Amy paced in front of the empty auditorium as she tried to calm her nerves. She had done this countless times and yet she would still feel anxious right before starting. Today however, it seemed to have amplified and she had no idea why. Her hands kept wringing at her sides while she murmur the words she needed to say in front of her students.
An idea crossed her mind and before she could talk herself out of it, she picked up her phone from the table and typed a message to Sheldon:
Are you busy? -A
She returned to her pacing and didn't have to wait long to receive a response. She couldn't stop the smile on her face as she read his reply.
Not really. I'm waiting for my boss. How's the lecture? -S
It's about to start in 20 minutes and I'm a bundle of nerves right now. Got any tips? -A
Amy paused and leaned against the desk as she waited for a reply, her foot unconsciously tapping against the floorboards of the platform. Her phone chimed and her eyebrows raised at his reply.
Have you tried reciting pi to a thousand places? -S
She stared at her phone, her eyes narrowing in confusion, trying to figure out if he was mocking her.
Is that even a thing? -A
Sheldon's reply came immediately.
Yes. I do it to pass the time and it works. -S
Amy sighed while trying to ignore the knots in her stomach.
Anything else? -A
Sheldon tried to think of other ways to distract Amy as he waited outside Gablehauser's office. With his eidetic memory, it only took him a few seconds to figure something out and he typed his response with a smirk on his face.
Do you want to hear the story of when the FBI went to our house when I was a kid? -S
After receiving Amy's go signal, Sheldon launched into recounting his childhood memory which caused a great deal of stress for both of his parents. He thought it might help Amy to keep her mind off of her restlessness. He told her about how he tried to build a small nuclear reactor for their neighborhood in Galveston. He chuckled to himself as he recalled that experience. After finishing his story, he wondered if he were successful in calming her down, it was the least he could do after all.
Did it work? -S
Did what work? -A
Sheldon shook his head and just as he was about to reply, Gablehauser's secretary caught his attention and motioned towards the door. He fired off a quick text of wishing her well once again before he stood up and entered the office.
Leonard didn't know what could've happened during the day that caused Sheldon to be quiet when they arrived at the Cheesecake Factory. He didn't even complain that there was loud music playing in the background and not even a word of condescension to Penny as she tried to greet him with exaggerated cheerfulness.
Penny's eyes sweep over the other three men and silently asked what happened. They could only shrug in return knowing that with Sheldon, anything could have set off his unusual behavior.
Leonard, Howard, and Raj spent the better part of the night catching up with the shows they have been watching and talking about the latest university gossip that Howard seemed to have eavesdropped on. It wasn't until Sheldon started to tick, quite loudly, that they noticed him looking at a distance, his face void of any emotion.
The others shared a look before Raj reached out to wave his hand in front of Sheldon, "dude are you okay?"
Sheldon seemed to snap out of his trance and looked directly at Leonard, "can we go now?" He didn't wait for an answer and stood up from his seat.
Leonard glared at Sheldon's back, "he seems to forget I don't drive him around anymore." He took out his phone and sent a message to Sheldon telling him that he would be staying behind with Howard and Raj. The immediate response he got caused him to roll his eyes; it wasn't the first time that Sheldon resulted to responding with an insult if he didn't get his way.
The next day, Sheldon was no different; he remained silent all morning in their apartment and even though the behavior was welcomed by Leonard, he was beginning to think that maybe something was really bothering his best friend.
When they met him in the cafeteria for lunch, he was making incoherent noises and the three of them stared at Sheldon as they ate their food.
Raj looked at him wearily with a grimace etched on his face, "what did you do to him, Leonard?"
Leonard snorted, "I didn't do anything."
Howard raised an eyebrow, "so what, does he need an upgrade? Is he finally glitching?" He asked jokingly, which earned a laugh from both Raj and Leonard. Sheldon seemed to be unaware of his surroundings and kept pushing his food around his plate.
Leonard gave him a look a few seconds later before he shook his head, "he went to Gablehauser the other day about his new project with Kripke. I think it didn't go well. I tried to ask him yesterday but he wouldn't tell me what Gablehauser said to him," he explained.
"So he's really gonna be working with Barry Kripke?" Raj clarified.
"Seems like it, yeah," Leonard sighed.
Suddenly, they were interrupted by the sound of Sheldon's phone. He looked surprised before getting his phone out of his pocket. They watched as his posture deflated while looking at his screen. They were about to ask him who it was but Sheldon got up from his seat and walked out of the cafeteria. Three confused faces followed his retreating form as Howard decided to break the silence, "is it just me or has been disappearing a lot lately?" He asked, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.
