A/N: About a year ago, I was asked to write an extra chapter for The Family Reunion Probability Theorem to assist in bringing attention to the #AllHailTheDirtySockCampaign, a website devoted to helping the homeless by gathering donations of money, socks, and underclothing to get these poor souls through the harsh winter. To learn more about it, you can visit the following link:

allhailthedirtysock

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com/ShamyFanfiction

In either case, anyone who knows me knows I don't usually write fluff-heavy stories, but I will do anything for a good cause. This story takes place some months after the ending of the epilogue for The Family Reunion Probability Theorem. As you all know, that story ends with Sheldon and Amy happily married and expecting their first child. I am happy to now share the story here with you.

The Family Reunion Probability Theorem: The Holiday Sock Distraction Epiphany

"We'll figure it out together."
Sheldon Cooper (TBBT Season 9)
"The Opening Night Excitation"

Sheldon Cooper eyed his wife's rounded stomach with an intensified degree of anxiety. Even covered by the flannel protection of her nightgown and currently serving as a convenient mini-table to hold Amy's mug of tea as they sat on the couch watching television, the engorged flesh currently housing their child seemed more hazardous to maintaining his good humor than a Death Star was to Alderaan.

"Stop worrying," Amy said, not bothering to take her attention away from the flashing flatscreen.

There were many times Sheldon had been content and thankful that this woman knew him so well she was able to fairly predict or discern his moods, thoughts, or concerns. Today, however, was not one of those days. After all, a man should be able to worry about something without fear of reprisal, condescension, or having someone imply he was being overly dramatic.

"I didn't imply you were being overly dramatic," Amy said, sipping her tea. "I stated it outright."

This startled Sheldon, who hadn't realized he'd muttered his thoughts aloud. As allowing Amy to have the last word was not something he was in the habit of doing, he grumbled, "I'm a physicist. Physicists are never overly dramatic." He considered the veracity of his statement for a moment. "Well, unless we're talking about the sighting of the Higgs boson … or at Comic-Con. But it's necessary and expected then."

Amy cracked a small smile but said nothing.

Silence reigned between them until the television show was at its end and the tea was jointly consumed. It wasn't until Amy switched off the TV and reminded him of their mutual bedtime that Sheldon realized he'd been lost in his own thoughts. He sighed, knowing he'd have to re-watch that particular episode of Arrow at a later date. The inefficiency of having to repeat something he should have already done left him annoyed.

Amy looked at him expectantly. Knowing his duty, he got to his feet and held two hands out to her. Once she had been sufficiently helped up, she shuffled into the kitchen with their empty mugs. He mutely waited until she returned from her task before walking beside her to their bedroom. Once the nightly absolutions were taken care of and they were firmly ensconced in bed, Amy turned to deliver her usual nighttime kiss. He'd once hated this ritual of hers since it seemed to be an unnecessary action. They had, after all, just brushed their teeth. But Amy had insisted and persisted. Now, he enjoyed the encounter as it became source of both comfort and connection with the one woman who loved him more than any other, the woman whom he loved more than any other. Moreover, as the doctor had halted all coital activities several weeks ago, it had become one of the few times when he was assured intimacy with his partner—an intimacy he had become as hopelessly and illogically dependent on over the years as he had once been to knocking three times before entering a room.

Her hand came up to cup his jaw, and she pressed her lips tenderly to his. A whisper of a caress of her mouth against his followed before she moved away. Sheldon stopped her, clasping her shoulders as he pulled her back to him. His lips took possession of hers again and again. He reveled in the comfortable weight of her in his arms; the warm, feminine smell of her tingling his nostrils; and the minty taste of her on his tongue. All of the worry, love, and hope this woman had ever inspired in him were put into the kiss until his body began to demand much more. He broke away, knowing he must do so now if they were to follow the doctor's strict orders. And they would follow them. Amy's health took precedence over everything else.

She caught his hand as he scooted away from her. "Sheldon," she said, lightly panting to catch her breath. He knew from the look in her eyes that she was aware of why'd he'd kissed her so ardently.

"I'll be fine," she murmured. "You have no need to worry. I told you not to read all those pregnancy books."

He stiffened, offended that she believed he couldn't handle information. "I wanted to be informed. I am to be a father in a few, short weeks. It is best to be prepared on what to expect."

Amy shook her head and shifted to settle herself against him, her head leaning against his chest. Unwillingly, he felt himself relaxing as he always did when he held her. It was amazing to him—even after all these years—that physical touching would inspire comfort in him. But it had become so … because of Amy.

