A/N: This is my first attempt at fanfic, so please be patient, but please review! If it's crap, I need to know. I do NOT love Raph, but he wouldn't leave me alone, so I wrote this from his POV. If anyone likes it enough to R&R, there may be chapters from other characters. He just had to get his in first, I guess....
As for spoilers, there are only very minor ones for early season two here, nothing too shocking if you watch the show, really. I think you'll be safe if you missed the end of the season.
Disclaimer: They're not mine, any of them. I am just borrowing them a bit, so please don't get mad and sue me. It would be a total waste of your time and money, I assure you.
It's a control freak thing. I wouldn't let you understand. ~ S.H. Underwood
He who strikes the first blow admits he's lost the argument. ~ Chinese Proverb
Raph stood just outside the door and rested his head against the wood for a moment. He drew in a deep, calming breath and promised himself that no matter what, tonight, they were not going to fight. Things were not going to get out of control the way they always seemed to every time he and Mary had a night together at home since she'd agreed to marry him. He shifted the bag of groceries in his arm, unconsciously flexed his fingers in the same gesture he used to use to focus himself just before he lifted his bat to step up to the plate, turned the knob, and went in. Later he'd remember the cool of the Albuquerque evening air and the smoothness of the surface of the woodgrain fondly as the last moments of peace he had that night.
When he entered the house, all his carefully-tended optimism wobbled. The sight of the gaping holes and the pink insulation and wiring trailing from them never failed to tighten up his stomach. A home should be a place of stability, of wholeness, and the wounded walls of this house seemed to be mocking his efforts to create that environment with Mary. Worse still, he would always be reminded of the night the FBI crashed into the living room in the middle of the night, guns drawn, and tore Brandi out in tears. There had been nothing he could do but stand helpless on the sidelines and watch. "Focus. Put it out of your mind. You can't control that right now, so just let it go. Just focus on putting together a nice meal for you and Mary tonight," he told himself, and so he deliberately walked past the place where he'd started repairs before Mary had told him in no uncertain terms to stop and toward the kitchen to unload the groceries.
Brandi came darting into the living room when she heard the sound of the front door open, her eyes just a little too blue, her face just a little too pale, and Raph realized that she was inches away from one of her famous crying jags. Distantly, Raph felt that he should ask her what was wrong, but Brandi put on an overbright smile, so at least she was going to brave it out., and all he felt was a rush of relief. When had this become so common that he didn't even have the curiosity anymore to try to find everyday tragedy had Brandi wound up so tightly?
Where was Mary? The battered purple Probe had been out front. He exchanged casual conversation with Brandi while he put away the groceries, and tried as hard as possible not to notice the way Brandi followed him around the kitchen like a small, hungry creature waiting to be petted. He didn't like the way she followed him with her eyes, the way she always insinuated there was something more between them than a family relationship. Maybe once he'd almost slipped, but he was in control of himself now, and Mary was the woman he loved, the woman he'd chosen....
As if his thoughts conjured her, Mary herself stalked out of the short hallway, cellphone firmly held to her ear, dressed not in a comfortable "night at home outfit," but rather in one of the jackets and slacks outfits that Raph had come to know and almost hate because they meant she was going to her job, her all-important, super-secret job. As she crossed the room, her eyes flicked to Raph and to Brandi, but her attention was clearly with whomever was on the other end of the phone. She took the large black duffel she was carrying over to the door and dropped it there before turning back toward the kitchen.
"...Yeah, yeah, yeah, smartass. Keep it up..... You know I DO have a gun......" She rolled her eyes and smiled at whatever was being said over the phone, and even though she was in a state of constant motion as she picked up a couple of paperbacks off the shelf and added them to the bag, then came to the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of water, and opened the top, her body language was relaxed. "Just get over here and pick me up......Ten minutes." She ended the call with the same mischievous little smile playing across her lips. Of course. She was talking to Marshall. He should have known, really.
Raph felt the irritation that had first begun when he'd seen the her with the black bag click up another notch. Everything he'd planned, everything he'd wanted for this evening, and now.... "You're leaving?" She holstered her phone, and in that small movement, her entire stance changed. She was on guard. Her eyes met his. That smile he never got to see was completely gone now. Something about that change, that shuttering off of her tenderness sharpened all the knives, yanked all the chains, and he felt the anger and hurt he'd sworn not to indulge tonight blossom like some deadly flower.
"I have to go to work, Raph. I will probably be gone a couple of days. I'll see you when I get back, okay?" Her tone was light, but forced. Working hard to maintain the peace. What he had tried to do. A tolerance.
"That's it? That's all you're going to say? 'I'm going away for a couple of days. See you when I get back. Sit. Stay. Good dog.'"
"What the hell, Raph? Did you get hit in the head today at some point? Should I be concerned about a concussion?" Her voice held some heat, but was still not heavily combative. It was more the voice of a person talking to someone being totally unreasonable, the tone he hated. She knew he hated it. She crossed her arms, shifted her stance to face him fully. Did she even know she'd settled her weight on the balls of her feet like someone getting ready for physical combat? He glanced at her hands where they were gripping her forearms, another outward sign of her own struggle for control, and it was then that he noticed the absence of her ring. Raph was vaguely aware that Brandi had decided discretion was the better part of valor and had scurried out of the kitchen when their voices had become raised.
"Why do you think it's okay to shut me out all the time? We're going to be married, Mary. Man and wife. That means that we are going to have to put our lives together. All of it. There is not going to be any you anymore. Any me. Just us. That's what marriage IS. It's built on trust. It's more than just two people playing house. Why can't you see that?"
She pulled away from him as if he'd physically grabbed at her. There was a look of something like restrained horror or revulsion on her face. There was a knock at the front door, and a moment later, Marshall Mann opened the door and looked in. One glance told him everything he needed to know about the confrontation taking place around the kitchen island. Without saying a word, he simply stepped in to grab Mary's bag, and Mary turned to glance at her partner. Raph didn't miss the moment of unspoken communication between them. That Mary had this intimacy with Marshall was something that Raph constantly tried to tell himself was just another part of her job. He tried to be grateful that there was someone who was protecting Mary in whatever this was she did. Sometimes, though, like tonight, Marshall was just another reminder of how wide the gap between the two of them really was.... Mary turned back to Raph, Marshall took the bag, closed the door, and went back to the vehicle.
As her attention came back to Raph, he braced himself. Now the yelling part of the evening would commence. She simply looked at him a moment. "Studying me like I was something she's never seen before....like a different species," Raph thought. This was the calm before the storm. It didn't happen the way he was used to, though. Something completely different occurred.
"We have had this conversation over and over, Raph. I'm not trying to shut you out, but I cannot tell you more than I have. You're right about one thing, though. Maybe this is about trust. Maybe this is about you not trusting me..." She shook her head, raised a hand in a gesture of halting herself, a gesture of warding. "I have to go. I cannot do this with you right now. I will not do this with you right now. We will talk more when I get back." Mary never raised her voice. She did not look back. The door closed, and Raph was left alone with a half-unpacked bag of groceries, a house mostly destroyed, and the sinking sense that everything he most wanted was sliding further and further out of his grasp with every passing moment.
Now, make your way to that almighty green & white button and let me know what you think, please.