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13 October 2009 @ 12:13 am
The Las Vegas Complication [TBBT; Sheldon/Penny]  
TITLE: The Las Vegas Complication
CHAPTER 4: Begin Again
FANDOM: The Big Bang Theory
PAIRING: Sheldon/Penny
SPOILERS: Season three
RATING: PG
SUMMARY: Never wanna break your heart, never wanna let you break my own.


*****

So let's just try and slow it down,
We crash when we race


*****

It's been a full month now and Sheldon is unable to clear her from his head. He hates himself. Nothing has happened since they've returned from Vegas other than the charged embrace from a week ago and still he hates himself. He hates himself for being weak and giving in to biological urges. He hates Leonard for two years ago insisting that they be good neighbors. And he hates Penny for making it impossible for him to keep his walls up. She had them knocked down within a year's time when most people have been trying for all of his twenty-five years to get through to him.

But mostly he hates himself. What possessed him to go to Las Vegas in the first place? He has never seen the logic in spending time or money there, though he does find the concept rather intriguing and ingenious -- a promise of riches that appeal to the materialistic masses when it's all just a smoke-screen of twinkling lights, pleasing sounds and decadent surroundings. The house always wins, the drinks are always over-priced, and the retail markup is astounding -- he can't help but admit it seems to be a very sound, lucrative business model. What's more curious is that people always go back, some every year, to dig themselves deeper in debt and to push themselves closer to cirrhosis. Very curious indeed.

But what had been the pull for him? He had declined the invitation to go to Las Vegas the previous year, when Howard was in need of cheering up. Why did he go this time? Sure, they had offered to take the train rather than fly, but train rides don't always factor into his decision to visit a particular city -- Las Vegas, especially. And then her voice floats through his head:

"Honey, come on. It'll be fun, I promise."

Ah yes. There it is. The singular thing that caused him to abandon logic and his unflinchingly-rigid TV schedule. All roads lead to Penny, it seems.

Sheldon shakes his head and forces himself to get dressed. He opens his closet doors and his eyes settle on his duffel bag -- the one he'd taken with him to Nevada; he sighs. Something has to change here. Though he's making progress in his work, it's miniscule at best. Since the electric can opener incident and his failed expedition, he hasn't been as ardent about racing the other physicists toward the Nobel. He and Penny seem to be in an almost suffocating limbo; she's still married to Leonard and it seems as though that won't be changing anytime soon -- almost as if she's given up and committed herself to a doomed relationship.

The two of them waffle back and forth between exchanging electric glances and engaging in charged spats. The connection between them fluctuates day by day and they continue to toe the line. Something has to change.

Sheldon pulls his shirts down over his head, sighing once more and grabbing his pants. He continues to stare at the duffel bag and wishes he'd never gone to Vegas in the first place.


*****

See I look for you in the morning
'Cos that's where my mind always goes


*****

A month into her shaky marriage and Penny wonders if she's become depressed. Her emotions have pulled her in five-thousand different directions since returning from Las Vegas and try as she might, she can't seem to sort them out. Her relationships with both Leonard and Sheldon are tenuous and strained; her connection to each of them wavers depending on the day. She loves them both without a doubt and she has for some time now, both for completely different reasons. They endeared themselves to her from day one; possibly minute one, beginning with those shy (multiple) greetings from the hallway.

With Leonard, she feels relaxed; at ease. He's a wonderful man and he's taken great care of her. He's been an amazing friend and she knows she can count on him for anything. He's like a treasured stuffed animal from childhood; a source of comfort when her life becomes tumultuous. His hugs make her feel safe and warm, and she's thankful every day that he's in her life.

With Sheldon, though she feels comfortable with him, she's rarely at ease. He's so unpredictable at times and has been from the beginning. At the precise moment she's certain she has him completely figured out, he'll say or do something that completely throws her for a loop. He's a good friend, though in the beginning it was mostly unintentional. He's changed so much since they met; out of the three of 'her guys,' Sheldon has the most dynamic personality. He's truly grown since they've known each other.

