Chapter 1: Chapter 1
"I am not a monkey!" scoffed Clyde, the Peters' lead lawyer.
"I like monkeys" commented Bull.
"I LOVE monkeys" interjected Cable,
"They have self-discipline" supplied Danny.
"Extroverted" piped up Marissa, hiding a smirk.
"They eat a diverse diet" noted Benny as the Peters' lawyer struggled to be heard over their comments.
"Curious George never said I'm not a monkey!" exclaimed Bull, as if that settled the matter. Marissa opened her mouth as if to chide Bull but let it pass, her mouth instead falling into its signature close lipped smile, comparatively it was one of his more harmless statements. Bull caught Marissa's eye over his shoulder as she handed him the tablet, he gave her a playful, yet discrete, wink before continuing the conversation with the clients.
Later, as the TAC team walked the clients to the elevator, Marissa couldn't miss the big bear hug that Bull enveloped Clyde in. Careful to hide her reaction, Marissa finished saying goodbye to Liberty, the only counselor that would remain on the team after that day. Turning to reenter the office, Bull caught up to her and held out a watch for her to admire. A grin spread across his face, "quite the skilled con man, if I do say so myself" he boasted, referring to Clyde's earlier comment about their work. Marissa stopped in her path and her eyes widened.
"Jason!" she rebuked, turning to fix him with a glare. "What did you take that for? They are our clients." She said placing emphasis on the last four words by poking him in the chest at each one. Bull had enough grace to look marginally apologetic as he defended himself.
"Mariss, do I ever do anything without a reason?" Bull replied, Marissa only raised an eyebrow. "Alright, occasionally I do" he conceded, "but I don't like surprises. And you know Clyde is going to be up to something, he could undermine the whole case. I just want to bug it" upon seeing Marissa's expression he quickly added, "temporarily, so we can keep tabs on him and make sure we get the best outcome for our real client, Brandon." Bull knew her well, knew just how to talk his way out of a situation that likely would've ended with her lecturing him. Besides, they had a lot of work to do, they already had the watch and well, Bull unfortunately had a point.
Marissa settled on giving Bull another pointed glare, but the harshness of it was undermined by her chuckle. "Do I need to keep a better eye on my jewelry around you?" she questioned. "It's disturbing how good you were at taking that watch."
Bull adopted a wounded expression and proclaimed "Mariss, you've cut me so deeply! How could you ever suggest such a thing, I would NEVER take anything from you" Bull finished this dramatic statement by clasping his hands to his heart and throwing his head back. Dropping the act, he flashed a wide smile and offered his arm to escort Marissa to where the rest of the team had begun the prep work. Marissa shook her head at his antics, only with her did his goofy side emerge, she thought as she slipped her arm through his and they returned to the others.
After visiting Pete Peters in the hospital, Bull returned to TAC and began working on another strategy. Peters had been right, they didn't have enough jurors. Bull was staring at their main screens which had the real and mirror jurors displayed side-by side--most of them outlined in red. He inclined his head slightly at the sound of Marissa's heels clicking on the floor.
As she approached from behind, Marissa shared the news, "I just watched the mirror jury deliberate for 2.5 hours. We're losing." Mouth set in a firm line, she joined Bull in gazing at the screens.
"I like a challenge" he responded simply. Marissa took a deep breath before replying.
"It's one of the ten traits of highly successful people" she commented as she handed over her tablet. The corner of Bull's mouth pulled up at her response.
"Another trait is surrounding themselves with other highly successful people" he said giving Marissa a smile with a waggle of his eyebrows. She shook her head, but couldn't hide the small smile that had spread across her face. Bull tapped on the tablet a few times then offered it back to Marissa before approaching the screen to discuss the individual jurors in further detail.
As they spoke a pattern began to emerge, "when Bess sees Brandon, she sees her son AJ" Marissa murmured, now facing Bull instead of the screen.
"Bess' second chance to save her son is through Brandon" he continued Marissa's thought. Marissa was his best sounding board, whenever he was stuck Bull knew he could talk it out with her and come to an answer. Just then Cable approached and told them that the bug they planted on Clyde had alerted them to a deal he was making with the D.A.
Bull grabbed the headphone to listen in while making sure to give Marissa a smug "I-told-you-so' look—to which she rolled her eyes—before stating that Brandon needed to be called in immediately.
They’d won the case and arrested the real killer just in time for Marissa and Bull to have their monthly movie night at Bull’s apartment. Bull was finishing up the popcorn, the delicious butter smell wafting through the air, when he heard the elevator ding. Marissa’s heels clicked on his hardwood floor as she whisked into the kitchen, breathing in the smell deeply, a grin spreading across her face.
She deposited the snacks she’d brought on the counter and left the room without so much as a greeting, calling over her shoulder “I’m going to change.” Bull glanced up as he heard his bedroom door click shut and shook his head in amusement. Pouring the popcorn into a large bowl, Bull also grabbed Marissa’s snacks and the drinks and managed to juggle them all to the living room without dropping anything.
Grinning triumphantly, he readied the TV, double checked the surround sound before claiming his spot on the couch. Marissa came out of his room wearing a pair of black yoga pants, a loose, thread-bare sweatshirt she still had from undergrad and a pair of oversized socks. Dropping her bag near the door she then padded over to take her usual spot next to him, with just enough space in between them for the food.
Bull did a double take, “are those my socks?”
Stopping briefly to look at her feet, Marissa nodded. “I forgot to bring some this time and you know how cold my feet get. You mind?”
“Little late to ask don’t you think?” he replied dryly, to which Marissa shrugged sarcastically. Bull chuckled, “mi casa es su casa”
“I know,” Marissa grinned. “What’re we watching tonight? Better not be another one of those god-awful, cheesy horror movies” she commented, folding one leg underneath her as she sat and bending the other so she could rest her arm on her knee.
“And if it is?” Bull challenged, swinging his legs to prop his feet on the coffee table. “It’s my turn to pick, and you know the rule—no rejecting the other person’s movie choice.”
“That rule doesn’t say I can’t insult your movie choice” Marissa muttered with a smirk, grabbing a handful of popcorn. “So, what is it then?” she inquired, munching on the salty snack, curiosity getting the best of her.
“It’s the dreaded, the blood-thirsty, the unstoppable Creature from the Deep Lagoon!” Bull dramatically announced, brandishing the movie case. Marissa rolled her eyes, laughing at Bull’s love for old black-and-white horror movies.
“Just play the movie, the sooner we start the sooner it’ll be over” she teased, opening one of the beers and handing it to Bull before cracking one open for herself. These older movies were typically shorter, so she may be able to sneak picking the second movie they watched.
“Oh, don’t you worry, I also have, Camp Watkins: Return of the Creature from the Deep Lagoon” Bull reassured her. He clicked play, taking a swig of his beer. Marissa groaned in mock distress and threw some popcorn at Bull.
Bull snickered and then looked at her, “do you want to play that game? I happen to have all of the hard candies on my side,” Bull swept his arm to indicate where the M&Ms and Reese Cups sat. She only stuck her tongue out him before facing the screen to catch the opening scene.
They passed the movie in a comfortable silence, passing the candy and popcorn back and forth, opening another beer from time to time. Marissa only broke the silence occasionally to make observations like, “why is she wearing that? It’s completely impractical” and “no matter how fast you run, the creature from the deep lagoon shuffles faster.” The credits had begun to roll and Bull grinned at her sarcastic commentary, but slipped the pillow from behind his back and threw it at her in retaliation for mocking the movie. Marissa laughed, stuffed the pillow behind her and teased, “well, that was just poor planning on your part, now I have all the pillows.” Bull shrugged and switched the movies and started sequel, 10 minutes later he was squirming to get more comfortable.
“Something the matter over there?” Marissa asked innocently, lounging on her pillows and popping some chocolate in her mouth, eyes still fixed on the TV.
“Not at all” Bull replied, forcing himself to be still, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of asking for the pillow back. Another 30 minutes passed and Bull was shifting uncomfortably again when one of the pillows caught him in the side of the head.
“You’re ridiculous,” Marissa stated, eyes gleaming with amusement. “Might want to get that pride checked out, if you can’t even ask for a pillow back.” Bull just pulled a face and gave her shoulder a gentle shove before they settled in to finish the movie.
They must have fallen asleep during the second movie, it happened more often than not during their movie nights. The long workdays could make it difficult to stay up late when it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Bull jerked awake the next morning when his hand fell off the couch and hit the ground with the soft thump. He scanned the room from his position the best he could with his glasses askew, momentarily confused as to why he was on the couch. He then heard Marissa sigh and felt her stretch on her side of the couch, her feet reaching across the cushions to bump his.
Bull sat up, straightened his glasses and cracked his back, chuckling when Marissa sat up as well, rubbing her face. “Nice bedhead Blondie” he teased. Marissa’s hair was flattened on one side and a bump had formed on the top of her head where the hair had been pushed up.
Marissa scowled at him, before countering with a grin “like you can talk porcupine.” His hand went up to his head to determine if she was being truthful or not—she was, his hair was sticking up all over the place.
Laughing he stood and offered “coffee? Food?” as he made his way to the kitchen.
“Yes, coffee” Marissa accepted gratefully, trailing after him as she ran her hands through her hair. “And you actually have food? I’m impressed, I swear if I didn’t come for our movie nights you’d never leave the office and this place would be barren.”
“Of course, I have food!” Bull exclaimed in fake offense, “and you can’t talk,” he pointed the spatula he’d just picked up at her, “you’re at the office almost as much as me.” Bull then began rummaging in his fridge for ingredients.
Marissa acquiesced with laugh and opened one of the cabinets to get mugs for their coffee. “So, what is the breakfast special at Chez Bull this morning?” she questioned, filling their cups and added milk and sugar to hers and just sugar to his cup. Marissa handed Bull his mug and peered into the frying pan.
“Omelets” he answered, pleased with himself, taking a sip and sighing happily. “Perfection” he saluted her with his coffee before turning back to the stove. Smiling, Marissa went and retrieved their tablets from the other room and took a seat on one of the bar stools at his counter. When Bull slid the plate in front of her, she handed him his electronic with the crossword puzzle from the paper that day already pulled up. They finished their breakfast in companionable silence, Bull completing his puzzle and Marissa reading through a news article; enjoying the pleasant calm that found them between cases.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
They'd just heard on the news that the pilot had survived the crash. "That's unheard of...in a crash like this." Bull murmured to no one in particular, eyes fixated on the burning plane displayed on the screen. "Before we take a client, victim, airline or otherwise I want to talk to this pilot." The members of his team went immediately into action.
Months later, he and Marissa were taking the subway to meet the recovered pilot and her appointed lawyer. The train was unusually full given the time of day, forcing the two of them to stand close together. Even with her heels, Marissa would have had to stand on her toes for the duration of the ride to reach the metal rails in the ceiling and the vertical poles in the ground were all taken by various passengers. Bull gave Marissa a cheeky grin "you could just hold onto my arm, Mariss" he said teasingly, nodding at the arm holding onto the rail all while lifting onto his toes to emphasize their height difference. Marissa huffed slightly, but it was either that, hold onto him via hug or take her chances not holding onto anything.
As she reached up and grabbed onto Bull's arm, he chuckled. "Shut it, Jason." She griped, though a smile played about her lips. Bull laughed a little harder, shoulders shaking.
"Sorry, sorry" he amended, as she began to pull her hand away "I'll stop." He took Marissa's hand and wrapped it back around his arm, holding it in place with his own.
As they jostled along in the crowded train, Bull looked down at Marissa and asked "what's your preferred method of transportation?" tilting his head as he asked. Marissa suppressed a smile, she could practically hear the gears in his head moving. He was already trying to guess what her answer would be, testing himself and his ability to read her. Sometimes Marissa played along and responded honestly to these random questions, today however, she felt like messing with him by picking something just as random as his question, get back at him for the short jokes.
With a completely straight face she met Bull's eyes and stated, "teleportation. It really is the most convenient and lets you travel longer distances, faster, and without the crowd." Though her statement had been presented logically, the mischievous grin and matching glint in Marissa's eyes challenged Bull to contradict her statement in some way. He laughed again, this time Marissa joined him in his mirth as they swayed along with the movements of the train, their knees occasionally knocking together.
She really was one of the few people who could beat him at this little game when she chose to, she knew him just as well as he knew her. "Well, what did you expect me to say Bull?" Marissa inquired. "Certainly not flying! Not considering the case we're looking into."
"I was going to say chauffeured town car" he replied calmly, "though statistically speaking, flying still is one of the safest modes of transportation."
Marissa giggled and imitated him, "statistically speaking, hur hur hur" while pushing imaginary glasses up the bridge of her nose. Bull's lips curled into a smile despite himself. Spending one-on-one time with Marissa almost always cheered him, even when it was work related. Before he could deliver a come-back the train pulled into their stop and Marissa slid her hand off his arm and they exited the train and made their way to the surface to greet their client.
Marissa stood watching the mock trial Benny was running. They were practicing ways to address gender bias. Oscar, the captain's attorney, approached and attempted to poke holes in their strategy. "So, you did one mock trial and determined the whole world has it in for female pilots?"
Marissa exchanged a look with Cable and responded, "Weee did 5. And it's not a conspiracy. Implicit bias literally means you don't even know it's there" she tapped a few more notes into the computer.
Oscar made a doubtful face, "so you strike all the male jurors?"
"No,” Marissa paused to look at him before explaining, “because women display as much gender bias as men do.”
Oscar hummed in response before addressing Cable. "Could you scare me up a cup of coffee?" Marissa furrowed her brow and opened her mouth to protest, but Cable raised a hand to stop her.
"No, it's fine. I was JUST about to about to grab myself a cup," Cable stood and left the room while Marissa pursed her lips, directing her attention back to the screens in front of them. Oscar spoke up again a moment later and Marissa lifted her eyes up to the ceiling slightly as if to beg for patience.
"Look, I know Dr. Bull has 3 Ph.D.’s in psychology, BUT he's not an attorney. And there are so many unknowns to overcome in trial..."
Marissa cut Oscar off, "we're just getting started, by the end of this process we will know which types of jurors we want and which to exclude” she finished confidently.
Oscar scoffed quietly, "all I know, is that if Taylor is smart. She will settle with the plaintiffs and make this whole thing go away." As he spoke, Oscar circled behind Marissa, stopping uncomfortable close. Marissa spun around to confront the infuriating man, regardless of his proximity.
"You're right, Dr. Bull isn't an attorney. But that is exactly why he can win this case for you. He is the most capable and qualified person in this field. Can you determine which of the jurors you connect with and how many with a single remark? Can you tell which one is the leader, the one you need to convince above all others to get a good outcome for your client? Can you develop strategies that get the best possible jurists for the trial?" Marissa delivered each of these questions matter-of-factly and without pause and when she had finished she realized that Oscar had backed away during her tirade, still she maintained eye contact until Oscar looked away, uncomfortable.
"I need to find my client" he muttered, and left to search the rest of TAC. Marissa shook her head pivoting to face the screens again, still seething slightly at the man's arrogance and ignorance.
"Thank you for defending my honor," Bull joked dryly from behind Marissa as he came around the corner.
"You shouldn't eaves drop, it's rude," came Marissa's wry reply. "Besides, he needed to be put in his place, we're talking gender bias and here he is being blatantly sexist and invading space like he can intimidate me!" she snorted in disbelief, foot tapping in irritation. "And anyway, no one is allowed to insult you but me." Marissa softly added the last part almost as an afterthought, still not turning to look at Bull as her fingers flew across the keyboard entering new components for the algorithm.
Bull smiled at her fierce, if unnecessary, protection of him, walked up behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Thanks, Mariss," he stated softly as he leaned in towards her ear. She waved him away, but Bull caught the smile that had crept onto her face.
"Go find Oscar. Before he pisses someone else off, he's looking for Taylor." Marissa called over her shoulder as Bull exited the mock trial room.
They had won the case. Victory was in the air and the TAC team had congregated in the mock trial room for drinks, music and good company. Bull had just picked up a drink from the bar and grabbed the guitar that a wealthy musician client had gifted to them. Bull turned and immediately found Marissa sitting on a table chatting with another employee.
Time to claim his best friend, Bull thought as he approached the pair. "Excuse me, Jake" he said, the younger man nodded at Bull, smiled at Marissa and then walked away. Bull grinned at Marissa and presented her with the drink he had with a slight flourish and a sweet, "milady" before sitting next to her on the table.
Marissa smiled, took the glass and thanked him quietly before eyeing the guitar curiously. "A gift from our friend Vance, 'rock on'" Bull explained brandishing the electric guitar and doing his best impression of the difficult rock-n-roll client. Marissa shook her head chuckling and took a sip of her drink.
"I heard the airlines settled with the families." She mentioned, leaning further into Bull, placing her weight on her unoccupied hand. Their shoulders bumping softly before she settled in slightly behind him so that her arm was pressed against the length of his back.
"Double what they would've paid, had Taylor been found guilty" Bull replied proudly. He paused briefly before continuing, "so, how is my team?" The duo looked across the room to where Cable, Danny, Benny and Chunk stood, drinking and chatting.
Marissa smirked and answered "right where you want them...here" before taking another drink. Bull smiled broadly, fingers playing with the strings of the guitar before sneaking a peek a Marissa. As always, she knew him. He did want them here, they were his family. He just couldn't help that little thought in the back of his mind, that he wanted her there more than the others. He shrugged off the thought and began playing little riffs on the guitar while chatting with Marissa.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Bull strolled through central park enjoying an iced coffee and the sun, he'd come to meet Marissa to play chess. But he also liked to come early and people watch. Today, like many days, people were glued to their electronics, one man was walking while listening to a podcast on his tablet. Bull discreetly slipped behind him to catch a glimpse of what all the excitement was about. Ahh, yes, the murder of the talented basketball player three years ago, it had been all over every form of media recently. Before he could gather more information though the man broke off in another direction. Bull looked up and realized that he'd reached the chess tables, and Marissa was already seated at one, crushing her opponent. Bull grinned, so she came early as well, likely to stake out a table for them, but also to get in some extra playing time. He could freely admit he wasn't the best physical chess player, put him in a courtroom and he could checkmate the other side in minimal moves, but here? Marissa was reigned supreme. Bull situated himself at a nearby bench to watch and wait his turn.
Marissa hadn't noticed him yet, she was wearing her light pink headphones, likely listening to that popular podcast. Bull watched as she furrowed her brow for a second at her opponent’s move, before a smile lit across her face. She picked up the necessary piece and finished the game in a matter of moments to the astonishment of the gentleman across from her. Dumbfounded, the man asked for a rematch, Marissa smiled but while glancing around the park her eyes had alighted on Bull. Politely declining the rematch Marissa shook her opponents hand and stood, removing her headphones, to greet him.
"Morning, Jason" she said, hugging him warmly. "Sorry if I made you wait, the match went on longer than I expected." Marissa spoke as she resumed her seat and reset the board for their weekly match.
"No problem, Marissa. Nice to know I'm not the only one you destroy in chess, that guy didn’t know what hit ‘em." Bull joked as he assisted her in setting up the board. The two spent the remaining time talking about weekend plans, the team and anything else that came to mind.
Marissa watched the news in slight awe, he'd done it. He'd gotten Ellen, the podcaster, to put herself in jail but ripping up the subpoena and refusing to release her tapes. Sometimes he amazed her with his predictive abilities, she grinned to herself as she re-watched his little stint as a fake news reporter. Sometime later Bull walked into the office carrying a paper bag, Marissa couldn't help but call out teasingly "so you're a reporter now?"
Bull responded with a swagger and slight lowering of his voice, "I'm a citizen journalist, I have a blog check it out." If he'd had the proper haircut, he'd have flipped it for theatrical effect. Bull then made the rounds around the room, checking in with the team and handing out apples that he plucked from the paper bag. He finally settled in the chair next to Marissa in front of the screens, handing her an apple. Marissa made a delighted noise and took the apple before diving into the discussion about Ellen’s current situation.
"How much time do you think we've bought" Marissa asked, glancing up from picking at the stem of her apple, as Bull as he polished his on his suit jacket.
"Well, as long as Ellen's integrity will hold against the county jail food." Bull answered taking a bite from his apple, when Marissa gave him searching look, he elaborated further. "Two days max" he said, as if this was a defining part of someone's character—how long they could last on jail food.
Marissa nodded and began to eat as well. She then paused and gave Bull a sideways look. “You wouldn’t last two days on jail food either.”
“I would too. I could survive on jail food for a long time if necessary” he defended himself. Marissa snorted in amusement and cast a doubtful look at him, opting to take a bite of her apple instead of making a comment. “I’d last longer than you” he claimed confidently.
“Oh, please” she laughed, head tipping back for a moment. “Like Mr. Let’s-Get-The-Weirdest-Fanciest-Thing-On-The-Menu could outlast me on a jail food diet. You’d cave at the first bologna sandwich and jell-o cup.” Marissa declared. Bull opened his mouth to retort, but was cut off by Cable.
“You guys are so weird” Cable’s voice sounded from a nearby desk. When they looked at her in confusion, she continued. “You do realize that you’re arguing about who could endure jail food longer, right?”
“Well Cable, who do you think would last longer” Bull poised the question to her, cocking his head to the side. Marissa peered around Bull to look at Cable, her eyebrows raised expectantly.
Cable glanced between her two superiors and held her hands up in surrender. “I’m not gonna answer that” she quickly swiveled her chair around to face her computer.
Chuckling, Marissa and Bull turned back to face each other. “You know she would have picked me if you weren’t her boss” Marissa suggested, dropping her apple core into the trash. “Job security is really important in this economy.”
“Oh, is that so?” Bull replied, “From what I saw, she would have picked me, but she was scared you’d unleash your Homeland Security training on her.” The two continued their playful banter until Benny entered the office, asking about the case.
Bull met Benny for drinks and darts at one of their favorite bars. He'd been ripping on Benny for being hung up on Amanda, his ex- and the current opposing counsel, when Benny suddenly turned the tables, asking "what about you? You ever going to get serious with a woman again?"
Bull externally deflected the question with ease, redirecting the conversation to darts and then to Ellen popping up on the TV screen in quick succession. Despite being outwardly calm, Bull's stomach felt like it was in knots, because Marissa had flashed through his mind in response to Benny's question. That shook him to the core. He hadn't had a significant romantic relationship since his divorce from Izzy. Marissa was his best friend, his rock, his partner at TAC.
Psychologically speaking, it was natural that he had developed some kind of feeling beyond those of a platonic friendship, he reasoned. Familiarity did breed.... well, contempt as the saying went. But it also bred comfort, and he had known Marissa for almost 7 years now; you spend enough time with someone and the brain can make those types of connections. It was nothing, he told himself. He wasn't even ready for a serious romantic relationship and he certainly wasn't going to risk his friendship with Marissa over a fleeting feeling that he couldn’t say he’d properly identified.
Another win, another bad guy caught, and another party at TAC. Bull retreated to one of the side rooms to fiddle with his guitar and give Benny the space he needed to talk to Amanda. Not much later, Marissa wandered in and joined him on the couch, tucking one of her legs underneath so she could sit half facing him, one elbow resting against the back to prop up her chin. Her knee and elbow pressed gently against his outer thigh and shoulder respectively, as she sank into the couch. Marissa smiled, complimenting him on creating an opportunity for Benny to reconcile with Amanda. Bull brushed it off, peering over his glasses at her while he suggested it was a happy coincidence.
"You don't believe in coincidences" Marissa reminded him, her lips curling upwards knowingly. Bull thought of how she'd immediately come to mind when a romantic relationship had been brought up. A coincidence, he insisted in his mind, though she was right—he didn’t believe in those. Regardless of the debate in his head, Bull responded to Marissa with a smartass comment that made her laugh.
"How long does the feeling last?" she inquired, looking at him, one hand twirling her drink. Bull's throat constricted momentarily. Had his carefully crafted mask finally failed him? Had she seen a flicker of the feelings he had been arguing with pass across his face? To buy himself time, Bull tilted his head at her and hummed in feigned confusion. "Winning a case like this," Marissa clarified, nodding towards the people in the main area, "helping Reese?"
"Until the next one" Bull replied relieved, though he didn’t miss the double meaning to his response. Not just referring to the case, but also to these sudden and confusing feelings for Marissa. They would last until she wasn’t the only woman in his life that he was close to, yes that was it, they would last until the next one.
Marissa inclined her head in assent to his statement and the two lapsed into a relaxed silence on the couch and enjoyed their drinks.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
This is kind of a long one, it's when the team goes to Callisto. I am not the biggest fan of Diana Lindsay (besides the fact that she gets in the way of my ship), so she's not portrayed very nicely. Hope you enjoy!
Marissa and Bull were leaving the hospital after meeting with Kerry, the 'Angel of Sacred Heart', about her miracle drug. Marissa spoke up as they reached the lobby, "so I take it we're going?" she must have seen the answer on his face, because Marissa forged on before he could reply. "Yeah Bull, I've only got a foggy picture of what happened to you in Callisto the first time around. But I have heard you say the words 'deep, personal downward spiral' in referencing its aftermath" Marissa finished, biting her bottom lip.
"Lot of good can come from a deep, personal downward spiral. From the bottom of a hole it's easier to see the light" Bull reasoned. Marissa looked deeply concerned and was playing with the ring on her pinky finger, lips pressed together. Bull, who was walking slightly ahead of her, slowed at her nervous actions and turned to face her completely. "Mariss," he began, placing his hands on her upper arms "it'll be fine. Besides, Kerry needs our help and so do all of the people suffering from the condition her drug could help. Don't worry about me, yeah?" Marissa looked less than convinced, her anxiety still making itself known in the lines of her face, but she nodded and the two headed back to the office.
"Bull, I can't get ahold of Danny" Marissa alerted him, slipping her phone back into her pocket as he came into the main office space.
"Oh, yeah. She's on special assignment." Bull informed her distractedly as he turned one of the boxes on its side.
"Care to elaborate?" Marissa pressed, raising an eyebrow at him.
"Um, not now." Bull replied, stepping on the box in front of him. "Can I have everyone's attention? I have a request of each and every one of you." Bull announced to the remaining people in the room. "I want you to imagine that we are an invading, hostile force. Because that is how the devil's armpit that we are traveling to is going to see us. And I may not be able to share every tiny detail of strategy with you in the moment. Trust that I am your general and I am in full command." Bull concluded this little speech with a close-lipped smile and the team began to move again, the general conversation picking back up.
Marissa, who had been giving him odd looks during his speech, approached him as he dismounted his makeshift stage. "Bull, you may be making too big a deal of this," she began, holding out a set of keys for him to take.
Bull interrupted her, taking hold of her hand and arm instead of the keys. "I'm not. And that is a perfect example of the opposite of what I just said." Marissa made a small exasperated noise so Bull hurried on, stating “weren’t you the one all worried about this case just this morning? And now I’m making too big a deal about it?”
“I was, and still am, concerned about you. Not so much the case.” Marissa clarified, “besides, you’re the one using phrases like ‘invading, hostile force’, ‘devil’s armpit’ and that you’re our ‘general’” she recited his words back at him. “It’s not that I don’t trust you Jason,” she murmured, lowering her voice. “I just have this odd feeling that I cannot place.”
“Well, you know, those types of feelings often” he began.
“Don’t give me a psychology lesson right now Jason” she interrupted. Her tone then softened as she continued, “I am, I guess I am just warning you that while I trust and will follow you in this case, I am going to be voicing my concerns about it and I expect you to listen and not get all caught up in Callisto and what it represents—your first non-win, as you call it.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way” he assured her, though the at least one of them must have looked worried because Chunk called out to them just then.
"We've got this Bull!" Chunk smiled supportively.
Bull nodded in acknowledgement. He then looked at Marissa once more, giving her hand and arm a comforting squeeze before releasing her and taking the keys. Bull made a few final rounds before exiting the office, Marissa, Benny and Chunk all throwing nervous glances over their shoulders at him as he left.
As team walked along the sidewalk in Callisto, Marissa had to admit, Bull was right about their efforts being undermined. Merle 'the Pearl' parked next to them and loaded the bags (and Marissa) into his vehicle as a black truck pulled up.
"Not a phone call, not a letter? You could have let us know you were back in town Dr. Bull" the brunette drawled from the driver's seat.
"Oh, you knew we were coming Diana." Bull quipped, not breaking eye contact as he leaned against Merle’s truck.
Diana and Merle had a quick exchange as he closed up the trunk and walked to driver's side of his truck, before turning her attention back to Bull. "Now, I didn't think I'd see your face again, Bull. You made a good decision. Gettin rid of the old soup-stringer." She continued, signaling to where a moustache would be. "I always did find those whiskers ticklish." Bull simply smiled and nodded at Diana's observation. Chunk laughed in disbelief that Bull ever had a mustache, while Marissa struggled to hide a smile as she traded a look with Benny and lifted her eyebrows. Diana bid them goodbye and drove off.
Bull went on to explain that Diana was the senior partner at the local law firm, and would be the one prosecuting Kerry's case. He climbed into the front seat, a thoughtful look on his face. Chunk turned to the others in the back and murmured, "so Callisto is a kind of a who." Marissa nodded and realized she was beginning to get a better idea of Bull's previous trip to Callisto.
Marissa watched Bull as he eyed Diana walking away from the bar. She felt a something gnawing in her stomach as she processed the way Bull was looking at the opposing counsel. Diana had likely been the cause of Bull’s deep, personal downward spiral and if not the cause, certainly a big contributing factor. Marissa’s protective streak flared and her dislike and distrust of the woman deepened. Diana had hurt Bull badly and Marissa was worried that she would hurt him again; that woman liked to play head games as much as Bull, but hers seemed to be far more manipulative and destructive in nature. Refocusing, Marissa approached Bull to pass along the information Cable had found on the research study.
As she handed Bull the file, he narrowed his eyes and inclined his head. "What?" Marissa asked.
Bull just looked her up and down, before asking “going native?" gesturing to her jeans, cowboy boots and hat.
“Oh, I'm going to ride the bull." Marissa explained tipping her hat up and gesturing towards the mechanical beast in the back corner of the bar before diving into the information about the case.
Bull concluded their conversation with a mock toast to "broken wings" his somewhat forlorn gaze drifting past Marissa to the door where Diana had recently exited. Marissa's stomach clenched, Diana had already reeled him back in and was wreaking havoc on him once more; and it hadn’t even been a week.
Feeling the need to distract her friend, Marissa interrupted his musings. "Come on, come watch me fall on my ass. That'll keep us distracted from the case for a bit" standing Marissa patted Bull on the arm and walked over to the roped off area containing the mechanical bull.
He followed her, remarking "well, it won't distract us for very long. MAYBE a few seconds." His eyes glittered at the thinly disguised challenge.
"Oh, really?" Marissa turned to face him, cocking an eyebrow. "What do I get when I prove you wrong?" She stooped under the rope and neared the machine.
Bull cupped his chin as if deep in thought, "a whole weekend off. No phone calls, no emails, nothing. Just you time, no work."
"So, the stakes are high then!" she laughed, stepping into the stirrup and swinging her other leg over the machine. "And, hypothetically, what would you get should I surprisingly fail?"
"You buy our lunches for a week. And... I get to pick where we get the food each time." Marissa scrunched her nose, Bull picked some of the weirdest places to eat sometimes. But a weekend off? She hadn't had a full one of those in at least a year, it was worth risking some odd food for.
"Done. I last more than 10 seconds I win." She declared, signaling to the operator that she was situated.
"20 seconds and you can leave early on that Friday as well" Bull called as the machine began to rock.
"Deal!" Marissa agreed and the bucking and spinning picked up speed. Bull had to admit, he was impressed, she had perfect positioning, one hand held high in the air; he was going to lose this bet. 16 seconds had passed before Marissa went sprawling onto the padded floor, her body shaking with laughter. She sprang up, holding her arms above her head in triumph, Benny, Chunk and Danny, who had gathered around to watch, cheered as Marissa jokingly bowed to her fans.
Glancing at the clock, Marissa swaggered over to where Bull sat, slowly applauding her performance. "Looks like someone, just got a weekend off." She boasted, as she sat next to Bull, bumping his shoulder playfully with her own before picking up her drink.
"Indeed," he responded with a grin. "You certainly earned it." They clinked their glasses together and enjoyed the rest of the night with the team.
After court the next day, Marissa, Bull and Cable were debriefing as to which jurors they still needed to win over. As they finished, Cable piped up, "Oh, and I found this." She held up a picture of Bull with the 'soup-stringer' moustache that Diana had mentioned. Marissa covered her mouth to smother her giggle.
Bull reached towards the keyboard, "I, I think we're losing our connection," and terminated the feed, cutting off a protesting Cable.
Marissa chuckled and leaned toward him as he walked away, "that was nice" briefly putting her index finger above her mouth mimicking Bull's moustache. Bull rolled his eyes and continued out of the room, but Marissa had heard his suppressed laugh.
