My first foray into TBBT fanfic. I hope I got the characters mostly right. If people want to pick at the vocab, please do, because I'm British and may have got something very wrong. Thanks!
Sheldon was sitting at his computer, working on a time-consuming but not difficult equation, steadily ignoring (or perhaps just pretending carefully to not be listening to) the conversation on the other side of the room.
Raj was perched on the edge of the couch, leaning towards the other two near him, hands clasped in what can only be described as glee, grinning.
Howard sat next to him in a turtleneck that clashed horribly with his bright red trousers (that were too tight, really, he didn't know why Howard didn't just wear clothing that fit), grin just as wide, if a little more self-satisfied.
Leonard sat uncomfortably in the armchair, squirming whilst trying to come up with an answer for Howard's question, an answer that shouldn't even have been asked for.
The minutes dragged on and the only sound was that of Sheldon's fingers tapping on the keyboard.
"So?" queried Raj, leaning back into the sofa, "Answer, dude. It's been 5 minutes and all you've done is act like a schoolboy who has done something wrong."
"He's right, Leonard," nodded Howard, who clearly thought that torturing Leonard was the greatest hobby someone could have, "and you know the stakes. Answer or we'll ask Penny."
Leonard fidgeted with his sleeve, because there was nothing else to fidget with.
"Look, I just, I don't know. It's not like I've ever thought about it with any eye for specifics!" he spluttered.
He was lying. Oh boy, was he lying.
He glanced in Sheldon's direction (who was still typing and ignoring them), but of course he wasn't going to come and interrupt them for their incorrect usage of some grammatical form or other. No. This had to be the one time where everything was perfect and Sheldon had nothing to say. Thanks, Sheldon.
Raj raised an eyebrow at him, in that way he had, and if looks could speak this one would have shouted "bullshit!".
Howard made a noise and waved his words away with a disdainful hand, "Sure you have."
Leonard looked up sharply and glared at him, "Oh yeah? How would you know? Unless you and Koothrapali really are getting it on, like my mother said."
Howard grinned and stood up, Raj frowning but slowly following suit, "Well, this has been illuminating, but I think I'll go ask your delightful neighbour what she thinks."
But he was too late, both Wolowitz and Raj were out the door and across the hallway in a matter of seconds.
He glanced at Sheldon (who was still typing and hadn't looked up and really, what was the point of living with your best friend if he isn't going to defend you, not that there was anything to defend and – goddamn it he had to stop thinking in run-on sentences, what would his mother say) and hurried after them, almost running into Raj just as Howard knocked.
He rushed his words to get them all out in time, "I just don't think this is something we should ask Penny abooh, err, hi Penny."
Penny was standing in her doorway in shorts and a tank top, what Leonard affectionately called her 'lounging about in style' outfit.
"Hi guys! What's up?"
Wolowitz smiled, which visibly unsettled Penny (Leonard could tell because her smile wavered for a moment), but she brought it back full force.
"Well, Penny, Raj and I have a little bet going on. If you would care to answer a couple of questions from when you and Leonard were going out, you'd help us figure out the answer to our conundrum."
Penny blinked, smile fading slightly.
"We have questions."
She leant against the doorframe, "Yeah, I got that, Howard. What kind of questions? I'm not answering anything to do with sex."
Leonard quickly interjected, "You don't have to answer anything, Penny. Tell them to shut up and go away."
Raj clicked his tongue and whispered into Howard's ear, who shook his head in reply.
"No, no, I know it would help, but we can't force her to answer the really private stuff!"
Penny was wearing what looked suspiciously like a smirk on her face, arms folded together. This unnerved Leonard.
"What's this about, anyway?"
Leonard wanted to shrink into the shadows. Maybe he could open the doors to the elevator shaft and throw himself down it. But no, he promised Sheldon that if he was going to terminate the Roommate Agreement in any manner, no matter how gruesome, he had to give him two weeks' notice. Maybe he should send him a text telling him.
