Raj Koothrappali didn't see anything unusual about inviting Stuart to move back in with him. After Lucy broke off their relationship, it seemed like most natural thing to do, especially given that the economy had tanked the collectables market and Stuart was having money problems. Raj's apartment was warm and clean, and the couch was certainly safer and more comfortable than sleeping on a pallet in the back room of the store.
Howard had given him a sideways, one eyebrowed look, but if Howard feared he was being replaced, well, then Howard should have considered how he felt all those times he'd ended up playing the third wheel to Howard and Bernadette. Especially, Raj thought, back when he couldn't even open his mouth in front of Bernadette.
Luckily, his other friends had been more accepting. Leonard had said he was happy for him, Sheldon had asked whether providing free lodging netted first dibs on new merchandise or a discount on comics, Penny had smiled and said they were "cute" and Amy had offered to do a brain scan to determine why he could suddenly talk to girls. Although he wasn't at all certain what the latter had to do with Stuart's new living arrangements.
Raj thought it was actually pretty great having a roommate. Raj's schedule only partially overlapped with Stuart's, with Stuart going in to work later and getting home later. That allowed Stuart to take Cinnamon out for a walk before he left for the comic book store, so Raj didn't need to run home during the day to do it. It also allowed Raj to have a nice dinner made for the two of them to enjoy on the evenings they didn't go to Leonard and Sheldon's apartment.
Everything changed the day Sheldon found a dead fly in his desk drawer. Convinced that the fly had died from some horrible plague, Sheldon had somehow convinced the university to fumigate their office -- or at least to give the two of them the afternoon off while maintenance claimed the office was being fumigated.
Having a few unexpected free hours and nothing in particular to do, Raj had decided to give the apartment a good cleaning. He had dusted and polished the furniture and was just finishing up when the vacuum bumped against something underneath the couch. Raj shut the machine off and reached beneath the furniture, pulling out a handful of sketchbooks.
Curious, he sat down on the couch and flipped open the first of the books. The first drawing he found was of a telescope, one that he recognized as his own. It struck Raj as an odd thing to draw, but perhaps it was simply an exercise. The next page revealed a lovely sketch of Cinnamon, faithfully reproduced right down to the bow in her hair. Stuart really was good. Raj couldn't figure out why Stuart was trying to make a living running the store instead of as an artist.
Raj flipped to the next page, and found a drawing of himself, seated at his computer, his back turned. The following page was again him, this time a frontal view of him sitting at the dinner table, obviously done from memory as Raj knew he would have noticed if Stuart had been drawing while they ate. The next drawing was of his face, with him laughing.
Raj thumbed through the rest of the pages. More drawings of himself. Eating, watching television, stargazing through his telescope, shirtless. Naked. He grabbed the other two sketchbooks and quickly scanned through them, finding more of the same, increasingly graphic.
Oh. Raj might not be a Sheldon-level genius, but he had a pretty good idea what the drawings meant. He just wasn't sure how he felt about it.
Stuart wasn't in the best of moods as he opened the apartment door. The day's sales had been going reasonably well and he'd been clearing a profit, and then some kid had knocked over the original Star Wars Han Solo figure he'd had on display and broken off Solo's pistol. That was the end of the day's profits.
To his surprise, as he entered, he found the apartment was dimly lit. The lights were turned down and there were lighted candles on the already set for two table. Not seeing Raj, he slipped off his jacket, laying it across the sofa before crossing to the table where he found a bottle of wine waiting. "Raj?" he called.
Raj appeared from the bedroom. "Good, you're home. I was just about to take the chicken out of the oven."
Stuart was a little bit relieved. The candles and wine had left him thinking that perhaps Raj had a date, and was going to kick him out of the apartment for the night. That didn't appear to be the case. "So what's the occasion?"
"No occasion." Raj smiled, reaching for hot mitts before opening the oven door. "I just thought I'd do something a little special. Pour the wine, will you?"
Stuart filled the glasses as Raj plated the chicken and the vegetables he'd cooked. One of the added benefits to his new rooming arrangements was Raj's cooking. It tended to be just a little heavy on the spices for his own tastes, but other than that, Raj was an excellent cook.
They both slid into their chairs, and Raj raised his glass. "To art," he toasted.
It was an odd thing to toast, but Stuart clinked glasses. "Why art?" he asked, as he tasted a bite of his chicken.
"Because a picture is worth a thousand words."
"Oh." He still didn't understand. Maybe it was an Indian thing. He'd already figured out that the Raj's culture didn't always translate well.
Raj eyed Stuart over his fork. "I did some cleaning up today. While I was vacuuming, I came across your sketchbooks."
Stuart nearly choked on the piece of potato he was eating. "Oh." He could feel the heat rising in his face. He set his fork down. "I'll leave." He started to push his chair back.
"Did I ask you to leave?" Raj asked. "I just want to know. I mean, you dated Penny. And Amy."
Stuart looked down. "Not very successfully. Maybe because neither was what I really wanted."
Raj nodded. "Okay, then."
"Okay?" Stuart wasn't sure what that meant.
Raj smiled broadly. "Maybe the next time you draw me laying naked in bed, I won't be alone."