Later, Marissa found herself wondering if that moustache really would tickle as Diana had claimed. Horrified at where her thoughts had wondered, Marissa buried herself back into the case—they had a lot more work to do after all.
At the local bar later that night, Danny was still undercover, Chunk was buddying up to the court security and Marissa, Benny and Bull were laughing at a table. Diana entered the bar, approached their table and invited herself to join them for drinks. Marissa’s mouth twisted slightly as the woman sat down and started sharing what had happened during the only case Bull hadn't won. Diana dropped a figurative bomb when she finished the story and rather abruptly left the table for another drink.
"What happened that weekend?" Marissa pressed quietly, after Diana was out of earshot, her face full of concern.
"Yeah, what did happen that weekend?" Benny repeated. "Cause I was thinking, and if I've got it right, you started dating my sister soon after this case."
"Ah-ha, I think it's a good time for refills!" Marissa jumped in upon seeing the pained look that flashed on Bull's face. As much as Bull joked about his divorce, Marissa knew it was a tough topic for him to discuss. And even though Marissa wanted to dig for Callisto details, she knew she needed to get Benny away from Bull more. Patting Benny's arm as she stood, "come on" she partly sang placing both hands on Benny's back and lightly pushing him towards the bar. She briefly made eye contact with Bull, who lifted his glass to her in thanks as he sighed.
Marissa could see the connection too though, both women were smart, successful, beautiful...and brunette. Well, everyone had a type. Why did it suddenly matter that she knew Bull's?
Later that night, Marissa and Benny were literally wheeling Merle back to the barn that was acting as their headquarters and hotel. The two were joking as they approached the barn, when suddenly Marissa froze "did you leave the barn open?" she asked turning to Benny in dread. Benny didn't bother responding, he dropped the wheelbarrow handles and the two rushed into the barn.
It had been completely ransacked.
"My laptop is missing!" Marissa exclaimed, ruffling through a few more areas to double check... but she knew she'd left it in her bag.
"The boxes, our research. Diana's partners took everything." Benny assessed the damage.
"I'll call Bull," she whipped out her phone immediately and hit the speed dial.
"They made a move on us!" Benny spat, "No way she put a move on him too," despite his conviction Benny looked worried.
"No answer." Marissa and Benny traded a significant look, but she hit redial all the same, trying to give Bull the benefit of the doubt. Still nothing, cursing Marissa hung up and paced across the room before wheeling around to face Benny who might as well have been made of stone as he stood over one of the desks palms resting flat on the surface.
"How are you so calm?!" Marissa demanded. Her whole body was vibrating with anger that begged for an outlet.
"There's nothing we can do. What's done is done, and we'll have to wait and see in court tomorrow what the ramifications are" Benny replied in such a tired voice that Marissa let the matter drop. "I'm going to bed, I'll just go get Merle from outside first" Benny walked away slowly, shaking his head in disbelief.
After Benny left the barn, Marissa called Bull once more, desperately hoping he would answer, that he really wasn't spending the night with Diana. Even the thought made her heart sink and insides churn, though when Bull didn't answer again, she knew that's exactly what was happening.
Marissa dropped into one of the chairs, lifting her eyes to look at the ceiling, praying to a higher power she didn’t really believe in. ‘Don’t let her twist him all up again,’ she pleaded, ‘don’t let her damage him, protect him where I couldn’t, don’t let this lead to another deep, downward spiral.’
She heard Benny come back inside but continued to lean back in the chair and stare at the ceiling as if in a trance. Benny let her be, for which she was grateful. Marissa remained motionless in the chair for several more minutes, trying to collect and calm herself, before following Benny up to the loft where their cots were situated.
Marissa couldn’t fall asleep. Anger still burned in her veins at the underhanded and dirty way the other side playing. Anxiety rolled through her as well, she knew Bull wasn’t coming back that night, but every creak of the barn had her hoping that he had. Marissa’s picture of what Diana and Callisto had done to Bull the last time was now crystal clear and she had a sinking feeling that history may be repeating itself and she was helpless to protect him from it. A third feeling was bubbling up as well, one she couldn’t place. Marissa chalked it up to fatigue, refusing to acknowledge that the thought of him spending the night with that woman was upsetting her on a far more personal than professional level.
Bull woke up the next morning groggy, sore and hungover. He was also in the middle of the field Diana had brought him to the previous night.... with a cow staring at him with what seemed like disapproval.
Groaning Bull pulled himself up to a sitting position, squinting his eyes against the sun. Swaying slightly, he stood and gathered his surroundings more fully, brushing grass clippings from his shirt and…shit. It was then that he realized...Diana had not only taken the bait notebook, but also his pants. Searching the ground Bull’s head fell forward in relief when he located his cell phone and nearly cried out in joy upon seeing that it still had power.
That's when he noticed the 3 missed calls from Marissa, all within a few minutes of each other. He felt a pang of guilt, he'd predicted that the opposing side would try something eventually and based on the quick succession of Marissa's calls it had happened the night before. Though he’d told the team before they arrived that he couldn't share his entire strategy, he could imagine Marissa's panic and rage when the sabotage did occur.
Somewhat reluctantly, Bull hit the return call button and waited for the lecture he was sure was coming his way. Marissa's clipped response when she answered made Bull wince. "We're meeting at the diner to try and salvage what we can before court. Be there by 8:30" she stated with a tone of finality that had Bull scrambling to keep her on the phone.
"Wait, wait Mariss!" Bull pleaded, rubbing his forehead trying to alleviate the pounding. "Please, I need a ride, can you come get me?" The long pause that followed had Bull double checking that she hadn't hung up on him.
Then a sigh, "I’m already on the road, where are you? I’ll come get you first" came a weary voice. Bull could picture her, pinching the bridge of her nose as of willing it hard enough would grant her patience.
"Well, you see, about that...." he trailed off, unsure of exactly he really was.
"Turn on your GPS, I'll ping that and come and get you." Marissa instructed.
"Oh, and another favor. Can you pick up some water and aspirin? And have Chunk meet us at the diner.... with a pair of pants for me?" Bull requested, cringing slightly as he waited for her to explode at him.
All he heard though was a derisive snort, followed by a "yeah, be there in 20 minutes." Before Bull could say anything else the call ended.
As promised, 20 minutes later Marissa pulled up alongside the field. Bull quickly climbed into the car and buckled in, peering at Marissa sideways. She didn't say a word, simply held out the aspirin and began driving again once Bull took the medicine.
"Mariss," he began, but she cut him off.
"No, Jason. You don't get to 'Mariss' me right now. They ransacked the barn, stole MY laptop, took all of our research. Of all the sneaky, illegal things…. As if that wasn't bad enough, I've come to the realization that you expected this and didn't tell any of us. And don't get me started on Diana." Marissa tore into Bull with such a calm voice that he was temporarily stunned. He'd anticipated her anger, hell she deserved to be angry—had probably stewed in it all night, but he expected the fiery temper, screaming...not this cold fury that was emanating from her side of the vehicle.
"I warned you all before we came here that I couldn't share every detail of the strategy. We'll get everything back at the end of the trial, and it's not like they could get past the Fort Knox security you have on your laptop anyway. And this has nothing to do with Diana." Bull tried to reason and joke, though as he did, he determined he was doing it poorly.
When he finished, Marissa whipped around to look at him, her eyes flashing. "Seriously. You are in denial, Bull. This has everything to do with Diana. She was the one to get Merle pass out drunk last night, she was the one that made sure we were all at the bar so her cronies could STEAL our things—doesn’t matter that we’ll get them back” she scoffed and then continued. “What’s worst of all is that she is using you and you can't even see it." Marissa turned to face the road again, but not before Bull noticed her eyes were shining.
"She's the reason for your deep, personal downward spiral...I'm not an idiot, Jason. I can put the pieces together. I remember how you were after that, though I didn't know why at the time. You were despondent, drank too much, slept too little and couldn’t focus for shit. From the sounds of it, she used you and cheated to get her way then and she's doing it again now. I don't want you to leave Callisto the same way you did last time." Marissa was white-knuckling the steering wheel by the end of her speech, and the accelerator had crept up as well.
"Marissa," he tried again softly, encouraged when she didn’t interrupt him. "I am sorry that I didn't confide in you earlier about the strategy. I wanted to make sure I didn't tip my own hand and so I showed it to no one when I normally would have shared it with you. But I do still stand my decision, even if you don't agree. Did I know that they would steal everything, including your laptop? No, but I knew they would do something and because I wasn't sure I couldn't share and risk the others giving away our slight advantage." This response seemed to appease Marissa a little, her grip on the wheel loosened at least. "And I promise you, that I am nowhere near a downward spiral." Marissa glanced at him and opened her mouth to interject, her face now showing apprehension rather than anger. Bull held up his hand to stave off her comment, "and Diana isn't using me. This is just the nature of our relationship. Thank you for checking up on me though, for worrying about my wellbeing." By then they had arrived at the diner and were idling in the parking lot.
Marissa turned off the car and shifted to face Bull more fully. "Jason...the strategy.... I can forgive, when I get my laptop back,” she looked at him pointedly. “Because as idiotic as it was you still seem to have a plan and I do trust you. I'm just worried about you. And if that’s the ‘nature of your relationship’ with her, it’s not a healthy one" she concluded.
Knowing that he couldn’t change her mind about Diana, Bull settled on reassuring her of his mental state. He reached over the center console and gripped Marissa's forearm with one hand to ensure that he had her full attention.
"I repeat, I am nowhere near where I was the last time, you don't need to worry about me. Scout's honor." He held up three fingers and released Marissa’s arm to place his other hand over his heart. Marissa gave a reluctantly amused huff and muttered something about him never being a scout under her breath. "We good?" Bull asked, searching her expression.
She rolled her eyes, "Yes, we're fine. Though I think you know part of this conversation isn’t over" she responded, climbing out of the car and Bull followed suit. "I better get that laptop back, or your ass is on the line" her threat was delivered as she rounded the car. Its severity undermined by the twinkle in her eye and the smirk playing about her lips. Regardless of her external appearance, Marissa still felt that her nerves were partially frayed, which had nothing to do with the strategy—she'd been truthful when she said that was forgiven—and everything to do with Diana.
But they had a case to win, so Marissa headed into the diner only pausing in the doorway to murmur to Bull, "nice undies, by the way" she snickered, giving him a once over before joining the others at the table. Bull reddened slightly, having forgotten his pantless predicament while they were in the car. Hurriedly he went and took a seat against the wall, waiting for Chunk to finish digging out an extra pair of pants.
The team had just finished their mini celebration in Chunk’s office and was dispersing for the night. Bull headed to his office to get his coat and called for Marissa to join him before she left. Marissa leaned against the door jam, coat and purse slung over her arm and hummed in acknowledgement of his summons.
“See, there was no need to be worried. No spiral, still shiny and new.” Bull declared, spinning slowly as if to let Marissa see there was no damage on his person. Marissa gave him a skeptical look and tilted her head to examine him more closely, but said nothing. “What? You don’t believe that I’m fine, Mariss, come on, what do I have to do to” he began, looking slightly bewildered.
“No, it’s not that. There’s no spiral, I can see that easily enough” Marissa waved her hand to brush away his worry. “It’s the shiny and new that I don’t see. Not exactly the words I would’ve used to describe you, that’s all.” She smirked at him and his ‘trying-not-to-be-amused’ expression.
“All kidding aside though, Jay.” His insides swooped at the nickname. She rarely shortened his name, she knew calling him Jason was intimate enough for him, when so many called him Bull. But she wanted to ensure she had his complete attention. “I am glad that you’re okay. That Callisto isn’t going to forever be this black hole for you. That you can now move past it.” She had locked eyes with him, as if hoping to see in his eye that he had indeed moved on from Callisto…and everything that came with it.
Bull grinned in reply, pulling his coat on. “I have moved on, I got my ‘win’ in Callisto. No more black mark on my record” he proclaimed happily. He reached for Marissa’s coat, lifted it so she could slip into it and held out his arm to escort her to the elevators. Marissa smiled, wrapped her arm around his and together they exited the office.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Marissa and Bull were currently in the home of Layla’s parents, they had been invited there to review the case of Layla’s murder and to help the prosecutor convict the fiancé with the crime. Only, that wasn’t what happened, instead, Bull announced that he would take the case, on the defendant’s side. After this proclamation, Bull nodded at the prosecutor and left the house; Marissa struck silent in surprise was left to hurry after him.
Once out on the sidewalk, Marissa rushed to keep up with Bull, he was going on about eating something extravagant like wildebeest or hippo for lunch (making her even happier that she'd won that bet in Callisto).
Marissa cut him off, "Bull! We just gave up a huge payday, not to mention the suspect confessed." She hit him in the arm with the back of her hand to get him to focus.
"If you'd just murdered someone would you go sleep on a park bench?" he inquired.
"It's hard to say, I've never murdered someone. But don't push me." Marissa volleyed back sarcastically, pointing her finger at him.
"Come on, Mariss, you'd miss me too much if you killed me." Bull replied, giving her a cheeky grin and nudging her side as she grumbled that her life would be much easier without his ass. "Besides the first thing he asked for after confessing was water. Makes me wonder how much food and water he had during his 11 hours of interrogation." The two continued their conversation as Bull began speed walking again.
"Where are we going?" Marissa demanded, trying to keep pace in her heels.
"Jail." Bull announced happily over his shoulder, delighting slightly in the fact that Marissa's stunned response was an octave higher than usual.
Voir dire had begun and Bull turned on his ear piece, smiling to himself as Marissa's voice filled his head. Observing the first potential juror, Bull commented, "lemming. The poor guy would walk off a bridge if someone told him to."
Marissa chuckled and responded teasingly, "I'd walk off a bridge for you Bull."
"Yes, that's because I'd be under it. Waiting to catch you." He quickly answered.
"Aaannnd, you'd both die from the fall" Cable concluded the banter with a dose of logic. Bull said Cable's name in a warning tone. "What?" she questioned, glancing at Marissa "I'm stating facts."
"She's wrong, I'm very strong." Bull argued through the comm, making Marissa smile.
While the exchange was short and silly, it had a deeper meaning for Marissa and Bull. After the doubt, anger and concern that cropped up during the case with Diana, this exchange reaffirmed their belief in one another and that they’d always be there to have the other’s back. Though this underlying message was missed by the others, it was noted and appreciated by the two.
And then came the punch. He could honestly say, he hadn't seen that coming. Should've. He knew Layla's parents would be upset that he chose Richard's side over theirs, especially when they were the ones to introduce the case to him. But being punched outside of the courthouse was not an outcome he’d considered. Now he was leaning against the break room counter, while Marissa fussed and held an ice pack to his jaw, her free hand cupping his other cheek to keep him from moving.
"Are you sure you don't want to go to the E.R.?" she fretted, removing the pack to examine the area, her fingers skimming lightly along his skin, sending shivers down his spine that had nothing to with the cold. After her inspection, Marissa replaced the pack gently. "Your jaw could be broken."
"It's not broken" he reassured her, "I've been punched before."
Benny entered the break room and joked, "girlfriends don't count." Bull pushed off the counter and somewhat reluctantly took over holding the ice pack to his face. As they walked to join the others he reached over and squeezed Marissa's chilled hand in thanks for her concern and help. She gave a quick squeeze in return before going to pick up her tablet to inspect their jury pool.
It was another late night making sure everything was ready for court the next day. Bull had sent everyone home hours ago, but as usual Marissa ignored his instructions and was currently parked in a chair next him.
It was close to one in the morning and they were both fading. Marissa leaned back in her chair, arching her back in a stretch, bare feet lifting slightly off the ground. Bull sat hunched over, elbows on the desk, rubbing his eyes with his glasses perched on top of his head.
“Ready to call it a night, Blondie?” He asked, straightening up, replacing his glasses and glancing at Marissa. She hummed in response, smiling at the use of one the nicknames he’d somehow convinced her to let him use. Before she could say anything though, her stomach growled loudly.
Bull chuckled and raised his eyebrows, “hungry? Have you eaten anything since lunch?” he inquired, already knowing the answer. Marissa went to respond when he quickly added, “and no, string cheese doesn’t count” he added playfully, causing Marissa’s mouth to snap shut.
“Well, it’s more than you ate” she countered, pushing his chair with her foot to send him rolling away from her. Laughing Bull caught the edge of the table to stop his movement.
“Come on,” he gestured, standing. “I know a place we can grab a bite to eat.”
“At this hour?” Marissa replied skeptically, though she was already putting the heels she’d discarded hours before back on.
“Yeah, it’s good. I promise.” Bull pulled on his own coat before assisting Marissa’s with hers and they left the building.
Twenty minutes later, they arrived at a hole-in-the-wall diner, the garish florescent lights welcoming them inside. Slipping into a booth the two began to peruse the menus that were already on the table. Marissa let out a small sigh of relief when she saw the options, so this wasn’t one of those odd restaurants that Bull continuously drug her to, it was a generic diner with generic diner food.
“That worried huh?” Bull asked glancing up from his menu, having heard and interpreted her sigh.
“Can you blame me?” Marissa answered, “you’ve taken me to some weird places. You were talking about eating hippo just the other day! I had every right to be worried this would be another one of them.”
“Those places weren’t that bad! Where’s your sense of adventure?” Bull questioned.
“Not in my stomach” Marissa deadpanned, closing the menu and setting it aside.
Just then the waitress arrived and in a bored voice took their order. Bull asked for a cheeseburger and fries, while Marissa got the waffles and home-fries. The waitress left to fill their orders and Bull chuckled.
“What?” Marissa inquired, in feigned irritation.
“I didn’t say anything” Bull grinned.
“You’re laughing about something. Unless you’ve finally cracked. Is that it?” Marissa poked fun at him.
“Ha ha, no. I just thought waffles were an interesting choice is all.” Bull responded, plucking the jelly flavors from their container and spreading them across the table.
“It’s closer to breakfast than it is to dinner. Waffles make more sense than a cheeseburger.” Marissa reasoned, snagging all of the red and orange colored containers and setting them up on her side. Bull chuckled and arranged the grape jelly packets in a mirror image of Marissa’s.
They were in the middle of their third game of jelly checkers when the waitress arrived with their food. She set the plates down on the edge of the table, throwing them odd looks as she walked away.
They chuckled at the server’s baffled expression and Bull made a move to clear the space to eat. “Whoa now, best 2 out of 3, loser pays” Marissa chided, gently slapping his hand away.
“Since when were those the terms? I thought this was just a friendly game of checkers.” Bull exclaimed laughing.
“Since now.” She declared.
“Only because you’re already winning this round” Bull noted, sitting back.
“Are you saying you can’t rally? Are you admitting defeat?” Marissa’s eyes gleamed in amusement and a smile broke out across her face as she leaned forward and rested her forearms on the table.
“Mariss, I’m starving. If I admit defeat can we stop playing and eat?” Bull begged and gave her his best attempt at puppy dog eyes.
“If you admit defeat and stop making that face” she tossed a sugar packet at him, hitting him in the forehead, “then yes, we can eat.”
“Deal.” Bull snickered, playfully kicking her under the table before clearing the table and diving into his food. Marissa quickly followed suit, it had been a long time since she last ate.
When they finished, it was a little after two in the morning. Groaning, they slid out of the booth, paid the check and left, leaning on one another as if they were drunk and not just exhausted.
“Court’s going to be hell tomorrow” Bull mentioned running his hand wearily over his face, as he searched in vain for a taxi. “It’ll be another 30 minutes til I get back to my place” he griped, reaching for his phone to call a car.
“Come on.” Marissa mumbled, pulling on his arm and leading him down the street. “It’s a 5-minute walk to my apartment from here. Stay with me tonight and get the extra sleep, we all know you need it” her teasing was interrupted by a jaw-cracking yawn.
Bull clumsily bumped his hip to hers in retaliation, causing them both to stumble slightly as Marissa was still holding onto his arm. Their lack of coordination had them cracking up, the fatigue making everything funnier. Marissa glanced at Bull and smiled, happy to have him there with her. Happy to have Callisto behind them. Just happy. And as they walked arm-in-arm to her apartment, she couldn’t help that small part of her that wished he was coming to stay the night under different circumstances.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Another long one, but I hope you enjoy it! Hopefully I'll be able to get another couple chapters posted over the holiday as well.
Marissa was pitching a new case to the team, a malpractice suit against a man she went to college with, when she revealed that particular detail Bull raised his eyebrows. "Terry?" he latched onto, looking at Marissa knowingly. She ducked her head and suppressed a smile at how quickly Bull deduced that she and Terry had been a couple. Benny redirected everyone's attention back to case by asking what the doctor had done, Marissa elaborated on the details...none of which encouraged the team.
"Okay, listen. I know that it sounds bad." She rushed to reassure, taking her seat next to Bull. "But I've known Terry for 16 years, if there was another way he would gave found it." Marissa insisted. It was soon made clear that Terry was rather difficult to represent. Bull was unsure about the case, but Marissa looked so earnest, so he figured it couldn't hurt to just review the files the previous lawyers had provided.
Later, as they ran through their first mock trial Bull couldn't help but study her. Sensing Marissa’s concern, Bull stated "Don't worry, it's what we need to find the weaknesses in your old boyfriend’s case...Terry" Bull paused to gauge her reaction. "Sharp intake of breath tells me it was no more than a year.” Another pause to watch her. “You're trying to be relaxed, which means it was a long time ago. But that little pulsing vein is the giveaway" he indicated by tapping his finger along his own neck. "He still has a place in your heart." Marissa sighed and dropped her arms to her sides.
"It is hard not to feel continually judged by you sometimes." She commented, shifting her weight uncomfortably and refusing to meet his eyes.
"Oh, well." Bull muttered, dropping his gaze, slightly ashamed. "Not judged. Observed. And you shouldn't feel insulted, because I can't help it." He hoped she could distinguish the two as he did, he'd never judge her like that.
"We were together almost a year, after college," Marissa admitted, her voice steady. "Still close friends."
"Why didn't you tell me about him?" he questioned, feeling a tiny bit betrayed. They shared so much with each other, why would she leave out someone who had clearly been, and still was, important to her.
Marissa hesitated, "Well, I... Terry’s....an acquired taste," and that was all she offered. So, Bull turned the conversation back to the mock trial. The trial which had barely begun when Terry came in and barked,
"Wrong!" He then continued to disparage the stand-ins’ testimony. Marissa rushed forward and placed a hand on Terry's shoulder.
"Terry. You were supposed to call me when you got here." She scolded quietly.
"I know," his tone softened when he addressed Marissa. "I just wanted to see the magic happen" Terry replied, gesturing to the mock trial room, one hand still buried in his pocket.
"We'll be sawing Marissa in half later," Bull interjected. "You should stick around. I'm Dr. Jason Bull." Terry hummed at Bull's introduction.
"You're a psychologist though, right? So not a REAL doctor." Terry's declaration had Bull chuckling in disbelief, a smile still on his face. Marissa's eyed widened and she mouthed an apology to Bull before explaining to Terry their process. When Marissa finished, Terry offered to be on the stand himself, so they could get a real reading of how a jury would view him.
As Terry went to replace the stand-in, Marissa turned to Bull, placing her hand on his forearm "I am so sorry, Jason. That was unacceptable, I" Bull waved off the rest of her apology. Marissa, feeling the need to say something else, finished lamely "like I said, acquired taste" a small grimace on her face as she turned towards the mock trial.
Bull glanced at the back her head and simply said "wow." He found it hard to process that Marissa dated such a rude, arrogant asshole for almost a year. The man was an egotistical shit with a god-complex. His conclusion was only further cemented when Terry took the pretend stand and destroyed himself in the process--alienating every mirror jury member in a matter of minutes. Bull was beginning to regret taking this case.
After defending his surgical team, Terry stormed out. Bull crossed the room and sat on the couch, "well, we know he can do that." Bull was actually surprised, he hadn't expected to get anything of substance from the man. Marissa claimed the chair across from Bull, their knees almost touching.
"He's more than just ego" Marissa sighed, as if reading Bull's thoughts. "He has a mind, and it's brilliant. I mean, who wouldn't want to be around that? It's exciting, invigorating. And yes, it's infuriating, crazy-making." She paused, and Bull jumped in,
"If only you could change him."
"Yes, no!" she quickly corrected, "Well...if only he were just a little bit more..." Marissa trailed off, gesturing with her hands, searching for the right word.
"Tolerable" Bull supplied, earning a small smile from Marissa.
"When I finally left him, I thought he'd actually try to win me back." She shared in a somewhat small voice. Bull could see what it took for her to admit that, that she’d once hoped the man would chase after her and he never did.
Leaning forward from his spot on the couch, Bull suggested "maybe he knew he could never give you what you need." Marissa shifted her eyes away from Bull's, her jaw set, but she gave the smallest of nods indicating she’d heard him. Bull’s heart ached for her, this was a past love that was being drudged up again and the memories were causing her pain. Bull gave Marissa's knee a brief squeeze before patting it twice and leaving the room, knowing after years of friendship when she wanted time alone, even if all he wanted to do was stay and comfort her.
One of the jurors had been bought off...the question was why? Bull sent Cable and Danny to find out and headed back to the office after the judge replaced the rogue juror. Bull joined Marissa in front of the screens and began discussing how the replacement—apparently, she was unifying the jury, Marissa informed Bull. But there was a drawback as well.
"She has already formed an opinion of our good doctor and it's not so therapeutic." She noted grimly.
"So," Bull began, turning slightly to look at Marissa more fully. "What does it take for someone with a big heart to warm to someone with a prickly ego?"
Marissa's face turned to stone during Bull's question. "We are talking about me and Terry now, aren't we" she surmised.
"Are we?" Bull asked softly. Marissa opened her mouth to respond, thought better of it and gave Bull a brief look before walking away. Bull regretted provoking her, knew he was probing a sensitive topic.
But he also knew he was pressing the issue for selfish reasons. He wanted to know why she purposefully neglected to tell him about an almost year long relationship. Why she had hidden that away. He thought they shared everything, all the gritty details of their past.... then again, he hadn’t been the most open about Callisto and Diana, so could he really blame her? But, if she could be with someone like Terry…surely that meant…Bull cut off his own train of thought. Now wasn’t the time or place to be considering such things.
Time to stop being selfish, he decided. Time to let Marissa determine what she wanted to share and when. Time to be a better friend.
Benny had finally broken through with Terry on the stand. He opened up about how, while brilliant in the O.R., he floundered when it came to connecting and being around people. How he was at a loss on how to console a patient through a devastating loss, how he couldn't find the words to convince the woman he loved to stay. Terry looked directly at Marissa as he confessed his shortcomings.
Bull noticed the shining of her eyes, how her breath shuddered, and the nervous shift of her weight at the admission. He reached over and took Marissa's hand and held it between the two of his, drawing soothing circles over her palm and inner wrist. Bull felt the small adrenaline-fueled shivers that had run through Marissa's body during Terry's testimony drain away. Marissa slumped ever so slightly against him in the pew and gripped his hand back in thanks for his support. When Bull went to gently release her hand, Marissa redoubled her hold on him and continued to stare straight ahead.
After Liberty delivered a beautiful closing statement and the jury was sent to deliberate, Marissa and Bull walked outside together. They spoke with the woman pressing the charges and volunteered TAC’s services for a case against the Atticus manufacturer. Bull then walked away to allow Marissa and the young woman some privacy. He knew what Marissa was about to divulge, but was aware that he wasn’t exactly welcome for that conversation.
Marissa took a small step, closing the distance between herself and Erica. "I'm really sorry for what happened. And I know it's not my place, or any consolation...” she said, wringing her hands. “But, I was adopted. And not a day goes by that I don't thank my parents for giving me a home. There are a lot of ways to make a family." She gave the young woman a small smile before going to join Bull to wait for the verdict.
"You okay?" he breathed when she came to lean against one of the stone pillars with him. Marissa nodded curtly, not yet trusting herself to speak.
She then scooted over so that she could place her head against Bull's shoulder, saying only that "it's been a hell of an emotional day..." Bull tipped his head so that it rested on top of hers.
"It'll be okay." He reassured her.
"I believe you." Came a simply, yet heartfelt reply. Bull reached over then and took her hand, intertwining their fingers. They stood like that for another minute before the moment was broken when they received notice that the jury had reached a verdict.
The team was celebrating their victory with a Greek themed party this time. Marissa, however, was removed from the revelry, nursing her glass. She saw Bull coming up and decided to beat him to the punch, knowing what he'd want to discuss.
"So, what he said on the stand...I never knew." Marissa admitted swirling the contents of her drink as she referred to Terry.
"Well, he wanted to tell you. The god is human after all." Bull acknowledged, taking a sip of his drink. He rested his elbow on top of their mock judge's bench and propped his head up on his hand so that he could better watch her.
"Love him or hate him, he has confidence enough to follow his own compass.” Marissa further described the man. “And he doesn't let himself get pushed around." Bull gazed at her for a moment, wondering where that last part had come from before speaking up.
"Neither do you." He said pointedly.
That elicited a smile and a thanks. Marissa then continued, "you know, I realized the reasons that he and I didn't work, are the reasons that you and I do." Bull could feel his heart thundering in his chest at her words. Did she feel the same? Had years of comradery sparked something between them, or were they just so comfortable around one another that it felt like more?
"I CAN spend my days with a brilliant, difficult man. I just can't date him." She smiled ruefully.
Bull turned away for the first time since approaching her, chuckling humorlessly with a forced smile on his face. To caught up in hiding his own emotions to see that Marissa seemed unsure of her own words. Bull was also unaware that as Marissa spoke, she was trying to convince herself that she couldn't, shouldn't, date the brilliant and difficult man who happened to be right in front of her; regardless of the recent thoughts in her mind telling her otherwise.
"Well, you're better off!" He encouraged, forcing himself to meet her eyes again.
"So are you, Dr. Bull" she replied, leaning in slightly towards him.
Bull raised his glass, and toasted "to platonic love." Marissa giggled and clinked her glass to his. This declaration of platonic love was the closest either of them were going to get to expressing their true feelings. As neither could admit or were willing to accept their romantic feelings for the other, at least they could acknowledge another type of love. Bull offered Marissa his arm and when she slipped her hand through they rejoined the main party arm-in-arm.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Hope everyone had a happy holiday! Enjoy and I should have another new one soon!
Marissa and Bull were sitting in the court room listening to a civil court case...which was dragging on. Bull leaned over to make an observation about Judge Lamkin's behavior in Marissa’s ear. "That's the three days in a row that her eyes fluttered around 3:30, only to perk up again after her 4pm tea."
Marissa inclined her head towards Bull and murmured "you don't know that's tea."
"Either way, we need to see our best witnesses in the morning" he commented as Marissa took notes. "And it's tea. Lamkin only has one drink a day, after dinner. Single malt scotch” he added confidently.
Stunned, Marissa looked at him, "and you know that how, exactly?" Bull just peered at her out of the side of his eye. "Never mind" Marissa intoned, facing the front of the room again. She felt Bull's eyes on her for a moment longer but didn't acknowledge it. She didn't want to risk giving something away. So, what if he was seeing a judge, Lamkin was a good person. Besides, she had just expressly told him not long ago that she couldn't date a brilliant and difficult man, referencing to him explicitly.
While Marissa's mind wandered, Lamkin ended the case for the day. The public defender caught Marissa’s attention by immediately protesting the ending of the proceedings. Marissa and Bull shared an amused look and he shifted closer and commented to Marissa, "it's a shame how they feed these public defenders to the wolves." He then called out, "um, Mr. public defender? In this county, the lawyer's sit on the right."
Judge Lamkin redirected her attention to them, "watch it, Bull", he apologized as Lamkin took a sip from the mug in front of her. The young lawyer looked baffled for a moment before taking his spot on the correct side of his client. Chuckling, Bull nudged Marissa in the side, forcing her to look away from him and hide her smile or risk laughing out loud.
Not much later, the two were chatting happily as they left the courthouse when Judge Lamkin called after Bull. Marissa paused momentarily before quickly moving on, claiming that she’d get the car. While it was a legitimate excuse for her not to stay for the conversation, she simply didn’t want to learn any more about Bull’s relationship with Lamkin than necessary. Though she was working on forgetting her conflicting feelings for him, it didn’t mean she wanted his love life unintentionally flaunted in front of her.
Bull returned from provoking the assemblyman into testifying to greet Marissa, Benny and Danny to discuss strategy. "We want people who don't get hung up on the details, like Benny." He vaguely waved in Benny’s direction.
"Thanks?" Benny replied unsure and furrowing his brows.
"No judgement, that's just how the Benny brain works” Bull elaborated turning to face them. “What brand of shoes was Marissa wearing yesterday? What color was her jacket?" Bull inquired.
