not sure what you think I earn, but it is hardly enough to support a full-time entourage.”

Howard’s lip curled up, tired of rehashing the argument now that they were actually in San Diego. “Forget this. I’m going to get over there before I end up standing in the back of Hall H. I mean, Zoe Saldana is scheduled to appear! I want to be close enough to monitor her frequencies.” He spun on his heel, his Captain America shield flashing in the light.

Raj watched his blue cowl retreat down the hall for a moment, pulled out a small metal flask from beneath his breastplate and took a swig. “Yeah, I’m with him. Uhura’s way hot. Catch ya later, bitches!” He flipped down his Iron Man mask and took off after Howard.

Penny turned to Leonard and nodded toward the boys’ departing backs. “You can go, too, you know. No sense in missing the panel for us.”

“You sure?” Leonard asked. “I don’t mind. This is Sheldon.”

“I can handle Sheldon.” In fact, she could handle Sheldon better than anyone apart from his mother and sister.

“Yeah, I know,” he agreed easily, patting her shoulder sympathetically. “See you inside. Break a leg!” He took off at a half-jog toward the other two guys, his Fourth Doctor wig bouncing and his scarf fluttering behind him.

Other costumed folk passed by her, a few of the guys giving her an appreciative look. She knew she looked good -- she rocked the skintight blue spandex look even better than Jessica Alba had -- but she didn’t have time to preen or even be annoyed. This was Penny's first time at Comic-Con, and though she had initially agreed to go on a whim several months ago, her first day turned out to be actually pretty interesting. Penny shook her head and smiled. Even a year ago, if current Penny had told past Penny that she would go to Comic-Con and like it, past Penny would have told her to lay off the tequila. So she wanted to enjoy the Con a little today before their panel started. Yesterday they had spent the whole afternoon on the vendor floor.

“Sheldon.” She let a little more than the usual bat-wielding Cornhusker into her voice. “Remember, I’m the most powerful hero in the Marvel Universe. I will kick your ass if you don’t leave this room.”

Sheldon's voice drifted out of the room. “Technically, Sue Storm’s status as most powerful has never been made canonical by the company -- it is simply a supposition based on some of Sue’s more spectacular feats in comparison to others in the 616 universe...”

She yanked the hotel room door open as wide as it could go and fixed him with her best ‘Don’t mess with me’ glare. “Get out. Now.”

He sat there on the bed, seeming to gauge just how annoyed with him she was for a few seconds. Then he sighed and stood. “It’s just that I’ve always gone as some version of Spock. TOS Spock, Mirrorverse Spock... this year I planned to embody Spock Prime.”

“You did that yesterday, sweetie,” she cajoled as she walked toward him, trying not to lose patience. “And you can do that tomorrow, too.”

He shifted his shoulders uncomfortably. “But today is the Star Trek XII panel...”

“I know.” She patted him on one spandex-covered arm. “But so is our panel. And the producers want us to look like we’re together, and you already had my costume made.”

He looked down at the stylized four on his chest. “I guess. Dr. Richards is a scientist.”

She tried to appeal to his pride. “The best in the Marvel Universe, right?”

“Of course,” he agreed, as if it would be madness to suggest he would dress as any character which wasn't the best at something.

She shut the door to his hotel room firmly, holding out her hand to him. “C’mon, Doctor. You don’t want to miss the panel do you?”

He took her hand grudgingly, and she ignored his mumbles about how his Spock costume would have fit in much better.

~o~o~o~


There were definitely benefits to having a presenter’s badge. Penny goggled at the size of the line to get into Hall H for the Star Trek panel. To her surprise, they didn’t clear the room between panels, so even the hopefuls in line wouldn’t all get in to the room. She didn’t know how far back Raj, Howard and Leonard were in line -- she couldn’t catch a glimpse of shiny red metal, blue cowl or curly wig. She and Sheldon walked right up to the ushers at the front and were waved on through. Penny ducked her head with embarrassment at the angry stares which felt like phaser blasts between her shoulder blades. Sheldon soaked it all in, proud and unapologetic about the privileges he was getting. When she tilted her head at him, he simply responded, “I have stood in enough lines at cons to last a lifetime. When one of them gets their own show...”

She grinned back at him.

It was sort of amazing how easily he accepted his new career path these days. After a few rough weeks (for everyone) of adjusting his schedule, he treated it like the new status quo. The brass at Cal Tech, particularly Gablehauser, had actually been nothing but encouraging about his moving on. (To hear Leonard tell it, ‘Sheldon’s away from the department three days a week, someone else pays for his research, and the university can still take the credit...? They’re over the moon.’)

