Sheldon's mania is starting to get bad.
Okay, so Sheldon isn't actually manic. As far as a psychiatric evaluation would go, it might be classified as a side effect of his OCD, an obsession triggered by an event that can only go away when he's solved it his way. If someone were to ask Leonard, he'd classify it as genius. Mixed with crazy, played for laughs, but the truth is that he's amazed by Sheldon. Growing up in the shadows of stars brighter than him, he thought he'd always be jealous, but Sheldon is completely different from them.
That cold persona melts away, replaced with passion, a need to understand, not for any purpose other than understanding. There's a bit of narcissism in there too, because Sheldon wants to make sure everyone else understands because of him, but it's primarily that he needs to solve the puzzle. He has to figure out everything, not to impress anyone or pat himself on the back. The fact that he'll do both isn't even recognized until the moment passes.
The best way to describe the moods that overtake him is mania. He obsesses. It drives him. He forgets everything else – food, sleep, Leonard's caught him not breathing before except for greedy gulps of air every few minutes simply because he's so far away from his body that even his basic impulses shut down.
Leonard can't be jealous of him. Not like this. Because while it's incredible and breathtaking, it's also dangerous, and he can't help but worry. It's four in the morning, and he can hear Sheldon pacing restlessly, muttering in the living room, and Leonard reluctantly pulls himself out of bed and stealthily peeks into the room.
Sheldon's got the room covered in a pattern of random objects – okay, not random, because everything Sheldon does has a rhyme and reason – and he paces around them, eyes blinking rapidly. His eye twitches, and Leonard knows he's stuck in the way that can't be fixed until everything slides into place, and the human race gets a little closer to understanding the way the universe works.
"Hey, buddy," he says, just to see if he has Sheldon's attention at all.
Sheldon doesn't acknowledge him. Instead, he sinks down in his spot, fingers folded in his lap as he watches the diagram he's made for himself. When he does get up, it's to nudge something into another place before standing up, eyebrows furrowed, concentrating so hard that Leonard's sure he'd set the entire thing on fire if he had pyrokinesis. Sheldon wouldn't want that. Fire's too messy. Telekinesis maybe. Probably the Force, if Leonard's being honest, and Sheldon wouldn't be a Jedi. Sith Lord Sheldon. It has a certain ring to it.
Fuck, it's too late, but Leonard can't go back to bed. Not with Sheldon out here like this, dark circles under his tired eyes, the piercing blue no less sharp but his body slouching, needing better than what Sheldon's giving it.
"Sheldon? You need to go to sleep."
Sheldon, again, doesn't bother acknowledging him. Leonard pinches the bridge of his nose. Of course. Stating the obvious. Naturally Sheldon was going to ignore him. "I'm going to make you go to bed," he says, going for a more direct approach.
That at least catches something. Sheldon turns his head slightly away, hiding his expression, but Leonard doesn't need to see his face to know. His spine stiffens, hands clenched into fists. He knows what he needs, but he thinks denying himself will make everything make sense quicker. The sooner it's over with, the better for everyone, and so what if Sheldon's body suffers?
Well, Leonard, for one, cares if Sheldon starves himself of sleep or food or air. Sheldon needs someone who does, and everyone else is too put off by his everyday self to realize that he needs to be cared for. Coddled, sometimes, especially when he doesn't want it. Leonard didn't sign up for this, not even in the dreaded Roommate Agreement, but it's a position he takes more seriously than anything written down in there.
Leonard takes his first tentative step forward, knowing that if Sheldon tells him no, then it's a losing battle, but Sheldon remains silent. Stubborn, yes, and fighting, but part of him realizes that Leonard knows best in this singular instance and reluctantly listens. That means more, too, than any of the promises Sheldon made in their friendship clause. Listening once in a while even when he doesn't want to? Leonard knows that means something so much more than paper.
And he knows that it means something to Sheldon, too.
"Sheldon," he says softly as he touches his arm. Sheldon flinches just enough for Leonard to notice it, but he doesn't tear his eyes away from his work. "We're going to bed."
Sheldon shakes his head but doesn't otherwise protest. Leonard sighs softly and moves slowly in front of him. Sheldon lifts his head, still looking, not at all concerned about Leonard in his personal space, not even bothered as Leonard slides his hands up under his robe, touching him above his t-shirt. He makes a small, inward gasp, but remains focused.
