A/N: I ran into a bit of a roadblock about 14 chapters into my latest AU story. I thought I'd try to work through it out with this. Why a Leonard-centric story? In the words of Khan Noonien Singh "He tasks me."
Hopefully this will have helped eliminate some built-up bile and I can return to writing my other, as yet untitled, story.
The Sad and Mournful Tale of Leonard Leakey Hofstader
Leonard Hofstader pulled up to The Cheesecake Factory. It was Tuesday night. He hated Tuesday nights. More than anything he hated, and at this point in his life he hated quite a lot of things, Leonard hated Tuesday nights.
He was early. He didn't want to spend one more minute there than he wanted to so he waited in his old beat-up car until he absolutely had to go in. And he thought back to what had gotten him to this point.
The one thing that he knew for as long as he could remember was that he wanted to belong. The first thing he wanted to belong to was a family. But his own family was not a family in the typical sense. It was more like a competition. A competition he always lost. Leonard was a smart kid. Some even called him gifted. But he wasn't as gifted as his ambitious brother and sister were. Perhaps it was their ambition that gave them the edge. Leonard never really had that. He just wanted to be happy. He just wanted to get along. His mother didn't really understand those desires. Not at all. And his father? His father spent much of his time away digging up old dead things. He once said that the old dead things reminded them of his wife except that he always got the last word with them and never with her.
Even though he wasn't as gifted as his brother and sister he was still one of the smartest, if not the smartest kid at school. That is never a position a kid really wants to be in. It comes with an almost pathological desire to keep proving oneself and the resulting hatred of the kids one has proved oneself to. To almost assure his exile from the popular kids his mother insisted he learn to play cello and carry that cello in its case with him on the three days a week he had lessons. On the positive side it proved to be a good shield from snowballs in winter. On the negative side the case was large enough to stuff him in it, even as a teenager.
Though Leonard begged to skip grades his mother insisted that he experience normal socialization with those his age. This meant that Leonard was always ostracized by those who were the same age he was.
College and grad school was a time that Leonard shined, if one can actually shine by hiding in the library all the time. Leonard did well in his classes and graduated with honors. But he never had friends, was never invited to join any clubs and when his classmates were ever asked if they remembered him they said they didn't. Not at all. One of the reasons nobody knew Leonard was that he lived at home in Princeton with his family the entire time he attended school. Leonard actually got a little used to not being noticed and started to like it.
Leonard's grades and schoolwork were good enough to garner him a faculty position at CalTech. Before he went there he decided that he wanted things to change. Since he would no longer live at home he would now have a social life. And a girlfriend. He really wanted a girlfriend. A pretty one he could show everyone at home, everyone he grew up with. And eventually a family like the ones he saw on tv.
Leonard wondered how, as a lifelong outcast, he would be able to have a social life. When he got to CalTech he started looking around. What he discovered astounded him. There were people he worked with a CalTech that were even more broken than he was. Compared to them he was almost normal. And then, while searching for a place to live Leonard found the most broken person he'd ever met, Sheldon Cooper. Cooper was brilliant but he was held together by a series of routines and behaviors that allowed him to function just enough to get by. At the age Leonard was entering Princeton, Sheldon had already amassed two doctorates. He claimed that he would someday win a Nobel. Leonard was sure he was probably right, if someone didn't kill him first.
Once Sheldon allowed Leonard to move in with him, Leonard convinced him that they were now best friends. Since neither of them had ever had one they depended on the definition provided in the Roommate Agreement Sheldon foisted upon him. Leonard then went about gathering other broken toys to their group.
Rajesh Koothrapali a painfully shy astrophysicist from India was Leonard's first candidate. Leonard quickly realized that this was a twofer as Raj seemed to be joined at the hip to an engineer named Howard Wolowitz who dressed like a refugee from an early 1960s clothing ad. They started palling around and eating meals in the cafeteria together.
Leonard was shocked when a grad student named Joyce Kim expressed interest in him and his work. He started to think that he wouldn't even have to work very hard to get a hot girlfriend. Within a day of meeting her they were in bed together in his apartment. Then Sheldon showed up and ruined everything. Leonard thought that he should have known at that point that Sheldon would be a problem.
