See Chapter 1 for story headers.
"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."
"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 dot 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 to 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.
"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'mthe 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 of 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. He then e 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 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 noticed 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, a little short on 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 thatextent," 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 her 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 amazingwoman. 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.
"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.
Thanks for your kind feedback that gave me the impetus to finish this story.