Amy lay in Sheldon's bed, working a kakuro puzzle, hoping that the simple number game would help her unwind so she didn't wind up tossing and turning all night and keeping Sheldon up. Whenever Sheldon said they were sleeping together, it made her laugh. Sheldon didn't seem to catch the nuance of the phrase—that sleeping together implied sex. But there was no other way to put it. They fell asleep next to each other every night since the first night they'd gotten naked and hadn't made love. They'd entered a relationship territory for which magazines and internet articles had no advice aside from talk to each other and keep communication open.
Sometimes, Amy would wake up and find Sheldon gazing at her, watching her sleep. Amy didn't understand why he was so keen on looking and not touching, but it made her feel beautiful. He didn't mind if she touched him, and she'd actually discovered a few ways to touch him that he thoroughly enjoyed; he even requested it on occasion. He had a few sweet spots on his belly—one in that crevice between the two ribs just below his left nipple and another tracing the outline of his pelvic bone. He always shuddered when she touched his temple and she hadn't figured out if that was because he liked it or he'd been struck there too many times as a child, but he'd always nuzzle into her palm after. He also liked combing his fingers between hers and feeling their knuckles bump against each other as he pulled in and out of the hand hold. Amy had been checking the literature to see if there was a subliminal indication of sexual need in the gesture, but so far she'd come up empty.
That was all she'd come up with so far. Every other touch was just something he let her do because he knew she needed it. She paid attention to how he touched her, though, reciprocating, hoping she'd stumble across some hidden plea for touch in his affection. He wasn't overly possessive or jealous, but he liked having her close, and she liked sleeping in her boyfriend's bed, feeling his warmth. Sometimes she'd spoon against him unconsciously when he slept. The first few times he'd gotten up and gone to the couch, but now he just put an arm around her and went back to sleep. He'd taken to holding her hand while he fell asleep, and that was the problem now.
Sheldon sighed impatiently, his hands clasped over his chest, his eyes studying equations written on his mental whiteboard. With Amy's hands occupied by her puzzle book, he had nothing to hold onto and it frustrated him.
"It's bed time," Sheldon pointed out, flipping onto his stomach and looking over her shoulder. His hips were half on top of hers and his leg pressed between her thighs. It wasn't a sexual gesture; he'd simply become lax about that kind of physical contact since she'd started assisting him with his bi-monthly masturbation.
"Then turn off your light and go to bed. I'm going to finish this," Amy said, clenching her thighs around his leg. Just because he didn't intend it to be sexual didn't mean she couldn't take a little pleasure from it.
Sheldon pointed to one of the empty blocks and started to say a number, but Amy clamped her hand over his mouth. "I said I was going to finish it. Do you want to sleep alone tonight?" Amy warned. She hated when Sheldon finished her puzzles.
Sheldon's shoulders slumped and his chin dropped. "No," he said meekly, rolling back to his side of the bed and lying on his back. She expected the impatient sighs to begin in another ten minutes, and she was losing interest in the puzzle, but she could be stubborn too.
Suddenly Sheldon pushed back the covers and rolled out of bed, grabbing his bathrobe and padding out of the room barefoot. She wondered if he neglected his slippers on purpose, because she always squealed when he pressed his cold toes against her calves. Whether he was going to get a glass of milk or putter in the bathroom, she didn't care. He was trying to out-wait her without bothering her, like the noble gentleman she knew he could be.
Amy finished her puzzle peacefully and checked the clock, hoping she hadn't kept Sheldon up so late he'd be cranky in the morning. He'd been gone twenty minutes! Surprised, Amy slipped out of bed to seek out her wayward lover. She found him curled up on the couch, cradling a glass of milk, and watching Twilight Zone. Great. Nightmares.
"Sheldon, you can come to bed now," she said, picking up the remote and turning off the TV. She'd learned the subtle difference in his eyes when he was engaged in a program and when the TV was just on making noise. When she took the glass from his hands, he looked at her tiredly.
"I changed my mind. I'm going to sleep alone," he said, reclining on the couch and pulling a throw blanket over his shoulders.
