Author: BravoExpressions PM
A collection of one-shots/scenarios from 'The Sam Saga' of the years that were never witnessed, detailing Mary's and Marshall's journey of the other four stories in pieces. T for language, but if you know my style, you know it's minimal.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Family - Mary S. & Marshall M. - Chapters: 23 - Words: 132,704 - Reviews: 163 - Favs: 13 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 05-01-12 - Published: 04-09-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8008600
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This is it, folks!
Thirteen Years, April:
Mary often wondered how the most commonplace of activities could be a comfort. They were the sort of things you took for granted as they passed in the day-to-day routine, the ones you overlooked, the kind you thought of as nothing at all. And yet, the feel of sheets against your skin, seeing a full jug of milk in the fridge, knowing there were reruns of your favorite show on TV – all of it was ordinary but otherworldly in its own capacity.
Tonight, it was the sound of Sam scratching his pencil from where he sat cross-legged on the chest at the end of Mary's bed. The gentle 'scritch-scritch' was something she heard every single night as he completed his homework, but this evening it mimicked her beating heart. It was a good thing too, because her effectively spoiled plans for the evening were making her more depressed than she wanted to admit.
Even a three-letter word made her throat burn viciously, made her wish she had not said a thing, but she was always one to press the limits, especially when she wasn't supposed to. Luckily, her son looked up so she didn't have to say it again.
"Go back to the kitchen," this was accompanied by a nasty, disgusting cough which did not do wonders for her throat. "I really don't want you to get sick…"
"Dad said I should keep you company until he gets home from work," Sam shrugged casually, turning back to his math problems. "Since you aren't going out. I'm almost done though," he nodded at his paper. "But if you want me to stay tonight, I can. I've already seen the movie Jesse wanted to go to…"
"Smush, what would you stay home for?" his mother groaned, trying to use her tongue to speak rather than the back of her throat and slumping a little inside her pillow. "To gawk at the gnarly white patches in my mouth? It's not a pretty sight, man."
"I know it's not," he assured her. "I've had strep before. When I was six, remember?"
"Oh yeah…" Mary recalled ruefully, wishing she felt well enough to get out of bed and shower because she'd been stuck all day and was starting to feel seriously gross. "Jinx made you that organic oatmeal…"
"That was revolting," Sam's eyes flicked upward. "I felt like the flakes were coating my throat because she didn't cook it all the way through. You owe me for that one," he claimed on the tail-end, teasing.
"I owe you for nothing," Mary played along, hating the way the disease made her sound like a man. "Dad and I were caught in the nation's second dust bowl between Phoenix and Flagstaff…" she fought hard to press on, to not let the illness win out before she could finish. "The most you would've got from us is a very sand-infested return, which probably would've made you sick anyway."
She just barely made it and was forced to close her eyes, feeling the sweat perspire in beads on her forehead. Her temples were pounding and the inside of her throat was worse from doing so much talking; it throbbed ferociously in protest, like a thudding drum against her vocal chords. Reaching up, she raked her fingers through her hair hoping she didn't seem too pathetic in front of Sam.
"Sorry you can't go to dinner tonight," he expressed upon seeing this, putting his pencil down and reaching onto the floor for his backpack. "Since it's your anniversary and everything."
"Ah…" Mary tried to be nonchalant, but expertly inarticulate in her vocalizations. "When have you ever known me to appreciate some lovey-dovey evening – with the rosebuds and the wine and the miniscule, delicate portions of cake?" she croaked with as much disdain as she could muster.
"Still…" Sam swung his bag onto the chest and replaced his homework inside it. "I'd be disappointed, if it were me."
"If it were you, I'd be frightened," his mother tried to laugh which was a huge mistake; it was like swallowing gravel in the aftermath and she winced, putting her fingers to her throat to see if her glands were still swollen.
"I don't know…" her son was boyishly mysterious as he ignored Mary's pain. "When Megan asked me to go to her birthday party, she seemed into the flowers. I thought she was going to cry when I gave her that box of chocolate," he chuckled at the memory. "Even though she's not really like most girls."
Sam said that a lot when it came to the young lady he brought to the house more often than not these days, the one neither Mary nor Marshall was allowed to call his girlfriend. And his mother had to admit that she was a pretty good catch for her son. She didn't fawn all over the feminine aspects of life the way the typical thirteen-year-old would. She'd just started softball with the spring weather and could give Sam a run for his money on intelligence.
"What's she say about this mop you call hair these days?" Mary asked, reaching out and trying to snag his waves with her fingers but he was too quick for her all laid-up and rolled back to the end of the bed. "You really need a trim, Sam…"
"She likes it," he declared, leaning on his elbow and grinning at his mother. "She thinks it makes me look like I belong in private school, with a sweater around my neck, and competing on the rowing team when it's short."
Mary sighed, "You should talk to her about that."
"Yeah; I'll get right on that…" Sam rolled his eyes.
Mary knew the subject of his hair was not to be breached. Granted, it was absolutely gorgeous – thick, still incredibly soft and rich, chocolate brown without the red of its earlier days. But it was beginning to hang in his eyes and she was getting sick of watching him shake it out of his face like some poorly-trained television personality. She lost her boy beneath the curls.
