Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster

Obviously, once season 6 starts almost all of this will have to be considered AU. I will try to keep everyone in character with valid reasons for anything that would be considered OOC. And it will happen, because I won't lie, this Shamy story has a happy, unambiguous ending. Everyone else is in here, too. It's really impossible to separate them from the group without placing them on a desert island. (Anyone wanna write that fic?)This will move slowly since I'm writing several chapters at once to make sure everything stays consistent and in control, but things (writing and relationship-wise) will speed up as time goes by. This isn't easy for me, so feedback is appreciated, I've addressed every critical thing you reviewers have asked about before and my stories are better for it. So, here we go!

Meanwhile, Back on the Planet…

Sheldon was trying his best to completely focus his attention on the possible equations dancing across his mind and the ones spelled out in solid colors on his white board, but Raj's persistent moping was making it practically impossible. Sheldon cringed at the sound of yet another sigh but knew by now that commenting on it would only invite tedious sharing. Although Raj had Sheldon's old office to himself now, since Howard had lifted off into space his work had steadily decreased to the point where he wouldn't get anything done unless Sheldon was there. Sheldon was beginning to wonder whether he should have let Raj get deported after all. After several attempts Sheldon had finally learned lectures wouldn't fix this problem. As long as Raj tried to work on the dark matter problem Sheldon was willing to let his inefficiency today pass without a lecture. But when Sheldon heard the soft sound of Raj surreptitiously checking his iPhone again he'd had enough.

"If you don't plan on working why did you even come to work?"

Raj dropped the phone to the desk and at least had the decency to look embarrassed. "I'm sorry. You know I already tried taking a mental health day on Friday. I just ended up listening to Celine Dion and eating all day." He tried slipping a thumb beneath his noticeably tight waistband. "I've already gained five pounds." He sighed again and stared out the window at the sky. "Anything could happen up there. What if he gets hit by an asteroid or a solar flare?"

Sheldon looked at Raj contemptuously. "You're being ridiculous and you know it."

"I guess."

"Space is far too dangerous to require anything as dramatic as an asteroid to kill a fragile human being. A simple pebble traveling at standard velocities would take them out just as effectively and would be impossible to see coming." Raj's mouth fell open. "There's nothing you can do about it by surfing the internet or hacking Russian spy satellites. You don't even speak Russian."

"No, but if I get caught I don't have to worry about the Russians deporting me. Besides you can figure out a lot just from the context."

"Why do you insist on talking to me about this?"

"I was just hoping for a little empathy." He sighed again. "You're right. I don't know what I was thinking." He looked at his phone again. "I wish I could talk to Bernadette about it."

"I wish you would, too."

Raj crossed his arms and looked at Sheldon defensively. "You're not so perfect either, Mr. Smarty-Pants. You started going on mental road trips before Howard even left. You stopped in the middle of a sentence when you were calculating the random motion of virtual particles in a vacuum and stared off into space for twenty minutes." Sheldon turned bright red. "Admit it! You have feelings in there somewhere."

"I was not thinking about Howard! Even if his death on this trip is likely, especially with his trans-idiopathic arrhythmia. Unlike you, I can control my mind." His face twitched. "If I choose to deviate from my train of thought it's for a valid reason."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, really." Sheldon turned away and rubbed at his twitching eye. "And unlike you I don't have a problem getting back to work on the main problem when I decide to return to it."

"But I can't be…" Raj stopped as someone knocked on the door and stepped inside without waiting for an answer. It was a pretty brunette. From the look of the papers in her hands, likely another grad student, or possibly a doctoral candidate. She also had a moony, slightly crazed smile that Sheldon's friends had come to recognize from a mile off.

"Dr. Cooper? I'm sorry to interrupt but your office hours aren't posted."

"That's because I don't have any."

"Oh."

"You did happen to pick a good time, though," he said as he looked at the now blessedly silent Raj. "What is it? I'm listening."

"My name's Joan Verne." She held out her hand but Sheldon ignored it. She tried not to show it bothered her. "I was wondering if I could talk to you some about the project I plan to work on next year," Sheldon immediatley began looking bored and the girl changed tactics. "Or pick your brain on how you developed your theory of … " Raj tuned out and picked up his phone again while the girl started spouting off the standard ass-kissing (well-received) and flirting (unnoticed). She hadn't even looked at Raj. It was unbelievable. He'd been in People Magazine! Dr. Siebert called him his rising star. Well, he had before his research ran into a dead end. But just because he had a few sexual harassment complaints against him none of the women at the university even tried to talk to him anymore. In the meantime, the pasty, stick-up-the-ass, pinhead he worked with (not for!) kept attracting science groupies left and right like he was Justin Timberlake. Sure they were all nut jobs but that didn't stop Raj from feeling a little jealous. He scrolled down the NASA website and found his thoughts wandering again. Bernadette probably wasn't getting any crap from her boss for worrying. Just because she was married to the little twerp no one thought that was weird. He wished once again he could talk to her about it. He was sure she would understand. But he couldn't talk to her without drinking. And frankly, he still couldn't trust himself around her drunk, not without Howard there. When he heard giggling he looked up and started listening again. Joan was blushing. "No, I think you'll find I don't have any problem getting on my knees." Raj didn't know what he'd missed but he was sure it couldn't be what it sounded like. Joan tilted her head and twirled a piece of her hair. "You know, if it's not presumptuous, I'd love to buy you lunch sometime."

