In Vino Veritas

The day had started out so innocuously. While Mary had been late, it hadn't been for the usual reasons. Instead of oversleeping, she had woken up early. But it was that damn ring's fault that she was late. Raph had asked her the night before why she didn't wear it to work and Mary didn't have a good reply. Keeping secrets was the norm for work but there was no reason to keep the engagement quiet from her co-workers. So, after staring at the ring and thinking her brain in circles for forty five minutes, Mary had decided that she better get used to putting it on every day.

It had felt like a shackle and the damn thing kept on getting in her way as she typed up her reports. Mary tried to adjust it so it would stop annoying her but it just kept sliding around and getting stuck in between her fingers. Just because it slid over her knuckle did not mean it fit well. Years of punching people into submission had made it damn difficult to wear girly rings and Mary wished that Raph had just gotten her a simple band instead of a damn rock.

Eleanor had noticed Mary fidgeting with it after an hour or two and comments were made. The distracting bantering had been such a relief. The biting remarks brought some normalcy to the day. Words were flung across the room with a casual bitchiness that they both enjoyed and the snarky exchange was better than coffee for rousing Mary from her foggy head space- though it hadn't woken her up soon enough. She hadn't thought of how Marshall would react to learning about her engagement and finding out from overhearing her and Eleanor was probably not the best way.

'Damn it, I should have told him sooner- I should have called him that night,' Mary thought angrily to herself as the metal gate slammed shut behind him. One second she had been shrugging at Eleanor and saying something about how Raph had said something about wanting to be with her despite how she was. Then a drawer had slammed shut. Both women had jumped- startled by the sound- and Marshall had stormed out of the office furiously.

Mary had raced after him but Marshall could haul ass when he wanted to. She got to the parking lot just in time to see him peal out and speed off. Calls were made to his cell but were never answered. Eventually Stan talked to him but all Marshall would say was that he was checking up on his witnesses and that he would be out for the rest of day. Since Marshall's paperwork was always done early, Stan had no reason to justifiable recall him to the office. Mary had protested and been damn close to ripping the phone out of Stan's hand but Stan had turned a shade of red that meant he was close throwing something so Mary backed off.

The rest of the day had been torture. It was too quiet, too silent, too still. There were no random facts, no flying paperclips, and no mocking jokes to distract Mary from the fact that Marshall was pissed and it was her fault. She didn't even care why he was pissed. All that mattered was that her closest friend in all the world was upset and she had to fix it. It might take a six pack and some profuse apologies but it would be worth it if he would just talk to her. She wouldn't even yell at him for not answering her calls.

Stan kicked her out of the office around three and told her to go home after she checked in on her witnesses. Normally that would have meant Mary was in for an short day but her witnesses were all suffering from a near terminal case of asshatitis. They were whiney, demanding and all needing some extra attention. Without Marshall with to smooth out the rough edges, Mary was having a hard time resisting the urge to just shoot them all so they'd shut up about their stupid problems. Honestly, was she supposed to care about difficult bosses, domestic disputes and deficient funds? How was she supposed to give a shit about everyday problems when there were more important things to deal with?

The sun was setting by the time Mary left the last house. Too many hours had passed and the restlessness that had been driving her insane all day was rising. With a quick prayer to the car gods, Mary jammed her key in the ignition and tried to keep her jittering feet from flooding the engine. The car roared to life and barely sputtered as she sped over to Marshall's place.

The lights were off in his apartment but his truck was in its spot and there was an odd thrumming noise coming from the other side of his door. Hoping that he was just relaxing and listening to music, Mary banged on the door. When he didn't answer, she resorted to kicking the door- knowing that he'd answer then, if nothing else, to avoid a repair bill from his landlord.

So Mary was ready for it when the door flew open. What she wasn't prepared for was how Marshall looked when he answered the door. Her jaw dropped open at the sight of him wearing only a pair of blue jeans and listing drunkenly. His normally neat hair was all over the place and eyes squinted at her through whiskey fumes that radiated off of him like a cloud.

"Go away." He started to shut the door but Mary slid her foot in to catch it before it closed. Marshall staggered and it was easy for her to bully her way in to his place. He could barely stand and by the time he realized she was in his apartment, he was leaning against his door and trying to lock it. He peered at her through drunken eyes and then stared at his door. Mary almost laughed when he looked back at her and groaned.

"Sorry Marshall, I guess you weren't fast enough to keep me out," Mary said as she grinned at him. The smile faded fast as she looked around his normally neat home. Hurricane Drunk had hit his place hard. His jacket was on the floor, his boots were kicked in the general direction of his closet, bottles were laying haphazardly on his coffee table and there were CD cases spread out on the floor near his insanely expensive sound system. Even in the dark, the place looked like a mess.

