It was difficult for Sheldon to concentrate with Amy in his arms. He couldn't write equations on his mental whiteboard; he couldn't move pawns on his mental chessboard. Every now and again, he'd come across the thought of germs and wonder why this physical contact did not freak him out. But then, touching Amy had never incited the same revulsion he felt when he touched other people. The first time she'd taken his hand, he'd noticed the difference. Maybe it was because he trusted her to wash her hands.
"Are you still sad?" Sheldon asked. He wasn't sure what was wrong and he didn't want to admit that he cared as much as he did. He hadn't meant to make an exception to the relationship agreement, but at some point in talking, he'd opened his arms and she'd fallen into them. Now he was pinned down on his couch, sharing his spot, and praying none of the guys walked in and made fun of him.
"You're going to ask me every five minutes now aren't you?" Amy replied, sniffling softly. Her breath made a humid spot on his shirt and it made his skin twitch.
"It's new comic book night," Sheldon explained, checking his watch. They'd been sitting here nearly an hour. "The comic book store closes in twenty minutes."
A fresh tear rolled down Amy's cheek and Sheldon knew the comic books were a loss. Shifting, she wrapped both her arms around her stomach and nestled against him. "Am I that undesirable?"
"I don't understand."
"I know I'm not Penny beautiful, but do you really find me less desirable than a couple of new comic books?"
Sheldon cocked his head, resettling his arms around his new girlfriend, wishing he had a blanket to drape over her shoulders. Blankets are comforting, right? "The fact that I'm here should indicate otherwise."
"Clearly, you don't want to be here."
"Amy, you know how I feel about physical contact," Sheldon said quietly, his fingers tapping nervously on her shoulders. The rules against this were clearly spelled out in the relationship agreement. She'd signed and initialed every part, and yet she demanded more without filling out the appropriate forms or giving him adequate warning. "I maintain the position I've had since grade school. It's icky and gross."
"You think I'm icky and gross?" Amy asked, sitting up, her eyes watering like a kicked puppy. Sheldon had kicked a lot of annoying puppies in his day, and they'd never invoked the emotion Amy did. Why was she so sad?
"I didn't say that," Sheldon said, jumping off the couch and pacing. He felt cold without her body pressed to his. Cold and helpless. Going to his desk, he touched the stack of journal articles he'd been planning to read before going to the comic book store. The whole night was a loss… and yet, it wasn't. "Ours is a friendship of the mind. And I don't think you appreciate the fact that I treasure our relationship so thoroughly that I have set aside my aversion to physical contact and cuddled with you not once but twice!"
"Thank you," Amy said sincerely, coming to stand next to him. It was hard to look at her.
"I find this whole situation troubling," Sheldon confessed. "I'm a man of science. I adhere to the Vulcan philosophy of logic and the Teachings of Surak. I know I'm superior to other men, and yet I feel inadequate for you, because I do not reciprocate your physical affection. My loins do not burn for you. I'm sorry."
Amy frowned, but at least she wasn't crying. She took both his hands, lacing his fingers with hers, and Sheldon shivered fearfully. He didn't burn for her, but he certainly felt tied to her.
"Aren't you even curious?" she asked seriously, as though they were discussing a science experiment. "Don't you wonder what it would feel like to take me into your bedroom and have your way with me?"
"It won't be my way. It'll be your way," Sheldon answered flatly, staring at the ceiling.
"I can live with that," she teased, leaning so close that he could feel her breath on his skin. The exposed skin of his neck tingled and he wondered what he would do if she started licking him or kissing him.
Stop her. Stop her! Sheldon's breath quickened, but not with lust. With fear. He was afraid of losing her and terrified of the cost of holding on. Pulling his hands free of hers, Sheldon backed up one step, trying to create space without fleeing the living room. "If you keep asking me, I will yield."
"Do you mean you'll yield tonight, or will it take a few more weeks to wear you down?" Amy asked, closing the distance between them again.
"I don't know," Sheldon whimpered, his hands covering to his flushing cheeks. Tears welled in his eyes. He wanted to run to his room and lock the door, but fear paralyzed him. He didn't want to yield. She was a scientist. If he explained, she would see reason. "The desire I have for you is not hormonally charged. It's a yearning for your companionship. All I know is that I love you and I'd do anything to keep you in my life—even if it means whoring out my body."
Amy's eyes widened and she backed away. Finally. The tension electrifying the space between them dissipated quickly, and Sheldon took in deep breaths of the cool air, hoping to dry the tears in his eyes before any of them betrayed his strength by falling.
