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The Dance Reformation

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"The lights are too bright here, Leonard. They're burning my retinas. Whoever was put in charge of the lighting in this place should be immediately accommodated into a pillory."

Leonard sighed. "Sheldon, stop complaining. We're here to enjoy ourselves. And for the last time, there are no pillories in the 21st century. At least I hope not."

"I can't possibly fathom why you insisted on dragging me to this absurd social gathering. Look at these people. Flailing around like Neanderthals. Is our school so cheap that we cannot afford to have the Prom somewhere other than the excessively heated gymnasium? The rate at which I'm perspiring is, frankly, alarming enough that I fear I may have to resort to using the highly exhausted simile of 'sweating like a pig', although that phrase is technically incorrect, given that pigs do not have functional sweat glands." He scowled at his navy blue suit, which his mother forced him to wear and insisted made him look "as cute as a ladybug" which he didn't think was a very flattering comparison. Why must people always associate him with insects?

"Sheldon, what did I say about complaining? It's bad enough I had to suffer your perpetual bellyaching while I was driving you here."

Sheldon gave his friend one of his notorious derisive looks. "Well, can you blame me, Leonard?"

Leonard adjusted his glasses. "Look, I know this isn't something you'd normally partake in, but let's just try to have a good time. It's our last year of high school, we need to live a little. I think it's time you step out of your precious comfort zone, or whatever it is you call being holed up in your room playing with Star Wars figurines. This will be good for you. Besides, who knows? We might get to meet some new people. Make some new friends, maybe hook up with someone," he added the last part quietly, a hopeful tone hinted in his voice.

"Excuse me, but I am perfectly content engaging in my own recreational activities at the comfort of my home. Which, for the record, are not limited to me amusing myself with my limited edition Star Wars collectibles." He scoffed as if the very idea of that was ridiculous. "I also spend my time creating highly intricate formulas composed of systematic variables which I then use for my own research." He smiled proudly.

"Really?" Leonard wasn't impressed. "So you'd rather be sitting in your room scribbling a bunch of random equations that nobody will understand than attend one simple dance where you might actually get to interact with real human people who could potentially form a real human connection with you?" Leonard rolled his eyes when he saw Sheldon staring at him like he'd just asked if he'd rather have milk and cookies or be swallowed by an exogorth. "What am I saying? Of course you would," he muttered. "But just think of it as a mission. Like in Star Trek. Besides, I kind of need a wingman," Leonard added sheepishly, rubbing his arm.

"Why not Wolowitz or Koothrappali?" Sheldon asked. "I'm sure they have nothing better to do."

"Speak of the devil." Sheldon followed Leonard's gaze to meet an approaching Howard, with Raj naturally tagging alongside him. Even though the mama's boy couldn't be taller than 5'3, he still stood out strikingly among the crowd. He appeared to be wearing about ten buckets of hair gel, as well as a ridiculous flashy shirt from the 70's, coupled with his white belt buckle and skinny jeans, which seemed to be the only type of trousers he owned. Standing right beside him was Raj, dressed in a much more modest gray vest and corduroy pants.

"Ah, nothing like the sweet scent of sweat and hormones," was Howard's way of greeting them, in his usual quirky spirit. "The night is young, boys, and so are we. We've got many hours to pick up many ladies."

Raj sighed. "He's been testing his new pick-up lines on me the whole way here. If I hear the words, 'Come horny, leave happy' one more time, I'm going back into self-exile."

"Whoa." Howard held his hands out in front of him dramatically, like he was attempting to freeze time and the universe itself. "Hold the boat. Angel lady, four o' clock." Sheldon, Leonard and Raj looked towards the adjacent wall. Sheldon felt his heartbeat precipitate when he saw a familiar blonde sitting alone at a table by the refreshments counter. She was texting on her phone, empty plastic cup resting beside her elbow. She wore a becoming, silky black gown that covered half of her legs and did her slim, curvaceous figure too much justice; her smooth, champagne coloured hair was partly down, partly pinned back and twisted into loose, shiny curls that trailed down her back. A simple smile and any boy would be tingling to the toes for the whole evening.

