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The Coitus Consideration

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These days, Amy was showing up more and more often at Penny’s house, and Penny didn’t quite know what to make of it.  There was a time when she had been the only hen in the rooster house (is that even a thing?) but then the boys started pairing off: Howard with Bernadette, Sheldon with Amy, and then Leonard with Pria (barf).  Penny resented it at first, and when Amy first declared that they were best friends, Penny has been this close to filing a restraining order.  But one day, she looked up and, well… if she were being completely honest, she was really starting to like the company.

Especially when that company also liked rocky road ice cream.

“In short,” Amy began, capping off a lecture on myths in neurobiology that Penny had started tuning out several minutes before, “even taking into account scientists’ previous misunderstanding regarding the functioning of local neurons, the common belief that we use only 10 percent of our brains is—in a word—hokum.”

Penny laughed at this.

“I’m not kidding, Penny,” Amy insisted.  “We use 100 percent of brains each and every day.”

“No, I believe you,” Penny said, scraping her bowl for the last bits of marshmallow.  “It’s just that you used the word… ‘hokum’.”  She laughed again.

“Ah, yes, hokum,” Amy said.  “It means trite, nonsensical, or unreal—”

“I know what ‘hokum’ means,” Penny interrupted.  “It’s funny because you sound just like Sheldon.”

Amy’s face registered some discontent with this statement.  “That word predates Sheldon entirely.  He does not hold a monopoly on its use.”

“Aw c’mon,” Penny said, walking to the fridge and pulling out the carton of ice cream.  “Sheldon is clearly rubbing off on you.”

“Really?” Amy asked quizzically.

“Oh, yeah,” Penny insisted.  “You and him sound more alike every day.  Almost like an old married couple that keeps finishing each other sentences.”  She scooped out a little ice cream, then glanced at Amy’s equally empty bowl.  What the hell?, she thought and dumped out several more scoops. “You want some?” she asked Amy, tilting the carton towards her friend.  But Amy held up her hand.

“No thank you,” she said curtly.  Penny’s sighed.

“Don’t tell me you’re doing Weight Watchers.  ‘Cause if you are, I hate to tell you sweetie, but that first bowl alone was ten points.”

“I’m on no diet,” Amy replied.  “Unless you consider me watching my intake of anaerobic bacteria and foodborne microbes as being ‘on a diet’.  In which case, call me Jenny Craig.”

“What are you talking about?” Penny asked, puzzled.

“You dipped your personal spoon into the communal ice-cream container, essentially contaminating it with any germs that call your mouth home.”

Penny rolled her eyes.  “Amy, I’m not sick.”

“Sick? No.  But a host to as many as 700 species of commensal oral bacteria? Yes.”  She cleared her throat.  “I’ll pass.”

Penny rolled her eyes, putting the container back in the freezer.  “Dear Lord, Amy.  You’re never gonna get any nookie out of Sheldon talking like that.”

Amy sat back, aghast.  “I’ve never even entertained the thought of, as you put it, getting ‘nookie’ out of Sheldon.”

Leaning against the counter, Penny took a bite from her ice-cream. “You mean to tell me that you have never, ever — not even once on some lonely, Pasadena, Saturday night — fantasized about Sheldon — with those thin, lip-balmed smackers of his,” Penny closed her eyes, her imagination taking over, “leaning forward and — his eyes heavy, his breaths labored — planting a wet, lingering kiss on your lips, only to get lost in the soft skin of your neck and then taking you to his boudoir and making you scream into the night?”  When she opened her eyes, Amy’s face was cold as ice, if not more disturbed.

“I assure you I have not,” Amy said, touching her tummy.  “In fact, the thought of it makes me a bit nauseous.”

“But why?” Penny said, rushing around the island and taking a seat next to Amy.  “Don’t you ever, you know, wish that you and Sheldon had what other couples have?”

“We aren’t a couple,” Amy replied, “and—“

“But you are,” Penny interrupted.  “I mean, you may not do all the … you know.”

“You mean we do not engage in coitus.”

Penny sighed.  “Ok, yea.  You may not… engage in… coitus, or whatever. But wouldn’t you agree that you and Sheldon have something that you and I and your other friends don’t have?  Something unique?”

Amy seemed to reflect on that with agreement.  “Sheldon and I do have something… unique.  We have a congress of minds that I’ve never quite experienced before.  He shows a singular understanding of my research in ways I don’t find among my other acquaintances.  And he and I alone share amusement in our games of historical speculation.  Although, you do enjoy attending science lectures with me.  It’s a shame you couldn’t get off of work to go to the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting.  The hotel this year has a Jacuzzi in every suite.”

“Yeah about that,” Penny said, wringing her hands.  “I, kind of lied.  I don’t have to work.  I just… don’t want to go.”

“But… why not?” Amy asked.

Penny withered some.  “It’s just… it’s not my scene, you know?  All the big words and confusing diagrams and then the sciency conversation at the cocktails – Amy, even you know I don’t belong there.”

Amy looked confused.  “But, why would you lie?”

“Because you looked so excited when I said I would go.  I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

Amy’s confusion continued.  “Well this is… disheartening news indeed.”

Penny shrunk from shame.  Then she perked up.  “Amy, I have an idea.  Think of this as an opportunity.”

Amy looked up with interest.  “In what way?”

“You say that you and Sheldon are not interested in… sex, right?

“I would agree with that assessment,” Amy replied.

“But I know you two well enough to know that you are interested in why humans do what they do.”

“Well, I always have been.  Sheldon is a recent convert to the Behavioral Sciences.”

“Yeah, well,” Penny continued.  “You know about the birds and the bees, right?”

“Ovum, sperm, gestation.  Yes,” Amy answered.

“And you know why normal people ‘hook-up’, right?”

“I take issue with the word ‘normal,’ although I do concede that my relationship with you has been quite the education in the effects of loneliness, booze and trivial — though flattering — conversation on a healthy libido.”

Penny sighed.  “Gosh, Amy.  You make it sound so, so…”

“Absurd?” Amy said.

“Anyway,” Penny continued. “What you and Sheldon don’t know is how people like you… well… mate.  Tell me: how do two people whose attraction is more… intellectual, if you will, get around to doing the dirty?”

Amy reflected on this a moment.  “It’s a matter I’ve never given much thought to. How do two persons of the intellectual elite, with a dedicated focus on things of the natural world, and a general distaste for the pedestrian trivialities that entertain the masses, find their way into the realm of carnal reproduction?”

Penny stared blankly.  “Yeah, what I said.”

“I mean, Einstein had children, did he not?” Amy continued.

“He did?” Penny gasped, scandalized.  “Can you imagine having that nerd for a dad?”

“Indeed,” Amy swooned.  “His assistance in science fair projects must have been nothing short of divine.”

Penny shook her head.  “Anyway, I have an idea.  Have a chat with Sheldon about this — without mentioning it was my idea, of course — and then take him with you to the conference. You, him, a romantic hotel room, candles, all that science talk, and next thing you know, BOOM!  You’re collecting data.” She elbowed Amy suggestively.  “I have a hunch that Jacuzzi is going to do wonders for your experiment, if you know what I mean.”

“Of course I know what you mean,” Amy replied flatly.  “I have an IQ of 180.”

She then rose and went to the door.

“Where are you going?” Penny asked.

“To go and talk with Sheldon, as you suggested.”

“Right now?!” Penny said, rising.  “You don’t wanna at least think it over for 15 minutes?”

“No,” Amy said, and left.

 

***

 

Leonard heard a harried knock on the door and rushed to answer.  He found Amy Farrah Fowler standing outside.

“Sheldon!” he called over his shoulder.  “Amy’s here.”

“How do you know I want Sheldon?” she asked.

Do you want Sheldon?” he replied.

“I do,” she answered.  “But there was no way for you to know that.”

“Well I assumed,” Leonard said.

“You should never do that,” Leonard.  “Assuming makes and ass out of you and me.”

“Among other things,” Leonard mumbled, as he walked off towards the kitchen.

Sheldon wandered into the living room.  “Amy,” he chirped. “What a pleasant surprise.”

“So you weren’t expecting her?” Leonard said.

“No.” Sheldon answered.  “Why would I? She gave no advance notice of her visit. And I would never just assume that.”

“Of course you wouldn’t,” Leonard said, from behind the refrigerator door.  He emerged to find Amy still standing in the hallway.

“I apologize for his manners,” Sheldon said, walking towards her.  “Do come in Amy.”

Leonard rolled his eyes.  “I mean, she knew she could come in.  Who wouldn’t just assu —”  He stopped as Amy and Sheldon both leveled a disapproving glare at him.  “I know; don’t assume.”  He sighed and plopped down on the loveseat, picking at his cold, leftover Pad Thai while nursing a Diet Coke.

“Have a seat, Amy.  Could I interest you in a cold beverage?” Sheldon offered.

“No.  This is not a social call,” she said, sitting on the correct end of the couch.  “I am here to discuss us exploring coitus.”