Penny was shaken from her thoughts by the sheer number of people in the room as she walked through. Sheldon moved with his head held high, but Penny was more than a little nervous. She had a set of note cards, kept in Sheldon’s messenger bag, of the questions and answers the producers expected her to field during the panel. They had received a little bit of media attention so far -- a few lines in the entertainment magazines (and a larger article in the CalTech newspaper). So far, she hadn’t had to answer many questions. But they always seemed to ask the same thing: “What is it like to work with someone you’ve known for such a long time? Is there anything more between you?”

She had launched into an amusing story of how they met and became friends and didn’t elaborate further. At the very least, after years of friendship and months of working side by side, they knew each other better than anyone else. Was there anything between them? Every time the thought entered her mind she buried it again. After all, it was Sheldon... obsessive, particular, loyal, science-loving Sheldon.

As they walked down the aisle toward the front, Penny tried to take it all in. Two huge screens lined both sides of the stage, and several smaller monitors were placed throughout the large hall. The room was buzzing with excitement, people chatting animatedly, texting or Twittering, reading their programs -- all waiting for the lights on stage to suddenly brighten and the empty table on the stage to be occupied with the likes of J.J. Abrams, Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine. As Penny and Sheldon got closer to the stage, she could make out the names on the placards placed in front of each chair. She recognized almost every name. Chuckling, she shook her head. Three years ago she hadn’t seen even a single episode of any one of the series.

She and Sheldon weren’t noticed in the slightest, just another cosplaying couple among the many. If their show did well, this might be the last time that happened. Sheldon seemed ready for the VIP treatment right now.

Sheldon spotted a section reserved for other presenters, and thankfully there were a few seats still open. They showed their badges again and sat. Penny couldn’t believe how close they were to the front. Sheldon immediately got into a conversation with a man beside him about their costumes, and for once she could understand at least some of what was going on. She didn’t really recognize the other person -- a member of the press, maybe? Someone on another genre show she didn’t watch? (It was very possible -- she’d been so busy the last few months that she could hardly find time for America’s Next Top Model) Penny decided to just let the noise and excitement wash over her, imagining that she was the one about to take the stage in the biggest hall at the convention, thousands breathless for any piece of news that would come from her lips.

Before she knew it, the lights dimmed in the hall and brightened on stage, and the announcer came to the podium to thunderous applause. “Is everyone excited?” the person asked, which was the most obvious question ever based on the response. It was someone she didn’t recognize, but must have had some connection to the Trek franchise. “Then let’s not waste any time. Here’s your world premiere preview, your sneak peek into the film of 2012 -- Star Trek XII!”

~o~o~o~


Walking out of the hall, Sheldon continued to talk to his seat mate from the preview, and Penny just trailed along beside. They were arguing about which Star Trek novel might be referenced in this film, based on the clips they saw and the remarks from the panel. Penny had no idea what they were talking about -- she might have seen a fair amount of Trek since the summer of 2009, but she was mostly what Sheldon referred to disdainfully as a “movieverse” fan.

They had about fifteen minutes before they had to report to their panel in another part of the convention center. Unlike the Trek panel, with thousands of dedicated fans screaming at every photon torpedo, they had a smallish room with space for a couple hundred people. She hoped that they would have at least some interest. Maybe the people who didn’t get into Hall H or Ballroom 20 would decide to kill time at their panel.

Suddenly, a crowd of bodies brushed by them in a rush -- and she could swear she felt a hand on her butt. She reflexively curled her hand into a fist to go after the guy (Or girl? She didn’t know) when she saw that Raj, Howard and Leonard were part of the group. If Howard had been the one... she was going to see how he liked the taste of aluminum and gloss-finish paint.

Leonard called over his shoulder without stopping, “Aren’t you guys coming, too?”

“To what?” she called back.

But Leonard was out of sight, and she missed his response.

“Oh, they’re just trying to make it to the Marvel Entertainment panel,” Sheldon explained, right at her ear. “They are going to be showing clips from the Avengers movie coming out next summer.”

Penny cocked her head to the side. “And you’re not upset about having to miss it?”

“Yes, I am a little put out, but...” He glanced pointedly at the clock mounted on the wall that they passed. “We do need to have enough time to get situated in our room.”

Get situated? she thought with a frown, but she was more surprised at how well Sheldon was taking that news. Only a year ago, he would have freaked at the possibility of missing out.

“But I expect a full report from Leonard, and I’ll certainly be watching the pirated video clips on the internet and reading the Newsarama discussion boards.” He snorted. “Even if we could go to the preview, I might be upset. Marvel has a history of tampering with canon as set forth by Stan Lee...” he said the name with reverence, “...and pandering to the masses by ‘updating’ the stories.” He harrumphed. “Of course, the origin stories of the Avengers are timeless! There is no need to change them.”

“Of course,” Penny agreed. It was easier.

