"I'm very sorry sir, but all we have available is a king double room," said the front desk clerk. At least he had the decency to look embarrassed.
"See here," Sheldon said, waving a piece of paper. "I have in my possession an email confirmation that states that I booked a double room with two full beds." There were bright spots of pink on his cheeks.
"With the Shriners' convention in town, everything's all confused," said the clerk. It was true, the lobby was full of fat men in tight suits, cavorting in fezzes.
"Fine, we'll go to another hotel," Sheldon huffed.
The clerk typed something into his computer. "Sir, every hotel in Fresno is booked."
"Sheldon," Penny said, reflexively grabbing his arm. "It'll be fine." She wonder what she'd done to piss off fate the day she drew the group short straw, forcing her to drive Sheldon to Fresno to give a speech at the banquet for the National Association of Thinky Physicists, or whatever it was called.
He looked down at her, anger in his eyes. Sheldon jerked his arm away. "I don't want this situation...this situation to look unseemly."
She sighed. "If you're worried about my reputation, don't bother." She smiled. "Besides, a king is plenty big. We'll have acres of room."
The bed was not plenty big. Only in the Nation of Pygmies could it be called a king and even that would be generous. It was a double. Maybe.
"This won't do." Sheldon looked like he was going to hyperventilate. "I need my space while sleeping, Penny. Otherwise, how will I sleep?"
Penny set down her suitcase. "So call for a rollaway bed."
He picked up the phone and said a few words into the receiver. In a minute, he hung up, the color in his cheeks brighter. "Every rollaway in the hotel is in use. The Shriners."
She unzipped her suitcase and took out the dress she would be wearing to the banquet. She had no idea what one wore to a physics banquet but the invitation had specified black tie, so she'd packed her most conservative dress, a black sleeveless shift, with a pearl necklace to go with it. "It'll be all right Sheldon," she said, thinking that he did wonders for her patience. "Go get your tuxedo on or we'll be late for the banquet."
At the banquet, Penny sat at the table, drinking bad Chardonnay and watching Sheldon give his speech. She didn't understand a word he said but it was nice watching him be so confident, so completely sure of himself, as he said stuff about world-sheet duality and extreme charged black holes.
Maybe it was the wine talking, but she found, as Sheldon's speech went on, that he was getting better and better looking. Huh. She'd never really noticed before. She'd never thought he was ugly or anything, he was just Sheldon. But tonight, instead of one of his superhero t-shirts, Sheldon was wearing a tuxedo. A plain, classic black tuxedo with a black regular tie, not a bow tie. Penny had helped him pick it out at the formalwear store, feeling strangely like they were shopping for the high school prom. The tuxedo suited him, made him look even taller than normal, but somehow not so gangly. When he gestured, she noticed his long, slender fingers and imagined...
Penny put her glass of wine down. Time to cut herself off.
They sat in the lobby bar all dressed up, ignoring the drunken hollering of the Shriners.
"Can't we just go to bed?" Sheldon asked, yawning. "It's late."
"It's not even eleven."
"See? Eleven's my bedtime."
"You're a grown man. You don't have a bedtime." The waitress came over and Penny ordered a double gin and tonic, extra lime.
"I'll have a Diet Coke," Sheldon said.
"You're no fun," Penny sighed.
"I'll have you know that my friends consider me to be an extraordinarily fun person."
"That's what you think," she said, wondering how long it would take for her drink to get there.
She changed in the bathroom, for modesty's sake. God only knows, the world might end if Sheldon got a glimpse of some female flesh.
When she walked out of the bathroom, he was changed into his plaid pajamas. "You're wearing that to bed?"
She glanced down at her tank top and sleep shorts. "It's what I always wear to bed. You've seen me in the morning a million times."
He looked panicked. "It just seems to be rather immodest."
Penny wondered, is he attracted to me? Is that why he's making such a big deal about sharing a bed and what I'm wearing? No, it couldn't be. This was Sheldon she was talking about.
Sheldon removed the rust-colored bedspread, folded it and set it on the chair. "Hotel bedspreads are notorious breeding grounds for germs. You don't want to know what's probably on this." He went off to wash his hands.
She climbed into bed, feeling nicely buzzed. Not drunk, just a little giddy and sleepy.
Sheldon walked back into the room and stood by the bed, staring down at her. "I don't bite," Penny said. "Unless you want me to."
She watched his Adam's apple move as he swallowed.
"Just get in bed," she said.
"I could sleep on the floor..."
"In bed. Now," she ordered.
He maneuvered himself into bed as if it were infected with anthrax. He sat up straight and drew an invisible line down the middle of the bed. "This is the boundary, Penny. Do not cross it under any circumstances." He turned off the light.
She giggled. "What if I cross the line while I'm sleeping? It could happen."
"There will be consequences," he said. He lay down onto his back, fussing with the covers. "And don't even consider stealing the covers."
"I'm a notorious cover-stealer." She rolled over on to her side to face him. "What happens if I steal the covers? Do I get a strike?"
"Worse," he said with an ominous tone.
"I'm terrified, Sheldon." She inched closer to him.
"Did you just cross the line?" he asked. His voice sounded like it had gone up an octave.
"How would I know? I can't exactly see the line." She inched a little bit more.
"I'm warning you..."
"Please." She moved a few more inches, until she was almost touching him. In the dark, she heard his breathing quicken.
"Why are you plaguing me so?"
"Because it's fun, Sheldon."
"This isn't fun."
"Maybe for you." She was now right up next to him. Penny could feel that every muscle in his body was tensed. She rested her chin on his bicep, his surprisingly strong bicep. Huh, who knew?
"You can't touch me, Penny."
"Hmm...clearly I can because I'm doing it right now." Sheldon smelled good, like clean cotton and boy.
"Penny," he whined. He turned over onto his side, away from her.
"What's your problem, anyhow?" she asked. "Any of your friends would commit major crimes to be in bed with me right now. Even Leonard and we've hardly spoken to each other since we broke up last month."
"They're slaves to their baseless male urges," he muttered.
"And you really don't have those urges? You're really asexual?" She pressed her chest against Sheldon's back.
He was silent for a long time. "Yes."
"Yes, what? Yes, you have urges or yes, you're asexual?"
"Yes, I have urges. But I'm evolved enough to be able to ignore them in order to fully concentrate on the important things in life."
Penny laughed. "Riiight. How's that working out for you?" She traced his arm with the tip of her index finger, feeling goosebumps rise on his skin. She lightly kissed the nape of his neck, tasting salt.
He rolled over abruptly, making the whole bed shake. "Fine," he said, his voice suddenly husky. "You win, you evil woman."
Sheldon leaned into her and kissed her, long and slow. He kissed her and it was just right, not too soft, not too hard, just the right amount of tongue. It was one hell of a kiss.
Penny found it hard to get her breath when they pulled apart but she managed to say, her hand sliding down his pajama pants, "In this case, I don't win. We both do."