Author's Note: I know most readers probably think this is the boring part but sometimes it's my favorite part so indulge me for a moment. This would be rated for language. Sometimes Mary has a potty mouth. I try to control her but well... she's Mary. Also, there's no Raph in this. I'm thinking that no one is going to come hunt me down if I just deny his existence and don't explain right? I think it works out if we just pretend that he never was. One last little thing. I fought with every word in this story and I'm still not sure that we've made up. All I wanted to do was bang them up and then have them love each other - cause that's how I do. So that's what I did. I make no promises that this is readable -- that's my disclaimer.
"Mer, Mary," Marshall softly nudged his sleeping partner. "Hey," he said when she stirred. "I need you to read the map." He squinted out the windshield into the blowing snow.
Mary was instantly alert and pulled a map from the glove compartment. "I don't know how many times I have to tell you I am not the navigator. You should have let me drive."
"What are you complaining about? You've been asleep practically the whole way," Marshall sniped.
"I can't help it, I couldn't listen to another factoid about Colorado today Marshall. Now, where are we supposed to be?" She folded and refolded the map trying to find the general area between New Mexico and North Dakota.
"We're about an hour north of Denver on I-25, but we've only driven about 40 miles in that time. I haven't seen any sign of civilization since we passed Denver and I think it's snowing harder. I don't know why we had to drive to Fargo when we could have flown out and driven Bernie back if he really insisted that he couldn't fly."
"Did you have big plans for this weekend Marshall?" Mary asked glibly, eyes still scouring the map in the dim light of the dash. "Stan told you why we couldn't fly. The field office in North Dakota didn't have an approved vehicle to send back with us. And if we borrowed something how would we get it back to them anyway?"
"I had plans with a pizza and my couch, but at this rate we won't get back until next week." Marshall conveniently ignored the second part of the question.
"You whine." Mary tried to cajole a smile out of her partner but he was intent on the snowy road in front of him.
"I hope you packed your toothbrush." Marshall glanced over and gave Mary a half smile in apology for his surliness.
Mary smirked. "I not only packed my toothbrush, I packed a change of clothes. The weather channel was calling for a major snowstorm this weekend and I wasn't sure we would be able to get in and out as fast as you were predicting.
"Marshall," Mary sounded alarmed as she finally located Denver on the map. "Did you say we were north of Denver?"
"Yeah, Why?" He tried to glance at the map without running off the road but turned his attention back to the interstate when Mary glared at him menacingly.
"I-25 runs North of Denver but to get to Fargo we should have taken I-76 at Denver and turned East." Marshall slammed on the brakes and the Expedition skidded to a stop in the snow. There was no traffic so he put it in park without moving off the road.
"No way, let me see that. You did say you weren't the navigator and there's no way I could have, Damn!" He exclaimed as he verified exactly what Mary had just told him. "I have no idea how this happened." His voice was strained, either from waiting for Mary to berate him or berating himself she didn't know but it caused her to cool her heels and think before she spoke.
"You were concentrating on the road in this weather," she said kindly. He looked over at her with gratitude for the reprieve and then turned back tot he map to study his options.
"It looks like we can stay on I-25 until we get to Cheyenne and we'll hit I-80. It will be out of the way but no more than driving back to Denver," he said apologetically.
"The weather might be better that direction," Mary said hopefully as she peered through the window at the steadily falling snow.
"Okay," Marshall still sounded glum as he put the SUV in gear and eased forward.
"Are you sure you don't want me to drive for a while?"
"Have you ever driven in snow Mer?"
"Once, I think."
"I've seen you drive on dry pavement. I think I'll pass."
Uneventful miles passed but they passed slowly. Mary turned the radio on and they sat in companionable silence as Marshall navigated the deepening snow.
Finally Mary yawned. "So Marshall, are we almost there yet?"
Marshall chuckled and squinted into the snow. "I have no idea. Why don't you call information and see if you can find a hotel that isn't closed for the winter."
Mary nodded and flipped open her phone. "No service," she muttered darkly.
"Really? There's no iron in these hills."
"I guess since we're the only people within a hundred miles of this spot they decided we don't need cell phones." Mary was getting tired and hungry and her sarcasm was drier than she intended.
"I was going to say that the storm is probably blocking the signal."
"Or that." Mary groaned. "I am starving."
Marshall grinned. "I'm sure if you look in my bag you can find something to tide you over. I always try to throw something non-perishable in my go bag for just such an event as this."
"You're such a good little girl scout."
"Say what you will but I'm the one feeding you."
