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Our Green Palace

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Leonard Leakey Hofstadter. Prince of Germany. Brown hair and brown eyes. Quiet and quite handsome. Sixteen years old, and quite unforgettably one of many Princes of Germany. Leonard wears slightly rounded, tortoise-shell, thick rimmed glasses with a high prescription. 

 

He pushes up his glasses and shovels a medium sized forkful of Gulasch into his mouth.

 

His mother, strong widowed woman, Queen Beverly speaks in her slightly strangled plummy voice, going through her announcements for the boys. “...and Leonard, dear, you are to be attending badminton sessions every Thursday as of next week.” Leonard looked up, escaping from the enclosure of his own thoughts he’s so comfortably familiar with.

 

He starts to shake his leg meanwhile an uncomfortable warm tingle grows in his chest. He looks around the room, suddenly feeling overwhelmed by all the noises and sights that he was completely oblivious to before. He places his fork down and starts to play with the buttons on his cardigan. He starts ruminating about badminton sessions. He sighs anxiously, frowns, and bites his thumb, head down, swinging his restless leg now. 



As soon as all at the table are finished, the servants clear away the plates and the Princes are excused. Walking out of the large, grand dining room, Leonard keeps his head down and his two older brothers, aged 18 and 20, exchange chatter and laughter on their way out of the dining room and probably into the drawing room or just outside the palace, one assumes. Leonard rushes to his room. 

 

His sweaty hands grab the door and slam it shut behind him and he tries to breathe. He curls into the corner with his knees to his chest, head falling down onto his knees, his short strands of curly hair falling with his head. He’s breathing so heavily, crying now. “Oh my god ,” he whispers as he feels an even more intense wave of anxiety, bitter like death. He  wipes his eyes and shuts them. He holds back his head and takes in a sharp breath, clenching his muscles tight. Waiting for this to be over. Please, God let it be over.

 

Flustered and red, he pushes out the breath from his lips and grabs the notebook from hidden under his bed. He scribbles away furiously to let out all the things he’s feeling...

 

I’ve felt like this for so long now and it doesn’t feel right. It’s getting worse. My own mind is attacking me. I’m so scared someone’s going to find out. Sheldon’s got to know. I have to keep leaving class for “medical reasons”  but I think he knows what the problem is. I just hope to god nobody thinks I’m a freak. They already think I’m a nerd. Sure, I stay quiet and I keep to myself and people leave me alone, but if this keeps happening, people will notice me too much. I can’t let that happen. I have to live a normal life. I already live in a hell hole of a dungeon-palace where nobody has any emotional connections and we all just assume our god damn roles and don’t talk to each other about anything other than royal duties. I can’t let school become a hell-hole too. 

It’s just too much.

I don’t like to think about it all though. It all hurts to think about it and it just freaks me out even more. I think I’m done writing. I’ll be fine. I’m alright now. I’ll be fine.



Leonard tosses the notebook under his bed. He sighs, rubs his eyes and dresses into his pyjamas and a red dressing gown. He stretches his arms above his head and sits himself  on the chair in the corner of his room and picks up a book from the stack on the big round table in front of the chair. The Catcher In The Rye. He glares at it temptingly as he holds it in his hands, but he decides against it. He gets up and takes a walk down the corridor to the library to find some books on the subject matter of theoretical physics, something Leonard is currently studying in school and that has piqued an interest in him. 

 

As Leonard treads into the soft, light room aligned by shelves of brown homely books, a soft twinge stokes his spine and a calm flood of chemicals swim through his blood. He smiles and sniffs up the smell of the room. He sighs out loud, almost overwhelmed by it all. This whole room is full of things that can kill all the time in the world and steal all of his consciousness. 

 

Not long after browsing, he picks up a book and immerses himself in a world that’s much more simple. He wishes he could be normal and feel okay no matter what he’s doing or what room he’s in but things just aren’t that simple for him. Everything else is just too uncomfortable. Things are really tough.

 

 

Chapter Text

Down the school hallway, Leonard and Sheldon walk next to each other. Towering many inches over Leonard, Sheldon stands upright wearing a satchel, his hands dangling by his sides, pale porcelain skin and perfect carved features. Leonard is wearing a suit, grey blazer and tie, with a backpack snug on his back, and hugging multiple coloured exercise books up to his chest along with a couple of textbooks in the mix too--Physics and Chemistry. Leonard’s third subject of study is, infact, Art.

Normally, Sheldon would ridicule one for partaking in any subject other than the hard sciences, but he actually possesses an understanding for Leonard’s art.

For one summer project, Leonard created his own series of comic books. The project was the most obscure project in the school that year, and caused a deal of controversy with the people (adults mainly) that walked past, glaring at it with widened eyes. Thankfully Leonard’s art teacher is the kind that allows for the odd case of transgression and secretly basks in the mischievousness that follows from all the appeals from heads of the school should visitors complain.

The two of them still walking down the corridor, Leonard lets out a sigh from his lips and wipes the sweat from his forehead.

“Leonard…” Sheldon begins.

“Yeah?” Leonard says, tiredly.

“You’re perspiring an awful lot and you’re breathing particularly loud--”

“Oh I’m sorry for breathing too loud, Sheldon. Perhaps I’ll just stop breathing altogether. I’m sure that will fix all of the world’s problems!” Leonard swiftly turns round in the middle of the corridor to give Sheldon a look of exasperation. He sighs and turns back around, continuing to walk down the corridor to the next lesson.

