A/N I'm a bit late to the party. I still can't believe that they're cancelling this show. It's always been my favorites, and Mary and Marshall have always been my favorite duo dynamo. I certainly hope that the ficcing community wouldn't halt after it ends, but if it does, I'm glad I got this in on time.
This concept was bounced around a week before I executed it. Even then, I'm nervous about the execution, because it's such a hard dynamic to pin down. But hey, I tried.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, regret nothing and let them forget nothing.
Jess pressed her forehead against the window in defeat.
She hated the hell out of Minneapolis.
Not that Minneapolis did anything to her. There was nothing wrong with it; sure the temperature shift was jarring but it's not like it could help not being Albuquerque. But that was perhaps its biggest problem- it wasn't Albuquerque. There was nothing familiar about this place, and there would be nothing with the familiarity Albuquerque had ever again. She was sure of it.
If there was one thing Jessie Lamb hated more than anything, it was being helpless. She hated it more than Not-Albuquerque, more than her newly brown hair, more than this piece-of-shit motel, more than how she tried to convince herself she hated her father and more than the constant disappointment she had faced throughout her life in way too many instances. Right now, she was utterly helpless, and it made her want to vomit from pure anxiety.
"Hurry up in there." She stole a glance towards the shut bathroom door and the audible shower water within it. She could barely make out the responded "Alright, alright," before she was fogging up the motel window again with her frustrated breath. The place, with its dim lighting, unwashed linens and ladies Jess was seventy-eight percent sure were hookers, was straight out of the traveler's guide from hell- did their own agent pick this place on purpose? It wouldn't surprise her; he had the emotion of HAL 9000 and she was a car crash waiting to happen and definitely would have been out on their bozo asses in Albuquerque.
Just thinking of the crew back home made her heartsick. How the hell did this all happen? It seemed to all be a blur, a complete clusterfuck of events and death that made no sense and eventually stranded her and Mordecai here.
Mordecai Schiller. What kind of name was that? If he was trying to keep under the radar he was doing it entirely wrong. Then again, that was a kind of name that could only be thought of by… Mordecai- God she hated that name. At least his former name amused her to a certain degree. This was just entirely stupid. What was wrong with a simple name like hers? Jessie Lamb. Simple, unassuming, not attracting attention.
She couldn't help but take a guilty comfort in such a sixteenth century clown type name. It reminded her that they could change his name but they could never change him.
She looked back on the bed to see her baby swaddled up in a near mountain of her own supply of blankets seeing as there was no way her child was sleeping directly on that self-serve buffet of STDs. She had half a notion to take her out and put her back in the carrier but lately Whitney had gotten so agitated and restless in there, probably because she was spending endless hours traveling through it. Besides, Jess couldn't bring herself to move, much less do anything of note. She just stood there, staring down the parking lot wishing for a DeLorean that would never materialize and take her back to the weeks before everything so she could at least warn Stan, goddamn it. Just a warning would have been nice, or to have even had a clue or expected anything…
She heard the water turn off at last, sitting motionless until the door opened with Mordecai, dressed in a gray sweatshirt/sweatpants combo, nearly stumbling out and into the bedroom slash living room slash kitchen slash overall dump. She would have made a quip about his clumsiness if she could have been bothered to. As he always seemed to, he knew something was up without her having to say a thing. True, it wouldn't be hard to deduce considering he fell into the same hell she had, but he always had a sixth sense about him that could determine very easily what she was thinking. It was annoying, but she was always fond of it, just as she was constantly annoyed by the man she was fond of more than anyone she had known, before or after Stan's death.
She didn't move when she knew Mordecai had pulled up a chair next to her, didn't flinch when he put an arm around her shoulder, didn't protest when he took her hand and ran his thumb in circles on her palm. She knew that perhaps Mordecai had it harder than she did; he had a fiancé back in Albuquerque who by now could only assume that he had run off with his 'work wife' and left her alone. Jess knew for a fact that Mordecai was the old fashioned kind of soul that wouldn't even fathom cheating on a woman, or at least that's what she liked to think. She was well aware, by perhaps the same silent communication they had inadvertently mastered (or perhaps common sense) that he was heartbroken that he had to leave behind the woman of his affections, perhaps as much as she had to admit that leaving her mother, sister and Whitney's father behind left a crack through her heart, which was pretty useless since she already felt like a shattered mess.