"Only keep it that way if you like it," she found herself suggesting, probably not for the first time. "Not for some chick whose name you probably won't even remember a year from now."
Middle school romances were not something Mary believed in, having watched Brandi suffer through so many in her teen years. Fortunately, Sam didn't get a chance to respond because both of them heard the front door which meant Marshall had arrived home. From the sound of it, Peter was in his wake, allowing Sam's departure for the evening.
"Hello-hello!" her husband called from behind the closed door. "Peter's here – lets go Sam!"
Mary was in no position to yell, but Sam picked up the slack, swinging his backpack onto one shoulder.
"Be right there!" he shouted.
Mary shifted even further down against the headboard, some strange part of her mourning her son's absence even though she was not supposed to have seen him all night since her and Marshall had planned to spend the evening on the town. She knew it was fatigue that was causing the feelings; the idea of being unwell making the situation seem worse than it was. That and the fact that Sam spent much less time talking to her these days.
But with the kindness that had resided deep within from the days of yore, her son walked around to the side of the bed where his mother was slumped inside and offered her a decent goodbye.
"See you tomorrow, mom," he told her, for he would be spending the night with Jesse for the first time in awhile. "I hope you feel better."
Beneath the bangs that were very nearly concealing his forget-me-not-blue eyes, she saw the hint of her sweet little boy and this prompted a tired smile.
"Thanks Smush…" she choked out and even though she did not want to make him ill, she took the opportunity when he pitched his head forward and kissed his hair. "Have fun with Jesse; don't be going over how to pick up girls."
"Doubtful," Sam chuckled and headed for the door.
Why did they need to discuss it when both of them already had one in some fashion? First Ellie, and then Megan.
"Bye bud…" was her final, very hoarse and painful reply as he opened the door and slipped out, but it was so pitiful he didn't even hear.
Beyond the wooden hatch, she could hear Marshall and Sam exchanging instructions and farewells, as well as Peter's faint, higher-pitched tone along with Jesse's. She imagined Marshall had told the brief guests not to visit his quarantined wife because there were no well-wishes to be had before she caught the sound of the front door opening and closing once more.
Waiting for Marshall, Mary ran a finger under her eyelids, knowing they were slightly watery from her pesky, persistent fever, and tried to sit up a little bit more in a half-hearted attempt to look awake when her husband came in. She'd woken that morning with a temperature of a hundred and three and the telltale cruel spots of yellow on the back of her throat. Her fever had pitched lower throughout the day, but the strep was only beginning and Marshall had tucked her into bed, claiming he was not the least bit upset their anniversary plans had been botched. She didn't entirely believe him, but felt too awful to push.
It was longer than Mary expected before Marshall finally arrived, but when he did there was a light knock on the door, which Sam had left open a crack. He stuck his head in, carrying an enormous bowl of chicken soup steaming on a tray, which explained the elongated absence. In a girlish touch, he'd added a budding flower lain across the top of the tray; Mary couldn't tell what kind from a distance.
"Ah!" he bellowed dramatically with a very cheesy, indulgent smile. "There's my woeful hot potato!"
"Mmm…" Mary growled irritably, wondering how much of that soup she would be able to get down without killing her throat.
She supposed the 'hot potato' remark referred to her fever, which was the first thing Marshall checked once he secured the dinner tray on the chest Sam had just vacated. He motored around to the top of the bed and placed cool, soothing fingers against Mary's forehead. She shut her eyes at the glaring contrast between their flesh, not wanting him to remove his hand.
"You're like a furnace, babe…" he reported. "You were down to 101 this afternoon; I hope you didn't ratchet up again."
"I'm all right…" she managed in a low voice, trying to avoid too much speaking. "It's just late and I'm kind of tired…"
"Tired?" Marshall scoffed disbelievingly, transferring his fingers to her throat and checking her inflamed glands. "Say it ain't so!"
Unfortunately, his sunny optimism made him inadvertently press against her throat rather than simply inspect, which made Mary feel like she'd just swallowed a glass bottle in shards. Her reflex kicked in before her brain did, which she regretted at once.
"Ow…!" she coughed, grabbing his wrist hard and yanking it away. "Don't!"
He covered his guilt fairly well, not attempting to remove her fingers curled around his wrist in a death grip.
"I'm sorry…" he whispered immediately, rubbing her hair and trying to comfort after his blunder. "I squeezed; I wasn't paying attention…"
"Never mind…" Mary shook her head, not wanting to worsen the evening with shame. "It was an accident."
A dull ache continued to pulse even after Marshall stopped letting his fingers stray to her most sensitive area, but he repositioned them onto her cheek, tilting her face this way and that, peering and quietly calculating her orbs of green.
"You're pretty glassy-eyed…" he continued to inform.
"You don't say," she whispered dryly.
"If you still look like this tomorrow, you might go in; they can give you antibiotics…" Marshall suggested, as though Mary did not know this already; he ventured back to the end of the bed to grab her dinner.
