Rating/Warnings: PG- for alcohol
Word Count: 2,257
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Penny teaches Sheldon what Christmas really means (kinda) when they are stuck spending it together.
Penny rapped gently on the door before pushing it open.
Sheldon didn’t even glance up from his computer.
“Don’t you have a plane to catch?” he asked, irritably.
Penny shut the door behind her and crossed her arms across her chest.
“I did, but plans fell through. Looks like it’s just you and me for Christmas,” she said, the irritation in her voice matching his own.
Howard and Bernadette were spending Christmas with her parents. Leonard, Raj, and Amy were at some two week long science-y convention in upstate New York. Their flights would not arrive home until Christmas afternoon. Leonard had invited her along, but she had declined.
At the time, Penny had planned to fly to Nebraska for Christmas and see her family but… that wasn’t going to work anymore. Still, she’d rather stay at home than feign interest in whatever lectures Leonard and probably Amy would end up dragging her too.
Sheldon swiveled his chair around to face her and mimicked her crossed arms and annoyed expression.
“You mean, ‘Saturn-‘,” he began, but broke off at Penny’s outburst.
“No!” she practically yelled, stomping her foot.
“I want CHRISTMAS, Sheldon! A real one, with tree trimming, and movies and eggnog, and gifts!”
His arms dropped to his sides and he looked up at her stunned and a little frightened.
Penny’s eyes pricked with tears, and she felt bad for taking her frustrations out on him.
She spun on her heel and left without another word. She needed to get to work. She could apologize to Sheldon tonight and maybe they could compromise.
Sheldon stared after her, truly at a loss for words. If it had been anyone else, he would have put them in their place. But Penny had always been different. She had been the first female friend he had ever had. And though she could exasperate him to no end at times, he had to admit that the entertainment and drama she brought into his life was something he found valuable enough that he would miss it if it were gone.
Still, it was a bit out of character for her to blow up at him without some sort of provocation. He pulled his cellphone from his pocket and called Leonard. He would know what to do.
Penny had barely made it home from work before the tale-tell *knock, knock, knocks* started. She longingly eyed the wine bottle she purchased on her way home from work as she headed back to open the door, an apology already on her lips.
Sheldon was standing on her doorstep holding a brightly wrapped package. He looked incredibly put-out and wouldn’t meet her eyes as he shoved it toward her and turned back to his apartment.
She took the gift, and had to swallow back tears.
“Sheldon, wait. Please come in a talk for a minute,” she asked, her voice wavering.
He looked back at her over her shoulder, studying her for a moment with a blank expression.
“I suppose I could spare a few minutes,” he said finally and brushed past her into the apartment.
She shut the door behind him and gestured for him to take a seat in what he had recently decided was his spot on her couch.
“Thank you for the gift.”
He shrugged and looked at the floor.
“My mother made me get it,” he said, sullenly.
Penny blinked in surprise and moved to sit next to him.
“You haven’t offered me a beverage,” he protested before she could sit down.
“All I have is wine and tap water,” she said flatly.
He looked up at her with raised eyebrows.
“I like wine.”
She was again taken aback. What went on in that beautiful mind of his?
“Okay, Sheldon would you like some wine?”
“Not really, but it would be rude to turn down. “
Deciding that she herself was more than ready for a glass of wine, Penny went into the kitchen and grabbed a couple of wine glasses. She filled them and headed back to the couch, handing Sheldon one glass and taking a big swallow of the other one.
Sheldon sipped at his then set it on the coffee table.
“So, I guess you told your mother about what happened this morning,” she began, but Sheldon shook his head.
“No. I called Leonard and he told me to do what you want, when I didn’t agree, he called my mother.”
Penny shut her eyes and took a breath.
“I’m sorry about this morning. I didn’t mean to yell at you like that.”
He gave her a sideways glance as if he wasn’t sure he could be honest with her without getting in trouble again.
“It was baffling, Penny. You and I have never had the easiest time communicating, and now that we seem to understand each other better we don’t argue as much. I spent a lot of time thinking about this morning’s outburst, and I still cannot understand it,” he confessed.
She took another gulp of wine and didn’t say anything.
“It’s puzzled me all day. I’ve been working on an equation for weeks now, but all I could think about was you yelling and crying about Christmas.”
Penny still didn’t say anything.
Frustrated, Sheldon suddenly to a deep gulp of wine and jumped up from the couch glaring at her.
“When I awoke this morning I was expecting the start of a nice long winter break from the exhaustion of maintaining relationships so that I could focus on my life’s work and get myself closer to that Nobel Prize. Then I find that you are to remain here and that I am expected to put all of my plans on hold because you are unhappily stuck here with me. And you don’t even think enough of me to tell me what is upsetting you so much that you would behave that way... Are we friends or not, Penny?”
His gaze was intense, and his expression was that of a little boy unsure if he was about to get in trouble, but was past the point of caring.
It took a second for her to get over the shock at his outburst, but when she did, the hurt and anger of that morning came back.
She took another swallow of wine and got to her feet.
