Okay, managed to get this done!
Penny wasn't sure if she'd be this gung – ho about getting Leonard his magazine back if she was dating him. She felt terrible thinking that, but one who has never tries as hard to keep as one who longs for tries to attain. If they were in a relationship, she'd probably suggest that he look for it, or maybe drive him back to work to search, or just sit by him and let him vent or lament over it.
Maybe not the sweetest way to handle it, but Penny knew that she sure as hell wouldn't have left him. Maybe a signed Star Wars Insider magazine wasn't something she'd value. But she respected what Leonard valued.
"You are a great guy, and it's the things you love that make you who you are."
She knew that Priya would never say that.
Leonard deserved to be with someone who would, every day of their lives.
Penny tapped her fingers on the steering wheel as she drove. She knew that she didn't deserve to have Leonard, no matter what she tried to tell herself to make Priya look bad. She could be selfish, she could be shallow, and she was scared.
But she cared about him a hell of a lot more than Priya did. She respected him and didn't judge him for the nerdy things that he did. She found them adorable.
So sure. Maybe some women would deserve Leonard more than Penny did. But Priya wasn't one of them. It wasn't even close.
Penny pulled into the university parking lot and pulled into an employee parking spot. Leonard had gotten her an employee sticker the year before to put on her windshield. She exited the vehicle and hiked her purse over her shoulder. "Show time," she mumbled.
She didn't really have much evidence to suggest that Leonard had simply left the magazine lying around at his work, but she didn't know where else to start. It certainly wasn't in his car, and she didn't think Priya was low enough to steal it. Even if she was, Penny couldn't think of a single motive.
"Dr. Gablehauser," she said, greeting the department head as she walked by him. Gablehauser didn't scare her the way the university president did. She'd met him enough times. As long as he didn't find out where she was parking…
But no, this time he simply nodded to her as they passed. No trouble. Penny stared straight ahead as she walked down the hall, turned, and found herself in front of Leonard's door. She pushed it open, turned on the light, and shut the door behind her.
Lord, was his desk neat. She would always tease him about it. Then he would tease her about her apartment being a mess. "This space is much smaller than my apartment, give me a break!" She would say, laughing.
"I keep an apartment and this space clean!"
"You live with a neat freak – that's an advantage!"
She couldn't count how many times they had had that conversation. Then they'd kiss. Penny closed her eyes, wistfully remembering. Then they flew open and she settled on the task at hand.
The magazine wasn't on his desk, or in any of the drawers. It wasn't in his filing cabinet, and it hadn't fallen into the trash. With her heart racing, Penny took apart the paper shredder and looked for any glossy shreds. There were none. She sighed with relief. No accidental ruinations there.
Standing up, Penny surveyed the room. There was nowhere else to look. Not here, anyway. She put the paper shredder back together, slipped out of Leonard's apartment, and wandered the halls until she came upon the cafeteria.
It was empty; the only lights were near the exits. She found the long strip of switches and flipped them all on. At one glance she could tell that the janitors had already been through. Nothing remained.
Lost and found?
There probably wasn't one in a place like this. Penny backed up until she felt the coolness of the wall on her back. "Dammit," she said. "Dammit, dammit, dammit!" She sank down the wall, her shirt riding up slightly, and collapsed on the ground. She pulled her legs up to her chest, crossed her arms over her knees, put her head down, and burst into tears.
The tears had come so suddenly that they almost surprised her. Almost. At some level she knew that she'd wanted to find that magazine for him that badly. But still, she hadn't expected this level of grief to overcome her when the first few places she looked yielded no results.
She pulled out her phone and dialed. "Damn," she said when she was sent to voicemail. She paused, waiting, and when she heard the beep she started blabbing. "I can't find your magazine! I've looked in your office, the cafeteria…the trash is gone…Leonard, I've been looking everywhere for this! I'm covered in sweat, I have paper cuts, I dropped the paper shredder on my foot and it hurts like hell, it's freezing in this building and it's dark and I'm not going to be able to find my way out and…would Priya do any of this for you? She wouldn't even stay with you when you were upset. Why can't you see that I'm so much better for you? Why can't you see…" she trailed off, wiped tears from her eyes, and continued with great difficulty, "that you mean more to me than you can ever mean to her. That I care about you so much…" She let out a shaky breath, pulled the phone from her ear, and hit send.
