wolfie (muir_wolf) wrote,

FIC: What Doesn't Kill You (makes you stronger) | BBT Saturnalia fic for @lisatook

Title: What Doesn't Kill You (makes you stronger)
Rating: T
Word Count: ~6k
Disclaimer: BBT isn’t mine, etc.
Summary: Every fandom needs a horror story. (Or: so your life isn’t the genre you thought it was, are you going to cry about it or are you going to beat the crap out of something?)

A/N: This is terribly late, because I am the actual worst.

Saturnalia fic for weasleytook, who's been too patient by far, and is genuinely one of the sweetest, smartest, best people ever.


What Doesn't Kill You (makes you stronger)

“What if it exists in all possible locations?” he asks. His knuckles are white from clutching the dry erase marker. “What if observing it collapses it into one location? That’s how it moves—how it jumps—”

Penny’s left hand is flat against the door; her right is curled around the doorknob. She’s looking through the peephole.

“Penny, it’s quantum mechanics, it’s—”

“I can see it,” she says.

Sheldon smears a line across the board as he turns toward her, something terrified and surprisingly defiant flickering across his face.

“Sheldon,” she says. “It’s here.”

62 hours earlier

Penny grunts as she hefts the box. “When she said she was making space to turn my bedroom into a game room, I didn’t realize that meant she was sending me everything I’d left there.”

Sheldon glances at her as he walks up the stairs with her, but offers no help. To be fair, she’s pretty sure she’s stronger than he is.

“What’s inside?” he asks after a long moment. Trust that his curiosity would be eventually piqued.

“I dunno,” she says. “Not til I open it. Probably just some books and movie and stuff? I took pretty much everything out here with me, and most of what I left was in the attic.”

Sheldon stays silent the next flight of stairs up, but he follows her to her door instead of breaking off to his. She glances at him, but doesn’t say anything until she’s set the box down on the couch and walked into the kitchen, and notices he’s hovering next to the box with an impatient look.

“Well aren’t you going to open it?” he presses.

She’s not exactly in the mood for nostalgia boulevard, but Sheldon’s clearly not going to drop it until he’s satisfied. Pushy bastard. She grabs a pair of scissors from her junk drawer and starts over to him, entertaining mild thoughts of murder before slicing open the shipping tape her mom practically covered the box in. As soon as it opens, Sheldon tugs up the pieces of cardboard and leans in.

“Oh wow,” she says, surprised, “I forgot I left all those photographs behind!”

Sheldon looks to be torn between disappointment and yet more curiosity, but she ignores him and sits down next to the box, pulling out one of her photo albums. Sheldon evidently makes up his mind, because he squishes in on her far side.

She starts flipping through them, flashing past photographs of her shooting, of her cheerleading, of her hiking, of barbecues with her family and chasing her brother and the tent in their backyard and school trips and drama club and a million different moments of her life captured in the lens of a camera.

She’s smiling at a sudden wave of fond memories, and it takes her a beat to notice Sheldon stiffening beside her, his leg tense where it’s pressed next to hers.

“What is that?” he asks.

He’s pointing at a photograph of her family eating in the backyard, at a dark figure standing behind the fence. She frowns, leaning in.

“I dunno,” she says. “Someone walking behind, I guess?”

Even as she says it, there’s a vague sense of uneasiness in the pit of her stomach. Something about the dimensions of the man seem off, as if he’s oddly stretched, or—

Or maybe it’s just Sheldon.

“I’ve seen it before,” he says, though, and he’s frowning, looking…disturbed.

“It?” she repeats, looking between Sheldon and the weird figure, except Sheldon’s sliding the album from her knees to his and turning the pages backwards. He points it out again in a cheerleading practice snapshot, back near the bleachers, and again in a picture of her climbing a tree, and again at the edges of a school building, and a side-mirror of her car, and outside a window at a party, and and and—

“What the hell?” she says, grabbing the photo album back, her vague unease heightened to full-blown freak-out. Its—his—its—limbs seem too long for its body, its torso stretched, its face weirdly blurred. It’s wearing a dark suit except when it’s just not, its body stretched and thin and weirdly—off.

And it’s everywhere.

