Winter Days - Part 9

Friday morning at 9 o'clock, Mik picked up Penny from the hospital and took her home. Gee was more than happy to give his secretary the day off to take care of her friend, his detective. Upon arriving at home, Penny went right to sleep. Mik made her chicken soup for lunch, and even though Pen wasn't really tired, Mik made her friend take another nap. When Penny awoke, she found herself alone. There was a note on the kitchen table: "Tara's working late. Tim and I went to a movie. Mike promised to stop by later. Don't wait up. Kisses, M." Penny fixed herself a bowl of cereal for dinner, and tried to figure out which Mike she could expect a visit from in the near future. Either way, she wanted to look decent, instead of wearing the ratty t-shirt she had thrown on, so as soon as she finished, she went upstairs to change. She put on a pair of jeans and her ruby red sweater, went downstairs, flicked on the TV, and eagerly awaited the arrival of her visitor.

A little after seven the doorbell rang. She jumped up to answer it, and found Mike Kellerman standing on her porch. "Hey Pen."

It had been such a long time since she had felt his arms around her, his lips against her own...she reached out, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulled him close. "Hi," she said, her lips already touching his, and initiated a deep kiss. Mike was totally thrown off by her aggressiveness, but wasn't about to argue with it. His arms enveloped her thin frame, drawing her body as close as he could to his. As she allowed his tongue to gently explore her mouth, she bent both of her knees, taking her bare feet off the ground...she didn't know why she did it, but soon realized that she was testing him. To see if he could support her physically, as well as emotionally. But Kellerman didn't miss a beat, and when she put her feet down, he continued to kiss her as if nothing had happened.

Penny pulled away slightly after a bit, and out of breath, invited him in with a wicked grin.. "It's cold, why don't we go inside and warm up?"

Warning bells went off in Kellerman's head. He knew exactly what she was asking for...what she wanted to do. And there was nothing else he'd rather do than love this woman in every way imaginable...but not tonight. "Come on, get your shoes on."

Penny's eyebrow arched up in confusion. She backed away a few steps, breaking his hold on her. "What?"

Mike saw a touch of hurt in her eyes, and wanted desperately to explain exactly why they had to go, but knew that if he did, he'd ruin it. He also knew that as soon as she found out, she would understand. "We're going to celebrate."

"Sure, hold on," she said. "Come in while I go get shoes." She disappeared up the staircase as Mike entered the house and closed the door behind him. "We could celebrate here," she muttered under her breath as she found red socks and put her black boots on. She grabbed her ski jacket and was all set. "Where are we going?"

"Where everybody knows your name."

"And they're always glad I came?" She couldn't help but smile.

"Always," he replied, opening the door for her and locking it on his way out. They got into his car and drove over to The Waterfront. When they reached the bar, Mike let Penny in first. It was completely empty, which was very unusual for such an early hour, except for Meldrick cleaning glasses behind the bar.

"Hey there, Champ, how ya feelin'?"

Before she could answer, all of her friends jumped out and yelled "Surprise!!!" Penny jumped at the sudden burst of sound and people, and fell back on Mike.

"What's this?" she asked when she was finally able to speak...and able to stand up on her own.

"This, my pretty little Penny, is a combination birthday/welcome back party," Logan explained as he walked up to his friend. "It's a few days were supposed to be here about two weeks ago, but you had to go play Super Woman and spoil our plans."

"Well, I'm full of surprises myself," she grinned, hugging Logan, understanding that he's the one who set the whole thing up for her.

"Let the party begin!" Tara yelled from the pool table, and in a matter of a few minutes, brightly colored streamers and balloons covered the bar. Penny watched in wonder as her friends decorated. A "Happy Birthday Penny" poster hung over the doorway to the pool tables, and a boom box was put atop the bar. "I brought some good music," she announced, and slipped a CD in. Of course, the first song of a party for Penny had to be from Madonna.

"Ray of Light" blasted through the speakers as she tore off her coat and threw it in the corner. She began to dance, moving towards the center of the room, and urging others to join in. By the end of the song, she had almost everyone on the floor with her. Tara, Mik, Brodie, Logan, Tim, Meldrick, Munch, and even Pembleton were moving to the music. Only Gee and Kellerman opted to sit and watch. They went through quite a few quick songs, changing the CD every so often, before a slow one came on. Logan walked up to Penny, took her hand, and kissed it.

