"Sheldon, the Buy More in Burbank is not going to have lasers."
Sheldon clicks his seatbelt, folds his hands neatly in his lap. "Leonard, I would not have asked you to drive me to Burbank if I had not called ahead and confirmed that they have lasers in stock. This is the closest store I found that actually carries something suitable for Secret Agent Laser Obstacle Chess. Or would you prefer that we go back to playing three-dimensional chess again?"
Leonard's lost the last seven times they've played 3D chess, so no, he really wouldn't. He sighs and starts the car. It's his own fault really. He should know better than to lend Howard anything, especially lasers (or external hard drives, since the last time he did that, it took him two weeks to wipe the last traces of porn and computer viruses off of the damn thing).
He takes Ventura to Golden State, but Sheldon's superior navigational sense gets him turned around and lost in retail hell. Sheldon's snapping at him from the passenger seat about going past the IKEA but turning at the high schoool, until finally he catches a glimpse of green up ahead and they're pulling into the parking lot, where he can twist his hands around the steering wheel until the urge to strangle Sheldon passes.
Inside, Sheldon immediately strides over to the counter to ask where the lasers are, and he doesn't wait to see if Leonard's following him. Leonard shrugs and makes for the new X-Box games, but he's half-watching Sheldon start waving his arms like a crazy person and not watching where he's walking and promptly runs into a wall. Or what feels like a wall, but is actually a person who could easily pass for the Hulk, in his green polo and with arms that are about the circumference of Leonard's head.
"Sorry, I was--"
The man just stares at him, crosses his large meaty arms that could snap him like a twig, and grunts. Leonard shuts up, spins on his heel and goes to track down Sheldon. Who is currently railing at a kid who's just as much of a beanpole as he is, but with an afro and an expression that Leonard has seen more times than he can count. It's half dawning horror and half trying to decide if Sheldon is actually real.
"--I called not two hours ago and specifically requested that someone check the shelves to see if the product I require is in stock, and--"
Leonard decides to take pity on the poor kid, and take it up a pay level. "Hi, yes. Sheldon? Down. Is there someone else we might be able to talk to that can help us?" The kid is shaking his head up and down, and pointing toward the Nerd Herd counter.
"That guy? With the curly hair?" The kid's still nodding. "OK, uh, thanks for the help."
Leonard gets Sheldon by the upper arms and starts steering him towards the middle of the store. "If you can't behave yourself, I will lock you in the car. Don't think I won't. Because I will."
"They have laws against that, Leonard!"
"Yeah, well, I'm pretty sure you're not a dog or a baby, so I should get away scot-free. They'll call it the perfect crime, and they will write many books wondering how I did it. Now shut up and play nice, or no lasers."
The guy at the counter ends up straying to the bemused side of the Sheldon scale, laughing easily and putting his hands up when Sheldon starts to wind up all over again. "Whoa, whoa, big guy. Lasers, I gotcha. Come on, they're over this way. We don't really get a lot of requests for lasers here." He sizes Sheldon up as he swings himself around the counter. "You're not about to blow up Burbank or anything, are you?"
Sheldon grinds to a halt. "I'm not sure whether to be more insulted that your knowledge of the physical capacity of lasers is so lacking, or that you are insinuating that I would be capable of destroying an entire city and its inhabitants."
Leonard rolls his eyes. "No, I think Burbank is safe from the evil clutches of Dr. Horrible over there for another night."
Chuck spins and presents Sheldon with his hand, "Ah, Dr. Horrible! I have admired your work for many months; congratulations on your induction into the Evil League of Evil!"
Sheldon's face begins to twitch, and Leonard has to admit, this guy is pretty awesome. He eyes the name tag on his chest. Chuck. Cool. Chuck's figured out he's not going to get a response from Sheldon, and he's started walking in the direction of the lasers again. He leans over to Leonard and asks quietly enough that Sheldon probably can't hear (although, with his Vulcan hearing, who knows), "So, really. Lasers? You can tell me. I mean," he waves in the general direction of his pocket protector, "Nerd Herd and all."
Leonard chuckles, a little embarrassed. "No, we uh, well, we play this game. Secret Agent Laser Obstacle Chess."
Chuck's eyes light up. "Secret Agent... Laser Obstacle... Chess?"
"Well, the guys tried to make it Secret Agent Laser Obstacle Lunch for awhile but it didn't stick."
Chuck smiles at that, and finally reaches down and heaves a large box off the bottom shelf. He turns and pushes it into Sheldon's chest, and Leonard smirks as Sheldon struggles to wrap his arms around the heavy box.
"Your lasers," Chuck says to Sheldon, then turns to Leonard and continues, "I bet you I would kick ass at that game."
"Unlikely!" Sheldon cuts in. "While Leonard's slight frame and short stature often give him an unfair advantage, your height and build would almost guarantee failure. Not to mention your presence in a retail environment, even one such as this, would indicate the chances of you beating either of us at chess to be infinitesimal."
"I guess you're just going to have to find out then. Consider the gauntlet thrown, Doctor."