"Point taken." Mary unsnapped her seatbelt and leaned into the backseat. Marshall grinned at the view of Mary's hip next to his ear. He had just turned back to the road when a deer darted into the road and stopped, stunned in front of the vehicle.
Marshall wasn't speeding but road conditions being less than optimal, the brakes locked up and the SUV spun out of control. Mary gasped but was rendered motionless leaning halfway over the seat.
Marshall threw his arm up to grab her but continued to fight against the motion of the car. They slid to the edge of the road and down a steep embankment. The world was eerily silent until metal collided with wood. The passenger side of the Expedition slammed into a huge pine tree. The mind works in mysterious ways because through the chaos Marshall gave a passing thought to if it was a red pine or a western white pine.
Snow fell from the branches, coating the windows and blocking out what little light remained. Marshall sat stunned for a moment before throwing his seat belt off and turning toward Mary.
"Mary?" He didn't recognize the sound of his own voice. "Are you all right?"
Mary groaned in response then slowly turned her head to look at him. "I would have shared whatever food I found back here, you didn't have to try to kill me." Her lips quirked up at the corners and he laughed nervously in relief.
"Let me help you down from there." He reached up to help her out of the space, now compressed slightly smaller than before. When he brushed up against her side she hissed. Marshall pulled his hands away. "What is it?" She could hear the concern in his voice.
"Ribs. Just got banged up when we came to that sudden stop." Marshall reached to help her, more cautiously this time. She braced herself against the drivers seat as she stretched to find purchase with her feet.
Marshall put his hand flat on her head to keep her from hitting the ceiling. She grimaced as she turned and slumped into the seat, cradling her left arm to her chest. She leaned against the headrest and waited for her heart to stop pounding. She could feel Marshall watching her with concern. "Are you in one piece?" She asked without opening her eyes.
"I'm fine," he said quietly, still studying her. He gently touched her elbow. "What's this?" He asked.
She opened one eye and looked at him. "I think I broke my damn wrist on the door."
"Let me see." She slowly stretched her arm toward him, trusting him implicitly not to hurt her. He pushed her sleeve up slightly. He winced as he saw how it was already swelling. It started with her fingers and travelled up her arm. "Are your ribs broken or bruised?" He was watching as she struggled to even out her breathing.
"I don't know, why?"
"Bruised ribs hurt," he responded. "But you should be okay to move around a little. But if they're broken you need to stay still, you could do more damage moving around."
"I'll be fine," she said stoically. "The real question is how are we going to get out of here? No cell service, we're not visible from the road and we're miles from where we're supposed to be if Stan starts looking for us."
"We'll figure something out. I'm going to check the trunk, see if there's a first aid kit." Mary nodded.
Marshall reached over and brushed Mary's hair out of her face. "I'm sorry Mer."
She shook her head and smiled wanly. "It was an accident, it's not your fault."
"Okay, you sit tight, I'll be right back." Marshall opened the door and was surprised to find the snow was deeper than he would have thought. It was almost up to his knees and still falling steadily. He swung the back door open and was rewarded. There was a small emergency kit with an ace wrap, some aspirin and a chemical ice pack along with a few bottles of water and a fleece travel blanket. He grabbed everything before returning to his seat.
He attempted to kick the snow off of his pants and boots before he sat down but still managed to bring a fair amount into the truck with him. "It's going to be fun when that melts," he muttered to himself. Mary was watching him quietly. She moved as if to help him but he waved her off. Her injured arm was closest and he didn't want her to aggravate her ribs by reaching across herself either.
"I'm not an invalid you know," she said crossly.
"That is abundantly clear," he said sardonically. "Sometimes you scare the witnesses, sometimes you scare me. Now, give me your hand."
She held her hand out to him tentatively and he wrapped her wrist firmly but as gently as he could. He could feel the tension in her body as he finished. "Here," he handed her a couple of aspirin and one of the water bottles. "Take this, then if you're hungry I'll dig around and see what I can come up with."
"No, I'm not hungry anymore." He saw her shiver. "I think I'm going to just close my eyes for a few minutes." He knew she was getting shocky. Mary almost never turned down food and she was far too pale.
"Put the seat back, you'll be more comfortable and then I found a blanket in the back. I'll help you put some more layers on when you wake up."
Mary nodded wearily. She winced as the movement of the seat jarred her ribs. Marshall tucked the blanket around her shoulders and she almost immediately found that she couldn't keep her eyes open.
"Wake me if anything happens," she mumbled as she faded away.