*** Our story comes to an end :( Thank you for journeying with me, and for letting me give Mary a voice. How do they do? What does daylight bring? ***


In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life

Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul

- Awake My Soul, Mumford and Sons


She could feel his heartbeat under her hand. Feel the warmth of his body and the shift of muscles as he breathed. Awake in the early, gray hours of the morning, Mary could think of nothing more than the conversation the night before and the man sleeping next to her now.

"I could no more stop loving you than I could stop breathing. Either would be my slow death."

There was no way to misinterpret that. No double meaning or hidden clues. He bared his soul. To her. Mary felt a little frisson of fear with the thought. Could she do the same? Leave herself wide open for heartache and loss? Could she love him fully? He was precious to her as partner and friend, and she never questioned her loyalty to him there; would never hesitate to sacrifice for him. But she had pointedly refused to see him physically. Did not want to wonder what he would feel like, how he would touch her, how they would fit.

Friendship and sex had always remained mutually exclusive in her book. She had tried to tie the two together with Raph, but nights in his bed were purely physical release no matter how many times she let him hold her afterwards, or tried to match his endearments with weak versions of her own. She would call him a friend, yes, but not one she would sacrifice for…die for.

The man beside her cared for her far beyond the physical. And she for him. She felt a little butterfly of…something odd…in her gut as she wondered what it would be like to lay with someone who revered you. To please someone you had sworn to trust and protect. There would be much more there than just skin on skin contact. More than just acting on lust and arousal. There would be unspoken words, promises…vows; a level of intimacy that would bind you to someone.

Mary watched him now, relaxed and unguarded. A strong jaw with stubble slightly thicker than she was used to seeing, broad shoulders and a well muscled chest under his t-shirt, under her hand. Lean. His arms were strong, she knew that from experience, and his hands…

Mary was fascinated with his hands. Strong enough to cripple, yet deft enough to craft a delicate bird from a piece of paper. As if he knew her thoughts, Marshall shifted in his sleep and reached across to slide his hand along her wrist, coming to rest on her forearm and gripping slightly before settling. Warmth pooled in her belly from the contact, and her mind inexplicably imagined his hands beyond her arm.

But, this is Marshall, she reminded herself, unsettled by the hint of arousal. The man who annoyed her on a daily basis. Her geeky partner who carried an Oxyclean pen in his pocket…and used it. He had farm animals on his pajama pants for God's sake. Mary stifled a chuckle. Her brain prodded her. This was also the man carried her when she couldn't walk, held her when she shook, and brought her soup when she was sick. He was here because he would never let her go. His touch should mean something. And I have polka dots on my underwear. Mary smiled.

She scooted closer to her partner and laid her head next to her hand. Closing her eyes, Mary thought about the risks of something new.

/\\\/\\\

Marshall sat down next to her on the bench at the end of the pier. They had ventured out to find some lunch after sleeping well into the morning, and both were curious as to the offerings under the brightly colored umbrellas that dotted the planks out into the bay. Though feeling substantially better, Mary was still far off her game, and she decided to just sit for a while under the pretense of watching some fishermen on the rocks. Marshall gave her a look and she shooed him off to get them some lunch.

He now handed her an odd looking kabob wrapped in waxed paper. She eyeballed it hesitantly.

"Go on, try it," he urged. "Live a little."

"I'd like to keep doing that, thank you, and this does not inspire confidence," Mary drawled. "Couldn't you just find a taco or something?"

"You know," he muttered around a bite, "some people go to other countries to learn about the culture. Try the food and drink. Experience it beyond the hotel room."

Mary chuckled as she carefully tasted the meat. "Trust me, I've experienced it beyond the hotel room. And I've got the drink thing covered." She raised her eyebrows in surprise as the dish was relatively tasty.

Marshall reached over and gently touched her bruised eye. Mary swatted at him. "You really don't remember how you got that?" he asked.

She shrugged, not really wanting to talk about it. Embarrassed. "No fucking clue. Don't remember the whole day…or most of the night before that." She chewed in silence for a minute. "Jinx would've been proud."

"Definitely not one of your finer moments," Marshall agreed.

Mary glared at him sideways. "That's what I just said."

"A little out of control. Over the edge. Beyond reason. Off the rails," Marshall teased with the litany.

"You're an ass," she said as she elbowed him. Marshall grunted, then choked and coughed on his food.

"I'm dying," he sputtered.

