Staying in Jimmy's sister room made Penny feel like a princess. There was the dresses in the closet, the huge bathtub, the scented bath pellets and the huge canopy bed with the comforter that hid her inside it. It was almost like staying as a guest in an expensive hotel except that it had a bit of a musty scent in there. Jimmy's weekly cleaning staff only turned the room down once a month with a fresh turn of the linens and a monthly vacuuming and dusting. Besides that, she was having a time finding signs of Sara's personality in the room, like the clippings of Eighties movie stars in the night stand, the diary about her exploits with a guy named Lionel and the vanity table with all the empty bottles of nail polish in the bottom drawer. This morning she helped herself to Sara's nail polish kit, dressed for work and said goodbye to Jimmy in the kitchen on her way to the Cheesecake Factory. Her car was parked outside the side entry under the extended roof. The driveway went around the house, beneath the back patio and around the house and past the basement garage under the trees outside Jimmy's study windows. Climbing into her Honda, she took her key from her purse and put it into the ignition to turn over the engine, but nothing was happening. She turned it once then a second time as if turning it once wasn't enough. Her eyes rolled out of fear. The little red engine light wasn't even coming on.
"Oh no…" Her voice commiserated as she checked her watch. She was due for the lunch shift at the restaurant. Swinging the door open, she grabbed her purse, hastened around her car and back into the side entry and through the foyer.
"Jimmy…" She found him in his study. "My car isn't starting. Can you drive me to work?" She stood in her yellow, white and blue restaurant uniform.
"What?" He acted like he hadn't heard her, but it actually just took him a minute to realize what she was asking. "When do you have to be there?"
"Twelve minutes…" She told him. Jimmy checked his watch and looked at something on his desk.
"Penny, I kind of waiting for an important call from the East Coast." He revealed. "Look, why don't you just borrow my car?"
"I trust you."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure you're a good driver." Jimmy looked to her. "I trust you."
"What if I have an accident?"
"Are you planning on having an accident?" Jimmy just chuckled at her. "Just take it easy, the keys are on the hook."
"Okay…" She decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth. She turned back to the kitchen about to leave, then whirled back again. "Why are you such a nice guy?"
"Penny, I've got five older sisters…" He typed something on his computer. "Let's just say I learned to take the least path of resistance a long time ago." Penny just turned around for the kitchen with a low inaudible "Wow" on her lips. She had never encountered anyone like Jimmy before. He was everything Sheldon was not. He was the Anti-Sheldon – a genius with a high I.Q. who did not lord his intelligence over others and treated everyone like equals. If she wasn't back with Leonard, she could have easily seen herself with him. She found his keys on his hook and took the stairs off the main hall into the garage into a wooden dungeon filled with the discards of another family. Old furniture, boxes of old toys, stored electronics and sealed boxes filled very cranny. A fifteen-foot long workbench covered in tools and car parts lined the wall under the landing. There were three garage doors. Car covers protected two cars from the dust of the rafters, but Jimmy's convertible red Volkswagen rested uncovered. At the bottom step, she pushed the button for the automatic garage door opener closest to her and opened the garage door. As it rattled and hummed pulling the garage open, Penny both hesitantly and eager moved to use Jimmy's car. She slid into the driver's seat, checked behind her and started the engine.
" – Oops, I – Did it Again!" Britney Spears screamed from the CD player. "I played with your heart. I'm not that innocent…"
"Wow," Penny turned it off to hear the purr of finely tuned German engineering under the hood. "I would not have guessed he was a Britney fan…" She slowly started backing out then noticed the garage door opener in the car and clicked it to close the garage without getting out of the car. Adjusting the radio to her radio station, she was soon cruising slowly up and out on to Ocean Grove Drive outside the gate, gradually driving a bit faster as she got used to this car and her long hair blowing in the wind. At that moment at Cal Tech, someone else found a reason to hate Jimmy. Dr. Sheldon Cooper had met the enemy, and his name was Dr. James Theodore Hoffman, a retired anthropologist with a trust fund and a big house. Over the last few days, Leonard was noticing Sheldon had stopped talking to him at the University. He had stopped eating with them in the cafeteria, and when they tried eating with him, Sheldon would get up and moved to another table. He also no longer joined them at the Cheesecake Factory or at the Comic Book Store. Leonard enjoyed the silence, but he couldn't understand why Sheldon wasn't returning his messages or e-mails. Was it possible that Sheldon was angry because of something?
"I don't get it." Leonard and Howard watched as Sheldon ate alone in the table against the wall of the university cafeteria. "It's been two weeks since I moved out. What could have done to tick him off?"
"Did you mispronounce "often?" Howard asked.
"Did you whistle near him?"
"I don't think so…"
"Did you say something about trains?"
"Course not…" They looked back at him. As weird as it sounded, Leonard was getting worried. Sheldon just looked at them, scowled and turned back to the wall like one of the plotting villains on the 1960s "Batman" TV Series. "Maybe he finally snapped and turned into a mad scientist."
"God help us all…" Howard mumbled out loud.
"Guys…" Raj came late to join them. "I got news…" He pulled out a seat and sat next to Leonard. "I talked to Kripke."
"How long did he stay with Sheldon before he moved out?" Howard asked.
"One day…" Raj reported. "That's the longest anyone has stayed yet with Sheldon so far, but get this…" He huddled closer. "Sheldon isn't mad at Leonard; he's mad at Jimmy."
"I thought he didn't have a problem with Jimmy." Leonard asked.
"Apparently Penny was the elephant breaking the camel's bank." Raj confused a popular American metaphor.
"Straw." Howard tried to correct him.
"Straw that broke the camel's back."
