Chapter 1: Mon Amie
Howard pressed the button on the aerosol can and the laser lines appeared. Raj and Leonard began humming the Mission Impossible theme as Howard wove himself through the beams. Sheldon walked through the living room, envelope in hand.
"Sheldon., your turn is next." Leonard reminded him.
"I shall have to forfeit this round. I'm going to ask Penny to accompany me to Geneva." The physicist opened the door.
Howard stood up and caught a laser beam in the eye; Raj hurriedly flicked the off switch.
"I'm sorry." Leonard said. "Geneva?"
Sheldon sighed. Leonard was far too young to be experiencing hearing loss.. "Leonard, you know I've been invited to speak about dark matter in Geneva next week.""Yeah, I got that. It's the part about your asking Penny that is unclear."
"Well," Sheldon crossed his arms. "We both missed the Hadron Collider because Penny is essentially the century's answer to the plague therefore I think it only fair that I take her with me since she nursed me that whole weekend."
"Lucky dog." Howard muttered.
"Not that kind of nursing!" Leonard yelled at him. He turned back to Sheldon. "You can't take Penny to Geneva."
"Has she been quarantined?" Sheldon's eyes opened wide. "I'm not surprised. It was only a matter of time before the CDC got wind of her."
"She's not quarantined. "Leonard's annoyance was clear. "You can't take her because…because…"
"She's your ex-girlfriend and you hold to some Western concept that a woman you once slept with is forever your property?" Raj suggested.
"No. Of course not." Leonard blushed. "But, she is my ex-girlfriend."
"Bros before hos, man" Howard looked at Sheldon.
"Yes." Sheldon nodded. "Despite these stellar and irrefutable arguments against my taking Penny, I believe my reasons are more valid." he cleared his throat. "I'm taking her because she is my best friend and because I want to."
He walked across the hall, closing the door behind him.
"I still can't believe you're going." Leonard said for the third time.
"Stop complaining and help me close this." Penny had thrown her body across the suitcase in a futile attempt to get the zipper to catch.
"Penny, you completely ignored the laws of mass when you packed." Leonard leaned on the luggage.
"Bite me." Penny grunted, yanking the zipper around and locking her bag.
"Let's go!" Sheldon yelled from the hallway."Relax! Your flight isn't for another four hours." Leonard yelled back.
"Assuming there is no traffic, ample parking and no unexpected detours, we have plenty of time but one must plan for contingencies." Sheldon poked his head into Penny's room. "Good Lord, woman! You do realize we are coming back."
"You're the one who gave me a packing list that was three pages long!"
"Only three." Leonard commented. "He's improving." Leonard yanked Penny's suitcase off the bed and nearly toppled over from the weight of it.
"Sweetie, do you want some help?" Penny reached out but he shook her off. Sheldon was bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet with impatience. They went out in the hall to collect Sheldon's bags which were neatly strapped together.
"Wait!" Penny cried. "I almost forgot."
"I'm pretty sure there is nothing you've forgotten." Leonard huffed dragging the suitcase to the stairs. Penny thrust her camera at Sheldon.
"Take my picture. I'm going to make a travelogue using photos of this trip from start to finish."
Sheldon took the camera and Penny held up her Complete Idiot's Guide to Geneva and smiled.
Leonard dropped them off with a hug to Penny and an awkward handshake to Sheldon, ignoring his roommate's calls to not let anyone sit in his spot as Leonard drove off. They were taking an evening flight in order to fend off jet lag according to Sheldon's elaborate plan. He was still reviewing the packing list with her as they meandered to the gate.
"Item forty -five- Immodium."
Sheldon stopped. "Penny we are traveling to an exotic locale with cuisine to which our digestive systems are unaccustomed."
"I promise I will stay far away from the horse-mousse." She assured him.
"Hoolairmous" Sheldon corrected.
"Whatever." Penny growled. "Next ?"
"Moving on, Sheldon."
They reached the gate. Penny had her novel, Cosmo magazine and US Weekly and her IPOD. Sheldon settled in next to her; boarding wasn't for another forty minutes. Penny looked at him and realized for the first time, he didn't look like a walking advertisement for Marvel Comics. Instead, he was wearing a navy blue hooded sweatshirt over a plain gray t-shirt with his eternal khakis. Sheldon even had a hint of beard on his cheeks. He actually looked like an adult male instead of an overgrown eighth grader.
"Sheldon, let me take your picture." Penny readied her camera.
She ignored him and raised her hands. Sheldon's giant one covered the lens just as the flash fired.
"Crap." She said; Sheldon gave a tiny smile.
"C'mon Sheldon." Penny whined. "These are the first photos of our trip.""Am I going to have to take that away from you so they become the last photos of the trip?" He looked at her but as soon as her finger moved, Sheldon ducked his head.
"Why don't you like your picture taken?" Penny pouted.
"I have no intention of missing the sights of Geneva due to the fact that I must pose in front of what it is I came to see."
Penny's mouth hung open. No w, she couldn't believe she was going on this trip.
"Okay, fine." She lowered her camera. Sheldon set about adjusting his sweatshirt. He pulled up the sleeves to expose his forearms then pulled up the hood to smooth it out. Penny discreetly turned on her camera. Sheldon was fast but Penny was faster. She caught him. trying to cover his face with the hood, right forearm blocking part of the shot and blue eyes blazing with annoyance.
He'd been waiting for an opportunity likes this his entire life. The Mecca of Physicists was finally within his grasp. Although the Large Hadron Collider was only a recent creation, what it represented was mankind's knowledge of the universe.
Leonard had already been, of course. That was a stab in the back if there ever was one. He'd been invited to go and despite the clearly stated clause in the roommate agreement, he'd decided to take Penny instead. It wasn't Penny's fault of course. She tried to get Leonard to change his mind, but in the end, the only reason she didn't go was because she got the flu (which she then gave to Sheldon. And that, he blamed her for).
Sheldon thought about Penny for a moment. She had really wanted to go and was willing to give up her spot for Sheldon. He was so moved by her kindness that he actually hugged her. Because of that, they both ended up together on Valentine's day, sick as dogs while Leonard enjoyed the sites of Switzerland.
Penny looked around the cabin of the airplane. It was dim and quiet; most of the passengers sleeping the six hours from California to Boston. She sighed thinking of the nine hour flight ahead of them. At least she was comfortable. They were seated by the emergency exit because Sheldon needed the leg room. He had assumed his corpse pose as soon as they were seated and drifted off. Penny wanted to sleep but she was too excited.
This was a good time to study the strange man beside her. In sleep, Sheldon face was a little non-descript. Her eyes traced the faint freckles and took in his straight nose and curved brows. The chin was a bit pointed, almost elfish. Sheldon's lower lip was fuller than the top one and, with his mouth actually closed for once, it gave the impression that he'd just been kissed. Penny's scrutiny continued and she concluded that Sheldon's eyes gave his face distinction and appeal. They were truly the windows to his soul, instantly revealing the intimidating intelligence behind them. Sheldon's eyes blazed and sparked like an alternating electric current. Her thoughts paused. Where on earth did she pick up that comparison? Sheldon's eyes could also be deep, soft and ocean-blue just as easily like when he sang "Soft Kitty" to her. They were Penny's favorite feature with his height being a close second. She was tempted to snap his picture but realized that would probably set off an emergency landing when Sheldon woke up screaming "Danger! Danger!"
Penny sat back into her seat and pulled the blanket around her shoulders. She looked at Sheldon once again feeling a warmth bloom in her chest. When he came to invite her on this journey, he had couched it in terms of obligation and reciprocity for taking care of him. Finally, with a twitch of the muscles in his jaw, Sheldon admitted, "It's the kind of trip one takes with a good friend. A best friend, actually." Penny blinked at his revelation even as she realized that was exactly what they had become to each other.
Sheldon had never really forgiven Leonard for the monopole failure. While he asserted vehemently that it had been a tremendous effort to accommodate her into his life, Penny secretly believed that Homo Novus had always had a Penny-shaped spot in his social circle just waiting for her. The feeling wasn't all one sided. Sheldon had proven himself to her time and again. Whether it be a run to the hospital, an impromptu loan, a session of Age of Conan or a talk on the couch. He was always there for her. Penny reflected that he had told her that once before and she had dismissed it as an off the cuff comment. Now, she understood, nothing Sheldon ever said or did was without deliberation.
A portion of his hand had slipped out from under his blanket. Penny extended her pinky, barely brushing his and she realized something she should have said to him at the start of the trip.
"Thank you, Moonpie." She whispered and settled down to sleep.
When her breathing became regular, Sheldon slowly opened one eye. He looked down at his neighbor and smirked.
"You're welcome, Penny."
Chapter 2: Bienvenue a Geneve
Penny dragged her suitcase behind her while Sheldon waited beside the taxi.
"Thanks for waiting." She snapped.
"You're welcome." He replied calmly. The cab driver ran over to help Penny heave her suitcase into the trunk. The car sank onto the tires a bit. Sheldon gave the name and address of their hotel and opened the door for Penny. He huffed while she finished taking a picture of the airport and the taxi.
"I really thought your picture of me at the money exchange kiosk was the most ridiculous one yet. I was wrong."
Penny stuck her tongue out at him. She couldn't get mad, though. He looked adorable- all travel-worn with a day's shadow of beard. Penny was happy to see Sheldon could relax a little.
The taxi made its way to Geneva crossing the Mont Blanc bridge.
"I've worked a trip to Old Town into our itinerary." Sheldon informed her though Penny's head was hanging out the window. "Les Rues-Basses is the finest shopping to be found." Her camera clicked like mad.
Penny pulled her head back in then squealed. Her hand shot out to grab a fistful of his violet starburst logo.
