Leonard liked sleeping with Penny, no matter what it took to accomplish that. Well, he liked the sex, and like any guy….
Penny liked sleeping nearer the door. Not that she understood why.
So. Who needs cuddling? Penny distracted herself with full post-coital awareness, letting her tingling body power down from the sex high, following the dropping energy right into sleep….
She drifted awake to the sensation of being thoroughly cuddled. And spooned. Long, strong arms wrapped around her from behind, the arch of a long, male body wholly protecting her from anything that might come in through the door on the other side of him.
Huh. She wasn't sleeping on the side of the bed nearest the door, this time. And mmm, she sure as hell didn't mind. Except… hadn't she fallen asleep with Leonard? In the same bed, anyway?
Whoever had his arms wrapped around her easily had eight inches on Leonard. He felt lankier, and smelled of plain soap, none of that ridiculous aftershave she hadn't wholly trained Leonard out of.
Penny's eyes popped open. She knew that soap!
She showered in that shower often enough.
Sure enough, the wall she faced was Sheldon's wall. Sheldon's bookshelf. Sheldon's luminous fish bathing her in its surreal, golden light.
Penny reared up in bed. "Sheldon?!"
"What?!" The exclamation came out as a sleepy twang as he followed her up in full danger! danger! mode. He stared at her a moment, as if searching for something, then relaxed enough to draw a long, bare forearm across his hooded eyes and examine her again. She noticed that he was wearing an undershirt to sleep in, instead of pajamas, for once. It… did things for his shoulders. "Penny, it's 4:37 am, a clear breach of our… oh." Somehow, he seemed to stop himself. It seemed to take effort. "Is something wrong?"
He looked surprisingly proud of himself, as if he'd recited a line correctly.
She pulled his sheets up higher on her chest, scooching back across his bed, further from him. "Yes, there's something wrong! I'm in bed with you!"
"I don't understand." He blinked at her, settling back into the pillows. "It wasn't a problem five hours and twenty three minutes ago."
"Because five hours and twenty three minutes ago I was with Leonard! My boyfriend!" She barely noticed the flare of annoyance across Sheldon's angular face as she scrambled out of bed, headed around it. Sheldon so often looked annoyed, after all.
Also, she was doing the math. Four o'clock and five hours before would be eleven, but the minutes made it—duh. Ten o'clock. Sheldon's bedtime.
He groaned. "Penny—"
"I don't cheat, Sheldon!" she snarled, hearing him climb out of bed and follow her to the hallway.
"I'm glad to hear that," he drawled. Apparently a just-woken-up Sheldon was a particularly Texan Sheldon. "But Penny—"
"And I don't keep secrets from my boyfriend, so we're going to have this out in front of Leonard."
She whirled on him, and something in her expression made him feint away, lifting an arm to protect his throat. He wore boxers—Batman boxers, but still. Sheldon?
Fighting off the temptation to look more closely, she spun back to Leonard's door and threw it open. "Leonard!"
There was no Leonard. No bed, even.
Penny flipped on the light switch and immediately recognized the tables and bottles of glitter and bags of silk flowers for what they were—a crafts room. A drafting table dominated half of it, with clothing designs sketched out in what looked kind of like… kind of like her hand.
She spun back to Sheldon, who'd apparently read her dropping aggression in her dropping shoulders.
"If you really want to talk to Leonard, we could call him at his place, but there's a high probability we'd wake the baby." His eyes brightened. "I could do the math, if you want a more specific—"
He lowered his gaze, disappointed.
Penny spun in a full circle, arms out. "What the hell!"
He considered her. Opened his mouth. Closed his mouth. Frowned. Opened his mouth. "I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific."
"Where's…?" But no. He'd just said Leonard was at his place—with a baby? Leonard's baby? "What…?" But she wasn't an idiot, community college drop-out or not. She recognized her own Penny Blossoms. "Why…?" But as she gestured from herself to him and back, she noticed something else different about Sheldon.
Not only was his hair a little longer—not much, but no longer PeeWee Hermann short, either; the cut complemented the angles of his face far better. Not only could she see a definition to his muscles she'd never fully realized, now that he was wearing something that showed off a little skin.