"I don't remember. But she looked great." Benny answered inclining his head at Marissa, she gave an embarrassed smile and bobbed her head as she thanked Benny.
Danny cut in with, "Manolos, and a winter white jacket over an emerald crew neck. Very elegant." She smiled, leaning back in her chair.
"Okay, that's probably enough about my fashion choices" Marissa hurried to cut off the conversation, blushing lightly. "I take it we wouldn't want a detective on our jury then." She nodded at Danny.
"No. On this one we need people who only think of the big picture" Bull stated, smiling at the reddening of her cheeks, knowing that being the center of attention wasn’t her favorite. He then continued with their strategy, feeling slightly better that he wasn't the only one taking note of what Marissa wore and how elegant she looked, that she’d been wearing green...But you're not a trained detective, his brain murmured, playing the devil's advocate. Ignoring the thought the Bull doled out several jobs before going to meet the public defender with Marissa to prep him for voir dire.
They had their jury. Bull could hear Marissa warning Danny and Cable about one of the jurors as he and Carter (their client's son) played an improvised game of baseball. Bull also couldn't help overhearing Danny and Chunk pointing out that Marissa had worn two new outfits that week. Cable then chimed in that Marissa left the office at 7:30 the night before, a rarity. They were ganging up on her, teasing and demanding to know what was going on; Bull hated to admit that he was curious as well—though he had an idea. Before he could glean any more information, however, Marissa rounded the corner to avoid their questions only to be hit in the shoulder with the tennis ball Bull and Carter were using for batting practice.
Her jaw dropped open in astonishment, and her hand came up to cover her mouth but not before a startled laugh escaped. "Sorry!" Bull cried, holding up his hands in surrender though he grinned at her, "don't know my own strength."
Carter excitedly shouted, "that was almost 16 feet!"
"Yes, it was" Bull agreed cockily, stretching to hold the cardboard tube they were using as a bat behind his head and locking eyes with Marissa briefly. "Your turn, let's see what you've got." He decided suddenly, and he and Carter switched places, talking baseball stats. Marissa stood slightly behind Bull, smiling widely...unable to stop the thought from crossing her mind that Bull was great with kids.
When Carter revealed that he was no longer on the baseball team Bull turned to share a significant look with Marissa. She lifted her eyebrows in agreement, an entire conversation happening in that single glance. Marissa reluctantly drifted away from where Bull was playing with Carter to talk to Danny.
The team gathered at a local bar to eat pizza and drink in celebration of their client's acquittal. They all booed at the TV screen when the crooked assemblyman appeared. With the others distracted Bull ducked his head closer to Marissa, who was sitting next to him. "So, how's your ex-husband?"
Marissa's face fell from the grin she'd sported after booing the TV and her eyes widened in alarm. She sighed, but before she could respond Bull pressed on, doing his best to keep his expression neutral. "It's tricky business. Rekindling with Greg."
Marissa recovered from her shock, but still wringing her hands slightly, asked a quiet question in return, "who told you?"
Bull's heart sank, she hadn't denied it. In fact, she confirmed his suspicions. And even though he enjoyed flirting with Judge Lamkin, known Marissa incorrectly assumed something more was there, he hadn't expecting her to be dating someone...especially not her ex-husband.
"You did." Bull replied softly, when Marissa continued to look confounded, he explained. "You wore three different shades of green this week. That was his favorite color. You haven't worn green in a long time." Marissa pursed her mouth, surprised that Bull remembered and touched that he'd noticed simply based on what she was wearing. She also felt guilty, as if she was betraying Bull in some way, even though he didn't feel the same—his recent encounter with Diana and interactions with Lamkin evidenced that easily enough. Why shouldn’t she try and move on from these purposely unnamed feelings?
"I know it's probably a bad idea," Marissa conceded. "But I promise I won't come to you again when things go south...." she added with a faltering smile, remembering how heavily she relied on him when her marriage had initially dissolved.
Bull leaned in a little further and peered at her over his glasses, "Mariss, you can ALWAYS come to me" he promised quietly, yet firmly.
Marissa's smile strengthened at his statement, "thank you" she said inclining her head and finally unclasped her hands to squeeze his forearm. Despite their easy interaction and being subsequently distracted by Cable and Danny, both Marissa and Bull had a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs--the source of which neither of them wanted to examine further.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Bull was nervous enough about the case without his team second guessing him, so he figured he might as well get everything out in the open early on. "Okay, would you all like to ask the question you are dying to ask?" He looked around the table where most of his team sat.
Danny started. "Isabella Colon, she's your ex-wife..."
"We just want to make sure that you're okay with this" Cable finished Danny's sentence.
"ARE you okay?" Chunk followed up, holding his hands out in front of him.
"She was my wife for two years. Now she is our client. More importantly, she is Benny's sister and they're not exactly getting along right now, so we are going to do everything in our power to help them. Get it? Good! This is professional, okay?" Bull insisted, making pointed eye contact with each of them before whisking away from the group. Marissa spoke with the team for a moment longer before following Bull.
She caught up with him in the hallway, thankful they were alone. "Bull" she called, tapping his shoulder. At his harrumph of a reply Marissa grabbed his arm and spun him to face her. "Jason" she tried again, more gently.
"What?!" he asked exasperated, eyes searching the ceiling, "Marissa, I'm fine." The effect of his words was lost, however, as Marissa could tell his mind was far away--likely dwelling on memories of his marriage with Izzy.
"No, you aren't" she countered, "but if you aren't ready to talk about it, I won't force you. Just please know, that the promise you made to me not long ago...that goes BOTH ways. You can always come to me too" she implored. At this Bull finally met her eyes, a small smile on his lips.
"I know Mariss, I know. But I really am fine, we should get to the mock court room" he noted, completely changing the subject and completely in denial. Marissa frowned as she followed him; wishing she could comfort him the same way he always seemed capable of comforting her. But if he wasn't willing to accept it yet then there wasn’t much she could do, she knew from experience.
Bull entered the so-called rest area of the office, where they had a few cots and some hanging chairs for staff to recuperate. Izzy was folding blankets and straightening up the room. They quickly fell back into one of their old arguments, how he often spent the night at the office during a case.
Bull defended himself against her accusations, "I love what I do, and I love not having to justify it to anyone." Regardless of the turmoil in his mind due to Izzy's reappearance in his life, at this statement Bull couldn't help but think of Marissa. How they often spent most nights together at the office working into the early hours, how even though Marissa would eventually pack up and head home to sleep she never judged him for his decision to remain at the office. In fact, on several occasions Marissa stayed the night as well. When time truly got away from them and it would have been pointless for her to leave, Marissa claimed one of the spare cots and slept peacefully just feet away from him. On the nights where Marissa stayed, Bull didn't drink nearly as much, and he often slept much better, felt more rested when he was able to fall asleep to Marissa's slow, calming breaths. Even though they didn't always see eye-to-eye on strategies for a case, Bull never had to justify himself to Marissa the way Izzy demanded he justify himself to her.
Before Bull and Izzy could get much further into their argument, they were interrupted by Marissa with news about the case and they all went to determine a new strategy for court.
As they walked to view the screens, Marissa couldn’t help but think about the relieved look that passed on Bull’s face when she’d interrupted them. So, it appeared that rekindling with their ex-spouses wasn’t in the cards for either of them. She’d recently tried to make things work with Greg again, but it had failed fairly quickly. Not that Marissa had been fully invested in that attempt, she simply was trying to get a certain brilliant yet difficult man off her mind for a bit. Shaking her head, Marissa refocused on their case, now wasn’t the time to be thinking about Bull’s romantic relationships.
Marissa watch the staged fight from the safety of TAC, and couldn't help but laugh at Bull's disturbingly perfect sarcastic clap. She was prepared for him to go off script, but whatever he and Izzy were talking about was deeply personal and painful. Their faces were open and vulnerable, and Marissa's heart ached for Bull. Izzy strode angrily off screen and their mission was accomplished. They'd taken Izzy done a peg, so to speak, so the jury wouldn't have to. But what had been the cost, she wondered, still watching Bull's partially hunched form on the screen.
She shut it all off and prepared to go home. Before leaving, she texted Bull. 'You okay? Things looked a little rough there...' She waited to see if the 3 little dots would pop up on her screen, indicating that he was typing back. It wasn't until she got home, however, that she got a reply, a short 'can I call?'
Marissa promptly dialed his number, her concern mounting. When he picked up, she let out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding, "Jay?" she began tentatively.
"Hey Mariss," he answered, trying half-heartedly to sound like his normal self. "I just, I'm not fine..." he finally admitted after a pause.
"Oh, Jason" she murmured, sinking onto the edge of her bed, "I know, and it's okay to not be fine."
The two continued their phone call for about another hour, until Marissa could only hear his slow, steady breaths through the connection; he'd fallen asleep...she hoped that he got a restful night's sleep, he certainly deserved and needed it.
Bull found Izzy back in the rest room once more, lighting incense after she was found not liable. He turned to her after they'd closed the door on a painful part of their marriage, and said "Hey, I thought you said this was about trial science?"
"Yeah, I did say that, didn't I?" she replied, scrunching her nose, "but you were right, it was more than that. It always is with you." She finished before leaning in and kissing him softly. Izzy then stood and left the office, Bull smiled, they'd finally gotten the closure they needed.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
A bit of a long one, but I had a lot of fun with this chapter. Please let me know what you think!
The team was gearing up for the weekend, not because they had a case, but because they all had it off—a rare but greatly treasured reward. When Bull announced this, everyone cheered and Danny and Cable high fived one another. Marissa, grinning, tipped her head towards Bull who was standing next to her and clarified, "you know that this doesn't count as the one I won in our bet, right?" raising one eyebrow at her boss.
Bull chuckled and gave her a wink, "I would never cheat you out of your hard-earned weekend Mariss. No, this is a well-deserved break for everyone, we've had a lot of cases recently and I don't want anyone to burn out. Besides, Benny and I are going fishing in New Hampshire. I need to check on my cabin and this is a perfect excuse to go catch some trout."
"Wait, what happened to your cabin?" Marissa inquired.
"Apparently there was a fire. I have to go out there and get more details" Bull explained with a shrug.
"Well, I hope it turns out alright. If you need me, which you better not," she mentioned with a playful glare, "I will be at the spa." They said their goodbyes and Marissa made sure that everything was set in the office before leaving.
The team was setting up shop in their rented room when Bull joined them. He briefly explained the job and they all dispersed to complete various errands, leaving him alone with Marissa.
“How is it, that you come here to fish and end up with a case?” She inquired, cocking an eyebrow at him, while she finished getting their computer systems up and running.
“It’s a gift, really.” Bull replied, coming to sit on the table she was working at so that he could face her.
“Oh, is that what you call it?” Marissa sarcastically countered, checking that the systems were properly synced, smacking Bull’s hand when he reached to adjust a setting.
“Why, yes. I have many gifts.” Leaning in a little closer, Bull murmured, “if you want I could show some of them to you sometime.” The words left his mouth without any sort of filter and as soon as he heard them out loud he realized how flirtatious he sounded and was acting. He tried to subtlety back away from Marissa, increasing the space between them.
Bull exhaled quietly in relief when Marissa simply chuckled and shook her head, “I think I’ll pass on the one-man show, but thank you for the offer.” She then reached up and patted his cheek gently before going out to the car to grab a few more cables for the monitors. Chiding himself on the need to be more careful, Bull quickly headed back to the local jail to talk to their client, Peter, before he said something else potentially compromising.
What he hadn’t realized was that Marissa didn’t need anything else from the car. She’d made the excuse in order to take a few deep breaths in attempt to steady herself. She’d barely stopped herself from responding with some coy remark and stepping even closer to him. Marissa was beginning to read far too much into her everyday banter with Bull and if she didn’t pull it together she could ruin their friendship.
Benny struck Joyce McGruder, the 'Sneezer', as Marissa and Bull dubbed her. Bull whispered to Marissa that because it was such a small town, Joyce would act as their mirror jury. "You and Joyce are about to become very close" Bull told Marissa with a grin, Marissa rolled her eyes but nodded. Bull nudged Marissa in amusement before turning to talk to Danny about the fire files.
The next day Marissa entered the courtroom and waved at Joyce. Bull gave Marissa an inquisitive look, to which Marissa responded proudly (making sure that her back was turned to Joyce), "guess who's got a new bestie." She emphasized with a waggle of her eyebrows, causing Bull to huff in amusement.
"Hmm, congratulations, new Miss New Hampshire" Bull teased as he fiddled with his watch strap.
"Seems she wants to pick my brain as much as we want to pick hers.” She informed him, glancing over her shoulder at Joyce. “Uh, we have a date to shoot skeet" Marissa added.
"Well, I think she'll have a hard time picking that brain of yours, far too advanced and complicated for her to comprehend.” He flashed her a smile and poked her in the ribs. “And as for the skeet, well the skeet of New Hampshire should be very afraid" his commented dryly, provoking a low chuckle from Marissa with his blatant flattery, he then continued "have you heard from Benny?"
"No... I thought he was already here!" Marissa exclaimed. They soon found that no one could get in touch with Benny and Chunk, so Bull stepped in to act as the client's lawyer until Benny returned.
Though surprised and unsure of this tactic, Marissa soon found herself struggling to hide a smirk as Bull took the fire chief apart on the stand. He certainly had a way with words, even when he and his father were being personally attacked. Marissa had to admire his poise.
Marissa continued her not-so-undercover work with Joyce to get a reading on the jury. As Marissa hit skeet after skeet dead on, she could tell Joyce was reluctantly impressed. "This is not beginner's luck," the woman intoned as Marissa stepped down off the platform to reload her shotgun.
"Oh, I lettered in archery, maybe that helps?" Marissa offered up, pulling an ear plug out to hear better.
Joyce seemed uninterested in Marissa's past, however, and quickly moved the conversation to the trial. "So, you still think you can get Peter Walsh off?"
"Oh, I don't know, the jury's tough" Marissa replied, slotting new shells into the barrel.
"They know Peter." Joyce stated haughtily, as she took her place on the stand.
"That makes them prejudiced." Countered Marissa, sipping her mimosa.
Joyce tried another approach, "have you known Jason long?"
"Seven years," Marissa answered with a smile.
Joyce hummed, and gave Marissa a knowing look. “How long you two been dating?”
“Wait, what?” Marissa was thrown for the first time in this verbal sparring match. “No, Jason and I aren’t dating. We’re just friends.” She added, once she’d registered what Joyce had asked, though she was sure her cheeks were flaming.
“No?” Joyce repeated, sounding unconvinced. “Well, I just assumed, with the way you two act. And how you look at one another. Plus, seven years is a long time.” Joyce raised her eyebrows at Marissa and pursed her mouth, before continuing. “But then again, he and I go back a bit further. He tell you about his father?" she asked condescendingly, once more rapidly changing the topic.
"I never asked" Marissa lied coolly, regaining her composure. She and Bull had talked in length about their pasts on multiple occasions, but Joyce didn't need to be privy to that information.
"He was a real piece of work" Joyce gossiped, clearly enjoying the idea that she had more knowledge than Marissa.
"Maybe, he was just trying to provide for his family" Marissa provided an alternative.
"Oh, he stole from them too" Joyce noted, before shouting "pull!" to release another skeet. This was new information, but Marissa stashed it away for consideration at another time. Along with the fact that other people thought she and Bull were dating and that Joyce had mentioned both her AND Bull's actions as a reason for her assumption. Yes, it was certainly something to think about, when she wasn't shooting guns with their mirror jury.
Back in their home base, Marissa sat icing her shoulder while reviewing the jury with Cable. Bull entered the room and immediately inquired, "what did we learn from Joyce today?"
"Oh, that if shot guns were made of foam rubber I'd be an Olympian." Marissa joked, tilting back in her chair, Bull grinned crookedly at her as she continued. "She said you scored today, picked up 4 jurors" pointing to each one. As they discussed how to win the others and keep the ones they had, Marissa ventured into more personal territory. "The comment the chief made about your dad landed with the jury..."
Taking a breath, Bull merely stated monotonously, "thanks again, dad."
Cable, curious, turned said, "hey Bull, were you really the leader of a motorcycle gang?"
"Bull's Angel's" he reminisced. "But they were Huffy's not Harley's. I was 12." This elicited laughter from the two women. However, Marissa wasn't done discussing his dad, though they had had in-depth conversations before, the stealing from his family was news to her.
"Joyce said your dad stole from you, too" she pressed.
"Well, I had $500 bucks in my room and my dad stole it from me. Said it was punishment."
"Punishment for what?" Cable demanded, hoisting herself up to sit on the table, having trouble believing that anything could warrant such a reprimand.
"Well, I had borrowed somebody's boat...it was the police chief's" he acknowledged, and Marissa felt a smile creep onto her face in spite of herself.
"Did you ever forgive him?" Cable asked.
"My father? I never trusted him again." Bull responded.
"So, if you can't forgive your father, what makes you think you can change the jury's mind about Peter?" Marissa joined into the conversation once more, gazing up at Bull. Before Bull could answer, Danny walked up with some new and vital information for the case. Bull sent Cable along with Danny to follow-up on the new lead that a fire fighter was actually the arsonist.
After the two left, Bull--wanting to distract her from the previous conversation--moved to stand behind Marissa's chair. He took the ice pack from her and laid it on the desk, before carefully beginning to massage the sore shoulder. Marissa groaned in relief and let her head fall to the side to grant him better access as Bull's hands continued to work her abused muscles.
"You did owe me this," Marissa began, motioning to the massage. "It's because of you I'm missing the one I had planned at the spa with Serge." Though she couldn't help but think she much preferred this massage to the other. Her mind also drifted back to Joyce's remark earlier that day, about how both she and Bull made it appear as though they were a couple, through their actions....
Bull chuckled in response as his hands traveled along to massage her neck reveling in the softness of her skin. He let his fingers linger there longer than necessary, before going back to massage her sore shoulder once more. His voice recaptured Marissa's wandering thoughts, "you're right, but you know I wouldn't have called unless"
"You needed us," Marissa finished for him. "I know, and so do the others, we don't begrudge you that." He continued his massage for another minute before Marissa lifted her hand to stop his ministrations. No matter how wonderful it felt and no matter the shivers his touch was sending down her spin, she needed to talk to him about the case. She held onto his hand as she swiveled her chair to face him. "This is a lot. First the case with Izzy and now your dad not long after...how are you holding up?"
Bull took the chair that Cable had vacated still holding onto Marissa's hand, reluctant to break contact with her. "It hasn’t been the easiest, but I've got a good support system" he murmured, gazing into Marissa's eyes. "Not sure how I would've made it through without you Mariss."
"Well, it's about time I was able to repay the favor" Marissa smiled softly, rubbing circles on the back of his hand with her thumb.
"No favors," he corrected, still maintaining eye contact. "It's just what friends do." They sat, knees brushing and beaming, holding one another's hand for a bit longer. A door suddenly banged open and Chunk called out, causing them both to jump and Marissa to pull away and stand up abruptly--mentally scolding herself for letting her feelings take control, for wishing Chunk hadn't returned quite so soon. Recovering slightly, Marissa shot one more smile at Bull, picked up her ice pack and left to give Chunk an update.
Both were on edge from the physical contact. It wasn't as if they never touched, in fact, physical contact was a normal part of their relationship—with hand or arm squeezes sprinkled throughout their conversations, sitting next to or even leaning on one another, the shoulder bumps and nudges in the side. The massage though, had been far more intimate than anticipated; though neither party realized the depth of its impact on the other. Marissa blamed the fact that Joyce had planted the idea that she and Bull were a couple in her head, likely to instigate feelings such as this; not that there hadn’t already been a foundation in place for those feelings. While Bull, well, he didn’t have anything to blame and found himself wanting to create another moment like that with Marissa--hopefully one that wouldn't be interrupted.
The case ended, and the team was celebrating their victory by a campfire drinking beers and roasting marshmallows while Benny was still attempting to catch a fish. Bull just finished explaining why he had kept his father's cabin when Cable asked, "when did he pass?"
Bull grinned, "oh, he's not dead. He lives in Florida." This revelation sent the team into peals of laughter. Bull glanced at Marissa next to him as she pulled off a piece of marshmallow and popped it in her mouth. Though she’d already known his father was alive, it was her reaction he sought out when sharing the fact. Marissa chuckled and her eyes were twinkling with mirth when she looked at Bull; her smile widening as they made eye contact. Bull's lips curled to match hers' and their eyes remained locked for a brief moment before they were distracted by Benny's triumphant hoot. Benny happily marched back to the group, holding his fish out in front of him on the line.
Marissa yelped slightly as the dripping and still very much alive fish passed next to her. To avoid being hit, she leaned dangerously to the other side, perching on the very edge of her stool and leaning into Bull’s side in the process of escaping the fish. His hand shot up automatically to her back to ensure she didn’t tip over, though he couldn’t deny he'd take any excuse to touch her at the moment. The group was once again encompassed in laughter, Bull could feel Marissa's body shaking with it as she remained pressed against his side until Benny took his seat; proudly holding up his trophy. Marissa reluctantly returned to her spot, dipping her head in amusement and also to hide her smile at the slow slide of Bull’s hand along her back before it dropped away completely as she sat up. The contact once again, rattled Bull, though in the semi-darkness it was far easier to play off. What he also couldn't see in the dark, was how affected Marissa was by the contact as well, a deep blush gracing her cheeks.
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
I skipped a few episodes here, and I changed quite a bit of the interactions, but I can cause it's my fic :) Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The team was prepping a mock jury to go over a high dollar case. The jury was seated and wearing their biometric watches and Benny was finalizing some details for his opening statement when Juror 18's levels spiked.
"She seems really nervous," Marissa remarked after listing the heightening heart rate and breathing levels. Just then, the juror, Laurel, plugged her ears and ducked. Bull's eyes widened in horror,
"Everybody down!" He yelled, yanking Marissa into him just as a blast shook the building. Everything went black. Debris and dust filled the air along with the terrified screams and coughs of the mock jury members as the team was thrown to the ground. Bull tightened his arms around Marissa as the aftershock moved through the building, pressing his face into her hair as he covered her body.
Several of the lights blinked back on, others sparked dangerously, and an alarm was sounding in the background. Bull carefully sat up, pulling Marissa with him, though he didn't completely relinquish his hold on her. He kept one arm wrapped protectively around her waist, their bodies still curled together even in their seated position.
"Everyone calm down! Calm down" he called out to silence the noise. "Is anyone hurt?" He scanned the room and then looked down at the woman in his arms and saw blood, "Marissa, are you okay?" he asked, his tone much softer than it had been seconds before, his hand reaching up to caress her cheek, which already had a faint bruise blooming across it.
"Yeah," she replied shakily, "I'm okay." She released her powerful grip on the arm Bull had around her waist to reach up and brush some blood from her nose, "I think it's just from the dust..." Bull sighed in relief and dropped his forehead to rest against hers momentarily, one hand cupping the back of her head and the other still on her waist rubbing small, soothing circles on her hip.
Chunk hurried over and offered Marissa a handkerchief, she accepted it gratefully and dabbed her nose. The others were coughing, covered in dust but thankfully there didn't seem to be any serious injuries, just minor cuts and bruises.
Cable's panicking voice crackled through their comms, "Guys! Is anyone there? Can anyone hear me?!" Bull was able to have a brief conversation with her before Laurel, the juror who had ducked before the explosion, came forward with a gun.
"Nobody move!" Laurel demanded, brandishing her weapon around the room. Bull quickly maneuvered himself in front of Marissa—she’d been moving to shield him, but he’d been a bit faster and now he was between her and the gun.
"Laurel, listen to me. Laurel! Hey! If you're going to point a gun in my courtroom, you're going to point it at me and no one else. Understood?" From behind him, Marissa's sharp intake of breath reached his ears and she gripped his upper arms painfully tight. He could feel her subtly shifting, preparing to act—likely some of her Homeland training kicking in; he caught Danny making similar discreet changes in her position in the corner of his eye. But he couldn’t risk the situation getting any further out of control, he wasn’t going to risk anyone getting shot in a struggle for the weapon…. especially Marissa. So, he kept Laurel talking. Coaxed the reason she was there out of her, keeping one hand in the air to indicate surrender while the other was resting on Marissa's thigh to ensure she didn't move out from behind him.
Laurel glanced around the court room as she answered Bull’s questions and ordered everyone into the same area; waving the weapon around again, causing people to jump and scurry. Once they were all on one side of the room Laurel continued to explain why she was there. It was revealed that Danny was the undercover agent that helped put Laurel's husband behind bars. When Laurel accused Danny, she redirected her gun at the former FBI agent. As Bull quickly reinserted himself in front of the gun, Marissa couldn’t help the shuddering breath that escaped her or how she gripped Chunk’s arm in terror.
Bull managed to make a deal with Laurel, he would try her husband’s case, but she had to give up the gun. Once she handed the weapon over, the palpable tension leaked from the room, though adrenaline was still high. Not taking his eyes off Laurel, Bull held the gun out behind him and Marissa came forward and took it from him, grasping his fingers hard before going to secure it elsewhere.
After Bull shredded Danny on the witness stand he went back to the control room where Marissa was monitoring the mock jury. Her stony and disapproving expression bore down on him as he entered the room. "10 to 2 in your favor, way to go. All you had to do was destroy your relationship with Danny to do it." She criticized.
"Marissa, I know what I'm doing" he reassured.
"You better." Was her curt reply, though her eyes shone brightly as she watched Danny sitting dejectedly on one of the pews. “We can’t lose her” she added quietly.
“And we won’t.” He emphasized, stepping closer to her and placing a hand on her forearm. It was only then that he realized she was trembling slightly, likely due to stress and adrenaline. “Mariss…” Bull murmured, gently tugging on her arm so that she faced him. “Hey,” he said, tipping her chin up so that she looked him in the eye. “Everything will be okay, yeah?”
Sighing deeply, Marissa nodded. “I just want this day to be over already” she admitted, giving Bull a small smile. She then glanced quickly around, ensuring that no one was paying attention to them and hugged Bull hard. Startled, Bull hugged her back without hesitation. “Thank you, Jason.” Marissa breathed, her cheek resting against his chest.
“What for?” Bull questioned, furrowing his brows and drawing back just enough to look at her without breaking their embrace.
Marissa scoffed lightly and shook her head. “Jason, you protected me from a bomb blast.”
“Oh, well” he began, rubbing the back of his neck. “Not very well,” the hand on his neck reached forward and his fingers ghosted over the slight bruise on her cheek. “Besides, it’s not like there was much to be protected from, it wasn’t a big blast. Wasn’t meant to hurt or kill anyone.” He tried to reason, though Marissa chuckled at his attempt.
“Will you just accept my gratitude?” She exclaimed, with some exasperation. “You had no idea what kind of explosion that would be, no idea what would happen after.” Her voice lowered as she spoke. “And you made me feel incredibly safe. If all I come out of an explosion with is a little bruise” her hand reached up and intertwined with the one he had placed on her cheek. “Then I am amazingly lucky, and even more lucky to have someone like you in my life.” She smiled warmly up at him. It was then that she fully realized what an intimate position they were in, still in half an embrace and holding hands—her heart stuttered. But for once she wasn’t afraid, she didn’t want to pull away, she was completely comfortable in his arms. Bull began to say something when Chunk called out to them, startling them apart.
The brief break ended, as Bull went to rejoin the 'trial' Marissa called out to him. “Oh, and Jason?” He turned back to her and cocked his head. “If you ever instruct someone to point a gun at you again, I’ll kill you myself.” She stated, giving him one of those one-sided, close-lipped smiles that he loved.
This surprised a laugh from him, and he countered, “I thought we already established that you’d miss me too much if you killed me.” Marissa rolled her eyes at his reference to their conversation from a previous case and Bull winked at her before going back to the main room.
They finished the mock trial, the jury found Laurel’s husband guilty once more and everyone was free to go now that the debris was cleared. As the team exited the building they cheered and grinned, Chunk offered up a single word, "drinks?"
"I'm down!" Marissa promptly agreed, bouncing slightly with residual energy from the high intensity day, while Benny nodded in agreement.
"Wait, you guys aren't sick of each other yet?" Cable asked, looking at all of them oddly.
"Freedom, Cable. Sweet freedom!" Marissa sang, throwing her arm around the younger woman, "come let's get drinks." Before she turned to follow everyone, Marissa sobered slightly and said "Bull" tipping her head in Danny's direction--she'd been standing apart from the group, leaning against the building. Bull nodded his thanks and went to clear the air with Danny. He was appreciative that he was able to repair everything with Danny, and their relationship was possibly stronger now than it had been prior to the day's events.
Danny decided to skip drinks that night, and by the time Bull caught up with the team it was only Chunk and Marissa left. Bull bought a drink at the bar before wandering over to where the two stood chatting. Approaching the high-top, Bull rested his hand on Marissa's back—in a friendly manner, he told himself, so as not to scare her when he sidled up to the table and rested his drink there.
"Where is everyone?" He called over the bar noise and music, his hand still firmly on Marissa's back.
"Left for the night, said they were tired." Chunk replied, chuckling. "Though I can't say much, I'm heading out too."
"What? I just got here!" Bull complained, while Marissa tried to convince Chunk to stay for one more drink.
"Naw, sorry. I'm surprised I lasted this long. Besides, I think I've still got some dust I need to rinse off." Chunk shrugged his shoulders as if to shake off the residual debris, he waved goodbye to them and made his way to the exit. He turned at the door to catch another glimpse of the two. Marissa had turned to completely face Bull, stepping closer to him in the process. Bull had apparently refused to drop his hand when she'd turned towards him, instead opting to let it slide along her side to where it was now situated on Marissa’s hip. Bull was grinning affectionately down at her as Marissa's head fell back in laughter.
Chunk shook his head, wondering when those two would stop dancing around one another and finally get together. He’d seen how Bull shielded Marissa from the blast, how he’d remained literally wrapped around her after the danger passed. Seen how Bull jumped in front of a gun for Marissa, how she’d initially moved to block him as well. How Marissa pulled Bull into a tight embrace during a break in the trial. He’d been reluctant to interrupt that, but felt it necessary before anyone else saw them—he wasn’t sure it would help if everyone knew about their feelings for one another before they did. Well, the least he could do was leave them alone in a bar and hope for the best.
I like the idea of Chunk catching on to them before they realize it themselves, maybe he'll help play match maker in the future.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
Sorry for the delay in getting this up, I had a some ideas for other works and was working on those. Next chapter shouldn't take as long. Enjoy!
Diana Lindsay had returned, only this time she’d come to New York to defend a billionaire building developer whose sky bridge collapsed, killing 15 people. This same developer owned the building TAC was located in, which meant that the power conveniently went out the day the trial started.
When the news was delivered that they couldn’t get a generator until the next day, Bull offered up his place for them to work. “Your apartment?” Marissa repeated for clarification, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes.” Bull casually threw over his shoulder as he walked away.
Cable’s mouth hung slightly open, “his apartment! Oh, this is going to be good” she declared, all but rubbing her hands together. “Have you ever been there?” She asked, turning to Marissa, who hid a smirk as she went to collect the necessary equipment.
“There’s a lot of gear you need to grab Cable, I suggest you start packing up.” Marissa deflected. Of course, she’d been to Bull’s apartment. She’d spent a significant amount of time there and he at her apartment. Not that the rest of the team needed to know all the details of their friendship; she’d already seen Chunk giving them some odd looks, no need to fuel whatever fire that was.
Cable huffed and called after Marissa’s retreating back, “that’s not an answer!”
The elevator door slid open to reveal Bull’s apartment and Marissa couldn’t help but laugh to herself at the other’s reaction.
“Pretty sparsely furnished,” Cable noted, looking around the room.
“What’s below minimalist?” Chunk inquired as they set their bags down.
“Anyone want a bagel?” Bull’s voice called down from above and behind them. Without even turning Marissa knew where he was and grinned as she followed the others to investigate. When they found him, he was two-thirds the way up his rock wall. “You can set up in the living room, Withrow can’t stop TAC!” He proclaimed, pumping his fist before calling down, “Chunk, check it out, I got a new plant!”
Chunk turned in confusion to scan the near empty room, spotting a lone cactus against the far wall. “Yeah, really ties the room together” he responded unconvincingly, trailing off a bit at the end. Marissa just shook her head, went to hang up her coat and headed to the kitchen to grab a bagel before setting up. As she walked away she missed the knowing look Chunk gave her at the fact that she knew where everything was located.
As the others worked, Marissa followed Bull into the kitchen under the pretext of getting a refill on her coffee. “Jason, are you okay?”
“Of course! Why wouldn’t I be?” he feigned ignorance, peering at her over his glasses. He knew exactly why she was worried, she’d made it clear back in Callisto that she thought Diana was bad news, that the woman used him and cheated to get her way.
Marissa tilted her head and gave him a skeptical look, “cut the bull, Bull. I know this woman gets in your head and likes to play games. I just want to make sure you keep her out and that your head is on straight.”
