"This is asinine," Sheldon repeated for the fourth time since they had gotten in the car. "Leave it to Gablehouser to find a way reduce the entire institution to some sort of Sinclair Lewis-esque Meat Market."
"Sheldon," Leonard sighed, "it's for charity, okay?"
"Why can't we just 'give at the office', Leonard?" he whined from the backseat. "There is a reason I have a checking account."
"Gablehouser says we all have to participate, okay?"
"Don't worry, Sheldon, it's just a Bachelor Auction," Penny soothed from the passenger seat. "It's not like they are asking you to run a marathon or something."
"This is asinine."
"We know," Leonard and Penny intoned together. Leonard pulled into the University Parking Lot, easing into his space between Raj's car and Howard's scooter.
"I refuse to be sold."
"Thank you, Mr. Wolowitz," Dr. Gablehouser spoke cheerily into the microphone as he tried to shoo Howard from the stage, "but $6 is all your mother had to bid."
"You didn't have to tell everyone that it was my mother!" Howard whined as he slumped off the stage.
"Everyone knew when she said she'd pay anything for her little brisket butt." Howard sighed. "Hehe, okay!" Gablehouser announced, turning back to the crowd milling around the stage Engineering had constructed that morning in the cafeteria, "next up is our own Dr. Leonard Hofstadter. Dr. Hofstadter is an experimental physicist here at CalTech. He is currently working with lasers and enjoys romantic dinners that do not involve playing Super Mario Brothers."
"I feel as though that last bit was a slight at me," Sheldon said as Leonard moved to jump on the stage.
"No way, buddy."
"I may not grasp sarcasm but I understand lying, Leonard," Sheldon pouted. Leonard readjusted his coat and looked out at the dark audience. He could see the flashes of the auction paddles in the light. "We'll start at $10. Shut up, Wolowitz." Howard slumped off out of the light, sneering at Raj as he ponied up the bar with his new lady. Leonard squinted against the light, not really listening to Gablerhouser's primping on the stage between calling the bids.
"Sold, to #23 in the back. Thank you!" Gablehouser pushed Leonard from the stage.
"What'd I go for?" Leonard ask Sheldon as soon as he got off the stage.
"Oh, I don't know."
"Did you honestly expect me to pay attention?"
"Well, you better pay closer attention," Leonard warned, "you're next."
"Oh, dear God, it's like being on the Orion Slave Market."
"And for own final bachelor, Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Dr. Cooper has two Ph.Ds and he enjoys Thai food and Rock Band-"
"I would also like to note that I am morally against this," Sheldon cut in.
"Thank you, Dr. Cooper. We'll start the bidding at $5."
"Excuse me!" Sheldon squawked. "Seeing as my IQ is considerably higher than Leonard, I believe that my starting bid should, consequently, be higher."
"Right, $3?" Sheldon squawked again but Gablehouser pointedly ignored him and went on calling out the bids. Sheldon squinted against the light, feeling the burn on his retinas as he tried to shield his sensitive eyes. "Sold, to #38 in the back!" Gablehouser announced after a few moments of flashing paddles and grimaces from Sheldon. "Thank you, ladies! You can pick up your merchandise on the way out."
"You know, the Orions at least had the forethought to use neurolytic restraints," Sheldon said, shuffling past Gablehouser to exiting stage right and out the back door.
"I can withhold paychecks," Gablehouser taunted.
"I'm more than financially secure enough to manage," Sheldon countered, although he knew he needed the paycheck.
"I control lab times too."
Sheldon visibly waffled. "Damn," he said abruptly. "You know, that wouldn't have worked if I wasn't next in line for the Open Science Grid Computer."
"I know," Gablehouser said smugly.
"I bet Penny bought me," Leonard said, smiling up at the morose Sheldon.
"Yes, still entertaining that delusion, I see?"
Leonard grimaced as he pushed through the bodies, trying to find Penny. "It's not delusional." Sheldon rolled his eyes. "Oh, please, did you think that Leslie Winkle probably owns your ass right now?"
"Leslie Winkle will never 'own my ass' in more than the metaphorical sense," Sheldon shuddered.
"Well, well, well, there is my little donation to charity!"
"Oh, God, she does own my ass!" Sheldon whispered in fear to Leonard.
"Leonard! Moron," Sheldon recoiled back as both Leslie Winkle and Penny came towards the boys, "how did Gablehouser wrangle you into this?"
"He threatened his job, his paycheck, and his place in line for the Science Computer," Leonard explained. "So, what evil things to you plan to do to him, Leslie?"
