This year, Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday...it seemed like ages since the last time it was on a Sunday. The three roommates were excited about the prospect of having the entire day to celebrate; they even went as far as going to bed relatively early on Saturday in order to be fully rested for the next day's festivities.
Penny woke up around 10. She got up and dressed in her typical Valentine's Day attire - a white shirt with tiny red hearts on it, and overalls. She pulled her hair back with a butterfly clip, which was able to hold back most of it, but a number of strands fell out almost immediately. Not that Penny cared. After all, that's what today was all about.
When she moved in with Mik and Tara, she started a tradition that they had followed ever since. Valentine's Day was spent with each other, rather than their boyfriends, if they had any at the moment. Penny made the rules for the event - Dress casual and comfortable, no makeup. No cooking. No cleaning. No working on cases at home. It was their day to enjoy themselves
Pen made her way to the kitchen and had a glass of OJ. It was really too late to eat breakfast, so she put on her socks and waited for her friends to wake up so they could start the party. As she waited, she called the florist to make sure that they were going to deliver the flowers the girls had ordered at the time they had specified...and the florist assured her that they would. After about 5 minutes Mik showed up, followed by Tara a short time later. Mik was still in her nightgown - a long, white frilly thing that came right out of Scarlett O'Hara's closet, while Tara had a red sweater and jeans on.
"Are we ready?" she asked, and the two girls nodded. They followed her into the living room, Tara with a spoon in her hand, Mik with a brush in hers. Penny popped in their special tape and produced a screwdriver from her pocket. As soon as the music started, the three began their lip-synching frenzy, each using the items in their hands as microphones. The music varied from Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" to Meredith Brooks' "Bitch." Mik cranked up the volume and the three girls danced around the house to their favorite songs. They did this for an hour, with the grand finale in the living room being "It's Raining Men." Mik and Tara collapsed on the couch, while Penny went straight to the floor, all of them completely out of breath.
"Well," Tara eventually said after a few minutes rest, "It's almost noon. Shall we order our pizza, ladies?"
"Let's," Mik and Pen agreed. A half an hour later, they parked their butts on the couch, a large pizza with ham, green peppers, and extra cheese on the coffee table in front of them. Tara popped the cork of their sparkling cider - non-alcoholic, for Mik's sake - and poured them each a liberal amount in their crystal wine glasses. When they were finally settled, Mik and Tara looked at Penny, waiting for her to make the toast.
"To us," she said, raising her glass, "The closest of friends. And to our men, who at this very moment are receiving a dozen red roses from us."
"Here, here," the two chimed. The three clinked glasses and sipped their drinks.
"What do you think they're all thinking?" Mik asked.
"That we're damn good girlfriends," Tara replied.
"Yeah, that and 'Oh my God, it's Valentine's Day!'" Penny giggled. In addition to sending a dozen roses to Kellerman, she had sent small bouquets to Bayliss and Logan in the name of friendship. But she hadn't told either roomie, and hoped that neither of them got mad if and when they ever found out.
"And now, for the fun part..." Mik said, rubbing her hands together in anticipation. "Which movie should we watch first?"
"You're so eager, you first," Tara offered as she helped herself to a slice of pizza.
Mik put Bringing Up Baby with Carey Grant and Katherine Hepburn into the VCR and hit play. This part of their tradition demanded that each of them pick out a movie with a favorite actor in it, allowing them to admire the good looks of some of Hollywood's finest.
Mik's movie finished, and was followed by Tara's pick, Sleepless in Seattle.
Penny's was next in line. A few years back she had forced her friends to watch the 5 hour version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice...and much to their surprise, both women enjoyed it immensely. But then Pen tried to get them to watch it the next year...and the year after that...Mik and Tara could only take so much. This year Pen had settled on Jane Austen's Emma, which was only about 2 hours long, starring Gweneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam. They were a little over an hour into movie when the three decided that it was just about time to take a break. They cleaned up the paper plates and empty pizza box, replacing it with a box filled with a pound of chocolate. They settled in and returned to 18th century England, consuming at least half the box by the time the movie was over. They were about to start the final flick of the night when Penny remembered that she still had the screwdriver in her pocket. She ran upstairs, intent on putting it away before she lost it, when she heard a tapping sound on the window at the end of the hall. Her first instinct was to get her gun, but being that she was on the second floor, she decided that whatever it was out there, it wasn't going to kill her. So she cautiously approached the window, turning on an outside light, and once she saw what was making the noise, she shouted down to her roommates.
"Tara, Mik, you gotta see this!"
