A/N: Another story so soon? 'But, JML, are you feeling okay?' I hear you ask. Yes, yes, good readers, I am feeling fine. Finally taking advantage of some time I have to catch up to the plot bunnies hopping around my brain. I promise I am still working on my longer stories, but this one begged to be told.
This one is a direct reaction to the nonsense, the sheer absurdity, that was the Season 8 finale. How Penny agreed to marry Leonard anyway is beyond me. Season 1 Penny, fresh from leaving Kurt after his infidelity, would have conducted her own experiment to test how well Leonard knew how to 'tuck and roll' out of a moving car, not agreed to marry him anyway. This is my version of a response.
As always, no betas were harmed in the making of this chapter. I was writing without a net at all times. All mistakes belong to yours truly. Any and all similarities to real people, places, or events is entirely coincidental. I claim no ownership (nor would I want to!) of the show, characters, or plots. Spoilers through the Season 8 finale, so I guess for the whole show.
The Vegas Retribution
Officer Paola Morales was tired. She always was at the end of a twelve-hour shift at the precinct, especially so when it was Sunday evening and the weekend was over at last. Las Vegas tended to bring out the worst in the tourists – locals were by and large inured to the excesses to be found on the Strip – with the Friday-to-Sunday shift being the worst draw an officer could receive. Still, as the current 'rookie', she had the short straw and was paying her dues.
On staff for just six months, she knew that if she never smelled another donut or pot of stale coffee again in her life it would be too soon. The amount of time she had to spend in the shower to get the stench of fatty pastries out of her thick, curly hair was enough to make her think seriously about getting a pixie cut.
The door flung itself open with a force that should have been surprising, but after thirty drunk and disorderlies, a dozen domestic violence cases, and even a few shootings just in that day, she expected the glass to shatter when each new angry suspect was brought in. This time was different, though, as the lone person there fell on his face with a groan, immediately rolling over to one side.
"Sir?" she asked, half-rising from her chair. "Can I help you?"
"God, I really hope so," came his reply. "I need to report a kidnapping.
"Kidnapping?" she asked, incredulity coloring her voice. "Who was kidnapped?"
"Me," he said with another groan, pushing up to his feet.
Holy shit he's short, she thought unkindly. He's even shorter than I am. Then as she took in the extent of his condition, what the hell happened to this guy?
"Okay, so someone kidnapped you?" Paola asked, grabbing her Incident Report pad and starting to make notes.
"Obviously," he gave a derisive snort, "Didn't I just say that?"
It took every ounce of strength, but she was just able to restrain herself from the eye roll of all time at his superior tone. "Okay, and then they did all…" she waved her hand up and down, gesturing at the variety of unusual things about his appearance, "that to you?"
"Every bit of it," he answered. "It was five people. I'd never seen them before. Just a group that jumped out of an alley and grabbed me."
"Why would some guys take you into an alley just to beat you to a pulp?" she asked, filling out more boxes.
"I don't have the faintest idea," he said, evading her gaze and twisting his fingers together.
This time Paola did roll her eyes. "I'm going to need something to put in my report. Why would anyone cut your hair, paint your nails, write on your forehead, and…why exactly are you walking bowlegged?"
"I'd rather not say," he repeated. "I'm sure it was all a big misunderstanding."
With a groan, Paola reached for her phone. "Detective Walker? I have someone coming your way. You're going to love this one." She listened for the detective's reply before shaking her head and hanging up. "Take the elevators to your left, go up to the fifth floor. Ask the Sergeant up there for Detective Alex Walker, Missing Persons."
"Thank you," he ground out, limping over to the elevator bank.
Paola's eyes added the broken gait to the black eyes and broken nose, bruises to his cheek and fingers that were obviously broken she'd already catalogued. Those were more serious than the marker on his forehead that said 'Insert Brain Here' with an arrow to hair that was cut in a way that was oddly reminiscent of a Yorkshire terrier. He nervously flipped his hood up, which drew attention to his neon-pink highlighted fingernails. The stranger hunched over, which only made his bowlegged gait all the more curious, especially with what looked like scorch marks on the inside of his jeans.
