Disclaimers: All things TBBT and the trademarks I mentioned in this story belong to their respective owners. I own none but my imagination. I do not profit from this so please don't sue.
Leonard Hofstadter isn't the very least surprised to see Sheldon up so early despite the date. For the accomplished theoretical physicist who never believed in the spirit that the season had to offer, this might've just been like any other day. Christmas or not, Sheldon never bought the claim that holidays meant extra time for sleeping in. Leonard supposes he himself could stay lounging in bed. He doesn't have to go to the University, after all. Better yet, he thinks he might just stay cooped up with his girlfriend the whole day in bed where kissing needs no mistletoe. But he has something to get done and today is the best time to do it.
"Good morning, Sheldon," a bundled-up Leonard greets as he makes his way into the apartment. He notes that his roommate is already digging into his high-fiber cereal.
"Good morning," the pajama-clad man acknowledges back. The little crinkle appears between his eyebrows, giving Leonard hint that a question is soon to follow. "What were you doing out so early in the day?"
Leonard strips off his jacket, draping them over the back of the couch. "I had to go get something."
"On this day?" Sheldon asks pointedly before a bite of his crunchy treat.
"Yeah. It's kind of important." Leonard tries to ignore the fact that Sheldon seems to try so hard not to state that the day—this day—is in fact Christmas Day. A few years back and Leonard would've forcefully made Sheldon recognize that this is the day the song It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is referring to. Now that he knows better, he opts to let it pass.
The taller physicist simply nods. "We're out of high-fiber cereal," he says instead. "Just hope that whatever's left for you won't impede with your dietary schedule."
"I'm good," Leonard assures. "I stopped by for some bagels while I was out." With a paper bag in hand, Leonard crosses the distance from the couch to the kitchen counter and seats himself on a stool right before the other man. "Listen, Sheldon, I'm really sorry."
The wrinkle appears again, this time in confusion. "Whatever for?"
Leonard sighs. "The way that we ended the Christmas-themed Dungeons & Dragons game a couple of days back kind of left a bad feeling in me."
"You see, all those years I'd known you, I thought you were just being a real Grinch about Christmas. If only I knew that Christmas brought about bad memories in you, I wouldn't even have stealthily incorporated the season into our game."
Sheldon only looks at Leonard, as though weighing the sincerity of his words. After some time, he puts his spoon down. "It wasn't so much as bad memories," he puts in, correcting his friend. "It was mostly just…sad."
"I understand." And he truly does, now that Leonard has learned of how the Yuletide season has always reminded Sheldon of the one person he wanted to see that particular Christmas as a kid. Pushing the teary tale aside, Leonard hitches his glasses up the bridge of his nose and beams brightly. "So I called up your mom and asked for advice on how I can make things better."
"I'm going to hazard a guess and say that whatever she told you includes praying for me," Sheldon snorts.
"Had I known you were going to say that, I would've demanded that you put some money on down," he grins. "But, no; prayers weren't part of it."
Sheldon purses his lips. "That's very unlikely of her."
"I did, however, ask her for something after she gave me an idea." Leonard places the paper bag on the counter and gently shoves it toward Sheldon. "She had this sent via cargo on the first flight out from Houston to Los Angeles. I picked it up at the airport at the crack of dawn. That's why I was out early."
"What is this?" the blue-eyed physicist asks after taking out a package swathed in a simple Christmas paper.
"It's my gift."
Sheldon shrugs his shoulders as though to say 'what the hell' then tears open the gift. It takes him a while but he finally unveils the surprise.
Leonard is studying Sheldon's face with careful anticipation. He isn't sure his gift could top any other that Sheldon might've gotten over the years—including that signed table napkin with Leonard Nimoy's DNA on it—but he has his fingers crossed to hope for the best.
Sheldon's eyes grow round upon recognition of the photo daintily framed in wood. His mouth opens, perhaps to say something, and knowing Sheldon, Leonard is certain that sassy trap of Sheldon's is going to spew a myriad of words.
There are none but two words coming out like a whisper. "Thank you."
Leonard pretends not to see his friend's eyes brimming with tears that he's obviously trying to hold back. Instead, he smiles warmly at him. "You're welcome." Casually, he leans forward to look at the gift Leonard hasn't personally seen himself.
