Leonard’s got to admit that it’s more than a little embarrassing to be a grad assistant to someone who already has two doctorates and is all of three months older than him. Dr. Cooper acts a lot older most of the time—“wise beyond his years”, Leonard’s mother would say, although never about Leonard himself—and occasionally a lot younger than his years.
Like right now, where he’s just pitched a fit and thrown a box of paper clips at his whiteboard, scattering them everywhere.
“That’s not going to solve your equation,” Leonard points out, already on his knees with a magnet, sweeping over the carpet. “Neither is squinting across the room at it. Or pretending it’s not there.”
“Who’s the one with two PhDs?” Dr. Cooper counters.
“I feel like that’s not a very reasonable argument when you’re flinging stationery.”
Dr. Cooper picks up a whiteboard marker. Leonard, halfway back to his feet, instinctively ducks. But Dr. Cooper’s just turning to scribble on a second whiteboard. Leonard hasn’t yet managed to discern the connection between the two, other than that they take up a good deal of the office and all his suggestions, however tentative, regarding downsizing have been rejected.
He scoops as many of the paper clips back into the box as he can, straightens it up, and sets it back on Dr. Cooper’s desk. Then he retreats to his own desk, which is the smallest possible one that Caltech could rustle up. Given the amount of complaining Dr. Cooper made when Leonard first brought it in, he’s pretty sure that a laptop support balanced on his knees while he sat on the floor would have been more acceptable.
Leonard has been Dr. Cooper’s grad assistant for four days, and it feels like four weeks.
Leonard has been Sheldon’s grad assistant for four weeks, and has been granted the right to communicate with him on a first-name basis. It hasn’t done much to alleviate the feeling that Sheldon’s really years older than him a lot of the time. He often looks up from running simulations and sees Sheldon standing at the whiteboard, his bright t-shirts not doing a whole lot to make him look like the twenty-something he is when he’s frowning over the strings of symbols that Leonard is working toward fully comprehending.
They’ve reached the stage where he knows when to let Sheldon brood to himself, and when to gently persuade him to talk. Not that it’s easy to do so. Sheldon wraps himself in the aforementioned bright t-shirts like a hermit crab, and it’s hard to get him out of his shell. At least for reasonable discussion. The shouting at the whiteboard is a constant, second only to the speed of light. He has at least moved to the level of courtesy where he throws things that Leonard doesn’t have to pick up one at a time. Except for that one time when it was the whole eight-pack of whiteboard markers.
But it’s necessary for Leonard’s sake to get Sheldon to talk. The way he paces and bottles things up and then turns them into angry noises makes it impossible for Leonard to concentrate on what he’s meant to be helping Sheldon with, let alone his own work.
“Yes?” Bitten-off words are his secondary language, after verbose statements that pluck physics terms from his prodigious memory and remix them via the thesaurus presumably attached to his tongue.
“It’s one-thirty. You’ve missed lunch.”
And the two of them will go down to the cafeteria, Leonard pretending like he isn’t starving, Sheldon looking like he’s a little lost given the disruption to his schedule. Leonard knows his schedule inside out already; he has notes in case he forgets anything vital, but now he’s in the rhythm of it he rarely forgets. He even knows that when Sheldon goes home there’s a set meal each night. It makes him wonder when and where Sheldon will fit gastroenterologist appointments into his schedule, given how many of the meals consist of takeout.
Leonard has been Sheldon’s grad assistant for four weeks, and it feels like four weeks, oddly enough.
Leonard has been Sheldon’s grad assistant for four months, and despite all the various degrees of irritability he’s seen thus far, this particular bout of petulance is unparalleled. It’s the silence that scares him: no thrown stationery, no whiteboard scribbling and erasing, not even a word or two snapped in Leonard’s direction. It would almost be a productive three hours for Leonard, with nothing else to do but watch Sheldon brood, but he’s—
Well, he’s worried.
“What’s wrong?” he tentatively asks as they enter the fourth hour of silence.
“You wouldn’t understand.” Sheldon spares him a glance. “I suppose it’s possible you might.”
“You’ll never know if you don’t tell me.” Leonard tries not to be overt about his challenges to Sheldon’s self-assured (self-righteous) intelligence, but this one is a no-brainer.
Sheldon still manages to fidget with his pen for a good forty seconds before he actually does respond. “My roommate is moving out.”
“I don’t have a replacement lined up, and so far my flyers around the university have gone mostly ignored.”
Now that Leonard comes to think of it, he’s seen a couple of said flyers. All with every single contact number strip removed from the bottom and BEWARE SHELDON scrawled across them in red. “I see,” he says.
“It’s possible that I’m being too stringent in my list of requirements for a suitable person with whom to share my living space.”