The girls joined her at the window a few seconds later. Kellerman, Logan, and Bayliss were all standing out in the cold, in black suits, white shirts, black ties, and dark sunglasses. Bayliss had been throwing pebbles at the window for the past five minutes or so, hoping that eventually one of the girls would hear him and investigate.
"What the hell are you guys doing out there?" Penny called after opening the window.
None of the men answered, but Logan turned around and produced a boombox from behind them and placed it in front. He turned up the volume and hit play...the next thing the roommates knew, they were being serenaded from below, their boyfriends singing along with Elvis Presley's "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You." When the song was done, they stopped the tape and waited for a response. The girls were speechless. This had obviously taken some planning on their part, and they realized that maybe the guys did remember what day it was before they received their flowers.
"Well," Penny muttered to her two friends, "I'd have to say that this is the first time I've ever had this happen."
"Me too," Tara said.
"Same here," Mik replied.
"This definitely is worth extra points," Pen said thoughtfully.
"Does that mean they get to come in?" Mik asked suspiciously. "This is our day, remember?"
"Yeah, like you don't want your Timmy Bear comin' in," Tara laughed.
"But our agreement..." Mik urged. "Remember?"
"My, my, my. This has to be the first time I've ever seen you opposed to the idea of seeing Tim," Tara said.
"I look awful," Mik complained.
"So the truth finally comes out," Penny laughed. "All in favor of letting the guys in for the festivities?" All three raised their hands. "It's settled then. But no sneaking away to make out, got it? We have our traditions to maintain."
"Define 'make out'," Tara said.
The three laughed out loud and looked back outside. The three men were puzzled at the response, or lack thereof, the girls had given them. Above and beyond that it was freezing out there, and they were wondering what on earth was keeping them from being invited in. And why their girlfriends were laughing so much.
"They're not laughing at us , are they?" Bayliss asked uneasily.
"Nah...they wouldn't do that," Logan replied confidently.
At this point, a kind of scuffle occurred overhead. It seemed like Penny was trying to climb out the window, so she could climb down the trellis, but Mik and Tara kept pulling her back in.
"Leave it to Penny," Logan shook his head with a smile on his face. "Who else would try to come down here without using the stairs?"
Finally, she submitted, and simply stuck her head out the window. "We'll meet you guys at the front door."
After closing the window, the three girls raced downstairs, each trying to beat the other two to the door. Tara and Pen tied, with Mik only a second behind them, holding up her nightgown in an attempt to run faster. They flung open the door, out of breath for the second time that day, and found their Valentines on the other side.
"Come in," Mik gasped.
First came Bayliss, second, Logan, and last of all, Kellerman. Penny gave her two friends a peck on the cheek, saving her lips for Kellerman. Tara and Mik, did the same, thanking each of them for the wonderful surprise.
"Oh, but it's not over just yet," Kellerman grinned. "You still have to get your individual presents."
Eyebrows raised, and glances were exchanged amongst the roomies. "Oooooooh," Pen said playfully, "And I bet you guys want to give us those in privacy." She turned to Mik and Tara and spoke seriously. "Mik take the kitchen, Tara the dining room. No bedrooms. Meet back in the living room in ten minutes, or I'm coming to drag you back. Got it?"
"Yes, 'mam," they responded, saluting her before taking their boyfriends' hands and leading them in opposite directions. Penny took Kellerman's and lead him to the living room couch.
"First of all, I want to thank you for the roses," Mike said. "I've never gotten flowers from a woman before. That was great. Secondly," he continued as he pulled a paper out of his pocket and proceeded to unfold it, "You're not getting your real present 'til this weekend. We're going on a trip."
"Stealing me away, Kellerman? And pray tell, where are we going?"
"That's a secret."
"Oh, how romantic. We're taking the boat?" He nodded and she smiled. "My oh my. It seems that Mikey has a few surprises up his sleeve. I'm intrigued."
"But for now, I got somethin' else. I know how much you like books, so I figured I'd do something literary. And let me tell you, I read through more poems than I ever cared to see to find the one that fit you. So here goes." He cleared his throat and read:
"She was a phantom of delight / When first she gleamed upon my sight; / A lovely apparition, sent / To be a moment's ornament; / Her eyes as stars of twilight fair; / Like twilight's, too, her dusky hair; / But all things else about her drawn / From May-time and the cheerful dawn; / A dancing shape, and image gay, / To haunt, to startle, and waylay.
I saw her upon nearer view, / A spirit, yet a woman too! / Her household motions light and free, / And steps of virgin-liberty; / A countenance in which did meet / Sweet records, promises as sweet; / A creature not too bright or good / For human nature's daily food; / For transient sorrows, simple wiles, / Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.