"I thought I'd already lost this," Sheldon suddenly admits, fingers casually smoothing the glass of the frame holding the photo of a four-year-old Sheldon playing Lego with his grandfather. "This was Pop-Pop's last Christmas with us. The following year, he wasn't with us anymore and I asked Santa to—" He heaves a sigh, opting not to finish what he's saying. Instead, he forces a curt smile. "Well, you know the rest of the story."
Strands of Leonard's hair slide off from their combed-in place as he nods. Initially, he wants to ask how Sheldon's grandfather had passed on but then he vetoes the thought. He looks closer at the photograph. "Has anyone ever told you your Pop-Pop looked like—"
"Albert Einstein?" Sheldon finishes for him. "Of course, everyone has noticed." Then he gives a cute little pout. "I'm just not sure if it was intentional on Pop-Pop's part."
Leonard gave his friend a little pat on the shoulder. "Well, I'm just glad you liked it." Flashing another smile, Leonard retreats and starts for his bedroom, intending to catch up on sleep.
The smaller man spins on his heels at the sound of his name. "Hm?"
Sheldon is looking at him purposely. "Is it really that important to you?"
"Celebrating Christmas the traditional way?"
Leonard sighs and gives a sad little pout. "Yeah…" he muses ruefully as he leans against the wall. "I know it's childish but the thing is, I've never even had a childish Christmas ever. I thought that now that I'm older and am living on my own—"
"You're not living on your own," Sheldon interrupts. "We share this apartment."
The smaller man glares at him from behind his hipster glasses. "You know what I mean."
Sheldon nods. "Yes, I do." With that, Sheldon pushes his chair back and gathers himself up. The very act surprises Leonard especially since the taller man hasn't finished his breakfast yet and that he's heading for the Christmas tree. "I'm sorry this took time," he starts, getting a small paper bag with little holly wreaths printed all over it.
"Is that a Christmas gift for me?" Leonard preempts, joking about it. He figures Sheldon is going to say 'no' or something along that line so he doesn't try to get his hopes up.
"As a matter of fact, it is."
Sheldon's words stun Leonard; his mouth opens and closes without any sound coming out of it. Perhaps 'stunned' is even an understatement. 'Shocked' is more apt.
"It's something you'll find useful in the future," Sheldon informs as he offers the bag to Leonard who receives it with trembling hands.
"Thank you, Sheldon."
"You don't even know what's in it."
"You just gave me a gift…something you haven't done in ages. It isn't too soon to thank you for the thought and the gesture."
Inside the casing, Leonard finds a wood-lined glass-covered frame, perhaps an even smaller—but thicker—version of the one he has given Sheldon prior. What catches his attention more is what's inside the photo frame.
"Sheldon, this is empty," Leonard groans, thinking it's a bad joke that Sheldon has played on him. To think it's Christmas…
"I said you'll find it useful in the future," reminds Sheldon. "I didn't say you'll use it today." Leaving it at that, Sheldon retraces his steps back to the kitchen island to finish his cereal.
Leonard shakes his head in frustration. "What is it anyway?" he asks, examining the item is in hand from all angles possible.
"It's a medal frame. For your Nobel Prize."
Leonard's head snaps up to look intently at Sheldon. "My what?"
"Your future Nobel Prize." The blue eyes that stare back at Leonard are those of sincerity. "Leonard, there is no doubt that I'm going to win the Nobel Prize someday but I also believe that you will win, too, after I get mine."
Leonard feels a lump of emotions growing in his throat and he tries to swallow it down to keep his breaking voice at bay. "You do?"
"Yes," he says, his voice without one drip of hesitation.
"Thank you." Touched beyond words, the first thing that Leonard wants to do is to run up to Sheldon and hug him, but he knows better than to scare off the theoretical physicist with more displays of emotion. Even if it's Christmas. Especially that it's Christmas. So Leonard just clears his throat and sends his sincerest and fondest well wishes. "Merry Christmas, Sheldon."
Sheldon warmly smiles back. "Merry Christmas, Leonard."
This is a little something I thought of when I watched their Christmas episode. In a way, I thought it was sad knowing why Leonard was excited for Christmas in a way that Sheldon was not.
I know this isn't what you were hoping from me (I do remember I still owe y'all a Christmas gift in the form of a chapter from my still ongoing fic.) but I hope you did enjoy this as well.
On a little bit of info as to why I had been awfully quiet lately: I had to concentrate on real life stuff: my work plus an academic article I really, really need to get done. Then the Holidays poured in and there were more things to be done.
The Holidays are almost over but I'm sure we all have a little festive hangover. May this story make it just in time for the last few days of the season. Happy new year!