A/N: Erm, this was kind of a spur-of-the-moment deal. And it's currently 5:12AM, and I haven't slept for twenty hours, so please excuse the probably abundant typos and digressions. I'll read it in the morning (oh, wait, it is morning) and see if it makes sense. But anyway, a bit of m/m to take the edge off a bad day. Enjoy.
This is what happened: tears, pains, fractures, breaks. Either him or her in pieces, very nearly shattered.
Then, the other would come bearing incredible patience and superglue. And they'd never speak of it again.
This is what it took: a kidnapped older brother, a little one with a gambling problem, an FBI letter, a drinking mom, and memories and pictures that brought back the hurt. The ache. The yearning. The hate.
She had called him early that Saturday morning—the morning after Chris and Scott and Bill Donner—and asked him, no, demanded of him, to drive her. He heard the resolve in her voice—any schlup with any sense of self-preservation would have, it was hard to miss—but he was Marshall, and so he also heard the tiny hitch in her breath when he asked her where, noted the odd usage of the Mary-repellent word 'please.'
So, despite it being Saturday, despite being in his Tasmanian Devil pajama bottoms to celebrate his day off and watching, yes, you guessed it, the Tasmanian Devil on Looney Tunes drool and cackle, and despite being on only his third bowl of Frosted Flakes, he was at Mary's door in fifteen minutes flat, apprehensive.
Because partners were like dogs; they could smell each other's fears, worries. And Mary reeked of all of it.
No words were said when she took his keys from him—he had long ago given in and paid the extra four hundred dollars to get her insured because she drives like she's escaping gunfire, which is useful when we actually are escaping gunfire but otherwise will take five years off my life—and got into the passenger side without argument. The look on her face, the tension visible in her muscles, the way her jaw was set, and the fact that he knew Mary, really knew her better than I know the back of my own hand or the Chilean national anthem kept him from asking or breaking the silence.
And then, when she stopped outside the—of all things—community center, he didn't even blink; this was Mary. Whatever they were going to get into was either going to involve flapjacks, gunfire, or extreme angst on the part of anyone who got in her way. She killed the engine, took off the leather jacket—she's not carrying her gun?--, all without looking at him. Then, she rested her forehead on the steering wheel for a second, taking a breath and making a decision. He didn't ask, because that's what she needed.
Without taking her forehead off the wheel, she said in her there's-an-angry-mafia-boss-behind-that-door-so-take-the-witness-and-haul-ass voice, "Back me up." And then she was out of the car, walking up the gritty stone steps of the community center before he even had a boot on the concrete.
He knew her like he knew the back of his hand, the Chilean national anthem, where to aim to kill, the origin of the Tasmanian Devil, and the number of Tasmanian Devils printed on his pajama pants because, yes, he had counted.
He knew Mary, so he caught up with her just as the elevator was about to close. He got off with her on the third floor, took the first left, but didn't trail her when she strode through the fourth door on her right because he saw the sign posted next to it, and he understood.
"Family and Friends of Gamblers—Newcomers Welcome."
And no matter how much he wanted to, he didn't linger in the doorway, where he could see her the whole time because someone had propped the door open. He stood only long enough to hear the man at the podium ask, "Any closing remarks? Stories? Anyone else?" Then, Mary was at the front, met his eyes for just a moment, nodded the smallest fraction of an inch, I can do this, but I need to do this alone, and he backed away and wandered to the end of the hall to wait.
Anyone who walked past must have wondered why the community center warranted a security detail, what had transpired that required the presence of the six-foot-something, severe lawman standing near the end of the "support hallway," where all the cuckoos met. They would have wondered how he kept such a calculated stance, feet a foot apart, arms at his side, waiting and watchful, and they would know him as a lawman even without the badge. But he had eyes for no one who walked past; two scheming teenage boys walked by three times daring each other to tug on his tie or try to make him laugh like one would do with the guards at Buckingham Palace. In the end, neither of them dared.
A minute, an hour, a day later, Mary came hurtling out of the fourth door on the right. He said nothing about the redness in her eyes or her wet cheeks, nothing about the way her hand trembled as she thrust his car keys into his hands without breaking stride, about the way she jammed at the elevator button twenty-eight times before the door opened. Because he didn't have to.
He knew Mary like he knew the back of his hand, the Chilean national anthem, where to aim to kill, the origin of the Tasmanian Devil, the number of Tasmanian Devils printed on his pajama pants, the name of the Afghan minister of tourism, and the role of Charles Moskos in drafting Clinton's DADT policy toward homosexuals in the military.
He knew Mary, so he knew that she'd just ripped off her own clothes and skin in front of a roomful of strangers and was now unsure of how it fit.
He knew Mary, so when the elevator doors closed, and they were between the first and second floors, he hit the emergency stop button.
He didn't move to touch her or say anything when she sat and took deep, gasping breaths to catch her breath and stop the post-sobbing hiccups; he only sat down next to her a respectable distance away and waited.