“I mean, I cannot believe they are really using the retconned version with Captain America as part of the original lineup! That’s more of a travesty than shoehorning Black Widow into the movie just because she appeared in Iron Man 2!” His fist clenched around the strap of his messenger bag, which was emblazoned with a Fantastic Four symbol as a nod to their costumes. “Everyone knows that the original team should contain Thor, The Hulk, Giant Man, Wasp and Iron Man!”

She affected complete shock. “The nerve!”

He looked down at her approvingly. All these years of knowing each other and he sometimes still missed out on her sarcasm.

She smiled fondly, and reached over and unzipped the side of his bag, fishing out the convention center map. She unfolded it and turned it one way and then another while keeping Sheldon in her peripheral vision. “How far away is our panel?”

“Not far. Down this hallway and around the corner.” He pointed to the spot on the map.

Sheldon went right back to rambling about the Avengers movie. Every once in a while she would catch something that made sense, like, “If they decide to go with the Ultimates lineup, similar to the way the Spider-Man franchise took many of its cues from Ultimate Spider-Man, I might be more inclined to be forgiving,” but most of the time she let his words wash around her like they always had. She had actually done her research, as Sheldon requested -- no, make that demanded -- in order to dress as Sue Storm. She could convincingly talk about Sue’s history and current place in canon without embarrassing herself too much. (All bets off on Sheldon, though, he’d already winced markedly when she was talking to some guy in the vendor’s area -- she had punched Sheldon playfully, a little too hard, and he’d kept quiet.)

She was enjoying all the costumes around her as she walked. Most people weren’t dressed up, but the people who were seemed to be really popular. Lots of photos were being taken, accompanied by squeals of recognition. So far, only a couple of people had asked them to stop and take a photo during the con. Penny smiled secretly -- if their show made it big, some lucky geek would have a collector’s item on their hands.

That struck her suddenly as the coolest thing ever.

After a few more minutes of walking, they could see Walters in the distance. Their producer had already seen them and was waving them over. “Oh, good, you’re already here. We can’t get into the room right away. We have to wait for the panel before us to clear out.” Walters took a few steps in the direction they’d come from. “We can go get a snack to kill some time.”

“Isn’t Perpetual Motion in there right now?” Sheldon asked, drifting over to the schedule posted beside the door without waiting for an answer.

“No, they changed rooms at the last minute...”

Sheldon’s curiosity suddenly changed to consternation. “This is unacceptable.”

“What is, sweetie?” Penny went over to stand beside him.

He jabbed at the paper with a long, black-gloved finger. “That.” He poked it again. “Him.”

Penny read the schedule, still unclear what the problem was. “‘Cup of Joe’ panel?”

Walters joined them. “Yes, apparently the equipment in the original room wasn’t working right, so they traded with someone else who didn’t need the projection screens.”

“I see,” Sheldon said in a voice that sounded overly tense.

“Hey, honey,” Penny said carefully, placing a hand on his arm. “I know you don’t like coffee,” Penny remembered his caffeine-crazed night all too well, “but isn’t this overreacting a bit?”

“Coffee?” He turned to her, a thread of annoyance creeping into his anger. “No, Penny, ‘Cup of Joe’ is the saccharin-sweet nickname Joe Quesada gives to his question and answer sessions.”

“Joe Quesada?” The name wasn’t ringing a bell.

Sheldon sighed heavily, almost a grunt. “You really didn’t research as thoroughly as I asked, did you?”

Her eyes widened at the affront. “Yes,” she said through gritted teeth. “I did. Is this some Marvel guy?”

“So-some Marvel guy?” he asked incredulously. “Only the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics!”

Her eyebrows knit together. “I thought that was Stan Lee?”

“Stan Lee was one of the founders, responsible for creating the characters to which we pay homage! He is no longer officially attached to Marvel, more’s the pity, and has not been editor for decades. Pshht, Penny,” Sheldon scoffed. “I begin to think you have no idea about the basic workings of a comic book company.”

“You think?” Penny rolled her eyes.

Sheldon was back to staring holes in the schedule. “If I had known ‘Joephisto’ was going to occupy the same room as I was, I’d have prepared better,” he muttered darkly.

Oh!” Penny said suddenly, understanding coming at last. “Joephisto! You should have said that in the first place! This is the guy that broke up Peter and MJ, right?”

“Only one of his many offenses...” He seemed slightly annoyed that all she cared about was the romance aspect of the comics. “...but yes.”

“Oo, I hate that guy.” This time she wasn't teasing at all.

Walters watched this conversation with amused incomprehension. “You guys... have a problem?”

“My problem will be solved in...” Sheldon looked at the clock behind him. “In about five minutes.” He walked to the back entrance to the room and posted himself like a guard.

“What is he...?” Walters asked.

“Better not to ask.” Penny nodded over at the food cart several yards away. You might wanna get a snack. I’ll make sure he behaves himself.”