Paola shook her head and went back to counting down the minutes until the end of her shift, promising herself that she'd get the story out of Alexandra Walker the next day.
"Start over, Mr. Hofstadter," Detective Alex Walker said, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "What exactly happened to you?"
"It's Doctor Hofstadter, and I told that desk officer downstairs this already. Five guys jumped me from an alley, dragged me off with them, knocked me out, and when I woke up, I was like this," the little guy said, rubbing his hand through his ridiculous hair.
She stared at him for a few moments, taking in his bizarre haircut, the writing on his forehead, the painted toenails, and his injuries. The kidnapping story wasn't entirely implausible, but in Vegas she'd learned to never take anyone's word at face value. Reaching for a button on her phone, Alex pressed her internal messaging function and lifted the handset. "Hello, Medical? Alex Walker here. I have someone sitting at my desk that I want to get a full workup for…that's right, booze, drugs, everything…thanks, I'll send him right down."
"You're sending me to get a drug screening?" the short man burst out.
"Look, Doctor Hofstadter, this is Vegas," Alex explained, hoping against hope that the guy would take the hint and get the hell out of her office. Somehow she doubted that it would happen. "We get a lot of people with a lot of weird stories that are usually enhanced by one chemical or another. I'm not exactly calling you a liar, but I want to be sure your perceptions of the events are accurate."
"But I'm totally fine!" he began to bluster, but she cut his protest short with a raised hand.
"Just go down to the basement where our medical personnel can run scans for blood alcohol, drug content, the works. After I'm sure you're completely sober, we can talk some more."
Hofstadter looked mutinous for a beat, but then his slumping shoulders signaled his surrender. "Fine. Just down to the basement on the same elevator?"
"Yep," she nodded, gesturing. "Go back the way you came and hit 'B' for basement. After they tell me you're clean, we'll go from there."
Two hours later, Alex was about to page Medical to see where her visitor had gotten to when the elevator pinged to announce its arrival. Instead of the diminutive doctor coming out of the elevator, a burly technician was pushing a wheelchair with a slumped-over Hofstadter.
Simmons. Oh he must have had fun with this one, she thought, knowing he was going to want a favor in return for pushing this guy down there. "What the hell happened?" she asked, not trying to keep her voice down. If he was out for too much longer it would really put a crimp in her day.
"The blood draw. Dude passed out when he saw the needle," Simmons grunted as he handed over the folder with the screen results. "He's totally clean, by the way. No drugs or alcohol of any kind in his system. Where did they dig this one up?"
"Not a damn clue," she answered, shaking her head. "I just hope he wakes up soon. I want to get his ass out of here as soon as I can. Thanks for bringing him up here, Simmons."
The giant of a man grunted and went back downstairs. Just as Alex bent her head back to her latest report, Hofstadter stirred in the chair. "Wha – what happened? Where am I?"
"You're still with the Las Vegas Police Department, Dr. Hofstadter," Alex answered with exaggerated politeness, secure in the knowledge that the sarcasm would pass right over his still-drugged head.
"Police? I thought – but wasn't that all just some dream?" he asked, furrowing his brow before shaking his head in an effort to clear it.
Alex bared her teeth in a cruel parody of a grin. "That's what I was hoping too, Dr. Hofstadter, but here we are. Now, the folks downstairs have reported that you were clear of any intoxicating substance."
"I told you!" he crowed triumphantly, clarity returning to his eyes.
"Yes, yes you're sober. Congratulations," Alex answered, rolling her eyes. "Now we just have to figure out exactly what happened."
"I told you that too. Aren't you going to start listening to me now?" he asked with more than a touch of petulance.
"The method of abduction you described is not one any of the criminal organizations in Las Vegas are known to use," she informed him, working hard to keep her tone level, "so just because you were telling the truth about being sober doesn't mean that I'm automatically going to believe you about the abduction."
