Eddie Alvarez knew better, he really did. He told himself to count to ten, to ignore it, take the high road... “Where is my desk?” he demanded.
Cole glanced nervously at Beaumont before shrugging. Beaumont merely smiled. Eddie Alvarez never knew a smile could be so unfriendly.
“You misplace it again, Eddie?” Delahoy looked from him to the bagel on his desk and wrinkled his nose. He waved the bagel under his partner’s nose. “Smell this.”
Banks gave it a cautious sniff, then plucked the bagel from Delahoy’s fingers and took a bite. “A man your age should be able to keep track of his belongings,” he said to Alvarez, with his mouth full. “Nothing wrong with this. Why haven’t you gotten your nose to a doctor yet?”
“I’m fine,” Delahoy insisted.
“Yeah. That’s why you were about to throw out a perfectly good bagel.”
“Maybe I don’t like bagels.”
Eddie Alvarez ignored them and stalked off to find the high road; it led to Sergeant Harvey Brown and a suitable punishment for Jason Walsh and his pranks.
“Walsh isn’t even in this morning,” said Brown. “Now, go away. Solve a case or something.” He made a shooing motion with his hands.
Eddie Alvarez didn’t know why he bothered. He returned to the squad room and glared at the Christmas tree where his desk used to be. It wasn’t even a nice Christmas tree.
“Pancakes?” said Jason, when Allison came in through the diner door. He was behind the counter, wearing a threadbare apron over an equally threadbare white shirt and boxers. He slid a plate in front of her.
She picked up her fork and poked the top pancake cautiously. “Did you put anything strange in it?”
“Strange?” He grabbed another fork, cut himself a piece and tasted it. “You don’t like the M&Ms?”
“I like M&Ms,” she said, “but not candy surprises in my omelets.”
“Duly noted.” Jason cut another pancake triangle and speared it with his fork, but instead of eating it, he offered it to her. “I think you might like this better.”
She did. It wasn’t half bad. “Best pancakes yet,” she said, shrugging off her jacket.
“You’re just saying that because you want to get in my pants.” Jason’s eyes wandered down to her low cut shirt. She contemplated removing that too, but the glass door and window between her and the rest of the city was just a little too clear for comfort.
She grinned. “You’re not wearing pants. I checked.”
Cole waited until Beaumont secured the handcuffs on their panda thief -- that is, he was dressed as a panda, not stealing pandas -- before he asked her to be his best man. “Or woman, I mean. I know it’s last minute, but I don’t have any family-- No, that came out wrong.” He paused to regroup. “What I mean to say is, I would be honoured if you would be in my wedding.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet, I’m gonna cry,” said the panda.
“Shut up,” said Beaumont. “Of course, I will.”
“Really?” Cole double-checked, but she was beaming at him and he forgot why he was so nervous about asking her in the first place. It had taken him the better part of the week to work up to it.
Then their panda tried to escape, so Cole had to wait until later to tell Beaumont about the rehearsal dinner scheduled for tonight.
“Turn around,” said Jason. Allison pulled her hair out of the way and he zipped up her dress. He kissed her bare shoulder and spun her around to face him. “Hey, gorgeous.”
“Hi, yourself,” she said. “No, no, none of that. We can’t be late. Henry will be furious.”
“Cole? He could never be mad at you.”
“I think he might make an exception for his wedding.” She tossed him his car keys. “Let’s go.”
They were nearly at the church before Allison started panicking about standing up before God and everyone.
“Why, again, did I agree to this?”
“Relax. It’s not like you’re getting married. It’s not even time for the big speech. All you have to do is stay standing.”
Allison covered her eyes. “Oh, God, the speech.”
“Compared to that, this is easy,” said Jason reassuringly.
“Want to trade places?” She wasn’t serious, but if he said yes, she’d probably take him up on it.
“You’ll be fine. You know why?” Allison shook her head, probably messing up her carefully let down hair. “Because that kid means the world to you and you won’t let him down,” he said with absolute conviction. “And there will be alcohol at the reception.”
“Cats again?” said Banks, complaining a little. Maybe a lot. “Why do we get all the cat cases?”
