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16 October 2009 @ 08:20 pm
The Las Vegas Complication [TBBT; Sheldon/Penny]  
TITLE: The Las Vegas Complication
CHAPTER 5: Close Your Eyes
FANDOM: The Big Bang Theory
PAIRING: Sheldon/Penny
SPOILERS: Season three
RATING: PG
SUMMARY: See you around, you know I'm hoping to.


*****

See you around, same way I always do;
See you around, you know I'm hoping to


*****

Sheldon smiles at an elderly couple, nodding courteously at the woman as he passes them to head to his seat. He stows his bag in the overhead compartment and sighs as soon as he sits down. Luckily, this particular train is sure to be fairly empty. Not a very popular vacation spot, he can't help but surmise as he takes note of the other passengers -- mostly the elderly.

He's already called his mother to let her know of his plans and as always, she's told him to be careful. She hasn't asked why he's leaving California again, but he senses she probably already knows. She'd gotten wind of his Vegas escapade (minus the obvious sins that he leaves out for both her benefit and his -- he refuses to be pushed into going to confession), after all, but didn't push the issue beyond the usual motherly concern for his well-being. That, and that he didn't start using drugs on the trip.

He can't stay in Pasadena a moment longer, he just can't. As long as he's known Penny, Leonard has been there fawning over her, sparking with jealousy at practically every moment of friendship or flirtation he and Penny have ever shared. He doesn't wish for the rest of his life to continue in that same vein.

"This looks like some serious stuff. Leonard, did you do this?"

"Actually, that's my work."

"
Wow."

"Yeah. Well. It's just some quantum mechanics, with a little string theory doodling around the edges. That part there, that's just a joke. It's a spoof of the Born-Oppenheimer approximation."

"So you're like one of those 'Beautiful Mind,' genius guys."

"Yeah."

"This is
really impressive."

"I have a board! If you like boards this is my board!"


Even in the beginning there had been a spark of something that Sheldon has never been able to categorize until now, but Leonard's desperate infatuation always seemed to interfere. Though that's not to say his desperate attempts trying to woo the beautiful blonde across the hall hadn't been endlessly fascinating, and helped Sheldon gain a wealth of knowledge about failed mating rituals and crash courses in what not to do should he ever attempt to date.

He's learned things from Penny, as well. Proper vehicle maintenance (though that's mostly learning from her mistakes), social obligations and how to act in different social situations, and so much more over the last three years he finds it hard to name it all. Not to mention she's always challenged him on a near-daily basis. He easily gained control over Leonard, Wolowitz and Koothrappali because of his obvious alpha male tendencies. Upon their first meeting, he'd never expected Penny would be an alpha female, but she let those tendencies become known by the time they'd reached their second year of friendship.

"Oh no. Are all the machines taken? What are you gonna do?"

"No problem. I'll just... do my laundry another night."

"Another night? Well, I guess you can try, but... deep inside your heart, you'll know that laundry night is always Saturday night."

"Woman, you are playing with forces beyond your ken."

"Yeah, well your Ken can kiss my Barbie."


Sheldon smiles at the image of the pure fire in her stare before she'd stalked back upstairs... before he'd taken it upon himself to remove her clothes from the washers early and string them up on a telephone wire. Knowing what he now knows about himself and Penny, he can't help but wonder if that whole back and forth would be considered mental foreplay. Even then, he'd been able to recognize the rush of adrenaline shooting through him every time she'd fix him with a glare or zing him with a snide remark.

He wishes things didn't have to turn out the way that they did. Foolishly, he almost wishes that it had been him that had drunkenly married Penny that night. Perhaps they'd both be better off right now. The more time that passes, the more the memories come back to him, though still fragmented, echoing and far off like a hazy dream. He hadn't been wrong in deducing that he'd fallen in love with Penny.

"Wait... wait, stop."

"What? I'm sorry, Penny, did I do something wrong?"

"No, I just... I need a minute."