Dr. Hofstadter took a deep breath as he hung his head in front of him. "This has been the absolute worst day I've ever had. I was kidnapped and abused, not to mention humiliated. What do I have to do to convince you I'm telling the truth?"
When he started wiggling his eyebrows before scrunching them together, like he was attempting to look like a pathetic kicked puppy, Alex had the sudden urge to either burst out laughing or make him as uncomfortable as possible. Focusing on his last word, she hit on the perfect solution. "You want me to believe you?"
"Then follow me."
Five minutes later, Alex watched with morbid satisfaction as Dr. Hofstadter squirmed in his hard, uncomfortable chair. Of course, the squirming might have had something to do with the various straps, cords, and sensors required for a lie detector test.
"Is this really necessary?" he whined, trying to find a comfortable position.
Alex rolled her eyes and shared a grin with the lie detector technician. "You asked me what would get me to believe you, didn't you?"
"I have a PhD! I work as a physicist for Cal Tech! You should be taking my word for it!" he protested, causing his blood pressure readings to spike.
"I've put many people through this process, Dr. Hofstadter. Before I moved into Missing Persons, I was in Fraud. I investigated plenty of scientists at the universities here in town who falsified their results in order to get tenure, or a bonus, or what-have-you. Just because you have a bunch of letters after your name doesn't mean you're infallible," she not quite spat at him. The flinch he gave when she said the phrase 'falsified their results' was fascinating. Maybe there's something there… "I'd like you to answer all my questions with a simple 'yes' or 'no'. Have you ever played with the results of any experiments, doctor?"
Real fear showed in his eyes for the briefest of moments before he swallowed and set his jaw. "No, I've never screwed with the results of any of my experiments."
Looking over the shoulder of her favorite lie detector technician, Charlie Waters, Alex watched the needle flicker just enough for her suspicions to be aroused, especially with his reaction to her question. "That wasn't what I asked. I wanted to know if you'd ever tampered with any experiment, not just any of yours."
Hofstadter's eyes managed to look wounded before he shook his head. "No, I've never messed with any study."
The needle's movement was off the charts. Alex had to suppress a chuckle. So the little bastard is willing to lie to me. Interesting. Out loud she changed the subject. "So, for the reason you're here, Dr. Hofstadter, were you kidnapped last night?"
"Yes," he answered with an impatient sigh.
Charlie looked at her and nodded. True.
"Were you kidnapped by five individuals?"
"Yes," she watched as the words 'Insert Brain Here' moved up and down with his nod.
Charlie confirmed his truthfulness with a nod of his own. True.
Alex set her first trap. "Were these individuals unknown to you?"
"Yes," he answered, though his voice sounded a trifle shaky to Alex's ears.
Catching her eye, Charlie shook his head. False.
Gotcha. She didn't even try to ignore the urge to grin. "Did these individuals render you unconscious?"
"Yes," he ground out through gritted teeth as a vein appeared in his temple. True.
"And when you woke up, you had your nails painted neon pink, your hair trimmed and styled to look like a small dog, words written on your forehead, and other physical ailments?" Alex had to turn a snort into a cough as she outlined his various…aggravations.
"Yes," Hofstadter was growling now.
Once more Charlie nodded. True.
Alex set her second trap. "Do you know why they did these things?"
Sweat appeared on his brow but he got his voice under control as he answered, "No."
Not even needing to look at Charlie to know the answer, Alex nevertheless turned to see his head already shaking. False.
Setting her jaw, Alex walked in front of Hofstadter and looked him directly in the eye, enjoying the sweat, tripping vein, and the way his eyes darted from side to side. Without the aid of a mechanical lie detector, she could still have confirmed he was lying. All classic tells. "Let me remind you, Dr. Hofstadter, that lying to law enforcement is a crime. You're not telling me the truth about some very key parts of these events. Let's try this again: Did you know who abducted you?"
