Disclaimer: I don't own The Big Bang Theory. I don't own the song Wonderboy. I don't own the movie Batman Begins (well I do, but just the DVD). I don't own anything, in fact. I just play with other people's things. Also, thanks to Wikipedia for the info on time travel.
The Wonderboy Conundrum
It started small.
Sheldon was watching a documentary on the praying mantis. He had walked into the room, sat down in his spot, picked up the remote, and flipped over to the Discovery Channel—right in the middle of Batman Begins. Okay, Batman Begins currently played on FX every other weekend after the titanic popularity of The Dark Knight, and they owned the two-disc special edition, and Leonard had seen the movie 17 times since it had come out in 2005—but that was besides the point. He had been sitting in the squashy white armchair, Bruce was in the middle of a wicked car chase in the Batmobile to save the unconvincingly delirious Katie Holmes AKA Rachel AKA the love of his life, and then suddenly there was a large, green, leaf-shaped bug staring at him from the screen with its forelegs raised as if it were getting ready for a boxing match.
"Sheldon, I was watching that," he complained.
Without looking away from the television, the remote still in his hand, Sheldon replied, "He uses the antidote to save her in the nick of time, tells Alfred to take her home, and proceeds to his birthday party which, admittedly, goes entirely awry by the presence of Ra's al Ghul."
The praying mantis is a predatory creature with a diet consisting of live insects; larger species have been known to prey on small lizards, frogs, birds, snakes, and rodents.
Leonard rolled his eyes. "Really? I thought the 18th time around things might turn out differently."
Sheldon gave a slight frown. "And create an alternate universe in which he does not save Rachel in time, thus entirely changing the course of the next movie? Maggie Gyllenhaal would never have been cast as a replacement; the explosion would not have happened, as her second death would have been superfluous; Two Face would never have had half of his face burned off, thus subtracting an entire plotline from The Dark Knight." He looked somewhat dismayed. "Oh, I wonder if that would have given the Joker more screen time."
Most mantises are ambush predators, waiting for prey to stray too near. The mantis then lashes out at a remarkable speed.
Wayne Manor would be burning to the ground about now. Leonard envisioned the flames, a far more interesting image than the clump of leaves in which a camouflaged mantis was surely hiding somewhere, and then suddenly the channel changed, and there were the flames.
Leonard blinked. Sheldon blinked and then glanced down at the remote still held loosely in his hand. He cocked his head to one side, lifted the remote to eye-level, inspecting it, and then changed the channel back. The mantis was staring at them, bug-eyed, ready to pounce out of the screen.
Which promptly snapped back to Bruce and Alfred in a rapidly descending elevator as a burst of orange exploded above them.
Huh. Every time Leonard thought about snatching the remote out of Sheldon's hand and changing the channel back to Batman Begins, the TV did it for him.
Sheldon was staring at the screen, eyes wide and bug-eyed like the mantis's, mouth a tight dash. "Demon television."
Leonard grinned and leaned back. "Shut up and watch the movie."
The next time it happened, Leonard decided that something weird was going on.
Thai night was currently turning out to be heated-argument-over-the-possibility-of-time-travel night.
"—if we had a traversable wormhole, I could do a Marty McFly and become the sex-god of my parents' generation," Howard explained.
Sheldon looked disappointed. "Need I remind you of the grandfather paradox?"
"I know what the grandfather paradox is," Howard grumbled. "But if we're basing it off of the Novikov self-consistency principle, then the timeline is fixed anyway, and it wouldn't allow for any paradoxes. Ergo, Harry Potter saw himself all along and thought it was his father."
"Oh please," Sheldon shot back, voice pitched in a high, condescending tone. "You use Harry Potter as a scientific reference? Disregarding that, you began by citing Back to the Future, which has a mutable timeline, and proceeded to Harry Potter, which clearly shows an immutable timeline. Frankly, I don't even know how to begin deciphering your haphazard argument."
