Raj's car was brimming with silence as he drove Howard home. Man, Leonard's mom was awkward. She was like a scary, probing, Freudian nightmare version of Sheldon. Who kept suggesting that he and Howard…

Raj slid his gaze sideways to Howard, who sat buckled into the passenger seat, staring out the window. Raj contemplated: Howard was sort of little like a girl. And they did spend a lot of time together. Plus, Raj could actually speak around Howard without being drunk.

Well, it was at least possible, right? Scientifically speaking?

Nah, Raj thought to himself. Besides. Howard's too bony. That's so not my type.

Raj pulled up outside Howard's house. Howard quietly unbuckled his seatbelt. "Thanks for the ride," he mumbled, not meeting Raj's gaze.

"No problem," Raj replied.

As Howard slowly pulled on the door handle, the soft 'pop' of the door unlatching was audible in the quiet car, but he didn't push it open. Reluctantly, he turned to face Raj.

"Look, buddy," Howard started in his falsely nice voice.

"Dude, this is awkward," Raj said simultaneously. Both stopped speaking and finally met the others' eye.

"We both agree Leonard's mom is batshit crazy, right?" Howard said quickly, to fill the awkward silence that had fallen between them.

"Definitely, dude! Come on. 'Latent homosexual—'"

"Yeah, yeah, ok, you don't need to repeat it," Howard said quickly. "Look, let's just agree to never speak about that again, ok?"

"You got it," Raj agreed.

Howard flashed him a grin. "Great! I'm glad things aren't gonna be awkard."

Raj scoffed. "Yeah, right. As if we have created an 'ersatz homosexual marriage'."

Howard glared at him. "Again with the never speaking about it! Oy!"

"Right, sorry."

"Anyway, it's just that I have this conference coming up in a few weeks and I was really hoping you'd go with me…" Howard said shyly. "I was worried with this between us, you wouldn't want to come with me. As my friend, that is."

"What kind of conference is it?"

"I'm presenting a paper."

"Oh, not another boring conference full of aerospace engineers thinking they're 'all that'."

Howard shrugged. "Oh, come on. It's not that bad! C'mon," he wheedled, nudging Raj with his elbow. "It'd mean a lot to me," he implored.

Raj rolled his eyes. "All right, fine. But I'm not paying for my own room."

"I already booked us in a room for two!"

"And I'm not driving."

"Aw, come on, pal. Do me this one favour?"

"Oh, all right," Raj conceded. "But you'd better be taking me out to a nice restaurant for dinner," he warned.

"Done," Howard said, sticking his hand out. They shook on it.

Howard finally opened his door and climbed out the car. Before slamming it shut, he poked his head back inside to peer at Raj again. "I'm glad we got all that ridiculous Leonard's mom stuff cleared up."

"Dude, the idea of you and me? It's just silly."