"Someone, and I won't say who, once told me if a choking person can make a sound then they're not actually choking. Tell it to someone who cares." Mary smiled at his dramatics.

He settled, then pointed at her knuckles with the kabob. "Looks like you got your licks in, at least."

She chuckled, "I just hope I didn't kill anybody."

"There didn't seem to be a plethora of severely beaten corpses in the morgue, so you're probably all right there."

His words sobered her quickly. She hadn't really thought of the logistics he must've have handled in order to systematically search for her. Hadn't yet thanked him for finding her.

"You looked for me at the morgue?"

Marshall wiped his hands with the waxed paper as he finished. Stared out at the sea. "I honestly didn't know where to look for a while, Mare, and there were places I didn't want to look. But I had to know."

She reached over to set her hand on his forearm. "I'm sorry." He looked at her hand. "And thank you," she finished.

Her touch reminded him of confessions in the dark of night. He placed his hand over hers, holding her to him.

"You can't run from me anymore, Mary. No more cowboys. Not if we're really going to give something a chance. You can't tear me down or treat me like an unwanted accessory when you're threatened or scared. I can't do hurt for hurt's sake anymore." Marshall looked over at her to see her looking at him with an unreadable expression. "I need you to know that. Because I know you're still thinking, and I want you to go into this…whatever it is…fully aware. Cards on the table."

His words made her anxious. He was going to take this seriously; was laying down expectations well in advance. She was going to be held to some standards…and rightly so.

"I don't do cowboys when I'm with someone. You know that," she rebuked him. "I didn't know I treated you that way…at least, it was never my intention. And I certainly don't think of you that way. I have a disconnect between my brain and my mouth most days…forget to take a few practice swings before I step up to bat. I'll try to be more careful, but it may be better if you just promise to call me on it." Behavioral overhaul was out of the question, but Mary didn't think that was what he was asking. He was asking for awareness…for that consideration of another ahead of yourself. That, she could work on.

Marshall laced his fingers through hers and Mary grinned at the action. It was nice. "I won't push you. Not into anything, not out of anything," he said softly. "I know how I feel, but I know you haven't really had much time to ponder upon it yet. And if you find you don't feel…anything…then I'll just have to double your load of paperwork whilst I weep and rend my garments for a week."

Mary looked at him, surprised, then laughed out loud at his comic expression. "You're an idiot." Watched him for a minute after the humor faded. "I would hurt you."

He released her hand with a sad smile. "Eat your lagarto, woman." He waited for her to pick up the food.

"It would be an honest hurt. Acceptable. I would know where I stand and move forward from there. I know what I want in life…in love. It's something I'll continue to seek."

She contemplated the now empty wooden stick. Poked at the crumbs in the paper. Stalled. "And what would happen to us," Mary finally asked, afraid.

Marshall reached over to flip some of her hair behind her shoulder. Wanted to see her profile. He set his arm behind her on the bench, fingers barely brushing her opposite shoulders.

"We would continue to operate as the best U.S. Marshal team in the country. We'd harass witnesses, Stan, and other LEOs that dare to trespass into our territory. We'd drag people into SUVs, push them into new lives and collapse on your couch at the end of the day with pizza and beer. We'd fight over who gets to drive and nearly come to blows at least once a month over something trivial. We'd drag each other into family spats and booby trap Charlie's desk. You may find someone…I may find someone. We'd cheer each other on. Things would change, but we…you and me…we'll still be us."

Mary watched the gulls hopping nervously just out of reach. Waiting for a morsel. Hoping for a crumb. Daring proximity with the chance that they might snag a prize. Skittish.

Marshall's fingers brushed against her as he spoke again, "I booked the room for five more days. I'm going back to Albuquerque tonight."

Mary turned to protest and he held up a finger. "You need time to regroup and I need time to breathe. You missed out on your vacation and I feel bad about that. Enjoy Los Barriles. Enjoy the beach. When you come home," he shrugged, slightly amused by her irritated expression, "we can talk." He laid out the plan.

"What if I don't want to talk?" Peevish. She evaluated the plan.

"Then we can have sex," he offered.

Mary's blush and slightly shocked expression was not lost on her partner. He grinned widely and she smacked him with a greasy hand. Twice. Sputtered. "Jesus, Marshall! What the hell is wrong with you?"

"What? That's not an option?" He laughed. "C'mon. I need to get packed up and I want to make sure you have everything you need before I take off." He threw away their trash as they headed back down the pier.