Raj's eyes were very wide, as if he either wanted to jump into the conversation or yell at them both to shut up; but as Penny was sitting next to him, legs curled beneath her, noodles hanging from her mouth, eyes toward the ceiling as if asking what she did to deserve this, he was rendered mute.
Leonard just wanted them to shut up. He considered going to the stereo to turn on some loud music that would drown them out, but he didn't know what CD was in there and he didn't feel like getting up.
"Okay," Howard cut in. "Say you've found a time-traveling phone booth—"
Suddenly he was drowned out by music. It was the middle of a song; the stereo blasted it at what might have been its loudest level.
How 'bout the power to kill a yak from 200 yards away… with MIND BULLETS! That's telekinesis, Kyle.
The argument ceased at once. Penny frowned around her noodles. Howard shook his head as if he had an excess buildup of earwax.
Finally Penny shouted over the song, "Is that Tenacious D?"
Wonderboy, what is the secret of your power?
Wonderboy, won't you take me far away from the mucky-muck man?
Leonard grinned and plucked some chicken into his mouth. Raj leapt up and ran to the stereo, dousing the room in silence. There was a pause.
Sheldon turned his body to face Howard. "So you're saying that a phone booth, a la a movie rife with scientific and historical inaccuracies, a movie that does not even purport to be—"
Their heads all snapped up again when the stereo turned back on. Sheldon had gone bug-eyed again, sputtering at the technology. Leonard allowed some chicken to slide out of his mouth and back into the container in his lap. Either the technology in their apartment was transforming into artificial intelligence and decided to focus its efforts on annoying Sheldon, or Leonard was, without even being aware of it, able to turn things on and off with his mind.
Oh, shit. He was Wonderboy. Or was he Young Nastyman? He forgot which one had the powers in the song. He didn't really want to be Young Nastyman.
Sheldon was still staring, Thai food and time travel forgotten.
You know what's kind of sad? The first thing Leonard thought once he was alone in his room staring at a spoon was that, as per some contract or other drawn up by Sheldon AKA Binding Contract Man, his lanky, socially oblivious, OCD roommate was to be his sidekick.
He didn't want Sheldon as his sidekick. He wasn't even sure he wanted to be in the position so as to need a sidekick. Frankly, Leonard wasn't superhero material.
Still… he squinted at the spoon. It mocked him, perfectly straight in its silvery shine. He sighed and put it down on his bed. Maybe he could only do it when he was really annoyed?
Damn it, that didn't make him a superhero. That made him Matilda.
He glowered at the spoon.
It shot across the room, hit the wall, and clattered to the floor.
A huff of air whooshed out of his lungs. He'd done it! So now Leonard AKA Matilda AKA Wonderboy had to inform his new sidekick of the news.
But no. Sheldon was most definitely not sidekick material. If anything, Sheldon was a super villain: the Green Goblin to his Spiderman, the Lex Luthor to his Superman, the Joker to his Batman (oh God, he was picturing Sheldon's wacko smile under all that white paint, now that was scary). Yes, Sheldon was Young Nastyman, archrival and nemesis of Wonderboy. He would probably be jealous. He had, after all, once tried to blow up Leonard's head, which had resulted only in fisticuffs and an embarrassing YouTube video.
A slow smile spread over Leonard's face.
Suppose… suppose he didn't have to tell Sheldon.
He could use his powers in the safety and comfort of anonymity. Moreover, no one would expect him to save the world. He didn't think he could handle the stress.
So… how would Wonderboy use his newfound abilities?
Leonard had a few ideas.
Wonderboy is wearing a generic sky blue jumpsuit with a pair of plaid briefs on the outside, as well as a navy blue cape tied around his shoulders. His hands are on his hips as he stares off into the distance through his thick, black-framed glasses.
ENTER Young Nastyman AKA Dr. Mantis AKA Sheldon
Dr. Mantis is a tall, skinny man who bears a bizarre resemblance to a praying mantis. He is wearing all green, has wide bug-eyes, and is rolling the tips of his fingers together in a terribly villainous fashion.
