Fandom: The Big Bang Theory
Spoilers: set a year or so in the future after Season 2
Word Count: Part 5: 2,335 words
Betas: 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.
Previously: Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3 // Part 4
In Penny’s apartment, boxes lay scattered around, stacked on the sofa, on the kitchen counter, beside the door. There was no discernible order to the packing -- some boxes were filled with clothing and knickknacks, books and appliances, DVDs and dishes. The living room seemed deserted, except for the chaos.
Then a frustrated sigh of effort emanated from behind thekitchen island. Penny heaved herself upward, blonde hair flying around herhead. With a crash, she set a box of dishes on the counter. She wiped her brow, causing strands of hair to mat to her forehead, and snatched a cold bottle of water from the fridge.
After taking a big swig from the bottle, Penny walked over to pick up her list from the arm of the sofa. She crossed off ‘coffee mugs’ with a flourish of a Sharpie and a self-satisfied nod. But her expression quickly turned into a frown as she saw how many things she had left to pack. She glanced briefly at her cell phone (she hadn’t yet canceled her plan, thank God) but shook her head. Who could she call to help? Most of her friends were at work... or would beg off with some other excuse when they heard what she needed.
She could ask the boys, who were probably home... but was it worth it? They’d help happily, but just the thought of Raj having to write down every question he had, Howard pawing through her things, and Leonard begging her to stay -- in his passive-aggressive way -- again... she decided against it. She could probably lift more weight than any of them, anyway.
And then there was Sheldon. She hadn’t spoken to him since the other day. She wasn’t sure she even wanted to anymore. They had always had an interesting friendship, one she couldn’t even define. But if he wasn’t going to apologize, then the friendship must not mean as much to him as it did to her. She pushed down the tight feeling she got in her stomach at the thought.
She moved over to fill another box, this time from one of the bookshelves. There were more knickknacks than books, and what was there would have perplexed the Penny of three years ago. A comprehensive guide to the Star Trek universe, purchased after she saw the newest Star Trek movie and wanted to learn more about her favorite characters while the boys were away in the Arctic. Penny smiled as she put the book in the box. She was glad she had, too. When they returned and watched the movie on DVD a few months later, she actually was able to debate with Sheldon on--
She stopped that perilous train of thought. Would she ever be able to think of Star Trek -- or anything related to it -- without thinking of him?
Penny grabbed for the next item. It was the manual for the kids’ science experiment kit Leonard had bought for her a couple of Christmases ago. The kit had been cannibalized for parts long ago in whatever scheme one of the guys had going on a weekly basis (how a bunch of scientists could constantly get themselves caught up in so many hijinks was beyond her). She’d only done one of the experiments, on a summer day when she was bored. The one about magnetism. At the time, she felt a little closer to Leonard, wondering how she’d ever make it through the whole summer without him...
Of course, now she was about to move away and never see any of them again.
There was the glass globe with the constellations that Raj got her after their trip to the Griffith Observatory, and the little menorah she bought to observe Hanukkah with Howard. Of course, after he asked, “So what gift are you giving me today?” with a wiggle of his hips, she nearly embedded it in his skull. There was still a little dent on the side and everything. Penny grinned at the memory and placed it in the box.
She pulled her hand back a little when she touched the item at the back of the shelf. One of the first Penny Blossoms she and Sheldon had ever made winked back at her with one rhinestone eye. It was a little faded, and a lot dusty -- she wasn’t even sure how it got back there in the first place, rather than being sold. But it was definitely one of the early Blossoms -- the exact placement of the glitter had the Sheldon touch.
Penny still looked back on that time with fondness. It was the first time she and Sheldon ever worked together on something, rather than arguing or ricocheting against each other’s perceptions and abilities. They had been so damned efficient! And it was fun, to boot. But now... her memory of that one crazy night would be forever tainted by the way things were ending.
Penny stilled and then gave her herself a derisive laugh. “Dramatic much, self?” No need to act like a scorned sixteen-year-old. She picked up the Penny Blossom carefully between two fingers and placed it inside the box.