"Because I admit I'm not well-versed in this particular social entanglement, so if I'm hurting you or making you uncomfortable in any way, I--"

"Sheldon. Stop talking. Look at me."

"Alright."

"Sometimes you just need a moment to... take it all in."

"...Is that a double entendre?"

"No. I just mean sometimes you need to give yourself a second, to almost... take a mental photograph. In case it's something you never get to experience again."


Sheldon sighs, closing his eyes and closing out the ambient sounds around him while he focuses on the images that come back to him in flashes. One is of he and Penny, tangled up in the sheets, Penny staring up at him and searching his eyes with a soft smile on her face, while her fingertips tickle down his jaw. Another is the sight of Penny's neck, elongating as she lolls her head deep into the pillows, pulling him closer until his lips touch down against her soft skin, their lower halves moving in tandem. And the final image is of the two of them on their sides and Penny drifting off to sleep beside him, eyelashes slowly fluttering closed while their hands find each other beneath the sheets, fingers lazily twining together.

Sheldon opens his eyes again and looks out the window, watching people on the platform as he wishes he can rid himself of these painful and ultimately pointless thoughts.


*****

Where are we going,
Have we gone too far?


*****

As soon as Penny leaves the apartment complex, she immediately runs back inside and up to her apartment as fast as she can. If she misses Sheldon, if he leaves, she knows it may take more than a day to bring him home. So when she reaches her bedroom, she grabs a backpack and starts throwing things inside -- some jeans, underwear, a few tops, a brush, a couple Penny Blossoms, and her toothbrush. The shoes she's got on will have to do. And though part of her is horrified at the thought of possibly spending more than a day or two without curled hair, she forgoes the curling iron in favor of getting to the train station quicker.

Her sneakers are loud against the pavement as she slings the backpack on, kindergarten style, running for her car. On the way, she pays no attention to speed limits or bumps, despite hearing Sheldon's nagging voice in her head. She can't help but crack a smile at that. Three years in each other's lives and he's become the voice in her head. A little annoying at times and hard to get out, but ultimately there to assure she's doing what's best for her.

"Your check engine light is on."

"Mm-hmm."

"Typically that's an indicator, to... y'know, check your engine."

"It's fine, it's been on for like a month."

"Well actually that would be all the more reason, to... y'know,
check your engine."

"Sheldon, it's fine."

"Well if it were fine, the light wouldn't be on. That's why the manufacturer installed that light, to let you know it's not fine."

"Maybe the light's broken."

"Is there a 'check the check engine light' light?"


He'd been right though. A few months later, her car had broken down and had cost her a ridiculous amount of money. Not to mention Kurt's legal troubles had put her in even more debt. And who had rescued her? Sheldon. Of course. All roads lead to Sheldon.

"Here. Take some. Pay me back when you can."

"Wow, you got a lotta money in there."

"That's why it's guarded by snakes. Take some."

"Don't be silly."

"I'm never silly. Here."

"No, I can't."

"Don't you need money?"

"Well... yeah, but-"

"This is money I'm not using."

"Yeah but, what if you need it?"

"My expenses account for forty-six-point-nine percent of my after-tax income. The rest is divvied up between a small savings account, this deceptive container of peanut brittle, and the hollowed-out buttocks of a superhero action figure who shall remain nameless for his own protection. Or...
her own protection. Take some."

And that little extra financial padding Sheldon provided did help a great deal, despite some initial awkwardness between them that ended up being mostly imagined on her side. Most of it had perhaps been leftover surprise that he'd do something so thoughtful... without even a thought. That he would offer to take care of her, in a way. But that's just how they are. They take care of each other without even realizing. He helps her out when she needs it without giving it much thought, and she cheers him up when he's sad or makes him feel better when he's sick.

The more time goes by, the more memories return to her, though still in pieces and a little blurry, like a dream from long ago. And it's those resurfacing memories that bring her to the realization that she really does need him in her life, in a big way. It's almost a little scary to realize it but in a way, they rely on each other. He needs her, to help him make sense of a world he doesn't understand, and she needs him because... he's him.

