There is no way to explain attraction. There is no way to understand the spark that ignites between two people, whether it is instantaneous or whether it has to smolder before it ignites, immolating and charring all around them in the subsequent blaze.

Sometimes, it doesn't matter who gets burned, either.

For once, she wasn't drinking.

For once, Leonard and Amy were working.

For once, he gave over to his feelings instead of pushing them away, after years and years of denial and shame and fear.

He was home alone for the first night in a month. Leonard was working the midnight shift in the laser lab; it wasn't the first time in his career and it would surely not be the last. Penny was working the evening shift at The Cheesecake Factory; Amy was at her lab doing night studies on starfish that were force-fed cocaine. Bernadette and Howard were actually on their delayed honeymoon, and since Raj actually was an astrophysicist, he was doing his actual job and looking at stars like he was supposed to.

Sheldon was at a loss for entertainment.

He tried to get engrossed in a movie and found it puerile and juvenile and he was unable to lose himself in it. He browsed through a comic book or two, then packed them away again, bored with them, realizing that was totally out of character for him. He wandered around his apartment, looking for something to grab his interest and finding nothing. He couldn't find anything to clean, he was so bored.

He threw himself down in his spot, picked up the remote control, and turned on the television, flipping through the channels, not really watching but keeping himself entertained for the moments that ticked by until it was time for bed.

He could almost feel her. There was a tension, a palpable thread of electricity that preceded her when she entered the building; it built as she started the long climb to their floor, every step pulling his nerves taut with anticipation of actually seeing her. They always brought out the best in one another. After six years of friendship, they knew one another's buttons, both good and bad, and if anyone could get him out of this deep blue funk, she could.

He heard her door open and close quietly and waited patiently for her knock. It never came. Thirty minutes later, he texted her.

I ordered you your usual dumplings and Crab Rangoon for dinner. Will you be joining me for a movie?

Sheldon, I'm really tired tonight.

Penny, I've been at odds with myself all evening. Please come keep me company, even for a little while?

All right. Give me a minute.

Sheldon smiled, innately pleased with himself. She knew that he despised netspeak and only used it when absolutely necessary, so she desisted from it herself when texting with him. Another instance when their influence on one another had positively changed each other's lives.

He'd been cataloging their changes for weeks now. Since Leonard had announced his impending trip to the south of France, he had been thinking of Penny more and more. While their closeness had waned slightly since his relationship with Amy, he still considered her his best friend. Leonard had permanently abdicated his place as best friend and Howard and Raj could not meet the necessary qualifications for the position—Howard due to his lack of a doctorate (although, really, Howard could barely manage with a doctorate—the man just was not Sheldon Cooper best friend material) and Raj because he could not speak to women (and the mental deficiency that implied was just not acceptable in his friendship).

No, Penny was the only person that could be his best friend and that was all there was to it.

He moved to the kitchen and heated her meal for her, expecting her to pop in any second.

His impeccable timing served him well. The microwave beeped completion as the door opened and Penny walked in, dressed in one of her form-hugging, attractive tops that highlighted the gold of her hair and made her green eyes shine. She was wearing her pajama pants and a pair of fuzzy slippers.

She shuffled over to the kitchen and he handed her the plate, three napkins, and a bottled water. Her face looked tired, dark circles ringing her eyes and deep brackets of exhaustion around her mouth. "Thanks, Sheldon."

"Penny, you look tired."

She frowned, chewing and swallowing before she spoke. "Well, honey, I told you that I was before I came over. It's okay, though. I miss seeing you."

"I miss your presence as well, Penny. It seems like we never are around one another any longer since our significant others have seen to it that our time is monopolized by other things."

"I know. Are they afraid of our friendship?"

"I do not know, Penny. I wonder that myself."

"So what's on the movie menu tonight, honey? Star Trek reboot?"

"You really do have a thing for Quinto's Spock, don't you? It's unhealthy, Penny. Unhealthy."

"Hey, he's cute. And I really like the way they get him and Uhura together. I always thought that Spock needed a girlfriend."

"Spock is a man of logic, not a man of passion. He does not need a girlfriend."

"Everyone needs love, even you, Sheldon. Even you."

"Penny, I am a man of science. I do not find myself in need of love."

"Then why don't you break up with Amy? All you use her for is an ego boost. You don't sleep with her, you're not sexually attracted to her, and you don't love her. If you did, that would be a horse of a different color." She took another bite and swallowed heavily before continuing. "It's not like me and Leonard."