After Joyce bolted from his bedroom Leonard's homelife settled down. Howard and Raj came by often to share meals, play video games and watch movies with Leonard and Sheldon. At first Sheldon offered to cook but Leonard insisted that Sheldon wouldn't be able to adequately prepare anything that Leonard would be able to eat. Leonard's dietary restrictions were extreme. Sheldon demurred and they went on to live on a strictly organized diet of take out food. Since Leonard could eat hardly anything variety in his diet was something he really didn't seek. Sticking to Sheldon's schedule wasn't a problem for him.
Things were going along quite well. Leonard had a modicum of a social life. He'd had a girlfriend for almost a whole day. He was satisfied. Until the new neighbor appeared.
Penny, the new neighbor was beautiful and sweet and Leonard wanted her. He was absolutely certain he wanted her the moment she seemed to be attracted to Sheldon. But Leonard was certain he'd win her. There were a couple of problems though. First, Penny didn't seem to be interested in anything more than a friendship but that meant she spent a lot of time in Leonard's apartment. Second, Penny seemed to be attracted to muscular guys that resembled the ones who used to beat Leonard up when he was younger and she always seemed to be dating one. Actually Penny seemed to be quite active sexually. Leonard decided that it would take time but he would win her. Penny would be his and that would show everyone he knew what kind of a guy he was.
Of course, while Penny was seeing others Leonard would take advantage of any opportunities that came his way, the fellow researcher, the doctor, pretty much any girl who smiled at him. Leonard had developed this thing he did with his eyebrows to signal interest. For some reason it intrigued women. While he dated others he always maintained an interest in Penny. They actually went out on one date but that opportunity blew up in his face when he implied to her that she was stupid. He really didn't care that she was stupid but he thought she should consider taking some courses so that she could at least converse with the people to whom he'd be showing her off. She didn't take too kindly to that. After that whenever possible he would seek to subtly undermine any relationship she was involved in hoping to get her to notice him instead. This went on for almost two years and seemed to on the verge of finally working when Sheldon told him about the trip to the Arctic.
Now, one of Leonard's problems was that for a really smart guy, a genius even, he was kind of lazy. That was one of the reasons that he didn't do original research and instead replicated the work of others to prove or disprove their conclusions. Sheldon, however, was interested in new and original ideas. Leonard believed that if he helped Sheldon with his research he could enhance his own stature. The only problem was the timing. He was starting to feel that Penny was finally becoming interested. And he was about to leave for months.
Penny said she would miss him. Sheldon said "In order for her to miss you you must leave." Leonard decided to leave and spend months in the Arctic with Sheldon, Wolowitz and Koothrapali. It was hell. Sheldon was, as everyone expected, difficult to work with. The initial results were not as expected. And Leonard was worried that Penny would not be there for him when he returned. Leonard decided to fudge the results so that Sheldon would stop being difficult and they could return to Pasadena in triumph and he could finally have Penny.
And it almost went perfectly. The fudged results were exposed. Sheldon, as expedition leader accepted all of the blame and his career was the only one affected. And Leonard got Penny. For eight months. Eight glorious months of sex. Eight glorious months of having a hot girlfriend. And then one of Leonard's other desires started coming into play. His desire for the perfect wife, the perfect family. And he started pushing. He'd gotten what he wanted so far. But it wasn't destined to happen.
Penny broke up with Leonard. She didn't appreciate the pressure. He tried telling people it was mutual. It didn't fly. He tried to get everyone to take his side and that almost happened. Except for Sheldon. Something that Leonard hadn't counted on happened while he was pursuing Penny. She and Sheldon became friends. Good friends. They spent time together without Leonard.
Leonard, in the meantime, decided to take advantage of his new cachet as the guy who used to date the hot chick by dating more. There was the visiting professor friend of Sheldon's less than a week after Penny dumped him. Leonard was actually pretty proud of that. And then there was Raj's sister Priya, first when she visited and later for a longer period.
In the meantime Leonard noticed that Penny wasn't dating much at all. Maybe she was waiting for him to take her back. She wasn't spending as much time with Sheldon because he, shockingly, had gotten involved in a relationship with one Amy Farrah Fowler. Penny was even momentarily involved with Raj but neither of them would speak about it.
