The Star-Crossed Glitch
I. Hide and seek
The Girl with the Red Straw Hat was extremely short and slight; if he didn't look closely, he might've mistaken her for a child. Long dark hair billowed about her shoulders, seeming as soft and light as gossamer riding upon a barely perceptible breeze. Her fair skin appeared to have a rosy tint, but since the hat brim shadowed her face, he couldn't be too sure. She had big, dark eyes that were almost completely obscured from view.
Her clear, high-pitched voice echoed in the softly-lit and misty surroundings.
"I took something of yours, Sheldon Cooper. If you can find out what it is, then maybe you can have it back."
What a curious dream. Sheldon mused, yawning, as he looked out the car window, seeing but not really noticing the familiar places that marked the route to work that he and Leonard took every day.
He didn't believe in a higher being, but if he did, he might've taken that presence in his dream as one. In any case, the dream had been disturbing enough that upon waking up, he had been seized by an urge to examine his prized possessions. Nothing had been amiss, but the unscheduled activity nearly made him late for the day.
"Yes?" He jolted out of his reverie and turned to Leonard.
"Are you okay?" His roommate asked.
"Yes. I appreciate your concern." He rubbed at his bleary eyes. If he had been the type to drink coffee, one cup probably wouldn't have been enough. That unsettling dream had made for substandard nighttime rest.
"You seem really tired."
He gave Leonard a dubious look. The man might be Sheldon's best friend, but he had a tendency to state the obvious, which had been intensified by his on-off dalliance with their blonde neighbor Penny. "Yes, as anyone can tell by my little motions today, I am. I'm tired and sleepy. This is due to the fact that I had a nightmare. But this is nothing that I can't overcome with focus and determination."
His friend nodded, parking in their usual spot. "May Kolinahr serve you well today."
"You almost sound sarcastic, but I'll ignore that and direct all my energies toward staying awake." He stepped out of the car.
"See you at lunch!"
Without turning, he waved and continued walking into the building. What if the thing I lost belonged here or was somehow involved with my job? Sheldon quickened his pace. He had no particular loyalty toward Caltech, but he had a respectable position and the affiliation with the university would serve him well in his goal of winning the Nobel Prize. Upon reaching his office, he had the shock of his life.
His nameplate was nowhere to be found. Empty screw holes and a more preserved surface marked the place where it once had been. Rajesh Koothrapali's nameplate was still in its usual place.
"Oh hi, Sheldon."
At the familiar voice, he spun round and grabbed Raj by the shoulders. "What's happening?"
"Sheldon, please don't freak out," the astrophysicist said. "I destroyed your nameplate."
He visualized an image of his shattered plans and he glowered at Raj, yelling through gritted teeth: "Why would you do that?"
"Sorry, sorry!" The other man cried, clasping his hands together pleadingly. "I didn't mean to, it was an accident. It's my new girlfriend's experiment. She tried stimulating the macho, alpha male instincts in me, but I just ended up with the violent and destructive part, instead of the lady's man part." He grinned, round black eyes sparkling in excitement. "She really thinks that with her knowledge of the human brain, she can actually cure me of my selective mutism. Isn't that great?"
"Yes, yes, that doesn't concern me," Sheldon interrupted. "What do you plan to do with my nameplate?"
"I ordered a replacement. It should be attached to the door by tomorrow."
"What should be in the first place is my original nameplate remaining on the door," he regarded his officemate sternly as they entered the office. "What a shock it would be for the eager minds of the world to find Dr. Sheldon Cooper's name absent from his designated door, the gateway to the working space of one of the greatest minds of the 21st Century!"
"Sorry…" Raj shuffled to his massive desk, hanging his head sheepishly. "Look, I'll buy you sashimi for lunch to make up for it."
Sheldon settled on his chair and crossed his arms. "Bribery? Really, this is the action you resort to after carelessly causing chaos to the world of Physics by eradicating the mark of Sheldon Cooper's physical presence? I only eat high-grade tuna, half fatty and half regular."
Raj nodded and gave him a thumbs-up sign. "Noted. Now we're good? Because I wanted to ask you something… the others said I needed to ask you… about dinner tonight…"
"Get to the point," he snapped.
"Well… I wanted to bring my girlfriend," Raj blurted out. "I know you don't like changing routine or adding new people to your social circle, but she's my girlfriend and I think she should know my friends—"
"Raj, as long she doesn't sit in my spot and there's enough food to feed her in addition, then you can bring your girlfriend. Heck, you can bring two girlfriends."
Raj's face broke into the biggest, brightest smile he had in a while. "That's great! I'm going to text her right now. You know Sheldon, I'm sure you'll like her and I'm not just saying that."
"I doubt it," he sniffed. He uncapped a black marker and poised his hand before the whiteboard. "Now that's settled, let's get to work."
Sheldon would never admit it, but he was relieved that Raj was joining their group dinner again. He informed Leonard of Raj's upcoming presence when they reached the apartment. His roommate was silent, pondering. "And let me tell you," he added hastily, "that Raj is bringing a lady friend along."