Walters left them alone, saying he’d return in time for their panel. Sheldon waited beside the door, ready to hit the guy with continuity error tornado... or whatever it was he did in these situations. Penny pulled out her note cards to study, making last minute changes with a pencil.

She heard Howard’s voice behind her. “Hey, Mr. Stretchpants!” he joked. Penny turned toward him. “Hi, Hotp...” Her glare made him fumble the last part into, “...hhhhi, Penny.”

“What happened to the Marvel preview?” she asked Leonard instead, who was coming up with Raj right behind.

“Missed it, line was too long.”

“Yeah, ‘cause someone had to make a pit stop,” Raj complained, looking pointedly at Howard. Raj looked a little unsteady. Unlike the character he was playing, he still couldn’t hold his liquor very well.

“It’s this damn costume! It’s giving me an all-American wedgie.” Howard pulled at his leggings. Penny turned her eyes away, though not in time. “I knew I should have used a higher spandex to nylon ratio.”

The sound of applause from the other side of the door started up her nerves again. She could hear the muffled sound of the announcer, “Next up in fifteen minutes, the hosts and producer of the new show, Unified Theory!

She focused on Leonard to take her mind off it. “Well, I hate to tell you, but you just missed the Marvel Comics panel in there, too.”

“Balls,” Raj announced with a swig from his flask.

“I’ve missed nothing.” Sheldon’s voice cut through the noise of the exiting comics fans. He opened the door and faced what he saw like a soldier going into battle. “I’m going in.”

The guys looked to Penny for explanation. “He wants to have a few words with Joe Quesada, I guess?”

“A few words?” Leonard asked, voice taut with worry.

Howard pushed toward the door. “This I gotta see.” They followed him in with varying degrees of excitement and trepidation.

Sheldon was holding out a gloved hand to Quesada, who was surrounded by his lackeys. “Mr. Quesada, my name is Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D. I’m one of the new hosts of Unified Theory.” Quesada took his hand and shook it as Sheldon continued, “I’m a big fan of Marvel.”

Quesada smiled jovially. “Always nice to meet one of my fans. Especially in the business.”

“Oh, I’m not a fan of your work,” Sheldon said matter-of-factly. “By no means.”

Quesada was nonplused. “Um, okay...”

“In fact, I am appalled by your mishandling of several of the books over your tenure, your insistence on heavily-hyped but ultimately unsatisfying company-wide crossovers and your willingness to, if I may use an impolite term, ‘get in bed with’ companies like Disney just to turn a profit.”

Howard and Raj, unable to resist, came to flank Sheldon on either side. “Yeah,” Howard put in, “I can’t wait to see what crossovers you milk next! Oo, here’s a great idea! Duck Tales vs. Runaways! Or X-Men 1607: Pocahontas!”

“Heh, Spider-Man saves the Disney Princesses!” Raj suggested with mischievous glee. “Or what about The Punisher vs. Buzz Lightyear or Elektra vs. Aladdin!”

Back to Howard. “Deadpool in the Pride Lands, out-wisecracking Timon and Pumbaa!”

Then Raj. “The epic forbidden love story of Wolverine and Pinocchio!”

With each ever more ludicrous suggestion, Quesada’s face got darker with annoyance. “Now, look, that’s just ridic--”

Raj couldn’t help but put in one more. “Hulk vs. Bambi!”

Quesada looked a little guilty then, but quickly recovered. “Hey, what I’ve done for Marvel during my time as editor I stand by one hundred percent. I doubt any of you could understand the intricacies involved in my job.”

“I beg your pardon!” Sheldon said with affront. “If I can calculate the properties of Born’s Law of quantum mechanics in my sleep, I think I could run a company better than you! You’ve brought continuity to a state even lower than the...” Sheldon’s lip curled in ultimate distaste. “...the Clone Saga!”

Everyone gasped.

Penny jumped in, too, caught up in the heat of the moment. “Do you have something against true love?”

Raj took another swig, swaying a little on his feet. “And what, do you have some sort of boner for Norman Osborn? Putting him in charge of everything?”

Howard added, “And you keep canceling all the good titles!” He advanced on Quesada, brandishing his shield. “Like Marvel Divas! I loved that book!”

Leonard got in front of everyone, panicked at the scene they were causing. “C’mon, guys, calm down. I’m sure he’s just doing his job.”

Quesada smiled like he was eating all of this conflict up rather than being disturbed by their extreme fanboy behavior. “Thank you... what’s your name?”

“Leonard. Dr. Leonard Hofstadter.”

“It’s nice to hear a voice of reason every once in a while.” Then his lip quirked upward in amusement. “But I gotta ask...” He gestured toward Sheldon, Penny, Raj and Howard’s Marvel-themed attire and then back at Leonard in his Fourth Doctor getup. “Did you miss the memo this morning or something?”

Leonard’s eyes narrowed. “You know what? I take it back. Get ‘im.” He stepped aside.