By Thursday evening, Amy already felt her energy spent for the rest of the week. She dropped herself on the bed not caring that she was still wearing her work clothes. She had forgotten to thank Sheldon for helping her the other day and only managed to tell him yesterday that she was sorry for missing his call as she was very busy at the moment. Since then she didn't have the time to send him a message and now she was just feeling guilty for taking too long to extend her gratitude towards him.
She spared a glance at her watch before her eyes landed on her phone and thought she might as well thank him now lest she forgot about it again. Yet, her fingers hovered over the screen, her eyes scanning his unanswered messages asking if she had a free time. She was beginning to worry that Sheldon might think of her as ungrateful for leaving him on read. It may be one of the moments that Amy realized she wouldn't have a problem with if she didn't have any friends.
She shook her thoughts away, her earlier confidence fading away with it. I'll call him tomorrow, she told herself. It might be better to apologize in such manner rather than leaving him a message and risk it being interpreted as her avoiding him on purpose…at least that's what she was trying to believe.
As the school week was coming to an end that Friday night, Sheldon knew he was being unreasonable with his anger. His friends didn't deserve to be treated like they were the ones at fault. But as the news of Raj's paper being featured in American Journal of Physics, his logic and reasoning went out the window. His anger wasn't warranted, he knew that, it was only fueled by confusion, disappointment, and jealousy after having that conversation with Dr. Gablehauser.
Unfortunately, the one person he was comfortable enough to talk to about it was unavailable, and that fact even added to his confusion: why her, of all people? Why was she the first person he could think of to help him understand his problem? Why did he not feel like opening up to Leonard, his best friend? What was it about her that made him feel like this?
He lashed out once again before he could stop himself, "if you think that Raj's achievement is great the—"
"Okay that's enough! What is wrong with you?" Leonard asked angrily at him. All of them had noticed Sheldon's behavior for the past four days and they were done dealing with it.
Sheldon glared at him, "oh I'm sorry have I done something wrong?"
"Yes!" All of his friends answered him.
The lanky physicist gaped at them, "Well it's not my fault that y—"
"No, Sheldon. This is all on you. You have been impossible for the last couple of days, blowing up on people for no reason and disappearing all of a sudden," Leonard countered him.
"Yeah and you know what? Maybe you're just threatened of Kripke. Are you afraid that he's gonna do a better work than you? Put his name first on the project you're working on together?" Howard knew he hit a spot as Sheldon's glare became focused on him. He was livid.
Sheldon's body tensed, his jaw clenched in anger. It had been boiling up inside him and all of a sudden his resolve cracked.
"That's it, isn't it? You're threatened and possibly jealous that Kripke might just be a better scientist than you. So you have to take it out on everyone instead o—"
"This is not about Kripke!" Sheldon shouted.
Silence followed his outburst. His eyes widened at his own words, his heart beating erratically against his chest. He needed to get out. Fast. However, he seemed rooted on his spot by the kitchen. His eyes shifted rapidly between his friends as if he were looking for a way out in each of them. He opened his mouth to excuse himself but found it difficult to get the words out of his mouth. Without thinking, he grabbed his jacket, his phone, and his car keys before fleeing out of his own apartment.
The group remained seated in the living room looking at each other. Bernadette cleared her throat, "so…"
Penny waved her hand in dismissal, "he's gonna be fine, he needs his space."
Leonard sighed, "yeah, unless he would be gone again for hours without telling us where he is."
Amy sat on her couch with a heavy sigh. The week had been surprisingly stressful for her after cutting back her lab hours and focusing more on lecturing. She thought it would give her more leisure time but clearly she was wrong. Her professor duties took up a lot of time that she barely had time to herself. Her mind suddenly drifted back to the messages and missed calls on her phone. She sighed again remembering that she promised herself to get back to him as soon as possible.
She took out her phone and checked the time; it's around 8pm and assumed that Sheldon might already be home. She wondered what he wanted to talk to her about since he was being persistent for the past couple of days. He didn't mention anything in his messages.
Without giving any more thought to it, she pulled up his number and called. Seconds ticked by and the phone just kept ringing. It was possible that he was still working and she was about to hang up when the call was answered. However she was shocked at his tone, "what do you want?" She heard him ask with a harsh tone.
Genuinely confused, Amy was silent for a moment before she answered timidly, "Sheldon?"
"Oh!" She heard Sheldon exclaimed. "I'm sorry Amy I didn't know it was you. I'm driving right now, can I call you back? It will only take a few minutes."