“Well,” Sheldon begins, “what I was going to suggest was that perhaps we should take a seat outside the courtyard for a brief moment. However, since you’re so set on being a Little Miss Snappy Pants, I am now thinking perhaps I should leave you and your uterus to it,” Sheldon deadpans.

Leonard stops as a wave comes over him, making him feel dizzy. He pinches the bridge of his nose and falls to rest against the wall by the side. Sheldon stands in front of him patiently. “Leonard, while we have not talked about this before, I would like you to know that I am, indeed, aware of your panic disorder and your generalized anxiety.”

“You are?” Leonard says in a haze, breathlessly, pulling out his inhaler from his pocket, shaking and taking a puff from it.

“Yes.” Sheldon pauses. “And I am okay with it,” he adds.

Leonard leans his head back and breathes out slowly, getting himself together and nods.

He gets up and they continue to walk until they reach their respective classrooms for the next period. When they reach Leonard’s class, Sheldon says as they come to a halt, “I get a sense that you’re uncomfortable with my knowing of your mental incapacities. Allow me to comfort you, Leonard, I have known your weaknesses since the very day I met you, being the possessor of a sharp and deductive mind, and I must point out to you that despite all that, I have still endured this friendship with you since near the very beginning of high school and continued right until this very point where we are standing right now.”

“Yes that is true, Sheldon. Thank you for sticking with me,” Leonard sighs, ignoring the use of the term “endure” that Sheldon used, knowing that this was in fact very kind of Sheldon, for Sheldon anyways. “Later, Sheldon.” He says as he leaves to walk through the classroom doorway.

“Goodbye, Leonard.”

Leonard takes his seat at the back of the room and places down his sketchbook from his somewhat mountainous pile of books. He opens up the book onto a blank page and stares into it deeply, lost in the white abyss of the paper, inside his head instead. Thoughts of badminton, thoughts of the past, they all swirled around in his mind whilst all he could do was just sit there, locked in a trance with a restless leg.

At some point in the lesson, Leonard’s art teacher comes over to him, with all his big hand gestures and his long straggly hair. How on earth this man got a job at such a prestigious high school is beyond Leonard, but he smiles politely and looks up at his teacher as he talks with grandiosity.

“Leonard! My, my, you’ve been staring into that sheet as though the thing were on fire!”

Leonard smiles shyly and looks away.

“My dear, please! Do something creative with it! Don’t waste all that fear. I can tell that you’re terrified of something, so please god don’t let it go to waste. Draw it or so god help me, Leonard. I won't even look at it; just draw something.”

“Okay, Mr Mycieuk,” Leonard agrees quietly and the teacher twirls.

Leonard rubs his forehead and rolls his eyes. He brings the sketchbook to his chest and does think about drawing something for a second, but as his pencil hovers over the paper he realises how silly it all is and thankfully, not long after the bell rings.

At the end of the day, there is only ever one lesson. There’s period six, lunch, period seven and then hometime. There are, of course clubs at the end of the day, but most of them are pretty horrendous, full with boring nerds and unenthusiastic goths that literally just sit around, not doing anything, just staring into space and sometimes smoking a cigarette. Leonard ponders why they attend, if all they do is sit around. He can’t bear to be around the school any longer sometimes. But he also understands that for some people school is an escape and sometimes you just never want to go home. Leonard doesn’t ever want to go home. But when he’s at home he isn’t really at home. He’s reading a book, on some other planet that he wishes he was on, but just not quite a hundred percent there. He lays in bed a lot of the time, too.

Leonard thinks about all of this while he’s chauffeured home. Leonard hates being driven around. He feels so out of place, despite growing up this way. It just doesn’t seem right. Tonight, he is being taken straight to his first badminton game, and he is actually quite thankful to be taken straight away so that he can get this over and done with so he can come home and spend the whole rest of the night in peace, not having to wonder who the hell he was going to have to be taught badminton by.

Chapter Text

“Rajesh Koothrappali.” A handsome young man, roughly the same age as Leonard, perhaps a year or two older, introduces himself and extends his hand out for a handshake. Leonard shyly shakes his hand, and looks down, smiling with that awkward pursed lips smile, only briefly meeting his eyes.

After shaking Rajesh’s hand, Leonard steps back and Rajesh prompts him, “...and you are...” he looks expectantly.

Leonard jumps almost as if he’s snapping out of a daze and says “Oh, I’m Leonard Hofstadter. Sorry.” Rajesh smiles. But as soon as the words come out of his mouth Leonard’s stomach turns and his throat tightens. The round enclosing wall/ceiling of the outdoor bubble badminton court becomes much too apparent to Leonard so he focuses on the gravel ground.

Whilst Rajesh goes to pick up the equipment resting against the wall by the side of the room, Leonard decides to ask, “So how old are you, just… out of, y-know, curiosity?”

Rajesh picks up the rackets from the ground and straightens his back on the way up. “I’m 17 years old, and you?”

“I’m sixteen.” Leonard starts biting his thumb and pulling his cardigan over his other hand.

Rajesh hands Leonard one of the rackets. “Thank you, Rajesh.”

“I would tell you to call me Raj, like mostly everybody else, but I like how it sounds when you say Rajesh. It sounds very cute.”

Leonard purses his lips and furrows his brows. “Thanks,” he says very slowly, frowning. His heart is starting to race.

Raj can tell Leonard can’t take a compliment very well from this and so he just shrugs and chuckles to himself. “Okay, let’s just show me what you’ve got first. We’ll just have a rally and we can see what you know about badminton and pick it up from there, okay?”

And with that, the lesson begins.

