Written for Merci_ki as a present and also for the Month of Mayhem on LJ. No ownership stated or implied.

The drizzle against the window pane pattered a gentle rhythm, like a metronome. The shifting ribbons of light from the street lamp were the only illumination he needed, because he had no desire to look at what he'd become. Strains of music from the stereo faded in and out of his consciousness as he stared into the remnants of his drink. The bottle rested on the floor next to his chair, just beyond his fingertips.

It, like his day, had started full of promise and ended mostly empty, drained physically due to the emotional strain of having nothing left to give. The major difference being that while his heart had been poured onto the floor at her feet, the first shot had managed to be poured onto the leather of his chair. He'd cleaned up, of course, but the scent lingered on, or maybe it was just that it mimicked the scent of failure.

Failure, malfunction, breakdown, stultification. He meditated on each word like a prayer, pausing now and then to sip and alternately pour, hoping that by taking them apart and reassembling them, he could see his way through to a solution that wouldn't result in him having destroyed the one thing in his life that gave him hope, joy. His relationship with her.

Much like the WH Auden poem, Mary was his end all, be all. His working week and Sunday rest, his noon, midnight, talk, and song. With one fit of pique at the first inkling of her taking her sexual interests elsewhere, and he'd sent a wave of fissures through the bedrock of his life. His only hope was that he hadn't broken it beyond repair.

Marshall's front door was locked, and she paused outside of it, feeling the warmth of the wood grain beneath her fingertips as she pondered using her key. It was unusual for her to stop on the porch, especially now that it was raining. Normally she was in the door and on to other things before such a thought would have even occurred to her, but today was nowhere close to a normal day and thus it merited careful contemplation.

His outburst at her desk, the classic case of excited utterance, had shocked her. Whittled her focus down to him, only him, and the one thing she'd tried desperately not to acknowledge. He'd unmasked the elephant in the room and dared her to call it by name. Running had been the prudent option, the only option, and the 'I'm thinking' had been thrown out as a nod to her deference to him as her friend, her partner, her…

Key in the lock, she entered the house, surprised to find it dark, considering his truck was out front. Ears straining, she followed the delicate sound of a dolorous piano melody combined with the sound of glass on glass. Words in a language she couldn't decipher made her heart hurt with the pained voice of the singer and she sagged against the doorframe of his study, just observing the man in the brown leather chair with his back to her.

He didn't move, except for taking the glass to his lips occasionally, pouring when he needed more, and staring-always staring-at some point beyond the rain-streaked glass. The urge to go to him, touch him, alert him to her presence, was overwhelming, but still she held back. She'd left him in the lurch today, turned tail and fled, and he deserved more from her, better from her.

She straightened away from the doorjamb, the new song's bossa nova beat camouflaging her approach until she was directly behind Marshall. Her hand on his wrist intercepted his next drink, bringing startled blue eyes to her gently smiling green ones. He stood, coming around the chair to face her, never breaking the tenuous connection of her hand on him.

Lifting his hand to her lips, she drank the whiskey and then placed the shotglass on the arm of the chair. Mary watched his eyes, always so expressive to her, as they darkened and filled with questions, cautions, maybe hope. The tentative way he looked at her, moved towards her was like a thinly-veiled slight of her own making: she'd given him no reason to believe in her, so why should she expect anything more? An impasse, but nothing insurmountable.

She moved closer, her other hand coming to rest comfortably at his waist, a question, an invitation. The corner of his lips turned up, even as he narrowed his eyes. He fought desperately against the optimism that swelled in his chest as he copied her stance, sliding his free hand around the small of her back. The music says all that he could not—should not—lest he send her skittering for cover again.

Their bodies moved closer as the hushed lyrics beckoned them to move, together as one, her hand sliding up his chest to the back of his neck, her face tipped up to his. She wasn't afraid now, the way she licked her lips drew his eyes, the slight pressure of her fingertips on his nape encouraging him. Lips fused together in hunger, desperation, they shuffled around his darkened study, a melding of shadows and something more. Maybe happiness, but it was too soon to tell.