"Yes, because you two are soul mates. You have so much in common."

"Oh, sarcasm. Burn, Sheldon." He may not recognize it, but he was a master at the effective use of sarcasm. In fact, he probably had a doctorate in sarcasm as well as the other two things, whatever they were, she thought.

"Give me something that you share besides sex. Please, enlighten me." He really didn't want to know, but he wanted to make her think. Force her to concentrate on the important parts of the relationship, the meat and not the gravy.

"Well, we—I—it doesn't matter. I love Leonard—"

"Like a friend. The same way that I love Amy."

She hung her head, her hair swinging forward to hide her face from him. "You're right."

"Pardon me?"

"Well, I don't know how I can put that in simpler terms, Sheldon," she said, throwing his own words to her (from multiple occasions) back in his face, "but I said that you're right. I don't love Leonard, I love him like a friend—a friend with benefits."

"I remember when you taught me what that meant." Light years ago. Even though that was a misuse of the term, in this case it applied. In oh-so-many ways.

"Me too." She sat her food down on the coffee table in front of her on a woven placemat left over from his days at the loom. She had assisted him in packaging it up when he sold it on eBay last week after holding onto it for years, vowing to perfect his weaving skills (one can never have too many skills to fall back on in this precarious economy, Penny).

She stared at him for a long time, her eyes roaming from his face to the awkward placement of his arms and legs. He knew that whatever she was about to say was going to change everything, but still he waited; she had never harmed him intentionally, not as other people had. Her injuries had always been out of ignorance of his needs or quirks or neuroses, not purposeful or out of malice.

She finally slapped her hands on her legs and drew a deep breath. "I read something today. It applies to me. I don't know if it applies to you or not."

"Go on."

"Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing, and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses."

His breath caught in his throat and he couldn't speak. His blue eyes started to water and he stood quickly and walked to the window that overlooked Los Robles, opened it, and listened to the small amount of traffic that still passed on the avenue below. He blinked rapidly, waiting for the tears to absorb and wincing when one escaped. Surreptitiously, he wiped it away. When he finally thought that he had composed himself enough to speak, he said, "Penny, could you repeat that?"

"Sure, honey. Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing, and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. It made me…it made me think of us."

He heard her moving closer until he could feel her body heat behind him, radiating against his back. She wasn't touching him, just standing behind him. Her voice was so quiet when she spoke that he could barely hear her, even with his supersonic hearing. "It made me think of us and not me and Leonard or you and Amy because…well, because."

He knew that his voice was shaking, but he didn't seem to care. Couldn't care. He should have known that the truth would out, it always did. "Because…." He prompted.

"Because I love you, Sheldon. I love you the way that I should love Leonard, but I can't. I can't love Leonard that way because that's the way that I love you and I have for a long, long time."

She rested her forehead against his back and he was prevented from turning. Maybe that was better. She could talk to his back; that look from his eyes, those piercing blue eyes that could look into her soul, weigh and measure it, find it wanting—it struck her dumb and she always felt dumb around him anyway.

"We've always been the best of friends, you and me. You keep me on an even keel; keep me from destroying myself with alcohol and work. You build me up and that's something that Leonard was never good at. He likes to tear me down to build his own ego. Goddamn me for a fool, I let him do it, too. He wants me to be a dumb blonde piece of eye candy and a waitress slash actress. He still doesn't know that I'm in school, do you know that? He thinks that I'm in auditions all day. Never even looks around the apartment and sees the schoolbooks all over, just heads to the bedroom for a little something something, you know? Which he isn't getting, I'll have you know."

She stepped away and walked over to put her dinner back in the carry out container, closing it tightly before storing it in the refrigerator. Sheldon moved back to the couch, careful not to look at her too closely or let her notice him watching her, otherwise she would close off again and he wouldn't hear the rest of her confessions. He was quite used to Penny's soliloquys by now.

She wandered around the apartment as she talked. "Yeah, he doesn't even realize that we haven't actually had sex in two months. Between my periods, I'm tired, or a hand job, I've not let him near me since that last time he pulled that shit with Priya in New York. If I hadn't showed up when I did, I would have never known."