Leonard swings open the door to reveal Chuck and the most gorgeous blonde he has ever seen in his life (some part of his brain is chanting you have a girlfriend, her name is Penny, you have a girlfriend, her name is Penny).
Chuck holds up a six-pack of beer and smiles sheepishly. "I couldn't escape. She wants to make sure I don't beat up the other kids on the playground." The blonde pokes him in the arm, and glares, but it's a glare Leonard is familiar with. He gets it from Penny all the time. Real annoyance mixed with reluctant amusement.
"Sorry, sorry. Leonard, this is Sarah. Sarah, Leonard. And back there, the tall one, yes, that's Sheldon." Chuck pauses. "I don't know the other two."
Howard and Raj are sitting on the couch, and Leonard isn't surprised to see a look of utter terror on Raj's face, and probably the most disgusting leer he's ever seen on Howard's.
"The one on the left is Raj; don't be offended if he doesn't talk to you, it's sort of his thing. The one on the right is Howard; don't be offended if he does talk to you."
Sarah smiles, and reaches out to shake his hand. Even her hands are perfect. (Penny.) "I'm pretty sure I can handle myself, but thanks for the heads-up."
"Come on in. I was just going to get Penny over here, I'll be right back."
Chuck prods back at Sarah, "See! Another female. You are safe from our boyish charms and silly antics for another night."
"You were just worried I'd show you all up at Secret Agent Laser Obstacle Chess."
"It's true," Chuck says as Leonard starts to head cross the hall. Leonard hears him announce to the rest of the apartment, "Hello, future victims of Chuck Bartowski! Do not be afraid, I brought you beer to help you deal with your inevitable shame."
Leonard escapes into the quiet safety of Penny's apartment, but even though the closed door, he can hear Sheldon's indignant squawking.
Penny and Sarah are sitting on the far side of the sofa, both cradling beers and only half-watching the boys as they rapid-fire girl talk at each other. Leonard keeps catching Chuck looking at Sarah, then shaking himself back to attention on the game. He himself is having issues trying to resist eavesdropping. Howard's already bombed out, and slunk back into the kitchen after attempting to sit next to Penny and Sarah on the couch, and having Sheldon threaten him with a strike if Howard even thought about sitting in his spot. Raj is mid-lasers now, pants tucked into his socks, face twisted in concentration, and Chuck is gamely singing the Sabre Dance along with them as Raj sneaks through the last few beams and slides over to the chess board. He pumps his fists in victory and the girls give him a polite round of applause.
Chuck rubs his hands together and announces, "I'll go next."
Sarah looks up at that, and her face is schooled into an expression Leonard can't quite read, but Chuck seems to get instantaneously. He winks at her, and says, "Don't worry, Sarah. My secret identity as a spy shall never leave this room."
Sheldon snorts. "As if the United States government would ever place the fate of this country and its intelligence in the hands of someone whose main skills include fixing computers for people too idiotic to comprehend or use Linux."
Chuck shrugs, "My secret is totally safe." And then he proceeds to demolish Sheldon's record time for completing the laser obstacle course by a solid 2 seconds. He does some weird spin thing on his hand, and his hips twist, and Leonard's stopped singing the Sabre Dance due to his jaw dropping. Sheldon is sputtering next to him.
Chuck stands, brushes at his pants, and calmly walks to the chessboard, making his first move.
Sarah's face is in her hands, and Penny is looking at Chuck in a way that deeply unsettles Leonard. Deeply.
Chuck turns and smiles at them. "Oh, did I not mention my extensive background in breakdancing? Funny, I meant to."
Sarah starts laughing on the couch, and Chuck walks over to her and holds his hand out for a high five. She complies, and then Penny reaches up and gives him one too. Leonard can't quite stop the scowl from forming on his face. (Penny spots it, she always does, and she shrugs and blows him a kiss.) Chuck perches on the arm rest next to Sarah and smirks.
"OK, Dr. Horrible--" Chuck starts, then spins to look at the girls on the couch, "--oh, you have a Penny, neat!" Chuck frowns, then adds, "If he ever builds a freeze ray, run." Finally, he turns his focus back on Sheldon. "Alright, big guy, time to put up or shut up."
Leonard is pretty glad the entire thing ends in a draw between Chuck and Sheldon. Chuck beats him every time at the laser obstacle course, no matter how hard Leonard and Howard attempt to make it, but Sheldon's chess skills are pretty impossible to beat. It ends in a sort of grudging respect from Sheldon, and Chuck, well, he's the type who seems to let everything slide off his back. He even gets Sheldon to shake his hand in a gesture of good sportsmanship. Leonard's never managed that one.
Chuck's got his hands full of empty bottles while Leonard places the chess set back in its box. "You know, next time, we should totally have it at my place. Maybe a video game tournament or something? My pal Morgan would be up for it, I'm sure."
Leonard perks up. "That sounds great."
Chuck leans in, conspiratorially. "We can ditch the ladyfolk, have a real guys night. Well, as guylike as we can manage."
Leonard can't really believe Chuck wants to hang out with them again, but he's not about to complain.
This is awesome.