A/N: This chapter's a bit shorter than the last, but it felt like a good stopping point. Next chapter will be more plotty, I promise, but I have this thing where I like to write character development. It's crazy I know. Anyway I just wanted to say thank you so much for reading! For those of you who are fans of my iCarly stuff, sorry I'm not writing for that fandom right now, but Big Bang Theory is actually a personal favorite show of Dan Schneider's, so you might like it too! I'd absolutely LOVE if you would leave me a review. Please don't be afraid to criticize me, I promise that I can take it! This is my first story for BBT fandom, and one for a slightly obscure ship, so I'm not in comfortable waters. I'd really like to know how I'm doing! Again, thanks for taking the time to read, I hope I at least make you smile.
The mustard with the sharp cheese was salty and sour. Raj quietly gagged half of the sandwich down as Leonard yammered on about something laser-related. There was a plastic clunk and a lunch tray appeared next to him, with Howard attached.
"Hello, Wolowitz; I trust that the ill effects of your previous evening's inebriation have sufficiently passed?"
Howard shot Raj an exasperated sigh. "Yes, Sheldon, thank you for asking."
"I suppose at this juncture I should say that you're welcome, but the ulterior motive behind my inquiry was to determine your ability to join us in Call of Duty tonight." Sheldon sucked on the straw in his can of V8 and waggled his eyebrows at Leonard, apparently quite pleased with his attempt at conversational pleasantries. Leonard resisted rolling his eyes and scooped some meatloaf onto the back of his fork.
"Sure, yeah, I just have to see if I can take the afternoon off. I have to finish unpacking or Raj is going to double my rent." He stuck a thumb in Raj's direction.
Leonard choked briefly on his meatloaf. "Huh?"
Raj found himself enveloped in half a hug as Howard's arm bent around his shoulders. "We're roomies now!" Howard explained. "By the way, Leonard, can I store some of my comics at your place? Raj doesn't have the room."
"You're what? And no! I don't want Penny opening up the linen closet to find your porn organized one fetish per longbox!"
Sheldon interjected, "So are you in for Call of Duty? Because if you aren't we have to arrange a fourth and I don't think Penny can handle the complexities of this particular simulation without some social discomfort, which Leonard informed me makes him less likely to achieve optimal conditions for coitus."
"Apparently that's bad."
Howard's arm moved back from around Raj's shoulders to his turkey cranberry sandwich as they stared blankly at Sheldon across the table.
Raj piped up for the first time at lunch. "We can play Call of Duty tonight; I'll help you unpack this weekend."
"Oh, goody," declared Sheldon. "Raj, I'm glad you're being so flexible about this. Some people can be quite uptight when dealing with a new roommate."
Raj caught Leonard's wince, and then his stomach grumbled. Before he knew it, half a turkey cranberry sandwich was in front of him. "Thanks, dude."
"Mi almuerzo es su almuerzo," Howard said.
Living with Wolowitz wasn't so terrible, after they had finally found a place for everything. Leonard relented and allowed Howard to store some of his gaming peripherals at his place, but "nothing that vibrates on command!" and it all had to be thoroughly washed. Mostly, though, unpacking involved Raj listening to Howard whine about his mother while he integrated their DVD collections.
"Then the other day she actually demanded that I play bridge with her group. Like I'd spend time with three old yentas who have nothing better to talk about than their soap operas and their grandchildren's brises."
"Oh, sure. Should we integrate our Babylon 5 boxsets per season, or should they be in discrete sets?"
"Let's use them like bookends between the Comicon photos. Oh, speaking of which, you know the guy who sold me the working Green Lantern ring?"
"Yeah, wasn't he getting married to the woman dressed like Carmen Sandiego?"
"They're having a baby!" Howard gestured expansively.
"We should send them a card."
"That'll be nice. Do you really need your Magic binders?" Raj frowned at the musty box full of carefully organized cards.
"Raj! I can't leave my collection at that woman's house. She found out they were valuable one day and has been trying to sell them ever since."
"Why don't you sell them?"
Howard looked agog. "Why don't you just rip my heart out already?"
"Fine, we'll keep them behind the X-files."
"So your mom really wanted you to be a fourth for bridge?"
"Yeah, can you believe it? That game is so unsophisticated. I don't know why she thought I'd go for it."
"She is a woman of mystery."
After the fifth evening of ordering takeout, during which Raj and Howard quibbled over their oldest disagreement, (Howard wanted Indian, Raj demanded anything but,) they sat grumpily on the couch, picking at their dinner with plastic forks.
"I don't know how Greek is the compromise between Indian and Japanese food." Raj took one of Howard's cucumbers and dipped it in some yogurt.
Howard swallowed a slice of lamb. "Approximate equal distance from India in the opposite direction."
Raj nodded, really it made perfect sense. "I have got to learn how to cook."
"Why can't you? It's not such a big deal. Just apply heat in a controlled way, basically. Follow some instructions. Easy!"
"When you grow up eating food you don't like very much it's a little more complicated than that. Besides, I'm an astrophysicist, not an engineer. I make calculations about heat, I don't apply it to anything."
Howard snorted. "I've noticed."
"What's that supposed to mean? Anyway you can't cook either."
They looked at each other through squinted eyes. "Is that a challenge?" Howard asked.
Raj leaned back onto the sofa cushions. He could smell whatever it was Howard used to smooth out his hair. "No, it's not a challenge. I have to learn to take care of myself."
"Your parents should have never gotten broadband."
Howard curled one leg under himself and turned to face Raj. "I mean, they're getting into your head!"
"My family is very important to me." It was a line he had said innumerable times before.
"Yes, so you moved to the other side of the planet from them. It makes perfect sense, really. The skies of New Delhi are so lacking in comparative visibility."
"So sometimes they meddle! But it's not like being able to feed myself would be a bad thing."
"My mother always says that if you don't want to do something, the worst thing to do would be to learn how to do it. She hasn't mowed the lawn once in her entire life." Howard flexed. "That's how I got my biceps so ripped."
Raj groaned. "Fine. Then you'll just have to cook for me."
"What? But I thought this wasn't a challenge!"
"It isn't. But if you want me to stop whining, you know what to do." Raj stood up and took his leftovers to the kitchen. "You could always ask if Sheldon would let you sleep on his couch for a third of the rent," he suggested as he wrapped up leftover gyro for lunch the next day.
Howard didn't even respond. He just grabbed the Star Trek box set. "You want to watch the one where they meet Spock's mom, or the one where Chekov teaches the natives the vays of love?"
"Oh, I love The Apple! Chekov, when will you learn not to feel up pretty girls in front of impressionable indigenous peoples?" Raj hopped back onto the couch, excited.
"You just like Chekov because he's the guy with an accent."
"No, that's why you like him. I like him because of his neato haircut."
"Are you trying to tell me something?"
But Raj wasn't paying attention. Instead, he was humming along to the Star Trek theme song. Howard joined in.