It starts off simple enough, at least as simple as a conversation with Dr. Sheldon Lee Cooper goes. He's been thinking about it a lot, doing some research, wondering if there was more to this "romantic love" that his mother, his friends, his sister and Star Trek had wax poetic about for years. It was only when he came across a theory based in true and tried science in the New England Journal of Medicine at he considered seeing it as anything more than pure hokum. This was a thought based in facts and figures, experiments and controls, as real as the physics that had become his life's work. It wasn't folklore of ancient gods or something from those vapid reality shows that Penny insisted qualified as good television or even the misguided practice of psychology. Rather, it stemmed from college-level research that showed a proven neurological correlation between physiology and the notion of love.
It seems that researchers at West Virginia University identified four types of love that produced euphoric feelings similar to those caused by drug use. By studying people from throughout the world, "The Neuroimaging Love" meta-analysis found passionate, companion, maternal and unconditional love as four distinguishable emotions that stimulated emotional activity in twelve parts of the brain to reduce euphoric chemicals like dopamine, adrenaline, vasopressin and oxytocin. The study went as far as to claim that the feeling of love even impacted a person's intellectual and cognitive hemispheres of the brain, effecting their body image and social awareness.
It is this point that he brings up with Amy Farrah Fowler on an otherwise mundane Friday evening when the others were out seeking female companionship. Well, Howard and Leonard were out with their girlfriends, and Raj was at home playing World of Warcraft with someone unknown character on the other side of the world. Amy had found herself with nothing better to do and invited herself over to the apartment in search of some companionship. When she announced as much, Sheldon recalled the article and decided to share his observations.
"You see, Amy, I have experienced three of these types of love already," he told her from his spot on the sofa. She occupied the chair that usually belonged to Leonard, her wool cardigan wrapped tightly around her body as she clutched the glass of lukewarm tap water. As it was Friday, they had just finished their Chinese food, splitting the order of four dumplings evenly between them at two apiece. "My mother, even though she insists on forcing her Christian ideals on me, is the very definition of maternal love as she is, indeed, my mother. Of course, unconditional love finds no greater source than Meemaw."
"And companionship?" Amy asks intently, leaning forward to pick up the legal pad stashed on the coffee table. She finds a pen beneath a takeout container of steamed white rice and begins to scribble notes. "Where do you find companionship, Dr. Cooper?"
He looks at her strangely as she leans back, looking much like the researcher that she was. She also reminded him briefly of a psychologist, a cause for concern if there ever was one. He preferred to keep that kind of "science" out of his scientific practice, especially since that insipid little man his mother had taken him to when everyone else insisted that he was crazy. "Well, I suppose that I have the companion archetype of love in the friendships that I share with Leonard, Wolowitz and Koothrappali," he considered aloud. "It seems reasonable to assert that I have companion-like feelings for them after our many years of friendship. Perhaps even Penny to some degree, though it should be stated that it is completely platonic."
"Very interesting," Amy considered,tapping her cheek for a moment before jotting down a few more lines of thought. "There seems to be some merit to this theory, but I am not sure that it gives any true basis to passion. That still seems rooted firmly in the idea of lust. Much like my biological reaction to Penny's former friend, Zach, a reaction of this kind could be purely symptomatic of sexual desire and not romanticized love."
"That is what I thought at first," he half-agreed before continuing, "but there are already dozens of theories from all types of science focused on human sexuality. I have no use for those kinds of experiments because they seem purely inconsequential. I don't feel desire for physical contact. Does this mean that I am incapable of passionate love?"
Amy looked over her notes and thought for a moment. She had long through herself incapable of such a physical reaction until seeing Zach in the bar that night. Later on, when they were walking home, she had reached for Sheldon's hand to see if he elicited such a stimulus. When he failed to pique her body's interest, she chalked it up to a one-off reaction and mostly forgot about it. It was only now, when Sheldon was calling her very science into question, that she started to wonder if there was indeed more to this than superficial but innate physical response.
