AN: Thanks to everyone who reviewed last chapter! I expected a lot of people to not care about this update, but I was surprised to see that there are still some of you out there in the ether! The reviews I received were very kind.
I also just want to thank everyone again who read this story and supported me three years ago when this all started. Being in The Big Bang Theory fandom was such an amazing experience and I met a lot of great people when I was here. It also allowed me to explore my writing in a very different way. For that I'll have to thank Sheldon and Penny for inspiring me in so many ways.
This epilogue is sort of a way to tie up loose ends with Leonard. I know a lot of you saw Leonard as a "villain" in this story even though that was never my intention. :P I get the sentiment though given what has happened in canon the past 9 years. Everyone else in this story paired off and found someone, so I wanted to explore this idea of a "crackship" I've always had for Leonard. I hope you enjoy.
Leonard Hofstadter crossed his arms to chest with his feet planted firmly to the ground to prevent their nervous kicking. It had been so long since he'd dated anybody, and this woman was the most intimidating of any. That included Brittany Madden, sophomore year of high school, who, after several weeks of winking and twirling her hair for homework, humiliated him in front of the entire cafeteria when he presented his homemade-Valentine's Day card to her. Where Brittany lacked in intelligence and excelled in cruelty, Leonard was positive this woman could mop the floor with him intellectually and even give Sheldon a run for his money. The jury was still out on the cruelty.
Leonard inhaled deeply, the faint smell of tobacco smoke from a group of neighboring UCLA students. She had asked him to meet her on "a cozy bench in the shade as to prevent the risk of melanoma but out in the open so we can benefit from our much needed absorption of Vitamin D". She even suggested near the lecture hall where Leonard had given a talk on super solids. She had approached him afterwards armed with a healthy dose of grilling that only his mother could rival. At first he was put off by her prodding questions that seemed to resemble the superior attitude … but by the time they had reached his car, he found himself exchanging email addresses with her.
He wasn't sure what it was about this woman that captivated him so much. She definitely wasn't as pretty as Penny in that traditional-blonde bombshell sense (though Leonard found she radiated beauty in a way that was entirely her own). She always wore her brown hair flat over her shoulders, and he was pretty sure she got all of her fashion advice from octogenarians. Even though her field of research was neuroscience, she had an amazing grasp of physics, which he couldn't say the same for himself for her specialty. Though she did express how impressed she was with how much he seemed to absorb and understand (which he concluded must have been from all of the academic holidays he spent with his mother). She made him nervous with her intelligence and ambitious career moves. That same insecurity had him on high alert. But after long-winded debates about scientific controversies to which Leonard would ease the tension with a corny joke, the anxiety would disappear when she'd peer at him over her black-framed glasses and her stoic disposition would break into a shy smile. Everything made sense in those moments.
No one knows that he is technically "seeing" someone. They're all wrapped up in their own relationships: Howard is busy courting Bernadette, a budding microbiologist; Raj and Missy are still figuring out married life; and Sheldon and Penny are wrapped up in each other.
That topic was a sore spot for Leonard. He wasn't entirely sure what hurt more, his pride or his heart. Over the past few months he came to the realization that a lot of what he thought was between he and Penny, he had probably created in his head. Leonard knew he was the type to fixate on a woman, and he lived in a fantasy world most of the time from his lack of actual relationship experience. When he first saw Penny unpacking her boxes across the hall, his entire world shifted. He wanted to be the man for her, and he knew he was willing to try anything to be that. But, like all of the other times he tried to get a woman who was out of his league, he crashed and burned. Instead of a 6 ft tall, bulky football player stealing her attention, his 6'2, lanky, pale roommate who was probably the biggest social pariah Leonard had ever encountered seemed to be everything Penny wanted. He never saw it coming. Not only because of Sheldon's self-proclaimed asexuality, but anytime he would see Sheldon and Penny interact, they were always picking fights with each other and shooting glares when the others back was turned. If anything, Leonard always worried Sheldon was ruining his chances with Penny by scaring her away, as he did with most people. Leonard never would have guessed that the genius was successfully wooing Penny for himself.
