A/N: And now, the conclusion of Mary's Christmas Carol. It feels so good to finish one! I hope you'll review at the end and let me know what you've thought of the whole series. It was hard to know where to stop this one, where the final "fade out" should be.... I hope you'll like where I decided to roll credits, as it were.....
I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. ~Charles Dickens
Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. ~Mary Ellen Chase
The layer of dirt grew heavier and heavier over Mary, and she began to feel the weight of it pressing against her. Desperately, she strained every muscle, trying to move even the slightest bit. Just to be able to raise a hand, just to able to raise a finger to try to save herself from the fate that was now befalling her would be some relief, but she was denied at every turn. Even the tiny release of screaming was forbidden her, and only in her mind could her pleas and shrieks be articulated. The rest of her lay placidly as if she were just a stone at the bottom of the deep rectangle within the earth as it filled it. Her mind whirled.
Please. Please. Let me out. I promise...I promise.... I need another chance....
"You've had every chance. Every opportunity to save the both of you. You could have broken out of this tomb a million times over with the simplest and smallest of human gestures. But you were perfectly happy each and every one of those times to stay still, Mary. It was easier, wasn't it? Less painful. No effort involved. And not to rip off Cavalier poets, Mary, but Herrick said this best, 'The grave is a fine and private place....' Nobody here is going to force you to step outside any of your precious little comfort zones." Horrible, the laughter from that face in this situation was horrible. "You've been quite content buried in a grave of your own devising for some time. Don't break with your tradition now. I'll I'm doing is adding a few ornamental touches."
And darkness closed over her as the last of the earth filled the remaining space and her mind shut down, unable to bear the misery and terror of it all at last.
Mary slowly became aware of the world again. She felt a terrible heaviness surrounding her, a lethargy filling her, and although something was telling her that she had to move, had to struggle to open her eyes, she didn't want to do it.
There's no point. There's nothing to see. It's all over. I've messed it up so badly.
Her heart mourned over everything the Spirits had shown her. She thought about Brandi offering her Kitty, eyes huge and hopeful despite the missing presents. She thought about Jinx and those homemade ornaments that had meant so much to them all hanging on that pitiful tree. She thought about Marshall waiting for her, present wrapped and tucked away in a desk drawer, unable to enjoy his party because she wasn't there, wasn't answering her phone. She thought about the Marshall she'd seen in the future, bleak, dark, fading away....
Because of me. Because I hurt him. Because I forgot the good things and only focused on the bad. Because I forgot Kitty and only remembered the bikes. Because I forgot making the ornaments and only remembered the crappy tree and Daddy running out with the money. Because I shut him out again and again and again.
Oh Marshall. If I only had it to do over again. I'd be so different. I'd tell you things. I'd appreciate you more. I'd let you in. I'd remember that there were some good pieces mixed in with the bad things, too... I wish I could just at least see you one more time. Tell you not to be sad. Don't be sad, Marshall. Don't be sad....
She became aware of gentle pressure on her shoulders, and from some where there was the sound of a voice. It was not the horrible ice-claw-bottomless-bell voice of Death. She almost knew this voice. She almost recognized it. What was it saying? She listened, focusing her attention carefully...
"...I promise I won't be sad, Mare, if you will just wake up for me. Come on. Come on, now. That's it."
Was there light? Could she breathe? It seemed as though her chest was rising and falling, but she'd been trapped down here in the darkness for so long.... She bent all her concentration on the voice. It sounded...scared....
"Mare. Please. Come on. Be okay. You're too strong for a little thing like this to be the end. Just open your eyes. Please."
Marshall? Is that...Marshall? Marshall is not supposed to be here. Did he get Marshall, too? She stirred, disturbed, and was surprised to find that she could move her hand now. She reached out blindly and encountered another hand which wrapped around hers, gripping tightly, desperately.
"Yeah. It's me. Nobody got me. I'm right here. Come on, Mary. If you're gone, who's going to give me hell all the time?"
Those words gave her the strength she needed to force her eyes open. It took as much effort as if she were clawing her way up through six feet of fresh grave dirt. Her eyes refused to focus at first, but as they did, she made out Marshall kneeling on the floor beside her, peering anxiously into her face. His coat was flung on the floor behind him. She was lying on her back, the cold tile of the office floor pressing into her. Every muscle ached.
"M...Marshall?" Her voice rasped and cracked. She felt as though she needed a gallon of water, an ocean. Was that the taste of grave dirt in her mouth? She shuddered.