"Dude, that's Penny," Raj said.

"Correction. That lovely piece of work-" Howard gestured towards Penny with his arm. "-is my new girlfriend. Or will be, once I get my irresistible hands on her."

"New girlfriend? You don't even have a current girlfriend," Leonard pointed out.

"What's she doing all by herself?" Raj wondered. "She's like head cheerleader and everything. You'd think there'd be a whole bunch of husky, muscular guys surrounding her and asking her out."

"Well, that's where we come in," Howard smiled. "Right?"

"Gee, I don't know," Leonard said, insecure.

"Come on, what have we got to lose?"

"Let's see. Our paper-thin, practically nonexistent reputation, whatever's left of our self-esteem…"

"Leonard, I believe that was a rhetorical question," Sheldon whispered to Leonard.

"Thanks, Sheldon," Leonard muttered sarcastically, which of course zoomed right over Sheldon's head.

"Anytime."

"Come on, fellas," Howard insisted. "Worst case, she says no, and we wind up with some sympathetic babe who gives us her shoulder to bit-I mean, cry on. It's a win-win."

"Maybe you're right, Howard. Maybe I should go talk to her. Who knows? Maybe she will say yes."

"Please, Leonard," said Sheldon bluntly. "Not only is she out of your league, she's out of your solar system. You'd have a better chance of finding the Temple of Doom."

If that's not irony, I don't know what is, thought Leonard with a slight smirk.

"It can't be that hard," Leonard said.

"You're right." Raj smiled with sudden confidence. "I'm going over. She totally likes me, dude. She waved to me in the hall the other day. Oh wait, maybe she was waving at the person behind me. Still, that's like a fifty-fifty chance. Whatever. I'm going with the sure-fire, Penny wants a little Indian spice in her life percentage."

Howard snorted. "Yeah, good luck talking to her."

Raj ignored him and started making his way over towards the table.

"Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" Leonard murmured to himself. Sure enough, Raj had barely stepped into the mass when a rather chubby girl yanked him by the arm, and he was unable to break free. Raj shot his friends one last, terrified look before he was swallowed up by the large crowd.

For a few minutes, the three outcasts could only stand there, speechless, unsure how to feel about what just happened. Suddenly, the crowd looked a lot more intimidating.

Several minutes passed, and nothing happened on either front. Leonard looked over at Howard, who was muttering a series of pickup lines under his breath, apparently deciding which one would get him that ticket to Pennyland, but Leonard knew he was just stalling. Heck, who was he kidding? He was stalling himself. He knew he should just grow a pair already and go ask Penny if she wanted to dance, but a part of him was secretly hoping that Howard and Sheldon (wait, Sheldon? Was he even into people?) would go out there, get pulverized by the crowd of restless teenagers, much like Raj did, and then he'd miraculously manage to make it there in one piece, like he was the chosen one. Sort of like three people stranded in the middle of the ocean, and two of them sacrifice themselves to the sharks until they are temporarily satisfied, and the survivor swims over to the island for safety. And on that island is a really hot chick. Okay, so maybe he was a little cruel. Whatever. It's all hypothetical.

"Well, aren't you going to ask her? After all, it was your idea," Leonard pointed out to Howard, who was scrutinizing the area where she was sitting.

"Hang on, I'm checking to see if she has pepper spray," he muttered.

Leonard shook his head. "This is ridiculous. We can't stand here all night. I'm going over there-" He started walking to the table, and Penny looked up at him, "t-there's no rush, it's still early," he rapidly mumbled as he immediately turned back and stood against the wall again.

Sheldon scoffed. "You both are pitiful. I will show you how easy and painless it is to ask a female to dance."

Howard and Leonard exchanged tentative looks.