Leonard knew that wasn't entirely true as well. Despite his complete obtuseness of how to operate in this world, there wasn't a malicious bone in Sheldon's body. When he tried to seek revenge or cause some kind of emotional harm to his bullies, he crashed and burned every time. It was one of the reasons Leonard liked Sheldon. He knew that Sheldon would never intentionally stab him in the back, though this recent turn of events really challenged that hypothesis. If it wasn't for Sheldon's actions after that fate-filled night he discovered what had been going on behind his back, he would have packed his bags and thrown their seven year friendship away. There was still a lot of rebuilding that needed to occur, but they were getting there.
How Sheldon and Penny came to be a in hindsight, Leonard probably didn't want to know.
Leonard's thoughts were broken by the sudden appearance of his date, standing above him with an unflattering sweater and a messenger bag grasped tightly to her waist.
"Good afternoon, Leonard."
"Amy!" Leonard felt his face break into a smile.
Amy Farrah Fowler took her seat next to Leonard, running her eyes over the campus.
"This is a satisfactory spot you have chosen for our romantic afternoon."
A blush spread on Leonard's cheeks, "I thought that you'd appreciate the isosceles triangle that this tree makes with the building and the women's bathroom."
Amy smiled, "Oh, you do know how I love isosceles triangles and convenient restroom locations."
After a few silent moments, Amy scooted over and laced her fingers with Leonard's, their open palms meeting with a welcoming press.
"So how was your day?" Leonard asked.
"Satisfactory. I submitted my grant for the new nicotine addiction study, and I just got a shipment of fresh cadaver brains from one of my collaborators."
"Great!" Leonard cheekily grinned, hoping she couldn't see his face turn a light shade of green.
They sat quietly for a few minutes, enjoying the beautiful, sunny California afternoon. What Leonard enjoyed the most about spending time with Amy is he didn't feel the need to entertain her or fill moments like these with awkward attempts at conversation. Leonard learned quickly on their first date together that Amy wasn't one for banal chit chat. Amy tended to be the one who dominated their conversations, asking prying personal questions and postulating different scientific inquiries. While again, her bluntness and lack of tact put Leonard off at first, as he got to know her, he began to see that he and Amy were a lot alike. Neither of them were destined to be "normal" in any capacity. Leonard was born into academia and raised to excel in all things but operating successfully through adolescence. And that pretty much set him up for life as being labeled a "nerd". Amy seemed to suffer from something similar to Sheldon: an innate and intense intellect that warded off others. But where Sheldon remained resilient because of apathy towards how he fit into society, Amy appeared hurt and bothered by her social ostracism. Their conversations were always peppered with stories of cruel practical jokes played on her by her female peers and tidbits featuring her in some kind of lonely, desperate situation, trying to replicate the intimacy of friendship. Leonard couldn't relate to her loneliness on that front because he was fortunate enough to have a group of friends that accepted him for just the way he is (which is really what directed him towards forgiving Sheldon – though Amy probably would never know how she saved their friendship), but he also experienced an intense longing for acceptance and intimacy from his own family.
"Leonard," her voice caught him off guard. There was a softness and vulnerability to the way she called his name that he hadn't heard from her before. He responded in kind by tilting his head to give her his full attention, giving her fingers a tight squeeze of encouragement.
"What are we?"
Leonard furrowed his eyebrows, "What do you mean?"
Amy exhaled a tired sigh, "There is a microbiology grad student who I sometimes converse with in line in our building's coffee bar. It seems we both are on the same schedule for our afternoon fixes. I mentioned to her today that I would be seeing you, and she asked me if you were my boyfriend. I didn't have an answer."
Leonard nodded his head. It was something that had also been on his mind.
"Is that something you would want? For us to be a couple?"
Amy frowned slightly as she considered it. "It's something I gave up on a long time ago, much to my mother's dismay. I've had an agreement with her for years now that I would go on one date a year and she would allow me to use her George Foreman grill that seals in the flavor but none of the fat. Needless to say, she has been off my back since we've been seeing each other." She turned her eyes towards Leonard, "But yes, it's really the only thing I've always wanted. A real boyfriend. I've never had one before."
Leonard leaned back into the bench, holding Amy's awaiting gaze. "Amy Farrah Fowler," he turned the hand he was holding to signal his proposition. "Will you be my girlfriend?"
Her cheeks colored beneath the black rims of her glasses, "Yes."
Leonard had been waiting for the perfect moment to kiss her since he figured out his feelings for this strange and wonderful woman. But nothing seemed right until right now.
And he did just that.
AN2: And that's the end! It feels good to have this story finally be complete. And for any future readers of this story, I hope that you enjoyed the ride from start to finish. :)