Sheldon looked at his watch. "Very well. I'll be in the cafeteria in 20 minutes." Raj sat up alarmed. She gushed a little more, but Sheldon had already stopped paying attention and was looking at his board again.

As soon as she shut the door behind her, Raj spoke up. "Dude, what the hell are you doing?"

Sheldon sighed. "Trying to get back to work but you seem determined to waste my time as well as your own today."

"You can't do that stuff anymore. You have a girlfriend now!"

"Why on earth why should dating Amy keep me from working?"

"I'm not talking about your damned whiteboard! I'm talking about that girl!"

Sheldon shook his head at him condescendingly. "I'm not doing anything. She's buying me lunch. And after we're done for the day she's offered to scrub this office down." He looked at the crumbled piece of paper Raj missed throwing into the trash can. "There's no need to live like animals."

Raj stood up and began to pace. "Yes, and next she's picking up your drycleaning and trimming your hangnails and reading physics articles to you while you're on the toilet to save time."

Sheldon looked genuinely confused. "What does having a girlfriend have to do with any of that? Amy's made it clear none of that is her job. That's what people like Joan are for. It's natural that some people choose to show their appreciation of genius properly. In fact, it would be cruel to deny her the opportunity. I'm sure Amy would agree with me."

"I don't think so, man."

"Well, you can discuss it with her at lunch if it bothers you so much."

Raj stopped pacing. "Amy's coming here today?"

"Yes, she's delivering tissue samples from her experiments on the early stages of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to the neurology department. I admit explaining social dynamics is not my strong suit, but I'm sure she can set you straight. She has a remarkable insight into human behaviour."

"She's going to be sitting there while some other woman practically hand feeds you and gushes about how wonderful you are?"

"I just said she was coming. Why do you insist on repeating the obvious? You're starting to sound like just like Leonard." He turned from the whiteboard and looked at Raj for a second. "You'll have to whisper into Leonard's ear if you want to talk to her. I refuse to tolerate your moist breath on my earlobe."

"Sheldon, are you insane?" Sheldon opened his mouth but Raj cut him off. "Don't say it! Sheldon, I don't care how 'special' your 'relationship' is. Girlfriends don't stand for this kind of thing."

What Raj was saying finally penetrated. Sheldon stopped trying to work and turned to fully face Raj. "Are you saying Amy will be jealous?"

"Yes!"

"Oh." Sheldon stroked his chin as he thought about it. "That could work."

"What?"

"Yes," Sheldon nodded. "The most likely scenario is, of course, mine. Amy will not mind at all, leaving me to continue to enjoy her intellectual stimulation while a new disposable peon tends me on the road to greatness." Sheldon raised a finger. "However, on the off-chance that you're on to something, Amy could become upset. If she then chooses, in a fit of jealousy, to 'cause a scene' to demonstrate her status as girlfriend before a perceived rival, I will then point out the illogic of her actions, publicly shaming her. If she is very upset, she may even attempt to hold my hand, at which point I can cite her for violation of the relationship agreement." Sheldon grinned widely. "She then begs for forgiveness, and I am back on top in this relationship." He pumped his fist in excitement. "Bazinga! Either way, I get a free lunch."

Raj pulled on his hair and shook his head. "Dude, that's a bucketful of crazy talk. That is not what's going to happen."

Sheldon snorted dismissively. "You don't even have a girlfriend, Raj. Why should I value your judgment above my own?"

"Have you considered this? She could just break up with you. For as much as you whine about her you freak out whenever you think you're going to lose her. Or worse, she could just pretend she's OK with it and then slip Mad Cow in our food when no one's looking." He shivered. "Watching us and smiling that creepy smile of hers as the years tick by before we finally realize what's she's done. Too late to say you're sorry, too late."

Sheldon shook his head in exasperation. "Your mother obviously never had you tested. Enough of this malarkey! Do you think you could manage to get fifteen minutes of actual work done before lunch? It's bad enough you've allowed your emotional state to completely override the barely sufficient work ethic you had in the first place. I'm already babysitting you. I shouldn't have to listen you babble on all day."

"I resent that".

"I don't care." Sheldon turned back to his board. Raj leaned against the desk next to him and made a real effort to concentrate. After five minutes went by he decided he should text Leonard a heads up, but Sheldon shot him another withering look when he reached for his phone. They spent the rest of the time in silence as the minutes slowly ticked by to lunch.