A/N: Okay, so I started writing this before the whole catastrophe in 'Don't Cry For Me, Albuquerque', so we're just going to pretend that didn't happen...
Spoilers up to 'Let's Get It Ahn'
Raph's mother insisted that Mary have a bachelorette party, but she certainly wasn't going down easy.
She had suggested that her almost-daughter-in-law get some of her girlfriends to do it, but as she soon found out, that idea was out of the question. Brandi and Jinx had offered to throw her a party, but Mary, as it was so eloquently put, would rather pull out her own teeth and suck a lemon before subjecting herself to whatever horrors they had in store. Raph's mother had also insisted upon doing the honors until her son convinced her that she probably wouldn't make it out of the party alive.
So her distaste for male strippers and traumatized in-laws leaves her in Marshall's apartment two nights before her wedding, nursing a six pack of cheap beer, listening to music on his God-awfully ancient record player, and exchanging memories and dreams with her partner.
The quiet evening in was his idea, so he tries to take the conversations about Raph in stride, roll with the punches, but one too many forced laughs and half-hearted smiles (just one is too many in her book) give him away. He sees it coming when she puts her second bottle down and looks him in the eye.
"Okay, what's eating you?" she asks, her tone conveying her strict no-bullshit policy. As soon as he opens his mouth to speak, she stops him with a wave of her hand and a string of words telling him not to even try playing dumb, because she's known him long enough to know when he's faking.
He knows she can tell, doesn't doubt her for a second, so it's a sobering glance at his brown bottle, then:
"Do you love him?"
He can't discern any changes in her face, but watches her fingers slide up her thigh and make a hasty circle around the outline of Raph's grandmother's ring before returning to the counter.
She gives a quick glance to her own bottle and nods, knowing it'll hurt him but also knowing that a lie will end up hurting him more.
"Yeah, I do, Marshall. I really do love him."
And it's the truth. No matter how badly he wants her to be lying, how much he tries to chase it away with bitter whiskey and self-indulgent wishing, the truth is there, and she's not leaving her fiancé.
He nods, keeping his eyes away from her face; he plans on carrying out the rest of this conversation with his beer bottle.
"Believe me, I know how hard it is to not chase after the things you want the most."
He speaks, and the only way he can get the words out is because he's not looking at her.
"You know I love you, right?"
She's looking at him now, begging him with her eyes to look up, so he does (like he could ever say no to her anyways), and he is met with calm eyes, which is funny because he half-expected her to be running out the door right about now.
"Yeah," she replies. "I know."
He absently notes the change in songs: Helplessly Hoping, one of his favorites. For awhile it is the only noise in the room, and before they know it the song is over and they haven't said a word to each other.
"Put on the ring," he says to break the fragile tension; she does as she is asked.
She gives a little sideways smile, and he chuckles to himself in response. That smile would be the death of him someday. He takes her hand gingerly, making sure he's not overstepping any boundaries, and when she doesn't pull away he lightly tugs it closer to examine the ring.
It's beautiful. Not even he can deny that. The sun is in the later stages of its setting, so there is a deep orangey-red tint to the diamond that makes it just that much lovelier, and makes the pain in his heart just that much stronger.
His grip loosens, and her fingers pull back like clockwork. His gaze lingers on hers, electric blue eyes meeting warm brown, and just as expected she holds his gaze, unwavering and fearless as always.
God, she's beautiful.
He sighs contentedly and resumes the staring contest with his half-empty longneck.
"You never did break a promise."
She fingers her ring and smiles wistfully, not because she regrets her promise, but because she doesn't and she knows that hurts him. "No, I didn't."
Two days later he walks down the aisle, arm-in-arm with the woman he loves: a truly bittersweet occasion. They reach the end of the short aisle, and his stomach gives a brief clench before the pastor speaks.
"Do you give this woman?"
A wave of silence washes over his frame as the attendees eagerly await his reply.
Even though he can barely see through the thick haze of emotion, even though he wants to run right out of the chapel with her right now and never look back at goat stew and altars decorated in white, he tightens his hold on her arm for the shortest of seconds before giving his reply.
"Yes, I do."
He pulls her close for a kiss on the forehead, to which she shuts her eyes and bites her lip as the pain in her chest passes.
She turns to Raphael, whose eyes are easy and smile is charming. He sends an appreciative glance to Marshall as Mary takes her place beside him, hand-in-hand with the man she loves.
Vows are exchanged, lips meet, and overemotional mothers cry, all while Marshall hides out in the far end of a pew and lets a sideways smile slip out despite himself.
I agonized over this for the longest time, so reviews are truly appreciated and snuggled :)