Disclaimer: In Plain Sight does not belong to me; I apparently belong to it.
Author's Note: As promised, a belated birthday pressie fic for Bujyo. Hope you like. :~)
"What part of inappropriate do you not understand?" he hissed lowly through gritted teeth. "We are in a church, Mary. For Christ's sake, have you no sense of decorum?" He was angry with her. She didn't care. There were things still to be said; that was why she'd followed him here.
"Marshall," she urged, hand going to his jacket sleeve in order to regain his lost attention. It was seeking, flailing about the cavernous sanctuary… dark but for soft orange glows of alter candles, tea lights in the stained glass alcoves along the walls, the tiered votive Vigil Lights. It was near midnight. "Marshall," she called again. "Look at me. I wasn't through with that discussion."
He stopped searching long enough to meet her face, his own eyes hard. "No, but I was." Pushing forward through her, they came out from between the pews into the center isle, his antsy movements displaying his displeasure. Again, searching. "If you've made me lose my witness…"
There was no reason for him to finish; the thought was well communicated and Mary knew she'd overstepped her bounds. Normally she wouldn't have cared, her whole life having been one crossed line after another. But this was Marshall, and this was serious. Not so much his witness, who had fled the church at Mary's unscheduled appearance. That was more of an…. inconvenience. But she'd pushed him too far tonight, and coming after him just toppled them over the edge.
"Goddamnit," he swore under his breath, breaking free of her tenuous grip, long, quick strides up the aisle, pacing in a circle of loss, scanning the balcony, giving up. Lawrence had disappeared.
"Marshall," she ventured softly, voice carrying in the cool, stone atmosphere. "He's fine. Really."
It was not what she had expected from Marshall. Not the tone, not the underlying anger, not the blatant disapproval without thought to diplomatizing his words. She'd fucked up… somewhere.
"No, he's not fine," he ground out as he whipped about, pinning her with a stare dark in the monochrome house of God. Carefully measured words, slow, deliberate strides toward her. "He's not fine because you can't stop yourself from projecting your disillusioned hatred for all things faith-based and compassionate upon hapless creatures such as an impressionable young man in the all-consuming glory of fledgling love."
He'd reached her, towered over her, eyes boring into hers. Stopped short of touching her, and somehow that was more an unease than had he attacked her; there was no fighting back with this separatation of inches.
"It was not your place to counsel him on his plans, Marshal Shannon." She winced at the title. Yeah, he was truly pissed. "It was not your place to inform him in all your worldly experience and wisdom that the young lady he deigned to fall in love with was, in fact, going to break his heart someday. Nor was it your place to paint for him so vivid a picture of the fallacies of the mythical institution of love, and how, in light of such an intangible and glaringly antiquated notion, he was, in point of fact, ruining his life by subscribing to an act of absolute trust and vulnerability."
"He needed the hard truth, and not some fairy tale story –"
"What he needed, little Miss Mary Sunshine," Marshall interrupted tightly, "was for his inspector – that would be me, thank you – to lend a supportive ear to his newfound joy of a first love. To be his friend, not a doomsday soothsayer hell bent on making everyone else around her miserable so that her own unhappiness would have fellowship in its self-fulfilling misery.
"Further more," he added, cutting her off yet again, "he did not need for his inspector's said prophetic partner to dump on him all her bullshit while I was retrieving paperwork from elsewhere in the office." His last few words rose in pitch and speed. Breathing shallow, annoyed. Mary took on defense – it was the best way to forget she'd stepped out of line, sending Lawrence off in a weeping tizzy before Marshall had returned to the conference room. Besides; it was the conversation following that had led to now.
"Oh, c'mon, Marshall," her disdain allowed, "the kid's twenty-four years old and I doubt he's ever been laid in his life. This hussy gave him a romp in the sheets and now he's waxing all lovesick over her like it's Camelot. He needed a dose of reality." His face had lowered to inches from hers. All effort was required not to step back, not to close her eyes against the threat.
"It's not your place to try to give him what you feel is reality, Mary. Just because you've decided that we're all a bunch of mental incompetents because we believe in something of an intangible nature with an optimistic view of emotions and feelings, doesn't mean it is your obligation or right to force that opinion on everyone else. And don't ever take out your anger with me on my witness again."