"Well, I suppose that the human mind is capable of nearly anything," she allowed. It was a hard thing to admit, to even start to acknowledge that maybe there were flaws in her previous theories. "However, if you do not feel this alleged biological impulse for sexual intercourse, then how would you ever find this so-called passion?"
"Simple," Sheldon shrugged, giving her the haughty look that had become stereotypical when he was flummoxed as to why someone couldn't understand something that was so transparent to him. "My biological impulse isn't for physical stimulation but mental stimulation. My passionate affections would come from a more intellectual connection."
"An intellectual connection as the sources for passion? It doesn't seem beyond the realms of reason," she conceded. It was true that she typically felt drawn to people that she considered at least her intellectual equal in some regards, at least for lifelong connection. It wasn't until she befriended Penny that she had considered dipping beneath her mental level, and it was then that she discovered that there were different fields where the blonde was actually much more intelligent than Amy could ever be. "I suppose that passion can go beyond the standard physical definition."
"It's much like the feeling that you have toward neuroscience, only with a human element," he explained to her. To have Sheldon Cooper put a human element on anything was nearly disturbing, but Amy could appreciate where he was coming from. It seemed he had indeed spent time considering the theory. "And I have been thinking if I have ever had such an emotion before in my life."
Amy couldn't imagine a scenario where the answer to that question was going to be yes. He was as distant as she was when it came to these sort of things, even less willing to admit when he felt any attachment to someone beyond his mother, siblings, three friends, one treasured acquaintance and the beloved Meemaw. It was only recently that they had put any kind of definition to their correlation to one another – "a girl who is a friend but who is not his girlfriend."And what did you discover?" she asked finally. It felt like a needless question but it was the polite one to ask anyway.
"I think that I have."
She scrolled through the Rolodex of known female acquaintances besides herself, Penny, Bernadette and biological family and found none that he thought of fondly. He had liked Leonard's former girlfriend Dr. Stephanie well enough but had fallen out of touch with the redhead when she had returned to Galveston for a fellowship. When she had exhausted all possible connections, she looked up at her boy-who-is-a-friend-but-is-not-her-boyfriend and frowned. "With whom?"
"With you," he told her softly. His voice was quieter, less certain, that it usually was, and she realized that he appeared to be almost sheepish. "You're the only person who has ever come even close to understanding me and matching my intellectual ability. We are both smart enough to recognize that such a thing does not happen easily." He paused, laughing at his use of the word "smart" to describe himself. Their abilities went far beyond such a common word. "Amy, I think I might love you. Passionately."
Amy's jaw dropped and her eyes went wide at his uncharacteristically bold proclamation. She did not feel at all equipped to deal with the inevitable ramifications for his sudden emotional attachment to her. She'd spent a successful three decades making sure that none of her male counterparts ever "fell for her," as the kids said, and she wasn't sure that she was ready to alter her entire paradigm to consider such a thing. It made her feel anything but comfortable, something she wasn't used to when it came to Sheldon.
Her mouth was still agape when she looked up at him behind the lenses of her glasses. "Which part?"
"Just the final declaration," he assured her, waving his hand dismissively. "The truth is that we do have a passionate intellectual connection. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, it is innate and does exist. But to say that I love you passionately, well, that is just ridiculous. We're not those kind of people, Amy. We're far too superior to ever fall for such silly gibberish."
She smiled at him then, finally understanding what he was saying. This was Sheldon's way of saying that there was indeed merit to the theory and that they had managed to take it and make it something of their own. She had been the exception her entire life, just as he had been, so it seemed obvious that their version of "love" would be an exception as well. Maybe even exceptional, she considered for a moment, bringing another small smile to her lips.
"Well, I think that I can agree with that, Dr. Cooper."
It wasn't a grand declaration of love that two people like Penny and Leonard might exchange after a summer apart or some romantic display of public affection like Howard's serenade at the Cheesecake Factory. Instead, it was mutual acceptance of a proven theory and its practical application in this particular scenario between two equal colleagues who shared a very unorthodox way of looking at life and each other. They might never say that they loved each other, but it didn't make it any less so. It just proved something, the ultimate desired result in any experiment when a hypothesis is being questioned.