She slams the photo album shut and jams it back in the box, bolting to her feet. Sheldon follows, reaching for it, and she shoves the whole box into his arms.

“Go crazy,” she says, not meeting his eyes. “I need a drink.”

Her car’s got a flat, and her spare is nonexistent, so she’s been taking the bus this last week. Paycheck on Friday should cover it, but she hadn’t wanted to borrow more money from Sheldon (she has a tendency of not paying him back which she hates about herself), and she hasn’t borrowed a dime from Leonard since the last time he tried to get back together with her—it’s not that she thinks there’s strings attached to the money, but she’d prefer he think she’s a bit more independent than that.

Anyway, this means that she standing at the bus stop at 10:02pm. She’s got five minutes to kill until it gets there, so she rifles through her wallet, making sure she’s got the right change at hand (the other night the machine wouldn’t take one of her dollar bills, and an entire bus full of people had watched her struggle for two minutes until it did).

The hairs on the back of her neck start standing up, and she straightens a little, her hand curling around the mace she keeps in her purse. There’s nobody around, though, except the little old man sitting on the bus bench. She shakes it off, telling herself she’s just still creeped out by what happened earlier with Sheldon.

(What happened earlier with Sheldon? screams every fiber of her being, what the hell was that—who, who the hell, clearly it was a person—and why was it in all her photos?

She firmly shoves those thoughts down, just like she’s been doing since this morning.)

She rubs a hand along the back of her neck, trying to quell the weird vibes, and her phone goes off. She honest-to-God yelps.

“What?” she snaps into it, irritated at how jumpy she is.

“Penny,” Sheldon says. He sounds oddly shaken. “Penny, I logged into your computer—”

“Hey, that’s got a password!”

“—as if that would ever stop me, and I looked through your photographs since you came out here, and the same—same thing is in some of them.”


“Whatever it is, it’s out here, Penny,” he says. The phone is digging into Penny’s skin, and she turns in a circle, looking around her. “Penny, are you there?”

“I’m here. I’m fine,” she says, “The bus will be here in a minute.”

“Penny, I’ve been doing research. You need to come home.”

“I’ll be home in half an hour,” she says.

“I’ll pick you up at the bus station near the apartment,” he says. “Get on the bus and stay near people. Don’t wander off.

“How are you going to pick me up?” she tries to scoff, but he cuts her off.

“I’ll take Leonard’s car, but you should drive us home.”

“Sheldon, you’re overreacting,” she says, trying to ignore the quiver of fear in her chest, the way her eyes haven’t stopped scanning the area around her. “The bus is here,” she says, watching it stop at the red light about a hundred yards away. Her pulse is pounding in her ears, as if his concern is contagious.

(Nobody is watching her. Her hands are cold and her neck feels flushed with fear.)

“Keep your phone on,” he says. “Just keep it on and in your lap. I’ll pay your phone bill, Penny, but keep it on.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” she says as the bus pulls up in front of her.

She drops the phone in her purse—still on—and steps through the doors.

The bus makes twenty-three stops.

She sits in the back, on the seats that face each other, and stares out the window. Her purse is in her lap, and inside her purse is her phone, and on the other end of her phone is Sheldon. Sheldon, silent and listening.

It shouldn’t be reassuring—she knows that there’s absolutely nothing about that that should be reassuring, even were she in danger, which she’s not.

It shouldn’t be reassuring, but it is.

Twenty-three stops, and she can’t stop her eyes from skimming the length of the windows, as if she’s going to see it out there somewhere. Whatever it is.

(Jesus, now Sheldon’s got her going to, there’s nothing out there, ugh.)

Except stop eighteen, and the streetlight flickers, and for a moment she can see it in the reflection of the window in front of her—a dark figure standing on the sidewalk behind her, arms too long and body too thin. Her hand convulses around her purse, and she only narrowly stops herself from bolting to her feet.

And then the light adjusts and she can see out of the window in front of her again, the reflection gone. She twists in her seat, looking behind her, but the sidewalk is empty.

The bus starts moving again, and Penny sits tensely in her seat for the last five stops, her palms digging into her purse. Her breath is quick and short, and one of the other passengers keeps shooting her curious looks, but her mind is too busy trying to rationalize what she saw to care about that.

Five more stops, and she stumbles out of the bus and into Sheldon’s waiting arms.

