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Raj is the one who spots it - 'maybe they'll put him on the cover of People magazine again for this,' Leonard remembers thinking, later, when he's not comfortable anymore allowing himself to think about stuff like who's going to get credit (there will never not be plenty of blame to go around, though).

Initially, therefore, when nobody thinks it matters, they name it after Raj.

Later, when it turns out it does mattter, kind of, the name's already there.

'So how does it feel to have the asteroid that's probably going to destroy life on Earth as we know it get named after you?' Leonard doesn't ask.

He's a scientist and living with Sheldon; he knows that there are such things as dumb questions.

 

Even though he knows what's going on - knows it before stuff starts showing up on the evening news, with old, avuncular professors looking straight into the camera when they admit that 'there may be some reason for concern, John' - it's not quite real until Sheldon sits down a whole two minutes early for Battlestar Galactica and says: "We're all going to die."

It occurs to Leonard that he hasn't got the first clue how to react. With Penny, he might opt for a hug (hey, it's the end of the world coming up - nothing left to lose there). With Raj, one last teasing reminder of the asteroid's name (because Raj can take a joke, really he can). With Howard - well, Howard's sort of got a knack for diving headfirst into a depression and then pulling himself right out of it. (He's good at lying to himself, is what it is. Lucky bastard.)

He's seen Sheldon sad and afraid and sick and bat-shit crazy (in fact, he usually sees Sheldon as batshit-crazy; it makes it easier to ignore, forgive, continue to live with).

"Probably," he says, during the Old Spice commercial that's still sort of fun even after the dozenth time he's seen it (in one week, even).

Sheldon sniffs ('you never fail to disappoint me'). "It's not news, of course."

"Of course not," Leonard replies on auto-pilot.

"Oh, I do hope they'll find a decent way to wrap up this plotline in the next four weeks." Sheldon settles down in what Leonard has dubbed his 'Battlestar pose'. It's not entirely the same as his 'Star Trek pose', and it's entirely different from his 'Doctor Who' pose and Leonard really needs to get a life, except that with four weeks to go, it's probably a little too late for that.

It's probably a little too late for a whole lot of things. "Yeah."

Sheldon makes a gesture that means he's watching something on TV and would Leonard be so polite as to shut up and leave him in peace now? (The 'please' is very silent.)

 

Three weeks later, Penny leaves. Not Leonard, specifically - she just packs some of her stuff (clothes, mostly) and knocks on his door (well, his and Sheldon's door) and says 'Bye'.

Sheldon shakes her hand and so Leonard shakes her hand, too, thinking 'I should give her a hug, I might never see her again and oh God, I want her to give me a hug' but she's still not Jean Grey.

"I don't know why she bothers; it's not as if what happens in Nebraska's going to be any different from what's going to happen here," Sheldon says.

"Her family lives there." It made sense to Leonard when she explained it to him. Leonard's not family after all; he's just a friend. Has only ever been a friend - and one with occasionally less than honorable intentions at that.

Sheldon gives him a look that probably doesn't mean what Leonard thinks it means. "Does that mean you're going to leave as well? Because, I would like to remind you, our roommate agreement clearly states - "

"I'm staying, I'm staying," Leonard says quickly.

"Oh," Sheldon says, blinking once. "Good."

"What about you?"

Sheldon gives him a look that probably means exactly what Leonard thinks it means. "Don't be silly, Leonard. Where would I go?"

"Right."

 

Two weeks later, the university revokes their lab access. Leonard can't say it bothers him much - big things bother him these days, like the fact that he's going to die, but not little things, like more or less losing his job - or at least the part where he does any work he's actually studied for.

Sheldon, needless to say, takes it far less lightly. "But, but this is intolerable."

"Feel free to submit a written complaint," Gablehauser says, looking worn out and pale and harried and like a man who has seen too many computer simulations of what will happen when the Koothrappali asteroid is going to miss hitting the moon by a margin that would be very wide if this were a Star Wars movie.