Leonard sprayed Diet Coke over the assembled crowd, nearly choking.  “What was that?”

“I am here to discuss the possibility of —“

“No, I heard that part,” Leonard said.  “But… what in the hell?”

“I’m afraid I am confused as well, Amy,” Sheldon said.  “You and I do not entertain a sexual component to our relationship.”

“As well I know, Sheldon,” she explained.  “But Pen —,” she stopped.  “An associate and I were discussing the aspects of my relationship with you that make it unique and, dare I say, intimate.”

Meanwhile, Leonard’s brain starting ticking.  “Excuse me,” he said and rose, hurriedly exiting through the front door.

“Where is he off too?” Amy said after he’d left.

“He is patently unpredictable,” Sheldon replied.  “I’d be the ass of all asses if I even ventured a guess.”

Amy nodded.  “It would be best you didn’t.  Returning to the original topic, do you remember the time we studied the rate at which gossip travels in our core social group?”

“Indeed,” Sheldon beamed.  “That was great fun.”

“Well, I have been persuaded to consider another foray into the Behavioral Sciences that involves you and me, but this time in the field of reproduction.  That is, if you’d be willing to hear it.”

Sheldon paused reflectively.  “Well, alright,” he said.  “But I seriously doubt sex would be as much fun as starting rumors.”

 

***

 

Penny heard a knock at the door, and immediately answered, swinging the door open.

“Amy, I can’t believe —” she said, then stopped. “Leonard?

“You really shouldn’t assume,” he said, then stormed past her and into the living room, sitting down.

“Sure, come on in,” she said sarcastically, and shut the door.

“What the hell, Penny?  I mean, what the hell?” he blurted.

“You’re going to have to be a little more specific,” she said.

“You convinced Amy and Sheldon to have sex?!” he asked.

“Oh my God!” Penny screamed. “That wench wasn’t supposed to say it was my idea.”

“She didn’t really,” Leonard explained.  “She just kinda almost slipped up.  Besides, the plan had you written all over it.”

“Yeah, because the fact that Amy and Sheldon might actually fall in love is, of course, my fault,” she argued.

“Penny!  Love and sex are not the same thing!”

“Yeah, and I’m not 16, so I probably already know that,” she answered.

“Do you?  Sex changes relationships, Penny.  It makes totally, functioning, meaningful relationships turn complicated and stop working.  Is that what you want for them?  Because if not, why would you make them to do something they clearly don’t want?”

Penny looked totally confused.

“I’m not ‘making’ them do anything, Leonard, and, um, can you explain why you care, again?” she asked, hand on hip.  “It’s not exactly any of your business, no matter what they do.”  The question seemed to jolt Leonard to his senses.

“You’re right,” he said slowly.  “Why do I care? In fact,” — he stood up, realization dawning on his face — “if Sheldon and Amy have a go at it… that would we be… the best day of my life!

“OK, back it up.  Now you’re creeping me out,” Penny said.

“Sheldon’s virginity and sexual ambivalence has been the thorn in my flesh every since we moved in together.  Every relationship I have, every girl I bring home turns into a vicious renegotiation of that damn Roommate’s Agreement.  If Sheldon enters the world of adult love, he might finally cut me some slack.”

Every girl you’ve brought home?”  Penny said.  “How many times has that happened?  Like… once, twice?

“The point is,” Leonard said, ignoring the statement, “I think if Sheldon spent one night in my shoes (or bed as the case may be) he might not get so crazy every time I try to have a little happiness in life.”

The words did something to Penny, and a sadness came over her face.  She sat down on the couch.  Leonard noticed.

“What is it, Penny?” he asked, concerned.

“It hasn’t been easy for you, has it?”

“What do you… what do you mean?” Leonard asked, taking a seat next to her.

“Relationships.  They haven’t been easy for you.”

Leonard sighed, pausing to think a moment.  “Not always.  No.”

Penny nodded.  “And that’s so unfair, because you’re such a beautiful, amazing person.”

Leonard shrugged, with a nervous laugh.  “Yeah, well.  That’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.”

“Yeah, I know,” she said, rising from the couch.  “But, I just feel like – “ she stopped there, agitated.

“You… you just feel like what?” Leonard asked.

“I feel like we might have…” she turned away.  “I feel like I might have made a mistake.”

The words caught Leonard off guard.  He stood up, too.  “What does that mean, Penny?”

“It means.” She took a hard breath.  “It means… “

She turned around and they were face to face, millimeters between their eyes, their noses, their lips…

Penny closed her eyes, leaning forward.  His eyes fell shut too, and their lips brushed, when…

Leonard backed away. 

“I’m with Pria now.”

Penny was confused.  “But… isn’t she going back to India?” she said, a little breathless.

“Yeah,” Leonard whispered.

“Are you… staying together?” she asked.

“I… I don’t think so,” he answered.

“Then why can’t we –”

“I don’t know!” Leonard shot back; he was upset.  “I’m not… I’m not that kind of guy that can just, turn it on and off like that, OK?” he said.  He put his face his palm, before looking at the ceiling.  “I gotta go Penny,” he said.

“Wait, Leonard,” she called after him.  But he opened the door and left.

 

***

 

There was no one inside when Leonard crossed the hall back to his apartment.

“Sheldon,” he called as he made his way in.  There was no answer, so he moved towards the back.  “Sheldon?”

He heard noise coming from Sheldon’s room. No, moaning sounds.  They were coming from…

They were coming from Sheldon.

He started to leave until he heard a voice mingled in with the moans.

“Push Sheldon, Push.  Go faster.”

It was Amy. 

“You’re so good, Sheldon. Keep going, just like that.”  In spite of himself, Leonard leaned towards the door. “Harder.  Harder.  Harder.” With each command, her voice grew louder and shriller.  Leonard was practically frozen with astonishment.  First Penny… and now this?

“Good God!” she finally cried. “And your first time.”

“I’m a quick study, if I do say so myself,” Sheldon said.

“Fourteen minutes,” he heard Amy say.  “Not bad for a novice.”

“I hope you’ll show me how to improve,” Sheldon purred bashfully.

Leonard was gasping at his point.  He couldn’t believe his ears.  It was like he was listening in on the Alternate Reality Sheldon that he’d never met.

“OK, let’s start peeling those EEG electrodes off,” Amy instructed.

EEG?, Leonard thought.  A brain scan during sex was weird, even for those two.

“There’s one… there’s one’s stuck to my forehead,” Sheldon grunted.

“Let’s get some Vaseline and pry that off,” Amy said, and the door flew open.  Leonard was standing there, shocked and looking very suspect.

“Well, hello there Leonard,” Sheldon said.  “What are you doing loitering outside my bedroom door?”

“I’m not loitering,” Leonard said, defensive, “Loitering?  No.  I’m not loitering.  I’m just… bringing you your mail.”

“How very kind,” Amy said.

“Indeed,” Sheldon agreed.  “Where is it?”

Leonard made a protracted show of looking for it on his person, and then knocked on his own head.  “Silly me.  I’ve left it.  Out there.  Downstairs.  In the mailbox.”

Amy and Sheldon regarded him with looks of confusion.  Just then Amy’s phone sounded a beeping noise.

“Oh dear,” she said.  “I’m due for a shift in the lab.  I have to run.  Do you think I can come pick up the EEG equipment later?” 

“No problem,” Sheldon said.  “I’ll have it all ready for you when you return.”

“Thank you,” Amy said and left.

Sheldon went into the bathroom.  Leonard followed and, feeling bold, stood in the bathroom door.

“So?” he said.

“So what?” Sheldon asked, vigorously rubbing petroleum jelly on his forehead.

“So did you …?”

“Did I, what?”

“Did you and Amy… you know?”

“Did Amy and I what?” Sheldon asked, more than a little impatient.  “Honestly, Leonard, are complete sentences too much to ask for?”

“Did you and Amy have sex?”

Sheldon spun around, the picture of horror.

“Of course not.  Whatever gave you that idea?”

“Well isn’t’ that what you and Amy were talking about when I left?  And then I heard the noises… or conversation in your room.”

“You, Leonard, have been victimized, yet again, by your own presumptuousness.  Amy and I were doing a timed brain exercise involving lights on a computer screen that corresponded to various points on a peg board.  There was also a little calculus in there, but regardless, it was a very rousing activity and I didn’t do half bad… but I’m sure you already know that.” He returned to the mirror and turned on the faucet.  “You little snoop.”

“Well what was I to think, Sheldon?  Amy clearly mentioned you and her and coitus earlier.”

“She was inviting me to a three-day conference in San Diego for the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting.  One lecture is vulgarly titled ‘Sex on the Brain.’  I swear, these conferences get less professional every year.”  He turned off the water, and dabbed his forehead.

“Well… have fun,” Leonard said.

“I’m not going,” Sheldon explained.  “I’m a theoretical physicist – not a neurobiologist.  I’d rather be seen building doodads with Wolowitz than pacing the halls of that convention.”