Here is a fact: she never, ever, ever expected to stumble into Sheldon’s waiting arms.

She’s in a hurry, though, and he’s standing about as close to the bus doors as he can, her baseball bat clenched in one fist and Leonard’s car keys biting into his other.

The other bus passengers are definitely giving them weird looks now, since Sheldon looks—well, not dangerous exactly, it is Sheldon, after all, but—off. He looks off. Unsure, even.

“Penny,” he says, his hand with the keys coming up to land on her side as she stumbles into his arms, and she hadn’t realized how tightly she’d coiled herself until she’s somewhere familiar.

(Not that Sheldon’s arms are familiar, but—)

“Hey,” she says, something like a smile spilling onto her lips. “Did you crash the car, or what?”

“I can’t believe you believe in something supernatural,” she says. She glances in the rearview mirror reflexively, looking for any sign they’re being followed.

“Supernatural, no,” he says. “Alien, or other-dimensional? It’s certainly possible. In fact, other life is even probable.”

“Other life that’s stalking me,” she says. They hit a red light, and she has to fight the impulse to speed through it. Whether she likes it or not, her fight or flight instinct still has its teeth sunk in her.

“I’d say it’s safer to err on the side of caution,” he says, his voice tight.

Here’s the thing: what they have so far is some weird images of a dark man-shaped thing in a lot of her photographs from Nebraska, and evidently in some of her photographs here. That and some creepy feelings today, and something she thought she saw at a bus stop after the idea had already been planted in her mind. Conclusive evidence it’s not.

Which doesn’t explain why Sheldon is so fricking creeped out.

Honestly, that’s more worrying than everything else put together.

“Why are you so sure something’s going on?” she asks. The words are soft, but they carry well enough in the small space, and Sheldon’s fingers twist unexpectedly in his lap.

He opens his mouth, frowns, and closes it.

She turns to look at him, her hands tightening around the steering wheel, and his face is shadowed in the half-light of the car. It’s weird to see him so shaken and uncertain. Odder still is the way he looks at her, as if he’s worried for her. More than that, even—she’d say terrified, but that’s a silly word to apply to the situation. He can’t be terrified. Nothing’s wrong; they’ll laugh about this in the morning.

“Penny,” Sheldon says, his voice suddenly strangled, and his entire body is stiff, his eyes looking out the window past her.

She turns in her seat, and it’s there.

Dark, and too tall, and too thin, and she thinks she can feel it staring at her, but it’s faceless.

Her foot slams on the gas pedal, and she skids across the intersection through the red light.

It’s only luck that it’s so late and that the road is empty, because she doesn’t look in front of her until they’re through the other side.

Her radio’s blasting the Top 40 as she shampoos her hair, the steam from the shower thick around her as she lets the heat seep into her tense muscles. Today hadn’t exactly been…easy.

Still, she’s home, and that should count for something.

She’s humming along with the music when a creeping feeling starts on the back of her neck.

She—this would be embarrassing, if things weren’t going as they are—but she brought her tire iron into the shower with her. She pulled it out of her trunk before she and Sheldon came upstairs, and it hasn’t been out of hands reach for the whole hour she’s been home, including the time it took to convince Sheldon to go back to his apartment, she was fine.

Just because she doesn’t know what’s going on doesn’t mean she isn’t going to be ready. Besides, her skin’s been crawling ever since she looked through that photo album. Better safe than sorry.

She curls her hand around the tire iron, feeling the weight of it against her skin. The hot water is still spraying across her back, the steam clouding the room. Her free hand brushes lightly against the shower curtain, her feet braced on the whimsical ducks Sheldon bought for her so very long ago.

(Think I’m helpless, she thinks, think I’m not ready for you?)

She sucks in one breath, and then another, and on the third she yanks the curtain back, something primal spilling out of her lips as she swings the tire iron.

There’s a dark figure standing too close, too many limbs that are too long, but she doesn’t give herself a chance to be frightened, doesn’t give herself a chance to do anything but react.

The water sprays on the floor, and Penny lets her hand swing down again, the curtain tangling around her free hand, her eyes darting up to try to focus on a face that—

—isn’t there.

