*** A post-finale fic...you knew you'd get one from me! Mary is the strong one, right? The one who can always claw her way to the top. Do you ever wonder why she pushes? Why she runs? What happens when the carpet is pulled out from under her one too many times? ***

***It's rated T with the usual potty mouth warnings. There's a 5 second zesty scene down the road. Just close your eyes if you don't want to see it, 'cause I'm not changing the rating for a quickie :) ! The characters arent' mine...which is good because I'd beat them senseless if they were. Fools.***

*** So many thanks to roar526 for reading garbled snippets and paragraphs out of order...over and over and over again. We're having fun writing the backstory though!***

*** Many thanks to rj_lupins_kat for her continued encouragement and promises of a mini-winery! ***


How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don't know
This weakness I feel I must finally show

Lend me your hand and we'll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I'll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep, totally free

- Awake My Soul, Mumford and Sons


"…someone who makes you think." Marshall paused. "What?"

Mary barely heard the question for the roaring in her brain. Oh my God he is actually putting this on the table in the middle of the fucking office. I can't do this…I want…no…please stop talking! Please don't please don't please don't...

"What?...I'm thinking," she managed to reply, frantically hoping for a way out of this. Praying he wouldn't know she was coming apart at the seams at this very moment.

"Stan the man!" Mary jumped up and rapidly crowded her boss into his office, leaving Marshall with one hip on her desk and a look of pain on his face.

She didn't even know what she said to Stan; had a hard time remembering much of the next half hour at the office until she was able to flee.

"…maybe messy is what you need."

As soon as the words were out of his mouth Mary knew where it was going and her stomach dropped into the basement. Seven years of carefully building a comfortable house of glass and he was going to hand her the sledgehammer that she would use to destroy it. It wouldn't matter which way she swung; something would shatter beyond repair. Her. Him. Them.

"God damn you, Marshall!" Mary yelled as she slammed her palm against the steering wheel.

"Maybe instead of just anyone…you should be looking for someone."

The subtle changes in their relationship after Raph left were not lost on her, and neither was she immune. After everything, all the crap of the past year, there was Marshall. Still in her corner. Still standing her back up. Still loving her. Every circumstance and excuse had been ripped brutally away and she was forced to notice. He was the brass ring. The pot of gold. Ruby slippers. But these things were not for her, and Mary had to turn away. It hurt, and she tried to make everyone hurt with her. Especially Marshall.

She had left him sitting on that desk because she didn't know what else to do; all her options resulted in pain. But she knew how to run. Knew how to hide and lick her wounds hoping that the next time she stuck her head out the world would again be right. Maybe he'd think she misunderstood? Maybe he'd sigh in that way he did when she knew he was again giving her a bye, wander back to his desk and bury himself in work. Maybe he'd go home and toss back a shot, curse her six ways from Sunday and sleep in his boots. Maybe he'd stop loving her like he was supposed to.

Mary angrily wiped tears from her eyes as she stalked up the walk to let herself into the house. They had been headed back to normal in the last month or so, she thought. She had stepped back and warded him off. Conversation had been less intense and a little easier, casual looks and touches back on the playing field, and she was hoping the proper distance had been reestablished. He had fooled her.

"Jesus, Marshall," Mary groused as she grabbed a beer from the fridge and headed to the back yard. "Seven years of cowboys and dancing girls and now you grow a fucking pair?"

Well, at least one of us has the balls to take a stand, she chastised herself. Stretched out on the lounge chair, Mary let her head fall back, closed her eyes and tried to ignore the heartache.

/\\\/\\\

She made the decision sometime between flossing her teeth at three in the morning and buying cantaloupe later at five in the evening. The days were just packed with…nothing, and she was restless. Unsettled. Guilty. Mary had picked a fight with Brandi on Saturday to the point of getting Peter involved. Neither were speaking to her at the moment. She tried to talk to Jinx on Sunday. It turned into a blame-fest for ruined lives and lost chances. Mary cried herself to sleep. She didn't call Marshall.

Vacations were for families with kids, couples and people who actually had friends. Those were the people who needed a break from the hustle and bustle in order to reconnect and share stories. The remaining muck of humanity needed to just stick with the day to day basics. Otherwise, the beer aisle became too familiar and beaches in foreign countries actually started to seem like a good idea. That led to booking flights and wondering about seatmates…and bed mates…and realizations that every day you didn't call your best friend was another day you caused him pain.

Jinx's box of forgotten dreams should've stayed forgotten, Mary should've let Brandi drink that damned bottle of wine, and Marshall should've kept his idiotic mouth shut.

She stepped off the plane in Cabo San Lucas into a hot and humid Monday evening. The airfare had been cheap, the resort available in the off season and all Mary wanted to do was strip down to the bare essentials and use an ice filled drink to cool off. Customs gave her a headache, the shuttle ride to the hotel made her nauseous, and the room smelled like cigarettes. The tired woman stepped out onto the balcony and rested her hands on the ledge as she surveyed the nearly empty beach.

A couple of days to clear her head. To make her gut stop churning with the feeling that this was as good as it was going to get. Some R & R to take her mind off a man who offered her so much more, and all the reasons she'd always have to decline.

Mary stretched her neck as she watched a kayaker slowly track across the bay. She really needed to get out of this funk. Bounce back. Marshall's words just kept playing through her head and it didn't make any sense. Why call her to the carpet now? Make her doubt herself and her decisions? Why should she have to change?

"Someone who challenges you…" Mary covered her ears as his voice echoed in her head.

"No," she spoke to the cactus in the corner. "I am who I am. Stop asking me to be more. Some things aren't possible."

Whirling, she stomped back into the room and ordered a bottle of tequila from room service. Throwing some clothes onto the bed, she sloppily unpacked and looked in her purse for some money to tip whoever delivered the liquor. Her cell phone fell onto the floor and she stared at it for a long moment. Bending slowly to pick it up, Mary sucked air through her teeth as she rubbed her thumb over the buttons.

"I am who I am. Nothing more," she whispered, chest tight as she dialed.


*** Oh, you KNOW who she called! Don't shake your head...yeah, she did. Talk about challenging someone...Marshall really did a job on her this time. Shall I continue? Please REVIEW to let me know! ***