Chapter Text

Thursday comes around again for Leonard before he even has to wait for it. Leonard spends the week feeling a small warm glow inside of him, and everything just seems to go pretty well. Nothing spectacular happens, but things just feel right for a bit.

This week, he felt much more of a tolerance for Sheldon's unprofitable ramblings while sitting together in the lunch hall, just smiling nonchalantly whilst Sheldon rambles on, rather than just keeping his head down and letting him talk.
In all fairness, Leonard doesn’t really mind conversations with Sheldon, because Sheldon knows a lot about science and comic books, and when they’re not having an argument and when Sheldon’s isn’t going to extreme lengths to prove that he knows more than Leonard, Leonard actually likes to converse with him. Most people just look at Sheldon like he’s a freak, and Sheldon just shrugs and walks away, but Leonard just learnt how to just deal with it and how to be around it.

Sheldon also can provide an incredible exhibition of honesty, which can come in handy when actually needed. Before, Sheldon would impose whatever brutal opinions he had the second he had one to offer, but as the pair have grown together, Leonard has managed to teach Sheldon not to offer up his opinions unless people actually are looking for advice because it is hurtful and unnecessary. Sheldon didn’t care for that explanation much to begin with, but over time realised that the best way to be successful in interaction is to just keep his damn mouth shut.

Now I’m not about to sit here and be the type of narrator that acts like you and I are not here. You’ve met the characters and you know where they are.

Now the story unfolds and is to be told from Leonard, himself.

The underdog; the quiet one. But the one that brings and holds a world together. The one who feels it all.

Chapter Text

I wake up to the sun striking right across my face and reach out for my glasses over on my bedside table. I shove them on and close my eyes, tempting fate on accidentally falling asleep again. I’ve put my glasses on specifically to stop that, but I could easily just fall back asleep with them on and wake up with a broken pair.
I’ve actually done that once or twice before, and my mother was extremely unhappy about that. I mean, she owns the whole country of Germany, three palaces, two castles and practically an ocean of money. In fact, I bet one could actually swim in it if one was to put it all in one massive hall and fill it up--almost to the ceiling.

I personally don’t really like to splurge out like some royals do, but I will admit that I do enjoy the privilege of obtaining the odd couple spectacular designer items. For example a couple of my cardigans, my one golden ring and my pair of Chopard sunglasses.
Sunglasses are not particularly the kind of thing that you’d say to be a part of my “deal”, but when I go out to places, it’s necessary to wear them to keep my face at least somewhat covered due to being a Prince.

I don’t like calling myself a Prince. You’d think I’d be used to it, being a Prince my whole entire life, but I’m really not. I wasn’t born for this. I think I was born to go out and do science or something, or to do art and rebel. I feel like I’m the kind of person that was meant to live somewhere like the United States, or The Netherlands, researching and living, somewhere normal, like an apartment. Not a god-damn palace.

I’ve literally just been laying here, thinking with my eyes closed, I’ve just realised… at 6:25am on a Wednesday.

I guess it’s time to get up. I don’t think I’ll be going back to sleep anytime soon, now my mind’s wide awake. I guess I can read a book before school if I have the free time. The thought is such a great comfort to me when I remember I can just read a book. My heart and my body just feel a nice warm flush.

I roll out of bed, and first I head for the shower. I soak tiredly in the bubbles and steam and I massage my shoulders. Now I just stand in it, staring into the plughole and watching the water swirl into it.
Soon I realise it’s time to get out and I rub my eyes in an attempt to wake myself. The mirror and the glass cubicle of the shower are completely steamed up to the point where I can’t see my reflection. I stick my robe on and walk down the stairs to the dining room where I’m handed my espresso by Bertrum, our butler and I hold it up to him quickly glancing at him before looking down at him with a shy smile as a thank you. “You’re welcome,” Bertrum winks and replies knowingly.

I take the coffee and sit by the dining table by myself and remember that my brothers are probably still fast asleep in bed. They are still accomplished beings, absolutely, but they’re no stranger to liking a ly-in. Just as the thought crosses my mind, my eldest brother Jamie walks in with an empty cup and leaves it on the table to return it. He’s already suited up, ready for a day’s work. Some days he has to get up earlier than others, and I guess today’s just a day of business for him. He walks in and out of the room quickly enough to not take any notice of me and I return my eyes down to the drink in front of me.

I sip away, whilst entertaining myself with my own thoughts; thoughts of art class and things I might do with my portfolio -- different textures and fabrics I might like to add, thoughts of the day ahead -- my timetable and Sheldon and lunch and home, and a big stomach- gnawing thought of tennis, too.

I remember Rajesh to be a very kind, gentle young man, but I also remember showing him what I knew of tennis to be an extremely intimidating task. At one point he had to come up so close to me, right against me, and held me whilst showing me how to serve. And it was okay, I mean, he smelt amazing, and it wasn’t too awkward because Raj speaks so gently I know he’d never be the type of person to want to hurt anyone, but my heart was beating so fast and I was so scared I was going to do something stupid. Towards the end of our session he smiled in a knowingly way and I am honestly left to wonder what that could mean. I don’t know if I'm reading into things or whether that means something new is going to happen next time, or if he’s thinking of me differently, or if he’s got me figured out as a person, or if he now knows how he’s going to help me reach my potential at tennis, or god knows what. But I have been theorising over this last week.

Eventually I reach the end of my cup of joe and I place it back down on the table and leave the room to get dressed and seize the day. What I realise by the time I get back upstairs and am completely ready, hair straightened, shirt, cardigan, blazer and skinny formal trousers on, I actually have no time left to kill and it’s time to head out the door and make my way to school.