Once the shelf was cleared, she closed the top of the box and looked around for something else to pack.
She was distracted by Sheldon’s voice, coming through her doorway from the hall. “Good evening. My name is Sheldon Cooper, and I invite you join me in an exploration of... oh, dammit!”
What the--? Sheldon was sounding crazier than normal -- he didn’t usually curse except when he was really upset. Curious, Penny crept over to the door to peek out of the peephole.
Sheldon held a sheaf of papers in his hand, and was gesturing dramatically at the perpetually-broken elevator doors. “Throughout all human history, man has wondered about the origins of the universe. Whether we were formed by the hand of an all-powerful god, or came into being from nothing, as well as a multitude of interpretations in between and on the edges. We--” Sheldon growled suddenly and then threw the pages down to the ground in a fit of frustration. “Oh, this is tripe!”
Then he immediately bent down to gather all the papers up, meticulously checking page numbers to keep them in the proper order. What could possibly be going on? She smiled, a small vindicated grin. He was obviously having a rough time with whatever it was.
Sheldon straightened each page, carefully ironing out the kinks in the corners with his fingers, then lifted the sheets before him dramatically and took a deep breath...
His chest collapsed and he shuffled over to his own door to bang his head on it. Once. “Leonard.” Twice. “Leonard.” Three times. “Leonard.”
Penny had never seen him so despondent. The tiny schadenfreude-ian part of her which had rejoiced at his pain dissolved. She quietly opened the door and poked her head out.
Before she could speak, she heard Leonard’s voice come from the other side of the door to 4A. “Are you done yet?”
“Yes, Leonard,” Sheldon said, his voice defeated.
“Are you sure?”
“I...” Sheldon began, and then sighed. “I can’t do it.”
“This is Leslie Winkle we’re talking about. The Dr. Doom to your Mr. Fantastic, remember?” Leonard encouraged, still through the door.
“How could I forget? I forget nothing. Or don’t you remember?”
Penny heard the deadbolt and chain rattling on the other side. Then the door opened and Leonard stepped aside, gesturing for Sheldon to come back in. “I suppose I should offer Leslie my congratulations, then...” Leonard stopped and noticed that Penny was peeking out of the door. “Penny?”
Sheldon whipped his head back toward her, his face going scarlet at her previously unnoticed presence.
Leonard gave Sheldon an annoyed look, and then stalked into the hall. “Don’t tell me he was bothering you with this?!”
Sheldon started, “Absolutely not--!” at the same time Penny said, “Bother me with what?”
Leonard closed his mouth and looked back at Sheldon, who was not meeting either of their eyes. Then Leonard said, “Never mind. How is the packing going? Need any help?”
She smirked at Leonard’s obvious attempt to change the subject. She wanted to know what Sheldon’s problem was! True, if Sheldon had come to her door, for any reason at all, she would have ignored him. But he hadn’t. He seemed to be doing everything in his power not to bother her. “I’m just fine. What on earth is going on?”
“You really don’t want to know, Penny...” Leonard tried to placate her, just as Sheldon was pushing his way back into 4A. She moved past Leonard and hurried back to block Sheldon’s continued path.
She planted her fists on her hips and stared up at Sheldon in challenge. “What. Is. It?”
Sheldon fixed his eyes on the space just above her head. “The point is moot. I will not be auditioning after all.” He side-stepped her, more deftly than she would have imagined, and walked toward the kitchen.
“Why is the--?” Then the point sunk in, moot or not. “Did you say... audition?”
“Yes, the casting director thought I would fill their host position, but on second, or more specifically, third thought, I wish to have nothing to do with this program.” As he spoke, Sheldon filled his bright red kettle with water for tea.
“You were... asked... to audition for a show... and you’re... turning it down?!” Penny’s eyes grew wider and her words grew stronger with each word, until the last came out almost as a shriek.
“P-Penny,” Leonard said, reaching out to calm her by touching her shoulder. “This is sort of why he wasn’t supposed to bother you...”