Okay, a lot of skin.
Not only had he not once exclaimed that she wasn't allowed in his room, and had in fact been sleeping with her. Cuddling her.
Sheldon Cooper wore a wedding ring.
"Penny, I'll have to insist on full sentences if you expect any cogent answers. Also, we've now lost ten minutes of sleep that could affect our cognitive abilities in the morning, not to mention however much time we lost—though happily—on the coi… the love-making. You're starting to—" Again, he stopped himself. Took a deep breath. "What's wrong?"
It came out more plaintively this time. Like she could normally get away with a certain amount of ranting and have it slotted as simply Penny-being-Penny, but now she'd really started to worry him.
And Penny, no idiot, looked slowly….
at her own left hand….
Yep. Matching ring.
She looked back up at Sheldon, still in the doorway, sleep mussed and lean and concerned and completely Sheldony all the same. And her first crazy thought was, So. I hit that, huh?
Without warning, more suddenly than a California earthquake or a Nebraska tornado, the world imploded. Her palm tingled. She heard a wail. She saw Sheldon's eyes widen, saw him dive forward to catch her as she fell into his arms there in their craft room, but it wasn't a crafts room it was Leonard's room, and Leonard had dragged himself off the floor, past his side of the bed, slapped on his light, blinding her in a way the luminous goldfish hadn't.
She closed her eyes and tried to cling to the fading image of that Dream Sheldon, the feel of his arms protecting her—
Nope. No go.
This was reality, her reality. This was her, sitting up in Leonard's bed, her palm hot, Leonard kneeling on the floor behind the bed as if ready to duck behind it. "You hit me!" he exclaimed, blinking at her blearily and fearfully.
"I…" What the hell?!
Then, on the door behind her—rat-a-tat "Penny-n-Leonard?" Rat-a-tat "Penny-n- Leonard?" All three times but very quickly, blurring the names together before throwing open the door.
Penny twisted on the bed to see Sheldon, a long-fingered hand masking his upper face but there, nevertheless. In full pajamas. His very short hair mussed. "If this is just some carnal amusement I don't understand then please please please let me know so I don't have to open my eyes, but if it's going to necessitate a call to 9-1-1…."
"Penny hit me!" exclaimed Leonard.
"That doesn't answer my—"
"It's okay, Sweetie," said Penny, and Sheldon slowly lowered the hand. His left hand. No wedding ring, of course.
"If I might inquire, Penny, why—"
"Get out of here, Sheldon!" Leonard stood but, Penny noticed, didn't dare get back into bed just yet. And she and Sheldon kind of had him trapped here.
A benefit she hadn't considered to sleeping on the side by the door. If she needed to get out fast, she would never be trapped.
"You woke her up, didn't you?" accused Sheldon in an amusingly I-told-you-so drawl.
"All right." He turned and left. "But you might do well to remember the parable of the boy who cried 'wolf.'"
"Thank you for coming to check on us, Sweetie," Penny called, before Leonard could say something else obnoxious, then turned to face hr boyfriend. What the hell had happened?
They'd had sex. They'd fallen asleep. She'd dreamed… what had she dreamed? Something nice, she thought, and yet here she sat, the throbbing in her hand telling her she had definitely smacked her boyfriend. "I slapped you?"
Leonard nodded. "Yuh-huh!"
"I'm so sorry—did I say why?"
Tentatively—so tentatively—Leonard sat on the foot of the bed. Still on the side opposite her. In case she might, oh, lunge at him or something. "I was kinda hoping you'd tell me."
Again, she tried to remember her dream. The feelings remained—confusion, but also belonging. Being protected, whether she needed it or not, and accepted, and encouraged. Something about Penny Blossoms. But….
"I got nothin'." She shrugged. "Nightmare, I guess. Wow."
"It must've been some nightmare!"
"Want me to kiss it and make it better?"
"I'm not Sheldon," Leonard snarked, climbing back into bed.
Penny found herself eyeing him. Leonard was surprisingly attractive, when he didn't try so hard, but he wasn't long. He wasn't muscled. He didn't wear an undershirt the way…. "Huh?"