"Oh my God! Sheldon! Look! It's the Alps! The real Alps!" Penny flung herself across him in order to take a picture of the famed mountains. In the process, she knocked the wind out of him so he couldn't even protest."I used to pretend I was Heidi." Penny's voice was wistful. "I even braided my hair." She was still draped across Sheldon and shooting pictures. He tried to push her off to no avail. He rolled his eyes as his lungs re-filled. Good lord, this was like traveling with an untrained golden retriever!
They arrived at their hotel and, once more, Sheldon left her to wrestle her suitcase on her own. The time change was beginning to catch up to Penny. She entered the lobby, threw herself into an armchair and closed her eyes. Sleep instantly pulled at her but she thought she could hear Sheldon's voice getting higher an higher.
Shake, Shake, Shake.
Shake, Shake, Shake.
She opened her eyes but he continued.
Shake, Shake, Shake.
"Sheldon, I'm awake.""We have a very serious problem." The physicist chewed furiously on his upper lip.
"What?" Penny figured the hotel didn't have WiFi or All-Bran.
"Apparently, there is no reservation for you."
That got her attention. She sat up. "You took care of that. How did you make a mistake?""I didn't." Sheldon spat. "An error in translation occurred. I asked for a double suite and got a suite with a double bed ,instead.
"Well, that's just great!" Penny's temper flared. She was too tired for this. She needed a shower and a nap. "I don't suppose there are rooms anywhere else?"
"Not at the moment."
She got ready to launch another tirade but decided she needed sleep more than an argument with Sheldon.
"We'll fix this tomorrow. Just take me to the room, so I can rest."
"Penny, people can't be in my room."
"Sheldon!" Tears of fatigue sprang in her eyes and several guests turned to look." I have been on a plane for fifteen hours. I am in a foreign country with no hotel room. Can you please, try to be, I don't know, accommodating?"
He looked at her, left eye winking steadily. "Of course. Follow me."
They rode the elevator in silence and wheeled their luggage down the hall. Sheldon opened the door. The room was quaint with large windows and a glorious bathroom. Penny wanted to pull her clothes off right there and jump into the tub. Sheldon was pulling pillows and blankets out or the armoire. Penny washed her hands and face.. When she came out, Sheldon had finished arranging the spare bedding.
"All yours." He gestured to the floor.
Penny lifted her head and groaned. She couldn't believe she actually slept on the floor! Two sheets of paper were next to her pillow, stapled together. A note from Sheldon
Good morning, Penny,
If you are reading this, we are already behind schedule. I have gone to acquire a more favorable solution to the rooming debacle. Please be dressed and ready to start our itinerary(attached) when I return. I took the liberty of ordering breakfast for you.
Penny didn't know whether to laugh or cry but she probably should have listened to Leonard. Under the window on the small table, was a fully laden tray. She inspected the various bowls and found museli, yogurt ,pastries, butter and jam. There was a huge cup of coffee and a pear. Finishing off the tray was a small vase with a tea rose and baby's breath. Penny figured the flower was a standard hotel practice but she smiled just the same and snapped a picture of Sheldon's kind gesture.
She was finishing off a croissant when Sheldon returned. His face was dark with frustration.
"Any luck?" She asked. Sheldon's reply came out as a blistering stream of French.
"Come again?" Penny said. Sheldon sighed.
"My apologies. I've been arguing in a few different languages this morning, none of which were English."
"You speak more than one language?"
Sheldon looked at her as if she'd just insulted his intelligence.
"Of course, Penny. It's presumptuous to assume one will always be spoken to in English."
Of course! After all, Sheldon was never presumptuous.
"The long and the short of it is," Sheldon went on, "we are stuck with the current accommodations unless I want to send you off to a hotel in the southern part of the city." He shuddered.
"Is that a bad area?"
"You would do well to have your baseball bat on hand. Furthermore, I can't even imagine the delay in our schedule if I have to retrieve you each day from a different place. We're already thirty minutes behind. Have you read the itinerary?"
Penny shook her head and wiped off her hands. Sheldon pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Today," his voice held a tone of reverence, "We will be going to the Mecca of science. The Cern Supercollider."
Sheldon grew visibly more excited as they approached the entrance which would take them underground to the Supercollider. Penny snapped a picture of the doorway then ran ahead to take a shot of Sheldon approaching it. He pretend not to see her, his long legs closing the distance between them. Penny snapped the picture; she caught a perfect moment of Sheldon mid-stride so the full line of his arms and legs was accentuated. He had ducked his head but there was a glimmer of a smile.
"Put that away!" He snarled ushering her down the stairs. Sheldon began telling her about the various properties of the Supercollider.
"Juts one-eighth of its cryogenic system would qualify as the largest form of refrigeration."
Penny looked up at him from under her bangs. "So all that fuss a few years ago was so you could come see a giant refrigerator?"
They continued their descent. "It may interest you to know that, despite the cold, when the beams collide, the temperature is hotter than the sun."
"Cool." Penny said.
"Helium." Sheldon replied.
They physicist in charge explained they would be seeing an experiment focused on QGP. Sheldon gasped with delight; Penny wondered what they would have for lunch. Still, he was so excited that she figured she should pay attention.
"What's QGP?" She tugged at Sheldon's elbow. He leaned down to whisper as the other scientist was still talking,. Penny's ponytail brushed his cheek. Sheldon drew back, startled by their proximity.
"QGP is quark-gluon plasma." Sheldon's accent was very apparent as he whispered and his excitement grew.. "Basically, after the Big Bang, a thick, hot, "soup", if you will, formed. As it cooled, the quarks became trapped…"
Penny turned suddenly, "Like fruit in a Jello mold." The volume of her voice dwindled down since she was staring directly into Sheldon's eyes. She would have to get a picture of that. Just his eyes. She wanted to capture the green around the pupil feathering out to icy blue rimmed in gray. They called to mind a lake she skated on in Nebraska. Sheldon's eyes were just as deep. Just as enticing.
He licked his lips. "That's a fairly close analogy." He moved away. "Here they can reproduce that and study how matter forms." Sheldon turned his attention back to the scientist up front.
How could she ever have thought physics was boring?
Raj and Howard came into 4A to find Leonard staring morosely at his email.
"Dude, what's wrong?"
Leonard sighed and pointed to his screen. "I got an email from Sheldon. Actually, Penny and Sheldon." Leonard did not like the feel of that combination in his mouth. "Most of the message is from Penny."
Howard leaned over and read aloud.
We just wanted you to know that Geneva is amazing which you already do since you've been here. Today, we saw the Supercollider and I learned about QGP soup. Delicious! Tomorrow, Sheldon talks about dark matter and our itinerary includes a trip to the Jardin Anglais to see the flower clock. I miss you guys!
Beneath Penny's typing was Sheldon's
We've suffered little in the way of jet lag and no intestinal distress. Penny has actually managed to keep our tardiness to only thirty minutes. The Supercollider was everything I imagined since I was a boy and I'm sure I don't have to point out that, despite its name, QGP soup is not actually soup. Please keep Wolowitz out of my spot. See you in a week
Sheldon L. Cooper, PhD
"Well that sounds like a perfectly boring vacation." Howard commented.
"I don't know," Raj countered. "The tone of Penny's email is pretty upbeat so what's the problem?"
Silently Leonard clicked on the attachment. A very large picture filled the screen. Penny and Sheldon stood outside the LHC building. Both of them were in white lab coats("How did she manage to get him to do that?" Raj wondered.) and gesturing toward the building. Penny was standing in front of Sheldon, her back to his chest, smiling broadly. Sheldon, while not really smiling, certainly looked very pleased and very comfortable.
"He looks..happy." Raj was amazed.
"Yup." Leonard stressed the "p"
"So does she." Howard added.
"Yup." Leonard popped the "p" again.
Howard gave Leonard's shoulder an affectionate punch. "C'mon, cheer up. They've only been gone two-three days. You know they are destined to have one of their knock down-drag outs any day now. Penny will probably call you to come rescue her after Sheldon banishes her from the entire country of Switzerland."
The three men turned their attention back to the photo on the screen and studied it once more.
"Not this time, Howard." Leonard sighed.
Chapter 3: L'Horloge Fleurie
"So, tell me about this dark matter lecture tomorrow." Penny said as they walked back from dinner. Geneva was truly international; they had actually managed to find Thai food.
"It is scheduled to run from nine to eleven though that is not nearly enough time to get through my PowerPoint, followed by an inquiry session till twelve then lunch. I should be done by two."
"Two!" Penny exclaimed. "What am I supposed to do all that time?"
Sheldon looked down at her and shrugged. "Sleep in. Make an attempt to put some of the clothing strewn around the room back into your suitcase."
"I don't want to spend all that time in the room."
"Then go sight-seeing." Sheldon resumed walking.
"I'm coming with you. For moral support." Penny skipped to catch up with him. "I want to see you in your natural habitat."
In the dim light, she missed his tiny smile.
The next morning, Penny wore her red floral sundress and pulled her hair back. This was a big day for Sheldon and she wanted to look nice for him. Sheldon barely let her eat breakfast before he was shoving her out the door to the bus. They returned to the LHC building.
"How many people are you speaking to?"
He brought her to a small auditorium and placed her dead center. Sheldon walked to the podium. The audience filed in. Clearly , there were more than thirty-four people here. Penny hoped Sheldon wouldn't faint but he seemed unaware of the crowd. She watched him on the stage. His body language was different- he stood straight and tall, his movements fluid and certain as he set up his laptop. The pattern on his cube shirt seemed to glow from the stage lights . She took out her camera and snapped.
"No flash photography, please." Sheldon's voice was stern causing her to laugh.
