Mikayla Fitzgerald and Tara Burns were accustomed to a police officer's lifestyle long before they had arrived in Baltimore, long before they met their recent boyfriends. They were used to the long hours, the broken dates, and the psychological affect it could have on the officer, which could range from dramatic mood swings to unusual behavior, from extended quiet periods to concentrated bursts of anger. Penny had moved in with them at the end of her patrol days, about a month before she went straight to Homicide. The long hours were what they got used to first. Even as a patrolman, Penny rarely spent any time at the apartment, except on weekends, which she had off. When she moved to Homicide, even that changed. She was basically on call 24/7, which meant she never really knew when, or how long, she'd be working. Mik and Tara then had to get used to the even longer hours, and all the times they made plans to go out and she had to cancel because of a case. At first the two girls continuously worried about their roommate if she didn't call to say she was going to be late. When Penny realized the kind of an effect her new position was having on her two friends, she had sat them down one evening and had a long talk with them about what they should expect. She even said that if the situation was going to be too stressful for them, she'd move out. Tara and Mik wouldn't let her, and eventually her job became part of their normal routine. But the mood swings...they were the worst. For the first three months or so, Penny's attitude could change at a moment's notice from one extreme to another. Gradually, these outbursts occurred less and less often, until they stopped altogether. When asked about it, Pen had simply said, "If I'm going to be in a job like this, I have to learn to be stronger than ever. If not, I'll never make it as a Homicide Detective." Since then, she had never become overly emotional, save her bursts of joy and happiness that had been occurring more and more since her reunion with Mike and her liaison with Kellerman. But she found other ways to express herself, mainly falling back on what she used as outlets in her childhood - her music, and her outfits.
It had been two weeks since the tragic death of the 11 year old boy named Thomas Hunter. Penny went to the wake, accompanied by Kellerman despite the fact she was bent on going alone, and attended the funeral. She hadn't shed a tear. And she wore black from head to toe for each and every day of those two weeks. And then there was her nightmares...Mik and Tara did everything they could think of to help her. But Penny pushed them away time and time again, so they decided to call the only two people in the world who knew her as good as they did.
"What's up?" Kellerman asked as he slid in a booth across from Tara and Mik in The Daily Grind, the small coffee shop across the street from the station. He was surprisingly alert considering the fact that it was only about 6 am. But he knew that this meeting had something to do with Penny, so he had woken up even earlier than he had to, and tried to figure out what to do about her.
The two girls looked at each other, trying to figure out how to begin when Logan pulled up a chair. "Ok, ladies, I know I'm a damn good thing to be looking at in the morning, but does it have to be this early?"
Tara was about to snap at him, but Mik shot her a look and opened her mouth. "I'm sure you know why we're here. We have to do something."
"We gotta let her work it out on her own," Logan shook his head.
"We have been letting her work it out on her own," Tara argued, "And it's not working."
"Yeah, well I've known her for a lot longer than you, and I'm telling you..."
"Maybe you don't understand," Tara said, keeping a tight reign on her anger, which under normal circumstances would have shredded into Mike by now, but this wasn't about her and Mike, it was about Penny. "You guys don't live with her. You haven't seen her all day every day. I'm telling you it's not working."
"Listen," Kellerman started, finally participating in the conversation, "Here's what I know. She's worn all black since that night. She hasn't wanted to go out or do anything since that night. And she's been acting completely normal besides that."
"Mike," Mik said, turning to Logan, "Like you said before, you know her the best. What do you think?"
Logan had been trying to avoid the inevitable, mostly because he had no control over the situation that was about to unfold and he felt absolutely helpless, but it was time to face the facts. "I think she's internalizing all of her emotions, and if she doesn't let it all out soon, she's going to be in big trouble."
"What about her music...?" Kellerman asked.
"She hasn't picked up her guitar, or sat at the piano, or gone to her drums," Tara said.
"Usually she plays them when she's really frustrated," Mik answered quickly, not wanting to make her drums the issue. Mike got the hint.
"She hasn't even looked at a CD," Tara added.