In the car, I run through the day in my head, remembering what lessons I’ll have and jot them down in my notebook. Chemistry, then Art, then a free period, then lunch, then physics. My free period will probably consist of studying and catching up with Chemistry or Physics in the library where there are plenty of resources and Sheldon around, too. Art’s better to do up in my bedroom in the palace, where I can lock myself in and spread all the pages and painting tools across the floor.

When we arrive at my school, I jump out and slam the door shut, and pull my satchel across my shoulder. I make my way straight into the school and head down the hallway to my locker where Sheldon also is. He’s just unlocking his own locker as I approach him.

“Hey Sheldon,” I say.

“Hello, Leonard. I believe you have Chemistry first, Art after that, and then a free period plus Physics with me?” He says in the tone of a question but in the manner of really just showing off.

“Correct.” I nod not showing much bother, while taking out a load of books from my locker, ready to carry around for the rest of the day, how I always do. It’s probably not the most practical, but it’s just something that I do. I don’t really know why. I guess I like the comfort of the habit I’ve grown of holding them close to my chest, like I’m hugging them.

“And you’re expecting to spend the free period with me around while you study for your assignments in Chemistry and possibly physics, as you usually do?”

“Yes,” I confirm as I close my locker door and turn to him.

“Well, Leonard, I am displeased to inform you that that will not be possible today, as I am attending a meeting with some of my father’s businessmen from 12:45 until 2pm. Leaving you alone for the latter half of the forty minute lunch period and the entirety of your free period.”

“Oh, okay,” I say quietly and shrug.

“Sorry, man.” Sheldon pats me on the shoulder, which I find a little odd, but then he does sometimes end up making little eccentric moves to try to do what’s seen as protocol in certain situations.

“It’s ok. See you in Physics, then.” And then I turn around and head for Chemistry class.

 

*

 

In Chemistry we focus on subatomic particles which will probably blend in quite nicely now that I have Physics later today, especially if I go back to what I learnt today in Chemistry during my study period right before it.
After Chemistry, I walk myself to my Art lesson and I still can’t help but feel it would be a lot nicer having just somebody to walk to my lessons with just to keep me out of the dungeon of my head for two minutes. Not many who take Art class also take Chemistry. In fact there’s only one girl, I’ve noticed, this one girl out of my Chemistry class takes art too and through the crowded halls I notice her sometimes walking straight to art class from mine. I don’t know if I could ever talk to her though. It would probably be a little weird if I just walked up to her one day and decided I wanted to talk to her. She’d think I’m a bit of a freak.

I walk into the art studio and place my satchel and books down and open up my portfolio which I keep on my desk because I always sit on the same desk, right at the back, closer to the door.

I spend the majority of the lesson occupied by sticking things in that I’ve created in my room at the palace. While it’s not the most productive thing I could be doing, I know that it’s a much better idea than sitting and torturing myself, not knowing what to draw or create and wind up in a really bad frame of mind. It’s really terrible, but sometimes I’ve just spent the whole hour staring into space, getting nothing done and thinking of nothing to keep my mind stimulated and wind up thinking about how bad it would be if I would just die and end it all.

So I try to avoid that now, and if that means spending the time sticking things into the pages and decorating the book, then that’s what I’ll do. I’ve spoken with Mr Mycieuk about this before as he was the one who noticed that this is the way to keep me in my best place and he told me, “I know you well, Leonard. Better than you think I do and better than you know yourself. And I know that you will take matters into your own hands and you will be able to create things in your own time and your own space. I’m going to need you to trust yourself on this one, too. Just do what needs to be done.” And while it is super hard to trust myself, I do as I am told, like I always do and I never argue with what is said. I just listen.

After two hours of Chemistry and only an hour of Art is lunchtime and finally I can get some human interaction. Sheldon finds me as I’m sitting down at the dining hall and makes idle chatter about the somewhat displeasing food on his plate, complaining something about the viscosity of the gravy and the slight hardness of the peas.
Don’t be mistaken, though, because although at first he comes across as it, Sheldon’s not a snob; Sheldon’s just incredibly picky.
As his mother once unforgettably remarked, “Sheldon’s only like this because he’s a clever little man and the rest of his brain’s getting a wedgie from that smarty pants up there!” While somewhat silly and whimsical, that’s really the most remarkable way of putting it. Mary is a truly wonderful woman, I really wish I got to see her more. She’s so lovely.

After his twenty minutes of lunch, Sheldon has to get up and leave, so he stands with his tray.

“Hang on… weren’t you supposed to be eating lunch with your father’s colleagues?”

“Yes, and I still am. But you and I both know I’m not really going to eat the food of a strange restaurant. I will make it appear to look that way, perhaps, but I am not risking salmonella, or any other microbial infection.”

“Ahh, okay,” I say and then smile tightly. “Well have fun.”

“I won’t.”

Sheldon exits the dining hall and leaves me to myself. This doesn’t happen much. I’m not sure I feel comfortable on my own here around other people. I feel kind of exposed. I pick up a novel to read from my bag.

No, this isn’t going to work.

I turn the pages and keep glossing over the words, saying them in my head over and over when they don’t sink in and realise this is futile when I start feeling really hot and red. I rub my neck and start panicking a little. I get up, put my bag on, push up my glasses, pick up my tray of unfinished food and take it straight to the bin where I tip it away and rush straight out in a flush. I don’t care if anyone’s even looking at me at this point I’ve just got to get straight out. I decide to head round the corner outside near the recycling bins where the smokers and goths sometimes go when they seem to be desperate for a smoke.

Thank god, nobody is there and I sink to the ground, knees to my chest, catching my breath, so desperate and pathetic at this point.