Relief washed over her and she replied almost instantly, "of course, Sheldon. I'll talk to you in a few."
"Okay," he replied before ending the call.
Sheldon pulled his phone away from his ear when he heard her voice. True enough, it was Amy who called him and he immediately felt guilty. After apologizing and promising to get back to her, he focused back on the road and stopped at the nearest ice cream parlor he could find.
With an ice cream in hand, he took a seat on a corner table and called Amy. She answered immediately, "hello Amy," he greeted her properly with a smile forming on his lips.
"Hi Sheldon," he couldn't be sure but it sounded like she was breathless.
They didn't speak, just listening to each other's breathing through the phone, each wondering who would try to break the silence between them.
Sheldon eventually cleared his throat and called her attention, "Amy?"
From the other end of the line, Amy snapped out of her trance and responded, "yeah?"
"Any reason for your call?"
"Actually yes. I want to thank you for your help the other day, your story distracted me enough," she said with a chuckle. "We also can't seem to get hold of each other recently and you didn't specify any details in your texts, so I thought I would call to ask about it." I also want to talk to a friend after a grueling week, she thought to herself.
Sheldon was glad he was alone and they weren't speaking over Skype because he wouldn't know how to explain why his face turned a deep shade of red, "well I was uhm…wondering if you would be interested in…going to a book launch with me this Sunday?" He lied partially. I also needed a rational mind to talk to about things I am dealing with but I don't want to burden you with it anymore, he added in his head.
"What is it about?"
"Well, my former doctoral adviser invited me on the launch of his new book and I was wondering if you'd like to accompany me. My roommate doesn't want to go and I can't think of anybody else who would enjoy such an event."
"I would be glad to join you, Sheldon," she hoped he could hear the elation in her voice.
"Great, I'll send you the details so we can meet there at 3pm, is that alright?"
"Yes, of course."
"Alright I'll see you then."
Before he could hang up the phone, Amy thought back to his earlier behavior and asked, "Sheldon wait."
"What is it?"
"You sounded upset a while ago, is everything okay?"
Should he really open up to her? Yes, he wanted her opinion about his current dilemma with Kripke but would it be appropriate? They barely know each other, heck they only met one time and yet he had been seeking her wisdom for days now. It didn't make sense to Sheldon, he had tried to figure it all out on his own, ask his friends' advice but that didn't turn out quite well as he managed to snap at them at every turn. It barely registered on his mind that he had sighed loudly until Amy called his name, "Sheldon?"
He cleared his throat, his mind made up, "well I do have a bit of situation and I'd like you to weigh in," he began before letting his voice trail off, waiting for her response.
Amy became curious and said, "alright, I'll see what I can do."
"Remember when we met I mentioned a work problem?" He asked and didn't wait for an answer before he dove into details. "Caltech gave me a project to work on with a rival and I tried to convince them that I could work on the project on my own but they rejected my proposal."
"Why do you even have a rival at work?"
Sheldon rolled his eyes at her question, "I don't like him! He goes out of his way to make me miserable at work and competing against me." His small outburst was accompanied with him stabbing his spoon on his melting ice cream. He sighed as he twirled his spoon on the pink viscous liquid, "I tried to convince the head of our department again and they told me that Kripke was the one who asked for my participation in the project."
"So what's the problem?"
He sighed in frustration once again, "it means that Caltech clearly favors his work over mine! I was under the impression that they've chosen both of us, at least me as the lead researcher, to work on this." When Amy stayed silent, Sheldon released a quiet sigh and said, "I apologize for putting this on you. It's just that, this week had been frustrating enough that my friends took the brunt of it, I needed a neutral space."
Amy couldn't resist the chuckle that came out of her mouth, "you're a flight risk aren't you?"
Sheldon furrowed his eyebrows, "what do you mean?"
Amy shook her head in amusement. Despite being a genius, there still seemed to be a part of him that needs a little guidance, "you went to the movie theater to escape the same problems you have now and you're doing it again. I'm not saying it's bad or wrong, it's normal for people to seek solace when things are getting to much…so where are you now?"
Sheldon had to agree with her. It wasn't the first time that he bolted out of a situation as soon as he felt out of control. "I drove around for a while and now I'm eating strawberry ice cream."
Amy laughed and shook her head, "I didn't peg you for a strawberry kind of person."
Sheldon scoffed at her, "what's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing," Amy giggled. "I was thinking you're more of a vanilla type of guy…but anyway, back to your problem."
