A/N: More of the muse being stuck on Kellerman. I don't own anything. For those of you keeping up with the AU, this is set after the ep in which the target letter about the investigation in the Arson squad comes down.
He decides that he doesn't really like being one of the murder police around the hundredth time that he's talking to one of them, and they won't look him in the eye.
Part of him is tempted to think that it's just because they're being cautious, but he knows better. It's the same thing that everyone else has been doing, even the old arson squad. And they're the ones who started the whole damn thing in the first place. The ironic thing about it is that none of them happen to be on desk duty. But over here in Homicide, it's all about keeping up appearances.
If there is one thing that Mike Kellerman has already grown tired of, it is keeping up appearances.
It is for this reason that he finds himself on the other side of Baltimore, outside his old squad room.
The first shift has the weekend off, which is kind of a relief, because he really doesn't want to go in tomorrow. In this squad room, there is distraction in the form of his former partner. And even though she doesn't turn around, somehow, Melanie Scott knows that he's there.
"Quit staring at me," she says, and looks over her shoulder. "What do you want?"
"They put you on a desk, too?" Mike asks, walking into the squad room and sitting in the empty chair beside her desk. Melanie shakes her head.
"No. I didn't want to ride with Goodman, so he took Connolly. Pires went down to the FOP and Graham and Prescott were already out," she replies. "Why?"
Mike shrugs. "Just wondering," he says, and then, "You got a target letter?"
"Yeah, and I think it's a load of crap," Melanie remarks. "But that's not really why you came here, is it?"
"I hate being murder police."
"Told ya not to leave Arson."
"I was tired of going home smelling like smoke."
"You're a really bad liar, Mikey."
At this point, Melanie leans back in her chair, and throws a paper clip at him as she goes on. "I'd tell you to come back, but I don't think it's the greatest idea right now."
"You wound me, Mel. I thought you were over the whole 'drop dead and go to hell, Kellerman' phase."
"That depends on the day."
"So if I tell you that I've got the weekend off and that I'm taking the boat out, would that make things any better?"
Melanie laughs. "You mean it?"
Mike gives her an amused look. "Yeah, I mean it. I need to get out of here. Think you can get away?"
"Yeah. I just have to get Michaela from the house, though. Need me to grab anything on my way down?"
"Nah. Just Mickey. I'll meet you guys at the dock."
"Try not to fall in the water."
The sun is just starting to set by the time they go out onto the water.
"So, what brought you down to the squad room, really?" Melanie asks, raising a hand to shield her eyes from the light. "Everything's all right, isn't it?"
"I'm not sure," Mike replies, distractedly. "One minute, they're perfectly fine looking at me, and the next, they're looking straight through me."
"The guys are kinda scared," Melanie remarks. "They know the grand jury's coming."
"Well, if they hadn't gotten involved in this mess, they'd have nothing to worry about." Looking out onto the water is more of a comfort than he'd thought it would be. A low sigh escapes him and he goes on. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know, Mikey. Part of me wants to talk, but...Mickey, don't play with that."
Melanie gets up to chase after her giggling toddler; Mike looks over his shoulder at them, amused.
"Quit worrying. I left everything I didn't want her into at my parents' place. She's fine," he says. Melanie rolls her eyes.
"That's not the point. And I don't want her falling overboard."
"She's not tall enough. And even if she was, she's wearing a lifejacket, and it's not like you and I wouldn't go after her."
He doesn't have to turn around again to see the exasperated look that he knows Melanie is wearing. Behind him, she sits, holding onto Mickey, who seems determined to get away from her.
"You know what? She's as bad as you are," Melanie says. "She can't ever hold still or stay in one place."
"I have a set of handcuffs inside," says Mike, somehow managing to keep a straight face. "Cuff her to something if you're so worried."
Melanie rolls her eyes. "Nice, Mike," she says. "She's three. It's almost bedtime and she didn't have a nap."
"So wait it out. Or you could let her come up here with me."
"I don't think..." But that split second of distraction is all Mickey needs to get away from her mother, and within the space of two minutes, she is in Mike's arms and sitting on his hip.
"Have it your way, then," says Melanie, picking up where she left off. "Don't you dare drop her."
By the time the sky is completely dark, they've finally stopped, and Mickey is fast asleep. Mike turns on a light and comes down from where he is, smirking.
"Why is it that she's always quiet when I'm the one holding her?" he asks. Melanie swats at him.
"Screw you," she says, only half-joking. "She only does that because she knows you're eventually going to give her whatever she wants."
A slight frown crosses Mike's face at this, but disappears almost as quickly as it comes. He moves past Melanie and opens the door leading to the boat's interior; she follows him inside and closes it behind them.
"You two can crash in here," he says, over his shoulder. "I'll probably fall asleep out on the deck. There's food if you want it, and you know where everything else is."
"It looks like it's going to rain. Are you sure you want to sleep on the deck?" Melanie asks. Mike sighs.
"Well, I can't very well sleep in here, and I won't put you and Mickey out there."
"It doesn't really seem right," Melanie starts, but he cuts her off.
"If I didn't want you to be here, I wouldn't have asked you along," he tells her. "It's fine, Mel. I think I can live sleeping outside."