"May I have this dance."


Everyone sat down except the two as Celine Dion sang "Because You Loved Me." Mike and Penny couldn't keep their eyes off each other as they slowly danced around the floor. It was very different than anything anyone there had ever witnessed. They could feel the love between the detectives, the power of it. And they marveled at how apropos the song seemed to be; even though it had been written to express a romantic message, it fit the relationship between the two friends. In addition, the song also cut both ways - it wasn't just because Mike loved Penny or Penny loved Mike, it was because they loved each other. Kellerman watched without a hint of jealousy, and was taken aback at how much the two really cared for each other. As the song came to an end, Mike spun Penny out and brought her back to him. He got a good grip under her arms and gently lifted her as they sang the last words of the song. "I'm everything I am because you loved me." The silence that followed the song was long. Logan put her down, and they hugged...the kind of hug that allows souls to touch for an instant before returning to their respective bodies. When the two finally let go, Penny started to falter.

"You ok?" Logan asked.

"Just a little tired, I haven't been on my feet for a while, you know," she joked.

"Alright then, let's have some cake while you take a load off," Meldrick said.

With that, Munch and Bayliss went to the back room, returning with a large chocolate cake that had "Happy Birthday Penny" written on it with aqua icing. There were 12 lit candles on the cake, and when everyone saw the miniature flames, they all burst into the loudest, happiest rendition of "Happy Birthday" that Penny had ever heard. When they were finished, Kellerman said behind her, "Make a wish."

Penny closed her eyes and thought to herself, "I wish that these people remain my friends forever," before leaning over and blowing out the candles. "Ok, why are there 12?"

"That's how many days the party was delayed," Munch said as he took the candles out of the cake and gave her a sly grin. "That's also how many days went by since we got the cake...I hope it's still good."

She cut the first piece, and was delighted to find that the chocolate cake was laced with strawberry filling. After serving herself a good sized chunk, she sat atop the bar, and Bayliss carried a large package wrapped in shiny metalic-looking paper. "Happy birthday, Pen."

She put her cake aside. "What's this?"

"That's from all of us," Tim replied, backing away so everyone could watch her open her present. She tore it open like an excited child, and found a large box under the paper. She took the top off the box, and her face lit with a thousand candles when she saw what it was - BCPD clothes: a t-shirt, shorts, sweatshirt, and sweatpants. Everything she had in NYPD clothes she now also had in BCPD clothes.

"Thank you so much, guys," she beamed.

"Well, we couldn't have you walking around in NYPD shirts all the time, now could we?" Gee asked as he took a drink.

"This really means a lot to me," she continued, holding up the t-shirt to make sure that it would fit, "I was going to buy myself these...I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. I couldn't have asked for a better present." She looked up into the faces of her dearest friends. "Except for all of you."

Brodie made his way through the people standing around her as she folded the shirt and put it back in the box. "I have something for you too."

"Brodie you didn't have to..."

"I didn't buy you anything," he said sheepishly, "I made you something...and everyone helped out."


Munch recognized his cue and rolled out one of the TV/VCR sets from the precinct from the back room. "I made you a video birthday greeting with everyone here."

Penny hopped off the bar as a few of the guys set up chairs directly in front of the TV. She sat in the center chair, the plate with her piece of cake on it resting on her lap. Brodie sat on one side of her, Kellerman next to her, and everyone else scattered behind her at the bar and at tables. Brodie turned everything on and pressed play. The video began with Brodie himself sitting in front of the camera in The Box.

"Penny, this was supposed to be our special way of wishing you a happy birthday, but I added something to it. No one else knows about it, and I'm sure the other detectives are going to try to kill me after they see this, so I hope I'm sitting next to you so you can protect me." Penny smiled at the man on her left and patted his hand reassuringly. She turned her attention back to the television. "This is more than a birthday message, it shows just how much we all care about you, and what we went through when you hung between the delicate balance of life and death."

The tape cut to the title - "Happy Birthday Penny" written with rainbow glitter, presumably by Mik and Tara. Next came an interesting twist. Brodie did an excellent job editing the different aspects together - there were two major categories: scenes of her friends addressing the camera directly wishing her a happy birthday and basically saying nice things about her, and scenes of her friends during the week she was in the hospital.

