A/N: So this is Penny Wilson's oneshot! For those of you who are new to my stuff, this is techincally part of a series. No, you don't have to read Meant to Be (Nettie's story) or Lover Boy (Hannah's story) to read this, but it sure does make it more fun. ;) Anyway, this is obviously pretty far in the future from MTB (approximately ten years) but only one year before LB. This took me forever to write and it's pretty long...so I hope you guys like it! (Yes, I had to include the other Wilsons at least a little bit. I can't help it! I love them!) And you can look for Liam's oneshot in the near future!
Summary: Keaton, son of a successful business man, grew up surrounded by money. Penny, child number 3 of 4, grew up surrounded by love. He isn't your typical spoiled rich boy. She isn't your typical Daddy's girl. In fact, they're more alike than you think. ONESHOT.
Twenty-two year old Penelope Wilson shifted uncomfortably against the cold desk chair. It was her first day of medical school and so far all she'd done was nervously sit in her seat for an hour. The anatomy professor was droning on and on, going over classroom expectations and the like, and Penny was getting restless.
She had never been one for just sitting. Always a bit of a tomboy at heart, the girl loved getting up and getting active. All throughout high school Penny played soccer, ran cross country, and was even on the swim team. When she decided to pursue a medical career, she'd been hoping for lots of lab work – dissecting things, running experiments, working with dangerous chemicals. So far, she'd done none of that.
Of course, it was only the first day.
Unable to pay attention to the monotonous voice of Dr. Haefer, Penny began scoping the classroom for interesting faces. That was another thing she liked to do – people watch. There were so many different personalities in the world, and you could see them all just by observing those around you. It was surprisingly easy to get to know a person just by looking at them.
The case was no different for the handsome brown haired boy sitting two seats to the left of Penny.
It was the first time she'd seen him, but she felt as if it weren't. He was leaning back on his chair, slouching, giving the impression he had better things to do than sit in class all day. Penny supposed this meant that his parents pushed him into med school. He probably had some secret passion that they disapproved of, but that he was too afraid to pursue.
His face was stoic, unmoving – another sign of disinterest in the class. His brown eyes stared straight ahead, gazing into the unseen. His attire: a simple black t-shirt and jeans, the perfect outfit for the slacker who threw on whatever lay closest to him. Hands stuffed in his pockets, the boy gave off an air of inaccessibility.
Penny almost laughed; he was so easy to read. She was about to move onto someone else, preferably someone with a more interesting background, when he turned and stared straight at her.
"Can I help you?" his gaze asked. He said no words out loud, but she got the message just fine. Embarrassed, Penny snapped her head back in front of her and averted her eyes. She'd been caught watching people before, but never had she felt so mortified. She got the feeling that the boy knew exactly what she was doing; exactly what she was thinking. Maybe he was a people-watcher, too.
When class ended, Penny breezed out the door and back to her dorm, ready to just go for a nice long run and forget about school for a while.
A week passed before they finally started doing labs. When Dr. Haefer instructed the students to pick a lab partner to work with for the rest of the semester, Penny's blue eyes lit up. Finally, some actual interaction!
She stood up fully prepared to ask some nice looking person to be her partner. Penny was exceptionally more outgoing than both her twin brother and her younger sister. While those two were more closed off and shy, Penny and her older sister Nettie were the headstrong and confident ones.
Scoping the room for a decent partner, Penny's eyes landed on the young man from the previous week. He showed no intention of asking anyone to work with him, and Penny had yet to be partnered up, so she made an impulsive decision and walked right up to him.
"Will you be my lab partner?" she asked with a smile.
He looked up at her, a quizzical expression adorning his chiseled features. "Okay," he said in a deep voice. Penny beamed. She was determined to show this guy, whoever he was, that she much more than just a creeper who liked to examine people.
The two made their way over to the nearest lab table, where they were instructed to get to know each other. Penny sighed when she realized that there was no actual lab to be done that day. Their professor sure was taking it slow. Of course, it made sense to get to know your partner, since you would be working with them for the rest of the class. What annoyed Penny was that she already knew her partner. Or, at least, she though she did.
"Keaton," he said to her with a nod.
"Penelope," she replied with a smile. "But you can call me Penny."
"Alright," Keaton answered. He said nothing else.
Penny felt satisfied in the fact that she was right about him being inaccessible. He didn't seem too interested in getting to know her, which normally would've pissed her off, but at that time it mostly just intrigued her.
"So, Keaton," she said. He raised an eyebrow at her. "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
The boy chuckled. The way she had worded that made it sound like such a stupid question.
"Aren't we already grown up?" he asked, amused.
"Hardly," Penny shrugged. "Come on, what are you studying?"
"Medicine," he said.
The girl rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean."
"Fine. I'm going to be a neurosurgeon."
Penny's eyes widened. He didn't strike her as the type of guy who wanted to be a surgeon. Especially not a brain surgeon. "Wow," she said. "Impressive."
"You look surprised," Keaton answered. "Did you think I was some slacker being forced into med school by my overbearing parents?"
Penny blushed. That was exactly what she thought.
Keaton laughed. "I knew it. I could tell by the way you were shaking your head at me in a disapproving manner on the first day of class."
