Raj is uncomfortable in the silence that’s so loud between them as they head home on Howard’s scooter, knowing that they’re only going back to his place so Howard can yell at him some more without regaling the others with the intimate details of their love life.
Wait. Sex life. He’s never quite been sure it could be described as a “love” life.
Sure enough, they’re barely in his apartment before Howard’s yelling at him again, thankfully pitched low enough to not disturb the neighbors, who already give him suspicious looks for being Indian and don’t need to give him openly hostile stares for being gay as well.
“Were you even thinking of me when you went off with Leonard?”
“Were you thinking of me when you hooked up with Bernadette?” Raj counters. “You get to have her; why don’t I get to be with anyone else?”
“Because... just...” Howard spreads his hands hopelessly, as if to ask the world how he can explain this situation to a man with his head perpetually above the clouds. “You could’ve at least asked, you know?”
“Asked who? I don’t think I need your permission to have sex, and Leonard was definitely on board with it.”
Howard’s hand lifts like he’s about to hit Raj, who reflexively takes a step back. Howard looks at his hand like he’s never seen it before. “Raj, I...”
“You were going to slap me.”
“Then what the hell were you going to do?”
Howard answers the question by grabbing a handful of Raj’s hair and yanking him close, his mouth demanding against Raj’s, and somehow it strikes him as being more douchebag than badass.
“What’s with you? Didn’t you get anywhere with Bernadette tonight?” Raj asks as soon as Howard gets his tongue out of his mouth.
Howard gets a snarly look on his face. “Would you shut up about Bernadette? I’m not nagging you about Leonard.”
“I’m not dating Leonard and still trying to keep you on the hook on the side,” Raj points out.
“I’m not trying to 'keep you on the hook' -- God, Raj! What is your problem?”
“Right now I’m going to say it’s you! I mean, maybe it’s Sheldon, since he’s the one who called you, but he’s not here and I’ve had more practice yelling at you anyway.”
“Raj, will you just calm down?” Howard’s hand is still knotted in his hair and he loosens his grip a little, stroking Raj’s hair like he’s a yappy little puppy or something. “I’m not mad at you.”
“I’m not mad at you,” Howard repeats patiently.
Raj opens his mouth and then closes it again. He wants to ask where the fuck Howard thinks he gets off, saying such a thing when he doesn’t have any right to be mad at Raj in the first place. He wants to ask why the hell Howard thinks this is any kind of okay, to go from yelling at him in front of everyone else to this weird forgiveness thing for something that wasn’t even wrong in the first place. He wants to swear a lot, basically, but he knows he neighbors wouldn’t appreciate that any more than they’d appreciate Howard screaming at him for having sex with someone else.
And that just sets his mind off down memory lane. Leonard’s mouth against his. Leonard’s mouth against him lower down. Leonard plunging into him, hand fisted around him, responding to his words and his body and his desires in a way that he has to admit Howard has never done.
Raj reaches up and disentangles Howard’s hand from his hair, then slides his hand down to Howard’s wrist, closing his fingers tight around it, feeling the shift of Howard’s bones under the skin when he grips maybe a little too hard. He snags Howard’s other wrist, brings them together, getting his fingers around them both so he still has one hand free.
Howard’s giving him a really weird look now. “Raj, what the hell?”
“Shut up, Howard.” Raj drags him across the room and has him flat on his back on the bed, Raj’s knees either side of his hips before Howard can so much as try to pull his hands free.
“Is this something Leonard taught you?” Howard can’t keep his cow-damned snide mouth shut, can he?
“No. I won’t be showing you anything Leonard taught me.” Mostly because that would involve you giving a damn about anyone other than yourself, Raj thinks, and successfully keeps the pang of pain off his face.
“So what did you do with Leonard?” Howard persists, and Raj just gives him a dark look and twists the hand holding Howard’s wrists a little, not enough to hurt but enough to make Howard squeak and shut up. He debates getting Howard naked and then dismisses the thought; if he takes too long over this he’ll never get any sleep, and he wants to try to fall asleep with the good memories lingering.
His hand barely grazes the front of Howard’s ridiculously tight purple pants and Howard is already rubbing up against him. A cynical part of his mind wonders if it’s because it’s him or if anyone would do, like a robot arm for instance.
“Please, Raj, please...”
“I don’t know, whatever you want.”
What Raj wants is to get up and kick Howard out, tell him to go back to Bernadette, but doesn’t think that’s the sort of whatever Howard meant. So he gets Howard’s pants open and then lets go of his wrists so he can shift down the bed. Howard’s moaning before Raj even gets his mouth on him, making little anticipatory noises that Raj used to think were cute but really have nothing on Leonard’s orgasm noises.
