*** Alas...it is time to go. Thank you all so much for reading and reviewing! Mary and Marshall have one final hurdle to leap over...read on. zesty zest too!***

Mary pulled her chair over to set it beside Eleanor's desk after the secretary had settled in after lunch. Marshall watched discreetly from the corner of his eye. He and Mary had arrived at the office about forty minutes ago, and he knew his partner had been running over what to say in her head. Nothing was simple with Mary…not even an apology.

Eleanor watched Mary as the blonde woman sat in the chair, put her elbows on her knees and looked at her.

"I want to apologize for what I said to you last Tuesday. I was sick and in pain that morning, and I honestly don't really remember what transpired, but I still had no reason to be quite that nasty. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings." She had made eye contact the whole time and was completely sincere.

Eleanor wasn't used to this Mary. She was used to sassy Mary, nasty Mary, inappropriate Mary…but not direct and sincere Mary. The younger woman's gaze was uncomfortably intense and it gave Eleanor a slightly different view of her. There was more to her than she realized.

"Thank you. It did seem slightly too crude, even for you. Not a problem." Eleanor was satisfied with the apology and let Mary off the hook quickly.

"I want to thank you, too." Mary said with a grin.

"For what?"

"For asking Stan to send me to Kansas. I'll always look at it slightly differently now." It was an enigmatic statement and Eleanor didn't understand it, but Mary was already up and pulling her chair back to her desk.

Mary looked at Marshall, and he gave a slight nod with a wink. The order of the Sunshine Building had been restored for the time being.

The partners slowly caught up with their work over the next few weeks, and had to attend a number of debriefings on the Kansas adventure. Mary's ankle healed just fine without x-rays, and Manny, to Marshall's complete surprise, was ensconced somewhere in the southeast and sticking to the rules. The man arrested at Mary's house was a key player in the Quinter massacre and ended up being a mid-level buyer that was being sought by the DEA in this whole fiasco. For the most part, everyone was happy. Stan, however, threatened to deduct wages from their paychecks nearly everyday when the expenses from their trip kept rolling in. The feds were trying to get WITSEC to pay for the damage to the Quinter Ranch. Mary thought that was a load of shit considering her house still had holes in it. Nobody even lived at the ranch.

Eleanor couldn't put her finger on the nagging sense of something different in the office. Mary and Marshall fought and bickered as usual with Stan as playground monitor, the inspectors carried their workload as normal and the witnesses came and went. It took her two weeks to spot it and she just sat back in her chair and smiled. Their physical boundaries were gone. When Mary leaned over Marshall to read a file or look at a screen, she actually leaned against him slightly. At the coffee counter, Marshall reached around his partner to grab the sugar and placed his hand on her hip. Mary pointed something out to Marshall in an MOU and he placed his chin on her shoulder when he leaned in from behind her to read it. Only lovers allow that kind of unconscious proximity. A new view of Kansas indeed. It made her happy for some reason, and she would do nothing. Tell no one.

Mary and Marshall had a full ten days to themselves privately as Mary's family remained in Jersey until then. They talked a lot and made love even more. Since they had been so close as friends and partners before, their relationship didn't appear any different to most of the people around them. They knew they'd have to make changes when Mary's family came back…Marshall wouldn't be able to stay at her house anymore. They'd deal with it. Until then, waking up with each other was on their daily agenda and they took full advantage of it.

Marshall awoke with soft fingers stroking him and the warm pulses of desire starting to spread through his thighs. He sighed with a small smile and opened his eyes slightly to look down at himself. Her fingers caressed his inner thigh, trailing up to lightly brush over his testicles and then wrap around him to stroke up his length. Entranced, he watched himself respond more fully to her touch and hummed contentedly, his own hand trailing down her back as she lay curled next to him. She traced little kisses along his ribs, then a slow lick to his nipple only to blow on it gently to watch it pucker in response. All the while continuing to gently and deliberately explore him with her hand.

"Oooohh…" he sighed with a catch in his voice as she pressed her body against his, her soft curls against his hip and breasts against his ribs, her thigh and foot slowly sliding down to trap his leg. Mary's own belly glowed with anticipation as she pressed his thigh with her own and gently rocked her pelvis against his hip. His skin was soft and firm under her hands and she used his own moisture to glide her fingers over him, slightly increasing the pressure as she felt his belly quiver with the sensation. When he moaned, she shifted to lay stretched out on top of him, nestling him under her pelvis and supporting herself on her elbows either side of his chest. Sliding up slightly, she met his drowsy, aroused gaze and pressed her lips to his in a slow, easy kiss. His hands skimmed up her sides and trailed little lines of electricity down her back, curves and thighs. She eased downward again, sliding along the length of him, and ran kisses along his jawline, throat and collarbone. The friction of her against him caused him to tremble slightly and jerk his hips under her and she smiled.

Pushing herself up, her thighs slid to either side of his hips and she settled herself onto him, tantalizing them both with the anticipation of things to come. He was enveloped in her soft, moist folds and she watched his face take on a slightly pained look with denied entry. Tilting her hips, she slid herself along his length and her own lips parted as she sighed with a faint sound of pleasure. He felt so good and his hardness urged her on.

Marshall took in her disheveled hair, half closed eyes and parted lips and trailed his eyes down to her breasts and abdomen as she tilted her head back slightly with the next rock of her hips. He wanted to be in her so badly, but she continued to taunt and tease him and he groaned. Reaching out, he slid his hands up her thighs, feeling the muscles bunch and move with her small movements, strength and softness tantalizing him. Her belly was smooth and taut and his hands finally cupped her breasts, the weight of them arousing him even more and he gently squeezed and pinched her nipples to watch her gasp.