This is the part Leonard hates. He knows it's what Sheldon needs, and he doesn't mind giving it to him. That seems to be basically his purpose in life nowadays, but the thing is that even knowing that Sheldon cares, even knowing that Sheldon will let Leonard take care of him, knowing everything, he knows that Sheldon will never love him back. And that hurts so much. It's unhealthy and worrying, how dependent Sheldon is on him while offering almost nothing in return, but even knowing that, he can't stop himself from caring.
"Bed, Sheldon," he murmurs, sliding his hands down, feeling the worrying bumps of ribs, the sharp cut of his hips. He'll make sure Sheldon eats tomorrow. Three whole meals, no skipping. If he has to handfeed him, he'll do it. Even in front of their coworkers.
Not like they don't know that he's whipped already.
Sheldon protests, "I'm busy, Leonard. I've almost got it."
"Maybe sleep will help."
"Sleep will get in the way," he hisses, irritated but not pulling away as Leonard presses his forehead against his chest, thumbs rubbing soothingly at his hips, hoping the motion with calm him enough to surrender.
Leonard rests his head, pillowed on the hard, skinny body in front of him, his hands daring to push under his shirt, massaging the warm skin in a sure rhythm. Sheldon swallows loudly. Leonard presses closer, sighs, and keeps touching him, trying to focus on doing this for Sheldon and not how he wishes Sheldon would touch him back.
He looks up. Sheldon's eyes blink blearily. He's almost ready to give in. He just needs that final spur.
Leonard tugs on the waistband of his pajamas and the underwear beneath, his intent clear. Sheldon gasps again, a quiet, quick inhale, but he says nothing. His surrender is silent. He'd never willingly say yes. But no? Sheldon's told him no enough that Leonard knows he'd put an end to this if he wanted to.
He slides a hand down, unsurprised to find Sheldon half-hard already. The mind may be apathetic, but the body knows what feels nice. And as far as the person's considered? Sheldon would never let anyone else do this for him.
At least, that's what Leonard's choosing to believe. He'll never have the guts to ask, and Sheldon will never volunteer that sentiment. Sheldon doesn't want to have sentiments anyway, but Leonard knows he does. He has to care. Some part of him. Or else he would have been pushed away, told to leave, and Sheldon would have gone back to work, self destructing in the name of science.
Leonard strokes him slowly, savoring every touch and letting Sheldon become reacquainted with the idea of someone else touching him intimately. His brain is still rapidly searching and writing, focus on his diagram, and Leonard does the best thing he can for Sheldon and shuts that demanding genius brain up by reminding it of primitive desires.
Sheldon releases the breath he's been holding, a quiet, contented sigh, and when Leonard looks up, he sees Sheldon's eyes closed, his mouth moving silently, trying to maintain control when they both know he needs to let it go.
Sheldon takes a reluctant step backwards, and Leonard follows until Sheldon's legs turn into jelly as he collapses against the wall. He makes another quiet noise – he's always quiet during this, the only time when he's not loud. But he's still the center of attention, the center of Leonard's entire world, and he wishes he could show it in a way that isn't a brief, distracting handjob.
Sheldon tips his head back, making another breathy, quiet noise. Leonard stokes him at a steady pace, building energy, slicking his hand with precome and sweat before pushing Sheldon's pants and underwear down enough to give him more room. Sheldon's hands clutch at the wall and then at Leonard's shoulders, fingers digging in as he finally begins to move himself, no longer able to remain passive.
"Sheldon," he murmurs.
"Leonard," Sheldon whispers desperately, his body arching into his hand. It's not a coincidence that the table nearest them has tissues on it, and Leonard manages to get them in place, minimizing the mess and the cleanup.
Sheldon stares at him as if he can't believe what just happened, but then he blinks. Blearily, sleepily, finally succumbing to his body's needs now that Leonard's pulled him out of his head. "Go to bed, Sheldon," he orders quietly, and this time, Sheldon doesn't even so much as look at the floor before nodding and moving lethargically to his room.
Leonard takes a steadying breath before disposing of the tissues, waddling uncomfortably thanks to his own arousal. He falls asleep after imagining reciprocation, warmth in that cold expression, Sheldon determined to take him apart and put him together again. All of that focus on him, his mania, his obsession bringing them closer, keeping them together.
It'll never be that way. Leonard knows that. But he also knows that he'll take what he can get, and he'll always do what's best for Sheldon. Even if that means living with the heaviness in his heart and jerking off alone after helping his best friend reorient himself in the world around him.
Leonard sighs and closes his eyes and succumbs to sleep for a few hours before Sheldon needs him to step in and interfere again.