Ah. The root of the problem. The root of the tension. The 'before' un-conversation, and the definite 'after' conversation.
After Lawrence had left in a hurry, after Mary had briefly informed a baffled Marshall what had happened to his witness; the row following had not long ventured on Lawrence. It was much, much more personal.
That was the reason she'd followed him when Lawrence had called, telling Marshall where he'd gone – the church where he'd wanted to wed the chick. That was the reason she was here, trying to rectify matters. That was the reason…
His point made, her partner turned abruptly, started up the aisle, taking time to view each row for a hiding place. Intent no doubt to trace Lawrence and calm the young man, ease his fears in that uber-compassionate way Marshall had. But Mary needed to finish that discussion began in the office tonight.
"You think you know how you feel about me," she called after him, reverting to acerbic irritation with him. It was better than the alternative feelings. "But it's just some infatuation because we work together so much. What you said back there, it's not real. You don't know what you're talking about. You don't really –" She cut off, changing her words. "There's no such thing as happily forever, Marshall, and you know it. Lawrence should know that now before he gets hurt. Just like you – you've created this belief that you feel things you don't, this perfect little set of gooey emotions to justify a baser desire to throw down for a quickie with your best friend."
He stopped suddenly, and somewhere inside Mary knew the button had been pushed, the one she'd been seeking. Apparently, he thought so, too.
Turning – this time much more slowly – face bland and unreadable. Sixteen feet apart, but his stare could have been six inches, his coldness sixty miles. Enunciated, low.
"Mary, you just don't know when to leave well enough alone, do you? You push and push, determined to provoke a reaction, no matter what that reaction might be. You want it for the sake of having caused it, like some sort of control. But Mary, I'm not some witness you can bully, or your mom or sister you can shove around like yesterday's garbage. Nor am I some situation you can control. And you'd do best to keep that distinction in mind."
It had not been a good night for Mary. Common sense was in the wind; normal suggestion of some sort of reasoning had fled underground, and autopilot was ruled by unchecked emotions, things Mary didn't understand nor want to claim as her own. And his words… from the one man above all others she respected, and his words were like the shards of ice of a break in a pond, the ones that sliced viciously at your brittle, tender, frozen flesh as you plummeted through into icy depths. First to shock, then to drown. And before comprehension dawned, her boots brought her to him, the resounding crack! of the slap echoing a sickening air throughout. Holding his position of profile, face turned and cheek already growing angry red in response to the assault. Outlines of her fingers splayed across fine, chiseled features, darkening with pooling blood. Three breaths.
He turned back to her.
Distant candlelight lent some reflection by which to gauge his expression. Past the fury now burning in ember form, a flicker of something akin to pain flashed briefly, then fled. Eyes dark with closing of thoughts appeared dead and inhuman. What had she done? Driven to stone the most giving, forgiving man she'd ever known. But how could she not? How could he expect her to –
But he simply turned and began to leave. Leave her.
"Marshall," she called. But he continued. "Marshall!" Not even a pause.
Rushing, without the simple act of thinking (why start now?), Mary closed the distance and cross grabbed his left wrist, catching and turning him. His reaction this time was anything but dead.
"What?" Anger. She could live with anger. Then a roar. "What the fuck do you want from me?" Fingers flexing stiffly in her peripheral vision, low at his sides, tightening into trembling fists. Cords of neck muscle stood out, pulse rapid and strong just under a jaw set with intensity.
But his stance and his words and his God-given talent to cut right through her with accuracy and precision overrode any inclination to some softer sentiment, and Mary reacted the only way she knew that wouldn't hurt her. This nearly stoic man before her didn't understand – couldn't possibly understand – and she had to make him understand. Entertainment of deeper affections led only to pain, and he had to understand that.
Her own fists spasmed into pent blocks of destroyed hopes and innocent dreams, finding their way in vigorous, rapid flails against his chest, punching him with the abandonment of thirty years, the regret of failed marriage and marriage-to-be. The bitter resentment at her best friend for forcing her to acknowledge his sadly-misdirected, misinterpreted twinges for her. It was easier to swing the pendulum to the side of antagonism.
