*** Thanks to all who have written stories that swirl ideas into my head! Let's see what Mary wrote...and if they make up.***
The SUV pulled into the ER forty five minutes later and they couldn't wake Mary. She was rushed in and hooked up to the monitors while the ER staff began to give her the fluids and meds she needed to rehydrate. The doc said she was lucky and probably wouldn't have survived another day. They'd keep her for twenty four hours, but she'd be okay to go home after that if her kidney function was normal and she was able to tolerate a diet.
Marshall and Stan sat in the waiting area up on the telemetry floor after Mary was transferred to a room a few hours later, assured by the nurses that Mary would be okay in time, but her team wanted to get her cleaned up a bit before letting her have visitors. Stan finally went to get them both some food, and Marshall pulled the pad of paper he took from Mary's car out of his pocket.
Taking an unsteady breath as he realized what he was holding, Marshall carefully turned the pages until he found the letter addressed to him.
Well, I've finally done it. Went and got myself into a situation I couldn't get out of. You told me it was only a matter of time and you were right. There, I said it! I want you to know I thought of you a lot over these last days, and there are some things I need to tell you.
One: I'm sorry. Just take that and spread it over everything. I'm a bitch and a pain in the ass and I don't know why you haven't just murdered me in my sleep yet. You don't deserve the grief I heap upon you day after day. I wish I knew why I did it, but I don't, so I can only apologize.
Two: You're my best friend. I know you know that, but it makes me feel better to write it down. I never really had a friend before you, so I know it's been rough going at times. Thank you for hanging in there with me…you're either a glutton for punishment or a saint. And I know for sure you are not a saint!
Three: I love you. Not in a sappy, hearts and flowers way…but more of a 'my soul is attached to your soul' kind of way. I don't know if that makes any sense. I honestly don't think I would go through life without you and be anything more than an empty shell, so it breaks my heart to know you might be reading this and getting ready to do exactly that (refer to number one if this is the case). I wish I got to spend many more nights sitting on your couch and watching hockey with you, because that's what it's really all about.
Four: For God's sake, Mann…get a new belt buckle! That thing looks like a dinner plate.
All my love, Mary
p.s. If I'm alive, you better not let me know you read this!
He had tears running down his face and hung his head to discreetly wipe them away. For someone who always said she didn't have a way with words, the words on that piece of paper were more powerful than any he had ever read. Mary laid bare and unapologetic. There was no shove backwards and he reread the paragraphs to commit them to memory as he was allowed to just soak up what she offered. He was never letting this woman go, he decided, no matter what abuse she heaped on him. He couldn't imagine anyone more right.
As he pulled the paper off the pad to keep, there was one more underneath it. He kept that one too, knowing she'd want him to have it just in case.
I, Mary Elizabeth Shannon, will all my worldly possessions to Marshall Wyatt Mann. This includes the shoebox under my bed. Marshall, make sure the letters are in there. You may read them if you'd like.
She signed and dated it, and he knew it might actually stand up in court. Marshall folded the papers and placed them carefully into his wallet. They stayed there until Mary emptied it many years and two grown children later, finding yet more tears to shed as she held the faded sheets.
Stan and Marshall were finally allowed to visit with Mary, and the fluids she had received, along with the bath, had done wonders. They had carried in a limp and bedraggled woman, but she now sat up in the bed fussing with the bed controls and call light while cursing her knee. She had devoured a lunch consisting of bland fluids, but saved the jello for Marshall.
"God damn it, I am not staying here for a minute more than I have to." Mary directed that comment at Marshall as he walked in the door. She had pushed the call light, and the tinny voice from the wall asked her if she needed help.
"Somebody's going to need help if I don't get some pants. I asked for them over a half hour ago and I'm still butt naked from the waist down."
Stan put his hands over his ears, turned red and walked back out the door calling that he'd be back later, while Marshall just shook his head and chuckled. Of course, Mary had the blankets on and her gown in place, so she looked perfectly decent to him…looked downright wonderful in his opinion. Alive was always a good look.
"I think you just shot Stan's blood pressure through the roof." Marshall drawled while sprawling into the chair near her bed. He watched Mary scratch at the dressing covering the central line on her neck and reached over to snag her wrist.
"Don't pick at that. You don't want an infection and you don't want to pull it out. You'll bleed like a stuck pig."
She almost argued with him and he saw her visibly tense, then relax with a sigh as she let her hand fall back to her side. Mary knew he was right, and reminded herself of all the advice he had given her over the years that came back to save her life over the last three and half days. She decided to follow that damn advice this time and leave the dressing alone.
She picked at invisible lint on her blankets instead, suddenly uncomfortable as she didn't know what he knew about her and Raph, or what he had been thinking about their fight. She could feel him looking at her and decided to break the ice.
"I was a bitch."
"And I was an ass…guess it works out even."
Mary gave him a sidelong glance, "You knew from the minute I told you, didn't you?"
Marshall could see the tension in her body and didn't want to fight with her again, but after reading her letter he knew he had to be honest. He owed her that much.
"I know you. You'd like to think that I don't, sometimes, but it doesn't change the fact that you've let me in over these years and I've learned a lot about a woman named Mary Shannon. His ring didn't fit you." pausing as she tilted her head to look at him with narrowed eyes, Marshall continued once she just sat and waited, "As your partner, I watch your back and would protect your life with my own, and as your friend I would do the same. The problem was, bullets would've been less painful to take than watching you fade away."