Mary's need was growing with each second, but she wanted these sensations to continue. Leaning back slightly, she rested her hands behind her on his thighs and looked down to where their bodies met. Sliding back, she would see him emerge from underneath her and then slowly disappear with her forward tilt. It was incredibly arousing and she was fascinated by the sensations of the coarse hair on his testicles tickling her followed by the smoothness of him pressing against her. She made little sounds of pleasure as she watched and bit her lip.

Marshall had never experienced anything so erotic and the feel of her soft wetness sliding over his testicles was maddening. His brow was furrowed and his mouth opened in a little "oh" with each tilt of her hips. Each time she glided forward, her folds clenched around him and he panted…wanting more. She leaned back forward, resting her hands on his chest, and tucked her pelvis under her to capture the tip of him at her opening, meeting his eyes with the action. They gazed at each other with naked want, and she smiled slyly. Her muscles quivered as she felt him poised to enter, but she continued to tease him with small motions that allowed just a portion of him to slide into her. Her breathing was unsteady with focus on control and she resisted his efforts to pull her down over him. Each small dip into her was heaven and he wanted to bury himself inside her. His breaths became shallow and finally he whispered, "Please…"

She took him inside of her with one, quick motion and ground her hips against him as she settled on him, all of him buried within. Marshall grunted-gasped and arched his hips, hands gripping her hips tightly, and Mary moaned and clenched around him. She began to move slowly, vision blurry with the sensation of him sliding within her and stretching her, and her fingers pressed into his chest. They were both close to the edge already, and her movements became faster and more urgent quickly. Her hands transferred to his abdomen so she could deepen his thrusts and he reached down to glide his thumb against her where they were joined. He knew he was not going to last much longer as the heat coiled in his groin and began to spread throughout the length of him, and he groaned and muttered words of encouragement.

Mary's world was only sensation as her body pulsed with impending release, Marshall's thumb heightening the pleasure-pain of need. One more slight tilt backwards and he bumped up against a part of her deep inside and she shattered, thrusting fast and moaning loudly as little shards of ecstasy infused her. His hands squeezed her hips and she actually felt him pulse within her while he reached his own peak, grunting and thrusting while pulling her against him. It was bliss and she almost cried with the pure pleasure…never like this with anyone else…ever.

His vision had faded as he spilled into her and his body spasmed with delight, and he floated in semi-consciousness while she fell against him. He could not move and had to just allow himself to tremble and breathe, her involuntary muscle spasms causing him to occasionally jerk in response. They drifted back to earth together like feathers tossed into the air, slowly spinning and rocking until gently landing and laying still.

She became aware of his hands slowly caressing her back and running through her hair aimlessly. He placed a kiss on her forehead with a murmur of affection and she finally had to admit it to herself…that little word she knew described this feeling of utter contentment and belonging. This man beneath her who now knew every part of her and accepted her was her lover in more than just body. She could trust him with her life and had to make a decision to trust him with her heart. A heart so fragile and protected that it hurt to even think about being broken, and a tear ran out of her eye as she didn't know if she could be that brave. What did she have to offer this man…a woman who charged through life at breakneck speed so that the past could never catch up? Pushed people away so they would never be close enough to care…to crumble her defenses with kindness or compassion? But he knew about that…knew about her, and she realized she had no defenses against him. He always pushed through every barrier and survived all the arrows to stand right next to her. Sometimes wounded, but never defeated. Maybe this time…for this one person…she should stop pushing and see what happens.

"I'm not very brave. You should know that." Mary murmured, a slight wobble to her voice.

Marshall's hands stilled and he opened his eyes to peer down at the top of her head and he softly replied, "Yes, you are. You're one of the bravest people I know."

"Not with this. It's never felt like that before…I've never felt like this before." She was scared and her gut was tight.

He sensed this was so very important, and wrapped his arms around her to hold her close. "I know. Me either." Marshall waited with hope.

A few more tears fell and she couldn't help it. She swallowed. Nestled in his arms, she was happier than she had ever been and knew what she had to do. She could not give up this moment and wonder one day what would have happened had she taken the chance. The 'what if' would kill her more slowly and more surely than the rejection.

Taking a deep, shuddery breath, Mary did the bravest thing she had ever done.

"I'm in love with you, Marshall." her voice was husky with emotion. She had never said those words to anyone before. "I thought you should know."

His arms tightened, face pressed into her hair and he shivered while whispering, "Oh, Mare…do you know how long I've waited for you to say that?"

Marshall rolled them so he was lying next to her and propped up on one elbow. Seeing her tears, he leaned down to kiss the corners of her eyes and stroked her cheekbone with his thumb. He could barely believe she had said the words and his heart just ached with joy. He knew she felt it, but he had to let her explore it on her own time and come to him. For so long he thought it would never happen, and there were days when he wondered if what he had would be enough. No more wondering and waiting, no more hesitation, and a weight lifted off his shoulders as he spoke.

"There is no one like you, Mary. No one who makes me feel so right…so complete. No one I could love like I love you." He finished in a whisper and kissed her, pouring all his soul into her.

She knew, now, that there would be someone to stand beside her and her kiss welcomed him. She wrapped her arms around him as he settled against her, their mouths exploring and tasting with wonder at this new thing.

*** I never did find a way to inject flying monkeys into the story...damn! Stay tuned for my next fic...whenever that may be :) ***