And he's helped her to grow as well. He's opened her mind to new things; a new world, practically. Before Sheldon, she would never have known the difference between any of the Star Trek series (or cared), nor would she be able to differentiate between Stargate and Battlestar Galactica. But now, she knows these things. She's watched Star Trek with Sheldon (payback for her making him watch 'The Lake House'); she knows about not only the original Stargate series, but the Atlantis spinoff and now the Universe spinoff. She knows about people named Six and Gaius and Roslin and Adama. All because of Sheldon.

When Sheldon touches her, she doesn't feel safe -- she feels like she's on a tightrope, a G-force swooping through her stomach as though she's about to fall. His smug smile ignites something within her that makes her want to crack him open and get under his skin. Sheldon pulls her in fifty different directions emotionally, mentally and physically; he's habit-forming -- addictive. Arguing with him charges her up. Their verbal back and forth is the parry and thrust; when they're done she always wants a cigarette, even though she's never smoked. If they were an actual couple, she's certain they'd argue at least once a day just as foreplay, whether the arguments would have actual substance or not.

Then, the thought of being part of a couple with Sheldon makes her sad; she forces the thoughts away and instead turns when Leonard comes through the door, looking like he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders. She raises her brows. "Bad day?"

"Worst," he huffs, collapsing on the couch just when she's barely gotten off of it. "I've got another new experiment coming up that I'll need to start doing overnights for -- for the next month-and-a-half."

She narrows her eyes at him, scrutinizing. "This isn't one of those 'experiments' that's not really an experiment but a way to get out of driving Sheldon around, is it?"

"No," he chuckles, removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes. "Promise."

"Alright. Well... is there anything I can do?"

"Yeah," he sighs, leaning his head against the back of the couch and slowly letting it loll to the side, facing her. "You could help me unpack."

"Unpack? Unpack from where?"

The sheepish look on his face and the way he purses his lips gives her cause to widen her eyes. "Leonard! You still haven't unpacked from Vegas? It's been a month!"

"Well! I've... been... busy."

"Mm-hmm." She folds her arms across her chest and marches across the hall to 4A, unlocking the door with her key. "Halo, Wii bowling, Klingon boggle... what else?"

"Work."

"Leonard, Leonard, Leonard." Glancing around the empty living room and kitchenette, Penny instinctively calls out for the apartment's other occupant. "Sheldon?"

"It's Wednesday," Leonard tells her, following her toward his room.

"Oh, right. Comic book store. Where's your bag?"

"Here." He grabs his duffel bag from the corner of his room, not handing it over despite her hand being out. Turning it over, he frowns, sniffing one side. "That's weird. I don't remember the bag smelling like champagne. Wonder when that happened."

Penny frowns as well, taking a seat on the corner of his bed. Part of her wants to open up to Leonard about what she's been going through for the last month, with the lost memories, in the vain hope that he'll know something she doesn't. But she has no clue where to start. "Leonard..."

"Hmm?" He's busy on the floor sifting through the contents of his bag, sniffing each of the items he pulls out.

She scrunches up her nose at this, but continues anyway. "Do you think it's weird that... none of us can really remember that night in Vegas all that well?"

Leonard shrugs without looking up from the bag, tossing a pair of socks over his shoulder in the direction of the hamper. He misses by six feet. "Not really. I mean, none of us are big drinkers, except for you." His head suddenly snaps up, his eyes wide, and he back-pedals. "N-not that you drink excessively or, are an alcoholic in any way. Y-you're not the type to need booze to have fun. I see you as--"

"Leonard, stop," she tells him gently, smiling to let him know it's okay. After a beat, she tries a different tack. "After a night of, um... excessive drinking, or getting totally black-out drunk, uh... how long does it typically take to get all your memories back?"

He shrugs one shoulder again, searching her eyes. "I guess that depends on the person, the amount of alcohol and the situation. I've heard some people never get their memories back. That's why they're called 'lost nights' or 'lost weekends,' I guess."

