Title: The Providential Dismissal Quandary, 1/?
Author: htbthomas
Spoilers: set a year or so in the future after Season 2
Rating: PG
Word Count: Part 1: 1,900 words
Disclaimer: I own only my love for these characters. And a much less extensive comic book collection than the guys. :(
Betas: foxtwin, fujiidom, van_el

Summary: Sheldon's to blame. Penny's furious. The guys are helpless. What's a string theorist to do? Episode-style fic featuring the full cast, with a focus on Sheldon/Penny. Based on the prompt "pinkslip" from sheldon_penny's Fiction Friday.

~o~o~o~o~o~

Howard held the remote control as if he were holding it hostage. "I don't see why we can't mix it up tonight! On Anything Can Happen Thursday, we should be able to watch anything." He sent a glare over toward Sheldon, who had moved purposefully in front of the remote sensor of the television. Sheldon's shirt logo of Namor glared right back at Howard.

"But I had been looking forward to watching New Doctor Who tonight. I know not everyone prefers Eleven, but I find his mix of youthful charm and quirky looks to be reminiscent of some of the Doctors of yore, like Four for example."

"You think he's like Four?" Raj exclaimed from his spot on the right side of the couch. "Dude, if you think a little wild hair and and a large nose are all it takes to--" Raj shook his head. "No. I am not going to get pulled into this argument again. If we can't decide on a TV show, we should watch one of the DVD box sets." Focusing on Howard, he cajoled, "Maybe start a Sarah Connor Chronicles marathon...?"

"I do miss seeing Cameron kick ass in HD..." Howard trailed off wistfully, no doubt remembering the time they'd met Summer Glau on the train. "But I wanted to watch Dollhouse," he whined suddenly. "I know a couple of imprints I'd like to try on Sierra..."

Leonard sat up from his armchair, clearly frustrated. "I don't really care what we watch, guys. Just pick something, for crying out loud. We've been fighting about this for a half an hour."

The three other guys looked at each other warily, none of them wanting to back down first. A Geek Noon standoff.

Sheldon broke the silence first. "Perhaps we can decide this with a game of skill." He gestured to his opponents. "Best man selects the program."

"Oh, no..." Howard dissented. "Knowing you, we'd end up playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl on with Rock Band controllers again. I still can't figure out how you rigged that..."

Sheldon's nostrils flared. "I did not rig that game. You cannot blame me if your fine motor control on the bass guitar is less highly developed than mine."

Howard and Sheldon both tensed, dropping into similar defensive crouches to protect their territory. Any moment now there was going to be scratching and hair pulling.

"Wait, I've got it!" Raj shouted.

"Oh, thank God," Leonard said, dropping back into his armchair.

"We let lady luck decide for us." Raj walked over to the closet and brought out a poster tube from last year's Comic Con. Popping the top off the tube, he removed and unfurled a life-size poster of William Shatner in his gold Original Series uniform. Captain Kirk held his phaser at an uncannily similar angle to Howard with his remote. Raj held the figure high. "I propose a little... 'Pin the Badge on the Captain!'"

The two opponents were immediately interested. "Intriguing... As much as I hated the original game as a child, a Star Trek spin immeasurably improves the concept."

"You'd have to mock up a set of badges..." Howard absent-mindedly handed his prized remote control to Leonard, and made a beeline for the computer. "A quick image search and scaling to the right size...."

"And even if we utilize sticky tack, giving the poster a run through the laminator is absolutely necessary," Sheldon added, leaving the television to hover over Howard's shoulder.

"Leonard, can we borrow that godawful tie you wore to the symposium in September?" Raj asked, heading for the bedroom. "It would make a perfect blindfold."

"Sure, go ahead..." Leonard resignedly waved his consent before going to set up his whiteboard as an easel for the game.

Twenty minutes later, Captain Kirk's image still warm from a fresh coat of polyester and resin, Raj announced, "Sheldon, please crouch down for blindfolding."

"Why am I first?"

"Last to win, first to go, dude."

Sheldon's mouth crinkled up as he pondered this. Then he shrugged and crouched at Raj's height. "Proceed."

Once Sheldon's eyes were properly covered, Raj spun him three times and pushed him in the direction of Kirk. He walked a remarkably sure-footed line to the poster, and placed his badge... square in the center of Kirk's forehead.

Sheldon removed his blindfold and pouted. "William Shatner's charisma clearly affects his perceived height," he complained.

"Hey, that's how the laddu crumbles. Deal with it." Raj fell silent for a moment, as he studied the poster. "You know it's funny... with that marker there, Kirk looks remarkably like my aunt Nithya..." He nodded firmly. "She could really work a pantsuit."

"My turn." Howard held out his hand to Sheldon, who passed it over. "We're one step closer to sexy Active times."

Raj tied the blindfold and spun his friend around several times. Howard stumbled sideways immediately, knocking the remote control off the coffee table where Leonard had placed it. Howard's foot came down on it, an overloud commercial on the TV blared to life, and he tripped forward toward the poster, hand outstretched...

"Owww." The three onlookers winced at the badge's unfortunate placement.

Howard whipped off his blindfold to see where the badge had landed. He winced as well, face turning as red as his turtleneck.

"I didn't know Captain Kirk communicated with the Enterprise using his crotch," Raj teased.