His face broke into a beautiful smile, and he sat down hard on the floor. "Yeah. There you are."
She tried to sit up, but the world was turning in horrible little circles, and she didn't get very far. Suddenly, Marshall's strong arms were under her shoulders, and he gently lifted her. Grateful for the support, she leaned against him as he pulled her into his lap. He held her head against his chest and stroked her hair softly while the world stopped spinning. Her fingers clutched tightly at the soft dark green fabric of the shirt he wore.
For a time, they simply sat there just that way, his arms protectively wrapped around her, her fingers weakly, yet somehow tenaciously, gripping him. Finally, Mary found the strength to speak. "What happened to me? I'm...I'm...not dead?"
The arms around her tightened. "No. No, you're not." She didn't miss the controlled panic in his voice. "And the truth is Mare, that I don't know. I can only guess. How much do you remember?"
Too much. Say, did you happen to see Eps, Shelley Finkle, or a big bastard with wings and a cloak around here when you came in? Did he tell you anything about a grave for two?
"I'm not sure...."
Marshall sighed. "I was at my party tonight, and I kept getting this feeling that something was wrong, something was off. I tried calling you, two, maybe three times, then I decided I'd just come here and check up on you."
That's what I saw with Shelley! I saw him make those first calls! Did it really happen, then?
"When the elevator opened, I saw the office was empty, and I started to leave, but something made me come on in. The first thing I saw was your feet here just under the tree." He shuddered and shifted her closer to him. "Oh, God, Mare. I've never been so scared in all my life.... I know it sounds stupid now, but I kept thinking that if you were dead, I'd never be able to look at another Christmas tree as long as I lived...."
The words of the Spirit of Christmas Future floated back to her about Marshall being the one who found her, the way it had killed Christmas for him forever in that one instant.....
"You were breathing when I found you, but you wouldn't wake up. I think you must have gotten some kind of massive shock from that string of lights. Your hand is burned from it, too. See?" He took her hand in his own again, gentle as if he were holding bone china, and he turned it palm upward. A small curious star-shaped burn appeared there, red and ugly-looking.
"I was so afraid that you...that the shock had....that you were going to..." He stopped, unable to find a way to finish the sentence. He ran his thumb over the skin near the burn, whisper soft, delicate as a feather.
"Couldn't leave just yet, Marshall," Mary managed. She was feeling stronger now. She even managed a tiny smile.
He looked up from the burn on her hand to her eyes. A matching version of her grin appeared. "Oh yeah? Why is that?"
"Had something I really needed to do here first."
His smile was larger now, relief evident that they were apparently falling back into their comfortable patterns of banter and play. "Let me guess. Does it have anything to do with kicking the ass of the person who is responsible of putting up the Christmas lights?" His easy grin said that he was waiting for the punch line, knew that it was going to involve him in some way.
Mary looked at him, took in the angles and planes of that familiar face, the blue eyes with their wit and happy sparkle, the concern for her and what she finally now could recognize as love hiding underneath that concern....
No. Not hiding. He's never been hiding it. You just haven't wanted to see it. Until maybe now....
"It had nothing to do with Christmas lights, Marshall, but everything to do with you. I needed to tell you I...I'm sorry."
His face changed expression suddenly, going from his usual quirky humor to total seriousness, sadness haunting his eyes.. "Mare...you've had a shock tonight. Literally. I think you should..."
"I think you should let me finish...." She said it gently, so gently, that tone she never used with him. She was frequently sarcastic to him. She often ordered him about. She knew how to be serious with him and how to laugh both at and with him. But this rare softness.... It made something inside her ache to see that it caused him more distress than if she'd snapped at him. He shifted her in his arms, and she knew he was thinking about brain damage, about electrical current sizzling through her body, about the after-effects of a life-or-death situation.
"Do you know why I've always hated Christmas, Marshall?"
He looked at her oddly, disconcerted even more by this seeming change of topic. "No, Mare. Why?"
"Because a long time ago, somebody hurt me. A lot. And at that time, I started seeing only the bad. I wanted to avoid it ever happening again, you see. I was determined to make sure it didn't get me, that the bottom couldn't fall out, that I couldn't be disappointed anymore, ever, not me or anybody else I loved. I was so busy doing that, protecting myself all the badness that I locked myself away from all the goodness, too."