"Hmm. Well... what do you remember about that night?"

"Well, we drank. A lot. And, then we got married."

Penny waits for a bit, brows raised expectantly. "That's it?"

"Pretty much, yeah. I mean I can kinda remember walking around some of the casinos, and I think for some reason I may have gone flower-shopping at some point, but other than that the rest of it's a blur. To be honest, I don't even remember the wedding."

When he looks away, Penny lets out a disappointed breath inaudibly, raking a hand through her curls and looking away. It's at that moment that Howard calls out to them - "Guys?" - appearing in the bedroom doorway a moment later with Raj at his side. "What are you doing in here? Where's Cooper?"

Penny stands. "Leonard still hasn't unpacked, and Sheldon's at the comic book store."

"Jerk left without us!" he exclaims, slapping his leg indignantly. He points at Raj accusingly. "You see? This is what happens when you make me stop for beef jerky!"

"Hey," an idea occurs to Penny, and she furrows her brows as she turns to face Howard and Raj. "How drunk did you guys get in Vegas?"

Howard snorts. "Pretty drunk."

"Do you remember anything?"

"Sure."

"Like what?"

"Whoa."

The tone of Leonard's voice makes them all turn to face him. "What?" Penny asks.

"Penny, you should look at this." He holds out a piece of paper to her and she takes it, looking it over.

It's a marriage license from the Little White Wedding Chapel. And in the section where the names of the bride and groom are to be signed, it only lists Leonard's name. She sits down hard on his bed again, stomach tumbling and thoughts flying at a thousand miles an hour. Slowly, she lifts her eyes to Leonard's. "This isn't a valid license."

Leonard nods, holding her gaze. His expression is indecipherable as he confirms softly, "We're... not married."

A small squeak sounds from Raj's mouth, and the other three snap their heads to look at him. Penny raises her eyebrows. "What?"

Raj makes a few faces, most of them apologetic or facial shrugs, and Penny finally sighs, stomping out of the bedroom, down the hall and out the door, coming back from her apartment moments later with a beer. She shoves it in Raj's hands. "Drink."

He does so, intimidated by the look on her face, and hands her the bottle when he's finished. Penny nods and chucks the bottle into the wastebin before turning back to Raj. "Now talk. You remember something, don't you?"

"Perhaps. I think so. Yes. A lot of it." He then proceeds to launch into the story.

"Okay, so we've got the dress, the flowers, the rings... I think we're set," Penny nodded, looking back at Leonard who was too busy drunkenly singing "I'm Getting Married in the 'Right Now'" at the top of his lungs to be paying much attention.

"Who's best man?" Raj wanted to know.

"Me, obviously," Howard replied. "I'm the one that taught Leonard to be a ladies' man after all."

"Don't you mean a lady-man?" Penny grinned. "You can be my maid of honor."

They joked around all through the forum shops, though Raj every once in awhile would catch a glimpse of Sheldon, looking inexplicably despondent. "Dude, what's your problem?" he had asked a few times, but Sheldon merely shrugged each time and tossed a glance toward Penny before looking away.

Soon they were at the chapel. Sheldon had stumbled off to the bathroom to throw up, and Leonard had torn past the woman at the desk insisting they sign a marriage license, instead getting in place at the altar and high-fiving the Elvis-impersonating minister. Before Howard and Raj could enter the chapel, the woman at the desk stopped them.

"You two the witnesses?"

"Yeah."

Indifferently, she shoved the piece of paper at them. "Sign this. And make sure the bride and groom sign it before you leave, or else I'm out of a job."

Howard smiled, leaning on the desk. "You know, you've got quite a bit of spunk for an old gal. How'd you like to--"

"Get lost, beak-nose."

"Alright then," he nodded, and quickly scrawled his name before hustling into the chapel. Raj followed moments later after signing the license, and they took their seats on different sides of the aisle.

Raj leaned over in his pew, smiling brightly. "So. Are you a friend of the bride or groom?"