He dropped a kiss on the crown of her head and wrapped an arm about her warm bulk. Amy took his free hand and laid it flat against the tautness of her protruding belly. They waited bare moments before being rewarded by a firm kick. He was immediately awash in feeling, too much to be adequately processed or experienced without being overwhelmed. Sheldon tensed against her, wanting to pull his hand away in order to better get his bearings. But as he knew from past experience that this would hurt Amy's feelings, he made himself remain as he was.

"Our daughter is strong," she said, laying her hand atop his and curling her fingers slightly so that it felt like they were holding hands. "I'm strong. We'll both be fine."

The emotion was so much that he couldn't speak without sounding hoarse. "I can't lose you. I wouldn't be able to—" He was so overcome by the mere thought of her absence from his life that he couldn't finish.

"You're stronger than you give yourself credit for, Sheldon Cooper," Amy said. "But it took forever for me to get you. I'm not going anywhere. Besides, I signed a contract to remain with you forever, remember? And I always honor my contracts."

He nodded and held her a while longer. Finally, when he felt Amy grow tired, he released her, settled down beside her, and turned off the bedside lamp. Within minutes, she was asleep. Carrying the child fatigued her so much, more so these days than ever before. This pregnancy had been such a trial. First, the endless vomiting that accompanied morning sickness. Although why they called it "morning sickness" when it took place at all times of the day and night was something he would never readily understand. Then, just as this abated, worse symptoms followed. The heightened exhaustion, the rise in hormone levels which brought with them bouts of illogical weeping over everything from Kleenex commercials to the lack of peanut butter in the house to articles about climate change in Scientific American, and then there was that terrible event which happened around the fifth month of gestation.

He closed his eyes, trying to push that particular night from his memory. But he knew it was in vain. His eidetic memory wouldn't let it leave him.

"No," he whispered to himself. "I won't think on it. Amy is right. Everything will be fine."

But even as he said this, he wasn't so sure.

-TFRPT-

"I'm at my wit's end on what to do about Sheldon," Amy said to Bernadette, Penny, and Raj the next day at brunch at a gorgeous little cafe just up the street from the bungalow-style home she shared with Sheldon. The cafe's glass ceiling overhead afforded the group the ability to bask in the December sunshine without having to bear the chill in the air.

Amy lifted her champagne flute, half-filled with orange juice, and downed it in one gulp before motioning to their waitress to bring her another. It would be her third of the day and drinking it always gave her horrible heartburn. But as everything seemed to give her heartburn these days, she needed the folic acid, and the tangy sweetness of the juice was one of the things that still tasted like it was supposed to, she didn't mind. Besides, everyone else was enjoying mimosas, and she didn't like being left out.

"Call Sheldon's mother. Maybe she can talk to him," Bernadette suggested.

Amy shook her head. "Already tried that. She wanted them to pray together over the phone."

"Get him What to Expect When You're Expecting. Knowing what is going to happen will calm him down. I know it worked with me."

All three ladies stare incredulously at Raj.

"What?" he asked with a shrug. "A single man without children can't read a book about pregnancy and childbirth without it being weird?"

"No," the ladies said in unison.

Muttering something about gender inequalities in modern day America, Raj was prevented from overtly sulking by the return of the waitress, who brought their orders. Eggs benedict with crispy rosemary potato wedges for Raj; a veggie, egg-whites-only omelet accompanied by the tropical fruit plate for Bernadette; bacon, scrambled eggs, and cinnamon raisin toast for Penny; and, at long last, a large stack of pancakes, a double order of sausage links, fried potatoes, and three over easy eggs for Amy.

The smell of the golden, fluffy rounds of fried dough bathed in a fountain of melting butter made Amy feel faint from hunger, and she wasted no time digging in, relishing the sweetness of the maple syrup married to the butter. In fact, she'd nearly polished off half her plate before she realized no one had come up with an adequate answer to her dilemma. In fact, she'd nearly forgotten about it herself. She shook her head, disgusted with her behavior. Pregnancy never failed to surprise her as it always managed to reorder her priorities in a most inconvenient manner. The locations of all surrounding bathrooms, for example, were always paramount whenever she went somewhere these days.

She looked up at her friends, only to realize they were all observing her with varying degrees of amazement.

"Sorry," she said, chagrined. "I was starving."