"So what are we looking at here?" Logan asked. "You said that you live with her, so tell us what you know that we don't."
"She quotes constantly," Tara continued. "Almost everything out of her mouth is from somewhere else. It's like she can't put her thoughts into her own words."
"Anything else?" Kellerman asked.
"She's never home."
"Yeah, well neither am I," Kellerman said gently.
"No," Mik argued, "We're used to the 'I'm a detective so I'm never home' bit. It's not that. She's out until 2, 3 in the morning every night. I don't know where she goes or what she does, but as soon as she gets home she goes right to bed."
"And that's followed by the nightmares," Tara continued, her own exhaustion beginning to show.
"Nightmares?" both Mikes asked at once.
"They started right after she met Julianna," Tara said. "And at first they weren't too bad. She told us about it the next day...she said that she was walking down a long hallway that never seemed to end. The walls, floor and ceiling were all white. And there were windows on both sides of the hallway. Outside was pitch black. In this dream all she did was walk..."
"And then Lance made his surprise appearance," Mik picked up. "Her dream changed after that. The windows behind her started imploding, scattering glass all over the floor, so she ran...she kept on running as the windows broke, but before they caught up with her, she'd wake up."
"Since Tommy died, right before the windows start to break, he appears in the distance. Then the windows begin to implode, she runs, but now she's trying to get to Tommy before the glass he's surrounded by shatters. The windows break faster than she can run, so she eventually ends up running on broken glass in her bare feet. Right before the windows around Tommy break, she wakes up," Mik explained. "Usually she's screaming."
"That's when we wake up, run to her room, and try to calm her down," Tara finished.
"We'll figure something out," Kellerman finally said. "Why don't you two go home and try to get some sleep before the shift starts. Leave it to me and Logan."
The roommates agreed, leaving the two detectives alone to solve this puzzle.
"Well," Logan asked, "You have any ideas?"
"Not a one," Kellerman admitted. "She barely talks to me when we're working, I haven't spoken to her outside of that. You?"
"I didn't want to mention it in front of Tara and Mik, but one night I followed her."
"And she went back to 'the scene of the crime,' in a matter of speaking. She went to the courtyard where Tommy took his plunge, and just sat there. I tried talking to her, but it didn't work."
"What did she say?"
Logan wrinkled his forehead. "I said, 'Pen, I don't think it's a good idea for you to be out here alone when it's so late.' Then she said, 'I'm not alone. "The night is my companion, the solitude my guide."' So of course I tried to reason with her, which never works, and I ended up yelling at her."
"She quoted," Kellerman said grimly.
"Yeah. She quoted...normal people don't talk like that. What's even worse was that she was walkin' around without a coat."
"She's going to get sick...maybe even..." Kellerman stopped himself before he could finish the sentence. "You don't think that she'd...?" He once again trailed off, remembering for the first time in a while his previous suicide attempt.
"No. Never," Logan replied quickly, remembering his own brush with death...
Detective Mike Logan he was no longer. Officer Logan. That was his title now. How crappy did that sound? How dignified was it? Being demoted sucked. Mike was so angry that he couldn't even think. That damn Congressman...why did he have to mouth off to him like that? It was one time too many, so he had given the bastard what he deserved...a fist in his face. And the department comes down on him! I mean, come on, he was the good guy here. Now he was an outcast. He had not only shamed his fellow officers, but his family and his friends. Or at least that was the way he saw it.
In any case, the day after the incident found him in his apartment, alone. He was sitting on his couch in an undershirt and a pair of jeans looking at his gun. He felt the weight of it as he passed it from hand to hand slowly. He wasn't actually thinking about shooting himself, he wasn't thinking much at all. He just stared at his gun. The only thought in his mind was that all he wanted to be was a cop, and since his first day in Homicide, he had wanted to stay in that particular unit.
The phone rang, causing him to jump. He had lost his concentration...the concentration he had been directing at his gun. He resumed switching it from and to hand as his machine picked up, "You've reached the residence of Mike Logan. Leave your name, number, and a physical description at the beep, and maybe I'll give you a call sometime..." Beep. Mike's concentration was broken once again when he heard the voice on the other end of the phone leave her message.