Howard rolled his eyes, glancing over his shoulder toward where Penny and Sheldon were talking. Raj turned to follow his gaze and could have sworn there was something different about Sheldon when he told her she looked nice, but before he could pinpoint what it was, the music had started and Penny was making her way down the aisle. When she reached the altar, Raj looked back to gesture for Sheldon, only to find him gone.

The minister began the ceremony, quoting cheesy lyrics from Elvis songs before having them exchange rings and make vows. As soon as Penny finished her vows, slipping Leonard's ring on his finger, she shook her head. "Wait. No."

"Penny?"

"Where's Sheldon?" She looked around, and Raj made a face, not understanding the importance.

"I don't know. But... we're kinda getting married here, Penny. Focus."

"I... I can't. I-I need Sheldon, where is Sheldon?!"

This freakout continued for another few minutes -- or at least by the way Raj remembered it, it did. The whole thing ended with the minister asking if anyone saw a reason 'why these two should not be wed' and Penny nodded vehemently, gathering up her skirt -- "Yeah. A great, big reason." And she ran out of the chapel.

The last thing Raj remembered was he and Howard leading Leonard out of the chapel. The woman at the desk shoved the license at him and asked him to sign it.

"But I didn't get married," he frowned.

"Sign it anyway. For a souvenir," she quipped, and went back to her magazine.

So Leonard signed the license, and they led him out, deciding to take him to a bar to cheer him up.


Leonard slowly gets up from the floor. "And you waited a month to tell us this... why?"

Raj glances to Penny, opening his mouth to reply, but Penny beats him to it, her tone knowing.

"Because anytime he had a chance, I've been there. And he can't speak around me."

"I'm sorry, really I am," he insists, but Penny and Leonard are no longer paying attention to them.

"Why did you run out?" Leonard asks her quietly, neither angry nor sad.

Penny shakes her head. "I... I don't know."

"She said she needed Sheldon. Is that why you left, Penny?" Raj asks. "And why did Sheldon not want to stay?"

One look from Penny to Leonard seems to tell all, and Leonard cocks his head. "Wait. I found you with Sheldon that next morning. You said you had to borrow a tee shirt."

"Oooh!" Howard's eyes light up, and he rubs his hands together. "Methinks we've stumbled upon some juicy plot twists here."

Penny fixes a glare on him. "Methinks you'd better be going now or I'll--"

"Got it! Leaving!" Howard and Raj all but rush out of the apartment, the door slamming in their wake and leaving Leonard and Penny to stare at each other in silence.

"Penny..." Leonard sighs. "What the hell happened that night?"

Together, they talk things through... try to make sense of what happened by walking through each of their memories, ending up at the next morning. By the time they finish, Leonard is staring at the floor unseeing, and Penny is sitting at the foot of the bed with her hands on her knees, staring at the same spot on the floor. "So... I woke up, saw the ring and assumed we got married. Even though we never did."

Penny nods and adds, "And we never bothered to check."

"And you and Sheldon...?"

She shakes her head. "That is a massive, massive question mark, honey. I wish I could tell you what's going on between us. If anything."

"Can I make an observation?"

She looks over at him, voice soft. "Sure."

"You and Sheldon have always had a really... unique relationship." He smiles a little sheepishly. "To be honest, I've been jealous of it. A lot. And I think the reason I get so jealous is because there's some sort of weird... spark there." He holds her gaze. "You guys have always had your own... language, almost. This weird connection. And I've always felt like the third wheel around you guys. When I woke up and thought we were married, I just figured maybe I'd been wrong. I'm not wrong, am I?"

She shakes her head, just barely. His eyes are so honest, so warm and cajoling. She feels herself needing to tell him things. Tell him everything. "I slept with Sheldon that night." Before he can say anything, she jumps in again. "And Leonard, I am so sorry I didn't tell you. I wanted to. But... you were so happy. And to be honest, I didn't remember what happened that night. So I didn't want to say anything that would hurt you unless I had all my facts straight." Chuckling mirthlessly to herself, she sighs. "I still don't know if I've got all my facts straight." Shrugging, she continues, "I've been so confused this past month, Leonard. I've been waffling back and forth between thinking I'm in love with you and thinking I'm in love with Sheldon, that I just don't know what to think anymore."