Once he’s down there and has found his rhythm it’s easy to pretend that he’s not even with Howard. Well, he has a little trouble getting past the slight taste of latex and come that lets him know that Howard already got lucky tonight with Bernadette, but once that’s faded he can use his imagination, pretend he’s reciprocating Leonard’s actions from earlier, pretend this is something that might be appreciated.
“Raj, Raj, Raj,” Howard practically chants, ruining the moment. “Missed you so much...”
Bullcrap, Raj thinks, absently doing the thing with his tongue that he knows Howard’s particularly fond of and eliciting another moan from him.
“I -- oh God -- I’ll leave Bernadette.”
Raj stops, pulls Howard’s phone out of Howard’s pants pocket, and offers it to him with a raised eyebrow.
“Tomorrow, I’ll tell her tomorrow, in person, I’ll tell her I love you, just please don’t stop.”
Since the only way to shut him up is clearly to finish him off, Raj drops the phone and goes back down. He closes his eyes, finds his rhythm again, and conjures up the memory of deep brown eyes, a goofy grin, and a skilful mouth playing over his own arousal.
It makes it easier and harder at the same time.
Howard comes fast and without warning and as soon as he’s done Raj rolls off the bed and goes to spit in the bathroom sink. He rinses his mouth out quickly and then goes back to Howard, who’s lying there looking like he just ate a batch of special cookies.
Raj kneels, draws Howard’s pants the rest of the way off after discarding his shoes, tucks him back into his underwear, and folds the blanket up over him. Howard’s already half asleep. Raj lies down beside him and drapes one arm across Howard’s thin chest.
“Mmmm,” Howard murmurs. “You’re amazing.”
It’s in these moments that Raj loves him the most. “Thanks.”
““m so tired... mind if I stay here tonight?”
“I don’t mind, but what about your mother?”
“Oh, she thinks I’m staying at Bernadette’s.”
And it’s in these moments that Raj hates him the most.
“What’re you going to tell Bernadette, anyway?” he can’t resist asking.
Howard flinches, and that only confirms what Raj already knows in his heart. “I don’t know, okay? I’ll think of something before I see her, don’t worry about it.”
“Okay,” says Raj (when really it isn’t), rolling away and getting back up.
“Hey, come back.”
“In a while. I have to... go look at a star.”
“Huh? Which star?”
“Never mind,” says Raj, going out and closing the bedroom door behind himself.
He puts the kettle on for tea, paces around the living room, and finally gives in and opens the window, fishing his cigarettes out from behind one of his textbooks. He never ever smokes in front of the others, and even when he’s home he hangs out of the window and fans the smoke away. It makes him cough and he’s glad he doesn’t have more of a habit, but every once in a while he needs the peace the ritual brings to him.
Normally he’d settle for meditating, but the smell of incense will probably wake Howard up.
He inhales, blows a lopsided smoke ring, listens to the sounds of the night. It’s quieter here than back home; the loudest thing he can hear is one car horn and a screech as someone runs the red light that changes too fast down on the corner. The stray cat that he’s pretty sure is responsible for the fact that his apartment is entirely cockroach-free runs past on some determined feline mission.
He’s feeling a little less lousy by the time he’s done smoking. Not un-lousy enough to keep from adding a shot of rum to his tea, though. He’s aware that’s not quite how you’re meant to do the whole tea-with-rum deal, but is at the point where he doesn’t care.
The teacup sits on the edge of the bathroom sink while he showers. The shower clears his head even more; it washes away the sweat and scent of his encounter with Leonard, but not the memories.
By the time he gets out of the shower the tea is cold, but he drinks it anyway and then fusses around in the kitchen washing the cup and refilling the kettle and trying to decide if he needs to add tea to his shopping list.
Finally he gives into temptation and flops on to the sofa and pulls out his phone.
There’re a few rings before Leonard answers, during which Raj panics that he’s going to wake Leonard up, but then Leonard’s decidedly non-sleepy voice responds, “Hey, Raj.”
“Uh, hey, Leonard. I was just calling to say I got home all right.”
“Oh, you did? Great... how come it took you so long?”
Raj panics again. “Um... traffic?”
He can practically hear Leonard raising his eyebrows through the phone. “Uh-huh, well, I guess traffic can be kinda busy at midnight, sure.”
“Night shift rush hour?” Raj hazards.
“Well, as long as y-- oh gah.”
Raj’s heart just about stops. He’s heard that noise from Leonard before. Very recently. He can picture the face that goes with it. What the...
“Uh -- as long as you and Howard both m-made it home okaaah--”
Raj is torn between asking what the hell is going on and knowing what the hell is going on. There’s only one reason a man makes those noises and there’s only one person he can think of who would be eliciting them from Leonard on this particular night.
He never used to hate Sheldon, but right now he’s prepared to make an exception.
“Are you okay?” he hears himself ask.
