Sheldon, completely exhausted from his sleepless night, arrived back at his apartment around four thirty the next afternoon. His Friday had been rather unproductive, consisting mostly of dozing in his office in between attempts to contact Amy through various electronic means (to no avail). He checked Amy's Facebook page for the eighth time that day and noticed a new alert, namely that she was "checked in" at some tavern with five others. Investigating the source of the alert confirmed his suspicion: Ricci was checked in, as well. This thought erased his fatigue and motivated a quick wardrobe change into his bus pants.

Swiping his messenger bag and keys off of his desk, he failed to notice Leonard entering the apartment and nearly flattened him on his way out the door.

"Where's the fire?" Leonard called after him. "No fire, Leonard," Sheldon yelled in the direction of the apartment as he descended the stairs. He wished this were only a fire - he'd devised at least three plans responsive to that type of emergency, while he'd made precisely zero for this one.

He made it to the bus stop in record time, pacing in front of the bench as he waited for the correct line. Is there a strike? He thought after a few minutes, pausing to glance at his phone clock. The man seated on the bus stop bench glared as Sheldon resumed his frenetic ambulation, but Dr. Cooper per usual failed to notice. Finally his bus arrived and he said a quick thanks be to the Deity Whose Existence He Doubted that his preferred seat was available.

His dubious gratefulness was short-lived, however: the bus was maneuvering through five o'clock traffic without any degree of alacrity. Is the driver purposefully finding red lights at which to stop? Sheldon thought as they waited at their fourth red light in about as many minutes. Surely he must be aware that riders of this bus have important errands. He checked Apple maps again for the third time since he'd sat down - the arrow had barely moved. Rats.

After another fifteen minutes of maddening stop-start traffic, Sheldon opened his window to encourage a pedestrian to move with greater speed over a crosswalk, provoking the ire of the suddenly-feisty bus driver. Where was this spirit when he puttered his way through that congested on-ramp? Sheldon thought, annoyed. Seeing as how they were still a ways from his destination though, he apologized to the bus driver and employed kolinahr breathing to maintain a calm demeanor for the remainder of the trip.

When the bus finally arrived at Sheldon's stop, he leaped out of his seat and ran to the front of the bus in order to be the first passenger off. He kept up this brisk pace for a block or so, after which he had to stop and put his hands behind his head to catch his breath. After six blocks he was sweating and panting, but Apple maps confirmed that he had arrived at the shopping center wherein the tavern was located. It wasn't hard to spot, what with the hoi polloi milling about outside the door.

After a terse conversation with a man who insisted on seeing his government issued ID, he pushed his way past the people congregated at the entrance and finally found himself in the guts of the bar. Those horrible photos were taken here, he realized. Long wooden tables lined the walls; the the bar itself was dim and loud.

Where is she? He thought anxiously, stopping at each table to take an inventory of the faces. Finally, he spotted her at the table closest to what appeared to be an entrance to an outdoor patio. And there's Ricci, he thought with malice. They were seated next to each other and seemed to be conversing amicably. Just like that damned photo.

Sheldon squared his shoulders and strode purposefully up to the table.

"Amy Farrah Fowler." Sheldon spoke loudly to be heard over the din of bar chatter.

"Sheldon," Amy responded, sounding genuinely shocked to see him.

Her surprise did not register with Sheldon, however. "There is something that we need to discuss," he said, oblivious to the stares he was now drawing from the others at the table, Ricci included.

"Even if there was something I wished to speak with you about, now would not be the most convenient time for me," Amy replied flatly.

Sheldon glanced around the table. "You cannot possibly be that engrossed in the twaddle that I overheard," he responded.

At this comment, the other members of their group were now either staring angrily at him or sliding down in their seats, save for one blond girl who propped her chin on her hands and regarded the exchange with interest.

"Doctor Cooper," Ricci interjected, putting extra emphasis on 'Doctor,' "Amy said now is not a good time."

All eyes around the table widened, including Amy's. The blond girl began hiccupping loudly, but she riveted her attention back to Sheldon, eagerly awaiting his response.

Sheldon leveled a furious gaze at Ricci. "I don't believe I addressed you, you churlish little troll," he snapped.

This sent the hiccuping blond into a fit of cackles, startling everyone else. Ricci shot an angry glare her way. "'m sorry," the girl slurred. "You...you're a dick," she said, lifting her arm to point at Sheldon, but succeeded only in toppling over two pint-sized beers. Everyone else leaped back from the table in panic.