"I was not shaking my head at you in a disapproving manner," she protested.
"Really," he said.
Penny frowned. "Okay, fine. Maybe I was," she admitted. "But you can't blame me for thinking that. You were…slouching, and staring off into space, and you looked so impartial."
"Well you were staring at me for a whole five minutes before I decided you were crazy," Keaton said. "Either that or really taken by my dashing good looks."
The brunette scoffed. "Whatever," she said, crossing her arms.
The pair was silent for a few moments, seemingly having run out of things to say to each other. It was quiet until Keaton suddenly spoke up.
"What about you?" he asked.
"What about me?"
"I told you I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. What do you want to be?"
Penny blushed slightly. Compared to his desired career, hers seemed so inferior and petty. "I'm going into sports medicine," she explained. "Not to be a trainer or physical therapist or anything like that, but like a legitimate doctor. Just…one that specializes in athletic injuries."
Keaton nodded in approval. "I see," he said. "That's funny. I didn't peg you as the sporty type."
"Well I didn't peg you as the surgical type, so I guess we're even."
"I guess we are."
"What's the verdict?" Lynn, Penny's roommate, asked.
"What do you mean?"
The girls were lounging around the dorm room watching America's Next Top Model on TV. Penny had only known her roommate for a week, but they were already practically best friends. Although Lynn was an absolute girly girl studying to be nurse, the two got along surprisingly well. It was a refreshing change for Penny, hanging out with Lynn, since back in high school and even in college she mostly hung out with guys or girls from the soccer team.
"I mean," Lynn rolled her eyes, "Are there any hot guys in your classes? We only have the one together and I want to know whose ass I'll be kicking if you get your heart broken."
Penny stared at the red-head. "You are so weird," she said.
"I'm serious. Answer the question."
"Well, I don't know," Penny shrugged. "There are a few decent looking guys in my Microbiology class, and my lab partner in Gross Anatomy is pretty cute."
"Ooh, did I hear lab partner? I smell a cliché! Tell me about him."
Penny sighed. Sure, Keaton was easy on the eyes, but his personality irritated her. She had been wrong about him when she first "assessed" him but he'd had no issues "assessing" her. That pissed her off a little bit.
"Not much to tell," she said. "He has kind of short, spiky brown hair and brown eyes. Tan-ish skin. About six-two."
"Tall, dark, and handsome – I like," Lynn said, her green eyes gleaming. "What's his name?"
"Keaton," Penny said.
Lynn nearly choked on the hot chocolate she was drinking. "Keaton Charles?" she asked.
Penny's brow wrinkled in confusion. "I don't know," she said. "He didn't tell me his last name."
"I bet it is Keaton Charles," Lynn said. She shook her head in a disbelieving manner. "I can't believe he's your lab partner."
"Why? Who is he?" Penny asked. She was genuinely interested in why her friend was freaking out so much. What was so special about Keaton Charles?
"He's the son of Simon Charles," Lynn explained. When Penny didn't respond, she sighed and continued. "Famous inventor? Successful businessman? Practically a billionaire?"
"Billionaire?" Penny's jaw nearly dropped. "No, no; Keaton can't be a billionaire. He looks just like everyone else! He wears the same pair of old converse every day, for God's sake," she said.
"That's the thing about Keaton Charles," Lynn said. "He's massively rich, but he never spends his money on anything. He's stingy. Frugal. 'Bah humbug' and all that."
"Well…what does he do with all of his money, then?"
"Nothing!" Lynn threw her hands up in the air dramatically. "It sits in his wallet, or his bank account, or wherever the hell it is that he keeps it. He doesn't even have the heart to donate it all to charity."
"Are you sure? How do you know all of this?"
"Everyone knows it," Lynn said impatiently. "He's kind of a legend. I heard he was going to school here, I just didn't think we'd ever cross paths with him. But lucky you! You're his lab partner."
"Yeah, lucky me," Penny said sarcastically. Yes, she had been the one to ask Keaton to be her partner. Yes, he intrigued her. But she wouldn't go as far as calling herself lucky. Just because Keaton Charles was 'practically a billionaire' didn't mean he was better than everyone else.
"Hey. You said he was cute. Maybe if you flirt with him all the time then you guys can get married! Then you could just drop out of school right now because you'd be financially covered for life. And, oh my gosh, your kids would be so adorable! You could have one girl and one boy and I'd be the godmother and – "
"Lynn, stop it," Penny interrupted. "You're getting carried away. Keaton and I aren't going to get married." She rolled her eyes at the ridiculous idea.
"But…" Lynn pouted. "You would make the sexiest kids ever!"
"Do you even know what Keaton looks like?" Penny asked her friend.
"Yes," Lynn said. "You just told me. And I'm pretty sure I've seen his picture in a magazine before."
Magazine? Keaton Charles must've been really rich if he made it into a magazine.
"Well, even so," Penny said. "I barely know the guy. All I know is that he wants to be a neurosurgeon and that he's really good at reading people."
"Neurosurgeon? Wow! That sounds so much more official than sports medicine doctor," Lynn said.
"Thanks, Lynn. That means a lot."
"Oh, shush. You know I love you."
The girls spent another hour procrastinating and talking about nothing before retiring to homework mode. They had a Biochemistry paper due the next day that they had yet to start.
