Disclaimer: Don't own, just butcher.
Note: Because at 7am this is a good idea. Posting this before I go back on it. I can always delete it but if I like this when I wake up...I could have my first proper project on my hands. Listen, this is bad and wrong and I hate it. It's hackneyed and awkward and shoddy round the edges. But I wanna know what you think. I wanna know if you think this could work. I wanna know if Raj/Howard/Penny is viable. I wanna know if anyone would read it. I wanna know if that stuff at the end just annoys people or if anyone thinks I could pull that off.
This follows on from my timeline in The Expectations Instability. For anyone who doesn't wanna read it: Howard's mom gets sick, kicks him out in anger, he arrives at 4B in the middle of the night and a very stuck-in-a-rut Penny sleeps with him. It sounded better when I wrote it properly. Doesn't follow the season 3 timeline.
Gah, don't post this Bialy. Go to bed. It's like 9am.
The Addition Animosity
don't look in the mirror, the past - you don't wanna see
He's the least likely candidate, she thinks, as she's knocking on his door. The last name that would jump to anyone's mind when she say them down and told them, 'Listen, I just really need someone to talk to, someone to talk to me'. He wouldn't even be on the list.
The 'hello' dies in Raj's throat as the door swings back and reveals her standing there.
"I have alcohol," she says quickly, brandishing an already-opened bottle of tequila. "And you can have the whole bottle. I just need someone to talk to. Please."
She knows her eyes are red and she knows her cheeks probably look puffy and she knows her makeup is a mess. And she knows that Raj, out of all of them, is the one least likely to care. She knows that after the first couple of drinks, he will care, and he'll make any number of clipped, disparaging comments about tidying herself up or making an effort when she was in the – what had he called it before? – the Raj Mahal? – but that didn't matter.
He was the only one, now, she could go to.
Raj takes the bottle from her hand and shows her inside. As she passes him, she's sure she catches it – the glance at the level of the bottle, the glance back at her. She's already started, he's thinking. She can tell.
For once, the assumption is wrong.
She drops onto his couch, and watches him head towards a cupboard for a glass.
"Don't bother," she tells him. "Drink from the bottle. You might as well."
He gets a glass anyway, and one for her, and pours out two shots. She doesn't touch hers.
The shot is thrown down the back of Raj's throat. He makes a satisfied sound, turns to her, and says, "So Penny. What's up?"
"It's Howard," she says. Raj looks at her for precisely one second before taking the shot from in front of her and drinking that, too. He pours again.
He doesn't say anything, and for a moment, she wonders if he's gone mute again, if the alcohol has stopped working.
"It's not that – I mean, I don't – did he tell you?"
Another shot. "Tell me what?"
"He didn't tell you." She slumps back into the sofa. That would have made this so much easier.
"Tell me what?" he asks again, perplexed. Then, "do you want that?"
She looks at her shot, and feels sick. "No. Take it. Seriously. The whole bottle is for you." He eagerly takes her glass, and she notices a good slosh of the shot slip over onto the couch. He's starting to look unfocused (and he's always been such a lightweight, years of not drinking will do that to a guy) and she pries the bottle away from him.
"Sweetie, why don't you let me pour for a while, okay?"
"Okay," he says, sounding content and cheery, and grinning widely. Then he seems to remember that the entirety of the world has not been about tequila shots and who pours them, and his expressions grows just a little more serious. "Did you say something about Howard?"
"Yeah," she says, setting the bottle down. "Yeah, I did."
"If he tried to break into your apartment again, I don't know what to tell you –"
She shook her head. She was feeling sick again. "No. Nothing like that. Listen, you know how when his mom kicked him out –"
"Oh, I remember that," Raj says, and his voice is getting louder. The alcohol is hitting him properly now. "That was a nightmare for everyone. It was the day she got the – you know –" his voice dropped into what he must have assumed was a conspiratorial whisper, although who, precisely, in his tiny apartment, he was hoping to keep the secret from, Penny wasn't sure –"the diagnosis."
"Yeah. I know." Penny is starting to regret the decision, like she knew she would. She pours another two shots. "Drink up, Raj. Let's get you past the jerk stage."
"It didn't even make any sense," Raj continues, drinking on Penny's command. "He moved back in, like, a week later. She knew she was gonna need him around. Howard's mom is crazy. Oh, wait – can you talk about sick people like that?" He sounds genuinely nervous.
She pats his shoulder. "Yeah, you're good. But anyway – it was the night he got kicked out, and he came round to Leonard and Sheldon's place." Penny draws a breath. "I was in the hall when he came up."