The audience was seated and a brief introduction made. Sheldon stepped up to the microphone.
"Guten morgen, geschatzte Kollegen."
German! His entire two hour talk was in German! She groaned and tried to listen, to stay awake but lost.
She woke with a start. Sheldon was in her row leaning on the seats in front of her with his arms crossed.
"Where is everyone?" Penny tried to seem alert.
"At the luncheon. I realized you weren't there and came looking for you. The lights were off but your snoring made you easy to find. Easier than the light switch." he added. Penny got to her feet.
"I can't believe you fell asleep." Sheldon grumbled.
"I'm sorry. I tried to listen but I don't speak German."
He began walking away. The proud posture of this morning gone. "It was just so insulting. There I am talking about seventy percent of the universe over the reverberations in your throat!"
Penny blushed. That must have been incredibly embarrassing. Sheldon was still ranting.
"Then I go to the reception and where are you? Who knows?" He faced her arms wide.
Alright, this was ridiculous. "Look, I said I was sorry. Stop having a hissy fit." Her anger kept building. Soon it would match his.
"I think a 'hissy fit' is perfectly justified. You're the one who insisted on coming. Moral support and all. If this is how you show it, you should have just stayed at the hotel."
Penny was about to answer him. This was on its way to becoming another of their epic battles and they still had eight more days. She also realized, in the same moment, that he wasn't angry so much as hurt. Penny swallowed her retort.
"Sheldon, " She slipped her hand into the notch of his arm. Penny realized that he wasn't upset about her sleeping. He was upset because he took her not being in the reception hall as a sign that he didn't matter to her. So smart yet so unaware. "You're right. I should have been more attentive and I should have walked into the lunch with you." Sheldon kept his gaze averted.
"They haven't introduced me yet so there is still time." They began walking down the hall.
"I hope the food is good. I'm starving." Penny said.
"It's Tuesday. I just hope they have my cheeseburger."
True to his word, Sheldon left the LHC building at two o'clock. He and Penny then went to the Jardin Anglais to see the famous flower clock.
"L'Horloge Fleurie," Sheldon began and Penny smiled. She would listen to him all day as long as he spoke French, "has the longest second hand in the planet." Penny jostled closer to snap more pictures.
"It also covers an area of 6,500 plants." Sheldon continued. "A new design is created every season with different plants and shrubs."
A man stepped right in front of Penny's shot but she already had ten pictures of the clock.
"They say the clock is the most visited and photographed spot in Geneva. I believe you've broken a record with your incessant photography." Sheldon said as they walked on
Penny lay on the bed next to Sheldon with her legs braced on the wall , letting all the blood flow down. They had walked all day- to the UN, the Red Cross, the Cathedrale St. Pierre. Her feet had never hurt so much and she was a waitress. Sheldon tapped away at his laptop.
"What are we going to do tonight?" Penny asked rotating her ankles. She and Sheldon had finally adjusted to the time change.
"I have several movies with me." Sheldon informed her. Penny put her Geneva guide down.
"I am not staying in a hotel room in Switzerland to watch movies I can see at home any time I want."
Sheldon closed the lid of his computer. "Then, what do you propose we do?"
Penny flipped onto her side. The bed bounced up and down with her movement and Sheldon gripped his laptop. She pointed to a page in her book.
"Let's go to Ca-roo-jay." She mangled the pronunciation.
"Carouge." Sheldon corrected.
"It's where the nightclubs are." She finished.
"Nightclubs? Absolutely not."
"Oh, come on, Sheldon." Penny pleaded. She knelt on the bed closer to him and plucked at his wrist. "We're on vacation. We can get dressed, dance…""I don't…"
Penny overrode him. 'See the real Geneva not just the tourist traps.
He pulled his arm away from her but didn't move any further away.
"Besides," Penny fixed him with the same green gaze she used whenever she wanted something from Leonard.; Sheldon's cheeks grew pink. "We spent the last few days doing science stuff and you promised we'd do what I like, too."
Sheldon realized he had moved closer to her, pulled in by eyes that always seemed to glimmer with a secret that he just couldn't figure out. Penny stayed right there and held his gaze.
"Should I wear Batman or my black chevron shirt?" Neither one blinked.
"Ooh, black. Very European." Neither one moved. Sheldon broke the gaze and looked down at the duvet. Penny's knee was brushing the tip of his middle finger.
"Get dressed before I change my mind." He ordered gruffly
The bass pounded on Sheldon's eardrums, promising to forever damage his Vulcan-like hearing. Everywhere around him were people, people and more people. Some danced near the entrance, some tried to move from the door to the dance floor and back again, some formed a line outside of the restroom and most crowded around the bar. Sheldon stood stock still for a moment, lost in the din of the bright lights, loud music and mobs of human beings swarming around him. Penny looked back at and saw him standing in the middle of the narrow pathway, a crowd forming behind him, yelling at him in French and German. He looked like a deer in the headlights or a lost child who couldn't find his mother in the big scary grocery store.
She walked back and grabbed his hand, leading him through the narrow lane of empty space toward the bar. Sheldon was so grateful for something familiar, that he clutched at Penny's hand, all the while trying to avoid bumping shoulders with strangers. Penny swam through the crowd at the bar, mostly men, who upon seeing her, allowed her access to the tenders. They quickly closed the gap behind her, forcing Sheldon to either push his way through, or let go of Penny's hand. The former choice seemed more obvious to him. They finally made it to the counter and immediately, a male bartender came to Penny's assistance.
"Un…um…beer, s'il vous plait." Penny held up one finger and pointed to the Stella Artois tap. The bartender smiled at her attempt at French and obliged. She turned back to Sheldon. "What do you want to drink?"
"Diet Coke," Sheldon shouted, looking nervously around him as two men came to stand very close, leaning in front of him so that they could catch a bartender's attention.
Penny raised an eyebrow at Sheldon's discomfort. "I think you should probably have something alcoholic to help you relax."
"Penny," Sheldon practically yelled. "Last time I followed your advice in that regard, I ended up on YouTube without pants." When he said that, a few people turned and snickered. Damn the multi-lingual Swiss, Sheldon thought.
Penny smiled and turned back to the barman. "Et un rum and Coke. I don't know how to say diet in French."
Sheldon sneered at her, but didn't argue since the man behind him bumped into his back.
No one asked her to dance. Sheldon was left sitting in a chair slowly nursing his Cuba Libre, a flash of blond locks flitted through his vision and she was gone, surrounded immediately by men who were desperate for her attention. She paid none of them any mind, instead writhed to the rhythms of the ridiculously loud music and enjoyed being noticed.
Sheldon looked down at his half gone drink. He watched the lime wedge float around the partially melted ice, lifted by the bubbles that made their way to the surface. He wasn't drunk, but his mind did seem to be blurry around the edges. It was a sensation he wasn't sure he liked. The fact that he found a seat in a darkened corner away from the masses helped him feel a little better about his situation.
He looked back at Penny who was now being twirled by some Mediterranean looking man with hair so oily, it constituted a fire hazard. Compared to the dark and sweaty dancers that filled the bloated dance floor, Penny appeared as a beam of sunlight peeking through stormy clouds.
She was actually quite graceful. Her legs were strong, exaggerated by her high heeled shoes. Her feet moved and stepped to the beat, hitting the floor at all the right times. The skirt of her dress whirled around as she swayed her hips, never quite touching them against anyone who surrounded her. Her face was flushed pink and a smile graced her lips. The endorphins from the movement were active in her blood. At that moment she surely would be experiencing the emotions of excitement and pleasure.
Those emotions were chemical, but Sheldon thought that maybe there was another level to those feelings. Why did he continue to play video games or read comic books if he didn't find his pleasure in those things something worth repeating? Dancing was Penny's video game.
Sheldon took a few more long sips of his drink and stood up. To hell with it, he thought. Penny often played games with him, it was only the decent thing to do to reciprocate.
Two strange looking people with wrinkled clothes and the stench of cigarette smoke came closer, eying the chair Sheldon was sitting in. He quickly sat back down.
"Ceci est ma chaise," Sheldon spat and put his feet on the seat in which Penny was previously sitting, almost daring the couple to sit in his spot.
Someone was whistling. Sheldon knew he was supposed to not like it, but he was just tipsy enough not to care. Much.
"Come on, Sheldon. I'm cold and hungry and I want to go back to the hotel and take some aspirin." Penny grabbed his hand, not for the first time and pulled him forward.
The streets were wet from the constant drizzle that seemed to have plagued them since they arrived. The slick sidewalks reflected the destitute holding their hats out for a spare coin, the gangs of smokers huddled outside of the nightclubs, the drunk teenagers scarfing kebabs and swearing at passersby. A few feet ahead, he spotted a couple pressed together and swaying to some unheard music, wrapped in each other's arms. He thought it odd behavior, and filed the moment away for future investigation.
Penny continued to drag him along. Eventually they passed a restaurant that was still open, its front door propped and allowing music to flow out into the street. An old tune, some Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers song, probably from Top Hat, filled the air. Penny began to hum along and he didn't stop her.
Before they walked out of ear shot, Sheldon pulled her back and twirled her around, ballroom style. She giggled for a moment and then stopped to catch her breath.
"I think I'm going to hurl," she whined and staggered toward the hotel. Sheldon sighed and followed her, but not before he imitated a dance step he once saw Astaire do on his Meemaw's television when he was a child.
Chapter 4: La Ville Lumiere
Sheldon woke Penny early that morning. Despite the fact that she had the mother of all hangovers, she lifted herself from her makeshift bed on the floor and stumbled in the direction he was leading her by the elbow. Thoughts of possibly killing him for waking her so early were interrupted when a warm cup was pressed into her hand and she took in the aroma of coffee. Almost as soon as she tasted the caffeine, her head began to clear. Now she remembered why Sheldon woke her. Today was the day that was missing in the itinerary.