She shrugged his hand away, and stalked to the counter to slap her hands down in front of her tall neighbor. Or soon-to-be former neighbor. “I can’t believe that I’ve sweated and slaved to get a call back, when meanwhile, a job just drops in your lap!” She backed him into the sink, eyes flashing. “And you don’t even want it! Or have any experience! It’s not fair!”
Sheldon squirmed over toward the range, and flipped on one of the burners to get away from her. “Fairness has little to do with one’s success in any endeavor, Penny.”
Penny pressed her lips together and did her best impression of Sheldon’s red tea kettle. Steam figuratively shot out of her ears.
“You’re not helping, Sheldon,” Leonard put in. But he stayed well back from the two of them.
Which turned out to be the smart decision -- when, as he’d expected, the explosion came. “WHY IS EVERYTHING SO DAMN EASY FOR YOU!”
Sheldon jumped, banging slightly into the refrigerator’s edge. But he kept calm in the face of Hurricane Penny. “I wouldn’t use those terms. My achievements have always been a result of my astronomical IQ combined with careful planning and hard work...”
Penny screamed, a feral growl, and stalked back toward her apartment.
Sheldon, rubbing at his arm where he’d hit the refrigerator, took a few steps toward her as she left. He shouted, “But this is not easy for me at all!”
Leonard’s mouth dropped open. Penny froze in place. Then she turned slowly back toward him. “What did you say?”
In a more modulated tone, Sheldon said, “It’s not easy for me. Though I have serious doubts about the quality of the research behind this...” He gestured disgustedly at the stack of papers on the counter. “...script... I can also state without a doubt that I have no talent for acting, at all.”
“Oh, sweetie,” she said, her anger fading slightly because of his honesty, “I’m sure that’s not true.”
“It is. I will have to concede that Leslie Winkle is...” He shuddered dramatically. “...better than me at something.”
Penny’s anger flared right back up. “They’re giving this job to Leslie?!”
Sheldon looked surprised and pleased. “I had no idea you felt so strongly about Dr. Winkle.”
“How could I not? I mean, she’s pissed all over Leonard... and Howard... and she’s been nothing but mean to you... and I can’t imagine what she’d do to Raj if she ever got her hands on him...”
“You never seemed bothered by those things when they happened...” Leonard asked, perplexed.
“I was, I just--” She strode over to the script and picked it up to shake in her grasp. “Can’t believe she would do a better job than...”
Sheldon raised an eyebrow. “Than you?”
“Okay, yes!” She shuffled the pages, scanning through them. “But if it isn’t going to be me, then it should be you! I mean, Sheldon, you could do this, you really could.” Penny drew herself up to her full height, put an arrogant expression on her face and then intoned, “So what do we know about gravity? We know that it causes any two objects in the universe to be drawn to one another. We know that gravity assisted in forming the universe, that it keeps the moon in orbit around the Earth, and that it can be harnessed. Even if we believe, as a child once said, ‘There is a tremendous weight pushing down on the center of the Earth because of so much population stomping around up there these days,’ we know that it exists.” Penny laughed. “Heh, that’s cute.”
By the time she finished, Leonard and Sheldon were looking at each other with twin expressions of surprise. “Wow, you nailed that, Penny.”
“Thanks,” she said with a pleased grin.
“Are you pondering what I’m pondering, Sheldon?” Leonard asked.
“I think so, Leonard. But based on my previous experience, you will undoubtedly surprise me with something banal and trivial.”
Leonard grimaced and gestured at Penny. “No, I mean, Penny could help you! You could pay her to coach you for the audition. She would be perfect!”
Penny’s face looked hopeful. “You think so?”
“Yes, I--” Leonard began, but Sheldon cut him off.
“No,” Sheldon said strongly. “I will not need a coach.”
Penny’s hope visibly crumbled. “But why...?
“Because.” Sheldon held her eyes. “You are the one who is going to audition in my place.”
Next: Part 6