"Really?" Leonard raised both eyebrows and nudged up his glasses. "A girlfriend, huh… good for him. Well, I'm looking forward to dinner and meeting this new addition to our social circle."
"No Leonard, Raj is bringing her today only so we can make her acquaintance. She won't be added to our social circle until she has been weighed, measured, and found acceptable," Sheldon corrected.
"As long as Raj wants to bring her to our group activities, we're going to have to make her feel welcome," Leonard said. "She's his girlfriend and he's our friend. It's only natural."
Friend. Sheldon watched as Leonard prepared the necessities for dinner. As far as he could tell, his roommate appeared to be at ease. Good.
Relations within their group had been strained since Penny and Raj had one night as bedmates, during the time that Leonard had been dating Raj's sister, Priya, who had since returned to India. The conflict culminated in a massive fight during which Penny revealed that they didn't really engage in coitus. Following those events, Penny was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning and Raj took to avoiding the group out of shame. Leonard had privately told Sheldon that he didn't think the lack of actual coitus was relevant, the intent was there nonetheless, but considering Penny's current alcohol-dependent state, he never pursued the issue.
There was a knock on the door. It swung open and Penny burst in, cheerfully calling: "Hi everyone!" She started upon seeing the empty living room and the two occupants in the kitchen. "Oh… no one else is here yet."
"Hi…" Leonard muttered, the corners of his mouth turning up in an expression that looked more like a grimace.
"Hey…" Penny tugged at her hair, fiddling with the ends.
Sheldon bounced uneasily on his feet, wishing he was someplace else. Or at least, that there was somebody else in the room, somebody who could do something about the uncomfortable stand-off.
As if by the hand of a deity, but of course it was mere coincidence, Howard and Bernadette entered the apartment, beaming at them all. "Isn't this exciting, Raj is bringing his girlfriend!" Howard announced. The happy couple exchanged looks of what Sheldon thought might be relief.
After the entire fiasco, it had been Howard and Bernadette who took it upon themselves to integrate Raj back in the group, but their friend's presence was scarce. He never joined them in the cafeteria during lunch, and seldom attended group dinners. He came to gaming nights only after Sheldon raged at him for destroying the ideal team numbers. But perhaps now that he was pairbonded things would be different…
"A girlfriend!" Penny grinned. She didn't appear to be jealous or bothered at all. Sheldon took it as a good sign. "Tell us about this girl. How did they meet?"
Sheldon helped Leonard prepare the coffee table, while everyone sat down their usual places and Howard began the tale: "It's a funny story actually. She was supposed to be Sheldon's date."
Sheldon took his spot on the couch and frowned at Howard. "You mean in that one evening you unsuccessfully attempted to blackmail me with a hidden dirty sock, and I retaliated by thoroughly cleaning the apartment and finding the sock, which I then disposed of in the incinerator?"
"Yes, that one. Because Sheldon didn't have the grace to show up, Raj and I ended up having coffee with her—that is, we had coffee and she had tepid water—and we exchanged numbers. She was very interested in Raj's selective mutism and asked him to call her if he would allow her to stick electrodes to his head. Of course, he never did, until nearly a year ago, at that time—" They all avoided each others' eyes and Howard coughed. "Anyway, after some experiments, they started going out and they've been getting along okay, strangely enough. The way she is, I thought the only guy who she could possibly get along with would be…" For some reason, Howard stole a furtive glance at Sheldon, leaving him puzzled."Well, definitely not Raj."
Leonard and Penny exchanged confused glances. "What do you mean?" She asked.
Howard and Bernadette shared knowing looks. "She's… very unique," she said. When the other two continued staring agape at her, she added: "You'll see what I mean later."
At that moment there was a knock on the door. "They're here!" Leonard whispered excitedly.
"Thanks Captain Obvious, why are you whispering?" Penny whispered back.
The door opened and two people stepped inside. One was their exotic friend, Rajesh Koothrapali. And the other…
Sheldon felt as if his heart had jumped to his throat.
Her long, glossy brown hair swayed against her shoulders as she glanced round at them. Even through her glasses, he could discern that her eyes were more jade than emerald. She had an aloof, slightly haughty expression on her face, but when she beamed at them, her wide smile was utterly beguiling.
Raj announced: "Guys, I would like all of you to meet my girlfriend, Amy Farrah Fowler."
Author's Notes: This was actually the very first Shamy fanfic idea I got, but I purposely put it off for happier fic ideas since I simply prefer humorous and true-to-show show fics. But in the end, this rather angsty AU idea forced me to write it. I guess I needed to channel my less-than-happy Shamy feels into something productive. For anyone reading this, I would like to recommend reading wearyattwenty's one-shot (available in Tumblr); it could almost be a prologue for this fic. (We came up with the idea separately, but it kind of fits. Eerie, huh?)