Sheldon hates loud noise, most music, dark places, and crowds. This nightclub has them all in copious quantities, and the bartender called him “cute” when he ordered his virgin diet Cuba Libre. A good seven-eighths of the clientele are male. Even with his usual degree of obliviousness in social situations, he knows what that means: Koothrappali has once more made an odd, if not poor, life choice.
“Why did you bring us to a gay bar?” Wolowitz asks, raising the question that’s also on Sheldon’s mind. Leonard’s, too, judging by the expression on his face.
Koothrappali looks blissfully unconcerned. “Sheldon needs to learn how to talk to people before he can learn to talk to women,” he semi-shouts over the throbbing music.
“That’s ridiculously sexist,” Leonard shouts back.
As the two of them argue about Koothrappali’s poor phrasing, segueing fast into his own inability to talk to women, Sheldon gazes around the room. The lights flash regularly, in sync with the music; they’re mostly shades of blue or purple, which is at least not as harsh on the eyes as warmer colors would be.
He sips his drink from the side of the glass, avoiding the genitalia-shaped straw that is probably meant to be amusing. Some of the dancing men are wearing pants tight enough to showcase their own genitalia, and it’s a little fascinating to contemplate: how unselfconscious must they be to show themselves off like that?
Wolowitz, at his elbow, demands, “What are you staring at?”
“Calculating the wavelength of that purple light,” Sheldon says, although he isn’t.
Wolowitz gives him an odd look and moves on into the crowd, angling toward a group of five women dancing in a tight circle. Sheldon is reasonably certain that these women will not be attracted to Wolowitz (he’s hard pressed to think of anyone who would be attracted to Wolowitz, save Koothrappali), but if it saves him from being questioned he doesn’t care.
Koothrappali has apparently given up on arguing with Leonard and goes out onto the dance floor—not, Sheldon notes, in the same direction as Wolowitz. Leonard sidles up beside Sheldon.
“Are you going to dance?”
“Even if I drank alcohol, which you know very well that I don’t, there wouldn’t be enough alcohol in this bar to make me dance.”
Leonard laughs. It’s a strained sound. “I just thought since we’re here, we might as well—you know, when in Rome...”
“We’re in The Closet, not Rome.”
Leonard blushes. “Never mind.” He turns around and orders a drink that, even under the blue-violet light over the bar, is an almost luminescent orange. He sips at it warily and then enthusiastically.
“This is pretty good, Sheldon.”
Sheldon makes a noncommittal noise and keeps drinking his alcohol-and-sugar-free Cuba Libre.
Leonard holds the glass toward him, jiggling the straw in a manner he probably imagines is inviting. “Just try it.”
“No, thank you,” Sheldon says.
“You don’t know what you’re missing.”
“The effects and aftereffects of alcoholic beverages that look like radioactive waste seem like a good thing to miss.”
Leonard makes a disgruntled noise and downs half the drink at a gulp, flinching at the taste of alcohol or the sugar content or maybe the clinking ice. “You could at least attempt to be grateful to Raj for coming up with this.”
“He meant well.”
“So did Oppenheimer, and look how the Manhattan Project turned out.”
“I feel like comparing one visit to a bar to the creation of nuclear weapons is slightly hyperbolic.” Leonard drains his drink. “I’m going to dance.”
“You’re going to try to dance,” Sheldon corrects.
Leonard rolls his eyes and moves into the crowd, shuffling his feet in an approximation of rhythm.
One carefully nursed glass of water later, Sheldon scans the dance floor again. Koothrappali’s in a corner, dancing very closely to someone who Sheldon vaguely recognizes but can’t place in this context, other than that he’s not Wolowitz. Wolowitz, while he has insinuated himself into the group of women and they don’t all look furious about it, keeps looking over that way and scowling.
Leonard surges back out of the crowd, grabbing Sheldon’s hand. “Come on, it’s fun!” He says, dragging Sheldon onto the dance floor before Sheldon can ask for either clarification of fun, or permission to flee.
Then Leonard’s pulled him in close and is dancing at him.
“When in Rome!” He shouts over the music.
“We’re not—” Sheldon gives it up as a waste of breath and just tries not to move, which is difficult with Leonard gyrating in his personal space.
The song changes from a frantic driving beat to a slightly slower but still bass-laden rhythm. Leonard moves in closer and puts his hands on Sheldon’s waist, looking up at him.
Sheldon puts his hands stiffly on Leonard’s shoulders. Leonard promptly reaches up and pulls them around the back of his neck. The height difference makes it stupid and gives Sheldon cotillion flashbacks. He resents the whole situation, suddenly and profoundly.
