Well, he'd done it. He'd secured his place in the U.S. by agreeing to work with Sheldon on some of his research. The university would be none the wiser about his work and his visa would no longer be in jeopardy. His future was secure, at least when it came to his work and his livelihood. In the case of his personal relationships however, that still needed to be figured out.
When his immigration visa looked like it was in trouble, Raj's future flashed before his eyes. All of his plans, his hopes and dreams seemed to go up in smoke. Having realized that he may in fact be spending the rest of his days back in India, the worried astrophysicist's thoughts strangely turned towards Howard.
It had not been that long ago that the two had met and become friends at the university they worked at. They had hit it off right away, sharing a love of many of the same hobbies, interests and sci-fi movies. After a while, they'd of course met Leonard as well and began spending a lot of time at his and Sheldon's place. However, the two remained strong in their friendship together separately and often would spend weekends apart from the other two guys together.
Over the years, Raj had seemed to grow even closer to Howard and what had once started out as just friendship had morphed into a sort of infatuation from his perspective. After all, they'd gone through a lot together, been vulnerable with one another and unless Raj was mistaken, had shared a closeness that often made his doubt the platonic nature of things.
He'd found himself hoping that one day soon, the two could maybe move in together so that Howard could finally get out from under his mother's grasp. They could share even more of their free time with one another and perhaps even move into a more intimate sort of relationship.
Dealing with these feelings for his best friend had left Raj in a bit of a whirlwind. He wasn't gay, far from it and he knew this fact to be true as he'd tested himself many times with many other men. His paranoia about that fact had insisted upon such research. For example, he saw absolutely nothing attractive about Leonard in any way, shape or form. Though he was his friend. a good friend, Raj, try as he might, could never imagine engaging in any sort of sexual activity with the bespectacled man. Sheldon was even worse. Not only was his personality absolutely toxic to him but Raj felt he looked a bit too much like a scarecrow for his taste.
And so, when it came to Howard and his budding attraction and feelings for him, Raj felt more than weirded out by them. He felt like something was seriously wrong and that it was perhaps tied to his inability to speak to women. But try as he might, the feelings did not fade and instead only grew stronger day by day. He wasn't sure if it was his imagination but often during those late nights together, Raj could have sworn there was something more there between them. Ask Howard or insinuate an attraction in any way however and you'd have Howard immediately swiftly denying it!
Working through these feelings took many years causing the man to wonder if his immigration status had not been called into question, would he have ever broached the topic with Howard at all? Having remained secretive about it for so long, it was almost second nature for his feelings to be there beneath the surface with him obstinately ignoring their presence.
That had all changed now though. He had to tell the man how he felt. It was time.
And so Raj had called the engineer up, asking where he was and if they could meet. He knew Howard had gone out on a double date with Penny and Leonard since he'd been quite busy with working with Sheldon the last few days. He wondered if it had gone as poorly as most of the engineer's dates usually went. At least, he could hope.
Arriving at Leonard and Sheldon's apartment, the man took a deep breath in and out before cautiously heading inside. He was finally going to tell his friend how he felt. At least, he was going to reiterate just how scared he'd been at the prospect of having to leave the country and leave him behind. He was going to try his best to articulate these feelings. He had to. It was killing him to keep this all inside.
And Shiva help him, if Sheldon and Leonard were present in any way, then he was just going to have to acquire some alcohol and a scheme to get the man back to his place for some Klingon Boggle strip tease edition.
Howard was inside the living room setting down his messenger bag, having just arrived. Raj gave a quick look around to find the apartment empty. “Hey. Uh... where are Leonard and Sheldon?”
“Uh... Leonard just left to go get dinner and Sheldon is... I don't know and I don't really care.” The man shrugged with an easy smile.
“Ah.” Raj nodded, feeling a little less nervous now that they would be alone to talk at least. His thoughts turned to the elephant in the room, Howard's double date the other night. He placed his messenger bag down on the coffee table and then went to grab a drink out of the fridge. Taking a deep breath, he approached his best friend and readied himself for the conversation.
“So uh, how did it go?” Raj asked nervously as he played with the label on his water bottle and fiddled with it this way and that.
Howard grinned, opening up the fridge to grab a drink for himself too. “Great! Really, really great actually. I like her a lot. Her name is Bernadette, she's studying microbiology. We have a plan to make our parents crazy together.”
Raj's face fell as he realized just how happy Howard was with this new girl he'd just met. His words failed him as he stared down at the coffee table next to them. Howard was still talking, going on and on about his date and the possibilities of this becoming a real, steady relationship for him.
Raj began to panic, his heart racing in his chest at the possibility that he was too late to admit his feelings to the man. Perhaps, he had been too slow to act, too petrified to want to change anything between them and chance ruining their friendship. But he'd just wanted to be careful, wanted to be sure before saying anything.
But now, he wasn't at all sure about where they stood, was he? It was worse, hearing the man's excitement about a potential girlfriend and knowing in his heart of hearts that he could never measure up to her.
The shorter man strolled over to him then and popped the top on his diet coke. “Listen to me, I'm just going on and on and on. You said you wanted to talk. So, uh, what did you want to tell me?”
Looking into his friend's eyes and seeing how excited he was about whatever her name was, Raj felt his courage falter. He took a deep breath and squashed any remaining feelings he felt for the man back deep down inside of him. “Oh, nothing really. It's not important.” He was losing his resolve, feeling the pangs of heartbreak grip his chest tightly.
He moved to quickly grab his bag from it's place on the table to get ready to head out once more as Howard stared at him looking puzzled. “Really? You sounded like you really needed to tell me something on the phone like it was important.”
Raj fumbled with the strap over his chest for a moment and then feeling trapped, lied. “Me and Sheldon found some promising new leads in our research, that's all. It looks like we're on to something there.”
“Oh, well, that's great.” The brunette said, reaching for the TV remote as he sank down onto the couch cushions. He was all at once seemingly disinterested in the conversation as he began to search for something to watch until Leonard got back.
“Yeah, so uh... I'll be able to stay in the country a lot longer. No problem there.”
Raj stared at the man before him who was already fully focused on the sci-fi show on the TV. Feeling the lump in his throat grow, any semblance of his plans to admit his feelings to the man had dissipated on the spot.
His heart ached as he turned to go, not wanting to stay in the same room with the man who was very rapidly breaking his heart. He'd better go and find a way to suppress the feelings before they broke him.
Howard didn't care about him in that way and he never would. That much was apparent.
The sound of the apartment door shutting behind him caused Howard's attention to once again pivot towards the empty space where his friend had once been standing.
'That was odd.' Howard thought before going back to watching the show. 'Must have forgotten something in his car.'