Well, this is probably my last story for the year. May the next year bring us lots of fun and exhilarating stories. Happy holidays, everyone!


13 Weeks Ago

Penny stared at Amy with astonishment. "What?"

"I want you to spend far less time with Sheldon," Amy said firmly. "During the summer it was understandable. You were missing Leonard, and so was Sheldon. You have been friends for a long time. But now that Leonard is back, you have someone to spend time with. I need to get Sheldon and I back on track for my five year plan and having you constantly be around is not helping."

Penny laughed, hiding her unease. "You act like I'm trying to steal your boyfriend."

"Aren't you?" Amy asked quietly.

Penny felt as if she had been slapped. "I would never do that," she said in a soft, pained voice. "And I can't believe you would really think so."

Amy shrugged. "I've always known you care about Sheldon, Penny. But lately, it's as if you are always watching him. Always beside him. Every time I visit, you are in my spot on the couch. If we are to remain besties, then you need to spend much less time with my boyfriend and start spending it with yours."

Without another word, Amy left.

Nine Weeks Ago

"You're kidding right?" Leonard yelled. "Why? Because I exaggerated how sad I am about my childhood? Come on, Penny!"

Penny looked at him, her arms crossed over her stomach. "No, Leonard. I'm not breaking up with you because you lied to me. Or took advantage of my feelings for you. I'm not breaking up with you because you manipulated me into sex whenever you wanted it." He flinched slightly but still held his ground. "No, I'm breaking up with you because that's ALL we have. Sex. You never once considered how I would feel about you showing your little cruise buddies that film. You have not once asked about my day since your return, even though I have asked you every single day. Hell, you thought I was too stupid to be your partner on a damned scavenger hunt! You hate my friends and whine every time I mention getting together with them. Yet, you had no trouble expecting me to arrange my vacation for comi-con. You didn't even ask if I wanted to go, you just expected me to want to spend my vacation for you and the guys playing dress-up. The fact is, Leonard, you don't really like me. You like how I look and you like frequent, convenient sex. I'm almost 30 years old, Leonard. I'm tired of living down to your expectations."

Leonard stared at her for several seconds, his mind in too much turmoil to form a coherent argument. Finally he said the one thing he could. "I love you."

Penny shook her head. "It's not enough."

Seven Weeks Ago

Raj opened his door with surprise. "Penny?"

She looked at him sadly and held out a box. "Here. I want you to have this," she said softly. "It's your birthday present, a bit early."

Raj's eyes opened wider and he looked at the present. Before Penny could turn and leave he grabbed her hand and pulled her inside. "Penny? Why are you giving me my birthday gift now? It's not for another 4 weeks."

Tears formed in the corners of her eyes. "Because I won't be here. I'm moving back home. To Nebraska."

Raj gasped and shook his head. "No! You can't! You and Leonard will work it out! You just have to give it time."

Penny shook her head. "I don't love him. Not like everyone thinks I do. And he doesn't love me, either. I settled for Leonard because he made me feel good about myself. He views me as some sort of trophy. Love is about knowing someone's faults and accepting them. About wanting to be with that person so badly, it makes you physically ill to never see them again."

Tears spilled down her cheeks and she sobbed brokenly. She threw her arms around his neck suddenly and hugged him tightly. Raj held her close as she cried desperately. Just as suddenly as she hugged him, she released him. She placed a kiss on his cheek and ran from the apartment. Raj stood in his doorway and watched her go.

6 weeks and five days ago

Sheldon stood frozen in the kitchen, his back to the room. He could hear his blood pounding in his ears. Surely this was a dream. A nightmare. Right?

"Penny, you can't be serious," Bernadette said from her chair beside Howard.

Penny glanced at Sheldon who was still washing glasses. "I am. I already spoke to the landlord and he's letting me out of my lease. I leave on Thursday. My parents are picking me up at the airport."

Leonard stood and stormed back to his bedroom, slamming the door behind him. Amy was looking back and forth between Sheldon and Penny. Raj was silently crying beside her.

Penny took a deep breath. "I just need a fresh start guys. I'm going to finish my classes at the college in Omaha and my parents could use my help on the farm, since my brother is back in jail again. I've been struggling to make ends meet here, and I'm tired. I'll miss you guys so much," she said gently. A second later, she was gone, the door to 4A slowly swinging shut behind her.

The click of the latch catching hit Sheldon like a lightning bolt, making him flinch.