Fandom: The Big Bang Theory
Spoilers: set a year or so in the future after Season 2
Word Count: Part 4: 2,231 words
Disclaimer: If I owned it, I’d be glad I was paying actual science experts to back up the dialogue on the show.
Betas: foxtwin, fujiidom, van_el
Summary: Sheldon’s to blame. Penny’s furious. The guys are helpless. What’s a string theorist to do? Episode-style fic featuring the full cast, with a focus on Sheldon/Penny. Based on the prompt “pinkslip” from sheldon_penny‘s Fiction Friday. Awesome banner by patronuscharms.
Author’s Note: Many thanks and apologies to various random articles on astronomy, chemical engineering and plasma physics from which I borrowed wholesale.
Previously: Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3
Sheldon walked briskly down the hall to his office. He kept his head down, not pausing for idle chitchat along the way. Not that this was really any different than usual -- but today he was even more intent on making it to his office without being stopped.
“Hey!” a shout came from behind him. He recognized it immediately. “Doctor Stupor!” Leslie Winkle.
Sheldon halted, back straightening in offense, before he set his jaw and continued walking. He didn’t have the energy or time for her inane need to challenge him.
“Or is it Blooper?”
He pretended not to hear, picking up speed.
“All right, go ahead and run,” she taunted. “I guess what I heard -- well, read...” She held up her cell phone. “...was true, then.”
Sheldon reached his door and unlocked it, going inside and closing the door in Dr. Winkle’s face.
The door stopped short of closing, a high-heeled shoe blocking the way.
With an aggrieved sigh, Sheldon stepped away from the door and removed his messenger bag from over his shoulder. “Dr. Winkle,” he said, busying himself with unloading the bag, “I have no doubt that you believe everything you hear without first subjecting it to rigorous experimentation.” Sheldon turned his back to her and opened his filing cabinet. “Your continued insistence on accepting the loop quantum gravity theory on blind faith proves that.”
Leslie didn’t rise to the bait. “You would agree that interviews with primary subjects are valid in any thorough research?” She came closer, voice modulating into the practiced tones of a lecturer. “I’m interested in verifying my hypothesis.”
Sheldon paused. “Go on.”
“So... is it true that you drove away the only woman who can stand you anymore?”
Sheldon whirled at that, eyes flashing.
“Well, I say ‘stand,’ but to be more precise -- reluctantly tolerate,” Leslie continued laconically, “I mean, other than the women in your family.” She added with a smirk, “And even then, I hear that’s iffy...”
“Penny has decided to return to Omaha, yes,” he returned stiffly. “She is unhappy with her job prospects here. My interference was unfortunate -- though I contend that I simply sought to point out the Cheesecake Factory’s failing, not Penny’s own as a waitress, she is quite skilled, though sometimes short-tempered with her friends -- but the situation has proven to be the tipping point in her basic dissatisfaction with her life in California.” Sheldon stepped forward, temper rising. “Why should I stand in the way of her life choices?”
Leslie grinned smugly, and laid a hand on Sheldon’s arm. “You’re missing the point, as always.”
Sheldon quickly jerked his arm away, frowning as much at her words as her outstretched hand.
He opened his mouth to protest, but she removed her glasses and ran a hand through her crown of curls. “I’ve got to go anyway, thanks for the confirmation. I hate to gossip... you know, without possessing the full details.”
At that moment, Sheldon noticed the way she was dressed. She wore jewelry, a form-fitting black suit dress, shimmery stockings and heels. There was actually a hint of lipstick and smoky eye shadow across her lids. She flipped her hair over one shoulder and sauntered off down the hallway.
Sheldon frowned, but headed for his whiteboard instead of following her to argue further. His face betrayed no emotion, but he snapped open a dry-erase marker with a sharp jerk.
As Leslie Winkle continued down the hallway, an appreciative wolf-whistle pierced the air. “Is there a Sexy Librarian convention on campus this week?” Howard said, turning to Raj, who was walking beside him. He added, “Why can’t we get more hotties like that on our faculty?”