She unclenched her hand from Marshall's shirt, smoothed the wrinkles she'd caused idly with her fingertips. "It occurs to me now that I shut out all kinds of people and things that I would have enjoyed by doing that, Marshall." She stopped the motion of her fingers, and they rested over his heart. She could feel the strong, steady beat of it under her hand. She looked him straight in the eyes. "People like you."
Something beautiful flickered in his eyes and was squelched mercilessly. Marshall's hand came up to cover her own. He squeezed gently. "Mare, you've been through an awful lot tonight. I think maybe I'd better get you to the ER and get you checked out, and then see about getting you home..." He shifted her in his arms, getting ready to move her aside so he could rise.
"No. Marshall, I mean it. Listen to me. I do not need to go to any emergency room. I do not need any doctor. I need... I need..." She gripped his shirt, desperate for some way to make him understand.
He stilled, looked at her with an expression that had shades of the hopelessness Mary had seen fullblown in the broken Marshall who had cried at her graveside in that future place three years from now. "What, Mary? What is it you need?" He ran an absently caressing hand down the side of her face, pushing her hair away from her cheek as he spoke. It was the tone of a man who had nothing left to give, but who would give it anyway....
I'm going about this all wrong. He doesn't understand. I have to make him understand. Suddenly the answer came to her. "I need you, dammit. Just you." And she reached up with aching arms and pulled his face down to hers by twining her fingers in hair and she kissed him.
She did not know if the room rocked on its foundations or if it only seemed as though it did. There was very little difference to her. From the moment her lips met his, the sense of the utter rightness of the act enveloped her like a ball of warm, white light, and the last of the lingering chills from the grave melted away.
For a moment, Marshall sat as though stunned, still as her lips pressed against his, but with a small sound that could have been either pain or joy, his arms came around her, and he began to kiss her back. These were the precious first kisses, tender, full of all the things they had not yet said to one another. There was no urgency, only a sense of something finally clicking into place, of at last being connected and whole. Mary was not certain, but there seemed to be the sound of bells, great happy carillons of them ringing joyously.
She did not know how long they kissed, but suddenly, they parted at the sound of the elevator doors dinging softly. Mary tensed immediately, fearing to see what might walk around the corner. Marshall continued to hold her gently in his arms, and she rested her head against his shoulder as footsteps came near.
Please don't let it be one of them...please don't let it be...Him....
"So you found her? Is she okay?" Stan's voice
"She apparently got a nasty shock from that string of lights, but I think she's going to be okay. Somebody found her in time."
Mary smiled against his shoulder and turned to face Stan. "Yeah. If it weren't for Captain Somebody and his heroic hunches, I might not be around anymore to keep you all in line."
Eleanor stepped around Stan. "Damn. I thought I was very specific about what I asked Santa Claus for, too. Oh well, there's always next year...." Her eyes did not miss the way Mary and Marshall were still surreptitiously holding hands or their kiss-swollen mouths. She grinned just a little and winked at Mary. "Marshall, are you sure she's okay?"
Mary groused, "Why isn't anyone asking me this question? When was I declared mentally incompetent?"
Eleanor smiled sweetly. "Too easy, Mary. Too easy. And it's Christmas. I'll let that one go...."
Marshall stood up carefully and pulled Mary to her feet. She wobbled a little, but was otherwise okay. He studied her a moment before saying, "Yeah, I think she's going to be fine."
Eleanor turned to Stan and said, "Then we should all go back to your party. I told everyone that we had a brief emergency to take care of at the office but that we'd be right back. Some redhead named Deborah was offering to play hostess in your absence. She was saying something about virtually being your girlfriend anyway...." Eleanor was the picture of innocence as she said it, but she did not miss the way the Mary's eyes narrowed or the red blush that crept over Marshall's cheeks.
Marshall turned to Mary. "Are you sure you won't go to the ER? I really think you should..."
Mary smiled up at him sweetly. He was not deceived. "And miss meeting your girl Deborah? Hostess of the party? Not on your tintype, buster. Get your coat. I've got a Christmas party to attend."
Eleanor saw Marshall struggling to keep from smiling as he quickly crossed the room to grab Mary's coat first and then collect his own from where he had tossed it on the floor. That done, they pulled the entire extension cord of lights out of the wall carefully with a rubber-pot-holder wrapped hand, and everyone left together.
At Marshall's house, the party was still in full swing when they got back. It wasn't very late at all. Mary got to meet Marshall's friends, and they were every bit as much fun as she'd thought they would be, especially John. She enjoyed watching Marshall moving from group to group, full of the bounce and cheer she associated with him.
