**Well, this is it folks. We have come to the end of the story. Our favorite duo will wake and find it's time to stop dreaming and start living.**
I adore you and no one before you could make me feel this way, yeah
Since I met you I just can't forget you, I love you more each day( yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
You're the one that I long to kiss
Baby, you're the one that I really miss (yeah, yeah, yeah)
You're the one that I'm dreamin' of
Baby, you're the one that I love
You're the One - The Vogues
Chapter 11 – Mann of my Dreams
Mary woke to the smell of coffee brewing and bacon sizzling. She turned on her back and stretched, enjoying the feel of slightly sore muscles. Settling back into the covers she turned her head and contemplated the depression on the pillow next to hers. The smile that came to her lips was natural and unforced. Marshall had been right. He didn't disappoint. He'd shown her some things she had never experienced before, all delivered with gentle hands, soft urgings and true emotion. Mary didn't know what time it was when she finally fell asleep, but she had woken at some point after that and simply listened to the sound of Marshall's breathing. Knowing he was there beside her gave her a feeling of belonging that she hadn't felt in a very long time.
Humming, she threw the covers back and made a beeline for the bathroom, the chill air causing her naked flesh to goosepimple. Delighted to discover Marshall had radiant heat in his bathroom, she took a moment and viewed herself in the mirror. He had left marks. Hickeys in various places. Branding her as his own. Neck, left shoulder, right hip. Turning around she twisted her head back and stared at the mirror, confirming an earlier suspicion. Ass. She touched her tender right breast. He seemed to have a favorite, had favored it with a lot of attention. A few bruises too, she noted as she inspected her legs. Not quite everything he did was gentle.
Mary viewed herself critically in the mirror, wondering what Marshall saw when he looked at her. He had murmured to her that she was beautiful. Did he mean that? His imprint was on her; the feel of skin against skin, heat against heat, hard against soft. And the words...Mary felt a flush creeping up her neck. He had actually talked to her, and not the 'oh baby you feel so good' type of talk. He spilled secrets about his longings, his hopes, as his hands caressed and whispered trails of fire over her skin. He shared his fears, his disappointments, as she explored the firmness of his chest, the tightness of his ass, the sharp angles of his face. He laid his heart bare to her and trusted that she wouldn't pull it, beating, from his chest. He really was lovely. Think I'll have to keep this one.
She quickly showered and dressed, pulling her hair back in a loose ponytail. As she was ready to leave the bedroom, a sudden wave of shyness, tinged with uncertainty hit her. Well, this was unusual. Mary was never shy about sex, before or after. But she couldn't help but wonder: what was he thinking as he stood out there cooking her breakfast? Did he still feel the same? Did he mean those whispered words of love, of longing, of pleading? Those soft utterances urging her to open to him. To accept him. To surrender to him. The cold light of day could change things.
"Stop second guessing my motives and come get your breakfast." The deep voice called out to her, a clear note of amusement shot through it. He really did have a room in her head. Mary walked into the kitchen, hands in her back pockets. Marshall was standing in front of the stove, flipping pancakes. He slid the last two onto a plate already piled high and turned around to place it on the table, then swiveled to face her. Taking in the slightly wary vibe she was giving off, he walked over to her and placed his hands on her shoulders.
"I didn't want to wake you. Thought you could use the sleep," he said as he bent down to kiss her. "Plus if I stayed in that bed with you, there would have been another round of...activity, and I need to go to work today." Eyes the color of the sky on a clear Albuquerque day deepened to the color of a New Jersey storm moving in from the east and Mary chuckled. "Are you trying to keep me from that food?" she asked, allowing herself a quick hug, her arm snaking around his slender waist, pressing herself close to his chest.
Marshall pulled out a chair for her and set orange juice and coffee in front of her. Mary eyed the tower of pancakes and rasher of bacon and smiled happily up at him. "How did you know?" she asked as she dug in.