"You'll never catch me, Wonderboy! Not with my power to camouflage!" cries Dr. Mantis, hunching down in front of the counter in the kitchenette of Wonderboy's startlingly modest apartment and instantly dissolving to match the shade of the wood.
Wonderboy puffs out his chest. "You won't get away, Dr. Mantis—not this time!" He squints his eyes and a paintball gun appears floating in the air beside him.
Blue paint splashes onto Dr. Mantis, revealing his location. If he moves, Wonderboy will see.
Dr. Mantis reappears, shaking his fists in the air. "Drat! I have been foiled!" He looks around shiftily, an evil smile curling over his face. "But I know your weakness, Wonderboy!" He dashes off, flings the door open, and vanishes into the hallway. Wonderboy is obliged to follow.
There stands Dr. Mantis, dangling a pretty brunette over an empty elevator shaft.
Wonderboy stops. "Leslie Winkle?"
Leslie rolls her eyes. "It's Leslie Lane, actually. You comic book heroes have a thing for alliteration."
Wonderboy shakes his head in disbelief. "But… why are you here?"
She sighs, looking bored even as her feet sway over the empty air. "You needed a damsel in distress in this misogynistic superhero world of yours. I'm here to fill the role of the pathetic, helpless woman. Oh, save me, save me," she deadpans.
Dr. Mantis cuts in. "Name me your sidekick, Wonderboy, or Leslie Lane will die a painful death!"
"If I may interject," Wonderboy says, finger in the air. "Um—why aren't you Penny?"
Leslie shrugs. "I don't know. I guess she was busy."
"Oh. Okay, carry on."
Dr. Mantis looks irritated. "Must I repeat myself? Name me as your sidekick, or I will drop Leslie down this conveniently empty elevator shaft!"
"Not a chance!" shouts Wonderboy. He squints at the doorway of his apartment, looking as if he is simply suffering from terrible myopia, and a couch cushion zooms out along the floor and settles itself beneath Leslie's feet. She drops her weight onto the cushion that is floating over the elevator shaft.
ENTER Meshuggah Man AKA Howard and Dr. Bollywood AKA Raj
"Give it up now, dude. There's no way you'll ever be Wonderboy's sidekick," reasons Dr. Bollywood. When he sees there is a girl behind Dr. Mantis, he lets out a squeak and covers his mouth with his hand.
Dr. Mantis is distracted by the arrival of Wonderboy's cohorts. He lets go of Leslie, who is perfectly safe standing on the floating cushion.
"Hey, jackass," she says, calling his attention back to her.
Wonderboy, Meshuggah Man, and Dr. Bollywood stare at Leslie as she shakes out her fist, grinning at Dr. Mantis, who is on the floor clutching his face.
Meshuggah Man gives her a thumbs up. "Mazel tov."
Dr. Mantis glowers up at Wonderboy. "I'll get you, Wonderboy! You're not getting off this easily! You signed a contract!"
Penny's door flies open, and she appears in the open frame. "What's going on over here?"
Leonard blinked and looked around. Penny was in the doorway.
"Well?" she prompted. Her blonde hair was pulled up in a loose ponytail and she was clad in sweats and a pink tank top. "What's going on over here? Are you trying to go deaf?"
Leonard realized that during his fantasy he had been absently turning on and off the radio, the television, and the lights. As a result, the noise from the radio and TV melted into an unintelligible clashing of sounds that came and went; when Penny had stepped into the room, the radio was off but the television was blasting, and she had to speak over it. Leonard grabbed the remote and lowered the volume.
"Oh, sorry. I didn't realize it was so loud," he apologized.
Penny cocked her head at the screen. "What'cha watching?"
"Um…" In fact, Leonard had no idea what channel was on. A pink jellyfish swam across the screen. "…a documentary on deep sea creatures?" he ventured. The screen flashed to a couple of dolphins mating. "…having sex…" he added, grabbing the remote again and turning it off.