That's what he's supposed to look like. That's my Marshall.
Suddenly she saw him coming toward her. Someone had stuck a pair of reindeer antlers on his head, and he had a silly, conspiratorial grin on his face. His hands were behind his back, clearly hiding something.
God help me. Yeah. That's my Marshall. She sighed, but she felt an answering grin of her own spreading across her face.
"I thought you were supposed to be a professional at hiding things, Marshall. You do know that I know you have something behind your back, right?"
Marshall laughed, delighted, and brought out another set of reindeer antlers from behind his back. He held them out triumphantly.
Mary gave him a very long, measured look. "How much of John's 'special' eggnog have you had tonight?"
He wiggled the antlers at her. "Come on, Mare. Please? Pretty please with holly on top?" She continued to look at him with that same amused but reluctant look. He perched on the arm of the chair she was sitting in, and dropped the antlers on the floor accidentally. He leaned down to pick them up and as he did so, he whispered in her ear. "You'll help me win $20." He pulled back with his eyes sparkling. Again, he proffered the antlers, cocked his head to the side. The picture he presented sitting there, full of mischief, silly antlers atop his dark hair, made her want to sock him or kiss him. She wasn't quite sure which.
She took the antlers in her hand and looked at them. No more shutting him out. No more saying no just because. She gave him a tight little smile and said through her clenched teeth, "Idiot. You owe me. Big time." Marshall raised his eyebrows, showing he understood and agreed. Taking a deep breath, she took the red antlers on their green headband and slipped them on her head.
Marshall's smile was radiant. Across the room, she heard Bobby D.'s loud exclamation, "No freakin' way!" Mary felt a dual pleasure radiate through her knowing that she'd made him happy and knowing from whom Marshall had won the money. When Marshall stood up and held out his hand, she slipped hers into his and they walked across the room toward a dumbfounded Bobby together.
Another sweet moment for Mary came later that evening. Mary came around the doorframe to the den to find Marshall all alone and pressed against one of his bookshelves by the tall redhead in the tiny dress who had pursued and cornered him there. She was draped against him, and she was purring seductively at him. Marshall was trying to disentangle himself without hurting her feelings, but the redhead would not be budged. The redhead was running her hands over his chest and up into his hair, trying for a kiss.
Ha. There are some people that nice just doesn't work with. Isn't Marshall lucky? He just happens to have a partner who specializes in not nice..... You'll need to get your hands off Marshall now. Or lose them. K? Thanks.
Mary strode right up to them and leaned against the bookshelves next to them. Marshall noticed her immediately. It took the redhead a moment longer. She stopped her attack on Marshall, but she did not undrape herself.
"Can we help you?" her petulant voice was filled with the underlying message, go away now.
Mary smiled. It was a smile that anybody who knew her would have been running from, and running from while keeping a sharp eye on all projectile-type weapons as well.... Mary cocked her head to the side and looked at Marshall. He was standing very, very still, exactly as a man who had suddenly realized he was standing on a landmine might do.
"Um. No. I'm pretty sure you can't. I just need Marshall."
"Oh yeah. That's right. You're his partner or something, right?" The redhead managed to make the word partner sound somehow like factotum or flunky. She ran her hand possessively up to Marshall's shoulder again as she ran a scathing glance up and down Mary's jeans and sweater. Marshall tried to catch her hand, but she eluded him.
Balls. She's got balls. I'll give her that. She's a nasty little piece of business. That's just going to make this next bit all the more fun....
"Something like that, yeah." She shot Marshall a glance full of amusement. Marshall's eyes were wary.
"Well do you think you could do what you came in here to do and get out? I mean, I think it's pretty clear to see we were...." she leaned in again despite Marshall's trying to pull her off "...in the middle of a private conversation..."
Mary smiled. "Sure. I just need him a minute right now. Something really important. I promise."
The redhead sulked and drew her hands off him. "Fine. But hurry up...." She let him go and walked over to the window to look out at the moonlit yard. She impatiently tapped a long acrylic nail on the sill.
Marshall grabbed Mary's hand and said in a fervent whisper, "Oh my GOD. Thank you. I can't get her to stop. I have tried everything to get rid of her, and I don't want to be rude. She's a sister of one of my oldest friends. She won't take no for an answer."
Mary grinned wickedly. "Let's see if she does any better with a visual aid." She grabbed Marshall and pulled him hard against her. "Follow my lead, partner," she murmured. And she kissed him.