"Um, you sure about that, buddy?" Leonard asked, slightly concerned that he might not be able to cope with getting shot down. Especially since this was definitely not one of his areas of expertise. For once, Howard didn't even crack a joke at his expense.

"Hmm, perhaps you're right," Sheldon sighed, hanging his head. "It's too much for me, isn't it?"

Leonard smiled, glad that he understood, but his smile instantly vanished when Sheldon's head snapped back up and he stared at them with his freaky eyes. "Bazinga! Sheldon Cooper never gives up that easily! Watch and learn, padawans!" He left their safety zone and approached the table, leaving Howard speechless and Leonard wincing. "I can't watch."

As Sheldon neared Penny, his shoulders stiffened and his heartbeat started to accelerate. Truthfully, Sheldon wasn't only doing this to prove that, once again, he was ultimately superior. He'd had his eye on this girl for quite some time. They shared one class together, and from the moment he first saw her, ("Hi!" she said with a warm smile. "I'm Penny.") he'd been intrigued. Of course, the signs were very subtle at first, like all crushes were. If he recalled correctly, (of course he did, eidetic memory and all) it was her smile that he noticed first. It was a joyful, perky smile that radiated off of her from miles away. Whenever she smiled, her eyes lit up, and when her eyes lit up, so did the rest of her.

Her eyes were next. Luminous and magnetic. Some obscure cross between aquamarine and sapphire. He'd subconsciously sit behind her (what a paradox the subconscious was, making you do things intentionally without you even being aware of it) and tap her on the shoulder so she'd turn around, and then he'd ask her meaningless questions just so he'd get a chance to stare deep into those vast, staggering eyes for as long as his heart desired.

Then there was her laugh. He first heard it when one of her friends told her a joke. It was free and fluttery and very contagious. He would find himself racking his brain for any jokes he could tell her (that she would also understand), and even drawing silly pictures and showing them to her just so he could hear that wonderful sound, even if it was just a giggle.

These little seeds of observation were planted in his heart and accumulated over the months until they blossomed into a full-blown affection. It took him several weeks to absorb and process the fact that he, Sheldon Cooper, future PhD, wasn't just attracted to Penny. He was completely in love with her.

He approached the table where she sat and took a deep breath. Well, here goes nothing. He was instantly diverted from his goal by his automatic internal ramblings. What a ridiculous phrase that is. Nothing is, by very definition, a non-existence, therefore how can it possibly function as a moving unit-

"Hi?"

He was snapped back to Earth by a female voice. Penny was staring up at him, eyes big and curious like a child's, their azure beauty captured by the lights, a faint smile on her glossy lips. He swallowed. If he thought she looked pretty during school hours, she was absolutely breathtaking now. Her enchantment was powerful enough to blind him, paralyze him, and make him faint all at once.

"H-hello." Talking to Penny, it felt like he was in a play and he'd forgotten all his lines.

She smiled more. "Hey, Sheldon." It felt strange for someone besides his family and friends to use his real name. Normally, mostly everyone would call him "nerd" or "freak" or "Mantis boy." But Penny was different from those people. He was sure of that. She wouldn't disappoint him.

He cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck, sweat moistening his pale skin. "I was wondering, if you'd care to, perhaps, um, you and I could, uh, would you like to…" Oh dear. What was happening? Usually Sheldon would get right to his main point in a conversation, but now his brain and vocal chords seemed to be disconnected; he was tripping over his words like a broken record.

Fortunately, Penny seemed to get the idea. "Dance?" she supplied. He nodded quickly, thankful she'd required no further elaboration.

She smiled. "Well, it's about time." She rose from the chair and took his hand, leading him to the dance floor. Right on cue, the lights dimmed and the upbeat, blaring music faded in lieu of a much calmer, passionate song.

"Oh, Sheldon," she murmured, eyes glazed. "It's perfect." He didn't know what to say.

Penny started to approach him, and he twitched. This was getting intense. He was actually going to be touching her! He didn't know if he was capable of handling this level of physical contact, much less with a person who chemically impaired him.

