Title: Something More, or five times Mary and Marshall slept together without sleeping together, and one time that they did just that.
Warnings: Completely angst free - all my fics have happy endings. Also, I'm still trying to get to grips with the characters, so be aware.
Disclaimer: Not mine, not making any money off it.
Word count: 12352
Author's Note: Hello, In Plain Sight fandom, nice to meet you. Technically the show hasn't aired in my country yet, so let's pretend the episodes on my hard drive are completely legal, ok? Set in the second season-ish, but I'm rewriting facts left, right and centre to suit me. As do we all! Thanks to seren_ccd for the beta!
Marshall knew it was going to be an unsuccessful Valentine’s Day when Mary stomped into the office half an hour earlier that she usually did, her lips set into a thin, unmoving line. She had ignored Stan, growled at Eleanor and sent a curt nod in his direction before settling at her desk with a thump. She had buried herself in paperwork immediately, and didn’t look up except to answer the phone.
Her desk phone, that is. Her cell phone rang six times during the first hour of work, four times during their second and twice during the third. Each time she checked the caller i.d., grimaced and ended the call.
You didn’t need to be a US Marshal to figure out what had gone on here. Marshall eyed the box of Valentines cupcakes he had picked up from the bakery down the street, and decided against bringing them out. He’d slip them to Eleanor later, when Mary was at lunch and couldn’t launch them over the edge of the balcony.
Just before lunch a large and expensive bunch of flowers was delivered to Mary, and Marshall watched in silent amusement as Mary read the card in disbelief.
“I’m sorry?” she bellowed, scaring the young delivery boy. “I’ll show him sorry. You. Wait here.”
She grabbed the bouquet and headed towards the paper shredder, Eleanor watching silently until Mary plunged the bouquet into the machine. Bits of coloured petals and green stems went flying as the machine chugged and whirred.
Eleanor shrieked and tried to yank Mary away, but Mary didn’t budge until the bouquet was a mess of pulped vegetation. Mary thrust the remains of the bouquet into the scared delivery boy’s arms, scribbled something on the back of the card and tucked twenty dollars into his pocket.
“Redeliver it to that address, my message is on the back of the card,” she told him. He nodded, scared, and all but ran from the room.
Eleanor’s loud mourning of the now-ruined paper shredder had raised Stan from the safety of his office. Marshall decided to make a tactical withdrawal and pulled on his jacket.
“Mary, lunch,” he commanded. She glared at him.
“My treat,” he offered, and she immediately grabbed her coat and followed him into the elevator.
“Where to?” he said as he slid behind the wheel of his car. Mary shrugged.
“Somewhere that isn’t decked out in stupid hearts and flowers. I’m sick of Valentine’s.”
It took some doing, but they ended up with pad thai in a tiny Vietnamese restaurant. Marshall’s grasp of the language wasn’t great, but the server’s English was worse, so there was no small talk about Valentine’s Day to get through. They ate in companionable silence, and Marshall didn’t complain when Mary stole most of his cha gio.
“I suppose you’re going to make me apologise to Eleanor,” Mary grumbled as they got into the car for the return journey.
“Mary, I’m not sure that there’s anyone on the planet that can make you do anything,” Marshall replied. He shot her a sideways look. “It would be a nice gesture, though.”
Mary sighed, and got him to pull over. When she got back in the car, she had a gift-wrapped box of chocolates and a thick pair of gardening gloves. At his raised eyebrow, she said, “The candy is for Eleanor. The gloves are for me when I try to scrape a hundred dollars’ worth of roses from the inside of the shredder.”
Marshall knew it was imperative to keep his face still. If he showed any sign of emotion, Mary would just close off and probably try to shred the chocolates, box and all.
“Sensible choice,” he said mildly, and left it at that.
The afternoon continued in the same vein as the morning, although watching Mary scrape mulch from the inside of office equipment while Eleanor offered advice was amusing. Mary’s cell phone rang once more, and this time she accepted the call. She moved into the conference room and shut the door, but forgot about the blinds.
Marshall watched surreptitiously as Mary paced, waved her hands in the air and yelled. She got as close to tears as he had ever seen her without the body of a dead child or a serious wound to prompt it.
She terminated the call, her shoulders slumped with defeat. She remained in the room for a few minutes, and then came back to the office and plunged herself back into the pile of paperwork again. Marshall didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure that there was anything he could say.
