After being released from the brig, Mark made his way quickly home. He could feel how much he smelled and he had no interest in running into Maddy or anyone else he knew while he reeked to high heaven. Arriving at his door, he opened it slowly, knowing he would get assaulted by his roommates for the smell. He stood in the door way for a moment, looking into their house, and spotted Dirk sitting on the couch reading his tablet. The pungent odor of onions reached his nose and he thought Trevor was probably standing at the counter cutting things for dinner.
Dirk suddenly started sniffing and then turned around quickly, spotting Mark standing in the doorway. His face broke into a disgusted expression as his nose wrinkled up.
"Seriously dude?" Dirk asked with a disbelieving expression. A moment later, Trevor rounded the corner, a knife in his hand and a towel over his shoulder. He too wrinkled his nose at him and then started coughing.
"Dirk's right, what the hell were you doing today?" Trevor's blue eyes started to water and Mark sighed, closing the door behind him.
"I was cleaning latrines, as part of my punishment." Mark had previously withheld that piece of information because he knew he would never hear the end of it.
Dirk's face broke into a wide smile and he jumped off the couch, walking over to Trevor to slap him on the back.
"What an incredible smell you've discovered!" Dirk put on his best Han Solo voice and smiled at Mark. Trevor just looked at him with a sick expression. Mark too failed to see the humor in the situation, but that was probably because he'd been mucking out latrines all day.
"Peeusa!" Dirk said, flashing Mark his white teeth. For all his seriousness, that garnered a snort from Trevor that quickly became a laugh. Dirk laughed loudly with him and Mark couldn't help but smile.
"Okay you guys, let me get in the shower before we have to fumigate this house."
Dirk raised his eyebrows at Trevor. "He's right you know. This house might never be the same."
Trevor nodded, looking at Mark. "Yeah, and the shower may never be the same if we let him use it."
Getting a slightly wicked look in his dark eyes, Dirk looked at Mark. "Yup, I think other plans are in order."
Feeling very frightened by the look in Dirk's eyes, Mark looked between his two roommates and thought briefly about trying to push through them and make a dash for the shower. But, he knew he'd never make it.
Dirk and Trevor shared a glance and then, without warning, Trevor had dropped his knife and they were both grabbing an arm and pulling him back outside. The racket they made was unbelievable and it was a miracle the neighbors didn't come running to see who was being murdered. Although, they were probably used to the noise by now.
They dragged him to the front of the house, with him moaning in protest, and then Dirk made a dash for the hose. Grabbing it quickly before Mark realized what was happening, he pulled the lever and sent the resulting stream of water in Mark's direction. The chill of the water had Mark sputtering and running, Trevor having abandoned his hold on him, and from then on it was a fight for the hose, all of them succeeding in getting entirely drenched.
In the end, they all had considerably more scrapes and bruises than they had started with, but their faces were happy and Mark was a good deal less smelly, though he did still take a shower once they were done.
And though he hadn't really been in the mood to roughhouse when he came home, Mark decided it really was good to be back.
A couple hours later, Mark came calling at the Shannon house. They had finished dinner and Maddy and Josh were sitting on the couches playing a game while Jim gave Zoe a bath. Lis opened the door and revealed a very clean, green shirted Mark. Maddy jumped up from the couch the instant she realized who it was and ran to him, enveloping him in a hug and almost knocking him over in the process. Mark buried his face in Maddy's dark hair, breathing in her scent and holding her close. After a moment, he loosened his hold and looked into her dark eyes with his green ones. She felt the butterflies dance in her stomach.
"I'm glad you're home," she said a little shyly. He smiled widely and touched her face with a hand.
"Me too." Leaning down, he let his lips brush hers and kissed her briefly, aware of Josh and her mother looking on. Pulling away reluctantly, he looked up and raised a hand in greeting to Josh.
"Hey," he said, "smells like you were able to get the stink off."