"Sheldon, I mean to seduce you, not sexually harass you," Amy explained.
"You didn't sexually harass—well, I suppose technically you did," Sheldon said quietly, crossing his arms. He felt suddenly cold and self conscious. The social protocols for situations like this were not described in the relationship agreement or in any dating text he'd read on the internet. His thought train whirled in circles—comic books, physics journals, chess, trains, Amy. He was glad she understood his logic.
"You love me?" Amy finally asked, smiling softly at him. Sheldon flinched and jumped away.
"Yes," Sheldon conceded, making a face, but not looking her in the eye. Nervously he fingered the hem of his t-shirt and waited for the inevitable fallout from the inadvertent confession. "Do you want to leave now?"
Amy furrowed her brow quizzically.
"When Leonard told Penny he loved her, she left him," Sheldon explained quietly, keeping his arms crossed. His chest ached. If this was what Leonard had felt like when Penny left, Sheldon could certainly understand why they'd forfeited bowling that night. The pain and fear drowned out everything else. If he conceded to sex, he'd hate himself, but he couldn't stand the thought of her walking away. Or the sight. She's leaving me? Sheldon tried to chase her, but he couldn't move his feet. "Amy?"
"You're upset. I'm making cocoa," she stated, going into his kitchen and pulling out the ingredients she needed.
Stumbling shakily to the cooking island, Sheldon watched, still feeling extremely uncomfortable. He wished she'd say what she was thinking. Sheldon didn't respond well to nonverbal indications, subliminal messages, facial cues, hand signals, or semaphore. Even a woman as forthright as Amy was inscrutable in matters of dating. She might yet leave. Steeling himself against desperation, Sheldon opted for the simplest compromise. "Don't make too much. If we are going to continue spooning, I don't want to do that with a full bladder."
"We're not going to spoon," Amy said, stirring the cocoa introspectively. "You are hereby released from any and all obligation to make physical contact with me until such a time as you desire it. And I will do my best to stop soliciting you."
"Thank you," Sheldon said, breathing a sigh of relief and collapsing onto one of the barstools, grateful for the clear explanation. Folding his arms on the counter, he rested his head on the back of his hands, and still felt a shiver when she set the cocoa next to him. Opening his hands to cradle the warm cup, he looked at her guiltily. She'd come here to feel better, and he'd made things worse. "Now you're upset again."
Amy smiled her mysterious womanly smile, and Sheldon tensed, immediately worried that she'd lied to him about the not soliciting thing. When she saw his reaction, she looked contritely into her own cocoa mug. "Sheldon, the man I love just told me he loves me. This is the best night of my life!"
"Intriguing," Sheldon said, sipping the cocoa, feeling doubly euphoric as the warm chocolate mixed with love. "If I had opened the night with those words, could we have avoided the last hour of cuddling?"
"Probably not. I believe the power is in the sentiment, not the words," Amy pointed out. Then she raised her eyebrow and looked at him with the curiosity of a scientist; that look turned him on more than any seductive pose she'd ever taken. "But just to be certain, we should probably experiment."
"Agreed! I'll get my whiteboard," Sheldon said, excitedly jumping up from the counter. "You have your electrodes, right?"
Penny's feet ached from a long night of working, and she wondered for the eleven hundredth time if there were a better pair of clogs for the job. There were definitely cuter ones, but she couldn't afford them. It was always between the second and third floor that she got tired of climbing the stairs alone. She chuckled as she rounded the bend up to the fourth floor and saw Leonard standing in the hall, a bag of new comic books by his feet.
"Hey, Leonard! Did you get locked out?" she teased, admiring the way his pants hugged his backside, fighting the urge to give him a little spank as he walked by.
"Shh," Leonard hissed, waving his hand at her, then pressing his ear to the door again.
Whoa, I must be tired. How had she missed all the classic signs of eavesdropping? Her aching feet forgotten, Penny tiptoed up the last half flight and pressed her ear to the door too. Amy and Sheldon were laughing and giggling. If Penny didn't know better, she'd have thought the two were screwing around. The voices got quiet, and then Amy snickered. Then Sheldon said loudly, and with unmistakable clarity: "I love you Amy Farrah Fowler."
Penny jumped away from the door like it had burned her. What the hell was going on? Had she fallen asleep in the break room at work? This had to be a dream. Crossing the hall, she sat on the steps outside her apartment, stunned speechless.