"Penny? How long have you been awake?"

"I dunno. A little while."

"And you've just been staring at me this entire time?"

"Pretty much."

"Why?"

"Because, I... I don't know. Watching you sleep is... relaxing."

"For you, perhaps, but for me it seems quite unnerving and, frankly, a little creepy."

"Well, you'll deal."

"Are you going to tell me yet why you ran out of the chapel and had to come and find me? Please stop trying to distract me by running your hand across my chest. I will not be deterred."

"I don't know. I just needed to see you."

"Why?"

"I don't know."

"Are you sure about that?"

"No. Let me ask
you something."

"Very well."

"Why did you leave? Why didn't you stay at the chapel?"

"I don't know. I just didn't feel like watching."

"Why not?"

"I don't know."

"Are you sure about that?"

"...No. Wait, what are you doing?"

"It's called cuddling, honey."

"Well... what do I do?"

"Just put your arms around me, Sheldon."


They better each other, she realizes as she nears the train station. She opens him up emotionally and has made it possible for him to grow as a person, and he's been her window into a world of things she never in a million years thought she was smart enough for. It'd be a shame to let it all fall apart because of a drunken misunderstanding.

As she pulls up at the train station and heads inside, she feels those butterflies again -- feels a little bit like she could throw up. It's just the sign she's been looking for to let her know she's doing the right thing. Making a good choice for once.

She checks the board of arrival and departure times, honing in on any trains headed for Texas. All of them had either already just left or had left long ago, so resignedly she heads for the ticket counter, enquiring about departure times to Texas. After receiving several different options as an answer, Penny sighs and closes her eyes, willing her instincts to lead her. She picks one and begins to hand over her credit card to the ticket attendant.

Just before her card is swiped, a sudden instinct hits her, and her eyes widen. "Wait! No. I changed my mind."

The attendant shoots her an annoyed look but Penny ignores it, giving her a different destination and bouncing on her feet anxiously as the ticket is purchased. She grabs it hastily when it's handed over with a cursory, "Thanks," and then she runs off.


*****

What a surprise, seeing you again,
What a surprise, to be with you again


*****

Sheldon stands and reaches into his bag, pulling out the George Smoot book he'd toted with him to read on the way. Sitting back down, he opens it to the marked page and commences reading, hoping it won't be long before the train departs. This time, he wants to leave Pasadena behind for good.

He's uncertain as to what, precisely, he'll do when he arrives at his destination... though he knows the basics. Hunt for an apartment (two-bedroom, in case the need arises for a roommate), preferrably without a lovely blonde living across the hall. He wonders briefly if the building supervisor will let him check before he starts talking about a lease.

And then there's work. He doesn't want to leave the world of physics, so he just hopes there's a position open at the university. If not, he'll have to possibly take a job at (this thought makes him shudder) a community college. Or... his worst-case scenario? Teaching high-school physics. As if he'd stoop so low as to teach underdeveloped minds how to make pulley systems using string and popsicle sticks. Please.

The bottom line for Sheldon is... he has to see this through. No matter how much he may miss his friends (or Penny), or his job (or Penny), or his apartment (or Penny), or even his couch cushion (or even Penny)... he has to see it through. He won't look back. Unless, he thinks, Penny would ask him to.

Then he thinks he'd at least consider it.

**

I hope I see you around, the way I always do
It's always a surprise to be with you


**

Penny weaves her way through the crowd of people, searching all the nearby departure boards for her train and shouting, "Excuse me!" far more than she'd like to. Her bag keeps banging against her lower back and she thinks that her brush handle digging into her is going to leave a bruise, but she doesn't care. She's got to get to Sheldon and stop him from leaving Pasadena... from leaving her.

She has no idea what, exactly, she'll say to him when she finds him... though she knows the gist of it. She'll tell him about her and Leonard. She'll tell him that his friends need him... that she needs him. If he still doesn't budge, she'll have to resort to public displays of affection; and she knows Sheldon would shut that down as fast as he can. She knows that will at least get him agree to get off the train and talk to her, if nothing more.