Both Stan and Eleanor had disappeared late in the afternoon, in what Marshall decided was the worst display of office romance concealment he had ever witnessed. He had completed all of his work a while back, and was now playing a cut-throat game of chess against an annoying twelve year old from Bangladesh, who was wiping the board with him. Mary continued working, foraging for food from the vending machines down the hall.
Eventually it grew so late that even she noticed that Marshall was still there when he should be at home, or, god forbid, on a date. It was Valentine’s Day, after all. He was in the break room, hunting around in the refrigerator for something that wasn’t past its use-by date. He wasn’t having much luck.
“Isn’t it a little late for you to be here?” she asked, leaning against the doorframe.
“It’s late for anyone to be here,” he said, abandoning the refrigerator and starting on the cupboards. “But here I am, as are you.”
“You didn’t have a date for tonight?” she asked, sitting on the battered couch.
“No,” he admitted, biting into one of Eleanor’s rice cakes and immediately spitting it back out again. “I haven’t been dating much recently.”
Or, at all, he amended in his head. Not for a few months, not since the breakdown in the desert and waking up with Mary in his arms. It was like a little light had clicked on in his head. This was how things were supposed to be, so why waste time with anyone else.
Of course, it would have helped if the object of his affections wasn’t sleeping in the arms of a ridiculously attractive baseball player every night, but then life was never what you would call fair.
“Well, after today I won’t be either,” Mary said gloomily. “We can be sad and alone together.”
His heart couldn’t help but leap a little at that.
“Oh?” he said nonchalantly. “You and Raphael are...,”
He left the sentence hanging, waiting for her to respond.
“Over,” she said definitely. “Raphael and I are over. Not just sleeping with other people over, completely over. Done. Finished. He’s moving out of the house right now. “
“Are you ok?” he asked slowly.
“Great!” she answered in a brittle tone, her eyes suspiciously shiny. “I’m just fine, Marshall, I’m...I’m...”
She stuttered to a close, and let out a small sob, followed by another and another. Marshall sat next to her and took her into the circle of his arms. There was a slight moment of resistance before she collapsed against him, and clutched him tightly.
He smoothed her hair and ran his arm over her back gently as she cried, all the time feeling guilty for being so grateful that she was free. He knew Mary enough to know that when she called time on something, that was it. She wasn’t a woman to make the same mistake twice.
She eventually stopped crying, but she didn’t move away from him and Marshall wasn’t stupid enough to let go of her.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he offered, but she just snorted.
“Alright then,” he said. “I’ll just draw my own conclusions.” She snorted again, but this time there was a hint of a smile on her face.
They sat there together for a long time, before Marshall’s stomach let out an impolite rumble. Mary laughed, and hers did the same.
“I’ve cleaned out the vending machines,” she mourned. “And there’s never anything good in the cupboards.”
“I have cupcakes,” Marshall offered. She immediately punched him in the shoulder.
“Where? Why haven’t you shared them yet? Go on, move!”
He retrieved the box and they fell on the cupcakes with a vengeance. They were demolished within a few minutes, an explosion of crumbs and a few smears of coloured frosting the only evidence that they were ever there.
Marshall and Mary sat back on the couch, considerably fuller than they were before.
“Not the healthiest of meals, but an enjoyable one,” Marshall pronounced. Mary laughed.
“What?” he asked, confused.
“You have frosting on your face,” Mary told him. She gestured to her chin, and Marshall wiped vigorously.
“Gone?” he asked.
Mary looked exasperated. “No. Come here, idiot.”
She grabbed a napkin from the box and rubbed gently at his chin. Marshall stayed very still. The smell from her shampoo was there, and a lingering vanilla sweetness on her breath from the cupcakes, but there was something else, the smell that Stan had thought was perfume but Marshall had known was natural. He breathed in deeply, and tried not to notice how close her breasts were.
“There,” she said eventually. “Done.”
She sat back on the couch, out of reach, and Marshall felt bereft.
“So,” she said at last, the silence between them stretching out a little too long. “We know why my relationship failed. Why aren’t you out there, Marshall? Still pining for Katinka?”
“I am definitely not pining,” he lied, looking her straight in the eye. “And we don’t
know why your relationship failed because you haven’t said a damn thing about it.”
They glared at each other for a moment, before they both collapsed into laughter. He bravely extended an arm around her shoulders, and after a moment’s hesitation she allowed herself to be drawn close to his body.
“I’m not going to tell you,” she warned, fighting off a yawn.
“Oh, I think I can make you talk,” he replied airily, before yawning himself.
“Go on then,” she said sleepily. “I dare you.”