"Yeah…" Penny said slowly, raising her eyebrows. "Well… try to keep it down, I guess." Glancing around at the empty apartment, she added, "Where's everyone else? Wait, it's Wednesday, so… comic book store? How come you didn't go?"
Because my life is a comic book, thought Leonard.
"Oh, you know. I really wanted to catch this documentary on… fish sex."
"Actually," Penny cut in, "dolphins are warm-blooded and don't lay eggs, so they're mammals." They both paused, giving each other odd looks. Then Penny shook her head. "I've been spending way too much time with Sheldon."
"He's really only palatable in small doses," Leonard agreed. There was another awkward pause. Penny twisted her fingers together in the doorway.
"Well, I'd better get going." She pointed behind her. "Laundry."
A sudden burst of either inspiration or overwhelming stupidity made Leonard say this: "Hey, did you know the elevator's fixed?"
"Really?" asked Penny, glancing into the hallway behind her. "Because that tape's still on the door."
"Oh, yeah, they forgot to take it off." Leonard jumped up from his seat, followed Penny into the hall, ripped the tape off the elevator and cast it away. "Want to take it for a test ride?"
Penny gazed warily at the door. "I don't know… I don't really trust an elevator that hasn't worked in years."
Leonard leaned forward and pressed the down button, pulling the elevator up to the fourth floor with his mind. There was a ding, and Leonard used his new powers to help pry the doors open. The elevator was dusty and smelled like a dead old woman's attic. Very romantic.
He glanced at Penny, who shrugged and cautiously stepped inside. Leonard followed, and she pressed the button for the basement. The doors closed. Leonard allowed the elevator to descend two floors before he stopped it with a gentle jolt.
Penny threw her arms out, eyes bugging out of her head. "I knew it! Goddamnit!"
"I'm sure someone will get it moving again soon," Leonard waved it off. "But since we're stuck here… alone… we could, I don't know…"
"Leonard, not now," Penny shushed him, standing in front of the door with her back to him. "Hey!" she shouted. "Somebody get us out of here!" She slammed both palms on the door. "You bastards, somebody get us out of here!"
Leonard leaned against the wall. This wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind. Somehow, getting trapped in an elevator together had seemed much more romantic while coming up with the idea. "Great," he grumbled to himself.
But Penny heard, and she rounded on him.
"Leonard! I can't believe you got me into this elevator! Now we're stuck and we're going to starve to death—"
"I'm sure they'll get it fixed soon," replied Leonard.
"Oh yeah. They're real quick about fixing things. If they're as quick as they were last time, we'll be in here for two years! You know, I'm surprised there aren't any bones in here from the last person who listened to her idiot neighbor when he said, 'Hey, let's take the elevator.'"
Leonard rolled his eyes, focused on the cables, and the elevator started moving again. "Oh, look, it's fixed," he said flatly.
When they stepped out by the laundry room, Penny went off in a huff, leaving Leonard to make the trek back up the stairs by himself. When he got up to the fourth floor, he secured the tape back over the elevator door.
Having superpowers was more trouble than it was worth.
Sheldon was pretty quiet in the seat next to him, which was a relief, because Leonard had plenty of thoughts in his brain swirling around like an accretion ring of light around a super-massive black hole. So far the equilibrium and the gravitation kept them circling uniformly around the big black thought he was avoiding, but sooner or later something was bound to change and it would all have to go spiraling in one direction. As he drove in the direction of the university, he found himself arriving at the conclusion that, one way or another, he was going to have to confront Sheldon.
So he might as well come out with it.
He frowned, figuring out how to word this. "What would you do if I suddenly got superpowers?"
Sheldon gazed serenely out the window. "You signed a clause that would make me your sidekick, so I suppose I would don a matching costume and labor under your apprenticeship. What are the superpowers?"