The cacophony of voices that arose was immediate, and slowly grew deafening. One of Quesada’s assistants headed for the door to get security. Penny spied a marker on a supplies table, and in the thick of the argument, slipped over to scrawl a note on the back of one of her notecards. She crept back to the group of hotheads and pretended to try to break it up.

“Guys! Guys!” she shouted, pressing into the knot of angry men. She put an arm around Quesada, patting him on the back. “We’ve got to get ready for our panel, and I’m sure Joe here has places to be...”

Just then, Walters came rushing into the room. “They’re ready for us, Dr. Cooper, Ms. London.” He pulled on Sheldon’s arm, his eyes a little wild. He looked like he was imagining the crashing and burning of his show before it ever hit the airwaves.

Penny came over to take Sheldon’s other arm and helped pull him toward the curtain behind the platform. “I’m not done yet!” Sheldon protested.

“Oh, yes, you are, sweetie.”

“Save it for the letters page!” Quesada laughed. He turned and left with his entourage, the word ‘ASSHOLE’ clearly written on the card Penny had stuck to his back.

Penny surreptitiously pointed to the note with a devilish aside to Leonard, Howard and Raj. “At least he’ll get people to agree with that the rest of the day...”

They laughed, and Raj gave her a tipsy thumbs’ up. “Break a leg!” The guys headed toward their seats in the audience. The room was about half-full, and lucky no one seemed to have paid the backstage argument much mind.

“I’m going to go out there and make sure everything is ready, all right guys?” Walters asked, looking between them with concern. His eyes seemed to ask, Is he going to be okay?

Sheldon stood stiffly, visibly trying to control his breathing. He didn’t answer, staring at the floor.

Penny used her most reassuring voice. “We’re fine, go do what you need to.”

“You have about five minutes before the host announces you.”

“Got it.” As soon as he was out of sight, Penny put a hand between his shoulder blades, and rubbed at his tense muscles. It was a sign of how comfortable they were with each other that he didn’t flinch away. “Sheldon?” she asked softly. “You going to be okay?”

“Yes,” he answered just as softly.

“He’s not worth it.” She continued to massage his back, trying to calm him down. It was sort of amazing how her earlier nervousness was lessening by the moment.

Sheldon took a deep breath. “No, he isn’t. He may have ruined Marvel for me, but I won’t let him ruin this for us.”

Her hand stopped moving at his words. Us? The way he said that had caused a tiny warm flush to creep through her. She was suddenly nervous again, and not for the same reasons.

To hide it, she patted his back briefly and said, “I’m just going to study my cards one last time. Not everyone is blessed with eidetic memory like you, Superman.”

“I’m Dr. Reed Richards, Penny,” he began, sounding like himself again. “Or did you already...?” He noticed her smirk just then. “Oh, a joke. I get it.” He smiled in return. His smiles were getting more natural all the time.

She shuffled the cards, and strangely, the question interviewers always seemed to ask came up: “What is it like to work with someone you’ve known for such a long time? Is there anything more between you?”

Her hilarious, but pat, story about how she moved in across the hall one day and how the two had slowly gone from being like oil and water to becoming close friends... didn’t seem right anymore. Her eyes unfocused and the cards went slack in her hand.

She didn’t know how long she stood there, but she felt Sheldon’s hand on her shoulder and she broke out of her trance to look up at him.

“I... I have wanted to articulate my feelings, but I do not often have the words to express myself properly.”

“Oh?” She affected surprise. “You usually have more words to say than 97% of the people I know.”

“But in these circumstances...” He swallowed, his voice taking on a tone she’d never heard before. “I did not want this job; I did everything I could to ensure you got this job instead. But it has actually freed me to follow my research without boundaries or interference. I would never have had that staying in my quark-sized office at CalTech.”

Penny felt a wide smile growing on her face. “Are you trying to say ‘thank you’?”

“Hrm, um, yes.” A slight blush darkened his cheeks. “But the words never seem enough with you, they never have.”

He awkwardly made to put his arms around her, and she assumed he was giving her another hug. She slipped her arms around his waist and tried to rest her head on his shoulder... but he stopped her, a hand coming up to cup her chin.

His lips covered hers firmly, moving slightly, almost precisely, like he’d been reading up on it or studying the way people kissed in the movies. Penny squeaked in surprise and pulled back, her lashes fluttering. He tilted his head to the side, and opened his mouth to speak...

She didn’t analyze her next action. That was what Sheldon did; he never did anything he didn’t have at least 27 contingency plans for. So she didn’t think as she grabbed him by the neck and pulled him down to her to kiss again, her note cards fluttering down to land around their feet. She had never even checked to see if she and Sheldon had a box, let alone if there were a cat inside.

Apparently it was a tiger.

