PS I'll Cry For You
Feet pounding against the sidewalk was the only sound he could hear but it didn't stop the images in his brain. Mary was lying on a gurney, she wasn't breathing, wasn't conscious, and her heart wasn't beating.
His breath came in ragged gasps and tears slid down his cheeks unnoticed. He couldn't get away from himself. He couldn't get away from the voice in his head that was screaming that he should have been there. He should have been backing his partner up instead of out on another dead-end date thing.
He stopped. Hands on his knees, head hanging toward the ground.
He would happily trade places with her. He wouldn't make it if she didn't, he understood that. He had been angry and he wasn't ready to hear her explain. She understood, she'd been there before. These things only happened when they were at odds with one another. They were invincible as a team.
He should have been there. His brain cycled back to that thought.
His phone buzzed in his pocket.
He answered anyway.
"You should come back now." Voice soft, no explanation.
"Is she?" Marshall could only choke out those two words. Even he wasn't sure which question he was asking at that moment.
"She's back in surgery. She'll want you here when she gets out." A half laugh - half sob escaped Marshall's throat.
"I'm on my way."
He paced the halls, hung his head between his knees when he sat, refused all offers of food. He let Stan clasp his shoulder in solidarity because Stan seemed to need it but he could draw no comfort from the older man's touch.
Her family slept, slumped in the hard waiting room chairs. Marshall marveled at their ability to sleep. He would never sleep again. Not until this turned out the way that he needed it to. And if it didn't, he pushed the thought away. His brain was unable to deal with that possibility.
Thirteen hours later. God, it had been too long. What could they possibly be doing in there? His head and heart were pounding in tandem. Mary would know. She would slip a couple pills into his hand quietly when his coffee had cooled enough to swallow them without scalding himself. But Mary wasn't here.
His brain once again snapped back to his last image of her, lying on that gurney and, oh God, not breathing. His breath hitched and he buried his face in his hands. He needed to be quiet, he couldn't wake Mary's family. He couldn't deal with them awake right now. He felt Stan's hand tighten on his shoulder. He appreciated the gesture.
He gently excused himself and found the bathroom. He emptied his bladder and washed his hands. Looked at his reflection in the mirror.
He would be so alone without her. Anguish struck him. He darted back into the stall and emptied the contents of his stomach. Nothing but coffee. It was even more bitter with the reappearance. Have to hold it together. This was not the time to fall apart. He rinsed his mouth out and washed his hands again.
He fell back into his seat in the waiting room, resumed his vigil. Continued thinking of all the things they had seen and done together. A lifetime of memories but not even close to enough.
The surgeon appeared in the doorway to the waiting room. He held his surgical cap in his hands and he looked tired. Marshall couldn't decipher any other emotions.
"Are you the family of Mary Shannon?" His tone normal, modulated for the middle of the night. Marshall tried to decipher clues about what was to come but his power of cognition was all but gone.
Stan woke her family quickly and then they were standing with him, rubbing at bleary eyes. Jinx slipped her hand into his and he looked at her in surprise. She looked at him with sad, sober eyes and he could see just a hint of Mary in her. He squeezed her small hand, nothing like Mary's, and then forgot to breathe as the doctor opened his mouth.
"Mary is a tough girl, she's a fighter. Without getting too technical we were able to repair most of the damage. She's as stable as can be expected under the circumstances but the next 24 - 48 hours are still critical. We're going to leave her on the ventilator, sedated. We want to give her body a chance to heal but she did show signs of waking up when we decreased the sedation. You should all go home and get some rest. She's going to need you. Let us take care of her now."
Her family nodded, too tired to ask any questions. The doctor retreated and they turned to pack up their things. They needed to sleep in real beds. Marshall slumped, overcome with exhaustion, anguish, fear. He felt Stan's hand on his arm again.
"I've got you," he spoke quietly. "I'll drive you home." Marshall shook his head once, tightly.
"I'm not leaving."
