The Happiness Equation

A Big Bang Theory Story

Disclaimer: The Characters Belong to CBS, Chuck Lorre et al.

Part 1 The Universe Expands

Leonard walked into his apartment, still a bit intoxicated. He had just made a fool of himself in front of Penny and before that, Leslie Winkle. As he closed the door behind him, a sharp pain radiated from his right side and seemed to jump into his left leg where it transformed itself into a molten flow of lava down to the very tips of his toes. Leonard quickly made his way over to his desk chair and sat down. The pain dissipated after a few minutes and he was finally able to open and boot up his laptop. He immediately typed in the address for the website that Sheldon used to diagnose his many imagined symptoms and began a search based on the symptoms with which he was suffering. After a little bit of time to narrow the parameters (he was sure he had not contracted a 15 foot parasite from the islands of Galapagos) he made an initial diagnosis of appendicitis. That having been decided, he called directory assistance and had them patch him through to a taxi service.

Having called the cab, he picked the phone up once again and dialed the dreaded number; the number to reach his mother. But unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, her machine answered immediately saying that she was not at home but she could be reached on her cell phone (in case of emergency). Evidently, this wasn't enough of an emergency because his mother had never given him a cell phone number with which to reach her. He thought maybe he ought to wake Sheldon. He was sure to have his mother's number, as close as they seem to have gotten, but that thought ended the possibility of that avenue being taken. Then he did something he had sworn to himself that he would never do. He picked-up the phone and dialed his father.

An hour later he was sitting in the emergency room of Our Sisters of Mercy Hospital. He had filled out all of the paperwork and was ticking off in his head all of the preparations he had made. After asking his father to be his emergency contact for what he felt would surely be a laproscopic surgery if not more invasive, he had set about to send Sheldon an e-mail explaining that he was spending some time with his father (a small white lie, but he had spent some time with him on the phone) and sending his department head an e-mail explaining that he would most likely be in the hospital and recovery for at least a week. He also requested that he not let anyone know that he was out for medical purposes. Then he had written a short e-mail to Penny apologizing for the rude way he had propositioned her and asking forgiveness. He then gave her the same cover story about needing to spend some time with his father. He set this e-mail to send at 8:00 a.m. because he was afraid she might still be up and on her computer. He decided he was a coward for not apologizing in person, but that is who he was now.

He also sent an e-mail to Howard and Raj, just to give them a heads up that Sheldon would be in a bad mood and that he was sorry. So now he was in the ER waiting for his turn to be prodded and poked and diagnosed. He had asked the taxi driver to bring him across town because he had wanted to eliminate any possibility that he would run into Dr. Stephanie Barnett. Although they had parted on amicable terms, it might still be a little awkward for them to meet each other in this type of venue. Well as is too often the case, the fates conspire against us and as a nurse finally led him into an examination room, who would be standing there but Dr. Stephanie Barnett.

"Oh crap", Leonard moaned just as another wave of nausea came over him and he projectile vomited across the room directly onto Stephanie's shoes.

"Well, I know we're not dating anymore but did you really need to dump on me again" Stephanie said, but immediately regretted it. "Sorry, a small attempt at humor." Then speaking to one of the nurses, "Victoria, could you call an orderly, and bring Dr. Hofstader a cup of ice water? Thank you." She looked down at the chart that Victoria had handed her as she and Leonard had entered the curtained off area. "Huh, I see you have diagnosed yourself with appendicitis, or did Dr. Sheldon do that for you?" she said with her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"No, no, just me" Leonard said as the doctor walked over and started to examine him. She had him lay on the table and she began to palpate around his abdomen. When she lightly touched one area, Leonard tried to double over in pain, but she anticipated this and held his torso to the table.

"Diagnosis confirmed Dr. Hofstader. I'll check up front at the desk and see who is on-call for surgery. It seems quite inflamed. It may wait 'til morning but I would be more comfortable if it were to come out tonight." She turned to walk toward the front desk.

"Dr. Burnett… Stephanie?" He called to her and she turned to give him a questioning look. "I know this may sound funny to you, as you know my friends, but I listed my father on the emergency contact info and I would like to request (if I can) that after surgery only family is allowed back during visiting hours."