When she asked him about it the first time she saw the itinerary, his face twitched and he told her it was a mistake. If it were anyone else, she would have believed it. But this was Sheldon and Sheldon didn't make mistakes.
She was brought back to the present when she heard his voice. He was saying something about hurrying and catching trains but her head hurt too much to try to decipher Sheldonese. A few more sips of coffee and a fresh buttered croissant later and Penny was feeling much more like herself again.
"Where are we going?" She finally managed. Sheldon was looking at her with a small grin on his face, the same grin he got whenever he was proud of himself for some reason.
"It's a surprise," he answered.
Penny nearly dropped her coffee.
Sheldon's knee moved up and down beneath the table in excitement. Riding trains was always one of his favorite pastimes, but this was the TGV Fast Track of Rail Europe. Out of the window on his right hand side, he was going to see some of the most breathtaking scenery in the entire world.
He looked across the table at his travel companion. She was leaning with her back against the window, her feet sprawled over the seats. Her snoring could be heard, he was certain, several cars down. He shook his head and sighed. It was just like her to not appreciate the effort and imagination he put into this trip.
At least she stopped smiling at him. Ever since they arrived at the station, she kept looking at him with wide eyes and an unsettling smile. It was bad enough that he had to keep up with his surprise, now he had to decode her expressions as well. He thought for a second that maybe she knew, but then he reminded himself that with her level of intelligence, that wasn't likely.
A voice sounded from the loud speaker above his head.
"Bienvenue aux train huit d'horloge de Genève vers Paris."
Sheldon sat back and watched as the train pulled out of the station and into the European countryside.
Sheldon looked heavenward and asked the spirit of Isaac Newton to grant him patience.
"I can't believe you are taking a picture of a pigeon." Sheldon said through his teeth.
"This is not an ordinary pigeon." Penny informed him.
Sheldon looked at the blob of feathers scooting around the cobblestones. "I can assure you , Penny, that before you is a very typical specimen of Columbia livia domestica."
"Sheldon, you can swear at me in French all you like- it's my camera and I will take pictures of whatever I want." She knelt down calling to the bird, "Le coo, le coo."
"Why are you doing that?" Sheldon could hear his accent coming out.
"For the same reason I am taking its picture. This pigeon is French so I am speaking to it in its native tongue." She gave Sheldon a sly look, delighted by his irritation. Sometimes, it was just too easy.
"Why are you so annoyed by my taking pictures?" Her gold curls spilled down her back and caught the sun. Sheldon forgot about the bird briefly. Very briefly.
"You're so busy behind the camera that you are missing what is directly in front of you." He snapped. Penny cocked her head for a second. That statement had some weight behind it but, at the moment, she was having too much fun irritating the physicist to evaluate it. She took the picture. The flash startled the bird and it flapped into the air hovering threateningly over Sheldon's shoulder. Her eyes widened with delight and she aimed the lens at him.
Without warning, Sheldon grabbed the camera and ran down the boulevard. It took Penny a second before she realized what was happening, and could only watch for a moment as he disappeared around the corner.
It was the feel of her empty hand that snapped her out of it and she bolted after the physicist. When she rounded the corner, she found Sheldon sitting calmly on a bench near a fountain, staring up at the Eiffel Tower.
"Sheldon," She warned as she stalked nearer to him.
"Did you know La Tour Eiffel was built as the entrance to the Exposition Universelle in 1889?" Sheldon interrupted.
"Where's my camera?"
"It was named for Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the tower."
"When it was unveiled, the general public thought it was a poor excuse for an attempt at some artistic structures, but the engineers were well versed in structural integrity and built it to withstand wind-"
"Sheldon, where's my damn camera!" Penny shouted.
For the first time since this whole debacle began, Sheldon looked at her.
"It's on the head of the third mermaid," he stated.
"Wha?" Penny asked.
Sheldon sighed and pointed to the fountain behind her. A circle of four mermaids sat above a large circular pool and water poured from stone seashells they held above their heads.
"You better thank your lucky stars the camera's waterproof," she growled. "Now go get it down."
"Will you stop taking pictures?"
"Very well. Try not to lose your footing. The stones are slippery when wet." Sheldon turned back to look at the tower.
Penny practically roared in frustration and she stomped toward the fountain. She walked around, counting the mermaids from the one facing Sheldon and sure enough, she saw her camera sitting on the head of the third one she came to.
Muttering to herself, she climbed up to the rim of the fountain and leaned over to grab the camera. She cursed Sheldon's height as she stood on her toes to reach the top of the mermaid. Her foot slipped and she grabbed at the mermaid's hand, hair, breast, anything to keep herself from falling. She let out a loud yelp as she tumbled down into the water. Luckily, the fountain was shallow and she immediately popped to the surface for air.
"Penny?" came Sheldon's worried voice from the other side of the fountain. "Are you okay?"
She was going to milk this for all it was worth.
"Sheldon, help!" She shouted. "I think I twisted my ankle!"
It didn't take long for Sheldon to come running to her aide. He stood in front of her, a worried look on his face.
"Which ankle is it? Do you need help? Do you need me to call the emergency services?"
She quickly stood up and yanked his shirts, forcing him to fall into the water with her. A soaking wet Sheldon exploded from under the water, his eyes blazing with fury. He looked like a wet dog, angry with its owner for giving it an unexpected bath.
"That's what you get for taking my camera," Penny baited.
Sheldon splashed her in the face in response.
Penny splashed back.
They went back and forth, splashing each other while amused pedestrians watched . It didn't take long before the splashing turned into a mini wrestling match.
Which ended in a kiss.
They both had their eyes closed, though neither seemed to have a clear grasp of the situation. Water tried, but failed to trickle between pressed lips.
"Hé! Sortir de là!" A forceful voice broke through the moment. They looked up and saw a policeman standing above them. "Maintenant! Tout de suite!"
Sheldon swallowed and Penny looked down at her wet clothes.
"Oui, désolé" Sheldon answered in a broken voice. He turned back to Penny. "He's telling us to get out."
Penny didn't need a translation. She stepped out of the fountain and watched as she dripped onto the paved stones at her feet. Sheldon grabbed the camera from the mermaid's head and followed her out of the pool. The policeman watched, suspicious of the two soaking wet figures that walked side by side and silently down the promenade.
Neither of them had an extra change of clothes with them. Sheldon made a mental note to always pack an extra outfit in his shoulder bag whenever he left the house in the future. After walking in silence all the way to the Metro station, Penny finally broke down and spoke.
"So, where can we get some new clothes?" They stared at the Metro line map in the steel grey tunnels beneath the streets, neither really concentrating.
"I figured that you would want to go shopping on Avenue Montaigne and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré while we were here. I suppose now would be a good time to do that," Sheldon answered. Penny shrugged and they fell back into an awkward quiet as they rode on the underground train.
When they climbed up to ground level at Madeleine station, Penny squealed in delight. As far as the eye could see were designer stores, the famous Parisian haute couture that she drooled over in her magazines. Although it was nondescript, a tiny shop front hidden amongst the white stone buildings that lined the street, Penny found the tiny black letters that displayed the store name, grabbed Sheldon's hand and ran toward Gucci
They were still wet when they walked into the shop and the man at the door couldn't have looked more like the French in the movies as he sneered at them. Penny ignored him and pulled Sheldon further into the store.
"Puis-je vous aider ?" The shopkeeper asked while his expression clearly conveyed that was the last thing he would want to do. Penny looked helplessly at Sheldon who answered the man.
"Oui. Nous avons besoin de nouveaux costumes. Avez-vous n'importe quoi qu'est-ce qui n'est pas noir ?" The man silently pointed to a table of neatly folded shirts-gray, beige or white. Sheldon frowned; he turned to Penny so they could leave but she was already on the other side of the store, filling her arms with clothes.
Sheldon wandered over to the table of shirts. He already had a plain gray t-shirt. Why would anyone need another? He picked up a white one with two fingers as if the color would drip on him. He looked at the price tag. What people charged for only one color these days!
"Sheldon! Sheldon! Come here." Penny grabbed him above his elbow and dragged him toward a fitting room. Unceremoniously, she shoved him in and closed the door. Sheldon stood in the cubicle until it began raining clothes on his head.
"Penny! What are you doing?"
"Try them on." She ordered.
"There are jeans in here." He intoned from behind the door.
"Try them on or, so help me, I will put them on you myself."
She was rewarded by the sound of a zipper and a puddle of clothes on the floor.
Sheldon slipped into the jeans. How did Penny know his size? He thought then remembered. Laundry night. They had reached a point in their friendship where clothes intermingled but the categories of darks, brights and whites still remained sacrosanct. He grabbed the white t-shirt and pulled it over his head. It was a touch too big- he probably should eat more and work a little less- but at least it was dry.
"I think the shirt is too big." Sheldon said as he opened the door.
Penny looked up from a pair of navy blue pants and a striped tie.
"Holy crap on a cracker." She breathed.
"That bad?" Sheldon pursed his lips.
Penny couldn't answer him. She was too overwhelmed by the way she was responding to him. The kiss in the fountain didn't cause as strong a reaction as Sheldon dressed like, well, like an American man. Unconsciously, she flipped her hair over her shoulder and gave a little smile.
"No, Sweetie. That good. Really, really good."
Sheldon screwed up his face. Why was she looking at him like that? Even he realized this outfit wasn't as impressive as the suit she helped him buy that time. Right now, he looked like every guy who had ever beaten him up in school. It was not a comparison he enjoyed.
