"You're a pansy, Winchester!" Janet Creegan roars; he can make out her general shape if he looks straight up and squints a bit.
"It's . . . called . . . being . . . a gentleman," he gasps. Somehow, that didn't have quite the zing he wanted.
"Loser," she smirks, turning sharply on her heel and kicking up a cloud of dirt that's evidently determined to choke him. His sputtering jars his ribs, and he wonders if anyone would make a fuss if his death forced the town to convert the baseball diamond into an impromptu graveyard. Soft. He's gone soft, away from the jungle and shitty rations, wrapped warm and secure in Mary's arms.
Oh God. Mary. She's probably dying of shame right now in the bleachers. Well, they can have a double funeral. That's sort of romantic, right?
Buck up, he tells himself. There's good news and there's bad news. Good news is, he knows now that the women playing this game are as tough as the men, and trying to avoid a head-on collision at home plate is a good way to trip over a discarded bat and end up broken nearly in half by the impact of the ground and Creegan's cleats. Bad news is, he didn't know before he agreed to play third base that this is less a small-town Sunday-afternoon ritual and more a steel-cage deathmatch. Good news is, he won't have to explain his defeat at the hands (and feet) of Creegan to Mike when he goes to work in the morning. Bad news is, that's because Mike is in the stands, laughing fit to bust his gut.
Good news is, Mary's here, kneeling beside him, stroking his arm and murmuring his name. "Let's go home," she says when he raises his eyes from her chest to her face. She heaves him up and gets one of his arms around her shoulders. He wonders if she was a contortionist before he met her, because she does all that, scoops up her purse and soda, and manages to wave gaily as the crowd - traitors, every last one of them, and he'll charge them all double next time they come into the shop - starts to clap in that slow, sardonic way, laughing in time to the thunderous beat.
"Owwwwwwww," he whines as they trudge home, Mary's solid weight still patiently bearing him up.
"Man up, Corporal," Mary grunts, stumbling a little at a dip in the sidewalk and jolting him. They cross Maple Drive and she starts humming; it's all downhill from here.
She deposits him on the couch, more relieved to be rid of his weight than gentle, and puts her hands on her hips; she falls into this stance often enough that he thinks she must have practiced it since childhood, imagining married life. "Damn good thing you mowed the lawn yesterday," she says, leaning over a little to make sure she's looking him right in the eye. "Now strip, soldier."
He raises an eyebrow at her, but it's an empty promise; he's too sore to do much, though if she felt like taking control he'd work with her. He peels off his t-shirt, looking down at his chest when she gasps. He's bruised all over, a shining dark purple, and she claps her hand over her mouth and bolts for the bathroom, her hair flying out behind her like a pennant. "Honey?" he calls after her, unsure of whether to follow or stay put. "Looks worse than it is, okay? I'm alright. The Last of the Winchesters is just fine." This is nothing, had worse than this every day of training and active duty, but Mary's a soft-hearted woman.
He's never heard sounds like the ones coming out of the bathroom from anybody but three-hundred-pound toughs, though. Maybe he should go check up on her. She's kneeling in front of the toilet, her dress crumpled high enough that he can still see his bite-marks on her thigh. She's tried to get her hair out of the way by pinning it up in one of those weird, complicated formations women can achieve with three sharp flicks of the wrist, but it's already drooping, quivering as she retches unhappily. "Baby, please don't get worked up over this," he tries. She shakes her head a little, but he can't figure out what that's supposed to mean. "It doesn't even hurt," he boasts, but that doesn't work; she shudders again and heaves. He's not sure what he should do. "I could, uh, make you something to eat?" He sees her hands clench into fists when he drops his palm onto the warm bare skin of her back, and he has the sense God gave a goose, so he pulls away quickly and beats a hasty retreat out of there.
He takes refuge in a clean shirt and a cold beer and waits in the bedroom for his wife to emerge. He's pretty sure what he's feeling now is fear. He wonders if he should pray.
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary comes out of the bathroom smelling fresh as a daisy, scrubbed clean and pink, and walks into the bedroom without a stitch on. Most beautiful sight he's ever seen, and he relaxes a little, hearing her humming again. She pulls on a pair of panties and one of his old button-down shirts and starts to comb her wet hair.
He waits for her to make a move, and she turns to him, flushed but weary-looking. She's been a little tired for the last few days, he thinks; it wasn't normal for her to sit on the porch steps to watch him cut the grass when she could be up to her elbows in dirt in her garden. He's never been all that big on flowers, but they seem to make her happy, so he smiles and nods whenever she asks if the roses look particularly fine.
She pulls a little red one from the vase on the dresser and tucks it over her ear. Its faint perfume tickles his nose when she settles in against him, the warm weight of her leaning comfortably on him. "Baby," he says, cupping her cheek and feeling her smile at the endearment, "you okay?"
"Are you?" she asks, not stirring from his arms, so he lies back and pulls her on top of him. She tastes like mint. "Guess so," she laughs after she catches her breath.
"We're gonna go TP Creegan's house later, right?" he asks.
"Eggs are more my style," she says, completely deadpan, and he laughs until his ribs ache all over again.
"Just you and me, honey," he vows once he's gotten himself under control.
She smiles at him as she undoes the button of his jeans. "Not for long, Next-to-Last of the Winchesters," she murmurs, and kisses him fiercely.
He pulls back to look at her when her meaning hits him, and her eyes are wide and bright. His chest starts to ache in an entirely new way as he covers her mouth with his.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.