Amy got up from the table just as quickly and walked outside to the patio with Sheldon striding fast behind her to keep up.

Once they arrived at the outermost corner, Amy whipped around to face him. "The table is now in social chaos as a result of your disruption. Not to mention the effect that these shenanigans will have on interpersonal relationships between the lab staff-"

Sheldon vainly tried to listen to her grievances with him, but it was the first time he'd heard her voice in over a month, and he found himself on the edge of giddiness.

"I'm sorry," he said when she stopped talking. He was finding that apologizing was generally a socially appropriate response for any situation.

"'Sorry' is not sufficient," Amy said, turning to leave. Sheldon panicked.

"Wait, wait, Amy," he said, grabbing her shoulder lightly in an act of desperation. She turned around to face him with stricken expression.

Before Sheldon could speak, she blurted, "I waited for you to come after me, and you didn't. We therefore have nothing to discuss."

"What?" Sheldon asked, feeling like he'd had the wind knocked out of him. "I made constant efforts to correspond with you; through Skype, and text messages, and Facebook messages, and you were the one who-"

"Penny informed me of your discussion with her," Amy interrupted him, her chin trembling. "You were made cognizant of my goals for our continued association at that time, and your behavior over this past month has made clear to me that you do not share them." She paused to rub her nose, then exhaled shakily. "I do miss our correspondence..."

Sheldon's heart leapt.

"But I determined that being in your digital or physical company with knowledge that you did not share my aims would be intolerable to me." She paused, looking down at the ground. "Perhaps I should have attempted to subvert my desires by maintaining normal communication until these...feelings dissipated. Or perhaps I should have told you myself instead of allowing Penny to act as an intermediary.

But the main reason I completely ignored all missives from you is because..." her mouth was making strange shapes now, "is because I had hoped that you would suffer greatly in my absence, and that your suffering would cause you would re-consider my de facto proposal and change your mind."

At this last admission she crossed her arms tightly over her chest and squeezed her eyes shut. "I am frankly embarrassed now that I pursued this juvenile course of action," she whispered. She lifted a shaking hand to her face to wipe away some tears. "In fact, I'm truly sorry for it."

Sheldon had remained silent during Amy's confession to him, and remained so now, staring intently at her hunched and quiet figure.

Without adjusting his gaze, he reached into his bag and pulled out a laminated and bound document, nudging her arm with it. She opened her eyes and read the cover. It was titled "RELATIONSHIP AGREEMENT."

"I changed my mind," he said, his voice not as steady as he would have liked.

She stood staring at it a moment without moving. Finally she unclasped her arms from around her sides and held the document in her own hands, peeling back the cover to scan the table of contents. She used her thumb to flip through the pages slowly.

"You wrote this?" she asked in a low voice.

Sheldon nodded.

Amy was biting her lips now. "Am I correct in assuming that this means you're open to adding conventional romantic aspects to our relationship of the mind?"

Sheldon took a deep breath. It's a pittance, an internal voice hissed at him. "Yes," he said out loud on the exhale.

"And by conventional," she said, looking at him directly now, "I mean dates, and anniversaries, and...and physical contact. Occasionally."

Sheldon nodded. "Those subjects are addressed in the Relationship Agreement."

"Do I get veto power over any of the provisions of this agreement?"

"Now hold on there..." he began, then with great restraint stopped himself. This is compromise, he realized. Lord, what have I gotten myself into... "You should read it first, then we'll negotiate," he muttered finally.

Amy nodded, a broad smile breaking through for the first time. He found himself suddenly not minding the idea of compromise so much.

"I suppose I should go back to my table," Amy said after a moment, looking towards the inside of the bar.

Sheldon checked his phone clock. "It is rather late and I need to get up early to watch Doctor Who."

Amy nodded, understanding. "I'll see you for contract negotiations, then," she said.

Sheldon nodded back. They both stood silent for a moment.

"I've missed you," Amy said suddenly.

A lump formed in Sheldon's throat. "Me too," he responded quietly.

They walked back into the bar together, leaving a wake of wide-eyed bar patrons who'd overheard their entire conversation.


They arrived back at the table to find everyone significantly more intoxicated than when they left. Ricci was speaking with great passion towards the woman seated to his right, who was leaning the entire weight of her head into her hand, and looked on the verge of closing her eyes. The blond who had knocked over the drinks was now asleep on the tabletop.