He wasn’t bad for an amateur. There was a lot of time to play professor to Sheldon, and she wouldn’t start with Ancient Greece. Just then, the microphone on the other side of the curtain crackled to life. “Welcome to the Unified Theory panel, Comic-Con 2011!” She pulled away, taken aback at the heat between them.

He opened his mouth to speak. “You dropped your note cards, Penny.”

She laughed and grabbed him by the hand, pulling him to the stairs at the edge of the platform. “I don’t need them, anyway.”

And when the expected question came, the one she had answered over and over, Penny reached over and clasped his hand with both of hers before beginning. “It all started when I moved in across the hall...”



Author's Note 2: In case you were wondering? Yes, my bias was showing in the Joe Q. scene. ;) Special thanks for various ideas and jokes to: van_el, fujiidom, damalur, ishie, xenokattz, rj_anderson, debelle77, juniperlane, annjej... and renisanz for the lovely fanart which inspired the final scene.

Comments

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fujiidom
Feb. 1st, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
I seriously, seriously love this. From Sheldon rightfully bitching out Joe to Penny's one upping him with her A+ notecard win. This is all so fantastically fun to read and I'm both happy and terribly sad that this is the end of it. But, here's looking to future awesome from you! This does nothing but prove it inevitable. :D
htbthomas
Feb. 1st, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
Yay! My main objective was to make this a fun, believable story with a first kiss. And all the geeky stuff is just a huge hoot to put in there.

I will write more, I promise! You've already heard the epic evil!plot bunny. This will happen. ♥
damalur
Feb. 1st, 2010 03:59 pm (UTC)
I'm resisting typing this entire thing in capslock only with GREAT DIFFICULTY, but I don't want to damage anyone's eyes. *g*

Fan-flailing, to get it out of the way first: I THINK ALL OF MY DREAMS CAME TRUE WHEN THEY GANGED UP ON JOE QUESADA. By the time I hit the "And what, do you have some sort of boner for Norman Osborn?" I was cackling like a loon. And Howard and Raj as Tony and Cap! Leonard missing the memo with his Fourth Doctor costume! Most importantly, the ASSHOLE card on JQ's back! And what I really, really love is that you don't just use throwaway references - what each person says makes complete sense for their individual character, and often even enhances the characterization. (Howard liking Marvel Divas!)

I love Sheldon trying to articulate his feelings and Penny pointing out that he uses more words than almost everyone else she knows. The final scene is just so sweet and genuine while being completely believable. I think that's a reminder I needed, tbh, that these two characters can be sweet and supportive of one another.

Anyway, so delighted when I woke up to find this at the top of my f-list! I think I'll have to read the whole thing again now that the final part is out.
htbthomas
Feb. 1st, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
CAPSLOCK IS AWESOME, WHY RESTRAIN?!

The whole Joe Q scene is thanks to your suggestion. It was the perfect thing to get the whole gang in on, and a fun way to vent in fic that actually made sense!

The show doesn't always remember that they can be very supportive of each other, so it's good that we can remind each other of it. ♥

Re-reading? Yay! Have fun!
ndnickerson
Feb. 1st, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC)
oh, lovely. and i love how intricate it all is, despite my own woeful lack of comic book knowledge. (i see it and i know i should be excited too, so that's kinda like it, right?) and the idea of sheldon studying for that last part... such a great story. =)
htbthomas
Feb. 1st, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
There is something about this fandom that requires intricacy from me. Probably why it took so long to update! :D

Hopefully I struck a balance for the comics fans and the people who only have a passing knowledge, like the show does. Thanks so much for reviewing! ♥
ancarett
Feb. 1st, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
Very cute finish to a lovely saga. I think my favourite part was all the SDCC inside jokes, right up through the Joephisto scenes. Hee!

Great job with a fun story!
htbthomas
Feb. 1st, 2010 05:08 pm (UTC)
The SDCC inside jokes were the fun, fun, fun part. Though the Joephisto part took the longest from development to finish, for sure!

Thanks for reading and reviewing! &hearts'
(no subject) - ancarett - Feb. 1st, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
slynn6776
Feb. 1st, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry it's over, but it was well worth the wait and a wonderful read. :)
htbthomas
Feb. 1st, 2010 07:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks for being such a faithful reader, sweetie! ♥
(Deleted comment)
htbthomas
Feb. 1st, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC)
I'm glad I did, too! ♥ The Comic-Con stuff was SO much fun to do, just a lot of planning and work. :)
mnm2192
Feb. 1st, 2010 05:45 pm (UTC)
THIS JUST MAKES ME HAPPY:)Seriously, I gasped and had to reread: "He awkwardly made to put his arms around her, and she assumed he was giving her another hug. She slipped her arms around his waist and tried to rest her head on his shoulder... but he stopped her, a hand coming up to cup her chin.." SQUEEEE!♥ Such a great job!
htbthomas
Feb. 1st, 2010 07:39 pm (UTC)
I'm really glad you liked that! renisanz is totally to blame for that, by the way. :)

Thanks for reading and reviewing! ♥
arabian
Feb. 1st, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
This was wonderful; a wonderful story from beginning to end that just was so in character. And how much do I love the black screen/exec producer HTBTHOMAS??!?! Hee!! AWESOME JOB! You should be proud.