"You heard what the doctor said," Stan attempted to cajole. He knew he wouldn't win the argument if Marshall had his mind made up but he made the attempt.
"No. I have to be here. I'm not leaving her here alone." He glanced at Stan as if surprised to find him there. "I need some time alone," he confessed brokenly. "I appreciate all you've done," he squirmed slightly in his skin.
Stan nodded, he understood the closeness of these two as much as anyone did and he could feel the pain radiating off the younger man.
"Make sure her family gets home okay." Marshall's eyes begged him for something but he couldn't decipher the question. Stan nodded.
"I'll take them home. I'll stay with them if they need me. Call me anytime Marshall."
Marshall hung his head and turned away. Stan patted him on the shoulder. No useless words of comfort or platitudes were uttered.
Marshall waited. He sat, he paced, he ran his fingers through his hair until it stood straight up. He asked for an update as often as he could without annoying the staff. A young nurse took pity on him and explained that no change was the best thing right now. She was stable and healing. That was the best they could hope for. He thanked her but the tightness in his chest remained.
The nursing staff watched him. They changed shifts. The charge nurse, married to a cop herself, took pity on him and motioned him over. Marshall was standing beside her almost before she finished the gesture.
"You know we don't allow visitors in the ICU. Certainly not visitors who aren't family." Marshall nodded but felt the tiniest flicker of something that might be hope flutter in his chest. "Look, I know how it is. Partners are," she trailed off. "Stay out of the way. Sit quietly, hold her hand, talk to her, and don't make me regret doing this."
Marshall nodded solemnly. His knees were weak. She noticed and took his arm. "I can't make any promises," she looked at him earnestly. "And I can't predict the future but I've been here a long time and I've seen patients come and go. I will tell you this, I have a good feeling about your partner. Hang in there. It's tough, just hang in there."
Marshall felt the fist unclench just the smallest bit and he sucked in a breath. It felt like the first one in days. They reached the glass door of Mary's cubicle and Marshall stopped. He studied her, if he ignored the tubes and wires she looked like she was sleeping. The edges of his vision turned gray and his knees trembled but he held on and after three breaths he felt grounded enough to enter the room.
The nurse had disappeared and Marshall had no idea if he had said thank you or goodbye. He pulled the only chair in the room up to Mary's bed and he perched on the edge. He reached out and clutched her fingers in his hand, careful not to disturb anything. He felt tears soak in to the arms of his shirt as he leaned toward Mary and he swiped at his face. He couldn't feel the tears that flowed silently down his face.
"Mary," his voice was rusty. "Mary, I'm here with you and everything is going to be fine." He regaled her with stories of his childhood and useless trivia that, if she were awake she would roll her eyes at and then punch him for when he went on too long. Finally he slumped in his chair, her fingers still clasped in his and he slept.
He was disoriented when the nurse woke him. It took a minute before he remembered where he was and why he was there. Mary. His eyes searched for her frantically. "Mr. Mann," the nurse was calm even if Marshall wasn't. "Mary has been breathing over the vent for several hours now. She's doing much better than expected. We want to try her off the vent and if she doesn't have any problems we'll start weaning her sedation and let her wake up. You should go down to the cafeteria and find something to eat for a while." She hinted gently and Marshall understood. They didn't want him here for this.
He nodded, grateful for the rules that had already been broken for him. "I just need a moment," he whispered brokenly. She nodded and left the room. Marshall's tears came again and he didn't try to stop them or wipe them away. He ran his thumb over Mary's knuckles before he bent and kissed them.
"I don't know if you can hear me Mer, but don't leave us okay? If not for me than for Raph and Brandi and Jinx. I'll take care of things for a while but we all need you better."
The nurse popped her head in again and Marshall nodded. He bent down and kissed Mary's cheek and smoothed her hair away from her forehead. He looked at her as if she might disappear if he turned away, then he turned away. His heart thumped in his chest and he felt like he couldn't catch his breath as he walked away but no one would know it to look at him. Scratch that, Mary would know but she was lying there and she couldn't know.