"They've been at it for over an hour," Leonard whispered.
Penny's mouth was hanging open. It certainly didn't feel dream-like. In her dreams, her feet didn't ache like this, and Leonard had pointy ears. She tensed when Leonard jumped up and fumbled for his phone, silencing it quickly.
"Sheldon thinks I've been mugged. Do you want to go in?" Leonard asked.
As if she needed an invitation. Penny charged in after Leonard, and froze just inside the door. Amy was sitting in Sheldon's spot on the couch, two white electrodes attached to her head, and a few more wires going under her blouse. There was a whiteboard, a notebook, and a laptop. Things started to fall into place. Sheldon and Amy performing twisted experiments on each other made a lot more sense than Sheldon and Amy having sex.
"There you are," Sheldon greeted cheerily from behind the kitchen island, where he sat happily munching on a piece of Cylon toast. Maybe the 'I love you' had been part of some Cylon role playing thing.
"Leonard, come tell me you love me. We're doing an experiment," Amy said eagerly, patting her polyester-entombed thighs.
"Um. I love you?" Leonard stuttered. Even with the hour of lead in, he still wasn't prepared for this whatever-it-was, so Penny didn't feel so bad for the minor freak-out she was having.
"That was hardly sincere," Sheldon carped. "Penny, you're an actress. You try."
Amy turned excitedly to Penny, and Penny cringed. The stunted experiment with lesbianism was bad enough. Penny did not play with the 'L' word—especially with Leonard standing right there.
"Uh, no," Penny said firmly.
"Maybe we should hook the electrodes to them and get them saying it to each other," Amy suggested to Sheldon. Penny's eyes widened. This was a nightmare.
"I-I-I don't think so," Leonard said quickly.
"Agreed," Sheldon said, pressing his lips together in frustration. "Given their history, it's more likely to confuse the data. We can ask Howard and Bernadette tomorrow."
The rush of relief Penny felt was tainted by confusion. "So you guys, what prompted this…experiment?" she asked. If only someone had pointy ears. Then she'd know it was a dream.
"Sheldon's aversion to physical contact has inadvertently led us to more potent, non-physical methods of consolation and affirmation," Amy explained scientifically, carefully removing the electrodes and shutting down the window on the computer with all the wavy lines.
"How do you know it's more potent? Have you tried the physical methods?" Penny asked tartly.
"Penny," Leonard warned.
"We have attempted limited physical intimacy, but it lacked honesty," Amy said, packing away the electrodes, and standing abruptly. "I'm going home, now. Goodnight all."
"Goodnight, Amy. I love you," Sheldon said mechanically, like he was telling her to remember to pick up milk at the grocery store.
"Who!" Amy cried, then covered her mouth. Sighing and blushing at once, she said, "Damn. I should have left the electrodes attached."
Then, abrupt as always, she left. Penny had heard Amy make that sound before, and she knew what it meant. This was not a game to her, like it was to Sheldon. Amy was making her "I want sex" sounds and Sheldon was just standing there, perusing notes and numbers on that damn whiteboard.
"Sheldon, I want to talk to you about this experiment," Leonard opened diplomatically.
Penny pushed past Leonard. She was not about to take Sheldon's hand and walk him through this like a five year old. "Sheldon Cooper, this is a dangerous game to play with a girl's heart. Telling her you love her when you don't!"
"Penny, I'll handle this," Leonard interrupted irritably.
"Like hell you will," Penny snapped. "When Amy finds out the truth, who do you think she'll come crying to?"
"Penny, don't scare him," Leonard said urgently, holding up his hands.
"He's a big boy, he can handle it," Penny growled, ready to hog-tie Sheldon and confront him. "Sheldon, tell Leonard you're not scared."
Sheldon turned away from the whiteboard, glancing at the door before looking at the two of them. He looked confused, like he'd just stepped in from another reality. "I'm terrified. This was never supposed to happen."
"Damn straight," Penny agreed. "You should have just given her a kiss and called it a night."
"I don't have to kiss her. That's the beauty of it," Sheldon said, smiling like he'd just won a free trip to ComicCon. Penny sputtered, but Leonard covered her mouth.
"Sheldon, what happened? What was never supposed to happen?" Leonard demanded gently.
Picking up the whiteboard, Sheldon stumbled to the couch and sank into his spot. He furrowed his brow, studying the data, then looked at Penny and Leonard, dazed and awed. "I love her."