"Very well. I'll take this." Sheldon told her.
"Try this on." Penny handed him the tie, pants and another shirt.
"Penny!" He wailed. "I have one new outfit. Why do I need another?"
She couldn't help herself. Slowly, Penny walked toward him. She stood on tiptoe, right near his ear and whispered.
"What if you fall into a fountain again?"
Neither person spoke, only the clanging of silverware and plates filled the air in the tiny Parisian café. Penny watched a column of cigarette smoke snake around the heads of patrons who sat on the other side of the glass. She sat at a table indoors because Sheldon complained about the smoke outside. So much for the real Paris experience, she thought as she bit into a bit of what Sheldon called "Pan O Chocolate", whatever that means. The table was filled with every kind of pastry imaginable as Sheldon was insistent that she try at least one of everything. He spent a good fifteen minutes lecturing her on the different kinds of pastries and desserts in France before he accidentally brushed her fingers with his. Suddenly he seemed to have run out of things to say.
She looked back at Sheldon who was staring intently at an éclair. Who would have thought she'd be sitting in a café in Paris with an increasingly good looking physicist who (whom?) she was just making out with in a public fountain? Okay, so it wasn't making out. It was just a short, innocent kiss that happened completely on accident. She couldn't even remember who initiated.
The point was that the fountain had caused a…what was the word Sheldon always used? Paradigm shift! Penny nodded with satisfaction at having remembered the word. Except…did the kiss really do that? It had been a bit of nothing. Over before it started , really. Sheldon cut his éclair in two and placed half on her plate.
"Sheldon, I'm going to get fat if you keep shoving pastry at me."
"You'll have the rest of your life to lose weight. A genuine Parisian éclair is not to be missed."
That is when Penny realized why she came on this trip with Sheldon. Why she knew the precise reasons for his spot. Why she memorized every quirk, mandate, explanation and food order. Howard, Raj and Leonard had all made an impact on the type of person she was becoming. Leonard had shown her that she could like a nice guy, that a relationship didn't have to be fraught with hurt.
The difference between the impact the other three had on her life and the impact Sheldon had was that Penny knew she influenced him just as much. Penny taught Sheldon how to be human; Sheldon showed her how to be the best Penny she could be. That she should never underestimate herself because he wouldn't accept anything less and neither should she.
Penny bit into the éclair while Sheldon watched her with matchless eyes. The pastry defied her expectations and so did he
Chapter 5: Le Diner avec Mademoiselle
Penny woke to find Sheldon staring out the window.
"It's raining." He informed her. Penny looked up; the window looked as if it was being hit with a fire hose.
"Well, that sucks." She replied.
"Indeed it does. Today's entire itinerary must be completely scrapped." Sheldon turned from the window, thoughtfully stroking his chin. His morning beard made faint rasping sounds against his fingers.
"What were we supposed to do today?" Penny yawned. Her blankets pooled around her waist and she gave a long, luxurious stretch.
"Oh, dear Lord." Sheldon mumbled.
"What was that , Sweetie?"
"Providentially, today is Thursday so we can considered this an impromptu occurrence of Anything Can Happen Thursday."
Penny crawled up into the bed. Sheldon's bed. His cheek twitched. "What are you doing?"
Penny fluffed the pillows and burrowed into the blankets. "You were the one who said anything can happen today so I am going to sleep in a bed. Five days on a floor is killing me." She closed her eyes despite Sheldon steaming at the foot of the bed. He couldn't argue with his own rules - a happy thought which sent Penny straight to sleep.
Sheldon wandered down to the lobby. Though he had said it was Anything Can Happen Thursday, in the back of his mind, he knew the real one wasn't for another two weeks. This cognitive dissonance along with Penny's shanghaiing of his bed made him restless and irritable. He couldn't even play a game on his computer lest the explosions wake her.
What to do? What to do? Sheldon found it very strange that he was at loose ends without Penny. A day like this- unscheduled, a swirling mass of entropy- was her area of expertise and she abandoned him in favor of sleep.
The lobby was quiet due to the early hour. Sheldon tried three different armchairs before finding one partially acceptable. He surveyed the space around him. He looked out at the sheets of rain hitting the pavement. He thought about calling Leonard but changed his mind. Sheldon templed his long index fingers and rested his chin on them. The green design in the carpet mimicked Penny's eyes. Though she was only four floors away, Sheldon realized he was lonely without her.
"Sheldon?" Penny woke with a start. She grabbed blearily for the clock. It was almost noon. The room was empty. Where did that Whackadoodle go? She padded to the bathroom, showered and dressed.
The rain had eased up from flood to deluge. Penny needed breakfast but, this time, no tray from Sheldon awaited her. She was amused that after years of being on her own, five days with Sheldon left her unable to function without the confines of his schedules.
"How absurd." She muttered, unconsciously imitating his manner of speaking. Penny dug into her suitcase to find the lightweight rain jacket Sheldon insisted she pack. She tucked her money, key and camera into her pocket and set off to find some food and , hopefully, a physicist along the way.
They didn't meet up again until preevening. Penny had gone souvenir shopping- chocolates for the three back home. She couldn't find anything for Sheldon. There was as surprising lack of superhero memorabilia in Geneva.
Sheldon had also braved the rain and gone to the library. He reconfirmed the plans for tomorrow, sulked when Penny failed to appear then wandered back to the room. He even managed a nap on the freshly made bed. Penny found him playing Age of Conan when she sloshed into the room.
"Hey, Sheldor." She had caught a glimpse of the screen from the doorway.
"Sheldor AFK." He said into his headset. "Penny, what happened to you?"
She was soaked to the bone. Wetter than she had been after falling into the fountain. "It's raining still." She said simply. Sheldon put down his laptop and began pushing her toward the bathroom.
"Into the shower." He commanded.
"If that's what you had in mind, I would have been back sooner." Penny flirted. Sheldon paid her no mind. He turned the water to nearly scalding.
"I have no intention of spending our remaining days here nursing you through a cold nor do I intend to fall victim to one of your virulent strains of bacteria."
Penny couldn't help it- she faked a sneeze. Sheldon's eyes almost bugged out of his head.
"I knew it.' His voice floated through the steam. "The minute you are out of my sight, infestation occurs."
Penny pulled off her sopping jacket and top, assuming if she couldn't see Sheldon, he couldn't see her. His clucking and fussing was amusing; he was such a mother hen sometimes. She missed him, today. The city didn't have the same appeal without her geek companion. She pulled off her jeans and underwear.
"Hey Sheldon", She called as she was about to step into the shower, "What should we have for dinner tonight?"
His answer came closer than she expected.
"Soup." He squeaked.
When Penny came out of the shower, Sheldon handed her tomorrow's itinerary.
"Sheldon, is it really necessary to let me know about your bowel movements?"
"A matter of privacy. You can choose to vacate the room or not then and I would hope that is what you would choose to do but, that's neither here nor there,. Keep reading." Sheldon gathered up his shaving equipment. Penny pulled the fluffy white collar of the hotel robe closer. A damp strand of hair clung to the side of her face tickling her nose. She scrolled past Sheldon's notes about breakfast, bathroom and clothing.
"Sheldon, what is Chocolate-terry Rapp?"
Sheldon turned from re-packing his suitcase. He took in Penny with her skin still flushed from the hot shower, encased in a white robe and her hair drying in burnished curls. Suddenly, he became very interested in the contents of his suitcase.
"Chocolaterie Rapp," The French pronunciation rolled deliciously off his tongue and Penny felt her cheeks redden. "They give very exclusive tours - only ten people maximum and it has to be booked four days in advance. You and I are going there tomorrow. After the tour, there is a tasting portion so we'll probably want to adjust our meals to eliminate lunch." Sheldon straightened up. Penny was looking at him with bright eyes.
"You planned this for me?"
"I did." A flash blinded Penny for a second and she realized he'd snapped a picture of her.
The aroma of chocolate enveloped them before they even neared the facility. Penny's mouth watered from the smell as well as the photos of the various confections that lined the gallery. The guide's heavily accented English was impossible for her to understand so she read the plaques and blurbs next to the displays in the "museum". Penny tugged on Sheldon's wrist.
"When's the tasting?"
"Soon. Behave yourself."
They walked through a set of doors to the processing plant. The noise was deafening, the size of the machines overwhelming but, to see and smell all that chocolate being roasted, crushed and tempered untouched by human hands, was impressive.
Another room revealed workers encased in gloves, hair bonnets and coveralls. This was where all the chocolates were made.
"It's like a fancy version of Willy Wonka." Penny exclaimed.
"Who?" Sheldon was puzzled.
"We'll watch it when we get back home." Penny patted his arm just above his elbow.
The next room was straight out of any woman's dream. Soft piano music played and the room was filled with a variety of roses. Plates and plates of chocolate in every shape, size and form were there. Molded, moussed, sauced, baked and bruleed. All that was missing were platters of diamonds alongside each station.
"Bon appetit." Their guide said. Penny picked up a plate and began piling it with treats. Sheldon walked around, reading the cards and making his selections with care. Penny bit into a petit four and groaned so loudly other members of the tour stared at her. She found Sheldon frowning at the chocolate fondue.
"This is highly unsanitary." He informed her; Penny speared a piece of pound cake and dunked it into the pot. She popped it into her mouth and rolled her eyes.
"Try it." She took a new fork and topped it with a slice of banana.
"I can't." Sheldon shook his head. Penny noticed his plate had a single bon- bon on it while hers was covered with everything in reach. She dipped the fruit and held it out to him. Chocolate dripped onto Sheldon's exploding computer shirt.
"Penny!" He growled in his Wheaton voice.
"Well, if you just ate it, that wouldn't have happened."