“My brother just got out of prison. This was supposed to be our first family Christmas all together in years! Then my sister decides she doesn’t want my nephew around our jailbird brother and decides to visit her in-laws in Virginia. My parents don’t want to take sides, so they decided an Alaskan Christmas cruise with just the two of them was the answer. My brother called last night to tell me all this. It was upsetting, but still I told him we could have our own Christmas together and he… he told me not to come. I tried to assure him that I loved him and wanted to be there for him, but he… he just said that if I had been there a few years ago when he really needed me, he might not have ended up this way…”
The full force of her brother’s hurtful words hit her again, and she sank to her knees.
Sheldon held out a hand as if to help her up, but then pulled it back and sat down beside her on the floor, back to the couch.
Penny cried silent tears for a few minutes, then sniffed and wiped the tears from her face.
Sheldon handed her wine glass to her and she drained the last of it.
They sat quietly for a moment.
“Leonard never asks me about my family. He knows a little of my brother’s situation, but he never asks and I feel like it bothers him when I bring it up,” she confessed.
Sheldon got up and went into the kitchen. He came back a moment later with the wine bottle.
“Have you thought that talking about your brother makes Leonard uncomfortable because he can’t identify with your situation?” He asked, as he refilled her glass.
Penny snorted, “of course he can’t. His siblings are perfect.”
“I can though. My brother has never gone to prison, but I’ve had to go with mom to pick him up after sleeping off a bender in jail more times than I care to remember. My sister was constantly in trouble growing up. I was never there for her, but even if I had been I doubt it would have made much a difference.” His twang-y accent had emerged like it always did when he spoke of his past.
“This is different,” Penny said looking away and taking another drink.
They sipped wine in silence for a few minutes.
“If Mee Maw were here, she would tell you that people have to make mistakes, sometimes bad ones, or they’ll never learn. And if we help them at the wrong time, we’ll do them more harm than good.”
Penny felt a lump form in her throat as she nodded at him.
He got to his feet and stretched.
“Penny, are you working tomorrow?” he asked.
Penny stood up and nodded.
“Yes, but it’s just the lunch shift again. I had to work the late shift last Christmas Eve, so I don’t have to this year.”
“Well, I would be honored if you would join me in my apartment when you get home so that we may celebrate Christmas together.”
“Oh, Sweetie, you don’t have to-”
He waved away her protest.
“No. I’ve decided that I don’t want to spend Christmas alone either.”
After he left, Penny opened the gift he had brought. It was the most hideous Santa Clause coffee mug she had ever seen in her life.
She was still smiling about it when she went to bed awhile later.
After work the next day she went home and changed clothes before heading over to Sheldon’s. She wished she had something to bring, but she didn’t get paid again until after Christmas and had still not gotten the refund from her plane ticket back.
She opened the door and was stunned at the mess she saw. Boxes of Christmas decorations were all over the place.
Sheldon looked up at her from the floor where he was currently trying to detangle Christmas lights.
“Well? What are you waiting for? Let’s decorate,” he said, tugging on the string of lights.
It took about 4 hours to get everything up. They had taken several ‘breaks’ to have cocoa, watch Charlie Brown Christmas, and sing carols. Sheldon had one of those classical trained baritone voices that most of the old Carols were made for. Mixed with her alto, it didn’t sound half bad.
When they finished decorating, Sheldon put frozen lasagna in the oven and made eggnog.
Then they watched almost 6 hours of Doctor Who Christmas specials, pausing only long enough to fill plates and refill glasses. Penny enjoyed them more than she had thought she would. Each special had moved her to tears. Happy ones…
When the clock struck mid-night, Sheldon turned off the TV and brought out more brightly wrapped packages. All of them bearing a tag that read, “’To: Penny From: Sheldon.’”
The gifts consisted of shot glasses, lingerie, her favorite razor blades, her old shampoo that Sheldon had made clear on several occasions that he preferred to her new kind, and a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka. They were the kind of gifts that simply showed how much he knew her. He wasn’t trying to impress her, or give her something that would overshadow another gift. He had simply purchased gifts that would make her happy.
“Sheldon, I can’t believe you got me all of this! Why did you do this? I thought you didn’t approve of gift giving,” she said, running her fingers along a satiny nighty that would feel so nice against her skin.
“Penny, for years I have been forced to endure these customs I’ve never really understood or agreed with. I have always believed these events to be a waste of time and money, and it still is, to me. But then, as my Mee Maw would say, Christmas isn’t about me. It’s about family and friends. I don’t think I ever really understood that until our conversation last night. I hadn’t really planned to do all of this, but all day I’ve just kept thinking about how ‘this’ would make you happy, or how much you would like ‘that’. And I liked that. I liked that I could do or buy you something that would make you happy. I don’t like seeing you unhappy Penny. It’s much too distracting-”
Penny was tipsy, sleepy, and more happy than she had thought possible. It was her only excuse for what she did next.
Her arms were around him and her lips pressed against his before she could even think it through.
He stiffened, but when she tried to pull away he followed, tilting his head to deepen the kiss.
After a long moment, he pulled way keeping his eyes shut for a moment and licked his lips.
Penny watched him carefully, bracing herself for a Sheldon freak-out. When his eyes opened, they were full of wonder, and a little hunger. There was no fear or doubt.
“Merry Christmas, Penny,” he said, the corner of one mouth tilting up.
“Merry Christmas, Sheldon,” she responded, smiling back at him.
And then they were kissing again.