Amy was alone on the rooftop of her boyfriend's apartment building, peering through the telescope that Raj had set up much earlier in the night in anticipation of the annual Perseids meteor shower.
It was very late now; certainly past midnight. Raj and the others had long since drifted back downstairs, more than likely pairing off and going their separate ways, but Amy remained. She had nowhere else to be, and no one to be with. It had been this way for several months now, and she was only just beginning to get used to it.
Despite her melancholy, Amy couldn't help the smile that spread across her face as she tilted her head back and caught another glimpse of the celestial fireworks lighting up the night sky.
She wondered if right now, somewhere in East Texas, Sheldon was watching too.
As the latest shower of star-stuff winked out on the horizon, a car engine sounded on the street below, and Amy's smile slowly faded as she came back to herself with a sigh.
Perhaps it was time to go home.
From six stories up, Amy saw a yellow cab turn the corner and come to a halt across the street from 2311 Los Robles. After a moment, a lone figure emerged from the back, hoisting a duffel bag over his shoulder. The stranger's slim build was achingly familiar, and Amy looked away quickly, reaching for the light jacket she'd discarded earlier.
As she slipped it back on in preparation to depart, she glanced once more down into the street, just as the man from the cab stepped into the glow of a street lamp. In the few seconds before he disappeared from view, Amy catalogued not only the slim build, but also dark hair and a two toned beige jacket.
She gasped, and leaned far over the ledge, trying to catch another glimpse of him before he disappeared inside the building far below her. It was too late though – his long strides had quickly carried him out of view.
Amy straightened up and stood still for several moments, her heart hammering as she tried to talk herself down.
"It's not him, Amy," she said out loud. "Stop this now. He would have told you if he was ready to come home."
This was certainly not the first time over the long summer that she'd thought she'd spotted Sheldon, only for it to turn out to be a stranger.
Even so, her hands were trembling and her feet were carrying her toward the door, back inside, and then down in the shadows of the empty staircase. The building was silent around her, but as she approached the fourth floor landing, she heard a jingle of keys and then the thump of something hitting the ground.
She swallowed hard as she turned the corner, knowing now but not quite yet believing, and then she was looking at him.
Or rather, she was looking at his back, as he jiggled the doorknob of apartment 4A and gave a sigh of exasperation when his key didn't work.
"He changed the locks," Amy spoke up, her trembling voice seeming very loud in the stillness.
Sheldon sucked in his breath, his hand freezing on the knob, before he slowly turned to face her.
And it was her turn to hold her breath, seeing him up close and personal for the first time in months. His familiar blue eyes were shadowed, as were his cheeks and chin with just a hint of five o'clock shadow.
He looked so much the same, and yet – and yet –
"Why?" he breathed.
It took her a moment to realize what he was asking.
"Penny lost his key," she said.
Sheldon was staring at her in a way that was… brand new. Of course, they'd never been apart this long before, but there was something else about the way he couldn't seem to take his eyes off of her that both unnerved and thrilled her.
He wasn't quite the Sheldon she'd known, she realized, watching him watch her. He was… changed.
"Did you come from Penny's?" he asked quietly, pulling his hand slowly from the doorknob as he took a step toward her.
She shook her head slightly. "From the roof. I was watching the Perseids."
A dozen different emotions seemed to flit across his face in the span of time it took him to come to a halt in front of her.
"I've been at your apartment," he said. "I wanted to surprise you."
She stiffened in surprise. "How long were you...?"
A small smile crossed his tired face. "A couple of hours. Of course you were here; I should have guessed. Raj and his star parties. Is everyone up there?"
Amy shook her head. "Just me. They all left hours ago. I'm sure they're asleep by now."
He nodded slightly, his eyes still roving over her face. There was a hunger in his gaze that she'd seen only once before, right after he'd kissed her on Valentine's Day, only this time it was… amplified. Charged.
From his most recent emails, far and few between as they were, she'd known this was coming.
She just hadn't realized how simultaneously thrilling and terrifying and wonderful it would be to experience it in the flesh.
Amy, he'd written to her just a week ago, in an interesting paradox, the longer I remain in my childhood home, the less like a child I feel. It's so easy to regress (although some have suggested I never had very far backward to go in that regard, and by "some" I mean my exasperating sister Missy) when in the presence of one's exceedingly nurturing mother; and while I did briefly fall victim to this during the first weeks of my stay here, empirical evidence now suggests that this brief regression prompted something of a latent adolescence and an accelerating desire to rejoin my old life. My mother, of course, has been up to all of her old tricks, reverse psychology among them, but rather than fall for them outright as in the past, or inversely, call her out on her hackneyed approach, I seem to have adopted a kind of weary affectation of her effectiveness, if you'll excuse the alliteration.
Playing out my role in this household, I become increasingly aware of just how much I am indeed "playing."
Amy, during my months of self-imposed exile here in the seventh circle of hell that is small town Texas in summer, I have come to several significant realizations. Although I have no intention of enumerating these realizations to you here in this highly impersonal medium, I do feel inclined to let you know that you factor largely into them all.
And I will admit to missing you, Amy Farrah Fowler. And to thinking about you entirely too much. I will refer you back to the aforementioned "latent adolescence" and allow you to draw your own conclusions from there.
Amy had indeed drawn her own conclusions. She suspected now, watching as her boyfriend edged close enough to her that the toes of his shoes bumped into hers, that her conclusions had been spot-on.