And now I see with eye serene / The very pulse of the machine; / A being breathing thoughtful breath, / A traveler between life and death; / The reason firm, the temperate will, / Endurance, foresight, strength and skill; / A perfect woman nobly planned, / To warn, to comfort, and command; / And yet a spirit still, and bright / With something of angelic light."
"You picked that out for me?" she asked him quietly.
"It's you, Pen. It's you to a tee." He glanced down at the paper again. "Well, maybe except for that 'temperate will' part."
"Hey, my will is temperate!" She slugged him as she laughed. "Don't make me show you how temperate I can be."
"I think I could handle you," he grinned yet again.
"Oh really?" she asked as she moved closer to him.
"Why don't you prove it," she dared, leaning forward so her lips were only inches from his own.
"I thought you had a rule about this kind of thing," he teased, not moving any closer to her.
"We have about five minutes before the others come in," she breathed. "And besides, some rules were made to be broken."
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Mik was receiving a present of her own. "It's absolutely gorgeous," she gushed after opening the present. "And it's the right size too." She held up the chocolate brown nightgown to herself to see if she spoke the truth. It was a long satin number with the same colored lace on top of it. The straps were about an inch wide, the neck only venturing about an inch below her chin, while the bottom ended right at her ankles.
As Mik sat down in a chair and examined the pattern of the lace, Tim decided that he had made the right choice. He had wanted to get her some lingerie, but wasn't sure what she liked. He knew what he liked, but the present wasn't for him. He finally settled on a nightgown because it was pretty intimate...and at the same time he felt it showed that he respected her. Of course, he wasn't sure if she was going to like it or not, and had spent the past week worrying about it, but it appeared that she did like it very much.
"How did you know that I like this kind of fancy thing?" she asked him.
"I went to the store and thought, 'If I were a modern day Scarlett O'Hara, what would I buy?' Out of all the nightgowns there, this one stood out."
"I think Scarlett would definitely approve," Mik agreed, standing up. "And now, Timmy Bear, you're gonna get some sugah," she said in an exaggerated southern accent. If she only knew what that accent did to him...but it was too late to mention that now, her lips had already met his. His arms automatically circled her waist as she massaged his broad shoulders. One thing lead to another, and Tim only came to his senses after she had completely taken off his jacket and tie.
"Whoa," he said, stepping back. "I thought there was a rule about this kind of thing on today."
"There is," she replied, "But I've never been one to follow all the rules."
"And I've never been one who enjoyed being walked in on," he hinted, reminding her of Penny's threat.
"Oh, all right," she submitted. "We'll go back to the living room before anything happens, but tomorrow night, you owe me."
In the dining room, Logan was putting the moves on Tara. She sat on his lap as she opened her present. It was a necklace with a Celtic heart charm on it...two hearts woven together in a symbol of unending love. Logan knew of the story that surrounded the charm, and had seen it on occasion, but had never been inspired to buy it for anyone before. Besides the fact that his feelings ran so deep for Tara, being Irish herself, he knew that she'd appreciate the gift more than anyone else.
Unlike her other roommates, Tara said nothing at all, but began kissing Mike zealously. Logan was never one to resist a female's passion, so he returned her kisses with equal enthusiasm. While she cupped his face in her hands, his hands went to work on their own - his right gently rubbing her upper thigh, while his left purposefully massaged that special place on her back.
Tar was about to submit...let him have his way with her, when she remembered the day.
"Wait," she gasped, tearing her lips away from his. "Come on, you know what today is."
"All the more reason to go on," he suggested, but when he leaned forward, she pulled back. "Fine, ok, we'll stop now. But you don't know what you're missing."
Tara closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The fact was that she was quite aware of what she'd be missing. But a deal is a deal, and as much as she loved Mike, this was a tradition that the roommates had kept for years, and she'd feel awful if she was the one to break it. "There's always tomorrow to find out."
"Is that a promise?" Logan asked with a wicked grin.
"You better believe it, buster."
While the other two couples were taking a minute to cool off, things were really beginning to heat up in the living room. The only ones in access to a couch, Mike and Penny were making full use of it. What had started as in innocent kiss was going further and further by the second. The butterfly clip from Penny's hair had been flung across the room early on. At the moment, their tongues were fiercely exploring each other's mouths. Penny was back against the armrest of the couch, her fingers running through his soft hair over and over while he held her close against him. They would've continued if it wasn't for the approaching voices. Voices. Both of them were aware of the sounds at the same time, and for a moment, they just stared at each other in disbelief.