Suddenly her right arm was behind her back, riding high up her spine in a painful, tight grip that brought her slightly to her toes. The controlling move so popular with law enforcement slammed her hard against him, chest out, back arched so that she had to look up at him in effort to relieve the twisting muscle tension. Her left dropped limply to her side.
Breath coming rapidly now, Mary's head cleared and in one moment her mind took in their situation, apparently with the same timing and conclusion as did Marshall, if the play across his face spoke as clearly as she read it. He'd caught it, too, this realization of the bad place to which he'd just brought them both, and abruptly released her, stepping back instantly as though burned. Odd sensations assaulted her, and Mary hated him, hated herself. Hated the memories and the longings and the dreams she'd long ago and deeply had hidden, and Marshall had – in only a few words earlier tonight – so efficiently uncovered and thrown into her face.
Keeping with his stoic guard, he retreated again, and Mary could not resist the parting shot rising like bile in her throat.
"Coward," she bit, venom dousing the word. It stopped him cold. She'd not meant for that to happen, and an icy ripple shot down her spine, dropped into her stomach. God, what had happened to her mental filter? Self destruction – it was ingrained in Mary Shannon like a double helix, and she could no more alter it than her DNA.
He didn't touch her when he turned one final time. Didn't step to her. Didn't acknowledge the flight she called him on. He merely spoke in a soft, ethereal voice that carried to her in frighteningly clear waves. Intense. Haunting.
"I may be many things, Mary Shannon, but tonight, with you, I have been anything but a coward… That would be your role."
Twist that dagger, Marshall. Shove it deeper into my gut. Nothing else mattered when he said those words to her; nothing else existed but her need to stop him from leaving her. Abandoning her. All this over a defensive show of pride to save what little unmarred heart still hidden from the world. A tiny piece Marshall Mann had exposed so readily.
It took three strides and her hands gripped his dress jacket with a force desperate. Tiptoes and pulling and her mouth found his with violent abandonment and cause. Hungry and frantic and rough and anxious. Yet something wasn't right – he was pushing her away, hard, prying fingers loose from his lapels. Head twisting. Shoving, stumbling backwards in effort to separate her from him. But this time – this time Mary Shannon was no coward. The greatest of all sins now would be to let him go. And her freed hands went to his neck. And she held on. For dear life.
A split second. A heartbeat. A breath. Then…
Flood walls were breached with a sharp break. Hands throwing her away were now tight around her, clinging with urgency. Thrown haphazardly against the pillar just two steps away, hands pressing her head to his own, her hips up against him so hard and so close the sheaths of denim as well may not have been there. Her mind escaped into the dizzying rush of this unexpected reaction in her body at his touch. Impassioned and rough the kiss grew, her fingers now clawing at him to bring him closer, closer… so very close as to mesh her own skin to his.
Vaguely sensations alerted her that her feet no longer supported her, that abdominal muscles had contracted to torque her hips, angled higher, thighs and knees embracing above slender hips she'd never taken notice of before in her fear. Only sensations clouded her mind, large, strong, rough hands frenzied in their need to dominate her body, and her body's pleading to allow it.
One last whisper of doubt plagued her, and as his teeth raked down her jaw in a mark of territory, she recalled his blasphemous word back in the office, after Lawrence had left, before she'd belittled and scoffed and gnashed her teeth at his usage of it: Always.
"You can't promise me that," she said, tears in her voice. That untouched piece of her heart wanted more than the world to believe it, but she couldn't. Wouldn't. Marshall, however, knew her unspoken reference. Ragged, torturous voice breathed heavily through the sudden and complete physical stillness. Breath warm caressed her ear.
"I can promise you I've wanted to do that – this – for years. And I can promise you that's never diminished; only grown. Substantially. Over and again, every passing day. It's not going to fade. And it's not going to disappear; neither am I. Stop fighting this, Mary; stop fighting yourself." He pulled away just enough to meet her eyes, so blue in the shadowy night, so dark with sincerity. "Let me love you."
Voice found, only a choked croak filtered through, fear and pain enclosing the words in dry tears. "I don't know how."
"Just stop fighting."