Amy retook her seat to Ricci's left and gave Sheldon a half-smile. He gave her a small wave, unable to help smiling a little himself. "Farewell for now, Amy Farrah Fowler," he said. As he was walking away from the group, he heard what was unmistakably Ricci's voice asking Amy, "Are you ok?"

That was all the incentive Sheldon needed to turn on his heel yell, "She's fantastic! Ask her about her most recent binding legal agreement." He strode quickly away before Ricci could respond.


Epilogue

Article IV: Physical Contact

Section (A)(1)(a): Kissing.

"Kissing," "Kiss," and all variations thereof shall be defined as the lips of one Sheldon Lee Cooper ("The Boyfriend") and/or Amy Farrah Fowler ("The Girlfriend") touching, or alternatively shall refer to the contact of any lip of any party with the lip or other facial feature of the other party occurring during 'Physical Experimentation,' henceforth referred to as "P.E." or "parameters." Lip and/or facial contact that occurs within parameters will heretofor be considered prima facie proof of intent to kiss. Lip-to-face contact occurring outside of parameters is prohibited unless required by emergency situations.

Section (A)(1)(b): Massages

Shoulder rubs, back rubs, and foot rubs shall heretofor be considered "massage activity." "Massage activity" shall also include events in which the hands and/or feet of either party touch the hands, feet, back, neck, or shoulders of any other party with the intent to soothe muscles. All massage activity shall occur within P.E. Massage activity occurring in parameters shall be prima facie proof of intent to soothe muscles.

Section (A)(2): Timing

All activities occurring during P.E. shall adhere to the following schedule:

Section (A)(2)(a) - Kissing shall not exceed a seven (7) minute maximum time frame, after which a five (5) minute recess must be called and the intent of the parties reassessed.

Section (A)(2)(b) - Massage activity shall not terminate less than ten (10) minutes from start and shall not exceed twenty (20) minutes without a recess. After a five (5) minute recess, the masseuse becomes the massagee and vice versa.


Amy's POV

Their first experimentation session was scheduled at 6:00 pm on Sunday at Amy's. Sheldon entered her apartment nervously, carrying a bulging messenger bag on his shoulder.

"What's in the bag?" asked Amy suspiciously.

"Mouthwash, toothbrush, toothpaste, first-aid kit—you can never be too careful when experimenting with new exercise—rain-on-tin-roof ambiance machine, and snacks." He paused and looked up at her bewildered expression. "Aren't you going to offer me a hot beverage?"

Amy sighed. "Would you prefer tea, hot cocoa… gin sling?" she asked dryly.

"I'll have no gin 'slung' my way, thank you."

"Whipped cream vodka with pineapple?" Amy asked.

Sheldon gave her a look of reproach that was tinged with self-consciousness.

"It oiled the gears pretty well before," she mumbled while digging in her cabinet for a coffee mug.

After placing his cup of lemon zinger tea on the coffee table, Amy sat facing him on the couch, slightly hunched over with her hands flat on her knees. Sheldon's posture was a mirror image of hers. They were silent like this for a few moments.

Amy pursed her lips. "So."

Sheldon did not dignify her attempt to break the ice with a response.

"How about we start out with a shoulder massage?" Amy suggested.

Sheldon's face lit up for a second, then he frowned. "You mean… we give them to each other and not ourselves."

"Correct."

"I don't know."

"It's more hygienic than exchanging fluids, which we've done on at least four or five separate occasions now." Amy paused. "And by the way, not one of those exchanges has resulted in you contracting any fatal or even inconvenient illnesses," she added.

"Yet," Sheldon muttered.

Amy shrugged, but let the comment go. "Pretend like it's your own hand," she advised.

"I'll be able to tell the difference."

"Perhaps that is true, but," she held her palms up, "we are scientists, Dr. Cooper. Prove it."

Sheldon gave her a petulant frown, but turned around to face the door. He felt the couch cushions shifting as Amy scooted closer to him. Feeling her movements without seeing her was making him feel edgy.

Finally he felt pressure on his shoulder and nearly leaped off the couch. "Calm down, Sheldon," he heard Amy say alarmingly close to his ear.

"I am calm!" He said with an edge of panic.

Amy scooted a tiny bit closer, and he felt the pressure on his shoulder increase sharply, then release.

"Oh, Lord," he blurted out.

Sheldon's mouth gradually went slack as she began kneading his shoulders in earnest. "Oh my goodness," he muttered.