“Mariss, my head isn’t twisted at all. I’m at the top of my game” he assured, before leaving his apartment to try and get the power turned back on at the office.
Marissa exhaled shortly and sat on one of the bar stools. She gnawed on her lower lip, things had shifted between her and Jason…since the bomb. But they hadn’t been able to talk about it since that break during the mock trial. Hadn’t talked about how they’d been constantly touching one another—more so than usual—as if to reassure themselves they were still there—still whole and alive. It hadn’t been a serious explosion, but it did have some lingering effects. They didn’t talk about the hug in the mock courtroom, or that night at the bar where they’d stood so close with Bull’s hand on her hip, or how when they left that night he had pulled her into another embrace and held her for far longer than necessary before sending her home alone in a cab. She tried to start the conversation more than once, but then they’d been hacked and Benny was arrested during their whistle-blower case and the right time simply never came up.
And now Diana was back, and Marissa feared she’d missed her chance. Or maybe…maybe there’d never been a chance. Maybe they hadn’t talked about what she perceived as a shift, because there hadn’t been one. Maybe, things only seemed different to her, and Jason still saw her as he always had….as his friend. Shaking her head, Marissa took a deep breath and returned to work in the living room to ensure everything was ready before sending Chunk and Cable on small different jobs—mostly to keep them from pestering her about Bull’s apartment and her apparent knowledge of its layout.
Diana trailed behind him as he entered his apartment after court that day, they agreed on drinks after all. Throughout the entire time she was there, however, Bull was distracted. He couldn’t place it, couldn’t figure out why his mind wasn’t aligning with what his body wanted to do. Even sitting in close proximity to Diana on his couch couldn’t pry the nagging distraction away. And when he briefly kissed her goodbye it didn’t feel the same. After Diana left, he decided that it was the case that was responsible, Withrow and his sociopathic tendencies. Despite his conviction that this was the explanation, something wriggled in the back of his mind; as if begging him to realize the truth.
It wasn’t until the next morning when Marissa breezed into the office, brushing past him to set down her things that everything clicked into place. Her scent. His normally barren apartment had been occupied by a lovely smelling guest for the majority of the previous day. Apparently, his living quarters had decided to absorb the new, if subtle, scent that Marissa introduced. As Bull thought on it further, he determined that she must have set up camp on his couch, because her scent had enveloped him almost completely when he’d sat there.
He squirmed internally, even without him realizing it, his mind had latched onto the small piece of Marissa that lingered in his apartment and it distracted him from Diana. If that wasn’t telling, he wasn’t sure what was…. His feelings were becoming more difficult to suppress, especially since the bomb.
On more than one occasion he’d attempted to talk to her about it; because for the first time, he thought maybe she felt something more too. But then everything with the military case had happened and when opportunities to talk did occur, to his immense frustration they’d always been interrupted. And it wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have on the phone where it was much harder to read her responses.
And now, Diana was back. And his mind was always jumbled when Diana was around. Though he knew better, Bull settled on denial. He was going to blame the case for his confused feelings and the fact that Diana was back. His distraction had nothing to do with Marissa and the fact that he enjoyed the way she made his apartment smell and the stray hope that her scent might linger on one of his bedroom pillows someday.
Besides, he chided himself, Marissa hadn’t seemed to notice the change. There’d been an increase in touches, but nothing that couldn’t be explained away by the bomb. He’d likely been imagining all of this and could have easily ruined the relationship he valued the most had he tried to broach the subject. Making up his mind, Bull decided not to pursue the conversation with Marissa. It had been an extreme situation, and their actions during and directly following the bomb shouldn’t be taken as an indicator that their relationship had changed.
Anyway, Diana was here so pursuing something with her was alright. He wasn’t using her to forget Marissa. He really did have feelings for Diana and the potential fallout with Diana was much smaller than if he should try and fail at a relationship with Marissa.
Cable found the information they needed, Withrow had determined everyone’s ‘number’, how much each person was worth, how much he’d have to pay should the sky bridge fail. As Cable shared this, Marissa wrinkled her nose in disgust, “you were right Bull. He made a cold, calculating decision when he skimped on those building materials. Finding someone’s number…” she scoffed in distain as she stalked away from the screen.
“You don’t have a number Marissa!” Bull called after her, “you’re priceless!” Despite the revulsion Marissa felt towards Withrow at that moment, she couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped her at Bull’s remark, though she waved the comment away. Bull grinned, content that his comment had had the desired effect as he watched Marissa leave. Then he caught Cable’s raised eyebrow and cleared his throat and told her to forward the information to the DA’s office.
Withrow was convicted, the information Cable found swayed the jury and he was going away for 15 counts of manslaughter. Bull hadn’t turned off his in-ear comm yet when he approached Withrow after the verdict. The man declared that he was filing for an appeal, on the basis of collusion between Diana and Bull. The two didn’t say a word in their defense from what Marissa could hear before Bull removed his ear piece.
When Marissa texted him a few minutes later to let him know the team was meeting for drinks, he refused the invitation, he already had plans. Marissa’s heart sank. She knew what his plans were and that ended the debate she’d been having with herself as to whether she should still try and talk to Bull about the bomb. Clearly the ‘change’ in their relationship following the event had been her overactive, if hopeful, imagination.
Marissa sighed and went to join the others. When Danny asked if Bull was coming Marissa shook her head, the rest of the team shrugged and gathered their things in preparation for heading to the bar. Chunk, however, came over and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“Everything okay?” He questioned softly, careful not to be overheard.
“Of course!” Marissa responded, a little too brightly and her smile a little too forced. “We just won a big case and Withrow is going away for a long time. We deserve to celebrate, come on.” Her second smile was more natural, but still not completely genuine, though she patted his hand and moved to follow the others.
Chunk pressed his lips into a thin line, before trailing after Marissa. It was clear she was upset about Bull being with Diana, but it wouldn’t help anyone if he started pressing the issue now. Marissa would likely deflect, say that she was concerned because Diana was bad news for Bull, that their history wasn’t a pleasant one. She also would likely be embarrassed at having been figured out, and would work to bury her feelings even deeper. Shaking his head, Chunk followed the blonde woman and the others into the elevator.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Thank you everyone for all of your comments and feedback! It means so much, truly! Here's the next chapter, enjoy!
They’d taken the skydiving case against Liberty, to Marissa’s slight displeasure. The two were entering the skydiving company’s garage to meet their potential clients when Marissa interrupted Bull’s summary of the case to ask, “what do you think she’ll say?”
“The daughter?” Bull replied, still thinking about the case.
“No, Liberty…” Marissa clarified, playing with the ring on her pinky.
Chuckling, Bull glanced over and teasingly reminded her, “you do realize we’re not her parents, right?”
Marissa scoffed lightly and continued, “I just don’t want her to feel blindsided by us.”
Bull dipped his head to hide his smile, that was Marissa. Always worried about and looking after others. “You know this type of concern is why the others call you ‘team mom’” he joked, poking her side.
“I’m not the one who got the ‘World’s Best Dad’ mug from the team last year for Father’s Day” she retorted with a laugh as they ducked under one of the plane wings.
“Well of course not, it was Father’s Day, it would have been highly inappropriate to give you something. Especially when they already got you a gift for Mother’s Day the month before!” He grinned, shaking his head at the antics of the team.
“Well if we’re team parents, isn’t Liberty like an extension of the team? Making us parents of her as well?” Marissa pointed out with a slightly smug look, proud of her logic.
“We already have four children, darling, I don’t think we can take on any more” Bull drawled with a grin, before refocusing on the case. “Besides, this is like a David vs. Goliath case.”
“Bull, you know sometimes in David versus Goliath, David deserves to lose.” Marissa commented as they neared the front desk.
“I’ll call the author of the Bible and tell him that you have a few notes on one of his stories,” Bull chuckled dryly as he nudged Marissa in the side before approaching their client and introducing himself.
The angle Bull wanted to take for this case had the team considering potential murder suspects. They were in the middle of discussing the deceased’s employees when the clients walked in. “Ah, we were just getting started” Bull welcomed them, “we were talking about bosses. Everybody hates the boss, don’t they?” He glanced around at his team, raising his eyebrows.
“Not everybody,” Marissa murmured, suppressing the smile making its way to her lips and hoping her cheeks didn’t look as hot as they felt. Scolding herself, Marissa purposely brought up the thought of Diana Lindsay to ground herself and her emotions.
“Hate’s a strong word” Chunk hedged, “I wouldn’t say hate.”
“Oh, look at you scramble, it’s adorable!” Bull joked, winking at Marissa.
Regardless of her thoughts just moments before, Marissa’s smile grew, and she changed the topic to voir dire and who they wanted on the jury.
With the jury selected, the team was back at TAC to discuss strategy. “Everybody’s afraid of something, usually something they don’t understand” Bull explained as the team gathered around the main screens.
“Oh, I understand spiders.” Cable claimed, “but I’m still afraid of them.”
“There are fears we all share” Bull continued, shaking his head a little at Cable. “Failure, success—interestingly, death, and intimacy” his gaze found Marissa and glanced at her up and down at his last word.
“Wait, why look at me when you say intimacy?!” She asked defensively, looking to the others for explanation.
Thankfully, before Bull could respond Chunk chose to add, “well, I’m most afraid of an IRS audit.”
Bull subtly exhaled in relief, he hadn’t meant to be so obvious, was normally more attentive and controlling of his actions. He hadn’t looked at Marissa when he said intimacy because he thought she feared it. No, his eyes were drawn to her because he was afraid of intimacy—more specifically of something intimate with Marissa. But now wasn’t the time to dwell on romantic feelings for a longtime friend and colleague. The conversation had carried on without him during his musings, he now jumped back in to weigh in on the jury.
Bull approached the screen to talk jurors and stood next to Marissa, their elbows brushing. “He’s got a strong fear of losing control. I think he’s a perfectionist, but outside the box. He needs to know the outcome before it happens.” He noted, analyzing the final juror.
“You just described yourself,” Marissa observed, a mischievous grin spreading across her face as she gently elbowed him in the ribs.
“You like Jacob, because he’s basically your mirror” Benny tacked onto Marissa’s statement, smirking.
This caused Bull to turn and walk away, instructing, “back to work everyone” as he did.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Marissa called after him, “your biometric watch, so we can keep tabs on your juror!” she held up the device, her eye twinkling.
“Forget it!” Bull called back over his shoulder, fearing what the watch would betray when he was around Marissa or when he heard her voice in his ear over the comms.
They were all on the plane, prepped and ready to jump. Bull sat on the bench closest to the door, Marissa stood next to him holding onto the cargo net attached to the wall and ceiling of the plane. Her foot, then her knee and several times her hip brushed against Bull as the ride and wind buffeted her short frame. Bull was thankful for his grounding respect of gravity, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to focus on talking to the team with all the glancing, unintentional touches.
“So, when do we jump?” Danny yelled over the noise of the plane and wind.
“We’re not jumping.” Turning to Dylan, the owner’s daughter, Bull shouted, “you can tell the pilot to turn the plane around and head back.” Benny agreed with him, but Cable and Danny shouted him down, and Dylan said they were ready and they could jump if they wanted. Danny was the first out of the plane, Bull joking with her to remember to pull the ripcord.
Bull’s eyebrows shot up when Marissa immediately made her way to the door to be the next to parachute down. “You’re up, Blondie,” he called to her, “I hope I see you at the office.” Marissa’s exhilarated grin flashed at him as she glanced over her shoulder at his smartass comment. She gave a quick thumbs up before leaping, a delighted scream following her out.
Benny and Bull were the only two not to jump, and had no regrets about it. As they walked off the landing strip, the others came into view and Bull’s heart stuttered at the sight. Marissa’s hair was windblown and wild, her cheeks red from the wind, her eyes bright with excitement and a radiant smile graced her face. She had a literal spring in her step and was laughing at something Cable said when they met up at the garage door. Bull couldn’t say why her beauty struck him so strongly in that moment, but for once he didn’t want to overanalyze his reaction.
Bull’s lips curled up automatically to match the smile on her face, “enjoy yourself?” he asked as the others filed in ahead of them to go put away their gear.
“Jason, it was invigorating! Oh, I wish you had jumped too, so you could feel this, this, excitement pumping through you” Marissa enthused, her energy contagious.
“Well, I think I’m getting a contact high just from being near you” Bull teased, following her through the door. He threw an arm over her shoulders and tipped his head closer to her to add, “and that’s more than enough for me.” Marissa ducked her head briefly before giving him a brilliant smile and bumping her hip lightly against his, remaining under his arm until they reached the lockers and had to remove their gear.
They won the case, Liberty inadvertently revealing the true killer during her cross-examination. To celebrate, Bull decided it was time to overcome one of his fears and go sky diving. Marissa accompanied him for moral support, she’d noticed how his hand shook the first time, that didn’t prevent her from saluting him teasingly as the plane took off though.
When he landed and detached his parachute, Bull immediately searched for Marissa. His eyes found her in the viewing area, beaming and waving at him, bouncing slightly in her heels. Bull’s grin could have split his face with its size as he strode over and swooped Marissa into a bear hug and spun her around. Marissa squealed in delight and surprise as Bull set her down and then paced away with slightly restless energy.
“You were right Mariss! I’ve got this amazing energy just buzzing through me, it’s an incredible feeling.” He turned and faced her again to see a matching smile blooming across her lips. He wanted to kiss her. Wanted to compound this feeling, just add more and more good on top of it until he couldn’t feel anything else and he knew kissing her and everything that followed would do just that. To hell with ignoring these feelings and chasing after women who didn’t make him feel this way. To hell with worrying about their friendship, he wanted to smile like this every day—wanted to make her smile like that every day.
He began to approach her once more, he must have looked determined because Marissa gave him a puzzled look, though her smile never wavered. Bull was stopped a few steps short of her by the shrill ring tone of his cell, a text message. Marissa started slightly, as the phone buzzed in her hand, she’d been holding it for him during the jump. He strongly considered ignoring it and kissing Marissa anyway when her expression suddenly soured, she’d broken eye contact with him when she’d automatically glanced at his phone after the alert.
“It’s Diana.” She stated simply, holding out the phone to him, her face now carefully blank where it had been so expressive before. Despite her countenance, Marissa’s cheeks reddened slightly, though from what Bull couldn’t be sure.
Bull looked at the phone and then back to Marissa, unsure of what to do. “You should really take it.” Marissa insisted, pressing the phone into his hand. “I’ll meet you back at the car” and before Bull could protest she turned and hurried away.
Grumbling and confused, Bull made his way back to the garage to return his gear. Looking at his phone screen, he could see the beginnings of the text Diana sent him and suddenly it all made sense. Diana had messaged him about how she was thinking about what a wonderful time they had when she was last in New York for a case. Though her wording may have been more descriptive in nature. Looking up to see Marissa reaching the parking lot, Bull felt a sting of guilt, but opened the message to reply anyway.
Better to go with what he knew, better that the moment had been interrupted. Because while he’d mentioned some of his fears earlier in the case—losing control, not knowing the outcome before it happened—he’d neglected to mention that another one of his fears was rejection. So, it was easier and safer for all parties involved for him send a saucy text back to Diana than to try and make a move with Marissa, be rejected and lose her and her friendship completely. Though his strong desire to kiss Marissa was still there, he stuffed it back into the box in his mind that he was quickly filling with all of his repressed feelings and desires for Marissa.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
Sorry for the long delays between chapters, it's been a bit crazy. I really liked working on this one though. Enjoy!
Bull was analyzing everyone’s fashion choices, what it said about them and how it meant they would interact with others and the environment. He just finished poking fun at Cable for her, not-so-original, hipster style before turning his attention to Marissa.
"And Marissa," Bull continued, his eyes unabashedly roaming over her—for the analysis of course. "You love to dress up. And I would say that your high heels flatter your lovely figure,” he paused, before continuing, “were I not your boss."
Giving a shadow of a curtsey, Marissa replied, "were I not your employee, I would say thank you." A full smile breaking out on her face in response to the compliment. Though she chided herself for the reaction, forcing herself to remember how Bull’s attention had been immediately diverted from her to Diana back at the sky diving company just a week prior. And from what she had observed he had been in frequent contact with Diana since.
Marissa’s attention was brought back to the present when Benny announced the new witness list for the prosecution. Bull commented that he knew where both witnesses would be that night and turned stating, “Marissa, slip on your favorite high heels, we’re going to a party.” He winked at her as he walked into his office.
The music was thumping and the strobing lights made up for some of otherwise dimly lit areas of the venue. “Brent Orlov is my favorite designer” Marissa breathed, taking in the extravagant party with wide, excited eyes.
“Stop having fun, Marissa. We’re here to work” Bull dryly rebuked, purposefully keeping his eyes averted as Marissa’s coat was taken, exposing the shoulder and collar bone that her one sleeved dress left bare. He quickly grabbed a champagne flute from the nearest waiter, drained its contents and placed in back on the tray. He’d need some fortification to get through tonight without giving anything away.
As they walked deeper into the party, Bull placed his hand on Marissa’s lower back under the pretext of guiding her and making it easier to talk to her without being overheard. “We need to cross-examine the witnesses. Think of it as a sexier People’s Court” he suggested, smiling at the chuckle she gave in response.
Before they could get farther into their conversation, a model approached the two of them. She threw a well-practiced side-eye at Marissa when Bull went to introduce her and blatantly asked Bull to finish zipping her dress up. Bull removed his hand from Marissa’s back to comply. Marissa immediately missed the warmth of his hand, but had to smother a laugh and force herself to maintain eye contact until the model had left.
Once the woman was out of ear shot Marissa gave an amused look at Bull, “was that shade? I think that was shade! I’m weirdly flattered.” She admitted, feeling some pride in the fact that a young model felt somewhat threatened by her.
“And why wouldn’t it be shade? She’s jealous that I’m here with a beautiful woman” Bull supplied as casually as he could, though he carefully watched Marissa for her reaction.
She hid her facial expressions well though, by taking a drink and turning to search the crowd for their witnesses. She hadn’t wanted Bull to see how pleased she’d been at his compliment. Despite her efforts, she couldn’t hide the blush that crept up her cheeks, the appearance of which made Bull smile widely.
“There’s Orlov” Marissa pointed out, thankful to have a distraction from their current conversation. Bull leaned in closer to her to murmur his observations in her ear; his chest pressing against the length of her arm as he did so. Marissa’s body practically hummed in response to his touch and how he whispered in her ear, as soon as Bull finished his analysis she quickly set off to talk to Orlov, hoping to mask her reaction.
Though he needed to find the other witness, Bull stopped to watch Marissa’s interaction. She walked close enough so that she was in Orlov’s immediate line of sight, but didn’t approach him directly, instead she waited for Orlov to make the first move. She glanced almost aloofly around the party until she made eye contact with the designer and he beckoned her towards him with a finger.
As she neared him, Orlov took Marissa’s hand and lifted it to his mouth for a kiss, letting his lips linger longer than Bull thought was really necessary. When Marissa began to compliment Orlov’s designs Bull tuned out partially, just watching their body language, how close the two were standing.
His attention snapped back to their conversation when Marissa compared one piece to wearable poetry, to which Orlov replied, “I’m so glad you like to read. You must allow me to write something on you.” The smooth bastard, Bull thought, tightening his grip on his glass.
His mind went utterly blank, however, when Marissa responded with a sultry, “I would love that.” Bull had, up until this point, been trying to watch them covertly but at her response he turned completely to face the two. Marissa was playing a part, he knew, he just wished she wasn’t so convincing. She was now asking Orlov about court, in just the way to play to his ego but still get all the information she needed. Bull still was focused on their body language though, how they kept closing in on one another. How Marissa reached forward and ran a finger down the inside length of Orlov’s jacket lapel, hooking it slightly when she hit a button and tugging him a tiny bit closer before letting go and finishing her drink.
This forced Orlov to play host and go refill it, allowing Marissa to make her escape. Bull let out a sigh of relief, grateful that Orlov hadn’t tried anything more forward—especially given how he’d been undressing Marissa with his eyes. Bull hurried to find his own target, so it didn’t appear as though he’d been watching the whole time…envy bubbling inside him.
Marissa rejoined Bull once he was done talking to his witness. He almost immediately placed his hand on Marissa’s back again, feeling more than a little possessive and territorial after watching her with Orlov. Thankfully, Marissa didn’t seem to interpret his motives and simply walked with him to talk to a few of the other models before they left the party.
The next day, Bull’s head was still swimming with pictures of Marissa in that dress, her flirting, and how her hair brushed over her bare shoulder when his phone buzzed. It was Diana, video chatting him… Bull quickly secluded himself in his office to talk her. The conversation was a good distraction, what he needed to stick with the decision he had made that day after sky diving. To stay away from any romantic possibilities with Marissa, to protect his relationship with her as it was. But the phone conversation didn’t go as planned either, Diana wanted him to visit and he hesitated and now Diana was mad at him.
Bull was pulled from his thoughts by Marissa rushing past the window of his office. He got up and stuck his head out the door just in time to hear her gleefully announce the prototype shoes as one of the best things she’s ever had on her feet and that they were revolutionary, she concluded by throwing her arms out, a wide smile on her face. Bull could feel her excitement from over 10 feet away. He chuckled at her antics, and once again, questioned his decision to stay away from the absolutely delightful woman in front of him.
Bull confronted their client, Will, about the possibility that his fiancée was the murderer. When Bull kept pushing for Will to consider the option, the young man finally rounded on Bull and shouted. “I’m committed to the woman I love, I’m sorry that’s so hard for you to understand.” Will then stormed out of the office, leaving Bull momentarily dumbstruck.
That was until, he realized he was committed to her. Just not in the same way as Will was to his fiancée. Bull was committed to 7 years of friendship, of support, laughter and challenging one another, to watching bad movies, playing chess in the park, and celebrating after a victory, proud of the team they’d built. He was committed to not losing her, his was committed to their platonic love if that meant that she stayed in his life. Will’s outburst reaffirmed why Bull was staying romantically away from Marissa, and why it had to stay that way no matter how hard that was becoming now that he’d fully acknowledged his feelings.
Bull and Chunk had just seen off Will and his fiancée and were re-entering the office when Allie, Bull’s new assistant, stopped them in the hallway. “My friend Autumn, from the show, thought you were cute” Allie stated, playing wing-woman for her friend.
Chunk scoffed in disbelief, really? First Diana and now “a model with daddy issues, surprise.”
Allie continued that she’d texted Bull Autumn’s number and the model was hoping to hear from him, she then said she’d see him in the morning and left.
In response to Chunk’s disapproving look, Bull stated, “Autumn is a nice name.” Chunk rolled his eyes and stifled the urge to hit the man in front of him. Why couldn’t he see that the woman for him was in the other room joking with Danny and Cable, preparing to go get a celebratory drink with the rest of the team.
Chunk hadn’t been present during Marissa and Bull’s ‘undercover’ mission at the party, but he’d overheard Cable teasing Bull for being overly protective of Marissa while they were there—a hand on her back the whole time and keeping an eye on her while she was with Orlov. While Cable may be oblivious to these signs, Chunk wasn’t, and he was pretty damn sure Bull wasn’t either. Which meant the man was overcompensating, he was aware of his feelings for Marissa and so he was actively running in the other direction to avoid them. Chunk shook his head, confronting Bull about his behavior would likely only make him run away faster. Bidding his boss goodnight, Chunk wondered if he should start plotting to get Marissa and Bull together or let it run its course.
The epiphany Bull had during the case about his relationship with Marissa was how he found himself in Texas. Standing in front of Diana’s house. Committing to a weekend with her. Committing to moving past these feelings for Marissa and working on this thing with Diana. This was good, he thought, if anything it was at least better than hooking up with Autumn. With that as his final thought, Bull approached Diana’s house as she opened the front door.
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
Super long delay, sorry! I just didn't want to write the chapters with JP in them....knew I needed to include them but didn't want to, haha. As always, feedback is always appreciated.
Bull called Marissa the moment the FBI took Benny away and asked her to meet him at the court house. When he arrived, he was surprised to see that she’d beaten him there and was pacing slightly, carrying two ties.
“Hmm, tie” Bull muttered as a greeting, slipping a piece of fabric from Marissa’s hand.
“Oh, Chunk says that one’s for Benny” Marissa protested, “this one is for you” she held up the patterned tie to him. Bull shook his head minutely and continued to thread the tie around his throat, causing Marissa to give him a fleeting look of exasperation.
“I was talking to one of the FBI guys while they were processing Benny.” Bull informed her, fumbling over the knot. “He seemed almost certain they’re going to charge him with a misdemeanor. No jail time.”
Marissa sighed in relief as she reached up, batted Bull’s hands away and correctly finished his tie for him. “Thank God. Take care of our boy up there, yeah?” She requested, smoothing his tie and patting his chest distractedly.
“Of course.” Bull replied, capturing her hands between his and holding them to his chest, thumb stroking gently along the back of her hand. “Mariss, it’ll be okay.” Before they could continue their discussion, Benny entered the courtroom, and everyone needed to take their places. Bull squeezed Marissa’s hands, took the second tie from her and went to join Benny in the front.
It was late when Bull returned to TAC, the place was empty, dark. He foraged in one of the drawers, found the scotch he’d been looking for and poured himself a healthy measure. He was still stunned at what the prosecution had done, charging Benny with tampering with evidence…. He hadn’t seen that coming, he thought, taking a drink.
Marissa’s voice broke his train of thought, apparently, she hadn’t gone home like the others, but had been waiting for him to return. “I don’t understand” she began, approaching him. “You said it was going to be a slap on the wrist. Benny could get 10 years. Why doesn’t he just take a plea?”
“Because they didn’t offer him a plea. They want him to go to prison.” Bull replied, still staring out the window, spinning his drink slightly.
“But why? Why Benny?” Marissa pressed, taking a step closer, confused and looking to him for answers.
“I’m guessing this new DNA test has the D.A.’s office spooked. They secured a lot of convictions with the original test. And nobody is excited about their old cases getting a second look, so they’re changing the conversation.” Bull turned to look at Marissa for the first time since she’d walked up. He immediately wished he hadn’t because all he wanted was to pull her into his arms and seek comfort from her and give it to her in return. “This isn’t about DNA. It’s about planting evidence, about Benny planting evidence—which he swears he didn’t do.” He shifted to gaze back out the window, sipping his drink, and forcing himself to keep his distance from her.
“Can I do anything? Can I get you anything?” Marissa offered gently, crossing her arms and stepping a little closer.
Bull suddenly faced her again, looking inspired. “You’re like an encyclopedia of lawyers.” He stated, Marissa lifted her brows in response, waiting for him to continue. “I need you to do some research for me, tonight . I need the best there is when it comes to cases involving the Department of Justice, the FBI. Somebody’s who has those guys completely wired, and I want to get in and see them first thing in the morning.” Bull paused to take a breath, “can you do that for me?” He asked quietly, stamping down the urge to reach up and cup her cheek. He knew he was being too open, but the charges against Benny had shaken him and he needed the reassurance that Marissa was a constant in his life. Still, he quickly tacked on to the end of his request, “can you do that for Benny?”
Marissa’s face softened, thinking she’d do just about anything for the man in front of her (even without everything that was going on with Benny). These feelings must have shown a little too much in that moment, her mask slipping because Bull seemed to hurriedly add, “can you do that for Benny?”
“Sure, of course.” She replied, clasping her hands in front of her and remastering her features. “I’ll head home and get on it” she glanced around the room, making sure she didn’t need to grab anything before leaving. Returning her gaze to Bull, she sighed and as she walked away, Marissa reached out and touched his arm lightly and for only a moment stating, “make that your last drink” before leaving.
Bull stared after Marissa long after she was gone, before slowly turning and heading into his office. Hopefully she would be able to find something, anything, really. She hadn’t let him down yet, not in all the time they’d known each other—Marissa Morgan was a bit of a miracle worker. Shaking his head, Bull removed his tie, kicked off his shoes and laid on his couch to try and get some sleep.
Bull woke to the buzzing of his phone, disgruntled, he answered, hearing Marissa’s weary voice on the other end. She informed him that the lawyer Benny needed wanted to meet with him, now.
“Now?” Bull exclaimed, checking his watch baffled. “It’s 3:50.”
“Actually, the time they suggested was 4:30” Marissa’s correction echoed over the phone.
“In the morning.” Bull clarified, running a hand tiredly over his face.
Sighing Marissa confirmed everything again, stating, “I’m only the messenger, Bull” before hanging up and texting him the address where the meeting was going to take place.
Bull muttered to himself as he got ready and miraculously found a cab to take him to the restaurant where the lawyer wanted to meet. The entire time, blaming Marissa for his disrupted sleep. It wasn’t until he reached the restaurant and let himself in that he realized, she’d been up until almost 4 to find him the information he said he needed. And if he did the math, by the time the work day officially started, he still would have had more sleep than her, even with the crack of dawn meeting—this mollified him slightly.
Still, he didn’t like to have his sleep disturbed. But he also didn’t want to interrupt hers (she’d likely just gone to bed, it being only 30 minutes after their conversation), so as he waited he dictated a text message to send to her, knowing it wouldn’t wake her up.
“Dear Marissa, I hate you” he began sarcastically. “The dream I was dreaming before you called and woke me up involved all kinds of ridiculous and illegal activ...” he broke off suddenly at the appearance of a woman at the table he was sitting at. Probably for the best, he had been entering dangerous territory with that story. About to recount the wonderful dream he’d been having, though he’d planned to leave out the part that it involved him and a certain blonde woman he’d worked with for 7 years. Stuffing his phone back into his pocket, Bull met J.P. Nunnelly, the fixer Marissa found.
And J.P. intrigued him, it didn’t hurt that she fit his normal type too. Bull could feel himself being drawn to her the same way he was drawn to Diana…. Certainly not in the way he was drawn to Marissa, but there still was this attraction.
And anyway, J.P. was a more appropriate target for these feelings than Marissa and maybe it could be better than the on-again, off-again attempts he’d made with Diana (they’d been ‘off’ since his visit). And though J.P. had already called him out for flirting when he took her to see TAC, he could tell she had some interest in something more as well. But none of that mattered right now, first they had to save Benny.
They were all back at TAC, reviewing the standing of the different jury members with J.P. when Benny came storming in. Furious about where J.P. had gotten the information she’d used in court that day and the fact that she wouldn’t reveal her source. When Benny claimed that he didn’t trust her, J.P took a step back, raising her hands, claiming that if they were unhappy with her work they could certainly hire new counsel.
Benny scoffed, knowing that it really wasn’t up to him to decide who represented him. Besides, if it came down to a vote, “well, we all know what way you’ll vote, Bull. We can see it every time you look at her” Benny spat, stating he’d see them all in court the next day before stalking out of the office.
At this comment, Marissa pressed her lips together and turned to face the screens again, hoping to hide the hurt expression on her face. She noticed how Bull was looking at J.P. as well, but kept brushing it away, insisting that it wasn’t what she thought, that she’d been reading too much into it. But apparently the others had seen it as well. Marissa excused herself then, stating she needed to check part of the algorithm in her office. Once there, Marissa quickly closed the door; blinking rapidly to dispel the tears that threatened to fall. Despite how often she told herself that her feelings for Bull would pass, that they weren’t serious, she knew she was lying to herself. She was in love with her best friend and boss.
There she’d finally admitted it. Not that it mattered, before it was Diana and now he was clearly interested in J.P.
Anyway, he’d been distancing himself from her for a little while now; going as far as cancelling their last movie night. He must have sensed her deeper feelings for him and was trying to gently convey to her that he wasn’t interested. Marissa let out an unsteady breath, allowing the sharp pain of this realization wash over her. Apparently, she hadn’t been as discreet as she thought. Though to be fair she’d only just now accepted and admitted these feelings to herself, but Bull was a highly trained and skilled psychologist—so it was surprising she’d been able to hide it from him this long.
Marissa took several more deep breaths and collected herself. No harm, no foul. She thought as she headed back towards the group, nothing had been confessed out loud, she and Bull could return to their normal friendship. Nothing had to change. With that final thought, Marissa dove back into the case, waving away Chunk’s concerned expression and attempt to talk to her.
Chapter 15: Chapter 15
J.P. Nunnelly had called in a favor, the first of three that Bull owed for her help on Benny’s case. They were to represent a large tech company who refused to give the FBI access to their servers following a bombing that happened only a block from TAC.
Cable strode angrily from the office at the announcement of the case, Bull’s threat ringing in the air. Marissa’s eyes were dangerously wide, and she gestured to Bull’s office before walking into it without looking to see if he was following.
“What the hell, Bull?” She rounded on him, he barely got the door shut before she started.
