Sheldon placed a few more things in the box sitting on his bed and then glanced once more around the room. It took great concentration to stop the flutter deep in his stomach that was telling him to stop, and stay with the familiar.
Change is bad. Change is scary. You cannot plan a future with change.
"No" he said aloud. "This change will be good. " he stated quietly. "One way or the other, I have to leave. "
He summoned all the courage he would need at this point and took the last box to the front door.
He did not stop and look around one last time. He grabbed his jacket and bag, walked out the door and shut it behind him. The tears starting to sting his eyes he forced down.
"No" he said again. "I must do this. It will only kill me to stay..."
Unknown to his friends and even to Amy Farrah Fowler, Dr. Sheldon Cooper was not anywhere near the ignorant man when it came to social interactions. At least not ones of the heart. He had often lead with his heart in the past even when it went against his better judgement. He knew what true friendship was. Loyalty. Even love. He knew, and that is what finally drove him to his neighbor's door for this one last time...
*knock *knock *knock* "Penny"
*knock* knock* knock* "Penny"
*knock* knock* knock * "Penny"
Penny smiled from ear to ear. No one would ever know just how much she was glad that whackadoodle lived across the hall. Sheldon sure was different, but boy did he keep things interesting.
She opened the door wide and what she saw made her smile even more, if that was possible.
Sheldon was standing there in jeans, a navy blue button down shirt and a sports jacket was draped over his arm. His hair was not plastered down, and he hadn't shaved this morning. Penny felt her heart skip just a beat as she looked at him with new eyes for the first time. Dare she think it, did she think Sheldon was hot?
"Sheldon! Wow, you look... wow! Great! (sexy) What's the occasion?"
"Hello Penny, may I come in?"
Penny held the door open wide, her eyes still following the almost normal looking man she had known all these years now. Her stomach was fluttering as she realized just how handsome she always thought he was. There was something different about the way he carried himself, as if he was all grown up. He turned and looked at her in a way he never had before. Penny didn't know what to call it, it scared her a little. It was similar to how her dad looked when he had to tell her an animal on the farm had died. A look that was full of love, but also full of sadness at the same time. Damn his eyes were so blue and gorgeous. Penny had forgotten how sexy his eyes were. She used to stare at them all the time challenging him. Lately, they hadn't really seen each other much at all. She felt a bit melancholy.
"Sheldon sweetie, what's going on? What happened?"
"Penny, may we please sit down? I have many things to say to you, and I have a plane to catch shortly."
"Oh my gosh Sheldon, is it your grandmother? Is she ok?"
Sheldon momentarily forgot what he was there for and allowed himself to smile a warm smile. Such a caring heart. What an extraordinary woman.
"No Penny, no everyone is just fine. Thank you for asking, but this is something else."
Penny sat down beside him and stared again at his eyes. He was a completely different person. He looked at her again with that look of love and sadness and began to speak.
"Penny, I have many things to say to you and I would like you to just hear me out and not interrupt. It has taken a great deal of time for me to draw up the courage, so I need to delay no further or I may blow this whole thing." He dropped his head and took a deep breath.
"Penny, I will just come out and say it. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. You smiled at Leonard and me the first day we met, and you were so stunning, I had to turn my eyes away lest I faint from your glow. I knew my roommate well enough to deduce that he would pounce on you like a cat and I had no desire to be a part of that as well. I felt you most assuredly had a substantial amount of men who declare their love for you probably on a routine basis. I had always thought myself above that sort of thing, but I couldn't help myself. I was mesmerized by you."
"Ever since you came into our lives, and called me a beautiful mind genius guy, my heart has been yours. However, I had no desire to be one of the many men that fling themselves at your feet, and determined that in a world of choices, I would probably rate dead last, or at least second to last, one step ahead of Wolowitz." he smiled sheepishly and Penny's heart burned. He was being ADORABLE.
Penny couldn't keep her heart from racing. Guys had hit on her all her life, but none had talked to her like this before. Not even Leonard. And what was this about a plane? Penny was getting more and more anxious by the second.
"I decided then, to make myself as obnoxious as possible to keep you at bay and give my heart a rest. You surprised me by being a friend to me regardless. No matter how crazy I got ."
His eyes widened and he gave her a knowing stare. Penny remembered panties on the phone line and rides to work early in the morning. She smiled back.
"My affinity for you only grew. You are truly one of a kind. I knew Leonard would never cease in his quest for you, and I decided a long time ago that your friendship was the best thing I could possibly have, as it would at least keep you in my life. I never approved of you and Leonard in the beginning, as it tore at my heart seeing the two of you together. But then you stated once that you would leave for Nebraska when things were going badly, so I encouraged your relationship towards the end just to keep you in my life."
Sheldon raked his fingers through his hair and let out a sigh. He just couldn't get any cuter. He looked at her once again and the look he had this time was stern, maybe a bit angry? She couldn't tell...