His increasingly frequent invocations of the name of the Deity Whose Existence He Doubted made Amy work his back and shoulders as if her life depended on it.

"Oh my lord," he was moaning now, eyes closed and head was tilting back. Amy internally squealed. "Amy, what are you doing…" he murmured.

Sheldon continued to lean his head back until it encountered her shoulder, causing him to jump slightly, but the ministrations of her hands effectively blunted his "flight" reflex. Now's the time, Amy thought nervously.

"Sheldon," she began, shocked at how weak her voice sounded, "would you umm...consent to receiving a kiss at this moment?" she asked, hating how awkward the words sounded. He opened his eyes then. She felt his back and shoulders becoming stiffer underneath her hands, causing her to double her efforts.

After a moment, he closed his eyes again. "Okay," he said in a very quiet voice.

Amy swallowed, and began transitioning from rubbing his shoulders to scratching his scalp very lightly, concentrating on the area where his hair met his neck. Amy could feel goosebumps forming on his forearms. Good, she thought.

They were at a very awkward angle for a kiss, what with his head lightly against her right shoulder, but Sheldon startled easily and one tiny change could shatter the entire mood. She turned her head towards his, closing her eyes when she was close enough to his mouth that she wouldn't accidentally kiss his nose. Craning her neck the last few inches, she felt her lips touch his very lightly. He jumped slightly, and she feared that he would pull back from her.

But miraculously, he didn't. She continued rubbing his scalp with her fingernails lightly as she moved her lips gently against his. Internally, her squeal had escalated into full-scale shriek.

A second before she meant to break the kiss, she felt a hand very lightly touching the underside her jaw.

At this development, it was her who was suddenly rigid with surprise. His mouth was gone a moment later no no no, not yet, the alarm hasn't gone off but in the next moment she could feel the cushions shifting underneath her until his lips met hers again. Without opening her eyes, she realized he'd turned to face her.

This realization caused her to exhale sharply into his mouth and couldn't help grabbing his shoulders to pull him closer, unable to contain her enthusiasm at this turn of events.

Soon she felt the the pads of his fingers lightly touching the area where her jaw met her ear again and covered his hand with hers, leaning her cheek into their joined palms-

BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ

Suddenly Amy was bereft. She opened her eyes, frustrated enough to curse Sheldon into the next universe, until she noticed his position. He was purposefully staring at the far wall with wide eyes and with his hands folded very deliberately across his lap. He was taking measured deep inhales and exhales, mumbling some nonsense about a character in his space movie.

Good, she thought with petty satisfaction - she was beginning to hate that alarm.


One month later

BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ

Sheldon was holding Amy's face in his hands, kissing her deeply and forgetting completely to utilize all of the techniques he'd studied over the past couple of weeks.

BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ

With a huff of frustration, he reached between them without breaking the kiss to stab a button silencing the alarm.

Amy, however, interrupted their kiss to say, "you hit the "snooze" button."

"I-" the ocotopus was inhibiting Sheldon from grasping the underlying meaning of her words. Suddenly his eyes widened and he looked down, trying to remember if he'd done just that.

"You did," Amy insisted, as he continued to stare down at the phone in confusion, "you pressed 'snooze.'"

"There's no way of knowing unless we wait another nine minutes-" Sheldon began.

"Not true," Amy interrupted him, shaking her head, "you pressed your finger very clearly; you did not slide your finger, which would have turned the alarm off. 'Snooze.'" She crossed her arms and looked at him expectantly.

Internally, Sheldon sighed. Fine, woman. "Perhaps I...inadvertently hit the snooze button," Sheldon conceded carefully.

Amy continued to regard him skeptically. Sheldon felt himself withering under her scrutiny.

"Fascinating," Amy said finally, wearing a slightly smug expression.


One month later

"Sheldon, why are there gold stars all over the table?" Leonard asked. Sheldon was sitting on the floor with the living room table covered in kindergarten art supplies.

"Because I need them," Sheldon responded without looking up from his sticker organizing.

"For what?" Leonard asked worriedly.

"My calendar."

Leonard physically relaxed. "Let me guess - the days with gold stars are somehow correlated with your bowel movements?"

Sheldon thought of the octopus, who continued to make regular appearances at their P.E. "In a sense," Sheldon replied.


The end

Author's notes: Writing this was insanely fun, and your comments and encouragement made it infinitely more so. Thank you!

Also, one more shout out to Lionne6 - she made this story a lot better than it was.