Josh rolled his eyes and came over to greet Mark. "Yeah, I think I was in the shower for about an hour."
Laughing, Mark gave Josh a quick hug. Maddy watched them with curiosity.
"So," she said, "seems like being in jail together did you two some good."
They both looked at her and then looked at each other, obviously sharing a secret joke. Josh smiled.
"Yeah well, there's something to be said for cleaning latrines together."
Maddy wrinkled her nose in disgust. Just the thought of that smell made her want to vomit.
"Well," she said, "I'm glad I wasn't around to witness that."
Mark laughed. "I'm glad you weren't too."
There was an awkward pause for a moment and then Josh cleared his throat.
"Uh, I'll let you two catch up."
"No," Mark cut in, "we'll go outside, if that's okay with you Dr. Shannon?"
Lis, from her position at the counter, turned and put her hand on her hip. "Mark, what did I ask you to call me?"
Clearing his throat, Mark said quickly, "Elisabeth, sorry."
Smiling, Elisabeth nodded. "All right then. You can go outside, just don't be too late, hm?"
Mark gave her a military nod and took Maddy's hand. "Shall we?"
Maddy smiled, extremely excited to finally have Mark all to herself without anything else interfering.
They went outside into the darkness of the evening, the stars twinkling down on them. Taking a seat on the porch swing, Maddy snuggled close to Mark, his arm around her shoulders. She could feel his rhythmic breathing under her head. After a moment, she said,
"Mark, I didn't have a chance to tell you before but, I received the last of your flowers."
He smiled to himself. "Yeah, I figured the boys would keep sending them. Did you like them?"
She nodded against his chest. "I did, a lot. And especially the last day; the purple day lily."
Smiling again, he nodded. "Yeah, I thought you would like that one. You know, I'll have to tell you all the crazy stories from that week some time. We sure went through a lot to get you those flowers!"
Maddy laughed. "I can imagine. Most of the flowers were not easy to get."
Mark rolled his eyes. "That's right, I'm dating a genius. I should have known you would know those flowers weren't easy to get. Hey, does that mean our baby is going to be a genius too?"
Maddy laughed and sat up. "Well, I hope so. But, I wouldn't mind if our baby was more like you than me."
He smiled and his eyes got a faraway look in them. "Yeah, that wouldn't be so bad would it?"
They sat in silence for a moment, the sounds of the jungle reaching them on the porch swing. Maddy sighed, feeling safe in Mark's arms.
"Mark," she began again. "My mom says we can go and find out the sex of the baby soon. Would you like to come with me? We can go tomorrow if you have time."
Smiling widely, his green eyes looked down at her. "I would love that Maddy. I'm sorry these past several weeks have been so hard. I hope things will be more stable for us now. I mean, I know things won't be normal or easy but hopefully they'll be better than they have been."
She smiled again and shrugged. "It's kinda hard to beat the past couple weeks so, I'm sure it will be better."
Mark shook his head. "Yeah, with you telling me you were pregnant for the first time, all the stuff with Laura, your family's reaction, my punishment, Garret… Seriously it's almost like we live in an overly dramatic story."
Biting her lip to try to hold in her laughter, her eyes danced as she looked at him.
He frowned. "What?"
Giving up her fight, she let her giggles burst out and covered her mouth to keep them from being obnoxious. Mark looked at her in confusion.
"What's so funny?"
Taking a breath, she forced herself to talk through her laughing. "I don't know! It's just, you're right about all the stuff that's gone wrong! It IS like we live in an overly dramatic story! I mean, think about everything that's happened! It's just… funny!"
Mark started laughing because Maddy was laughing and his eyes danced as he watched her. "I guess it is funny."
Maddy continued to laugh and Mark laughed with her. Pretty soon, Josh and Lis came out to see what all the ruckus was about and found themselves laughing along with the couple. After all, everything that happened was kind of funny, especially since it was all in the past, and it had been too long since they'd all had a good laugh.