"Marshall, it's just strep…" she sighed, trying to shift herself into a semi-comfortable spot on the bed so she could sit up to eat. "You just ride it out; I don't need the drugs. They'll make me loopy…"
"Loopier than usual, you mean?" he quirked a naughty eyebrow, approaching once more with the heavenly waft of the soup.
Mary had never been so hungry and so afraid of eating all at once. She'd kept off food the entire day, little appetite and no desire to brave more swallowing than necessary. The glass of Spite had been bad enough, even though she knew if she decreased her intake she'd end up dehydrated and feel even worse.
"Just eat what you can manage…" Marshall instructed kindly. "If it hurts too much; don't bother."
"I already adopted that philosophy, doofus," his wife said in her lower-pitched male's voice, allowing him to arrange the tray across her middle.
She knew Marshall had made the chicken soup himself, and so she hoped she was able to enjoy it. The noodles were fat and looked juicy, swimming tantalizingly in the mix of carrots, celery, and broth. It beat Jinx's concoctions anyway, and Mary took care to blow on it before attempting her first bite.
"Mmm…" she sighed, halfway between a grimace and a moan of pleasure with her mouth full. "It's good…" she praised. "You're a hell of a housewife. Ever think about giving up law enforcement to pursue something on the cooking channel?"
Marshall just chuckled, flopping leisurely onto the end of the bed and sprawling out at her feet like a lapdog. He watched her eat, belly-down with his arms folded under his chin, his smile slightly hidden beneath his creased forearms.
Mary eyed him over the rim of her bowl; glance catching the flower he'd placed on her tray, which she noticed up-close was a white lily, its center bursting in shades of prosperous yellows and oranges. Its stem was a healthy spring green; beautiful in full bloom.
She set her spoon down and blinked sadly at him, trying to imagine what sort of man could look that happy mooning over his sick wife when their anniversary plans had been cancelled.
"I'm sorry about tonight," she voiced rather thickly due to the soup now coating her throat along with the white spots. "I hate when shit like this happens; I can't do a Goddamn thing; totally worthless…"
"Mare, come on…" Marshall interrupted, exasperation sneaking through his tone. "Everybody gets sick. Even the immortals like you," he winked good-naturedly. "Besides, an anniversary is defined as a date that is observed on an annual basis because it is the same date as an important event in a past year. There is no rule saying you have to pull out all the bells and whistles," he spewed with his usual amount of knowledge. "We're together. What more do you need?"
According to him, nothing. It wasn't as if he'd have ever let her leave the house in her state, if for no reason than it would repulse the rest of the world having the strep-throat-ridden individual spoiling an intimate evening. His practicality – it killed her every time.
"I'm trying to remember the last time I took care of you like this…" Marshall mused when Mary didn't respond, rolling over onto his back and staring at the ceiling in thought.
As Mary didn't let such a thing happen very often, she figured he'd be hard-pressed to come up with a prior occasion, but when he perched up on his elbow with a look of comprehension, she knew he'd unearthed it somewhere.
"I think it was when you had your amnio…" he revealed, proud of the recollection.
"Oh God…" his wife moaned theatrically around another bite of soup, trying not to drip as she leaned over the bowl. "Like that's something I need to be reminded of. Jesus…"
"It was!" Marshall declared, looking childlike as he faced her. "After much deliberation, you let me go with you and do the whole hand-holding bit…" he was nodding now. "It was to make sure Sam's lungs had matured in case they needed to induce you…"
"Yeah-yeah; we know the rest of the story," Mary groused with a cough that almost landed her soup back in the bowl, but she covered. "Do you have to bring it up?"
"Whew…" Marshall whistled, and Mary gathered from the look on his face that he hadn't thought about that day in a long time.
Mary conceded it had been quite a bonding moment for them, plunged into the depths of their early relationship headfirst. She hadn't wanted him at the appointment for fear of showing her vulnerabilities, her weaknesses; but she'd also been scared shitless and had almost made herself sick in all the anticipation and trying to keep it at bay at the same time. In the end, she bit the bullet and let him come.
"That was not a procedure that agreed with you…" Marshall remembered, eyes light and lost in the old memories. "I felt so bad for you; you were nervous something awful…"
"Was not," Mary rebutted, despite her own stirrings. "I wanted you there to make sure they didn't stick that fire-poker anywhere other than the designated location."
"Yeah, sure…" Marshall scoffed.
And he was right. That had not been the reason he'd been invited at all. The memories were fuzzy and unclear, but the sharpest portions stood out like echoes and old friends amongst the rest.
"They're going to hurt him…"
"They're not going to hurt him," Marshall whispered gently. "They're trained professionals. They checked, and the needle's not going to be anywhere near him…"
Her eyes were vast, completely massive as they tracked Marshall's. He could see how short her breaths were by the rapid rise-and-fall of her chest. He couldn't look toward the other end for anything and simply stood to be there in whatever aptitude Mary wanted him to.
However, at this point it appeared even she did not know what she wanted.
"Tell me what's going to happen again," she demanded.
