“I’d like to bite that lip,” he whispers darkly.
Oh my. I am completely unaware that I am chewing my bottom lip. My mouth pops open as I gasp and swallow at the same time. That has to be the sexiest thing anybody has ever said to me. My heart beat spikes, and I think I’m panting. Jeez, I’m a quivering, moist mess, and he hasn’t even touched me. I squirm in my seat and meet his dark glare.
"Oh, please," he mumbled to himself, sourly flipping the bulk of the book over to eye the number of pages he had left to read. It should have been nothing. Simple and easy and over with already, but it had somehow achieved a level of tedium that Sheldon had previously only ascribed to required readings for lesser sciences.
But even those he could power through.
Because those he understood.
But here he was, some 50-odd pages into the thrilling tale of instant, mutual, animal attraction, and he had hit a roadblock. His suspension of disbelief allowed for Jedi and elves, for time travel and evil that could be struck a mighty blow through the power of a strong platonic bond.
Sheldon thought of Samwise Gamgee, standing at the precipice at the end of their harrowing journey, begging his Frodo to throw away Sauron's ring. The spell hadn't been broken by true love's kiss but by Sam's unwavering support and a rather convenient Gollum.
Fairy tales had never held that appeal for him, and he supposed that this was, in a way, following those same lines; well-worn, tried-and-true tropes that he had never connected to the way others did. He'd thought it all a myth or something experienced by more primitive steps in human evolution.
That was, of course, until something similar had happened to him.
Homo novus was not supposed to feel irrational jealousy when his roommate began fawning over a new girl, doe-eyed and setting himself up for another heartache. After struggling against it, pushing it aside, and trying to move on with his life, he'd had to come to terms with the fact that it wasn't irrational at all.
And it hadn't been Leonard he was jealous of.
"Would you be open to the idea of making certain amendments to the Roommate Agreement?" Sheldon asked while perusing over the collection of comics for sale, trying to subtly watch Leonard to gauge his response.
"Would I be open to it?" Leonard repeated, staring at him. "What'd I do this time?"
Sheldon set his jaw, trying to think of the best way to delicately broach this sort of subject with Leonard when the idea made something inside him feel jittery, uncertain, unstable. "It's not you. It's her," he said, still dancing out of the way of the true purpose of this conversation.
Leonard rolled his eyes – did he honestly think Sheldon couldn't see him do it? As often as he did? – and sighed heavily. "Can't you just let me have this?"
"Until she breaks up with you and breaks your heart? Certainly not." He glared. "This must be addressed now, before it gets worse."
"Here it comes," Leonard muttered under his breath.
"What?" he snapped without meaning to, feeling like the world was starting to spin faster, like he was already losing control of the situation.
"The list of reasons we're not compatible, the number of reasons she has to dump me, the PowerPoint presentation on my personal failings."
Sheldon hesitated. "I only did that once and-"
"Once was enough." He put the comic he'd been looking at down. "I don't feel like doing this anymore. Buy what you want, and let's go home."
"Leonard, you're not listening to me."
"I've heard everything you have to say." He glared up at him over the rims of his glasses, eyes squinted – as if he could see anything – and mouth twisted into a scowl. "Or am I missing one?"
Sheldon still couldn't find the words, so Leonard shrugged away, gave a careless farewell to Stuart and stepped outside, presumably to get away from him. For the first time in years, Sheldon passed by the counter without buying or asking about a single thing, making a beeline for his roommate outside.
"The amendment I'm proposing-"
"I don't care," he said, sounding tired and defeated, and that usually meant Sheldon was winning but it felt quite the opposite.
"The amendment," Sheldon began again, "would be for our relationship with one another."
"You said it was about Sara."
"Oh, who cares if it's Sara or Joyce or, or-" He stammered, flustered. "Any woman. They all get in the way."
The memory played itself over in Sheldon's mind, and he could see now what he hadn't seen then – the way Leonard went stiff, the shallowness of his breathing, the way time seemed to stand still and demanded an explanation for it.
Sheldon had plowed ahead, moving straight through his anxiety and to the crux of the matter at hand.
"Our lives are better without them Leonard. There's a very simple, elegant solution to all of this, but I was blind to it until recently, and I think you'll find it an agreeable alternative to your endless chases after fickle females."
"Yeah?" He sounded so small in that moment that even Sheldon's Vulcan hearing almost missed it.
"Yes," he stressed. "If I were to fill the role myself, you wouldn't need to invite a third person into an already-functioning system, thus potentially changing everything from our dynamic to our furniture."
Leonard's laugh was disbelieving, insincere. "So what? You'll let me touch you? Kiss you?" He peeked at Sheldon out of the corner of his eye. "Make love to you?"
"Don't be ridiculous."
Leonard had visibly relaxed, which Sheldon now knew meant he'd found the foothold he'd use to keep himself out of his reach, the point where the battle would take place.
He'd turned to look at him, arms crossed, angry.
Sheldon explained, quickly, "Your desires wouldn't be satisfied without reciprocal behavior."
With Leonard looking straight at him, he could see the shock wash over him, the way his cheek went pink as he bit his own lower lip.
Would biting it achieve something for either of them? Was it meant to be pleasurable? The side thought twisted in the winds of his memories then vanished, leaving him with the sound of a door slamming closed and Leonard telling him to get in the car.