“What? N-nothing, I just, ah, stubbed my toe-ohhh--”
Stubbed his cock, more like it. On Sheldon’s hand, probably. Raj realizes with sudden hot embarrassment that he’s getting hard. Leonard naked and blind and vulnerable, hunting for his glasses. Sheldon cool and calm and impassive, getting him off.
Oh dear God no. He cannot be fantasizing about the two of them. At any stage of their relationship. No.
“Was Howard’s m-mom angry?” Leonard asks, bringing Raj crashing back to reality.
“Oh, no. Howard came home with me,” Raj admits.
He’s waiting for Leonard to tell him off or ask him if he’s sure he made the right decision, but instead all he gets is the rushed reply, “So Howard went home with you. Right. Got it. So you’re both okay. That’s great.” He’s practically gasping into the phone. Sheldon’s hands on him. Or... no. Nonono. Leonard wouldn’t answer the phone if Sheldon were... dot dot dotting him.
“Why are you calling me, exactly?”
“Oh, I was just wondering if you and Sheldon made up or if you’re still fighting,” Raj says as casually as anyone who’s pretty sure he’s talking to one of his best friends who’s having sex can manage.
And then he hears it. The muffled moan that is far too feminine to be either Leonard or Sheldon. Now he doesn’t have an explanation for the situation at all, least of all the part where his free hand is pressing against his groin.
Leonard sounds completely flustered when he speaks again. “No, we’re fine, thanks for asking, bye.”
That’s it. Raj is left with the dial tone in his ear and an aching hard-on in his pants. He drops his phone onto the coffee table, closes his eyes, and leans his head against the sofa back.
Leonard and Sheldon. Leonard with Sheldon, making those same cute orgasm noises as Sheldon’s body curves around his. Leonard’s face twisted in pleasure. Leonard’s face split with that goofy grin. Leonard’s eyes closed and lips moving smooth and hot over Raj’s cock.
Sheldon’s hand slipping inside Leonard’s towel.
Sheldon feeding Leonard mashed potatoes.
Sheldon kissing Leonard.
Sheldon and Leonard.
Raj pushes his boxer shorts down out of the way and keeps his eyes closed because if he opens them he’s going to have to admit he’s really doing this. He can’t force the images out of his head so he just surrenders to them and promises himself that this will be the first, last, and only time it happens. He almost jolts himself right out of arousal by briefly wondering if they’ve ever done it in Sheldon’s spot, but pushes the thought away as ridiculous.
He would have thought that after all Leonard did to him (ohgod) he’d be totally worn out, but apparently the message didn’t get to his cock. His hand’s no substitute for Leonard’s mouth, and when he slips his other hand down between his legs to press one finger against his entrance it’s no substitute for Leonard’s cock, but it’ll do for now.
Once he’s done he grabs a tissue and cleans up and finally crawls into bed beside Howard, who’s dead to the world. Raj presses his hand to Howard’s chest for a moment, just to check that his heart is beating regularly, and then settles his head against his pillow.
Sleep comes easily, but it’s not restful.
The next time he sees Leonard it’s on Tuesday night at the Cheesecake Factory and even though they’re seated in Penny’s section Bernadette is hovering around their table anyway and although Raj knows that Howard totally didn’t dump her, wasn’t expecting it to have happened, he still can’t help but flinch when Bernadette leans down to give Howard a cute little smooch.
The thing about being unable to talk around women is that while Penny’s taking the orders, focused on the others, Raj can sit and look at her. Except tonight he’s not doing that, he’s looking at Leonard instead. Leonard’s looking at Penny though. Big surprise there. He’s got a little quirk going on at the corner of his mouth, like he knows a secret.
The weird thing is, so does Penny.
The really weird thing is that so does Sheldon.
Howard’s murmuring sweet nothings to Bernadette, who’s murmuring them right back, up until the point where Penny smacks them both with her order pad and shoos Bernadette off to her own section. Even then Howard sits and stares after her and Penny just writes down his order without asking if he wants his usual.
“Hey, what if I wanted something different for a change?” Howard asks.
Penny just laughs and says, “Howard, you never want anything different.”
Raj starts shredding his napkin.
She usually takes all their orders without asking for clarification, but she pauses at Sheldon and recites off his usual order -- a barbecue bacon cheeseburger with the barbecue sauce, bacon, and cheese on the side -- flawlessly, and he smiles at her and says, “Very good, Penny. It’s nice to have the option to mix and match which condiments go with my main meal,” and Leonard chokes on his water.
“What the hell?” Howard asks, looking utterly confused.
“Nothing,” Sheldon, Leonard, and Penny chorus in unison.
Raj, who can say nothing, chooses not to say anything anyway and tries to push the memory of a certain phone call out of his mind.
Oh well. At least he’s not like Howard, who blurts out every little thing that comes to his mind. He can keep everything on the inside, and if it’s all in his mind, then none of them need to know what he’s thinking when he looks around the table at them all, talking, laughing, eating.
Or later, when he’s at home alone with his memories.