Penny shook her head. "Wow. I've never seen anyone load a fork that high before and actually fit it into their mouth. I'm impressed. I thought I was bad when I was pregnant with Isabella. Leonard said it was like living in the Little Shop of Horrors for the last few months. I just kept yelling, 'Feed me, Leonard!'" she said.

They all laughed, and Amy's embarrassment faded.

Penny dug into her own breakfast, pointing at Amy with a bacon slice. "As far as ways to keep your freaked-out husband from completely losing his mind, how about I hogtie him and put him in my garage until you give birth? Leonard has a large, rubber replica of Jabba the Hut in there. Sheldon can sleep on it. It's actually very comfortable to lie on."

Amy, Bernadette, and Raj all leveled looks at Penny in joint surprise at the implications of her statement.

"What?" Penny blushed and looked away before grumbling, "After two kids and several years of marriage, if a woman has to put on a Slave Leia costume to make her husband happy, there's nothing wrong with that." She turned back to glare at them. "Right?"

It was now the group's turn to look away uncomfortably.

"Absolutely," Amy agreed.

"Did you get the one with the brass bra or the plastic top?"

This last question came from Raj. "I'm asking for a friend," he hastily added.

Since things were getting decidedly more uncomfortable with each passing minute, Amy said, "Sheldon is worrying himself sick, which, in turn, is worrying me. He didn't sleep last night. I can tell. He can't keep doing that. We all know what he's like when he doesn't complete his REM cycles."

"Don't remind me," Penny muttered.

"I'm sure it isn't helping that Christmas is next week," Bernadette said. "You know he doesn't love the holidays."

Amy nodded. "Indeed. I'm glad I'm not due until January 5."

"The holidays …" Raj said. "That's it! It's perfect."

"Caltech is having a holiday sock drive. They've been collecting new and gently used socks to give out to the homeless during the holidays."

Raj was happy to explain. "Socks are universal. Everyone can use socks. Orphanages, foster homes, homeless shelters, or nursing homes. Socks keep your feet warm and dry, which is important to maintaining your health. For example, homeless people usually have to walk a lot and having a fresh pair of socks makes their lives easier."

"I think I remember getting an email that the drive was going on," Amy said. "But what does that have to do about my problem with Sheldon?"

"They've been collecting the socks for weeks now. They received nearly 5000 pairs! They are going to deliver the collected socks to two of the local shelters and are looking for people to volunteer to hand them out to the homeless the week of Christmas. Since Penny and Leonard are visiting Penny's parents for the holidays, Bernadette and Howie and the kids are going on that cruise, and I am flying back to India to be with my family, you guys are going to be on your own for Christmas anyway. This means Sheldon will have even more time to get himself worked up. So, wouldn't that be something to keep him busy? It takes place over three different evenings. You could sign him up for all of them."

"You want Sheldon to agree to touch used socks, to go into a shelter, or to hand these socks out to random people?" Penny asked. "He'll never go for it."

"If anything, he'll freak out even more," Bernadette said.

Raj grinned. "Exactly. It will give him something else to focus on instead of his wife's pregnancy."

Amy considered this. Raj might actually be on to something. "I'll think about it," she said. "Thank you, Rajesh."

Raj, apparently pleased to be the hero of the day, sat up straighter in his chair. "You're welcome. If this works, it will be highly ironic."

"Well, Howard and I got Amy together by threatening Sheldon with a dirty sock. He freaked out. Now Amy is using socks to calm him down."

Everyone laughed at this for a bit before the topic changed to Leonard's and Penny's son, Ian, who apparently used the chemistry set he got for his birthday and almost blew up the neighborhood.

"It's so frustrating. I kept trying to get on to him and explain why what he did was wrong, but Leonard just stood there grinning like a proud papa and saying, 'That's my boy.'" She rolled her eyes. "I already told my parents to stay away from giving him sciencey stuff this year. Otherwise, he'll probably blow up Dad's tractor."

Next, talk turned to the blind date Raj had gone on the previous evening. Since the woman had turned out to actually be a man, Amy thought it hadn't gone that well. She made a mental note to call Emily that afternoon. There had to be a way to get those two back together. Raj was clearly miserable without her. The plates from their food were cleared away. Amy was the only one who ordered dessert. But as everyone was seemingly having a good time, no one minded the delay.

"So, Amy," Penny asked. "Is Mrs. Cooper coming to help with the delivery?"

"Yes, but not to be with me. It's more to keep Sheldon from having a panic attack in the waiting room."