“This is too good to be true,” Eleanor breathed as she paused at the doorway to the break room. She had come in ridiculously early to contact the European headquarters of the company that made the paper shredder that Mary had broken the day before, and had headed to the break room to make a cup of coffee.
Before her, cuddled together on the couch, were Mary and Marshall. Mary was tucked protectively under Marshall’s arm, and was sleeping with her head on his chest. Marshall had his head back against the sofa, a silly smile on his face and smears of frosting all over his chin matching the balled-up napkin Mary had nudged under the couch with her foot.
Eleanor took a moment to smile and wonder when they were going to stop acting like idiots and just give in to the insane chemistry between them, before slipping her cell phone from her bag and snapping several photos.
You never knew when something like this would come in handy.
“Bullshit!” Mary snapped. Marshall winced, and the hotel receptionist frowned.
Mary leaned towards the woman behind the counter, and pointed aggressively at the computer.
“Check it again, you’ve made a mistake. Our reservation was for two rooms.”
The receptionist looked at Mary without even a hint of apology.
“I’m sorry, sir, madam. Our records are correct. We only have one reservation, for a Mr Mann. It was made three weeks ago, for a three day stay starting tonight and ending on Monday.”
Mary was fuming, but managed to keep her temper in check.
“Alright, fine,” she said, unable to keep her frustration out of her voice. “Just book another room for me now, and charge it to the same account that’s paying for his room.”
The receptionist clicked a few keys, and then shook her head.
“We’re fully booked. I’m afraid that we cannot accommodate you at this time, madam.” She looked inordinately pleased at the news; Marshall sighed. Just once, he’d like Mary not to annoy the service staff that had the misfortune to cross her path. It would make his life so much easier.
As Mary started to raise her voice again, the receptionist turned smoothly to one side and handed Marshall his key card. As he took it, the woman let her hand linger over his.
“Here’s your key, sir,” she said, her voice taking a turn for the sultry. “Please feel free to contact me if there’s anything I can do for you. We pride ourselves on our personal service here.”
She batted her eyelashes and kept him pinned to the spot with a very unsubtle look. She still had hold of his hand, and didn’t seem keen on letting go.
“Where the hell am I supposed to stay?” Mary bellowed, breaking the moment of romantic intimacy that the receptionist was trying so hard to create.
Marshall stepped between her and the check-in desk, just in case she decided to vent her frustration on the receptionist.
“It’ll be alright Mary, we’ll call around to some other hotels from my room,” Marshall soothed. “Come on, the sooner we get this sorted out the sooner we can register for the seminars.”
“Oh joy,” steamed Mary, picking up her luggage. “Three days spent exchanging tips for breaking down doors with law enforcement officers too dumb to get out of these damn seminars. I can’t wait.”
“Hey,” said Marshall, hurt. “I’ve been looking forward to these seminars. You can learn some valuable things when you share good practices with other professionals.”
Mary shot him a look of disbelief as she stormed into the elevator and smacked the button for the twelfth floor. Marshall sighed again, and followed her. He had no idea why Stan had decided to send them both away for the weekend, he knew only too well about Mary’s firm ideas about courses, seminars and lectures.
Stan must have had some ulterior motive, but Marshall just couldn’t figure it out. He juggled the pieces in his head, but they just didn’t fit. Stan hardly ever let both marshals go on leave or training days at the same time, and he knew that Mary hated these talky, sharing seminars only slightly less than she hated people that signed Christmas cards from their pets. The mistake in booking was unparalleled; Eleanor ran a very tight ship, and Marshall had never come across any clerical errors on her behalf in the time she had worked for WitSec.
He shook his head. He’d figure it out eventually.
The room was a decent one, as far as mid-range hotels went. The bed was a king, which Marshall was grateful for, and the en suite bathroom had a big whirlpool tub as well as a two-person shower unit. The flat screen TV on the wall was of a decent size, and there was a small balcony. A small couch was tucked into a corner of the room. It looked uncomfortable and far too small for someone of Marshall’s proportions.
He’d stayed in a lot worse places, and immediately felt a twinge of pity for Mary who was currently homeless. She’d pounced on the telephone directory and was currently making her way through a list of local hotels, trying to find a spare room. Marshall left her to it, and flicked through the room service menu. The noise of the telephone directory hitting the wall to the left of the TV made him look up from the extensive dessert selection.
“I can take it from your childish display of temper that there are no rooms available?” he enquired.
Mary sat on the bed, looking annoyed.
“Between this law enforcement seminar and the International Elvis Impersonators convention on at the Hilton, every hotel in the area is booked solid. There are no rooms anywhere,
Marshall knew it was a stupid idea, but he just couldn’t help himself.