Grudgingly, Sheldon ate the banana. He picked up a small cupcake and pushed it into her mouth. Frosting dotted the tip of her nose. So, that was the game.
In a few minutes, the two of them were sticky and faintly ill with the amount of chocolate they had been forcing onto each other. The other patrons, significantly older than the two of them, cast disgusted looks at Penny's grimy fingers and the crumbs on Sheldon's sleeves. At one point, Penny was spooning mousse into Sheldon's mouth as fast as he could swallow it.
"I'm going to be sick." He protested uttering his breathy laugh. She stopped but that only allowed him to palm a square of chocolate cake into her. Finally, Penny waved a napkin in truce.
"Water." her voice was thick and her tongue coated with sugar. They stumbled over to the beverage station. Penny had chocolate on her neck and shorts; Sheldon's shirt was spotted with brown. He handed her a bottle of water and drank from his own.
The tour guide returned carrying a plate with ten truffles sprinkled with gold leaf. She explained that this truffle was made exclusively for the tour guests and could not be purchased. All the ingredients were top shelf and the gold completely edible. Sheldon picked up his and Penny's and carried it over to her.
"I can't." She put a hand to her stomach. Sheldon shrugged and ate his. Penny watched his eyes widen.
"Wow!" was the only thing he said after a minute. "Penny, you have to try this. Otherwise this whole tour will have been a fruitless endeavor."
She sighed and took a final swig of water to clear her palate.
"Lay it on me." She held up her hand. Sheldon picked up the chocolate between his thumb and index finger and held it out to her just like he'd done once before back home. Obediently, Penny opened her mouth. She closed it a second too early, catching the tip of his thumb in her mouth. Their eyes locked and neither one of them moved. Penny didn't taste the chocolate; all she could taste was Sheldon's thumb. He slowly drew his hand away; the tip of Penny's tongue stroked the top of his thumb. Sheldon looked down at his hand.
"Wow!" Penny whispered.
"Ernf." Sheldon replied still staring at his hand.
"Excuse me," Penny called to the tour guide. "Could you please take our picture?"
The tour guide's lip curled at the two Americans covered in chocolate. Barbarians!
"Mais oui, mademoiselle." She said. Penny stood next to Sheldon. The picture ended up being a juxtaposition of Penny's chocolate covered smile and Sheldon's bewildered eyes.
Penny and Sheldon walked back to their hotel after the chocolate tour. It was a very long walk and they spent the majority of it in silence. Penny's stomach felt better for having walked even if the rest of her was still tied up in knots.
As they neared the square where their hotel was, Penny's hand grabbed the crook of Sheldon's arm. He sighed. If he didn't know better, he would swear that Penny's hands and the corners of his arms contained magnets of opposite poles that constantly pulled toward each other since her hands always landed in the same spot. Sheldon wouldn't have been surprised to find hand prints there.
"Yes, Penny." He said, coming to stop.
"Sheldon, we should go out to dinner. A really nice dinner."
"Now? It's only 4:30 and we ate all that chocolate!" Obviously that was the wrong approach; she tried again.
"I meant we should have dinner together."
Sheldon drew his brows close. "Penny, we are traveling together. Every meal has been the two of us since the onset of this journey."
Penny covered her eyes with her hand. She had forgotten that Sheldon also thought "having coffee" meant just that.
"Sheldon, ask me out to dinner!" She stamped her foot in frustration and he drew back.
"Alrighty." Though his tone clearly revealed his confusion. Sheldon stood to his full height and clasped his hands behind his back. Penny noticed there was still a dollop of chocolate frosting on the shoulder of his shirt. The physicist cleared his throat.
"Mademoiselle, me rejoindriez-vous pour le dîner ce soir ?"
Penny smiled. The foreign language made her want to wrap her arms around him right then and there. The mischievous glint in his eye showed that he had spoken French deliberately to her. She had no idea what the literal translation was but it certainly sounded good.
"Absolutely." She replied.
Chapter 6: Loi du Movement
Who was this man striding through the streets of Geneva holding her by the hand? This man in a cobalt button down dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows and an open collar? The only clue that it was Sheldon was the impatience of his movements and the fact that the gray dress pants he wore were plaid. Not his usual eye-searing plaid- this pattern was subtle-tone on tone and barely discernible in the night.
He lead her through the streets until they came to an even darker corner of the city. Sheldon opened the door to let Penny through. She walked into a restaurant so tiny she doubted Sheldon would be able to stand upright inside. He ducked to enter and asked to be seated.
Couples sat at the dozen or so small tables. Candles illuminated the diners and amber-shaded wall sconces threw a soft glow into the recesses. Conversation was hushed and the sound of silverware muted. The jewelry of the women enhanced the candlelight of the room. The air was heavy with romance and the savory aromas from the miniscule kitchen. Penny had to admit when Sheldon did something, he did it right.
They were led to a table along the wall and the maitre'd pulled out Penny's chair. Sheldon waited for her to sit before taking his own seat. He was trying not to stare or fidget and failing miserably. Meemaw had said one should always compliment a lady's choice of clothing.
"I like your shoes." He said. Penny looked down at the bright blue shoes she had paired with the white strapless cocktail dress purchased at Gucci.
"Thank you." Her voice was gentle. Sheldon's awkwardness was endearing. A stranger would never guess that they had known each other for four years and had certainly shared more intimate moments than a candle-lit dinner. "I know you like color. They match your shirt."
The waiter brought menus to their table. "Let's begin." Sheldon opened his menu and scanned the contents.
Penny was finishing up her entrée as Sheldon explained. "What Newton realized when he gave us the Universal Law of Gravitation was that every object in the universe attracts every other object with a force directed along the line of centers for the two objects that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the space between the objects, squared."
Sheldon looked at Penny to make sure she was getting it all. He was beginning to regret that they didn't bring a notebook for note taking. Last time he attempted to explain this to her, she stared at him slack-jawed, not entirely unlike a gorilla trying to learn sign language. She didn't look anything like that now. Her fisted hand rested beneath her chin and she leaned toward him, her elbow propped on the table. She stared at him with wide, sea green eyes as if she could see into his brain and find the words before they left his mouth. Was she actually paying attention? Sheldon shifted in his seat and cleared his throat.
"Thus, Newton successfully disproved Aristotle, force wasn't needed to keep objects in motion. From this we have a nifty little formula. The rate of falling objects near Earth's surface is nine-point-eight meters per second per second in a vacuum."
Sheldon looked at Penny again, and was taken aback by the intensity of her attention. During Project Gorilla, he became annoyed by her lack of concentration, thinking if she only focused, she was capable of learning so many things. Now, he seemed to have her engrossed in the lesson and he was interested to see where this could go.
"Now remember," He leaned closer, his long legs brushing hers under the table, "The shape of any object affects its rate of descent only if resistance, such as air, is present. A feather will slowly float down while a weighted ball would hit the floor quickly. So, if resistance is present, they will fall at different rates, unlike objects in a vacuum which…."
"….fall at the same rate regardless of mass, M,A equals M,G. Therefore A equals G." Penny finished his thought. Sheldon's stunned expression was better than a gold star.
"Betcha didn't think I remembered that." Her expression was smug. Sheldon nodded in agreement and surprise.
Penny looked at him under heavy lids. Two years ago, her knowledge of vacuums consisted of the names Hoover and Black and Decker. Now, she was semi-following a conversation about them with one of the leading experts in the field. The same man who had taught her about them. This man(when did she start thinking of him in those terms?) who brought her to Pairs and Geneva, He had introduced her to his colleagues at the LHC as if he was presenting them with the rarest find in the universe. Penny now knew exactly why she felt like her knees were missing every time he looked at her.
"Finish what you started, Sheldon." Her voice was husky. The physicist gave her a deep look then resumed sketching on a napkin.
All around them, couples kissed, shared meaningful looks, stroked the back of hands, murmured promises and endearments. Sheldon and Penny were no different other than their foreplay consisted of quantum mechanics.
Penny banged on the bathroom door. "Sheldon, what are you doing in there?"
Penny blew air up to her bangs. She had been standing out here for fifteen minutes, waiting to brush her teeth. She grabbed the knob which turned easily and went inside. Sheldon was wrapped in his plaid bathrobe and rinsing his hands.
"What…you…this is my bathroom time!" Sheldon squawked though his eyes traced over her Cornhusker t-shirt
"There is no reason why I can't brush my teeth too." Penny picked up her toothbrush.
"Aren't you going to floss first?"
"I floss in the morning."
"You really should floss twice a day." He scolded.
"And you should shut up twice a day but I don't see that happening either." Sheldon made a face as Penny picked up the toothpaste. Deliberately, she began to squeeze it in the middle."
"Give me that!" Sheldon snatched the tube from her hand. "You NEVER squeeze in the middle."
There were a thousand replies dancing and stumbling on Penny's tongue just aching to get out but their implications would be totally lost on her tall traveling companion. Instead, she held out her Hello Kitty toothbrush. Sheldon lowered his hand and squeezed out a perfect s-shaped amount of toothpaste. Seriously, her toothbrush could have been in a commercial. Penny put it down, grabbed her camera and took a picture.
"What? I've only seen a toothbrush look like this in a magazine.".
"Ridiculous." He mumbled.
They stood there, side by side in identical poses brushing away the day. It was easy ; it was comforting. It ended up being one of Penny's favorite pictures.
Chapter 7: Musee de L'attraction
Sheldon pulled the covers up to his chin. Penny rustled on the floor beside him. He felt a fleeting pang of guilt. Should he let her have the bed tonight? Somehow, keeping this established sleeping pattern was holding everything else at bay. He brought his arms out from under the covers and drummed his fingers on the bedspread.