"What are you doing here," he slurred out as he grabbed one of his button down shirts from the lamp it had been hanging from. It took a ridiculous amount of effort for him to slide into the shirt and he gave up on figuring out the buttons before he even got one.

"I came to see how you were doing. You seemed royally pissed when you left today and I wanted to check up on you."

"I'm fine."

"No, you're not. You're completely smashed, sitting in the dark and listening to…" Mary listened to the music for a second and realized that she couldn't understand a word of it. "Fuck. I don't even know what you're listening to. Is that even English?"

Marshall shook his head and then grabbed the lamp to support himself. Swaying briefly, he steadied himself and glared at his partner, "It's Icelandic."

"So 'I'm fine' means sitting in the dark, drunk and listening to music that you can't understand." Mary stared at him and wondered how the hell she was supposed to talk to him when he was like this. If he were sober or just a few beers down, she could deal with him, but this… She had not been expecting this.

Marshall staggered over to his couch and flopped down gracelessly. He sprawled out and his arms spanned almost the entire length of the back rest. With his head lolled back, Mary wasn't sure if he was still conscious or if he had passed until Marshall rolled his head in her direction when she sat down next to him.

"Didn't I tell you to go away," Marshall asked petulantly. The smell of whiskey was even more overpowering as she curled up next to him. Mary's eyes watered and she couldn't tell if it was the smell that did it or the sight of her best friend in pain.

"I'm not leaving until you tell me what's wrong." Grabbing the glass that he had apparently abandoned hours ago in favor of drinking straight from the bottle, Mary poured herself a drink and sat back expectantly. She rested her head on Marshall's shoulder and was startled to find herself staring directly at his scar. Since he always wore undershirts or kept it covered, Mary hadn't seen the wound since the day he had been shot.

"There's nothing wrong that more can't fix," Marshall muttered, leaning forward to grab the bottle. Mary thought about taking it away from him but, even in his drunken stupor, he knew what she was thinking and he dropped his other arm from the back of the couch to rest on her shoulders. "No, no, Mare. It's mine and I don't want to share."

"Marshall," Mary said quietly, "You need to tell me what's going on."

He was quiet but Mary was persistent. While she waited for him to talk, she listened to the unintelligible music playing in the background. She couldn't understand a word of it but it made her feel… pensive. Chalk one up for Marshall's word of the day but it was the only word Mary could think of to describe it. What really confused Mary, though, was why Marshall would listen to something like this while drinking.

"Talk to me Marshall," she said as she tried to ignore the music and all the feelings that went with it, "Tell me what's going on."

"You made me promise," he replied, "You made me promise but I never asked the same from you."

Mary reached up to touch the puckered skin and Marshall flinched. She had no idea what he was talking about but it didn't matter at this point. There was only one thing she could think to say, "Then why didn't you make me promise?"

"Cause if I had made you promise not to leave then it woulda been like putting you in a cage," Marshall took another swig from the bottle, "and you should never feel trapped like that. It makes you cranky and then you push and push and push people away until they leave."

He raised the bottle and used it to push a strand of hair out of her face. The odd gesture forced her attention away from the scar tissue and up to his face. He looked so… tired. Sad. Drunk. His voice, too, was changed. There was no sarcasm or laughter or smarmy recitation of facts. There was just whiskey and a wistfulness that Mary couldn't understand.

"You haven't left, Marshall, and I push you more than everyone else."

Marshall stared at her mournfully, "I can't. You said I had to stay so I did. But you're gonna leave me and I'm gonna miss you."

"What are you talking about Doofus? I'm not going anywhere." Genuinely confused, Mary set down her glass. She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. Surprisingly, Marshall didn't hug her back. He just took another shot from the half empty bottle and sighed.

"You're not going anywhere now. But you're getting married and there won't be any more pizza and beer nights after road trips." Mary opened her mouth to disagree but Marshall quieted her with a look before continuing, "And after a year or two, he's going to convince you that it's time to have kids whether you're ready or not. And you will because it's what you're supposed to do and you like to do what's right. The stupid white picket fence will show up about the same time that he tells you it's too dangerous to be a marshal anymore. Then you'll quit and be gone and I'll miss you so much that it'll hurt every time I step in the office and you're not there."

"Jesus Marshall, you have it all planned out don't you? What makes you think anyone can make me do shit that I don't want to," Mary blurted out belligerently. Marshall looked down at the sound of her indignant rage and smiled- which pissed her off even more. "And since when do I ever do the right thing?"

Marshall rolled his eyes and laughed, "Since when don't you do the right thing, Mare? You take baby-sit witnesses that just bitch and whine even though most of them should be in prison. You support your mother and sister even though they don't 'preciate you like they should." All the humor dropped away and Marshall shrugged. "You got engaged at an engagement party that you were pissed about. You do what you think is the right thing even when you hate it."