“It’s a case. J.P. is the lead, and I owe her for Benny’s trial. I didn’t get to choose it and neither does the rest of the team, including Cable.” He responded, tight-lipped and angry, this wasn’t what he needed right now. He didn’t want to take the case in the first place but having the team, having Marissa, side against him and question him before they’d even begun…he could already feel the headache forming.
“There was a bomb.” She pointed out the window in the general vicinity of the explosion. “A bomb very close to us, the building shook. Do you remember the last time something like that happened?” She demanded, pale faced. “No one got hurt, but it sure as hell scared everyone. Did you not consider that this would dredge up some of those unpleasant memories? That Cable, who was on the outside of the whole situation, unable to reach us, may feel just as helpless now. Her friend has been hurt and you are asking us, asking her, to defend a company that refuses to help catch the people responsible.” Marissa was furious. Furious at the situation, at Bull for taking the case, at herself for flinching at loud noises today because the memories of the explosion were now in the forefront of her mind, and at the fact that J.P. was back. She knew she was being petty on that last thought, but she was still raw from her recent admission to herself about her feelings for Bull and she couldn’t help it.
Bull gaped at her for a moment, because he hadn’t considered some of those things—at least not from Cable’s point of view. But it didn’t matter. He didn’t have a choice, he’d made a deal for Benny’s freedom and he was going to honor it. “Marissa, we have” he began to argue.
“I know what we have to do, Jason.” She cut in—the anger draining out of her, giving a minute shake of her head, she left his office and started to delegate tasks for the case.
Bull sat heavily behind his desk, perching his glasses on top of his head and rubbing his eyes. Why were things so difficult with Marissa lately? She’s his second in command, his rock, the person he can rely on for any and everything…and he still could, it just felt more strained lately. He knew he was partially to blame, he’d pulled back in their friendship first, after the fashion show case with Chunk’s boss. Went so far as to bail on their most recent movie night. He’d needed to do that, or he would’ve ruined their friendship by attempting to turn it into something more.
But something else was in play, he could sense it. Maybe he’d finally tested her enough, pushed her away enough, told her to blindly trust him one too many times and she was getting tired of it. Bull sincerely hoped that wasn’t the case, he couldn’t lose Marissa. He didn’t know what he’d do if he didn’t get to come in every morning and drink coffee with her leaning against the counter in the kitchen before the rest of the team arrived or get into ridiculous competitions with over jail food or checkers or stealing one another’s food in the fridge.
Sighing, Bull pushed all of his worries concerning Marissa to the back of his mind, they had a case to work and is was going to be an uphill battle on all fronts apparently.
Bull returned to TAC after having another dinner with J.P.. He was heading to his office when he heard the clacking of a keyboard. Bull paused and peered down the hallway and saw a slant of light coming out of Marissa’s office. Curious as to why she was still there at 11pm, Bull wandered into her office and stood in front of her desk. Marissa didn’t even glance up when he entered, her eyes fixed on the computer she was rapidly typing into.
Bull tried to joke and get her attention, “isn’t it past your TV time?” He asked, leaning forward and resting his palms on her desk. “Shouldn’t you be asleep, so you can have a productive time at school tomorrow?” When she still didn’t respond, Bull tried once more. “Is this even something someone your age should be watching?”
Marissa simply sighed in return, pursing her lips, but still refused to make eye contact. Bull swallowed, he could almost always count on the ‘team parents’ inside jokes, she must be more upset with him than he originally thought.
“What is this?” He finally broke down and asked, catching a glimpse of her screen. “What’s that?!” Bull continued, noticing the small grey box that was connected to the computer. “Oh. Goodness, is that…” Marissa hummed and nodded, confirming that the box was the server data their clients were refusing to turn over.
“But how?” Bull inquired in awe, gazing at Marissa.
“You don’t want to know. But you might want to thank Benny.” She replied, eyes still focused on the screen. Bull felt a little unnerved that she hadn’t looked at him yet. He really needed to get to the bottom of whatever was going on between them, he couldn’t say he was enjoying this polite, but somewhat cold treatment.
“And it’s unencrypted?” Bull prompted, trying to get more information out of her than one or two sentences at a time.
“Looks that way” Marissa sighed again, “the parts we needed anyway.”
“You were able to do that?” He pressed again, looking for details.
“Nope” came her monosyllabic reply. Bull ducked his head slightly in mild frustration, so much for getting more details.
“Cable?” He guessed, still watching Marissa closely.
“Not her personally, but she made it happen” Marissa supplied, tapping a few more things into the keyboard.
“And who made her happen?” Bull inquired, remembering only too well how angry Cable had been when she stormed out of the office. How he had shouted after her, threatened her job. He already knew the answer though, Marissa really was the only one who would’ve been able to talk the younger woman around—team mom indeed. Marissa knew that he had the answer as well, and continued her silent, stony stare at the monitor, her jaw jutting to the side slightly in irritation.
“Hmm. Thank you.” Bull emphasized, still trying to get her to look at him. “You didn’t happen to apologize to her for me, did you?” With that Marissa finally looked at him, not fully, she glared at him from the corner of her eye. “Oh good, I wanted to do that myself.” She gave the tiniest shake of her head before turning more completely towards the computer and away from him. Exhaling, Bull pushed forward in his attempts at a conversation with her. “Did you find anything?”
“Nope. Not yet” she answered curtly.
“Can I help?” Bull offered, trying to wave a figurative white flag.
“You have court in the morning” she stated, scrolling through some of the data file.
“Well, so do you, kind of” he retorted, once again trying to catch her eye. Marissa always seemed to discount the fact that she played just as important a role in the courtroom as he did, without both their efforts this company—what they did, it wouldn’t work.
“Just. Go to bed, Bull. It’ll go so much faster without you here.” Marissa continued ignoring his efforts at eye contact. Her comment also struck him, he straightened up and slowly turned to leave, hurt.
“Thank you.” He told her again, pivoting to look at her once more, grateful when she finally looked at him fully. “Honestly. Thank you.” He wanted her to understand that he appreciated her and the work she’d done not just with the data but also in partially mending the bridge with Cable for him.
Marissa tilted her head and one corner of her mouth lifted just a bit, “are you still up?” Her addition to his attempted parent-esque jokes from earlier relieved him. While they might not be back to where he wanted, her small joke put them a step closer. Bull grinned and left her office.
After Marissa could no longer see Bull’s retreating form she let out a long sigh and dropped her head into her hands. She knew she needed to find new ground with him, he’d pulled away and so she was trying to follow suit—be less personal, less close, let her feelings for him go. But after that encounter, Marissa knew she had taken it too far… she’d been aloof and if she was being honest, it’d been difficult to act that away—even when she was truly mad at him for the case and Cable. Rubbing her temples, Marissa got back to work, it would take quite a bit of time to get through this data and without Cable she’d likely be there all night—she could worry about her friendship with Bull later.
They had won the case and Bull and J.P. had stopped at the office to grab a bottle of champagne to celebrate when he noticed Marissa was still there, typing into one of the computers, her shoes abandoned on the ground next to her. Bull rapped on the window, startling her. When they made eye contact Bull raised his brows and widened his eyes at her questioningly. Marissa gave a bit of a sheepish grin in return before hurrying out from behind to desk to talk to him.
“Jason! You’ll never guess, oh. Hi, J.P.” Marissa interrupted herself, surprised to see the other woman there and now acutely aware of her bare feet. Recovering quickly and ignoring her knotting stomach at what the two of them here this late meant, Marissa forged ahead, “you’ll never guess what we found.”
“Why are you still here? Why aren’t you asleep young lady!” He adopted a fake stern tone, though he was genuinely puzzled to see her still here. Especially considering she’d spent almost the entire previous night combing through the server data, she had to be exhausted.
Smiling wryly, Marissa began to explain. “I know you told us to stop, but after I hung up with you we really started to make some headway. Once we determined more of what we were looking at I sent everyone else home for the night and kept digging.”
“Is she,” J.P. jumped in, “is she talking about the server? The encrypted server?” She looked at Bull expectantly. Bull met J.P.’s gaze and then turned to Marissa.
Marissa’s mouth opened to say something, but nothing came out and she ended up giving Bull an apologetic shrug and grimace. “You know what, I…never mind, it’s nothing. Sorry to interrupt.” Marissa tried to recover but it was already too late, sensing this Marissa quickly retreated to the computer.
Bull turned to J.P. to explain but she waved him off. “Go on.” He looked at her in astonishment, “I know you want to. Go.” She stated, continuing to say they could get dinner another night and if anything, she was known to eat late as well. With that J.P. gave him a peck on the cheek and left the office, and Bull excitedly went to join Marissa at the computer.
Nudging her playfully, Bull came to a stop next to Marissa, forgetting his plan to keep his distance and limit his physical contact with her. She lightly bumping her hip into him in return, feeling as though they were finally getting back to how their normal relationship was before…. Before she’d fallen in love with him and he’d realized, before he’d let her subtly know he wasn’t interested by pulling away. It didn’t matter, all she wanted was her best friend back, and if that meant ignoring these feelings and moving past them she’d do it. Grinning, Marissa faced Bull and launched into what the team found and how they’d put it all together.
Bull sensed it too, happy that they were back on familiar ground with one another—even if it wasn’t exactly the ground he really wanted. He needed to inform J.P. as soon as possible about their findings, but he also didn’t want to leave, preferring to spend more time with Marissa. So, he sent a quick text to J.P. explaining the situation and how he needed to stay at the office to prepare to confront the associate in the bombing—therefore he couldn’t meet up for dinner.
Offering his arm to Marissa, he escorted her back to his office where the bottle of champagne still waited. Popping it open, the two situated themselves on the couch, his arm laid across the back, fingers close to brushing her shoulder, and toasted their victory in court as well as in catching the real person responsible.
Carefully, not wanting to spoil the mood, Bull inclined his head towards Marissa and quietly asked, “are we okay?”
Marissa gave him an amused smile, “of course, Jason” she reassured, placing her hand on his knee and giving it a squeeze.
“Really? Because things seemed kind of frosty last night.” He wanted to get to the bottom of the issue, because he really couldn’t stand having her upset with him.
She tilted her head in assent, “I was frustrated with you” she admitted, and when Bull gave her a disbelieving look, Marissa amended. “Alright, I was quite angry with you. For the way you treated Cable, for taking the case in the first place—though I know it wasn’t really your choice that didn’t make me like it any more. And….” Now she hesitated, she wasn’t sure how much to admit to him. But he was looking at her so sweetly just then and she truly wanted to know why he’d started acting differently with her—if it really was because he’d found her out.
“And I’ve missed you lately,” she confessed, it was all she willing to disclose—no matter the other words that threatened to bubble up her throat. “I just feel like we haven’t been able to talk or hang out outside of work in a while. I miss my best friend.” She gave him a small smile and then took another sip of champagne.
Bull felt his heart lighten, she’d missed him. In a solely platonic way, but still, she’d missed him. He wasn’t losing her, she hadn’t had enough of him and was going to leave. He almost felt like laughing, because this was something he could fix, even if it meant relaxing some of the new boundaries he’d set for himself concerning his interactions with Marissa.
“I’ve missed you too. I’m sorry I’ve been a little absent recently. I get too caught up in my own head sometimes,” and Marissa chuckled at this comment and shook her head—knowing how true that was, though doubting it was the real reason for his distance. “How about, we have our movie night this weekend? To make up for the one I missed?” Bull knew he shouldn’t be suggesting this, knew it was a bad idea. He wasn’t sure how he hadn’t realized it before now how domestic is was of the two of them to have that routine. Watch two movies, always fall asleep during the second one, wake up on his couch and he would cook her breakfast while she made the coffee.
No, he certainly shouldn’t be making the offer when he knew it was just tempting him to act on his feelings. But he couldn’t resist, and the way Marissa beamed at him in return made it all worth it.
“Sounds great.” She replied, clinking her glass to Bull’s. Externally, she was excited about returning to the normal aspects of their friendship—and it was genuine excitement. But internally, she was giving herself a pep talk, telling herself that she could spend lots of time alone with him again and not feel as though her heart was being stretched a bit too far.
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
Final J.P. chapter, yay! And now it's on to season 2 were there are lots of good Marissa/Bull moments. Sorry for the long wait, hope you enjoy.
Bull entered the private jet, impressed and wary at the same time. Clearly the clients they were going to be representing were wealthy—the jet and the fact that they could hire J.P. easily evidenced that. But something was nagging in the back of his mind, that it wasn’t exactly clean money. He didn’t have any basis for this feeling, but it wasn’t alleviated by any means when J.P. refused to discuss the case until they were in the air.
Once they’d taken off, Bull turned expectantly towards J.P., “okay, I’m 30,000 feet up without a parachute. What are we doing and who are we doing it for?” He wiped his hands on the towel provided by the staff and placed it back on the tray.
J.P. proceeded to introduce their client, a single mother accused of hiding drugs under her home. When Bull pressed the issue of how their services were being paid for, asking if it was someone with ties to the drug trade, she simply replied, “I fail to see the relevance.”
Bull huffed, while he liked J.P., respected her, she’d already caused problems with the previous case she’d brought to them—defending people who helped bomb a building. Now she wanted them to help drug smugglers? No, he knew he owed her for Benny’s case, but this was too far. “Well here’s the relevance, I don’t work for drug traffickers.” He paused, and they simply exchanged a look. “I’m waiting for you to tell me we don’t have a problem.” He prompted, hoping that she would.
“I plead the fifth.” J.P. gazed at him calmly.
So, this was why she wanted to wait until they were in the air, because she never would’ve been able to keep him on the plane otherwise. Standing and turning towards the cockpit, Bull announced, “then we’re turning this plane around.”
“Bull! We’re not working for drug traffickers. We’re working for this woman, Cecilia Novac. Who I swear to you has nothing to do with drugs.” When Bull pushed for more information, she went on to explain how Cecilia’s brother was thought to be the head of a drug cartel in Florida. He moved towards the cockpit again, intending to bang on the door until the pilot turned them around.
But J.P.’s voice held him in place. She was willing to forego the third case he owed her or have a hundred more cases—whatever he wanted. If he just stuck with her on this one. And it was that phrase that got him, just stick with her. She admitted that she wasn’t sure she could handle this case on her own and would he please just stick with her on this.
Bull found himself nodding and sitting back down. “You know this would be a whole lot easier if you didn’t carry that face around with you every time we did business.” He quipped, her big brown eyes still locked on him.
J.P. let out a sigh of relief and began to discuss the case again. But Bull wasn’t hearing all of it, he was trying to figure out how he would explain to the team all the variables of the case without them balking at the idea.
The team was on the plane to Miami, well everyone except Bull that is; he was on the client’s private jet. Apparently, J.P. needed to be in Florida immediately which meant so did Bull. He had relayed that waiting for the rest of the team to pack their bags and the equipment and get to the airstrip would’ve wasted precious time. Marissa very much doubted this, her traitorous brain telling her Bull simply wanted to spend more time with J.P., and she was content to be malcontented throughout the flight because of it. The situation wasn’t improved by the overlarge man to her right that deemed it necessary to try and talk to her all while eyeing her the entire time. More than once she’d tried to signal to Cable, on her left, for help—an intervention—but the young woman was engrossed in some anime show on her laptop and was oblivious to anything else around her. Marissa was on the verge of kicking Cable when the man suddenly dozed off.
Sighing in relief, Marissa checked her watch and then rolled her eyes, of course he would fall asleep with only 30 minutes left in the flight. This luck only lasted for several minutes, however, when he began to lean uncomfortably on her. Fed up, Marissa pulled out her phone and snapped a picture of herself—with the most unimpressed face she could manage—and the personal-space invader. Using the plane’s WIFI she sent this to Bull in an email, along with the caption, ‘you know we all could’ve been ready in time for the private jet.’ Pursing her lips in irritation, Marissa opened the client’s file on her tablet and reviewed it, as she had initially planned to at the beginning of the flight.
They were in a cab on the way to meet the client when Bull’s phone dinged, the notification on his screen stated that Marissa had sent him an email. Surprised, he unlocked his phone, he hadn’t been expecting anything from her about the case until they all reconvened at the hotel. When he opened the email, however, he couldn’t help the laugh and smile playing about his lips, though he did feel slightly guilty about leaving the team like he did.
Lifting her gaze from her phone at his laugh, J.P. raised a questioning eyebrow at him. “What is it?”
“Oh, just the team. Disappointed and jealous they didn’t get to ride in the jet.” He half explained, his thumb tracing the curve of Marissa’s face on the screen quickly before closing the application and turned back to the window, they’d arrived at the docks.
Bull deposited he things in his room after meeting J.P.’s rather, what was the word she’d used? Unsavory, that was it, unsavory business partner. Bull grimaced and went to the bathroom to splash water on his face. He didn’t like this, at all, but they were already in it, the team had already set up in one of the ballrooms. Now they just needed to see it through and hope that everything would turn out okay. Drying his face, Bull went and sat on the bed, he had a few minutes before he was supposed to meet with the team. And he still wasn’t sure how to justify this to them, even believing that Cecilia was innocent, it was a difficult case to swallow.
Deciding he needed a distraction, Bull flipped the TV on only to see two drug cartels having a shootout in the streets of Miami. Groaning, he dropped his head into his hands…. a difficult case to swallow indeed. Bull turned the TV back off, not having the stomach right now for the violence. He would just go down to the ballroom early, maybe he could catch Marissa alone. Even if she didn’t approve the case either, which was extremely likely, she usually managed to make him feel better just by being there.
Bull made his way down to where they’d set up shop, and was slightly dismayed to see the entire team there… He’d have to try and get Marissa alone later, just to talk out these doubts; he’d never had this slimy feeling in his gut about a case before. To make matters worse they were watching the same news story, enlarged to cover all 12 screens.
“Oh, I was just watching this in my room.” He commented, surprising himself with how steady his voice was. “Think this is special for us? Or they do it for everyone coming down to Miami?” He was trying to ease the tension in the room, Chunk and Cable looked like their hearts were in their throats and Marissa’s brows were furrowed as she played with her pinkie ring.
“I mean, it’s a gun fight! Between two drug cartels on a street where families live… These are very scary people, Bull.” She turned and looked at him, and he knew she was far more worried than she was letting on. She was holding it in until the others left, where she could discuss her concerns more freely. Bull frowned and gave a small nod in acknowledgement of her statement—he didn’t want to alarm the others any more than necessary.
“Seven confirmed dead.” Benny added grimly, his eyes still glued to the screen. The slight clench in his jaw gave away that there was anger brewing underneath his relatively calm exterior. Bull made a mental note to talk to Benny separately as well, but first they needed to get started. He doled out several tasks and then nodded to the small side room when he made eye contact with Marissa.
“Jason,” she breathed, quickly shutting the door behind her. “What are we doing here? There are people dying in the streets because of this case and it hasn’t even started yet.”
“I know, I know….” He paced the room before stopping and facing her. “I didn’t know all the details until it was too late. I don’t see how we can get out of this one, I’m sorry.” He locked eyes with her, trying to convey that he knew how deeply they were in it.
“We’ve never done a case like this and for good reason. The team is terrified, Jason. Hell, I’m terrified.” She admitted. Bull strode forward at this confession and pulled her into a hug. She wrapped her arms around his waist and held onto him, more than willing to trade a little pang to the heart at the physical intimacy for the comfort that his arms were providing.
“I am too.” He murmured, resting his chin on top of her head and running one hand soothingly up and down Marissa’s back. He was crossing yet another boundary he’d set for himself with this hug. His rule of limiting physical contact to less than 5 seconds had been broken 10 seconds ago, despite this he continued to hold onto her. “I am too. I’ll go talk to J.P. see if she can clear this up any further.”
He had barely finished the sentence when Marissa abruptly broke the hug and headed for the door, talking about the team. She gave him a small smile and a nod before reentering the main area. Bull gaped after her for a moment, slightly confounded at her sudden departure. But he really did need to find J.P. and try and get some of this cleared up, so he made his way to the elevators, glancing over his shoulder to where Marissa stood in front of the computers.
Bull jabbed the elevator button and shook his head. He couldn't focus on how lovely Marissa looked in her capris and blouse or how wonderful it felt to hold her even for a moment. This was an important and dangerous case and his full attention needed to be on that, not on Marissa, not on the feelings he shouldn't have for her, on the case. With this as a final, decisive thought, Bull stepped into the elevator and punched the button for the bottom floor.
Marissa stood in front of the screens, making sure her gaze didn't flit over to Bull as he walked past her to the elevator. Forcing her attention to the matter at hand, Marissa shut off the news and tried to direct her full attention to winning this case as quickly as possible. She wanted to get the team out of here, she loved Florida, came here every Thanksgiving, the beach was one of her happy places. But right now, all she wanted was to be back in New York. Away from this case, away from the danger that surrounded it and away from whatever was going on between J.P. and Bull.
Despite having decided to move on and be content with being Jason's friend (well really it was that or lose him, but still) Marissa was finding it hard to work another case with J.P. Nunnelly. She knew Bull liked J.P., the entire team knew, hell J.P. knew, it wasn’t a secret--and maybe that was what was making it so hard. But as his friend, she needed to support his relationships, most of them—she doubted she could ever support the convoluted one he had with Diana. So, this thing with J.P., if it was something that he wanted, if it made him happy, then she was happy that he was and she'd support him. And as the supportive friend she needed to control her emotions better and not pull out of hugs or conversations simply because J.P. was brought up.
Scoffing lightly at her own actions, Marissa rolled her shoulders, took a deep breath and put it behind her. There were far more important things to be worried about, like this case they'd be saddled with; this sobered her and had Marissa zeroing back in on the case once more.
The case wasn’t off to a great start. They were to have a blind jury—making it near impossible to have an accurate mirror, Cecelia refused to take the deal that would let her off completely if she provided information on her brother, and J.P. was pissed.
So pissed, that as she walked away from him in the foyer of the court house, she announced over her shoulder that this would be their last case together—deal be damned. Bull grumbled and ran a hand through his hair.
Goddamn, this case was nerve-wracking enough without a fight with J.P. added on top of it. They hadn’t exactly seen eye to eye on any of the cases they’d worked together, but this one was by far the worst. Arguing in front of a client was something he strove to avoid, it was unprofessional and undermined the client’s trust.
She was right, this should be their last case. While there may have been something personal brewing between them, they clearly didn’t work well together professionally, and this could easily be used to predict how any romantic relationship would have gone. Bull shook his head unsure why he thought he could make it work with J.P. when he was painfully aware that he was in love with Marissa.
He just wanted to go back to New York, get the team back there and away from the danger that hovered over this case. With this thought, Bull made his way out of the courthouse and hailed a cab to take him back to the hotel; there was a lot of work to be done before they finished.
Marissa peered out the window to where Bull, J.P. and her partner were sitting, arguing about the case. It really wasn’t something that they would appreciate having interrupted, but she knew Bull would want the information she’d found immediately.
Exhaling, Marissa grabbed her purse and slipped onto the patio. Clearing her throat to announce herself, “excuse me,” all three heads turned toward her. The only one that seemed pleased to see her was Bull, his face brightening when his eyes lit upon her. “I need to steal you for a second…” Bull readily stood up and nodded at the two lawyers before hurrying after Marissa.
“Thank you, I don’t know how that idiot ever became a lawyer, let alone a partner in a law firm.” He quipped, glancing over his shoulder as Marissa literally tugged him inside. “What’s going on?” He turned his full attention to her, his eyes flicking to where her hand gripped his forearm.
“I had that tape analyzed and I think we need to see Cecilia, now.” She emphasized, already starting to walk away.
“Okay…” He looked over his shoulder to ensure J.P. and her partner were still on the patio and moved with Marissa.
“Did you talk to Danny and Benny?” She followed up with another question rather than explaining further.
“No, not yet, not today.” He answered slowly, furrowing his brows at her.
Marissa sighed, “well, I’ll fill you in in the car.” She continued her brisk pace and led the way to the parking garage.
They tiredly reentered the hotel and headed to the ballroom where they’d set up. Marissa had pulled slightly ahead of him, typing notes into her phone and talking about how they’d need to meet with the D.A. in the morning. Bull smiled affectionately at her and reached out and touched her elbow, causing her to stop and glance up at him.
“You did really good Mariss,” he interrupted her softly, stepping forward a bit so that his hand was cupping her elbow. She turned to fully face him, one corner of her mouth curled up in acknowledgment. “I mean it, without this, we wouldn’t be getting what’s best for our client and still getting the people responsible.” He squeezed her elbow in thanks and they kept moving—entering the ballroom.
Marissa placed her bag down and pivoted to turn on the light when J.P. made her presence known, making Marissa jump slightly. When it appeared as though the conversation was going to get heated, she moved to leave the room. Only to be stopped by Bull’s hand on her lower back.
“I’m here. We’re here.” He glanced at her, a smirk ghosting on his lips. Marissa opened her mouth to protest but held it back, wanting to show a unified front. She flashed a close-lipped smile at J.P., though she was sure it looked as forced as it felt.
She wasn’t entirely sure why he was making her stay, at first, she’d thought it was to prevent J.P. from yelling at him, but her presence wasn’t deterring that. In fact, she was finding the entire conversation between the two uncomfortable and glanced away, pursing her lips, when they invaded one another’s personal space their voices dropping to whispers.
Marissa gritted her teeth, thinking that she really didn’t need this to be flaunted in her face. She was about to leave the room when J.P. abruptly departed. Without any kind of transition, Bull turned to her and requested that she gather the rest of the team to meet on the beach before walking away. Pinching the bridge of her nose, Marissa complied.
Once out on the beach, she and Bull updated the yawning team and informed them that they were to share none of these new developments with J.P. or her firm. Having concluded debriefing the team, Bull nodded briskly and lead the way back inside. Marissa hung back a little, wanting to let the rhythmic sound of the ocean soothe the frayed nerves from everything that had happened during this case.
Chunk paused and glanced back, Marissa had her arms crossed and head tipped back, the wind pulling her hair loose from where it was pinned back. He considered going back and waiting with her, but thought she’d prefer to have a moment to herself. He’d think of something to get her alone and chat tomorrow since they wouldn’t really be doing anything for court.
Chunk peered around the ballroom they’d taken over and was thankful that the rest of the team was busy packing up the equipment and wasn’t around. He’d been trying to get Marissa alone the entire morning and now was his chance. “Hey Marissa, we’ve got some down time, want to go to the beach with me? Everyone else was busy or doesn’t like it.”
“Who doesn’t like the beach?!” She asked scandalized, turning to face him.
“Cable said something about sand ruining her electronics and sunburn?” Chunk waved away the thought, “you in?”
“Absolutely! Just let me finish packing this and change my shoes.” Marissa grinned at him as she moved around the room. Chunk couldn’t help but think it was one of the first genuine smiles he’d seen from her since they’d received the details of the case.
They walked down to the beach and Marissa was beaming. As they hit the sand, she lifted her face up to meet the sun, a look of contentment relaxing her features. If nothing else, Chunk thought watching her, this little outing was worth it just to see some of the stress melt away from her.
“This is perfect. Thanks for inviting me.” She was already making her way further into the sand, taking off her sandals and immediately digging her toes into it as she waited for him to catch up and remove his shoes as well.
The two walked in a companionable silence along the water for a bit before Chunk was able to build up enough courage to break the silence. “So, how have you been holding up?” Marissa gave him a baffled look, so he continued. “With J.P. and Bull…” he trailed off, leaving the ending open to interpretation, wanting to see how she’d respond.
“Well, I certainly think she pulls us into the most morally grey cases imaginable, but they seem to be a decent team, when they aren’t fighting—the results speak for themselves.” Marissa began, knowing full well that that wasn’t what Chunk had meant when he asked the question and was a little unnerved that there’d been enough signs for him to read to ask it in the first place.
“Marissa.” He stopped walking, forcing her to halt was well and pivot to face him. “You know what I mean. How are you doing?”
“I don’t” she started to deny again, but Chunk cocked his head at her and lifted his eyebrows. Releasing a sigh, and before she could change her mind, Marissa blurted out, “I am fine. He doesn’t feel the same. I’m moving on.” And no matter how painful the admission was, it lifted a weight from her chest. Because someone else knew now. It wasn’t all bottled up anymore.
She hadn’t told her other friends or even her mom about her feelings for Jason. She’d wanted to avoid the ‘you shouldn’t date your boss’ lecture she knew they would have given. But Chunk, Chunk understood. And from the expression on his face, he’d known for quite some time.
“Marissa, I really think,”
She held up a hand to stop him. “Look, Chunk, I appreciate your concern and you are a wonderful friend.” Marissa now placed her hand on his arm and gave it a squeeze. “But this isn’t something I want to dwell on anymore than I already have. And trust me, it’s been an embarrassing amount of time. So, let’s just enjoy the beach, yeah?” She moved as if to start walking again, glancing at him.
“Marissa,” he attempted again, reaching for her hand.
“How long have you known?” She interrupted once more, her cheeks flushing.
“That’s not really important,” Chunk hedged, thinking that the woman wouldn’t appreciate how long ago he’d found out. Marissa glared at him, however, and despite how small she was, Chunk felt vaguely intimidated. “Since, since the bombing at TAC.” He confessed, rubbing the back of his neck. A shaky laugh escaped Marissa at this and she ran her hands through her hair.
“That long…” She nodded, processing the information and biting her lip.
“Marissa, you weren’t the-” he went to elaborate, that she wasn’t the only one he’d figured out that day. That he’d realized Bull had feelings for her as well, but she cut him off again.
“Isn’t this place gorgeous? It’s not as quiet as when I come here for Thanksgiving, but still soothing isn’t it? I’ve always loved listening to the waves.” Marissa gestured to ocean, stubbornly keeping her eyes on the water and not even pretending that she hadn’t drastically changed topics.
“Bull,” He tried again, only to have Marissa talk over him once more, much to his growing irritation.
“Doesn’t need to know.” She stated firmly, turning to look at him, her face hard. “He is my best friend, Chunk. Technically my boss, and he doesn’t feel the same. I cannot lose this job because of this, I cannot lose him. They both mean far too much to me. Please.” She paused to gauge his reaction before continuing. “And anyway, if you keep bringing it up, I will march back to the hotel and leave you to walk back by yourself.” Though her tone turned playful, Chunk could see the pain and slight pleading in her eyes. She was being serious about walking away from him and their conversation. Nodding, Chunk simply opened his arms and enveloped Marissa in a bear hug.
For a moment, he considered holding her captive there in his arms and telling her that Bull loved her too. He was stronger, he could do it. She was quick though, he wasn’t sure he’d get away without a blow to a certain sensitive area. Before he could decide, however, Marissa was pulling back. Probably for the best, even if he did tell her it was unlikely that she’d believe him. Not with how Bull had been following J.P. around this entire case, not with how the two interacted—even when they weren’t arguing.
Marissa chuckled and wiped away the tears that had almost fallen. “Now don’t you have someone special down south? Alabama is it?” She not so subtly changed the subject and started to walk again.
“Georgia, actually.” He corrected, falling into step beside her. His heart aching that he couldn’t make her feel better, that he couldn’t convince her that the situation was far from what she thought it was.
“You going to visit them after the case?” She moved a bit closer to him and looped her arm through his. Accepting the friendship and physical comfort that Chunk provided.
A small smile crept onto Chunk’s lips at her action and he squeezed her hand briefly. “Not this time, they’re out of town to visit family for the next week.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. That’s a shame.”
Chunked shrugged, “it’s alright. I planned on visiting them in a few months for Thanksgiving anyway.”
Marissa nodded, and they lapsed into silence once more.
They had protected their client and sent away the real criminals, despite how rocky and terrifying the case had begun, they’d managed to get away with a fairly happy ending. Marissa rested her head against the plane’s window, watching the clouds slip by, wondering how they’d managed it. Her focus was broken though, by Danny standing up. Marissa pulled her headphones off to ask if everything was alright when she noticed Bull hovering in the aisle. Apparently, he and Danny were switching seats so that he could be next to her. Swallowing a groan, Marissa turned off her music and stowed her headphones as Bull settled in.
“So, you decided to deign the rest of us with your presence, how kind.” She remarked dryly, rolling her eyes.
Bull scoffed, “well, the brother was much less inclined to let us use his jet after we got him arrested.” He supplied, raising an eyebrow at her before placing some files on the tray he’d just lowered.
“Jason, I’m really not in the mood to talk about this or any other case right now.” She informed him, already reaching for her headphones once more. After this nerve wracking case and her conversation with Chunk, Marissa had been ready for the few hours of quiet the flight would provide.
“Is that all you think I’m good for Marissa? Talking about work?” He asked in feigned offense. Her only response was a skeptical look between him and the files. “Okay, I’ll admit I did have a few work-related things to talk to you about. But they can wait.” He quickly added, at her exaggerated sigh and dramatic collapse against the window. Stowing the papers away, Bull examined her a little more closely. “You alright?” He quietly inquired, leaning in towards her.