Leonard shrugged.  “Shame.”

“Sorry to disappoint,” Sheldon replied.  “Though I fail to see how this concerns you at all.”

“It doesn’t,” Leonard said, and shuffled off to his bedroom, collapsing onto his bed, face down.  His almost kiss with Penny reawakened in him emotions he thought he had come to terms with long ago.

It had been a harrowing half hour.

It had been a harrowing life.

Sheldon suddenly appeared in Leonard’s doorway, wiping his hands with a hand towel.  “There is one thing she said, however, that gave me pause.”

“What is that?” Leonard asked, barely listening.  His mind was elsewhere, hopelessly stranded in the apartment across the hall.

“She insisted that we would share a hotel room, using Penny’s cancelation as the flimsiest of excuses.  While, my mother would find such a lodging arrangement scandalous on moral grounds, I just find it … odd.  Unorthodox, if you will.  But really, as long as there were two beds, I would have no real objection.”

“Yeah, Sheldon,” Leonard said off-handedly.

“She also mentioned the Jacuzzi several times, which I found to be out of character.  Since when has she been a hot tub enthusiast?”

“Yeah, whatever, Sheldon,” Leonard mumbled into his pillow.

“Very well then.  I can see you’re tired,” Sheldon said finally. “I’ll leave you in peace.”  Pulling the door behind him, he left.

He retired to his own room and began to arrange the EEG equipment.  As he did so, he couldn’t help but smile while reflecting on one of the liveliest afternoons he’d had in a while, and the neurobiologist who always seemed to stimulate his neurons, literally and otherwise.  He sat on the edge of the bed and perused the conference brochure Amy had accidentally left behind.  She’d scribbled in the margins: notes of excitement at the meatier talks and wisecracks at the “public outreach” lectures.  He pictured Amy and himself, snickering in the back row as some bestselling author tried to use a play-doh metaphor to explain neuroplasticity.  He also imagined them at night, pouring over the abstracts of respected researchers, combing through the denser topics and finding parallels in their own research.

For all the unknown variables of this event, one thing was certain: Amy.

He grabbed his phone and dialed her number.  After five rings, there was a message and a beep.

“Amy,” he said, “I’ve decided that I’ll go with you to the conference.”  He almost hung up then added, “It would be my pleasure.”

With that, he smiled contently as the prospect of an enjoyable weekend settled in.  Only one question remained: Should he pack his briefs from the X-Men or the Justice League?

Chapter Text

Penny knocked on the door of her neighbors across the door only to be greeted by Leonard opening the door. "What are you doing here?” Penny asked, sincerely shocked.

“Penny, in the last four years, I’m sure you’ve manage to figure out that I live here,” Leonard retorted.

“I know that, Leonard.  But what are you doing here?  Doesn’t Priya leave for the airport this morning?”

“Yeah, but I wanted to see Amy and Sheldon off first.  If that’s okay with you.”

“Knock yourself out,” she said, walking past him and over to Amy. Penny handed her some sunglasses.  “You left these at my house yesterday,” she explained.

“How serendipitous! ” Sheldon cried. “She was just looking for those.” He scanned the list on his clipboard.  “And with that, Amy, I believe your packing is complete.”  He glanced at his watch.  “With only 90 minutes left until our choo-choo chugs towards Chula Vista, we best be on our way.”

Amy smiled.  “Nice use of alliteration Sheldon,” she said.

“I thought so,” he replied.  The two picked up their respective suitcases and headed for the door.

“Aren’t you gonna help Amy with her luggage, Sheldon?” Penny suggested.

“I am quite capable of carrying it on my own,” Amy said.  Penny cleared her throat loudly, her eyes widening, as she shot Amy a look of aggravation.  “Ah,” Amy rebounded.  “But, I wouldn’t mind the help.”

Sheldon looked at her with some surprise.  “I’ve seen you carry loads of equitable size before, but… if you insist.”   He then picked up her bag and walked out of the door.  Penny gave Amy a thumbs-up, and Amy smiled as she followed behind him.

The door shut.

“Oh, the sexual tension between those two is overwhelming,” Leonard said sarcastically.  Penny was not amused.

“Shut up,” she said, and made her way to the door.

“Wait, Penny,” Leonard called behind her.  She paused, but didn’t turn around.

“What?”

“I… I don’t want us arguing.”

“We’re not arguing,” she countered, then opened the door.

“But we aren’t how we used to be either,” he said.  “And we haven’t been for a long time.”

Penny sighed, then faced Leonard, shaking her head.  “That’s not just my fault,” she said.

“I didn’t say it was,” he replied. She didn’t reply, and Leonard started to retreat a little. “Fine, if you’re happy the way everything is—“

“I’m not happy like this Leonard,” she said. She dropped her hand from the door and then covered her face. “But I--,” she stopped, frustrated.  “I don’t know how to go back to the beginning.”

Leonard drew nearer and shut the door.  “Well, you can start by forgiving me.”

Penny smiled some and shook her head.  “You didn’t do anything, really.  It’s just…”

“It’s just what?” Leonard asked.

“Nothing,” she said.

The two stood awkwardly for several moments, finally looking away when the silence became too much.  Leonard’s phone rang.

“Priya,” he answered, attempting to be cheerful.  “Yeah… of course I haven’t forgotten you.  I was just leaving,” he said.

Penny backed away silently, opened the door, and left.  

***  

Sheldon and Penny settled down into their seats. This was the last chance of the day to catch a talk, and Amy had picked one that dealt with a topic in her field. The room fell silent and the speaker stepped out.

“Oh my God,” Amy gasped.

Sheldon looked up from his program and saw the young man in question standing at the podium.

“Hello all,” the speaker began. “I’m Dr. Corey Stiller with the Southern California State University, and the theme of my talk is—“

Sheldon leaned over. “Is he a friend of yours?” he asked.

“Hardly,” Amy replied.  “In fact, we are rapidly becoming sworn enemies.”

Sheldon clapped his hands in delight at this news.  “A nemesis!  Well done Amy Farrah Fowler,” he said.  “All the great ones have one.  Spiderman has the Green Goblin, Batman has the Joker, The Flash has Zoom, and I have…,” –  his voice dropped to a low rumble – “Will Wheaton.”

“Well,” Amy moaned, “I wish I could share your enthusiasm, but I’ve found my ‘nemesis’ to be little more than a personal nuisance and a parasite on my research.”

“In what way?” Sheldon asked with furrowed brow.

“Well, Corey’s research department has long been at the proverbial ‘shallow end’ of the scientific community pool.  However, a recent head to head battle between he and I for a grant from the National Science Foundation turned our mutual indifference into a mounting rivalry.”

“Who won the grant?” Sheldon asked.  Amy glared at him over her glasses.  “My apologies,” he said.

“Ever since,” she continued, “he has spent as much time foolishly trying to disprove my research as he has spent maligning my name among our colleagues.”

“Nemesis indeed,” Sheldon growled.  Just then, Amy’s phone rang.  She excused herself and stepped out of the room to answer it.

“Amy,” she answered.

“So,” Penny purred.  “How is everything going?”

“Delightful.  There’s a delegation of researchers here from Germany that are making amazing strides in the field of neural mapping.”

“No, I mean, how’s it going with Sheldon?” Penny clarified.

“Oh, Sheldon’s doing quite well also.  In spite of himself, he’s become fascinated with a symposium on the brain of gamers.”

“Um, sweetie,” Penny began, taking a deep breath.  “Let’s clear something up here.  If I ask you anything else about this conference, I only want to know about one thing: you, Sheldon and, uh…” she cleared her throat.

“OH!,” Amy exclaimed with recognition.  “You’re referring to Operation Penetration.”

Penny groaned.  “Is that what we’re calling it?”

“The title is taken from the typical nomenclature used in military actions while alluding to the mechanical aspect of the mission.  Also,  ‘penetration’ and ‘operation’ rhyme.  I thought it was rather clever myself.”

Penny kept going.  “Just… how is it going?”

“Well, early results are mixed,” Amy explained. “He was riveted during the talk ‘Sex On the Brain,’ and in a bathroom sharing incident in our hotel room, I managed to devise that Sheldon packed his Justin League undies.” She leaned into the phone, cupping the receiver.  “Penny, he’s in Superman mode.”

“That sounds… great,” Penny said.  “So why did you say the results are mixed?”

“Well, because when I asked him about intellectuals procreating, he once again mentioned the role of surrogates in ‘elevating the intelligence of humanity.’  Even making mention of Einstein did nothing to stir his loins.”

“Ugh,” Penny moaned.  “Did you bring it back to sex?”

“Yeah. When I talked about people procreating ‘the old-fashioned way’, he said that having a baby ‘the old-fashioned way’ was as archaic as using a slide rule to solve differential equations.”

“Using a what to what?” Penny asked, lost.

“Basically, he ridiculed the idea.”