Sheldon heard her deep sigh and waited patiently, "Sheldon, don't you think you're blowing this out of proportion?" He opened his mouth to objectject but Amy cut him off, "hear me out. Look, I get that you're upset about the dynamic of this project but try looking at it this way; yes, Caltech chose this Dr. Kripke to handle this project most probably because of his own merit and I know you don't like it but doesn't it make you feel good that Dr. Kripke specifically chose you to work with him? And if he asked for you and Caltech approves it, doesn't it mean that your University also knows what you're capable of?"
"But I have seniority over him," he whined in reply.
"Okay, but what's the focus of the project?"
Sheldon rolled his eyes, "particle physics," he mumbled.
Amy had to stifle her smile even though he cannot see her. She cleared her throat and knew from his tone that she was getting to him, "and what branch of physics is this Dr. Kripke in?"
"Alright fine, he may be more qualified than I am but the fact remains that I've been in Caltech longer than him," he surrendered, knowing full well that being a particle physicist, Kripke was more suitable to get the project.
"And don't you think that getting you to work with him is proof that he values your work? I'm sure Caltech has a lot of great physicists but he chose you. That means something."
Sheldon let her words sink in. He mulled over the implications of Barry's decision and couldn't help but admit that he may have looked at the situation in a wrong angle. However, there's still a part of him that was worried of how he will be treated while working together. The last couple of days, Kripke had been nicer than usual to him, it made him think that it was all just a ploy to trick him or humiliate him.
His then thought of the woman on the other end of the line; how she managed to reassure him, he didn't know. He suddenly had the urge to thank her profusely, "Amy?"
"Thank you." So much, he wanted to add.
From her apartment, Amy smiled softly. She was glad to help him. "You're welcome," she replied sweetly.
"How about you? How was your week?" He asked.
"Hmm it was fine…more stressful than I originally thought. Although something funny happened today," she informed him with a soft laugh.
"Oh do tell," Sheldon reacted, intrigued.
"Well, I have a student who's tardiness is incomparable I don't even check his name anymore, I just assume he's late as he always is. Today, as usual he was late, but the kid had the audacity to approach me after my lecture and ask for a special class."
"How is that funny?" Sheldon asked, totally confused by her story.
Amy burst out laughing, "he was also trying to flirt, Sheldon," she explained. She expected him to laugh but instead she was met with silence. "Sheldon?"
He didn't know where the sinking feeling in his stomach came from but he suddenly lost appetite for the sweet treat he was eating. Her words caught him off guard, forming a question in his head, "does that happen often?" He asked hesitantly.
It was Amy's turn to get confused but decided to answer him nonetheless, "well no not really," she said with a snort. "I mean have you seen me? Men don't particularly give me the time of day. Which made my story even funnier because my student must be pretty desperate to stoop that low," she shook her head with a breathy chuckle.
Sheldon nodded his head slowly, "right," he replied quietly. "I'll see you Sunday, then?"
"Yes, I'm looking forward to it. Have a good night."
Sheldon hang up the phone after wishing her good night. He pocketed his phone and looked out on the street, watching pedestrians and vehicles pass by with a heavy sigh.
"So are we really just gonna ignore the fact that Sheldon's been running off more than usual?" Howard asked.
"Would you rather he stay here and continue his tirade?" Leonard retorted.
"Still nothing?" Penny inquired.
Leonard checked his phone again just as the door of the apartment opened. They turned their heads and found Sheldon with his head bowed ever so slightly. He closed the door behind him and cleared his throat, fixing his gaze on Raj.
"I apologize for my earlier behavior, I was jealous of your achievement and it was wrong of me to invalidate it. I have read your work and it was really good."
Their blank faces stared back at him as they tried to process his words. Raj was the first one to react and smiled timidly at his friend, "thank you and I accept your apology," his tone still laced with confusion.
Sheldon sighed in relief before he turned his attention to the others, "I'm sorry too. You took the brunt of my anger and that was unacceptable."
Leonard looked at him with sympathy, "can you just tell us what happened then?"
Sheldon took a deep breath and crossed his arms over his chest. He shrugged his shoulders and told them what transpired during his talk with Gablehauser. Once he was done, he crossed the living room quietly and discarded his windbreaker by his desk chair. He turned back once again to his friends and gave them a faint smile, "Good night."
He turned to the hallway before any of them could respond. He didn't want to see their pity or them trying to affirm the quality of his work. He'd rather have a quiet night to himself and try to focus on the words he wanted to come to terms with, Kripke chose me to work with him. That means something.