Penny chuckled when she noticed how stiff he was. "Need a little oil there, Tin Man? Come on, it's easy. I'll lead."

"All right," he answered uncertainly. He remembered what Leonard had said about stepping out of his comfort zone. Maybe he was right. He'd already gotten this far. He would do it. Tonight, he would become someone new. Just this once. For Penny.

Therefore, when the she appeared in front of him and laid both hands on his shoulders, instead of freezing up again, he smiled and moved his own hands towards her lower back, and let that freaky, neurotic Sheldon be catapulted out of his body towards the nearest galaxy.

Leonard stared in disbelief. "Holy … crap."

Howard was equally as shocked. "Either she's gone crazy or I have."

"How can Sheldon tolerate being with a girl? Scratch that. How did Sheldon even get a girl, let alone the prettiest one in the whole school?"

"The world's gone mad, Leonard. Meshunger."

At that moment, two skinny, and somewhat nervous looking girls approached them. One was tall and brunette, the other was short and blonde. They both wore glasses. The brunette cleared her throat and spoke: "Hello, my name is Amy Farrah Fowler and this is my friend Bernadette. We were wondering if you might be interested and/or availab-"

"Go away, can't you see we're spying on someone!" Howard snapped. Frightened, the two girls scampered away. At that moment, Raj stumbled back into the group, rubbing his cheek.

"Hey, what happened to your girlfriend?" Howard teased.

Raj looked away, embarrassed. "I was trying to grab her shoulder-honest!-but there was so much of her that I kind of… missed."

"What do you mean you-" Howard's eyes widened as he caught on. "Oh."

Raj continued. "And because I naturally couldn't explain myself and apologize, she slapped me and kicked me to the curb because I don't look like Mick Jagger."

"Well, awful Ke$ha lyrics aside … ouch. That must have been rough."

Raj sighed. "Yeah, well … what can you do?" He looked around. "So where's Sir Whines-A-Lot? Crying in the bathroom because he experienced his first official rejection?"

Howard shook his head and pointed towards the dance floor, where Penny and Sheldon were immersed. "No, more like having the best night of his life, and once again one-upping us."

If Raj had been consuming a drink at that moment, he surely would have choked on it. "What the frak?!"

"Soooo…" Penny looked at Sheldon with her big glimmering eyes as they moved to the beat of the music, and he couldn't help but smile. He was dancing with Penny. WITH PENNY. Sheldon normally scoffed at the hokum spiritual idea of 'luck', but at that moment, he felt like he'd been struck by fate's lucky arrow right in the bullseye. "I was surprised to see you here. You don't strike me as the type of person to come to these things."

He nodded. "A fair conclusion. I do admit, I was initially reluctant, and highly skeptical about attending this glorified event. But now that I'm sharing this moment with you, I can't remember why. My mind seems to have been cleared of everything except Penny." He spoke her name with a lilting tone he hadn't even known he possessed. He wanted to say it over and over again. His voice soon switched back to normal. "Although to be fair, I was dragged here against my will," he added.

She laughed. "Fair enough." They danced some more.

"Penny," he said, and she looked up again. Oh Lord, those eyes. So perfect. So mesmerizing. Oh woman, what hast thou done to me?

"Since you were comprehensibly surprised at my unexpected appearance at this social event, I share that emotion at the fact that out of all the male specimens in this room, you chose myself. I must ask, why me? Unlike you, I have no social status. I am not, to use a quotidian term, one of the "cool kids". I am not particularly pleasing to the eyes. Why, then, did you decide to grant me the honor of being your lucky man?"

Penny was shocked. For someone who was supposedly the most arrogant person in the school, he was really quite humble. She cleared her throat. "Well … it's complicated. I guess I'm just tired of every jock trying to dance with me just so he can get me pregnant later. I mean, I love guys, but I hate those guys."

"Hmm. A cynical romantic. Interesting."

She frowned at him. "What's interesting?"

"You are an oxymoron."