"Hey, Mikey, just wanted to check up on you," the voice belonging to Penny Graham said in a serious, but still cheerful, tone. "I heard what happened with you and the Congressman. Slugging him was a pretty damn stupid thing to do, you know. No doubt he deserved it, but come on, Babe, we can't pull that kind of crap in our line of work. I know you're probably all down in the dumps about this, your being demoted and all, but it won't last forever, you know. The maximum amount of time is what, 5 years? And minimum is 2 1/2, 3? No sweat. You'll be back in no time."
He hadn't thought about it like that...maybe she was right..."I also know that you're sitting at home listening to this message even as I speak, and I know you won't pick up the phone no matter what I say. I wanted to tell you that I'm here for you, even though I realize you won't want to give me a call until you're back where you belong..." Mike smiled a little, she knew him so well..."Remember, 'If you fall, I will catch you, I'll be waiting.'"
She paused and he filled in the blank, "'Time after time.'"
"I guess that's it, then. Keep your chin up, slugger." She giggled, and he smiled again. "And no matter what, I'll always be your friend." He thought she had hung up, but she said one more thing before ending the call. "I love you, Mike."
He put his gun away right after that, and hadn't looked at it until he was on the job. And he never thanked Penny for that, it never occurred to him...
Until now. "What are we going to do?" he asked Kellerman ending the extended silence between them.
"I think I'm going to take a crack at talking to her after work. I know it's not original, but maybe it'll help."
"You'll probably be better at it than I am. I've never know what to do with Pen when she gets like this. I always end up losing my patience. But I have another idea that might help."
"I don't want to say. I have to see if I can arrange it," Logan responded. "But it might take me as long as a week to get it together, do you think you can handle her until then?"
"I'll do everything I can," Kellerman promised, and they agreed to share any new information that might arise with each other, no matter what it was.
Penny was gazing blankly out a window when Bayliss saw her. She should be eating lunch, but she was just staring off in space. He was concerned about his fellow detective...after all, it didn't take a genius to figure out that something wasn't quite right. True, she seemed like herself, but the fact that she wore only black, and that Mik acted funny whenever he brought up her roommate, told him that she wasn't back to her old self.
"Hey, Pen. How are you doing?"
She looked at him for a minute, then directed her eyes back to the window. "'I can't look out a window without my shadow getting in the way.'"
Bayliss didn't know what to make of that, so he left her alone. Almost an hour later, after running into Bayliss and hearing about his conversation, if that's what you'd call it, with Penny, Pembleton approached her at the window. "So, Graham, what's up?"
She looked at him blankly, and looked back out the window. "'I stand inside my hell and hold the hand of death.'"
Pembleton left her there, there was nothing else he could do. A few minutes later, Penny returned to work, her lunch break over. When she went out on a call with Kay, Kellerman sat at her desk and looked for something that might give him some kind of clue what he could to help her. Right there, in the middle of her desk was a piece of paper, and written in very neat cursive, it said, "'Will the ghosts go away? Will I will them to stay? Either way, that's no way to win. All I know is I'm lost, And I'm counting the cost, My emotions are in a spin.'"
"Got something?" Logan asked him. "Maybe," he said, handing the paper over to Logan, who read it and put it back on her desk.
"What do you think?"
"I think I'm going to talk to her tonight.
Mik and Tara had come to work in separate cars, which proved beneficial for Penny, who wanted to borrow one right after work. Tara handed over her keys, and Mike followed her into the garage. When she pulled out into the street, he was right behind her. Once on the street, he drove a discreet distance behind her. After a brief stop at the courtyard, Penny drove to a local church. When Kellerman went inside, he found her on her knees praying. She sat back in her pew after a few minutes, and listened to the organ music that surrounded them for a while. Before leaving the church, she stopped by a statue of the Virgin Mary that was surrounded by candles. She lit one, and recited what Kellerman guessed to be "Hail Mary" in Latin...after all, she began it with, "Beatae Mariae..."