The train is in sight and she feels herself slowing down, butterflies going nuts in her stomach all over again. She feels like this is a huge turning point, and she shouldn't miss a second of it, whether the outcome will be good or bad. One of those moments in life that shape who a person becomes from that point forward. One of those life-changing moments where a road has to be chosen.

So Penny takes a breath; steels her courage and shoulders her bag once more. She steps onto the train and hands her ticket over. Once it's given back to her, she slowly makes her way down the rows on the train, eyes searching each side back and forth as she moves past each row.

Finally, she sees him. But he doesn't see her. His nose is buried in a book and he's got that look on his face like he's stuck a fork in a toaster. She loves that look on him, though she doesn't get to see it much. She takes her time stowing her bag in the overhead compartment before tapping her ticket against her hand, making her way over to him. Standing before him, she smiles; a feeling in the pit of her stomach starts to grow... a good feeling. A feeling that tells her this is going to be okay.

Clearing her throat softly, she tells him, "Excuse me, sir, I think you're in my seat."

Huffing, Sheldon closes his eyes and closes his book around his thumb marking the page, already starting to reprimand her. "No, and this is the problem with the public school systems. If you'd read your ticket -- oh!" Now his eyes are on her, he's half up -- one knee on the seat and the other foot on the floor, his hand bracing him on the table separating the seats. "Penny?"

She grins. "Moonpie."

Rather than correct her, he asks, "What are you doing here?"

And she shrugs. "What, you think I'd let you wander Omaha without a tour guide?" Throwing a glance at the line of people behind her waiting to take their seats, she looks back to Sheldon. "Can I sit down?"

"Sure." He slides back, angling his body toward her with his back against the window and one elbow pressed into the back of the seat, the other on the table.

Penny sits facing forward, turned slightly toward him, and rests her hands on the table. "Thanks. That old lady was giving me the stink-eye."

But he just stares at her. "How did you know I was going to Omaha?"

"Well... after you told me what it was like the last time you went back home, I figured you wouldn't go there. You can't go back to Vegas without adult supervision--"

At that, he snorts, just barely. "Nobody can."

"--and that doesn't leave you with a whole lot of options. So, I thought maybe, just maybe... because of everything that's been going on lately, that you might... feel compelled to visit my hometown."

Sheldon stares straight at her (through her, rather). "So that again begs the question... what are you doing here?"

"Oh, honey," she sighs, gripping the edge of the table. "There's a lot of stuff we have to talk about. And we've got plenty of time to do it."

"Your ring..." he murmurs suddenly, and she looks up to find his eyes on her left hand. Her empty left hand. "Where's your ring?"

"Leonard and I aren't married," she jumps in, feeling her stomach somersault with the revelation. "We found the license, and... only his name was signed."

"Making it invalid."

"Yes. Plus, apparently Raj remembers me running out of the chapel before we'd even finished the ceremony, so we weren't even pronounced."

"But, Penny... what are you doing here?" He sounds genuinely confused, and she can't help but giggle.

"God, for how smart you claim to be--"

"I am more than just 'smart,' Penny--"

"Yeah, yeah. If you're so smart, then you should know why I'm here. It's the same reason why you're here, after all." She lightly thrusts her chin up, challenging him to negate her.

He doesn't. Instead, he faces forward, looking a mix of shocked and... well, even more shocked. "Penny..."

She watches him, voice soft much like that night he stayed in her room. "Yeah?"

"What happens now?"

"You tell me." She faces forward with him, talking more toward the empty seat across from them while he speaks to the table. "Do we get off the train and head home? Or do we take some time to readjust?" She shrugs, swiveling her head to look at him. "We can trade in our tickets and go someplace else. Los Angeles... San Francisco... we could go back to Vegas."

He chuckles a bit, grimly. "I'll never go to Vegas ever again."

She smirks. "Alright, then what do you wanna do?"