"Ohhh, good choice," Sheldon complimented, turning slightly in his seat and holding onto his seatbelt. "You would be able to fight crime from a distance, without any hand to hand combat which, let's face it, would never be a suitable occupation for your body type. Because of this, you would have virtually zero possibility of sustaining massive physical injuries, and your anonymity would remain easily intact depending on how far away you place yourself from the location of the crime and criminal."
Leonard tilted his head, his mind conjuring up a new image on top of the road.
Wonderboy, clad in blue spandex, stands outside of a bank with his hands on his hips and his blue cape billowing in the surprisingly strong wind. Through the large glass windows of the bank, Wonderboy can see a man in a black ski mask holding a bag of money. He looks through the window and catches sight of Wonderboy.
"Oh, gweat. It's Wondaboy. Just when I was about to wob this bank. Wait a minute—Wondaboy isn't indestwuctible."
He pulls out a gun as Wonderboy recognizes the familiar speech impediment.
The man shrugs and pulls off his ski mask.
Wonderboy shakes his head. "My fantasies need a new casting director."
But then Kripke is pointing the gun at Wonderboy through the pane of glass.
The glass shatters—the bullet speeds toward the completely defenseless Wonderboy faster than he can flick it out of the way with his mind.
Leonard shook his head. "What if I don't want to be a superhero?"
Sheldon shrugged, lightly tapping his fingers on his knee. "That's probably for the best. You're really not superhero material."
"…but if I did. You'd be my sidekick?" Leonard continued skeptically. Somehow he couldn't see the man lining up behind what he deemed an inferior mind. Frankly, he couldn't see him lining up behind anyone. He decided to voice this. "You wouldn't even let anyone else take charge when we were still on a team for the physics bowl."
"Irrelevant," Sheldon replied. "If you had superpowers, your abilities would be superior to mine, and I would have no choice but to ally myself with you. Plus, I'm fairly certain that out of any of our friends, the best hero-sidekick duo would be you and I. We understand each other, know how to cooperate with one another, enjoy each other's company. We would make quite a good team."
Huh. Leonard hadn't been expecting that. But Sheldon seemed sincere. He took his eyes off the road to throw a glance at his quirky roommate. "You know, I don't often say this… possibly because it's not often true… but sometimes—occasionally—once in a blue moon, you're a good friend, Sheldon."
"Why, thank you." Sheldon looked smug and pleased, probably because he just discovered he excelled at something, even if it was only on occasion. "By the way, you're five miles over the speed limit. I would slow down if you don't want to get pulled over."
Leonard rolled his eyes.
Sheldon was sitting on the couch, staring intently at the TV. His eyes were bugging out of his head and his mouth had been reduced to a tight line, lips pressed together in concentration. The television screen was blank. Then, suddenly, it lit up in a flood of color and sound, revealing a cheesy silver spaceship courtesy of the SciFi channel. Sheldon's eyes nearly popped out of his head as he raised his arms in victory, mouth wide.
Leonard grinned from where he was standing, just around the corner of the hallway leading to their bedrooms, out of sight of the living room. He watched as Sheldon started concentrating again, face twitching with his brain's effort, and with an iota of focus from Leonard, the TV screen once again melted to black.
So, Leonard wasn't superhero material. Nor was he cut out for using his powers to attract Penny. If he were Sheldon, he would use his telekinesis to take over the world. If he were Wolowitz, he would use it to score women. If he were Koothrappali… actually, he wasn't sure what he would do. He would probably use them so that he never had to leave the couch, instead bringing anything he needed to himself with his mind.
But he was Leonard, so he used his newfound superpowers to do this:
Sheldon sat back on the couch, clearly exhausted from his mental exertion, enjoying the quiet. All of a sudden the TV turned itself back on, the spaceship now moving to the warbling sound of an electric whine. Sheldon immediately leapt up from the couch, pointing a finger at the TV. He really did look like a giant praying mantis.
"Demon television," he muttered.
This was going to be fun.