The next day in Anatomy, Penny approached the lab table cautiously. Now that she knew the true history of her lab partner, she took the time to try and examine him from a different angle.
His outfit selection of the day was a white button up shirt and jeans. The same black shoes donned his feet, worn and dirty.
Keaton noticed Penny looking at him, just as he had on the first day they met. "Morning, Penelope," he said.
"Morning," Penny replied. This time, she didn't stop staring just because he'd noticed. She kept inspecting him until he spoke again.
"Somebody told you about me," he said. It wasn't a question.
Penny's eyes narrowed. The way he could just tell what she was thinking made her angry. "Maybe," she said.
Keaton laughed. "Now you're wondering why I'm in med school and not just sitting at home being waited on by servants. You're also really confused by the fact that I'm not wearing a pressed Armani suit and a golden Rolex."
"You know, that's really annoying," Penny said.
"What? The fact that I'm not wearing a pressed Armani suit or a golden Rolex?"
"No. The fact that you just know what I'm thinking all the freaking time," she retorted.
"What can I say," Keaton shrugged. "You're easy to read."
Penny grunted in irritation. That was her line. Keaton Charles wasn't allowed to say that to her. Even if he was her lab partner.
That day, they dissected frogs. It was a simple and somewhat elementary task that they'd all done before, but a fun one none-the-less. Dr. Haefer explained that the lab was just a preliminary test to make sure everyone knew what they were doing.
Keaton and Penny certainly did. They finished the task they were given in less than thirty minutes. Penny took this opportunity to find out more about the guy.
"So you don't own any Armani suits or a golden Rolex," Penny said.
"I never said that," Keaton answered.
"Well if you own them then you surely don't make use of them very often, do you?"
"Rich people don't wear fancy clothes all the time, Penny," he said. "We dress just like everyone else. I thought a smart girl like you would know that."
Penny blushed. "How am I supposed to know? I didn't exactly grow up with money to spare."
"Let me guess," Keaton said. "Lots of siblings; working father; stay-at-home mom?"
"Close," Penny said. "Three siblings, working father, and a working mother. My mom has too much pride to let some man provide for her her whole life."
"That makes sense. You're obviously a lot like your mom, then," he said.
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"I'm just saying that if you weren't like your mom, you probably wouldn't want to be something ambitious like a doctor."
"Well if you weren't like your dad, you probably wouldn't hoard all of your money away for no good reason."
"You don't know anything about my father," Keaton said. Suddenly, his voice sounded dangerously threatening. "Or me, for that matter."
"I know that you don't spend your money. Why don't you spend it?" Penny prodded. She wasn't afraid of him. She could probably kick his affluent little ass.
Keaton's brown eyes narrowed. "Who told you that?"
"My friend Lynn," Penny shrugged. "She's sort of a gossip."
"Well your friend Lynn should learn how to keep out of other people's business."
"But she's right, isn't she? You don't buy nice things for yourself. Why not?" Penny asked.
Keaton stared at the girl in front of him. "Money isn't life, Penny," he said.
"No. However, it sure does help you live a happy one!"
"That's ridiculous," Keaton said. "You seem to have had a happy life. And you said so yourself; you weren't exactly rolling in dough."
"I just think it's really selfish of you to have all that money and not even do anything with it."
"I'm not allowed to save it?"
"Save it for what? I bet you have more than enough to last you a lifetime. And even if you went out and blew it all off today, you'd probably just inherit another ten year's worth from your daddy in the next month."
"You don't know that," Keaton said. He was getting tired of the girl's persistent badgering. So what if he had money that he didn't spend? Was that such a bad thing?
Penny sighed in frustration. "I just don't understand you," she said. Then she realized something. If he was rich, he didn't need to go to medical school to get some fancy career. He could just take over his dad's business. "Why do you want to be a neurosurgeon? Why not just take over the family business?" she asked.
Keaton shrugged. He was happy for the abrupt change in subject. "I can be my own person, can't I? As for why I chose this particular field, I majored in psychology at the U and got really interested in it. I thought about becoming a psych professor, but then I realized that I wanted to help people with mental disorders, not just teach people about them."
So medical school was the secret passion his parents disapproved of. It wasn't the thing holding him back at all – Penny had been so wrong when she first judged him.
"You want to help people?" Penny was surprised. He wasn't your typical spoiled rich boy; that was for sure. "Why not just donate your oodles of money to charity, then?"
"Donating my wealth to a charity isn't really helping," he said. "I mean, yeah, poor people get money and all of that. But it's not personal. People aren't remembered for giving away money. They're remembered for doing more special things. Like, perhaps, giving surgery or saving lives."
Penny blinked. What Keaton was saying actually made a lot of sense. He didn't want to help people out by giving them money; he wanted to help them out by giving them life and a working brain.
"Still think I'm just a parsimonious snob?" Keaton smirked.
"To be fair, I never said you were one."
"But you were thinking it," he said.
"Maybe I was; maybe I wasn't. You'll never know."
And she flashed him a grin that made him weak at the knees.
Months passed, and Penny became swamped with school work. When she wasn't writing up lab reports or essays or studying for tests, she was sleeping. It was as if her entire life had been consumed by school. Out of all of her grueling science courses, Anatomy was easily her favorite.