She gives him a doubtful look, but thankfully, doesn't argue the point. Instead, she lifts Mickey out of his arms and starts unfastening the lifejacket she's wearing.
"Well, I guess I'll get her settled in then," she says, uncertainly. "Mike, I really hate putting you out of your own bed."
"I'll live," Mike says, again. "I'll be outside."
And with that, he turns and goes, closing the door behind him again. Outside, the air is cold enough to distract him from his partner and her daughter, but not enough to distract him from his troubles back in Baltimore.
I don't fit, he thinks. I was never cut out for Homicide, and that's the problem.
Time passes, slowly.
The stars are more visible here than they are in the middle of the city. Once upon a time, he'd tried to count them, only to lose count after getting suckered into another one of his older brothers' schemes. Now there is nothing but silence, and so he starts to try again, just waiting. But he's not exactly sure what it is that he's waiting for.
Maybe, Mike thinks, half-sarcastically, I've already been waiting too long.
It certainly seems like he has. The other murder police still treat him like the new guy, but he doesn't mind that as much as he minds the staring when they think he's not looking. What he wants to tell them is that he knows he doesn't fit their mold, and it doesn't help that they make it so damn obvious. The stupid thing about it is that for once, he doesn't have the nerve.
It is also one of the things that scares the hell out of him.
The boat is going nowhere until he wants it to. It probably isn't the best idea to dive into the water fully dressed, but Mike does it, anyway.
The resounding splash barely registers with him, but the feeling of being soaked clear through to the skin does. This, for once, is a mold that he doesn't have to twist himself in order to fit into, if only because it is one of his own making. For some reason, knowing this is a lot less comforting than he'd thought it would be.
"Who the hell am I kidding?" he asks, suddenly. "I'm never going to really be one of them."
"You aren't kidding anyone," Melanie replies, quietly, leaning over the edge of the boat to look at him. "You do what you have to. And you will be one of them."
Mike turns and treads water as he looks back up at her. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"I didn't mean to fall asleep," Melanie says wryly. "What are you doing down there?"
"Freezing my ass off. The water's colder than I thought." Mike trails off and sighs. "There's just this mold, y'know? One that all the murder police are supposed to fit into, and I just...I don't."
"You just have to give it time."
"It's already been a year, Mel. If I don't fit in by now, I'm never going to. Especially not with this damn letter over my head."
The letter hangs over her head, too, but she doesn't point this out.
"So what are you thinking?" she asks, instead. "Are you going to give up?"
"I don't fit, Mel," Mike says, plainly. "Shouldn't have ever left Arson in the first place."
"This would still be happening even if you hadn't left Arson."
"At least my partner wouldn't look at me like they think I'm on the take."
"I know you better than that, Mike. Of course I wouldn't."
"That's my point."
Silence falls between them and lasts until Mike sighs and picks up where he left off. "I shouldn't have to change myself to fit their mold. I should be able to be a murder police the same way I was an arson cop, but no one seems to get that."
"Put in for a transfer. You know Lieutenant Pearson would love to have you back."
"Yeah, right." Mike swims closer to the boat and reaches up for her hand. "I don't exactly fit into his so-called mold, either."
"Neither do I. You know, the least you could do is take your clothes off the next time you decide to go for a swim. They're weighing you down."
"I'll keep that in mind. In the meantime, I'm gonna go change."
"Don't wake Mickey up."
But the door closes as Melanie says this, and so she rolls her eyes and sits down to wait. A few moments pass before Mike emerges again, with a drowsy bundle in his arms.
"She heard me coming in," he says, by way of explanation, and half-hearted apology. Melanie sighs.
"Of course she did. I swear, the kid's got some kind of radar; anytime you're around, she knows it."
"Well, at least someone around here still loves me."
The way he says this makes Melanie stare at him for a long moment and then she shakes her head.
"I think she'd take you any way she could have you," she says. "You're the only person besides me that she always wants around."
"Well, it's better than having to change something to make her like me," says Mike. "I'm tired of pretending to be someone I'm not. I hate that I'm supposed to be a certain way and then when I'm not, it all gets shot to...well, you know the rest."
She does, too, and is amused by the fact that he remembered to cut himself off before he started swearing.
"Screw it, then," she says. "You don't need to fit. You are who you are, and if they don't like it, they can deal with it. You don't need to fit anyone's mold but your own...and mine, but that's only because I trust you with my kid."
Mike laughs. "So, what's your verdict, then?"
"You pass," says Melanie, mock-seriously. "But only if you don't sleep out here."
"Fine. But I'm sleeping on the floor."
"No, let me. Now that the little blonde one over there has a hold on you, I doubt she's going to let you go."
Once again, there is silence between them. Mickey stirs slightly in Mike's arms, and he gets up, pacing back and forth along the deck to make sure she stays asleep.
"I wish they could see you the way I do," Melanie remarks. "Maybe then it'd be easier for them to understand you."
"Somehow, I doubt it'd help much right now." Mike continues pacing and sighs. "'Least there's still one place where I fit."
"Well, I'll tell you one thing," says Melanie, and he turns to look at her.
"I wouldn't have it any other way."