She pulls back abruptly on pure instinct, a denial forced between her teeth, but the curtain obscures her vision for only a moment, and it’s gone.

“Motherfucker!” she shouts, and before fear can tangle itself too tightly in her skin she slams open the bathroom door, water flying everywhere, and half-skids into her bedroom, letting sheer adrenaline fuel her as she flings open the door to her living room, too, searching for whatever her tire iron definitely impacted with just a few seconds ago.

(not a fucking hallucination, Sheldon, I whacked the shit out of that thing)

By the time she’s turned in every direction and confronted every wall and door and window, the cold air’s hit her skin and she’s finally become aware of her frantic heartbeat. There’s shampoo in her hair, and the floor is wet, but she backs herself into a corner and it’s a long time before she can trust empty air at her back enough to move.

Two o’clock in the morning, Sheldon knocks on her door and she lets him in.

She pours him a glass of soda and they sit together on the couch. She hasn’t bothered changing into pajamas, still in a pair of sweats, but Sheldon is wearing a robe, as if he’d only just given up on the idea of sleep.

“I googled Slenderman,” she says, nodding at her closed laptop. It’s sitting on the coffee table where she slammed it down, trying to ignore the itchy feeling on her arms.

He’s silent for a long, long moment. Finally he says, “Penny.” She cuts him off.

“It was in my bathroom,” she says. “I was taking a shower and it was in my bathroom and I hit it with my tire iron and it didn’t have a face and it disappeared and I chased it out here but it was gone and it didn’t have a face and it was in my bathroom, Sheldon!”

He’d been staring at the laptop, but now he peels his gaze away and settles it on her face. Dimly she realizes that his chest is shuddering around his breaths in time with hers, that they’re both freaking out in their own way, and she has to lash herself down ruthlessly, her fingernails digging into her thigh.

“Say it’s real,” she says. “What do we do then.”

His gaze doesn’t waver from her face, but she can see his focus go distant, as he considers everything.

“If it’s real,” he says, his voice unsteady, “then we have to stop it.”

She calls into work the next morning, and Leonard drives both of them to the University. He keeps asking why Penny’s coming with them, pressing the issue, but both Sheldon and Penny are a bit too occupied with looking out the windows to pay that much attention to him.

They haven’t told him anything, but then what would they tell him? They have absolutely no proof. They have nothing but blurry photographs and their own skittishness.

Sheldon secretes her in his office, and proceeds to not let her more than a few feet from his side for the rest of the day. She draws a line when she has to go to the bathroom and he tries to follow her in, compromising by not locking the door, so he can run inside if she starts screaming.

(Exactly what he’s going to do against that thing she has no idea, but his protective instincts have evidently been kicked into overdrive by the fear that’s settled thick and heavy over them.)

The bathroom trip goes safe and sound, but they’re walking through one of the hallways with windows on their way to get food, and there’s a dark, spindly shape next to a tree.

Sheldon grabs her arm, his fingers tight against her skin, and that’s how Howard and Raj find them—turned towards each other, standing too close.

“Oooh, does Sheldon have a crush?” Howard sing-songs.

They startle, though, at their familiar faces, turning from the figure outside, and Howard narrows his eyes.

“What’re you kids up to?” he asks.

“Not now,” Sheldon hisses, dragging Penny forward, his hand still gripping her arm, and Raj and Howard fall in, looking at each other inquisitively.

“Did you see it?” Sheldon asks in an undertone, and she nods, turning her arm until she can grip his hand back.

(It’s like there’s a cloud around them, heavy and thick and suffocating with fear and paranoia, and she can almost see the way out of it but she can’t quite get there, and the only thing to hold on to is Sheldon, next to her, just as trapped.)

Leonard drives them home after a fruitless day, and by now suspicion is clouding his features.

Neither of them notice it. Well, Penny notices it, but not enough to care, not enough for it to even really flag her attention. Sheldon and Penny sit in the backseat together, their hands centimeters apart on the cushion.

They can feel it following behind them, steady and sure.

Sheldon follows her into her apartment, and they hardly hear Leonard calling uselessly after them. She flips the lock shut because she doesn’t know what else to do, and Sheldon turns to the white board he’d moved in earlier.

She wishes she had something a bit more violent than the length of metal, but it’ll have to do.

