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The Best Gift Of All

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"Are you done with all your Christmas shopping?" Howard asked me.

"No! I've barely even started and it's Christmas Eve."

"Surely you at least have something for Sheldon?"

I shook my head, looking out the coffee shop window at the people scrambling through the streets to get into taxis or steel buildings. "Nope. I tried to find something but there was nothing I looked at and thought, 'Hey, that's perfect!' when I saw it. Now I've ruined it all. The holidays are going to suck because I'm the worst partner ever!"

My head dropped down onto the table, nearly toppling my hot tea, but Howard snatched it out of the way in the nick of time. "Oh, Y/N, it's not ruined. You know, I have an idea for the perfect Christmas gift."

"What?" I asked, sitting up and leaning against the window.

"Well, you know what his favorite thing in the whole world is, don't you?"

"Science."

"No."

"D.C. superheroes."

"He does love those a lot, but no."

"Trains."

Howard snorted. "Not quite. Come on, be serious. What does Sheldon love?"

"Learning. He devotes his life to it. Do you want me to get him, like, a textbook? Help with his research, maybe? I mean, he is in deep with his projects. Or I guess I could talk to Leonard about finding him some kind of trip to go on for research. A safari or something. But that's pretty expensive and he doesn't like biology much. He says it's gross."

"You're such an idiot, Y/N. No! You!"

I furrowed my brow. "Me?"

"Duh, you!"

"That doesn't make any sense. How am I supposed to be a Christmas gift?"

Howard raised a brow, sipping his hot chocolate and licking it off his lips suggestively. "I'm sure you'll think of something."

My face flushed red. "No! No, I'm going to get him a legitimate present, something better."

He shrugged. "Suit yourself. But if I were dating you, I'd take every chance I could to-"

"Stop, stop! Ugh, you're disgusting!"

"You know I'm right."

"No. I'll just get him a... a gift card."

Howard rolled his eyes, sitting back in his chair. "Boring! Whatever, Y/N. It's your relationship and he's your boyfriend, so if you disappoint him, that's on you."

"You are not helpful."

"On the contrary, I think my ideas were very good. You're just a prude."

"Am not!"

He just stared at me.

I tried to sputter out a response, but I had none. Instead, I left some change on the table to tip our waitress and headed out.

*************

Penny could barely contain herself. Christmas was finally here and she had the best ideas.

First, there was going to be a massive party. Everyone was invited: Leonard, Howard, Raj, Sheldon, Y/N, Amy, Bernadette, and some other people (she couldn't remember the whole guest list).

She'd combined everyone's holiday traditions in his party so that no one would be left out, meaning it was a little hodgepodge-like, but it would be a lot of fun.

To accommodate Howard's Judaism, there was a menorah in the window and there were lots of candles lit to celebrate Diwali, a Hindu winter holiday that Raj celebrated.

Then they'd have a holiday gift exchange and finally, everyone would go home to give more personal presents. She knew Sheldon had an amazing gift for Y/N that he was dying to give.

After that was uncertain. Maybe she'd watch a movie. Maybe she'd go on a walk. Who knows? Maybe she Leonard could have some special time together (wink, wink).

Whatever happened, it was going to be the most amazing Christmas ever!

*************

I was not enjoying Penny's party.

I should have been. There was music and food and all of our friends were at the party, but the gift swap was going to happen in half an hour and I was worried.

"Y/N!" Penny exclaimed, grabbing my hand and pulling me through the happy, chattering crowd. "I have to show you something!"

"What? Where are you taking me?"

She didn't answer until we were on the outskirts of the crowd, turning to face me seriously.

"I don't get it."

"Did you get something for Sheldon?"

I scowled. "Howard, that little rat. Sheldon doesn't know, does he?"

"No. But did you get something? Because if not, I can help you. I have this overpriced model railroad set in the back of my closet for emergencies- like if he's being uncooperative."

"You keep bribe presents in your closet for my boyfriend?"