Cocking his head slightly, Leonard squints a bit and asks, "You wanna know what I think?"

"Of course."

"I think..." a slow smile spreads as he tells her, "I have loved being married to you for this past month."

Penny smiles and reaches for his hand, squeezing it as he goes on.

"I think that I would love it if we could stay married. But..." He shakes his head, releasing her hand. "I don't think it's me you're in love with. If it was, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have been so confused." A little lighter, he added, "And I'm pretty sure we would've had sex or something by now."

She can't help but chuckle, leaning over to kiss his lips lightly. Pulling away, she shakes her head and furrows her brow, wondering, "How on earth are you being so calm about all of this?"

He shrugs. "Who knows? Maybe I'm finally growing up."

Penny sighs. "So what do we do now?"

"Now? Well, we don't need to worry about an annulment since we were never really married. And beyond that--" His phone chirps in his pocket and he makes a face, pulling it out. "Hang on. Oh hey, text from Sheldon."

Penny watches him read, feeling a little anxiety festering when his frown deepens. "What?"

"Hey guys?" Howard's voice rings out once more from the living room, getting closer and closer to the bedroom. He leans against the door frame, holding up his phone. "Sorry. I just got the weirdest text from Sheldon, saying he resigned from CalTech again."

Penny's stomach drops, and she looks to Leonard, who's still looking at his phone, nodding. He glances up at the rest of them and holds it up. "He texted me too. He took the midnight train--"

"Going anywhere?" Howard quips, earning him a glare from everyone but Raj, who joins in with a guess of his own:

"The midnight train to Georgia?"

Penny wastes no time in slugging Howard in the shoulder.

"Ow!" He rubs the sore spot and points to Raj. "He said the last one!" But she ignores him.

"So he left? Why?" Howard asks, but when Penny and Leonard lock eyes, it's all too clear.

He nods at her. "You should go."

"But..."

"Really. It's been a month already. This all needs to get straightened out now. So. Go talk to Sheldon."

She nods, butterflies going nuts in her stomach. "Leonard..." She wants to thank him, for so many things. For being so remarkably calm and mature about all of this, for being understanding and not faulting her for finding she ultimately wasn't in love with him like he may have wanted her to be. She wants to ask him to keep in mind that Sheldon had no fault in this either, but she senses he knows.

But she can't find the right words. So she kisses him lightly again, hugging him tight and feeling that reassuring warmth that only a best friend can give before she pulls back, squeezing his arms. He tweaks out a smile. "Go."

Penny nods, throwing a cursory glance at Howard and Raj before heading for the door.

"Penny."

She looks over her shoulder at Leonard, and he finishes his last train of thought. "Bring him back. Any way you can." By the way he looks at her, she reads special significance into that final sentence, and then she's out the door and heading for the train station, hoping that she's not too late to salvage things. They can't end this way, after all. She's just been granted a new beginning.



This is not the way that it should end
It's the way it should begin



TBC



Loosely inspired by Begin Again by Colbie Caillat. [links now disabled due to people downloading and not bothering to review the fic. Sorry!]


Like what you've read? Why don't you watch or join the community?
{x-posted to sheldon_penny}
 
 
 
babebubeboink99 on October 13th, 2009 06:12 am (UTC)
Thank you for giving me a reason to smile today. After that episode I seriously needed that.
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:32 am (UTC)
Aww, thanks! Glad I could make ya smile ;)

The second-to-last chapter is now up!
laura34000laura34000 on October 13th, 2009 06:16 am (UTC)
Amazing chapter!
So many things I loved: that Sheldon was in Vegas because of Penny, Raj knowing everything that happened but not able to say it...
But I guess my favorite part is "He took the midnight train --" "Going anywhere?" I love you and Howard for that!