"Excuse me?" Penny narrowed her eyes, offended by what the last two syllables implied.

Sheldon rolled his eyes with a light smile. "It means a juxtaposition of contradictory qualities. Freezer burn. Great Depression. Partially complete. Organic pesticide. And despite containing the word 'moron', it does not in any way suggest that you are of low intelligence."

"Ohhh." Penny chuckled slightly. "Right. I knew that." She stared up at him with wonder-filled eyes. "You're so smart."

"Penny," he stared at her sanctimoniously. "I have an IQ of 187. I plan to someday change the world as we know it with my knowledge of physics. To say that I am smart, would be an understatement."

She laughed. "That's an understatement." They kept dancing for a few more, wordless measures. She then looked up and spoke again. "But wait. Aren't you a …" She paused as the tried to remember the word. "an oxymoron as well?"

"How do you figure?"

"Well, you're supposedly a genius, right? In the factual sense. But when it comes to people, well … you're not exactly Mr. President. No offence."

"None taken." He took one of his hands away from Penny's shoulder and ran his fingers through the soft layers of her hair. Remarkable. "I suppose I've always had different priorities than most people, namely science." He paused, touching the tip of one of Penny's curls and twirling it between his two fingers. "Although as of this moment my priorities seem to have shifted."

"Oh? Enlighten me, Dr. Cooper." Calling him by his real name was a welcome change. Calling him by his preferred nickname was even better.

He leaned in and whispered in her ear. "Right now, my only desire is to feel your lips pressed against mine." He was shocked at himself for saying that, but at the same time he did not want to take it back. Penny had opened up that part of him he kept shielded from virtually the rest of the world. According to his peers, he was 'emotionally handicapped', but tonight he would finally let those emotions run free. After all, despite how he viewed and presented himself, he was a teenage boy, and you could only hide behind a stoic, cryptic, sheltered front for so long.

She smiled. "So it's true, then."

"What is?"

"Great minds do think alike."

He allowed a smile to cross his features. "Indeed, they do."

She placed a hand on his cheek, and instead of flinching or jerking back, he treasured the feel, feeling like the luckiest guy in the world. After all, this was his first kiss, and he was going to experience it with the girl he loved. What more could one ask for? For once in his life, Sheldon Cooper was going to "go with the flow."

Metaphorically speaking, that is.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and closed her eyes, and as they leaned in closer, the only thought flashing through Sheldon's mind was: HOLY PLUTONIUM AND SPOCK AND IRON MAN AND RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPES AND TRIPLE EXCLAMATION MARKS I'M ABOUT TO KISS PENNY!!!

Barry Kripke narrowed his eyes, jealousy storming over him. So Sheldon, his worst enemy, thought he could steal the girl of his dreams just like that, huh? Not on his watch. The dark-haired boy glanced towards the fire alarm that was conveniently beside him and a devious grin formed on his lips. "You won't be smiwing for wong, Shewwy."

Just as Sheldon's lips were about to meet Penny's, a shrill, piercing sound rang throughout the gym. The lights were turned on again, the music stopped playing, and everyone looked around in confusion. Suddenly, torrents of water started raining down from the ceiling, and screams filled the gymnasium.

Penny shrieked. "Holy crap on a cracker!"

Sheldon grimaced. Oh, Devil's timing. He took her hand. "Quickly, we must evacuate the facility."

"Wait!" she cried. "My purse." She reached towards the table she had previously been sitting at and quickly snatched her little silver purse, which was now soaked.

"Where's the fire?" she asked, panic building in her voice.

"There is no fire," Sheldon shouted over all the screaming. "Otherwise, smoke would have been detected. Someone must have pulled the fire alarm as a joke. And I think I have a pretty good idea of who that was." He saw Kripke standing by the corner, smirking, while everyone ran around screaming.

"Let's go." She grabbed his hand and they ran, they ran past all the frantic kids who were shouting, I don't want to die! and Move! and My hair's ruined! while some teachers tried to assure everyone not to panic and that there was no fire, to no avail.

