Summary: When things change slowly, you don't always notice what you've got until it's gone.

Disclaimer: I don't own IPS or its characters. This is not my normal style and is borderline T/M.


Slow Change

It was insidious.

At first she was always too upset or distracted to notice. There was a hug that symbolized the end of that period in the basement. After that there were brief touches, a hand on her shoulder. But only ever enough to focus her attention when she was distracted or calm her when she was emotional.

All through the weeks after, through the multiple phone calls to Shelley, through the uproar over Brandi, there were these little touches.

She never noticed that the touches increased in length each time or that the excuses became flimsier.

He was insidious.

She never noticed, so she never questioned the way his arm brushed against hers whenever they stood close enough. She never questioned why he was standing close enough to touch her, a distance made dangerous by her prickly exterior. She never questioned his unfailing presence and if he stood too close every once in a while, surely that was just his geeky nature, not understanding personal boundaries.

She didn't notice in the way that one doesn't notice the moment the sapling you planted as a child becomes a full-grown tree, despite the fact you see it every day. Because you see it every day. And in the way you never think to question the presence of said tree, she never questioned the contact.

Slowly, insidiously, he eroded her personal space. She didn't notice the day she didn't bother to take half a step to the side when their hands brushed in the elevator. He noticed and permitted himself a small smile of victory. That she noticed, but nothing would tear the reason for it from his still grinning lips. So she sulked and pouted and whined, but she didn't move to reclaim her space.

She didn't notice when the hand that had previously only attempted to comfort began to linger, when the reassurance turned into a caress. She didn't noticed the hand tracing the path from her shoulder down her arm, stroking, intimate, until it reached her hand where it would pause to give hers a quick squeeze before letting go.

She didn't notice when her own traitorous hand started clasping his, refusing to let go as she checked her Blackberry with the other, or checked her holstered weapon before entering a witness' house. She didn't notice when it started seeking out his hand before getting out the car. She didn't notice that his hand always seemed to be in reach whenever she sought it.

She didn't notice the day it stopped, either.

Or the day after.

It took almost a week before she noticed something was missing.

It took another three days for her to work out what was missing from her life.

And when she noticed, she spent another day and a half trying to work out when he had got past her defenses.

It took her 18 minutes to work out what to do about it.

xxx

"Hey, Marshall," she called across the deserted office.

Marshall didn't look up from his paperwork, but the slight tilt of his head told her he was listening.

"You haven't touched me for days," she pointed out.

That made Marshall pause in his writing and look up.

"You noticed," he said in a strangled voice.

"Of course I noticed. What do you take me for?"

"I wasn't sure you would."

"What? You think I let so many strange men touch me, that I wouldn't notice if you stopped?"

Marshall ignored the implied insult and returned to his form-filling. Mary followed his example, satisfied he would take the hint.

xxx

She did notice when his hand slid up her arm and circled the back of her neck before pulling her in for a kiss. She also noticed when his tongue met hers and she tasted him for the first time. She noticed when his kisses migrated from her mouth to her neck and collarbone. She noticed his hand sliding around her waist but did nothing about it, other than pull him closer.

She noticed when his hand wondered from the small of her back to her hips to push her onto the bed. She noticed when his weight came to rest on top of her, his length pressing against her. She noticed as his hands removed her blouse and caressed her skin. She noticed the muscle tone on his back as she returned the favor. She noticed the feel of him beneath her hands and noticed that she wanted more of him.

She noticed her own eagerness as he stripped and the thrill of anticipation as he lay poised to enter her. As he pushed forward slowly, she noticed the change in her body as it accepted him. He drew back just as slowly until she found herself missing him. She noticed the way her body ached for him and noticed him fill her need, allowing their pace to build until she could notice no more, overcome with the sensations coursing through her.

Even at the height of his passion, he noticed her. He noticed her in the way he had noticed her everyday since they had first met. He noticed the feel of her as he touched her and the taste of her as he ran his tongue across her skin. He noticed the desire burning in her eyes and the way she arched under his hands. He noticed the pooling moisture as he slid in and out of her and the guttural sounds she made as she neared climax. He noticed the moment the orgasm overtook her and the way she closed her eyes to shut out the world as she came.

She noticed, even with her eyes closed, when he let himself go. She noticed the sensation of him filling her, and the way he growled in her ear as he did so. She noticed how he collapsed onto her when he was done and buried his face into the crook of her neck so that his hair tickled her cheek.

He noticed the scent of her. He noticed the way she stroked his back gently. He noticed his own happiness, and hers, as he looked once more into her eyes.

He smiled as he noticed her as she finally noticed him.