He looked at his watch. It was still early. He didn't know if he should call her family now or let them sleep a while longer before he woke them to this horribly uncertain reality.
He called Stan. Stan could make the hard decisions for a while. Stan offered to come back and when Marshall demurred he said he would pick Mary's family up and bring them down at a decent time, instinctively knowing that Marshall still wasn't ready for the world.
Marshall walked to the cafeteria but once he was there the idea of food made him nauseated so he walked aimlessly around the hospital until he judged a sufficient amount of time had passed.
The same nurse found him sitting in the waiting room thirty minutes later, shoulders hunched as if the weight of the world was resting on his shoulders. He looked up at her touch. She smiled. "She's breathing on her own and her vital signs are good. She's still asleep but if you'd like to come back you can sit with her until she wakes up."
Marshall leapt to his feet and he felt like he was really breathing for the first time since that dreadful call came through.
"Thank you, thank you so much." The words all came out in a rush and he stepped around her carefully to get back to Mary's room. It was with a lighter heart that Marshall sat and took Mary's fingers in his once again. He watched her earnestly for hours before he saw a sign that she was waking up. Her mouth twitched and her face tightened like she was in pain.
"Mer?" He kept his voice down. She cracked her eyes open. Her voice was rough when she spoke.
"You look like crap Doofus." Marshall lowered his head as he laughed and cried in equal parts.
"Marshall?" she asked anxiously when her partner showed no signs of composing himself. "Are you okay? What happened?" Her words sobered him immediately.
"What do you remember?" She was quiet as she processed her memories. Her eyes widened.
"Is fine," he hurried to reassure her. "She's already been relocated. Albuquerque PD is working your case and when they find the guy..." Marshall trailed off and Mary watched through hazy eyes as Marshall's whole body tensed with pent up rage.
"Don't," she said softly. "Stay here with me, don't disappear into your head." He looked over at her gratefully. "My family?"
"Stan took them home last night. He was going to bring them back this morning but I told him to wait until you were awake. I should call him and get everyone over here."
"Don't," she spoke groggily. "Let's wait for a while. I'm not ready to start the drama train yet."
Marshall relaxed at her answer and continued to hold her hand as she fell back asleep.
When Mary woke again the warm hand holding hers belonged to Raphael. Her mom and sister were flitting anxiously around the room and Jinx confessed that she'd sent Marshall home because he looked like he was about to fall over. Mary started to call him but she realized that she had no idea where her phone was and then the thought was gone as the good drugs took effect once again and she was asleep.
On day three they moved her to a regular room. The doctors pronounced her a miracle and certain to make a full recovery. They still wouldn't give her anything to drink because of the intestinal damage but they gave her enough morphine that she didn't care for long.
On day four they drug her out of bed to cruise in the hall with her IV pole in tow. She was amazed at how quickly exhaustion and pain took her out and she was occupied trying to keep her sister out of the drawers. She fell asleep without seeing Marshall.
Day five an enormous bouquet arrived and she knew it was from her partner without asking. Wildflowers. Unruly, unmanageable. No card. Mary had a strange feeling that something was off but Raph came in, excited about work that day and she was distracted.
Day Six the doctors pronounced her well enough for clear liquids if she took it slowly. Chicken broth had never tasted so good. Stan walked in as she was taking her final bite. He looked thrilled by her progress. Mary questioned why he was alone and sent her family away so they could talk privately.
"Where's Marshall?" She cut to the chase as soon as they were alone.
"What do you mean?" Stan looked confused, worried that something was going on with Mary that someone forgot to tell him.
"I haven't seen him since I woke up in the ICU. Where is he?"
"He hasn't been at work all week. He's been here with you," he spoke slowly. "He's called me every night to give me an update."
"Well, I haven't seen him," Mary was getting agitated.
"I'll call him, get him in here. There has to be an explanation." Stan pulled his phone out of his pocket.
"Don't," Mary stopped him. "Let him be for now. I'll call him and kick his ass or," she paused remembering the look on his face when she woke up to him sitting there, "something."