They stopped a few feet from the emergency exits, where hordes of students were stumbling over each other trying to get through.

"No, it's too crowded. We must try the other exits." Penny nodded, and they fled towards the other, unoccupied doors into a deserted hallway.

"Phew, that was crazy," Penny muttered, catching her breath.

Sheldon nodded, and then once again he was struck speechless as he got a good look at her, away from all the people and all the commotion. Her hair was dripping wet, her makeup streaked down her face, and her once beautiful dress was now a saturated mess, yet she still managed to look as beautiful as ever. He could not believe he'd been missing out on this girl for more than a decade. I guess this is what love is.

"So Shelly…" Penny said with a teasing smile. "I really enjoyed that dance. I don't care what people say, I think you're wonderful. And well, you're kind of special to me. You always were. Every time I see those assholes picking on you and your friends during school, beating you up, humiliating you in the worst possible ways … it breaks my fucking heart. They just don't realize how special, and how beautiful you really are. But I do. You mean something to me, Sheldon. I … I love you."

He was certain he had stopped breathing for a moment, and he realized that his hands were twitching. I love you. She loved him. Penny loves me. Feeling the butterflies fluttering in his stomach, he said the first thing that came to his mind, which didn't even seem rational, but he just wanted something to be able to preserve, cherish those words she'd just spoken, something to hold the memory forever: "Penny, will you sign that in my yearbook?"

She laughed that laugh he loved so much. The butterflies propagated. Then she approached him and unified their hands. "I've already signed your heart, Dr. Cooper."

Never had a moment felt so right in his teenage life. Sheldon closed his eyes as they inched in closer, and his heart went into overdrive, the butterflies swarmed around feverishly, his pulse electrified, his blood froze cold, his mind went blank, his thoughts floated away. He felt a strand of soft blonde hair stroke his shoulder, and the tip of her watery lips brushed his own, when suddenly there was a squeak and a collective, "Shh!"

"What was that?" Penny frowned and pulled away, pretty sure she had heard something. Sheldon turned sharply and looked towards the hall, positive that he had heard something. He shrugged when the hallway seemed empty. "Beats me." He cursed whoever had disrupted the moment, although the spark was far from gone. On the contrary. There would always be that spark between them, no matter what. It would never wear off. And now Sheldon's heart was screaming, he needed to kiss Penny, he couldn't wait another moment. He had kept his love hidden inside for long enough, and it was time to let it out.

"Well, then," Penny said. "Shall we try this again for the third time, or will we get interrupted once more?"

Sheldon smiled, and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Let's find out … kitten." The passion was raging within him, and unable to control himself, his lips plummeted onto hers in a cascade of emotions, senses unwinding, time distorting, feeling like everything inside him was being released. As it turns out, third time is the charm.

"Oh my God," Raj murmured, as he, Howard and Leonard peeked from around the corner.

"Sheldon kissed a girl," Leonard whispered in disbelief.

"Huh, what do you know? He's actually human after all," Howard mused. "Lucky too, if you ask me."

"Huh. Who knew the dumbass had it in him?" The three boys turned their heads towards Leslie Winkle, teacher's pet, hall monitor, and proud, self-proclaimed tormentor of Sheldon, not realizing she was right there. She looked surprised, and slightly jealous; after all, it is a little humbling to witness your tormentee score epically in romance when she herself hadn't advanced very far in that department.

Leonard sighed, and shook his head. "What are we doing? We're supposed to be having the night of our lives, and instead we've just spent the whole time stalking Sheldon."

Howard slapped his forehead."Those two nerdy chicks! We could've danced with them! What were their names? Amy Fowler something and Bernadette?"

"You know, there's still time," Leslie pointed out. "They're cleaning up the whole gym and everyone's getting into the groove again. Caught the culprit, too."

"Come on, maybe they're still available," Howard grinned, dragging Leonard back to the gym doors. "Good thing I brought condoms."

