Sheldon was sitting in the living room with Leonard. They were both on the couch, and Sheldon was, as usual, in his special spot. However, it just didn't seem so special any more. There was something wrong. Something off. It wasn't the usual sort of problem that he encountered, and he wasn't certain how to approach the topic. Leonard was reading something for work, and he flipped a page, attention focused on the task at hand. Sheldon had no idea what Leonard was doing. It wasn't a title that he could easily understand and the author was unfamiliar to him. Looking around out of a nonsensical sense of paranoia, Sheldon finally settled on confronting Leonard about his problem.
"Hey, Leonard." Sheldon scratched the back of his neck. "I have a question for you."
Leonard was deep in thought and didn't seem to hear him. Whatever he was working on must have been pretty important.
"Leonard!" Sheldon tried again.
Leonard finally looked up from his book. "What is it, Sheldon?"
Sheldon wasn't sure how to begin. He shifted nervously in his seat. "I have a question."
"What kind of question?" Asked Leonard, almost a little impatiently. He seemed to be in a hurry to get back to his book.
But Sheldon was quiet. He normally always knew what to say, or at least he felt that way. He always felt over confident and like he could approach any problem. This was different. This was personal. This caused him such great distress that there seemed to be no way to simply dismiss it.
"I want to talk to you about Amy." He said finally.
"What about Amy?" Asked Leonard, curiously.
"What was it like when you and Penny got together?" Ventured Sheldon.
"You know..." Started Leonard, uncomfortably. "It was... It was new and exciting and I felt really privileged to be with such a pretty woman. I felt like... Well... I felt like the world had opened up." Leonard gave Sheldon a strange look. "I know you care for her, but... what exactly are you asking me, Sheldon? Are you wanting relationship advice? Because I don't really know what to tell you. It's not that I couldn't help Howard, if he really wanted it," He scoffed. "it's just... you never really seem to want my advice. And you don't make it easy on Amy either. You don't really talk to her about your feelings."
"Okay, that's enough." Sheldon sliced his hand through the air in a gesture to be quiet, then, "Wait, no, that's okay. You can talk. I just don't like... the 'feeling' word."
Leonard marked his book and placed it on the coffee table. "Sheldon... It really doesn't matter. In fact, Amy would love it if you'd actually just... say something nice to her for once. She'd really like the simplest of compliments really. Anything. Just tell her that she's... you know... beautiful. Tell her you love her even."
"Wait." He sliced his hand through the air again. "I can't do that. I can't use that... that word."
"When are you going to be more open with her?" Asked Leonard, seriously. "You can't ever expect your relationship with Amy to go anywhere if you keep avoiding everything that makes a relationship a relationship. And what exactly is your question anyway? Or is this just another general conversation about Amy and you?"
"It's more than that." Admitted Sheldon, avoiding eye contact. "I don't feel like... I don't feel like I can... be her boyfriend any more. I don't feel like I can do it."
Leonard was immediately concerned. "I don't understand. Sheldon, you're usually wild about Amy, whether you admit it or not. What's wrong?"
"I don't feel any different." He twitched, feeling uncomfortable at the mention of romantic feelings. "But I don't know if I can ever... if I can ever be the man that she needs. I don't know if I can ever be... emotionally supportive, and I really wonder if we are truly psychologically compatible. Our personalities are very cooperative with one another, but they seem to be too much at a distance. There's just something that is getting in the way. Something that is bothering me, you see. Something that is bothering her, you see. And I'm just going to... I fear that I'm going to just make it worse."
Leonard was still and quiet, reflecting on the matter at hand. "I don't know what to say. Give me some time." He got up and started walking around the room, pacing. After a while, he stopped, and turned to Sheldon. "Sheldon..." He started. "Have you talked to Penny or Howard about this yet?"
"No, of course not." Sheldon snapped, indignantly. "You know that I always bring these issues to you directly."
"What is the matter exactly?" Pried Leonard. "Surely, there's something specific on your mind."
"Well, yes, there is." Admitted Sheldon, turning his attention to the wall. "Amy is obsessed with Howard." He blurted.
"Excuse me? I don't understand." Leonard was confused.
"I think that... that she wants to be closer to him." Said Sheldon, nervously.
"You mean like... a relationship?" Leonard didn't know any other way to interpret him.
"Oh no..." Corrected Sheldon, quickly. "I mean that... she wants to be his friend."
"She is his friend." Interrupted Leonard.
"His best friend." Sheldon replied, sarcastically. "I think that she's too interested in his work. And recently he's taken up painting, and I've noticed that Amy is fascinated with it... It's bothering me."
"Sheldon, I feel like I'm prying apart steel. You need to just get to it." Said Leonard, impatiently. "Remember what I've said about taking forever to open up? I don't want to spend all night stretching this out. I really do have work to do. And lots of it. I have a paper to research and it's going to take me a week to write it."
"Amy is beautiful." Said Sheldon, suddenly, almost in a fit. "There I said it."