“Gosh,” Penny said.  Then she had an idea.  “Listen Amy.  For all his jibber jabber and highfalutin words, Sheldon is still a man.  Here’s what you do: When you get back to the hotel, offer to run him a bath.  No man can resist a bath.  When he comes out – all toasty and relaxed – already be sitting on his bed, but with a robe on.  Underneath the robe – and here’s the good part – have on one of those skimpy negligees I snuck your luggage.”

“Negligee?” Amy gasped.  “Is that what that garment is?  I nearly reported it to the Department of Homeland Security as suspicious items in my luggage until I realized that we would be traveling by train.”

“Good God woman,” Penny blurted.  “Are you sure you went to college?”

“I did indeed.  For nine years.”

Penny sighed at that.  “The point is, when he sits down, you open the bathrobe, revealing your hand-wrapped goods.  Then, shoot him that look that says, ‘Take me NOW.’”

“I’m not sure I have that look,” Amy said flatly.

“Never mind the look, then.  Trust me, he won’t be looking at your face anyway.  From there, Biology will take over.   It’ll put a whole new spin on monkey business.”

“Considering the work I’ve done with primates, that should be quite a spectacle indeed.”

“Just,” Penny sighed, “just do what I said, OK?  We’ll talk tomorrow?”

“OK. Later bestie,” Amy chirped.

“Bye sweetie.”

When Amy returned to the room, she found Sheldon standing at his seat while pelting her “nemesis” with questions.

“So if you freely admit that we don’t yet know what the neuronal basis of subjective experience is—much less that of cognition and conscious attention—how can you assert that the physical processes defined in Dr. Fowler’s paper, which you so vehemently attack, are incongruous with quantum coherence?”

“Sheldon!” she called to him, hurrying to their seats.  “What are you doing?”

“Asking a question,” Sheldon replied.  “And a very simple one at that.”

“You’re with her?” Corey spat from the podium.

“Indeed I am,” Sheldon replied.

“I should have known you were one of her cronies from the minute you launched into your unfounded accusations.”

“The only thing 'unfounded',” Sheldon shot back, “is your quote-unquote ‘research.’  And it’s highly derivative research at that, I might add.”

Amy grabbed Sheldon’s arm pulling him down into his seat. 

“What was that for?” he asked, perturbed.

“Don’t waste another moment of activity in your prefrontal cortex on that man,” she admonished.  “This battle is political, not scientific, and you can’t win this one.”

Sheldon crossed his arm sharply, shaking his head.  "Tsk, tsk, tsk," he clucked.  “I must I applaud you, Amy, for your ability to work in the two-bit gossip shop that is Neurobiology.”

“Um, if that’s it from the peanut gallery,” Corey announced, “does anyone else have a question of actual scientific merit?”

Sheldon nearly blurted a retort when Amy placed a hand over his mouth.

“Save that it for tomorrow’s talk on ‘Synapses and Legos.’”

Sheldon reluctantly abated, crossing his arms.  “Very well then," he said.  "We might as well leave.”

The two rose and left the room, ultimately walking in silence down the hall.  

“How did that get so out of hand?” she asked after a while.

“Because his actions were completely uncalled for and, quite frankly,” he said, shooting one final dagger in direction from which they’d come, “an insult to you.”

Amy smiled a little.

“While I don’t need defending… thank you,” she said.  Then she thought of something.  “You want to just go back to the hotel room and relax?” she offered.

Sheldon considered this for a minute.  “In fact, I would,” he said, and off they went.  

***  

Amy was in the bathroom detangling her hair as Sheldon chatted through the bathroom door.  He was reclining on his bed, deeply perplexed.

“While I’m no stranger to the merits of color theory,” he stated, “I still don’t understand why anyone would dye a monkey pink."

“It was an all-girls university,” Amy called through the door.  “Things like that happen more often than you would think.”  She walked out.  “You’re up next,” she said.

Sheldon was confused at this.  “Amy, you know it’s my custom to shower in the morning.”

“Normally, yes.  But a heightened emotional state – as you experienced this afternoon – can lead to excess perspiration and increased microbial activity on the skin’s surface.”

Sheldon was struck with realization.  “Which leads to body odor,” he concluded.  He sniffed his underarms.  “Good God; at this point, I’m a veritable compost pile.  I better get that shower going,” he said and headed to the bathroom.

As soon as the door closed behind him, Amy went into a frenzy, changing hurriedly into the negligee that Penny had provided, while quickly covering herself with a robe.  Then, she perched herself on the foot of Sheldon’s bed.   It was short time before Sheldon walked out, damp and donning his pajamas.

“That was refreshing indeed,” he said, scrubbing his hair with a towel.  Then he stopped.  “Amy,” he asked, "why are you on my bed?"

“Better perspective of the room and favorable proximity to the air conditioning,” she replied.  “Something like your spot, but in a hotel setting.”

Sheldon thought on this for a moment.  “Very well then.  I understand the comforts of ideal seating.  Although, I hope that this does not extend into the night, as my bedtime is only,” he looked at him alarm clock, “twelve minutes away.”

“So soon?” Amy said, her tone changing.  “I was thinking we could… have a little fun.”

“You’ve read my mind,” Sheldon said eagerly, taking a seat beside her.  “I was thinking that we could map out which presentations we will attend tomorrow, paying special attention to ones given by undergrads.” He smiled to himself. “I love good comedy.”

“Or,” Amy said, drawing closer.  “We could conduct an experiment of our own.”

Sheldon shrugged.  “I’m never opposed to an experiment; although I’m at a loss as to what kind we could conduct in this hotel room.  Our materials are limited to coffee maker supplies and various soaps.”

“And our bodies,” Amy purred.

Sheldon, for the first time, began to become suspicious.

“While I’m not categorically opposed to animal testing, I hesitate to use my body in any scientific capacity.”

“How about in a… carnal capacity?’ she said.  She whipped open her bathrobe.  Sheldon took a look at her sleepwear and visibly recoiled.

“Amy, what’s gotten into you?” he shrieked, inching backwards.

“I’ve got a fever Sheldon,” she said, drawing ever closer.

“Then we should call a doctor at once,” he replied, continuing to move backwards, but Amy pressed onward.

“I don’t need no doctor for what’s ailing me,” she quipped.  By this point, Sheldon was pressed against the headboard, cowering in horror.  Amy, undeterred, tossed the bathrobe to the side and leaned over Sheldon.   “How about some sugar, sweetie?” she said, before puckering her lips and closing her eyes, eagerly awaiting a kiss.

“What do you think you are doing Amy?” he cried.

“Giving you a look that says ‘Take me now,’” she answered.

Sheldon scrambled under her, frantically trying to get loose, but she stopped him at every turn.  When he went to his left, she dotted to her right and all efforts to slip away were efficiently blocked.  The more he wriggled the harder she pinned him, until their lips were a mere inches apart.  After several futile attempts at escape, Sheldon, in panic, placed his hand against her forehead.

“In the name of Jesus, come out of her!” he yelled.  The action snapped Amy from her lustful trance.  She scrambled to the foot of the bed—stunned.  “Huh," Sheldon said, pleasantly surprised.  "What do you know? It worked.”

“What… what was that?” Amy asked, startled.

“A question that I was, coincidentally, on the brink of asking you,” Sheldon replied.  He had returned to his former state of calm and unwrapped a mint on his nightstand.

“Sheldon I was…,” and she paused.  For the first time since she’d been sitting eating rocky road ice-cream in Penny’s apartment, she realized what should have been clear from the start.  This was… 

This was a bad idea.  She hopped off the bed, snatching her bathrobe as she went, and jogged to the bathroom, locking the door behind her.

Moments later, she heard… well, this:

Knock, know, knock.   “Amy?” Knock, know, knock.  “Amy?” Knock, know, knock.  “Amy?” 

“What Sheldon?” she called.

“It appears that my decision to drink a glass of water after seven o’clock was ill-advised, and my bladder is now exacting its bedtime revenge. Would you mind suspending any evening beauty ritual you may be engaging in to allow me to relieve myself?”

“GO AWAY, Sheldon!” she yelled.

He was… surprised.

“Excuse me?”

“Go away, OK?” she repeated, to Sheldon’s further consternation.

“How can you expect me to go away?  To where am I going to go?  This is my hotel room, as well as my bathroom, and – at the risk of sounding juvenile – this is an emergency.”

“I don’t care, Sheldon,” Amy replied.  “Just… go away.”  Her voice was breaking.

As he pondered what course of action to take next, he suddenly heard sniffles coming through the door.

“Amy?” he asked.  “Are you… crying?

There was a long pause.

“Yes.”

“Well, that’s curious indeed,” Sheldon said.  “Crying is generally the body’s response to some ophthalmic aberration.  Allow me ask you: is there some foreign body in your eye?”

“No,” Amy answered.

“Are you having an allergic reaction of some sort?”

“No.”

“Are you suffering from a sudden onset of conjunctivitis?”

“No, Sheldon,” she said.  There was the loud sound of her blowing her nose.