This was no gentle kiss. This was a kiss to make a statement. Mary was good at making statements, causing scenes, and generally getting her point across, whether she was doing it with her words, her fists, or her lips. She was exceptionally good at kissing any way it was done and for whatever reason it was happening. She put all her emotion and expertise into this kiss now.
Marshall rocked back on his heels, stumbling into the bookshelves and making a little noise in his throat as she sucked his bottom lip between hers to nip it lightly with her teeth. His arms went around her, and then his mouth opened under hers and he was kissing her back. Lips and tongues met, clashed, stroked, and suddenly, the reasons she started this kiss were starting to fade into the distance. She slipped her fingers into his hair, felt his hands sliding around her, down her to spread over her behind to pull her even closer to him.
Behind her, she heard the outraged noises of the horrible redhead, but she really couldn't be bothered to care.... Marshall turned her so that she was the one pressed against the bookshelves, and she sighed as his hands began to slip up her from her waist. Their kisses were deep, drugging, and all she wanted was more and more of them.
Can't believe I've been missing this for so long....Marshall....We could have been doing so much more than watching movies all those nights I stayed over.... She groaned softly into his mouth, and she felt his hands flex against her, felt his mouth grow more fervent in response.
Just then, a throat behind them clearing recalled them to themselves. They stumbled apart to see John leaning against the doorframe. He raised his hand in a cheery little finger wave.
"So, um, Deborah left."
Marshall was as red as his Christmas decorations. "Oh, John, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt her feelings...."
John looked from Marshall to Mary and laughed. "What? You've been worried about that? A charging bull elephant couldn't hurt Deborah's feelings. She'll bounce back. And right onto somebody else. Trust me, man. I'm just happy for you two kids."
Mary laughed and the three of them returned to the living room chatting, Marshall's arm comfortably around Mary's shoulders, her arm tightly around his waist.
The last guests were gone and the last of the paper plates, plastic cups, bottles and cans had been cleared away at last. Mary collapsed on the couch.
"Jesus, Marshall. For this to be a 'small party,' you sure had a lot of people here tonight."
He smiled. "Yeah. It was great to see everybody. Some of these people I only get to see once or twice a year. It's so hard to get everybody together with the way our work and family schedules all are now." He flopped down in his customary place on the couch beside her. He looked at her a moment, and the he reached out and then he drew her hand into his, turning it over and tracing the area around the star-shaped burn gently with his fingertips. "Of course, the one person I most wanted in the world almost wasn't here at all...." His smile faded as he continued to trace the little wound.
"Shh... It's okay. Just let me talk...When I saw you there, and I thought you were gone, I was so scared. And then when you kissed me..." He sighed, brought her injured hand to his lips, pressed a soft kiss there. "There aren't words. Then, tonight, with Deborah, when you kissed me again..." He held her hand to his chest, so careful not to hurt her, so careful to keep his grasp light, the hold of someone lightly restraining a wild thing knowing at any moment it would unfurl wings and fly away.
"I know why you did what you did tonight, and I just wanted to tell you before it became an issue between us that I understand. You don't have to worry about it coming up again or me getting any silly ideas, okay? What happens at Christmas stays at Christmas, I guess." He looked up at her and gave her a smile that tried to be sincere and might have succeeded if there hadn't been that desperate something fluttering and looking for escape in his bright blue eyes.
Mary felt the warmth in her heart freeze a little as she realized what he was saying, what he was doing. He expects me to slam the door closed on him, and he's stepping back so he doesn't get caught in it when I do. Because I always do it to him. Every time. Oh God, Death was right. Every time I choose to close him out, so often now that it's just become...routine....
And now I have a choice to make. I can choose to do what I have always done, what he's making so easy for me to do and just go back to our status quo, and it seemed she could feel again the many feet of fine silt pressing down upon her for just a moment....or I can dig my way out of this hole....
She continued to meet his gaze, and she wrapped the fingers of her burned hand around his and squeezed hard, feeling the little bite of pain. "No, Marshall. That's the beauty of Christmas, you see." She felt something deep inside her break apart, fall away, and it was a good feeling.
"What? Mary? I don't understand...."
She shifted on the couch until she was right beside him, facing him. She put her hands on his shoulders. "The beauty of Christmas is that the good parts of it don't just stay stuck at Christmas. They go with you the whole year through." She pushed his rumpled hair back from his forehead, and she leaned up to press a kiss there. "And Marshall, for me," she kissed his right cheek on its high sculpted bone, "you are the very best," a kiss to his left cheek, "of this Christmas and all the Christmases I've had, past, present, or yet to be," and her lips pressed softly against his own.