"Not just him. There's stuff in there for all the guys."

"Wow. I'm not sure whether I'm impressed or concerned."

She rolled her eyes. "You're dodging the question."

"Sorry. Yeah, I did, but I'm not sure if he'll like it. It's kind of sappy."

A smile crossed her face. "Aww, Y/N, I'm sure he'll love it. He told me what he got for you, too. You're in for a real treat."

Oh, and the anxiety was back. "Ha, that's great. Uh, well, I should probably go find him..."

"Yeah, cool," Penny said encouragingly. "You've got this. I'll see you in a minute, I've got to go make sure Raj doesn't die if any girls talk to him."

She was gone before I could get in another word. My gaze drifted to the log burning in the fireplace and guilt twisted in me again. The last thing I wanted to do was disappoint Sheldon.

I could distinctly remember one of our first Christmases together. I'd gotten him some rare cards for one of his nerdy card collecting games and a bunch of superhero shirts. Sheldon had been delighted, even though I worried he wouldn't like them.

Another time, we'd argued about something petty and so I didn't get him the usual chocolates for Valentine's Day. He had pouted about it all week until I gave in and bought him double the number of sweets I normally gave him.

This time, Sheldon may be even more disappointed. Watching

"Gift time!" Penny announced.

Everyone besides me cheered, hurrying to arrange into a circle and get the presents they had for one another.

"I'm going first!" Penny declared. "I've got the coolest stuff to give you guys!"

She was right. Everything she gave, people loved, even if the price tag wasn't high. To Leonard, she gave a watch. Amy got a box set of old French movies. Howard received a Beatles CD. Bernadette was given an adorable necklace and Raj got some comic books.

Mostly, I was distracted and didn't notice the majority of the exchanges. In fact, Bernadette had to tap me on the shoulder to snap me out of my trance and accept a present from Amy.

Leonard gave me a card. When I opened it, I got exactly what he expected- a stupid joke and a sloppy signature.

Howard gave me BDSM wear, which made everyone laugh except me. I was beet red and cussing him out.

The rest of the night was a blur. I recalled saying goodbye to my friends, but other than that, I was unsure until I was sitting on the couch beside Sheldon, preparing for our personal gift exchange.

"Are you ready?" Sheldon asked, looking like he was about to explode with excitement.

"Yeah."

He thrust a neatly wrapped box into my arms, eyes twinkling in the firelight. I tore the wrapping paper and put it in a pile before opening the box.

Inside was a package of candies, the super-soft socks I asked for, tickets to see a movie, a collector's copy of my favorite book, and a rose for a romantic cherry on top.

I gasped, removing the items one by one before looking up into Sheldon's eager face. "Oh, I love it, Shel, thank you!"

He smiled. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, honey," I replied, "Okay, do you want yours?"

"Yes, yes, yes!"

Laughing lightly and trying to ignore the somersaults in my stomach, I passed Sheldon his present. It had a bow on top and a tag hanging off the ribbon binding it shut.

As fast as possible, Sheldon untied the ribbon, pulled off the bow, and opened it up.

He reached in, grabbing the paper inside and reading it over. As he read, his eyes teared up and he sniffled.

Panicked, I apologized. "I'm sorry! Why are you crying? Are you okay? I know it's not anything you asked for or-"

"Y/N, it's perfect!" He exclaimed, setting down a beautifully written poem. "I love you so much!"

I only had seconds to think before I was tackled to the ground, crushed in a hug. "Ah! Careful!"

"Sorry," said Sheldon, voice muffled since his face was pressed against me. "Thank you!"

"I'm glad you like it. I was worried you wouldn't."

Sheldon lifted himself up on his elbows, looking down at me with an expression that could only be described as adoring. "Of course I like it. No, I don't just like it- I love it. You're the best and I love you."

Blushing, I replied, "Thanks. I love you, too."

And finally, finally, Sheldon leaned down to kiss me.

The songs were right. It really was the most wonderful time of the year.