Title: "The Countdown Reaction"
Description: "Amy looked up, startled at the sound of her name, only to find Bernadette standing by the door and staring at her. So were Raj and Leonard."
Fandom: The Big Bang Theory
Genre: Comedy/Romance/Angst
Characters: Sheldon/Amy
Word Count: 1422
Author's Note: Coda fic to episode 5.24, "The Countdown Reflection".
Disclaimer: The Big Bang Theory is an American sitcom created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, and is produced by them along with Lee Aronsohn. It is a Warner Brothers production and airs on CBS. All characters, plots and creative elements derived from the source material belong exclusively to their respective owners. I, the author of the fan fiction, do not, in any way, profit monetarily from the story.
Rating: K

For the smattering of space nerds and scientists who were watching in labs, control centers and other living rooms around the world, the Kazakhstani launch had been accompanied by yelps of glee, celebratory high-fives and maybe a shed tear or two. But in a fourth floor apartment on 2311 Los Robles Avenue, an awed hush fell over the room. The assembled group of friends were all left a little stunned… and joined at the hands. Their personal ties to Howard meant they really wouldn't—couldn't—celebrate until he was back home.

The TV broadcast of the event only lasted so long, and as soon as it had ended, the network switched back to its regularly scheduled programming, a replay of the NASA Science News Conference from earlier that day. Raj had broken his grasp with Bernadette to switch to a reality show called "When Cougars Attack," a series about women in their forties who stalk college students on the streets of Manhattan. Penny, who had just gotten off from work, tapped Leonard's hand twice before releasing him, then rose to go home and change clothes. Soon after, Bernadette began to collect her things to go; Mrs. Wolowitz had called, crying for Howard and begging her "new daughter" to come over and eat the leftover wedding brisket with her. The mention of brisket had awakened Leonard's appetite and he was in the kitchen prowling for food. But Amy had missed all that. Her mind was elsewhere.


Amy looked up, startled at the sound of her name, only to find Bernadette standing by the door and staring at her. So were Raj and Leonard.

"Yes?" Amy answered.

"I called you five times," Bernadette said with a smirk. "You can hear, can't you?"

Amy glanced down at her left hand again, which she had been holding with her right ever since Sheldon had slipped his hands from hers. Then she looked back at Bernadette.

"Indeed I can. Why? Where you saying something?"

"I said," she repeated, "that if you wanted to, you could follow me home and pick up your bolero jacket that you left after the wedding."

"Um, yes," Amy stammered in reply. "I'll do that." She reached for her purse.

"But what about your hot cocoa?" Sheldon called from the kitchen. "I've just started to warm the milk." It wasn't wintertime and she wasn't in distress, but it wasn't his first infraction of the day. She turned back to Bernadette.

"Perhaps I can get the jacket some other time," she said.

Bernadette shrugged. "No rush." She waved. "Bye guys," she said, and walked out of the door.

"I don't want anything salty," Leonard suddenly announced while opening and closing the cabinets for the fifth time. "I don't want anything tart. I don't want anything that takes a long time to cook—"

"These idiots don't know a good woman when they see one," Raj blurted. Sheldon, Leonard and Amy all turned to him. "What I wouldn't give to have a mature, wealthy, experienced woman pursue me for my youth, virility and appreciation for classic cinema." He shook his head. "It's a shame our society doesn't value the charms of an older woman."

"I should remind you that this is not your society," Sheldon said, pulling the cocoa powder from the cabinet. "Most middle-aged women approaching their sixth decade in your society have already been married for decades, raised several children to adulthood and are coming to the end of whatever career they may have had in those years, although more likely, they would be completely financially dependent on a their spouse, who would have been provided to them at a young age through an arranged marriage. For such a woman, pursuing a younger man would be unseemly, if not impossible."

"Times have changed in India, Sheldon," Raj shot back. "And besides, why do you insist on telling me about my culture?"

"Because you seem to be so baffled by it. I like to bring clarity to situations that others find confusing."

Raj rose. "I'm leaving."

"Don't go," Leonard pleaded. "You know he's crazy."

Raj shrugged. "It's not that. I promised myself a bubbly evening in the tub after such an emotionally draining few days. I have a bottle of lavender-scented bath oil at home with my name on it. Tata," he said and promptly left.

Sheldon shook his head while stirring the saucepan on the stove. Amy watched with baited breath. She felt antsy and edgy, like maybe she could use a jog… or scream into a pillow.

"Sheldon," Leonard said, "would it kill you to just once pick up a box of, say, Captain Crunch when you buy cereal? All that's left on the top of the fridge is the bran crap you love so much and I seriously don't know how much more fiber my digestive tract can take."

"From what I've seen of your diet," Sheldon said, "quite a bit."

"All I want is a bowl of cereal that turns my milk red, or blue or green," Leonard said. "Is that too much to ask?" Despondently, he picked up a box of Big Bran. "Well, large intestine, I guess you're going to have to hang in there a little while longer." He stared at the box again, and then set it down. "Screw it," he said, then he grabbed a bag of mini marshmallows from the counter and emptied it into a bowl.

Sheldon gasped. "Leonard! Now what am I to put in our hot cocoa?"

Leonard shoved a mouthful of milk covered marshmallows in his mouth without the slightest look of remorse. "Oh. Then, sorry, Amy," he said and walked back to his room. "I'm going to go and read. If I don't come back in an hour or so, I slipped into a sugar coma."

Sheldon slumped and looked on in discouragement at the cocoa, milk, and cups in front of him. "All our hopes of enjoying hot cocoa while watching the offerings of the History Channel lie in ruins—dashed in a single act of dietary recklessness."

"It's okay, Sheldon," she said. "A few marshmallows, or the lack thereof, can't spoil our evening."

Sheldon turned around and looked at her, poised to disagree, and then stopped. His eyes brightened a little, and his anxiety was replaced with something that looked liked contentment… calm. He turned back around and stirred the cocoa into the cups then brought them out on saucers to the living room. He handed one to Amy, then took a seat next to her. They both took a sip.

"I have to apologize," he said after a moment.

"Why?" Amy asked. He turned to her.

"I've repeatedly violated the Agreement today. You aren't distressed, and yet I've prepared you a hot beverage. If you were distressed, it's not winter, so I shouldn't be serving hot cocoa. Even worse, your cocoa has no marshmallows. And then, during the launch, I…" he trailed off and looked down into his drink. Amy placed her drink on the coffee table and turned her body towards his, drawing a bit closer.

"There's no need to apologize," she said. "I'm having a wonderful time."

He looked back at her, and then smiled a little. "I am, too."

She nodded. With that, she grabbed the remote.

"Which channel is the History channel again?"

"Ah, 62," Sheldon answered. "Between 61, which is MSNBC, and 63, which is TBS." She punched in the numbers, returned the remote to the table and then sat back. They settled into watching the program, a documentary on the ancient walls of Jerusalem. After a moment, she glanced at Sheldon, who was already becoming engrossed in the show and, taking a chance, she placed her hand on his.

He glanced down at it a second, then looked back at the screen. Amy's heart fluttered a little when he took her hand in his and squeezed back.

Endnote: Thanks for reading!