"We were playing Truth or Dare-"
"Seriously?" Penny laughed, "Truth or Dare? I used to play that in high school!"
Raj shrugged and whispered to Howard again.
"Exactly. We're not normal, we're nerds, right?"
Penny laughed again and nodded, "Right. But I remember finding out loads of useful blackmail material thanks to that game."
Howard smiled conspiratorially, "And oh, but we did."
"Ok," said Leonard, "if you're going to do this, I don't have to be here. I'm going back into my apartment."
"Do what?" asked a voice from behind them.
And that was when Leonard decided that actually, if he killed himself quickly enough, he wouldn't have to think about warning Sheldon, because really, who cared about Roommate Agreements once the people concerned were dead?
Howard turned to include Sheldon in the conversation, "We're going to tell the story about what happened during Truth or Dare."
Sheldon nodded and smiled as Leonard groaned.
Raj grinned and pushed him back into the apartment as the others followed.
"Do we really have to do this?" whined Leonard, after collapsing in the armchair.
"Yep," said Penny, taking a chair to his left, "we really do."
Leonard made a face, "But why?"
"Because seeing you embarassed is totally the funniest thing ever."
Leonard buried his head in his arms.
Sheldon raised a hand and shook his head, "I disagree. The funniest thing ever may have yet to come to my attention, but I do not think that a humiliated Leonard is it. No, it doesn't even make my top 10 list of funny things."
"Sarcasm, Sheldon." Leonard mumbled though his sleeves.
"Oh for goodness'," Sheldon looked deeply unhappy for a moment as he went to sit in his spot, "Just when I thought I was getting used to it!"
Penny shook her head with a laugh, "Don't worry sweetie, you will. Maybe."
Howard sat on the opposite side of the couch from Sheldon, waiting for Raj to come back from the fridge.
"What did you get?"
Raj waved three open beer bottles at him and downed one of them, making a face once he was done. He started on the next one as he walked over.
Howard nodded, "Right. So you can say what you want without worrying about the fact that Penny is a gorgeous specimen of the female species."
Raj nodded and sat in between Howard and Sheldon, as Penny glared at Howard.
"I said no. Get to the story already."
"Alright, alright. Well, we were a little bit tipsy the other night."
"When he says 'little bit tipsy', he means 'completely smashed'," corrected Raj.
Howard shrugged, "Well... ok, yes. I mean, Raj got numbers off four different women."
"Yeah, of which one was a drag queen." smirked Leonard, facing them again.
"Where did you go? You guys never go out, apart from the restaurants and the comic book store. Oh, and Pottery Barn." said Penny, smiling at Sheldon, who nodded.
"Star Wars sheets." he turned to Howard, "They're not as conducive to a good night's sleep as one would think – Darth Vader watches you."
Howard waived a hand, "Whatever. We went to the bar on the corner. So, we were drunk."
Penny tilted her head, "Even Sheldon?"
"Which justifies his complete lack of recollection of the night at all." explained Leonard.
Sheldon frowned, "I don't drink."
"We know," said Raj, "We tricked you."
Sheldon shot him an exasperated look, "Again? Haven't you seen me drunk and humiliated enough?"
Raj smiled at him, "Never. But this time you were ok. Loud, but ok."
"And you kept telling me that my work was irrelevant. To be honest, you could have been sober." added Leonard.
Penny turned to him, "So you're ok with them telling the story."
Leonard raised an eyebrow, "Um, that'd be a no. But since I don't have a choice in the matter, I might as well make sure they stick to the actual story."
Howard laughed, "Sure. Because we would need to add stuff to this." Penny turned back to face him as he went on, "I was drinking Guinness-"
"He was drinking Cosmopolitans."
"Raj was on his third Grasshopper-"
"Fourth. And it was an apple martini."