“It’s a cat burglar,” said Delahoy. “Our witness says she saw someone dressed like a cat jump from this roof-” he gestured to where they were standing “-to that roof. What do you think the distance is? Ten feet? Twelve?”
“Oh, no.” Banks backed away from the edge, even though he was already a good two feet back from it to start with. “Don’t you dare.”
“It’s an easy jump. Barely a stretch.”
“If you’re not standing four stories off the ground!” Banks closed his eyes for a moment. He just had to get through this week. “Our cat burglar-”
“Let’s call her Catwoman and I promise I won’t jump.”
“Really?” Banks looked at his partner skeptically.
“Yeaaa-- There she is!” Delahoy took off running down the length of the roof.
Banks sighed and ran after his partner, though he exercised much more caution than Delahoy and took the long way down the building and around the back of the other, which meant by the time he caught up to Delahoy, Catwoman was long gone and Delahoy was slumped against the wall, trying to catch his breath.
“What happened to not jumping off the roof?” Banks demanded. “I thought you got over this throwing yourself into danger problem that you have! Calling this thief Catwoman does not make you Batman or Superman or whoever it is you think you are!" He sputtered to a stop.
"You're right, I wasn't thinking." Delahoy pushed off the wall and leaned on Banks' shoulder, testing his partner's mood. If Banks were well and truly mad, he'd shrug him off, but he didn't, so Delahoy breathed a little easier. "Besides, I don't look good in tights and neither do you."
If looks could kill, Jason was reasonably sure his hair would have caught fire from the glare Shraeger and Alvarez were throwing his way, though he was really only concerned with one of them at the moment. “Uh, Shraeger? ...Casey?”
“Are you mad about the thing with the balloons? Because I didn’t intentionally leave you with the clown--”
“What?” she said again, scowling harder, if possible. “No. It’s not that. Davis wants to have dinner with my parents.”
“Doesn’t he do that every week?” Davis, Jason had learned, not only looked after Shraeger’s money, he was also one of Shraeger’s father’s financial consultants.
“This is different. This is a ‘meet the parents’ dinner.”
“But he’s already met your parents.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying.” Casey agreed wholeheartedly. “I’ve met my parents, he’s met my parents, why do we have to meet them ever again? I can’t believe he told them we were dating.”
“Your parents were going to find out sooner or later.” Jason eyed the Christmas tree across the room; it could use some decorations. Evidently Alvarez had not yet found his desk. He'd sat down at Delahoy's desk, which was vacant because Delahoy and Banks were out rounding up cats.
Shraeger tapped her pen on her desk in a mildly irritating way, but Walsh nobly refrained from complaining.
“I was hoping for later. Do you know what the worst part is?” she demanded, then went on without waiting for answer, “They like him. They approve of him.”
“I can see how that would be horrible for you,” said Beaumont dryly. She looked at the two of them over the case file she was reading.
Shraeger flicked a paperclip at her. “Has Walsh met your parents?”
“I have, yes,” said Jason.
“My mother finds his very, very bad Spanish charming,” said Beaumont.
Jason beamed. “I’m a charming guy.”
“You keep telling yourself that,” said Banks. He and Delahoy returned, both of them slightly scuffed up and empty handed.
Delahoy stopped in front of his desk and glowered at Alvarez. “Alvarez, get your own desk.”
Alvarez’s mustache twitched. “I. can’t. find. my. desk.”
“So use Cole’s.”
“You use Cole’s.” For someone who prided himself on being the professional one around here, Alvarez could sound extremely petulant.
Delahoy looked like he was going to argue, but then he rubbed his temple and sat down across from Beaumont. “You scare him, you know.”
Alvarez didn’t argue.
“When does Cole get back?” Shraeger asked, having decided she’d spent enough time thinking about dinner with her parents and Davis.
“Monday,” said Beaumont.
“She’s counting the days,” said Walsh.
“So’s Alvarez,” said Banks.
Just then, Brown stuck his head in the squad room and told them all stop sitting around chatting and to get back to work. “Alvarez, Beaumont, where are you on the blue cheese murder?”
Beaumont looked at Alvarez, who looked at Brown and audibly gulped. “Um, you see, sir...”
“How’d you do it?” asked Shraeger.