He'd gone over it many times the day before, twice in the car, and three times since they'd waited for the introductory ultrasound. Marshall strongly suspected she did not believe such a procedure was possible without harming the baby, but he was as patient as he could be.
"All they're going to do is insert a needle in your abdominal wall to withdraw amniotic fluid," he didn't mention the size of said needle even though the prep was occurring right behind them. "They'll count to three before they start…"
"No…" she shook her head as well as she could laying on the table.
This was the first time she'd interrupted in awhile and Marshall seized the opportunity to ask questions.
"I don't want them to count," Mary decided. "Don't let them count…"
"Fine," Marshall was agreeable, feeling a little better now that she'd expressed some form of an opinion. "I'll let him know," a male was in charge due to Doctor Reese being held up in delivery.
However, the words were barely out of his mouth before she nearly spoke over him, going on a mile-a-minute due to nerves.
"They're going to hurt him…"
"Mary…" Marshall whispered, crouching on his knees so that they were eye-to-eye, face-to-face and couldn't be closer. "The risk for miscarriage on this is very minimal…"
"I'm not talking about miscarriage; I'm talking about hurting him…" she emphasized angrily, and Marshall knew if he didn't talk her down soon she was going to cry.
Unfortunately, the time had passed for mending any fences because the doctor was on the move. He was a pleasant-enough man and certainly knew what he was doing, but Mary's aversion to strangers didn't endear her to him. Marshall stood back up, so as to appear prepared.
"All right, Miss Shannon…" the announcement came. "We're ready to go…"
Marshall had dreaded this part; the needle came into view, all ten inches of it and although Mary usually kept her cool, he felt certain she was going to have a stroke when she saw it. If possible, her breaths got even quicker.
"Mary, look at me," Marshall whispered evenly. When she didn't obey, he was much firmer, "Look at me."
Her eyes snapped onto his and she blinked, fighting back the tears. Marshall absolutely hated seeing her like this. She'd been loaded with snark, cynicism, and sarcasm for the past three days since she'd learned she was stuck with the amniocentesis but all of it had vanished in the last ten minutes.
"Focus," was his command. "Don't even go there," he indicated what was going on behind him. "Stay here with me."
Stay here with me.
"Okay…" said the unfamiliar voice. "You'll feel a pinch on three…"
Marshall remembered at once.
"No – don't count her down," he was forced to whirl around to address him, hoping he didn't lose Mary's attention. "Just go."
Fortunately, their stand-in was sympathetic.
"No problem…" he said. "Then just try to relax and take some deep breaths, Miss Shannon…"
Marshall locked her in, giving her his most penetrating, direct stare – his eyes never wavering or leaving hers. They were in-sync; merging as one and the minute they made it, meshing as a single unit, Mary fell into acceptance shut her eyes. Her exhales were slow and steady as she waited.
Unfortunately, it appeared Marshall's instincts were slightly off because he thought they might be riding the wave, only to find Mary absolutely sensed what was about to happen without the countdown. Her voice was unexpected and jarring.
"Give me your hand."
Marshall was lucky he was paying attention, because he didn't hesitate, snatching hers from where it rested at her side. There was a fraction of a second where her fingers trembled inside his palm until he recognized the moment of truth had struck – she squeezed hard, nails digging deeper into his palm. But there was no part of him that considered letting go.
He could tell from her face, even with her eyes closed, that she was uncomfortable if not in unbearable pain.
"Hang in there…" Marshall murmured gently. "You're doing fine; it's almost done…"
Granted, it was a long minute but there was no hiccup once the pocket had been found and the fluid was withdrawn. Marshall had expected her fingers to slacken once the procedure was complete, but she hung on as tightly as she had at the beginning. She did open her eyes though, which was a comfort.
"Nice," their doctor said simply. "Just get up when you're ready, Miss Shannon, and we'll get you out of here."
"Thank-you," Marshall was polite enough to say as the man nodded and made for the door to get Mary's discharge papers.
Marshall was grateful for the moment to be left alone with his partner, deciding not to mention that his fingers were growing numb. She was shuddering from trying to remain calm, her free hand rubbing the side of her belly.
"You hurt?" Marshall asked, concerned.
Mary nodded, "My stomach. It's really cramped up."
"I think that's pretty routine," Marshall informed her. "You were great. I'll take you home and feed you chicken soup," he teased. "Already got the afternoon off from Stan."
All she could do was nod.
"You ready?" Marshall pressed when she didn't respond or move it all, wondering when she was going to let go of his hand.
Now she shook her head.
Marshall was as tolerant as ever, and understood that his touch was helping her to sail back to earth. Smiling softly, he brought her fingers to his lips kissed lightly, patting their intertwined hands with his free one.
"Good work, inspector."
Marshall had taken Mary's hand lying atop the bedcovers, fingers curled and limp. Mary knew he had lost himself in the memory, and part of her had as well. It seemed like eons ago, and yet the tension that she'd had felt like it had settled into her bones. She knew it came from being sleepy and much under-par.