"That is of course your right" she said with a puzzled look on her face. "Has the friendship dynamic altered since I was spending time with you and your friends?"

"I just don't want to worry them. I left them messages indicating that I was spending time with my father. Trust me, it's better this way" Leonard replied.

"And what about Penny?" Stephanie asked.

"Penny?" he said with a questioning tone.

"Is she 'family'? I assumed that's who you were attempting to end up with after we parted ways." Stephanie probed.

"Penny is just another girl to whom I was unable to bring happiness. We parted ways a while back but are trying to remain friends for the children's sake, i.e. Sheldon. He didn't take the break-up very well." He reached up a wiped away a tear. "The pain is getting a little unbearable."

"Do you want something for the pain?" She asked and he shook his head in the negative. "And for your information, when we were dating, you brought me a lot of happiness. Don't sell yourself short, Dr. Hofstader." And with that she walked off toward reception.

What seemed like hours, but was probably only minutes a nurse came in and began to prep him for surgery. The nurse informed him that a Dr. Schrödinger would be performing his surgery and he just laughed and said that he hoped the cat would be alive. The nurse just gave him a funny look and then glanced down at the syringe that she had just used and checked the contents on her chart. Seeing nothing that would cause delusions, she just shook her head and continued her prep work. Forty-five minutes later, Leonard was completely under and being wheeled into the surgical theater. Dr. Stephanie Burnett, who had clocked out, sat alone in the gallery and watched with baited breath as Dr. Schrödinger began this completely routine procedure.

At nine o'clock on the dot, the phone rang and Sheldon picked it up. "Hello, Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Well hello Dr. Hofstader, what can I do for you?" He listened intently to this woman he so admired. "No, I didn't attempt to call you last night… No Leonard's not here, I received an e-mail from him this morning that he was going to spend some time with his father." He waited for a reply, but the phone remained silent. "Are you still there?"

"Something is wrong Sheldon" she said in a very small voice that, for some reason, made the hair on his neck stand on end. "I know that Leonard harbors ill feelings toward me, but his father… If Leonard called his father… Where is that little waitress girlfriend of his. She'll know what's going on. Leonard was always a sharer with those he loves."

"Leonard and Penny are no longer in a relationship, although they are attempting to remain as friends for some unknown reason. I will check with her after eleven and call you back with any information that she has." Sheldon explained.

"Why after eleven? Sheldon, this is important." She said, her voice becoming a little stronger.

"Penny has forbade me to knock on her door before eleven in the morning, except for dire emergencies" he further explained.

"Sheldon, consider this a dire emergency" she said. "Tell her I made you knock."

"Fine, I shall go and inquire, but if she goes all Junior Rodeo on me, will you come visit me in the hospital?" He said with a short snort to indicate that he was trying to use a little humor. "I'll call you back as soon as I learn anything." And he hung up the phone to walk across the hall.

Knock, Knock, Knock Penny Knock, Knock, Knock Penny Knock, Knock, Knock Penny

He was about to knock again when Penny opened the door holding a lasso.

"What the frack Moonpie? It's only nine in the morning on a weekend. Do you want to hogtie yourself or should I do it?" She snarled.

"Penny, I ask for special dispensation. Leonard's mother called me on the phone and asked me to come speak to you."

"What does Leonard's mother want with me? Did he call and cry to his mother because I wouldn't do him last night?"

"To my knowledge that phone call never got completed. When Leonard called his mother she wasn't at home and she called him back this morning. I told her that Leonard had gone to spend some time with his father. This seems to have upset his mother greatly and she asked me to come inquire of you if you knew why he went to see his father. She seems to be genuinely upset about the fact that Leonard spoke with his father." Sheldon summed up for Penny.

"The only time he ever mentioned his father was when he said that his dad borrowed his hugging machine when he was younger?" She squinted her eyes. "For someone with so many mommy issues, it makes you wonder why he never mentions his father." Penny tossed the lasso behind her onto the couch. "If he called his father last night, wouldn't the number be in the phone's memory?"

"I hadn't thought of that." He turned to re-enter his apartment but stopped short and turned to face Penny. "Thank you." He lowered his eyes and stepped backwards into the apartment, leaving the door open.