She got back in Tara's car and drove a few miles, still unknowing that Kellerman was on her tail, eventually ending up at the cemetery. Coatless, and with a deep red rose in one hand, Penny walked on the frozen grass to the unmarked grave of Tommy Hunter. Once there, she knelt on the ground and began what Mike could only describe as a chant:
"'As the walls are closing in, And the colors fade to black, As my eyes are falling fast and deep into me.
And I follow the tracks that lead me down, I never follow what's right. And they wonder sometimes when they see all the sadness And pain the truth brings to light.
'Cause I can't see no reason. What is blind cannot see. 'Cause I want what is pleasing. All I take shall be free.
What I rob from the innocent ones, What I'd steal from the womb...'"
She slowly tore off each petal of the rose and dropped them on the grave one at a time. Once she was done, she remained on the ground not moving. Mike took this as a signal that she was finished, and walked up behind her and put his hand on her shoulder. She jumped at his touch, being too involved in her thoughts to hear him come up behind her.
"'Touch me, it's so easy to leave me, all alone with the memory of my days in the sun,'" she said, pushing his hand away and getting up.
"Come on, Pen. Knock it off."
She started to slowly walk away, and Kellerman realized that he was losing her. "Dammit Penny," he yelled after her, "You're so God dammed proud. Stop trying to be the strong one all the time." She stopped in her tracks a few feet away. "Let someone else be strong for once."
"Good," he thought to himself, "I got her to listen, but now what?" She didn't move at all, and it seemed to him that she didn't know where she wanted to go, like she was frozen in time. "Penelope," he said gently, and to his surprise, she actually turned to face him. Her eyes were beginning to fill with the tears that she had refused for the past two weeks, and Mike knew that she needed just one more push. He frantically wracked his brain for something to say, until it finally came to him in a flash...the night Tommy died. "I know who you are."
Penny let out a small gasp, and Mike rushed to her, seeing that her legs weren't going to hold her up for much longer. She willingly fell into his arms and began sobbing hysterically. As she clung to him for support, he wrapped his arms around her.
"'I don't know what to do, I'm always in the dark,'" she whimpered. He didn't know how long she was crying after that, an hour, two? It didn't matter to him, he simply held her and stroked her hair for the duration of her outburst. Kellerman waited until her crying had subsided sufficiently, and helped her to his black 4-Runner. By the time he got her in the car, she was shaking violently from the cold and softly allowing the tears to flow, with only a little moan now and again. He took off his coat and put it on her, and as he closed the door, he couldn't remember ever feeling so much compassion for another person.
They drove back to her house, the heat on full blast all the way. He parked in front and got out, about to scoop her up off the seat when she stopped him.
"No," she said in a soft voice. "I don't want them to see me like this. Give me a minute." She wiped her eyes, took a number of deep breaths, and got out of the car on her own. Although Kellerman didn't like the fact that she was trying to hide her emotions from two of her best friends, he was overjoyed to hear some original words come out of her mouth.
They walked to the front door together, Penny still shaking from the cold. She couldn't even get her keys out, forcing Kellerman to ring the doorbell. The look of relief on Tara and Mik's faces was obvious when they opened the door.
"Get her in a hot shower," he told them, handing Penny over to their care.
"Will you still be here when I'm done?" Penny asked as she struggled to make it up the stairs without her friends' help.
"I'm not going anywhere," he reassured her.
Once Tara and Mik had started the shower running, and made sure that Penny got to the bathroom all right, they returned to the living room to find out what happened. Mike felt that the night's events should stay between him and Penny, unless she chose to tell others about it, since she seemed so adamant on keeping it from people, so he just told them that she was beginning to come to terms with Tommy's death. They were annoyed that he refused to elaborate on that, but glad that she was dealing with the situation. The three of them decided that he should sleep over, with Mike's suggestion being that he stay in her room with her on the floor. The two girls agreed, and went off in search for blankets and an air mattress.