"Sheldon was in the bathroom." Howard paused and stared pointedly at Leonard, who glared at him, "and Leonard had just started on the gin. Out of nowhere, Raj said, 'Truth or Dare?' to me. I said 'Dare'. They dared me to hit on a rather large woman at the bar."
Raj emptied his second beer and shuddered, "She was like a walrus. A walrus in a dress."
"So I did. She slapped me and I went back to the table. Sheldon came back. I asked him, he said-"
"He said 'Dare', which surprised us all." said Raj.
"And I dared him to ask the waitress for a BlowJob and an Orgasm."
Oh yeah. That had been funny. It had taken Sheldon 6 flustered goes to order them.
"I don't remember that. I wouldn't do that. That's really rude. And I don't even know the women who work at the bar." protested Sheldon.
Leonard sat up properly, "You were drunk. But you asked. And she brought you the shot and the cocktail."
Sheldon looked at him, looking confused and revolted, "They were drinks?" as Leonard nodded he grimaced, "Who would name drinks like that?"
Leonard pointed at Howard.
The fact that Sheldon looked satisfied with that answer made Howard's protest even sweeter.
"Hey! I didn't invent them! I just dared you to order them! Which you did. Then you asked Raj, who went with Truth, so we found out that despite the lack of communication with women unless drunk, he's still managed to get laid various times. Didn't know you had that kind of question in you."
Raj elbowed Howard, "Then I asked Leonard, who said 'Dare', and he had to down Sheldon's Blowjob without using his hands."
"That's kind of cool. Did you manage it?" asked Penny.
"I did. Sort of."
Howard shook his head, "He got a straw."
"Aww, Leonard! You're supposed to put your hands behind your back and drink! You don't even have boobs that get in the way!"
"What sort of a social convention is that?" asked Sheldon.
Leonard shook his head, "It's a drinking thing, Sheldon, ignore it. Besides, he said without using my hands, not without using anything else!"
Penny shook her head, "Such a physicist. Ok. Tell me you got him back for that, guys."
"Eventually," said Howard, "but he got Sheldon with a 'Truth' that took a good five minutes to think of a question of first."
"We asked if he'd ever kissed a girl that he wasn't related to." said Leonard.
Raj nodded, "And he said yes."
"Which surprised us again. I mean, sock puppets were a pretty good guess as far as I was concerned."
Raj continued, "Sheldon picked Howard, who said Truth, and told us he didn't do a PhD because he didn't want to, and then dared me to buy the next round. So I got us tequila shots. Then I asked Howard again, he said Dare and I got him to take Sheldon's Orgasm to a girl at the other side of the bar using the line, 'Hey, girl, want an Orgasm?'"
Penny laughed, "That is awesome."
Howard shrugged, "It was clever. She said no, but her friend said yes. I asked Sheldon, who said Truth and we asked him if he thought Leonard was hot. He thought about this for a bit, then said, 'I believe he could fall into the standard that North American society, thanks mostly to the media, has labelled as "hot". So yes.'"
Leonard looked at Sheldon.
"Which, strangely enough, you haven't teased him about." he said, bitterly.
"Because he wouldn't understand why we were teasing him. That's no fun."
Penny smiled, "That's cute, guys, but get to the point."
"Ok, ok," said Howard, "So, stuff happened and it's my turn again. I chose Leonard and he picked Truth and here comes the interesting bit. We asked him if he'd ever thought about dating guys and he said, 'Sure, what guy hasn't?'"
There was a moment's silence and if anyone had been listening to Leonard they would have been able to hear his prayers to the Gods and founding fathers of physics that Penny would be ok with this and not humiliate him.
"Ok." said Penny, "So what?"
"So what?" Asked Howard as Leonard sighed in relief and smiled at her, "Penny, this is huge. Leonard admitted to homosexual thoughts. And not all guys have them, no matter what he may think. And when we pressed him for more, he said it was his turn."