Penny considered the situation for a moment. Sheldon was acting strange. A thank you that was not coerced because of "social convention" and he had left the door to his apartment open. She started to take the few steps that would bring her to Leonard's door, but hesitated when she realized that "social decorum" required she change out of her baby shorts and top into more "decent" apparel. Ten minutes later she walked into Leonard and Sheldon's apartment just as Sheldon was putting the phone back in the cradle. "Did you get in touch with his father?" she asked.

Sheldon sank down into his spot on the sofa and looked up at Penny. "I called the number that Leonard last called and his father answered on the first ring. I asked to speak with Leonard and he said that Leonard was still asleep. He then told me that he and Leonard have planned to spend some time together over the next sennight or fortnight."

"Sheldon. Speak fracking english."

Sheldon cocked his head to the right and stared at Penny as a thought occurred to him. "Ah, you are not familiar with terms sennight and fortnight. They are proper english and mean in respect seven nights or fourteen nights. They do seem to have fallen out of use since the popularization of the, quote, seven day week, unquote."

"I am familiar with the terms… I just didn't know what they meant." She paused a moment. "Is Leonard okay?"

"As far as I can determine, he is fine. His father indicated that he is sleeping peacefully and that he expected him up any minute to join him for breakfast."

"So what did you make of his father?" Penny asked. "Did he sound friendly?"

"His voice was a bit deeper than Leonard's, but had the same basic timbre and I noticed the tendency to use the same colloquialisms that his son uses. It seems obvious that even though Leonard does not now speak of his father on any regular basis, he spent a lot of time with him when he was forming his linguistic skills."

"Sheldon" she said with an inflection of promised pain.

Sheldon flinched and said, "He sounded friendly." She backed off a little and her shoulders lost a little of the tension she had coiled preparing to lash out. "His mother did not have the same reaction when I informed her of Leonard's whereabouts."

"What do you mean?" she said as she sat on the sofa next to him.

"She became very inquisitive as to his whereabouts, and when I said he was with his father she replied that 'that didn't tell her where he was.' I got the impression that she did not know how to get in touch with Leonard's father so I gave her the number and she hung-up on me immediately. Penny?" She tilted her head at the implied question. "Am I missing some point of interpersonal communications?"

"I think so Sheldon, I think we both are." Penny said as she reached over and laid her hand over his, and to her surprise, he let her.

Leonard slowly opened his eyes and surveyed the hospital room in which he way laying. His first conscious thought was 'Well, I guess I survived' and that was followed a second later by 'Why?" Then he scolded himself. He was one of the lucky ones. He had a job he loved and he had friends. Friends to whom he had lied to and deceived, which he would continue to do so for their sakes. And then he saw Penny's face in his mind's eye. He remembered when he had first met her and she seemed to bubble over in smiles and grins of joy. Then he had invited her over for dinner and her smile had dropped just a bit. She had put up with his and Sheldon's weird antics that night and thus he had been hurdled into the future with the hope that this beautiful, funny girl might actually see through the social awkwardness and some day return his affection. But she had become a black hole for love and collapsed his love into singularity and all that remained was the echo of love trapped on the event horizon. Forevermore, he would only be able to show a façade of love in the form of friendship to all those travelers that would encounter this edge of darkness.

The door of his room opened and a young nurse, no not nurse, for she was wearing a tag that said orderly, entered his room. She walked over and began cleaning off the table that sat at the side of the bed when she noticed his eyes were open.

"Mr. Hofstader, good to see you are awake. Can I get you some water or ice?" she said as she poured a cup of water from a plastic ewer.

"Thank… thank you." He said as she handed him the cup and he raised the straw to his lips. He took a short sip and sat the cup back on the tray table that she had maneuvered in front of him. "Please, call me Leonard"

"Well hello Leonard, my name is Jill."

He paused just a moment but finally composed himself and said, "Good to meet you, Jill. I guess I'm going to be a burden on you for the next couple of days."

"No burden and not a couple of days." She said as she raised the head of the bed to a better angle and helped him raise his head as she moved and fluffed the pillows behind his head. "I saw your chart and unless you're a bad boy and get an infection, you should be leaving by tomorrow. It looks like you will be one of the last patients I get to send home. Tomorrow is my last day also."