"You were amazing…" was Marshall's somewhat predictable response. "Made it through with flying colors…"
"Marshall, don't go making me bawl…" Mary wrenched her fingers loose, picking up her spoon once more. "I already sound like a drag queen. Your anniversary definition didn't include uncontrollable and imprudent sobbing either."
"Imprudent!" Marshall was impressed, perching his chin in his hands from where he was lounging at the end of the bed. "Big word for you, inspector," he decided, and Mary knew he'd used such a nickname thanks to their falling into old memories.
"I have my moments…" Mary griped, forcing herself to swallow another bite of soup but it really seared her throat and made her eyes water she was so sore.
She didn't want to give up on Marshall's meal, and he was still jabbering.
"And no plans for blubbering here," he claimed, reflecting on her prior request. "I was just thinking…" he flipped over onto his back again so that his head was near her middle. "It's interesting – the things you remember. The moments and the memories that stick out above the rest."
Mary pondered this while she tried to figure out how to make it look like she'd eaten more soup than she actually had.
"Hell, when you think about us…" Marshall went on as his eyes roved the ceiling. "Thirteen years together…"
"Just married," his wife corrected him, noting it was the first time she'd done so on this particular subject. "We've known each other longer."
"Well, we were partners for eight – give or take – before the nuptials," Marshall reminded her. "So that makes it…what?"
When Mary calculated the addition, she actually second-guessed herself, hardly daring to believe so much time had gone by. It didn't seem possible – she had to have over or underestimated. But the number that spilled from Marshall's lips convinced her she'd been right, even more so when he took care to look at her as he reported.
"Twenty years?" there was the merest hint of a question in there. "Can you even fathom that?"
Mary shook her head, not knowing how to respond. How had their lives together progressed so quickly? She'd been having enough trouble coming to grips with the fact that Sam was a teenager, meaning they'd been sealed for that thirteen – but twenty? It was a lifetime; a lifetime that stretched far and wide, so beyond the usual expanse Mary thought people could legitimately stand each other.
What did it say about her that she'd managed – happily at that – with the same person for two decades?
"You done with the soup?" Marshall asked out of nowhere after his statement. "Don't lie," he cut in. "If you can't finish, it's not a problem."
The irony was that Mary could not actually finish; her throat was too scratchy and too inflamed and making such an effort was flushing her cheeks, causing her shortness of breath.
"Sorry…" she murmured for the second time that night, sliding the tray over while Marshall sat up to take it.
He was quick at placing it back on the chest, careful not to let his feet bump and knock it over from his former reclining position. Before he completely laid it to rest, however, he slipped the flower off just as Mary was snuggling deeper into her pillows and blankets.
Turning to his wife, he wondered how unkindly she would take his romantic gesture, even burrowed and sickly with only half her face visible. He went with a light touch and pretended to feather-dust her nose with the petals, which earned him a reluctant giggle.
"Don't…" she whispered, bleary-eyed. "Goading me when my defenses are low is not fair…"
Marshall giggled himself, halting his tickles and instead stretched up, brushing the stray strands of hair behind her ears. She reveled in it for a moment, moaning contentedly with her eyes closed and he stole away with the opportunity to place the stem behind her right ear.
When she opened up, it was with a reluctant, indulgent scowl.
"Take it out."
"My Hawaiian princess…" he teased. "Lots of people role-play on their anniversary," he decided.
"Only when they know they're getting in the sack after," Mary coughed, not bothering to remove the flower herself and turning on her left to place her cheek on a cooler spot on her pillow. "I didn't know you knew other methods of role playing besides Wild Bill and Calamity Jane."
"On the contrary," Marshall put on his best scholarly voice, inching himself up onto the pillow beside her so that their eyes met. "I have a whole host up my sleeve."
"Better save them for another night, doofus…" his wife whispered dejectedly.
A soft and tiny smile was playing on her lips for his benefit, but she mostly enjoyed just having him there with her. As she'd told Sam, it wasn't the romantic parts of an anniversary she enjoyed but she was pretty sure Marshall did and hoped he wasn't too let down they'd had to alter the plans.
"It is kind of interesting what you said…" Mary murmured in an effort to stay awake. "About the sort of things you remember. Thirteen or twenty years together and only certain parts make their way in after enough time…"
"I remember teaching Sam to ride his two-wheeler when he was only four…" Marshall piped up, looking absurdly lopsided as he copied her reclining position. "He got his shoelaces caught in the spokes, pitched forward, and got spectacular scrapes on both his knees."
"I remember that too," Mary agreed. "And when he thought losing your teeth meant you were losing pieces of your skull."
"It took some hefty convincing on my part to get him to believe otherwise," Marshall recalled. "Like Jesse and the three-footed monster in his closet."
"The one with purple fuzzy fur or the orange one that breathed fire…?" Mary yawned, determined to keep her eyes open.
"Mmm…" Marshall waved a finger, pulling his elbow out from underneath his torso to do so. "Sam made up the orange one when he was six to get Jesse to think the orange would torch the spooky purple one – Carrot Curtis was his name."
Mary chuckled, "Right."
"It actually worked, as I recall," Marshall reflected. "Who'd have thought?"