They take turns sleeping for a few hours on the couch.

When it’s Sheldon’s turn, he curls into something small and rests his head in her lap, and she sets a steadying hand on his shoulder. With her other hand, she tightens her grip on the tire iron.

(Distantly, she knows this isn’t normal, but it’s too hard to think, too hard to let him go.)

By the time she wakes him up in the morning, desperation has sunk its teeth too tightly into her skin.

“You have to go,” she says. “I’m going to be fine.”

“No, you won’t,” he says. It should be funny that of everyone in the world, it’s Sheldon trying to protect her. Should be funny, but laughter seems like a distant thing, and even now her fingers itch to feel him next to her.

“It’s after me,” she says.

(She thinks, maybe, if she doesn’t blink, if she doesn’t look away, she’ll see it coming.

Just once she’ll see it coming.

Just once she wants a chance to face something head on.)


“It isn’t after you.”

His expression shifts, running the range from terror to relief to something steadier. “I’m not leaving,” he says, a brush of his arrogance sliding across his face and then disappearing. “I can figure out how to stop it.”

“Sheldon,” she says. “You don’t even know what it is.

He looks at her for a long moment, outrage warring with fear, and then he uncaps his whiteboard marker.

He doesn’t say another word the rest of the morning.

Sheldon has his “Future Nobel Prize Winner” face on as he scribbles equations down on the whiteboard. Maybe, she thinks, teetering towards hysteria, maybe she’ll be a footnote in his academic essays when this is all said and done. Not such a bad epitaph, maybe.

She wishes she’d brought her dad’s old rifle with her. All those years shooting cans out in the fields, and she’s never wanted that familiar metal beneath her skin as much as right now.

She’ll break every fucking bone in its body. She can do that. If it even has bones. If it—

This sixth sense that Penny’s getting, this knack of knowing it’s close—the small hairs on the back of her neck prickling, her heartbeat picking up—everything starts going off inside her.

Sheldon’s still muttering beneath his breath, and she turns toward the door. Looks through the peephole.

“Penny, it’s quantum mechanics, it’s—”

She’s standing on the edge of an abyss, and it’s a long way down. Part of her wants to run, but most of her—a part that’s only learned to burn so brightly these last few days—is clamoring for it to be over no matter what. She doesn’t want to run anymore, terrified out of her mind or no.

(She’d tell you she wasn’t made for running.

She’d tell you she’s run as far as she’s ever going to go.

She’d tell you her granddaddy told her everyone has to pick their place to stand.)

“Sheldon,” she says, because he isn’t listening to her, never listens to her. “It’s here.”

The tire iron is leaning against the door next to her knee. She lowers her hand, brushes her fingertips against it until she can pull it into her grasp.

The thing—too tall, taking up too much space in the hallway, arms that go too long and a face that makes her dizzy and nauseous because it’s blurry and indistinct—sways, and she thinks—

—thinks she could go outside—

—thinks she could go for a walk—

—thinks she should go for a walk—

“Penny,” Sheldon says. His voice is strained, and it takes her a moment to feel the heat of his body behind her, to feel the pressure of his fingers on her wrist. “Let go of the doorknob, Penny.”

Her mind swims restlessly for a moment, and somehow he moves a few millimeters closer, his body pressing against hers, his heat bleeding into her skin.

“Let go, Penny,” he says, his lips pressing against her ear, his words trembling through her body, and she sucks in an unsteady breath and lets go. “Keep looking at it,” he tells her, leaning down against her body and pulling the tire iron from her hand. “I don’t think it can jump unless you look away.” He presses against her, rearranging them until his cheek is next to hers, and then in one swift movement he slides her out of the way.

He sucks in an unsteady breath as he finally sees it close-up, and his arm tightens around Penny’s waist reflexively, pulling her into him.

“Tell me you know how to stop it,” she says, the dizziness passing and making way for truly blinding fear. Her fingers dig into his skin.

“I can’t do it here,” he says, the words sticking in his mouth. “We have to get to the university.” His voice pitches up high, and she wonders if he felt what she just did—a sudden, all-encompassing certainty that they were going to die. “Get my phone out of my pocket,” he says, his hands occupied with the tire iron and holding the lock closed—useless and necessary all at once.