Raj lowered his voice. “No. Didn’t you hear? They’re holding aud--”
His voice cut off in a squeak as Leslie pivoted to face them. “Hi, boys. What a lovely way to start the day, with a little misogyny.”
Howard swallowed, still highly uncomfortable around Leslie after their ill-fated relationship. “N-No, Dr. Winkle. I was simply commenting on how... how professional you look today.”
“As opposed to how I look every other day?” she goaded, eyebrow rising.
“Ye--I mean, n--I...”
Leslie laughed. “You’re too easy, Wolowitz. See you later... Raj.” She winked flamboyantly at him and sashayed off again.
“You lucky dog...” Howard said, voice full of jealousy.
Raj turned to him, horrified. “Are you kidding? Dude, she is so not my type.”
“Type? Who bothers with a type?” Howard adjusted his collar for an unseen audience of admirers. “If she’s female, she’s my type.”
“Whatever.” Raj set off down the hall in the same direction Leslie had gone. “I want to see who else showed up.”
“Showed up to what?” Howard asked, hopping to catch up.
“It’s like I was trying to tell you. Today they’re having those auditions for the hosting job on a science show for one of the cable networks.”
Howard’s eyes grew large. “Auditions? Hosting job?”
They rounded the corner and saw a line of their fellow researchers outside one of the lecture halls. All of them were dressed to the nines... or at least eight and a half. Up and down the row, researchers, professors and graduate students chatted, preened and practiced lines.
They passed Andrew, one of the astronomy teaching assistants, who belted out in a booming voice, “A team of astronomers led by Roberta Humphreys of the University of Minnesota used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory to measure the motions of the ejected material and to map the distribution of the highly polarized dust, which reflects light at a specific orientation. The polarized light shows how the dust is distributed. Astronomers combined the Hubble and Keck information to produce a three-dimensional image of the matter emitted from VY Canis Majoris.”
Dr. Ikeda adjusted her chic glasses and read, “Nitrous oxide is mainly formed through the bacterial breakdown of nitrogen in soil or in water. A key component of fertilizers, most nitrogen is emitted from agriculture and from waste water treatment plants. Nitrous oxide doesn’t directly affect the ozone layer, but once it is in the atmosphere it can react with oxygen to form nitric oxide, which in turn attacks the ozone layer.”
Kripke -- Raj and Howard did a double-take when they realized he was there -- declaimed like a Shakespearean Elmer Fudd, “The wesonance cone expewiment, motivated by a contwoversy in the antenna community about the wadiation from an ideawized dipole in an ideawized anisotwopic pwasma, was the first expewimentow demonstwation that cones weawy existed and that the cone angow vawied with pwasma pawameters in a wewativewy simpow way.”
“What the frak?!” Howard cried out, floored. “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?”
Raj guided Howard away from the line, far from Dr. Ikeda’s look of disdain. “They told everyone, Howard. It’s been in the departmental newsletter everyday this week.”
“It was?” Howard paused in thought a moment, and then made a dismissive gesture. “Eh, no one reads those anyway.” He strode toward the end of the line, and picked up the audition script from the sign-in table. “I’d be perfect for this. By the time I get to the front of the line, I’ll have it down cold.”
Raj stood and looked at him, eyebrow raised.
“Aren’t you going to join me? You could be the next Sanjay Gupta!”
Raj did nothing more than point at the several women in the line, and the cute female casting assistant taking names.
Raj shook his head in disgust, as much with himself as with his friend, and lifted a hand as if to say, ‘More power to you -- I’m outta here.’
“Hey, if you aren’t going to audition, at least you could keep me company...” Howard called futilely after Raj’s retreating back. “Fine. See if I put you in my entourage.”
Hours later, the casting director, Terence James, and his assistant Carrie, opened the door to the hallway where the long line had been. The last of the hopefuls had left a few minutes ago. “No others, then?” James asked.
“No, sir. Dr. Valasquez was the final candidate.”
James slumped against the outside of the door to the lecture hall in which they’d been holding the screen tests. “Oh, god. Two full days of auditions and not one I want to call back.”
“I know, sir.” Carrie agreed.