She found both kinds touching, but the ones when she was in her deep sleep were even more so. She hadn't realized what a big impact she had on their lives. There was Gee stopping at the board and looking at her name for a minute, Logan at his desk staring at the picture of her, Pembleton in the coffee room sitting in his chair and looking at the empty one across from him where she could usually found, and Kay's eyes that she tried to keep on her paperwork, but which continued to stray to her desk. There was Tara and Mik stopping by her desk and picking up her knickknacks and putting them back down, there was Munch starting a sentence with, "Hey Pen, you gotta see this..." his voice drifting off when he saw her empty desk. In The Waterfront, there was Lewis staring at the pool table and playing a game by himself, no doubt imagining her there, and Bayliss standing in front of the Jukebox before finally sticking a quarter in and playing "Material Girl." Lastly, there was Kellerman beating the punching bag to death, his concentration unbroken by Brodie's camera.

Then it went to the seemingly empty squad room. Logan walked into the vision of the camera and said, "Penny, this one's for you." Music started to play in the background, and before she knew it, Mike was singing along to "New York, New York." One by one the other detectives joined in...even Gee, Tara, and Mik got in on the act. Brodie managed to get in as well, and by the end, they were all in a pseudo kick line. It was absolutely hysterical. Penny loved it. She thought that was the end, and was about to say something when another scene came on. Brodie must have been sitting in the corner of The Waterfront for this one. Once again, everyone was there, with the exception of Kellerman, who walked in a moment later.

"Well?" Munch asked expectantly as he poured Mike a shot of Jim Beam.

"If there's any kind of change, I'll be sure to let you know," he mumbled in response.

"A toast," Munch said, raising his glass. "To Penny."

Everyone in the room repeated the motion, and paused with their glasses poised. "To Penny," they repeated, and drank.

"That's it," Brodie said from Penny's side.

"It was wonderful," she said and hugged him. "Do I get to keep this?"

"Anything you want, Detective."

"Definitely a keepsake," she nodded. "I'm all rested up now, let's dance!"

Chairs were moved and music once again blared from the speakers. Penny didn't last nearly as long as she had last time, participating in only the first few dances, including a slow one with Kellerman. She sat at a table and put her head down, watching the others have a good time, wishing that she had the energy to keep going.

"I think it's about time to get you home," Kellerman whispered in her ear as he slid into the chair next to her.

"Five more minutes," she begged.

"Nope, sorry Pen, time for bed."

Mike went to the corner where everyone's jackets were piled and took his and Penny's out of it. "We're going to get going," he announced as he helped her with her coat. They all asked her to stay, but were politely turned down by both Mike and Penny, who reasoned that she really did need the rest. Before leaving, she made plans with Logan to get together the next day...she wanted to talk with him about the dream she had when she was in a coma.

On the drive to her house, Penny dozed. When they reached their destination, she could hardly stand. She was crashing hard and fast, and had to lean on Kellerman all the way to the door. She fumbled with her keys for a while before finally finding the one that fit into the lock.

"Do you want me to carry you to your room?" Mike asked her as she stumbled inside.

"Are you trying to find an excuse to be alone in my bedroom with me, Mikey?"

He didn't respond immediately, trying to figure out if she was just kidding around. "Well, you know I..."

"I know, Mike," she yawned. She leaned on the wall for a moment and looked at the floor. "Can I have a piggyback ride?"


She lifted her eyes to meet his. "A piggy back ride."

"Sure," he smiled. Penny jumped on his back an allowed Kellerman to carry her up the stairs. "Where to now?" he asked when they reached the top; he had never seen her room before, and wasn't sure which door it was.

"Go right," she mumbled, "Second door on the right."

He followed her instructions, and when he came to the second door on the right, she climbed off his back. "Thanks."

"You wanna do something tomorrow?"

"Like what?" Penny's mind was slowly turning to mush, and considering it was only 10 o'clock, that was unusual.

"I figured you could come over to the boat and we'd spend the day together. I'll rent some movies, we can have popcorn..."

"Sounds great, Mike, but if I don't get to bed soon, I'm going to fall asleep right here. Why don't you come by around 10ish?"

