A/N: Sequel to Someone To Love You Better, if you haven't read that this will make zero sense to you. Set five years after the last one and Clare is now nineteen.
It had been almost a year since Clare Wolowitz had walked through the streets of Pasadena and she had missed the place.
She had been away university, experiencing life and meeting new people. When deciding what she would study, it was a clear choice. Just like her beloved mother she was going to choose the route of microbiology.
It felt strange returning to the place she grew up and not be greeted by her father. Despite the two Skype calls a day; the daily emails and the almost hourly text messages to see if she was having healthy bowel movements; she hadn't seen him in ten months.
Or if she was willing to go into specifics, which she was; it had been ten months, one week, two days, three hours and ten minutes.
To many it would seem strange as to why she missed him like she did. To many it was liberating to be away from the watchful eyes of their parents for such a long time. Not Clare though, her relationship with her father was a strong one. Ever since her mother had died, her father had been the most important person in her life and nothing, not even the surprise revelation that he wasn't her biological parent could break that bond.
Clare had been unwilling to return home to an empty house and she hadn't planned on visiting Leonard and Penny until the morning, so she had found herself at the comic book store; the place she had spent many Wednesdays of her childhood in.
Walking in, she was surprised by how quiet it seemed. Looking over at the counter she couldn't help but smile at the sight of Stewart sleeping face down on the counter."Wakey wakey Stewart."
Stewart sat bolt upright in his chair and looked around the shop in a daze, until eventually catching sight of where the voice came from. "Clare! You're back."
"It's been a while, so I thought why not?"
Getting out of his chair, he came around the other side of the counter and greeted her with a brief hug."Well it's good to see you. It seems odd to see your uncle Leonard coming in on his own, not to mention damaging to the profits."
She let out an unconvincing laugh, unsure of whether he was being serious or not. "So Stewart how's life for you?"
"Oh you know same old. I signed myself up as a mail order husband."
"Well a transvestite from the next town over and an eighty year old woman showed some interest."
"How'd that work out?"
"Well it wasn't what I was hoping for but I couldn't afford picky, so I went into it with an open mind."
"I ask again, how'd that turn out?"
"The transvestite turned up, saw me and left and the eighty year old ended the relationship via text the next morning."
Unable to provide a suitable response, Clare could only offer him a sympathetic smile and a friendly squeeze on the shoulder.
Suddenly embarrassed, Stewart promptly changed the subject. "So what's new in your life? You must be nearly twenty now, right?"
"Yes I'm nineteen and the good news is it looks like I've stopped growing now."
Stewart took a step back and looked her up and down a few times. He didn't blame her for being relieved; she was by far one the tallest woman he knew. Not that he met a lot of women but he knew that if he did, she would still be the tallest. "And to think there was I time where I could've easily balanced you on my hip."
"I remember. You used to baby sit me and I would alphabetise your stock."
"Not bad considering you were only five. I was particularly impressed with how you managed to get into the till without knowing the code."
She crouched down slightly, allowing herself to whisper into his ear. "I'll let you in on a little secret."
"Go ahead. I've been wondering how you did it for years."
"I found the piece of paper with the code on written on it. You had left it right next to the till."
Stewart stepped away, his cheeks flushing red in embarrassment. "And there was me thinking you were a genius child."
"Oh I was. I hacked your computer too."
He snapped his fingers to signal realisation.
"I wondered why my history was filled with episodes of Sesame Street."
The Skype jingle played out from Clare's phone, bringing the conversation to an end. "Do you mind if I take this? It's my dad."
"Sure. You go ahead; I gotta sort out the latest pack of Wild West and Witches."
"Not another one, how many do they propose to make?"
"So should I put you down for one?"
She sighed to herself, wishing that she could master the art of restraint. "Yes please."
She turned her attention back to her phone and pressed the accept call button. "Holy crap, you're sun burned."
Howard frowned at her. "When I Skype you, I expect a nicer greeting than that."
"I take it you and Uncle Raj have moved on to a hotter state?"
"We're in Arizona and I've passed out like three times already."
"Aww, poor Daddy."
He offered her a grateful smile. No matter how bad a situation was, she could always boost his mood. "Anyway, do you remember why me and Uncle Raj are travelling all around the country?"
"Of course, you said you were going to find a cure for his selective mutism if it killed you."
His smile turned into a proud grin. "Well guess what?"
Her eyes widened in surprise. "No way!"