"No!" he insisted. His brow now shone with sweat.
Alex could see Charlie shaking his head out of the corner of her eye, but she didn't have to have that confirmation to know he was lying. False.
"Three strikes and you're out. That's the second time you've lied to me about the identities of your abductors. If you don't start telling me the truth, I won't have any choice but to arrest you for lying to an officer and obstructing justice," she leaned over, placing her hands on the arms of Hofstadter's chair, "Now for the last time: did you know who kidnapped you?"
With an explosive sigh, Hofstadter nodded. "Yes, yes I do."
Behind him, Charlie nodded the confirmation that he was telling the truth, finally. True.
She threw up her hands and shouted sarcasm to the heavens. "Finally! We're getting somewhere now. Okay, so since you did know who took you, do you know why they took you?"
Defeated, all he could do was hang his head and nod. "Yes."
"Wonderful. Thank you," she said to Charlie's ear-to-ear grin, "We're through here. If you can unhook him, I'll take him back upstairs."
"Now, Dr. Hofstadter," Alex said with exaggerated politeness, "Let's try this one more time. You know who took you, and you know why they took you. Why don't you try telling me the real story for once?"
"Okay, fine. My fiancé Penny, my roommate Sheldon and his girlfriend Amy, my best friend Howard and his wife Bernadette, and my other friend Raj were the ones who grabbed me and did this. I don't know who whacked my head, but I think it was either my fiancé or my roommate. They're the only ones who could have," Hofstadter said, looking down at his hands.
"And why did they abduct you?" Alex asked, making more notes under her 'Hofstadter' heading.
He started to hesitate again, twisting his fingers together and looking from side to side around her face. "I'm sure it was all just a misunderstanding."
"Mr. Hofstadter – I'm sorry, Doctor Hofstadter," Alex began after a huge sigh, "No one, let alone a group of five individuals, would style someone's hair like a lapdog's, write 'Insert Brain Here' on their forehead, do whatever it was that gave the inside of your pants scorch marks, and – why is it exactly you've been hunched over since you got here? Food poisoning of some kind?"
Wilting even further, Hofstadter seemed to come to a decision. "You know what? I think the story would be better told than not. I already told you what I think my fiancé and roommate did. Sheldon's girlfriend wrote on my forehead and one of my two best friends cut my hair – it had to be Raj. He has the most ridiculous teacup Yorkie that he treats like a human. Howard, my other best friend strapped a rocket to my legs and ignited it. His wife Bernadette is a biochemist. I think she must have given me some derivative of Viagra, because, well," he stood up and looked pointedly at his groin.
Alex was confused. "What am I supposed to be looking for?"
Hofstadter groaned as he stood to his full height.
"I still don't see what you're talking about," she said, genuinely confused.
"Never mind," he said, shaking his head and getting back in his chair. "Last but not least by any means, my fiancé Penny convinced everyone to leave me twenty miles outside town in the desert."
Alex shook her head, marveling at the list of injuries. "Okay, so as I was saying, no one person, let alone a group of people, would do all those things without what they thought was a damn good reason. So I have to ask you: why did these people, a list of your closest friends and fiancé, do that to you?"
Hofstadter got visibly nervous again, shifting in his seat and looking to his left. "Like I said, I'm sure it was all a big misunderstanding."
Narrowing her eyes, Alex looked at him and felt her patience almost tangibly snap. "I'm at the end of my patience with your half-truths and evasions, Dr. Hofstadter. If you don't want to be slapped with charges for obstructing an investigation and making false reports, I'd seriously suggest you start telling me the whole truth. Right now."
"Fine," he sighed as the last of his defiance left him. "My roommate Sheldon, who's another physicist at Cal Tech, was getting revenge for his misunderstanding of a prank we – myself, Howard and Raj, the other two friends I told you about – pulled five years ago."
"If he was really getting revenge for a prank the three of you pulled, wouldn't Sheldon have taken revenge on the other two as well?" Alex asked.