"Jeez! If they catch us on this couch again, I'll never hear the end of it," she whispered. The two sat up quickly, straightening their clothes and hair, when Penny realized that she didn't have her clip. "Where the hell did you throw it?"
"I wasn't looking at the clip," he replied in a hushed voice, "I was looking at you."
Penny hastily searched the room as Kellerman sat back and tried not to burst into laughter at the predicament. She found it in the corner, next to the television set, and put her hair back up. She raced across the room and leapt onto the couch seconds before the other two couples entered the room.
"And I thought we were going to get a free show," Logan commented, "But here they are, acting like responsible adults.
"Especially on this couch," Tara joined in, "They have a history on this couch, you know."
Kellerman and Penny managed to suppress their laughter for the time being, but both knew that later on, when they thought back to this very day, they'd be hysterical.
"Are we ready to watch the last movie or what?" Pen asked, avoiding their sarcasm.
"By all means."
The movie was Edward Scissorhands. Logan knew that it would be...it was one of Pen's favorites. When it came out, she dragged him to see it, and astonishing as it may seem, he had enjoyed it. Afterwards she had taken Tara and Mik who also loved it, and it was decided that they'd always watch it on Valentine's Day no matter what. Everyone made themselves comfortable - Pen and Kellerman on the floor, their backs against the couch, Tara leaning back against Logan who was sitting on the couch, and Mik and Tim sitting on the love seat.
They all watched in silence, save a few sarcastic remarks here and there. As the movie reached the end, Penny let out a long, sad sigh, that no one noticed but Logan, and maybe Kellerman. Every time she watched this particular movie, she always did that at the same part. The sigh was always followed by a single tear, which Logan had brushed away upon seeing it so many years ago. Later, she had told him that this was the only movie that ever made her cry.
So here was Penny sighing yet again, and while the others watched the movie, Logan watched her reach up to wipe away the tear that would inevitably follow. But Kellerman did, in fact, notice the sigh, and was looking at her from the corner of his eye when he saw the tear. She reached up to get rid of it before anyone noticed, but he caught her arm. She tried to yank her arm from his grip, but he wouldn't let go. He shook his head slightly, indicating that she shouldn't carry out what she intended to do. She relaxed her arm, and he let go. The tiny drop of salt water left a shiny trail down her cheek, dropping to the floor after only a few seconds of life.
Mike Logan wondered what had just happened. He saw it, but didn't understand. Only hours later, as he lay in his bed, did he grasp the situation...Kellerman had let her cry.
Kellerman was just about finished readying the boat for their trip when Penny showed up. Logan and Pen were walking down the docks, laughing as they spoke. She had a large duffel bag hanging from her left shoulder and a clothing bag draped over her right arm. It was a little after seven, and already dark.
"It's about time," Kellerman said from the boat when they had finally reached it.
"You Homicide Detectives," Penny shook her head, "are so impatient. You can sit at a stakeout for hours without a complaint, but when it comes to your lives, you want everything right now." She threw her bag on the deck and handed her clothing bag to Kellerman.
"Have fun, but be careful, Graham Cracker," Logan said giving her a squeeze.
"Take care of the girls for me," she replied, leaping on board.
"Keep an eye on her, Mike. She's a feisty one," he cautioned Kellerman.
"Don't I know it," Kellerman replied jokingly. "We'll be back Sunday night...probably not too late. I'll bring her home."
"I'll tell the girls, that," Logan replied, with a wave of his hand, and started back down the docks.
Mike and Penny entered the warm cabin as Mike eyed her bag. "What, you moving in or somethin'? How many clothes did you bring?"
"If there's one thing that holds true for all women, it's that we always over pack. That way we're prepared for just about anything." She motioned to the clothing bag, "You told me to bring something dressy, so that's it. Can you hang it up for me?"
He hung it up to his closet and returned to Penny rummaging through her bag. He waited patiently until she found what she was looking for - a piece of rope that was tied in a knot. It consisted of three loops, resembling a clover, with a variety of small shells and silk flowers attached to it. She handed it to him, and Kellerman examined it in wonder. "And this is...?"
"Mr. 'I love the ocean' doesn't know a sailor's love knot when he sees one?" she asked in disbelief. "It's a masthead knot. Sailors used to make them as a symbol of love...they'd give them to their families before leaving on a trip, and their families would decorate and hang it up in their houses in hopes that their loved one would return safely. Since your boat is your home, I figured I'd give one to you."
