Written for a VD challenge. Last time I wrote for a challenge...well, better left buried and forgotten. This is finished and will be in 4 parts culminating on that most august of days...Thursday.


April 2013

Apartment 4A

Saturday 8:00PM

Sheldon gathered his soiled laundry and performed the obligatory sorting between whites and colors, and then set the laundry basket aside and took a sip of his Mountain Dew, smacking his lips quietly in utter satisfaction.

He had the apartment to himself and reveled in the sense of isolation it provided. Leonard was eating dinner at Penny's apartment and he was free from his whining and sniping. Since getting back with Penny, his not-so-subtle jabs at Sheldon had seemed to intensify until there was a palpable friction between the two of them.

Noting the time, he finished his refreshing beverage and rinsed the can out in the sink and then crushed it slowly with his fingers until it resembled a gaily-colored hockey puck and tossed it into the recycle bin. He stooped and picked up his laundry basket and headed down to the laundry room exactly on time.

He was preparing his wash when Penny rushed in and hugged him from behind, babbling about how happy she was and how she wanted him to be the first to know.

"Sheldon, Leonard asked me to marry him." She held up her left hand and Sheldon saw the small diamond ring that Leonard had picked up at a pawnshop.

He looked at her beaming face, her beautiful smile, and quashed his feelings of despair and put on what his momma called his non-smile smile. It didn't quite reach his eyes and if Penny'd looked closely she would have seen how hard it was for him to maintain it.

"Congratulations, Penny. I hope you'll be very happy." He smiled his non-smile smile again and then turned back to his laundry, grabbing everything and stuffing into one machine.

"Um, sweetie, you didn't separate the colors from the whites."

"I've washed the colored garments so many times that I sincerely doubt that any dye remains that might stain my whites. Besides one must change with the times even though it makes little or no sense."

"See, honey, it's quicker this way. You're finally getting your act together. Well, I just wanted you to be the first to know, Moon Pie. You've been my best friend for so long…"

"Penny, please don't call me…oh, never mind." Penny just laughed and stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek.

"I've got to tell Amy!" and she was gone, off to spread the good news of her impending nuptials.

"God DAMN it!" His box of Tide burst against the wall, the fine powder creating a suspension of soap particles that clogged the air. His bottle of fabric softener crashed against the far wall followed by his folding machine that shattered into various shards of plastic.

"Hey, buddy, are you alright?" Leonard looked over at Sheldon who hadn't said a thing on the way to CalTech. Other than 'Good morning, Leonard' and 'The light is green, Leonard', he hadn't engaged in inane conversation that normally drove Leonard straight up the wall.

This morning had been different. No idle conversation, no chatter, nothing but silence.

"So, Penny told you the news?" He squinted over at his roommate, his glasses rising on his nose in inquiry.

"Yes. She will be a beautiful bride. Just keep her and Rajesh away from the open bar at the reception. You don't wish a repeat of that night." They both remembered the night Penny had slept with Raj and the pain they both felt at her walk of shame.

"Well, we're together now so if she ends up drunk at our reception it'll still be me who ends up in bed with her."

Neither said anything for the remainder of the drive until Leonard turnrf off the engine in his parking spot and said, "See you at lunch, buddy," and started to walk off but stopped when Sheldon said, "Not today. I've scheduled interviews for my new assistant throughout the noon hour."

"Sheldon, since when do you rate an assistant?" Leonard was immediately envious of the man he quietly referred to as 'Doctor Mantis' when discussing Sheldon's latest antics in the faculty lunchroom.

"Since Dr. Gabelhauser realized that performing the more mundane tasks associated with my position robbed me of vital time I could far better spend doing research and lessening the time remaining until I bring a Nobel Prize home to CalTech."

"That's nice, Sheldon. Just don't set your standards too high. Not many people will be able to handle your unique management style." What he meant to say was 'not many people will be able to tolerate your idiot ways'.

"True. But one must choose from the available pool as set forth by Human Resources." His voice carried the scorn he felt for the HR department.

"Listen, I was thinking…with Penny and I engaged and living just across the hall from one another that it would make sense if we simply moved in together in her apartment. We could save money for a decent honeymoon and I'm sure you'll be able to find someone to replace me who won't be bringing home beautiful blondes who engage in very loud coitus."

Sheldon sighed and shook his head. Another change in his environment and another challenge to be met.