"Dude, don't be ridiculous…" Raj scoffed at their translation. "Straw can't break anything. It's an elephant."
"He's mad at Jimmy because he thinks Jimmy was behind Penny and I moving out?" Leonard rolled his eyes in disbelief. "I can't believe this." He rose from his chair and went to confront Sheldon. "Sheldon? Sheldon?"
Sheldon continued eating his sandwich and acting as if Leonard didn't exist.
"Sheldon…" Leonard continued. "It wasn't Jimmy's idea for Penny to move out, it was mine. We got back together."
Sheldon didn't respond.
"I never stopped being your friend." Leonard tried to get through. "I just found a much better place to live. You can't be angry at me for something like that."
"Leonard…" Sheldon turned and faced him. "I warned you going to move in with Jimmy was a major mistake. I gave you all the best reasons in the world not to do it, and look, everything is all messed up and it's your fault!"
"Messed up?" Leonard was confused. "Nothing is messed up. I'm living in a great place, I'm barely paying any rent and I'm back with Penny. How is that all messed up?"
"I had to ride the bus to work for sixteen days."
"What?" Leonard reacted even more confused. "Well, I'm sorry you're slightly inconvenienced."
"Slightly inconvenienced?" Sheldon reacted. "No, General Custer was slightly inconvenienced at the Battle of Little Big Horn." He rose to throw away his trash in the receptacles as Howard and Raj watched the tirade. "Inspector Frederick Abberline was inconvenienced trying to capture Jack the Ripper. Lizzie Borden's father and stepmother were slightly inconvenienced after she took up axe throwing. I have been crippled because I have been forced to take the bus!"
"You mean your new roommate won't drive you anywhere?" Leonard tried to find a solution.
"Well, as ludicrous as it sounds, I have yet to find anyone to fill the void." Sheldon revealed.
"You haven't been able to get a single roommate in over four weeks?"
"Well…" Sheldon knew the figures. "There's been a hundred and sixty-seven applicants, but none of them have been able to pass the entry exam."
Leonard reacted from a mixture of distraught disbelief. That sore spot in his stomach from the ulcer he had living with Sheldon was back. From five feet away, Howard and Raj felt it too.
"Sheldon…" Leonard slowly reflected and thought. "I'm going to help you."
"You're going to drive me to work again?"
"That's a thirty-five minute round trip of driving!"
"Well, you've got to get up really early in the morning."
"I'm not getting up at 7:00 in the morning to make a forty-five minute drive through cross town traffic!" Leonard was almost screaming. "I meant I could help you find a roommate to drive you."
"Leonard…" Howard sidled over to them. "Anyone that crazy wouldn't be allowed to drive." He and Raj started laughing at Sheldon's expense.
"Why don't you ask Jimmy if Sheldon could move in?" Raj spoke up. "I'm sure he's got a dungeon or crawlspace Sheldon could hang upside down in." They started laughing again.
"No, Leonard…" Sheldon proudly struck down those ideas. "I couldn't possibly move into a house with a bathroom connected to the bedroom or a view with crazy giggling girls outside the window…."
"You have giggling girls next door?" Raj came to attention.
"Yeah, the Lovato sisters… " Leonard had seen them several times. "They're sweet girls."
"Damn…" Raj mumbled under breath. "I should have moved in with Jimmy when I had the chance."
"Just as I found a young innocent waif named Leonard Hofstadter off the street and dared to pull him up to great heights…" Sheldon continued.
"Pull him up?" Leonard was offended by the characterization.
"…So shall I again endeavor to find another worthy candidate to be my protégé…"
"Protégé?" Leonard was often amazed and offended by the size of Sheldon's ego and his ability to casually install insults in everything he announced.
"But I could not live under the roof of both my most hated enemy and the traitors who left me to side with him." Sheldon looked down on Leonard. "The guilty must be made to suffer."
"That's a shame…" Leonard surrendered and returned to his lunch. "And I was just about to invite you to go meet Adam West and Julie Newmar at the Hallmark showing of the original 1963 Batman movie."
Sheldon whirled around again after nearly returning for his office.
"Adam West and Julie Newmar?" Sheldon was in shock. Two of the stars of the TV series and the movie that started it? "But… but… how did you get tickets? They've been sold out for months!"
"Someone gave Jimmy tickets, and he gave them to Leonard…" Raj answered. "I bet Penny might like to go."
"No," Leonard sat down. "She has to work. Howard, how about Bernadette?"
"She's also got to work." Howard responded as Sheldon stood over them.
"Oh, gee…" Leonard decided to let Sheldon suffer on account of his own ego. "I'd hate to waste such an expensive ticket. I guess I'll just have to get someone else." He pulled out his phone. "I'll ask Kripke first."
"No…" Sheldon reacted out of terror. "Maybe I can create some form of ad hoc reprieve of your digressions that will allow me to go with you."
"I don't know…" Howard extended the punishment. "Leonard, just call Kripke and ask him if he wants the ticket."
"Wait!" Sheldon hated being forced to show humility, but he was very good at faking sincerity. "You know, I can't begrudge you guys of not being able to tell others that we're friends. I might be able to go with you."
"Sheldon," Leonard looked at him. "Do you want to go?"
"Do you still consider me a traitor for moving out?"
"Course not…" Sheldon tried to scoff at the notion. "My war is with Jimmy, not you!" He tried grinning.
"Guys…" Leonard put it up to Howard and Rajesh.
"Oh, let's just let him come…." Raj answered.
"Yes!" Sheldon started relaxing excitedly. "Hey, maybe I can get a signed restraining order from Adam West to go with my signed restraining order from Leonard Nimoy."