Penny still couldn't understand how she got here. That Leonard had left her out to dry was a given...
"Penny, the sign says our connection is late."
But what in the hell made her agree to this crazy scheme?
"We'll have to wait nearly two hours."
Why couldn't Sheldon make the trip to Texas on his own?
"I can't sit in a train station waiting room for two hours, the echo from the vaulted ceilings will give me a headache."
Penny looked at the man next to her, "So we'll go to the coffee shop."
"What!" Sheldon took a step back in, what Penny guessed to be, horror. "We can't do that! To spend that much time in a coffee shop you'd have to order something. Like coffee." His eyes widen, "You do remember what happened the last time I had coffee."
Penny sighed, "Yes, Sheldon, I remember."
"There's no way I could greet my mother on some kind of caffeine high. She'd never let me go back to Pasadena, and if I don't go back to Pasadena, then I will have lost years of work, and if I lose years of work, then I may never win the Noble, and if I don't win the Noble, then the world will be a dark and horrible place for mankind, having to live without whatever astonishing discovery I would have made."
Penny waited for Sheldon to breath, "So order tea."
Sheldon stood with his mouth open for a second, whatever words he had been about to say dying on his lips, "I hadn't thought of that."
The coffee shop hadn't been updated in several decades. The brown and cream color scheme just cried out, "Disco is king!".
But she could smell disinfectant, so there was one freak out avoided. She waited while Sheldon inspected the whole room for the best seat. Luckily the place was empty so there was no one to question what he was doing, or, heaven forbid, sitting in the "Sheldon Approved" booth.
As Penny was sliding into her seat, the waitress brought their menus and rattled off the days specials.
"I'll have a hamburger, no mustard, with fries and a chocolate shake," Penny said, "And he'll have an herbal tea."
The waitress walked off to the kitchen and, while Sheldon dug in his backpack for an extra set of silverware, Penny returned to pondering how she got here.
It had started the day Sheldon got an invitation to a family reunion. He had left it on the desk while he opened the rest of his mail and Penny had spotted it.
"Wow, a Cooper family reunion. Are you going?"
Sheldon gave her one of his "why must I deal with lesser minds" looks as he replied the he had no desire to sit in Uncle Bobby's backyard, eating warm potato salad while having to listen to Great Aunt Edna talk about the time she had been a USO dancer, "I don't care how important moral was during World War Two, I've heard that story far too many times already, and do you know how easily eggs go bad in the heat? I'll probably end up with food poisoning."
But then Mrs. Cooper called Leonard, hoping he might be able to talk Sheldon into coming – Leonard told her to ask Penny. Penny said that she would try, and somewhere in the debate with Sheldon she had offered to come with him.
At lest, that's what Sheldon claimed. Penny never could tell with all the circles he talked around her.
"Is your hamburger satisfactory?" Sheldon asked and Penny felt a small surge of pride that he didn't even have a put upon tone in his voice.
"It's very nice, thank you for asking."
They had been practicing small talk on the train because Penny insisted that Sheldon try not piss anyone off. Inquiring as to the enjoyment of food was deemed a safe topic of conversation – or in Penny's words, "Why don't you stick to talking about the weather or how they like the food. And when they ask about what you do, you say no more then a paragraph." That had bought her time to nap while Sheldon drafted his "sound bite".
Silence fell as Penny ate her 'burger and Sheldon sipped his tea, and Penny was fine with that. After knowing Sheldon for so long she had gotten used to it, and it was nice to take full bites and not worry that you would be asked a question when you were stuck with a mouthful of food. Food always took longer to chew when someone was waiting for an answer.
Suddenly Penny's attention shifted away from her food and onto Sheldon. When had he rolled up his sleeves?
Sheldon was looking at the clock as he held his tea in his left hand. Eyes never leaving the clock, he brought the mug to his lips and the slight shift of tendons in his forearms nearly sent Penny's eyes popping out of her head.
Gathering all three straws into her mouth, Penny took a large sip of her shake. It was going to be a long trip.