Unbidden, memories rise. She remembers the hallway, she remembers seeing him, she remembers afterwards, and –
Like a train, out of nowhere, all of the feelings swirling around her brain hit her. She watches Raj throw down yet another shot and it all mixes and hits her stomach. She feels nausea rise.
"I gotta use your bathroom," she tells him, with certainty, and vacates her seat.
The bathroom door slams shut, and Raj watches it for a second with bemused interest. Penny didn't look drunk. Why did she need to throw up so bad?
He drinks the second shot glass of tequila and reaches for the bottle, then changes his mind. He frowns. What would Penny have to tell him about Howard that he didn't already know?
He feels warm and tired, but confusion overrides them both. He's curious, now, and he hopes she hurries up. He doesn't mind being here for her and listening, not one bit, but she can't just leave him hanging like this!
He thinks back to the time, a few months back, when Howard had been kicked up. He'd tried here first, of course, but Raj hadn't been home. The first time in ages he'd been out, and it had been the night he'd been needed. He still feels awkward, and a little ashamed, when he thinks of it.
He doesn't like the thought that he let Howard down, and it's only at times like these, with the warm blanket of alcohol swaddling his mind, that he can even come close to admitting to himself why.
"Raj," comes a low voice from the bathroom. "Can I use your toothbrush?"
"No!" he says, appalled. "You'll get your vomit all over it!"
"Please," Penny groans."
"There's a spare under the sink."
She disappears again.
Raj knows Penny isn't all that fond of Howard, but throwing up at the thought of him seems a bit extreme. Maybe she's sick.
"Are you sick?" he calls, even though there's a door and running water between them. But that doesn't occur to him.
"What?" she asks, a few seconds later, emerging. "What did you say?"
"Are you sick? If you are, stay away from me – I don't want your diseases." Though, he reasons, at least here he'd be able to get good treatment. Not like home.
"I'm not sick," Penny says, retaking her seat. "No – wait...yeah. But it's not catching."
She doesn't answer. Instead, she looks down at her hands. She looks a bit of a mess, if Raj is honest with himself. Penny always prides herself on looking as immaculate as she can when she leaves her apartment, so even Raj can tell this is a bit of a departure.
"I slept with him," she says suddenly, and Raj is thrown. His mind had been on her makeup, and trying to remember the last time he'd seen her use that sparkly eye glitter.
She looks at him with something like disbelief lingering behind her eyes. "Who do you think?"
Raj thinks, he really does. Nothing comes.
"Howard!" she says, exasperated, and the bottom falls out of Raj's world.
"Wolowitz?" he asks, stupidly. He can't really think of anything else.
"No, Howard Hughes ," Penny quips, her tone heavy with a Nebraska drawl and caustic sarcasm. "Of course, Wolowitz!" Then, she buries her face in her hands.
"When?" he asks, before bits of the conversation start coming back to him. "Oh – the night he got kicked out."
Penny nods. "Yeah. And..." she trails off, looking down again.
Now, Raj feels sick. And?
"...and...the night after that. And the night after that..."
"And the night after that?" he asks. He's reaching for the tequila again. He knocks over the glass and it tumbles to the floor. He drinks from the bottle.
"No. No. It was just...just that." Penny is shaking now. A bit of Raj - a distant bit that isn't feeling crushed and isn't trying to prop the crushed bit up and remind him that this happens all the time, and he should be happy for Howard for getting with Penny, of all people – is starting to feel angry. Look at her. Look at her. She's upset. She's disgusted. She thinks – she thinks she's too good for –
A tear slips down Penny's cheek, and then he looks at her face properly. It's not, he realises, that she's disgusted. If she was, she wouldn't be here. She wouldn't tell him. She wouldn't tell anyone.
"What is it?" he asks. This has happened before. There's obviously not gonna be anything between them. Obviously. This is no different to any other time. It's just...just that it's Penny, this time, instead of some faceless girl at a bar. He's gotta be a friend first. To them both.
He still feels sick, though.
Penny is trembling. She presses the heels of her palms against her eyes, and draws a long, shuddery breath. "Raj," she says, her voice breaking, as one hand slips from hugging herself to rest over her stomach.
Penny is not just some girl at a bar.
"Raj..." she begins again, and she's crying in earnest now.
Penny is beautiful, and fun, and one of them, and the only girl who's ever stuck around Howard this long, however unwillingly.
Penny hasn't been drinking tonight.
Penny is sick and it's not contagious and she slept with Howard and she's not drinking tonight and she's beautiful and she -
"Raj, I'm pregnant," she says, finally, just as he decides that that would be the worst thing she could tell him.