“Then quite frankly,” Sheldon continued, "I've exhausted my theories.  But if you come out of the bathroom, we might be able to create a diagram mapping out the surrounding symptoms and isolate a diagnosis.”

Amy sighed.

“I’m crying Sheldon,” she explained, “because I am embarrassed.”

Sheldon, for the millionth time that night, was truly shocked.  “Embarrassed?  Well how could you possibly be embarrassed?  Embarrassment requires that one do something imprudent in the company of at least one other person, but you have been sitting by yourself in the bathr—”  He stopped.  “Amy, if this has anything to do with the exorcism, I assure you that, for all my mother’s boasts about the success of the procedure, I’ve never observed one that did anything more than make a lot of noise and waste a shocking amount of good vegetable oil.”

The door swung open to reveal Amy – red-nosed and crest-fallen.

“Sheldon,” she began, “I am embarrassed because I was foolishly hoping that I could entice you to have sex with me tonight.”

Sheldon stood motionless, his eyes dropping as he apparently fell into deep thought.  After a moment, his eyes met Amy’s. His voice was uncharacteristically soft as he spoke.

“Why would you want to do that?”

And in that moment, Amy realized that despite all the ways that she and Sheldon were alike, there was one major area where they were different.  Because for all her nerdy, cerebral ways, if you took away the glasses and sweater vests, she just a 16-year-old Math Club president in bobby socks who had never been kissed.  But, as she stared at the physicist standing in front of her, she realized that she could peel away every layer from Sheldon until all that was left were his Green Lantern briefs, and – still – all she would find were… 

More superheroes, magic swords and monopoles.

The realization dried her tears… and might have broken her heart.

“Goodnight Sheldon,” she said and, rising to her tiptoe, kissed him on the forehead.

“Goodnight Amy,” he replied.  She slid into bed as he walked into the bathroom, finally falling asleep to the sound of him washing his hands.


TO BE CONTINUED...

Chapter Text

“So do you think they’ll actually, like, do it?” Leonard asked, as he folded his shirts.

“God, who knows,” Penny said, shutting the door to the dryer.  “I’m not even sure they know how.”

Leonard tossed another shirt in the basket.  “I just... hope they don’t do anything before they’re ready… at least no time soon.”

Penny looked at him in disbelief.  “What happened to ‘if they have sex, it’ll be the best day of my life’?” she asked.

“I know I said that, but…”  He paused for a moment, thinking.  “I just think that after all our jesting and teasing and forcing them into couplehood, maybe we should just butt the hell out of it.”  He turned to Penny.  She went back to folding towels.  “I mean, they do their thing so effortlessly, you know? Whatever that thing is, it’s working for them.  It’s really the only relationship working around here, and I don’t want to see it screwed up.”

“Ouch,” Penny said, wilting.  “That hurt.”

Leonard realized how his comment had sounded.  “That’s not what I meant."  He thought for a moment.  "Here, take for example the other day:  they were having this lively conversation about God-knows-what and started talking over each other; can you believe they blurted the word ‘acatamathesia’ at the same time?”

Penny groaned.  “That's… nauseating.”

“I thought it was kind of cute,” Leonard said.  He searched for another example.  “OK, well, take Counterfactuals. As hard as I’ve tried, I can’t figure out how in the hell they play that damn game.  Have you ever even attempted it?”

“I wouldn’t get ten feet near that thing,” Penny said. 

Leonard laughed.  “Oh, and, um, sometimes, when I come out into the living room, I see Sheldon with his earphones on and Skyping... and laughing.  And not that little sniffly, gaspy thing he does.  Like, actually laughing.”  He shrugged a little with a sad smile.  “I mean, isn’t that what we all want?  Somebody that gets us and makes us laugh?”

Penny looked down, pausing from her folding, and fell silent.  A reflective look came over her face.

“Leonard,” she said at last.  “How many ears does Spock have?”

Leonard, a little taken at the question, searched for an answer.  “Um, they’re a little pointy, but I think he just has two.”

She shook her head.  “Wrong.  He has a left ear, a right ear and a final frontier.”

The corners of Leonard’s mouth turned up and, in spite of himself, he started to snigger.

Penny grinned, pointing a finger at him.  “I made you laugh.  I made you laugh,” she chanted.  Leonard nodded in concession.

“Get over here, girl,” he said.  She came closer and the two embraced.  It started out something like a normal hug, but Leonard found it harder and harder to let go.  His right hand moved up to the base of her neck, and his fingers found themselves winding through her hair.  Penny, for her part, clung tighter, her hands clutching his shoulders, making the hairs on his neck stand on end.  He’d forgotten the effect of her perfume when he was this close.

“I’ve missed you Penny,” he whispered.  The sound seemed to be coming from somewhere else, but the voice was his.

“Me too,” she said.

There they stood, oblivious to the humming of tumbling clothes behind them, and wordlessly reconnecting while holding on, for dear life, to something that felt real.

When they finally pulled away—Penny was crying.

“Are you OK?” Leonard asked.

“Yeah,” she said, a sharp laugh escaping from her lips.  She batted away a tear.  “I’m just happy,” she said.  “And a little sad.”

Leonard nodded.

“Come with me,” he said.
 
***
 
Amy sluggishly pulled herself from bed, awoken by the sound of the hotel room phone blaring at an obscene volume.  It was the last day of the conference and, frankly, she was ready to see it end.  She took a glance at Sheldon, who was still sleeping.

Groping in the dark for her glasses, she put them on and looked at the clock.

It was only 1 AM.  The phone rang again, and then she realized—she was not getting a wakeup call, it was just… a call.

“Hello?” she mumbled into the phone.

“Hey Amy,” the voice said.  “This is… Corey.”

Amy sank with disgust.  “What could you possible want at this ungodly hour?” she said.

“I’m downstairs at Castaway Jack’s,” he said.  It was then that she noticed the noise in the background.  

“A fact that is completely unrelated to me,” Amy replied.

“What’s that?” he shouted into the phone.

“I said,” Amy began again, more loudly.  “Why are you calling me?”  She cringed as Sheldon stirred a bit.

“Come down,” he replied.

“Excuse me?” she said.

“Meet me at Castaway Jack’s,” he said.  “Right now.”

Amy wondered if her fatigue had compromised her hearing.

“Now?!” she asked.  “But it’s one in the morning.  Is it even still open?”

“Last call for alcohol’s at two.  You have plenty of time.”

Amy thought a minute.  “Is this some sort of prank?” she said.

“Prank?” he said.  “Why would I prank you?”

“Because you have established yourself as my number one enemy,” she reminded him.  “Besides, I seem to inspire people to humiliate me.”

Corey laughed heartily.  “I swear to you this is no prank,” he assured her.  She heard shuffling on the other end, and Corey's voice faded out.  “Back up, you asshole,” he yelled to someone in the background.  He returned to the conversation.   “I’ll have your drink ready for you when you arrive.  How does a Bloody Mary sound?"

Amy sighed.  “Corey, I can’t make it.  I’m… not dressed,” she offered as an excuse.

“Then get dressed,” he declared.  She heard more bustling in the background. “Bloody Mary, dumbass.  What’re you? Deaf?”

“Corey, I’m hanging up now,” she said.

“No, no, no,” he said frantically.  “Amy, if you don’t come down,” he threatened, “then… I’m coming up.”

Amy groaned, giving Sheldon one final glance.  “Fine," she sighed.  "I’ll come down.  But I won’t be staying.”

"Awesome!" he cheered.

She hung up and scrambled into her clothing, then slipped past Sheldon and crept out the door. 

***

Captain Jack’s was bedlam.  Predictably, loud music, copious amount of alcohol and brain scientists do not mix.  Amy wound through the crowd, looking for Corey.

“Hey Amy!” he yelled, waving.  He pushed his way towards her.  “You found me,” he declared.

“So I did,” she said, looking more than a little uncomfortable. He placed a hand on her back, leading her to the bar, and then motioned towards a stool.  Amy reluctantly took a seat.

“Corey, how did you know which room I was in?” she asked.  He sat down next to her.

“I told the front desk I was your husband and had gotten locked out.”

“And so they gave you my room number?

Corey shrugged. “Yeah, they‘re idiots.” He reached for a Bloody Mary. “And this,” he said, “is for you.”

“Um, thank… you,” Amy said, “but I find vodka, tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce to be, not only unappetizing, but nothing short of criminal assault on an empty stomach.” She pushed the glass away. “I’ll pass.”

Corey exploded into laughter.

“Fantastic!” he cried. He looked at the gentleman sitting next to him. “You hear this? She’s fantastic!” The man got up and walked away.  He turned back to Amy and shrugged.  “Well, as much as I hate to drink alone…,” he said with a mischievous smirk, then lifted his glass and downed a shot of liquor that clearly wasn’t his first.

“Should you be drinking so much?” she asked.  He ignored the question.

“So what have you been up to, Amy Farrah Fowler?” he asked.

“Most recently, sleep,” she answered.