"Like me and Brandi with Biscuit…" his wife drawled without really thinking, too sleepy and with vocal chords too traumatized to really care.
"Yeah," Marshall took it in stride. "You remember that week Sam wet his bed five days in a row?"
"Ugh…" this did not help Mary's feeling of illness and she opened her eyes to fix Marshall with a disapproving glare. "Do I remember? You were in Midland Texas, sneaky. You weren't the one cleaning up the sheets every night."
"But I was the one who told you to wait until he was well into his third year before even broaching the idea," he sniffed smugly. "You don't stick a kid in underwear the week after his birthday on said year."
"You do if you're serious about him not being in diapers another second," Mary griped, and the agitation in her blood as well as in her chest made her cough.
Marshall tenderly reached out and brushed the hair that was fluttering in front of her cheek back into her mane of honey-gold. She'd either forgotten about the flower or didn't care anymore; because it was still there and Marshall couldn't help noticing how unfamiliarly feminine it made her look.
"Having to call the bomb squad and go in the bunker at the courthouse?" Mary brought up another in a soft voice, eyes flickering back open at the touch of Marshall's fingers. "How old was he then?"
"He was just a baby…" this was one Marshall would like to forget. "I remember he was teething because we had about sixty messages between us from Brandi while we were trapped since she was trying to figure out what to do for him."
"I felt terrible…" Mary admitted, her extremities trying to curl into the duck-and-cover position just at the thought. "We were together and he could've lost both of us."
"Yes…" Marshall was direct, nudging himself even closer so that their chests and legs were almost touching. "But he didn't."
That had been their mantra for awhile, what kept them from completely losing sleep at keeping jobs they adored and questioning whether they adored the work more than their child.
"He held your ice pack for you for about three hours when you busted your shoulder during that storm," Marshall swept in swiftly. "He was very proud of helping mama."
Yes, Sam certainly had been. Despite the fact that he'd only been five years old and shouldn't have had to deal with anything so horrific, he'd morphed into quite the little doctor when Mary had scarcely been able to move an entire side of her torso even after they'd fixed her up.
"Remember Jing-Jing?" she asked with part of a grin between memories, and Marshall smiled too.
"With all her bells, ding-dongs, and ringers," her husband teased, knowing how Sam's inability to say her mother's name at a young age had made her think of all those things. "Not to mention, 'Granola.'"
Mary chortled softly, "Grandma."
Sam's term for Carolyn had not come out entirely like the oatmeal treat, but it sounded a lot more like that than her real name. Fortunately, Marshall's mother had found it hilarious.
"Do you remember that year…?" Marshall elbowed up, peering down at Mary's shiny eyes, everything flooding in so quickly the longer he spoke. "We were at my mom's during the summer and Claire fell off the monkey bars?"
"What was she?" Mary screwed up her brain in an attempt to reel in the information but she couldn't do it. "Eight?"
"Yeah," Marshall surprised her with the fact that she'd been right. "She fractured her arm and she begged both you and mom to ride in the ambulance."
"I thought your mother was going to hurl…" Mary said ruefully, allowing herself to slip even further beneath the edge of the blankets. "I couldn't believe it – Marshal's wife and three sons and she gets squeamish over broken bones."
"What can I say?" Marshall spread his arms out above her. "Woman has a weak stomach."
"Where were you again?" Mary butted in. "Why weren't you there?"
"Golfing with Julian," her husband rolled his eyes, clearly regretting such a sport even this many years later.
Mary couldn't resist the opportunity to poke fun at the idea of Marshall in some pair of tremendously tacky plaid pants and a preppy polo, but the reminiscence ranged far and wide. Although the bed-ridden one had a painful gullet, a pounding head, and sweaty sheets, she simply couldn't stop the ability to spew forth more and more years of events – both good and bad.
Stan slicing his hand end-to-end across his palm in a bar fight gone bad.
Delia schooling Mary's former shooting ground in Mesa Ridge and giving Lala's old crew what for.
Sam's first few steps from the coffee table into Marshall's arms.
Forts out of the couch cushions in the living room.
Pirate's hats, cowboy bandannas, twirling pistols, and grappling hooks.
Peter's unfortunate incident with gallstones.
Getting the call from Griffin that Sarah had rear-ended a light pole after two weeks with a permit.
Sam's horrifying nightmare about Marshall dying and Mary packing up because he'd turned seven.
Wait. Stop. Hold on.
"What?" Marshall murmured upon hearing Mary's latest, halting the tangling he'd been doing of her hair and peering down at her. "What'd you say?"
He was sitting with his back against the headboard, allowing his palm to lie flat in her hair. He knew how tired she was and wondered if she might've slipped up.
"Sam…" she repeated without registering, probing his blue eyes with her green ones. "He had that awful nightmare where you'd died and I'd just left him to fend for himself. It was right after I told him that James had ditched me at seven."
Marshall shook his head, "I don't remember that. I don't even remember you telling him about James, but I know you did. Was I out on assignment or something?"
Mary thought, eyes skirting left-to-right and processing as well as she could with her head clouded. She didn't want to have to think this hard; she'd been enjoying the back-and-forth a lot more.