"Thanks," he said, putting it aside for the moment. "But now we have to get going if I have any hope of getting sleep tonight. You brought a book, or something?" She nodded and produced a book from her bag. "Good. I'm going out there to drive. Don't come out, or you'll know what direction we're going in and you'll figure out where we're going, ok?" She nodded again. "Ok. I'll see you later." With that he left her in the cabin alone and climbed the ladder to the controls. Truth be told, he didn't like going places at night in his boat, but he had made this particular journey a few times before, and besides he had sonar along with a number of other technical devices that would keep him from crashing into anything.
Penny did as she was told. She stretched out on his couch for a few hours reading her book. He had only mentioned the idea of bringing a book at the last minute, so she had been forced to grab one quickly. It was a Danielle Steel novel that she promised Mik she would read - Full Circle. Pen could only take so much of the depressing melodrama and shallow characters before she put the book down. It was 9:33. She made some coffee, bundled up in her coat and gloves, and climbed the ladder that lead to her boyfriend. He jumped at her arrival, startled at her appearance.
"I told you not to come up here," he scolded, getting up from his chair and gratefully accepting the cup of coffee she held out.
"I know. But I thought you might be getting lonely up here all by yourself."
She was only partly right. Although he felt isolated from others when driving his boat, he also welcomed the freedom he felt as the wind rushed by his ears. It was a nice break from working all day with a partner, to be completely in charge and on his own for a while. At the same time, he couldn't say that he regretted her decision to come keep him company. He drank his coffee while she looked around. When he finished, he put the cup down and continued to drive in silence.
Because of the boat's motor he didn't hear her come up from behind him, but wasn't completely surprised when he felt her arms wrap around his waist. She rested her head on his back as she held him, and after a few seconds he let go of the steering wheel with one hand and placed it on hers. They stood like that for a long time without speaking, just enjoying each other's company.
Eventually Penny decided to call it a night. Every Homicide Detective could use extra sleep, so when they had the opportunity, they usually took it. She kissed Mike goodnight and descended to the cabin. After changing into her pajamas - cherry red fuzzy top and pants - she folded out the bed from the couch and fell asleep almost immediately.
Hours later, after reaching their destination and finding a spot in the marina, Kellerman tiptoed into the cabin and quickly changed into sweatpants and an undershirt. He was being very careful when he tripped on the edge of the bed and fell with a loud bang.
"Huh...what?" Penny mumbled, sitting up.
"Sorry, go back to sleep."
"What are you doing, Kellerman?"
"I was getting some blankets for me."
Despite the fact she had just woken up, Penny knew what he was doing. "No way, you're not sleeping on the floor. This is your boat."
"Well I'm not going to let you sleep on the floor," he replied.
"Mikey, get in bed."
Kellerman paused and Penny grabbed his arm and forced him to sit on the bed. "We're two responsible adults. I'm sure we can handle it. Furthermore, I bet you're too tired to try anything with me, and I'm certainly too out of it to make the first move. So shut up, get in bed, and go to sleep."
"If you say so."
"I do," she yawned, lying back down as Mike climbed under the covers with her. "Goodnight, Blondie."
"'Nite my phantom of delight."
"You're a poet and you didn't even know it," she muttered, already on her way back to dreamland.
He leaned over and kissed her forehead before lying down himself and getting the rest he so richly deserved.
Penny instinctively woke up around 6 am. It was her habit to work out early Saturday mornings, whether she was scheduled to work or not, leaving the rest of the day free for whatever else she had to do. But waking up was different today...she had just opened her eyes, her brain not quite fully functional, when she rolled over to find Kellerman sound asleep beside her. The unexpectedness of her discovery jump-started her higher functions, and she was able to recall what had happened the night before.
"Well," she thought as she watched Mike breathe in and out, his chest moving up and down, "This is supposed to be my present, so I guess I'm allowed to sleep late. Besides, the poor guy was up last night bringing me here, so he deserves a couple more hours." She rolled over and slept for another hour and a half, but this time when she woke up she couldn't contain her excitement about the day that lay ahead. She reached over and brushed her boyfriend's cheek with the cuff of her pajamas. At first he unconsciously swatted at the object that was trying to disturb his sleep, but that proved to be ineffective, so he opened his eyes to find out what was bothering him.
"Good morning, sleepyhead," Penny said, laughing softly. The poor guy was obviously suffering from the same confusion she had experienced upon waking up the first time, and she was rather amused by it.
However, the look of astonishment on his face faded quickly once he was able to think straight. "Mornin' Pen. How long you been up?"
"Not long. I was waiting for you to get up and share your big secret with me, but you were taking too long, so I figured I'd get you started."
