Standard disclaimer applies. I don't own anything. If I did, I wouldn't be broke.

Spoilers for S3 finale.

Her go-bag was tucked in the corner against the railing while she sat stiffly on the porch swing. She felt awkward and she knew she looked it, too.

It wasn't that she didn't like the swing or the beautiful view from the porch. It was that she knew she didn't really have the right to be here; not right now.

She had heard the car pull up the drive and heard the doors shut as –she assumed- passengers got out. Mary didn't move.

The pattern of his footfalls in those cowboy boots was both reassuring and terrifying at the same time.

She had no regrets; vacation be damned. This is where she needed to be. But with one look, he could send her away and throw on her as much pain as she had thrown on him with her selfish, fear-driven behavior.

She stood just as he rounded the corner from the driveway and he stopped mid-stride as he saw her there, jeans white tank and jean jacket. There was no mistaking her for anyone else.

He stood at the base of the porch and she watched as Marshall stared at her blankly. He broke the gaze, looking back towards the house and moving up the steps and towards the door.

The lump in her throat was larger than she could have imagined possible. Rejection from her best friend – well fuck. If this is what she had inflicted on him, …

She took a step towards him as he walked past and she reached towards his arm, missing by several inches. He stopped, his head dropping forward and his eyes closed. Mary watched as his shoulders slumped in defeat and he turned toward her. She felt her heart break at the agony etched across his face and she reached out again, risking everything and gathering him into a hug.

Mary pulled him as tightly to her as she could, and he buried himself into her arms, his shoulders shaking as sobs overtook him.

Her fingers traced lazy patterns in his hair, trying to find a calming, soothing rhythm.

She had somehow negotiated them from standing to sitting on the porch swing. His head was cradled against her shoulder and he alternated from staring out blankly across the front lawn, to keeping his eyes closed.

The sobbing had stopped. Occasionally she'd feel his shoulders shudder and she knew he was repressing another wave of grief. He was just limp against her and one hand lightly bunched in the front of her shirt, a reminder of his wracking cries when he had held on for what felt like dear life.

Mary's free hand crept up to his cheek and gently wiped away the tear streaks. Her touch was uncharacteristically tender and she flinched when his fingers closed around hers.

Marshall held her hand tightly in his before twisting their grip to lace their fingers together. His thumb absently traced the back of her hand, the pattern mimicking the one she was drawing on his scalp.

"Did you get to talk to her?" Mary was the first to break the silence.

He nodded against her shoulder, the fabric of her jacket warm against his cheek. Fireflies had begun to sparkle against the grass of the yard, dusk having crept in while neither were paying attention.

She didn't know what else to say- what else to ask. She wanted to ask 'Are you ok' but she knew the answer: horrible. Broken. Crushed.

She wanted to ask 'What can I do' but she knew the answer: absolutely nothing.

Marshall took a breath, trying to steady his shaky voice. "She asked for you."

Mary felt herself frown in utter confusion. "What?"

He forced himself to sit up, instantly craving the comfort of her embrace. He relaxed his fingers and slipped them from her own. "She asked where you were."

"I-I don't…." Mary stuttered. "Marshall, I never met your mother."

He nodded. "I know. But she asked where you were." He stood from the swing, the motion rocking it slightly beneath Mary. His voice was low- hard. "I opted to not tell her you were in Mexico fucking Faber."

Running away from myself, she mentally added, only to run back to you. Go figure.

"I came as soon as Stan called," she said, intentionally keeping her voice even and refusing to lay blame on him.

"I told him not to bother you."

She shrugged. "Guess I'm the favorite after all," was her cheeky reply in an attempt to lighten the obviously dour mood.

She stood and reached for her go-bag, shouldering the strap. She dug into her pocket and pulled out a single key with a sparkling brass tag. "I'm at that B&B up the road – the one with all the creepy lace in the windows and crazy ass lawn gnomes all over the damned place." She reached out and placed the key in his hand, noting the confusion on his face. Now was not the time for sarcasm or rudeness. Now was the time to embrace a small sliver of the compassion and etiquette he had demonstrated over the years. Now was the time to honor the manners his mother had imparted on him so fully. "Look, Marshall, I-… I don't know how long you want me to stay, or even if you want me here. But... I'm here until you tell me to go. And now you know where to find me."

She slipped past him and down the steps, heading up the rural street towards 'town' – the quaint section of store frontages, cafes, B&Bs and historic buildings.

She had no rental car- a cab had been her fastest option at the small airport. She'd pick up a rental if he asked her to stay. So for now, she walked.