The door opened once again and Leonard's father walked into the room "Good morning son" he said and sat in a chair next to the bed. "Your color is looking a lot better though that may just be the natural light versus the florescent light from last night."

"What are you doing here sir?" Leonard asked of his father.

"You called me last night and said you thought you were about to need surgery. What did you think I would do? You're my son."

"I called you because I needed a number for the hospital to have in case of emergency. I didn't expect you to come all the way here just to sit there and wait for me to wake up." Leonard said. Jill waved goodbye from the doorway and slipped out.

"I'm sorry, but when you reached me, I was in Las Vegas at a convention and I couldn't be that close knowing you might need me and not come. Besides Jessica insisted she wanted to meet you." He reached over a brushed a stray lock of hair out of Leonard's eyes.

"I am assuming Jessica is the lady of which mother said she divorced you over."

"That would be the one. Though I would hope you would at least listen to my side of the story." He sat back in the chair and tented his fingers in front of his face. "Leonard, I've let this go on too long… I love you son." He paused for a moment to gauge Leonard's reaction and when he received none he forged on. "Do you want me to qualify that last statement?" When no answer was forth coming he continued. "In fifth grade when you did the report on space exploration for your show and tell and you asked me for my autographed picture of Neil Armstrong. Do you remember that? Well I do. I remember being so proud of you, because you had found something to be passionate about so early in life. I told you that you could borrow it if you would be very careful."

"But then you changed your mind and told me I should do my report on something that mattered, like the psychological impact of modern technology on the human id." He said with almost a shudder in his voice.

"Yes, I was convinced by external forces that your talents and intellect could be better utilized in solving the mysteries of the human mind rather than exploration of cold, dark space. And I am sorry that I tried to manipulate you in such a way. You were and are an exceptional mind and an exceptional person. I have lived with that betrayal for almost fifteen years. I knew the moment I retracted my approval that you would never forgive me. You were my last chance and I had blown it. Your brother and sister were already poisoned against me and I had just handed her another victim. But I loved her and I could deny her nothing." He seemed to sink even further into the chair if that were possible.

"If you loved her so much, why has she always asserted that you didn't and that you were… oh god I can't believe I'm going to ask this… were unable or unwilling to perform your husbandly duties?" Leonard asked.

"I always wondered exactly how much your mother told you about our lives. We were both academics and that fostered a lot of professional jealousy that spilled over into our personal lives. I began spending a lot more time at my office and going to conferences, anything not to be around your mother. Now don't get me wrong, I have never stopped loving your mother. And I never stopped loving you and your siblings. It just became to painful to love someone and not feel that love being returned."

"But for the last ten years, you haven't been there. When I graduated from high school, college and then got my Ph.D., you weren't there.

"I was there, hidden in the back, afraid to approach you because I knew that all you wanted to say to me, was 'I told you so'. And I would have deserved it." He was leaning forward toward Leonard. "I couldn't take the chance that you would tell me you never wanted to see me again, so I never gave you that opportunity."

"That is not a logical way to think, but then again perhaps it is. If you never open the box, the cat can always be alive for you." He reached and picked-up the plastic cup and brought the straw to his lips. He sat it back down. "For the record, if you had let me know you were there, I would have said thank you and given you a hug." His father stood up with a tear in his eye and leaned over to kiss his son's forehead and squeeze his shoulders. "I love you too dad." Tears streamed down each cheek. "We have a lot to talk about. Things won't be great over night, but we'll keep moving forward and try to work things out." Leonard closed his eyes and said, "I'd like to get a nap now if you don't mind. You go on and get some rest too. I'd like to talk further when I'm more rested."

"Sure son, you get some rest and Jessica and I will check in with you this afternoon" and he turned and left the room. Leonard hunkered down into the bed and closed his eyes. Within moments he was softly snoring and dreaming of surfing through space on a silver surf board.

Howard was driving himself and Raj home in his mother's Buick. They had been spending the weekend in a small town near the Mexican border hoping to get lucky with some illegal alien girls who were desperate enough to think they would marry them. Sheldon had called him and told him to get to Penny's apartment immediately.

Raj had his head back against the headrest and his eyes closed. Howard jerked the wheel to the right and then back to the left and Raj yelped at he sat straight up. "What in the name of Gandhi was that?" he said.