Clearly a paradigm shift had occurred precipitated by the kiss in the fountain. That wasn't entirely true- he and Penny had been on this trajectory for some time now. Sheldon didn't really know what to do with all the thoughts and feelings ricocheting inside him. The person who normally guided him through the swamp of human interaction was, ironically, the cause of his present state of emotional uncertainty. There was only one other path to take.
The imaginary whiteboard hovered in front of him, covered in Shelhand (Sheldon's version of shorthand) He had forced himself to review everything from his motivation for asking her on this trip to the overwhelming urge to pull Penny into this bed with him. Once he put the whiteboard away, that is.
All evidence confirmed that Sheldon was in love with Penny. Had been for some time. Why else would he allow the havoc and chaos she trailed behind her fill his life much like the smell of gardenias permeated this room? Not only did he allow it but he also adapted to it.
She was all he needed and nothing he didn't want. Penny brought him back into this world to focus on elements other than his needs and wants. Planning the Paris trip and the chocolate tour even that god-awful nightclub were all indications of that. Sheldon reacted to her-images of her lips, tattoo, tonight's white dress flashed by- in ways he hadn't experienced for years.
His eyes scanned the whiteboard again. From Sheldon's view, Penny was not exhibiting any signs of interest or attraction, the kiss in Paris notwithstanding. He had seen her with Leonard so he felt he had some means of comparison. With him, there had been no other kisses, no touching outside her normal realm. He was the one who had crossed boundaries- peeking once again, force-feeding her chocolate, feeling her legs under the table.
Sheldon erased the air. His right arm drifted down. Penny was inches below his fingers. It would take no effort on his part to touch her hair or stroke her face from this position on the bed. His fingers uncurled and reached for contact. The tip of his middle finger barely registered the feel of her hair when his hand clenched back into a fist before scurrying back under the blanket. From her vantage point on the floor, Penny watched it all.
The white building with its green manicured grounds was a wonder in and of itself. Three archways were mirrored below by rectangular doors which overlooked a serene lake. It looked like a mansion from the Scarlet O'Hara days.
After snapping a quick picture, Penny imagined she was wearing a grand dress in the style of Vivien Leigh as she ascended the steps. She looked over at Sheldon. . He was back in his clashing double-layered shirts and god-awful pants. Penny didn't mind so much – he wouldn't be Sheldon without them. As they stepped across the threshold of the grand double doors, she imagined him dressed like Clark Gable, all high collared shirts and debonair waistcoats. Smiling at the thought, she made a mental note to get Sheldon to dress up for the camera.
They walked into the main hall. Crowds milled around glass cases and tables. The high ceilings caused a dark echo, muted by the large oriental rugs and ancient scientific instruments. The reaction from Sheldon was immediate. He took hold of her elbow and guided her along the displays toward the back wall and to the left and into a room that looked like a library.
Everything was made of bronze and copper and wood. The hazel colored floors filled the air with the imagined scent of coffee mixed with the musty odor of timeworn books. All around her were different styles of telescopes, some looked very, very old and others looked not dissimilar to what she saw in 4A last week. This must be the astronomy room, she thought, and Sheldon's explanation a second later confirmed it. The room was smaller than she would have thought. She was certain they were in some old house that had been converted into a museum.
Sheldon preferred the smaller room, Penny could tell. He walked a little straighter and his voice fell an octave. Closed in among the solar systems, the planets and stars, stalking along reading and translating the silver plaques, he was in his natural habitat.
Penny remembered when Sheldon attempted to teach her physics. The scribbles on his whiteboard might as well have been Martian for all she could understand. In the end, she had given up, certain that she could never learn science. It was Sheldon who found her strength, giving her some lines full of scientific mumbo-jumbo to memorize. Saying those lines made her feel like there was something she was good at. She listened to Sheldon now and realized how far she had come since then. Although most of what he said made her feel like she was chatting with Charlie Brown's mother, here and there she felt the remnants of understanding. In his own weird and quirky way, Sheldon once again made her feel like she wasn't stupid after all.
She decided to make an effort to listen to what Sheldon was saying about orbiting patterns and gravitational pulls. She asked him questions about the links between what he does and what was in this room. No longer was she content to watch his mouth move up and down, she actually wanted to hear what he had to say. And if she learned a thing or two along the way, then all the better.
While he was explaining quantum mechanics, he reached for her hand and, as soon as they touched, ,Penny tasted chocolate.
The first picture was of him adjusting his tie in front of a bronze door but she didn't like the lighting.
"Come stand over here." Penny motioned for Sheldon to come out of the shadows.
"I can't believe I agreed to this." He griped.
"To the outfit or the pictures?" She placed him in a window alcove.
"Sheldon, you need to see yourself as you are. You're almost thirty."
He was aghast. "That was a cheap shot, Miss I'm still a waitress at the age of…"
"Don't even." She warned then stepped back to frame the shot. Sheldon sat there, long arms resting on his legs. Everything about him straight, clean ,precise. She took the picture.
"God, Sheldon, dressed like that." Penny gave her head a little shake. "You're actually beautiful." She swallowed as his full lower lip called to her. "But these pictures are boring. Do something." Much to her surprise, he did.
Sheldon hopped up into the recess of the window and made like he was pushing it. Then he spread his arms and legs wide and altered his expression to one of slight surprise. Penny snapped away. He did one more pose, bending his right arm and left leg at right angles while keeping a perfectly straight face. Penny lowered the camera.
"What's wrong?" Sheldon hopped down and sat on the window ledge.
"You're not smiling in any of them." She replied.
"Your directive was to 'do something'. Next time, be more specific."
"One more." She held up the camera. "and smile this time."
Sheldon didn't want to smile. He wanted to pull her into his arms again and make a more thorough analysis of a kiss with Penny. The one at the fountain had caught him by surprise so all he had registered was pressure. He laughed a little, calling to mind the events preceding that kiss and how to replicate them. He gave an impish smile, bit his lip and Penny's flash went off.
Penny was scrolling through the Paris pictures when Sheldon came back to the room with two bottles of water. He handed one to her.
"Come look at these." She invited, patting the space next to her on the bed. Sheldon perched on the far edge of the mattress.
"You can't see them from there." Penny chided. She grabbed his bicep to tug him closer. Quickly, he kicked off his shoes before settling in next to her. Their heads bent over the screen on the digital camera just barely touching. Their pinky fingers, however, had overlapped and curled around each other.
"There are some great shots, huh?" They were looking at the pictures of the Eiffel Tower. Sheldon nodded. "You have an eye for photographs."
The next set was of Sheldon in the window. "I should send one to my mother. She'll be happy to see me in a tie. Perhaps I can convince her I wore it because I went to church in Paris thus freeing me from my annual obligation." He gave his wheeze/snort laugh. Penny scrolled to the next picture- the one of Sheldon spread eagle in the window recess.
"I like this one." She looked up. They had been sitting so closely that their noses automatically fell alongside each other. Penny's eyes linked with Sheldon's and her heart began to race.
She had been waiting for this feeling all her life. Looking for it in a series of failed romances and bad men. She thought it would have developed so easily with Leonard. Now, listening to Sheldon's breathing increase, Penny had to admit that the problem wasn't a declaration of love that had come at the wrong time The problem was it had come from the wrong scientist.
Penny moved forward as Sheldon pulled back.
"We have a full itinerary tomorrow. We need our rest." He broke the spell. Penny got off the bed and gathered her pajamas.
Chapter 8: Un Jeu D'Echecs, Un Bateau et L'amour
Eventually, they visited Par dis Bastions. Students sprawled on the grass, smoking, reading. Tables of old men playing chess filled the other spaces. There were life-sized chess boards at the north end of the park. Sheldon walked over to an elderly gentleman whose partner had just left his table.
"Voudriez-vous jouer ?" he asked. The man motioned for him to sit. Penny stood between the two as Sheldon set up the pieces. They played silently for five minutes. The man had one of Sheldon's bishops; Sheldon had several of his pawns.
"Vous jouez bien." The man complimented.
"Merci." Sheldon replied.
"Est cette votre femme?"
"No." Sheldon moved his knight.
Sheldon sat back and narrowed his eyes.
The man moved his bishop out.
"Ah, elle est votre petite amie, alors.?" He looked up at Penny with warm brown eyes. She smiled at him. Sheldon huffed and grimaced at the board. He advanced his knight again.
"Elle est mon meilleur ami." He finally said. The man took Sheldon's knight off the board and Sheldon cursed quietly before darting a glance at Penny.
"Mais vous êtes amoureux d'elle, no?"
Lightning fast, Sheldon moved his queen. He rose from the table.
"Oui. Checkmate." He gave the man a curt nod and strolled off with Penny toward the giant chess boards.
"What did he ask you?" Penny said. Sheldon's hands were in his pockets. He stared straight ahead.
"He wanted to know if you were my wife, mistress or girlfriend. I told him you are my best friend."
"What was the fourth question?""The fourth question?" Sheldon repeated. Penny turned her clear green eyes on him.
"The one you answered 'yes' to."
"Oh that," Sheldon said, quickening his pace. "He asked if you were my secretary." Penny stopped short, but Sheldon kept walking, trying to hide the slight smile on his face.
The boat rocked slowly from side to side and Sheldon was sure they were going to fall overboard despite the fact that the wall between him in the water stood a good five feet. When he was a child, he hated taking the ferry from the mainland to Galveston Island. A predisposition to seasickness and a lack of swimming skills was enough to keep him away from any amount of water that couldn't fit in a standard bathtub.