"I'm not sure…" she muttered hoarsely. "I could've sworn…"
And then it clicked – Marshall had not been on assignment, but the reason she'd thought he was with them was because she'd been dreaming about him too. She'd dreamed about him every night in those days, using his image, his floating face to imagine he'd been right there with his wife and son.
"You were in the hospital," she managed, feeling guilty for having brought it up, wishing he'd go back to playing with her hair. "Still in a coma. It was after I'd taken him to visit you."
Marshall sighed with the understanding, knowing she hadn't wanted to go down this road. They'd been comfortable sharing both pleasant and memories that were less so, but this qualified on a different level. It didn't need to penetrate because they both remembered it whether they wanted to or not. It was probably the first happening that came to mind when they discussed their time together, as sad as that was.
But Mary had always been grateful for Marshall's ability to side-step with ease.
"Speaking of the hospital…" he segued beautifully, Mary doing her very best to just let him keep going, to not interrupt and say she'd screwed up. "Something tells me you haven't forgotten the big event in the delivery room."
She could tell he was smiling even though she could not see him sitting above her. But she decided to play him first.
"Which big event are we talking about?" she clarified with about half her usual snark.
"I will grant you there were many," Marshall agreed. "On this front, I was thinking of when they finally told you that you could push."
"Some gift," Mary complained, allowing her eyes to close for about the tenth time when Marshall rumpled her hair again. "Never mind that I was ready for about twenty minutes before that. Nobody believed me when I told them he was going to come out all on his own."
"A common misconception," Marshall dictated. "He definitely needed your help, and not until he was ready."
"Yeah-yeah…" his wife moaned.
But for the second time that evening, she knew that he was right. The recollections, for Mary at least, were not as clear as they once were because she'd been trying so hard to stay focused but as with everything else, certain pieces stood out at the forefront like it had happened yesterday.
"Mary, there are two ways we can do this…" Doctor Reese told her patient. "I'll let you decide to start out, all right?" she threw the question on the end. "Either we can just let things unfold – your uterus is going to do a ton of the work here – or we can coach you through some pushing."
Marshall was pretty sure he knew which one she'd pick. Mary was a worker, an activist, someone who needed to be in control. The second choice sounded like the one for her, and she managed to get this across somehow but Marshall was busy listening to instructions so Mary wouldn't have to.
"Marshall, we usually count to ten here – I know she's not a big fan of that…"
"What if I did it?" he sensed they weren't going to give up on their common practice.
"I can live with that," Doctor Reese nodded. "Mary, listen up…" she raised her voice and the woman nodded between breaths to show she could hear. "In about thirty seconds you're going to have another contraction – bear down and push for ten seconds, but don't hold your breath if you don't want to…"
Marshall had read about that part and was glad they had a more carefree OBGYN who was not stuck in the letter-of-the-law.
"Take a deep breath, Mare…" her partner instructed, squeezing her hand and rubbing her back with his free one. "Concentrate; I'm gonna be right here…"
She did as he said just as the event was upon them, faster than either Mary or Marshall was ready for it. Marshall's advice overpowered that of the doctor once he realized, his excitement catching up with him.
"Go-go – push-push…" he was calm as he could be, and then remembered he was supposed to be counting. "One…two…" he stayed even here as well, not wanting Mary to feel pressured, speaking very softly near her ear so it was background noise. "Three…four…"
"Keep going Mary – you're doing fine…"
"Good-good; couple more seconds…"
"Almost; then you can relax…"
The minute his lips closed around the final count she released, trembling with the effort and allowing her head to fall back on the pillows. Marshall altered his stance for half a second and bent to kiss her forehead, to sweep her hair out of the way.
"Good girl…" he told her sincerely. "Good girl; you did really well…"
Marshall really had no idea if that was true, but he had no intention of telling her otherwise.
"Did it do anything?" Mary wanted to know with a gasp, barely able to get the words out.
"Breathe…" Marshall soothed watching how fast she was panting. "Don't waste energy talking to me…"
"Did it do anything?" she ignored him.
"Mary, it's kind of a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of deal…" Doctor Reese reported from the foot of the bed. "And it takes some practice at first, but you had a great start; there's no need to be discouraged…"
Marshall doubted this would be of much help to Mary, and did everything to prevent her being exactly that – discouraged – the longer the early morning waned on. He was floored by the way she held up, so obviously determined to save face and not come undone just because the results weren't coming as fast as she'd expect.
It wasn't until they were a solid thirty minutes in that she pleaded with him, just fifteen seconds from another contraction.
"Marshall, if you want to watch on this one you might see his head start to slip down…" Doctor Reese whispered in an undertone.
He was sure she'd been so nonchalant to not distract Mary's focus, but she heard anyway and Marshall appealed to her at once.
"Do you want me to look or not?"
He was up near her chest, still holding her hand; his knuckles turning white. She shook her head and bit her lip, and looked like she was about to cry at the suggestion.