"Oh, so you're awake. You might as well take over the driving then." He began to pull over to the shoulder. "We are about an hour out and I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open."

"You could've just woken me up normally, you didn't have to make me almost pee myself." He opened the door as Howard brought the car to a stop and walked around the front of the car as Howard walked around the back. As he positioned himself behind the wheel, he asked again, "Tell me exactly what Sheldon said when he called."

"He just said that Leonard had left him a note saying that he was gonna spend a couple of days with his father. Then he said Leonard's mother had called and was upset to hear that he was gonna spend time with his dad. Which goes to show that Leonard might have known his mother's reaction, and that is what he is referring to in the e-mails he sent us."

Raj had gotten the car up to speed and engaged the cruise control. "Has Leonard ever mentioned his father to you" Raj asked.

"No, but then he hardly ever mentions his brother and sister either, and he won't talk about his mother unless there is the impending doom of a visit. I bet that boy has some major family issues."

"This coming from the stereotypical Jewish man living with his mother, and said boy has never mentioned his father either."

Howard shot Raj a look that could wound severely if not kill. "My father… he passed when I was six. And the one thing I remember about him is that he told me he loved me everyday that he was with me. My mother has never told me that. I'm sure she loves me, but she has never said it." He sniffled a bit and turned his head to look out the side window. "You are very lucky to have two parents that love you."

"They are constantly getting on my case and want to control my life. How can you say that they love me?" Raj protested.

"They vid-call you at least once or twice a week. That could be their way of letting you know that they are thinking of you. Can you honestly say you would be happy if they quit calling?" Howard asked with a slight quiver in his voice.

"So, what do you think of the Penny/Leonard situation?" Raj interjected and turned all his attention to the road in front of him.

Leonard awoke some hours later to movement in his room. He opened his eyes to see Jill standing over his bed. "Hey Jill, what time is it?"

"It's just after three in the afternoon. Don't move too much, your IV got detached while you were sleeping. I've called a nurse to have her reinsert it and then I'll get you and the bed all cleaned up." The door opened and a nurse came in. "I'll be back as soon as the nurse is through getting you all hooked up again." Jill stepped out into the hallway.

A few minutes later the nurse left and Jill returned as promised. "Hey" she said, "Let's get you all cleaned up and comfortable."

"Just what is this going to entail?" Leonard asked.

"I'll get you to stand and walk over to the chair. I'll change the sheets because they are drenched in saline solution and then we'll get you into another hospital gown after we sponge you down and dry you off."

"Umm… that's what I was afraid of. No disrespect to you, but can I do the sponging, drying and changing myself? I'm a little uncomfortable with a… a… pretty girl seeing me au naturale, if you know what I mean."

"No problem" she said, "but can I ask you a bit of a personal question?" He nodded is head yes. "I would usually let a family member or girlfriend help with that part, but you have had only the one visitor. Are you from out of town?"

"No, I live and work here in town. I just don't have any close family nearby and my friends, well, they don't know I'm here. Can I ask you a personal question now? Don't worry I'm not some Wolowitz that hits on every girl I see."

"What the heck is a Wolowitz? But sure, if you don't mind if I keep the option of not answering." She agreed gracefully.

"You mentioned that tomorrow was your last day. I was just wondering if…" her eyes widened in anticipation of having to create a lie at the assumed come-on from this sweet guy, but she was surprised by the completion on the question… "you were leaving for another job, if you were leaving the area or if you were being redacted?"

It took a moment for her to process the question, but she finally composed herself and answered, "yeah, umm, no, umm, no, and kinda." She paused a moment to see if he had followed her response and he nodded his head in the affirmative. "Me and three other staff are the latest in the lay-offs. I really should be more upset than I am, but I'm just looking at it as an opportunity to find something a little more, I don't know, exciting. I'm gonna take a week off to clear up some things I've been putting off and then start job hunting full time."

"I may have an idea" he responded, "for the job hunting part. I work in the physics department at the college and I have an acquaintance in the genetics department that is looking for a PA. If you're interested, I'll be glad to get you an interview with her."

"Sure, that sounds great, but what's in it for you?" she asked.

"Can I tell you a secret?"

"Sure. Okay", she said giving him a look that conveyed doubt.