“Do what?” Allison looked up from her perusal of the break room snacks. “Donut or danish?”
“Donut,” said Shraeger. “How’d you swap Alvarez’s desk for the tree?”
“What makes you think it was me?”
“My keen detecting skills.” Shraeger pointed the donut at her. “Banks and Delahoy are too busy with their own...stuff, Cole wouldn’t dare, I didn’t do it--”
“And Jason told you.”
“He didn’t want to take credit for something he didn’t do.”
Allison decided on a lemon danish. “So you want to help me decorate the tree later?”
Nicole Brandt checked her reflection in the spotless mirror and did a double take. “Casey! We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”
“Or stop meeting at all,” said Casey grumpily.
“Now, now, don’t be a snob.” Nicole smoothed back an errant strand and stepped out of the way for Casey to wash her hands.
“I’m not a snob! I just don’t like...”
Nicole lifted an eyebrow. “Rich people? You’re one of us, or have you forgotten?”
Casey dried her hands and adjusted the thin straps on her dress -- a purple number she forgot she had in the back of her closet -- that kept wanting to fall off her shoulders. “Pretending to be a hooker was a lot easier than this.”
Nicole’s eyebrow lifted higher.
“Long story,” said Casey. “And Davis and I are having dinner with my parents.”
“Ah.” Nicole did not elaborate and neither did Casey; although, Casey reflected, her parents would probably find Nicole to be a far less embarrassing daughter than Casey was to them. “Eddie and I are celebrating,” said Nicole, to fill the silence. “I won that case against--”
“Oh, right. I heard about that. Congratulations.” Casey gave her a small smile. It had been in the news. Nicole would probably get promoted.
Nicole finished fixing her hair and looked at Casey. “Thanks. This is...nice.”
Casey nodded. “It probably shouldn’t happen too often.” Being on friendly terms with Nicole. It was strange.
“No,” agreed Nicole. She smiled, nicely, before exiting the bathroom. “The desserts here are fabulous. In case you get through dinner.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Casey had loitered in the bathroom long enough. She had to get back to dinner before her mother came in after her, but she could look forward to dessert, if nothing else.
“Night, boss,” called out Banks. He and Delahoy were in the deserted squad room, putting up the finishing touches on the tree. “What do you think?”
Delahoy cut the yellow caution tape, the roll of which Banks was holding, and nodded. “Looks all right.” The yellow went well with the fake greenery.
“Wait, wait. We’re missing something.” Banks tossed Delahoy the santa hat they pulled off of their cat burglar, who was now sitting quietly in the holding cell.
Delahoy caught the hat. “Okay.” He reached up on his toes and stuck the hat on top of the tree.
“Now,” said Banks. He leaned forward intently. “Now, you tell me what’s wrong with you.”
“Nothing’s wrong with me,” said Delahoy, tired and annoyed all of a sudden. But Banks was not to be deterred.
“We’ve been partners for eight years--”
“Nine years. I can’t believe you forgot our anniversary.”
Banks frowned. “Okay. Nine years.”
“You did forget.”
“What? Don’t change the subject.”
“You owe me dinner.”
“Fine! But the point is, I’ve known you for a while now and I can tell something’s wrong.” Banks glanced at the clock. 11:42. Of course it was. He breathed out, steadying his hands. Very slowly, he undid the velcro straps on his bulletproof vest and when he was done, he handed it to Delahoy.
“What’s it look like? Put it on.”
“You’re giving me your vest?” Delahoy picked it up gingerly. “Why?”
“I think you need it.” Banks picked up his jacket and put it on, feeling rather underdressed despite the layers he had on. “I figure whatever’s going on with you must be serious or you wouldn’t be dragging your feet about going to the doctor.”
“Make an appointment. Take the vest with you. It’ll make you feel better. I know what I’m talking about.”
Delahoy cracked a smile. “Yeah, I guess you do. Okay, I’ll take the vest. You can pay for dinner tonight. I can’t believe you missed our anniversary.”
“Hey, it’s not like you sent me flowers.” Banks paused by the door to allow Delahoy through first before shutting the door behind them.
Second Squad, this is dispatch. Don’t forget to wish Detective Leo Banks a happy 43rd birthday today and, more importantly, send over a slice of cake.