Rajesh Koothrapoli sat alone at the only empty table in the cafeteria at his new workplace, trying to decide what to put on his bagel. He had escaped his homeland just under a week ago and like most people looking for freedom, he had set his sights on the land of liberty herself – America.

He had needed to leave India, before he did something he would regret. His parents were just so… overbearing. They were always pushing him to meet this friend's daughter or that new girl down the road… After the sixteenth girl that he just wasn't interested in, Raj had given up. His parents put his failure to make conversation with the women they supplied down to shyness, and he made no move to correct them. He couldn't tell them that he just couldn't force himself to make an effort anymore. He didn't want to admit why he really didn't talk to the pretty girls – he just 'didn't want to' wouldn't go down too well with his parents, Raj thought balefully.

He had always been good at keeping things to himself, but Raj felt that if his parents didn't leave him alone, he would end up screaming the truth at them across the family dining table, laden with all the cuisine he couldn't remember ever actually enjoying… and then who knew what would happen?

He wasn't stupid. He knew exactly what would happen. They wanted grandchildren after all (as they kept reminding him).

He couldn't take it anymore.

So he had left.

He found himself a job at a university in Pasadena, packed, and had left on the first flight out. He had left a lengthy letter to his parents explaining that a terrific opportunity had come up, and that he just couldn't miss it.

And finally he was free. He had nothing to worry him except keeping up with his work, paying rent and learning to communicate with his female colleagues (keeping silent around the fairer sex had become second nature and it was proving a hard habit to break…)

"Excuse me, can I sit here?" a casually drawled question made Raj look up from his bagel.

A slightly short man was standing next to the opposite chair, eyebrows raised as he waited for an answer. He had brown hair, hazel eyes, was wearing bright red jeans that looked at least one size too small and a turtleneck. Raj felt his throat catch slightly as he nodded in consent. His eyes followed the newcomer as he sat down and Raj swore internally.

So much for not having anything to worry about.