Work Header

The Hofstadter Hypocrite Hypothesis

Work Text:

"You know, I thought 'Anything Can Happen Thursday' was going to be exciting, until it was followed by 'Really Fucked-Up Friday.'" Leonard whined, walking into the kitchen to get some water and aspirin for his hangover. 

Sheldon put down his empty cereal bowl down and switched off the television as the credits for Doctor Who took over the screen. "I see that looking for women with Wolowitz didn't go exactly as you'd hoped." He brought his empty bowl over to the sink. 

"Maybe for Raj..." Leonard huffed, sitting on the stool at the island. "Apparently Howard has seriously inflated his skills with women."

Sheldon looked over his shoulder as he washed out his bowl. "And that's surprising? I did once tell you that of our group,  you  are the 'mack daddy.' Though..."

"Though what?" Leonard asked, his head in his hands, wishing away the headache that four tequila sunrises had caused. 

Sheldon turned to him, hands splayed on the counter, and continued somewhat hesitantly. "I'd like to discuss with you a disturbing trend I see in your behavior." 

Leonard moaned, moving away from his roommate. "What now? Am I breathing out too many germs? Whistling in my sleep? Two inches too short to make the average height in this apartment that of the normal male?" He spat the words out, pacing the length of the living room and tugging on the sleeves of his robe. 

"Now you're just being ridiculous!" Sheldon pursed his lips at the ridiculousness of his friend's words and walked around the island to his desk. "You can't control the number of germs you breathe out at any given time, you snore in your sleep- not whistle, and I'm not quite sure why anyone would be concerned with the average height of males in this apartment."

Leonard sank into the couch. He winced, rubbing his tired eyes under his glasses; this was not the conversation he wanted to be having right now. "Fine. Whatever. Just- spit it out. What am I doing to annoy your precious sensibilities now?"

Sheldon shrugged, deciding to come right out with it. "You're being a hopeless, hypocritical oaf when it comes to Penny. I believe you should cease and desist this behavior immediately."

"What?" Leonard sat up, punching the cushion next to him. "Just because I got a little... upset-"

"Jealous." Sheldon shot the word across the room like an accusatory bullet. 

Leonard's head popped up, surprised at the venom in Sheldon's tone. He tried to shake it off. "Whatever- about her dating Stuart? Come on! You know how I feel about Penny!"

Sheldon moved to sit in his spot, preparing for a long discussion. He could see that his point wasn't apparent to his friend at all. "Oh, I used to be able to see it quite plainly. You couldn't have made it any more evident when she first moved in that you were interested in her. I even tried to assist you on several occasions."

"Exactly! So what's with calling me a hypocrite all of a sudden?" Leonard face was screwed up tight with hurt and confusion. 

Sheldon hadn't wanted to call his friend on this-he was hoping that Leonard would see it himself. After the last few days, however, Sheldon knew that he had to interfere. "You achieved your goal of going on a date with Penny. After that it should have been up to you to continue the relationship. I assumed, when nothing came of it and you began to date Doctor Stephanie, that you had moved on."

Leonard looked own at the ground, his heart dropping a little. "Come on, Stephanie was really into me. You couldn't expect me to pass that over for Penny, especially when she wasn't into me at all."

Sheldon's face brightened, it seemed Leonard was finally understanding him. "Ah! The heart of the matter. No, I would not. What I don't understand is why, in the face of Penny moving on, would you not move on as well? You kept Penny a secret from Stephanie- that suggests there was a reason you felt she needed to be a secret. Penny was not romantically interested in you after your date. She was dating other people and you were dating other people, something you both still do. Why do you continue to moon over her?" Sheldon stared at the man across from him, trying to understand his motives. 

Leonard looked up from his folded hands. "Haven't you ever wanted something? Something you couldn't have?"

Sheldon considered the question, nodding when he found his answer. "Yellow cake uranium." 

Leonard shook his head, not-quite laughing. "No. Something that isn't illegal, but just... unattainable? That's what Penny is to me."

Sheldon stared at him for a few quiet seconds. "You want her because you can't have her? That's just moronic."

Leonard stared at his blunt roommate, seeing no change in his honest, open face. "Well, thanks for understanding, buddy."

"I hope that was sarcasm because for once, I do not understand." He shook his head, searching for a way to get Leonard to see his point. "Penny's our friend. We hang out with her, we have meals together, we help her with electronics and Penny Blossoms and she kills our spiders and helps us with navigating through the more popular aspects of society. You can't let yourself become depressed every time that she dates a new man, especially if you are not going to make another attempt at a romantic relationship with her. If you've given up and are simply longing for something you find unattainable, you need to stop. Now." 

Leonard stood up like a petulant child. "Why would I need to stop? It's my fantasy, I can have it if I want!"

Sheldon shot to his feet, frustrated and upset. "Because you're hurting her!"

The silence in the apartment was almost deafening. Leonard's voice was quiet and full of hurt when he spoke. "What do you mean I'm hurting her?"