"I think you should do whatever you have to in order to make Penny happy, Leonard. I'll post an advert in the University on-line classifieds immediately."

"Really? You're okay with this? I mean, I thought you'd…object or throw the Roommate Agreement in my face. I'm impressed with how well you're handling a constantly shifting paradigm in your life, Sheldon. Bravo!"

Sheldon stopped and uncharacteristically laid a large hand on Leonard's shoulder just as they reached the point at which Leonard normally turned down another corridor to the Experimental Physics labs.

"I would never do anything to impede or obstruct any act which makes Penny as happy as she was on Saturday night. Or you, for that matter. Have a good and productive day recreating the cutting edge works of others, Leonard."

His veiled jab at Leonard went unnoticed or appreciated but that was just as well. What he really meant to say was 'I want her to be happy and if she thinks she can be happy with someone like you then so be it'.

Leonard almost skipped down the corridor to his assigned lab. He had avoided a potentially nasty situation with Sheldon and he was already planning on telling Penny the good news. They hadn't discussed it but then it made good financial sense and he would poo-poo any of her objections and get his way.

The first two candidates were totally unacceptable for reasons that should have immediately disqualified them in the preliminary interviews conducted by that horrid woman in HR.

He found his 'jewel in the ruff' in his third interview with a post-grad student named Alex Jensen. Her biography suggested a strong work ethic, a dedication to science and best of all, no outside interests other than yoga. Sheldon often meditated using techniques found in the Kolinahr as espoused by his personal hero, Spock, and thus heartily approved of her one and only 'outside activity'.

Alex was short in stature and could be considered aesthetically pleasing having no obvious physical deformities such as a vestigial tale or 6 fingers or large black moles sporting hairs (Howard would have called her 'hot' but that term never entered Sheldon's mind). She was obviously intelligent since her comments regarding his research being 'cutting edge' and 'revolutionary' were well researched and delivered with a certain fawning adoration that reminded him of Ramona Nowitzki but such comments were only a restatement of the truth and thus dismissed as flattery.

"The job is yours, Ms. Jensen. Here is a list of tasks that must be performed as well as my schedule for the next three months. Inasmuch as I'm your advisor for your thesis, we'll meet weekly and review your progress. Your office is across the hall and you may decorate it any way you wish so long as it doesn't violate good taste or common sense. That will be all."

He dismissed her from his mind and didn't notice her still sitting until she said, "Alex, Sheldon. My name is Alex. I do not care much for Ms. Jensen."

"So noted. And my name is Dr. Cooper, Alex. Good day." He turned in his swivel chair, grabbed a marker and made a notation on one of his whiteboards, already dismissing her from his mind.

She turned red in embarrassment and hurriedly left his office. He frightened her with his intense stare and penetrating questions for which he seemed to have preconceived answers and measured hers against his. Still, he was her faculty advisor for her doctoral thesis and they would be spending a lot of time together.

'I'll wear him down with my efficiency and competence. Working with the foremost mind in theoretical particle physics – the things he can teach me! I'll have my own Nobel Prize before I'm 35.'

Just as she was opening up the door to leave, Leonard and Raj walked in, intending to ask him to join them for lunch. Leonard still felt ill at ease after this morning's conversation, wondering when the 'Bazinga' would erupt from Sheldon's mouth. He wasn't in the mood for another Mock Trial over his breach of contract.

Sheldon turned at the disturbance to his thoughts and glared at the trio standing in the doorway going through introductions. He intended to work through lunch since his appetite seemed nonexistent since Saturday night.

"If the three of you wouldn't mind taking your annoying disruption to my already disrupted day elsewhere, I would sincerely appreciate it." He spun back around and resumed making notations on his whiteboard.

"Well, Dr. Hofstadter, perhaps you could show me around the labs and then maybe…lunch?" Her eyes caught his and she tossed her head making her long hair shimmer and dance as if in a breeze.

"Well, um, sure. We were just coming to fetch Sheldon for lunch but since he's being in a pissy mood, you can have lunch with Raj and I."

Sheldon recognized Leonard's tone and bristled at what it meant but he stopped, recognizing that he had no right to any concerns – unless he decided to continue this flirtation so soon after becoming engaged.

'Perhaps I should speak to her about Leonard's 'status' and warn her off. Penny would be upset if she knew how quickly he sought out another notch in his pathetically pristine bedpost.'

He ignored the one 'notch' that mirrored the one in his heart. Penny.

Next: Confrontations