She waited until visiting hours ended to make the call. He answered on the first ring.
"Where are you?" She demanded.
"Down in the cafeteria," he answered with the slightest hesitation.
"Get up here now."
"What's wrong?" He sounded breathless at her demand.
"Just get up here." She hung up on him.
He walked into the room three minutes and forty-five seconds later. She was shocked when she saw him. She'd looked in the mirror. She knew that she looked like she had been run over by a truck. She must have lost ten pounds since she was shot. Pounds that she could afford to lose she had thought wryly to herself. Though this was not the way she would have chosen to do it.
Marshall though, if she'd lost ten pounds he'd lost fifteen and it was weight that he could ill afford to lose. The rings under his eyes were purple. The irritation she felt with him disappeared in an instant. He looked tortured.
"Marshall," she breathed in the voice usually reserved for the most frightened witnesses. "Sit down right there." She motioned to the chair next to her.
He sat without a word and pure exhaustion radiated off him.
"Marshall," she reached over with barely a wince and grasped his hand tightly. "Talk to me. Where have you been? What's going on?"
He hesitated and she pulled him bonelessly over to sit on the bed beside her.
"Marshall," she reached over and cupped his cheek. "Tell me."
"Your family was here," he finally spoke and she relaxed fractionally. It was unlike Marshall to be quiet. "I didn't want to intrude."
"And so, you are haunting the hospital but you never came to see me?" The hurt at his excuse showed even through her concern.
"I saw you," he didn't meet her eyes and suddenly the light came on.
"You are here at night. And you're not sleeping." It was not a question. She looked confused. "You're going to have to explain."
He started to pull away but she didn't let go of his hand. "When I close my eyes I see you lying on that gurney," his voice broke. "I hear Bobby telling me that you were shot. I should have been there Mer, I'm so sorry."
He folded in on himself with broken sobs. She pulled him carefully into her arms. He rested his body on the bed next to her but she held his head tightly to her shoulder. She ran her fingers through his hair. She let him wind himself down, silent tears escaping her own eyes. She let him hold her even when it became uncomfortable. He finally grew quiet.
"I'm here Marshall, I'm right here with you." She listened to his breath hitch and suddenly saw, with a flash of clarity. Marshall loved her. Not just the way that two partners cared about each other but in an everlasting eternal way.
She was still awake when Marshall's hands went slack around her and she knew he was asleep. She was awake the next morning when Raph walked in, wafting the smell of coffee ahead of him. She carefully waved him away without waking Marshall. 'I'll call you later,' she mouthed and Raph nodded and left her room. If not with understanding then at least without argument.
She managed to wave the hospital staff off until nine when Marshall finally woke up on his own. He looked at her and moved to pull away, embarrassed. But Mary held onto him and looked him square in the eye.
"Marshall," she said slowly so he knew it was important. "You are my best friend. You are my only friend. You asked me before what I needed and then you were that. Now I will be what you need, whatever you need. I can no more lose you than I can quit breathing." She covered his lips when he moved to speak. "I had a lot of time to think last night. This isn't simple," she chucked without humor. "Nothing in my life ever seems to be simple. And I'm no good at this. Loving me is like wrestling an alligator but I love you. And if you want to go there," she trailed off uncertainly, trying to read his eyes. They were blue and stormy this morning but earnest and hopeful.
"Raph?" He questioned.
She looked at his collar bone. "I never should have let that go so far. I care for Raph, and shit, I never wanted to hurt him but it's not fair to keep him when I'm," she paused. "Embarrassed by the person he is. He's a good man," she hurried to continue. "But he doesn't get my jokes. Francesca pointed that out." She let Marshall go and he levered himself back onto the chair beside her bed.
"Are you sure this isn't just the drugs talking?" Marshall tried to make a joke but she heard the anxiety in his voice.
"I'm sure," she said seriously. She waited for him to say something.