"Well, yeah, probably. I think what happened is they turned on me – told Sheldon that it was my fault. That's the only possible explanation," he blustered.
"Was it your fault?"
"Nothing was any fault," Hofstadter insisted, "It was just a prank!"
"Prank or no prank, is it possible that Sheldon," she began, "blames you for whatever happened?"
"I'm sure in his crazy-ass mind he does," Hofstadter answered.
Sensing she wasn't going to get any further with that line of inquiry, Alex tried another of the group he'd mentioned. "What about these other friends that you'd mentioned…Raj and Howard?Why would they be involved?"
"Them I really have no idea why. We were the best of friends until recently. I couldn't tell you why Raj cut my hair to look like his dog or why Howard would strap me to a rocket before he set it off," came Hofstadter's glum response.
Alex scribbled more notes. "And what about the women you mentioned? Why would a wife of one of your friends, the girlfriend of another, and your own fiancé do these things?"
Hofstadter started squirm. "I think they were just sticking together. Female solidarity, like when they all go to the bathroom together."
From the way he clapped his hand over his mouth as soon as the words were spoken, Alex knew he'd realized what a mistake that had been. She fixed the little man in place with a glare that had once made a violent offender literally wet his pants in the same chair Hofstadter was currently occupying. She had the irrelevant thought to wonder if it had ever been cleaned since that incident. "Why did the women gang up on you along with the guys?"
He shuddered at her growl. "They were sticking up for Penny. Amy – that's Sheldon's girlfriend – wrote on my head and Bernadette – Howard's wife – gave me some pills," he squeaked, exhaling in relief as he finished.
"What pills?" came her next query.
He looked up at her, miserable. "It's a derivative of an erectile dysfunction drug. She somehow engineered it to keep a person erect for days, not just hours. I've had a hard-on for the better part of three days."
"And what about Sheldon?" Alex asked. "He's the only one of the circle you haven't blamed for any of these acts."
Rubbing his ridiculous hair, Hofstadter considered the question. "He had to have orchestrated the whole thing. Getting everyone to gang up on me smacks of his megalomania. Unless…"
Curiosity piqued, Alex leaned forward. "Unless what?"
"Worst-case scenario," he mumbled, reaching for his phone, which somehow must have miraculously survived his trip along the road. After swiping the screen, he tapped a few times and turned as white as a sheet. "I've been terminated!"
"Cal Tech?" Alex asked, scribbling more notes.
"The son of a bitch got me fired for tampering with the research study we went on!" Hofstadter exclaimed. "And he evicted me!"
"Wonder who suggested that to him," Alex began, leading him to unwittingly reveal more. It was an old interrogation tactic, but still effective when someone wasn't fully paying attention.
And Hofstadter wasn't. "Had to have been Penny. Sheldon put it behind him long ago, or at least he said he did. Penny had to have put him up to it."
It was the same with every case – there would inevitably be a moment where the person wilted like a cut flower in an Alabama summer. "And, pray tell, why would your fiancé command such loyalty as to make your entire circle turn against you?"
She wasn't expecting his explosion. "I kissed another woman, okay? I was drunk after a party on Stephen Hawking's research ship in the North Sea, we'd just made a breakthrough, and there was this gorgeous research scientist right next to me, and we kissed! That was right before I showed my friends on the ship a clip of Penny in a movie to prove she was my girlfriend."
"Some stupid monkey D-movie. Never even got released. I love Penny, but she's not really a great actress. Luckily I talked her out of wasting her life away on that dream and she agreed to marry me. She's even got a stable career now as a pharmaceutical sales rep."
He had the same look of horror on his face that told Alex he'd slipped again. "Why did your fiancé react so badly to you showing a clip of her in a movie?"
"Because it was a shower scene," Hofstadter muttered.
"And the various bumps and bruises, not to mention the limp you had before you passed out?" Ashley moved onto the most serious of the potential charges against Hofstadter's attackers – though by this point she was more than ready to dismiss any thought of charging his friends and was mentally drawing up charges against him.