“You sure? Because you seem,” he suddenly jerked forward. Turning sharply, Bull glared over his shoulder at Chunk who’d kicked his seat.
“Sorry boss, just getting settled. Guess I’m a little too big for this tight space.” Chunk shrugged apologetically, catching Marissa’s eye and giving her a wink when Bull turned away. This pulled a smile from her and an amused shake of her head. While she certainly didn’t need Chunk to run interference for her with Bull, his intentions were sweet and she did appreciate the gesture.
“Just glad this case is finally over.” She supplied a partially true answer before Bull could question her again. “Though I am missing the sun and sand already.” Marissa added, with a slightly wistful tone, glancing out the window again.
Bull hummed in response, unconvinced but let the matter drop. Instead he pulled out his tablet and held it up to her in question. “Want to watch a movie instead?”
“You know, I’m actually pretty tired…” She attempted to excuse herself, but Bull was just looking at her with those warm brown eyes and she felt her resolve slipping.
“Aww, come on. I promise no black and white horror movies.” And he’s already selecting a movie and the opening credits rolling. Bull offered her one of the ear buds, and for a moment he felt a twinge of nervousness, what if she refused to watch? He’d already pushed things quite far with her on this case, was he pushing too much now?
Before he could question it further though, Marissa shook her head, took the ear bud from him and popped it in. Inwardly sighing, Marissa turned her attention to the tablet. At the moment, it really was just easier to give in then to try and argue with him that she needed space without giving anything away.
Bull grinned and angled the tablet on the tray table, so they could both watch if they leaned in. So, maybe he’d had been an ulterior motive in wanting to sit by Marissa. Granted, he had needed to talk about some work things, but really he’d just wanted to be close to her. After this edgy case, after the somewhat fallout and makeup with J.P. he just needed to be near the person who had always been there for him and always understood.
Maybe it wasn’t what Marissa needed at the moment, but he was going to be selfish and impose his presence on her right now anyway. He needed to relax and usually when he was this wound up, Marissa was the only one who was able to help him obtain that calm state just by being present.
They both leaned in when the movie began, their bodies touching from shoulder to elbow where they shared the arm rest. Marissa made sure to rest her hands in her lap to avoid more contact than needed, even if she delighted and despised her response to him. This wasn’t a problem for long, about 30 minutes into the movie she’d fallen asleep against his shoulder, she’d been truthful when she’d said she was tired. Bull glanced at her and smiled affectionately before resting his cheek against her curls and dozing off as well.
Chapter 17: Chapter 17
Wow, suuuppper long time since I've updated...so sorry! I blame writer's block. I kept writing this chapter and then deleting it to start over. Hopefully the next chapter gets posted much faster. Thanks for sticking with me.
He’d been searching for Marissa all morning, he knew she was in the office. She always was, but somehow she’d managed to disappear. He had fantastic news, a large paycheck from a client to simply take the case with the promise of more to come if, no when, they won. But he couldn’t find her. She wasn’t in her office, the kitchen, the mock court room, their main area or even Chunk’s office. Shaking his head, Bull finally headed to his own office to text Marissa to come find him.
Only there she was, already working at his desk. She’d pulled up one of the other chairs and was diligently pouring over her laptop.
“Hey, I’ve been looking all over for you. What are you doing in here?” He questioned, setting down the coffee he’d snagged for her and peering over her shoulder.
“Going over the books where no one can see them.” She muttered, taking a sip of the coffee and sighing as the hot liquid hit her system. Bull leaned in closer, resting his forearm on the back of her chair and a palm on the desk by her computer. He squinted at the screen and from that brief glimpse, she was right to want to find privacy while going over them. But that didn’t matter now.
“Oh, the books are great. The books are going to be fine.” He stated confidently, smiling as he whipped the check out of his pocket and dropped it in front of Marissa with a flourish. He stood and rounded his desk, chuckling softly at how her mouth dropped open at the sight of the number on the small paper.
“Ohhh my goodness. A quarter of a million dollars.” She lifted her eyes from the check to him, “who gave you a check for a quarter of a million dollars?” She asked incredulously, dropping her gaze back to the check in her hands.
Bull settled in his chair, “the Clayton family estate. They’re pressuring the DA to charge the young widow Clayton with the murder of her husband.”
Some of the excitement left Marissa’s face, “murder? Based on….” She raised her brows expectantly, waiting for Bull to fill in the blanks on what appeared to be self-defense.
“Based on the fact that she shot him. A fact that she does not dispute. Can you say money in the bank?” A smile spread across his face, refusing to be dampened by Marissa’s skepticism.
“Okay… But according to the paper, the late Mr. Clayton was attempting to slice and dice his dearly beloved just prior to her deciding to use him for target practice. I believe they call that,” she emphasized with a pointed finger, “self-defense.” She paused and waited for Bull to explain why he had taken this case, aside from the money.
Bull swiveled back in forth in his chair a bit, “or maybe, she shot first and then he stabbed her in self-defense.” He offered as one possibility, “who cares?” At Marissa’s slightly disapproving face he continued. “It’s a quarter million-dollar retainer. And another quarter million if we actually go to trial and find Mrs. Clayton guilty.”
“Wow. I had no idea the famous Dr. Jason Bull can be bought.” She deadpanned.
Chuckling, Bull retorted, “for a quarter of a million dollars not only can I be bought. You can gift wrap me.” Marissa huffed in amusement and carefully set the check aside. “Which reminds me,” he leaned forward, placing his elbows on his desk and loosening his tie a bit. “Guess who’s in town.”
Marissa just stared blankly at him, “I’m sorry, did I miss a change in subject?” Sarcasm coated her words as she threw up one hand in confusion.
“The best unwrapper in the world,” he continued his sentence, ignoring Marissa’s teasing, and pulling the tie completely off. “Miss Diana Lindsay, attorney-at-law. Single woman at large.”
Marissa scrunched her face in distaste. Forget whatever feelings she may be personally harboring for Bull, Diana was bad news, full stop. “Jason,” she tried to sound neutral, while she was trying to be supportive of his romantic relationships, this toxic thing he had with Diana always wound her up. It wasn’t healthy, and she refused to sit silently while that woman dragged him back down some mental black hole.
“Mariss, I know what you’re going to say.” He cut her off, wondering why he had even brought up Diana when he knew it would upset Marissa. If he examined it psychologically, it was probably his attempt to gauge her response. How she reacted to the fact that he wasn’t available, to the fact that another woman wanted him.
But of course, he wasn’t going to examine it psychologically, that would force him to confront feelings he was busy burying. So no, he wasn’t going to study why he was trying to make Marissa jealous, why he was purposely reconnecting with a woman he knew she didn’t approve of…no those were questions he already had answers to, they just weren’t answers he liked.
“Do you now?” Her response brought him out of his inner musings. She arched an eyebrow at him, crossed her arms and looked at him knowingly.
He knew he wasn’t going to win this conversation, not when she was looking at him like that, but he couldn’t just abandon their talk there. “Well, you were going to say that Diana likes to play mind games. Lures me in with sex or the promise of it to get what she wants. You were going to say she uses me.”
Marissa scoffed lightly, “well you said it, not me.” She held up a hand to prevent his interruption, “at least you are aware that someone else thinks she manipulates you for her own gain and her actions are not born out of affection.” She tilted her head at him pointedly, but before he could reply, Marissa stood up, gathered her things and headed for the door.
“Wait, where are you going?” He’d been hoping she would stay and work there for a bit.
“The books no longer need going over,” she waved the check at him. “So, I do not need to hide from everyone else. Besides, we have a new case to start digging into.” Marissa made it all the way to the door and stopped just before she opened it. “Jason, just… just be careful.” She gave him a small smile and then exited his office; wanting more than anything to turn around and shout at him that he didn’t need someone like Diana, that someone who deeply cared about him was right there in front of him.
Hell, she would have even rooted for J.P. at that point had the woman still been around—but she’d disappeared soon after their case in Florida and Bull had been vague in telling how the non-relationship had ended. And now Diana Lindsay was back, and Marissa was the only one to argue against her presence, but Bull never listened to her when it came to Diana. So, Marissa shook herself and rounded up the team to announce the new case.
Bull dropped his head into his hands after Marissa walked out, wondering how the morning had started so wonderfully, only for him to feel like this a few hours later. A nagging voice told him it all stemmed from Diana Lindsay, but he silenced it and went to work.
Bull closed the door firmly behind him and strode purposely down the hallway, jabbing the elevator button a little more forcefully than necessary. Diana’s words still echoing in his head, telling him to quit, to switch sides, to violate his professional code of ethics simply because she asked. How she’d refused to even look at him when he’d stated he wouldn’t work the case with her, how childish it had all seemed. Muttering to himself, Bull entered the elevator and punched the button for the lobby.
He knew he wasn’t overreacting, but Diana always got into his head and made him doubt himself. So, he pulled out his phone and texted Marissa—asking to come over and chat. The moment he sent the message he regretted it, it was late, she was probably getting ready for bed. But before he could text to rescind the request she responded, telling him to feel free to come over.
Though he knew he should text back and say he’d just talk to her in the morning, Bull couldn’t stop himself. He needed someone who would be bluntly honest with him and Marissa hadn’t let him down yet—evidenced by their conversation earlier that day. So there he was, not even 30 minutes later, knocking on her door looking for someone to justify the anger he felt towards Diana.
When Marissa answered the door, she tilted her head and gave him one of her one-sided smiles and already he felt better. “Hey Jason,” she greeted, standing on her tiptoes to pull him into a quick hug before stepping aside and letting him in. Bull probably should have been more clear in his text when he asked to come over. Because even though Marissa greatly disapproved of Diana, she was being very kind considering she apparently thought he’d been dumped.
“Mariss, I” he started, intending to correct her assumption, but she interrupted him.
“How about some tea first, before we dive in.” She suggested, already heading to the kitchen and reaching for the kettle.
“Got anything stronger?” He asked, only half-joking, as he discarded his shoes and coat and situated himself on her couch. He couldn’t help but follow her with his eyes as she flitted around the kitchen. She was in a pair of black leggings and an old t-shirt that had shrunk slightly from too many washes, meaning a strip of skin around her waist kept flashing at him as Marissa moved and reached for cups and teabags. Her hair was pulled into a sloppy ponytail he knew no one else at TAC would ever see and Bull smiled at the thought; that only he got to see this side of her.
Marissa simply gave him an unimpressed look over her shoulder at his comment and continued to fill the kettle and set it on the stove. Once she’d prepared everything, she padded over and joined him on the couch; tucking a leg underneath her and propping her head up on her hand, using the back of the couch to support her elbow.
“Okay, spill. What happened?” She raised her eyebrows at him expectantly.
“Well I wasn’t dumped, if that’s what you’re thinking.” He began, though it wasn’t as if he and Diana had a consistent enough relationship to determine if there was really anything to be dumped from. Marissa simply hummed and kept observing him. “She wanted to work a case together.”
“That sounds…. nice,” she hedged. “Finally working together instead of against each other. You could show her what TAC is all about, the amazing work we do.” Marissa supplied, perhaps if she worked alongside Diana she’d see this other side Bull insisted was there and it would be easier for her to tolerate the woman.
“Except she’s working the Clayton case, defending the widow.” Bull elaborated, running a hand over his face.
Marissa couldn’t help the laugh that escaped her. Clapping a hand over her mouth to stifle the sound at Bull’s slightly irritated expression, “Jason, I’m sorry. But it is a little funny, what are the odds that we get hired and then the same day she’s in town for the same case? It’s just, sorry,” she trailed off, pressing her lips together to suppress her smile.
“Glad you find it so amusing.” He remarked dryly, getting up from the couch to get the kettle which had begun to whistle.
“Okay, so you’re going against each other again. What’s the problem? Why are you here so late?” She probed, twisting her body so she could keep him in her line of sight.
“Because, dear Marissa, Diana wanted me to quit and join her side.” He poured the water into the mugs Marissa had prepared and then carried them over.
Marissa blinked, struck silent for a moment. “She wanted you to switch sides?” She repeated for clarification, Bull nodded, eyes widening for effect. “She has to know that’s a huge violation of professional ethics.” Marissa continued, taking the mug from Bull and began dunking her tea bag.
“Exactly what I said!” He exclaimed, feeling vindicated, and plopping back down on the couch.
“So, what are you going to do?” She sipped her tea, peering at him over the rim of the cup.
Bull, who had been fidgeting with his tea bag, looked up at her sharply. “I’m going to work our side of the case of course.”
Chuckling, Marissa placed a soothing hand on his knee. “Not what I meant, I knew you wouldn’t change sides. What are you going to do about Diana?” Bull grumbled in reply and began to play with the tea bag again.
“Well that sounds like a very eloquent plan,” she teased, a smile tugging up a corner of her mouth.
Bull made a face and knocked his knee into hers playfully. “Just work the case as usual, I guess. Not much else to do.” He replied, finally taking a sip of the tea.
Marissa pursed her lips, then making a decision, plunged forward in the conversation. “Did she ask you to quit and work with her after you’d already had sex?”
Bull suddenly became intensely interested in his mug, his cheeks hot with the implication of what she was asking. Because it fit the pattern. The pattern he’d been obstinately ignoring, the one where Diana essentially seduced him and then twisted the aftermath to her benefit. The first time, it had won her the case in Callisto, the second it allowed her to sabotage (or think she was sabotaging) TACs work, and now she wanted him to drop everything, violate his morals and work a case for her.
Marissa took his prolonged silence as an answer and her heart ached for him. Because based on the look on his face, he was finally coming to the realization of what kind of person Diana really was. “Jay?” She tentatively prompted when he’d been quiet and staring into his tea for an extended period of time, her hand still comfortingly on his knee.
“I think we both know what the answer to that is, Marissa.” He replied quietly, finally meeting her eyes.
She immediately put her mug down and surged forward to hug him. It was a little awkward, her arms were wrapped around his neck but her knees sinking into the cushions had her leaning into him more than she’d planned; not that he seemed to mind, his arm snaked around her and he splayed a hand in the middle of her back, holding her against him. “I’m sorry, Jason.” She murmured in his ear, “I wish it was different. That I was wrong.” And she did, oh how she wished that Diana was actually a good person who treated Bull like the amazing person he was and not just someone who could be manipulated for her gain. “How do you want to handle this?” She pulled back from the hug, running her hand gently, but quickly through his hair before reaching for her tea once more.
Bull reluctantly let Marissa slide back to her side of the couch, because despite his realization about Diana, the corner of his lips tugged up at the affectionate touches and Marissa’s kindness. Because she wasn’t berating him, there’d been no ‘I-told-you-so’, just support for whatever actions he chose.
“Just going to work the case like normal, not going to let Diana know I’ve figured her out. So, I’ll have to act like I always do around her.” Bull nodded absently and took a drink of his tea. “This is good. What is it?” He’d come here to talk about Diana, but now that he’d worked some of it out, Bull desperately wanted to change the subject.
Marissa gave him a sympathetic smile before responding, “it’s chamomile, helps you sleep, actually.” She gave him a significant look at the end of her statement.
Bull cocked his head at her, “are you saying that you think I need help sleeping? I’ll have you know I sleep just fine.”
Marissa scoffed lightly and smiled before glancing at her clock and found herself shocked to see it was already after 11—it certainly hadn’t felt like they’d talked for more than an hour. And she’d have willingly talked for longer if he needed to, but Bull had already changed to more trivial topics, so she felt it would be alright to put an end to the night. Finishing her tea, Marissa stood, “while you may do just fine on only a few hours of sleep, I need more. I am going to bed, feel free to stay in the guest room tonight if you want.” She smiled sweetly at him, placing a hand on his forearm, “you’ll be okay?” Bull nodded and gave her hand a squeeze before patting it.
Marissa set her mug down and rounded the couch to head upstairs. She paused behind him though, unable to stop herself from just one more brief touch, she kissed the top of his head, one hand on his shoulder. “Goodnight, Jason.” She whispered, before moving once more, letting her hand trail lightly along his shoulders as she left.
Bull closed his eyes at her touch and shifted to watch her go up the steps. “Mariss,” he called out quietly and she turned at his voice, one hand on the railing. “Thank you.” Marissa’s posture softened, and she smiled at him once more, nodded and continued up the stairs.
He watched her disappear and flopped further into the couch. He really should leave. He shouldn’t have come here in the first place. He’d gone from one woman’s bed, straight to the house of the woman he loved. Not that he was involved with both women, not that his love for Marissa was returned, but it still wasn’t right. He was just digging himself in deeper by depending on Marissa for this emotional support… for pretty much everything, if he was honest. He needed to leave.
Decision made, Bull hoisted himself off the couch, collected their mugs and rinsed them in the sink. He flicked off all of lights except the one Marissa left on above her stove as he made his way to the door. Bull paused at the foot of the stairs, sorely tempted to creep up and seek refuge in the spare bedroom. Knowing that Marissa would make breakfast in the morning, knowing that there’d be more affectionate, reassuring touches and then they could ride into work together. And it would all feel like the most natural thing, to wake up in the same apartment as her, to eat breakfast together, to carpool. No, he couldn’t allow himself to go down that road.
All of the lines were getting blurred again, he had to make sure he stayed in the lane he’d assigned himself; otherwise who knows what he’d end up doing. With this final thought, Bull called a car to pick him up and then let himself out. Aware that if he waited inside he wouldn’t leave.
Bull felt vindicated when Danny presented the missing evidence to him…there were no fingerprints on the gun, Mrs. Clayton was guilty of premeditated murder. But even with the vindication, even knowing that they would win and get another big payday—one that he already planned on using to give the team a bonus, this case…well it had made him realize some things he would have rather gone on ignoring.
So the next day, after they’d won in court, Bull went to find Diana as she checked out of her hotel. However, he found himself gazing up at the front of the hotel seriously considering turning around and leaving…not even confronting Diana. Why bother when she was going back to Texas and he could easily apply the out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality to her existence?
But he knew that wasn’t the answer, that he needed to formally end things with her. Besides, Marissa would kick his ass if he didn’t address his relationship with Diana now that he’d admitted to how toxic it was. No use in delaying the inevitable, he thought as he straightened his shoulders and strode inside. He spotted Diana fairly quickly, she’d just finished at the front desk and was typing into her phone as she wheeled her bag towards the exit. Clearing his throat, Bull caught her attention.
“Diana,” and when she glanced up at him and smiled, he continued. “Is there somewhere private we can go?”
She smirked at him, “if you wanted privacy you should’ve caught me before I checked out of my room. But I’m sure we could find somewhere to be alone before my flight.” She raised an eyebrow at him, letting her eyes flick up and down—taking in his appearance.
“Huh? No, Diana. I meant someplace to talk.” He clarified, voice remaining steady despite his nerves over the upcoming confrontation. She rolled her eyes in response but nodded towards a small alcove off the side of the lobby and the two of them drifted over.
“What do you want Jason? I’ve got a flight to catch,” she informed him absently, attention already back on the phone in her hand now that she wasn’t going to get what she wanted from him.
Bull took a deep breathe before plunging right in, “we’re done. Whatever this has been,” he indicated between the two of them, “it’s done. No more.” Diana huffed in amusement and didn’t even glance up from her cell. “I’m serious, Diana. If I see you again in the future it will be strictly in a professional capacity.”
To his astonishment, she chuckled when she finally lowered her phone and made eye contact. “What brought this on?” She questioned, a smirk playing at her lips again.
“I’ve finally stopped ignoring how poisonous this relationship is, acknowledged that all you want is to use me. I won’t let it happen, not anymore, it’s unhealthy and I deserve better than to be the mouse in your games.”
Diana’s eyes widened slightly at his response, as if she was reluctantly impressed at his deduction about their relationship. But the expression was only there a moment before she was leaning into him again, running a finger down his chest. “You never had a problem with our relationship before…” She murmured, adopting her Southern drawl and looking at him from under hooded lids. But he could see through it all now, could identify the tricks and masks she used to manipulate him to get her way.
Bull frowned, “well, I was in denial before.” He took a step back, breaking the contact and Diana’s hand hung in the air for a moment before dropping. Her congenial manner dropped along with it, her stance morphing into something else entirely until the woman who stood before him was one he almost didn’t recognize.
“This is because of Marissa Morgan, isn’t it?” She asked indifferently, eyeing him.
“Marissa has nothing to do with us. I made this decision on my own.” His voice hardened as he turned to leave; he’d said what he wanted, no reason to linger.
Diana snorted, “of course she does, Jason.” Diana shook her head, “I mean, I knew Marissa was a threat. But I didn’t think she would be a problem so soon. Thought I had more time.”
This comment froze Bull in place and had him pivoting to face Diana once more. “Excuse me?” He bit out.
“Ever wonder why none of your relationships work out Jason? It’s because of her.” Diana held up a hand before he could interrupt. “You two have this incredibly close relationship, an intimacy, that no one will ever be able to touch or understand.”
“Marissa and I have never been intimate—" he practically croaked, sure his face was flaming.
“Christ, Jason. I didn’t mean romantically,” Diana scoffed. “As if Marissa could ever be interested in you like that.” The barbed remark hit home, just like Bull was sure Diana intended it to, though he didn’t she knew quite how much it hurt him. Didn’t think she was aware of his feelings, she just meant that no one could love him like that. “I meant that she’s always around, been there for a lot of major events in your life, and you’re protective of one another.” She inched a little closer again and lowered her voice. “You know by being so close to her you’re limiting how close you can get to others.” She raised an eyebrow, shrugged and backed away again.
Bull almost growled in response, because how could he not have seen how manipulative Diana was, even now that he’d ended things she was still trying to pull strings. Before he could even begin to delve into how wrong she was, Diana continued.
“I should have set rules,” she remarked offhandedly, starting to scroll through her phone again as if their conversation was beginning to bore her.
“What?” The comment stunned him momentarily out of his anger.
“For the two of you, when we were rekindling whatever this is,” she gestured between them absently, still on her phone. “Should’ve set some rules then to separate the two of you a bit. You know create some clearer boundaries.” She sighed and locked her phone before looking at Bull. “Too late now.”
“I never would—”
“You sure bout that?” Diana cocked an eyebrow at him. “Just remember, I had you following me into a field of cows in the middle of nowhere…at night…during a case.” She smirked, “Don’t overestimate what you would and wouldn’t have, Jason.” A low chuckle emanated from her and she checked her watch. “I need to get going if I want to catch my flight. Call me when you change your mind.” She winked at him and walked away.
Bull remained there, dumbfounded. The conversation certainly hadn’t gone as he’d expected. He’d expected shouting, denial, and accusations…maybe even a slap. But Diana’s indifference and additional attempts at manipulation only further proved that she’d never cared for him in the first place.
And, he was stunned. Stunned that even when confronted with about her actions she still had the gall to tell him to call her when he changed his mind. When, not if. As though she knew with certainty that he’d come crawling back, as if his words meant nothing. But this final piece of evidence that Diana had been using him didn’t hurt like he anticipated. In fact, he found that he didn’t care much about it or Diana anymore. And he felt lighter for having ended the ‘relationship’. Huffing in amusement, Bull shook his head and left the hotel.
Once out on the street, Bull waved his car down and climbed inside and directed the driver to Marissa’s apartment for their planned, ‘Goodbye, Diana’ dinner.
When he arrived, he simply walked right in, Marissa had texted him to say the door was unlocked. As he entered, he was assaulted with a wonderful smell which drew his eyes to the kitchen. Marissa hadn’t heard him come in yet, she was swaying side-to-side, humming to the music while she cooked. Bull closed the door as quietly as he could and just watched, imagining that this could be something he came home to every day if he’d just gather up the courage to tell her the truth.
His thoughts were interrupted when Marissa spun to grab some ingredient and yelped at the sight of him, her hand flying to her chest in surprise. “Christ, Jason,” she laughed, grabbing what she needed. “You could have announced yourself.” She lightly scolded before turning back to the stove. “I hope you’re hungry, I made more than enough for two people.”
“Sorry for scaring you,” Bull grinned, ‘just enjoying the view’ he thought but shook his head and shucked his jacket, tie and shoes before rolling up his sleeves to join her in the kitchen. “How can I help?” He said instead, stealing some of the bell peppers she’d already chopped and popped them in his mouth.
“Stop eating the vegetables for one,” she teased, slapping his hand away when he reached for more. “And really everything is about done, want to get us some drinks?”
Chuckling, Bull maneuvered around her to get the glasses and alcohol, pouring her a glass of red wine and some scotch for himself. Bull purposely stepped in behind her as she stirred the remaining vegetables into the pot, reaching around her to hand her the wine.
“What’s on the menu?” He asked quietly, peering easily over her head. While she was still in her dress from work, she’d abandoned her heels by the door, making their height difference even more pronounced.
Marissa felt a small shudder run through her at his proximity, but otherwise kept herself in control. “Oh, just a little bit of this and that. I didn’t have much to work with,” she grimaced in apology when she glanced over her shoulder at him. “Let’s call it mixed chicken and pepper pasta, because that’s what it has in it.” She suggested, taking a sip of her wine and turning to face him.
She instantly regretted turning around, he really was standing very close to her and there was no where for her to escape with the stove behind her. There was also no way to hide how he was making her feel at this distance, so she ducked her head and swirled her wine.
“Sounds delicious,” he murmured, smiling softly at her. He knew he shouldn’t be acting this forward, this obvious about his feelings—especially not so soon after his ‘breakup’. But a Diana-sized weight had been lifted and he now felt far more free to pursue Marissa without that hanging over him. So perhaps he was being more reckless than he should be, but it was difficult to fully control his feelings now that they weren't being forcefully directed at the wrong person.
Marissa gulped when she met his eyes again, confused by the expression on Bull’s face, confused by his actions so she pivoted around to mask the heat rising in her face and lifted the pot off the stove. “Grab some plates, will you?” Bull hummed in acknowledgement, and she felt him move away to grab the plates from another cabinet. Exhaling slowly, Marissa composed herself and carried the pot and then her drink over to the table, Bull joined her shortly after.
She allowed enough time for them to each get some food and alcohol in them before her curiosity (and maybe some jealousy) got the better of her. “So, how did things end with Diana?” She tentatively asked, taking a sip of wine.
“It was a little anticlimactic, to be honest. Told her I was done with whatever was between us. For good, there would be nothing but professional encounters with her in the future. She seemed apathetic.” He informed her dryly, taking a swig of scotch. “Was curious enough to ask what had changed my mind. So, I explained that our relationship wasn’t healthy. That I now understood that she was using me, and I wouldn’t stand for it anymore.” He paused to take a bite of food.
Marissa smiled proudly at him then, reaching across the table to squeeze his hand, and his heart swelled. “Jason, I’m so happy for you. Not that you had to do that in the first place, I wish you’d never been in that situation, but I mean—”
Bull smiled and flipped his hand over to grip hers. “I know what you mean, Mariss. I’m happy too.”
They sat there, grinning at one another for a minute before Marissa broke the contact and stood to clear the table and, unable to help herself, Marissa pressed for more details. “And that was it? She didn’t say anything else?”
Bull huffed, and joined Marissa at the sink, loading the dishes that she’d rinsed off. “She asked where all of this was coming from, stated that I never seemed to have a problem before. Then, well.” He loaded a few more dishes, buying himself time to determine how much to reveal to Marissa without giving himself away.
“Then what?” Marissa shifted to rest her hip against the counter and watch him.
“Then she demanded to know if I was ending things because of you. I’d never had any issue with our, Diana and I’s, relationship until you came along—she said. And well, this started a whole different…. discussion.” He muttered, shaking his head and closing the dish washer.
“About me?” She ventured, when it appeared he wasn’t going to continue. Whatever Marissa had been expecting, this certainly wasn’t it.
“About you.” He repeated, looking at her and smiling tenderly. Bull then refilled each of their drinks and moved to sit on the couch, Marissa trailing slightly confused behind him. “Diana felt threatened by our relationship. She thought that we were too close and that it got in the way of my relationship with her.” Bull elaborated, once they’d settled on the couch, trying to explain as much as he could. At his quiet tone Marissa leaned into his side a little and gripped his forearm in support.
“What does being friends with me have to do with your relationship with her?” Marissa asked, purposely not acknowledging the connection. Hoping, despite the fact that she knew it’d only hurt her in the end, that perhaps Bull would admit that Diana was threatened by her because he secretly had feelings for her as well.
After taking a sip of scotch, Bull continued. “Diana claimed that you and I have a relationship, an intimacy she said, that she couldn’t even come close to touching or understanding. You are the one who has been by my side through everything, you’re the one who protects me—unnecessarily sometimes,” he nudged her knee with his playfully. “You’re the one who knows all the intimate details of my past. Diana wasn’t worried about my previous romantic partners like J.P., she saw you as a threat to the relationship she had with me. Diana stated that because I am so close to you, I am limiting how close I get to other women. Though as the psychologist, I can say” Bull began, looking to distract from his statement with some fact.
“She really said that to you? That you can’t be close to more than one person. She begrudged our friendship.” Marissa restated, interrupting him because she wanted to ensure she understood completely; her thumb started to rub along his arm comfortingly.
Bull swallowed and forced himself to focus on the conversation, and not on how pleasant it was to have Marissa pressed against his side, her hand warm on his arm. She was just being a good friend, he scolded himself before continuing his explanation. “Yes. She said she knew she should have insisted on there to be a more defined line between you and I. Apparently, she’d considered negotiating a set of rules, ever the lawyer, about our friendship but hadn’t thought it necessary yet” he chuckled dryly, if only Diana had known how useless rules were when trying to distance him from Marissa. “She wanted to dictate how much time we spent together when we weren’t working.” Bull elaborated, pulling his arm away from Marissa and draping it over her shoulders boldly instead, his fingers brushing along her arm. “I had no idea how controlling she was until that point, thought it was just what made her good at her job, you know? But—"
“Oh, Jason…” Marissa murmured, “I’m so sorry.” And her eyes were filled with kindness and sadness at the same time, all for him and the fact that he’d had a poisonous relationship.
Bull gave her a baffled look, unsure as to why she was apologizing. “Don’t worry about it, I’m here aren’t I?” Bull commented, tightening his arm around her. “And you helped make that possible. So, thank you.” He smiled at her and Marissa ducked her head at his sincerity.
“Want to watch something?” She suggested, gesturing to the television. Bull nodded and snatched the remote off the coffee table, before he began to flip channels. Marissa stole several glances at him while he did this, heart sinking just a bit. Diana had seen her as a threat, that much was true, but only because she was so close to Jason, could make him see sense, and made it more difficult for Diana to control him. It had nothing to do with any secret feelings on his part, which she’d already known, but having it verified didn’t hurt any less.
Sighing, she decided to take advantage of the physical closeness while she could and snuggled into Jason’s side a little further. She’d allow this for tonight, and then…. Well, then she would pull the last of her feelings for him out of her heart and move on. It had to be done, it was the healthy thing to do, so yes, after tonight she would move on. Marissa had this final thought before dozing off on Bull’s shoulder.
Bull heard Marissa’s breathing even out after only 10 minutes into the cooking show he’d selected, and he couldn’t help but smile down at her where she was curled against him. And it hits him even harder now in the Diana aftermath that this was how a relationship should be.
It should be easy and comfortable, there should be support, give and take from both sides. Bull wanted to wake Marissa up right then and tell her everything, to kiss her. But he feared that she’d blame it all on Diana. So, he’d wait, get the timing right. He’d lasted this long, what harm could come from waiting a little more?
Chapter 18: Chapter 18
Bull had it all planned. He’d tell Marissa this upcoming Saturday at their monthly movie night. He’d wait until they’d finished the first movie, so if she rejected him… well, at least he’d have gotten a final movie night with her, spent the last hour and a half with her in relative normalcy. But he couldn’t hold these feelings in anymore, he had to tell her. All he could do was pray that she returned them or that if she didn’t that she’d conveniently forget his confession and they could pretend he’d never said anything. So he had a plan, was it completely thought out? Not exactly, but it was good enough.
Bull also had a plan for the new case he’d just taken, charging 15 college boys with manslaughter to try and flush out the real culprit. While his plan for telling Marissa how he felt was rocky, this one wasn’t. It was decisive, clear, and it would get that grieving mother some answers.
He was discussing the security footage with Benny and Cable when the idea came to him. They needed blueprints and information from the city records department and Marissa had all the best contacts. It was then he noticed that she wasn’t there examining the footage with them.
“Marissa?!” He shouted out, rotating slightly to get a better look around the office.
“Oh, uh, I actually don’t think she’s in yet.” Benny offered, not maintaining eye contact, while Cable scratched the back of her neck, pointedly staring at the computer.
Bull looked at Benny incredulously. “What are you talking about? It’s Marissa, she’s always in. I’ve worked with her for six years, she’s never even had a cold.” Benny and Cable simply glanced at one another, Cable biting one of her nails. Bull’s insides twisted, something wasn’t right.