He melted against her, kissing her back, his arms circling her, pulling her to him hungrily, but moments later, he pulled away.
"Do you mean it, Mary? Because I don't want you to say something you don't mean now just because..."
She gently smacked him. "Idiot. How often do I do that? Am I known for my great indecisiveness?"
He blinked at that, and broke out in a radiant grin, pulling her back tightly against him. "No. That's one thing you are not, Mary Shannon. Nobody would ever call you indecisive."
She laughed. "Well, not twice, anyway."
He kissed her. She stopped laughing.
Lovely, this. Love the lovely kisses. We should do this all the time. He's very, very good at this. She sighed against his lips. Suddenly he pulled away and was gone.
"Uh, Marshall? I know we haven't done much of this together and all, but... Unless you have a style all your own, we do need to be in the same room for most of it, I think....."
He laughed, his voice coming to her from down the hall. "Be right back, I promise. I just remembered I have something for you."
She looked over the back of the couch and down the hall, made her voice a seductive purr. "Mmmm... I know. And that's why I want you to come back in here, Marshall Mann..."
He came hurrying back down the hall with a mischievous grin on his face and a small package in his hands, sliding back onto the sofa. "You do know how to make a guy hurry don't you?"
She laughed, leaning against him and pressing him down against the cushions. "I also know lots and lots of ways to make a guy...linger....when I want him to. Care to see some of those?" She nuzzled his ear, gently bit the lobe, smiled at the heartbeat racing under her hands, at the stutter when he spoke.
"God, M-Mary.... Let's open this first, okay? Otherwise, I don't think I'm going to think about it again..." He held up the gift and placed it in her hands. She sat up and pushed her hair back behind one ear to unwrap it. He sat up against the couch cushions to watch with eagerness as she began to pull the ribbon off.
When all the paper was off, she opened the small box inside to reveal, lying on a small wad of white cotton, a silver bracelet. It was a cuff, about as wide as her index and middle fingers together, and decorated on the outside with a stylized, vaguely Celtic, incised image of a large graceful bird in flight, perhaps an eagle. In its talons, it held a star.
She ran her fingertips over it, already in love with the design. It was beautiful. She looked up at Marshall who was watching her every gesture and expression.
"Oh, Marshall. Where did you find this?"
He smiled. He'd seen what he needed to see in her face, in the reverent way she was handling it.
"I went to a craftsmen's exhibition awhile back, and when I saw that piece, I thought of you. I seemed like it had your name right on it."
Mary smiled, still turning the cuff over and over and looking at the design. She did not, as a general rule, wear much jewelry. It got in her way, became a liability in combat, or was just another thing to get lost or have stolen. This cuff, though, would sit sleekly on her wrist, would not impede her movement or her ability to defend herself, and was so light, she did not think she would even know it was there most of the time..... She slipped it on and looked down at it. It was a little big for her wrist.
Marshall's large hands wrapped around her wrist, and he gently shaped the silver to fit her. When he was done, he left his hands there, smoothed them over the bracelet, over the flesh just above it. "There. Perfect."
And it was. Everything suddenly was. In ways she hadn't known it could be. But....
"Marshall, I'm ashamed to say it, but I didn't get you anything for Christmas." Oh how I wish I had, now....
Marshall smiled. "Didn't you, Mare? Are you sure?" He brought the hand bearing the bracelet at its wrist up to his lips for a lingering kiss. "Because I could swear that everything I asked Santa for is sitting right here on my couch right this very minute waiting for me to unwrap and enjoy." His eyes were sparkling with that glorious happy light that she loved so much, and she smiled in return.
"Well, far be it from me to stand in the way of a man and his Christmas present." When he tugged gently on her hand, she allowed him to pull her down on top of him, and they fell backwards onto the couch.
Outside the window, three figures looked on in quiet contentment at a job well-done for just a moment longer before turning away to other places, other tasks. The first no longer looked like Robert Eps, but still shone silver and jingled slightly with the sound of tiny bells when he moved. The second was still dressed in green despite no longer sharing the form of the illustrious Dr. Shelley Finkle. The third still moved in dark robes and the rustle of black wings. The only sign of their presence to be found the next day was one large black feather lying on the doormat.
I hope you enjoyed it. I hope the ending was happy for you. R&R.