"I - " Sheldon puffs up. Leonard recalls finding the sight amusing, once.

"A written complaint, Dr. Cooper," Gablehauser says, straightening slightly.

"I most certainly shall file a complaint. In writing. In Klingon, if need be."

Leonard thinks that it's just not fair. The odds of this happening - he was only ever going to live about a hundred years; less than a fraction of a fraction of a second in the lifespan of the universe.

"English will be fine," Gablehauser says. "Thank you, Dr. Cooper."

"For what?" Sheldon asks, as Gablehauser turns and walks away.

"Let's go home," Leonard says. A nap sounds good. He's no longer hoping things will be better when he wakes up every time he goes to sleep, but time spent sleeping is time spent being unconscious. Under the circumstances, that's not so bad.

 

"Well, we had to!" Howard says, and if the question had been: 'why did you show up for Halo night?' or even 'why did you not sit down in Sheldon's spot on the couch?', the answer might be perfectly logical.

"You're pregnant?" Sheldon asks, because apparently in Sheldon's version of the world, being pregnant means having to get married. (Okay, so when Leonard takes some time to think about it, that actually sort of makes sense - especially compared to some other examples of Sheldon logic.)

Howard frowns, says "Why are you looking at me?", realizes his mistake and quickly adds: "No, of course not. We're men, Sheldon. Men don't get pregnant."

"They do in fanfiction," Sheldon says.

Howard turns to Leonard. "Free one-way flying tickets to Israel - family only. Sorry buddy."

"Oh." Leonard isn't sure what to say. "Well, I'd have said 'no, I don't', anyway."

"It won't save you," Sheldon says. "And you'll miss the last episode of Battlestar Galactica."

"Shut up, Sheldon." Howard rises. Raj rises. Leonard remembers teasing them about his mother referring to their relationship as an 'ersatz homosexual marriage'. He's not sorry he hasn't tried to find out where she is (she's got his phone number; she can call if she wants to talk to him). "Leonard, it's been real."

"What else could it have been? Fake?"

Leonard imagines falling down on his knees and begging Howard not to leave him all alone with Sheldon. He imagines getting up again, dusting off his trousers and spending the last week of his life with Sheldon acting exactly the way he's always done - no sign of hurt feelings whatsoever, no sirree, not Doctor Sheldon Cooper.

He's not that bad a friend. "Goodbye, Howard. Raj."

 

It occurs to Leonard that in some ways, he's lucky. Most people only know what they hear and see on the news - that there's 'reason for concern', that 'options are still being explored'. Leonard knows how bad it really is. Or was, before somebody decided he'd be happier not getting a chance to look at the end of the world approaching.

Lucky him.

 

Sheldon's expression says: 'this topic is making me uncomfortable, but I will discuss it nonetheless - briefly - because our friendship entitles you to my frank opinion'. Sheldon's mouth says: "I have been given to understand that in times of crisis, many people experience physical contact as comforting."

"Yes?" Leonard wonders if this is Sheldonese for 'I want a hug'. Then he wonders if maybe he's going a little crazy. Then he figures out that Sheldon is working his way towards letting Leonard know that firstly, Sheldon is not one of those 'many people' and secondly, that Leonard shouldn't count on any hugs. It's kind of considerate, Leonard thinks.

Sheldon nods pleasantly. Leonard decides he might as well save Sheldon the speech.

"Don't worry about it," he says. "We're friends, right?"

Sheldon smiles a little vaguely. "If you die, can I have your comic collection?"

"If you die, can I have yours?" Leonard asks.

"No," Sheldon says. "After my death, all of my papers will be donated to the National Archives."

"Oh." Leonard supposes he could have known. "Okay, sure, you can have my comic collection."

"Thank you. Good night."

Sheldon gets up, heads for his bedroom, and it's only then that Leonard thinks: 'what the hell is it going to matter who gets whose comic collection? and what National Archives?'.