“Should we call her?” He asked apprehensively, feeling around his pockets for his phone. Why weren’t they as disturbed by this as he was? Marissa could be in trouble and here they were, just sitting around and shooting one another furtive glances. “Should we call the police?” His mind began to jump to horrendous conclusions as to why she wasn’t in yet, car crashes, kidnappings and more.
At his suggestion to call the police, however, Cable finally spun in her chair to look at him. “She’s fine, Dr. Bull. She’s just running late.” She informed him evenly, giving him a small, reassuring smile.
Bull eyed the young hacker and then bent over to be on eye level with her. “What does that mean? Do you know where she is?”
“I know that she’s fine. And I know she’ll be here soon.” Cable answered calmly, leaning forward in her chair. Benny, though, had his head inclined slightly, watching Bull interrogate Cable about Marissa’s whereabouts. The lawyer couldn’t help but think that his boss had never been this concerned, to the extent of calling the police, when other members of the team were late.
“Okay, apparently I just work here.” Bull muttered and walked away, calling over his shoulder. “I’ll be in my office.”
Bull’s attempt at a nonchalant reply didn’t fool him. When Cable spun back around to face Benny, she arched an eyebrow at him and smirked. Benny just shook his head and suppressed a smile, so he wasn’t the only one to notice Bull’s odd behavior; not that it was difficult to spot.
“Just see if there’s anymore footage around the lake,” he instructed Cable and went to go over the files for the case again.
Marissa was trying to clip her hair back using her reflection in the glass divider of the cab. She was so late, and she’d never been late. Not in the entire time she’d worked at TAC, honestly, she was a little surprised that Bull hadn’t at least texted her yet. But perhaps Cable had filled him in—at least as much as the younger woman would have been able to with Marissa’s vague text.
She knew she should have called Bull, or at least texted him that she was running behind. But it was the reason that she was late that had her contacting Cable instead. Well really the reason she was late was because of Bull, because of her decision concerning him and her need to move on—and she couldn’t tell him that. Couldn’t tell him that she was late because she was busy forgetting her feelings for him. Busy forgetting by going out to her favorite bar and finding a guy who was tall and dark haired, she could have a type too, and having an... irresponsible night.
And the guy was sweet, made her laugh and he wanted to see her again. Though her heart wasn’t fully in it yet, she had an inkling that it could be. Marissa smiled to herself as she rushed out of the cab and into the office building, quickly swiping her ID badge and jumping into an elevator. Yes, Kyle had potential, and it had been a long time since anyone had even caught her attention.
But she couldn’t dwell on that now, apparently, they had a new case and it was already getting underway. Apologies were spilling out of her mouth before she even fully entered the room.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry. I will be there in one minute.” She announced, dropping her purse on the first table she reached and digging inside for her tablet.
Bull immediately gravitated towards her, “you okay?” He questioned quietly, eyes flicking over her to assess for injury.
“Yeah, of course.” She flashed him a smile, “I’m fine. Late,” she admitted, “but fine.” She brushed back some hair that had fallen loose from her clip as she continued to search through her purse; missing Bull’s intense gaze as he watched her.
“Really? Because I’m concerned,” he continued as she shed her coat. “This is so not like you. Anything you want to tell me?”
Marissa paused for a brief second, wondering what he could possible have surmised from this situation already, but folded her coat and replied a little flustered, “uh, like what?”
“Like are you looking for another job?” Now that he knew she was safe this was probably his other greatest fear…that she was leaving. But it was immediately alleviated when Marissa laughed and made eye contact with him again.
“No, no, I am not looking for another job,” she waved away the idea and chuckled to herself, causing Bull to wonder what the joke could be.
“Doctor appointment?” He probed once more, hoping to get an actual answer from her as she pulled her tablet from her bag.
“Yeah, okay, I did not have a doctor’s appointment.” She looked at him curiously, she knew this was the first time she’d been late, but his continued concern was puzzling. “Nothing is wrong with me, everything is fine.” She placed a reassuring hand on his forearm, “I am truly sorry for being late.”
Bull studied her further though, because she was hiding something, and he still could feel in his gut that something wasn’t right. So, while he believed her when she said she didn’t have an interview, it was the easiest path to take to get her to spill the truth. “So what kind of job are you interviewing for?”
A small sigh escaped her, “okay, Bull?” When he hummed in acknowledgment she reached over and pulled him closer, straightening his jacket a bit when she did. “Look, we have been together for…ever. And I am very happy here, very happy. And I am very healthy. No worries there, no worries at all.” And for the first time in a while, it actually felt like she didn’t have any worries. At least not the ones that had plagued her for a while now, concerning certain inappropriate sentiments towards the man in front of her.
It was as if her encounter with Kyle had swept them all away, so yes, she was very happy. And perhaps she was being a bit foolish, diving in so quickly, being so excited about Kyle after only one night. But it was a similar giddiness she’d felt at the beginning of her relationship with Terry, so what harm could come from indulging in what made her feel happy and soothed her beaten-up heart? “I’m sorry if I caused you concern.” She added, because it was becoming apparent that she had, indeed, caused him a great deal of concern.
But Bull couldn’t let it go, his brows furrowed after her little speech and a frown pulled the corners of his mouth down. “So, where were you?” He implored quietly, worry still filling his eyes despite her reassurances.
“I was nowhere! It was nothing.” She stated, though she was unable to hide the smile that crept onto her face at the thought of ‘nowhere’.
His frown deepened, ‘nowhere and nothing’ didn’t make someone smile like that…his heart dropped. She’d been with man. That was why she was late. But he needed to hear her say that, he had to know for sure. Because if she had been…then his plans for Saturday were over. Bull cocked his head at her, and knowing he wouldn’t let up, Marissa elaborated.
“I went out to dinner last night… and one thing led to another and I guess you could say I ended up having, an irresponsible evening.” She tried to look contrite, but the memories from the night before brought another smile to her face. “I’m sorry.” She added, at Bull’s odd facial expression. “I think,” she murmured, almost to herself, unsure why exactly she was apologizing. Given how he’d discovered her feelings for him and then gently let her down by distancing himself, she thought he would be elated that she’d moved on.
“Are we, are we done?” she indicated around the room, trying to change the subject, but Bull still wore that pained and confused look on his face. Thankfully, Chunk walked up behind her at that moment.
“Mission accomplished.” He nodded at Bull and kept walking and when Marissa fell into step beside him Chunk paused a moment and eyed her. And Marissa couldn’t resist, she winked at him and walked a little faster, her cheeks reddening just a bit. “Oh, we are getting lunch today. And you are dishing all the details.” He informed her, a smile tugging at his lips.
Bull stood, rooted in his spot for a moment longer processing this information before following the two back to the main area. Chunk was busy laying out all the business cards he’d collected, and Bull couldn’t help but steal another look at Marissa. She noticed and gave him a small sheepish smile before her attention was caught by Danny. With half his mind on the conversation and the other half on this new development with Marissa, Bull almost missed his secretary stating that the ADA was on line one. Bull rolled his eyes and went to take the phone call, he’d have time to ponder Marissa’s ‘irresponsible night’ later…. though hopefully it didn’t turn into anything; not when he’d finally mustered the courage to tell her the truth.
They’d met up after court that day, Bull, Benny, ADA Abernathy and Marissa. Bull was explaining to the ADA why they had to target the roommate, to get him to crack when he noticed Marissa check her watch and shift her stance… again. She was antsy to leave and though she’d ordered the pizza she hadn’t eaten any. Bull forced himself to focus on finishing the explanation for why Carter, the roommate of the dead pledge, had to be the one they offered immunity to, and not on how Marissa most likely had another date tonight.
The moment Bull announced that their job was done for the night, the small get together broke apart. Abernathy left with a ghost of a sneer on his face, still put out about being told what to do by a trial scientist and Benny disappeared without a word—a slice of pizza dangling in one hand. But Bull had expected at least Marissa to hang around for a little after-meeting meeting; it was something they did often, discussing the meeting, its participants and how it impacted the trial. When he glanced around, however, she was already flitting around the room, switching everything off.
And he couldn’t help but notice that she had a little speed to her movements, an extra spring in her step that he hadn’t seen in a long time. But just because he hadn’t seen it in a while didn’t mean he’d forgotten what that spring meant, and his heart sank even further with this additional confirmation. Not that he had really needed any more, she’d said herself that she’d had an irresponsible night the other day, and then she’d been distracted during jury selection. She liked this new guy, a lot. And Bull wasn’t sure that he could handle it.
“Marissa,” he began, approaching her, and she turned back to face him, clearly distracted.
“Uh, did you call me?” She smiled and slowed to a stop in front of him.
Though Bull really would have preferred to not act as only a friend right now, he knew it was the only way to get more information about this mystery man. “When do I get to meet him?”
“Meet who?” She replied, genuinely perplexed.
“Mr. Irresponsible.” And he hated how even the mention of the guy had her lips curling into a smile.
She paused, as if trying to check her enthusiasm, “let’s just see if it lasts the weekend, before we plan the wedding.”
He huffed in reluctant amusement, all the while darkly hoping it never even got close to that serious of a relationship. Though he’d decided earlier that day to wait to tell Marissa about his feelings until this new guy left the picture—not wanting her to think he was saying things just because she wasn’t available, he couldn’t help but express at least some of them to her now.
“You know how important you are to me.” He stated, maintaining eye contact with her. Instead of replying immediately, though, Marissa’s gaze dropped from his briefly and her mouth tugged slightly to the side. “Right?” He added upon seeing her reaction.
“I think so,” she murmured, smiling faintly at him. And those three words might as well have been knives to his heart. She didn’t know how important she was to him? None of it would work without her. He couldn’t, he couldn’t imagine, how did she not know? How had he not made it so clear how important she was to him? He couldn’t wrap his head around it, couldn’t think of how to respond, so instead of addressing it he just continued with his heart lodged somewhere in his throat.
“And you can call me anytime. Day or night. With anything.”
Marissa returned her gaze to him, expression softening, and nodded her head and this somewhat lifted his spirits; because if nothing else she at least knew he was there for her whenever she should need him. “That is sweet. I’m fine, Bull.” When he continued to watch her intently she continued, “in fact, I’m better than fine—I’m happy.” Her smiled widened, causing her eyes to crinkle just a bit at the corners in response.
“I’m happy you’re happy.” He managed, though it felt as though his heart was being wrung dry.
She smiled fully at him again and patted him on the chest. “Go get some sleep,” she murmured, giving him a significant look before walking away.
Bull glanced down at his chest where her hand had just been and then turned to watch her leave. So, this was what harm could come from waiting just a little longer, he thought bitterly to himself, moving to clean up the remains of the pizza.
He’d lost her. He’d never even had her and he’d lost the best woman to enter his life. And if he was a better man, he would be happy that she was, because Marissa deserved to be happy. More than anyone he’d ever met she deserved it. But his couldn’t muster genuine happiness for her when he knew it should be him making her smile like that and not some random man she’d just met.
Maybe he could have Cable and Danny run a background check on the guy, but Marissa had been tight-lipped about any details, so that would have to wait. Bull turned to stare at the elevators again even though Marissa was long gone. She was right, he needed to sleep. Sleep and to not think about what her plans for the night were.
Bull walked back into the office with more than a little swagger. He’d managed to pull off the almost impossible, they’d gotten a conviction, gotten justice. Now all he wanted was to share with Marissa just how he’d done it.
“Marissa?” He called out, pulling his tie off. “Marissa!” He repeated, rounding the corner to enter the main doors to the office. “I know you’re dying to hear,” he sang, folding up the tie to stow in his jacket pocket. “Have I got a story for you,” he continued, already picturing the two of them sipping drinks on his couch, Marissa chuckling and rolling her eyes as he exaggerated the details.
He stopped abruptly just outside the first set of doors, the office was dark. It didn’t make any sense, Marissa couldn’t have left already. They always had an informal debrief after a case. So, Bull explored the office further, even going so far as to check the mock court room for her. Because she had to be there, she was always there. But a small voice in the back of his head reminded him that that wasn’t exactly the case, not anymore.
“Mariss?” He tried one final time, though only silence and a few glowing screens greeted him. As the realization that she wasn’t there sunk in, a hollowed sensation began to creep from his core and quickly spread through the rest of his body. Even when she’d dated in the past she’d always stay late with him at the office to rehash a case. But this Mr. Irresponsible had struck again, and Bull’s jealously flared to a level he’d never experienced before.
He couldn’t wrap his head around the situation. How this mystery man had such a pull on Marissa… causing her to come in late, take phone calls during the court, leave early. She’d never acted like this before and it scared him. Because he was losing her…and there was nothing he could do about it.
The timing was never right, before it had been too soon after Diana and now if he confessed anything she would assume it was because she was dating, and he was scared to lose her. Which he was, but he wanted any admission he made to be perceived as sincere, with no ulterior motives. Though with the way things were progressing, he may not get the chance to tell her at all if things kept going well with this mystery guy.
Bull scowled and trudged back to his office, his own words echoing in his head as he did. “I’ll tell you about it tonight when I get back to the office.” He hadn’t even considered that she might have left for the night. The thought that she’d leave for some social event that didn’t include himself or the team wasn’t even a possibility that crossed his mind. He knew he was being unfair in expecting her to always be around, but it still stung to discover that she wasn’t. Deciding to self-soothe, Bull dug out the scotch from the cabinet in his office and poured a healthy measure.
“To platonic love” he mockingly toasted to himself, clearly remembering how he’d made the exact same one after they’d won the case for Marissa’s ex, Terry. Bull shook his head, he never should have set such a precedent, so clearly marked himself as a friend when he was already more than half in love with her.
Grumbling, Bull knocked back his drink and poured another, collapsing on the couch and toeing off his shoes, knowing he’d likely spend the night there.
Chapter 19: Chapter 19
I've been really excited for this chapter, and it is really long (sorry). But there was just so much to work with. Not sure when the next one will be up, starting a new job and it might be a little while. Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
They’d received a call from Amaya Andrews, a famous movie star, to help her settle a dispute over her son’s adoption. Bull had immediately taken the job; this kind of case shouldn’t be too difficult and the publicity alone would be bringing them new clients for months. Grinning, he stood and went to find the rest of the team to share the good news.
He suddenly paused at the door though, a thought creeping into the back of his mind, that maybe he should have stopped and considered the case before accepting it. Bull pulled the door open, his eyes finding Marissa easily, “Marissa?” He called out, and when she shifted to face him, he beckoned her into his office.
Marissa set down her tablet and followed him inside, “what’s up?” She turned and found him closing the door. Bull smiled softly and took her arm, leading her to the couch. “You’re worrying me, Jason. Is everything okay?” She searched his face as they sat down.
“We were just asked to consult on a case.” He began hesitantly, watching her carefully.
“Alright…” She responded slowly, unsure of where this was going or why he felt the need to break the news to her in private. “How is this different from every other case we’ve taken?”
Bull scratched the back of his neck and shifted on the couch. “It has to do with an adoption…” He trailed off, before lifting his eyes back to Marissa’s. She simply raised an eyebrow at him in return. Clearing his throat, Bull continued, “I wanted to make sure you were okay with it, I mean it’s for a big client, Amaya Andrews could’ve taken her business anywhere, but I wanted to check with you first.” It all came out a bit rushed and he didn’t miss how Marissa’s eyes widened when he let it slip who wanted to hire them.
“Amaya Andrews, as in the actress Amaya Andrews? Oh, she’s one of my absolute favorites—” Marissa began to gush but shook her head and regained her focus. “Jason, of course we have to take the case! The publicity alone, I’m sure you’ve already imagined how good that would be for TAC.”
He couldn’t help the small smile that tugged his lips, she was putting the company first—not even considering how it might impact her. And he wanted to kiss her again, the feeling surging through him but he tamped it down and instead took her hands in his. “I have thought about it but considering the topic of the case I wanted to talk to you first, make sure you were alright.”
“Jason, how a team member feels about a case has never stopped you from taking a job.” She remarked, referring to Cable’s refusal to help during the bombing case and how he forced Benny to defend the boy charged with assisted suicide.
“This is different,” he began to run his thumbs across the backs of her hands. “I know this can be a difficult topic for you, I won’t take it if you don’t want me to.” Bull finished quietly, searching her expression for clues.
Marissa softened and smiled, extracting one hand to cup his cheek, “Jay, you’re sweet. But don’t worry about me, okay? We need to do what’s best for the company.” She patted his cheek gently and stood up, Bull released her other hand slowly, allowing his fingers to brush along the length of hers as she stood. Marissa smiled at the sensation, but then scolded herself. She was with Kyle, she liked Kyle—quite a bit actually, so there was no reason why contact with Jason should be affecting her in any way still. Distracting herself, she looked at Bull and asked, “did you want to tell the team the news?”
Standing as well, Bull nodded. “Oh absolutely, though we will have to go over some protocols for when she visits the office. Can’t have anyone fawning over her when she’s here. She’s a client and deserves our help and respect during this difficult time.”
“Of course, I’ll make sure to review with the entire staff what guidelines are in place to ensure client confidentiality and I will make sure when she comes to visit that only minimal staff is here that day to reduce the chance of ‘fawning’.” Marissa was already typing into her phone, making notes and reminders.
Bull smiled and wondered what he’d ever do if she left—the place would likely fall apart. But that wasn’t really a possibility, if he knew nothing else, he knew that Marissa Morgan would stick with him here at TAC. They exited his office together and went to make the announcement to the team.
Bull was standing in front of the mirror in Chunk’s office, disgruntledly playing with the buttons of his suit jacket when Marissa popped in, slightly breathless.
“She’s here. I cleared them to come upstairs.”
“Everybody knows how to behave?” He asked making eye contact with Marissa in the mirror, still fiddling with his outfit.
Marissa beamed, “oh, we’re going to be so nonchalant—it’s going to be completely chalantless out there. You’re going to be starving for chalant by the time this meeting’s over.”
Bull shifted to face her, raising an eyebrow. “Do you know how to behave?” He teased, unsure the last time he’d seen her this excited to meet a client.
Scoffing, and waving away his comment Marissa approached him and straightened his jacket, smoothing it over his chest and slipping the button closed. She then laid a hand over it, resting it on his abdomen to keep him from messing with it further. “It’ll be fine, just like any other case consult.” She smiled encouragingly at him and then turned and led the way out of the office, missing how Bull placed his hand right where hers had been, as if trying to capture the warmth and feeling of her touch.
The consult had gone well, amazingly well. They hadn’t even needed to go to court, managing to settle the matter with a negotiator and the boy’s father. The entire thing, on their end, had taken only a matter of an hour; ending with Amaya thanking him for his advice before she left.
9 weeks later
He’s being sued. Sued. Something he honestly never thought would happen to him. Bull had sat dumbfounded in his office after Amaya left for about 30 minutes, trying to process what had happened. He still hadn’t move, hadn’t even taken off his coat when Marissa arrived.
“Hey, what are you doing?” She tilted her head at him when she noticed that he was just staring at the wall. Her voice woke him from his somewhat catatonic state, Bull shook his head and just looked at her, lost. “Jay?” Marissa’s voice dropped and was steeped in worry, she hurriedly sat in the chair in front of him and took his hands. “What happened?”
“Amaya Andrews was in here today.” He managed, finally finding the words. Though clearly shocked, Marissa kept silent, allowing him to continue, her only response was a quick squeeze of his hands. “Alexander, her son, he’s missing. His dad never brought him back from Ethiopia. She blames me. Is going to sue me because she blames me.”
Marissa’s eyes widened, “oh god,” she breathed, the impact of his words sinking in. “Can she do that? She asked for advice, she didn’t have to take it. I feel horrible that her son is missing, but…..” Marissa trailed off, clutching his hands. “What about Danny?”
Bull chuckled ruefully, “that was the first thing I offered. Said I had one of the best investigators, but Amaya didn’t come for help. She said my help lost her her family. No, she just wanted to see my face when she said she was going to take everything from me.”
“Well we won’t let that happen.” Marissa stated determinedly, standing and beginning to pace the room.
He could practically hear her brain working and he reached out and gently caught her arm. “Mariss, thank you.”
“Being on my side, I guess. Being here.” He smiled at her, his thumb starting to brush along her arm.
She gave him one of her one-sided smiles in return and pulled out her phone, “Always.” She locked eyes with him and then informed him, “I’ll call Benny.”
Her words startled him, causing Bull to release her arm. “What?”
Marissa looked at him oddly, “I’ll call Benny. We’ll want him on this immediately. Actually, I’ll call the whole team in.”
Bull stood and cut off her path, bringing her up short. “Wait. I, I actually had someone else in mind for trial.” At Marissa’s blank expression, he continued, “we’re all going to be playing different roles here. I need someone from the outside, someone who isn’t as close to this if it’s going to work.”
Clearing her throat, Marissa nodded. “I’ll get everything started. You should go talk to Benny.”
Baffled, Bull followed her out into the main office area, “why do I need to talk to Benny?” His first thought was to contact Ronald Getman and hope the man would take his case.
“Because you want to bring in outside counsel to run your defense, Jason.” She eyed him knowingly as she moved through the office. “Did you not stop to think that Benny might feel as though you don’t trust him because of that? He trusted you when it was his life on the line, and he might feel that you don’t return that trust by bringing in someone else.”
“That’s not it at all!”
“I know that, and you know that. But it doesn’t mean that Benny won’t have some doubts because you haven’t communicated the reasons to him. Please, just make sure that you do.” She looked at him earnestly and Bull couldn’t do anything but nod. “Good, now there’s a lot of work to do. I’m sure Amaya and her people aren’t above trying to smear your name and getting the public on their side before this whole thing even starts.” Marissa wandered away, making lists for herself.
And for the first time all morning, Bull felt as though things would be okay, he had the great Marissa Morgan on his side, what could go wrong?
Marissa watched Bull in astonishment as he ranted about spreading lies and gossip about Amaya Andrews. She’d never seen him like this and when she exchanged looks with Chunk and Benny she knew they hadn’t either.
Thankfully Ronald Getman wasn’t having any of it either, he quickly shut Bull down and put him in his place. Told Bull to trust his team and himself or to fire him and get new counsel.
“He’s right Bull.” Benny broke in, though he was angry about the arrangement, felt that Bull should've trusted him enough to handle the case—after hearing Getman’s improv opening statement, Benny knew they needed the man.
Chunk approached slowly as well, “I think we need Mr. Getman’s help here.”
“Let us do this for you, Jason.” Marissa added her own plea as well, watching Bull through furrowed brows. They all stood in silence for a moment as Bull contemplated everything they had said, then he slowly nodded.
Marissa let out a sigh of relief, now they could really get to work.
Bull had instructed Benny and Chunk to finish showing Getman around and to introduce him to Cable so that he had an idea of what the young woman could do. Marissa drew closer to him as the others disappeared into the rest of the building.
“Jason—” She began, not wanting to address his outburst, but knowing it was necessary.
He hung his head in shame, “I know, Mariss. Even as I was talking, there was a voice in the back of my head that couldn’t believe what I was saying. I’m just….I’m just angry and I don’t like not having control over something that could define the rest of my life.”
She placed a hand on his arm, “I understand, but Jason you have to trust us. You have to let us do our jobs just like we would for any other client. You may hate it, but it’s what’s needed.”
“But you all won’t be doing your normal jobs.” He replied, mouth twisting slightly. “You’ll have to be me, Chunk will have to take on your part—after you configure the algorithm that is, Cable will do what she always does—deep diving, Danny’s on the ground in Ethiopia…and Benny will be co-counsel.”
Marissa started playing with her pinky ring, “you really want me to take your spot in the courtroom?” She looked at him doubtfully, chewing on the inside of her lip.
Bull placed his hands on her upper arms, “there is no one I trust more with this than you.” Marissa’s smile wobbled the tiniest bit and she surged forward, pulling him into a hug; his arms coming up automatically to return the gesture.
“I won’t let you down, I swear.” She mumbled into his shoulder, before pulling back. “I’ll let the others know.” Marissa left to inform everyone of their new roles and about the type of jurors they would be looking for.
They’d gone back to the office after court, to determine a strategy now that the jury was finalized. As Getman and Benny chatted, Bull jerked his head to the side, Marissa followed.
“You did well picking the jury today.” He commended her, and she raised a skeptical brow at him. “I should have trusted you to do your job, I’m sorry that I didn’t. And while I may not have agreed with all your choices right then, you were right to make those decisions. I should just retire and let you take over,” he ended teasingly.
Marissa rolled her eyes slightly, “We’ve got a good jury. You really need to trust me, Jason. I want the same outcome as you do.”
Bull took a step closer to her and lowered his voice, “I do trust you Mariss, I do.” He rolled his shoulders, “apparently, I’m not good at giving up control.”
An amused huff escaped her, “I could have told you that.”
“I am sorry for doubting you. Thank you for everything you’ve done so far.” He murmured, inching even closer, unable to help himself.
“Hey lovebirds,” Getman’s voice boomed across the room scaring them apart. “You want to join the conversation about saving your ass?” Marissa just shook her head and gave Bull a pointed look before walking over to them, grateful that her only response to the ‘lovebirds’ comment was a slight uptick in her heartbeat and not a full blush.
Bull paused a moment, wondering if Getman was making a real observation or simply being snarky to get them to join him and Benny. Shaking his head, Bull stuffed the thought away for later.
The meeting with Getman had lasted an hour before he left for the night, leaving Benny, Marissa and Bull to finalize things at the office before heading out. As they left the building, though a man approached the group.
“Marissa Morgan?” The man questioned as the team stepped outside of the building together. Bull frowned and took a slight step towards Marissa, partially blocking her from this stranger.
“Who’s asking?” Bull sized the man up, at the same time that Marissa identified herself as the person he was looking for.
“You’ve been served, ma’am” the man explained in a bored voice, reaching forward to hand Marissa the envelope.
Bull watched in confusion as Marissa opened the envelope and slid out the papers. “I’m being subpoenaed as a witness… a witness for the opposition.” Her heart dropped, what could they possibly want from her? She looked to Bull, but he was looking at Benny as if the lawyer in him could find a way to make the subpoena go away.
Unsure, the group turned around and headed back to the office where Bull promptly poured them all drinks. “So,” Bull handed Marissa her drink, “why you?” He then turned and gave Benny his, “what’s their play?”
“Maybe it’s just a simple strategy.” Benny supplied, “They want to question Marissa about the business. Suss out how much TAC is worth?”
Bull shook his head, “I don’t know. You were in the room with Amaya, King and me when I gave them that advice.” He turned his gaze onto Marissa, “what do they think you know?”
Marissa pursed her lips and picked up the legal document from her lap. “Maybe it’s as simple as this. This subpoena says that I’m sequestered as a witness.” Bull suddenly looked at her sharply, as if understanding for the first time. “Which means, I can’t help you with this case anymore.” She paused, and she lifted her eyes to meet Bull’s in dismay. “I’m not even supposed to be here right now.” She acknowledged softly, setting down her drink and gathering her things. Benny frowned but nodded in agreement. “See you boys in court,” she murmured as she exited the room
As she left Bull’s heart didn’t just sink, it felt as though someone had dropped boulders on it, slowly crushing it where it had settled in his gut. The other side had somehow known. How could they have known that the one way to cut him down at the knees was to take away Marissa? How was it that Amaya’s threat to take all that he loved had started with the person he loved most?
Bull stared after Marissa for a moment, before setting down his own drink and hurrying after her. Benny calling after him that he couldn’t talk to her.
She’d made it to the elevators when Bull reached her.
“Marissa…” and he didn’t know what else to say. Didn’t know how to convey that he already felt lost without her and she was still right there in front of him. Didn’t know how to say that he couldn’t remember how to work a case without her, especially one where he was on trial.
They’d both been taken out of the game and it was an entirely new and disturbing sensation, made all the worse by the fact that they couldn’t even spend the suspension together.
“We can’t.” She whispered gently, placing her hand on his jaw and brushing her thumb along the stubble. “Not until after the case.” She was putting on a brave face for him, but her eyes were shining, and Bull felt those boulders on his heart getting heavier, grinding together.
The elevator dinged behind her and the door swished open. She nodded once and quickly pecked him on the cheek before stepping into the elevator. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” She said it like she had a million times before when she’d left the office, but they both knew it wasn’t the same. That when she saw him next it would be from the opposite side of the courtroom.
Swallowing, he nodded in return and attempted a smile as the doors closed and carried her away from him. Bull stood there, staring at the elevator doors for several minutes before returning to his office to talk to Benny about their game plan now that their best weapon has been taken out of commission. And though Benny did his best to uplift Bull’s spirits, though Bull knew that Benny had his back…it just didn’t feel right, didn’t feel the same heading into court without Marissa.
Bull observed as Marissa took the stand, his heart pounding, unsure where the opposition was going to take this line of questioning. It started simple enough.
“And how long have you and Dr. Bull been working together at TAC?”
“A little over seven years.” She replied calmly, flicking a small, reassuring smile at him.
King, the opposing counsel, nodded, “before that you worked as a situations analyst for Homeland Security?”
“In fact, he hired you away from Homeland Security.” The counsel continued.
“Yes sir,” Marissa repeated, and Bull knew these background questions were a formality, but he truly wanted them to get to the point, to be done with it. So that Marissa could come back, so that some part of his life could seem normal again. But then the line of questioning began to turn.
“So, it’s fair to say he values your opinion.”
“You’d have to ask Dr. Bull,” Marissa replied diplomatically, glancing over at him. Bull raised his eyebrows at her, as if to convey that she knew her opinion mattered to him and she had no problem voicing it either.
King chuckled, “Well, I think you’re being modest, but I’ll withdrawal the question.” He tucked his hands into his pockets. “Weren’t you in the room when Dr. Bull offered his advice to Amaya that day?”
Marissa nodded, “I certainly was.”
“And what did you think of that advice?”
Taking a breath, Marissa answered confidently. “I thought it reeked of common sense and basic humanity. And I was glad that he offered it, and proud that I work for him—with him.” She amended, offering a smile in Bull’s direction. And his heart, though still trapped under some boulders, swelled at her statement and he smiled tenderly at her in return.
King then turned and picked up a paper from his table. “I’d like to submit the following electronic mail into evidence,” he stated, handing Marissa the form.
Bull couldn’t help but notice the change in Marissa’s posture as she read the email. It wasn’t anything overt, but her shoulders tightened just a bit and that little vein in her neck—well he could see it even from where he was sitting; though he doubted the jury would pay it any mind. Still, whatever was in that email was troubling her, which meant it wasn’t any good for their case.
“Do you recognize that email?” Marissa glanced at Bull, and her eyes were filled with something he couldn’t quite read. “Did you send that to your boss, that evening after meeting with me and Amaya?”
“I did.” And though her response came out clear, Bull could see the effort it took for her to control herself. He rapidly filtered through his brain, trying to determine what email they could be talking about when King asked Marissa to read it out loud.
“Would you please read that to the jury?”
“Objection!” Getman shot up from his chair, “can someone please tell the defense where that mystery email came from?”
King smirked slightly at their table before turning to the judge, “it’s listed in discovery. Along with all the other emails and reports related to this case that Dr. Bull’s company surrendered.”
The judge nodded and turned to Getman, “overruled.”
Marissa then tried to explain the email, “well, I mean it was nothing. It was a thought I had.”
“Will you please read it.” King prompted, slipping his hands back into his pockets.
“Dear Bull, thought you were amazing today.” Marissa pursed her lips and then continued. “Two things worth noting, Ethiopia isn’t party to the Hague Adoption Convention, not sure the implication of that, but I guess that’s what her lawyers are for.” Marissa paused and locked eyes with the opposing counsel, as if trying to let the weight of what he did not check settle in. “Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that birth parents in these situations are notoriously unreliable.”
Whispers broke out in the gallery as Marissa finished and Bull’s stomach churned. Because he knew the context of that email, knew the history that had prompted Marissa to make the comment about biological parents. But King didn’t give him much time to process, he was already hammering Marissa about the email.
“So, not withstanding your abundant pride in your boss, you felt compelled to warn him.”
Marissa was quick to try and gain control over the situation, “I wasn’t warning. I was sharing some concerns. I thought Dr. Bull’s advice was extremely sound for a domestic case. I just, I was—” and Bull could see Getman’s frustration mounting as Marissa fumbled slightly. “I was worried given this was an arrangement with a developing nation that’s all.”
King pounced, “worried that say, if Mr. Bekele didn’t abide by this arrangement that Ms. Andrews might have little recourse.”
Marissa’s voiced hardened minutely, “well as I said in my email, she has lawyers to perform due diligence.”
“My firm isn’t on trial here, yours is. And my firm didn’t give her this advice, set her on this path…”
“Objection,” Getman stood once more, “who’s testifying here?”
The judge acquiesced, “sustained. Jury, you will ignore Mr. King’s comments. Please continue, Mr. King.” The remaining conversation did not go well, and Bull didn’t need Marissa’s voice in his ear to know just which way the jury was leaning.