A while after Priya and Leonard split up Leonard decided to ask Penny out again. They got along. They decided to give it another try. It seemed to go better than last time. She even said she loved him.
And then the Hawking Expedition to the North Sea happened. Penny was supportive. She said she'd be there when he got back. So he went. And he had a great time. There was a lot of work to do but the boat was a floating party. And he took advantage of being away from Penny. Several times. Leonard was actually popular. For the first time in his life. He was so popular that he preferred the partying to the research and concentrated more on the former than the latter. He even took some shortcuts on the research so he could spend some more time with some of his research associates. A couple of times more than one at a time. And Leonard only talked about the research with his friends back in Pasadena. And he only told Penny how much he missed her.
When Leonard got home he was different. He kept on making Penny prove to him how much she loved him. When she started reading one of his mother's books he used it to make her feel sorry for him. He tried to make her do more romantic things for him. When he discovered that she had married Zack as a lark several years previous he made her get an annulment. And most of all, he stopped challenging her to be smarter.
It was then that the bottom fell out for Leonard. When Stephen Hawking began to review the final results of the North Sea Expedition he started noticing the shortcuts that Leonard took. While they ultimately didn't affect the results of the research Hawking communicated to CalTech that he wouldn't be working with any of their people again. When the tenure announcements were made Leonard's name was not included. When Leonard burst into Dr. Gabelhauser's office to object he was informed that his behavior on the expedition had embarrassed the university and that as a result they had gone back and examined his earlier work in the Arctic. As a result his contract would not be renewed. When Leonard applied for positions at other universities he found that his reputation as a lazy researcher had spread. He couldn't even get a job at the high school level as a teacher.
Leonard told Penny that he'd probably need to move in with her. She said no. She said that she had taken a good hard look at the person he had become and that she didn't like that person. Not at all. She especially didn't like the person who had hurt her friend Sheldon so much, professionally and personally. And that she was embarrassed that she seemed to have rewarded Leonard for doing that. Penny dumped him again. "This time for good" she said.
So Leonard accepted the only job he could get. And they had hired him as a favor to Sheldon. Sheldon had taken over the Physics Department at CalTech after Gabelhauser retired. He had given The Cheesecake Factory a lucrative contract to cater their events. Penny wasn't working there anymore. Her career had finally started taking off. But she still lived in Pasadena. Amy Farrah Fowler had moved on when she finally realized that Sheldon couldn't give her what she wanted. At that point, having dumped Leonard, Penny was alone and wanting to repair her friendship with Sheldon. Sheldon was alone and realized that Leonard had kept him away from Penny for years. One morning they both opened their apartment doors at the same time and found themselves looking into each other's eyes. From that moment they were almost inseparable. When her lease ended Penny moved in with Sheldon and they weren't just roommates.
The group still got together on Tuesday nights at The Cheesecake Factory. Leonard thought that Sheldon did it out of spite.
Leonard finally got out of his car and went into The Cheesecake Factory.
At 6:00pm Sheldon and Penny came in, shortly followed by Howard Wolowitz and his wife Bernadette and Raj Koothrapali and his girlfriend Alex Jensen, Sheldon's former assistant who had actually been hired to replace Leonard at CalTech.
Sheldon inspected his plate.
"And was my hamburger prepared to the correct temperature?"
"And everyone involved in its preparation wore gloves."
"And do you know why I'm asking you these questions, Leonard?"
"Now please get me another lemonade."
Leonard tried to catch Penny's eye with his patented eyebrow move but forgot that his eyebrows had been singed off in a kitchen mishap the week before and all that was left was a crude drawing of a unibrow applied by one of the waitresses while she giggled. Leonard had begged his manager to give him Tuesday nights off so he could avoid this weekly encounter with his former friends but the manager informed him that his working on Tuesday nights was a condition of the catering contract Sheldon had awarded them. The manager told Leonard that he was always welcome to work elsewhere. He was, after all, a terrible waiter.
A/N2: So I'm given to understand that having bashed Leonard as I have I should be expecting an assault from his anonymous protectors. To be honest, I kind of wrote this to fuck with them. They seem to have had free reign to prey upon Shenny shippers for quite a while. Bring it on, ya little creeps.