"I won't be your rebound guy Mer," he whispered. "I love you more than anything. I'd be lost without you. You can't use me up and throw me away," he almost pleaded.
"I know. We'll take it slowly. You thought I didn't hear the toast you gave at my engagement party but I heard you."
He nodded. She stopped talking. Marshall was still dead tired. It was with much cajoling, begging, and threatening that Mary convinced the staff to bring a cot into the room for Marshall. He wasn't ready to go home. He slept through her daily activities and she kept a watchful eye on him. He woke periodically with nightmares and she calmed him the best she could.
When evening shift started and the day wound down she scooted over and coaxed him back into her bed. She tangled her fingers with his and he relaxed notably. He needed a stress debriefing, maybe counseling. It didn't matter that he wasn't directly involved in the incident. He was wounded. They slept. Marshall didn't dream.
Day ten. Mary was ready to go home. She had progressed nicely from clears to a soft diet, to nearly normal food. Marshall had progressed from a ghost haunting the halls to her constant shadow. She was tolerant of the hovering because he was still shaky and tired. He smiled now and joked. He ate when Mary did but he needed to be close to her.
She noticed his anxiety this morning. He tried to hide it but she could feel it radiating off his fingers when he passed her breakfast tray. Her family had been in and out of her room over the last few days. No one questioned the fact that Marshall had been there every time they were. He was a fixture in her life and they realized it even if she hadn't.
He was terrified that she was going to dismiss him and go home with her family to recover and that the conversation they had four nights ago would become something they just didn't talk about. She squeezed his fingers as he walked by and she looked him square in the eye. I am not leaving you. I will not walk away, she tried to convey with that touch. He didn't blink ten minutes later when she sent him with Brandi and her mother to find her some 'real coffee and not this hospital swill.'
She looked at Raph, sitting in the corner, seriously. "Sit down over here," she said evenly. "We need to talk."
He cried, she didn't. He never asked why. There were so many reasons she could have given if he'd asked but the truth was deep down he was relieved too. He wasn't equipped to deal with calls in the middle of the night telling him that his fiance had been shot. He knew he would never change who she was. That was part of what he loved about her. He didn't argue with her decision. He sat quietly with her for a few minutes and then kissed her goodbye before leaving the room.
Jinx started to react when Mary told her that she was going home with Marshall and that Raph would be moving back to his old place but Mary quieted her with a look. Mary didn't bother to tell Brandi at all. She knew that Raph and her sister were close enough that he would talk to her about it - and she was right.
Marshall reappeared after everything had settled down and he took his place by Mary's bed. He reached for her and she took his hand without hesitation. Mary could feel Marshall relax with her touch and she smiled at him.
The doctors discharged her three hours later with strict instructions to limit her activity and continue to let her body heal. Mary didn't pay much attention to what they said because she knew Marshall was listening.
She refused to get in the wheelchair for the walk to the car. It was a rare fight that she would have lost, squared off against a nurse twice her size and just as stubborn, but the woman backed down When Marshall pulled rank. He knew that she would be better off following directions but she'd spent so many days without any fight in her that he couldn't stand to see her lose this one. He walked every slow painful step with her and when she leaned heavily on him he supported her without a word. She was exhausted when he lifted her feet into his truck and he gave her his jacket to cushion her head against the window.
He fought against his desire to carry her, sleeping, into the house, knowing she'd hate it. And he tried to hide how much it hurt him to watch her struggle up the walk. She let him tuck her into his bed and she urged him to lay down beside her. They were both asleep in under five minutes and Marshall didn't have any nightmares, sleeping next to her.
Three months later
Mary sailed through her stress debriefing. She was pissed that she had been shot but three weeks after the incident they collared the guy and he was going away for a long time. She didn't remember anything from that night and was spared from the stress of her near death experience.
It took more time but Marshall clawed through the terror, loathing, and self doubt. Mary was there every step of the way. Sometimes she was on the couch next to him, occasionally perched on a hard chair in the waiting room, impatiently watching for him to emerge but she was always ready with a hug or a squeeze of his hand.