This one's a keeper!
htbthomas
Feb. 1st, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks! ♥ I know it could be a bit of a ride, from humor to hurt/anger and back again. So glad you enjoyed it!

And the end card... I had to. ;D
candyflosskillr
Feb. 1st, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
Awesome! You win so hard for this, I really enjoyed it and I'm sad it's finished. You did such a brilliant job. :3

You’ve brought continuity to a state even lower than the...” Sheldon’s lip curled in ultimate distaste. “...the Clone Saga!”
LULZ!!

“In fact, I am appalled by your mishandling of several of the books over your tenure, your insistence on heavily-hyped but ultimately unsatisfying company-wide crossovers and your willingness to, if I may use an impolite term, ‘get in bed with’ companies like Disney just to turn a profit.”
Hear hear, Sheldon!

“And you keep canceling all the good titles!” He advanced on Quesada, brandishing his shield. “Like Marvel Divas! I loved that book!”
BooHiss Howard! BooHiss!
htbthomas
Feb. 1st, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
Hee, glad you liked all the Marvel digs!

And I seriously had to make Howard mention Divas. You know, that, right? You think he has a secret crush on the Runaways gang? Okay, maybe he ships Xavin/Karolina... ;D

Edited at 2010-02-01 08:21 pm (UTC)
jazzrose343
Feb. 1st, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)

Howard pushed toward the door. “This I gotta see.” They followed him in with varying degrees of excitement and trepidation.

Sheldon was holding out a gloved hand to Quesada, who was surrounded by his lackeys. “Mr. Quesada, my name is Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D. I’m one of the new hosts of Unified Theory.” Quesada took his hand and shook it as Sheldon continued, “I’m a big fan of Marvel.”

Quesada smiled jovially. “Always nice to meet one of my fans. Especially in the business.”

“Oh, I’m not a fan of your work,” Sheldon said matter-of-factly. “By no means.”

Quesada was nonplused. “Um, okay...”

“In fact, I am appalled by your mishandling of several of the books over your tenure, your insistence on heavily-hyped but ultimately unsatisfying company-wide crossovers and your willingness to, if I may use an impolite term, ‘get in bed with’ companies like Disney just to turn a profit.”

Howard and Raj, unable to resist, came to flank Sheldon on either side. “Yeah,” Howard put in, “I can’t wait to see what crossovers you milk next! Oo, here’s a great idea! Duck Tales vs. Runaways! Or X-Men 1607: Pocahontas!”

“Heh, Spider-Man saves the Disney Princesses!” Raj suggested with mischievous glee. “Or what about The Punisher vs. Buzz Lightyear or Elektra vs. Aladdin!”

Back to Howard. “Deadpool in the Pride Lands, out-wisecracking Timon and Pumbaa!”

Then Raj. “The epic forbidden love story of Wolverine and Pinocchio!”

With each ever more ludicrous suggestion, Quesada’s face got darker with annoyance. “Now, look, that’s just ridic--”

Raj couldn’t help but put in one more. “Hulk vs. Bambi!”

Quesada looked a little guilty then, but quickly recovered. “Hey, what I’ve done for Marvel during my time as editor I stand by one hundred percent. I doubt any of you could understand the intricacies involved in my job.”

“I beg your pardon!” Sheldon said with affront. “If I can calculate the properties of Born’s Law of quantum mechanics in my sleep, I think I could run a company better than you! You’ve brought continuity to a state even lower than the...” Sheldon’s lip curled in ultimate distaste. “...the Clone Saga!”

Everyone gasped.

Penny jumped in, too, caught up in the heat of the moment. “Do you have something against true love?”

Raj took another swig, swaying a little on his feet. “And what, do you have some sort of boner for Norman Osborn? Putting him in charge of everything?”

Howard added, “And you keep canceling all the good titles!” He advanced on Quesada, brandishing his shield. “Like Marvel Divas! I loved that book!”

Leonard got in front of everyone, panicked at the scene they were causing. “C’mon, guys, calm down. I’m sure he’s just doing his job.”

Quesada smiled like he was eating all of this conflict up rather than being disturbed by their extreme fanboy behavior. “Thank you... what’s your name?”

“Leonard. Dr. Leonard Hofstadter.”

“It’s nice to hear a voice of reason every once in a while.” Then his lip quirked upward in amusement. “But I gotta ask...” He gestured toward Sheldon, Penny, Raj and Howard’s Marvel-themed attire and then back at Leonard in his Fourth Doctor getup. “Did you miss the memo this morning or something?”

