disclaimer: not our nerds
author's note on the year: this story begins pre season one
First Lady of Science
The cafeteria was full and conversation buzzed as the hottest minds of the twenty-first century shared questionable food for lunch. It was fall, and grad-students had descended. They gathered in lumps throughout the cafeteria, talking excitedly, and sucking up to anyone they thought they should if it would help them get a job later.
Loud laughter from a table in the center accented the buzz of the room. That was Kripke's table, the cool table. All of the young scientists had banded together there, except for one.
Dr. Sheldon Cooper sat alone at a table beside the vending machines, eating a neatly packed brown-bagged lunch. He was lanky and sat with his long legs together with feet side by side, his elbows tucked in, and his head down. His long back curved like a bow as he bent to sink his teeth in a sandwich with the crust cut off. In front of him were his flattened brown bag, a zip-lock sandwich bag, a juice carton, a plastic tub of mixed fruit, and a small bag of chips. He had arranged all of the items at perfect angles, spaced evenly, and turned with their labels in to face him.
He ignored Kripke's table and the other young men, all his age, there. He ignored everything. He was working on a very long math problem in his head as he chewed every even bite exactly twenty-two times. He did not notice when a lone figure stepped through the double red doors and joined the masses in the cafeteria.
She was young, small in stature, and smiling. Her brown hair hung perfectly straight and her bangs toyed with the idea of sweeping into her dark eyes. She was wearing her best comfortable-but-still-dressy clothes, and cut through the crowds to buy a lunch tray before casting her eyes around for a place to sit. She saw the cool table first, but the smallest man at it had already noticed her and was jumping his eyebrows at her. She chose the next available chair she saw, and happily, it was far from the creepy Jewish guy.
"Hi," she said to the lone man as she sat down her tray, "Mind if I sit?" she sat without waiting for his invitation. He straightened in surprise, and even seemed to curl away from her as if she were a predatory intruder in the burrow of something docile and timid. When he spoke, however, his voice was firm and his eyes were sharp—made sharper by eyebrows that pointed when they rose,
"I'm Leslie," she said as she opened her pudding cup—chocolate, of course. "Leslie Winkle."
"Dr. Sheldon Cooper." He said, but he did not offer his hand. He returned to eating his sandwich in silence, virtually ignoring her. He had not noticed her double take and smile,
"Dr. Sheldon Cooper!" She said, "Wow. I've heard of you. The Stevenson, right?"
He looked at her, really seeing her for the first time, "Yes. I am the youngest ever to win it."
"I know!" She said. Sheldon immediately felt more comfortable. Praise for his brilliance always had that effect on him. His tense shoulders relaxed and he smiled at her.
As a modern woman in the Information Age, a smart man was a sexy man for Leslie. She had always wanted to meet the prodigal son of science, Dr. Cooper, someone her age but shining already so bright in his field of work. She was delighted to find that, though a little too lanky for her previous tastes, he was attractive in his own strange way.
"I've been accepted to study for my doctorate here," she said.
"Congratulations, what field?"
"Not my cup of tea, but whatever works for you."
"Oh, I don't think theoretical physics could hold my attention long enough—I like to play with lasers and things too much."
"Careful with those things. I built my own once and burned down the shed."
Leslie laughed, "I haven't found my way around, yet. Care to show me?"
He paused to consider and then shrugged, "I suppose."
By the end of the workday, they were in a fierce debate. Leslie did not believe in String Theory, preferring Quantum Loop Gravity. Sheldon stubbornly refused to accept her arguments, and in doing so adopted a little more of an East Texas drawl and more than a little of a condescending attitude towards her. For the sake of keeping the debate civil, she chose not to let his attitude anger her, though she did let her suppressed wounded pride fuel her arguments.
She attacked with structured scientific arguments, coming from a place of logic and fact. In school, she had been on the debate teams and had often received praises and trophies for her passion. Dr. Cooper, however, was not moved by any of it and so four hours later was still opposed.
It had been a very long time since she met someone who held out so long against her debating skills. She liked it.
In his counter arguments, Sheldon, too, used strong scientific evidence and supportive logic and facts. However, he did not stop it there, adding in on top of it a dose of condescension,
"Leslie, you do not even have your PhD yet, you have no idea what you're talking about!" and a stubborn refrain of a meaningless tautology such as,
"It is true because it true Leslie!"
When the question of evidence was put before him, he said, "The lack of evidence as of now is moot. Like Edison or Einstein, I know it is possible. I know the evidence is there. It is merely waiting for a brilliant and unsurpassed mind—i.e. me—to find it, to unlock its mysteries and present it to a world of narrow-minded people like you."