"You don't have to baby me," he grumped.
"Oh. Yeah." She briefly wondered if their babying of Sheldon, the whole gang's, really, said a whole lot more about them than it did about Sheldon. "How about I just… try not to slap you again?"
"I'd appreciate that, yeah." He turned away from her to switch off the lamp and go back to sleep. His covers got spooned. Not her.
Huh. Penny flopped onto her back, stared at the ceiling, and tried to make sense of it.
Then it occurred to her that maybe if she went back to sleep, she could pick up the dream where she'd left off. Hopefully without the slapping-Leonard part, which really did make her feel guilty.
And yet... oddly comforted.
6 Years In the Future….
"I've told you before, Penny," lectured Sheldon, handing his wife a cup of tea and settling onto the bed beside her. "No matter what your so-called 'psychic' says, it's patently impossible that you could astral project or swap consciousness or 'time-slip' into a past you, and you have to promise not to do it again!"
"If it's impossible—"
"You said Leonard was your boyfriend, and you almost passed out in the Bloom Room, and now we've lost over half an hour's sleep!"
She reached out a mug-warmed hand and pressed it against his unshaven cheek. "I'm sorry I scared you, Moonpie."
"I don't know why you'd want to change the past anyway, not that you could even if you managed to get there, which you can't, especially not through pseudo-scientific hokum, but if you could ...!" He shuddered.
Now she fully understood the accusation behind his worried pout. "I think I just wanted to, you know, give myself a pep talk. I wasn't trying to change the past! Sheldon—I wouldn't want to do anything that could keep us from ending up right here, right now!"
He leaned his cheek into her palm, relaxing a little, his eyes searching hers.
"Although if I could've figured out a way to safely speed things up—"
He reared back, affronted. "Penny! You know full well the catastrophic dangers of manipulating the past! Not that you could!"
Yeah, she'd learned long ago that he needn't admit to believing something to act on it. Thank god for them.
"It's just… how long did he and I do that whole Ross-and-Rachel, on-again off-again thing!"
Sheldon frowned at her. "Who are—"
"Doesn't matter. I'm just saying that, if our life were a sitcom, we would've had better ratings if Leonard and I had figured out things a lot earlier."
"But you didn't," Sheldon noted, ever the professor. "Nor did I. If either one of us had come to our eventual conclusions at a different time, then we might not have discovered the benefits of expanding our relationship paradigm together."
"It sure would have spared all of us a lot of pain." Penny took a final sip of tea, then put the mug on the side table, not too near the fish. "And maybe ratings. If there's an alternate universe where we're a sitcom. Now come on. I need a cuddle."
Sheldon climbed into bed, and Penny Cooper congratulated herself on having managed to get him into wearing boxers—she had no problem with the super-hero logos—instead of PJ bottoms. It was like Mother Cooper always said. You just had to go slow, with Sheldon. At least there'd been no on again/off again with them.
"I've always thought that if I were a television show, I'd rather be in an adventure on the SyFy channel," Sheldon mused, wrapping his long, lean arms around her and snuggling his nose into her hair, so his words tickled. "Or, more likely, the Discovery Channel, after I win my Nobel."
"How about a nighttime drama?" Penny yawned.
"Too melodramatic," he decided immediately. "Better the situation comedy you suggested, and you know how I feel about those. Have I ever told you my theory that 'drama, as current culture uses it, to indicate a non-comedic text rather than the original definition of any text written to be performed, is likely a shortened form of the word 'melodrama' and thus should take an apostrophe in front of it? I've written letters—"
He shut up when Penny turned in his arms and kissed him. Deeply. Not to shut him up, because she'd kind of wondered about that whole drama/drama thing herself, but because she just… wanted to.
He deepened the kiss and left her toes curled. Yeah, he was the real genius.
"Tell me about it in the morning," she whispered.
"All right," he whispered back.
"Goodnight, Dr. Cooper."
He used to just say "goodnight" back, until she'd explained to him how important the name was. "Goodnight, Penny Bloom-Cooper. Sweet dreams."
And she fell asleep, thoroughly cuddled.