She stood in the hallway between 4A and 4B. Penny's cab was waiting downstairs to take her to the airport. She looked at the yellow caution tape that crossed over the elevators that had been broken since the day she arrived three years ago. She'd been so annoyed with it the first day. Lugging boxes of stuff up four flights of stairs was a pain in the ass, but now she realized she was going to miss that damn out of order sign.
But she was going to miss her boys even more. She stepped up to their apartment and let out a sigh. This was going to be tough. Leaving her bags standing free, she knocked on the door. Immediately the door opened and she saw Leonard's face. He was smiling, but she could see the sadness in his eyes.
"Is it time?" he said softly.
"It's time," she whispered, holding back tears.
Four men stepped out of the apartment and into the hallway to say their goodbyes, lining up shoulder to shoulder like her little army of geeks. Leonard was the first.
"Leonard, you are so kind and gentle and caring. You were always one to make me laugh and make me feel like I could do anything." She saw a tear run down his face. It made her want to cry, but she told herself she'd be strong. "I know we had our ups and downs, but you're one of the best friends I've ever had and you'll always have a place in my heart." He was fully crying now, but still had that ridiculous grin on his face that always made her smile. "I do love you, you know that, right?"
"I know," he managed. "I hope you have a wonderful time in New York. Just remember me when you're all famous and stuff." The wrapped their arms around each other and stood for a long time. She could feel his tears seeping through her shirt sleeve, but she didn't care. She wanted to hold on forever, but she remembered there was a taxi waiting outside for her. She let go of Leonard and turned to Howard.
He had a big dumb smile on his face and his eyes were watery. It made her happy to see the real Howard. "Sometimes you make me want to punch you in the face," she started. Howards smile disappeared, but that just made Penny's smile even wider. "But I still remember when I went to your house to apologize and I got a peek of the Howard that lives right there," she pointed to his heart. "You know, before you tried to French me and I had to break your nose." Howard nodded.
"I'll miss you mon amie," Howard said, and now he was crying too. She gave him a hug and stepped toward Raj.
Raj was already sobbing like a baby. Penny checked her emotions, fighting back tears. "Raj, you are the sweetest most wonderful person I've ever known. You're my sunshine and you always make me smile. I hope you learn to talk to women soon because someday you're gonna make some girl really happy."
He gave her a big, beautiful smile despite the tears running down his cheeks. Then he opened his mouth. "Goodbye…Penny…" he spoke. It came out a little high pitched, but not nearly as squeaky as the last time he spoke to her without the help of alcohol. Those two words nearly broke her heart and at the same time sent her soaring. She nearly broke down and cried right there.
"Thank you, Raj," she whispered into his ear and gave him the tightest bear hug the world had ever known. She broke the hug and turned to the last one in line.
"What can I say, Sheldon?" she began.
Sheldon held up his hand to stop her. "As I've already stated before, I'm not comfortable with prolonged goodbyes or maudlin displays of emotion," he stated flatly.
Penny nodded. "I know. That's why I prepared this short video," she said and held up a DVD. Sheldon looked shocked for a moment before he took the disc. She gave him a sharp smile and stepped back to take one last look at her four closest friends.
"I hafta go now, my cab's downstairs. I hope you all do really well for yourselves and keep in touch and I'll miss you." She turned, grabbed her bags and ran downstairs before anyone could say anything else. She was so close to crying.
Sheldon closed the door to his room and rested the back of his head for a moment. That was one of the hardest things he'd ever done and he was no stranger to difficult tasks. Sighing, he collected himself, opened his laptop and sat on his bed. He put the DVD into the disc drive and soon Penny's face covered his screen.
"Hi Sheldon!" she said with a huge smile on her face. The corners of Sheldon's mouth dipped down. "I wish I could have said these things to you in person, but I know about your 'prolonged goodbyes' thing, so I'll just have to do my best with what I've got. I really am going to miss you, and I'm not just saying that. You're my best friend – the bestest I've ever had."
Sheldon rolled his eyes. Clearly, three years of friendship did nothing for her grammar.
"For all your quirkiness and craziness, I know you're a caring and loving person. There's a happy and funny Sheldon hidden inside that's just dying to break free of that robot exterior. I know because I've seen him sometimes when we're just hanging out. You've taught me more than anyone ever has and I'm probably a thousand times smarter than I was three years ago all because of you. I really…" she paused for a moment and cleared her throat. "I really wish I could have said this to you, face to face. I..." she started and then seemed to change her mind. The screen went black.
Sheldon stared at it for a moment. A whirlwind of thoughts and emotions blew through his mind, none of them touching down or connecting to anything. He suddenly felt regret. She was right there, right outside of his apartment and he said nothing to her. He possessed one of the greatest minds the world had ever seen and as she left his life forever, he just stood there like an idiot.
He suddenly realized what he had to do. Leaping out of bed, he grabbed his jacket and stalked out of the bedroom. "Leonard," he stated firmly. "I need you to drive me to the airport."
Raj, Howard and Leonard stared at him. "What?" Leonard finally managed.
"Take me to the airport. I need to talk to Penny."
Leonard looked confused, but he'd heard the determination in Sheldon's voice. And if there was one thing he learned in 7 years, it's you don't argue with Sheldon Cooper without escaping headache free. "
Alright, let's go," Leonard said and grabbed the keys from the bowl by the door.
"We'll come too," Raj said, standing.
"Yeah, this I gotta see," Howard mumbled.
They walked around the airport lobby, searching for her and making every blonde woman in the building very uncomfortable. None of them could find her and Sheldon was beginning to panic. He took out his wallet, fully intent on buying a ticket to New York when he saw her checking her bags. Signaling to the guys he turned and walked toward her.
When she saw him she looked confused and a little frightened. This certainly was not what she was expecting.
"Penny," he breathed when he approached her. Before she could answer, he wrapped his arms around her, practically lifting her off the floor. The embrace was warm and affectionate and not nearly as awkward as his previous hugs. "You're my best friend too," he whispered in her ear. "And I'll miss you."
Penny smiled so hard it hurt her face. "I'll miss you too, my Dr. Whack-a-Doodle," she whispered back. They finally broke the hug. Penny looked at Sheldon and suddenly the tears couldn't be stopped. The trickled down her cheeks and onto the floor, no doubt making her mascara run like crazy. She then stood on her toes and gently kissed Sheldon's cheek.
The guys watched as she made her way through security and didn't move until she was out of sight. "I'm going to miss that cheesecake scented goddess," Howard said, breaking the silence. They turned and walked toward the exits.
Sheldon pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Leonard. "Here's a prescription I've been hanging onto for emergencies. I'm going to go to the bathroom and thoroughly wash my face. Can you stop by that pharmacy over there and pick up some antibiotics?"