"Narrow-minded?" Leslie exploded, throwing her cautious debate techniques aside, "You are calling me narrow minded?"
"Yes." He said.
Leslie bit back a retort and reminded herself that it would put them into a downward spiral. A true debater took higher roads when the opposition stooped to name-calling. Besides, scientific theories were all good fun to her, like trying to predict the end of an epic series.
In the pause that followed Leslie's momentary slip and Sheldon's arrogant answer, Leslie noticed that Sheldon's long stride had taken them to the bus stop outside the University.
"Are you going home?" she asked.
"Yes." He said again, in exactly the same way.
"You're just going to give up?"
"I didn't give up. I won."
She laughed, "You wish."
The bus pulled to a stop in front of them, but Sheldon turned his back on it, looking down at her with a glint in his eye and a smirk on his lips, "You disagree?"
"Yes." She said, mimicking him.
He gave her a look of haughty derision. He'd done it so many times that day that she'd begun to think of it as a kind of joke of his; a subtle tease, a dare to defy the Stevenson. She had no idea he was literally ridiculing her. "Leslie, I've given you unarguable evidence for String Theory, it baffles me that you still hold onto your generally wrong thesis."
The bus driver asked if they were getting on or not. Leslie didn't want him to go yet. She jerked a thumb over her shoulder, "Want to grab some drinks while you continue trying to prove that to me?"
He sighed and headed in that direction, starting back at the very beginning of his argument, quoting it verbatim. This time Leslie led the way while he followed without thought.
He narrowed his lips and looked down his nose at the bar and all of the people in it, but followed her to a table and sat, talking all the while. He sat as he had in the cafeteria, with feet and knees together and elbows tucked in. His messenger bag went into his lap, and he gripped it tightly as he spoke.
Leslie ordered a beer and interrupted him to ask if he would have one.
"I promised my mother I wouldn't drink." He said and his face twitched ever so slightly.
"Just one," She said and ordered one for him. Both of them had to show their IDs, proving they were twenty-one. Sheldon's eye caught hers and he saw that she had just passed that legal barrier by a matter of a few weeks. She put the ID away and he slid his back into in his wallet beside his Batman card and then continued his argument.
Leslie was expertly attacking his points of argument by the time the beers came. Sheldon took a polite sip, immediately disliked the taste and sat it back down. However, when it was his turn to argue, he began absently taking a sip here and there. It was not long before he began to loosen up.
Leslie finished her second in the time it took Sheldon's amber liquid to reach the two-thirds point of his glass. However, he already seemed to be tipsier than she was. So, she thought, he's a lightweight; a very lightweight. She found that endearing. Already he was drastically different. His Texan drawl was even more evident, he smiled more, and—she had not thought it was possible—he refrained from haughty condescension even less.
With two beers warming her gut, she found it harder to cling to her debating morals and so when his arrogant quips stung, she stung back—and in the traditional Winkle Woman Way, she stung harder.
Knowing nothing about the skinny, Texan physicist outside of his work, his credentials, and the handful of OCD habits she had noticed during the day, (which she was not going to attack because OCD was not a joke) she attacked mostly his work and his debating skills. He attacked back insulting her intelligence and beliefs.
"String Theory is ridiculous!" She finally exploded, swooping down to his level in just eight syllables, after draining her forth class. Sheldon was taking larger sips of a second. Already it was down to half way. Though his messenger bag remained safely in his lap, he no longer gripped it or even noticed it at all, and his shoulders and elbows had loosened considerably.
He wiped the back of a hand across his lips and launched, for the third time, right back to the very beginning of his argument, repeating the words verbatim as if they would work the third time when they failed twice already. However, he only got halfway through the second sentence when he stopped, took a gulp of his beer and then said,
"String Theory is beautiful." His drawl was beginning to slur now, and he held onto his beer as tightly as he had the messenger bag. "It's like the mythological unicorn of science, a magnificent beast of untold glory. Only the noble and strong of heart dare to shoulder the quest of trying to prove her—to catch her, if you will."
Leslie tried to frown at him but could not stop smiling.
He was not looking at her. His blue eyes were unfocused, seeing the thing that he referred to as a she not in a sexist way, but in an almost reverent way. He drank again. "When I do prove it," He said, "I will be pushing the very boundaries between science and magic, erasing them, even. Imagine understanding our universe in this way. Connecting to something bigger, something that so many ignorant people, such as you, refused even to believe existed but there it will be; fact. What goes up must come down; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; all matter is made of strings."
Leslie had forgotten her beer and was staring at Sheldon. He did not notice.