"Howard, you're unbelievable!" Leonard cried before they disappeared into the gymnasium.

"And as for you…" Leslie smirked, eyeing a petrified Raj. "It just so happens that I could use a date myself. And hey, I'll take what I can get. Which in this case is five feet four inches of caramel goodness." She licked her lips and trailed her finger along Raj's chest; the poor boy was wide-eyed and shaking. "And don't worry, doll. I got plenty of talk to go around."

Raj looked at her for a few seconds, then shrugged. Hey, as long as he gets to be with somebody, and really, she's not that bad. Certainly better than that giant, castrating nightmare he was forced to dance with earlier.

He draws a shaky smile, and Leslie purrs. "Come on, cute stuff. In we go." She took his hand and led him into the gymnasium, and Raj couldn't help but grin with eagerness. Maybe tonight wasn't a total bust.

Sheldon's whole body was numb. It was like he'd just awoken from a dream-or perhaps he was still dreaming? He wasn't sure. He wasn't sure if what had just happened was real. But it had to be. He could still feel it. Every part of his body had absorbed the kiss, starting from his lips. The moment their lips had locked and merged together, it was like the whole world had dissolved away, and now that he stared into her fresh, shimmering eyes, he saw millions of galaxies, like her irises were portals that stretched to the universe millions of light years away.

They gazed at each other, and there was nothing to say.

A kiss is worth a thousand words.

If he thought the silence would be eternal, he was wrong. The unmistakable sound of her voice brought him back to Earth, although the light-headedness was still present. "Wow," Penny breathed, eyes floating. "You are … you're something magic, aren't you?"

Sheldon smiled, pleased with himself for excelling in yet another area. "Only I am not an illusion, Penny."

"Thank God."

At that moment, the principal appeared out the gym doors, dragging a very humiliated Barry Kripke presumably towards the office. Kripke noticed Penny and Sheldon standing together in the hallway and scowled at the latter. Sheldon simply smirked and blew him a kiss before he was out of sight. Penny giggled. Sheldon looked at her again, and still found it hard to believe that out of all the people in the world she could have chosen, she had chosen him. He smiled. He'd gotten to dance with and kiss the girl of his dreams. His Meemaw would be so proud.

"Shall we?" Sheldon gestured towards the gym doors, indicating that they go back inside to enjoy the rest of the evening.

He was surprised to see Penny's smile disappear. He frowned. Oh no, had he done something wrong? He gulped, and she bit her lip and looked at the ground. "Sheldon," she spoke, and he feared what she was about to say. "I'm … I was just wondering. If we're going to be, you know, together from now on …" She stared back up at him, and his heart stopped for a second. Together. She and I. Us. One. "Is it worth it? I mean, do you love me back? I don't want this to end up like all my other relationships, where they crash and burn and I'm heartbroken and empty."

His throat felt dry. How could she ask that question? Although he did try to have a working knowledge of all the important things in the universe, he was not extensively familiar with the subject she was inquiring about. However, no other person he had ever known had made him so light-headed, his pulse so erratic, his speech so weakened, his sweat glands so active, his senses so stilted, his hormones so rampant, his heart so lenient, his dreams so infested, his overall being so compromis-

"Sheldon?"

He looked at her then spoke, the scientist in him creeping back up into the surface. "Are you familiar with the basic principle of chemistry that a proton is attracted to its opposite charge, the electron?"

Penny nodded.

"Well, there you go."

She shook her head. "No, Sheldon. I meant, are you…" She glanced up at him, and he saw in her eyes how important this was to her, how much his answer depended, and she asked the burning question: "Do you love me, Sheldon?"

It was then that he knew he could not rely on science to save him this time. It was time for the new, emotionally exposed Sheldon to take the metaphorical stage. He stepped forward, taking her hand and nestling it between his two palms. "Yes, Penny. Always."

All Penny could do was smile and kiss him again. Somehow, that was all she needed to hear.