"Alright then," he said as he leaned forward to give her a quick kiss goodnight. But Penny still had some energy left, and managed to respond to him somewhat enthusiastically. She just had a pretty big day though, and pulled away when Kellerman was just getting started.

"Goodnight, Kellerman," she said as she opened the door to her dark bedroom.

"'Night, Pen."

He watched her close the door behind her and let himself out of the house.

Winter Days - Part 10

Tim Bayliss groped for the phone from his bed. Before he could get the receiver to his ear, he looked at his alarm clock - 7:00 am, too early for him to be getting up on a Saturday. "Hello...?" he mumbled.

"Tim, it's me."

He woke up a little when he heard the voice on the other end of the phone. "Mik, it's my day off, why are you calling me this early?"

"Penny's gone."

Bayliss sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes with his free hand. "What do you mean Penny's gone?"

"She's not in bed. I thought I heard someone walking around the house this morning, but I figured it was Tara. When I heard the front door slam a little while ago, I got up to check...Tara's sound asleep but Penny's gone."

"And what exactly would you like me to do about it?"

"Find her," she replied, her voice worried.

Bayliss laid back down, inwardly sighing. He adored Mik, but she had a tendency to overreact at the smallest things. "Maybe she went out for a walk."

"But she's still weak from the hospital, she shouldn't be going out for exercise alone. She could hurt herself."

"Mik, Pen is a big girl. She can take care of herself."

"Please, Tim."

He closed his eyes momentarily before responding. "Sure thing. Any idea where she might have gone?"

"I honestly don't know."

Bayliss stayed on the phone for a few minutes to say reassuring things to Mik. Personally, he didn't really see any reason for alarm, but he knew that his girlfriend would worry her head off until her friend was found. He got up, ate breakfast, and threw on jeans and a sweatshirt. Tim drove around the empty streets of Baltimore looking for Penny, assuming that she went for a walk. After a half hour of searching, he gave up and headed for the precinct, figuring that she might have stopped by to catch up on paperwork or something. The weekend shift was in the office, but no one had seen the woman in question. Bayliss checked outside, the squad room, the coffee room, even The Box, but to no avail. He was just about to give up when he heard the clanking of weights as he passed by the weight room. He shook his head, as he opened the door.

"Hey, Timmy, how goes it?" Penny asked in between chin ups. Her attire was scant, a black tank top, darkly colored boxers, white socks, and white sneakers. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and those strands that hung loose were sticking to her face with sweat.

"Pen, what the hell are you doing here? You scared Mik half to death."

"Tim, honey, a body like this needs to be maintained." She turned her head to face Brodie who had been working on one of the machines until Bayliss walked in. "You never know when it might come in handy, right Brodie?"

"Right, Detective."

"Come on, Pen, you just got out of the hospital, you shouldn't be doing this kind of stuff."

"I appreciate the concern, but I'm fine. Besides, I've got Brodie here in case something happens."

Tim sat down on the bench press. "I'm not leaving until your done, and then I'm taking you home," he glanced at his watch - 7:45. "And I hope that's soon."

Penny finished her chin ups and went on to work on a few machines. Truth be told, she knew that she was going to have to take it easy after her swim in the harbor, so she hadn't planned on doing much more anyway. But she hadn't wanted to break her habit of working out every Saturday morning, so here she was doing a modified version of her exercises. While she finished up, Tim slipped out to call Mik and tell her that Penny would be home shortly. He returned to the room and watched her work out - she did a few more chin ups, as well as working on two of the machines. Bayliss was impressed with her strength, and more than a little interested in her body, of which he had never seen so much before. But he had no intentions of seducing her, and betraying his girlfriend as well as Kellerman, he was just surprised at how muscular and shapely she was...he had always thought of her as a fellow detective, not as a woman per se, so her appearance was unexpected.

When she was done, she stretched for five minutes, and approached the pile of clothes that Tim hadn't even noticed on the floor. She put on her BCPD sweatshirt and sweatpants, and slung her roller blades, which were tied together, over her shoulder.

"You roller bladed here?"

"Sure, why not? It's fast, it's easy, and it's even more exercise that I get."

Tim shook his head at her again as she said good-bye to Brodie. They walked to his car in silence, followed by the short drive to her house. She thanked Bayliss for the ride before jogging up her front path. Penny went to her room to shower, and Bayliss went to his apartment to sleep.