Then, when she was ready, he would carefully puzzle it out; he would pick up this or that piece and realize, oh, yeah, that's part of the aorta, and this is the left ventricle. Then he'd put her heart back together with nothing but a comforting hand on her shoulder.
And when she was ready, he would know, and he would stand up and offer her his hand, which she wouldn't take. She would stumble up on her own, tired but feisty, and she would jam her hand against the stop button hard just to prove that she could.
When they walked out of the elevator together, in stride, both confident and heads-held-high, both unmistakably "fighting against the forces of evil," as the cliché goes, they might've been mistaken as guardian angels in disguise.
But only they knew that they were guardian angels—of each other.
The moment that would later set her off and reduce her to a puddle of tears and snot and wails was after help had arrived.
They said when they moved him out of the truck that he was dehydrated, lost a lot of blood, probably had dangerously low blood pressure, and (they didn't say this, but each and every one of them sure as Hell thought it because they all had the pleasure of meeting Inspector Shannon) probably acquired brain damage from dealing with the blonde shrew all day, every day.
So it was a surprise when, suspended by three medics who were moving him from the truck to the gurney, he opened his eyes halfway and said hoarsely, "Mary." She was, of course, hovering like some sort of bitter stench and put her hand on his cheek to steer his frantic, searching eyes to see her the second he was safely on the gurney. He raised his left hand to put over hers on his cheek despite the disapproving mutters of the medics who were trying to strap him down.
"Shut up, you've got a hole in your chest."
"You'll be okay." That was all he said—barely a breath—before his hand when slack, and his eyelids once again hid his hazy blue eyes.
The medics would not allow her to ride with Marshall, saying that they would go faster without an extra passenger (they meant without a woman with a gun breathing down their necks and threatening their genitalia), even with Stan's orders. Mary did the only other thing she knew; she went out and caught the bad guy for Marshall, my best friend, my only friend, my partner, my…, though it was less fulfilling than she'd have liked it to be because they were in a minivan, for God's sake, and there was no gunfire and she wasn't allowed to put a bullet into Horst's head. That should clear his diabetes right up.
All the while, she was fuming at Marshall:
Bastard, who's he to tell me I'll be okay when he's the one who—who—Damn high-and-mighty, righteous bastard.
And that was why she fought tooth and nail against Stan, her mother, Brandi, five nurses, a doctor, and even the deputy director of the FBI—Hell, I'll take on the PLA, the Senate, and the goddamn Rotary Club if it means I can stay with Marshall and get the last word in when he wakes up—and went three days without a toothbrush, shower, or a proper meal. All the time, she was thinking: Bastard, who's he to tell me I'll be okay when he—
So when he woke up at 5:42am on the third day, she was damn pissed.
Marshall blinked once, then again against the glare of the fluorescent light above him, groaned as he moved to sit up only to be forced down again by an agitated blond who looked—to put it lightly—like Hell.
"M- M-" he coughed, throat dry, and she automatically poured him a glass of water from the nightstand, gently, more gently than I thought she was capable of lifted him up, and held the glass slightly tilted as he sipped.
When he was done, she let him back down, put down the glass, and stood with her hands on her hips over him. He saw the bags under her eyes and the tangled, oily mess of her hair and her parched lips and sallow skin and thought, "She's beautiful."
"You nearly died," Mary snapped, accusatory, hands still on hips.
"Yeah, sorry for the inconvenience."
"Better not happen again, dumbass," she hissed, leaning down and taking his face in her hands. He stared up at her, slightly alarmed but still muddled from his three-day nap. Being so muddled, he naturally assumed what all infatuated men assume, and he let his eyelids flutter closed and tilted his chin upwards toward her.
Imagine his surprise, then, when Mary gave him a rough shake, startling his eyes open; to his credit, her nose nearly brushed his in the closeness.
She whispered threateningly, "You will be okay. Got it? You will tell yourself that you will be okay, and you'd better be okay or there's going to be Hell to pay, and it's going to start with a bullet up your—" And all he could do was give a strangled sort of 'uh-huh.'
Then, Mary Shannon quickly kissed her partner's forehead, turned on her heel, and went home to shower and sleep and eat something not deep-fried.
And, miracle of miracles, after a while, Marshall Mann was okay.
Marshall had been drunk before, usually following being shot at or shooting someone. And then there was that time in college that did not happen when he got drunk and sang at the top of his lungs—guess what—the Chilean national anthem. In turkey-themed pajama pants. Shirtless. Sitting on the branch of a tree. In the middle of the UNM campus. And it was on video. Thankfully, that was before the YouTube days, and Mary knew nothing about it.
Speaking of Mary... Well. Gulp.
"Marshall!" Aforementioned blond.
The slamming of the metal gate made him turn from his game—he still had his king and bishop left, and he could take on a little girl, no problem—and slur, "I thought you'd remind me why you broke six federal laws and jeopardized witness security in the morning. Thought you'd gone home. To your fiance."
"Don't be an idiot," Mary told him irritably, "I came back, and I'm not letting you drive like this. Besides, you're paying me back for the whiskey. Now, say goodbye to your new girlfriend, and let's go."