Jess swallowed hard, trying not to think of it, which in turn served to engrain it on her mind. Mordecai seemed to notice and immediately began to shush her, moving the hand on her shoulder through her hideously chestnut hair. It was as if he was daring her to cry, which she felt infuriatingly close to doing. That sounded just like the kind of backward-assed psychological trick he would pull out of his full-to-bursting encyclopedia of a brain.
Damn that man and how well he knew her.
She bit her tongue, fighting off a sob. She knew if she broke now she would never forgive herself for it. More than anything, she needed to be strong, if only for Whitney and her own self-confidence. She couldn't fathom changing, even if everything else changed around her- including her name and hair.
She looked at Mordecai with a tight-lipped smile. "Please tell me you can get a return on that name. You sound like you're late for a meeting at Capitol Hill."
"Referential, venomous quips," he gave a short laugh. "Some things never do change."
"I plan not to," she replied. "But seriously, what were you thinking when you thought that name up? Is there a scholar or something you borrowed from?"
"Eh," he shrugged. "Not really. All I remember was being incredibly tired, someone turned on Cartoon Network and our Kubrick relic of an agent insisted I pick a name or he would. Not wanting to be given the name of some starch tie from the right wing I apparently mumbled out the incredibly dashing name of Mordecai Schiller."
Jess burst out laughing. "I don't know what's funnier; you getting your new name from an animated blue jay with no worth ethic or the fact that we share the opinion of our Mr. Warner to a T."
He growled with amusement, releasing her hand and taking a seat on his own. "If these are the clowns Minneapolis has on their WitSec I'm far from impressed." He hesitated a bit before adding "I'd bet Delia would have them both on the ground without even trying."
Jess took in a sharp breath at the mention of anyone from WitSec, but covered her slip with "Yeah. She could annoy them to death."
Mordecai cracked a small grin, but Jess could easily see a distant longing in them, a pain that cracked a tear into everything like the chaps in his lip. She couldn't bring herself to look up at him for too long and instead plastered her face on the window again, staring outside at the blustery, snowy new world she had been dropped off into by the world's worst welcome wagon. She could find the distant schadenfreude of humor and irony in the mess this situation was, because she couldn't bear to look at it without the bandages of snarky humor and stare down all the raw wounds and scars if had left on both of them.
She could distantly feel Mordecai's hand on her shoulder and allowed herself to smile. Somehow, she couldn't help but feel that he kept his grip on his sanity and grief by keeping a grip on hers.
Damn that man and how strong he kept her.
She found herself at a loss for words. Well, that wasn't entirely true. She could talk to herself inside her head all day- the endless thoughts, words and snarky wit were the fuel that kept her going, kept her from breaking down. She usually never had a problem vocalizing those thoughts and words and definitely not the snarky wit. At times like these, though, where everything was quiet because what they really wanted to say they couldn't bring themselves to, she found herself hitting a wall, the words bouncing around her head crashing into each other. She hoped that Mordecai would fill the void for her.
He did. "It's… very interesting to see things from the other side, isn't it? As a witness this time."
"Kind of makes me satisfied in what a great job I did," she replied, the bitterness that she expected replaced by a soft honesty, maybe a smidge of pride. "That we did, really."
She felt Mordecai maneuver her up by the shoulder until she was sitting up next to him. She didn't resist, although she couldn't help feeling uneasy as she found herself back at eye level with him. "Mare, we really did do a great job," he told her.
She hated when he was so honestly raw like that, just as much as she loved it. It was always hard for her to figure out what to do. Mordecai was a man with a subtle passion that left her truthfully just a little frightened, the same way that someone afraid of heights feels staring down a cliff that their dream house happens to be on.
Mordecai always felt like a living dream himself.
"Jess," she blurted out. "My name is Jess now, just as your name is hopefully not going to stay as Mordecai for too long."
He took his hand off of her shoulder and sorted out his hair, still wet from the shower, still the same shade of brown it always was. She couldn't help but envy that he barely had to go through any sort of makeover to look differently, but she honestly couldn't see how Mordecai could look any less Marshall. There was just something permanent about him, something that couldn't be placed.
