Author's Note: Set after 6.01, "The Date Night Variable," so there are spoilers for the episode. Apparently, I can only write about one Leonard/Penny fic a season. Title taken from "A Message" by Coldplay. The movie referenced is E.T.

The difference between thinking something and doing something is as wide as the Nebraska horizon at sunset. She can think all the words she ever wanted to think, and all the right things that would make everything alright and express herself so clearly, but to put action to the movement would be to take a step that she is unsure of taking.

Penny loves Leonard. She knows that much.

Why can't the simple fact that she knows it in her heart to be true enough for anyone?

She can understand Leonard wanting to hear her say it. She really can. After all, if she ever told anyone that she's in love with Leonard, the man himself would be on the top of her list. He loves her - that much, he's said aloud - and he wants to marry her one day, and all that having his love as a constant beacon in her life entails. And, if Sheldon ever was to say anything to her, she could see him wanting her to say it, if only so that they could redirect their thoughts - his thoughts, she amends, Sheldon probably wouldn't care too much about where her thoughts were - to loftier and more productive pursuits of intellect and knowledge.

What she's still trying to wrap her head around is Raj as couples counselor.

She knows in her heart that Raj is right. If she loves Leonard - and she does, she really, really does - then she needs to tell him, and not leave it suspended in midair waiting for the inevitable, yet spectacular, crash.

She practices. Not that it should require practice, but she has to get up the courage, in her own way.

"I love you," she says, one night laying in bed alone, her pillow her closest and best audience. "I. Love. You." If she can say it to her pillow - and Leonard has slept on her pillow, countless times - then. She cuts off the thought process. It's not in her nature to wallow.

"I love you."

She finds herself murmuring that in the shower one morning, and no matter how much she may love how her shampoo makes her hair smell on a daily basis, she can't say that she's in love with it.

"I love you."

It becomes a subconscious part of her daily routine. She wonders if anyone notices - if anyone really does, no one says much of anything. Perhaps people muttering under their breath is a commonplace enough occurrence in this city that it's nothing remarkable. It does get her extra whipped cream at Starbucks, from a young male barista with a nice smile - but it's nothing like Leonard's smile, and so she buries her face into the cream and walks away.

"I love you."

She can physically say the words. That's a start. And no matter whether it's the shampoo bottle or her order pad at work that is the lucky recipient of her words, that's not what she pictures in the forefront of her mind. She pictures Leonard's soft, warm eyes, and his crooked, lopsided smile, and the flop of his mussed hair over one eyebrow. She can mean the words - when she pictures Leonard, instead of a loofah, she means what she says. Wholeheartedly.

It's been a while since Raj inserted his analysis of their relationship into their lives.

She still hasn't said it to his face. Not for a lack of wanting, but for a lack of the right moment - they're always either with Sheldon, or with Raj - who keeps giving her strange looks and pointed throat clearings behind Leonard's back - or the atmosphere isn't right.

When it comes down to it, she knows she's making excuses.

If she didn't love him - if she didn't, which is an extremely difficult prospect for her to imagine now - she would be incensed that anyone would even attempt to talk her into it. Who she loves is her business and hers alone, whether her love be for Leonard, or Lenora, or even Leonard and Lenora at the same time. And it's for Leonard. That much isn't in question in the least.

She just needs to work at her own pace, and stop beating around the bush.

"I love you," she whispers one night, as they hold each other close in her bed, nothing between them save for pockets of air. He's been asleep for a while; his breathing is normal and calm, and he looks so peaceful when he's asleep. Almost like a little cherubic angel - one with asthma and lactose intolerance, but that's not the Leonard she sees at this moment. It's the coward's way out, for her to say it to him when he's asleep and can't consciously hear her words nor respond in any way to them.

Then again, sharing a bed has always been a dangerous prospect for the two of them; it's where so many things have been said that she was not ready to hear - his initial declaration of love, his proposal - and now she's adding to the loaded history of them in bed together.

She's putting it out there into the cosmos, giving it life and meaning and form and function. And it's a start.

Next time. Next time she can say it aloud and proud and proclaim it from every rooftop in Pasadena.

She caresses the contours of his cheek under the pad of her thumb and continues to murmur the same three little words, over and over again, until they have soaked through to permeate every bit of their consciousness. It's a repetition. It's a mantra: I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. She can say it a thousand times over and mean it more every time. She can say it a million times, and yet never say it once when he's able to respond.

He stirs. She flinches - startled, a bit, and her meditation stops as abruptly as it started.

He relaxes, and so does she.

He slurs his words in an incoherent mumble, and she strains her ears to pick up on them. "Believe - life - every day - love." She thinks it's him echoing what he thinks she said, even though only one of those five words was anything she said, until he repeats himself, with extra slurred conviction this time, "Believe in you - all my life - every day - love you."

He's quoting movies about Earthbound aliens to her, in bed, as some sort of declaration of love. In that moment, she knows he heard her, and her heart leaps a bit. Kissing his forehead, she leans in and whispers to him, "we can talk about this when you're more awake."

"Don't hafta," he murmurs, pulling in closer to her and settling his chin on her shoulder, "I know."

She knows. He knows that she knows. And that's what's important to her, as she cradles him in her arms and smiles down at him. Her Leonard.

And she loves him.

...Take that, Wil Wheaton.