She tucks her hand in his pants, barely even registering how weird it is that Sheldon would ask such a thing of her, and pulls it out.

“Call Wolowitz,” he says. “We’re enacting Alpha Zeta Prime.”

Alpha Zeta Prime turns out to be Raj, Stuart, Howard, and Leonard showing up outside of Penny’s door thirty minutes later, dressed in a ragtag mesh of hockey, paintball, and football gear, and carrying an assortment of weapons—mostly baseball bats. In the meantime, Sheldon had blinked, and the figure had disappeared, which meant the thirty minutes in-between had left them skittish and terrified, jumping at the slightest noise and frequently spinning in a circle to look around them.

“What’s going on, Sheldon,” Leonard sighs, and underneath the weight of fear that’s still crushing down on her shoulders, she thinks it’s sweet how Sheldon’s friends clearly believe he’s jerking them around, but still show up.

“The less you know the better,” Sheldon says, “but we need a safe ride to the University.”

“Seriously, Sheldon, what’s going on?” Howard scowls. “Bernadette was over, and we were—”

“Please,” Penny says, cutting him off, “please you guys, this is important. Please help us.”

Male pride pushed, every one of them straightens a little.

“Is it an ex-boyfriend?” Stuart asks, gripping his baseball bat a little more firmly. Sheldon glances down at Penny, and then shakes his head.

“Need to know,” he reiterates. Raj glances between them and then settles his gaze on Penny, looking faintly questioning, and for the first time Penny realizes just how close she and Sheldon are standing.

She doesn’t move away.

They get to the University safely, and the boys form a makeshift wall around them as they walk down the hallways. Maybe later she’ll reflect on how seriously they’re taking this, but she thinks that maybe her and Sheldon’s fear is catching, because they’ve all fallen mostly silent. They stop in a few labs, and Sheldon shoves different things into his bag, ignoring the incredulous reactions of the rest of them.

Nobody stops him, though, and nobody leaves.

Finally Sheldon leads them down to a small, empty office in the basement.

“They should go,” he says, emptying his bag out on the table, and Penny nods blindly. She knows that it’s unfair to risk the rest of them—unfair to even risk Sheldon—but she can hardly ask them to stay.

“It’s okay,” she says, turning to the boys. “We’ve got it from here.”

“You’re really not going to tell us what’s going on?” Leonard asks, looking on edge. “Should we call the police or something? Are you in danger?”

“We’ll tell you about it tomorrow,” Penny says, something wry in her voice at the thought of another day. It isn’t fair that she’s hardly seen the thing and she’s suffocating under fear, but there it is.

“Penny,” Leonard says, stepping forward, but she shakes her head.

“Go home,” she says. “And be careful.”

The boys leave, and then it’s just the two of them in the small office. She keeps watch while Sheldon fiddles with devices, and after a couple of hours he sets a small box on the floor between them.

“What is it?” she asks.

“It’s to catch it,” he says. “It’s—” He pauses. “Have you seen Ghostbusters?” She nods. “I’ve considered, before, how one would go about making a ghost trap. I don’t believe in ghosts, of course, but trapping a being from another dimension, based on the resonant frequencies…”

“You built me a ghost trap,” she says, and he shrugs a shoulder. “Will it work?”

He taps his fingers on his knee. “I’d need to test it,” he says.

She thinks—again—that she should send him away. Except in her apartment there’s a stack of photographs with that thing haunting her steps, and he’s the only one who’s ever seen it.

“You don’t have to stay here,” she says.

“My mother always expected I’d blow myself up,” he says, that soft touch of wryness that seeps into his voice every so often.

“She’s not someone you’d want to disappoint,” she says, trying for a humor she doesn’t feel. Her fingers are cold. Paranoia is settling lightly on her skin.

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, she thinks, and then has to bite back a sharp laugh that has nothing to do with amusement.

“Why are you here?” she blurts out instead, and he looks at the closed office door instead of her face.

His lips move uncertainly, and for a moment she’s sure he isn’t going to answer.

“Where else would I be?” he says.

His shoulders are tense, and she hasn’t been able to eat for the last day, her stomach unsettled.

(The door is closed, and she wants to scream, wants it to come, wants to stand and fight.)

