Sheldon kept his head down as he navigated the halls of the physics building. He was never interested in making small talk with his colleagues, but today he was even less inclined. What would people think if they found out he spent the night at his girlfriend's? There wasn't a neon sign above his head advertising the fact, but if he made eye contact, what if they could tell?
It was only a matter of time before someone found out, and the rumors would start. The day after they all played Warlords of Ka'a, Howard was already asking when he and Amy would do the dance with no pants, complete with suggestive hip movements. If Kripke discovered he slept in his girlfriend's bed, it would be exponentially worse, not just for himself but for Amy as well.
That repulsive casanova was liable to ask Amy how it was for her. Would she think he told that scumbag they had done the deed to boast about his sexual conquests, as guys like Howard and Kripke did? Even if they had been physical, he would never brag about it or even mention it. What he and Amy did or didn't do was no one else's business. Especially not Kripke's.
When he entered the theoretical physics corridor, he glanced left and right. Someone was lurking around his office, but from this distance, he couldn't make out who it was. Perhaps just someone stopped to take a phone call or waiting for another colleague. The closer he got the clearer the person's details became.
Sheldon froze. Speak of the devil. Kripke was leaning against his door frame, waiting. He could play this two ways - confront the man or run. Raising his eyes, he glared at him. "Kripke. I have no time for your nonsense. Now if you'll excuse me…"
"Not so fast, Cooper. A little birdie told me that you and your girlfriend weren't at the tournament because she was sick."
"Yes. What's your point?"
"How sick is she? If she's not too contagious, I was thinking of stopping by her apartment with some chicken soup and to offer a comforting shoulder."
Sheldon clenched his fists at his sides. This was not at all the kind of reaction he expected. How dare he think he could just swoop in on his girlfriend? "Amy is fine now. She doesn't need your help."
"Interesting. Her employee told me she had a severe migraine, the kind that lasts for hours. Have you seen her recently, say this morning at her breakfast table?" He deliberately gazed at Sheldon's wrinkled shirt and wiggled his eyebrows.
And there it was. That sneaky scum already knew. It was only a matter of time before the whole university found out and began making assumptions. "As I said, I have no time to talk."
Kripke peeled himself off the frame. "While you're in there fantasizing about your girlfriend, I'll be in my office doing the same, but before I do, I need a more vivid picture. Was she naked or was she wearing lingerie? She seems calm and collected on the outside, but I bet she's a seductress in the sack."
"No one will be fantasizing about Amy. Now leave before I call security." Sheldon growled through gritted teeth.
Kripke held his hands up. "I'm leaving, but our conversation isn't over. I want details, Cooper."
Sheldon narrowed his eyes at the man's retreating back. The nerve of him thinking about Amy like that. It was possible he was just trying to provoke him, but he couldn't rule out the notion that Kripke would indeed fondle himself to visions of his girlfriend.
Heart pounding, he locked his office door behind him and leaned against it. Closing his eyes, he used the Vulcan ritual of Kolinahr to clear his mind from the disturbing encounter. Before he met Amy, he was a master at shoving his emotions deep down. On the rare occasions they came to the surface, it didn't take long for the Vulcan ritual to purge them.
He didn't know exactly how long he stood there, but it felt considerably longer than usual for his heart rate to return to normal and his tension to melt away. As his relationship with Amy grew stronger, would it take longer to achieve an emotionless state, or would he eventually lose the ability altogether? Breathing in deeply, he pushed all thoughts aside.
With a clear mind, he was ready to take on the day. There was a lot of work to be done revising his proposal to convince the university of his need to switch to inflationary cosmology, but first he had a more pressing issue. After double checking that the lock was secure, he stripped off his pants and donned the extra pair of bus pants he kept in his bottom filing drawer cabinet.
It felt strange putting them on when he had no intention of riding the bus until his shift was done. The alternative was wearing his dirty Sunday pants, but that was a minor detail compared to what he had done with his underwear. His brother would be proud to know he was wearing them inside out.