Over time Penny had grown accustomed to having Keaton around in class, and once they actually started doing labs she discovered that she loved working with him. The two were actually quite alike, with a few exceptions.
They both enjoyed people watching, dissecting things, and arguing; they both loved knowledge and the color green, and they were both allergic to strawberries. The only blaring differences between them were Keaton's thriftiness, wealth, and fascination with the human mind versus Penny's capacity to buy things even when she didn't have the money to do so, and her love for sports. She'd found out a few weeks into their friendship that Keaton was "athletically challenged."
The first time they interacted outside of class was on a cold December afternoon. Penny was out getting coffee from one of the various cafes around campus (one of the few leisure activities she had time for these days) when she saw a familiar brown haired boy pocketing his change near the cash register.
"Wow, you really are a penny-pincher," she said to him. He turned around, startled.
A smile graced his handsome face. "Fancy meeting you here, Penelope," he said with a terrible fake British accent.
She ignored his charming greeting. "You just put that change in your pocket instead of in the tip jar," she chastised. "It's twelve cents, Keaton. You can't even donate twelve measly cents?"
"What difference does it make?" Keaton's tone of voice changed automatically as he sensed another argument coming on. "Like you said, it's only twelve cents," he shrugged.
"But every little bit counts," Penny countered. "What if everyone pocketed their twelve cents? The employees wouldn't get any tips."
"But if everyone put their change in the tip jar, the customers would eventually go broke."
Penny rolled her eyes. "Because twelve cents every day really makes a huge dent in your wallet, Mr. Charles."
"Shut up," Keaton said in a hushed tone. "I like my privacy, thanks. If people realize who I am, I won't ever get to relax. So just…keep quiet."
"You're worried about paparazzi?" Penny asked with a laugh. "You're rich, Keaton, not famous. Sure, people have heard your name, but it's not like you're all over the tabloids or anything."
"You'd be surprised," Keaton sighed. "Come on, let's sit down."
He gestured to one of the sofas in the little shop and the two took a seat. Keaton stretched his legs out, using the coffee table as a foot rest, and Penny noticed that he was still wearing that old pair of Chucks.
"You really need some new shoes," she said, looking at his with a frown.
Keaton's brow furrowed. "No I don't," he replied. "What's wrong with these?"
"First off," Penny began to explain. "You wear them every day. Secondly, they're all worn out and dirty looking, and third, everyone needs more than one pair of shoes. Even guys."
"I own more than one pair of shoes," Keaton protested. "These are just my favorites."
"The fancy dress shoes your parents make you wear for photo shoots and public events don't count, Keaton," Penny said as she rolled her blue eyes. She stood up, took a big swig of her coffee, and held out her hand. "Come on."
Keaton, who had learned to not question the girl's strange ways long ago, let her pull him up from his seat, even though he hadn't been sitting down for very long. "Where are we going?" he asked.
"To get you new shoes," Penny said in her most matter-of-fact tone. "And to cure you of your fear of spending money."
"What?" Keaton reluctantly allowed himself to be dragged outside of the little coffee shop. "I have a class in ten minutes!"
Penny continued to pull him along behind her. "Then skip," she said. "It's just one day. We both know you're a genius anyway."
"I don't know whether that's a compliment or an insult," he said.
"It's a compliment, Keat. Now take it like a man and come shoe shopping with me."
Keaton rolled his brown eyes at the girl whose company he'd grown to enjoy.
One week later, Keaton was greeted at the lab table by Penny's fierce slap to the desk. Underneath her hand was a magazine, and on the cover of that magazine – Keaton and Simon Charles. The headline? Father and son build an empire to be reckoned with.
"Armani suit and a Rolex," Penny said with eyes narrowed. "You weren't just making that stuff up off the top of your head."
"Of course not," Keaton laughed and observed the picture. "Huh, so that's the one they used…I thought they would go for the more light-hearted one. I liked that shot better."
"Will you listen to yourself?" Penny shouted. "How can you just stand there – not wearing the new shoes we went and got, by the way – and pretend that this is normal?"
"It is normal," he said. "It is for me, at least. Look, my dad's a great guy. And I want to support him by doing what he asks of me. He knows I'm not going to take over the business; we've talked about it. This isn't your cliché sob story."
Penny didn't say anything. Part of her was surprised that Keaton and his father didn't have one of those stereotypical dysfunctional relationships, but at the same time, she should've known. The guy had managed to prove almost all of her theories wrong, after all.
The girl sighed and relaxed a little. When Lynn had first come barging into their dorm room the previous night waving the magazine in her face, Penny had been furious. Why, she had no idea. It wasn't like being famous was a bad thing – she had just let herself believe, for a while, that Keaton was just like everyone else.
Her relaxation was cut short when she realized that a good portion of the class was staring at her. Well, not just at her – at both of them. She would've let herself think that her fellow classmates were just admiring the mini-celebrity in front of her, but it was obvious that it was the pair of them they were interested in. Not just Keaton.
"Why is everyone looking at us?" Penny asked, lowering her voice to a whisper. "And why are you still wearing those old shoes?!" she added as an afterthought.