"Yes, of course," he blurted out. "I knew th…" he sighed. "Goddamn, I'm never going to get used to that."
His hand returned, holding hers again, and she shuddered, feeling overwhelmed by everything. She wasn't aware of how hard she was holding on, digging her nails into his hand so hard that when he gently released her (most likely to maintain circulation) she could see indents perfectly placed four times within the cracks of his palm. He gave her a sheepish grin, and she just buried her head in her hands once more. The tears were fighting their way out of her, and the concrete barrier she tried to put between her and her sorrow was becoming more and more like paper.
"Everything's gone, Marshall," she blurted out. "Everything we know..."
"I know," he gulped, his throat hoarse. "And… we can't get it back."
Although she reminded herself of the truth many times already, somewhere in the back of her mind like a punch to the face to keep herself alert, hearing it from Marshall, now under the ridiculous name of Mordecai, made it hurt just as much as it had the first time. She found the courage to look up at her long-time partner, noting wearily that he looked just as emotionally exhausted as she did.
In an effort that she could have sworn was to hide his own weakness, he offered up another smile, one that seemed to take as much effort as of Atlas did holding up the world all the time. She glared at him. "Knock it off," she demanded.
"Knock what off?"
"That condescending fake smile. The one you're using to try and make me feel better. It's a complete god-awful lie, just like everything else is right now."
He sighed, clearing his face of any ambiguous expression. "I suppose, then, you wouldn't want to hear anything positive I could have gathered about this mess?"
She sighed, standing up to stretch her achy muscles. "You actually found something positive. Only you could possibly…"
"Yes, I try to. It's how I cope- I try and hunt for the positives while you hold onto the negative. It's because I'm the escapist and you're the straight shooter."
Something about his words seemed to soothe her, just a bit; maybe because some things really never did change.
"You see, Mare, and I'm still going to call you that, just for today, we're going to lose everything, but in place, we can start over."
"That's a good thing?" Mary (just for today) threw her hands in the air in disbelief. "Look, Marshall, maybe you could consider that I didn't exactly want a fresh start. Maybe you could consider that-"
"Mary, I know-"
She would have none of it, standing directly in front of him, her body screaming confrontation. "Maybe you could consider that I liked my life just as it was and that I liked my job and my friends and my co-workers and god knowing they drove me up the fucking wall that I loved my family-"
Marshall stood up, his hands up defensively. "Shit, Mare, I'd love-"
"and maybe you could consider this for a moment, Marshall, that Stan wasn't the only one to die in that shootout. Mary and Marshall-" her breath caught in her throat, nearly suffocating the words "…they'll be dead by tomorrow."
Before she even knew she was going to fall, Marshall had caught her, and before she even knew that she was finally crying, he held onto her for dear life, resting her head on his shoulder and breathing into her hair as she finally felt the relief of the breakdown that overshadowed any of the shame she thought it would bring. At least it was just Marshall Mann, her loyal, unassuming, understanding and never judgmental partner, the only friend she had left. Besides Norah (who she had to rename Whitney, a nice, suitable name 'Mordecai' could take note of), he was all she had left.
It was the small comfort of that idea that she focused on to avoid the fact that she was sobbing an incredibly ugly cry and she was pretty sure she was getting snot all in Marshall's sweatshirt.
Mary seemed to reach full consciousness when the tears stopped and her eyes started to clear, and not having to bear such a burden of not only having untreated sorrow but forcing yourself to hold it in helped her focus clearly on reality. The faded rays of sunlight made their way into the room and lit her up, the mess that she was in her formal agent wear that she had never brought herself to remove for civvies, considering she wouldn't need again. She found that she was on the ground below the fake wood of the bed's headboard, and Marshall was next to her as predicted, looking none too affected, although she could judge by his reddened eyes that he may have shed a tear or two as well, although she'd never get him to admit it.
She smiled despite it all. "Don't ever disappear, Marshall, Mordecai, whatever insipid name you pick out… just stay with me," she told him.
"I never planned on leaving," he replied without hesitation. This time the raw honesty she could hear soothed her, although it still electrified her just a tiny bit.
She laughed for the briefest of moments, and she couldn't trace down what from. She figured that it was probably from being in a hyperemotional state, and refused to admit that it may have been that she was a bit excited.