He went up to her room and sat on her bed. Kellerman hadn't spent too much time in Penny's room, so he never really had a chance to look around it. The walls were painted a sky blue, and the carpeting was a slightly darker shade. On one side of her room was a bookcase, crammed with books of every size and length, with a beanbag chair and a light in the corner. A drum set was in the opposite corner, with her drumsticks lying on the top. The wall next to that contained a small desk, complete with a laptop computer and phone on it, and her closet Between the desk and the closet was a boom box and a large CD holder, filled to the brink with CDs. Her queen sized bed lay in the middle of the room, covered with a patchwork quilt. The backboard was against the wall, with the three paintings Tommy had given her, the first one in the middle, hanging over it. Next to her bed, on the side with the beanbag chair, was a night stand with an alarm clock, a vase with silk flowers in it, and a picture of her and her roommates on it. From the foot of her bed where he was sitting, her door was on the wall opposite him, in the left corner, with her dresser directly across from him. On her dresser was a three way mirror, with the largest mirror in the middle, and a smaller one on each side. Her brush and comb, a small lamp, more silk flowers, and a number of little knickknacks were on the dresser. The mirrors are what caught Kellerman's attention, though, and he got up to examine them further.
The two side mirrors were completely covered with pictures, while the middle one was framed with photographs, leaving the center free to reflect its surroundings. He recognized some of the people in the pictures...a number of them had Logan in them, then there was one with her and Profaci, her and Briscoe...there was one of her and another woman he'd never seen before. They looked like they were in some kind of club, Penny was wearing something black, and the other woman had on a black leather jacket. Penny's hair was down, as usual, and the other woman's hair was also loose; it was short and dark brown, kinda curled. Their arms were around each other's shoulders. The picture next to it was probably taken in the same time frame - she and the women were in the same clothes and it was the same background - but this one also contained a man with gray hair. He had on a sweater over a dress shirt, and the two women were kissing him on opposite cheeks. Mike moved on to other pictures, more recent ones. Some were photos of Mike and Tara, Tim and Mik, and of course, him and Penny. There was a faded picture of a little girl and a little boy as well...the girl could have been Penny, but the identity of the boy was a mystery to him. He was about to see if there was writing on the back when he saw a picture in a frame. He picked it up, and looked at it closely. It was a wedding picture. The woman was thin, having a beautiful figure, with light gold hair and emerald green eyes. Her face was classically cut, as if she were a statue come to life. Her husband was taller than she, with medium brown hair combed to one side. He was thin as well, but not lanky. The joy on their faces couldn't be more noticeable. Kellerman put down the picture, which he assumed was of her parents, and picked up the only other framed one on her dresser. The same couple was in this one, a number of years obviously having gone by between this one and the last. The woman was seated, a child of maybe five years on her lap, and her husband standing behind them, his hands on her shoulders. The child had a pink dress on...probably a party dress, with white socks and black patented leather shoes. She had long, white-gold hair that was half up in a ponytail, half loose. The child had a serious expression on her face, as did her parents, but the smile in her eyes lit up the whole thing.
Mike himself was smiling at the picture when Mik and Tara entered with armfuls of thick blankets and a couple pillows. After explaining that they couldn't find the air mattress, the girls set up a makeshift bed for him on the floor, placing some of the blankets on the bottom - to soften the hard floor - and folding the top over of those blankets that were to be used as actual covers. They also gave him something to sleep in - a pair of Logan's sweatpants that Penny had borrowed but hadn't returned yet.
"Where's Mike?" Penny asked wearily as she wandered into her bedroom. "I went downstairs and...oh." She saw Kellerman sitting on her bed talking to her roommies halfway through her statement. She was wearing her warm flannel pajamas that Logan had given her a while back, and her hair was still damp despite her using a blow dryer. Much to Kellerman's surprise, dark circles under her eyes had appeared out of nowhere, making her look completely worn out.
"How ya doing sweetie?" Tara inquired.
"I'm ok, I'm just really tired."
Tara and Mik took the hint and left her bedroom. Mik was going to hug her, but changed her mind when she saw Penny start to slink away. Mike watched as she sat in front of her dresser and slowly brushed her hair. She noticed his reflection staring at her, and spoke.