"Oh, no, I didn't spend my money on him. I already own his ass daily."
"Metaphorically," Sheldon pointed out.
"No, I bought you," Leslie ran a finger down Leonard's chest.
"Oh," he giggled, "really?"
"Mmhmm," Leslie hummed. "And the things I have planned for you are less evil and more..." she paused to whisper in his ear. Leonard chuckled, a visible shudder rippling through his body.
"And I bought you," Penny announced, poking Sheldon in the arm. Leonard pushed Leslie gently away and looked right at Penny.
"Yep, and now he has to do whatever I tell him to do!" Penny grabbed Sheldon's arm and drug him toward the exit. "Fortunately, all my plans for tonight consist of the evil kind." Leonard swore he heard something like "muahaha" before the door shut behind her.
"No," Sheldon said. "I have followed along with your other stupid demands because of the contract that I was forced to sign upon my purchase," Sheldon tugged at the hem of his sleeve, "but this I will not do."
"Oh, come on!" Penny pleaded. "We were having fun! Just go with it."
"No," he said, a sharp glance at Penny from the arm chair. "I have had to watch 'The Notebook', eat badly Americanized burritos on Thai Night, and," he stood as if to emphasis his point, "I have been forced to relinquish my seat to you for the entire night."
"And your point is?" Penny said, eying him defiantly.
"My point is," Sheldon began, taking a step back, "I will not allow myself to be like some kind of Ken doll you can dress up."
"I just want you to try it on," she pleaded. "Come on."
"No," Sheldon said, clutching at his tee-shirt.
"Fine," she said, settling back in his spot with an over-exaggerated sigh.
"'Fine'? 'Fine'? I refuse and all you do is say 'fine'?"
"Yeah," she eyed him, clearly annoyed, "what did you expect?"
"I don't know!" he squeaked, "I expected you to put up more of a fight."
"I'm tired of fighting."
Sheldon just shuffled from foot to foot, seemingly unsure of what to do after this. "Very well. Then I shall just go to bed."
"Have fun, Sheldon," she deadpanned.
"Penny," Sheldon began. "I must preface this by again warning you that I have very few skills in the way of understanding, naming, or even seeing emotions," Sheldon sat down gingerly in the armchair, "but you sounded disappointed."
"One for you, Glen Coco," Penny said, jazz hands waving sarcastically in Sheldon's face.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand the reference."
"Of course you don't," Penny sighed. "I'm just sad that everything we do and say turns into a fight."
Sheldon's eyebrows scrunched together. "Funny," he said, leaning back slightly in the chair, "I was under the impression that you enjoyed our fights."
"It's not always fun to fight with your friends, Sheldon," she sighed.
"Why do I also have the feeling that this is more than just fighting with me?"
"You are on fire tonight," she said, the same flat sarcastic tone in her voice.
"I don't know how I do it!" Sheldon smiled smugly to himself.
"It's just...I don't like fighting Leonard all the time either." Sheldon opened his mouth to speak but she cut him off. "I hate feeling like everything I say to him he takes as, like, some secret code."
"I have been meaning to have him checked for delusional disorder," Sheldon nodded seriously.
Penny burst out in sudden laughter, the ridiculousness of it all piling in on her at once. "This has been the weirdest donation to charity I have ever made."
"Yes," Sheldon said, "perhaps I should get you checked for Bipolar manic depression?"
"Would you believe me if I said my mother already had me tested?" she joked.
Sheldon face fell into serious lines, "Yes, you are a humorous individual." Sheldon rose. "If your reign as personal dictator of my life has ended, I shall go to bed now."
"Hey, Sheldon," Penny said, "one last thing?"
"I will not try on the jeans, Penny. That discussion is over."
"No, I'm giving up on that. Besides, those khakis aren't so bad."
"They are the same as all the others," he said.
"Just..." Penny waved her hands in front of her face, "let it go, Sheldon."
"Very well. You had a final request?"
Penny nodded. "Can I have a hug?" Sheldon's eyebrows drew up as he looked at her questioningly. Penny held out her arms, waving him over.
"Oh, alright," Sheldon conceded. The hug was just as awkward and stilted as their first but she held him tightly and, when they broke, she felt him pat her head gently.
"Thanks, Sheldon," she said. "You can go to bed now."
"Finally!" Sheldon hurried off down the hall. "You know your way out."
Penny sighed, closing the door to 4A behind her. "It's like one step forward, one giant leap for mankind back."