Title: Cools the Sting

Fandom: United States of Tara

Pairing: Marshall/Jason

Prompt: #2 - Repent

Rating: PG

Notes: Written for sacred_20 on LiveJournal. Title comes from a quote by William Arthur Ward. "Forgiveness is a funny thing. It warms the heart and cools the sting." Set shortly after the season one finale, possibly spoilers for all aired episodes.

Summary: Jason has something to say to Marshall, but Marshall isn't sure if he wants to hear it or not.

Inwardly, Marshall knew that Jason had every right to go on dates with girls to Starbucks. It's a free country, the United States, and people can go with whomever they so choose to discuss meaningless…or meaningful…topics over more-than-likely steaming hot cups of flavored coffee. He couldn't wallow. He just…couldn't. And that was when he made the promise to himself that he would never let whatever it was that he felt for Jason control his life.

Things are easier said than done, as they say, however. He had very nearly put it all behind him, as much as he could, considering they still attended school together – granted, Marshall had gone out of his way to avoid speaking to Jason, even in class - when he received a phone call late one night. He wrinkled his nose and turned over in bed, shoving a pillow over his head to block out the incessant ringing. It'd go over to voicemail and he could deal with it in the morning, if it was important enough.

The next morning, he listened to the voicemail. "Hey, uhh, it's Jason," Jason's voice said, slurring his words slightly. "Look, man, we need to talk. Call me."

Marshall let out a sigh and as the recorded female voice gave him his options at the end of the message, he punched in the code to delete it. He'd have to do better than that.

Monday at school, Marshall saw Jason striding toward him purposefully, and turned to walk the other way. If they were going to have the talk that Jason so evidently desired, it would be on his terms, not Jason's. "Hey, Marshall, can we talk?" Jason came up behind him and asked.

Marshall spun around quickly, almost too quickly, and nearly toppled forward. "Can we not constantly have heart-to-hearts by the water fountains?" he snapped, gesturing wildly to the water fountains glistening in the fluorescent lights of the school hallway.

Jason furrowed his brow. "I don't see anything wrong with the water fountains…"

Rolling his eyes slightly, Marshall sighed. "Meet me at the Starbucks on Maple after school. We can talk then."

"So a crowded coffee house is more suitable to having our, as you put it, 'heart-to-heart', than a crowded school hallway?"

"Yes." From somewhere above them, a chime sounded, and Marshall looked expectantly down the hallway. "I…better get to class."

"So should I. See you at Starbucks."

Marshall nearly bolted off, leaving a confused Jason behind in his wake.

"Bi-curious church monkey…bi-curious church monkey…he's nothing but a bi-curious church monkey," Kate's words to Marshall reverberated in his head as he walked to Starbucks after school was dismissed. He wasn't exactly looking forward to what Jason was going to say. He figured that it would be something like, "I think you're awesome, but we really shouldn't be hanging out together." Biting his lip, he pushed on the door and entered Starbucks. He scanned the room quickly. Even in the crowded din that was a Starbucks fifteen minutes after school was out, Jason stood out, though he had his head down and was looking at something intently on the table.

Marshall walked over and tapped him on the shoulder, feeling a bit of a shock as he did so. Static electricity: it could happen to anyone. Jason tilted his head up, and Marshall could see that he had pulled Jason out from thinking about something. "Hey," Marshall said, pulling a chair out and sitting across from him. "So…you wanted to talk?"

Jason nodded, laying his hands down on the table. "Look, man, I've had some time to think. And maybe I didn't…do things like I should have. I should have talked to you, figured out what the hell was going on." As he looked over and saw that Marshall was nodding along, he sucked in a deep breath and continued. "I know I didn't do it right. And I want to have a chance to make it up to you. That is, if you'll let me."

Inwardly, Marshall was jumping up and down, but on the exterior, he remained perfectly emotionless, not wanting for any of his feelings to betray his facial expression. "Why should I let you?" he asked, biting gently on his lower lip.

"Because I think you want to."

Damn, he was more perceptive than Marshall had previously given him credit for. He nervously reached a hand up and ran it errantly through his hair, waging a mental war with himself. To forgive Jason, or not to forgive Jason? To plagiarize Shakespeare, that was the question. Finally, after a few tense moments of no words being spoken, he exhaled a breath he didn't realize he had been holding, and licked his lips tentatively, seeking a few precious drops of moisture. "Okay, yes, I forgive you," he said, in a rush, faster than he may have liked.

"Thanks, man, you won't regret it," Jason said, clasping a hand on Marshall's shoulder. "I have to run, got plans with my parents, but call me later, okay?"

Marshall nodded, but before he could say anything, Jason was already out the door. He sighed. He hoped he wouldn't regret it, though it felt strangely good to have that behind him. Tomorrow would be a new day.