But then Leonard looks up at him with a small, crooked, inebriated smile. A beat Sheldon can sort of move to resolves itself out of the glut of noise. Maybe it’s not the worst thing ever. Nobody’s blown up an elevator yet, although maybe if they were constructing a rocket here instead of dancing he’d be more interested.
Leonard’s saying something to him, inaudible, lips moving, eyes bright with amusement.
“Did you see who Raj is dancing with?”
They’ve moved enough that Sheldon has to re-orient himself to look at that corner of the dance floor. Not that Koothrappali makes it too easy to see, considering how closely he’s wrapped up in the other man. But—
“Is that Stuart?”
Leonard gives him a smug smile. “I guess Howard wasn’t taking the all the hints Raj has been dropping.” He tilts his head toward where Wolowitz is still severely side-eyeing Koothrappali, who is blissfully unaware. In fact, right then is the moment when he leans in and says something to Stuart, who starts laughing and then kisses him. Wolowitz excuses himself to the group of women and for a moment Sheldon thinks there might be some intervention required, but Wolowitz just flounces toward the bar.
“I’m surprised, really... I’ve always thought Raj was being really obvious about how he felt about Howard,” Leonard says, voice a little lower so that he’s not shouting the details of their friends’ relationship (or lack thereof) across the room.
Sheldon snorts. “Even I could see it, and as you know I’m well noted for being unaware of such things.” He’s not incapable of poking a little fun at his own shortcomings from time to time.
“Yeah...” Leonard sounds wistful when he says it. “Even when it’s right under your nose.”
Sheldon tightens his arms around Leonard’s shoulders. “If you’re referring to your obvious affection for me, then you shouldn’t think it’s gone unnoticed.”
Leonard abruptly stops moving, winding up with one foot coming down on the toe of Sheldon’s shoe. “Wait, what?”
“Penny told me that she didn’t think anyone could live with me as long as you have and not be at least a little in love with me.”
Leonard gives him a nose-wrinkled, eyebrow-raised look of confusion. “She said what?”
“I’m going to assume you heard me and you’re just pretending you didn’t.”
“No. Really. Penny said that?”
“Yes. Then she said she was late for work and almost fell down the stairs, twisting her ankle in the process.”
“That was a month ago.”
Sheldon pulls his foot out from under Leonard’s. “Yes. The difficult part of being informed that someone else has feelings for you by a third party is that ascertaining whether or not the statement is accurate is quite difficult without coming out and directly asking.”
Leonard slides one hand a little higher on Sheldon’s back. “Are you coming out and directly asking?”
“I’m under the impression that somewhere like this is the best place to do so.”
Leonard gives him another confused look, but this one includes a hint of wry smile. “Only you would assume that. You could’ve asked at home. Or at work. Or a month ago, when Penny landed on me on my way up the stairs.”
“The time never seemed right.” If Sheldon’s honest, even now doesn’t seem right. But the words are out now. “Also, I have no coping mechanism in place for if you tell me Penny was wrong.”
“Why would you be worried if she was wrong?” Now Leonard’s trying to tease the truth out of him.
“Because...” Sheldon swallows. “Because although I may not show it as clearly as you do, your affection doesn’t go unreciprocated.”
“That’s a lot of negatives.” Leonard’s openly grinning at him now. “Are you trying to tell me you like me back?”
“Obviously,” Sheldon says. “It’s why I let you get away with as much as you do at home. Anyone would think you hadn’t read the roommate agreement when you signed it, and I was very specific about you initialing—”
“Shut up.” Leonard’s hand stops creeping up Sheldon’s back and just goes to the back of his neck, pulling him down. Leonard’s mouth is on his, the music goes away, and it’s just the two of them, the outside world vanished in this moment. Sheldon kisses back as best as he can, starting awkwardly, but then relaxing into Leonard’s lead. His arms reflexively tighten around Leonard, and he feels like a hydrogen atom that’s finally found its covalent bond.
Leonard pulls away first and rests his head on Sheldon’s shoulder.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me sooner.”
“I wasn’t aware of the social protocol. But this still seems to me like a not unreasonable place to offer such affection; we’re hardly out of the ordinary in doing so.”
“Oh yeah?” Leonard raises his head and meets Sheldon’s eyes. “Tell me where Howard and Raj are looking right now.”
Sheldon doesn’t quite know what this has to do with anything, but he obediently looks to where he remembers each of them being. Wolowitz, at the bar, is gawking at them. Koothrappali, in his cozy little corner, has disengaged from Stuart and is making tracks toward them through the crowd, plowing inelegantly around people.
“At home might have been better.”
“You may be right,” Sheldon concedes.
“But since the cat’s out of the bag—closet—it’s too late now.” And Leonard pulls him into one more kiss, making the most of the final seconds before their inevitable interruption.