"If I tell you this, please keep it to yourself. It'll make me sound crazy."

"Friend confidentiality has been invoked. Consider me your priestess of the church of closed lips and step into my confessional."

"That's funny; a simple 'I promise' is enough for me." She smiled and nodded for him to continue. "When I was in surgery, I don't know if it was the anesthesia or if I actually died for a moment, but I saw a bright light and things became very clear. I saw glimpses of my future and the futures of my friends, but the clearest impression I got was that I needed to adjust my priorities. I need to refocus myself on being happy in the long run instead of just in the here and now. I think that includes helping my friends find happiness. I don't want this to come out the wrong way, but I would like to consider you a friend. Now don't get me wrong, you are an attractive, kind and intelligent girl, but I'm not looking for a relationship beyond friendship. I don't want…"

"She hurt you pretty badly, huh? Tell your priestess about it."

Three hours later, she had finished cleaning him up, clocked out of work and returned to continue his confessional. At just after 6:30 his father returned with Jessica to spend some time with him. Jill had introduced herself and excused herself telling him that she would check in with him when her shift started at 7:00 in the morning.

As soon as Jill had closed the door behind her, Leonard's father had introduced him to Jessica and the sat in the chair next to him. "I hate to jump straight into the deep end, but 'what are you doing?' he asked Leonard.

"I don't know what you are talking about, father", he glanced at Jessica and then back to his father. "I don't believe this is an appropriate venue for the implied question."

"I'm your father, not your therapist. I think given the implications, any venue is appropriate. Son, her name is 'Jill' do you not find that a bit troubling?"

"I find her to be very nice and friendly and I hope to call her friend. All other

thoughts are irrelevant. The moniker 'Jill' is totally a random occurrence" he told his father.

"Son, I hate to bring up the topic of your mother…"

"Then don't dad. I know what you're going to say. My befriending of a girl named 'Jill' is an attempt to bring to fruition the nightmares that started when I six years old. That in my dream I died and that someone named Jill was the recipient of the news is a prelude to it actually happening. You don't have to worry dad, I now know the owner of the voice that spoke those words in my dream. If my plans come to fruition, then in the next six weeks that voice will no longer be a factor."

"So you are still having the nightmares?" his father asked.

Jessica walked over and sat next to the bed. "Are you having nightmares, Leonard?"

"Not very often, and usually only after a stressful day or an overly emotional one." He looked closely at Jessica. "Tell me Jessica. How did you and my father become… involved?"

"I sorta thought that might be one of the first things you asked me." She paused for a moment, looked over at Leonard's father and then back to Leonard. "Let me just get one thing straight. I did not steal your father from your mom. If she had not asked for the divorce, your father would still be married to her and your father and I would still be only friends. This trip to Vegas was our first weekend as a 'couple'. Your father refused and I agreed that we needed to let some time pass before we took that next step."

"Are you saying that my mother divorced my father without reason?" Leonard asked.

Leonard's father answered. "Your mother asked for a divorce because Jessica and I had begun a correspondence between friends. No matter what our feelings were, we remained friends only. Out of respect and my love for your mother. I truly and dearly love your mother to this day, but she could not return the love I gave her. She only ever reduced my feelings to the base chemical reactions and socio-economic requirements for male-female interactions. She couldn't understand that someone else would want to be my friend. So I didn't contest the divorce. I took a chance that I could find happiness and love, because I finally understand that love can exist in one direction; i.e. I love your mother still, but love that is reciprocated is so much stronger and much more vibrant."

"Are you happy, father?" Leonard asked. "And you, Jessica, are you happy knowing that he still has love for my mother?"

"That is exactly why I love your father," she replied. "Anyone who could turn his or her love on and off like a faucet, would not be worthy to be loved."

"I love Jessica and she loves me, that is something that I hope you have in your life; if not now, someday."

They talked long into the night getting to know each other again and building upon the foundation that they had shared when Leonard was a young child. When Mr. Hofstader and Jessica left so that Leonard could get some rest, they made plans for Mr. Hofstader to pick him up when he was released and take him back to their hotel to rest for a couple of day before they took him home to his apartment. Leonard had told him briefly about his relationship to Penny and its end. He was not happy that Leonard had decided to keep his surgery from his friends, but he would respect his choice.