Bernadette seemed surprised by this news. "You don't want him in the delivery room with you? When I was in labor both times, having Howard there was a real help for me. I couldn't have done it by myself."

"My mother doesn't do delivery rooms. 'Too many bodily fluids,' she said. "Plus, she is decidedly uncomfortable with the idea of a parade of various, strange men coming in to ogle her daughter's 'private, female areas.' She says it's not ladylike." She shook her head in dismay. "The curse of a beckoning pelvis."

Penny frowned. "Not ladylike? Huh? What are you supposed to do, deliver the baby in a convent surrounded by nuns? And it's not various, strange men. It's your OBGYN and a few nurses. Believe me, when it comes time to push the baby out, you won't care who's looking at your lady parts. You'll only care about making the pain stop."

Amy nodded. "It's fine. Mom did make an appointment to visit with us the last week in January. As for Sheldon, he already isn't sleeping as it is. If he's in the delivery room, he'll be a wreck. Besides, if he sees my reproductive organs like that, I'll never get him to touch me again."

The group nodded collectively, knowing the truth of her words.

Amy frowned. "Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to have coitus with me again after what happened my fifth month? It took—"

"Yep, subject change definitely needed," Penny said. "You know, if you want, Amy, I can be in the delivery room with you."

"Really?" Amy asked, finding herself excited and wonderfully relieved. She had made up her mind that she would be fine with just the doctor and nurses. But having her bestie by her side was even better.

"Me, too!" Bernie added with a wide smile.

"Me, too!" Raj piled on.

Once more, the women turned to stare at him. He frowned at them, looking highly offended. "What? I know what to expect, remember?"

-TFRPT-

Sheldon gave the place in front of him a cursory glance, shuddered, and turned to his wife, "Not even if Richard Feynman came back from the dead and asked me to."

"Yes."

Sheldon frowned. Perhaps, as he had been experimenting with sarcasm and humor, Amy hadn't understood him. So he went a simpler route to make her understand. "No."

Amy arched a brow at him. "Sheldon, you agreed. If you do this, I'll let you buy that absurd caboose-shaped treehouse and put it in the backyard. Remember?"

Sheldon crossed his arms over his chest and frowned at her. "First, that custom-made caboose is not absurd. It's an exact replica of the one in my H.O. trainset back home. Moreover, as we will have a child within the next month who will be genetically connected to me, it goes without saying she will adore trains. Therefore, the treehouse is, in fact, for her and not just me.

"Second," he hurriedly continued before she could interrupt, "I agreed to stand next to you as you gave out socks at what you termed as a 'lovely, hygienic office. This is a homeless shelter. Do you have any idea how many types of foreign bacteria could be in there? I am not just saying no for me, I am saying it for the sake of you and our unborn child as well."

Amy opened the car door and, taking a deep breath, swung her unwieldy body out. Catching her balance against the side of the car, she leaned back inside and said, "You concurred. It's a binding, verbal pact. If you don't follow through, then you know what you owe me according to the marriage agreement."

He swallowed hard, two equally terrible scenarios playing in his head. Either he went into this homeless shelter where he would be taking his life in his hands or Amy had the right to undo a past agreement she had agreed to. No doubt, she would use this opportunity to rubberstamp her desire to cover the nursery in more monkeys. He was a fan of monkeys, but Amy could take that to an extreme. Ultimately, they had compromised into a theme of half-monkeys and half-Star Wars. Who knew monkeys with light sabers could be so appealing? Would she really seek to undo that? As he stared at her, however, Sheldon knew that was exactly what she was planning.

She wants to play hardball? Two can do that. "As I wasn't given the full information on this planned outing, I am invoking the fraud clause."

"Sheldon Cooper, if you don't get out of this car, I am going to invite your sister to stay with us for two weeks after the birth."

"But Mom is already coming. Why would you—"

"And then, I will invite my mother over early. That way, all three women will be on hand—"

That mere mental picture was enough to have him hurling himself out of the car. Hurrying around to glare at Amy, he said, "I never knew you had such a cruel streak."

She smiled and leaned up to lightly kiss his surprised lips. "Never mess with a pregnant woman, darling." With a wink, she turned and started waddling through the parking lot to the homeless shelter.

With a sigh, Sheldon followed. If he survived this, there were definite revisions coming to the marriage agreement—with special provisos concerning Amy's behavior during pregnancy. The woman was ruthless.

-TFRPT-

Amy smiled as she watched her husband. Honestly, she hadn't thought this was going to work. Then again, she thought, I forgot to take into account Sheldon's meticulous nature and fierce need for organization and structure.