Winter Days - Part 11

Kellerman rang the doorbell a little after ten. Tara answered the door, still in her plaid pajamas, looking tired.

"I'm sorry, did I wake you?"

She looked at him for a full minute before realizing that she had been asked a question. "Me? No, Mik woke me up this morning...followed by Logan's appearance around 9. I couldn't fall back asleep."

"Logan's here?"

"Yeah, he and Pen are in her room. Let me take you up there."

"That's alright," he said, moving towards the stairs, "I know where it is."

Despite her sleepiness, Tara's eyebrows went up at that comment. "Oh really?"

"I carried her up there last night."

A smile slid across her face. "Yeah, sure you did Mike...and you just left her there, right?" She watched him try to find a way to respond, but decided that she didn't want to torture the poor guy so early on their day off. "I know, Mike. She was probably out of it when you two got back. Go right up...and tell Logan that when he's finished up there that I'll be in the kitchen."

Kellerman climbed the stairs and made a right. He heard Penny giggling from the hallway, followed by a deeper laugh. When he reached her door, he knocked lightly, and was immediately told to come in.

Penny was laying face down on her bed, a white towel covering her butt, but the rest of her body exposed. Logan was sitting next to her, massaging her lower back with his large hands. Her head rested on her folded arms in front of her, her hair still a little damp from her shower. She turned her head to face him a moment later, and upon seeing him started to sit up, realizing almost too late that she was topless.

"Hey, Mikey, come in. Pull up a chair," she said as she put her head back on her arms, blushing slightly.

"I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" Kellerman asked.

"Nah, Logan and I were just talking." That was true of course, but not specific. Her and Mike had spent a good 45 minutes trying to figure out her dream, if that's what it was, coming up empty handed. They finally decided that even if it was just her mind making things up, it was still true. Her parents did love her despite the fact that she had chosen a career different than the one they'd hoped she would follow. The following 25 minutes were spent discussing their significant others, both Tara and Kellerman. Penny was surprised how attached her friend seemed to be to her roommate, and Mike was equally surprised at the apparent depth of feeling Penny had for Kellerman. But both were happy with their relationships, and happy for each other as well, so it had been a pleasant conversation.

"Penny was telling me that you talk in your sleep," Logan said with a straight face.

"Mike," she giggled, kicking him lightly, "I said no such thing."

"You didn't?" he asked innocently.

"You know very well I didn't," she laughed, "So you better stop teasing me before I tell Tara about you."

"What about me?"

"Mikey, after working with you for so long, I know things about you that no girlfriend would want to hear," she said mysteriously.

He stopped massaging her for a second to think. "What could you possibly tell her about me that you haven't already?"

"Don't worry, I won't say anything to her," Pen promised without revealing her secret.

"About what?"

"Forget it. Both of you turn around, I'm getting up."

Both Mikes turned away from the bed as Penny got up and wrapped the towel around her torso. Once it was secure, she sat back down on her bed, leaning her back against the headboard. "Ok, you can look now."

When Kellerman turned around, and saw her wrapped in the white towel, he finally comprehended the situation he had walked in on. Another man had been massaging his almost naked girlfriend. If it had been any other guy with any other girl, he would have gone nuts. But it was his Penny, who would never do anything to hurt him, and Mike Logan, who was her best friend. He realized how much he really did trust her...if it took him this long to notice what was going on, he must trust her, and Logan, a great deal.

"Damn, Pen, can't you cover yourself up, or something?" Logan asked.

"You used to see me like this about once a week, why does it bother you now?"

"'Cause I wasn't in your bedroom then. Showering after we worked out was different."

She looked back and forth to the two Mikes standing on either side of the bed as she stood. "Do you two have any idea how lucky I must be? I mean, women would kill to be in their bedrooms with the two of you, alone, wearing nothing but a towel." She ran her hand through her hair before continuing. "Any ideas, guys?"

The two looked at her as if she just produced a rattlesnake from beneath her robe.

"Jeez, I'm kidding. Can't you guys take a joke?"

"I've got handcuffs," Logan finally said, playing along.

"I have Miranda memorized," Kellerman offered.

"And I have chocolate syrup downstairs," Penny said before bursting into laughter along with the other two.