"I mean, to Amy, Sheldon. You can't tell me that Amy is beautiful and that somehow make her happy." Replied Leonard, feeling like Sheldon was being silly.
"No, you don't understand!" Exclaimed Sheldon, frustrated. "I mean, she's too beautiful. Too good for me. She makes me feel small and... inadequate! No one other than my family has ever made me feel that way! You certainly don't make me feel that way." Sheldon glanced at Leonard only for a moment.
Leonard smiled, unoffended. "She's perfect is what you're saying."
Sheldon grew even more uncomfortable, and crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't have the emotional capacity to take care of her. I feel like an overgrown child sometimes, and..."
"Sheldon, you're always like an overgrown child." Admitted Leonard, carefully.
"I don't even know how to drive a car!" Sheldon was agitated with himself. "How am I going to take her to the doctor when she's sick, or how am I going to get her aspirin when she has a headache, or how am I going to... do all the things that a husband does?!"
"A husband...?" Leonard was shocked. "You're already thinking of marrying her?"
"I've only dated her for years!" Exclaimed Sheldon, turning away. "But, no, I don't want to get married. Not yet. I'm just talking about our... our relationship! Oh, you know how I don't like that word!"
"Sheldon, we'll never get through this if you don't use certain words." Warned Leonard, kindly. "You know that we have to go ahead and say things if we're ever going to get through our problems."
Sheldon glared at him, his arms still crossed. "What happens when I have to be the one to get the groceries because she doesn't feel like it, or what happens when I have to be the one to take the kids to school because she has to go to work early, or what happens when I have to be the one to do the laundry because she has a show to watch, or... There's a million things that could happen!"
Leonard listened, patiently.
"I have to learn how to cook when she's tired of it, I have to learn how to fix the appliances when they explode, I have to learn how to retile the floors when our shoes have ruined them, I have to learn how to fix the pipes when the lowered temperature causes them to burst, I have to learn how to assemble furniture when she wants a new bookcase, I have to learn how to do everything!"
He flung his hands into the air in complete frustration. "And worst of all, what if... what if we have... what if we have an autistic child?!"
Leonard raised a brow, taken aback by the question, though, a fair one it was.
"What if we have another me?! How would I ever stand myself?!" Sheldon turned towards Leonard, the pain clearly in his face. "I want children, Leonard. But... I have to admit to myself... I don't want a little me. I'm considering adoption."
That hurt Leonard. Reality was... it was very likely that Sheldon would end up with another Sheldon. "That's something that... you're going to have to deal with when it happens. Surely, you don't want to adopt someone else's kids, Sheldon? I know you. You have to have your own." Leonard gave him a sympathetic look. "I know it's a hard reality to face, but... Sheldon, you don't want to adopt kids. You want your own kids, even if... even if they're like you." He tried to smile, but found it difficult. He wasn't even sure why he found it so hard.
Sheldon just stared at him, uncomprehendingly. He felt like Leonard didn't really understand the depth of his inability to care for a little him.
"One thing, however." Interrupted Leonard, quickly, holding up a finger. "Autism? You've never admitted that you have autism before."
Sheldon knitted his brows in anger, managing to look Leonard in the face before turning his head away. "I don't like to talk about it, but it's... it's true. I know it is. My mother never had me tested, but I know it's... it's true. I can use Wikipedia like anybody else."
Leonard wasn't sure what to say to that. "Maybe you should see a therapist and get a real diagnosis." It was definitely a long shot, but sometimes, well, rarely Sheldon might go for something really out there. "For the children's sake. So you can get your kids more easily diagnosed. Or... undiagnosed. I guess it depends on how you look at it. You know... Do it for the kids." Really, he just wanted Sheldon to finally get a therapist, but it wasn't like he could outright tell him that.
Sheldon scoffed, finding the idea ridiculous. "With my luck, I would get some quack who would simply diagnose me with mania! You know that modern day psychologists hardly know what they're doing."
Leonard wasn't so sure about that. He briefly looked at the wall, then returned his gaze to Sheldon. "It's not necessarily a bad idea." He admitted. At the very least, he felt like he could say that and get away with it.
Sheldon gave him a funny look, smiling slyly. "Yeah, really. Imagine me with a therapist. What would I say to him? Would I tell him how many comic books that I read in a week? He would label me with obsessive compulsive disorder."
Leonard's eyebrows twitched. It wasn't like that wasn't an accurate description of Sheldon anyway. And, whether Sheldon understood it or not, Leonard had a far better idea of what autism was like than he knew. He had been secretly researching it for years. For Sheldon's sake. How else would he ever manage living with a guy like him? He really cared for his friend. Leonard felt like he should say something helpful, but in all the years that he had known Sheldon, he had never found the right words yet.
"Sheldon, what if you do have autism?" Ventured Leonard, cautiously. "How about we, say, skip the therapist and get straight to the point... Can I show you emotion cards?" He had never dared to ask such a thing before. He almost fainted from the sheer power of the question.
"What?" Sheldon was completely taken aback.