"Stay here with me…"
He could tell she was upset and hurried to ease her mind, "Mary, I don't need to see; I'll see him soon enough," he prattled, still rubbing her back with his other hand in neat, concentric circles. "Don't worry about that; worry about you…"
"Stay here with me…" she proved she hadn't been listening.
"I'm staying here with you," he reinforced. "I'm not going anywhere."
It was that phrase that waited with them, the one that got them through what came ten minutes later in a rapidly falling heartbeat. To just stay – to have another, to not be alone.
Stay here with me.
The blunder of Sam's nightmare forgotten, Mary blinked at Marshall who was lying beside her once again. His face was the same as it had been those thirteen years ago – full of pride, of hope, of the joy of starting a new life with the woman he loved and watching her on that day and every other, never once forgetting how fortunate he felt to have fallen in this world with Mary and their son.
"It's been fun, babe…" he murmured, but referring to their ability to exchange tales of days past all night.
In an act of mercy, he slipped the lily out from behind her ear and tossed it to the foot of the bed. She looked like Mary again, even as he placed his palm on her forehead one more time, turning it back to front.
"But I should let you sleep," he finished his thought.
Mary shook her head, inching upward onto her pillow so that she was no longer buried and fixing him with the kindest, but softest smile she could give him.
"Stay here with me," she whispered.
Marshall understood better than anyone, and also marveled in the growth that had fostered inside of Mary since their rocky beginning so many years before. He wouldn't trade her sharp, quick-witted cynicism or sarcasm for anything in the world. It made her unique, and it made her human. But learning to let herself love, to allow herself to be taken in by those around her had brought about a change even Mary herself couldn't have predicted.
"I find it hard to believe a candlelight dinner could be better than this," Marshall informed her diplomatically.
"You're speaking my language," she claimed, and it was Marshall's turn to grin.
Slowly, knowing the risk, he slid himself all the way into her groove, and kissed her. Once at first, just a single flutter against her lips – but then twice, three times, and finally across her lips to her cheeks and back again, a hand running through her hair of its own volition.
The sensation, the fire that pounded in her blood made Mary sit up, wondering if she'd ever wanted him more. Marshall was at full steam ahead, fingers already sneaking their way to her thermal pajama top.
"You're going to get sick…" she slipped her mouth away for half-a-second to whisper hoarsely.
"Then you can be my naughty nursemaid…"
Mary giggled with full disclosure, but some remote part of her mind made her hand find his that was about to undress her and she linked them together instead.
"I love you…" was all else she could manage, feeling his heartbeat through his hand.
Marshall slid his lips off hers, smiling sweetly and staring – completely enraptured – into her gorgeous jade green eyes.
"Happy thirteen," he murmured, still with that lovesick grin.
Thirteen years of bruised knees, broken hearts, an embrace of bliss or one of sorrow, of guiding one to the finish line on any given day, of being alongside to sprint the marathon when the ticker tape was too far out.
Molding into heart's that beat as a mama's boy and a daddy's girl; the loss of a stand-up citizen and decorated US Marshal, and one almost more painful in a fugitive that passed with fabricated love and the term 'sweetheart' to float and take away the hurt in the dark of night.
To eleven days, two-hundred and sixty-four hours where existence came to a standstill; when there had been no today, no tomorrow, no next week, month, or year. When the ability to claw your way back to the bright lights of the future had never become a harder but more desperately attainable task.
Letting your past sculpt but not define you; to second chances and faith in a new journey, to hanging up a five-point-star with dignity, and believing the best of silly, sweet little sisters.
A spinning, twirling, whirling dervish hurricane of a little boy with downy, feather soft curls; bright eyes, a brilliant mind, and a big heart.
Of Carolyn and Jinx, Griffin or Julian, Brandi and Peter, a step-father, twins, tiny and goofy nephews to strapping young men, of a bear named Claire, and a boy named Jesse. Of Stan the Man and Sheriff Sam.
"Happy thirteen," Marshall said it again.
Two hands went to his face, to his cheeks, and two lips found his forehead and kissed – poignant and forever together.
Mary pitched her forehead to meet with his so that their eyes met their hands clasped together as one, and she whispered to the night.
A/N: THE END!
Believe me, friends, I am as sad to see this go as you say you are. Sam and everyone he runs with have been amazing for me; a world I can fall into and conspire with, spin webs, and take our favorite Marshal's to exciting new places never to play out on screen. It's hard to believe I churned out the first tale just a month or so after season four ended, and now here we are – five stories later and the show is going to end for good. I will miss it SO much, but am so excited for the finale this Friday.
Much love and thanks to my reviewers – Jayne_Leigh, henrylover94, Charming Gilmore Girl, carajiggirl, JJ2008, Hutch917, BrittanyLS, usafcmycloud, jekkah, RPenelope, tee86elle, and JMS529. You all are loyal and true and I appreciate you and your kind words SO much! I couldn't have punched out five of these without you!
Honestly, I don't see the saga continuing at this point. Short of killing somebody else off, I am out of ideas. However, I promise not to close the door on it completely and believe me if there's any way I can fabricate something else, you will be the first to know!
Thanks again, all! Load me up with lovin' for my final chapter! :D