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The Agitator Malfunction

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Penny hit the bottom step still humming whatever the last song she heard on the radio was. Basket in hand, she walked towards the laundry room, but took an immediate step back when she saw the ominous sign on the door.

"Oh crap."

She checked the time on her cell phone. 8:07 p.m. There was still time to warn him before he had to see it for himself. Penny turned quickly and ran up the four flights of stairs as fast as she could. When she hit the fourth floor, she was out of breath and panting a little.

Her hand reached out to open the door to 4A, but it was already opening before she could get there. Sheldon stood there with his own basket under one arm, clearly taken aback by her presence in his doorway.

"Penny? I see you are joining me for laundry night tonight."

"Sheldon… I have…" she breathed in deeply, trying to catch her breath.

"Did you participate in strenuous exercise in preparation for laundry night? That's new…"

She rolled her eyes and her breathing steadied. "Sheldon. I have some bad news. Just remain calm and everything will be okay. I promise."

Sheldon teetered backwards a little, his face frozen with worry. "Penny, don't you dare toy with me."

"I swear I'm not. I was just down at the laundry room and… it's out of order."

He used his free hand to clutch the door frame for support. "Oh, no. No no no no no no."

Penny put her own basket down and put her hands on Sheldon's forearm. "It's okay, Sheldon. We can get through this."

"But how? It's Saturday. It's almost 8:15. It's laundry night, and yet, there's no laundry room."

"You have an I.Q. of 187, and I'm street smart and stuff. Don't worry, we got this."

Sheldon's eyes were scanning back and forth. Thinking. Problem solving. Coming up with the best possible solution.

"I could wait until the laundry room is repaired."

That was not it.

Penny looked at him doubtfully and shook her head. "No way. That elevator has been out of order since before either of us lived here. It could take years before they fix the laundry room. And we both need clean clothes. I have an idea."

"We could wash them in the bathtub."

"Well, that's one step above beating them on a rock down by the river."

Sheldon looked at her with complete seriousness. "There's no river nearby."

She gripped his arm tighter and dragged him out of his apartment. He was the smartest man she had ever known, but when his routine got thrown out the window, he could be a real dumbass.

"No genius, that's not what I meant. I'm talking about a laundromat. There's one a few miles away. It won't be 8:15, but we can probably make it there by 8:30 if we leave now."

"Oh, no, Penny. Laundromats are filthy and highly unsanitary places. And I don't know what machines there are the good ones or bad ones. How do I know their machines won't ruin my clothes?"

"You don't. But sometimes you just have to take that risk. Now come on…"

She watched him ponder her words for a moment before he finally conceded and shut the door to his apartment. Penny grabbed her own basket and gave him a big smile, but she still had to nudge him towards the stairs with the palm of her hand splayed on his back.

He was eerily quiet through the entire ride to the laundromat. When she stopped her car, she gave him a curious look before she opened her door.

"Sheldon, you didn't bother to complain about my check engine light once. Are you really that freaked out?"

"I'm sorry, Penny. As you know, I tend to not be quite myself when something of this magnitude occurs."

She tried to suppress the half-snort half-laugh that was coming out of her throat but just couldn't do it. "It's hardly the apocalypse, you know."

Sheldon tilted his head and gave her the slightest of grins. "Curiously, I think I would be extremely calm in the event of the apocalypse."

"You're probably right."

They made their way inside the laundromat, which was mostly empty. Sheldon spent the next fifteen minutes inspecting every washing machine until he found one that looked mechanically sound. He even pointed out a couple other acceptable choices for Penny to dump her clothes in to.

He spent the next 10 minutes inspecting the chairs until he found the one that looked the least threatening. Penny just leaned against one of the washing machines, watching all of this with a bemused expression. When he had finally settled in, she took the chair next to him and surveyed the room once more.

"This place is practically empty."

"It's Saturday. It's date night."

"Huh?"

"Traditionally, Saturday is a night for people to go out on dates."

Penny nodded and sunk into her chair a little further. "I know what date night is."

Sheldon shrugged, still looking straight ahead. "I thought maybe you had forgotten. You spend most of your Saturday nights doing laundry with me."

"Then it's a laundry date."

"This is not a date."

"It kind of is."

"A date is a social activity for current or potential lovers. This is just laundry."

Penny turned her head and looked at him. She was really going to enjoy this one. "Technically, a date is any prearranged meeting or engagement, social, romantic or professional. We do our laundry together at 8:15 every Saturday. So it's a date."

Sheldon looked at her, clearly annoyed that she had bested him on something. "Fine. Have it your way."

"Not my way. Talk to Mr. Webster and his dictionary if you have a problem with that definition."

Sheldon huffed and the little devil on Penny's shoulder did a victory dance. It wasn't often that she defeated him with the power of knowledge, so she savored every second of it.

They spent the rest of the evening like it was any normal laundry night. It was the most alone time they got all week, and Sheldon had almost adapted to her brand of chatting. They would talk about their lives, jobs and families. Sometimes they would argue about movies or TV shows. After months of laundry nights, she realized she probably knew Sheldon better than anyone.

The rest of laundry night came off with minimal tragedy. Sheldon had even insisted on helping her fold her laundry as a thank you for pushing him out of the building and snapping him back to sanity. Or, whatever Sheldon's version of sanity was.

Clothes washed, dried and folded, they headed back to her car outside. As soon as she was out on the street, Sheldon made sure to complain about the check engine light. She was pretty sure he complained about it twice as much to make up for his silence on the ride there.

When they finally made it back to the fourth floor, Penny couldn't help but linger at his door for a moment while he unlocked it and sat his laundry basket just inside. He turned back to her with a polite nod and smile.

"Thank you again, Penny. Were it not for you, I might have…"

"Been doing your laundry in your bathtub?"

"Possibly…"

She smiled brightly at him, and that little devil decided to start tap-dancing on her shoulder this time. "So, Sheldon, you know what normally happens at the end of a date, right?"

"Oh, not this again."

She stood up on her tiptoes and gave him a warm kiss on the cheek, letting it linger a little longer than she should have. When she took a step back, she was pleased to see that he did not look repulsed in the slightest. In fact, his fingers had flown up to the spot where her lips had been and he touched it for just a second. She could swear she saw just a hint of red in his face.

Penny bounced back and forth on her heels, grinning like a fool. She was a little too proud of herself.

"Good night, Sheldon…"

She turned and headed back to her own apartment. As she was unlocking her door, she could hear him muttering under his breath.

"That woman… I swear…"

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