“After today, I wish I could scrub some of them completely from my brain. Did you see that little guy in the Junior Austin Powers getup?” He shook his head in amazement. “What made him think that was acceptable for this kind of show?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“And then the day before, a whole day of beautiful airheads -- all of them no better than a talking parrot.”
“I think a parrot would sound more convincing about the science than they did, sir.”
James smiled briefly, but continued on. “Today’s group -- they were all passionate. They clearly love their fields -- but the camera?” He tsked. “Did not love them.”
“There was the one...”
James sighed. “I guess we could give a callback to Dr...” He lifted his clipboard and started to run down the list of names with a finger. He trailed off, noticing Sheldon, who had just walked around the corner into view.
The scientist stood in front of a bulletin board and lifted a crisp piece of paper. He aligned it exactly, and tacked it to the cork by the corners. He then stepped back, studying it briefly. He stepped forward again... and instead of adjusting his own flyer, he removed the papers scattered around the surface to give his own contribution better visibility.
James and Carrie watched this in silence from the other end of the hall. Then James turned quietly to his assistant. “Do you see that? The way he holds himself?” He took an involuntary step toward Sheldon. Carrie shuffled forward to keep beside him. James added, “So... confident. I bet he’d be brilliant on camera.”
Carrie was starting to feel it, too. “Maybe put him in a dark suit...”
“A jewel-toned shirt or tie...” They both moved a few steps closer.
“Excuse me...” James began when they were within a few yards of the tall researcher. He held out his hand toward Sheldon. “My name is Terence James, casting director for the new show Unified Theory. This is my assistant, Carrie Sussman. And your name is...?”
Sheldon glanced at James’ outstretched hand just long enough to show he wasn’t going to touch it, and then nodded his head in greeting instead. “Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D.”
“Very nice voice -- strong, assertive.” He nodded at Carrie, who nodded back happily. “Tell me, Dr. Cooper, we were just finishing our auditions, and--”
“Oh, good,” Sheldon cut in. “I need to get into the Robert Sharp Lecture Hall.” He strode toward the entrance of the room.
They had to jog to catch up with him. “Wait, Dr. Cooper! I was wondering if you might...”
Sheldon’s eyebrows came together in annoyance. “If I might what? I’m very busy right now.”
“If you might consider auditioning for our host position. We’re trying to find a young, dynamic scientist who can connect with our viewers. I think you might just have the right... something.”
Sheldon’s lips pressed together and he faced them. “So let me get this straight. You wish me to consider becoming the representative face of your program?”
“Yes,” James nodded eagerly.
“A program which takes scientific concepts and... if I remember your prospectus from the newsletter... helps to make them more palatable for a general audience?”
“In effect, watering down the true nature of the theories presented in such a way that they would lose their essential viability?”
“Yes...” James was now much less sure of his initial impression.
“So that every Dick and Jane who watches the program would feel that they could grasp the information, when it would be more akin to a child thinking he understands the complexities of interactions between subatomic particles simply because he created a foam-and-toothpick model of the water molecule?”
“Hmm. As much as I am... flattered... by your request, I simply cannot attach myself to such a project. I would need to acquire full control of the material presented in order to ensure the end product’s veracity. And particularly considering the amount of time this would bleed from my primary research, I must decline.”
James and Carrie’s expressions had slowly turned from hopeful to confused to blank incomprehension. Sheldon waited for a moment to pass, to allow them to respond.
“Ah... well... thank you for your time,” James finally said.
Sheldon gave them another curt nod and turned toward the room.
James sighed again. “Well, Carrie, I guess we’ll simply have to callback this...” He scanned the list again and stopped on a name. “Dr. Leslie Winkle. But first? There’s a non-fat soy latte calling my name.” They headed toward the other end of the building.
Sheldon had frozen in place with his hand on the door when he heard Leslie’s name. “Dr.... Winkle?” Sheldon asked in shock. He shook himself out of his inertia to call after the two... but they were already gone. He frowned deeply, and a cold fire lit in his blue eyes. “Oh, hell no.”
Next: Part 5