"I'm being serious. Last week we were at some kind of travelling show and one of the acts was talking to us, I explained about how he couldn't talk to women. She said she had just the cure and pulled him into one of the dressing rooms."
"I don't know what the heck she did to him but it worked. I couldn't believe it."
In that moment Clare felt an undeniable urge to squeal whilst jumping up and down. "Can I speak to him? Let me speak to him!"
Howard turned the camera around so it was facing Raj, who enthusiastically waved at her. "Hey Clare, it's your extremely sober Uncle Raj."
"Are you really sober?"
"Yes, for the first time in over twenty years, I've gone a week without drinking and my skin looks great."
"I'm proud of you. The quest for true love can begin here."
Howard pulled the camera around so it was facing him. "Did you honestly just say that? You once told me that you hated the way everyone glorified the notion of romance."
"Natural evolution Dad. It's natural evolution."
He took in the surroundings behind her. "Is it just me or are you in the comic book store?"
She looked around a few times, mentally cursing herself for not being more discreet. "Yes. Well I missed the fifth anniversary, so I thought I'd come home and get mom some flowers."
"Would ya put some down for me?"
"Of course, she would love to know her Howie is thinking about her."
"You know she would be proud of how much you've grown up these past five years."
"Let's not get too deep, we've done well haven't we?"
He took a deep breath and nodded in agreement. "Agreed, but moving on doesn't mean forgetting."
"I have an eidetic memory and an IQ too high to be measured by regular tests. I'm not likely to forget my own mother."
He couldn't help but let out a laugh. "Usually I would tell you that you were being condescending but because that was funny, I'll let it slide."
"Anyway Dad, will you back earlier than normal or are you going to stay for the remaining two months?"
"Well uh, if you need me back then I'll come back."
"It's fine, you enjoy yourself."
"I'll be back sooner than you know."
"There's no need to feel bad about going travelling, I'm an adult now."
He smiled, sending her an appreciative look. "You grew up so fast."
"Call me again soon."
He merely nodded and ended the call.
Stewart looked up from what he was doing and placed down the pricing gun. "Your surname may be Wolowitz but you lie like a Cooper."
"You're here to lay flowers on your mother's grave? Yeah like that's the truth."
She placed the phone back in her pocket and shifted nervously from foot to foot. "Well it's one of the things I'm gonna do, just not..."
"I'm sensing this sudden return has something to do with the opening of the new physics department down at the Caltech University?"
Admitting defeat she reached into her pocket and produced the leaflet that Leonard had forwarded her the week previously. "I don't know why I decided to come back. I mean it's been five years, rarely do I think of him and never do I speak about him."
Stewart studied the leaflet for a few seconds before reading it aloud."The physics department of Caltech University is due to reopen after a six months closure."
"The department has been revamped with new state of the art equipment and is expected to give students an optimum learning experience."
"Clare I do know what's going on, that's why I brought it up."
"Just read the next bit."
"In celebration of the opening, Doctor Sheldon Cooper the most accomplished theoretical physicist the university has had is due to return to Pasadena, to open the new department and make an inspirational speech to new students."
Clare sighed and gripped the counter for support. Even the thought of it made her light headed.
"When was the last time you even spoke to him?"
She took a few deep breaths. "I haven't spoken to him in five years, I said goodbye to him in Texas and then that was it."
Stewart picked up the chair and brought it around the other side of the counter. "Here sit down."
Clare slowly sank down into it, releasing the pressure off her legs. "You know I never thought I'd see him again but now he's going to be so close and I also got thinking about May and how she never got a proper goodbye. Oh Stewart it's all such a mess."
He thought for a while. "Right before this goes any further, you're going to have to tell me who May is."
"Or Amy then, she introduced herself as May when I was fourteen and I sometimes get it wrong."
"Do you even know if she will be out here with him?"
She shook her head, letting out a deflated sigh as she did so. "I've got no idea, the article just mentions Doctor Cooper but she could accompany him."
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know, I just don't know. I was only fourteen when I saw them last. I'm an adult now; I don't need looking after like I did back then."
He knelt down beside her chair. "Maybe it was the wrong time? Your mom had just died and your father was in a bad place."
"Exactly I'm older now, if I saw them it would be just to talk. They can't expect anything off me and I wouldn't expect anything off them."
"If you saw him next week, what would you say to him?"
She thought for a moment, a small smile slowly gracing her lips. "I'd say; it's been a while so how about a cup of coffee?"