Mary dropped her eyes back to the covers as she saw the pain in Marshall's eyes. Honesty seemed to be the play of the evening and she kept to the script.
"I went into the house to break up with him…I couldn't cause you that much pain anymore and I knew I was only lying to myself. I didn't want to drag Raph down either." She snorted a laugh and shook her head, "Irony should be my middle name."
Marshall chuckled and drawled, "According to Raph, 'bad timing' should be your middle name."
Mary looked at him with open mouthed disbelief. "Oh…he did not?"
Nodding, Marshall answered, "Yes…much to his misfortune…he did."
Mary laughed for a bit and Marshall joined her, the tension lessened and the pair gradually shuffling back into their desired roles.
"Dammit, Marshall…those were my favorite sheets." she huffed.
He grimaced, "Really, Mare, all I can say to that is…ew."
Snickering, Mary pushed herself up in the bed and winced as her knee complained. It reminded Marshall that she was still going to need some physical recovery time as well as emotional. The desert had provided some solace, but she would require more.
"Why don't you camp out at my place for a few days? Let the drama queens work some things out on their own before they start to chew on you?" Offering her a refuge with an ulterior motive of keeping an eye on her.
She stared at him for a minute before nodding in agreement, then laid back on the pillows to close her eyes as tiredness again enveloped her. The dressing itched, and she unconsciously reached up to scratch at it again. Marshall took the offending hand and tangled her fingers with his own. He had just started to doze when she spoke.
"I'm ready to find my father." her voice was sleepy.
"Just let me know what you need."
She fell asleep as his thumb slowly traced circles on her wrist.
She was back at work a week later and feeling better than she had in a long time. There were still things to be done to cancel all the wedding plans, but she had sent out letters to all the invitees and bitched about all the deposits lost to caterers and rental shops. Why she let herself get talked into a wedding that complicated, she didn't know. Sitting at her desk, she was trying to find a loophole in the reception hall contract and blew her hair away from her face in frustration.
"Marshall, if I ever plan to get married again, make sure I elope to Vegas."
"That's so trite and overdone. You have to elope somewhere exotic and exciting…like Fiji." Marshall was teasing her.
"Good point. Sand, sun and sex without the neon. Great idea." Mary was half listening as she read a confusing paragraph.
"You could take a few friends," he hinted, "some people might enjoy a tropical vacation."
Mary's mind had divided its attention too many ways and she was unaware of what she said next, just unconsciously replying to her partner's voice.
"Well, you invite three and I'll invite three. And we could charter one of those cool sailboats. How's that sound?" The question was rhetorical as she found what she was looking for and raised her hands in victory, turning to him to declare, "Aha!"
He was looking at her with the oddest expression on his face…almost stunned…and she was lost.
"What's wrong with you, idiot? Did you see a ghost or something?"
"Or something." was all he could manage to reply. Shaking his head, he got up to get another cup of coffee to cover his glee.
Mary was watching him as he was acting a bit oddly, and she noticed something that brought a smile to her face.
"You got a new belt buckle!"
"Yep." Marshall put his hands on his hips to show it off, "Saw it at the mall the other day and took a fancy to it. I got tired of the other one."
Suddenly, he saw Mary's face grow suspicious and he knew he better head her off at the track.
"What? A guy can't buy something he likes at the mall?" He made sure to sound appropriately affronted.
She backed off, "No…I mean, sure. It's nice. That old one was too big you know. They say an overly large belt buckle means you're compensating." she was chuckling now.
He winked at her and replied in an overdone drawl, "Hell no, baby. I was advertising."
His partner choked on her coffee and Marshall laughed for quite a while.
They watched hockey on Marshall's couch that weekend, and sometime during the second period he felt Mary staring at him. She looked perplexed and slightly embarrassed.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Marshall was wary.
"Did I propose to you the other day at the office?" She had been thinking about getting the check back from the reception hall deposit and the realization of what she said hit her like a bucket of cold water. No wonder he had that weird look on his face.
"I don't remember…did you?" he lied and slid a sideways glance at her, always enjoying the upper hand in these situations.
"Um, I thought I had said something that may have implied something…It's not important." Mary was flustered and trying to brush it under the rug.
"Well, if you do decide to propose, let me know so I'm actually paying attention, okay? I would hate to give you the wrong answer." Marshall teased her to let her off the hook and she laughed.
"What would be the wrong answer?"
"Nut shot!!" yelled Marshall as he jumped off the couch and pointed at the screen, distracting Mary, and the conversation a moment ago forgotten for the time being. The partners immediately grabbed their beers for a drink and waited for the slow motion replay to grimace in empathy and wager on the next shot. Mary's impression was dead on, and Marshall snorted beer up his nose when he laughed. The game went into overtime, but the two people on the couch were sound asleep, Mary strewn across Marshall's lap.
*** Oh...we all know the answer!! Way to leave her hanging, Marshall :) I hope you enjoyed the story...it was fun to write and all your reviews were wonderfully validating!! Any last thoughts? ***
*** Sources of info: Google Earth for Alburquerque environs, various climatological sites for weather info, Mapquest for the street names and city layout...and my graduate work in meterology finally pays off :D ***