Chapter 10

Delia Parmalee followed Mary Shannon through the secured door of the WitSec office. Her eyes tracked her new partner as Mary cast a furtive glance into Marshall's office on her way to her desk. Delia noted the barely perceptible slowing of stride as Mary did a rapid assessment of Marshall, before continuing on to her desk. Bag thudded to the floor, shoulders hunched forward as she read through messages, scowl in place. The visit to Annaliese Anolete had not been pleasant. There had been lots of tears and Mary didn't handle tears well. Annaliese missed Cory, she was threatening to leave the program also.

Delia knew more than just the witness visit was bothering Mary. They had just barely gotten the distraught mother to agree to stay at least until she testified next month. Mary was going to contact Cory and get him to send a message to his mother. It was the ever present problem of Marshall that caused Mary the most concern. Delia was operating in the dark, her vast array of contacts surprisingly unknowledgeable about what had happened between Marshall and Abigail. Delia knew the engagement was off. She knew Marshall was in a deep depression. She knew Mary was concerned. She knew Marshall was pushing Mary away. She had witnessed several rebuffs herself. Always gentle, never unkind, but firm and consistent.

The estrangement of the two former partners was eating away at her. Delia saw the damage it did to each of them. They needed each other. She rather dearly wanted to know what the original event was that set all this in motion. She had the time frame pinpointed to about the time Stan left for D.C. First Mary was keeping Marshall at arm's length, now it was Marshall freezing Mary out.

A new intake packet sat on her desk. Sitting down, she pulled the file in front of her, opening it up to study her new witness data. As she read through the names and details her mind circled around the puzzle of her chief and her partner. It all tied in somehow to Marshall's engagement and subsequent broken engagement. Delia was not above a little helpful meddling. She had always refrained with these two though, sensing it would not be appreciated, but something needed to be done, and soon. For all their sakes.

Mary warily watched Marshall eating his lunch, alone, on the balcony. She had tried since the night he told her about his breakup with Abby, to reach out to him, but he had rebuffed her each time. Daily she felt the wall he was building between them strengthening, the small window he had left her to peer through slowly being bricked closed. Like in The Cask of Amontillado her brain unexpectedly supplied her. Much like that prisoner, Mary wanted to scream as each successive brick was placed, rendering her goal of reaching him insurmountable. Was this how he had felt when she had tried to distance herself? Feeling a hovering presence she looked up, scowling at Delia as she stood by her desk, arms crossed.

"This has gone on long enough, Mary," Delia said bluntly. Brown eyes were snapping with resolve. Gold hoops swung from her ears as she shook her head. "I don't know what has happened between either you and Marshall or Marshall and Abby, but you have to fix it. He's hurting in a big way and it's time for you to man up and tell him how you feel." She emphasized each of the last three words. She held a hand up as Mary opened her mouth. "I don't want to hear it, whatever excuse you have. Tell the man you love him. He's waited long enough to hear it. And I suspect that underlies his broken engagement."

Mary glanced out the window once again, the hunched over, defeated posture of her best friend tugging at her heartstrings. Delia was right. This had to stop. Mary had been tip-toeing around Marshall and that wasn't like her. She needed to come clean on how she felt and they needed to wrestle their friendship back into some semblance of its former glory. She slowly stood up, reaching for the delicate origami dove that sat on her desk. Turning it in her hands, she marveled once again at the dexterity required to create the piece of art. Patience, tenderness, love; all had gone into creating this expression of his affection. Carefully holding it, she made her way to the balcony, smirking as she heard the door lock behind her. She didn't even turn around; she knew Delia would be standing there, smug look on her face. Door barred against any possible escape until what needed to be said had been said.

She glanced around, shoulders hunching in instinctively, protectively. Nothing good had ever happened out on this balcony. Scene of emotional turmoil and devastation. She had slept out here to avoid her family. She had cried in Marshall's arms out here when her father's emotional legacy had her so twisted in knots she was lashing out. She had watched Marshall eating lunch out here numerous times with Abigail, the sharp little jabs of jealousy painful reminders of what she was losing. She had been asked to end her most significant relationship out here, pasting a smile on her face, while dying inside. Mary didn't much like the balcony. Marshall had even lost a witness over it's ledge.