After a few minutes, my breath is still unsteady, but I’m calming down, and then Leslie Winkle, one of the girls in my year, one of the goths, comes out holding an unlit cigarette, standing above me. “Hey, Leonard. You’re not gonna grass on me are you?” She looks at me. I shake my head, “No Leslie,” I say a little breathlessly and squint my eyes and swallow hard to try soothe my dry throat.

She sits herself down beside me. Leslie’s a little different to some of the other girls. “You want some?” She holds her cigarette out to me as an offer.

“No thanks,” I shake my head, “just uh… trying to catch my breath,” I tell her.

“Ah, gotcha.” She winks. She then takes a drag from her cigarette and throws her head back, clearly indulging in it. She looks like she’s stressed. The goths all seem like they’ve got some kind of problems, but here in this moment you can really feel it. Like Leslie’s being real. Some of the other girls, I have to question. It’s like they think being psycho is cute or hot or something. I don’t know. But it’s not real, not like Leslie. Anyway, that’s enough about her. I rub my eyes and decide to get up. Leslie pulls me back down and says “wait up,” and gives my forehead a little kiss and when I look at her, flushed and smiling inquisitively, she just give the kind of shrug that tells “so what? I wanted to”. And I raise a brow and then look down shyly and head out, “Bye, Leslie,” I just say.

“Bye Leonard,” she winks.

That was strange. But I dealt with that a lot better than I could have done. I wonder what her deal is. It made me blush a little, but my heart didn’t race. How did I deal with that so well? Maybe I’m just alright around women. Or perhaps I am with Leslie. She’s pretty laid back. She’s actually a pretty fantastic girl.

Wow, I can’t believe she just kissed me.
That was weird.

Was it romantic…? Or…out of pity?
I don’t know, but I’ve got to stop thinking about it.

I walk over to the library for the remaining ten minutes of lunch and sit down and copy out some of my notes from Chemistry and get started on some of my Physics assignments.
For fun, I even decide to plan an essay comparing the differences between studying subatomic particles in the field of Chemistry, vs. the field of physics, something I can carry on with when I get back home.

Time passes at a relative pace and my mind is kept occupied for the rest of the night and right up until Thursday morning when I wake up again.

Chapter Text

“Hi Rajesh.” I walk into the tennis dome.

“Oh, hey Leonard,” he says in his soft Indian accent, looking up from his flip phone and smiling.

I look around but I see no tennis equipment.

In response, Raj steps in and says, “Well, you know… it’s pretty clear you’re no fan of tennis, and you’re also certainly no fan of getting up close and me helping you. So how about we sit together and chill and get to know each other instead?”

I sigh in relief and drop my shoulders, “Oh, that’d be great,” I tell him.

“Here, come sit next to me,” he says, guiding me to the edge of the white dome wall, where it’s low and it curves. I sit down on the floor beside him.

“I bought a small bottle of gin and some tonic with me, if you’d like to drink some of it with me?” Rajesh offers.

“Oh, wow. Um, I’m not sure…” I scratch my neck and look down.

“It might take the edge off, you know. But no pressure, of course. You’re only young.”

Rajesh is one or two years older than me, but he is of legal age to drink. I have tasted wine before, but I haven’t ever tasted gin, or anything of the sort. I was never old enough to try one of my father’s beers either, not before he died. I decide that the situation calls for it and agree, “yes, sure, I will have a drink with you. Why not?” I smile and shrug excitedly.

He takes out the small glass bottle of gin and the plastic bottle of tonic and two small glasses out from his icebox and he pours the drink out for me and him. As strange as it is, it’s nice. I smile and pick up my glass whilst quickly clinking my glass against his. “Cheers!” I say.

“It’s lovely to see you smile, Leonard,” he says.

I become almost instantly embarrassed and shake my head as I bring my glass of gin up to my lips and take a drink from it, masking my face, before placing the glass back down and swallowing. Not terrible actually. I take another little sip, to get a taste again.

“I didn’t make it too strong, just in case you’re not used to it. Which, well… I gather you’re not,” he says kindly. “It has hints of Rhubarb and Ginger flavouring in it, too.”

“Well, thank you. It’s very nice.”

“You’re welcome. So what do you do? What are your hobbies?” I’m asked. I like this question.

“Well, I write comic books, for myself. I create them. And I’m really into art, and drawing. But I also study the hard sciences, Chemistry and Physics. I’m unsure which field to study further into, but I know that I have no particular interest in biology. I like particle physics, though.”

“Oh, wow! Cool. So you’re a science man. And you’re also a cute tortured little artist boy,” he says. I chuckle. “Well, you do seem very interested in what you do and it’s delightful seeing it. No, seriously, it’s refreshing. You don’t see enough enthusiasm among rich people anymore.”

“What are you doing in Germany then, Rajesh. If… you don’t mind me asking?”

“Not at all!” he assures me. “I’m here studying at Heidelberg. Astrophysics.”

“Oh, wow. I know hardly anything about Astrophysics. I think that’s incredible though.”

“It is pretty neat. Hey, one day we’ll sit under the sky when it’s dark and I can show you around the sky. Point some things out to you. How’s that?”

“Again, that sounds incredible.”

Wow. I don’t know what it is about him, but I never really thought of someone the way I do with Rajesh before. I don’t know if it’s that I admire him, or… or, or what, but… I don’t know. God, I don’t know. I’m starting to feel a bit of a rush of blood going to my head and I’m looking around and things are starting to feel a little not-real, like I’m detached and watching a film and I’m a little person stuck inside my head. I’m breathing faster, I’m holding my hands out. “Woah,” I say out loud.