Leonard laughed. "No, just aliens of the female persuasion."

"I tripped!" Howard yanked the badge off in embarrassment.

At about the same time, Howard, Raj and Leonard noticed the robotic voice emanating from the television. "Attack of the Show... Attack!" The three were immediately riveted to the program, completely forgetting about the game.

Sheldon, on the other hand, had moved to measure the distance between his and Howard's placement and the insignia on Kirk's chest. "Koothrappali, you know as well as I do that communicator badges weren't used until The Next Generation series..."

The guys around the television only had ears (and eyes) for Olivia Munn, joking with her co-host Kevin Pereira about Comic Con. "Who do you think she'll cosplay this year?" Howard asked in a dreamy voice.

"I don't know, but I love what she wears on the show. Nothing tops her Wonder Woman." Raj placed his chin in his hands and sighed.

"What about the Bond girl catsuit?" Leonard reminded them.

They all sighed as one. "Yeah..."

Sheldon, who had extended the tape measure between his hands, straightened up, annoyed. "Oh, please. She could be dressed in a hazmat suit and talking about proper soil fertilization and you three would watch."

Howard, Leonard and Raj looked at each other, then shrugged. No disagreement there. They went back to watching. Sheldon took a second-set of measurements - obviously unhappy with the result he was getting.

Behind him, the door to 4A opened, and Penny walked in. "Hey, guys, I was going to watch Grey's Anatomy but it's a rerun. What's on the menu for Anything Can Happen Thursday?"

None of the men in the room responded. All except Raj, who pointed silently at the TV briefly before focusing on it again. Penny sat beside Raj amiably. He didn't squirm out of the way. He might not be able to speak directly to her yet without help, but he was comfortable having her around. She looked at the screen and read the caption at the bottom of the screen: Four-Day Passes Selling Out Soon. "Oh, is Comic Con coming up?"

"As it does every July," Sheldon answered. The three around the television kept their attention on Olivia Munn. "We purchased our passes the day they went on sale. As long as you've known us, I'd think you'd remember that."

"I don't keep track of all of your 'social activities' on my calendar, Sheldon." She stood up from the couch and walked over to where he was still standing beside the poster of Kirk. "What are you doing? Taking measurements? I thought you already had a Spock costume."

"No." Sheldon retracted the measuring tape with an annoyed snap, having determined that Howard had come closer that he had to the insignia on Kirk's uniform. "I haven't yet determined what I will wear this year."

She glanced at the TV again, where a parade of cosplayers was going across the screen. "You know, it might be fun to go with you guys this year... but what would I go as?"

Sheldon stepped back for a moment and spread his hands like a picture frame. "Hmm. There are any number of fantasy/sci-fi heroines with your coloring and body type. You could go as Buffy Summers... or Sarah Walker... or one of any number of superheroes..."

"Superheroes?" she asked, intrigued. With all her visits to the comic book store, she'd picked up a few. It was easier to avoid unwanted conversations when you were actually reading. "Like Supergirl?"

"Or Black Canary, founding member of the Birds of Prey and the Green Arrow's inamorata. Though you might find the fishnet stockings uncomfortable... there is also Wonder Girl, the Amazonian... Saturn Girl of the Legion of Superheroes in the Thirty-First Century... Stephanie Brown of the Bat Clan, known as Spoiler, as well as Robin, even though it was only for 72 days..." He barely paused for breath before going on. "Of course, that's only the most obvious ones in the DC universe. On the other hand if you wanted to try one of the Marvel heroines, you could choose from--"

Penny held up a hand to forestall him. "I don't need the Sheldonpedia list all at once, sweetie." She turned to the guys at the TV. "Hey, what do you guys think I should cosplay as at Comic Con?"

"Whatever you want, Penny," Leonard answered distractedly. Howard didn't seem to hear her. Raj, on the other hand, was sitting up straight in shock, eyes wide, his mouth feebly opening and closing.

"Are you even listening? I said, if I go to Comic Con this year..." Penny slowed down her words, enunciating every one. "...what... should... I... cosplay?" She sneered and turned back toward Sheldon. "I swear, it's like I'm invisible when that show's on."

"C-Comic Con?" Leonard finally stammered.

"C-cosplay?" Howard added, looking even more shocked than Raj, if it were possible.

Sheldon looked down at his T-shirt and a slow grin spread over his face. "That's it! You can be 'invisible.'"

She frowned with confusion. "What?"

"Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman! Your words and my fine Atlantean friend here," he gestured to his shirt, "gave me the notion."

Penny frowned even harder. "I thought he was Vulcan..."

Sheldon shook his head. "While it is true that Namor and his people share a similar ear shape to the Vulcans, I assure you that they have little else in common." He tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Yes! I believe I have a blue bodysuit that could be adapted for her traditional uniform..." He began to walk toward his bedroom, gesturing for Penny to follow.

"But isn't invisibility sort of a... lame superpower?" she asked, following.

"On the contrary, her ability to create force fields and manipulate energy make her one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel universe!" He rounded the corner.

"Really?" Penny stopped in the hall, grinning. "Cool." She joined Sheldon in his room, her voice moving out of earshot.

Raj, Howard and Leonard looked at each other in amazement, the shock slowly wearing off.

"Wow," Raj said, finding his voice again. "It really is Anything Can Happen Thursday."

[cut to theme song]