"You're not sleeping on the couch. Remember how sore your back was last time?" Amy said, tugging his hand. "It took me an hour to massage out all the kinks and I'm not doing it again. I'll make you go to a professional."
Sheldon's body twitched predictably at the thought of someone else's hands on him. He made it perfectly clear every day that he kept himself only for her, and it would have been sweet were he not so generally repulsed by human contact. At her prodding, he lay obediently in the bed, hands clasped over his chest, and closed his eyes, falling asleep almost instantly. Amy caressed his temple apologetically, and slipped her hand under his.
"I love you," she said.
Amy stirred, feeling a chill in her body, and she rolled over, figuring Sheldon's cold toes had finally found her legs. She awoke with a start finding his side of the bed empty and cold. "Sheldon?" she called, then groaned in frustration. When Sheldon got it in his head to sleep alone, he found a way.
Taking his pillow and a spare blanket, she prepared to tuck him in wherever his head had fallen, but she froze when she heard his voice leaking out of the kitchen. Occasionally, Leonard and Sheldon rendezvoused in the kitchen in the middle of the night, offering advice and encouragement to each other, and Amy didn't like to interrupt. Tip-toeing to the end of the hall, she eavesdropped, but soon realized that Leonard wasn't there at all.
"Mom, when you fought with dad and you said you'd leave him, why did you stay? Was it because of the coitus? What did he give you? What did he do to make you stay?" Sheldon whimpered, the questions pouring out desperately.
He'd called his mother? Maybe the reason he'd been hovering over her shoulder earlier was because he wanted to talk. Sheldon didn't talk much about his father, but the man was inevitably mentioned when his relationship with Amy kicked up confusing emotions. Of all the things Sheldon's dad had forced him to learn, Amy knew that Sheldon wished he'd learned more about women—about being in a relationship. It was sweet.
"Well was it us kids?" Sheldon persisted. "Was it just for financial support so you could stay home and raise us? I don't want Amy to stay home and raise my children. She has a promising career in neurobiology."
Amy grinned and covered her mouth. They were talking about her—talking about their future.
"I don't know," Sheldon whined, his voice weary and distraught. "Amy threatens to leave me all the time and I don't think she's being sarcastic."
Amy's grin vanished. She didn't threaten to leave him all the time—she didn't think she did.
"What if it's not an idle threat?" Sheldon asked, his voice getting quiet with fear. "But mom, I love her." He listened again. "No we're not having sex. But if I ask her to marry me, she'll want to. She'll expect it. How can I deny her?" His voice was getting more frantic and high pitched. "Yes, I know it's a husband's duty, but duty isn't enough for her," Sheldon whimpered. Amy could tell he'd just burst into tears, and she couldn't sit by and eavesdrop anymore.
"Just tell my why you stayed," Sheldon cried.
Coming around the corner, Amy found Sheldon sitting on the floor, pressed up to the corner cabinets, knees to his chest, phone to his ear. He rocked slightly, begging his mom for answers as he repeated his questions over and over.
"Give me the phone," Amy said soothingly, taking the phone and pulling Sheldon into a hug. He hooked his hands over her shoulders and pressed his face to her neck, his warm tears dampening her night shirt. Amy stroked his temple, calming his sobs enough so that she could hear the phone.
"Mrs. Cooper?" Amy asked, checking to see if Sheldon's mom was still on the line.
"Are you having sexual relations with my son?" Mrs. Cooper demanded immediately.
Amy was a little taken aback. "No, ma'am. We haven't even made it to second base." They'd skipped second and gone straight to third, but the spirit of the sentiment was true enough. "I'm sorry if he woke you up."
"If?" she repeated patronizingly. "Do you know what time it is?"
"Yes, ma'am," Amy sighed, rocking Sheldon in her arms.
"Let me talk to him. I have a few more things to say."
"He can call you back in the morning," Amy said stubbornly. She wanted to prove that she could handle Sheldon on her own, without his mother intervening. Holding the phone to Sheldon's ear, she said sternly: "Say goodnight to your mother."
"Mom?" Sheldon said, his strength forced, his emotions retreating. He took the phone, listening for nearly five minutes before finally saying good-bye. Then he collapsed against Amy's chest and whimpered miserably. The poor man was physically and emotionally exhausted.