It was all Amy's fault. Why did she have to be so sweet and thoughtful? After all she'd been through just hours before, she needed to be sure he didn't leave hungry. He didn't have to stay, but how could he not?
Reading facial cues had always stumped him, but he was beginning to understand hers. Whenever Amy smiled at him, her eyes sparkled, and the corners crinkled. The smile she gave him when she said she understood he had to leave didn't reach her eyes. The last thing he wanted to do was disappoint her, and if he was being truthful with himself, he wasn't ready to leave.
Even now, sitting at his desk, he'd rather be with her. Work had always been his refuge from the world, a place where other like-minded people spent their days attempting to disprove theories, but today he felt like a caged animal, a prisoner in his own office. He needed to see her, to hear her voice, to touch her hand.
In the past, he always rolled his eyes when his friends talked about their significant others. He viewed relationships as a hindrance to solving the mysteries of the universe and wasn't interested in finding a life partner. All that changed since getting to know Amy. Having a girlfriend didn't make him less of a scientist. He was still just as brilliant. His relationship with Amy actually improved his life, making him less irritable and more empathetic.
Some would call it fate that he was just waiting for the right person to come along. He scoffed at the idea. He wasn't a hippie. The events that led him to her shop were merely coincidental. He smiled as her image appeared in his mind. She was so cute all disheveled with her hair sticking out at funny angles. Cute. That wasn't a term he had ever used to describe anyone.
"What has that vixen done to me?" He muttered. It wouldn't be easy, but he needed to focus on his work. The proposal wasn't going to write itself.
He stared at the document on his screen. Every word was ingrained in his mind, but they didn't appear that way. Amy's name was interspersed among the text. He blinked and looked again, but it was no use. Maybe a cup of tea would help him focus.
He poked his head out the door. The hall was empty. Even Kripke was nowhere in sight. A twinge of anger coursed through him as he recalled their conversation. Subconsciously his fists clenched once again.
On the short walk to the cafeteria, he didn't run into a single person. It was both eerie and reassuring. He rarely ventured out of his office other than for lunch and bathroom breaks, so it was quite possible this was how it always was. There was just one obstacle he needed to pass - the experimental physics lab. He quickened his pace as it loomed closer. If Kripke hadn't already told everyone, Leonard would no doubt make a comment about him not returning home last night.
Relief flooded him when he arrived at the cafeteria unnoticed. Mug in hand, he sat at his usual table. The hot liquid was soothing, so soothing that he didn't hear anyone until the chair across from him scraped against the floor. Looking up, he groaned. Leonard.
"Sheldon, you doing okay, Buddy?"
"Funny you just happen to come to the cafeteria when I'm in here. Are you spying on me?"
Leonard reddened. "I was thinking about stopping by your office. Then I saw you pass by my lab... Anyway, when you didn't come home last night, I started to worry. You didn't pick up your phone."
"I didn't want to disturb Amy, so I turned it to silent."
"You slept there?"
"On her couch?"
Sheldon stood, hands pushing the tabletop down as he glared at his friend. "Don't act like you don't know."
Leonard frowned. "Know what?"
"You can stop pretending, Leonard. I'm sure the news has spread all over the university by now."
"The fact that Amy and I shared a bed last night."
Leonard's mouth gaped open. "What?!"
"Your acting skills don't fool me."
"I'm not acting. I'm genuinely dumbfounded. You and Amy slept together?"
"We slept next to each other," Sheldon corrected. "We did not engage in coitus, even though that's probably the story Kripke's told everyone by now."
"Umm, Sheldon?" Leonard nodded his head to the side where a small group of physicists stood in the doorway staring at them. "I don't think Kripke said anything, but you just did."
"Oh, dear Lord!" He muttered. They were gossiping among themselves quietly. His Kolinahr skills may have failed him, but his Vulcan hearing was as sharp as ever.
"I can't believe Sheldon Cooper finally got laid."
"He's always acted like a robot. There goes that theory."