"Which meant that I had to kiss Howard." said Raj, eyes firmly on Penny and not Howard.
Howard grimaced and took a swig of Raj's last beer.
Penny almost fell off the chair in laughter.
"It wasn't even a real kiss," said Leonard, frowning, "just a peck."
"But I did it. The next few things went back and forth with us trying to get more out of him. So we asked him if he'd ever acted on these thoughts, which he hadn't, if he'd ever gone to a gay club, yes but with an ex-girlfriend, if he had ever thought of a guy when in bed and he said 'maybe' and passed out."
There was a moment of silence.
"Hey!" exclaimed Sheldon, "I remember that!"
And Leonard was suddenly very aware of the fact that his best friend was sitting near him and had been quiet during all this. Sheldon was so rarely quiet that this was quite a novelty. But he just said he remembered this, so why did he need to listen to it all again without saying a word?
Penny slowly turned to Leonard, hesitated then asked, " Did you ever think of a guy when you were in bed with me?"
Raj turned to Howard, "Well, asking her wouldn't have helped anyway."
Leonard was back to hiding in his hands, slowly sinking in his armchair.
"Crap," he said.
"Yes, you always were extraordinarily eloquent in times of crisis." agreed Sheldon.
"Leonard?" asked Penny, gently.
"No, Penny, I never thought of anyone but you when we were in bed together, ok?"
She blinked, "Ok. I just wondered."
Leonard sighed, "I know, I get it. It's just embarrassing."
"I don't think it's embarrassing," said Sheldon, "Not at all! Many people wonder about being with the same sex. It's part of the natural human curiosity. I myself have wondered about forming a partnership with a suitable male, as it would mean that he would not expect progeny, nor necessarily want anything intimate on a regular basis."
Penny blinked, "You've wondered about being with a guy?"
Raj tilted his head, "You've thought about sex?"
"Sex? As in, being intimate with someone. Penis in vajayjay. Sexual intercourse."
Sheldon took a disappointed breath, "Raj, your mastery of redundancy is astoundingly boundless."
Leonard laughed and Raj began to protest while Penny huffed and folded her arms.
Howard waved a hand to silence everyone,"Hold on a minute. You think a guy wouldn't want sex?"
Sheldon started, "Not all men think about sexual intercourse as often as you do!" he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, "Even if most of them do."
Penny squinted at him, "How do you know that?"
"I did my research." he shrugged.
"Oh dear God," said Leonard, dramatically, "you went online and looked for sex. Please tell me you stuck to medical websites and advice columns."
"Of course," repeated Sheldon, "I am well aware of the dangers one might find when typing 'sex' in Google. I'm not Wolowitz!"
"Hey! I do not type 'sex' into Google." said Howard, standing up.
"Yeah," added Raj, "he doesn't need to; he already knows what website he's going to."
"Thanks, Raj," Howard rolled his eyes and walked to the fridge to grab a bottle of water.
"I got your back, man."
Sheldon looked at Leonard. And Leonard knew he was about to say something unpleasant, or bring up something that he didn't want to hear.
"So who have you thought about being with?"
Leonard was right. He didn't want to hear that.
"Yeah, Leonard, who is it?"
He groaned, "Look, I already said it was a general thing, I haven't thought about anyone specific!"
Penny stood up.
"Where are you going?"
"Guys, this has been fun, but I think it's time to go. Bye!"
And she left, with everyone else staring at the closed door wondering what had just happened.
"Well, I guess we should go too," said Raj, "It's late and I promised I'd call my parents."
"Enjoy your gay porn, Leonard," said Howard, "I'm out to find me a lady."
"Oh, bite me," snapped Leonard, irritably.
"I would, but I get the feeling you'd be more into it than you should be. Bye all."
Sheldon went back to his computer and his equation as soon as the door had slammed shut behind Raj.
Leonard was left sitting alone in what felt like a moment only.