For a moment, a look of fear flashed through Keaton's eyes. "The new ones were uncomfortable!" he said in defense. "They're all stiff."
Penny scoffed. "You have to break them in first, dumbass. You better be wearing them next time I see you – those were expensive!"
"You didn't buy them, so why does it matter?" Keaton argued.
"It took three hours to get you to finally pay for the damn things. I'm not letting that go to waste."
"Whatever," Keaton said. "And I don't know why everyone is staring at us."
Penny looked to the pair of girls at the next lab station over. Deciding that they looked friendly enough, she approached the blonde. "Excuse me," she said. "Do you know what everyone's deal is?"
"Huh?" the girl answered. She seemed surprised that Penny was talking to her. "Oh, are you wondering why everyone's looking at you?"
"Yes," Penny said, slightly irritated. She was normally a nice person, but being around Keaton brought out her bitchy side.
"Oh," the girl said. "Well, we were wondering…are you guys dating?"
The two females peered around Penny to look at Keaton. Penny's jaw dropped. What?
"No," she said, confused. "What gave you that idea?"
"I saw it in a magazine," the blonde's lab partner piped up. Penny's eyes widened.
"What magazine?" she asked.
"That one," the blonde pointed to the very edition sitting on Penny and Keaton's lab table.
Immediately, Penny rushed back to her table and grabbed the magazine. "What the hell," she murmured as she flipped through the pages. Keaton watched, concerned.
Finally, she stopped at a page titled They're just like us! And sure enough, there at the bottom, below countless pictures of celebrities carrying out mundane tasks, was a picture of the two of them. Together. Holding hands. Browsing at the shoe store.
They go shoe shopping with their girlfriends, the caption said.
Penny turned bright red. "Oh my god," she said. "This is bad."
Keaton grabbed the magazine from her hands and examined it himself. He held in his laughter. "They think you're my girlfriend?"
"Why didn't you let go of my hand, asshole?! Now everyone thinks I'm dating you."
"It's not my fault you were dragging me all over the place," Keaton said. "See, I told you the paparazzi followed me around."
"This is so stupid," Penny smacked herself in the forehead. "Oh, God. Now my family is going to see this. Shit."
"So many profanities," Keaton teased. "Why is it such a big deal? Not everyone reads magazines."
"But my little sister's best friend does, and she's sure to show it to my entire family once she realizes it's me. Crap. Crapcrapcrap. My mom's going to have a field day. And Liam! Shit, Liam's going to kill me."
"Over-protective older brother?" Keaton inquired.
"Try extremely over-protective twin brother. That's as bad as it gets, my friend."
"Ouch," Keaton winced. "Wait, you have a twin? How did I not know this already?"
"That's not the point, Keaton! This is bad!"
"It's not that bad," he protested. "So the whole country thinks we're an item. So what?"
"So what?! You don't understand. My brother is just like me – the instant he sees your photo on the cover of that magazine he's going to assume you're some douchey rich jerk. And I wouldn't doubt that the instant he sees that picture of us together, he'd drive all the way up here just so he could punch you in the face."
"Well where does he live?"
"Keaton! Stop being so calm and freak out with me, please!"
He couldn't help it: he started laughing. And once he started, he couldn't stop. Soon enough, the tears started forming in his eyes, and they came even faster when he saw the furious look on Penny's face.
"This is not funny," she said with a glare.
"Yes, it is. You're making such a big deal out of it."
"You're not making a big enough deal out of it! Are you not even a little afraid of my brother? He has a black belt you know! And he had his fair share of fights in high school."
"Penny," Keaton said. His laughter had subsided, but he was still pretty amused. "Just forget about it for now. It's not even a guaranteed thing that your family will see it. What is guaranteed is that we will fail this class if we don't get to work on our lab."
The girl huffed in frustration and crossed her arms. "Fine," she said. "What are we supposed to be doing, anyway?"
"See, if you paid attention instead of worrying about stupid things like the rumor mill, you'd know that we're analyzing the wombs of the pregnant cats we dissected last week."
"Oh," she said, letting herself relax a little. "Yay!"
It was entertaining how quickly her blue eyes lit up at the prospect of examining animal guts.
"Will you stop acting so paranoid and just drink your coffee?"
Penny and Keaton had made a tradition out of post-anatomy coffee runs. The pair was sitting on the usual couch, sipping caffeine, and Penny was going crazy. Ever since that photo of the two of them showed up in a magazine a few weeks previously, she'd been afraid of it happening again.
Her brother hadn't driven all the way to the school to punch Keaton in the face like she had predicted, but Penny did receive a very angry phone call from him. It took an hour for her to get Liam to believe and understand that she and Keaton, who was not a jerk, were just friends.
Penny's younger sister Hannah had even called, but she barely got a chance to chat with the sixteen year old before her mother took the phone and started blabbing about grandchildren.
"You were lucky, Keaton," Penny said, her cheeks tinged pink from the embarrassing memory. "Liam almost came to pay you a 'visit' but I talked him out of it. I don't want to risk being photographed together again."
"We're inside, Penny," Keaton rolled his eyes. "Nobody is going to take pictures of us inside. At least not in a small place like this."
"It could happen," she argued.
Keaton laughed. "The other day you were set on the idea that I was not a popular target of the paparazzi. But now you're constantly acting like you're avoiding a crazy ex."