He chuckled.  “Great answer, Amy Farrah Fowler.”

“Why do you keep saying my whole name?” she asked.

“Because it’s so awesome,” he said.  “Like you.”

"Are you being sarcastic?" she asked.

"Sarcastic!" He laughed even more.  "Absolutely not.  I've never meant anything more in my life."

Amy was privately baffled.  "Well I certainly find that hard to believe," she mumbled.

"Why?" Corey asked.

“Because earlier today you were insulting me in front of a roomful of people, and now you are referring to me in terms that can only be called flattering.”

Corey stopped, his smile softening.  “It’s not flattery, Amy,” he confessed.  He began to fidget with a straw wrapper he lifted from the bar. “It’s how I’ve felt for a long time.”

Amy watched him, really looked at him, for what seemed like the first time.  “Did you invite me here to tell me that?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No.  Actually, I wanted to tell you—” He paused, stifling a belch and then beat on his chest with his fist.  “It’s the cognac,” he explained.  “I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” Amy repeated. This was a surprising turn of events.

“Yeah,” he said, “for being such an ass.” He lingered on the final word.

Amy reflected a moment.  “Then… I forgive you,” she said.

A smiled came across his face.  “Good,” he said.

She nodded once then got up to leave, but he reached for her arm.  

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Back to bed,” she said.  “I have a long day ahead of me and—“

“Sit down!” he insisted.  “Have a little fun, Amy Farrah Fowler.”

She hesitated, clearly ready to go.  Corey face grew more solemn.

"No seriously, Amy," he said.  "Please.  Stay a while."  She looked around apprehensively.  “Let’s just… talk,” he suggested.

She wordlessly conceded, slowly returning to her stool.  “About what?”

He leaned in closer, his elbow resting on the bar.  He looked at her intently.  

“Let’s talk about Sheldon,” he said finally.

Amy shrugged.  “What do you want to know?”

“What is he? A neurosurgeon or something?”

"No, actually," Amy explained.  "He's a theoretical physicist."

This was surprising news.  "Wait," Corey said, "he's not in Neurobiology?  Then how does he know so much about it?"

"He's something of a know-it-all," Amy said.  She smiled.  "It's one of the things I like about him."

"So... how did you guys even meet?" Corey asked.

"On Match.com," Amy answered, matter-of-factly.

Corey snorted at this.  "You’re kidding?”  Amy shook her head.  “And how is that better than throwing a dart at the sex offender registry?"

"Infinitely more so," Amy responded.  "I've gone over the site’s algorithms, and there are some sound correlations between personality quiz results and bioinformatics."

Corey blinked rapidly, clearly agitated.  "Sooo… I mean, do you always go for guys outside of your field?"

"If by 'go for guys' you mean ‘choose my friends’ I've recently found associates from a variety of disciplines.  In fact, my best friend is an aspiring actress."

"Hold on," Corey said, realization setting in.  "Sheldon is your friend?"

"Yes," Amy answered.

"As in, boyfriend?" Corey said.

“I’m afraid you’re sorely mistaken,” Amy admitted.  “Our relationship is purely platonic.”

“Not even, like, friends with benefits?” he confirmed.

Amy’s eyes drifted away as she thought back to her and Sheldon in the bathroom door, standing right next to each other, but actually a million miles apart.  “… I assure you,” she said absently.  “We’re just friends.”

Corey didn’t miss the change in her voice… in her face.  He mentally took note, looking down into Amy’s neglected Bloody Mary and casually stirring the crimson concoction with a discarded bamboo stick.  “I don’t see how Sheldon can be with such an incredible woman and not…” he trailed off.  He chuckled a little.  “Nothing.”

But his words piqued Amy's curiosity.  She trod lightly, hoping for an answer.  “And not what?” she prodded.

Corey looked up, his mind going back.  "Do you remember how we met?"

Amy furrowed her brow trying to recall.

"I'm afraid I don't," she said.

Corey nodded, maybe with a little sadness.  "It was at the Neurobiology Postdoc Convention two years ago."  He smiled a little.  "You were giving a talk on magnetoencephalography."

"I remember that talk," she said.

"We were both at the cocktail social later that night.  There were a lot of us there, and I probably wouldn't even remember it either, except..." he paused, seeming to relive the memory.  "Unlike the guys I hung out with, it was like you were completely oblivious of all the politics and tenure-grabbing and ego-tripping.  I'll never forget something you said.  You said, 'The field of neurobiology is on the cusp of altering the very relationship that humanity has with its brain, from that of the unknowable grey mass between our ears to the conversant, vital essence of the human itself.'"  He sighed in whimsy, almost taking a sip from the drink and then just stopping, his mind winding back to that moment.  "There was something about your unwavering devotion to the work," he said finally.  He shook his head.  “You’ve been under my skin ever since.”

“I never, even, um…” Amy stammered.

Corey turned to her, and his eyes – steady and sure – seemed to pierce her eyes and penetrate through to the very mind that made her heart beat… and her breath catch.  He placed a hand on hers that was trembling on the bar.  “If Sheldon has never told you that you are the most talented, intelligent, amazing, and – forgive me, Amy – beautiful woman that he has ever had the pleasure to share life with, then…”  He paused.  “Then he’s a fool.”

Amy sat mesmerized, her eyes fixed on the man in front of her.  His words ricocheted in her mind and she felt light-headed.

“Amy,” he continued after a moment, “I would like it… I would love it if you came back with me to my room.  We could… really get to talk… really connect.”  Amy didn’t answer, her chest rising and falling as she contemplated his offer.  “Please don’t say no.”

As she formulated a response, Corey’s attention turned elsewhere.  He looked past Amy and his face changed to a cool snarl.

“Speak of the Devil,” he said.

Amy looked behind her to see what, or who, had caught his attention.

It was Sheldon.

“For all your knowledge of the functioning of the brain’s language center,” he said, “your communication skills are simply deplorable.”  He took a seat in the stool to her right.

“What are you doing here, Sheldon?” she whispered, as much as one can whisper over the loud bustle of a bar in the wee hours of the morning.

“The same question I would like to ask you,” he replied.

“How did you even find me?” she asked.

“Well, certainly without any help from you,” he answered.  “It took me three tries before I could triangulate the exact location of your cell phone, only to realize that you hadn’t even left the building.  You were either here or in the 24-hour dog kennel.” He took a sweeping look around.  “Frankly, I’m not sure which scenario is more ridiculous.”

“Aren’t you gonna say hello, Sheldon?” Corey suddenly asked.

Sheldon regarded him with some distrust, and then leaned in close to Amy. “Amy?” he began.

“Yes Sheldon.”

“Please tell me you are not with him.”

She didn’t respond.

“Well, if silence means consent, I hasten to remind you that not ten hours ago, he was enthusiastically berating you in front of roomful of your peers.”

“He’s apologized for that,” Amy said.

“Oh, well then, what was I thinking?” Sheldon said sardonically.  “Let’s all join hands around the bar and have another round.  Happy days are here again.”

“That’s not fair,” Amy replied.

“What’s not fair,” Sheldon began, “is that a trying afternoon has turned into a baffling evening, only to then turn into a truly mystifying night, much of it at the hand of the gentlemen to your left.”

Corey suddenly stood.  “Alright, cut the chit-chat,” he interrupted, and placed a hand on Amy’s shoulder. “We were just leaving, Sheldon.”  Amy looked tentatively at his hand and then back at Sheldon.  Sheldon’s face was pure bewilderment.

“Sheldon,” she said in answer to the question on his face, “It’s not something…”  She sighed, completely overwhelmed.  “It’s not something you can understand.”

“Maybe this will clear it up.”  Corey stood up on his chair, noisily banging on a glass he held above his head.  “Attention patrons.  You heard it here first, World!” he declared.  “I’m in love with Amy Farrah Fowler!” Except for a few passing glances, Corey’s announcement was largely ignored. 

Amy was no less mortified.  “Get down from there, Corey,” she demanded.  “You sound crazy.”

“I am crazy!” he yelled, arms outstretched. “Crazy in love!”

Amy turned back to Sheldon.  “This is so embar—”

Sheldon, however, was seething—his eyes steely and his voice severe.  “Amy,” he said, almost growled. “Please tell this young man that you reject his offer and that you find him and his alcohol-soaked hippocampus repulsive.”

Corey stumbled down from the stool and resumed hovering over Amy.

“Amy,” Corey countered, “you tell Sheldon that you find his, his…” Corey looked him over.  “His Green Lantern T-shirt so third-grade.”

“You,” Sheldon retorted, “are a reptilian imbecile that couldn’t identify a hypothalamus if it were excised from the forebrain and floating in a jar of formaldehyde.”

“Just stop it!” Amy yelled.

“And you, Sheldon,” Corey said, “Don’t.  Own.  Amy.”