“If we live through this,” she says, “I’m probably going to kiss you. Fair warning.”

The corners of his lips twitch up the smallest amount, and he opens his mouth to say something, and the office door slams open, and she lets out a startled scream before she can help herself, this thing that’s too large for the door somehow sliding through it, it’s limbs bending unnaturally and that blurred face seeking her out.

She lifts the tire iron like it’s a bat, the metal digging into her skin, her knuckles aching around it.

Penny—” Sheldon shouts, but she doesn’t look at him, doesn’t look away from the thing that’s moving closer to her—too smooth to be actual steps, curling into her space. It reaches out an arm, and for the briefest second she can feel it push at her mind—come little one, come let’s go for a walk, come with me—and then she slams into it, taking it off-balance.

Sheldon’s still shouting behind her, and she hits it with the iron again, feeling flesh (or something like it) give beneath her attack, fear and fury driving her.

“Get out of the way!” Sheldon shouts to her, and finally his hand clamps down on her wrist and pulls her back into him.

The device turns bright blue and the thing moves closer to them and she tries to shove away from Sheldon—it’s going to take her it’s going to kill her it’ll kill Sheldon too if she’s with him it’s going to kill them—but he doesn’t let her go, clinging desperately to her.

“Penny,” he says, his words loud and somehow underwater in her ear, “Penny, trust me, please, Penny trust me—

A dark hand with too many fingers and too little flesh reaches out for her, and she lets Sheldon pull her in closer against him, the pair of them pressed into the corner, the blue spreading around the room until it blinds them, but it isn’t enough.

She maneuvers against him until she can lift the tire iron up on more time, and brings it down shatteringly hard on the thing’s wrist, and it staggers back a few feet in retreat.

Sheldon’s lips are pressed against her ear, but there’s a dull roar spreading through them and she can’t hear anything, can’t see anything. Her entire existence is narrowed down to her beating heart and the feel of his body pressed behind hers.

And then everything whites out for one long, all-encompassing moment, and when the world settles back into focus she and Sheldon are kneeling on the ground, limbs tangled together, and the small black box is sitting innocently on the ground.

Penny turns to him, her hand settling on his shoulder.

“Are you okay?” she asks, the words stumbling over each other in their rush to get out. He nods, and keeps nodding. He’s still holding her against him, and he doesn’t seem inclined to let her go.

“Did it work?” she asks.

“You’re all right?” he says. Keeps saying it, his hand skimming up her back.

“I’m okay,” she says, words like shock flitting across her mind from all those Law and Order marathons. “I’m okay, Sheldon, I’m okay, I think it worked, I’m okay.”

He leans his forehead against hers, tension seeping out of his frame.

“You’re okay,” he repeats on a long exhale. His hand is still tangled in her shirt, and they stay like that for a long moment.

Finally he untangles himself and half-crawls to the box, checking the readings on it.

“I think it worked,” he says. “You can see the spike right here—it certainly trapped something.”

“So it’s gone,” she says. He stares at the readings for a long minute, and then nods. Her hand brushes against his, and he looks up at her, and for the first time in days they feel suddenly…light. Light, and free, and hopeful.

This is how it goes:

Sheldon and Penny are acting weird, and now it looks like Penny’s got some psychotic ex-boyfriend after her, and the boys have psyched themselves up. Psycho ex-boyfriends they can deal with. Better them than Sheldon, anyway; how’s Sheldon going to protect Penny?

They tramp back down the stairs, and huddle down the hallway from the small office.

“We’ll be firm,” Stuart says.

“We won’t take no for an answer,” Leonard says.

“She needs us to protect her,” Howard says. Raj rolls his eyes and steps towards the open door. Sheldon and Penny are kneeling next to each other in front of a small black box, grinning helplessly.

“I believe you said you’d kiss me,” Sheldon says, his voice weirdly light and relieved, and Penny laughs and pulls him close. The rest of them arrive just in time to see Penny lay one on Sheldon.

Raj leans into Howard. “Told you they were just sneaking around together,” he whispers, triumphant. “You guys watch too many scary movies.”

Tags: fanfic, z fandom: big bang theory, z pairing: sheldon/penny, z.character: penny nolastname, z.character: sheldon cooper
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