"I just get creeped out by the idea of being watched. Is that such a bad thing?"
"No," Keaton said. "But you don't have to be so on edge all the time. Just relax and enjoy some coffee with me."
Penny sighed and did as she was told. She tried not to think about the main reason she had been so adamant on not being photographed again – Lynn. The crazy girl had jumped up and down for hours after reading the caption in the magazine, and it took Penny several attempts to get her to believe it was a lie. She still wasn't one hundred percent convinced.
"Let's go for a walk," Keaton said suddenly. Penny turned to look at him.
"Why?" she asked. She distinctly remembered Keaton saying that he wasn't too fond of athletics. Not to mention he was (reluctantly) wearing his new shoes, which he still claimed were "uncomfortable." She personally loved walking – she went for a run or a walk every day, if she had time – but she was surprised by his suggestion.
Keaton shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "Just to get some fresh air. Plus, I kind of want to ask you something."
Penny wasn't stupid, and she most certainly wasn't oblivious, so she suspected right away that the "something" he wanted to ask was if she'd do what society already thought she was doing and go out with him. The two had spent an awful lot of time together lately, and she wasn't completely opposed to the idea of being with him as more than a friend – but they hadn't really talked about it.
She felt like a highschooler all over again, blushing and murmuring, "Okay," as Keaton stood up to discard his empty cup. Man, if he really was going to ask her out, Lynn was going to have a heart attack. And Penny's mother! She'd probably die of happiness.
Penny shook her head and let out a small laugh. The women in her life were so weird.
"What if people start following us around with cameras?" she asked as she followed Keaton out the door.
"Then just ignore them," he said with a laugh.
Penny and Keaton walked around campus for twenty minutes, just talking about random things and having the occasional argument. They were always bantering – but not necessarily in a bad way. They were just both very outspoken people, and when you put two opinionated beings together there's bound to be disagreements.
Keaton made no move to ask whatever it was he wanted to ask, but Penny didn't press him. To be honest, she'd almost completely forgotten he had a question in the first place. That's what was nice about their friendship: they focused on the "now" and not on the "later."
Penny was in the middle of telling an embarrassing story about her brother from when they were thirteen when she heard movement in the trees behind them. Spinning around, she squeaked in surprise.
"There's someone there, Keat!" she said. "It's the stupid paparazzi again."
Keaton had had his fair share dealing with girls who were concerned about the paparazzi, but none of them reacted like Penny did. Usually, whatever female he was hanging out with would cling to his arm, or ask him to protect them, but she didn't. Penny looked about ready to pounce on the next person who made a sound.
"Relax, Penny," Keaton grabbed her arm to hold her back from jumping in the bushes. "Just ignore them."
"Screw ignoring them!" Penny shouted. "They're pissing me off. What right do these people have to just barge into your life like that?"
"None," Keaton said. "But what are you going to do about it?"
"I don't know," the girl spat. "Something. Anything that will piss them off."
"Just forget it, Pen."
Penny pouted, but continued her story nonetheless. Not five minutes later, though, she noticed more people following them and flashing pictures. Furious, the girl clenched her fists. Keaton thought she was going to punch him, but she didn't.
Eventually she gave up. "Whatever," she said. "They've already got pictures of us. It's no use."
She shrugged and grabbed Keaton's hand, intertwining her fingers with his. The click of several cameras was heard.
"What are you doing?" he asked, raising his eyebrows in amusement.
"We might as well make it fun," she said. She began swinging their arms back and forth to add to the effect.
Keaton laughed. "Well if that's the route you're going for, I know something better," he said.
"What's that?" Penny stopped to look up at her friend.
"What do you say we really give them something to talk about?"
It must've been a rhetorical question, because before she could give an answer Penny was being kissed by Keaton Charles, and she was kissing him back.
A few days after their kiss was the start of winter break, which meant that Penny and Keaton were parting ways for a few weeks without talking about what had happened.
Penny was more than a little excited to be going home to her family for the holidays, but at the same time, she wanted to stay with Keaton. She knew that she had feelings for him and she wanted to talk about that kiss so she could kiss him again, this time uninterrupted.
Of course she was prepared for the worst. There was no doubt that a photo of them kissing would show up in some magazine in the next week. She was not looking forward to the interrogation from her family or from Lynn once that got out.
The girl was currently parked in her parents' driveway, gathering herself before walking through the front door. It had been a while since her entire family had been under one roof. She wasn't sure how it was going to go, especially given recent…uh…events.
As soon as she walked through the door, she was tackled by her three year old nephew, Alexander. The little tyke had attached himself to her leg and was shouting, "AUNTY P, AUNTY P!" over and over.
"Hey, Al," she said with a laugh. She pried him off of her legs and picked him up, ruffling his strawberry blonde hair as she did so.
From around the corner appeared Penny's older sister, Nettie, and her husband, Lucas Fort. Nettie took one look at her energetic child and rolled her eyes.
"Alex, let your aunt breathe," the older woman said lightly. "Good to see you, little sis!"
"You too," Penny smiled. She set Alexander down and he ran off, most likely to go find another family member to cling to. "How's it going, Luke?"