Sheldon knew of the incident to which she referred. He had lent her the money to fly to New York to meet up with Leonard for a surprise. She was surprised, all right, when he brought Priya back to his hotel room for a nightcap and found Penny in his bed in a negligee. Priya left, they had fought, and Penny left on the redeye from JFK that night. Leonard was miserable the next day at the conference, but it was his own fault. He somehow talked his way out of it and Penny took him back and forgave him, but Sheldon knew that it wasn't completely forgiven. He was the one who took the taxi to the airport to get her and held her in the backseat all the way home, allowing her to cry and drip snot all over his Green Lantern tee shirt. Yes, he remembered.


He had been lost in his own memories, memories of Penny and the amount of times that they had freely held, touched, embraced, been close to one another, not realizing that she stood before him. He shook himself out of the past and saw her pajama bottoms with their little Flash circlets (and how did he miss that?), following her long legs up to look at her face high above his.


"I love you, Sheldon." Her eyes, her gentle eyes were trained on his face, looking for something. An answer, a confession of his own. He was more than willing to provide it.

"I love you, Penny."

She eyed him warily, as if she was about to bolt. "What kind, though, Sheldon? The love of a friend? Or something more?"

He motioned for her to sit and she took her spot on the couch, crossed her legs beneath her, and faced him, waiting for him to speak.

He took a breath, started to open his mouth, closed it, and repeated the action twice. Finally, when she was about to get explosive, he decided to jump right in. "Penny, you and I have always had a special relationship, from the outset. From the first time we saw one another, we were drawn to each other, correct?" She thought back to the day they met and nodded and he continued. "That phrase that you quoted—it could describe us to the nth degree. We forgive each other's foibles, we adapt to one another's quirks, and we have shared so much between us. We make allowances; we have learned one another in so many ways. Yes, if I had to quantify the situation in words, I do love you Penny. I cannot put an exact time on it because it seems that it has been a part of me for so long that it is woven into my DNA, much as my blue eyes or my brown hair."

"There will be backlash…"

"Does it really matter, at this point? Could you really be happy in this situation, knowing that Leonard cannot be monogamous? You know that fidelity is not possible for him, Penny. He requires constant gratification for him to thrive. He is driven by his id and ignores the ego and superego. His mother and I have discussed it at length. She believes that if your relationship continues, he will cheat on you just as his father cheated on her until he finally leaves you, just as his father left her. Only instead of choosing a waitress, which was a stab at her intellect, he will choose an academic as a stab at yours."

She clutched her stomach and rocked herself and it upset him that he upset her. "Really? You and Beverly have discussed it?"

He put his arm around her and pulled her into his lap, positioning her without straining himself much as he would have a child. "Oh, sweetheart, we have. Many times over the last six years, since before the 'beta test'. She's tried more than once to talk him into letting you go. So have I, in my way. Every time, he clings to you more stubbornly than an infant with a blanket. He sees you as a possession to grab onto, a dream that he has had since he was a teenager being rejected by the prom queen. You were his prom queen, his Barbie doll come to life, and once he got his hands on you, he wasn't going to turn you loose until he squeezed all the life out of you."

She could see it, the future that he was projecting down the line. Leonard, older and chubbier than he was now, packing his bags; her, with a few more pounds from too much wine and fried foods and not nearly enough exercise, with duller blond hair and wrinkles that were accentuating the unhappiness that filled her eyes and bracketed her mouth, holding his coat and begging him to stay, don't leave. It wasn't pretty. None of it.

She wasn't afraid of being alone. She was more afraid of being unloved.

She buried her face in Sheldon's chest and sobbed.

"Oh, my God, Sheldon, I can't bear this life anymore."

"And we don't have to, either one of us. We know what lays in store for us if we do. The advantage that I have is my relationship with Amy has never moved beyond the pseudo-emotional. She believes that I care for her in the same manner that she cares for me. A patent untruth, but I have never disabused her of the notion. She is still a girl who is my friend, but not a true girlfriend. If anything, you always fit that descriptive."

She raised her head and looked into his eyes. "Really?"

He cupped her chin with his hand. "Really, sweetheart. You always took care of me, whether I was sick, sad, stranded, upset, locked out. You are the best thing that ever walked into my life. You forced me to grow up in your own way. You made me think about what it was to be human. To be a person. To be a man. I always thought of you first when it came to my friends, not Leonard or Howard or Raj. Amy never figured into any of that. She was…a bookmark. A placeholder."


"Something to occupy my time until the right one was free."

"What about Amy's five-year plan?"

He frowned. "What five-year plan?"