The walls were closing in and getting blurry. The last thing he remembered before falling out of his chair was asking for Leonard's help and seeing his wide-eyed look.
Sheldon blinked against a blinding light that quickly dissipated. His eyes focused on a woman in a white smock holding a penlight. She leaned back slightly and tilted her head. "How are you feeling, Dr. Cooper?"
"Where am I?"
"In the nurses' office. Your friend said you fainted, and you were brought here to be assessed."
Sheldon blinked again and studied his surroundings. The woman's face became clearer now. The university staffed a handful of nurses, all of whom he'd seen during his multiple visits to the infirmary. Normally they rolled their eyes as they jotted down notes and assessed his symptoms, but this time she seemed genuinely concerned. It took him a moment, then it all came flooding back to him - the voices, the stares. Ironically, now his colleagues had even more to discuss.
The nurse stood when a knock came at the door. She ushered Leonard in and quietly closed it behind her.
"Sheldon, are you okay, Buddy?"
"Physically I'm fine, but I'm not too keen on going back out there to be ridiculed."
"Take all the time you need. There is one person here, though, that I think you'll be happy to see." Leonard cracked the door open and beckoned the mystery guest inside.
Amy stepped into the room, her eyes wandering over her surroundings and finally landing on his. "Hi, Sheldon."
Sheldon noted her lip bite and wringing hands. "Why did you ask her here?" He hissed.
"Because she's your girlfriend, and she cares about you."
"She has enough to worry about without adding my problems."
Amy frowned. "You know I can hear you, right?"
"You were supposed to stay home today," he accused.
Amy mumbled something to Leonard. He nodded then slipped out the room, leaving the couple alone. She sat next to her boyfriend on the cot. "When Leonard called, I couldn't just stay home and do nothing. I needed to be sure you were okay."
"I'm fine," he snapped then immediately regretted his tone when Amy reared her head back. Her expression was inscrutable, but he knew she was hurt. "I'm sorry. I've had a rough morning."
"Want to talk about it?"
"Not particularly, though I'm sure Leonard told you what happened."
"He didn't give me all the details. He thought it would be better coming from you, but it's okay if you're not ready to share." She picked up his hand and lightly ran her fingers over his knuckles. "Thank you again for taking such good care of me while I was sick."
"You're my girlfriend. I couldn't just leave you there to fend for yourself."
"And I won't leave you until I know you're okay."
"I'll be fine." She looked unconvinced, and he took a deep breath. "I'm going to tell you what happened. It's embarrassing and involves you, so I hope you'll still feel the same way about me."
"I don't understand," she frowned.
"Barry Kripke knows I stayed at your apartment last night. He assumed we," Sheldon licked his lips and gulped, "engaged in coitus."
Amy gasped. "How does he know, and why would he think that? Did you embellish the truth?"
"No, but I didn't correct him. Then when I met Leonard in the cafeteria, I assumed Kripke told everyone and inadvertently blurted out that we spent the night together. I was clear on the absence of coitus," he was quick to add, "but I confirmed I spent the night in your bed. When I realized Leonard wasn't the only one there, and everyone in the cafeteria knew the truth, I passed out." Amy was quiet and motionless. With each passing second, Sheldon grew more and more concerned. "Amy?"
Several more seconds ticked by before she squeezed his hand. "So we slept in the same bed, and your colleagues know. There's nothing to be ashamed of."
"You're not mad?"
She shook her head. "No. We're a couple. We take care of each other, and if that means sharing a bed, then so be it." She looked down at their entwined fingers then into his eyes. "I look forward to our next sleepover, and I don't care who knows."
"How about now?"
"Seriously? In the nurses' office and after all that happened?"
He shrugged. "Why not? We both could use some rest, and I'm not ready to face my colleagues yet."
"You're not worried about people talking?"
"For all they know, we're just in here conversing." He slid closer to the wall and patted the narrow empty spot on the mattress. Amy slipped in beside him. It was a tight squeeze, but he curled around her, wrapping his arm around her waist to pull her in.