Marshall looked up as she approached the table, frowning slightly. He had taken to eating out on the balcony as it usually guaranteed he would be left in peace. Mary didn't like coming out here – and who could blame her – and the others typically ate out for lunch. He was almost feeling territorial of the small table and chairs set out in the bright New Mexico sun. A faint flare of resentment rose up in him. Why was she disturbing his carefully crafted peace? He stared at the dove she placed in front of him. The dove he had created with love.

"Peace offering," she said. "I need for you to let me talk and you need to hear me." Marshall started to stand up and she pushed on his shoulder, sending him back to his chair. She took a seat opposite him and regarded him critically. His age was showing. He was no longer a young man. Grief was etched in the lines of his face. She couldn't remember the last time she had seen him smile.

"Marshall, you laid your cards on the table that night you told me about Abby." He flinched and she reached over to grasp his hand, to keep his attention. "It wasn't exactly a revelation to me that you have had feelings for me. I've been pushing you away for years. Like you, I was desperate to protect the friendship at any cost." She threaded their fingers together. "Marshall, the cost has been too high. We are both miserable. I know you love me and I...I feel something for you. I think I wouldn't recognize love if it hit me in the face. All I know is these months since our last conversation on this balcony have been the worst of my life. And I'm including eight months of unwanted pregnancy and several months living in the car when I was a girl." Marshall looked at her startled, but said nothing as she shook her head.

"Look, I need you. I'm miserable without you. I miss you. I want you to be happy and you're not. I'm open to a change in our relationship, but mostly I want my friend back. It's so stupid us both being lonely when we could be with each other." She felt the sun beating down on her face, the clear blue sky a matching shade to Marshall's eyes. "Is that what love is?" she asked plaintively.

Marshall was quiet a moment, gaze kept downward on the fragile origami he had fashioned with so much affection, and on their entwined fingers. Had they ever just held hands? Not that he could recall. A sardonic smile ghosted past his lips.

"Love means never having to say you're sorry." He paused, glancing up, gauging her expression. His first attempt at levity in what seemed like months.

"Don't quote Love Story," she said softly, a half smile playing across her face. He nodded, was silent for some moments. His gaze focused beyond her. He couldn't bring himself to look her straight in the eyes.

"I'm going to need some time," he said hoarsely. "I don't know. We might just destroy each other." There had been a time when hearing these words from Mary would have sent him into paroxysms of ecstasy. Now, he just didn't know. Could he even open himself to the possibility of that type of hurt again?

"We won't," she responded confidently. "Because we are in each others heads, remember? I know you and you know me. I have a pied-a-terre all ready for you to move back into." That brought a small curve to his lips.

"Can we start with just getting reacquainted as friends?" he asked, squinting in the strong sunlight to see her face. Maybe this was the push he needed to move from just existing to living again. To regain his friendship with Mary would be a huge step.

She nodded. "I'd like that." A small flutter of hope in her belly had her shifting uncomfortably. She didn't want to hope. Not yet. But if she could get her friend back...Oh, if she could get her friend back, all would be right with the world again.

He studied the panorama of the city of Albuquerque visible from the balcony. "Abby is moving back to Texas. We're selling the house. She's leaving Oscar with me." He brought his gaze back to Mary.

She made a face. "I just can't seem to lose that dog. Spirit guide my ass. He wanted me to give Norah to the Templetons." Crossed arms seemed to ward off the possibility of letting the mutt back in her life, but Marshall knew better.

A broader smile crossed his face. "Sometimes a dog is just a dog. Destroying those files – it didn't mean anything. That was Oscar being Oscar. You should have seen my office at home the first time I forgot to close the door." Becoming serious again, he squeezed her hand and released her fingers, sitting back and regarding her quizzically.

"We have some work to do to repair our friendship. I own that, it was all on me. But I want it fixed. And if you mean what you just said, about...more, I want to explore that too. But I need time to process everything with Abby and get back on on even keel. Then we can talk more. Okay?"

Mary nodded. A warm feeling was washing through her middle. He was willing to talk, to maybe be friends again. For now, that was enough.

"I'm not in a rush. I'm not going anywhere." She waited a beat. "And neither are you."

The End

Thanks so much for all the wonderful reviews. I have to hold out some hope that 'this' is out there for our dynamic duo. They belong together, one way or another. Writing this helped me work through some of my anger over how the show ended. I'm glad you came along for the ride.