Leonard’s eyes narrowed. “You know what? I take it back. Get ‘im.” He stepped aside.

The cacophony of voices that arose was immediate, and slowly grew deafening. One of Quesada’s assistants headed for the door to get security. Penny spied a marker on a supplies table, and in the thick of the argument, slipped over to scrawl a note on the back of one of her notecards. She crept back to the group of hotheads and pretended to try and break it up


I'm sorry but I had to quote the whole thing. This is a work of UTTER GENIUS :D

It voices everything I was thinking and is so fantastically Sheldon and Howard is so a fan of the Divas !!

Okay now in the rest. It is just perfect. I love them together at Comic Con! Having Presenters badges and Leonard as the Fourth Doctor.

The finally scene was so sweet and lovely and I love them being suportive of each other and just everything !

I am sad that this is over.Thank you so much for writing this it was just a winderful thing to read :D
htbthomas
Feb. 1st, 2010 08:53 pm (UTC)
I love that you quoted the whole scene! ♥ Believe me, I sweated over that part the most of any. The ending was the easiest, since I had that planned out from the beginning. :)

Thanks for reading and reviewing all along the way! ♥
ruby_caspar
Feb. 1st, 2010 11:33 pm (UTC)
It's finished! yaaaaay!!!! But, now there's more... boooooo!!! I really loved this - everything about Comic Con was fabulous, and the ending was so, so, sooo sweet! Fantastic job hon, loved it to bits!
htbthomas
Feb. 2nd, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC)
I know, that's always the worst, right? They always say to 'keep 'em wanting more'... ;)

Thanks for all your encouragement and reviews!
d_sieya
Feb. 2nd, 2010 01:25 am (UTC)
I don't know if I've ever reviewed this before (I'm probably one of the worst reviewers on the comm, actually [shameface]) but I HAVE been following it and enjoying it like none other! When I got to the end I actually said out loud, "Dammit! It ended!"

Very, VERY well-done. I love the whole premise and what it turned into, and this chapter in particular was AWESOME. I was grinning like a proud maniac when the boys & Penny all threw that shit at Joe. And OMG their first kiss. Just. It reminds me of that one renisanz fanart, which I ADORED, and sjldfhlkasdhflkh.

And FUCK YES they will be the power couple of ComicCon in years to come :D

UM, on a sidenote, I think I may have inadvertently stolen Penny's last name from you for my AU. I thought I had read something where that was a potential last name, but IDEK even more. SO next chapter I put up I will credit. (Sorry! Totally unintentional, I swear)

Can't wait for your next fic :DDD
htbthomas
Feb. 2nd, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC)
I can't remember, either! I'd have to go back through the previous chapters... but hey, you're reviewing now!

EE, I worked really hard on that Joe scene, so I'm ecstatic over how much everyone liked it. :) And <lj user="renisanz". made that fanart for me this summer, so I'd been trying to incorporate it in to the ending. &hearts; You're not really stealing the name from me - that's the name on her mail on set, a joke from the prop manager, whose name is also London. :)
danceonstardust
Feb. 2nd, 2010 07:04 am (UTC)
:DDDDDDDDD THIS. IS. A. GREAT. ENDING. I loved it. You should be proud hon! ♥
htbthomas
Feb. 2nd, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I am pretty pleased I made it to the end, and was able to get it all done! :)
pebblegosling
Feb. 28th, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)
OH MY GOODNESS. BELIEVABLE PENNY/SHELDON.
Where have you been all my life?!
This was so, so good. And god did I love the geeky, actually accurate and thus awesome geeky references.
*holds back gleeful keyboard smashing*
<3
htbthomas
Feb. 28th, 2010 01:33 pm (UTC)
I have no problem with any sort of keyboard smashing! :D I'm so glad you liked it that much. ♥ I was really trying hard to give these two a believable scenario wherein they could start a relationship... so your words are deeply appreciated!

I am planning to write another long BBT fic for the bigbangbigbang, but the release date for stories isn't until July... hopefully you'll enjoy that one, too! :)
(no subject) - pebblegosling - Feb. 28th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
mark_clark
Mar. 8th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
Finally got around to reading this last chapter.

A wonderful way to end the story. Everyone was in top form in this chapter and you captured everyone's character perfectly.

I enjoyed the Joe Q. part of the story. They said a lot of stuff that true fans of the Marvel U. have been thinking on for the last few years. I really liked how Penny didn't like the magical split of Peter and MJ.

Excellent job.
htbthomas
Mar. 10th, 2010 02:04 am (UTC)
Thanks, Mark! The Joe Q bit was the hardest and most fun at the same time. It came out so well, so I'm glad I put in all the effort! :)

And thanks for reading the whole thing, even when it's not your favorite pairing. ♥
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