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“This is why California should never have legalized gay marriage.” Raj is clearly trying to sound as cheerful as possible, but Stuart can see the pain in his eyes.

“It’s only fair that everyone should have equal rights to misery,” Stuart replies, fishing another beer out of the cooler and passing it to his friend.

He’s been party to every single fucking step of this whole mess. Howard and Bernadette divorcing over an ongoing disagreement about whether or not to have children that had culminated in Bernadette screeching, “You don’t need to have a child, you are a child!” in the middle of games night and nearly KOing Howard with a sofa cushion.

Howard moving back in with his mother, displacing Stuart back to working retail, not even for himself.

Raj being the good best friend and standing by Howard through the fallout. And, apparently, lying by him as well. Or on him. Or under him. Stuart shakes his head and takes a long pull from his beer. He doesn’t want to think about that.

Howard and Raj beating Sheldon and Amy to the altar, even taking into consideration the endless discussions about whether their surname should go Koothrappali-Wolowitz or Wolowitz-Koothrappali, because gay marriage was so new and didn’t have rules and what did Stuart think anyway? And Stuart had suggested alphabetical order, only to get the coldest glare that he’d ever received from Howard.

And then the whole thing crashing down all over again just three months later, shredding the social group, strewing the remains far and wide like the aftermath of that scene at the end of Fight Club.

Ironically, Stuart’s the only one still living anywhere near where they all started out — in Raj’s old apartment building. In Raj’s old apartment. It turns out that if you don’t have to outlay so much money up front for merchandise, retail wage is almost livable. Which is where they are now, sitting out on the rudimentary balcony, the beer cooler and a half-eaten bag of corn chips between them.

“I don’t know if I even loved him or if I just wanted to believe that he loved me,” Raj muses. “That anyone loved me.”

Stuart nudges Raj’s foot with his own. “I love you, you idiot.”

“Yeah, man, I know, you’re a great friend. I’m sorry I’m just drinking all your beer and crying. You deserve better.”

Stuart just nods and doesn’t bother to qualify his statement any further. Raj is crashing here tonight; they’ll have to share the bed like old times, and he can clarify what he means in the morning, when Raj isn’t drunk and Stuart isn’t shoving corn chips into his mouth to prevent himself from crawling into Raj’s lap and taking the most direct route to making Raj forget about Howard.

He doesn’t want to be the next in the rebound chain.