"Nothing is better than the laws of Physics, don't you agree? Physics is solid, disreputable facts that we can lean on in a world of doubt. If I could place String Theory among them, then we can all let her carry us through the next even bigger questions, the ones that will blind us and terrify us. She will be the constant to comfort us as humankind's understanding of this universe progresses even further into the wild and unknown. Mystery and possibility will shroud us, but she will be the same…It would be like looking into the face of what my mother calls God. I understand only one other thing in the world to be like that."
"What's that?" Leslie asked. He looked at her for the first time since beginning this unusual tangent and said simply, as if he were answering a simple division question, "Sex."
Heat filled her face and her stomach filled with butterflies. She accepted the offer happily, leaning in and kissing him squarely, firmly on the lips. She had heard plenty of lines before in her life since beginning college, but none of them had worked so easily—and certainly never on the first date. This one took the cake, even if String Theory was a dead end.
When Leslie pulled out of her kiss, Sheldon smirked at her, "Bazinga." He said and laughed.
She laughed, too, and kissed him again, this time her tongue flickered between his lips. He pulled away. "Now you're being silly," And he stood, heading for the door. After taking a few steps, he looked over his shoulder, smiling boyishly, swaying ever so slightly, "You're not staying here are you?"
So Dr. Cooper preferred to get right to business. That was fine with her. She stood and followed.
Sheldon felt like laughing. He did not fully understand why, but that was currently not bothering him as much as it typically would have. Leslie fell into step beside him, bumping into him, or maybe he was bumping into her. It was hard to tell because the world seemed to be uncomfortable on its axis and would not stay steady.
His mind was racing with where to start in studying this phenomenon while he simultaneously began making an alphabetical list of the equipment he would need.
Leslie was holding his hand, perhaps to keep herself steady. At one corner, he began to turn left but she pulled right, "Let's go to my place."
He frowned and shrugged, "Only if it's not far."
She laughed. "It's not."
She led him into an apartment building and he followed her in, in order to fulfill the cultural convention of walking a friend to the door. In the elevator, she pushed him against the wall and kissed him again, and deeply. Her mouth tasted like beer and mango-flavored Chap Stick.
He stood very still as she did this. His brother once told him that when a girl did this, all he had to do was do what she was doing to him back and "before you know it, she'll make a man out of you, Shelly," whatever that meant; he already was a man. He tried to move his lips as she was moving hers. He was surprised by how nice it felt.
The elevator dinged and Leslie pulled him down the hall to a door, which she opened with a key and pulled him in after her. Inside was neat and tidy and smelled like spring flowers—he had already caught wafts of the smell from her clothing. The lines were straight and clear. The furniture was practical; the table tops virtually clear, and books filled shelves on the walls.
Once inside, she kissed him again. He was aware of where kissing often led, he had blundered in on roommates in the middle of the act many a time through his college experience, not to mention it was a common aspect of all modern movies. Sitting on her couch with her straddling him, he broke a kiss and said,
"I should go."
"Why?" She asked, running fingers through his hair. He laughed, again not really understanding where the feeling was coming from. She kissed him again. He broke it and tried to dislodge her seat from his lap.
"Don't you want to?" She asked him, sliding hands down his chest and pushing fingers under his belt to undo the clasp.
She kissed his neck. His hands were shaking. She kissed him deeply and pressed into him. She broke the kiss when he began trembling all over.
"Are you okay?"
"Never did this before," he slurred.
She blinked, "Never?"
He shook his head, a blush creeping up his neck. She kissed him sweetly, "It's easy." She spoke with her lips still against his.
"But," He said, sounding a little like a child grasping for reasons why he shouldn't cross the street without holding an adult's hand, "Should we?"
"You mean because I'm a student? There's nothing in the rules that says faculty can't date grad students." She was kissing his neck again. She had put his hands on her hips and his belt was gone. Her fingers were sliding under the elastic hem of his underwear. He grabbed her wrists and met her eyes.
"I meant because we've only just met." He said softly with his East Texan drawl. Suddenly she was tired of his questions, tired of anything delaying what she wanted. She only replied, "Well, I could debate it with you," and her whole hand disappeared under the elastic hem, "but I would rather continue our first debate. Make me see String Theory as you do."
He did not understand her mind's leap back to that debate which he had once again assumed he had won, but due to the things she was doing, he forgot to ask questions.
AN: leave a review, even if it is just a sentence fragment, or a line that you liked :)
Also, our understanding of String Theory, and everything else that our lovable group understands so well, is only what has been said/implied on the show. If it would not cripple the story, we would simply put [science stuff] when appropriate, alas, good prose does not work that way…