Mere seconds after they entered the shelter—which was comprised of an open area with lots of tables and chairs, bathrooms off to the side, a long row of tables at the front, and a large kitchen through the double doors in the back—they were greeted by the main organizer of the event. This organizer, a petite, auburn-haired woman named Sue, quickly put Amy and Sheldon to work in the back where a series of plastic tubs were laid out. Beside the tubs, a massive vat of socks pairs of every shape, size, and color were thrown together like a melting pot of knitted footwear. Four other workers were already on site sorting the socks into the tubs by size.

Sue introduced the couple to the other volunteers and explained that the socks needed to be sorted as soon as possible in order to begin handing them out. Finding a seat so she could sit while she worked, Amy immediately threw herself into the task. After dousing himself with a healthy amount of antibacterial hand sanitizer, Sheldon followed. Five minutes later, he halted production, explaining that the current system was hardly efficient, ergonomic, or even fast. The group seemed to grumble amongst themselves at first, but as Sheldon's changes soon proved themselves to be fruitful and productive, everyone seemed happier. What's more, the socks were sorted within an hour.

Sue returned, thrilled to see so much accomplished. However, this quickly changed when Sheldon lambasted her for such shoddy system management. Then, once he heard her plans for coordinating the actual hand out of the socks, he rolled his eyes, told her she should be grateful his wife was good at closing contractual loopholes and went to work devising a better organizational structure.

As Sheldon walked away, Sue turned to Amy and said, "Is he insane?"

"No," Amy replied, proud of her husband. "He's brilliant."

An hour later, Sheldon had things running smoothly. His gift for organization was such that even Sue asked him for his suggestions regarding the best way to coordinate meal times at the shelter.

When she and Sheldon were finally headed home after their four-hour shift, the quiet in the car was peaceful. She could feel that the tension had eased off him, and hoped the next evening would go equally well.

-TFRPT-

The next night was, in a word, difficult.

As much work as there had been for Sheldon the first night at the shelter, there was hardly any the second. His production system was still running as smoothly as it had been the previous day. So much so, in fact, that they found the socks were completely sorted and in tubs by the time they arrived.

Sue split them up, putting the heavily-pregnant Amy on the job of greeter near the door—since this was something she could do without needing to be on her feet the whole time. Meanwhile, Sheldon was placed on the "sock line"—as it was called. This, of course, put him in more direct contact with those who would receive the socks.

Everything was fine until one of the homeless gentlemen tried to hug Sheldon. Of course, Sheldon immediately avoided this, pointing out in glaring and blunt detail all the reasons he didn't wish to be hugged.

Sue, of course, jumped in to calm everything down and put Sheldon to work in the back washing dishes with a few other volunteers. That lasted for all of an hour before Sheldon got into an argument with another about the correct amount of dish liquid is required to clean a sink full of dirty bowls. Sue then removed the other volunteers and left Sheldon by himself to wash all the dishes.

The drive home that evening was quiet as well, but for an entirely different reason. Once the car was parked and they inside their house, Sheldon turned on her.

"I'm not going back," he fumed.

"It's only one more day."

"Do you have any idea how dirty those dishes were? It was an endless, tedious stream of dish after dish. If I wanted to complete menial, mindless tasks, I would have become a rocket scientist. Or," he said, "an engineer like Wolowitz."

"Sheldon, you agreed. Plus, it's for a good cause," Amy said, trying to keep her tone calm, but firm. She walked into the kitchen to get a glass of milk and to see if there were any more Oreos. She certainly hoped so. She'd been dreaming about dunking those little, chocolate cookies all evening.

"It's to keep me from worrying about you, you mean."

Amy halted in her tracks. "What?"

Sheldon arched a brow at her, crossing his arms over his chest. "You think I didn't know?"

"More like I hoped you wouldn't figure it out. How did you figure it out?" she asked with a sigh.

Sheldon's chest inflated offensively. "Amy, I've known you for over a decade, have an 187 IQ and—"

"You heard Rajesh telling Howard, right?"

Sheldon's chest deflated in disappointment. "Yes. But I would have figured it out on my own sooner or later."

Amy nodded, acknowledging the truth of his words. She reached out to take his hand and pulled him with her to sit on the couch.

"Amy, you can't make decisions like that without talking to me. There are two adults in our relationship. Be a mother to our daughter. Not to me."