Mary frowned. Despite the two empty bottles on the coffee table and half empty one in hand, Marshall was still making more sense of her life drunk than she was sober. Taking it as a sign, Mary reached for the glass and drained it in one gulp before setting it back down. Mary leaned back against Marshall as the whiskey burned it's way down. One of her hands danced along the edge of his open shirt for a moment before he brushed it away with the bottle.

Surprised, Mary dropped her hands to her lap. He was angry- really angry- and she had no idea why. Upset? Yeah- that she could understand but there had to be more to this than what he had told her. So, with an unaccustomed hesitancy, she asked, "Why are you so pissed about all of this?"

"You're going to be domesticated," Marshall spat out bitterly. "He's going to call you 'kitten' and you won't even punch him for it."

Mary stared up at him incredulously, "Are you fucking kidding me? I'd smack him stupid if he called me that."

"No," Marshall insisted, "You're going to get used to it and, god help me, one day you'll start to think it's cute."

Stunned, Mary couldn't of a single thing to say. So she just sat there, listening to music that she didn't understand and watching as Marshall finished up the bottle. Before he downed the last gulp, he raised the bottle towards her and offered a toast in a resentful tone, "To you, Mare, I'll miss you."

That sparked her notoriously short fuse. She grabbed his lapels and pulled herself onto him. Straddling his lap and glaring at him fiercely, she snapped, "I'm not going anywhere, jackass. Now tell me what the fuck is really going on!"

Dropping the empty bottle, Marshall's hands flew to Mary's back and he rolled her onto her back faster than any drunken person should be able to move. So instead of having the upper hand, Mary was now flat on her back with Marshall kneeling over her, pinning her to the couch. His shirt was still clenched in her hands and he glared down at her so angrily that if it hadn't been Marshall, she would have been the tiniest bit scared.

"Nobody should love you despite how you are," he growled, "They should love you because of it."

Completely confused and enjoying the sensation of Marshall on top of her way too much, Mary could only sputter out a baffled, "What the hell are you talking about?"

Cold blue eyes locked onto hers and she realized with a jolt that he wasn't angry about the piss-poor engagement announcement- he was angry with her. Really angry with her. Damn near livid. If he could hold himself up straight, he'd probably be trying to shake some sense into her.

"You should be with someone who loves you because you're impossible and demanding and aggressive." His voice lost some of it's anger and dropped to a whisper, "You're amazing the way you are and no one should tell you that they're with you despite the way you are. There's nothing wrong with you."

Mary lay there for a second before the morning's conversation replayed in her head. Marshall hadn't flipped out when he had heard about the engagement. It was the comment of Raph's that she had joked about that had sent him flying out the door. One off-the-cuff crack about her personality had him running out the door and diving into a bottle.

"Jesus Marshall," Mary murmured softly, "It was just one stupid comment. Why did you let it bother you so much?"

"Because… because," he stammered. Conflicting emotions crashed in those wonderfully familiar eyes and Mary saw it the very second he made up his mind. There was a quick mutter of "Oh fuck it" before his lips came crashing down onto hers.

Mary was absolutely stunned. Lips that usually spouted facts and jokes were now hungrily pressed against her own. Soft and tasting of whiskey, they sent her mind spiraling. Marshall was kissing her and it felt… spine-tingling, erotic and fucking amazing. When his tongue teased her lips she had to bite back a moan. The shock had worn off and Mary's lips began to part as she relaxed. Unclenching her fists, she slid her hands up to neck to pull him in closer.

But just as she was ready to reciprocate in a big way, Marshall was gone. Where there had been heat and anticipation, there was just frustration and empty air. Mary sat up quickly and looked around.

Marshall was standing at the edge of the couch, staring down at her longingly. The expression on his face was heartbreaking and Mary's mind flooded with words like yearning, pining and aching. All those words and she couldn't think of a thing to say except, "What the hell?"

"You have your answer Mare." Marshall said softly as he turned and walked to his room.

Mary stared at the shutting door and wondered what the fuck had just happened. She had been ready to go and he had just… gone. She tried thinking back to what the question was that he had answered but all she could think of was the kiss. The taste of his lips on hers, the weight of his body pinning her down and the feeling of pure unadulterated want that was still coursing throughout her.

As she sat up, Mary felt something jam between two of her fingers. Looking down, she saw the ring that had caused the whole horrible mess today laying askew on her finger. It didn't fit. It didn't fit her finger or her life.

"Oh fuck this."

Mary yanked the ring off and flung across the room as she strode over to the closed bedroom door. There was no way in hell she was letting Marshall get away with this. 'He started it,' she thought as a smirk twisted up on her lips, 'And I'm damn well going to finish it.'