He slowly got up, collected Raj's beer bottles, threw them away, and was standing in the middle of the apartment, thinking of what to do next when the door creaked open and Penny's head peeked through.
"Hey, are they gone?"
Leonard shrugged, "Yeah. They left like a minute after you did."
"Awesome," she walked in, slamming the door behind her, and sat on the couch, "Come here. I want to talk to you."
Leonard shuffled over, "Is this about the guy thing? Sheldon said it's completely normal and a lot of people think about it. I'm not gay! I'm not gay."
Penny put an arm around him, "And that fine, sweetie, it really is. I'm happy that there's something normal about you. Everyone's wondered about that."
Leonard was unconvinced, because really, how would she know?
Penny glanced at the door then looked back at him, "Promise you won't tell Howard," Leonard nodded, "Yes. But I kind of want to know if you thought about other people when you were in bed with me."
Leonard jumped up, feeling almost sick. How could she accuse him of something like that? Of, of cheating with his mind?
"What? No, I said no, I meant no! I really liked you Penny, I never thought, no one, I, I, not anyone else, why would you even ask, I mean, no!"
"Ok, relax!" Penny pulled him back down to the couch, "Calm down. It was just a question."
He shrugged out of her grip.
"Then what did they mean?" she asked, softly.
"They asked if I'd ever thought of a guy when in bed. And I said maybe."
"Which means yes." Penny stated.
"Which means yes," he confirmed nervously, "but I didn't say I thought of guys when I was in bed with a girl."
"Oh. Oh. When you were-"
"Yeah. And that kind of freaked me out the first time. But I got used to it, you know? It became part of the experience. It's different and..." he glanced around the room, even more nervous, "and that's all I'm saying."
"Sweetie, I think that's great. You're moving on!"
Leonard stood up again and went over to the kitchen, "I don't know, Penny."
She crossed her legs and watched him from where she sat.
He fiddled with various drawers and cupboards before he put the coffee on,"It not even all guys. I'm not gay for everyone. I'm not gay at all! I'm just..."
"Curious?" she said, eyes twinkling.
"Yeah, curious. But not for everyone. I mean, I wouldn't want to experiment with Wolowitz or Raj," he made a disgusted face, "That would just be weird. And not with strangers either. That'd take, like, balls of steel. I do not possess that much courage with either sex."
He brought out a two mugs and the sugar.
"No. I mean, I've thought about it, I think we've managed to establish that as a fact around here, but, I don't know," he was thinking out loud, he really should stop doing that, but it's only Penny and she's lovely, she likes him and she doesn't want to date him anymore, so maybe she can be a really good friend instead, maybe he can tell her, "I keep thinking it's wrong."
"It's not wrong. Love is never wrong."
He poured the coffee, scoffing, "It's not love. Really not. I mean, love would mean more than this. Wouldn't it? These are just images. Images that will eventually be replaced. Unless something happens, which it won't."
She smiled at him, confused frown-line just barely visible "Why not? Why couldn't anything happen?"
"Because we're both guys!" he exploded, slamming the coffee down, "And we're friends and it would never work! Nobody would understand! My mother would over-analyse it, his would say Jesus was against it, my father would write anthropology papers about it and rival my mother's reports which would cause another fight between the two of them and I want a real family, not a dysfunctional mess like the one I grew up in! I need to find a woman and have two point six children, buy a house with a white picket fence and a dog and lead a normal goddamned life for once!"
There was silence. Then, a cough.
Penny and Leonard both turned to see Sheldon leaning over the back of his chair.
"I am trying to finish with this calculation, but if you will insist on having loud conversations here, then could you please go into your room, Leonard? Or perhaps across the hall? I would appreciate it."
There was silence once again as he put sugar in one of the mugs, walked over to Penny and handed it to her. She pointed at the door and they were leaving when Sheldon spoke again.
"Oh, and for the record, Leonard, my mother says that Jesus loves everyone, which include bisexual and homosexual individuals."
