All Aboard (The Shining Time Remix)

All Aboard (The Shining Time Remix)
by templemarker

Notes: Remix of All Aboard by NEStar for Remix…Redux 8: Magic Eight Ball.

***

It pained Sheldon to return to Texas when he was at such a vital point in his research, but such was the requirements of being a son.

“Shelly,” his mother had said in her broad drawl over the phone, “your grandmomma knit you socks, and she wants to give them to you herself, and your Uncle Bobby–”

Really, it was to be expected that he had tuned her out. He had already discarded the invitation he received in the mail, and a large portion of his mind was devoted to unraveling the implications of dimensionality to nodal space as it related to end-state equivalencies of matter. Surely his mother understood that was more important than overcooked chicken and undercooked baked beans consumed in the general unpleasantness of a Texan summer?

It seemed he was mistaken, however, as he found himself sitting in his spot on the couch, watching Tony Stark apply perceptive innovation to raw materials, when Penny sat next to him and drew his attention. He noted, for the first time, that she bore some resemblance to the resourceful Pepper Potts, and wondered if she would wish to hear the compliment.

“Sheldon,” Penny said, leaning into him slightly in a manner that had somehow grown less invasive the more she did it, despite his reservations, “your mother called me yesterday.”

“Oh?” he asked. “Did you speak of recipes or some other commonality of interests between you? My mother has done some fascinating things with hamburger meat in the course of my lifetime.”

Sheldon did not understand the look Penny gave him; she took a deep breath and carried on. “No,” she said. “Your mom wants you to go back to Texas next month. She said you hadn’t seen your family in over two years.”

“Well, that’s simply not true,” Sheldon protested. “I have seen my mother numerous times in that period, and had the unfortunate experience of encountering my sister.”

Penny closed her eyes; it appeared as if she were meditating, though why she would interrupt a conversation to attend to her own mental needs was beyond him. It seemed rather rude.

“That’s the purpose of a family reunion, Sheldon,” she said, crossing her legs; her flip-flop seemed perilously close to falling off her toes, but somehow continued to dangle. “You sit around with people you don’t really like, eat food outside, and drink a lot of beer to get through it all.”

“That seems like a pointless exercise,” Sheldon observed, folding his hands and resting them on his knees. “Should I wish to contact any of my relatives–which I can assure you I don’t–I would utilize the forms of communication already in place, such as the telephone or my mother’s so-called ‘grapevine.’”

Penny’s hand came to rest on Sheldon’s arm. He stared at it a moment, but determined that the intrusion was not nearly as upsetting as it might have been, and so allowed it to stay. “Sweetie,” Penny said, slowing her tone, “in Nebraska, it doesn’t matter whether you want to go or not. Family’s family, and you have to be there. I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing in Texas.”

“Do you have some experience in these types of events?” Sheldon asked. “I haven’t been made to go to such a trial since I was a child.”

“Yeah, that’s when I go home over the summer,” Penny said. “For the big reunion. My mom always makes potato salad.”

“Oh, excellent, then you can help me prepare something appropriate. I’m sure my mother will appreciate your expertise. I’ll go book the tickets now.”

“What–wait–what?” Penny asked, but Sheldon was already on Kayak.com.

And so they found themselves awaiting secondary transportation to Sheldon’s small East Texan town, consuming items of middling quality in the nearby diner establishment. Though Sheldon had never eaten here before, he found the familiar smell of industrial disinfectant comforting.

The air conditioning in the building was poor, and Sheldon had serious concerns about the effectiveness of the filter within the ventilation system. He rolled up his sleeves as Penny ordered for them both; how nice that she could anticipate his requirements. She was clearly paying great attention to his preferences, obviously a sign of their growing friendship. It was strangely gratifying.

He let his peppermint tea steep for exactly two minutes and thirty-five seconds, and carefully placed an ice cube from his water glass into the mug to cool the tea slightly. He took a sip, and when he looked up, Penny was staring at him as she sipped her chocolate milkshake–a clear indulgence, but understandable given the oppressive heat. Sheldon much preferred California’s climate.

“I believe we have thirty-two minutes before we can depart,” Sheldon said, for lack of other things to say.

“Okay,” Penny said. “I’m looking forward to seeing your mom again.”

“While I appreciate your kind lie, I would imagine that your own irreligiousness–faux spirituality aside–will find spending the weekend with several dozen devoted evangelical Christians to be challenging.” Sheldon paused, tightening his fingers around his mug. “But. Thank you for coming with me, Penny.” He took a sip of his tea; it was not particularly good, but acceptable given the circumstances. “I think I would have enjoyed this far less if you hadn’t come.”

Penny’s face transformed into a brilliant smile, and she reached across the table and took his hand. Again, it was less unpleasant than it might have been; Penny’s apparent need for repeated physical contact had taken a great deal of getting used to, but proved tolerable after continual exposure.

“You’re welcome, Sheldon,” she said, popping a fry into her mouth. “Sometimes that’s what being a friend means, coming along for the less fun parts of the ride.”

“I hope you find this experience to be acceptable,” Sheldon said, looking back at the clock and noting the time. “If nothing else, my Aunt Colleen does make a nice seven-layer dip.”

“And I am totally going to make my mom’s potato salad,” Penny said, swirling the remnants of her milkshake with her straw. “It’ll be like a little bit of my family made it to yours.”

“Very well. Let’s go stand in line; I prefer a seat next to a window, but with enough leg room to properly extend my legs, and I don’t want to miss the first opportunity to be seated.” Sheldon put some money on the table and grabbed their things. Penny had one last fry, and they headed out towards the dreaded family reunion together. Oddly, Sheldon wasn’t dreading it nearly as much.

 

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