Ch 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."