As he hung his head over the side of the boat trying his best not to throw up, he heard Penny talking to another American couple. It was her idea to take a tourist boat out onto Lake Geneva before they had to go back to California. Sheldon flatly refused, but as always Penny got her way. Not long ago, he wouldn't have thought twice before blaming her for the situation he was in. Now all he could think about was how he was probably ruining her good time. When did she turn him into this?
He turned and looked at her. She smiled and waved at him. Sheldon tried to smile back, but a wave of nausea hit him and he vomited into the lake. A few people who were near him moved to seats on the other side of the boat. Penny came rushing to his side.
"Oh, Sweetie," She said, rubbing his back. Sheldon plopped down into a chair and she sat down beside him. "Do you want me to sing Soft Kitty?" All Sheldon could do was nod weakly.
As Penny sang, Sheldon began to feel better. The rocking of the boat wasn't so bad when her arm was wrapped around him. He bet she was a good swimmer. If the vessel capsized, she would save him and they'd go live on an island somewhere in the middle of the lake. He would teach her physics and the mysteries of the universe and she would teach him to laugh and to touch and to love.
"Penny?" He asked in a quiet tone when she finished singing. He turned his head to face her. They were very close now.
"That man in the park, he didn't ask me if you were my secretary"
"He better not have." Penny gave him a light punch on the arm. "What did he ask you, then?"
"He asked me if I was in love with you." Sheldon answered without hesitation.
Penny pulled back and blinked a few more times than was necessary.
"Doesn't 'oui' mean 'yes'"?"
"You told him yes, didn't you?"
Penny paused for a moment. "Did you mean it?"
"Oui," Sheldon responded.
Penny leaned in and kissed him, this time on purpose.
Leonard paced back and forth. He shouldn't call. Still, he hadn't heard from either of them since the start of their trip and, like any good friend, he was concerned. Yes. Concerned. He also had a perfectly legitimate reason to call since Dr. Gabelhauser had stopped by his lab today.
Penny was sitting on the bed in her nightshirt, one leg resting on top of the other as she looked at the issue of Vogue she bought in Paris. Not that she could read any of it but the pictures were entertaining. Sheldon's phone rang and the screen showed it was Leonard calling.
"Bonsoir, Leonard." She chirped.
"Oh…Hey, Penny. Why are you answering Sheldon's phone?""He's in the shower."
Leonard was quiet. Sheldon never showered at night.
"Ah, Penny, one more question-what are you doing in his room?"
Penny decide to follow the Dr. Cooper method of answering questions: when in doubt, give the most literal response.
"Reading Paris Vogue."
Sheldon came out, robed and rubbing his hair with a towel.
"Who's that?" He mouthed.
"Still here." Leonard answered. Penny passed the phone to Sheldon and resumed reading. She kept one ear tuned to the conversation.
"Yes. The trip is going well. No, I'm not homesick."
"Because Penny is here. She's sitting on the bed." Sheldon rolled his eyes. "She's reading a magazine." Penny raised her head and frowned. Sheldon turned his back to her.
"Leonard, did you call at this time of night just to ascertain Penny's whereabouts?" Penny could hear Leonard's voice but not the words.
"I took a shower because I was sweaty." Sheldon was shaking his head. "Why are you suddenly interested in my hygiene?" He faced Penny again. The magazine slid off her lap and, when she reached to get it, Sheldon got a view of black and white zebra striped panties. He considered another shower.
"Really? In English or German?" Sheldon wasn't really listening. He was watching the rhythm of the muscles in Penny's leg flex as she bounced her foot while reading.
"Yes, I will manage to keep my pants on this time." Penny looked up at him then and wiggled her eyebrows. Sheldon swallowed.
"Leonard, it's very late here and I'd like to go to bed." Penny's temperature shot up at his words. "Answer in the affirmative and I'll outline the parameters when I return." His eyes landed on Penny. "I will tell her. Bye."
Penny didn't know why her heart was pounding but the look in Sheldon's burning eyes wasn't helping.
"What did Leonard want?" Her throat was dry.
"He said to tell you he misses us- you specifically and then asked a slew of absurd questions about why you were in my room." Sheldon seemed unable to collect his thoughts. The scent of Penny's gardenia lotion kept distracting him. "Ah…he told me Dr. Gabelhauser heard about the success of my lecture and would like me to give a repeat performance at Caltech."
"Sweetie, that's wonderful." Penny's smile filled the room.
"Penny, " Sheldon tugged at his robe. "Would you like to sleep in the bed tonight? With me?" Penny's stomach dropped. Sheldon's gaze remained steady. She placed the magazine on the nightstand and nodded.
Even though she had permission to be in the bed, Sheldon remained a perfect gentleman. Almost.
He did nothing more than kiss her. She had forgotten what an unbelievable rush just kissing could be and Sheldon's endless questions(always the scientist) made her even more conscious of parts of her that were just as sensitive but had been long neglected in more carnal pursuits.
What if I kiss you here, he pressed his lips to the base of her skull. She sighed. What happens if I do this, he wanted to know , flicking his tongue along her jaw. She moaned. Sheldon was pressed on top of her, cradling her head with one hand while holding the other in one of his. The only movement came from his lips, tongue and head. How does this feel, he kissed her deeply and gently pulled at her lower lip. Penny responded to each and every question the same way. In the only French she had picked up.
"Plus, s'il vous plaît.."
The sun on her eyelids was California warm. Home. Her eyes opened. Home! They were going home today. She remained on her side but peeked over her shoulder. At some point during the night, Sheldon had resumed his vampire pose although his right hand still gripped her hip.
Last night. If it had been a scene from a movie, it would have earned a rating no higher than PG and only because Penny was a very vocal with her responses. Still, watching Sheldon learn how and where she liked to be kissed was hot. Watching him learn what he liked to do to her was the most erotic thing Penny had ever experienced. The way his eyes would flutter closed or the way his head would tilt as if filing away his last action for future reference which was exactly what he was doing. The little smile that played at the corner of his mouth that clearly said Sheldon couldn't believe he was doing this with Penny, enjoying it with Penny, all of it with Penny. Even now, she squirmed a little at the memory of it all. They had drifted off to sleep, lips bruised and swollen; Penny's head on Sheldon's chest and Sheldon's hand rubbing a circle just above her soup tattoo.
Now, it was morning. The only thing Penny was sure of was she never wanted this trip to end.
Chapter 9: Epilogue
The first leg of the journey home was spent in sleep- part of Sheldon's "renormalization process". Sheldon and Penny curled together under a blanket with Sheldon's dark hair topping Penny's gold strands like a shadow.
When they landed in Boston, Penny began to fret silently about what would happen once they reached Pasadena. Sheldon busied himself during the layover by calling Leonard with their ETA and ensuring their luggage made it to the connecting flight. Penny knew recognizing emotion was not his strong point.
The six hours from Boston to California were passed doing a crossword(Sheldon restraining himself so Penny could contribute to forty percent of its solution), several Cosmo quizzes(Sheldon restraining himself again for different reasons and suffering acute embarrassment at the more pointed questions), watching the in-flight movie, Music and Lyrics, with Penny providing the snarky commentary this time. However, as they drew closer to home, she fell back to brooding. What if it had all been a fluke?
They were walking from the gate to the terminal when Sheldon stopped so suddenly the person behind him walked right into him. Sheldon muttered an apology then turned to Penny and said, "This is absurd."
Howard, Raj and Leonard were waiting in the airport. "There they are." Raj pointed to the top of Sheldon's head above the crowd. Sheldon had just stopped and was speaking animatedly to Penny, ticking points off on his long fingers.
"Don't tell me they are having an argument in the airport." Leonard was fully up on his toes but could barely catch a glimpse of Sheldon let alone Penny.
"What do you expect?" Howard replied. "She's had two hundred and forty hours of non-stop commercial free Sheldon. It's a wonder she didn't come home in a straight jacket."
"I sense you are experiencing some type of emotional distress." Sheldon moved Penny out of the path of foot traffic.
"It's just…" Penny twisted her fingers. "What happens now?"
Sheldon blinked. "I don't understand the question." Penny looked at the grungy, tired airport linoleum floor.
"Our vacation is over."
Sheldon stared down at her, a realization dawning in his exceptional mind.
"Penny," He raised a hand to indicate the points he was about to make. "Did we not share a kiss in a fountain?"
"Did we not share a bed and an intimate evening?"
"Sheldon, lower you voice!"
"Did I not tell you I love you?"
Sheldon straightened up. "I am confident you know me well enough to understand that our trip's conclusion has no bearing on my feelings."
Penny reached up and pressed her lips to his.
"What are they doing?" Leonard fumed.
"I can't see. Some guy in a big hat just blocked them." Howard said The crowd cleared and Penny was waving frantically at them.
"Leonard, we'll see you at baggage claim." Sheldon ordered. Obviously, the vacation hadn't changed him.
Penny hugged them all at the luggage carousel and began showing them the pictures stored on her camera. Sheldon stalked the conveyor belt until he was able to pull two pieces of luggage off. They made their way to the car; Penny describing the chocolate tour in great(modified) detail. Sheldon and Raj sat in the back with Penny sandwiched between them since she refused to sit next to Howard. They were nearly home when Leonard realized that Sheldon had come from baggage claim wheeling both his and Penny's suitcases. He had even put them in the trunk of the car unassisted! Leonard reflected while waiting to merge- Penny had been in Sheldon's room the night before they had left Geneva and it had been very late. She had shown them a picture of the two of them smeared with chocolate. Even now, she was talking about falling in a fountain and Sheldon trying on jeans! Leonard glanced in the rearview mirror barely catching a shy glance between the two of them at her mention of Paris. They went to Paris? Leonard tightened his grip on the steering wheel. When they got home, it seemed there was quite a bit that Leonard had to be caught up with.