Marshall caught on to it, though. "Mare," he whispered, evidently tired. "You think that maybe, just…" he stopped, measuring his words.
"Don't do that," she responded, almost subconsciously. "Just… tell it straight. I think I'm okay now."
"Are you looking forward to life ahead? At all?" He braced himself when he finished his own statement, visibly worried about the reaction he might get. Knowing Marshall, it was probably for her sake more than his.
Damn that man and how self-sacrificing he was.
She didn't get upset, but she did find it hard to respond. Eventually, she admitted "I don't really want to think about it yet."
"I understand," he nodded. "But… can I say what I think about it?"
"Against my better judgment I'd love to," she chuckled.
"I think… you know…"
"Marshall," she chided him with a soft elbow. "Shoot it straight. I don't have all- okay, I have all day, but just say it."
"I think we have a pretty solid start," his voice was quiet, comforting if unintentionally so. "Norah, you and I. They can take our city, our jobs, our family and our names, but they can't take that away. That's something permanent. Isn't that something?"
Her heart skipped a beat as she considered that, immediately knowing it was true. Damn that man and how he knew everything.
"That really is something incredible," she admitted.
Marshall nodded, letting the quiet take control. Things became serene for just a moment amid a whirlwind of chaos, and the serenity was what took Mary and Marshall away through the night, never to be seen again. The two bearing those names for one last moment knew better though- to each other, they were still alive, and they were something.
Mordecai jolted against the headboard, bumping his head hard as he heard a knock on the hotel door. He groaned, waking Jess in the process. She immediately became aware of who was knocking at the door, mumbling "Oh brother, it's the clown police" as she stood up, extending a hand to Mordecai to hoist him onto her feet. He smiled his thanks, letting her go so she could tend to her crying daughter.
"Nine o'clock," he told her.
"We slept eight hours on the floor underneath a headboard?" she asked, the incredulous spark in her eyes speaking volumes as she took Whitney into her arms, soothing her.
"Well, you did," he admitted. "I averaged about four or five. Got up once or twice to check the time and lock the door so these asshats couldn't barge in on us."
"Haha, I can't believe you said asshats." Jess gave an adorably goofy smile that brought a laugh out of him as he began to pass her to open the door. "Quite the addition to your-"
Suddenly she reached for his hand, stopping him. He looked up at her to see her smiling, sincere and serene, if only for a moment.
"Thanks," she mouthed. He simply nodded, and that was all he had to say.
"Mr. Schiller, Miss Lamb, please let us in," a cold, calculated male voice ordered. Jess made a motion towards the door before letting him go. With a smirk on his face, Mordecai opened the door to see the two Minneapolis WitSec agents standing, neither too amused.
"What the hell was that all about, guys?" Agent Lauren Rhone barked, looking as frustrated as ever.
"Hello, Hal," he welcomed him with a smarmy grin.
Agent Warner didn't seem to get it. "My name is George Warner," he corrected, looking slightly confused but otherwise unfazed. "I'd appreciate it if you would not ignore us at the door for an hour. Also, swiping our key cards would be beneficial as well."
Mordecai smirked, wielding the two cards between his fingers after fetching them from his pocket. Jess took a defiant stance next to him, retaliating with "Well, I think we'd all appreciate it if you'd give 'Mordecai' a redo on the whole name thing. Give the poor man a break; he's been through enough without having to go through his whole life not being taken seriously."
Agent Rhone seemed ready to burst a gasket, but Agent Warner stated "Perhaps we could consider that. For now, you're being moved to a safe house. Get your things to…" he looked around to remind himself that they had very little visible possessions on them. "Let's go."
"About goddamn time," Jess declared. "This place is a shit stop. Even Anthony Melchiorri couldn't save this dump. You guys always pick the hotspots, don't you?"
Mordecai smirked as he lifted up Whitney's carrier and scooped all of the blankets into it. He could still hear his partner chewing off both the agents' heads as they began to walk to the car. He was glad to hear her.
Damn that woman and how much he loved her.
A/N For better or worse, I love this piece. It was fun to write. Hope you enjoyed as well.
Long live IPS, and long live Mary and Marshall. ^_^