"I've noticed your almost orgasmic relationship to food. Plus it came up in one of my dreams. Food has actually featured prominently in several of my dreams. You're a girl with a healthy appetite. And I've found it safe to go with anything I've dreamed about." Mary's fork halted on its way to her mouth and she looked up at him. He was dressed in jeans and a blue cotton shirt, top button open, overlaid with a black jacket. She glanced down; cowboy boots and longhorn belt buckle. She set her fork down slowly, regretting for a moment the loss of the additional round of activity. Her lips twitched; there had been two rounds of activity during the night though.
"Did you have a dream last night?" She watched him anxiously. The slight tinkle of wind chimes came from the back door, tickling a vague memory she couldn't quite grasp.
Marshall took a sip of coffee, savoring the roast blend, and looking at her over the rim, shook his head. "No, did you?" Mary gave a negative movement of her head.
"Maybe there won't be anymore," she faltered slightly as she thought about the loss of those dreams that had become so very important to her. She started eating, feeling a sense of mourning over the loss of the dreams that had been a nightly companion for so long.
"Maybe there doesn't need to be," he countered, helping himself to some pancakes and pouring syrup. The good stuff, Mary noted, real maple syrup. "We can wake up now and actually have each other there and not just the memory of a dream." He smirked. "Though I do have to keep pinching myself, prove that this is real, prove you are real."
Mary's eyes took on a sultry expression and she set her fork down. Reaching for the neck of her tank top she pulled it down, grasping the edge of her bra on the way and exposed the purpled blotch on the curve of her breast. "I don't need a pinch," she said. "I have the proof right here," she paused a beat, "and other places."
Marshall's face took on an expression of contrition. He felt a slight shock at seeing the bruise marring her creamy skin. He knew he would leave a mark, but didn't think it would be so...vivid. Mary stopped him before he got rolling on an apology. "It's okay. You didn't hurt me. I don't mind being marked by you. Find it kind of hot actually." She reached over to take his hand.
"So, I'm going to talk to Stan today, see if he still wants me as an inspector." She hesitated. Mary had spent an hour the previous day, closeted with Stan, the job offer swaying in front of her like the proverbial carrot. Everything this job represented tempted her, but it was all contingent on one thing.
"If you still want me as a partner." Her eyes focused on her plate.
Marshall paused, put down his coffee cup and stared at her. How could she even doubt that? After last night, after his whispered admission to her, she could have doubts as to his feelings? He saw the flash of fear sprint across her eyes and softened. This was a damaged woman who had been required to fight for everything she had, everything she had accomplished. No one had ever loved her just for her. She didn't believe that anyone could.
Marshall squeezed her hand. "''Of course I want you as my partner. I want you as my partner at work. I want you as my partner in my home. I want you as my partner in my bed. I want you as my partner in my life." He paused, then grimaced. "I wouldn't mention anything to Stan about our extracurricular activities. It may cause some difficulties. Let's just take a 'don't ask don't tell' approach."
They were silent a moment, then Marshall stood up and cleared their plates, carrying them to the sink where he asked casually, "So, you're going to accept the job offer?" Mary noted the tension in his back as he ran water into the sink. He was nervous, unsure of her decision. She ran an appreciative eye over his ass before she glanced around the efficient kitchen, taking in the granite counter tops with their large work surfaces, the ample cupboard space, the curtains at the east facing window, the little deck off the sliding door into backyard. The kitchen was filled with early morning light. It was warm, welcoming. Made so by the man at the sink, deftly rinsing dishes. A man who could cook. She could do worse. And this man wanted her to spend her life with him.
She thought about his words, the various ways he wanted to partner her. No one had ever wanted that from her before. To be the other half, to complete the circle. And was that what she wanted? To fill that role of partner in so many ways?
Mary closed her eyes, recalling his hands on her body, trailing heat everywhere he touched her; his lips on her skin, moist warmth followed by cool air as he worked his way from the top of her head to the bottom of her toes; the pressure of his weight on her hips as he settled onto her, knees slowly nudging her legs open. She shuddered. The feel of him entering her. He took his time, wanting her to feel, to experience everything he had to offer. And she had, her body expanding to accommodate him.