He tortured himself with the idea that he should have been with her but Mary had no doubt where Marshall was concerned. The anxiety about his worthiness as a partner was his alone and she reminded him of that often. He went back to work reluctantly because she insisted that no one else could monitor her witnesses but he wouldn't take any new cases or go out of town.
She held his hand because she knew he needed it. If it had been his ego that was injured she would have given him a swift kick and sent him out the door but this had rocked his world and she let him meander until he could hold his own again. She finally felt him relax. He settled into their working and personal relationship. The lines around his eyes softened and he laughed that easy laugh again. She knew he was finally sleeping too, because she was sleeping with him. She shared his bed but she wasn't his lover. She remembered her promise to go slow. He remembered that she wasn't fully healed and he was anxious about hurting her.
She eased her way back into work starting with thirty minute visits where she sat reeling in her chair and left with Marshall when he pretended to remember something urgent that he forgot at home. Now she was up to seventy-five percent and ready to be there full time but she hadn't won that argument with Stan or her doctor yet.
She had however, gotten the all clear for physical activity and Marshall had avoided her long enough. It happened when they were sitting on the couch watching black and white I Love Lucy reruns. Mary wary was laughing so hard that her side ached and Marshall was grinning that goofy grin that she had grown to love. She leaned over and took his hand and his attention was immediately on her. She muted the TV and green eyes met blue. "I will not ever leave you Marshall." Her words were simple but Marshall heard the vow in them.
She reached up and took his face in her hands and kissed him. His lips parted against hers and she felt him moan softly. She threaded her fingers into his hair and they clenched reflexively when he tangled his tongue with hers. She didn't let him back off when he tried and soon he forgot that he was worried about hurting her.
He urged her to her feet by her elbows and they shuffled awkwardly down the hall still tangled in each others arms. She pushed him down onto the bed and followed him down. He chuckled when they bounced as they landed. She patiently unbuttoned his shirt, taking time to savor the newness of the experience. Marshall's chest was well muscled, his skin surprisingly smooth and soft. She ran her fingers across his clavicle and he shivered. She looked in his eyes and saw passion.
"Marshall," she whispered and there were no more words as desire took over. Mary fumbled with her shirt and Marshall fumbled with her bra. Hot hands touching, exploring previously forbidden places. Pants were shed in much the same way. Marshall's belt proved to be the most difficult item of clothing and they broke away from one another reluctantly as he pulled it from the loops of his jeans with vigor. Marshall laughed when they bumped noses and Mary laughed with him.
Mary had been with a fair number of guys but she'd never been with anyone like Marshall before. He was nervous but he didn't take sex too seriously. He laughed while he explored the back of her knee. He didn't rush and he didn't strut. She let him take the lead. He turned her over, careful to keep his weight off her torso. They came together slowly, gently and he gave her a minute to adjust to his body.
He watched her, making sure that she had everything she needed. He held himself back until she was writhing in pleasure. He slowed, watching as she came down from her high. She opened her eyes lazily and saw him watching her. She reached between them and touched him. Then she held on as he came apart in her arms.
He shifted his weight to the side and waited until his heart stopped pounding to open his eyes. Mary was watching him and her eyes were wet.
"What's wrong?" He didn't attempt to hide his alarm and he pulled away, looking at her. He was familiar with the entrance and exit to the gunshot wound that he had re-bandaged daily until they were healed. He started to turn her to look at her back when she got him stopped.
"I'm fine Doofus, everything is fine. Everything is more than fine." She reached up and stroked his cheek. "I'm crazy about you Marshall." He nodded seriously.
"I love you Mary Shannon. I've loved you since the day we met." She snorted as he brushed at her tears.
"The day I put salt in your coffee instead of sugar?"
"Yes, that day. I knew you were crazy and beautiful and difficult and everything I wanted in a woman." She pulled him down and held him close.
"Sleep now crazy man. I am here with you."
And for all time, good and bad, she was.