A/N: This is it! The final installment of my first MTM fic. Being the oddball that I am, I finished my second one BEFORE this one. I send out heaps of warm thank yous to all of you for your reviews and support.
/ / / / /
Her place was dark, and Lou was afraid Mary might already be asleep. It had only been a week since she had started the new job, and he knew she wasn't used to the new schedule yet. He pushed quietly into the bedroom, and then started to smile when she rolled toward him.
"Hey, you're home," she said with a yawn.
Home. He liked that sentiment, even if Mary had likely made it unthinkingly. He was smiling even more now.
"We should just have one of these 'homes,'" he told her, as he pulled off his tie and sat beside her on the bed. "One of these days, we'll get our wires crossed, I'll go to the wrong place, and we are going to spend the night apart."
"Like we would notice? We are barely together. And one or the other of us is always asleep," she complained groggily.
"Stop. I'd notice, Mary."
He slid in next to her and nuzzled at her neck. "Okay," she told him. "I'd notice, too. You know, I love you."
"And," she said, as she wiggled away a little so she could look at him. "You make all of this so much easier."
"Good. And you like the new job?"
"I do. But... "
"The schedules?" Lou said, knowingly.
"Yes. I hate..."
"Don't," he cut in. "Don't worry about what you can't fix, hon. It'll get better. And since I got home late, I'll get up with you in the morning. Okay?"
He started to kiss at her neck again. "I can't help it," he told her.
/ / / / / /
Things continued on that way. They saw each other less, but there was still time together. And the time together, Mary had to admit, was wonderful.
They managed the holidays, something Mary would have wondered about before. With the new job, however, life was more about just doing - there wasn't the time to worry. So, Christmas was a nervous, tired sort of jumble with trips to see his daughters and her parents.
But it was good, she realized. "See? You survived," Lou teased, after a New Year's Day dinner over at her folks' house. He handed her some cocoa and snugged in next to her on the couch.
This dear man made everything better without seeming to try. He had managed to say all the right things to her mom. And from the moment they had walked into the get together at Lou's youngest daughter's house, the darling man had made it obvious to everyone, in a lovely and subtle way, that Mary should be considered something permanent in his life.
She put her mug down and turned to him. "I love you," she told him. There was something different in her voice as she said it. Even she heard it.
"I love you, too," Lou whispered back.
"No. I mean I really, really love you. Sort of ...overwhelmingly."
"I know exactly how you feel," he smiled.
He kissed her then, and she thought about a long ago question she had asked herself. A question about kisses on New Year's Eve. She knew the answer. He had been the one there on this past New Year's Eve. What she knew now was, there was no one else she could picture herself with when the time came to start another new year and share that kiss.
More months went by with a grudging sort of ease to them. They had their routines. Mary still had her gripes. But she had Lou.
One spring morning they met by the elevator on his floor so they could have lunch together. Given their competing schedules, it meant it was a late lunch for her and a ridiculously early one for him. It was just nods and smiles while they waited for the door to ding open. And then they moved in to stand off to the side.
"Lobby? Right?" he asked needlessly as he pressed the button.
"Kiss me?" she whispered in reply from behind him. Her hand slipped to his back underneath his suit coat.
Lou let up a quiet, amused little noise. "I am starting to think you believe this sort of behavior is required in elevators." He turned to pull her in and tease her then, kissing her only on the neck.
She whined in complaint and caught him by the lapels; Mary took her kisses then, finishing as the elevator came to a stop. They had these rides down to a very, very enjoyable art.
As soon as they were seated for lunch, he launched into conversation. "Now that you've been on the early show about six months, Mary, what would you say to going back to the six o'clock news?" He had that lilt to him. That, I-know-something-I'm-not-telling-you lilt.
"What are we really talking about?"
"Well... there's a job at the Tribune, and if I get that, you would be a shoe in for my position at WJM." His grin was slow and full then, when it came.
/ / /
Lou was thrilled when he got the newspaper job. Not only was he was he looking forward to working in print again, but he just knew this move was the start of things settling between him and Mary. When Mary applied for Lou's old job at WJM, she landed it without any hassle.
Their hours still would not be exactly the same, but things would be much closer to normal. They wouldn't be in the same building anymore, but it was the best fit. A happy one. One that seemed focused on the future.
They decided to celebrate by taking a vacation together before beginning their new jobs. Mary insisted Lou be the one to make the travel arrangements for their time away. She didn't trust her luck. "Something simple," she told him. "It doesn't need to be far away. Nothing exotic. Just as long as we are alone and together."
What Lou decided on, was a cabin in the northern part of the state. In his mind, at least, it was a place that spoke to the fantasies he remembered her mentioning. 'Candle light and fireplaces. A quiet cabin somewhere.'
Mary worried as their car approached the place, but she bit her lip rather than say anything. The state of the gravel road was a bit troubling. As was the little wooden bridge that took them over a stream. Then she saw the cabins that were spread out, tucked into the wood line. Civilization was seemingly gone, she thought. And she kicked herself. This was her doing. She had told him that a cabin was among her fantasies. She just wasn't as enamored with the reality of roughing it as she had thought she was.
He could read it all in her expression as he parked the car. "Don't judge a book by its cover, Mary." He was practically grinning.
He fished in his pocket and produced the key. Then he opened the door and flicked on the light.
She had been holding her breath, she realized, and she let it out in a little laugh then. "Oh, thank God."
"Yes, electricity. Not bad, huh?"
As she stepped in and surveyed the place, it was a darn sight better than 'not bad.'
Not only was there electricity, there was a range top and refrigerator. Wood was already stacked by the fireplace. And in the next room there was a lovely queen sized bed with a down comforter. Someone had set the small table in the dining nook and there was a bottle of champagne chilling. With candles laid out, as well.
"You are amazing, Lou. But I knew that."
He put his arms around her from behind. "Do you really like it?"
"Oh, it's fantastic."
He hummed happily as he pressed his lips against her neck. "It should be a lovely few days."
"I couldn't stand to lose you," she told him as she drew his arms around her tighter.
"That's what I've realized these past few months, too."
"I think, we have been through the worst of things."
"You mean you working the early show?" he asked. "That was tough, Mary. Not seeing you Not having you with me more. But it was the best thing too."
"Oh, Lou, how?" she wondered.
"I will never doubt how right it is for us to be together. Because it hurt so badly being apart."
He couldn't remember ever being so happy.
She continued then. "I was going to wait," she said as she turned to face him. "But I can't. Lou?"
"Will you marry me?"
There was the longest pause while he stared at her. But when he finally answered, she found the wait was worth her while. "You know," he said with a smile that creased his face. "I think I can manage that."