She explained. He grew tense under her, quite affronted by his girl slash friend's deceptive ruses and questionable practices in attaining his affections and her plans to entangle him in a romantic paradigm. That her machinations were to culminate in coitus and matrimony—well, the thought was enough to sicken him. He was almost jubilant that the relationship would be terminated soon, in the morning if he were able to manage it.

There was a pregnant pause and time seemed to stand still for them. The only sound in the room was the ticking of his watch and even it seemed abnormally loud in the silence between them. A horn honked out on the avenue, broke the quiet, and startled them both. They jumped, collided, his nose bumped her forehead, and he rubbed it. "Ow."

"Oh, you poor baby." She pressed her lips to the tip of his nose. "All better?"

"I do not understand how a buss will make a painful bump all better. Meemaw used to do that too and ask the same question and I did not understand it then either. How would that make it better?"

She caressed his jaw with her hand and smiled into his dear face. "Sheldon, a kiss makes it better because of the love it carries behind it. Meemaw used to kiss your owies?"

"So if I tell you something hurts then you will kiss it better?"

"Any place, any time."

"Then Penny, my lips hurt."

She gave him a smile and pulled his mouth down to meet her own.

She barely brushed her mouth against his lips, letting them hover.

"Sheldon, are you absolutely certain? Because I'm not going to let you run away after this. I'm not a cheater. I never have been. Once my mouth touches you, we've passed the point of no return and I'm yours, now, forever, and always."

"Penny, that's all that I've ever wanted. Now, kiss me woman, before I burn alive."

"I was hoping that you'd say that."

She flexed her arm just a little (it was the one that she dislocated, the one that really started it all, didn't it?) and pulled him a little closer and took his bottom lip in hers and it was hot—hotter than hot. The flames licked at them both as their temperatures rose together; desire fought with good sense and desire won out as one kiss turned into many and tongues became involved in the war of passion.

She turned, more to get a better grip on him and find a better angle and ended up straddling his lap, her body pressing closer to him because of his impossibly long legs and their odd angle when he sat on the couch. Her chest was pressed tightly against his and his face was closer, so much closer and she took advantage of it, kissing every inch of it she could reach—his ears, his jaw, his throat. She found a tiny mole on his neck and kissed it and all the skin around it, then the bulge of his Adams apple and the dimple of his cheek. He had a slight stubble that rasped her cheek and lips but she didn't mind; it almost felt erotic against the smooth skin of her lips. She wanted to memorize him from head to toe; she wanted to learn his body, his reactions, his skin, just as she had learned his schedules.

Her hands were acting on their own, pulling and tugging at his shirts and her fingers mapping his ribs and chest. It wasn't the first time she had touched him there, but he felt so different without the barrier of vapor-rub; his skin was soft, smooth, but in a class all its own. He was slender, but there was underlying muscle to him, deceptively masked by his size. She could feel it, though, under the skin, flexing under her fingers as they walked across a six-pack that shouldn't exist and cuts that were hidden by layers of clothing.

She could feel his hands caressing her back under her tank top, his fingers tapping out a complex pattern on her vertebrae. She could feel other parts of him too, between her thighs, parts that she had never thought to feel or imagined that she would have the chance to feel. It made something draw tight within her and she pressed against him harder as she brought her mouth back to his, pushing her tongue into his mouth to taste him again.

The flickering flames of desire were burning hot as they moved to his room. He threw the blankets off the bed and onto the floor; Penny crawled to the center of the bed and pulled him with her, her hands too busy pulling at his shirts and pants to pay attention to anything but him as he followed her, his mouth as engaged with her as his brain. The only thing that he could think of at this moment was Penny, Penny as he touched her, worshiped her as he had always wanted and always denied himself the right to do.

It was her; it had always been her, from the moment that he had raised his eyes, standing in the hallway outside her door, so close to the haven of his own apartment yet so far from safety and home. His mind helpfully supplied mental pictures, snapshots of her that he had treasured throughout the years. They were memories that he had taken out and relived, much as a grandmother flipped through a picture book to see her grandchildren, every one precious in its own right, but none as precious as this one right now that he was adding frame by excruciating frame. Click—her head on his pillow, her hair fanned golden around her face, her gorgeous eyes gazing up at him with such love and desire it stole his breath from his lungs. Click—her face, closer now, her lips parted and her voice, that sweet voice calling him, beckoning him to her, whispering for him to touch her, kiss her, be with her. Click—the sight of her so close, just before his eyes shutter closed as they kiss again, her mouth an inferno of passion for him, for him….

