Title: Hearts

Author: Romantique

Classification: Gary/Marissa Friendship/Comfort

Rating: T

Summary: This one-shot takes place immediately after "Run Gary Run"and takes liberties with the remainder of the season.

Disclaimer: Based on the Season 4, Episode 10 of Early Edition.

Legal: These characters do not belong to me. I'm just a fan and have not made a dime. Please email me to obtain permission to post.

A/N: This fic was born from the excellent suggestion of Whirlwind421. Thank you!

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Gary Hobson couldn't forget holding on tight to Marissa Clark for dear life, in the middle of that intersection. He was shaken, relieved, and drained all at the same time ... from the rush of adrenaline his body endured over the past hour. After handing off the payroll taxes envelope to the postal carrier and offering multiple apologies to one another, he and Marissa slowly walked to a diner about four blocks north of the main post office for breakfast.

Still clammy with perspiration from running all over Chicago to save his dearest friend from being hit by a driver who almost fell asleep at the wheel of his car, Gary relished walking with his dear friend at a much more leisurely pace in the cool morning air. Once again, he pulled The Paper out of the back pocket of his jeans, and all appeared clear until later that afternoon.

He couldn't bring himself to tell Marissa about exactly what almost happened ... to tell her that she was in The Paper. Instantly, he knew almost losing her was a wakeup call for him, a wakeup call he was embarrassed to admit he needed. Truth be told, he had been taking Marissa for granted, and The Paper delivered that message to him loud and clear.

As the two approached their destination for much needed refreshments, Gary took Marissa's hand and led his blind friend into the diner.

"What's this?" she asked, holding up Gary's hand.

Although she couldn't see, she could certainly feel the adhesive tape wrapped around and around his hand.

"Aw, it's nothing," he answered, trying to shrug it off.

"Doesn't feel like nothing." Marissa raised an eyebrow of doubt. "It feels like a bandage." She had known Gary long enough to know when he wasn't coming clean about something. "Gary? What happened to your hand?"

"Alright," he exclaimed, in a tone of being caught. "I cut my hand on one of those flying plates last night at Ithaki's."

It was then that the hostess interrupted the two and immediately seated them in a booth near the window and brought them some water.

As soon as they were settled, Marissa picked back up their conversation. "Are you okay? You don't need stitches or anything, do you?"

She couldn't believe it. He seemed fine to her when she left the restaurant last night; however, not being able to see would have prevented her from knowing that his hand, indeed, had been cut.

"Naw." Gary shook his head.

Dehydrated from his early morning marathon run, he then downed his glass of ice water.

"I don't think so," he went on to explain. "One of the George Musakis happened to be a doctor. He fixed me up before the rest of 'em would let me leave the restaurant. You see, another George Musaki is a lawyer, and he was afraid of being sued. So, they did a real good job on me."

After a pause, still parched from his run, he asked her, "Are you gonna drink your water?"

She casually pushed the glass in his direction. "No," she said. "Be my guest." Marissa smiled, redirecting the topic. "The Greeks are such nice, warm people." Then, she shifted the conversation. "So, did you save the first George Musaki's eye?"

"Uh, yeah," Gary nodded, as he downed the second glass. "My hand saved the guy's eye alright." Then, wanting to change the subject entirely, he asked, "Now, would you like me to read you the breakfast menu?"

"Sure," Marissa answered. "But you can skip straight over to the pancakes. I'm in the mood for some flapjacks."

"Pancakes it is," he said and quickly scanned the menu, suddenly much more relaxed. "Oh, wow. They have regular pancakes, blueberry pancakes, banana walnut pancakes, chocolate chip, cinnamon, lemon, orange. Take your pick."

"Mmmmmm." She felt like a kid in a candy store. "The lemon pancakes sound really good to me."

About that time, the waitress arrived with a coffee pot. "Coffee?"

"Yes, please," both Gary and Marissa answered at the same time.

"And some more water?" he sheepishly asked.

"I'll bring you more water in just a minute," the waitress smiled. After the older woman filled both their cups with the fresh Joe, she took their order.

"I'll have the lemon pancakes with a side of crispy bacon," Marissa said with conviction.

She thought to herself that this was a rare treat indeed, breakfast with Gary outside of McGinty's.

"Uh, and I'll have the scrambled eggs and toast with the little brown potatoes," he read from the menu. "And could I also have a large glass of orange juice?" After a beat, he again repeated, not wanting the waitress to forget, "And some more water, please ... a large glass of water."

After the running he just did, he needed calories and fluids, pronto.

As soon as the waitress left them, Gary felt an overwhelming need to talk to Marissa. Stirring in a couple of packets of sugar into his coffee, he said, "Marissa, well, uh, I still feel bad about what happened last night, and I want to make it up to you."

"Isn't that why we're having breakfast?" she asked.