"Penny, I was wrong. I was so wrong. I see now what Leonard and you are doing to each other and I have to say something. I had to DO something. Leonard has deep scars Penny, you know that. As much as I admire and envy him growing up with a genius like Beverly, even I know it has to hurt when your own mother doesn't demonstrate her love for you. I can't imagine it really. I grew up with the most caring and loving mother there was, even though she is bat crap crazy. Leonard is a great guy Penny. He's been a great friend to me. He not only needs, but deserves the love, respect and adoration of a good woman. It would go a long way to allowing him to heal. Quite frankly, I don't think that you can provide that."
I DO have issues with commitment...Penny thought
"And I know that you have been hurt as well. I don't know all the details, but I know what a broken heart feels like, and I know you don't want to go through that ever again. You know Leonard will never hurt you, and I think you have placed that above being courageous enough to risk hurt in order to find someone else. Penny, your inner glow has been fading month after month. You've been drinking more. You have shut yourself off from your other friends. The happy Penny is gone, and it saddens me."
Sheldon's posture and voice grew more serious.
"I'm sorry, but do you really see him as the "one" for you? Everyone deserves to be happy Penny. Certainly Leonard, and most assuredly you. " He hesitated and dropped his head before adding quietly, "and even me."
Without realizing it, Penny eyes began to water. Of course everything Sheldon was saying was true. It hurt so much to be betrayed. To have your heart broken in two. Leonard would NEVER do that to her. She would never have to worry about that. He would take care of her, hell, always DID take care of her. From day one. So sweet, so caring, always willing to listen. Leonard is a great friend. The best she ever had. But she always felt it was better when they WERE just friends. This relationship she was in, however secure, left her feeling ...lacking somehow. She always thought it was a flaw in herself. But if Sheldon saw it too, maybe it was true.
Then Sheldon did something she never thought he would do. He placed one hand on hers, and the other on her chin and lifted it so her eyes met his. Then he wiped her tears away.
"Don't cry Penny, I don't say these things to make you sad. I am here for quite another reason. "
He smiled at her and it was contagious. This new Sheldon was certainly full of surprises. Suddenly she felt like she wasn't alone with her thoughts and doubts anymore. Someone else understood her.
Then he furrowed his brows and started talking again, sweet Jesus, now what?
"Penny, I can't stay any longer and watch you and Leonard be together. It hurts too much. Not only that, I can also tell my zeal for my work is suffering. That is why I put in a request to work in Switzerland at Cern, and they have graciously accepted."
Penny tried to soak in this new piece of information. Then it hit her, the suit, the plane...the confession, my God, he's leaving. He's leaving right now. Never one for maudlin displays of emotion. The guys were all away at a convention. Even Bernadette and Amy were gone. Penny's heart sank. Sheldon saw that she got it right away, of course she would. She was so beyond him when it came to human interaction. A true genius at deciphering people's thoughts and emotions.
"Sheldon don't..." and the tears came now, she didn't know why, they just did. How was she going to live without this man across the hall. The man that kept her smiling. Kept her challenged, kept her from slipping into depression. Before she could say anything else, Sheldon put something in her hands.
She looked down. It was a card, a debit or credit card. She didn't understand.
"Penny. I have to do this. You know that I do. I need to leave and I need to be at Switzerland. For the first time in a long time I am excited. Scared to death too, but excited. There, I WILL win the Nobel Prize, and also, I need to be away from here, the memories, and ...
...and you and Leonard."
Penny couldn't see Sheldon anymore, her eyes were so blurry. Even as he said the words, she knew it was true. He was the most brilliant man on the planet. He needed to go. All the time they spent together suddenly rushed through her mind and she cried more and more.
"Penny, keep this. Keep it somewhere safe. It is an account I created in your name. It is there if you ever need anything. Also, there is enough for a ticket to Switzerland, should you ever decide to, you know...visit."
Sheldon stood and pulled Penny up on her feet. He put his hands on either side of her face and brushed the tears away with his thumbs. "If you ever want to start over, I will be anything you need Penny. You can come be my friend, or you can come and be more, but if you were in my life in any way at all, I would be happy. I can no longer be here. I need to do this. I hope you understand. If anyone in the world could, it would be you. "
Sheldon looked into Penny's eyes. Now it was his turn to cry. Is this the last time I will ever gaze upon your beauty? Their foreheads touched. They shared a brief look, and then Sheldon bowed his head and pressed his lips to hers. Gently. And the emotions flowed through them both, and the tears continued to fall. Penny felt her arms go around Sheldon and she pulled him close. Sheldon returned the embrace. Their kiss broke, and they hugged for a long time, swaying back and forth. They cried together briefly before he pulled apart and kissed her again. This time like his life depended on it. Penny felt the urgency and returned it in kind. Then too soon, it was over, and he whispered the words in her ear, his breath gave her shivers down her spine.
"God how I love you."
And without looking at her, he slowly released his grip and walked without another word out the door and into his future.