The sound of running water and clinking dishes impinged on the edges of her awareness. Even behind closed lids she could see him in her mind's eye, standing at the sink; tall, solid, lovely.
"Yes," she said clearly. "I'm going to take the job offer." Her eyes opened to see him leaning against the counter, dripping hands braced against the curved edges. He looked like such a goof, all grinning and idiotic. But he was her goof. And she had never had that before. Someone who belonged to her, who had given himself to her freely. Errant thoughts once more drifted to their lovemaking. Afterward, he had carefully fingered the Virgin Mary medallion she wore around her neck, the calloused pads of his fingers sweeping out in a radiating circle from the medal, whispering heat into her skin, before moving to caress her belly. He told her of the dream he'd had where she had gotten shot, had been seriously wounded. Long fingers traced an imaginary scar across her abdomen. She had dipped her head against his shoulder.
"I had a scary dream too, a few weeks ago, " her low voice had trembled with emotion, "You had been shot. I thought you were going to die on me, Doofus." She was silent a moment. "Were we ever lovers in your dreams?" His chuckle reverberated under her ear.
"No, I don't think so. Not for lack of interest on my part. But I don't think so."
Marshall smiled at her as he waved a hand in front of her, taking in her unfocused eyes. He knew where her thoughts had gone. "Good," he said, referring back to her affirmative answer on the job offer. He cast his eyes downward, studying the tile of the floor, thinking the grout probably needed to be cleaned. He cleared his throat.
"Last night was fabulous. At least for me." He still had trouble wrapping his mind around the fact that she had let him touch her. Her body had been soft and yielding under his hands. She had responded to every kiss, every stroke of his hands. And the feel of her; stretching open for him, encompassing him, clenching around him. But now that she'd had time to think, did she feel the same about a night that was absolutely magical to Marshall? "You felt," he groped for the appropriate word, "you felt right, Sunshine." Rather a lame finish, he thought to himself, but true nonetheless. She had felt...right.
Mary watched him, realizing he wasn't certain about her reaction. The slight hesitation in his speech was endearing.
"Marshall, you were actually there last night remember? You know how I responded. Responded to you. Responded to how you touched me, how you kissed me . You were leading remember? You made me feel things, well let's just say some of the things we did are probably against the law in some states, and it probably should be illegal to feel as good as I did." She walked over to him and brought a hand up to cup his cheek. She looked into his eyes; rubbed her thumb against the freshly shaven smooth skin of his jaw. "And I want to feel that good again. Soon."
He gazed down at her, enjoying the light sweep of her fingers against his jaw. Smiling at the admission she wanted to have another round of activity. He reached out to touch her medallion, making a mental note to ask her about her religious beliefs. He cleared his throat.
"I have another dream, Mary, but this one is more of a daydream. It involves you spending your life with me, making a life together with me. Protecting me at work and kicking my butt at home." Mary grinned.
"And don't you forget that part about kicking your butt, buster," she said as he wrapped a hand around her waist and pulled her in closer to him.
"I'm not under any illusions, Mary. You are a difficult woman. You've had to be. And I am well aware that I will be grating on your nerves at times. Especially once your find out about the sci-fi conventions and the quantum physics classes." He chuckled at her raised eyebrows. "I'll only make you go to one of those," he said, stealing a kiss.
"It better be the quantum physics," she replied dangerously, while an errant brain neuron fired and wondered if extensive study of physics played a role in his innovative kissing technique.
"Challenges will abound, but we already know we are meant to be together. Our subconscious has been telling us that for months." He pulled back slightly and looked down at her. "You're going to hate your witnesses you know." She smirked and placed her hands on his hips.
"I know. But I'll be doing something that matters. And I'll be doing it with you." She gripped his belt loops and tilted her head back.
"I need to get to work. You meet with Stan at 10:00?" She nodded. "Good. I'll be home by 6:00. I thought tonight we could..." He was cut off by her hand clapped over his mouth.
"Oh, I have plans for us already." She dropped her mouth against his ear. "And tonight, I get to lead."
**Thank you so much for reading and reviewing. I've been lifted up by your enthusiasm! Let me know what you think of the story as a whole.