"That's hard to do when you act like a child, Sheldon. Even you must admit you have several child-like tendencies."

"I know this, and I'm working on it. I want to be an equal partner with you in parenting, Amy. I want to be a good father."

Amy turned to him, staring at Sheldon in surprise. "Is this what you've been so worried about? That you won't measure up?"

He nodded, looking down at the hands fisted in his lap. "That's part of it. The other part is …" He broke off, as if he couldn't continue.

Amy's hand shot out, covering his. Her heart squeezed in her chest, knowing exactly what his issue was. "It was just a fluke thing. It won't happen again."

He glanced up at her, naked fear in his eyes. "You can't know that. You can't guarantee it."

Amy edged closer to him, taking a deep breath. That night, all those months ago, was still hard for her to think about as well. The memory of it was so strong, a never ending, spinning gallery of images, each more terrible than the last. Waking to a pain like she'd never before experienced piercing her lower back. The slip slide of warm, wet fluid between her thighs. The stark paleness of Sheldon's face when she woke him up. How much paler he got when he noticed the blood. Him carrying her, red-spotted nightgown and all out of the house and to the car. The terrified expression on his face when they were separated at the hospital. "I know it was scary."

"You were bleeding, Amy. They thought you might lose the baby. I thought I might lose you."

Amy's hand tightened against his. "They stopped the bleeding, and it hasn't come back. The baby is safe. I've been taking it easy ever since, resting often, and trying to stay off my feet as much as possible. It's been fine. There have been no ill effects for me or the baby."

Sheldon shook his head, again and again. She was surprised to feel him shaking. She opened her arms, pulling him to her. He fell forward, landing lightly against her chest. She caught him, cradling him against her and rubbing his head.

He spoke against the skin of her shoulder, his voice vibrating. "The earth revolves around the sun. It has since the beginning of time. I always thought my life revolved around science—physics especially. But it's not true." He lifted his head to look up at her, tears gathered in pools in his eyes. "It revolves around you. Without you, nothing makes sense. I don't make sense." He looked up at her, pleadingly. "Tell me what I should do to keep you safe, and I will do it. Just don't ever leave me."

Amy ran a hand lovingly down his face, remembering all those times when she was younger when she had yearned for this kind of connection with someone, to have someone want her this much. Then, she remembered how she was later and how she had been proud to not have to need anyone in her life. Oh, what a lonely fool I was. "My life revolves around you as well, Sheldon. It doesn't make sense without you, and it never again will. I am as connected to you as you are to me. When you are upset, I am upset. When you are happy, I am happy. When you worry, I worry. Do you understand? What I need from you most is to stop worrying and to have faith."

"Faith?" he repeated. "Have you been talking to my mother too much?"

"Faith in me, and faith in you. Faith that I can bring this child into the world safely, and faith in yourself that when I need you the most, you will be there. I know you will. I am a genius neurobiologist at the top of her field. I wouldn't willingly co-mingle my DNA with just anyone's, you know."

He stared at her, long and hard. "But what about my child-like tendencies?"

"I have always found those to be among your most charming qualities. It brings a certain whimsy to your personality that made me fall in love with you."

"Really?"

He scowled at her.

Amy giggled and delivered a quick kiss. "When I need you to be an adult, Sheldon, you always are. That's enough for me."

She wiggled, making him get off of her. "Now," she said, once she'd coaxed him into helping her back to her feet, "if you will excuse me, I have a very important appointment with a glass of milk and a dozen Oreos."

"I'm not going tomorrow," he said as she entered the kitchen.

"Yes you are," was her reply.

-TFRPT-

Sheldon, in the end, was right. He wouldn't be going back to the shelter. Around two in the morning, the first pain woke Amy. It was a long, searing tightening belt of discomfort around her stomach and lower back.

She gasped and folded into herself, trying to ride it out. Thankfully, it was over quickly. Casting a glance over at Sheldon, she was relieved to find him still asleep. She threw back the covers and got out of bed. Hurrying into the living room, she began to pace, her mind racing with everything that needed to be done.

Is this labor? She'd suffered through Braxton-Hicks contractions a few weeks before, but they were nothing compared to this. Just as she had made up her mind about that, another pain squeezed like a vice around her. Oh, dear Lord, she thought. Definitely labor. Two and half weeks early? She reached down to rub her belly. You, my child, are definitely not as schedule-minded as your father.

Resting her hands against a nearby bookshelf, she leaned and panted her way through the hurt. This one lasted longer than the last. Once it ended, logic returned.