“We could always hire a donkey, and stick a pillow up your sweater,” he told her with a perfectly straight face. “Maybe someone would let you stay in their stable.”
He took the pillow to the face he received with dignified aplomb.
“You’re right, it’s been done before,” he said, retrieving the pillow and tossing it back to her.
She slumped back onto the bed with a moan of despair. His heart leapt a bit at the sight of her, stretched out and moaning on what was, for the next three nights at least, his bed. He blamed his next sentence on his libido hi-jacking his mouth. At no point in the process was his brain involved at all.
“You could always stay here,” he offered. “There’s a couch, and it’s not like we haven’t had to share a room before.”
She smiled at him. “I’m sure that something will have opened up by tomorrow,” she said. “It’ll just be for one night. Thanks, Marshall.”
And with that, her mood changed completely. She sprang up off the bed, and tugged on his hand.
“Come on,” she said. “Let’s go and register for the seminars. If we get there too late we’ll be stuck in the Body Cavity Search practical demonstrations again.”
They both shuddered at the thought of a repeat of the last in-house training session they had attended together and headed for the elevator. It was empty, but it stopped a few floors down to admit a tall, dark haired man in a white, rhinestone-bedecked jumpsuit.
“Lobby?” asked Marshall.
“Thank you very much,” replied the man.
They split up at the entrance to the hotel’s conference rooms. Marshall was interested in new advances in ISP logging and tracking that would help them find suspects through their internet use. Mary signed up for an advanced hand to hand combat course.
Marshall had a very interesting time, and made some contacts with FBI agents and marshals from other areas of the country that might one day prove useful. Mary enjoyed herself thoroughly as she learned four new ways to subdue an attacker significantly heavier than herself. They met for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant and swapped notes.
“So, found out how to download porn onto the office computers yet?” asked Mary cheerfully as she broke a roll in half and slathered butter generously over it.
“Oh please, like I need someone to show me how to do that,” he said dismissively. “Now I know how to hide all the porn I’ve downloaded onto the office computers.”
She laughed, and yet again he was smacked in the face with how genuinely beautiful she was when she smiled. He couldn’t help but beam back at her, and they sat there for a moment grinning like idiots. A monster of a man with a black eye and a bandage over a red and swollen nose passed their table and waved shyly at Mary. She waved back.
“Making new friends?” Marshall enquired, amused.
“That’s Al from the FBI field office in Miami. He thought that I couldn’t break out of his arm-lock,” Mary said around a mouthful of cheeseburger.
“Ah,” said Marshall. “Headbutt?”
“Stick to the classics, that’s what I say. Good thing I was in heels, though. He’s even taller than you.”
Marshall took a bite of his lasagne, and wished he had seen poor Al of the FBI get taken down by his partner. Maybe there was footage floating about somewhere on somebody’s cell phone.
Marshall insisted on dessert, and found an apple pie that was definitely ranked in his top eight best fruit pie leader board. Mary devoured a slab of chocolate cake, and started to lick her fork in a very disturbing manner. Meal over, they staggered back to their room to see if there were any movies they could both agree to watch. There was a brief argument, then they settled on Tombstone, then there was another, slightly longer argument, as they bickered about who was the better US Marshal, Wyatt Earp or Wild Bill Hickok.
They both lay on the bed to watch the movie, having already raided the ridiculously expensive mini-bar. They were both sleepy and drunk by the time the credits rolled across the screen.
“I’ll make up a bed on the couch,” Marshall said, pulling himself upright and stumbling a little as he made his way to the closet with the spare bedding in.
Mary yawned loudly and stretched out on the bed.
“You’re a good man, Marshall. I hope you’re comfortable.”
Marshall paused in his battle with a blanket that had unfolded and was threatening to engulf him.
“Of course I’ll be comfortable,” he said, confused. “The bed is huge.”
Mary propped herself up unsteadily on an elbow.
“I know it’s huge,” she said slowly, as if speaking to an idiot. “I’ll be sleeping in it.
You’ll be sleeping on the couch.”
Marshall snorted loudly.
“Oh no,” he said. “There’s no way that all of me is going to fit on that.”
They both turned to look at the couch, which seemed to have shrunk during the evening.
“I’m not exactly short either, Marshall,” she whined. “And it looks really painful.”
“There’s always the floor,” he said cheerfully. “Good for your back.”
“How about we flip for it?” she said, squirming around on the bed as she tried to pull a quarter from the pocket of her jeans.
