Chapter 1: Ligo,Legos, We Go, You GO
Leonard awoke lying on his left side, Penny had her back to him spooned into him, his arm draped over her side, hand resting lightly on her firm flat tummy. He glanced at the clock, 4:30 AM. He’d need to be getting up at 5:00 AM for his Wednesday conference call. But he was in Penny’s apartment and would need to get back to 4A. He hated to wake her, until last night their relationship had been going slow in the “Beta Test” mode, he had figured he’d end up in his own bed alone last night. Then after taking her for a light but intimate dinner at the new tapas bar down the street she’d surprised him.
When he had gone to kiss her goodnight at the door, she had stepped into the kiss. Her body had melted into his, their lips parted and she held his face into her neck. Her lips brushed his ears, softly whispering, “time to finish the beta test and go live honey.”
He had been smiling; it was nice to be “honey” again because Penny called everybody “sweetie”, from her friends to the busboys at work. Leonard was also proud for not being pedantic and pointing out that next step after beta test is the release candidate version of software. She backed him into her apartment just like when he had got back from the North Pole. The necking became fierce and they were in bed in minutes. Their love making bringing back learned behavior in them both. They were a touch out of practice, but the passion of the moment had made up for it.
He carefully untangled himself from her, trying not to wake her. She moved but then snuggled down into the blankets which he made sure covered her. Leonard made his way to the door, pants, shirt, and shoes in hand. Looking out there was no one around so he just walked across the hall in his boxers and t-shirt quietly letting himself into 4A.
He quickly made a pot of coffee, threw on his robe and got his laptop ready for the call. This could very well be the last one before the big day.
For 7 years Dr. Leonard Hofstadter PhD had been working with 2 other teams to design the LIGO and LIGO II experiments. The LIGO, (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory), consisted of two facilities: one in Livingston, Louisiana, and one in Hanford, Washington. Each facility would have laser beams bouncing back and forth along two 4-kilometer-long tubes arranged in an L shape. As a gravitational wave passes by, the tubes should alternately stretch and squash—very slightly, but hopefully enough to be detected via changing interference patterns in the laser beam. Leonard had been working most of his career to design the detectors for the LIGO through research and experimentation.
The results of LIGO and LIGO II is supposed to allow detection of gravitational waves made by binary neutron stars within 65 mega light years and 1000 Mega Light years respectively. Though his roommate the brilliant theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper PhD only thought Leonard’s work was to reproduce and confirm others research. Its real purpose was not only to confirm but help design the detectors for the LIGO. His hope and those of his distant team members was that they would prove the existence of gravitational waves, thus helping to enable the merger of quantum theory and general relativity to create a quantum theory of gravity. This was the holy grail of quantum physics, and though it would take theoretical physicists like Sheldon Cooper to work out the details, without the proof and measurements of gravitational waves it would never be possible.
The LIGO conference call started promptly at 5:30 and lasted less than hour. It confirmed what Leonard thought, LIGO would go hot in 3 days, first in Louisiana then Washington. The detectors and measuring systems that Leonard had developed were tested and calibrated. The team of 3 physicists and many more grads students were close to the fruition of 7 years of work.
Leonard got off the call and poured himself another cup of coffee as well as one to take back for Penny. He turned to find Penny standing in the doorway dressed in her yellow robe which was open to reveal her Hello Kitty shorts and a tank top she’s been sleeping in. How can anyone who just got up look that wonderful thought Leonard. His smile got wider as he said, “I was just going to bring back coffee for you.”
She sleepily came over to him, grabbed his face with both hands and gently but deeply kissed him. She pulled back and looked in his eyes and spoke softly. “Just so you know last night was just the beginning, no more testing, no more go slow. We are a couple again.” A tear slide down her cheek, he kissed it away and held her tightly and whispered in her ear, “Forever?”.`
She purred and smiled took his hand, grabbed her coffee and started pulling Leonard toward the door and 4B, saying “It’s too early for talking, back to bed for our morning coffee.
The LIGO system started three days later and Leonard’s world consisted of analyzing the data and spending time with Penny. He never struggled with a balance as the weeks went by, his blooming relationship with Penny was as important to him as his life’s work, maybe both things were his life’s work. They spent every evening together into the spring and then summer. Each day he spent in his office compiling data, working with his collaborators on the paper they were about to publish. But every evening and weekend was spent with Penny. She was working the day shift at the Cheesecake Factory most of the time. When she did have a dinner shift he took her to work and picked her up. There were the occasional audition she went to during the day but so far no great parts were appearing.
They had dinner and spent time with the guys most nights usually leaving early for quiet time in her apartment. They talked now more than they ever had, about their friends, the things they were passionate about and their own dreams. Leonard kept finding things out he never knew about Penny, she was so much more than just a beautiful women. She cared and had strong feelings about lots of things, animals, children, even politics and the environment.
It took a bit of talking and cajoling but she finally let Leonard help her with her finances. It put both their minds at ease, her bills were paid and there was no pressure to work more shifts. He stayed at her place every night. Now Apartment 4A and 4B were his home, their home really. Sheldon didn’t seem to mind too much, he liked the fact that coitus was happening in 4B and not disturbing his sleep to much unless they got a little wild in 4B.
Then one night as they snuggled on her love seat she laid her hand on his chest and looked up at him. He looked away from the TV, they had been watching an old movie, and down into those sparkling green eyes,
“Leonard, I need to tell you something”, her eyes were shining his heart melting as usual, “what’s that honey”, he replied using her own term of endearment.