Must time contractions. They should be five minutes apart before we go to the hospital. She shuffled back into the bedroom to get her watch. Sheldon, as always, was sound asleep on his back in his typical vampire-pose fashion.

The irony that this man who worried about everything was able to mindlessly sleep now wasn't lost on Amy. This is going to take a while, she told herself. Better to let him sleep until the last possible minute.

The ramifications of the baby coming early also weren't lost on Amy, but she refused to allow her emotions to make decisions here. She would be fine. She could do it without Sheldon's mother or her friends. She'd be fine.

Three hours later, however, and she was rethinking this. By this time, the pains which had been coming in stops and starts at irregular intervals were now coming at exactly twelve minutes apart. What's more, they were starting to hurt like the devil. The last one especially was so intense it brought tears to Amy's eyes.

Her water had broken nearly a half hour before, but she'd managed to clean up herself as well as the resulting mess with little difficulty. She'd even dressed herself, timing her movements around the contractions. I can do this, she thought. I can.

"Amy?"

She looked up from where she'd been pacing near the door. One look at her face was enough to have Sheldon running to her.

"Why didn't you wake me?"

She smiled weakly at him. "First-time labor takes hours. I figured one of us should get sleep while we could."

"Should we go to the hospital?"

She shook her head. "The pains are still too far apart. They are presently at twelve minutes and should be at—"

"Yes."

He slipped an arm around her waist, allowing her to lean against him as she continued to walk. "Is the pacing helping you?"

She nodded, unable to speak as another pain ripped through her. She panted, letting out little moans as her body tensed and curled with the agony.

"Jesus," she groaned once it was done. "I think that one was …" She looked down at her watch. "Yep, eight minutes from the last one. Help me sit on the couch, Sheldon."

He did so, sitting beside her and taking the watch from her. The next hour was touch and go. The pain was so that she could barely concentrate on anything else. If it hadn't hurt so much, she would have been amazed by that fact. The contraction was a like a large wave of water, pulling you down into it until you were covered and unaware of anything else. She wanted to worry about Sheldon and how he was handling everything, but she couldn't. The only thing she could focus on was the pain and the knowledge that mere minutes after one ended, another would be coming.

"Amy, we have to get you to the hospital now."

She heard him. Amy wasn't sure if she nodded or even made a sound. She only knew one minute she was on the couch and next she was in the car. Time became broken down into intervals of pain and no pain. It wasn't until they'd arrived at the hospital—having to stop twice so she could be sick along the roadside—that she became somewhat aware of what was going on around her.

Sheldon was yelling at a doctor. What he was saying she didn't know. She wanted to comfort him, to calm him down, but another pain was ripping through her.

"The baby is coming," she grunted as loud as she could. Didn't they understand that she was in labor? Why wasn't anyone moving?

Sheldon walked over to her, swinging her up into his arms. "I don't care about your procedures or filling out your ridiculous forms. Give us a room now or I will put her in the first one I come across."

In amazement, Amy turned to look at her husband. One of the nurses shot forward, leading them into one of the labor and delivery suites. Three heavy pains, and Amy became conscious that she was in a hospital bed.

"The doctor says you are nine centimeters dilated. We have a ways to go yet."

Who said that? Blearily, Amy looked around the room, confused when her eyes landed on the man standing next to her.

"Sheldon?"

He nodded. "Who else would it be?"

"But … why aren't you in the waiting room?"

"Who would be back here with you then? It's Christmas Eve. My mother is still in Texas, your mother is … your mother, and all of our friends are out of town."

"It's fine. You don't have to stay."

"Amy, you cried and begged me not to leave you, remember? You said you didn't want to do this alone. You said you needed me."

Surprised, Amy just looked at him. Did I say all that? When? "It was just the pain talking. Don't worry about it. I don't expect you to remain with me. I … Oh, dear Lord!" The contractions returned with a vengeance, bringing with them an uncomfortable pressure to her lower abdomen.

When she came back to herself, Sheldon was there, holding her hand.

"I'm staying," he said.

Too weak to argue with him, she asked, "Can I have an epidural?"

Sheldon straightened as if preparing to give bad news. "Dr. Lowenthal says it's too late for that."

Amy had never been one for profanity. She was of a mind that the use of curse words indicated a stunted vocabulary and a poorly-developed brain. As the news that she would not, in fact, get the epidural she'd been counting on ripped through her along with the next labor pain, however, she let loose a stream of curse words that would have easily made a sailor want to go to church.