It was the squirming that did it, or to be more accurate, the writhing.
“We could share,” he said before he could stop himself. “It’s a big bed, and...we could share.”
She paused, mid-writhe.
“It is a big bed,” she said thoughtfully. “And it’ll only be for one night.”
“One night,” he repeated, dumbly.
“OK,” she said, pulling herself onto her unsteady feet. “I want the bathroom first.”
She dragged her small suitcase into the bathroom with her and locked the door. Marshall dropped the blanket he was still wrestling with and unzipped his holdall. His trusty blue pyjamas with the little aeroplanes on, a Christmas gift from his grandmother two years ago he was too kind-hearted to throw away, were on top of his other clothes. He sighed, resigned to the way his life worked. At least Mary had seen them before, and at least they weren’t the pair from last Christmas with the little cowboys on. Those he would not be able to live down.
The door to the bathroom clicked open, and Mary came out. She was wearing a familiar-looking t-shirt, and not much else. The t-shirt covered her thighs, but left acres of leg uncovered.
“Shut up,” she said, although he hadn’t said a thing. “I didn’t realise that I’d be sharing, so I didn’t bring proper pyjamas.” She looked him up and down. “Unlike you, I see.”
She walked past him to the bed, and pulled back the covers. As she clambered unsteadily in, he caught a brief glimpse of white cotton underwear.
Oh Lord. He wasn’t sure what was worse, that Mary slept in an old t-shirt of his that he must have left at her house after one of Jinx’s pool parties, or that she slept in it while wearing virginal white cotton underwear.
“I’ll be in the bathroom,” he announced, his voice sounding strange even to him. “I may be some time.”
Mary waved a hand vaguely in his direction. “Lights,” was all she said.
He hit the switch and the room plunged into darkness. Marshall retreated to the privacy of the locked bathroom.
Some time and a quantity of cold water later, Marshall tip-toed back into the room. They hadn’t drawn the curtains, and light from outside shone through to illuminate Mary’s sleeping form. He slipped into the other side of the bed without waking her, and shifted about to get comfortable. He lay on his side, facing away from Mary.
It was just for one night. He could manage, for one night.
Mary sighed in her sleep and rolled over, one of her hands curling around Marshall’s waist. He could feel her warm body press against his back and her naked legs tangle with his clothed ones. She let out another sigh, this time of contentment. Marshall forced himself to relax, and he tentatively covered her hand with his own.
It was just for one night. He could pretend, for one night.
The bright sunlight streaming through the window was better than any alarm clock. Mary opened her eyes, and immediately wished she hadn’t. She closed them again, and stuck her head back under the covers. The arm surrounding her tightened and she hummed in pleasure as a hand stroked her hair.
Then she stopped, because she remembered where she was.
Mary hadn’t been attracted to Marshall, until the one day where she woke up and she was.
He was her best friend, her only friend, and so it was very confusing when she found herself starting to pay attention to the length of his fingers and the breadth of his shoulders. His long coat really shouldn’t affect her as much as it did. There was no reason for her to be jealous of his old professor or for her to be oddly jubilant when it all went so horribly wrong.
She had a boyfriend. She had someone she went to for sex, so why was she suddenly seeing her best friend in these terms?
Then, of course, her relationship with Raph had crashed and burned, which hadn’t really been a big surprise. She knew in her heart of hearts that he wanted more from her than she could give him, and so that was that.
And after Raph, one night stands didn’t seem so fun anymore. She’d started to learn about how relationships worked, and call her insane, but there was something appealing about the whole thing. About going to sleep next to someone you can trust, and waking up to them the next morning.
Breakfast in bed was pretty awesome too.
But after Raph, the idea of going out and finding someone she could connect with on more than just a physical level just made her want to tear her hair out.
Where was she going to find someone who was sexy, intelligent, emotionally stable, willing to put up with her insane family issues and able to understand the strictures of her job?
Mary was so screwed. Or, you know, not. Which was partly the issue.
Then one day in the office, one perfectly normal day, Marshall had been half way through explaining the plot of some ridiculous film about time travel and the metaphorical light bulb had gone on.
She was officially the most clueless woman in the world.
Marshall had assumed that the reason she was hitting her head against the desk was a protest about the science fiction genre, but she knew what she was really trying to do.
Knock some sense into herself.
You can’t sleep with your partner. Things got messed up when people hooked up in the office. Although, she considered, opening an eye to watch Stan and Eleanor nervously step around one another as they both tried to use the copier at the same time, things around here were pretty messed up already without people having sex. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.