"Good," the blonde man smiled and gave his sister-in-law a nod. At that precise moment, Hannah, the sixteen-year-old, came bounding down the stairs.
"Penny!" she shouted, engulfing her sister in a huge bear hug. "Mom, Dad! Penny's here!"
Pretty soon the entire Wilson/Fort family was in one room (Liam had arrived five minutes after Penny) and ready to have a nice dinner together.
Of course, with this batch of people, it was almost impossible to have a quiet and civilized dinner. The entire meal was spent cracking jokes, talking with mouths full of food, and tossing rolls back and forth across the table for fun.
After a thoroughly entertaining feast, Penny retired to the living room, where her three siblings sat. Luke had gone upstairs to put Alex to bed, and Mr. and Mrs. Wilson were off doing their own things, leaving the four of them to catch up.
The eldest spoke first. "So how are my little siblings doing?" Nettie asked. "I've missed all of you guys."
"Good," Hannah shrugged.
"Hating high school yet?" Liam asked her with a grin.
"Not as much as you did, big brother," she answered.
"So how is med school, Pen? Is that lab partner of yours still 'just a friend?'" Nettie asked mischievously. Penny's face reddened; she was hoping to avoid that topic.
"Yes," she said. And she wasn't lying – they weren't official or anything yet. Hell, she didn't even know if they ever were going to be. For all she knew, Keaton could've just kissed her to mess with the media. He could have no feelings for her at all and she wouldn't know.
"I beg to differ!" Hannah interjected. "That reminds me, Chloe told me she saw another photo of you guys in some magazine and that I should definitely check it out. She wouldn't tell me what it was, though."
Penny hoped she didn't have a copy of that magazine around. She knew very well what the picture was, and she certainly didn't want Liam to see it.
"I still can't believe you're hanging out with that dick," Liam grumbled. "He's no good, Penny."
"You don't know that," Penny protested. "We've become really good friends these past few months. He's not just a spoiled rich boy."
"You're right; he's not just a spoiled rich boy. He's a spoiled rich boy who's trying to get into your pants," Liam said angrily.
"That's not true! Hannah, Nettie, you believe me, right?"
"Holy shit," Hannah said in response. Penny noticed then that she had left the room to grab the magazine her best friend Chloe had left for her and was now holding it up to her face, blue eyes wide.
"Hannah! Don't swear," Nettie chastised.
"I'm sorry, Nettie, but this is pretty shit-worthy," she said.
Penny swallowed. She was dead meat.
"What is it?"
Penny's three siblings gathered around the photo. She tried to use the opportunity to escape, but her brother caught her arm and held her in place while they stared at Keaton and Penny's lip lock.
"What. The. Fuck."
"What are you yelling at me for? Penny's the one making out with well-off assholes in public!"
"Calm down, both of you," Nettie reprimanded. "Now…Penny, explain."
"What is there to explain?" she shrugged. "We just…we kissed. That's it."
"I can't believe you're dating a famous guy!" Of course little Hannah would be the one to say that. Her gossipy friend sure was rubbing off on her.
"We're not dating!"
And he wasn't even famous – at least not really. He was getting a lot of attention lately, but that was only because of his father's new business deal with another company.
"I sure as hell hope not," Liam said. "And even if you aren't, I'm coming back with you once school starts up again and breaking this guy's face."
"No! You guys, stop overreacting. Keaton is a good friend. I like him a lot. We kissed once, but we're not dating, at least not yet. So just relax."
"What do you mean, not yet? I swear, if this guy knocks you up…"
The banter didn't stop there. For another ten minutes, the twins argued about Keaton. After a while, Nettie and Hannah gave up on trying to stop them – the two had only ever fought like this three times in their lives, but they'd always sorted it out on their own.
The fight finally ended twenty minutes later, but not on good terms. Penny ended up storming upstairs in tears and Liam left the house angrily. Hannah felt bad for starting the whole thing and Nettie was left to mend it all – as usual.
Things in the Wilson household hadn't changed a bit.
Two stressful weeks later, Penny collapsed on the twin sized bed in her dorm room. She had had a good break, despite her fight with Liam, but she was glad to be back.
"Penelope! I missed you, darling!" Lynn entered the room with a flourish, throwing her pink duffel bag on the bed with enthusiasm. "How was your vacation?"
"It was okay," Penny said. "My brother saw that picture of Keaton and me and flipped out. I got him to agree not to murder him, though, after like a week of arguing."
Lynn had called Penny on the phone three days after Penny's initial argument with Liam, demanding to know what was up with "that scandalous photo!" After being filled in on all the details, she announced that she had to go wrap last minute Christmas gifts and that they could talk again at school.
"So have you talked to Keaton yet?!" Lynn asked.
"No," Penny said with an eye roll. "I just got here, Lynn."
"So? Go find him! Go get your man!"
"You're ridiculous! Now go find Keaton so you two can run towards each other in slow motion, arms spread wide, while cheesy music fills your ears – "
"Okay, okay, sheesh. Enough with the weird mental images."
Penny rolled her eyes and left the room. It wasn't until after Lynn had locked her out that she realized she had no idea where to find Keaton. He, like most of the med students, had his own apartment rather than living on campus.