He sighed into her mouth, melted against her skin, touched her body, and knew for the first time since he attained conscious thought that there was a God. Only God could create the wonder that was a Woman.

He stripped her shirt off her and took in the beautiful breasts that adorned her chest. With shaking hands, he cupped them, awed at the softness of her skin. His thumbs touched her nipples and she moaned, arched her back toward him, urging him to do more.

He had little experience, but he might as well have been a virgin for all the new sensations he was feeling. It was as if he had never touched another person; her skin was soft and silky under his hands, her body responsive and her moans and sighs urging him to explore and take her further, harder, faster, higher. Her hands touched him everywhere, pulling at his pants and tugging on his hair when his lips found her nipple, pinching his earlobe and pulling his head tighter against her when he did something that she liked a lot.

He felt her toe dragging his khakis down his thighs and he lifted his knees off the bed to help her get them off. It was a little chilly in the room in only his tighty-whities, but he could stand the chill; he had her heat to keep him warm.

Her skin was marking him, searing her imprint on his soul. After tonight, there would never be another for him and he was almost certain it would be the same for her. Every touch, every whisper was another stroke on his heart, scorching his flesh with need that he had never found the desire to give in to before.

Give in he did; he allowed her to take control and prostrated himself before her, assisting her when she took his last garment from him and resisted the impulse to hide himself behind his hands. She looked down on him and gave him a gentle smile before cupping his erection in her hand.

"Sheldon, you're beautiful," she said softly, and though he had proclaimed himself aesthetically pleasing before, he believed it for the first time as the truth.

Her hand encircled him and stroked him gently, although he was already fully erect and glistening with his own excitement. "Sweetheart, you do know that I won't last very long."

"You know, I was wondering about that whole sweetheart thing. You're not one for pet names, but you've called me that all night. Why?"

He could feel his face flushing, adding to the heat of the moment. "It's a pet name I heard growing up. I'll tell you later. It would—ruin the moment."

"One word, then."

"Penny—all right, Meemaw."

She nodded. "Enough said." Even though she knew that he was nearly a virgin, even though he had told her, she bent over and licked the bottom of his penis, from base to tip. His eyes rolled back in his head and his hips jerked off the bed, bowing his back.

"You are the devil."

"And you have no experience with this, where I have too much. And if you will trust me and let me do what I do best, you will get off, get hard again, and last long enough for me to get off before you do the second time."

"We're gonna do it twice?" he said, his eyes growing wide.

Her hand gripped tighter and she fell over laughing because his Texas twang came roaring out of him as his voice went up not one, but two octaves. He looked affronted for all of three seconds before he started laughing himself, a full belly laugh that startled her into laughing again.

She threw her hair to one side and leaned up to kiss his still-smiling mouth. "Oh, Shelly, that's why I love you so damn much. You're such a quick learner."

"Well, don't you think you better get to teachin' me then?" He figured out she liked Texas so she was going to get Texas. Anything for Penny, but Texas only in bed, he decided.

She kissed his mouth, his navel, then the tip of his cock and he was lost to the maddening chaos that was Penny. Her mouth was hot enough to blister him, her tongue scalding him as it flowed over and around and down, exciting nerves he never realized he possessed. He had never needed them before. They were extraneous until they were found by the right operator, useless until they were manipulated in the correct manner by the sole person who knew exactly how they worked.

Penny knew. Oh, did Penny know. His hands reached for her, found the silken strands of her hair over her shoulders. They slipped through his fingers but they still grounded him enough to keep him earthbound. At least, until his orgasm moments later when the universe spun out of control and the world centered on Penny and what she was doing to him.

She raised her head, but kept him firmly wrapped in her hand. She kissed his chest, up his neck, and rested her head on his shoulder. "Did you enjoy that, honey?"

"Oh, Penny, that was amazing. But, I knew that I would not last very long and I—well, now I am unable to—what about you?"

She looked up at him with a gentle smile. "Oh, don't worry, honey. We'll get there. We've got all night."

Morning came and Leonard met Amy in the lobby. "What are you doing here?"

"I got a text from Sheldon around four this morning asking me to meet him at the apartment."

"Huh. Penny texted me around four thirty. I wonder what's going on."