Sheldon sat motionless, his fury mounting.  Emboldened, Corey turned to Amy.  “Don’t you see?  Sheldon’s a little robotic android that wouldn’t recognize a magnificent woman if she was giving him a lap dance.”  He snickered to himself.  “And I’m the reptile.“

Sheldon rose and wordlessly marched off, winding through the dense crowd of drunken revelers.

Amy stood, but Corey just started laughing.  “Oh, c’mon, Amy.  Sheldon’s a cyborg and you know it.”

She shook her head, upset.

“I‘m leaving,” she spat, and started off when Corey grabbed her arm.

“Amy, please,” he pleaded, suddenly chastened.  She snatched her arm away and stormed off, but Corey followed behind her.  

“AMY!” he screamed over the crowd, but she continued on.  She finally caught up with Sheldon and touched his back; he turned around.  

“Ignore him,” she said.  “He’s an idiot even when he isn’t drunk.”  Corey glared at Sheldon and then at Amy.

“Fine then,” he said, “go with him.”  He turned away. “Bitch,” he added under his breath.

Sheldon marched forward, rage on his face.  He approached Corey and spun him around.  

“Take that back,” he demanded.

“Or what?” Corey spat.  He tried to brush past Sheldon, but he blocked his way.

“I said take it back,” Sheldon growled.

“Get the hell out of my way,“ Corey said, and rammed into Sheldon, but Sheldon blocked his path.  Incensed, Corey pushed Sheldon, and down they went to the floor, wrestling wildly while a crowd gathered, yelling in excitement.  Sheldon (being a terrible fighter) and Corey (being drunk) crashed into patrons, chairs and tables alike, landing very few blows but making a brilliant spectacle of themselves.  Amy, for her part, was paralyzed in horror, and pleaded for the men to stop.

After what seemed like forever, Corey got the better or Sheldon, and forced him to his feet, cuffing him by the collar and throwing him against wall.

“Let Amy go,” he demanded.

“Never,” Sheldon rasped.

“Fine then,” he said, and brought back his fist, ready to strike.

“COREY!” Amy screamed.  Her shrill voice arrested his attention, and he turned around.  When he did, Amy grabbed a nearby wine bottle and broke it against Corey’s skull, shattering it into a million, splintering pieces; glass went flying in every direction.

He collapsed to the floor.

The room fell silent.

Amy and Sheldon looked at the fallen man in disbelief.

“Sheldon?” Amy said.

“Yes?” he responded.

“RUN!” she yelled.

Weaving through tipsy floosies and nerdy researchers, the two took off out of the bar and down the corridor.  They ran with abandon, narrowly escaping kitchen staff pushing carts bearing late night room service and hotel lodgers stumbling in from a night of carousing.  Sheldon sent a passing glance over his shoulder, and gasped.

“Amy,” he panted, “Corey’s chasing us.”

“Great,” she sighed, already lagging behind Sheldon’s longer gait.  He glanced back again, and found Corey to be well off, although—despite his intoxication—he was gaining on them.  Sheldon turned back around to discover that they were running towards a dead end of elevators.

“The elevators will take too long,” Amy said.

“We’ll take the stairs,” he said, pointing to the right.  They burst through the doors and up the stairwell, ascending floor after floor.  After bounding up several flights, Sheldon looked over the railing and failed to see Corey, so – confident that they had lost him – he stopped on a landing.  There the pair stood, catching their breath, when they heard a door open.

“SHELDON!” came a violent growl from below.  Sheldon and Amy took off.  They darted to exit on the fifth floor, only to find the door locked, and so bolted to the next floor.  They took off through the door, before rounding a corner and, in Amy’s attempt to avoid a potted plant, she slipped on the freshly mopped floor.  Sheldon stopped, helping her up, and the two ran hand in hand across the moonlit atrium. They had lost some time, however, and Corey, blindly enraged at this point, was shouting at them as he ran.  Sheldon looked ahead to discover that he was quickly nearing a line of escalators.

All of them were going down.

“Where are the ones that go up?” Amy asked the Universe.

“It doesn’t matter,” Sheldon said, bent over, panting and desperately out of breath.  “Let him kick my ass.”

“What are you saying?” Amy asked.

“It won’t be the first time and it won’t be the last.  Go, save yourself,” he admonished her.

“SHELDON!” a now-crazed Corey yelled.  When Sheldon and Amy turned around, they realized that chasing Corey was a team of security guards.

“GO!” Amy cried and the two of them ran up the down-escalators.

It was an arduous climb, and with each step forward, the escalator drug them back down.  They turned to see that Corey was doing much worse—uncoordinated and falling ever more behind.  When they reached the top, they turned just in time to see him fall unceremoniously down the escalator only to have three security guards land on him the second he reached the floor.

“I was going to pay the tab!” they heard him yell.

With that, they took off.

They ran the short distance to their hotel room and, opening the door, slammed it shut.  Amy collapsed against the door, mentally processing what had just occurred. After somewhat regaining her composure, she turned to see Sheldon leaning against an adjacent wall; blood was trickling down his face.  She drew closer and, in the darkness of the room, could just barely make out several abrasions and the beginnings of a black eye.

“Oh Sheldon,” she whispered.  “You’re hurt.”

She brought her hand to his face and he winced at her touch.  “Come, sit on the bed,” she said.  She took his hand, gently leading him over; it was the first time she noticed that he was limping.

She took a wet wipe from her purse and stooped down in front of him, making an examination of his face. 

"Apology or no apology," she said, dabbing the blood from his wounds. "Corey remains a cretin and a menace." Sheldon sat motionless, watching her. "Are you in a lot of pain?" she asked.

He didn't respond, didn't move – his eyes steadily fixed on her face.

"Would you like some ice?" she asked. Still no answer.

"I have some Nyquil in my purse," she offered. But still Sheldon remained silent. She grew agitated, worried that maybe he was more injured than she had thought.

"Please, Sheldon," she pleaded. "Say something."

Without a sound… he raised his hand and touched her face, gently bringing one finger down the length of her jaw. Then, he lifted her chin, and after staring intently at her lips, he leaned forward and planted her with a kiss.

Stunned at first, she wondered what had happened, but she saw no doubt in his eyes. He delicately removed her glasses, letting them drop to the floor. She'd never seen him look at her with such intensity, or with such wonder. It seemed like some other man that carefully pushed a stray tendril from her brow. Tentatively, he cradled her face in his hands and, hesitating for a second, kissed her again. Amy finally yielded to the moment, and began to kiss him back, relishing the sensation of his lips pressed against hers. She could feel the bristle of a late-night beard brushing against her face, and the warmth of his skin pressed against her own. There was a growing urgency in this kiss… and longing. He was pleading, in his way, for comfort and for trust. She answered with yearning and desire. He held her head in his hands and poured into her eagerly, without holding back, the raw, honest emotion that he had never been able to express with words. When he finally broke away, breathless and spent, they leaned in together—their eyes closed, forehead to forehead—and they lingered that way, silently connected.

"Amy?" he whispered faintly.

"Yes?" she replied.

There was a long pause, and she wondered if he was going to say anything at all.

She looked up at him and saw something in his eyes that she had never seen there before: vulnerability.

"I… need you… with me."

Not so much a statement, it was more a humble request. In the span of those five words, Sheldon had taken the vast and infinite Universe that he daily tackled with such finesse, and clumsily shrunken it into a microcosm of two people: a size he could manage, a value he understood.

That Amy understood too.

"Don't worry," she assured him. "I'm here." She affectionately brushed the side of his battered face. "I'm going to run and get some ice, OK?" she whispered. He nodded, and off she ran down the hall. When she returned, Sheldon was lying down on his back; he turned his head at the sound of her shutting the door behind her.

She wrapped the ice-filled plastic baggie with a nearby hand towel and then, climbing onto the bed next to him, she placed the make-shift icepack against his face.

"This should help with the swelling," she explained; he nodded and closed his eyes. She placed Sheldon's hand on top of the pack and got up to leave, but he grabbed her wrist.

"Don't leave," he said. He turned to face her. "Please."

She nodded and slowly tucked in beside him, laying her head next to his and resting her hand on his shoulder. He placed his free hand on top of hers.

He took a deep breath and, though his eyes were concealed by the icepack, she could feel his body relax a little, and his breathing fell into an easy rhythm.

Amy snuggled in closer, and soon they were both sound asleep.

***

Penny woke up, squinting against the light; she honestly didn’t remember her room ever being so bright.

She looked over, and saw Leonard standing off a ways.  Then she remembered.  He had brought her up to the roof the night before to look at the stars.  Leonard had casually named off the constellations that had dotted the sky, and he and Penny had fallen into easy conversation—just like old times.  There was a moment that she had forgotten that anything—or anyone—had ever made these kinds of evenings a longed-for and distant memory.  After what had seemed like years of talking, they had finally settled into an old abandoned lawn chair and fallen asleep together that way.  Just them and the universe and nothing else.  It had felt like home. 

It the light of day, it almost seemed like a dream.

"Leonard?" she called.

He turned around.  "Good morning, sleepyhead," he said.