"Chocolate syrup, huh?" Kellerman asked, his voice low, his eyes on Penny.

"That's my cue to leave," Logan said, "Have a good time you two."

As soon as Logan left, Penny felt self-conscious. She was now standing alone in her bedroom with Kellerman, and though she knew that he wouldn't pressure her to do anything she didn't want to, it just didn't feel right. She felt like a cheap she did in her stripping days. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, trying to figure out a way out of the situation, to stop feeling like a slut, without letting Mike know that anything was wrong. "Well, on cold days like these, hot fudge is preferable," she kidded.

Kellerman picked up on her discomfort right away, partially because he felt the same way. With Logan in the room they had to behave, but now that they were a bedroom...Penny with only a towel around her. The temptation was immense for both of them. And it's not that either of them didn't want to make love to the's just that this wasn't how they envisioned it. Somehow the situation didn't fit. They were frozen where they stood, unable to move or speak until a crash from the kitchen broke the silence.

"Well, I guess Mike plans on experiencing life on every floor again," Penny said, rolling her eyes, "Starting in the kitchen."

"I'll wait in the hall while you get dressed."

Penny nodded, grateful for the suggestion, and Mike walked to the hall, closing the door behind him. She dressed quickly in her fuzzy aqua sweater and a pair of jeans. Once again she reached for her black boots after putting on a pair of socks, and grabbed her ski jacket before opening the door. "I'm ready, let's go."

Before leaving altogether, Penny stopped by the kitchen, leaning her ear on the door before she entered. She didn't want to intrude, but at the same time, she wanted to make sure to tell Tara they were going. She didn't hear anything coming from the room - no groaning, heavy breathing, or even talking - so she had no idea what was going on in there. She figured there was only one way to do this. Penny and Mike slowly snuck away from the door a good distance. When they were relatively far, Penny said very loudly, "I'll be there in a minute Mike, let me just tell Tara we're leaving." She waited a few seconds, then walked in the kitchen. Tara was at the sink and Mike was at the kitchen table. Pen still couldn't tell what they'd been up to, and decided that she didn't want to know. "We're heading out, ok?"

"Sure," Tara replied, her face slightly flushed.

"Have fun," Mike said, with a twinkle in his eye.

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do, you two," Penny said, giving Logan a wink.

She left the kitchen and met up with Kellerman at the door. "Well?" he asked as they walked towards the car.

She looked over her shoulder at the somewhat empty house. "I just hope they don't wake up Mik...that would be a surprise for the three of them."

Kellerman laughed along with her, "Do they even realize she's home?"

"I guess they're going to find out sooner or later. I just hope it's sooner...and while they're still dressed."

Mike and Penny got in the car and drove off towards his boat, where a number of surprises awaited his lucky Penny.

Winter Days - Part 12

They drove in silence to the docks. Penny was looking out her window, thinking about what she and Logan had been saying about her parents. Mike kept his eyes on the road, thinking only about how pleased she'd be when they got to the boat. He parked, and the two walked to Case Closed.

Mike jumped on the boat first, and turning offered Penny his hand. "Let me help you."

Penny froze mid step. "I can get on all by myself, Kellerman."

"I just thought..."

"I don't need any help," she snapped. Kellerman withdrew his hand, and let it hang by his side. He was unprepared for her reaction...after all, he was just trying to be polite. Penny sighed. She was grumpy from lack of sleep, which she still hadn't caught up on despite the early hour she'd been going to bed, and she was taking it out on the man who probably had lost a great deal of sleep during her coma.

"I'm sorry, Mike." She stood on the dock, awaiting his hand to extend towards her once again, which it did after a moments hesitation, and took it. He grasped her hand with his, while the other one moved to her back as she jumped aboard. He lead her into the living area, where she found things changed around a bit.

His kitchen was in the same place, a little neater than the first time she saw it, but that was about it. The real change was in what could be considered the living room. There was a large, mustard-colored couch which started almost at the door, and went around the corner of the room, where it continued until it reached what looked like a dresser. A coffee table stood in front of the couch, and a TV lay across from the previously mentioned furniture on a small table, along with the VCR.

"What did you do, redecorate while I was in the hospital?" she joked.

"Something like that," Mike responded, taking her coat and shoving it in his closet.