So here she was, in love with her partner and snuggled up in bed with him. This would be perfect if he had any clue what was going on in her head. Or if she didn’t have the headache that resulted from draining the mini bar the night before.
“S’funny,” a voice from the outside the covers said weakly. “I don’t remember going to sleep with a teddy bear.”
“Your wit slays me,” she grumbled. “Make coffee appear. Use your magic powers.”
There was some flailing of limbs, and then she heard him call down to room service. Mary was pretty sure that she was never going to come out from underneath the covers. This was just too embarrassing.
“Mary? Are you alive?”
Fingers prodded at her, and she wriggled about under the covers.
“Stop it, or I’ll break them,” she threatened, but her heart wasn’t really in it.
“Weak,” scoffed Marshall. “You know that you’re not capable of violence without caffeine. Come on out, the sun won’t kill you.”
She reluctantly pulled the covers down enough to expose part of her face, and immediately wished she hadn’t. Marshall’s hair was sticking up in seventeen directions, and he looked absolutely adorable.
Christ, she must be far gone if she was using words like adorable.
“Mini bars are the work of the devil,” Marshall intoned.
“Amen,” murmured Mary.
They paused, neither willing to be the first to mention the cuddling.
“I don’t suppose you’ve got any Advil stashed away, have you?” she said rubbing her temples. “I shouldn’t have mixed my drinks.”
“It’s actually the volume of alcohol you consume that causes a hangover, rather than its components,” Marshall began, but shut up when she punched him in the leg. He disappeared into the bathroom and came back with a glass of water and some Advil. She knocked them back and drained the glass. He perched on the side of the bed, and she couldn’t help but smirk, despite her pounding headache.
“What?” he asked, confused.
“Your hair,” she said. “It’s sticking up in a million directions. You look like a mad scientist.”
His hands flew to his hair immediately, and he began to smooth it into place. She managed a small laugh, before she winced and held her head. This made him laugh, and by the time room service arrived the mood had changed from awkward to what passed for normal between them.
They were late for seminar sign ups, and had to fit in wherever there was space. Mary dozed her way through a lecture on the ethical usage of non-lethal force in suspect apprehension. Call her crazy, but when someone ran from the law it was because they were guilty, and if they were guilty then they got taken down, ethically or not. Marshall fared better in his discussion group about the efficacy of information sharing between federal and state law enforcement although, somewhat ironically, none of the participants were that interested in talking to each other.
They ditched the hotel restaurant for lunch and ended up in a diner where Marshall picked his way through Mary’s side salad and she blatantly stole his fries. They could have just swapped plates, but this way was more fun.
The only seminar group with an open spot in the afternoon session was a team-building session designed to encourage newly-partnered pairs to bond. Marshall had to promise that she could pick the movie that night before Mary would set foot in the door.
Neither of them spoke about Mary finding another room for the night.
The group leaders were an earnest duo called Sandra and Bill, and they insisted that the workshop started with the partners sharing a secret with each other, something personal and unknown to the other person.
The group broke off into pairs and sat opposite each other on the mats provided. Mary and Marshall found a mat in a far corner of the room, and sat reluctantly on it. All around them, new partners haltingly brought out secret fears and desires. Mary and Marshall were silent amongst the hum of stilted conversation around them.
“Go on,” Mary said at last. “You first.” She stared at him challengingly.
“You know all my secrets,” Marshall pointed out. “My life is an open book.”
“I tell you things too,” Mary protested. At a pointed look from Marshall, she sighed. “I tell you the important things,” she amended.
“Tell me why you and Raph broke up,” he challenged. “I dare you.”
She stared at him, open mouthed. He raised an eyebrow, and smirked.
“See,” he said smugly. “You can’t do it. You can’t tell me about it.”
Mary’s eyes narrowed.
“He asked me to marry him,” she said through gritted teeth. “He asked me to marry him and I said no. Then, after a while, I said yes, until I realised what a giant mistake it would be, and I said no again. He accused me of being emotionally distant, we had a brief but vicious argument and we broke up on Valentine’s Day. Which, by the way, is a sucky day to end a relationship on.”
Marshall’s jaw dropped.
“You never wore a ring,” he said at last. “I never saw a ring.”
“I kept it in my pocket,” she shrugged. “No identifiable jewellery is to be worn in our job, Marshall, you know that.”
“You should have told me,” he said at last, shaking his head. “I would have done more.”
She laughed bitterly, but reached over to put a gentle hand on his knee.