“You told me you loved me two years ago and I know you do now. I just need you to know I love you too.” Leonard felt himself tear up. He had to master his voice for a moment and replied, “I know you do Penny. I have never stopped loving you, even when it hurt. I will love you my whole life.”
Penny was crying softly on his chest as he used his fingers to lift her chin and very gently kissed her. The kiss turned from soft to passionate in an instant, the bedroom beckoned, he swept her into his arms and carried her off to bed.
The LIGO paper went to press three days later, Nature was publishing it first, then several physics journals thereafter. Leonard was in his office getting ready to leave, he stepped into the hall and Howard was at the other end of the hall. He was taken back at first Howard was on the space station right now. His friend’s goofy smirk was contagious as he walked toward him. Suddenly he couldn’t breathe, struggling to catch his next breath, coughing and gagging. Howard and the hallway faded and there was only blackness.
Leonard awoke, he opened his eyes everything blurry, his throat was parched and burning. He looked down at a blonde head lying upon his lap. He could feel her hand wrapped around his, she was asleep. The lights were dim but he could tell it was a hospital room. He tried to speak and it came out as a croak, he tried again, “Penny” he rasped. Her head popped up, her eyes rimmed with red new tears running down her cheeks. She covered his face and lips with kisses, “Leonard, you’re awake, you’re back.” She continued to kiss and hug him, at last pulling back to look in his eyes.
Leonard mouthed the word “Water” and Penny picked up a container from the bed side table putting the straw to his lips, he sipped more and more, his throat still dry but it was so wonderful. He looked at her again, “Where am I Penny, do you have my glasses?”
She picked his black horn rims off the table and helped him place them on his face. “You’re at the Princeton University Medical Center, there was an accident in the high energy lab and you had a concussion”, she told him slowly. “You’ve been in a coma for a week; they just removed you from the respirator this morning.”
Leonard felt out of space and time, he let his mind work on things for a moment. Then asked “Princeton New Jersey, but we live in Pasadena?” Penny shook her head, he looked at her confused. Tears ran down her face and he moved his hand with the IV tube to her head. “The last thing I remember is walking out of my office after the LIGO paper was going to be published, seeing Howard then choking before I passed out.”
The doctor and nurse were suddenly entering the room then. Penny moved to let them work but kept his hand in hers.
The doctor checked Leonard’s vital signs, paying particular attention to his eyes and his extremities, talking to Leonard as he worked. “Hello Dr. Hofstadter, I’m Dr. Russo, you’ve had a serious concussion, but no paralysis, you did have some swelling and have been in an induced coma for several days. How do you feel, any ringing in your ears, blurred vision or pain?”
Leonard shook his head and said “no”. Penny spoke up, “Doctor he’s pretty confused, he thinks we still live in Pasadena, California” she was strident in her tone, worried almost to a panic. Leonard wished he could comfort her, holding out his arms which she threw herself into.
The doctor placed his hand on Penny’s shoulder, “It’s really rather normal, he was dreaming coming out of the coma. His brain was held down for a week by the induced coma, the EEG showed it’s been very active once we stopped the medications until we took him off the respirator. Dream states feel like reality in many cases, start filling him in and it will come back to him”
The doctor and nurse left the room,
Penny looked up at Leonard, showing him her left hand her ring finger had a beautiful platinum diamond ring upon. He immediately remembered buying it and a vision of him sliding it on her finger when they were married was suddenly vivid in his memory.
Penny reveals the years
Penny didn’t know where to start. She asked Leonard what the last thing he remembered so she started from there.
“Let’s see, your paper was published in the August of 2012, it revealed the existence of gravity waves. You gave Sheldon all your research data so he could start on the theoretical side of things. The downside of that was he paid even less attention to Amy, but that worked out she started dating a grad student in Biology. They got married last year and had a son, still my Bestie in California. Penny seemed confused about how to start next Leonard slid as far over as possible and patted the bed for her to get up. She snuggled into his chest with his right arm around her. Leonard kissed the top of her head, “tell me about us”, he asked. She trembled slightly before continuing:
“Well in September you moved in with me, Sheldon was working 24X7 on the data you gave him. We both took the best care of him we could but planned our own life at the same time. The Nobel committee awarded you and your two collaborators the Nobel Prize in Physics in December. You asked me to marry you in Oslo when you went to collect the award. We were married in Pasadena in June. 2013”
Leonard’s eyes suddenly lit up, I remember:
“We were living next to Sheldon he was ready to publish but had his breakdown. He did publish the next year and received his own Nobel Prize two years ago. I was offered the Physics chair at Princeton and you and I moved out here last year. You were very pregnant when we moved in, our daughter Eliana was born in this hospital.”
Leonard suddenly panicked; Penny grabbed his hand, looking in his eyes. “It’s okay Eliana is with your sister, who adores her, she was too young to be here.” Leonard was relieved but something was missing. He looked at Penny shaking his head, “I can’t remember Howard and Bernadette’s wedding.”
Penny swallowed hard, starting to tear up again, she held his hand firmly. “Honey, Howard and two other astronauts died on reentry the day your paper was published. Some sort of technical problem, you and I cried for days, he was one of your best friends. There was never any wedding. Bernadette had never got over it she lives and cares for Howards mother now.
Leonard had tears streaming down his face, remembering it all now. He pulled Penny tighter to him, so he could hold her, or did he want her to hold him.
The LIGO and LIGO II experiments are real ongoing attempts to prove that gravitational waves do exist and are located in Washington and Louisiana.