If the miniscule font and list of dot points on the notices that Leonard recalls are anything to judge by, then there’s no doubting that he’s right. “Is there anything you could take off the list?”
Sheldon stares into space. It’s his thinking face, not his Leonard-you-idiot face, so Leonard lets the silence linger.
“No,” Sheldon says eventually, and Leonard doesn’t manage to bite back his sigh. But Sheldon gives him a remarkably patient look, already opening the top drawer of his desk and pulling out a flyer. This one is unbesmirched by red marker, although Leonard does note that one of the tear-off strips on the bottom has been carefully removed—the old trick to make people think that there’s already interest in the room. It tugs at his heart a little.
He cautiously gets up to look over Sheldon’s shoulder. The list practically needs a magnifying glass to see. If the flyer has fine print as well, and he suspects it does, then it’s no wonder that nobody has responded. He makes a mental note to scour the noticeboards around the physics building and take down any of these that have been defaced.
Sheldon’s tapping his pen against the paper, still with his thinking face on. “Do you see anything here that could be removed?” he asks abruptly.
Leonard scans the page. “The, uh... the whistling?” he offers.
“I was attempting to solicit sensible suggestions.”
Christ. “What about the takeout? Can’t you get delivery rather than having someone go pick it up?”
“I don’t trust the delivery to turn up in a timely fashion, and it’s important to check the order at the restaurant.”
“You could move to a smaller place...”
“I like my place. It has everything where I want it.”
Of course, Leonard thinks. It’s not like everything in Sheldon’s work office doesn’t have its place: his carefully placed whiteboards, his carefully placed desk, his carefully placed Leonard.
“Has anyone called you about this at all?” he asks.
“A few, but when I run them through the tests they all somehow fail.”
“Yes, tests. Good Lord, Leonard, where do you live that doesn’t have any tests for roommate acceptability?”
Leonard thinks about his current living arrangements. He’s in the smallest bedroom of four, where “bedroom” is a very loose definition for “space where bed might conceivably fit”. There’s something on the kitchen floor that makes it impossible to traverse without sticking to the tiles. “Oh, the usual room rental.”
Sheldon makes a disparaging noise. “I would have thought you were beyond that by now.”
“Tell that to the black mold in the bathroom,” Leonard says without thinking, and Sheldon actually laughs—an odd chuffing sound—before returning to seriousness.
“They’re quite simple questions. I don’t know how anyone has such difficulty with them.”
“Go on, then.” Leonard’s intrigued.
“What’s the fourth noble gas?”
“Krypton. Why are you asking me a chemistry question as opposed to a physics question?”
“You know very well how the two can interrelate. Next question. Which incarnation of the Doctor is the best, and justify your answer?”
“Tom Baker. I don’t think that requires any justification.”
Sheldon gives him an odd smile. “Brave. Very brave.”
Leonard waits for the other shoe to drop, but it doesn’t; usually there isn’t a simple short answer to any of Sheldon’s questions, particularly not those where he’s specifically asked for a long form response. Instead, Sheldon throws another question at him about post-apocalypse survival, and that one turns into a longer, back-and-forth discussion, that somehow culminates in Leonard agreeing to move in with Sheldon.
Leonard has been Sheldon’s grad assistant for four months, and it’s starting to feel like only four weeks have passed.
Leonard has been Sheldon’s roommate for four years, and someone is thumping moving boxes up the stairs to the apartment across the hall.
After the fourth box hits the floor, Sheldon looks at Leonard. Leonard puts down his copy of the latest Progress of Theoretical and Experimental Physics, swings his feet off Sheldon’s lap, and pads over to open the door.
There’s a pretty blonde woman standing in the doorway of 4B, hands on her hips, looking down at the most recently deposited moving box, which has split.
“Oh, hi,” she says, looking over at the sound of 4A’s door opening.
“Hi,” Leonard says.
“Hi,” Sheldon adds, moving to stand behind Leonard.
“Hi.” Leonard realizes he’s repeating himself, but can’t help it.
“Hi,” Sheldon says again.
The woman cocks her head, giving them a wry smile. “Hi?”
“We don’t mean to interrupt. We live across the hall,” Leonard says, as though that weren’t perfectly obvious given where they’re standing.
“Oh, that’s nice,” the woman says, and the smile turns into a knowing one.
Sheldon’s arms wind around Leonard’s waist from behind, and his chin comes to rest on Leonard’s shoulder.
“Yes,” Leonard says. “I was surprised, but it really is quite nice.”
(Leonard has been Sheldon’s roommate for four years, and
his boyfriend for four months, and
his lover for four weeks, and
his fiancé for four days.)