-TFRPT-

The next hour was a kaleidoscope of blurs for Amy. Nurses coming in and out. The pain. The doctor checking her. More pain. Her legs splayed wide as they were put in the stirrups. Still more pain. The smell of blood and sweat and chemicals and a host of other things she couldn't identify. Oh, God, the pain. She couldn't concentrate on anything around her for any length of time. The pain wouldn't let her.

The one constant in the room was Sheldon, who remained at her side holding her hand. He never wavered, not for one minute. When the doctor was telling her to bear down and she screamed at the top of her lungs because of the burning pain this caused, Sheldon merely held her tighter and murmured encouraging words against her ear. Every time she came back to herself—whether it for mere seconds or for longer beats of time—he was there, mopping sweat from her brow, his eyes peering down into hers, holding her against him. In the dark sea of agony, confusion, and worry she was lost, Sheldon was like a lighthouse guiding her.

Finally, with one long, last push, it was over. The immediate relief was palpable, so palpable that she wanted to lie back and sleep for a thousand years. But then she became aware of something else. A noise that sounded almost musical to her ears. A baby crying. At first, she wasn't aware of what it meant. But as she was concentrated on Sheldon's face and his expression was one of joy, she was able to figure it out.

"You have a daughter," the doctor announced, setting the crying baby on her stomach. After casting a glance at the clock on the wall, he added, "And on Christmas morning at that."

Blinking rapidly, Amy peered at the fuzzy outline of the infant. Sheldon moved away from her. She turned to see why when he returned with her glasses. She hadn't even been aware that she didn't have them on. She smiled her appreciation and returned her attention to her daughter.

"Virginia Marie Fowler Cooper," she breathed, running her fingers over the squirming baby. She was awash in emotions she couldn't begin to discern. She looked up at the man who was still at her side, seeing the same emotions she was experiencing mirrored in his eyes.

"Our daughter," he said, smiling at her.

"I love you," Amy said.

"I love you," he said.

"Congratulations, you two. Let me just clean her up a bit," one of the nurses said, coming to claim the baby.

Amy watched as the nurse took the baby to the corner of the room. Here, little Virginia was weighed—6 pounds 8 ounces—given the APGAR—she scored a nine—and given her first bath. Amy, meanwhile, was made busy taking care of all the things that follow a birth. The afterbirth, stitching, and discomfort that comes from pushing a baby out of one's nether regions.

Once everything was done, congratulations were extended, the baby was returned to her parents, and the room was emptied of everyone else, Amy was astounded by how easily the little bundle fit into her arms, how comforting the weight of the baby was to her. Tufts of brown hair swirled around Virginia's head, who stared back up at her mother with the blue eyes that just matched those of her father and a pert, little nose that was decidedly Fowler-like.

"Want to hold her?" Amy asked Sheldon.

"I'm not sure."

"It's OK."

Sheldon stiffened, as if mentally preparing himself. With shaky hands, he reached out to take Virginia in his arms. But there was something about holding the baby that relaxed him. "She's wonderful," he said, reaching down to run a finger down the baby's cheek.

"Yes," Amy said, feeling her voice shake with emotion. She was so happy, she felt like she would burst. "She is. Just like her father was in getting her here."

He frowned over at her. "I've never been more frightened in my life," he said.

"You were very brave."

"Brave? Ha! You were the one who gave birth. I wanted to run away."

"But you stayed. That's what mattered. You wanted to run away, but you stayed."

"You needed me. What else could I do?"

Tears gathered in Amy's eyes again and she nodded, unable to say anything. Sheldon reached over to press a kiss against her temple before returning Virginia to her mother's welcoming embrace. The new parents remained silent, just basking in the joy of their child and each other.

"Is this how it's always going to be?" he finally asked.

"You mean you and me against the world? It's the way it's been for a long time now. I don't see why we should start changing things at this point."

He nodded. "I can handle that," he said.

Amy smiled at him. She couldn't agree more. No doubt, Sheldon would still worry about things. It was his nature, after all. But she now knew that no matter what happened or how bad things got, Sheldon would always be there when she needed him. There was something infinitely satisfying in that.

Her smile widened as something very humorous had just occurred to her. "Looks like we will definitely have to celebrate Christmas every year now," she declared.

This clearly flummoxed Sheldon. "What? Why?"

She winked before responding. "It's our daughter's birthday."

THE END (REALLY)

A/N: That's all, folks!