"She pushed me out of the fucking car!" the little man exploded, drawing the attention of a few people passing down the aisle. "I confessed my darkest secret to her and instead of just laughing off an honest mistake, she pushed me out of the fucking car at thirty miles an hour."
"At least she had the decency to slow down. I've booked women who would have just kicked you out at highway speed," Alex deadpanned.
"You're not taking this seriously at all!"
Dropping her pen, Alex regarded the man. He looked ridiculous, and she wasn't sure if she believed him or not, but the list of injuries and the story she'd finally dragged out of him made a twisted sort of sense. If she took his own admissions as true, then there was only one course of action she should take. Luckily for her, it was something she would very much enjoy.
"Leonard Hofstadter," she began, "you are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent…" the rest of the Miranda Warning came over the sound of his sputtering protests.
"What the hell am I under arrest for?" he shouted, rising to his feet in a ridiculous attempt to intimidate her.
"Obstruction of justice, lying to an officer of the law in the course of an investigation, and violating personal intellectual property laws, although the State of California will have to prosecute you for that charge," she recited with no small amount of glee.
"I want a lawyer," Hofstadter declared, sitting back in his chair with folded arms. Alex was mostly successful in suppressing her laugh at how much he looked like a toddler pitching a tantrum.
"Oh you can have a lawyer," she grinned, "but first don't you think you should go to the hospital to get those bruises and burns treated?"
"That would be great, thanks."
Leonard didn't see Alex reach for a phone as the officer led him to the elevators.
Jordyn Butler watched with barely concealed amusement as the Las Vegas police officer escorted a short, bespectacled man in handcuffs onto her floor. Remembering what her good friend Detective Alex Walker told her about this Dr. Hofstadter, she readied herself. Nonthreatening but seriously annoying.
While he got settled into his bed, she excused the officer to guard the door. Normally, she wouldn't be thrilled with the police leaving a room with one of her patients if they were under arrest, but Alex had assured her Hofstadter was nonthreatening. Seeing him in the flesh told her that her friend was right.
"Well now Mr. Hofstadter, what seems to be the trouble tonight?" she asked with the false cheer she was always able to summon.
Until that night, she thought she'd seen it all, fro, tough guys who pretended nothing was wrong when major appendages were hanging on by threads to those who fainted at the sight of their own blood. She was not prepared at all for the way this Hofstadter scrunched his eyebrows together and tilted his head to one side. "It just hurts all over, Nurse Butler. Do you have anything that can help me feel better?"
His expression was similar to a patient she'd just cared for over the past few days. Taking everything else into consideration, she came to the same conclusion. "Don't you worry," she said, attempting to reassure the obviously distressed man, "I have just the thing to take care of you."
Leaving the room, she hurried to call a doctor for permission to dispense a very specific medication. After her written authorization came through her email system, Jordyn readied everything she needed and made her way back to Hofstadter's room. She made sure to lock the door behind her, as patients on this particular medication tended to value their privacy.
He looked at the syringe she held in one hand and the IV pole she pushed with the other with no small amount of trepidation. "Wha – what's that?" he asked, tone growing more fearful by the second.
"This is the IV I'm going to start for the medicine you need. You don't need to worry at all. This will take care of everything, and soon you'll be much more comfortable."
"What are you giving me?" he almost whimpered.
"This is the most potent laxative we can give. You came in looking more constipated than anyone I've ever seen, so I hope this does the trick," Jordan explained, readying the IV drip.
Hofstadter, passing out at the sight of the needle, was unable to clarify that he wasn't, in fact, constipated. It was just as well. Consciousness would have only worsened the embarrassment he would have felt as the medicine really took effect.
A/N: I know, I know. I like to do mean things to Leonard. But he's a small, mean character. It's fun, right? :) Obviously I don't know much about actual police procedures, so some suspension of disbelief might be necessary. Constructive criticism always welcome. Flames whining about my treatment of Leonard will be ignored.