"What's laga…lagar…" Mary was trying to remember the word.

"Lagarto?"

"Yeah. What did I just eat?"

"Lizard."

Mary stopped and just stared at him. Marshall watched her for a moment, then bolted.

/\\\/\\\/

"You're worse than an old man, Marshall," Mary exclaimed in exasperation. "You've checked your luggage twice, under the bed three times and now you're feeling yourself up. Trust me, if I find that in the sheets I'll bring it home."

Marshall stood still with his eyes squeezed shut. Pained.

"What?" she snapped.

"Just…imagining how you'd smuggle that through customs." He peeked at her, rewarded by another blush.

Christ, what was wrong with her? She hadn't blushed this much since…ever. Mary forced a disgusted look. "You're such a perv." She grabbed his suitcase and lugged it to the door.

He chuckled at her avoidance techniques. "Okay, you've got my phone and I've got the spare. Your flight leaves Cabo at 10:45 Wednesday morning, so catch the shuttle early…" Mary cut him off by putting her hand over his mouth.

"Amazingly enough, I've managed to travel all by myself for a number of years now. I've got it." Gently rebuked.

She was close enough to grab, and he did so, pulling her into an embrace. "Just a little residual worry. Sorry."

Mary returned the hug, silently pleased with his efforts. His care. He smelled good, and she was going to miss him. Miss this ease of company they had finally managed to recapture after all this time. The nagging ache in her gut that had plagued her for so long released its last knots and she sighed.

"Hey," he called. Mary looked up at him.

Marshall's hand slid into her hair as he brought his lips to hers. It was a simple kiss. A matter of mouths meeting, lingering for just the right amount of time, then reluctantly parting. Just a kiss.

They stared at each other for a moment. Frozen inches apart. His thumb caressed her temple and Mary swallowed. Just a kiss.

Marshall shook his head slightly, then hugged her quickly again and stepped back. Mary still looked slightly dazed. He was proud and worried at the same time. Shrugged and smirked as he opened the door, "I didn't know if I'd get another chance."

Mary wondered if her ears were supposed to buzz like that in Mexico. She mentally regrouped and pushed him out the door. "I give you credit for stealth. Now, get your skinny ass back to Albuquerque before I do something rash."

"I wanna stay for that," Marshall protested.

Mary smiled and waved as she shut the door, "See you Wednesday, partner!"

She wandered over to the balcony and stood in the sun. The breeze picked up her hair and she tilted her head to catch the scents of the seaside. Wind in her sails and pointed in the right direction. Haphazardly upright.

/\\\/\\\/

Marshall was just finishing a call to a local jewelers to secure a job for the most recent witness he and Stan had processed on Monday when his cell phone buzzed. Placing the handset in the cradle, he snorted in annoyance at yet another interruption. Damn day started badly and only got worse.

"Marshall," he snapped, attention on the computer screen.

"Well, hello to you too," Mary snapped back. "Guess where I am?"

Marshall stood suddenly as he realized the time. Crap! He grabbed his keys and nodded at Stan as he exited.

Mary continued, "Guess what I don't see? Your ass in an SUV…at the curb. And it's past noon. I haven't eaten and the window that you have between getting here and getting your ass chewed is becoming amazingly small."

Mary hung up and he grimaced. Marshall hated being late…avoided it at all costs. And today, of all days, he should've paid more attention to the time. He was going to eat crow for this until he choked. His stomach did some nervous flips on the way to the airport. The uncertainly of the unknown.

Mary tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for Marshall. She was more nervous than annoyed, but both emotions tended to make her snippy. He'd survive. She was looking forward to seeing him. Looking forward to getting back to normal.

He pulled up in front of her as she made an exaggerated point of looking at the watch she didn't wear on her wrist. Marshall rolled his eyes and jumped out to pop open the back. Mary handed him her luggage and walked around to climb into the passenger seat. Marshall watched her for a moment, then followed suit into the driver's seat.

She turned to look at him as he reached for the gear shift. Grinned as she spoke.

"What? I don't get a kiss hello? We're really going to have to work on that."

The truck stayed in park, and Marshall reached over to pull her to him.


*** My little romantic heart says "YAY!" :) All I can say is, Marshall's got his hands full...but I think he's well aware :) And happy! Thank you all for your unending support and amazing, amazing REVIEWS! Pop on over to LJ in a few days and see what roar and I whip up together! ***