“There was nothing more to be done. You let me cry on your shoulder, fed me cupcakes and calmed me down enough so I could sleep, something that I wouldn’t have been able to do at home. You were perfect, Marshall, as you always are when I need you.”
“I’m not perfect,” he said, his ears blushing faintly red at her words.
“You are compared to me,” she said with a finality that warned him that she would brook no argument. “When it comes to emotional garbage, anyway. I’m a better shot.”
He snorted disparagingly, which led to a brief, animated discussion about accuracy and recertification test scores. They both agreed that they were better than the dickwads in Domestic Investigations, which calmed things down a bit.
Sandra and Bill called them back for a group discussion before Marshall could be forced to reveal a secret, although Mary was sure that she knew everything there was to know about him anyway. They then spent the rest of the afternoon playing games encouraged to build a sense of trust, which everyone else took very seriously and they giggled their way through.
“When will this ever be useful to us?” Mary panted as they struggled through a wheelbarrow race against two mixed-gendered FBI teams and two female detectives from the LAPD.
“Shut up and keep moving!” wheezed Marshall, “We’re winning!”
Mary groaned and hefted the weight of Marshall’s legs. They had been looked at strangely when they lined up at the start of the race, but Marshall’s height and superior upper body strength meant that they were a sure bet to cross the line first, as long as she kept moving fast enough. All the other women had chosen to be the wheelbarrow, rather than the pusher. When Mary had pointed out the flaw in the other team’s planning, Marshall had laughed and dropped to the floor obligingly, and she had caught his legs when he kicked them up for her to grasp.
They did win, beating the LA detectives by a nose. They collapsed together in a heap, and Mary thought nothing about resting her head on Marshall’s shoulder. His arm came around her, and its weight felt pleasant, and natural. Over the last year or so, she had got a lot better at letting him touch her. He was always so gentle, and calming. Mary would die before admitting it to him, but she wished he would do it more often. A hand on the small of her back or an arm casually slung around her shoulder from Marshall affected her far more than one of Raph’s passionate embraces ever had.
From the corner of her eye she saw Sandra staring at them with alarm, and the devil on Mary’s shoulder made her twist up to whisper something in Marshall’s ear.
He grinned, and let his hand drift down from her shoulder, skimming her back to land just above the belt of her jeans. He quirked an eyebrow, as if to gauge her reaction, and she just smiled and hoisted herself into his lap. He bit back a surprised breath, but allowed her to settle there for the rest of the races. He would brush her hair away from her face as leant down to whisper sarcastic commentary about the other teams, and she allowed herself to rake through his hair with her fingers like she had done on the plane ride back from Denver that one time. He practically purred, and she definitely felt the topography of his jeans changing under her backside.
He shifted uncomfortably, but she gripped the back of his collar and made him stay put. She wriggled deliberately, and his shocked expression was one that she’d remember for the rest of her life. He gripped her hip hard, his long fingers digging into her, and he looked at her with utter confusion in his blue eyes.
She wriggled deliberately again, and the confusion cleared in an instant.
Always quick on the uptake, Mary thought. Pity you couldn’t say that about me.
His eyes looked at her in delighted wonder, and she felt her heart lurch. She felt one of his large hands tangle in her hair, but before they could do anything else Sandra raised her voice and called all the participants back to a circle.
“She has the worst timing,” Mary complained as she was forced to clamber out of her partner’s lap.
“Or we do,” Marshall said, breathing hard through his nostrils.
“There is that,” Mary agreed.
They sat side by side in the circle, the sides of their legs firmly pressed together. They angled their torsos apart, but Mary found it hard to keep a smile off her face when she felt the brush of Marshall’s pinkie finger over hers.
“You’re such a dork,” she accused under her breath.
“It’s why you love me,” he said with an air of confidence that was belied by the sidelong glance he gave her.
“It’s one of the reasons,” she said with a wicked grin. “That, and the fact you can make coffee magically appear.”
Anything else that might have been said was interrupted by Sandra standing imperiously in the middle of the circle. She started a lecture on the dangers of improper relationships between partners, and the dire effects that such a relationship could have on friendships, career prospects and professional standing in the law enforcement community. Her face took on a blush and she spoke so vehemently that flecks of spittle sprayed from her lips.
Marshall appeared to be listening intently, but Mary could tell that his mind was elsewhere. She made no pretence of listening and instead yawned loudly and rubbed her body against Marshall’s some more.
“Marshal Shannon! Are you paying attention?”
Sandra had turned to her, her expression furious. Marshall tensed beside her.