"Naw," he shook his head. "This breakfast is my way of trying to make up for not taking care of mailing the payroll taxes ... like I said I would."

About then, the hostess returned to their table and refilled Gary's glass with ice water.

In front of the hostess, he downed the glass of water. "And you don't have to worry about me not pulling my weight anymore because ... I've learned my lesson."

"I'll just leave this here," the hostess interrupted and smiled.

"Thanks!" Gary returned the smile.

She left her frosty metal pitcher of water on their table. The outside of the pitcher was 'sweating' with condensation. Gary promptly picked it up and filled his glass, again.

"Thirsty?" Marissa asked.

Gulping down yet another glass, he panted. "Very."

Finally feeling a little more like his self, Gary continued with what he wanted to say to her. "After we're finished with breakfast, would you like to go back over to that Men's Shop, and I promise I'll spend some quality time looking over those jackets for Emmett? I realize it was important to you ... and I didn't give it the time it deserved."

"I told you, you don't have to do that," she repeated what she'd told him over by the post office.

"Well, I know I don't have to do it," he said, talking with his hands. "It's something I want to do. You know ... to make things right between us, again."

Marissa let out a deep, pent up sigh. "Gary, you don't have to do it because ... Emmett and I broke up last night."

"What?" Gary was surprised. "Why? Was it because I made you late for that concert? Because I can pay Emmett back for the tickets."

"It wasn't just the concert," she went on to explain. "It's been a lot of things."

"Like what?" he asked.

He and Marissa always told one another everything.

"Like, all the time I spend with you," she said, reaching for her coffee mug. "Emmett feels there's not enough of my time left for him."

"Well, that's nuts." Gary looked confused. "I mean, we're business partners. And longtime friends, too. Emmett knows that."

He was met with silence. After a moment, the waitress returned with their food. Gary situated the syrup pitcher and butter for Marissa so that she could fix her pancakes the way she liked them.

Then, Gary offered in a kind tone of voice, "I could go and talk to Emmett, if you think it would help."

Marissa shifted her weight in her seat at the booth. "I don't think it would help if you talked to him."

"Well, why not?" he asked. Then, he tried another tactic. "Don't you always tell me that if you love someone, you gotta go for it? Fight for it?"

She was quiet for a moment, taking small bites of her pancakes. "The Paper. It's been interfering with Emmett and me. It's like The Paper doesn't want me to be with Emmett."

Gary looked up from his eggs. He thought about past events for a moment.

"Does The Paper have anything for you to be doing right now?" she asked.

"Well, I dunno. Not last I checked," he said.

Then, he pulled it out of his back pocket again, quickly scanning its pages.

"Nope," he reported. "Nothing until this afternoon."

"And don't you find that strange?" she asked. "Or when The Paper allows you to have breakfast with me every morning at McGintys?"

Gary took a swig of his orange juice. After the morning he had, he relished the breaks The Paper gave him ... no matter what it meant.

"Gary, the reason I don't want you to talk to Emmett is because ... I think he may be right." She put her cutlery down on her plate and faced him. "I do spend a lot of time with you. The Paper wants me to spend time with you."

He looked up at her, not understanding what she was trying to say.

"I want to spend time with you," she said.

Very tentatively, Gary responded with, "Well, I want to spend time with you, too."

Marissa Clark knew this man. When it came to affairs of the heart, he could be a little slow on the uptake.

"What I mean to say is ... Gary, I would like it if we were to become more than good friends," she said. "I think Emmett just saw it before I did."

"Oh," he said. "Oh!"

It then suddenly registered as to what she meant.

Thoughts came rushing to him. Could it be? Was she right? Had The Paper brought them together ... first as friends and trusted confidantes? Was this why romance never seemed to work out for him? Or evidently for Marissa, either?

"Gary?" she interrupted the long and lonely silence. "I just told you something that was very scary for me to say. Could you say something, please?" After a beat, she added, "I can't read your face. Don't leave me hanging out here on a limb, all by myself."

Was this why Gary almost lost her that morning? To show him how much she meant to him? Because if that was the reason ... it worked.

"How could I have been so blind?" he finally spoke, thinking out loud. "I mean, I'm the sighted one ... and I could never see it before. But I think you're right, Marissa. I mean, The Paper did bring us together. You're the person I trust above everyone else. You're my best friend in the whole world. And Marissa, I do love you."

"I know," she said. "I love you, too. Could it be that ... there could be more?" Then, she said, "I don't know what I look like. Do you find me attractive ... at all?"

"Marissa," Gary smiled. "You're beautiful!"

"I sense you're beautiful, too," she said. "Inside and out."

Gary reached across the table with his uninjured hand and took her hand in his. To suddenly see someone he had known for five years in an entirely new light ... she had been there for him, all along. His heart soared.

-fin-