He looks up at her then, his voice soft... not her usual, confident Sheldon but rather a sweet, timid guy as he asks, "Will you show me Omaha?"

And Penny smiles. "Of course, sweetie."

He smiles back at her and then, as the train begins to leave the station, they both turn to look out the window. The silence between them is comfortable while Sheldon watches the scenery pass, and Penny watches Sheldon. Then, she glances down... sees their hands just millimeters apart on the seat. And she smiles to herself, reaching over to take his hand.

He looks over at her, startled for just a moment before he searches her eyes, dissolving into a slight smile. He allows their fingers to tangle and Penny's smile broadens. She grasps his arm with her other hand as he turns to look out the window once more, and she lays her head on his shoulder.

And when he turns to kiss her forehead lightly, Penny closes her eyes as she feels herself relax. Whatever they're doing, whatever this is or what it will become... she thinks some good may have come out of the Vegas trip after all.



Where are we going, just close your eyes
'Til we get there you won't know where



TBC


Loosely inspired by Close Your Eyes by Young Love. [links now disabled due to people downloading and not bothering to review the fic. Sorry!]

Author's Notes: Some dialogue used from various season 1 and 2 episodes.



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{x-posted to sheldon_penny}
 
 
 
Maura!: + bb: where am i going? i'm on a train.fujiidom on October 17th, 2009 02:06 am (UTC)
Her sneakers are loud against the pavement as she slings the backpack on, kindergarten style, running for her car.

D'awww. The imagery here was lovely. They're so fragile and great together, it just makes me sigh. Terrific!

And, YAY! Trains!
pink-an-ella: DrCooperpink_an_ella on October 17th, 2009 03:00 am (UTC)
He needs her, to help him make sense of a world he doesn't understand, and she needs him because... he's him

This! ^

This line broke me, that is precisely why I enjoy S/P as much as I do and you wrote it so perfectly. Lovely story, please update soon though I understand there are only six parts to it which means it's almost over. Either way an enjoyable fic. :D
ruby_casparruby_caspar on October 17th, 2009 09:48 am (UTC)
Awww... he was going to Omaha. That's sweet. ^^ Great chapter, I'm glad she found him!
babebubeboink99 on October 17th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
I have to admit that at first I was just a tad bit disappointed over the lack of a ridiculously grand, Climactic train reunion for them, but eventually appreciated the quiet sincerity of their feelings. Nice.
Ex Astris, Scientia: HUGZ!mrsvc on October 17th, 2009 12:47 pm (UTC)
*wibble* He's going to Omaha. And she found him. And everything is going to be better.

^________________________________^

Lovely.
jazzrose343 (fallen angel)jazzrose343 on October 17th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
This sucn a lovely, lovely story. You captured them so perfectly here.

So wonderful *sigh*

Sheldon going to Omaha and Penny finding him.

The descriptions and flashbacks wove together to construct a clever and thoughtful narrative that show what makes this pairing so great.

This made me smile a lot.
S.: bbtheory; it all started with a big bangartic_fox on October 17th, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
Oh my, I love this. I'm simultaneously looking forward to the final part and being sad it is over.

I especially loved the line: All roads lead to Sheldon. ♥
phoenix_on_icephoenix_on_ice on October 18th, 2009 12:04 am (UTC)
AWWWW... This was such a sweet ending!

renisanz: s/p stairsrenisanz on October 20th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)
I think this is my favorite chapter so far. I love Sheldon and Penny finally being able to have a civil conversation. :)
annascarletblush on February 13th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
♥♥♥♥

:)
sane_moments on February 25th, 2010 04:50 am (UTC)
this is so great, i don't know how i missed it the first time around! will you accept cookies for the last chapter? :puppydog eyes:
Yvaughn01evelynvaughn01 on March 19th, 2010 01:05 am (UTC)
"...Is that a double entendre?" Bwah-hah-hah! I love some of the humor in this, and I love wher this went. Superb resolution of the initial misunderstandings. And I'm so pleased you just posted another chapter for me to check out! (Races off hungrily to devour)