He'd refused to talk about it for weeks. Sara broke up with him. Leonard was sad, as usual, and Sheldon had resolved to repeat his offer, knocking at Leonard's door one night before bed.
When Leonard opened it, his entire body was shaking and he lifted a hand, fingers delicately resting on Sheldon's cheek. Sheldon froze in the hall, gaping and barely able to breathe. "I thought so," Leonard said sadly and leaned away, bringing his hand down to fidget nervously. "Sheldon, what I want from a relationship – that's not something you want to give. And that's fine. I don't want 'reciprocal behavior', I want someone who wants to touch me and love me even though my list of faults can apparently fill up 20 slides no problem."
"21," Sheldon corrected under his breath, and, in a moment of pure impulse, he reached out, fingers alighting on Leonard's bicep, where his sleeping shirt met his skin.
Time stood still again. "This isn't easy for me. You're right about that." He averted his eyes, but kept his fingers pinned, worrying at the hem of the sleeve, focusing on a loose stitch rather than the confession that he could barely murmur. "But that doesn't mean I don't want it. Or that I don't want to try. You give all these- these random women second, third, sometimes fourth chances unless they're North Korean spies. I'm asking for one."
The silence wasn't too long, but it felt like a lifetime. "Then," Leonard ventured softly, reaching up to cover Sheldon's nervous fingers with his own, his hand warm and steady, "we should go on a date first. Start with the basics."
That was how it had begun for them, a slow change, a shift in their desires concerning one another, eventually reaching a harmonious conclusion.
None of this. He focused on the words again, scowling. He was meant to believe that in a matter of days, Anastasia Steele knew everything important there was to know about Christian Grey, enough to hold their flimsy relationship together for at least another 300 pages.
Part of him wanted to spitefully flip to the last paragraph, read it, and then take the book back to Penny having claimed to read it all. But that would be cheating, and Sheldon didn't cheat. So he settled into his spot and kept reading.
The door opened and then closed much more quietly as Leonard realized he was immersed in something. In his peripheral vision, Sheldon could see him, holding the bags with their takeout, teetering on one foot to lean over and see the cover.
Sheldon closed the book, pointing the cover down towards his lap. It was best if Leonard didn't know about the bet or what it entailed. "You're home early."
"Traffic wasn't too bad, and the restaurant wasn't busy."
"But our food will be cold before it's time to eat."
"We could eat early," Leonard suggested like it wouldn't throw off Sheldon's entire world if he had his food a good thirty minutes earlier than usual.
"We could descend into total anarchy." Sheldon put the book face-down on the table, standing and crossing to the island as Leonard pulled takeout containers from the bag. "I'd rather not."
"Me either," Leonard teased with a smirk. "I'm kinda used to the monarchy."
Sheldon tried to muster up an offended front before giving it up as a lost cause, reaching around his boyfriend to grab his takeout container, murmuring warmly as he pressed close, "Good to know." Smirked to himself on his way back to his spot, not needing to look to know that Leonard was gaping, lost, the way he always was when Sheldon used the allure of intimacy as a weapon. They'd spent so long building up to the point where he felt comfortable enough in the first place, it seemed a shame not to use it now that it was in his arsenal.
He didn't get back to the book for several hours. At first, he read because he wanted to win, but there came a moment, with Christian Grey kneeling between a mostly naked Anastasia's legs, talking about her scent down there, when Sheldon slammed the book closed. His skin crawled, and he'd shoved the book to the far side of the couch, hands shaking with the knowledge of his defeat.
He hated having to guess at Penny's schedule, but it was a necessity if he was to get that thing out of their home as quickly as humanly possible. Sheldon had even considered leaving the book on the landing outside her door with a sticky note conceding his defeat, but the potential for the book to be damaged had made him hesitate.
It might not be something he liked at all, but it wasn't something of his. Sheldon couldn't treat it badly as it was not his to destroy.
When his sensitive ears picked up the sounds of Penny moving around in her apartment sometime around noon, he scooped the book up from where it lay, scampered out the door and across the hall, knocked quickly, wanting Fifty Shades of Grey to be out of his possession as quickly as humanly possible. Knock-knock-knock. "Penny!" Repeat. "Penny!" Again. "Penny!" He waited, holding the book away from himself as if it might contaminate him.
When she opened the door, he scowled and thrust the book at her. "Take it."
"Did you read it?" Penny asked, watching him carefully as she took the book from him.
"All of it?"
Sheldon silently cursed. "No."
"Where did you stop?"
"On the eighty-second page."
Penny flipped open the book, frowning slightly as she thumbed to the offending passage that had been his downfall. He cleared his throat. "I will endeavor to be a gracious loser as you won the bet."
"I guess I did." She kept flipping ahead, and Sheldon felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end, not liking her casual dismissal of his admitted failure or the way she seemed to be searching for something in the book. "Here." She stopped at a page with the words 'Chapter Eleven' in bold. "Read the next few pages – you'll know when to stop."
"Penny," he hissed.
"If you read this, you won't have to do anything else." She peered up at him, face unreadable but certainly determined. "The bet will be over."
"And if I can't?" Sheldon practically spat the last word out, hating it, hating her for making him say it.
"You can, sweetie. It's just a contract."
He blinked several times, mind whirring in a fruitless search for the true meaning behind her words. "That's all?"
She shrugged. "Humor me."