“Be nice,” he whispered through gritted teeth. Mary rolled her eyes. Oh please. Like nice was something she was capable of.
“I’m sorry, Sandra, I must have dozed off for a moment there,” she said with a faux-politeness that sent grins onto the faces of the other participants. “My partner and I were rather busy last night and he forgot to set the alarm for this morning. We overslept, didn’t we, honey?”
She sent him a challenging look, and he grinned.
“My fault completely, sugar-britches,” he drawled. “You’ll have to remind me tonight, or we’ll just do the same thing again.” He sent her a wicked look. “Not that I’m complaining. That was the best two hours I’ve spent in a hotel room in a long time.”
Sandra and Bill look scandalised, as did one or two of the participants, but the rest of the room could clearly see that there was something more going on here, and they were enjoying the show.
“You said that I could choose tonight,” Mary said, her eyes snapping with mirth. “Worried?”
“Well, your tastes are a little exotic at times,” Marshall pondered. “Just as long as there aren’t any costumes involved, I should be good to go.”
Sandra was clearly lost for words, and Bill had turned a virulent shade of purple.
“I think you should leave!” he exploded, pointing at the door.
“I thought you’d never ask!” Mary said cheerfully, pulling herself to her feet. “Come on Marshall, if we hurry, maybe we do it twice tonight!”
“I do like the way you think,” he replied, draping an arm over her shoulders. “Bye, all!”
They managed to clear the convention room before bursting into the laughter that carried them across the lobby and into the elevator. By the time they got to the twelfth floor and into their room they were weak with laughing so much, and fell on the bed side by side in a tangle of limbs.
It took them a few minutes to calm down.
“Costumes?” Mary said eventually, pulling herself up on one elbow to look at him. “You know that you’re the one that likes superhero movies, not me.”
“I had to say something,” he protested, pulling her back down again so she lay beside him. “There was no way that we were going to get kicked out of there otherwise. We’d still be down there doing trust-building exercises.”
Mary made a rude noise. “That’s the very last thing we need. I trust you Marshall, more than anyone else. You’re my partner and my only friend. And...,” she hesitated and then ploughed on “and something more.”
Marshall rolled so his body covered hers. She spread her legs instinctively, and he settled between them. “I never got to tell you my secret,” he said quietly.
“Go on ‘fess up,” she whispered.
“You’re my partner and my friend, and my something more. I love you, Mary, and I don’t think I can stop.”
She smiled up at his earnest face, and traced its contours with the pads of her fingers.
“Don’t stop, then. Don’t ever stop.”
His kiss was passionate and all-encompassing, and Mary lost herself utterly to it. They would break apart to grab a lungful of air before diving back desperately towards each other. Every time she tried to pull at his clothes to remove them, or roll over so she could straddle him, he brought her firmly back under him again. She groaned in frustration and he laughed, denying her the role of aggressor.
“Not here,” he said as he kissed along her jaw line and neck. “You don’t make the rules in bed here Mary, I do.”
He had her hands pinned either side of her head, and he raised himself away from her long enough to look her in the eye. She nodded her understanding, a rush of excitement flowing through her. Her other lovers had enjoyed it when she assumed control in the bedroom. She treated sex as an extension of her normal take-no-prisoners lifestyle. It was strangely thrilling to be on the receiving end of such behaviour for a change.
And, she mused, as Marshall’s hot hands pulled her t-shirt from her and whipped her bra away in a matter of seconds, he only made the rules in bed.
He hadn’t said anything about the on couch, or against the wall, or in the back of the WitSec truck...
When Marshall woke the next morning, it was to the sight of a gloriously naked Mary spread out over the bed. Her hair tumbled across his bare chest and her head was resting on his shoulder. His left arm was completely numb and he knew that he must have pulled half a dozen muscles in some very unlikely places, but the last thing he wanted to do was move. For one thing, it would wake her up, and he wouldn’t be able to drink in the sight of her, relaxed and safe in the protection of his arms. And, for another, it would mean that she would demand that he fetch her coffee straight away.
All too soon Mary yawned, stretched and woke up. She caught sight of him and smiled a more restrained version of the goofy grin that he knew was plastered over his face.
“Morning,” he said, twisting her hair through his fingers.
“Coffee,” she replied, closing her eyes again. “And pastries. Lots of them.”
But she kept a tight grip on his arm while he made the room service call, and pulled him back close to her while they waited.
“The apple Danish is mine,” she warned him as they traded lazy kisses, morning breath be damned. “The raspberry one too.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he replied, meaning every word.