He rubbed the sleep from his eyes as his way too giddy girlfriend climbed over him and started the coffee. God help him if she was going to be like this all day...though he reasoned that the only reason she was annoying him was the fact that she was too damn awake. And she hadn't even dumped any caffeine in her system yet. And it was too early to be up when he had the day off.
"All right, come on," he murmured, forcing himself out of bed. He grabbed a blanket off the bed as he lead her outside into the freezing air.
"You brought me back," she beamed, wrapping her side of the blanket tightly around her, and standing close to Kellerman in an attempt to put some of his body heat to use. She had guessed that their trip would be back to NYC, but didn't let on. "This is really great, Mike. Thanks so much."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm great...now let's go and get some coffee."
After Kellerman drank several cups of coffee, his mood improved immensely. Pen showered and changed quickly into a pair of jeans, a white blouse, and a black suede vest while his body absorbed the caffeine. He proceeded to jump in the shower, and Penny was left to her book until he was ready to go. He had chosen to wear the sweater she'd given him for Christmas and jeans.
"So...what are our plans for today?" she asked.
"The day belongs to you...and so does the night except for two hours or so."
"And what will we be doing for those two hours?"
He grabbed his coat from the closet and started fishing through the pockets. "We will be attending the latest performance at Carnage Hall," he replied, handing her the two tickets.
She studied them before looking back up at him. "Second mezzanine...the $20 seats..."
"Well, ya know..."
"Mikey and I...Logan and I used to go to Carnage Hall when we had the chance. The seats near the top are cheap, Kellerman, but it doesn't matter 'cause you can hear the music from anywhere in the theatre."
"So you're not disappointed?"
"Hell no. Didn't Logan tell you we used to do that?"
"He only told me what tickets to get, he didn't say anything more than that."
"We better get going," Penny said, putting the tickets on the kitchen counter, "We have a busy day ahead of us."
Their first stop was what Kellerman had expected - the 27th precinct. Penny paid the cabbie and jogged up the steps of her old home away from home without waiting for Mike. Upon entering, there was a small lobby-type area where a uniform sat at his desk, uninterested in the goings on around him, concentrating on his crossword puzzle instead. A row of chairs lined the back wall, no doubt a waiting area for civilians who came in to report a crime or as a witness, but they were empty at the moment. Not too many people were eager enough to show up at a police station at 8:30 in the morning, so this fact wasn't surprising.
There was a door directly in front of them, as well as a door to their right. A number of people went in and out the right door without noticing either of them. People hanging around in the lobby were of no interest to them. A few people entered the lobby, signed in on a sheet on the uniform's desk, and went in the other door. They noticed the two in the lobby...and every one ran their eyes over the two before signing their name and continuing on their way. These were the detectives. Penny could always distinguish the detectives from patrolmen...the detectives were the ones who observed what was going on around them, and questioned it. Well, the good ones did anyway.
After a few minutes of standing there and soaking in the old routine, Penny approached the desk. She simply stood there waiting for the uniform to acknowledge her presence, which he eventually did.
"If you're with the badge, you should know the routine. If you're here to see someone, have a seat and I'll get to you," he said flatly.
"You know, a serial killer could walk right in and take out the whole precinct," she stated. "You should pay better attention."
"Graham," the uniform muttered, finally ripping his eyes from the puzzle to look at her. "You never change."
"And neither do you, I see," she replied, gesturing to the paper.
"How's the hottest babe ever to join Homicide doin'?" he asked.
"Still trying to stop people from thinkin' that every time they see me."
"Yeah, that's rude ain't it?"
Penny smiled. It was just like old times...every morning she had enjoyed the playful banter that occurred between her and Officer Clinmore. "Sure is. Sexist pig," she commented before calling Mike over. "Clinmore, this is one of the detectives I work with in Baltimore, Mike Kellerman."
The two shook hands. "Homicide?" Clinmore asked.
"You told me you'd never date a cop," Clinmore complained, addressing Penny. "You wouldn't go out with me."
She picked up his left hand and played with the ring on his finger. "Oh no, you musta misunderstood. I said I'd never date a married cop."
"More's the pity," he shrugged with a grin. "You want to go visit upstairs?"
"Nah...I mean, it only took us how long to get here?" she asked Kellerman, not waiting for an answer before going on. "I just came to see you. And now that I have, we better get going."
"Smart ass," Clinmore said, pulling out a visitor's sign in sheet. "You know the drill, sign in, yadda yadda." He handed her his pen, and she and Kellerman both filled out the four boxes asking their name, department, section/city, and signature.