I can't wait to read the next chapter!!
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:32 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! Haha, I had to toss a little "Don't Stop Believin'" in there ;D

Chapter 5 is up!
Maura!: + bb: another universe another sheldonfujiidom on October 13th, 2009 06:27 am (UTC)
Yay! This continues to rock. I'm really digging that resolution to the ~unknown night. Now, to hope S/P's resolution goes as smoothly! :D
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)
Hey, thanks very much! I really appreciate that. I've just posted the fifth chapter :)
S.: bbtheory; not here to kill batmanartic_fox on October 13th, 2009 06:27 am (UTC)
GO PENNY GO! I love all the twists you have here, and the flashbacks. And Raj knowing all along but not being able to say. Love this :D
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you're still enjoying it!

The second-to-last chapter is now up :)
oneangredwarf90oneangredwarf90 on October 13th, 2009 06:41 am (UTC)
yay! I love that when ever I get a reply from you, you say that you've updated again, thank you!
Cant wait for the next chapter, I was happy leonard wasn't a huge baby about all of it
-liz
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
Aww, thanks so much Liz! Glad you liked this, and glad you liked the new direction I took with Leonard. I moreso wrote out my wish of how he could behave on the show more than anything else, haha.

Chapter 5 is now up!
A lurking goblin marionette: tbbt: s/p <3danceinacircle on October 13th, 2009 11:13 am (UTC)
Mwahahahaha I was right! \o/ Another fantastic chapter. :D
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
Haha! Congrats on guessing right where I was gonna go ;)

Chapter five is now up!
gotmusic69gotmusic69 on October 13th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
oh snap!!! Love it!!
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! :D
(Deleted comment)
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! I totally wrote Leonard how I wish he'd act, lol, moreso than how he typically does act ;D

Chapter five's up!
defyprobabilitydefyprobability on October 13th, 2009 05:03 pm (UTC)
Oh thank freaking GOD that they weren't actually married.

I must say that I originally thought that perhaps Sheldon and Penny had really been the ones to get married, but then Leonard had been super whiney about it and grabbed the wedding ring from Sheldon, making them later think that he and Penny were actually married.

But I like your idea better. =)

And I absolutely LOVED the "Midnight train going anywhere" part. That was really quite hilarious.

Can't wait for the next update!
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
Oh man your icon. LOVE IT. Haha, oh Sheldon.

So glad you liked this chapter! Also glad you liked the Journey reference ;)

Fifth chapter has just been posted!!
Ex Astris, Scientia: Leonard has a lightsabermrsvc on October 13th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
\O/

I just caught up on this fic today (DARN YOU, COLLEGE!) and it is amazing. I love grown-up, mature Leonard!

<3333
WIN!
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:36 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you! I'm glad you like this version of Leonard. If only he could grow up already on the show, huh? ;)

More of this has just been posted!
7gifts7gifts on October 13th, 2009 07:24 pm (UTC)
Still loving this and glad those two weren't married.
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:36 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! Glad you're still enjoying.

Chapter five is now up! :)
(Deleted comment)
a.regalish on October 17th, 2009 01:37 am (UTC)
Hehe! Glad you liked that little twist with Raj :D

The second-to-last chapter has just been posted!
Yvaughn01evelynvaughn01 on March 19th, 2010 12:48 am (UTC)
Hooray that they're not married (and there was much rejoicing)! Shame on Raj for not mentioning it to anyone over the last month. Ack, that Sheldon's left! What a busy, BUSY chapter this was (in the best of ways). I like this kinder, wiser Leonard, and hope the canon Leonard comes closer to being him again at some point, b/c this guy? I can really like (just not with Penny).

Off for more!
missdreavus33missdreavus33 on March 20th, 2010 05:34 am (UTC)

don't stop believing ^__^

I just LOOVE your portrail of Leonard. He's the sweet character
I want him to be!