Shrugging, Penny took out her phone. She had gotten Keaton's number a few months back, when they had to arrange working on an Anatomy project outside of class.
Hey, she typed, Lynn locked me out of our room. I'm not allowed back in until I find you and 'proclaim my undying love' for you. Her words, not mine.
She pressed send. Seconds later, the reply came.
Ha. Okay. Where are you?
Outside my room, Penny began. I didn't know where to go so I'm kind of just sitting against the wall awkwardly.
After that, Keaton didn't answer, much to Penny's dismay. She tried not to think into it too much. Just as she was about to knock on the door and beg Lynn to let her back in, Keaton appeared out of nowhere.
"Sitting awkwardly is right," he said with a smile. He held out his hand, and Penny let him help her up. "Hi."
"Hi," she said, giving him her best grin. "How was your break?"
"Good," Keaton answered. Before he said anything else, he moved to the door and began pounding on it. "Lynn, let us in!"
"Lynn," Penny pleaded. "Please?"
The door opened slightly. "Well, only because you said please," she said. "And because Keaton's here."
Lynn pulled the two of them into the room and slipped out of it herself. "Have fun, you two! And don't forget to use protection!" she shouted before shutting the door.
Her cheeks now an impressive shade of red, Penny turned around to face Keaton. "So," she said.
"So," he mimicked.
"…do you want to play a board game?" Penny proposed. It was a little out of the blue, but she was suddenly nervous. She had wanted to talk to Keaton all break, but now that the time had come, she was getting all flustered.
"Sure," Keaton shrugged. He could tell that the girl in front of him was nervous about something. He guessed that it had to do with the kiss they had shared a few weeks previously. That was the most logical explanation – heck, he was even kind of uneasy when it came to that topic.
"Okay," Penny said. "We have…Life, Clue, and Monopoly. Sorry there's not a lot of choices."
"Monopoly. That's definitely the best choice."
"Alright. That game usually goes on forever, though…."
"That's okay. We don't have to play a full game," Keaton said.
They set up the board, picked their pieces, and began. It turned out that Keaton was just as good at being rich in the game as he was in real life. He already owned more than half the properties on the board and landed on Free Parking.
"You suck," Penny pouted.
Keaton just laughed. "Sorry," he apologized. "Hey, you never told me how your break went."
"Oh," Penny said. "It was alright. My family is still as crazy as ever."
"Should I be readying myself for an attack from your brother?"
"Oh yeah. About that," she began, "You should probably just put a bunch of padlocks on your door, just in case. I mean, I talked to him about it but he's still pissed. He needs to realize that I'm not a baby anymore."
Keaton laughed. "I really hope you're joking," he said.
"I am. Kind of. He's not going to come down here, but he is mad. I think he just doesn't like the fact that I don't need protecting anymore."
"Aww. You're probably breaking the poor guy's heart. He just wants to be your knight in shining armor," Keaton said. He didn't have any siblings of his own, but he was sure that if he had a sister, he'd want to watch over her forever.
"He has Hannah to protect," Penny said. "He'll manage."
"Oh, well that's good," he replied. Then, after a quick glance down at the game board, he added, "By the way, you landed on my property. Pay up!"
Penny's jaw dropped. "You asshole!" she shouted and punched him on the arm. He responded by laughing and taking two hundred dollars from her pile.
After Penny calmed down, she suddenly didn't feel like playing anymore. She wanted to talk about their relationship. Yeah, she was still nervous, but she was ready. And if he didn't ask her out, then she'd just have to ask him.
Keaton noticed her sudden change in attitude. However, he said nothing about it – instead, he just stared at her. She stared back.
Penny thought back to the first day they met, when she stared at him for five straight minutes. She had no idea, way back then, that the guy would become such a big part of her life. She had no idea that she would take to staring at him so much, and she had no idea that he would take to staring at her as well.
They sat there for who knows how long before Keaton mentally said "Fuck it all" and kissed her.
This kiss was much different from the first. It was more urgent, heated, and passionate. Pretty soon, Penny was pressed up against the post of her bed, her arms wrapped around Keaton's neck as his tongue weaved its way into her mouth.
Just as things started getting intense, Lynn barged in, singing show tunes much louder than necessary. As soon as she saw the couple making out on the ground, however, she squeaked and shouted, "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!"
Keaton and Penny jumped apart, embarrassed.
"I am so sorry. I was just getting my purse. I forgot it," Lynn said. "But on a lighter note…WOOHOO! I knew you guys were meant for each other!"
"Lynn, oh my god." Penny covered her face with her hands. She was so mortified.
"I said I was sorry! I'll leave now. Bye, Keaton!" the girl winked at the two of them and turned to leave, purse in hand.
"Bye, Lynn," Keaton said, stifling laughter.
"That wasn't funny," Penny said. "It was humiliating! Why are you laughing?"
"It's cute how embarrassed you get," he said. "I can't wait to see your face once you read the news article about how Keaton Charles has a new girlfriend."
"If you say yes, anyway."
Well, there it was. It was kind of a lame way to ask her to be his girlfriend, but hey, she'd take it.
"Are you kidding? Of course the answer is yes," Penny beamed. "But…can you not let them write an article about it? That's just overkill."
"We'll see," Keaton leaned in closer. "Now where were we?"