“Hey, Leonard, you okay?”

Oh God, hearing my name, it makes this even more confusing to the anxiety, my mind can’t take it. I just keep hyperventilating and looking around, panicked and frozen. I’m panting badly, and Rajesh moves to sit closer next to me and places a hand on my back. “Hey, Leonard, it’s okay, I’m here.”

Okay, him saying my name again is a little more solidifying this time. My heart’s still pumping so fast and I’m getting too much oxygen, so much my hand has pins and needles. I start shaking my hand and cry “my god, I’ve got pins and needles,” and then I start panicking more. What if I don’t get enough blood flow?

“It’s okay,” he emphasises. “Here,” he takes my dead, tingling arm that I keep waving about and he says, “I’ve got your arm, just sit forward and take deep breaths.” I nod and do as he says. He massages my arm, which I concentrate on the feeling of while I try to slow my breathing. I get there with time and eventually sit back and sigh exhausted and frustrated. “Oh my God, I hate myself.”

“Woah woah woah, little Leonard, you cutie. There’s no need for that!” He tells me off. “You just had a terrible panic attack, there’s no need to beat yourself up like that,” he tells me, upset.

“Sorry,” I say.

I just really don’t want to be myself when this kind of crap happens. I feel like shit. I really, really hate myself when I do this.

“You can’t help it, now. Come here, you adorable little thing.” And he pulls me in, arm across my shoulder, he pulls me in tight for a tight hug. And that’s the first hug I’ve ever had since my dad died when I was six.

And it takes all the power in me. All the goddamn power. To force myself not to cry. Not to let the tears out. Not to do it.

And I don’t.

And it’s so painful and I have to keep silent, and only nod and hum in agreement for the rest of the time I’m with Raj and not speak to him for the rest of the night. I give him a smile and a wave goodbye at the end and it’s so painful. I look across his face and wonder what he is thinking, but I only have a second to do this before I’m ushered out into my ride and I’m chauffeured back to the palace.

I hold the tears in the whole way home like there’s no such thing as tomorrow, and I hold them back so well that by the time I make it all the way around the courtyard, up the winding stairs, down the dim corridor… I’m completely numb and dead and tired and fragile, that I just collapse onto my bed and I don’t want to cry anymore. I just want to lay there. Like a corpse.

Chapter Text

The whole of Friday, I keep silent. I don’t speak a word except to thank my chauffeur, to ask the lunch lady for no cheese and to let my teacher’s know I’m present when they call my name. I spend the whole of lunch just humming in agreement at whatever Sheldon blabs on about while I bore a hole into the spot I stare into.

 

Saturday and Sunday, I immerse myself in the world of the Hunger Games, concerning myself with the lives and the woes of Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, and the other tributes rather than my own. I also can sympathise with Haymitch Abernathy, being a mentor and struggling with addiction. The way he holds himself to such esteem, has an angry tongue, but finds ways to communicate with Katniss in the confines of the arena. He’s clever, and he’s strong and he’s broken. I always find a way to appreciate people. God I’m such a hufflepuff.

 

When Monday comes, I’m stressed. I'm stressed out because I know that I’ve got to do this all over again. I've got to be at school, get out of bed, deal with Sheldon and the loneliness that comes along with being around him and his draining lack of awareness, and on top of that I have to deal with seeing Raj again in just two days now. I can’t be bothered for this. I’m angry at my own anxiety.

 

When I arrive at school, I walk to my locker and pull my books out as usual. I don’t even see Sheldon there until he makes me jump, out of my skin, as his tall pale self is revealed when I close my locker door. “Jesus, Sheldon, you scared the life out of me.”

 

“No need to invoke the Lord,” he says.

 

I’m still recovering, trying to catch my breath. When I do, I hold my chest and shake my head at him, pissed off.

 

“Anyways, I was about to say--” he starts and I cut him off.

 

“No, you know what Sheldon, just stop. Leave me the hell alone. I’d rather be alone on my own than be alone with you blabbing beside me and not taking a single interest in me or any aspect of my life.”

 

“Well, that’s a little unfair. You and your life are not any way near as interesting as the fun fact I was just about to tell you about Avogadro’s constant."

 

That's it. “Sheldon, I’ve had ENOUGH.” I grab him by the shirt and shove him back into the locker so damn hard, he smashes right into it and I don’t even realise what I’m doing until after I’ve done it and now I look down at myself, I look at my hands and I’m really shaking and I look around me and see people watching. It is still early so there’s not a lot of people around, but there’s enough, and they’re all just looking, and I soon walk out of here, keeping my head down, now heading out to the smokers spot.

 

I stand up out there, running my hand through my hair, pacing back and forth a little. What the hell did I just do. Why the hell did I do that? Sure, Sheldon was being unbelievably selfish, like he always is and I’d had enough, but did I, Leonard Hofstadter, really just do that? I lean back against the wall, putting my hands behind my head, and sigh. I can’t believe I just did that.

 

Suddenly, I see Leslie’s head pop round the corner and then she steps round and approaches me. “Hey…”

 

“Hi, Leslie.” I look down and purse my lips, awkwardly.

 

“You and your wifey had a fight, huh?”

 

“Yeah, funny,” I say, dully.

 

“What was that all about then,” she asks and sits on the floor so I assume I’m supposed to do that too in this situation and so, after a moment of hesitation, I sit down too.

 

“Oh, I don’t know... He just kept talking about himself and I guess I’d just finally had enough...” I say quietly.