She rubbed her eyes, adjusting to the light.  

"I don't know which is more beautiful,” he said, looking out over the roof, “a starry night sky or a beautiful sunrise."

Penny looked around.

"I don't see any sunrise."

"You missed it," he explained.  "It was three hours ago."  

"What?" she gasped, rising.  "What time is it?"

"9:30" he answered.

"Oh wow," she said, rising to her feet.  Stretching, she ambled over to where he stood.  He smiled at her and then, together, they looked out over Pasadena, taking in the rolling hills that dotted the landscape.

“I’ve never notice how pretty it is up here,” she said.  Then, something caught her eye.

"Look," she said, pointing to a spot just next to the building.  "There's a fountain." She turned to him.  "Make a wish."

“I don’t have a coin,” Leonard explained.

“I’ll be your penny!” she beamed.

“But it’s not like I’m gonna throw you in there,” he countered.

“Just,” she sighed.  “Just make a wish.”

He paused for a time, lost in whimsy.  Several moments passed before he answered, and then his face lit up.  "I wish," he began, "that when I'm old and lying on my deathbed, I can look back at a life filled with purposeful work, a beautiful home, wonderful children and," he turned to her—his face earnest and kind, if not tinged with a little doubt—"I hope that I will have had someone special to share it all with."  Penny heart fluttered a little, and the world seemed impossibly beautiful.  

"That's nice," she said.  Leonard elbowed her playfully.

"And you?" he asked.

She looked out over Pasadena and its sun-kissed hills that made her feel a million miles away from Nebraska, and many wishes—wishes she'd always had—filled her mind: to be a famous actress, to be rich, to have unlimited credit at Shoe Emporium.  But, honestly, there's only thing she really wanted: to be back with Leonard.

"What's your wish?" he goaded after a minute had passed.  She punched him in the arm.

"If I tell you it won't come true,” she said, and started laughing.  She picked up a stray stone and held it high over her head.

"Don't do that," Leonard warned, but his words came too late as she hurled it down below, aiming for the fountain.  "You shouldn't have done that," he said.

"It's just a rock," she shrugged.

"Yeah, but you forgot one thing," he said.  At that very moment, the stone crashed into the water below, spraying the nearby passerby with water and soaking them down to the skin.  "Gravitational force," he explained.

The aggravated crowd stirring below started to grumble, and began looking upwards to find the culprit of their watery attack.

"Oh hell!" Penny said and took off.  Leonard ran behind as they left the roof and went down the stairs.  They laughed uproariously as they went, having too much fun, and by the time they reached their floor they were out of breath with tears in their eyes.  

"That was fun," Penny giggled.

"Wasn't it?" Leonard said, like a naughty schoolboy.  

As their laughter subsided, they both tacitly realized that... this was the end.  Waving with a sad smile, Penny walked over to her door and turned the key.  Leonard did the same and then...

"Penny," he said.

"Yeah," she answered.

"Let's promise to never let anyone get between us again… no one," he proposed.  “I promise.”

Penny nodded and, slowly, a smile crept up on her face.  "I promise, too," she said at last.  “Bye, Leonard,” she said, and stepped inside, shutting the door behind her.

Leonard opened his own door and was shocked to see Amy standing inside.

"What are you doing here?" he asked looking at his watch.  "I wasn't expecting you until later tonight."

"We took the 6:00 AM train back," Amy explained.

Sheldon suddenly appeared from behind the couch, previously hidden while lifting a tote bag.  He looked... rough.

"What the hell happened to you?" Leonard asked, with something short of sympathy.

"I'm afraid we were evicted from the hotel because I got in a bar fight defending Amy's honor from her drunken suitor and erstwhile nemesis," Sheldon explained.

Leonard, highly doubtful, looked at Sheldon, then at Amy, and then back at Sheldon.

He collapsed into laughter.

"Very, very funny, guys," he said batting away a tear.  "You really had me going there for a moment."  Sheldon looked at Amy, flummoxed by Leonard's reaction.  She just shrugged.  Leonard started laughing again, despite his best efforts to regain his composure.  After yet another round of guffaws, he cleared his throat. "Whew... OK.  So what really happened?"

Amy took it.

"Sheldon slipped in the bathroom, and fell against the tub."

Leonard hissed with sympathetic pain.

"Oh my God," he replied.  "There's some Aleve in the bathroom, if you need like... 12," he offered.

Sheldon reflected on this and nodded.  "That would actually sound delightful," he said.  He followed Leonard as they walked towards the bathroom.  Amy suddenly stood.

"Gentlemen," she announced.  "I'll be leaving." She grabbed her suitcase.

"Bye Amy," Leonard said, waving over his shoulder, and continued to the bathroom, only to arrive and discover that he was there alone.

"Sheldon?" he called and returned to the living room to find Sheldon and Amy in a warm embrace.  After a moment they let go, and Leonard didn't fail to notice the tender expression that passed between them.  Sheldon watched, wordlessly, as Amy grabbed her suitcase and left.

As soon as the door shut, Leonard raced for the bathroom and he was rummaging through the medicine cabinet when Sheldon arrived.

"Here's the Aleve," he said, plucking it from the shelf.  “Oh, and the bottle only recommends taking two tablets the first hour, so, you might wanna… just… do… that.”

“I wouldn’t do otherwise,” Sheldon scoffed.  “I don’t share your wanton disregard for dosage instructions.”

“Yeah,” Leonard replied sarcastically, “druggie me.”  Sheldon reached for the bottle, but Leonard snatched it back.

"And, um, while I have you," he continued.  "I couldn’t help but notice you and Amy in the living room... I would hate to assume—"

"Then don't," Sheldon said, grabbing the bottle from Leonard's hand and marching off.

***

Knock, knock, knock.  "Penny." 

Penny rushed to the door to find out what Sheldon could possibly want.

Knock, knock, knock.  "Penny."

Then she remembered that Sheldon was out of town.

Knock, knock, knock.  "Penny." 

Then she realized... the voice was female.

"Amy?" she said, after opening the door.

"Bazinga," Amy responded.

Penny leveled a skeptical look at Amy.  "And you mean to tell me that Sheldon is not rubbing off on you?" she asked.

"Not quite to that extent," Amy said.  "I mostly did that for your amusement.  May I come in?" she asked.  Penny made a sweeping gesture, ushering Amy inside.

"Hold on," Penny said after a second.  "What are you doing here?  I thought you were coming in around 10 tonight."

Amy nodded.  "Ah, yes.  We were evicted from the hotel early because Sheldon got in a bar fight defending my honor from my drunken suitor and erstwhile nemesis."

Penny froze a minute, her face painted with complete confusion.  Then, she busted out laughing.

"Amy, Amy," she gasped, leaning on Amy's shoulder and fighting to catch her breath.  "Oh my God!  You really had me there for a while."  She shook her head. "You are SO FUNNY!  Oh my God,” she said, finally coming close to being able to breathe again.  “Ahem, so what actually happened?"

Amy shrugged.  “We mistakenly bought tickets for 7:00 AM train instead of the 7:00 PM, so," she held out both hands, "here I am."

"Awww," Penny said sympathetically.  "I know you really wanted to hear that talk today on, um... uh... well, whatever-you-call-it."

"Life can prove to be unpredictable at times," Amy said.

"Tell me about it," Penny said, plopping down on the couch.

"And would you happen to have my mail?" Amy asked.

"Right!" Penny said, popping up and rummaging through a stack of envelopes, flyers and packages on a nearby table.  She cleared her throat.  "So, tell me – how did it turn out with the negligee?" she asked.  "I want to know every detail."

"I'm afraid you might be disappointed," Amy explained.  Penny gasped, shocked.

"You're kidding me!  I've never seen a man that can resist Victoria's secrets," she said.

"Well, apparently, Sheldon can," Amy said.  "And I'm sorry to report that Operation Penetration was..."

And then Amy paused there, her mind floating back to their kiss.  She remembered her lips on his, his breath with hers, his skins against her own.  She'd always been scared before, too fearful to be led by emotion or to express herself with something other than words and numbers and charts.  But here it was… something else in her, in him, between them that made her unafraid – something in the wordless exchange of a tender embrace that had taught her more about who she was as a person than she had gleaned in the pages of a million lab books.

Penny watched Amy as she fell silent.  She drew nearer, gently placing a hand on each of Amy's shoulders.

"Listen," she said tenderly.  "Don't ever think that because Sheldon is... different that you aren't a spectacular, and wonderful and beautiful and amazing woman.  Trust me,” she assured Amy, “he knows it too."

"I know," Amy said, nodding and more sure of this than she'd ever been of anything in her life.  "I know."

"Good," Penny said.  Then she handed Amy her mail.

Amy waved and headed for the door.  She paused before she left.

"Penny?" she began.

"Yeah?"

"Thank you,” she said, “for everything."

Penny smiled widely and shrugged.  "Hey, what are best friends for?" she said.

Amy smiled then left, shutting the door behind her.

THE END