"Nuh-uh!" He was being petulant, and he knew it, despite his charming drunken stupor. "Gotta beat her! Gotta do something right, or I'll lose the- the chance."
Mary was somewhere between throwing the nearest thing within her reach—the idiotic "The Big Apple" snow globe on his desk—at his head and reaching over to tell him, "You're kind of cute when you're drunk." Instead, she veritably stomped around his desk, looked at his computer screen for a good five seconds, slapped his hand away from the mouse ("Don't be a meannnie, Mary! Hey, that's alliteration!"), made two clicks, and couldn't help but smile at the incredulous look on Marshall's face when CHECKMATE, YOU WIN appeared in big red letters on the screen.
Then, she manhandled him because he was a U.S. Marshal and could take it, because she wanted to get home and crash into bed, and because goddammit, was he in need of some tough love. Or maybe just love. Either way, he wasn't going to wallow on her watch.
She dragged him out of his seat by the scruff of his collar and draped his arm around her shoulders when he swayed dangerously. It was like this that they made it to his car, she grabbed the keys out of his pocket, shoved him none-too-lightly into the passenger seat, and drove seventeen miles above the speed limit straight to Marshall's house, all the while ignoring his whining-interspersed-with-factual-bits-of-information-everyone-had-to-know.
In fact, she more or less ignored/abused him until she finally dumped his sorry, drunk ass on his black leather couch, disappeared into his kitchen, and came back with a dishtowel, a bucket, and a bottle of water for tomorrow morning. All these items she set on the floor next to him, half-lying and half-sitting on the couch, head thrown back and rolling against the wall. With some effort from Mary and inane giggles from Marshall, however, he ended up in a relatively horizontal position. She was still ignoring Marshall's slurred bits of trivia and general attempts at getting attention, and to make it very clear that getting drunk like an idiot when no one's died does not get my freaking sympathy, Mary plopped down on the floor in front of the couch and turned on the TV, volume on low. And she waited.
It was past eleven and halfway into a rerun of Law and Order when she glanced back toward Marshall to find his eyes closed, breathing deeply. Finally.
Mary pulled herself up off the floor and was two steps away from the front door when she hesitated, cursed her kind, kind nature (not), and doubled back to the bedroom, where she grabbed the comforter for Marshall. Knowing she probably looked ridiculous dragging the huge navy blue tangle across Marshall's shiny wood floors and it's his fault for picking today to get wasted didn't stop her from lingering over his sleeping form and taking in his haggard appearance after tucking him in, wondering how he looked at once shattered and angelic in his sleep. With another sigh, she ruffled his hair affectionately and—after considering a moment—quickly kissed his forehead for the second time ever, this time without his having to have survived mortal peril. Just as she reached over him to turn off the lamp, his arm shot out with more agility and accuracy than any drunk person should rightly have. His hand grasped her wrist in midair, all the while his eyes closed, and she was startled enough to fall on her shapely butt onto the floor.
"What the f-" was barely out of her mouth when Marshall wrinkled his brow and said, "Don't- don't leave me."
He half-opened his eyes, fixed his gaze on her with barely a tilt of his head, and she was fixed, rooted to her spot. "Mare, don't leave," and his words were the slightest bit run together, an indication of his still-inebriated state. But his gaze was level, his hand on her wrist firm.
"Wha-" Mary began, ready to swear from the sheer confusion but checked herself; Marshall made little sense when he was sober … Instead, she said, "I am going home tonight."
There was a long pause when it finally registered in Mary's mind, a moment of clarity as to what exactly this was about.
"Mare?" Marshall was drifting off because of the long pause; he just managed to mumble her name, but now that she knew, it was important that she fix it, nip the bud in its root so that he'd get the idiotic idea of her leaving out of his head.
So she shook his shoulder twice to wake him up and spoke softly, both hands having taken one of his, when she said-promised-swore-on-her-life-and-all-that-was-holy-crossed-my-fingers-hoped-to-die, "I'm not leaving. I'm not going to leave because of Raph. I'm not going to leave if North Korea decides to use Albuquerque for nuclear target practice. I promise."
His eyes were open and looking into hers, but they didn't change, and so she shook him again and said, "Did you hear me? You're stuck with me, Ringo. War crimes in your past life, some sort of plight brought onto you by your promiscuous ancestors, I don't know. But you're stuck."
"Oh." And that was that, and he nodded and smiled and was asleep in thirty seconds flat.
"That's all it took?" Mary thought incredulously. Because she'd seen Marshall the past few days, she'd seen him downing whiskey like it was a three day weekend and the folks were going out of town, and he'd been the image of broken trust, broken by me.
Then, a horrified thought. "God, you're not going to remember this in the morning. I'm going to have to do all this again."
But she would, and they'd move on. Because when he was broken, she'd chase down all the pieces and try to put them back together to superglue them into some semblance of order. Albeit the final texture would be different. He'd do the same for her, and as time when on, they'd become a product of the other, a hodgepodge of the original pieces made unique by care and patience and someone else taking the time and putting effort into the reconstruction; after all, superglue fixed everything.