"The miracles of makeup," she explained of her newly exposed circles. "If you know how to apply it right, you can hide just about anything."
"Pen, do you want to..."
"No. I just want to go to bed."
When she was done brushing her hair, she turned off the lights and climbed into her bed. She had a night light plugged in one of her walls, so a sparse amount of light still existed in the room. Mike made himself comfortable in his "bed," and laid there for a while. Just when he thought she was asleep, Penny spoke again.
"It's good to not be alone."
Mike wasn't sure how to answer her, so he remained silent, and they both fell asleep.
If Kellerman hadn't been sleeping on the floor, without a doubt he would've fallen out of bed as soon as he woke up. Because he woke up to screaming.
Penny was sitting straight up in her bed letting out screams that would turn anyone's blood cold. He crawled on the floor to the wall, where he flicked on the lights. Her eyes were wide open, and despite the fact that she had thrown all the sheets and blankets off the bed, she was bathed in sweat. He sat on the bed next to her and tried to snap her out of it, but to no avail.
Mik and Tara appeared in the doorway a few seconds later, also awakened by the noise. They started yelling and clapping their hands as Mike shook Penny forcefully, but the woman would simply not wake up. Mike remembered that this used to happen to his brother when they were little. It wasn't often, but sometimes Drew would wake up screaming, and it took an awful lot to stop it. His mother had called them "night terrors"...and as far as he could recall, the only way she was ever able to wake him was by slapping him across the face. So he slapped her. Hard.
Penny stopped screaming and gasped. She looked at her three friends in wonder, not understanding what was going on. She raised her hand to her cheek, which was already beginning to turn red, and looked at Kellerman with such confusion that he felt sorry for her.
"Get her some ice, will ya?"
Tara scurried downstairs while Mik sat down on the opposite side of the bed.
"You hit me?" Penny asked, disbelief dripping from each word.
"I had to," he answered, guilt beginning well up inside him. "You wouldn't wake up."
"You hit me," she stated, as if she was trying to convince herself of the fact.
"Honey, if he hadn't, one of us would have had to. You were in deep," Mik told her, trying to explain.
"I had that dream again," Penny said after Tara handed over a bag of ice. "But it was different this time..." She tried to concentrate, but the end of the dream was muddled with the reality of waking up, and she couldn't quite remember what was different about it. "I dunno...I dunno why, but it was." She glanced at her alarm clock - it was 3:12 am. "Why don't you guys go get some sleep. I've done this to you too often lately."
Both women stood, reluctantly leaving only after Penny gently shooed them out. She sat up against the backboard, her hand holding the bag of ice, looking like she hadn't slept in ages. Mike indicated that she remove the ice for a moment so he could take a better look at the bruise. It was bright red, though that was only an effect of the ice, and only a little swollen. Kellerman decided that there might be a light black and blue mark, but nothing major. After his evaluation of her cheek, he made her put the ice back on it.
"Pen, I'm so sorry..."
"Forget it, Kellerman. I had night terrors when I was a toddler. Scared my parents half to death the first time it happened. They had to give me a good smack too." She smiled for the first time since early January and gave him a little push, "But next time, try splashing some cold water on my face. It works just as well, and doesn't hurt half as much."
After another twenty minutes or so, the melting ice was poured into the sink, and the two remade Penny's bed. Once her head was resting on her pillow, Mike turned off the light and knelt next to her bed. "You ok?"
"Not yet. But I'm better," she said, scooting over to the side closest to where his setup was. "Sweet dreams, Kellerman."
"Sweet dreams, Pen," he replied, lying down. A moment later, her hand draped over the bed towards him. He reached up and held it in his own, hoping that the isolation his girlfriend had sentenced herself to was ending.
The next morning was bright and sunny. Kellerman left early, minutes after waking up, to go home, grab a shower, and change his clothes before the shift started. When he arrived at work, he was pleasantly surprised to find Penny chatting lightly with Kay, wearing a black pants suit...with a violet blouse beneath it.