"Give me a couple to get you some visitor's passes," he told them, leaving his desk and going through the door on their right.
"So this is the NYPD," Kellerman said absently as they sat down to wait.
"Yeah...and if you think the lobby is in bad shape," she said as she eyed the chipping paint in the corners of the room, "Just wait 'til we get up to Homicide. This is just recently painted in comparison."
Ten minutes later, Penny and Mike made their way through the door, visitor's passes in plain sight. But they weren't halfway up the stairs before they met up with an old friend.
"I thought you didn't like hanging around here anymore, Frenchie," Profaci said as he made his way down.
"Not unless you're here."
"In that case, I guess you're allowed to stay," the dark-haired detective replied. He turned to Kellerman and held out his hand, "She dragged you all the way up here, huh?"
"Nah, New York was my idea," he said as he accepted the gesture. "Why you leaving so early? Got a call already?"
"It seems that the only thing I'm good for these days is the donut run," was his response as he put his coat on. "You want anything?"
"I'll just grab one of the donuts."
"Pen, want me to bring back your favorite?" he asked.
"I don't want you going outta your way..."she objected.
"Hey, it's not problem. Besides, I kinda missed you unique choice of breakfast. I'll be back soon." He continued down the stairs and out the door they came in, while the couple resumed their walk up the stairs. Kellerman followed her into a room that was much smaller, much more cramped than the one back in Baltimore. Typical activity though...the men were clumped in a number of small groups talking about their most recent girlfriends, spectacular arrests, and the cute thing their kid said last night. No one noticed him or Penny enter, but she made sure that changed real quick.
"Damn, guys, you still need a woman to tell you when to get back to work?" She put her hands on her hips and kept her tone serious. "Without me around, Van Buren must have to supervise you every freakin' 5 minutes."
There wasn't a set of eyes in the place that didn't look right at the only female in the room. The annoyance that had appeared on a great number of faces when she had opened her mouth seemed to disappear quickly when they recognized who the voice belonged to.
"Graham," one detective welcomed her from his desk, "Comin' back so you can make us look bad again?"
"I don't have to be here to do that, Sid, you guys do that well enough without me."
"You know," another man said, "Van Buren will be coming in any minute, so maybe we should do as the lady says and work."
"Thanks for saving us a little earache, Graham," yet another called from his desk.
"No problem," she replied, heading over to Lennie Briscoe's desk.
"Hey, kid. Why didn't you tell me you were coming?" he asked.
"Didn't know I was 'til I got here myself." She sat on the edge of his desk and gestured to the man sitting at the desk across from his, "This 'Techno Wizard'?"
"Yeah," Lennie replied with an embarrassed grin, "Detective Rey Curtis, meet Detectives Penny Graham and Mike Kellerman."
"Graham...I've heard a lot about you," Rey said after shaking hands with both of them. "You're the avenging angel of the 2-7, or so I've heard."
"Not quite...but I work hard and do the job right."
"Well, you survived three years with Briscoe...doesn't that count for something?"
She laughed. "Well, if you put it that way..."
"You know, partnering with you wasn't always a picnic either," Lennie threw in.
"And Kellerman," Rey changed the subject, "You're with Homicide in Baltimore, right?" Mike nodded. "And you and Graham are..." he paused in an effort to find the right words, "Doing a personal investigation of your own?"
Kellerman couldn't help but laugh. "Well, I've never heard it put that way before, but yeah, I guess you could say that."
"Uncover anything of interest?" Briscoe piped up.
"Lennie!" Penny protested. She was about to lash into him when Lieutenant Van Buran walked in to discover the majority of her shift already hard at work...finding the reason behind it soon after.
"Detective Graham," she said as she approached the young woman, "I knew there must've been a reason why I didn't have to get on anybody's back to get started. Long time no see."
"I was up here, so I figured I'd stop by..."
"That's fine. When you're done with these two, why don't you stop in my office?"
Van Buren went into her office and started going over the reports on her desk while Penny finished up with her old partner and his new one. Meanwhile, Mike was taking this opportunity to survey his girlfriend's old workplace. She was right when she said that the downstairs was in good shape compared to the upstairs. The light green paint was in ok condition, but the darker shade that outlined the doorways was chipped in a million places. The tiled floor had cracks and small holes in it all over the place. And the desks...there were just too many of them. The overall effect was very unpleasant - a noisy, claustrophobic atmosphere where you could smell the lead based paint with every breath.
