"Large popcorn, two large Cokes, and a large Twizzlers," says the kid behind the counter at the concession stand before Raj can even order. Raj nods and hands over a twenty. He'd be surprised that the kid remembers their order, but he and Howard have been coming to this theatre at least once a week every week for the past two years, and the kid has been here almost as long. Raj feels kind of bad that he doesn't know the kid's name, but not that bad.
Howard went inside to save seats for them, and Raj settles in and gets ready to suffer through ten minutes of commercials before the twenty minutes of previews that come before the movie. He sets the bucket of popcorn in his lap and hands Howard the Twizzlers and a drink. Howard grins and slurps some Coke, making the ice cubes rattle.
It's about twenty minutes into the movie when he and Howard both reach into the bucket at the same time. Their hands bump and they share an amused grin. A few minutes later, Howard offers Raj a Twizzler. Raj takes it with a whispered, "Thanks," and Howard gives him a soft smile, the kind he doesn't usually wear in public.
Five minutes after that, Raj realizes he's on a date. The most comfortable date he's ever been on, but still, it's a date. One he's been going on once a week for at least two years. There's no sexy fun times, but that's about par for the course for most of Raj's dates.
"Oh my God," he says, louder than maybe he should, given that he's sitting in a movie theatre, "Leonard's mother was right."
Howard gives him a puzzled look. "Right about what?" he asks in a whisper much more suitable to the movies.
"We are totally gay married."
Howard chokes on his mouthful of Coke, spraying it all over Raj's sweater vest, which should be gross, and also, it's his favorite sweater vest, but Raj just think it's funny.
"I am so screwed," he mutters while he pounds Howard on the back.
"You wanna leave?" Howard asks when he can talk again.
"Nah. I'm good." Raj can freak out here as easily as anywhere else. They start paying attention to the movie again, and Howard's hand lands on Raj's thigh, and the weird part is, he doesn't freak out at all.
They burst into Sheldon and Leonard's apartment and Raj says, "Howard and I are totally going out."
Sheldon looks up from his laptop, a surprised look on his face. "You mean you didn't know? I know Howard's not very bright--"
"Hey! I have a Masters from MIT!"
"--but I expected better from you, Raj."
Raj opens his mouth to answer and then notices Penny lurking in the kitchen and snaps it shut. She grins at him. "It's okay, Raj. You can do it."
"You can," Sheldon says. "Surely you can find someone with a PhD to date you." Howard says, "Hey!" again, but Sheldon ignores him. "Now, if you're done having your excruciatingly obvious epiphany for the night, I have to get back to explaining the various Terminator timelines and the causality of time travel to Penny."
"Are you including The Sarah Connor Chronicles?" Howard asks.
Penny shrugs and wrinkles her nose. "All I know is the Governator was naked and Linda Hamilton had terrible eighties hair and amazing biceps."
"Yes," Sheldon says.
"Cool." Howard sits down in his usual spot on the couch, so Raj sits next to him.
Leonard comes into the living room and says, "I still think if Fox was only going to give us thirteen episodes of one Whedon-alumnae show this season, it should have been Sarah Connor Chronicles."
"Dollhouse has improved a lot," Howard argues, "and now it has Eliza Dushku, Amy Acker, and Summer Glau."
Raj nods in agreement, and it's just like a hundred other nights they've spent arguing about time travel and causality in Leonard and Sheldon's living room, except now he and Howard are dating. It still doesn't feel as weird as it probably should.
Howard comes back with Raj to his apartment, and they sit on the couch and watch the SG-1 marathon on Syfy (which Raj still thinks is the dumbest rebranding since New Coke). Howard actually yawns and stretches to put an arm around him, and Raj lets him get away with it, mostly because he's too tired to argue. Having epiphanies is kind of exhausting.
Howard leans into the corner of the couch and Raj leans against him. It's warm and comfortable, and it's only a little weird when Howard starts playing the hair on the nape of his neck. It sends a little shiver down Raj's spine and he sits up, surprised.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Just trying to get you in the mood, honey." Howard gives him a wide, desperate grin that Raj knows is supposed to be charming but always comes off as creepy, even if they are dating.
"So are we really going to do this?"
"You got a better offer?"
Raj thinks about this for a moment--his parents want him to go out with his cousin's wife's sister, Aditi, who thinks comic books are morally bankrupt and tried to convince him to burn his collection the last time they spoke (well, she spoke; he listened in dawning horror and escaped to the restroom as soon as was humanly possible), and then there's the fact that for years, he hasn't been able to speak to a woman without alcohol in his system.
"Okay, then. I've got the condoms if you've got the lube." Howard wiggles his eyebrows up and down. Raj thinks that's really kind of disturbing, and then what Howard said actually sinks in.
"If we're going to start having the gay sex, we need condoms and lube."
"I know how to have gay sex, Howard! I don't need a lesson."
Howard looks surprised. "You do?"
"I mean, I know the basics. I've watched some porn." Raj considers how damaging the next confession will be and decides it can't be any worse than admitting that he's dating Howard. "I've read some Kirk/McCoy fanfic on the internet."
"Really?" Howard says, and Raj braces for the mockery. "I would have pegged you for a Kirk/Spock kind of guy."
Raj grins and shrugs. "Spock reminds me too much of Sheldon. I don't want to read about Sheldon having sex." They both shudder theatrically, and then Howard sinks back against the couch cushions again.
Raj thinks about how comfortable it was sitting there next to him, and says, "What the hell. I have a tube of Astroglide in my sock drawer." He stands up and offers a hand to Howard, pulling him up out of his slouch.
"I always knew you had it in you," Howard says, leering, and Raj leads him to the bedroom, excited about getting laid, and resigning himself to the spate of bad puns he knows is on the way.