A/N: Sorry for the long delay but real life is still nuts, I even got this written but then haven't had the energy to edit it and update until now (and I won't vouch for my editing). I do hope to get the last chapter up in a more timely fashion (lord knows I need to wrap up at least some of my WIPS) ... but no promises there. Anyway, to those who have stuck with me, thanks, and to any new readers, enjoy. Remember, reviews feed the writers soul (ok, maybe it's more like feeding the ego but whatever).
The morning workouts were what Mary missed most.
It was a habit that she and Marshall had fallen into over the years of their partnership. Not every day, sometimes not even every week, but regularly nonetheless, they would meet in the park for a morning run. They'd start with some stretches, go for a run, and then share bitter coffee from a streetside vendor as they caught their breath on a park bench afterwards.
Sometimes they got together during a difficult case, talking it over as they stretched their achilles tendons, leaning side by side against one of the sunwarmed stone walls that bordered the paths. Sometimes it was when everything at Witsec was quiet and they felt the need to trade friendly insults in short gasped bursts as they jogged, keeping their partnership honed with the banter. Sometimes the time was spent in silence broken only by the sound of breath blown out to cool the steaming coffee's burn.
Whatever the reason, they had always been in perfect sync, one or the other of them would simply glance over at the end of a day and say, "Tomorrow?"
Then Abby came along. Now Mary couldn't remember the last time they had met for a run; she had ended all that. Probably does aerobics with her, Mary thought to herself. What sort of self respecting guy does aerobics, she mentally added, hoping her internal sarcasm would stave off that other emotion that threatened to envelop her in a green tinted haze. Satisfied with her cynicism, she curled her lip. Bet she uses her old pom-poms.
That was why she was so startled when Marshall finally turned to her late one Tuesday and asked, "You up for a run tomorrow?"
It took Mary a moment to reply but she covered her surprise in the usual way. "What's the matter, you finally get tired of sweating to the Paula Abdul workout?"
"I've been teaching Abigail yoga, if you must know."
"Mm, yeah. You can call it that if you want to."
Marshall rolled his eyes and ignored her comment. "So, are we on?"
"Is Abby coming?"
"Unlike us, she does not have a yearly physical looming just around the corner and therefore has no need to subject herself to a run in the heat of what passes for spring in Albuquerque."
"You make it sound like so much fun, but okay, I'll see you at 6:30," she replied grudgingly as she firmly tamped down the small flare of relief that had blossomed with his request.
When they met at the park the next morning, the barely risen sun had not yet managed to super heat the air and Mary even found herself breaking out into a few goosebumps as she bent over to stretch her hamstrings. "You know, I forgot how nice it is early in the mornings. Hard to believe we'll be sweating our asses off by nine."
"That some sort of nuclear powered air conditioning?"
"No, it's what makes the desert cool off so well at night. The heated ground warms the air making it rise rapidly and allowing it to be replaced by cold air from aloft."
"Huh, and here I thought the hot air was just coming from you," Mary tossed back over her shoulder as she started jogging down the path.
"Very funny," Marshall replied, his long strides quickly catching up with her.
Mary gave him an evil grin as he drew alongside and he smiled back in easy companionship, their footfalls settling into a consistent rhythm. By the time they were passing through the open area near the parking lot and about to start their second circuit, the sun had risen high enough to heat the air and Mary could feel the sweat beading on her face and running down between her shoulder blades. She welcomed the result of good, clean exertion, but ran a sweatband covered wrist across her forehead to keep the stinging moisture from dripping into her eyes.
When she looked back up, she saw that the grassy area was finally beginning to be populated now that the day was underway. There were a few early dog walkers throwing balls in the area designated for pets, a couple of boys pitching a baseball back and forth, and a man who was holding some sort of remote control and looking skyward with intense concentration. Mary followed his gaze upward and saw the two foot long model airplane that was the object of his attention. Uninterested in that sort of toy, she dropped her eyes back to ground level and spotted a brightly clad figure contorting herself on a small mat spread out on the grass. Something about the person looked familiar and as they drew closer she realized it was Abby.
"What the hell is she doing here?" she snapped at Marshall, his girlfriend's arrival having ruined the peace of her morning.
"Yoga," he replied mildly.
Mary curled her lip at his avoidance of her obvious meaning. "Wow, and here I thought the only position she would have mastered is 'the beast with two backs.'"
"No, we only do that one together," he snapped back, drawing a disgusted groan from Mary. Then he sighed. "You know, you might like her if you could manage to stop hating her for longer than a minute."
"Nah, not my type. I mean, even if you put her ridiculously naive good cheer aside, look at what she's wearing," Mary said, acutely aware of the difference in their attire. In contrast to Mary's faded UNM shorts and dull white tank top that was permanently stained by some long forgotten salsa, Abby was clad in some sort of loose-fitting, stretchy bright blue pants, topped by an iridescent green skin-tight top. "Who dresses like that? She looks like a bug."
"They're yoga pants," Marshall told her, although he did have to admit that the way Abby was bent over, and the sheen of her shirt, did give her a slightly beetle-like appearance.
"Whatever. She looks like an idiot."
"Give her a break, not everyone can rock a pair of tattered sweat shorts the way you do." His tone was sarcastic but the glance he gave the athletic legs that emerged from those sweats was frankly admiring.
Mary, however, had looked away and missed his longing gaze. "Asshole," she muttered. And then, in an attempt to salvage her earlier good mood, she gave in to an activity that had become a common pastime since Marshall's new relationship became serious. She kept on jogging but her eyes glazed over as she began to imagine Abby's untimely demise ...
Abby was oblivious to her surroundings as she continued to slowly switch between yoga poses ... the agitated cat slid smoothly into the upchucking anteater as she bent over and extended her arms ...
Never having had any desire to pursue so peaceful a form of exercise, Mary was unfamiliar with the actual names of the various positions except for the fact that many had to do with animals. Making them up as she went along, however, was half the fun ...
The former cheerleader was so intent on her workout that she never noticed the noise from the tiny engine of the toy plane soaring above her begin to change. What had been an even mechanical purr rose in pitch, first buzzing like a bumblebee and then, as the plane began to pitch and roll, rising to the shrill whine of an enraged, and enormous, mosquito.
Still, Abby kept her focus, never raising her eyes as she contorted herself into a tangled mess of limbs that Mary (with a secret smile) decided to call the flatulent lemur. The pose left the former cheerleader's eyes staring at her mat and she failed to see the small plane tip its nose downward and spiral towards the meadow. The closer it got, the more it seemed as if it was being drawn to a particular target, set on its path by some otherworldly guidance system as it drew a bead on Abby's iridescent shoulders.
It was only when the plane was mere yards above her that she turned her head to see her airborne fate hurtling down. She had no time to move. The elongated nose of the plane, tipped with a slender pointed steel cone, hit her right between the shoulder blades, knocking her down. In fact, so great was its momentum that it slid right through her, pinning her to the ground like a lepidopterist's wet dream impaled in a display case. Or maybe in her final moments Abby had invented a new yoga pose - they could call it the deceased beetle ...
Mary was still mentally chuckling at her fantasy as she and Marshall followed the jogging path into a grove of trees. Before the leaves blocked her view, Mary took a final look upward at the tiny plane still soaring overhead and smiled.
Marshall followed the direction of her gaze. "I always wanted to try my hand flying one of those things," he told her.
"Who cares about flying one," Mary answered, her grin spreading even wider, "crashing it would be much more fun."