"Back to bed, mister," Amy said, pulling him up by his elbows, moving him like a puppet. Again, he laid obediently on his side of the bed, but this time he was on his side, clutching a tissue to catch snot and tears. Amy wiped his cheek with her thumb. "Did I upset you earlier?"
Sheldon pursed his lips, getting predictably uncomfortable talking about his emotions, but he nodded. "Why do you always have to do that? You always tell me you're leaving."
"Because it always works," Amy answered quickly. She didn't have to think too hard to recognize the fact that she'd been manipulating her boyfriend by taunting him with the things he was most afraid of—strangers massaging him, using his toothbrush, and feeding him French toast on oatmeal day. "But I didn't say I was leaving forever. There's a big difference between kicking you out of bed for a night and kicking you out of my life."
"I don't understand," Sheldon said.
Amy cocked her head, studying his face. He was legitimately confused and vulnerable. What exactly did he not understand? Pushing up his shirt, Amy stroked his stomach lightly, her fingers moving clockwise so they caught the grain of the little hairs around his navel.
"You hold some pretty long grudges," Amy observed, thinking through all the stories Sheldon had told her of his various nemeses, and even some of his conflicts with his friends. "But not every fight results in parties becoming enemies. Sometimes, we'll just need a little space to cool down, but that doesn't mean we don't come back and forgive each other."
Sheldon's hand fell on top of Amy's, his fingers combing through hers occasionally, then guiding her to use a little more pressure as she rubbed his belly.
"What did I do to make you mad?" he asked innocently.
"I wasn't that mad," Amy said, laying close to him, resting her face on the pillow next to his. "I just wanted to finish my puzzle. I'm sorry I was mean. Can you forgive me?"
Sheldon tilted his chin and pressed his lips to hers. His kisses were another thing that defied everything she'd read about in magazines or seen on TV. They would never be sloppy, wet, saliva-swapping kisses, but despite their tame appearance, they were full of love. They were long, still, and quiet—a meeting of the lips that persisted while the spirit and passion of their friendship pulsed between them. It made Sheldon's heart-rate spike so high she could feel his heartbeat through his lips. He scooted closer to her, breaking the kiss so he could pull her into a hug, wrapping one leg around her hips possessively, locking their bodies together. Amy could feel his hips rolling, going through the motions of their semi-sexual encounters, like he always did when he begged her to stay.
"I want you to trust me," Amy said gently, wriggling out of his embrace, putting a hand firmly on his chest. "I want you to understand that I'm here because I want to be—not because I'm hoping for sex. You're enough. Do you understand?"
Sheldon nodded and squirmed, lacing his fingers through hers, moving her hand over his sternum. "I want you to understand that sometimes…not often, but sometimes…I need you to touch me. Sometimes, I need to touch you."
He ran his hand up her arm, pushing up the sleeve of her night shirt. Then he dragged his fingers down the side of her body, dipping under her pajamas and rubbing her belly, hitting all the places that he really liked having touched. Amy closed her eyes, shuddering, feeling his want for the first time. His hand slipped into her pajama bottoms, tracing over the jut of her hip bone and along the crease of her hip. Her hips bucked lightly and she felt herself getting wet.
"Sheldon, you're arousing me," she warned, her breath hitching in her throat. She didn't want him to stop, but she thought it only fair to warn him.
"Sorry," he said, retracting his hand and scooping her body against his, hooking his arm over her torso and leg over her hips, like she was a giant teddy bear or body pillow. "You know what I like, but I have no idea what you like."
"I can teach you," Amy offered. His breath tickled against her skin as he swept her hair to one side and placed one of his long Sheldon-kisses on the nape of her neck. He nodded subtly, the tip of his nose rubbing against her skin. Then he nestled his face against her shoulder and pressed his lips to her skin until he dozed off.
"Sheldon?" she said softly. "Are you forgetting something?"
"I love you," he mumbled tiredly, squeezing her hard.
"I love you too," she smiled, resting comfortably in his arms, safe in the knowledge that he needed her as much as she needed him.