Sheldon stepped closer, his voice slowly growing in volume and changing tone until he was out and out ranting. "Do you realize that when Alicia moved in you barely took any notice of Penny at all for weeks? You set up all of Alicia's electronics and painted several of her rooms because she called you 'cute'- yet couldn't find five minutes to help Penny set up her new printer, which you had  promised  to do. You promised Penny- your friend! Penny bought us dinner and instead of suggesting Alicia call a cab when she interrupted said dinner, you abandoned Penny's lovely surprise and her willingness to partake in one of our pass times for chauffeuring a person you barely know! Did you know that devastated Penny? She barely talked to me through dinner at all that night when she had started out quite excited and talkative. For two weeks you acted like Penny was an annoyance more than a friend. It happens every time a woman looks at you twice: you cease paying any attention to Penny and focus entirely on that relationship. It happened with Doctor Stephanie, it happened with Leslie Winkle, and it happened with Alicia, just as a few examples."

Leonard stared wide eyed at his roommate. The only time he'd ever heard him talk so much was when science was involved, not people and emotions. "Sheldon, come on-"

Sheldon was as close to yelling as Leonard had ever heard him. "No, I'm not done. When you date someone else, Penny still comes over, still behaves towards you the same way as always, and continues to be a friend despite the fact that you often don't reciprocate the friendship at all during those time periods. When Penny dates someone, you become moody, upset... You cannot have it both ways. That is where the hypocrisy shows it's ugly face. Penny's not allowed to date but you are? It's ruining your friendship with her and degrading the friendship she has with us as a group."

Leonard walked back to the couch, sitting and fidgeting mindlessly as he thought about all he had just heard. "Do I really do that?" he sadly asked Sheldon. 

Sheldon tried to reign in his anger. "Yes, you do." He returned to his spot, sitting slowly. "I'm sorry to have to point it out, especially when you're experiencing the negative effects of imbibing too much alcohol, but as you can see I was unable to contain my feelings on the subject any longer." He looked anywhere but at Leonard, slightly disconcerted at how out of hand his speech had gotten. 

"I guess... I guess you're right. I am being a hypocrite." Leonard looked down at his hands, wringing them tightly. "Wait- did Penny talk to you about this?"

"No," Sheldon replied, thinking back. "With the three of you intensely interested in Alicia, Penny and I seemed to spend more time alone together, thus I had plenty of time to observe her. She's not very good at hiding her feelings. From her body language, actions, and of course the little that she did say I was able to deduce her state of mind. A quick trip though my logs of daily interactions and some calculations and I was able to chart her discontent against your rejection."

Leonard knit his eyebrows, looking at Sheldon with disbelief. "You made a chart?" 

"Would you like to see it?"

Leonard held up his hands. "No. I never..." He trailed off, falling into self-pity. "I just- I guess it hurt more when she picked Stuart, you know? He's just like me. Why can't she like me?"

Sheldon picked up the remote, hoping to avoid this conversation again and internally bracing himself for the next few days of sad music and plans to gain a cat. "Oh I already told you that you and Stuart are nothing alike. Besides, by that logic, Penny would just be as apt to date Wolowitz or myself."

"Not Raj?" Leonard asked, playing with the belt on his robe. 

Sheldon looked at him quizzically. "Seeing as he can't speak to her? My guess would be no, though if he is under the influence of any kind of alcohol or pharmaceutical he may have just as good, if not better, odds. However, returning to your previous assertion, we all share many qualities with Stuart: we like comic books, we're intelligent people, we have good jobs, we do not conform to pop culture expectations in the ways of behavior, clothing, or pass times... so by your logic we are all basically the same person and Penny should be happy dating any one of us."

Leonard shrugged. "I guess you're right. Just because Howard and I share an interest in building robots does not make us the same person." He shivered as the thought took it's next logical turn, "Or that Penny would want to date Howard." He stood walking to the hallway, slowed by the confusion tightening his chest and the thumping in his head. "I'm, uh, going to go lie down and think about this while I wait for my headache to go away." He took a few steps then turned back. "Thanks, Sheldon."

Sheldon smiled a bit as he turned on the television. "You're welcome." At the very least, Leonard would be thinking about his actions now. 

Sheldon was watching the end of a documentary on archeology and contemplating changing out of his pajamas when Penny knocked twice then peaked into his apartment, still in her dress from the night before. "Good morning, Penny," he said, cheerful. 

She stood to her full, barefoot height in the doorway as she took a deep breath, trying to keep calm. Not only had he interrupted her date, not only had he  occupied  her date, but he'd left comic books all over her kitchen counter and she knew, just knew, that if anything happened to them he'd hold her responsible. She pursed her lips and swiped at her unruly hair. "You, mister, are going to march yourself over to my apartment right this minute and clean up the piles of comic books you left there last night. If you don't, I'm going to pull out my markers and draw little hearts and smiley faces all over them!" 

Sheldon stood nearly in a panic. "Don't be hasty now. I'll be happy to clean them up... Stuart and I left without cleaning to avoid waking you."

She sighed as he turned off the television, mumbling under her breath. "Never stopped you before."

He considered her statement as he walked to her. "True." He straightened his robe, trying to regain his composure. "Perhaps while I'm cleaning you can explain to me your interest in having coffee at such a late hour last night? I find it baffling." Sheldon marched past her, intent on saving the pieces of his collection that he'd carelessly left out the night before.

Penny rolled her eyes as she followed him out of the apartment. "Sure," she laughed, "Maybe I'll explain 'jumping on the bed' to you, too." She could only wince when he nodded enthusiastically back at her.