 

She nods, as if to say fair enough, and says, “Well, it’s not like you to be violent. Must have really pissed you off, then.”

 

“God, he just doesn’t shut up sometimes. And it’s like walking around with… well, it’s like walking around with literally nobody, yet the most annoying robot of all time. He doesn’t listen to me and he doesn’t give a crap and I’ve got a lot of shit I’m going through at the moment, it’s all coming to the surface, but he hasn’t even got the slightest clue!”

 

“Well, I can't ever argue with you in that Sheldon’s a dumbass,” she begins. “But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know you’re going through stuff. I mean, you're going through a rough patch, so he probably just doesn’t even know what to do about something like this, or how to talk to someone struggling, so that’s why he’s not gonna bring it up. I mean, he hates admitting he’s wrong and his ego’s so huge, he might just think that anything he doesn’t know isn’t worth trying to pursue, but then again I think he's too pussy for a cold, har, logical brain like that. He's got baggage too. Just don’t take it personally.”

 

Leslie makes some really valid points and it actually makes me feel a lot better. I mean, Sheldon really is clueless when it comes to emotions and what to do about them. She’s also right that he probably knows that something is up, like when he realised that I started getting panic attacks. Now it’s the trauma of my dad dying and the embarrassment of things with Raj stirring up inside me bringin on all this pain. Sheldon doesn’t know how to deal with that. I start to feel a bit bad for him. But it did feel good to actually let it out on him for once. Cause God he's annoying and hard work.

 

“Leslie, those are some really good points you made there, thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome,” she smiles and gets up. “Hope you feel better.” And with that she’s gone, so quickly.

Nothing deep, nothing meaningful. She just came here, gave me some advice and left, so quickly. God, I didn’t even get the chance to ask her about--

 

“Sexy pants,” she adds as she sticks her head round the corner and winks before disappearing again.

 

What?

 

She actually just called me sexy pants. God, she's such a crazy flirt.

 

But like... she’s actually flirting with me, isn’t she? She’s not even shy about it. I mean she probably just flirts with everyone, but I think maybe she’s openly got a thing for me. I mean, that sounds about right for her. Open and not shy about how she feels at all. But wow.  She could just be playing. Like as a joke. Like banter. God, I don’t know. Anyways, it’s time for class now, and if I leave now I can still avoid being late. I brush off all the issues and confusion at hand and head straight to my lecture in… Physics. Crap.

 

*

 

Physics goes fine and Sheldon sits at the other side of the room, unaware of my presence. The only seat left in the room was actually right at the back and Sheldon must have gotten there early and chosen a seat close to the lecturer, so he can sit and be a teacher's pet and get first dibs on asking things.

 

I sit down, unnoticed by mostly everyone and the class soon begins.

 

I take plenty of notes and listen as carefully as I can and when the lecture is over, I slip straight out of class not wanting to have any form of confrontation with Sheldon. I really don’t know what he could be thinking right now about what just happened. He could be confused, or he could be angry. I don’t know, but I try not to think about it for the rest of the day. I keep a clear head and focus on my school work.

 

After art class is lunch and as I walk out of the room, I discover Sheldon waiting for me by the door. “Oh, uh… hey,” I stutter. We start walking.

 

“Leonard, I need to talk to you,” Sheldon says.

 

“Uh, yeah, sure,” I say in a surprised tone, my eyebrows probably sky high.

 

Sheldon naturally leads us over to a quiet spot in the hallway of the art classrooms where there’s an empty bench and nobody else walking by. “I have been informed that I have been, well… not the greatest of ‘buddies’ and if I’m to use all the vocabulary used to describe me then, a ‘dumbass’, too,” he pauses.

 

Leslie.

 

“Now, to get to what I really want to say to you,” he begins and I focus back on him, “Leonard, I am sorry that I am not a very comforting friend. At times I can be ignorant, but that’s not because I don’t care. I know that you have struggles that you go through, but if I’m honest, I don’t know how to help. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say or how to make you feel better, so if I’m honest, I just block it out. But I now realise that doing so might have caused more harm than good for our friendship. Please accept this apology.”

 

“Of course, Sheldon.” I try really hard not to tear up.

 

He watches me for a few seconds.  And then he says, “come here, man,” and decides to pull me in for a hug. And he really means it. I melt into the hug and I try to tell myself to never forget this moment.

 

He pulls away and I say, “thank you, Sheldon. It means a lot.”

 

“I know,” he says. “Now, let’s go to lunch.”

 

We both get up and start walking to lunch. As we’re on our way to the dining hall, we walk past the little exit near the smokers spot and I consider stopping and seeing if Leslie is round there and talking to her about what she just did. About her talking to Sheldon. But I decide against it and keep walking.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Raj,” I greet him first as he walks into the dome. I’ve already been sitting there first, waiting for him this time.

 

“Hi, Leonard. Sorry I’m a little late this time. My chauffeur got us stuck in traffic. Hope that’s okay…”

 

“Oh, uh, yeah, no,of course,” I stumble and get up to talk to him. I’m playing with my hands. I’m red. Probably sweaty.

 

“Anyways, I was wondering if you’d like to come with me. I haven’t brought gin this time-- maybe that was not the right idea--but I thought maybe you and I could get out of here and I could take you around my side of the town. I could show you around, or we could go anywhere really. My chauffeur is in on it, he’s happy to take me anywhere. Him and I have special arrangements.”

 

“Oh, wow.” That’s a lot to take in, but that sounds good! No sitting around, no awkwardness. I can just look ahead in the car and we will have things to do, things around us to talk about. “Absolutely,” I say.