Penny had to tug Leonard out the door, because what his friend had said had hit Leonard like a ton of bricks and his stomach was turning even though he hadn't drunk milk and he really needed to sit down.
It took him three weeks to ask Sheldon what he meant, who had shrugged and said he had thought about it too, because it would be convenient. They already lived together, already had a routine, already shared a budget, there wasn't much more than needed to happen logistically.
Leonard had swallowed the lump in his throat and hid in his room for days.
When he came out, he carefully avoided Sheldon.
Sheldon looked rather upset by this, but didn't do anything out of the ordinary.
Leonard didn't know what to think anymore, so he didn't. He ignored thoughts of Sheldon with even more care than he avoided Sheldon himself and threw himself into his work.
He came home one day to Sheldon talking to Penny, who wouldn't let him leave until he sat down with his room-mate and worked things out.
"You are friends. You are adults. You will deal with this like adults do."
So Leonard now sat, fidgeting uncomfortably in the armchair, squirming whilst trying to ignore the fact that Sheldon was staring at him.
"I have nothing to say. You know my position on the subject. What we are missing is your opinion here, not mine."
Leonard wished for the floor to swallow him up whole. As laws of physics dictated, it didn't. Stupid physics. He knew that Sheldon wanted him to say something. But this wasn't something he wanted to address. This was something he wanted to continue avoiding, at least until he knew what his opinion was.
He swallowed, "Do you really think we would work?"
His eyes snapped up to Sheldon and his hand covered his mouth. That was not what he was going to say.
Sheldon nodded, "Yes. Logically, we are compatible. We have lived together, worked in the same place and enjoyed each other's company for years. What we are really talking about here is the continuation of what has always happened."
"What?" Leonard shook his head vigorously, "No, it's not. We're not intimate in any way! Logically, we might work, perhaps, but what about emotionally? Or sexually, for God's sake?"
Sheldon locked his fingers together and took a moment before replying.
"I think that we are compatible emotionally. While I lack some understanding of emotions and human behaviours, I do recognise most of them. For the rest, I have had you. I think we have been a good team so far. I consider you my best friend, the person I go to in a crisis, when I have a problem – a non-work related problem, that is, because, let's be honest, you wouldn't be able to help," Leonard clenched his fists, "You know all of my habits, preferences and idiosyncrasies and you haven't left yet. I suspect that if you disliked me you would be gone by now. You're the only person I have ever willingly compromised for. So, emotionally, I would say we are compatible."
There was a pause. Sheldon frowned, thinking hard, then spoke again, the words slow, but his voice steady and his tone sure.
"As for sexual compatibility, I do not have an answer. I have my reservations about coitus, as you know, but I would be willing to explore the possibility. Slowly. But if you wanted to, I would. As I said, you're the only person I've ever compromised for."
Leonard stared at Sheldon, who was suddenly looking quite frightened and very vulnerable and nothing like his usual know-it-all, confident, superior self.
He watched his best friend, his work colleague, this strange scared creature and thought hard about it all, about changing what they had, about risking what they had already achieved.
Hesitating, eyes closed, unsure about the reaction, he gave his reply.
A couple of days later, all four guys were having at lunch at the university as usual, and Howard got a text.
Sheldon complemented him on having the original Power Ranger's morpher beeps as his text ringtone.
"It's from Penny!" he exclaimed.
Leonard put his fork down.
Raj frowned, "Why is she texting you?"
"She says to tell Sheldon and Leonard to stop ignoring her and to tell her what happened," he looked to Leonard, "What is she talking about?"
"That is a private matter." said Sheldon, head down, cutting his omelette.
Howard shrugged, "Alright. But what do I tell her?"
Leonard thought for a moment, "Tell her," he glanced at Sheldon, who was concentrating on getting each square of omelette to a perfect bite-size, ignoring the conversation again, and shook his head, almost laughing, "tell her we compromised."