"I like's cosier...not as cold as before."

"You thought it was cold?"

"No," Penny said, considering what it was that she wanted to say as she sat down. "Not cold, really. It dripped with testosterone. It was too needed to be softened a little. A woman's touch, if I may say so."

Mike sat next to her. "So I softened it?" She nodded. "Well then, I guess it didn't need a woman's touch after all."

Penny smiled. "But it did, and believe it or not, I provided it."

"Oh did you?"

She looked down at her hands. "Try to tell me that you wouldn't have changed things around if we hadn't met. Believe it or not, Mike, you changed it for me."

Though Kellerman knew that she was probably right, he outwardly dismissed the idea. "This has nothing to do with you. I just thought that I could use a change."

Penny left it at that, not knowing if he realized how much he must care for much that he altered the appearance of his living quarters to make it look more inviting. "So, what movies do we have to chose from?"

"Ah," Mike said, grateful that she changed the subject, reached for the pile of videos on the coffee table. "Let's see, we have a wide variety of movies for your viewing pleasure. Silence of the Lambs, Wait Until Dark, Midnight Lace, Clue, and Lethal Weapon."

"That's quite an impressive assortment," Penny said with a grin, "How'd you know those were my favorites?"

"I'm a detective," Kellerman said, replacing all of the videos back on the table, "I detect things."

"With the help of two roommates, I assume."

"I can't divulge that information," he replied, gracing her with a quick kiss on the lips, "It's privileged. But I will let you decide which one we watch first."

Pen picked Silence of the Lambs from the pile and handed it to him. "This one should do nicely."

Mike turned on the TV, popped the tape in the VCR, and pressed play. The two sat next to each other for the duration of the 2 hour movie. Kellerman made no attempt to hold her, and Penny gave no indication that she wanted to be held, but Mike's arms ached to be around her as they watched. But he restrained himself, reasoning that if she wanted something, she'd tell him so. And besides, she was still weak and tired from the hospital.

The movie ended, and the two decided to order a pizza. While they waited for it to arrive, Penny told Mike of her original desire to be an FBI agent, and how she changed her mind when she reached her early teens. Mike was fascinated by the idea, he'd wanted to be a cop since he was 5...and nothing else but a cop. It was interesting to him that she'd wanted to be something different.

Meanwhile, the pizza came, and after the two finished it off, it was time to pick another movie. This time, Penny chose Midnight Lace. "What's this one about?" Kellerman asked.

"You'll see."

"Come on, Pen, I never even heard of it until now. What's it about?"

"It's a mystery."

Kellerman took out the last tape and placed this one in the VCR. He returned to the couch and once again sat beside Penny. As the previews started, Penny spoke to him without taking her eyes off the screen. "Why don't you put your arm around me?"

"Excuse me?" he asked, leaning forward and looking at her.

"Why don't you put your arm around me, Mike? Why don't you hold me?" she said, the glow from the television set flashing a series of colored lights on her profile.

He hesitated before responding. "Do you want me to?"

Penny turned her head to face him, half of her face in the shadow of the boat's drawn blinds, half still lit with the flickering lights of the TV. She tilted to her head, looking at him closely. "Sometimes..." She paused for a moment, trying to get the words out, as hard as it was for her to do. "Sometimes a woman wants to be held. Not kissed, or fondled, or stroked...not sweet nothings whispered in her ear. She just wants to be held."

Penny lowered her eyes before returning her attention to the screen. It was not in her character to show let others know that she had needs. But this was one need that she had to fulfill. She still felt vulnerable, unsure of what was going to be the next major event of her life, and she needed to know that he'd be there to support her.

Mike carefully put his arm around her shoulders and drew her close to him. She let him do so, and allowed her tension to flow into his warm body. She placed her head on his shoulder as the movie began. Halfway through the film, Mike started to ask Penny something, but found her sound asleep against his shoulder. He smiled a little, and watched the end by himself, not moving for a full hour after the movie was done, afraid that he'd wake her up if he moved, and content to simply feel her breathe against his body.

Winter Days: The days are almost over...
Weeping Willows: When the biggest problems were out of state cops and a minor fight...
Beginnings: Go back to the Beginnings...
Chapters: What's the order of events again...?
Sources: What Penny didn't make up herself can be found here...