Amy bound across campus as soon as her experiment finished. She was eager to talk to Sheldon about his meeting with Stephen Hawking. He'd talked of nothing else through breakfast and lunch. She hoped he wouldn't be too big-headed about the experience, but was prepared to do the dutiful girlfriend thing and put him in his place. When she saw Raj sitting on the floor outside his and Sheldon's closed office door, her skip slowed to a cautious gait.
"Raj," she greeted. Maybe Raj was out here because Sheldon wouldn't stop talking his ear off about Stephen Hawking. It didn't make sense for Sheldon to be in there alone.
Raj pulled his headphones off and waved at her. He wasn't drinking, so she wasn't going to get an explanation out of him.
"Is Sheldon in there?" she asked, pointing to the closed door.
Raj pulled a key out of his pocket and held it up to her.
"If you have a key, why don't you go in?"
Raj made a face, like she'd asked him to jump into a cage with a hungry tiger. Rolling her eyes, Amy took the key and let herself in. Given how mean the guys had been to Sheldon the past few days, she didn't want Raj around anyway. It took all her willpower not to "accidentally" step on Raj's fingers as she walked past.
Inside the office was quiet and discouraging. Raj's giant desk dominated the room—another testament to how Sheldon let his friends walk all over him. Sheldon's whiteboards were clean and leaned against a bookcase. A few of the books were in a box, like he was packing up to move. Sheldon sat at his desk, intently focused on the document in front of him. Black sharpie in hand, he diligently crossed out the words of the paper one line at a time. Amy had seen him do that before with journal articles that irritated him.
"How was the meeting with Stephen Hawking?" Amy asked, frowning in concern.
"He's very kind," Sheldon said, not looking up from his work, turning the page when the one he'd been working on was completely blacked out. "Do you know, he travels with his own doctor?"
"I did," Amy said. She read the paper upside down, shocked to see that it was Sheldon's brilliant new theory. Amy surmised that Stephen Hawking did not find it as brilliant as Sheldon had hoped. "Did something happen?"
"I fainted," Sheldon said, using the sharpie to point to a cold compress that was now probably lukewarm.
"I'm sure that happens to a lot of people," Amy said sympathetically.
Sheldon gave her a look. He never liked being compared to common people.
"Did he like your paper?" she asked.
"He found it amusing. The mistake on page two especially," Sheldon said emotionlessly.
"Oh." Amy sank into the nearest chair, suddenly realizing why Raj had preferred the hall.
"Yes, we discussed it at great length after his doctor examined me for a concussion," Sheldon continued. "He's a very nice man."
That was a far cry from brilliant scientist. And that was twice so far that Sheldon had referred to Stephen Hawking as a common man. Even when Sheldon pretended to be a Vulcan, he was never so successfully void of emotion. He moved mechanically, crossing out line after line of his paper. Amy looked at the door, wishing she could be sitting out in the hall right now. Had she already missed the anger, depression, and self-deprecation? At least Sheldon hadn't been so humiliated that he'd run into hiding the moment he'd regained consciousness—at least he'd stayed and talked to Stephen Hawking.
"Did you want to attend his public lecture tonight?" Amy asked hopefully.
Amy bit her lip. She'd been looking forward to seeing the man her boyfriend admired. "There's a reception. It's supposed to be only for department heads, but I used my womanly charms to score us some invites."
Sheldon stared at her a moment, his sharpie freezing mid-cross-out, his lips parting slightly, then curling into a smile. "Really? You succumbed to base, sexual exploitation and manipulation for me?"
"Of course," she grinned. She couldn't help smiling when he smiled at her like that.
Laughing to himself, Sheldon capped the sharpie and put it away.
Amy frowned into her punch, wishing her cup were empty so she'd have an excuse to blow off the unkempt scientist that was shamelessly flirting with her. After five minutes, she just said 'excuse me' and walked away, leaving the man to draw his own conclusions as to why she needed to be elsewhere. Sheldon was sitting alone in the corner, refusing to eat the buffet style food. He hadn't introduced Amy to anyone, and it was clear he didn't like being in the crowd. Having not gone to the public lecture, they'd missed some of the central elements to the evening's small talk.
"This is the lamest party ever," Amy said, standing next to Sheldon. The room had been cleared of most chairs to make wider pathways for wheelchair access.
"It's not a party. It's a scientific discussion," Sheldon said distantly.
"Then why don't you join the discussion?
"Because it is a lame scientific discussion," Sheldon said, rolling his eyes at her.
Amy frowned at her punch again, then tossed the cup in the trash. "I want to leave. Normally, I don't mind being ogled by brilliant men, but this is disturbing me," she said crossly. Then she waggled her eyebrow at him and tried to weave her hands between his. "Perhaps if you would stand with me, people would know I'm not available."
Sheldon considered her a moment, then took her hands and stood up. "Okay."
Amy's jaw dropped. "I can't believe that worked."
Moving dutifully, Sheldon linked her arm with his in perfect cotillion fashion and led her to the middle of the room. Then he turned to face her and placed one of her hands on his shoulder, like he was positioning her for a waltz.
"What are you doing?" Amy asked. She didn't want to stop him, because she found it exciting when he touched her, but a part of her started to wonder if he'd mentally snapped.
"You have been asking me for weeks to dance with you," Sheldon explained simply. His hand fell on her waist, locking their frames. He opted for a foxtrot, and she followed because she preferred that option to breaking out of his arms or having her feet stepped on.
"There's no music."
"The place with the music is ten miles away and has a $15 cover charge."
Amy sighed. This was starting to feel more weird than exciting. "It seems rude to dance at a party—sorry, scientific discussion—hosted in honor of a man in a wheelchair."
Sheldon gazed at her thoughtfully, making her feel silly for protesting. His eyes were wistful and distant, like he couldn't simplify his explanation enough for a mind as small as hers. When he made that face, she could convince herself that he was a benevolent alien visiting from another world.
"When I spoke to Stephen Hawking this afternoon, he said I should take you dancing as soon as possible," Sheldon finally said.
So, what? Is that like a signed order from God in his world? Amy was forming her witty retort, but suddenly Sheldon was gazing at her again with those sweet, wistful eyes, and her heart melted. After all these years, she finally had a boyfriend who adored her.
"Hawking was twenty-one when he was first diagnosed with ALS. By the time he was my age, he could barely walk," Sheldon said quietly. He gazed at her, and Amy finally understood the wistfulness. Sheldon treasured her, and he did not want to squander their time together. If Amy ever got the chance, she'd thank Stephen Hawking for teaching Sheldon that.
Music started playing on someone's tiny laptop speakers, and Sheldon's arm tightened around Amy's waist until her hips brushed against his.
"You're breaking frame," Amy pointed out. In a room where they were the only ones dancing, she wanted to look good.
Sheldon nuzzled her forehead, pressing his chin to the crown of her head. Amy referred to the move as a 'Sheldon kiss.' It was how he expressed intimacy without actually kissing. "I know."
Form be damned. Amy couldn't believe he'd touched her so tenderly while in public. Tilting her face, she pressed her lips to his. Her heart soared when she realized he wasn't pulling away. He rarely did, because he relied on her to determine the proper duration for physical contact. But there was something different about this kiss—something peaceful. It never would have happened like this if Stephen Hawking had told Sheldon his new theory was brilliant. Tomorrow, Amy could still be mad at the guys for being mean to Sheldon, but right now, she didn't care. She was wrapped in her boyfriend's arms, and they were lost in each other, swaying to the music.