"A few years back, I..." He was having trouble admitting it. "I bought some packs of emotion cards. I was going to show them to you when I worked up the courage, but... I never have worked up the courage. Until now anyway." He shuffled his feet, looking down at his shoes.
Sheldon raised a brow, studying Leonard. "I see." Was all he said in his embarrassment. "And how many of these packs did you purchase?"
"I got everything that I could find..." Leonard blushed. "I wanted to help you. That's all. You just... you never understood the simplest things about people's faces and I wanted to help you."
Sheldon stared at him, blank faced, but anger rising in him anyway. "You're making me feel disabled." He said, quietly.
"Isn't that what we're talking about?" Tried Leonard, bravely. "You not being able to take care of Amy or the kids you want to have with her?"
"I'm talking about normal things that husbands have trouble with!" Snapped Sheldon, defiantly.
Leonard gave him a long, hard look. "You're talking about being autistic. And it's the first you've ever really mentioned it to me. And I'm taking the opportunity. Sheldon... will you please let me help you?" He got excited then. "I've read a lot about it! I've really, really researched it, I promise! I can help you! I know how to do it! I may not be a psychologist, but I can get you on the right path."
"The right path?" Leonard realized quickly that he had said the wrong thing.
"No, I mean..." Leonard hastily corrected himself. "I can help you."
"Leonard!" Sheldon laughed. "I hardly think that I need help with something like this. Besides... I never said that I really believed it. I just said that it was possible."
"You said that it was true." Leonard pointed out, irritated at Sheldon's hasty retreat.
"Well, you know how I can be. Just say whatever comes to mind." Sheldon grinned, trying to hide his shame. He felt horrible at the idea of Leonard seeing him openly admit something of this nature.
"Sheldon... There's no reason to feel ashamed of it." Leonard tried to comfort him. "Lots of people have autism. It's not something that you need to hide."
"I don't have autism!" But Sheldon had already completely turned around the conversation.
"You act like this is alcoholics anonymous and you're admitting to a room full of people that you have an extra refrigerator in your garage full of liquor." Said Leonard, desperately wanting Sheldon to see how ridiculous he was being.
"You're acting like a therapist at an autism convention!" Shot back Sheldon.
"Sheldon..." Leonard didn't know what to say. He just didn't want to lose this chance. "Can you at least just look at the cards?"
"Why have I never noticed that you own these cards?" Questioned Sheldon, suspiciously.
"I just keep them in a secret place." Revealed Leonard. "So you wouldn't find them, of course. I always knew that if you did, you'd throw an absolute fit."
"Why?" Snapped Sheldon. "Because I'm so autistic that I can't stand to confront it?"
"Well... yes." Admitted Leonard, honestly.
Sheldon huffed, indignantly. "This conversation was supposed to be about me and Amy, not about me and autism."
"I know, but, to be fair, you did bring it up." Leonard smiled, weakly. He made a pathetic attempt at a friendly laugh.
"If I had autism..." Sheldon started. "do you know what that would mean? It would mean that I was not just simply intelligent, but... different. Very different. Not just a little different. Forever different. Broken." Sheldon held back a choke.
Leonard noticed, and instantly felt bad. "You're not broken. It doesn't mean that. It's just a condition. It just means that you have special quirks. That's all. If you... If you just... All it means is that you have trouble recognizing emotions."
"It's a lot more complicated than that, Leonard." Insisted Sheldon. "It's all kinds of things. You can't just have difficulty with emotions and expressions. You're a... psychological abnormality! You're obsessive and weird and can't handle life and nobody wants to be your friend, and you spend all of your time repeatedly doing the same activities and pointing out things that no one understands!"
"You have lots of friends, Sheldon." Said Leonard, sadly. "And you're a really cool guy! You might not be able to cope with life the same as other people and you do point out a lot of things that even I don't understand, and, yes, you're really obsessive, but you're not an abnormality! You're a great guy, Sheldon!"
Sheldon was quiet for a while, then, "What about Amy? What would she say if she thought that I had some strange condition that divided me from the rest of the human race?"
"She already knows." Admitted Leonard. "Everyone does. They just don't say it in front of you."
"I don't believe it." But Sheldon turned away and crossed his arms again.
Leonard sighed. "Well, it's not like I can convince you if you're going to be that stubborn about it. Maybe you can just... think about it?"
Sheldon said nothing.
"Look..." Leonard rubbed the back of his head. "I hate to say this, but... I really have a lot of work to do and I have only a limited amount of time to do it in. As much as I would love to continue this conversation, we'll have to talk about this at some other time. Just, like I said, do me a favour, and just... think about it. Okay?"
Still, Sheldon said nothing.
Leonard sighed once more, and went back to the couch, sitting down and picking his book back up. He was about to resume his work when...
"Fine." Announced Sheldon, finally. "I'll think about it."
Leonard was shocked. For a whole minute, he just stared at his back. Then he smiled. "Thank you."
"I said I'll think about it!" Grumbled Sheldon. "Don't hold me to it!"