 

He smiles, “cool. Might want to grab your jacket,” he says, nodding at the flimsy cardigan I have lying on the floor where I was sat waiting.

 

“Oh, that? That’s my cardigan. But, yeah, I should probably pick that up,” I say, turning around to pick up one of my absolute gems from the floor. As I pick up, I turn back to Rajesh and we head out.

 

On our way to the car, I ask him, “How come you and your chauffeur are so tight then?”

 

“Oh, I don’t know if I can tell you that…” he mysteriously tells me with a playful smirk.

 

I raise an eyebrow at him inquisitively, but don’t ask.

 

We get in the car and Rajesh tells him, “Hey buddy, to my father’s place first please. And then the planetarium.” And we start driving.





*



“Okay, okay. Now please tell me your little secret with your chauffeur,” I ask him with cold fog coming out from my mouth as I speak wrapped up in the cold winter’s night, lit up by the stars and planets Raj just told me all about, and just made a ridiculous joke about to kill all the beauty of what he just told me.

 

“I would tell you,” he begins with the most ridiculous smirk, and I know what’s coming and I cut him off before he can even say it….

 

“But then I’d have to kill you,” I say in unison with him and he bursts out laughing.

 

“Hey!” He hits me, but it doesn’t hurt.

 

“Look Raj. I mean, look at me. Do I not look like the kind of guy who spends all his time reading all the books there and knows all the cultural references and could also deduce exactly what a guy like you with a ridiculous smirk like that was about to say…”

 

He just stares at me. He keeps staring.

 

And then he just erupts with laughter, practically crying. And I shake my head and try to hide the grin. Although, for once I can actually laugh at myself. I mean what did I even just say. Raj doesn’t know Sheldon, but now that I think about it I sounded like him and that just makes it even funnier for me.

 

“Hey, hey, anyways…” he says, recovering. “I will tell you how I am tight with my chauffeur.”

 

“Never use the term ‘tight’ again, Raj,” I say, squinting in disgust.

 

“Hey! Someone’s taken some brave pills tonight,” Raj whines defensively.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Go on,” I say. And he’s right. I don’t know what it is about being outside tonight, being free in the dark and in the cold air, it’s made me feel different. Able to cut loose a bit.

 

“As I was saying… I actually sell a little bit of weed to him. I mean, I’m not a drug dealer. I just smoke marajuana myself sometimes and I have good connections, so I sell some to him at a really low price and he never rats me out and allows me to go on a little detour now and again…”

 

“Wow! Damn,” I say. It’s all I can say really.

 

“I know,” he sighs in agreement.

 

I’m just processing it, wow different of a life that is, really. I mean, I would never do something like that. Raj has got balls. He gets to do things he wants to do and he’s not afraid to talk to people. He’s confident, charming, and he knows his way around the world. Independent. Kinda grown up, really.

 

“Have you ever smoked weed?” he asks.

 

“Raj, come on.” I mean seriously, do I seem like I have?

 

“I know, I know. It was more of a conversational tool leading up to what I’m about to propose, which is… have you ever thought about trying it or what it could maybe do to help you? I mean, anxiety wise of course.”

 

“Well, actually, I have heard that it can affect cognitive processes really negatively and hamper those who are already predisposed to anxiety disorders.”

 

“Ah, yes, I forgot your mother did her research in neuroscience before inheriting the throne.”

 

“Yes, I haven’t heard the end of it on drugs. So many lectures. In fact I think that’s the only time she’s ever spoken to me about anything to do with feelings since she finally berated it in me at six that nobody wants to hear about them.” She thought she was toughening me up, but all she did was turn me into a soft and way too caring submissive little fuck who gets tossed around and can’t stop feeling things and wanting to talk about feeling things.

 

“Dude, that’s really rough. I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s okay,” I brush it off, but honestly I don’t even know if it is. I look off into the sky and just stare without thinking for a little bit, both of us sharing a comfortable silence.

 

“Well, I still think you could benefit from it,” he speaks again now, softly. “And that’s not me trying to sell it to you either; I wouldn’t expect you to pay. It’d be my treat.”

 

“Would it not send me loopy, though?” I ask, genuinely wanting to know.

 

“I don’t think it would, if we found you the right strain. I would say one with low amounts of THC and higher CBD,” he says sounding quite informed really.

 

“Oh yeah, those are the chemical compounds in marajuana aren’t they?”

 

“Yes. THC is the psycho-active substance that targets increased dopamine production, whereas CBD is much more medicinal and can treat pain, epilepsy, anxiety, et cetera.”

 

“Oh, so hold on,” I say, “if high levels of THC means even higher targeted dopamine levels, then that could cause hallucinations and paranoia, and that’s why those predisposed to mental illness and ordinary functioning of neuroreceptors are more likely to experience these side effects!”

 

“Wow, you understand the biochemistry of the mind very well. How come you don’t study psychology or biology, might I ask?”

 

“Oh… I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to escape from thinking about it all really.”

 

“Oh,” he says, “well, I think your mother would at least be very proud.”

 

“Ha, yeah don’t push it,” I say and roll my eyes and let out a good natured scoff.

 

Raj just laughs it off and after sitting and talking about other things we’re interested in, we decide to call it a night and Raj’s chauffeur takes me home.

 

I would say I’m worried that my mother might question why I am back home so late, but then I remember how inattentive she is and unaware and as it so happens, when I return back to the house at 22:44, nobody’s there to bat an eyelid and I just walk straight up to my room and get ready for bed. At eleven ‘o’ clock, I am tucked up in bed and ready to fall asleep immediately after a long and exciting evening.