Beyond that, Kellerman didn't like the attitudes of the other detectives. He liked Profaci and Briscoe, and this Rey Curtis guy seemed like a good sort. But the others...there was something about them. Although they didn't outright insult Penny, they had a definite attitude about them when they talked to her....as if they were just waiting for an excuse to club her and take her back to their cave. Their Homicide unit back in Baltimore wasn't exactly perfect, but when push came to shove, they could work as a well-oiled machine. You could partner practically any two together and get good results. True, there were a number of personality clashes, and a bad habit of resorting to violence if certain buttons were pushed, but they never lost respect for each other. Respect for the badge they all carried. Mike didn't feel that many of these guys felt any kind of respect for Penny as a person or a cop. And he couldn't imagine them working as a team.
"You two better get back to work before I get you in trouble," Penny said as Kellerman shook off his negative thoughts and came back to the present.
"How long you in town, Pen?" Lennie asked.
"Only the weekend. Back to work on Monday."
"And how to plan on spending the day?"
"Well, tonight we're gonna see a concert at my favorite place, but before that I still got a few stops I wanna make. You know, stop by the crime lab, see a few people, visit some old ghosts..."
"Have fun, kiddo."
"Rey, can you get e-mail on that thing?" she asked as she motioned to his laptop.
"You wouldn't mind if I sent this oldie but goodie a message from time to time, would ya?"
"No problem...I have a printer at home, so I can even give him a copy that he'll be able to comprehend."
"Thanks. It was great meeting you. Take care of my old man, will you?"
"Can do," Curtis replied.
"Later, guys," she said as she headed for Lt. Van Buren's office. She tapped on her old superior's door, and was immediately told to enter.
"It's good to see another set of curves in this office again," she remarked as the younger woman and her friend closed the door behind them.
"Thanks. Hope you don't mind I brought some extra testosterone with me."
"Any friend of yours, Detective..."
"Lt. Anita Van Buren, may I present Detective Mike Kellerman of the Baltimore City Police Department."
"Nice to meet you, Detective," she said before turning her attention back to Penny as the two sat down across from her. "So how's Charm City compared to the Big Apple?"
"Different. But in some ways the same. It's a city...I mean, how different are they from each other?"
"You sound like a philosopher now, Graham. What did they do to you down there, force you to read Zen?"
Mike chuckled. "She's been hanging out with Munch for too long."
"Munch? Isn't he the guy whose ex-wife Lennie was sleeping with?"
"Yup. He's the guy. What can I say, Lieutenant, he owns a bar...the more time I spend with him, the higher a tab he'll let me have," Penny responded.
"Seriously, how they treating you down there?"
"Great. My Sergeant is a woman, and 'cause there's still no one to pair me with, we've been goin' out on a lot of call together. It's a nice change to work with a woman. At least she doesn't make any PMS jokes."
"Your clearance rate high?"
"One of the highest," Kellerman chimed in. "She and Logan are proof that, if nothing else, New York City can train damn good detectives."
"Ah, Logan. How is my little Mike Tyson doing?"
Penny stiffened a little at her words. "Much better. He's working hard, Lieutenant. And he has a better control over his temper now."
"Not like you, right?" Van Buran didn't wait for her to answer. "I wasn't happy to hear about that incident between you and the Bobsy Twins. You're above that, Pen."
She leaned forward in protest, "But Murdok and Opperilo..."
"I don't care. I was disappointed in you when I heard that." She paused and thought for a moment. "Though I do admit that I tried to imagine the scene...and when I did I got a good laugh out of it."
Penny smiled and sat back in her chair. "I get a good laugh out of it every time I think about it." She checked her watch and stood. "But I don't want to take up all your time, and we have a busy day ahead of us, so we better get going."
Van Buren also stood at her words. "It was good to see you again, Graham. And if Baltimore doesn't work out, you're always welcome here."
"Hey, I heard about the whole mess with the department...promoting someone else with the same qualifications, but less time on the force than you. And if your suing their asses doesn't work out, I'm sure we could get you a job down there."
"Thanks for the offer, I'll keep it in mind. Keep an eye on Logan for me, will you? That man had me lying awake in bed worrying for a while there."
"Pleasure meeting you, 'mam," Kellerman said, extending his hand over her desk.
"Oh no, the pleasure's all mine. I always thought Graham had good taste in men, and it's good to know that her standards aren't sliding."
Kellerman blushed, not knowing how to graciously accept the compliment when he was saved by the arrival of food.
"Hey, Pen," Profaci burst in. "Get it while it's hot." He handed her a large hot pretzel and a handful of mustard packets before turning to Kellerman and giving him first choice from the large box of donuts.