They climbed the stairs in silence and turned their separate ways, going to the respective apartments where their significant others were waiting. Within fifteen minutes, there were yelling noises from both apartments, slamming doors, recriminations, accusations. Amy tore up her copy of the Relationship Agreement, cut up her pocket size laminated wallet copy, and threw her tiara at Sheldon before running across the room and snatching it from the floor where it landed. She looked up at him and screamed, "It was a gift, you heartless bastard," shoved the tiara back into the velvet bag in her purse next to the coffee can of change, gathered the remnants of her dignity and exited 4A, slamming the door behind her.

She paused outside 4B, heard the ruckus behind the door, and thought that she would call Penny later.

Behind the door of 4B, Leonard was red-faced with a vein throbbing in his forehead. "So you're dumping me after all we've been through."

"Yeah. And for the record, I don't have anything else to say about it."

He took a deep breath and looked around, getting ready to start yelling and she turned to face him.

She didn't even look like Penny anymore. Not his Penny. Not the girl he knew. This was different Penny, one that had been through the fire, through the purifying immolation of a crucible. It had burned away all the dross and left only the untainted, wholesome, unsullied person that she always was supposed to be. It took all the fight out of him.

"I would like it if you left now. Goodbye, Leonard."

His shoulders sagged and he turned and quietly left.

When he walked across the hall, Sheldon was waiting for him. Within a few minutes, he lost his girlfriend and his roommate.

Six months later.

Sheldon had taken a sabbatical from CalTech. Of course, everyone was jealous. Leonard most of all. He had tried to finagle the chance to go as well, but somehow there was an inquiry into the Arctic expedition and he, Howard, and Raj were under academic investigation and all their work was being audited for discrepancies and anomalies over the years before and since. He didn't think that Sheldon was involved, but then again, who could tell?

Since Howard's career was in question, he and Bernadette were having problems as well. Bernadette was keeping him on such a short leash that he wasn't hanging around much anymore and he didn't have the money for trips to the comic book store or paintball or, come to think of it, much of anything. In fact, he was more of a househusband than anything else. It was somewhat funny to see him in an apron, running a vacuum cleaner. At least, Raj and Leonard got a kick out of it. Howard didn't like it much.

Raj's visa was under advisement, too. If the inquiry showed anything questionable, deportation could become a reality, and then what was he to do? Sheldon had left a glowing letter in his file, but that could only do so much—he hoped for a miracle. He prayed to Krishna for intervention. Cow was the only thing that could help him now.

Penny disappeared in the middle of the night. One day when they were getting together (one of the last times for Halo night), they saw moving men emptying her apartment. The movers didn't know a thing; they had a forwarding address of Nebraska and that was about all they knew. Leonard went to bed, depressed and despondent, mourning the loss of the perfect woman that he could have had beautiful and intelligent children with, had he held on a little bit longer. Amy tried to contact her repeatedly, but she never received a call, Skype, or email.

Geneva was beautiful. Penny always did like the snow and French wasn't that hard to learn with taped programs. Sheldon helped her too; he wouldn't let her do anything unless she spoke French, but turnabout was fair play. They both learned the language fairly quick. She busied herself with culture and correspondence courses, trying to get some type of education under her belt before they headed back to the States; she was only a few credits shy of a Bachelor's degree by the time they left for CERN.

She still didn't know what she would concentrate on yet. Sheldon was pushing her toward the sciences like she knew he would, but she was leaning toward the softer side, probably literature (and she knew he would scoff at that). She found that she liked school. She wasn't as stupid as she thought she was, just smart in a different way.

She was always home in their apartment when the hired car delivered him at four-fifteen, their nightly meal ready and waiting. Afterward, they curled up on either end of the humongous couch and worked for exactly one hour, their feet tangling in the center under the huge afghan that Penny found in a shop right before they left Pasadena. When they were done with their work, they had their schedule.

On Monday, they played scrabble.

On Tuesday, they watched Star Trek on Blu-Ray, but only Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space 9, the Movies, or Reboot. Never Enterprise or Voyager. Neither one liked them.

On Wednesday, it was New Comic Book Day. There was one comic book store in Geneva and they would go there for one hour, pick up their American comic books and order more, peruse the European comic books, and then head home. Once home, they read their comic books, frequently sharing. Penny became as avid a comic book collector as Sheldon, but more European comic books as American.

On Thursday, they played Age of Conan.

On Friday, they played Halo, because they knew that the guys in Pasadena would be out in the bars on Friday and not playing Halo.

On the weekends, they stayed in bed, making love the entire weekend with short breaks for food, water, and showers, which Sheldon claimed were non-optional.

Life was good. Together, life was better.