An instant later she froze. "Oh God," she said, hitting 'cancel' over and over again, desperate to prevent the message from going through. "Oh no, that's a…" she kept hitting the button, knowing that this was a mistake, a terrible thing to send to someone in a relationship, but the message registered as 'sent'.
"Oh no." She shook her head. "Oh no."
She re – opened her contacts list and called Bernadette. No answer. So she called Amy. "What up, Bestie?"
"Amy, I just made a terrible mistake."
"You know?" Penny frowned. Did Leonard get it and tell Sheldon. Oh no. Oh crap. No.
"Of course. You sent me a message intended for Leonard. Is that not why you're calling?"
"What?" Penny took the phone from her ear and went to 'recent calls'. It was true. She must have hit the wrong speed dial button with her shaky hands. "Oh God. Can you delete it, please?"
"I already did. I figured you were intoxicated and by sheer luck – if you believe in it – it was sent to someone who would not compromise it."
"Thank you." Penny closed her eyes and put a hand to her forehead. "Than you."
"Are you intoxicated?"
"No. No, just a bit shaken. I gotta go, okay?" Penny hung up the phone and headed back down the hallway, away from the cafeteria.
Penny jumped. This was a hallway, it was lit, but she'd have known it was Kripke no matter what. "Hello."
"Wanna be in on my wondewful pwan?
Kripke grinned. "You used to date Leonawd Hofstada, wight?"
"Yeah…" she cocked her head.
"Well, I heawd you weft him. He wasn't a good boyfwiend, supwise supwise, huh?"
"Um…" Penny wanted to defend him, but at the same time was too confused.
"Of couwse he wasn't. Anyway," Kripke said, "Today I stole a pwecious magazine from his desk. Destwoyed his happiness. But I need mowe. Wanna help me find his stuff and hide it?"
"You have the magazine?" Penny said. "But why?"
Kripke shrugged. "I'm borwed here."
Penny wanted to sock him, right there and right then. But she wouldn't know where the magazine was that way. "Take me to it," she said, trying to make her eyes light up. "I need to see proof you're capable of this before I help you."
"Wight this way," Kripke said, leading her two doors down to his office. He opened it, let Penny in, and opened one of his cabinets, revealing the magazine.
"Wow," Penny said, reaching for it. Kripke put it in her hands. Penny looked at the silver signature on the front, pretending to be in awe of Kripke's theft abilities.
Then she spun on her heel and ran.
She crept up the last few stairs, knocking hesitantly on the door to 4A. Leonard answered. "Hey."
With a smile, Penny reached out, holding the magazine out to him with both hands. His jaw dropped, and he hesitantly reached for it. "We said we'd look tomorrow…"
"I didn't want you to get in trouble with Priya," Penny lied. Half – truth, really, the other half being she wanted to surprise him by bringing it back.
"How long did you look for? Where was it?"
"Kripke took it. But I got it back. I looked about an hour. No biggie."
Leonard smiled at her, still looking shocked. "No biggie? You got into the university after hours and spent an hour looking for a magazine? He shook his head and wrapped his arms around her. "Thank you," he said.
She put her arms around him, too, feeling her eyes grow hot as she realized how long it had been since he'd held her at all. "No problem," she said, keeping her arms around him for just a fraction of a second longer than he had them around her. She stepped back and put a hand on his arm. "You have a girlfriend," she reminded him. "But that doesn't mean your friends will abandon you."
He looked down at the magazine, and then back up at her. He reached out, took her chin, and pushed it down slightly so he could plant a light kiss on her forehead. "I know."
They smiled at each other, and headed into their respective apartments. Penny sank down on her couch and smiled. She wasn't his girlfriend. But she was still closer to him than Priya was.