Chapter 17
"Though I tried my best to keep it,
There really was no secret,
Must have looked like I was dancing with the wall,
No one else could see this apparition,
But because of my condition,
I fell in love with a little ghost and that was all." -The White Stripes, 'Little Ghost' Verse 3

It was the craziest case that the Pasedena police had seen in a long time.

First, two hospital patients (Amy Farrah-Fowler and Robin Sharpnack) had been kidnapped by a deranged lunatic for unknown reasons. That same deranged lunatic, who was identified as John Thompson the ambulance driver, shot the little girl dying from cancer and then himself before the police arrived on the scene. Thompson had also kidnapped six other people, (Sheldon Cooper, Leonard Hofstader, Penelope Hardgrove, Howard and Bernadette Wolowitz, and Rajesh Koothrapolli) who were reportedly hanging out at Cooper and Hofstader's apartment building at the time.

Then, almost two days after that incident, the same group of people had broken into their dead kidnapper's house right before a fire had gotten out of control and trapped them inside. All were rushed to the hospital due to smoke inhalation.

The strangest thing was, that upon investigation, no arson materials were discovered.

When asked what happened, most of the intruders claimed that they couldn't remember. The only clue came from Sheldon Cooper, who was suffering from mild shock and reportedly repeated 'she's gone, she's gone' over and over again.

Finally, the police decided that the seven people involved had gotten drunk and attempted to burn down the house of their kidnappper. That was the story they fed to the press, and the press ate it up.

Hofstader, Hardgrove, the Wolowitzes, Koothrapolli, anf Farrah-Fowler were not available for comment.

Cooper could not be reached due to an extensive stay in the hospital.


One month later-

Upon his release from the hospital, Sheldon had begun to make plans to go home to Texas.

Permanantly.

A university there had offered him a position due to the Nobel he had won. Sheldon had accepted, but didn't point out that he hadn't attended the ceremony because he had ended up getting dangerously sick in the hospital.

His friends had tried to convince him not to go, and Amy had even offered to come with him, but Sheldon told her later. He wasn't ready for that sort of commitment. He had to forget a lot of things first.

When he was released from the hospital, the first thing he saw was Lacey's face. He saw her everywhere he turned, whether it was a young lady with caramel hair, or a pair of hazel eyes on a random passerby, or hearing the same song on the radio over and over...

"I was thinking 'bout her, I'm thinking about me,
Hey! Thinking 'bout us, what we're gonna be,
I open my eyes, yeah, and it was only just a dream..."

He couldn't get the damn thing out of his head. It was maddening.

He had to get out. He had to escape.

He had said his goodbyes. That was when he had learned the exciting news-Bernadette was pregnant.

"If it's a girl, we'll name her Lacey," Bernadette had said excitedly.

"Or Robin," Howard pointed out.

Sheldon had signed the apartment over the Leonard, and had told Penny that she could move in with Leonard if she wanted to.

"Maybe I will, Moonpie, but I'm not touching your room," She had said. "Or your comic book collection."

She had given him a hug and Sheldon had left.

But he had lied to them about his flight time. He left an hour earlier then he had to, because he wanted to pay a visit to someone before he left.

Sheldon pulled his suitcase along with him, as he walked back into the pristine white halls of the mental hospital and into Proffesor Rothman's pristine white room.

"Hello, Proffesor Rothman," Sheldon said softly.

Rothman was lying in bed, flipping the pages of a book.

"I know she's gone, Dr. Cooper," Rothman said quietly without even looking up from his book.

"I know," Sheldon replied. "But I still wanted to tell you in person."

Rothman nodded in what seemed like approval.

"I also wanted to say goodbye," Sheldon said, fingering the handle of his suitcase. "I'm going back to Texas."

That got Rothman's attention. The old proffesor put down his book and eased up somewhat on his pillow. Sheldon noticed that there was something different about Rothman, the way he held himself, the tone he used as he spoke.

"May I ask why?" Rothman asked.

"I see her everywhere," Sheldon said softly. His hand went into his pocket and he felt the gold locket. The necklace that had started it all when he had accidently cracked it. Lacey must had somehow repaired it, because the locket was whole, and felt smooth and uncracked.

He didn't need to say any more, apparantly, because Rothman nodded again.

"I do too," He murmured. His eyes flickered away from Sheldon's, and he doggy-eared his book.

"Do you know how she drove me insane, Sheldon?" Rothman asked.

Sheldon shook his head, feeling a little startled.

"Here's her secret-she didn't mean to." Rothman gave him a sad little smile. "She acts-acted-like she meant to, because she didn't regret it. But I know..." Rothman shook his head. "When she died, everything that I'd done to her, everything I denied her as a child, it all came crashing down on me. I knew I was on the brink of going insane because of it. Then when she came back as-as a ghost, I lost it. That hatred she had for me-the love I had for her-the knowledge I didn't have a chance to give it and that she wouldn't be able to redeem herself-that's why I'm here." Rothman gestured to the walls. "Love. That's how I was driven insane. Not by her-by my love for her. Do you understand that?"

For a minute Sheldon wasn't sure. He was remembering his own father, how he would smack him and call him a dickhead. He knew Rothman had done something along the lines to Lacey-how could fathers like that love their children?

Then he remembered something else.

How his father had made him come in to watch football before Sheldon could do his homework. He had made him come in, forced him to come in, but when Sheldon came in, his father would give him a little smile, so unlike the ones Sheldon was used to seeing. It was full of...warmth. It was something that was usually out of character for him.

Sheldon's father was dead, but Sheldon wondered if his father regretted what he did to him. Maybe a little bit? Was he watching Sheldon right now?

The thought gave him surprising comfort.

Before Lacey, Sheldon wouldn't have understood Rothman's words. But now-

"I do," Sheldon replied. "I do understand."

Rothman smiled, and Sheldon realized what was different about him. Rothman actually looked peaceful.

Because of Lacey.

"One more thing," Sheldon said. "Do you think she's..." He trailed off. Happy? Peaceful? In good hands?

"I think she could be forgiven," Rothman said. "But I might just be saying that becuase I'm her father. What do you think?"

Sheldon already knew the answer.

"Yes," Sheldon said. "Yes, I think she could be forgiven."

And why not? If his mother could forgive his father, if Rothman could forgive his daughter, if Leonard could forgive Penny for lying to him about Lacey, if Howard and Bernadette could forgive eachother after a fight, why could he not forgive Lacey? Why couldn't Lacey forgive her father?

Finally, there wasn't anything left to say. So Sheldon gave Rothman a nod in farewell. Rothman returned the nod, and opened his book again. Sheldon saw the title.

The Basics of Chess

When Rothman's door closed and locked behind him, Sheldon knew he would never see the deranged proffesor again, at least, not in life maybe.

Just like he wouldn't see Lacey.

As the song went-

"Thou are lost and gone forever,
Dreadfully sorry, Clementine."

Out of nowhere, Sheldon had a sudden realization of what Lacey was probably thinking during the last moment he saw her.

Checkmate.

A/N-Okay, this story is officially wrapped up! Right before I have to go back to school, too. Thanks to all of my wonderful reviewers, followers, and favorite-ers for the encouragement (You know who you are!)! Thank you Computer Stalker for adding my story to your community! You all are truly magnificent!