When Getman asked for a brief recess before he questioned Marissa, Bull tried to catch her eye as he was whisked away. But she was staring dejectedly ahead. He wanted to call out that he didn’t blame her, but knew that would only get both of them in trouble.
Getman charged into the bathroom, slamming stall doors open to ensure that they weren’t overheard. He then rounded on Bull, demanding answers. And Bull did his best to deflect, to focus on the Hague Convention aspect of the email, but Getman knew better—wanted to know if Marissa was citing some kind of study.
He crossed his arms, and if the situation had been reversed he would have jumped on a client for such defensive and secretive body language. “No, she wasn’t citing a study…it was really just a personal opinion and I didn’t think it was relevant to the case.” Bull stated it as if that ended the conversation, hoping that Getman would let it go, hoping he wouldn’t have to reveal something that Marissa had trusted him with years ago.
“Wait a second, she has a personal opinion about the reliability of birth parents in adoptions involving third world countries?” Getman tried to clarify.
“No. She has a personal opinion about the reliability of birth parents, period. And it is informed by personal experience.” He attempted to use the fewest facts necessary, but from the way Benny and Getman were staring at him, Bull wasn’t sure how much of a choice he’d have in the matter.
“And it’s not my story to tell.”
Getman twisted his lips, “do you want to save your company? To save his job?” He gestured towards Benny, “Marissa’s job?”
Bull sighed and uncrossed his arms, dropping his gaze from Getman’s. “The man is trying to help you, Bull.” Benny offered, and when Bull stayed silent a beat longer Benny glared at him.
God, please let her forgive him for what he was about to do. “Marissa was adopted from foster care. But before the adoption was finalized her biological mother came back into the picture. Just. Like. Here. In Marissa’s case, she was returned to her biological mother’s custody. Unfortunately, her mom was a drug addict. It was not an idyllic childhood.” And even though he’s given minimal details, Bull knew he’d just betrayed his best friend.
He sees it all dawn on Benny, sees the widening of the other man’s eyes, heard his inhale. And Bull wanted to stride over and shake him. Because knowing this about Marissa changed nothing. She’s still the brilliant, compassionate, sarcastic and beautiful woman she’s always been, and Benny’s expression shouldn’t be reflecting that this history somehow tints how he will view her now.
Getman, oblivious to the atmosphere of the room, grinned. “Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. Marissa’s judgement was shaped by her personal history and not the fact that any reasonable professional could have foreseen what happened.” Getman clapped his hands together, “thank you Marissa. This is perfect!” He clasped Bull on the shoulders in excitement.
“You can’t use it.” Bull stated firmly, “I won’t let you.” He’d already betrayed her privately, no way in hell he’d allow that to happen in court.
Getman paused, “excuse me? Why not? First of all, it’s effective and it happens to be true.” The man emphasized each word with a hand gesture, as if those would get the point across to Bull better.
“Like I said, it’s not my story to tell. It was shared with me in confidence, years ago. And it’s not like we’re in a position to ask permission.” His voice quieted but was filled with steel. He wouldn’t hurt Marissa further.
Despite his protests, though, Getman informed them that he didn’t need permission to use the information Bull had provided. If they wanted to win, they had to turn Marissa’s testimony around. With that, Getman pushed past them and Bull’s ears were ringing unable to wrap his head around the fact that his disloyalty happened so quickly and that Marissa would be blindsided with her past. One that he had purposely tried to protect her from before they’d even taken the case. And here it was being thrown at her from across the witness stand and he’d provided the ammunition.
Bull turned to Benny desperately, “you can’t let him use it.” He croaked, throat closing up at the implications of what he’d done. “Please, Benny, don’t let him.”
“Bull,” the shorter man hesitated—unwilling to be complicit in hurting Marissa, but knowing it was their only chance. “It’s the only way. If Marissa was giving you readings on the jury right now you know what she’d say. If it was anyone else on the stand, would you hesitate?”
The look Bull gave him was broken and pleading, and Benny wasn’t sure he’d ever seen that expression before. “You know I wouldn’t. But it’s not anyone else…It’s Marissa.”
“I’m sorry, but Marissa is strong. Hell, even stronger than I ever imagined. She’ll understand, and she’ll be okay.” Benny nodded and clapped Bull’s shoulder reassuringly before heading back to the courtroom, though he didn’t look as convinced as he was trying to sound.
“She shouldn’t have to understand.” Bull muttered to himself, following the lawyers out of the bathroom.
Getman wasted no time in diving right into how Marissa’s opinion was a personal one. Wasted no time bringing up her time in foster care, her negligent birth mother, the drugs and alcohol. Bull didn’t think he’d ever forget the horrified, lost and pained look that crossed Marissa’s face… How her eyes immediately flew to him in confusion and betrayal, a single tear streaked down her cheek as she switched her attention back and forth between the lawyer and Bull. As if trying to comprehend that he’d told someone her deepest secret and then allowed that someone to air it in court for all to see.
And all he could do was shake his head in regret, in apology.
But as Getman badgered Marissa further, Bull couldn’t take it, refused to, he shot out of his chair. Shouting objections and things like this was what happened when you hired someone you found in a deli. Benny stood with him, placing a hand on his shoulder to try and force him back into the chair.
The judge was unimpressed, informing him that he’d already been reprimanded, and should he have another outburst, well he’d be held in contempt. Bull slowly sat back down, his eyes locked onto Marissa—but she wasn’t able or didn’t want to make eye contact with him.
He’d ruined it. He’d ruined everything in the matter of minutes. He gazed at Marissa, how her lips trembled, the tear streaks on her cheeks, her uneven breathes from trying to control her emotions.
What had he done? He couldn’t take it back, but he could at least try to control the damage. Ignoring the judge, ignoring everyone Bull stood up again so quickly the chair almost tipped over. “The defense has no more questions.” He exclaimed, keeping his eyes on Marissa who had finally looked at him again.
He maintained eye contact with her the entire time the judge declared him in contempt, when the court officer came forward to escort him out, even as he was being led away. Trying his damnedest to tell her that he was sorry.
Bull spent the night in jail, unable to sleep he'd passed the hours picturing the stunned, hurt expression on Marissa’s face over and over again, his gut twisting. He pictured how her hand had flown to her mouth, to try and hide the trembling of her lips and chin. Knowing that after he’d been led away she’d likely powered through the testimony anyway, because while it was awful and never should have been said, discussing her past would help Bull, help him win this case.
She’d given away a piece of herself that she’d hidden away in order to help him. He couldn’t take back the pain he’d caused her, couldn’t take back how he’d forced her to give that piece away to protect him even after he’d failed to protect her. He wasn’t sure he could fix this, wasn’t sure he deserved the chance to fix it.
His dark thoughts are interrupted by an approaching guard, Benny trailing after him with a new suit and coffee. Benny was barely able to get out a joke in greeting before Bull asked—
Benny paused and inspected his boss before responding. “A little rattled, a little embarrassed, very concerned. But she’ll be fine.”
Bull shook his head, she was concerned? Likely about him being held in contempt, staying in jail for the night. And his heart broke a bit more, because he’d done one of the worst possible things to her and she was concerned about him. He certainly didn’t deserve her.
Benny's voice pulled him back to the present, saying things about a possibly split jury. Bull acknowledged the news with a few comments but quickly succumbed back into his own thoughts. Glancing at his boss, Benny narrowed his eyes, some pieces falling into place.
Like how Bull had reacted when Marissa was late a few weeks ago, how he reacted when Marissa was subpoenaed, in the court room, and even now. Bull had once told him, that he was a big picture thinker, that he didn’t always pay attention to all the details. But as all these larger pieces began to fit together, some of the smaller details began to make themselves known as well.
As they rode to court in silence, Benny was stunned that he hadn’t realized it sooner…Bull loved Marissa. He wasn’t sure if Marissa returned those feelings, Benny had always been closer with Jason… came with their history, with Izzy. But Benny was seeing everything in a new light and he sincerely hoped that Marissa felt the same, that it would somehow come out that they both loved each other. Because if this was one-sided, if Marissa didn’t love Bull in that way… well, he didn’t want to think about how it would impact Bull, how it would impact everything.
They’d won. They’d won and while it was a victory it didn’t quite feel like one. Bull and Benny had stayed behind in court to talk with Getman as the rest of his team filed out. His eyes flicking over to them as the exited, wishing they’d stayed, that Marissa had stayed. But he’d see them soon enough, they were all heading back to the office.
When Bull and Benny exited the elevators and entered the main office area it was to excited shouts. The rest of the team had stayed to see the return of their leader and were greeting him with jokes, hugs and claps on the shoulder. There was even a sign—which was likely why they hadn’t hung around at the courthouse.
Bull looked around the room, searching for the one person he really wanted to see. That was when he noticed Marissa sitting on a table slightly removed from the revelry, a small smile on her lips, though her eyes shone with tears she was holding back. Their eyes locked and suddenly Bull wanted everyone else gone, immediately. The two remained frozen, staring at one another oblivious as Chunk ushered the others out of the office; promising two rounds of drinks on him to hurry them along.
As they waited for the elevator, Chunk peeked over his shoulder to see what was happening. To his surprise, the two were now in the middle of the office clutching one another with no sign of letting go. The ding of the elevator brought Chunk back to his mission—getting everyone out of the office to give Marissa and Bull some privacy. He quickly herded everyone into the elevator, attempting to discreetly block their curious glances at their superiors before the doors closed.
As they made their way down to the lobby, Benny caught his eye and lifted an eyebrow. Chunk was taken aback, he knew what Benny’s look meant, what it was asking—or at least in part he knew that Benny had caught onto Bull. Nodding minutely in the shorter man’s direction, Chunk turned to face the front of the elevator; almost convinced that he now had an ally in getting their bosses together. It may take some finesse to distract the girls enough tonight for him and Benny to discuss the situation, but they could make it work.
The moment the team had hit the hallway to the elevators, they were moving. Marissa leveraged herself off the table and Bull strode forward, colliding in a fierce embrace. Marissa held onto him as if he were a lifeline, fisting the material on the back of his dress shirt as she pressed her forehead into his neck. Bull reacted in kind, one arm snaking around Marissa’s waist, pulling her tightly against him while his other hand buried itself in her hair. Marissa began to shake, the tears she’d forced back in court and here in the office finally being allowed to flow—wetting his neck and shirt collar slightly.
“I’m sorry. I am so sorry.” Bull managed hoarsely, close to tears himself as he tried to convey everything else he most likely wouldn’t be able to get past his constricted throat into that hug. “God, I never meant…. I told them they couldn’t…. Never should have said,” he trailed off as Marissa pulled him into her even harder. He kissed the top of her head, letting his lips linger there before shifting to rest his cheek on top of her head.
Bull wasn’t sure how long they stood like that, clinging to one another, seeking and providing comfort. It was Marissa who eventually broke the contact, slowly pulling back and chuckling wetly at the pair of them. “Oh no,” she murmured, reaching up and gently rubbing her thumb along his neck and collar. Bull’s pulse ratcheted up a notch and he was sure Marissa would notice with the attention she was giving his neck. “I got mascara on you and your shirt” she explained apologetically, glancing up to meet his eyes.
“It’s okay,” Bull replied quietly, raising his hands to frame her face and gently swipe away the residual tears and makeup on her cheeks with his thumbs. When she smiled softly up at him, Bull almost leaned in and kissed her—Kyle be damned, but his thoughts were interrupted by Marissa’s voice. “Hmm, what?” Bull asked, forcing himself to focus on her eyes and not her mouth.
“I said I could use a drink or three, still have a stash in your office?” Marissa repeated, tilting her head at him.
“Mariss, it’s like you don’t even know me,” he teased as he reluctantly dropped his hands from her face—though he still craved physical contact with her, so he took her hand and tugged her into his office. Only letting go when it would have been odd to hold onto her any longer. Pouring them both healthy measures, Bull picked up their glasses, the bottle and even a spare just in case and carried them over to the couch. Where he was pleasantly surprised by Marissa kicking off her shoes and curling up into his side once he sat down.
“I just,” Marissa stopped, and, to Bull’s astonishment, knocked back her entire drink and poured another. “I just need to drink and cuddle…. is that okay?” She bit her lip and peeked at him, unsure of whether the heat in her cheeks was from the alcohol or the request she’d made.
“Of course.” He reassured her, briefly wondering why she hadn’t sought out Kyle for this but immediately dismissed the idea. Kyle didn’t know Marissa like he did, didn’t know her past. Reveling in the idea that Marissa wanted to be with him when she was distraught, Bull stretched his arm and slid it around her to tug her closer. His heart pounded at their proximity and how Marissa shifted to get even closer. “Least I could do after what I put you through in court.” He added, rubbing her arm absently.
“Jay,” Marissa began, and Bull’s insides did that odd flipping thing that they always did whenever she shortened his name and he hugged her even tighter. “Honestly? I did feel hurt… and more than a little ambushed in court.” She admitted, spinning her pinkie ring to avoid looking at him. “I never expected that my past would be brought up like that, especially not in such a public forum. It blindsided me, and it was painful to know that you were the one who provided that information. Because outside of my adoptive family, no one else knew that story. Or didn’t.” She corrected, draining her drink quickly and refilling it once more.
Bull closed his eyes as guilt bubbled up inside him, “Marissa, I am so, so sorry. There is nothing I can do to take back that breach in trust. I understand completely if you would like to have some time off or to not work as closely with me for a little bit.”
Marissa gave him an incredulous look, “Don’t be ridiculous, how would that possibly work?” She inquired, slightly amused, trying to imagine the team dynamic if she and Jason weren’t speaking. “You did offer me an out before this whole thing started,” she reminded him, taking on a more serious tone. “I didn’t take it. And besides, Jay, you spent the night in jail for me.” She placed her hand on his knee and squeezed, forcing him to meet her eyes. “You knew you would be held in contempt and you still interrupted because you were trying to protect me. Nobody has ever done anything even close to resembling that for me before.” She ended gently, squeezing his knee again to emphasize her point.
“You wouldn’t have needed protecting if I’d just kept my mouth shut.” Bull retorted, taking his turn to finish his drink and start another.
Marissa nodded. “Well, yeah,” she agreed. “But with that email, it needed to be explained. And it already happened. The past is the past and I know you never meant to hurt me. Your actions after that line of questioning started was proof enough.” Her fingers were now absently drawing small circles on his knee. “How about, we don’t talk about the case anymore tonight and we just get really drunk? Tomorrow is Saturday, so it won’t matter if we’re hung over.” She proposed, looking at him expectantly.
Bull peered at her over his glasses for a moment and grinned. “I can certainly get on board with getting really drunk.” He laughed and took a long pull of his drink.
“Perfect.” Marissa beamed, finishing her drink and pouring yet another and topping off Bull’s.
Bull woke up the next morning, unsure of where he was, why he was even awake, and why his one arm was numb. That was when he realized there was something in his arms and it was moving. Cracking open his eyes, Bull realized that he and Marissa had fallen asleep on the couch in his office. But unlike when they fell asleep during their movie nights, the couch in his office wasn’t nearly big enough for the two of them to spread out. Apparently to make up for this, they had decided, in their very much drunken state, that spooning was the best solution. This explained why Marissa was shifting against him this morning, her head resting on one of his arms.
Bull, though slightly shocked by their position, wasn’t going to complain. It was extremely rare that he got to be this close to her, to hold her without having to worry about exposing his feelings.
Suddenly, he froze, body stiffening…because he had exposed his feelings last night. He’d kissed her.
The pieces of the night before were now rapidly coming back to him.
They’d just finished the second bottle of scotch, their glasses abandoned on the coffee table, both giddy from the alcohol. The events of the trial temporarily forgotten as they giggled about some inane comment he’d made. Something along the lines of Marissa having a wooden leg to have drank so much at once so quickly; to have consumed more than him given her size.
Marissa had looked up at him, eyes bright and cheeks rosy, biting her lower lip to try and contain her mirth and Bull didn’t even try to stop himself. He’d only been thinking of how he’d love to be the one nipping that lip, not of the fact that she had a boyfriend, not of the possibility that she’d reject him; he’d only thought of covering her mouth with his own and suddenly he was leaning forward and doing just that. Her lips had been soft, and that was all Bull was able to deduce before Marissa pulled back, just a bit, confused.
“Sorry,” he’d mumbled, not feeling that way in the slightest. “Just wondered what it would be like to kiss you.” He cupped her cheek, before letting his hand slide back to tangle in her hair.
Marissa nodded knowingly, as if that were a perfectly normal thing to wonder. “And did you get an answer?” She asked, with all the seriousness she could muster, a small laugh escaping her.
“No.” Bull replied, tightening the arm that had been wrapped around her the past hour and a half. “Too short of a kiss to tell.”
“Of course, well then. For scientifically sound results we’ll have to kiss longer.” She stated with alcohol-fueled logic, already lifting a hand up and lightly gripping the hairs at the base of his neck.
Bull’s heart thudded, the first kiss had been an impulse, one that they could brush away as a silly drunken moment. And to be honest, while he was slightly drunk, he had a higher tolerance than Marissa. He drank more often, and he was larger…he knew she must be very drunk or she wouldn’t be agreeing to kiss him, especially with her dating Kyle. Before he could say anything to dissuade her though, Marissa had pulled him in for a long, slow kiss. And the moment their lips touched all rational thoughts had left Bull’s mind.
His sudden jolting must have jostled her, because Marissa began to groan and shift. “Why is it so damn bright?” Came a croak. Bull chuckled and gave Marissa’s waist a light squeeze with his arm.
“That’s what happens when the sun comes up.” He quipped, apparently the excessive amount of alcohol was hitting Marissa much harder than him.
“Shut up.” She grumbled, smacking the arm he had around her. “God, I feel like shit. How much did we drink last night?” She slowly moved as if to untangled herself from Bull and sit up, but quickly gave up on the attempt.
Bull, happy that she wasn’t up to leaving his arms at the moment, teased her. “Well you had probably one full bottle all by yourself,” he indicated to the discarded bottles and glasses laying haphazardly on the table.
“Shit. That explains why everything is a blur. I can’t remember most of what we did last night.” Her voice was muffled, her face now buried in her hands likely to try and keep the room from spinning around her.
Bull’s heart sank. She didn’t remember? She didn’t remember him kissing her? Or how she’d pulled him into one of the most memorable kisses he’d ever had after? How they’d laughed and kept saying that he needed more evidence to know what it truly was like to kiss her; and so, they’d kissed again and again, each one a little longer than the last. Forcing a laugh, Bull attempted to causally inquire, “so you don’t remember anything from last night?”
“Bits, but even those are pretty foggy.” Marissa admitted, rubbing her temples, her eyes still shut tightly against the brightness of the room. “Last thing I remember clearly was saying we should just get drunk and forget the case. Seems I accomplished both the drunkenness and the forgetting a little too well.” She attempted to joke and look at him but winced and pressed her face into his arm to block the light.
Bull swallowed hard and looked up to the ceiling, his heart breaking… she could just be saying it to give him an out. An easy way of letting him know that she wasn’t interested, that it had all been because of the alcohol. But the way she had kissed him… he couldn’t have been the only one feeling and seeing those proverbial fireworks when their lips had met. Or maybe, maybe she really didn’t remember. She had consumed an incredible amount of alcohol very quickly for her size and if he’d been in the mood to do the math it was probably likely that she truly didn’t remember.
“How about,” Bull suggested, pulling her further into him, wanting to take advantage of the closeness while she allowed it. “We just go back to sleep for a bit and then I’ll get us some breakfast, hmm?”
“It’s still too bright in here.” She grumbled, wildly flinging her arm into the air to indicate to the light coming through the windows.
“Roll over and face me and it’ll be better” he murmured into her hair. Huffing but too hungover to care, Marissa agreed. Clumsily, she managed to turn over without falling off the couch and promptly buried her face into his chest. Marissa then wedged her legs between his to better anchor herself to the couch, one hand fisting the front of his shirt. Letting out a shaky sigh, Bull wrapped his arm around her again, splaying a hand on her back to keep her close. “So much for that wooden leg,” he teased, kissing the top of her head.
“What?” Marissa’s muffled, and half-asleep question rumbled against his chest.
“Nothing, go back to sleep, I’m not going anywhere.”
“Thanks Jay.” Marissa murmured, rubbing her head against him until she found a comfortable spot by his collar bone and fell back asleep.
“Anything for you, Mariss…anything.” Bull paused to make sure she was truly asleep, and when her deep even breaths reassured him of that fact, he added. “I love you.” And though she was asleep, it felt wonderful to finally admit that out loud to her. Bull held onto her tightly, not knowing if he’d ever be able to do so ever again.
But even the thought seemed unbearable, now that he knew what it was like to kiss her, to hold her, to have her respond to him. He couldn’t keep going on as if he didn’t feel anything for her. He had to tell her the truth, there could be no denying or hiding it any longer. Forget about timing, it had never done him any favors to begin with, why should he wait for it to be perfect? Forget about Kyle and waiting until he was gone—the guy had been around for months, he couldn’t keep waiting. But first, first he had to repair the damage he’d done to their friendship during this case, then he could figure out how to confess that he loved her.
Before any of that though, he needed more sleep. Bull sighed and happily pulled Marissa a little closer to him as he settled back into the couch to catch some more sleep.
I couldn't help it, I'm not sorry. Felt like I had to give you all something to keep you around, haha.
Chapter 20: Chapter 20
Wow, it's been forever and I'm sorry. I don't know if anyone is still reading this, but I do plan on finishing it. I'm always devastated when a fic goes unfinished (though I know there are many good reasons why they do). But I will finish this! There will probably be 3 (maybe 4) more chapters. Thanks if you stuck with me, I appreciate it!
God she was nervous, twitching and jumping every time the door opened and someone walked in. If Kyle noticed her behavior he said nothing, only scooted their chairs closer and wrapped an arm around her. Marissa fought the desire to shrug him off, to put some space between the two of them. Because things were getting complicated again.
Ever since the adoption case.
The brief respite she’d had from her feelings for Jason immediately after meeting Kyle had vanished. She certainly still cared for Kyle, wouldn’t have continued the relationship if she didn’t, but things with Jason were getting so blurred and confusing. She’d needed to further solidify the boundary between herself and Jason. She needed to draw that big red line for herself and make it even harder to cross.
Ever since waking up, admittingly extremely hungover and with little memory of the night before, in Jason’s arms she’d been struggling. It seemed as though she interpreted everything Bull said or did as far more than she should. It all seemed so flirty, sweet and caring on a new level. The soft touches had her reeling and the way he gazed at her so intently, as if she was the only one in the room—it was too much. Too much and she knew it was just her reacting to the aftermath of the adoption case, her emotional rawness, their new closeness, and not any actual feelings on his part.
So, she’d decided to introduce Jason to Kyle. Merge the two parts of her life she’d been keeping separate for so long. Yes, doing this would help. It would… it had to.
Bull wasn’t sure how this had happened so quickly. If he was honest, it had been a few weeks since his decision to tell Marissa the truth, months since she’d started dating Kyle. He’d been postponing it, afraid of rejection. They’d grown closer since the adoption case, certainly, as friends. He’d made sure to repair the damage he wrought in court and had been working on dropping subtle hints that he’d like more.
Apparently, the hints had been too subtle, because now he was on his way to meet Kyle. Bull knew he’d jokingly asked Marissa when he’d meet the guy, he just never thought it would get to that point. Never thought he’d be standing outside the restaurant that Kyle had picked reciting “be nice, don’t judge” over and over in his head. Though why he needed to do either of those things he wasn’t quite sure. The only reason he’d even agreed to this was so that he could finally get a clear idea of what he was up against—maybe he’d even find an actual reason for why Marissa shouldn’t be with the guy.
Sighing, Bull entered the restaurant. He gazed around the place searching for Marissa still giving himself a pep talk. When in doubt, smile. When in doubt, smile. When in—. The tight-lipped smile he had managed slipped from his face.
The guy had positioned his chair so that it was pressed against Marissa’s and he had draped a possessive arm around her shoulders. Bull already hated him.
Marissa noticed him first, a smile blossoming across her face and her hand shot in the air. “Jason,” She waved him over.
Bull forced a smile and waved in return, it’s only two hours. It’s only two hours, he reminded himself as he approached the table. Why was she making him do this? He didn’t really want to meet the asshole who’d snatched Marissa away—no matter how useful it might be in his own pursuit of her.
Why was she doing this? Marissa thought for the eightieth time since she’d suggested this get together. But it was too late, Jason was walking over, well, it’d only be two hours…. right? Then her life could go back to normal—with the exception of the new, big, red line. Yes, that was why—the big, red line to keep her from ruining seven years of friendship with Jason.
Conversation had flowed with relative ease from when he sat down to when their food arrived. Though, it probably flowed so easily because Bull wasn’t paying attention to half of what Kyle was saying. His mind kept jumping to different aspects of the man to analyze—his hair and its questionable authenticity, the lack of a wedding ring or signs of one recently removed.
Kyle cleared his throat then, “true story,” he began, and Bull barely restrained an eyeroll. No it isn’t, you just cleared your throat—pretty good indicator that you’re about to lie. The thought crossed his mind unbidden. He found the fact that this man felt compelled to lie already after only knowing Bull for an hour suspicious. But the fact that Kyle had also just taken Marissa’s hand and intertwined their fingers could be clouding his judgement.
“When Marissa and I met, and we were comparing histories, backstories and she told me she worked for Homeland Security, I was convinced it was the name of a bank.” Kyle chuckled and raised his brows at Bull waiting for the laugh.
Bull frowned, this man was idiotic. One for thinking anyone would buy that story and two for trying to minimize the incredibly complex and intelligent work Marissa had completed at a high-level government agency.
Marissa humored Kyle with a laugh, “I’m sorry, I still don’t believe that.”
This had Bull smiling genuinely for the first time all night. Good. I don’t believe it either. Maybe Marissa wasn’t as smitten with this guy as he thought. Until her voice broke through his inner monologue again.
“But it does make for a good story.”
“It made you smile.” Kyle prodded, slipping and arm around the back of Marissa’s chair again. The smile that had formed on his lips soured as Marissa acquiesced and Kyle made some sappy comment before kissing her cheek.
Bull took a large drink of wine, oh my god, I’m gonna to throw up. He needed to distract them, Kyle was looking at Marissa with, what he could only describe as ‘gooey eyes’. How was Marissa falling for this guy? Something was off, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Maybe if he pumped for more details—ones that Marissa had been tight-lipped about before but likely couldn’t avoid giving now.
“So, how’d you two meet?” He forced another smile and Marissa raised a brow at him slightly, she could tell he was faking. But before she could say anything, Kyle launched into the story, pausing to let Marissa add her own parts of the narrative.
Marissa playfully struck Kyle’s arm when he shared the story of how they met, though she chuckled at the retelling, she was actually embarrassed by it. Wanting to stand by her decision months ago to move on, she’d found a man who reminded her just enough of Bull, dark-haired and tall, and made a move. But she’d been reckless. There were a hundred ways that night could have ended and very few of them happy. Had Cable or Danny come into work and shared that that was how they’d met a guy Marissa would have reamed them for being unsafe. B
ull seemed to be having similar thoughts because his eyes widened dangerously as he turned to look at her during the story. The tilt of his head and frozen smile communicated his disapproval clearly enough. His expression also communicated ‘irresponsible indeed’, referring back to her initial description of her night out. Marissa gave him a sheepish grin but was distracted from her silent conversation with Bull by the arrival of the waiter asking if they wanted dessert.
She’d been lucky it had ended well. Really well. She liked Kyle, far more than she initially thought she would, and now here she was introducing him to Jason. The situation was surreal, the two men she cared for the most sitting at the same table enjoying dinner and drinks. Hopefully this would all make it a little easier, a little less messy.
Thankfully, the conversation turned towards safer grounds, what Kyle did for work and that carried them through dessert. Marissa stood then, claiming she needed to use the restroom. It wasn’t a complete lie, but she was curious as to how the two men would interact without her at the table. As she walked away, she slowed and made eye contact with Jason, biting her lip and shrugging slightly as if trying to ask him what he thought. But before he could convey anything back, Kyle started to turn and so she was forced to leave without a clear answer. No matter, she was sure Jason would give her a full analysis of Kyle later.
Bull watched Marissa leave with a slight panic, he did not want to be left alone with this self-satisfied turd. But from the look on Marissa’s face his approval was important to her, and though she’d seemed somewhat stressed throughout the night, he put it down to her being concerned he’d be inappropriate and ask questions so he could analyze Kyle. Damn it, she really liked this guy, he made her happy.
His thoughts were interrupted when the check arrived and from how Kyle cleared his throat, he could easily tell that he didn’t want to pay but would just to avoid losing face. They could go back and forth until Marissa got back, but Bull really just wanted this night to be over.
“You’ll get the next one.” He offered, giving a strained smile as he reached for his wallet, wondering why he’d even put it out there that a next time was plausible. Just then his phone buzzed, thank god, he sighed reaching for it. A collect call from a correctional facility? Bull excused himself to take the call, picking up his card from the waiter as he passed the kiosk.
They had a case, one for his old college roommate. Bull told Mack he’d be there within the hour. He then texted Marissa that he was sorry, but he had to run, an emergency had come up. He hailed a taxi and after he settled into the back his fingers hovered over the keyboard of his phone once more. He knew he should say something about Kyle. Anything. But he truly didn’t want to endorse the man in any way, not when he was busy trying to win Marissa away from him.
He ended up settling for a ’dinner was great, I had a good time.’ It wasn’t technically a lie, the food had been delicious and the times when Marissa had been the one talking and not Kyle had been enjoyable. Bull sighed and tucked his phone away, thankful for this emergency even if it meant Mack was in a bad spot—because he knew he wouldn’t have been able to fool Marissa in person.
Marissa came back from the bathroom and found Jason gone. She frowned, she’d hoped to hang back and watch them interact, but Bull was no where to be seen. As she got back to the table Kyle, upon seeing her, stood and held up her jacket.
“Where’s Jason?” She inquired, still looking around even though she knew she wouldn’t find him.
Kyle pulled on his own coat, “he got a call, sounded important, he mentioned an operator? Anyway, he had to leave. You ready?”
She floundered for a moment, “uh, yes.” She gathered her things and they headed outside to catch a cab. As they waited, Marissa checked her phone and found the texts from Jason, she knew she’d get more information about whatever the phone call was about at work the next day, the next text seemed off. ’dinner was great, I had a good time.’ She read, brow furrowing, she’d been hoping for something a little more descriptive than that.
But she knew she wouldn’t get anything out of him tonight, she’d just have to try and ask him about his thoughts on Kyle later. If he did approve, then it would be the final nail in this emotion coffin. If he approved, then she could move on for good because why would he encourage her to be in a relationship if he had feelings?
Kyle’s voice broke into her thoughts, “your place or mine?” He intoned, slipping an arm around her waist.
“Actually, I have a bit of a headache, I think I’m just going to go home and rest.” Marissa informed him, lifting one shoulder in slight apology. Really, she just wanted to be alone so she could think, to try and straighten this out in her head. And she knew that if she went home with Kyle that she would have another man on her mind the entire time—and that certainly wasn’t fair to him.
He looked put out, “oh? You sure, I could stay and help…”
Marissa shook her head, “I’m sure. Thank you for meeting Jason, it was important to me.” She informed him, opening the door to the cab that had just pulled up. “I’ll talk to you later.” She gave him a small smile and a peck on the lips before climbing into the vehicle and shutting the door on him.
“What am I signing here?” He clarified again, he’d gotten distracted during Marissa’s explanation. She was stand very close to him, one arm resting on the back of his chair and he could smell her perfume.
Marissa smiled and leaned in a little to point to the different parts of the document he needed to sign. “Well, we secured Mack’s bail last night with money from our day-to-day. So, now you’re moving money over from your personal IRA to cover TAC’s day-to-day.” She kept touching him, just lightly, on the shoulder, the back, his arm and it was making it even more difficult to focus on what he was supposed to be doing. “You’re a good friend.” She added, propping her hip against his desk and giving him a one-sided smile.
Bull signed on the various lines and huffed. “Correction, I’m a friend haunted by guilt. Good friends don’t pony up this kind of money.”
Lifting her brows Marissa just pressed her lips together and gathered the papers from the desk, humming. “Whatever you say, Jay.” She murmured quietly as she left, she paused by the door though, and turned back around. “What, what did you think of Kyle?”
Damn, she’d caught him off guard, he should have known she’d take the first opportunity to bring up the topic. He should’ve lied better in his text. “Well, he, he seemed nice…”
“What was that tone?” She inquired, cocking her head.
Bull cleared his throat, “what tone?”
Marissa rolled her eyes at him, “Jason, please don’t lie to me, your opinion matters to me.”
“He just, he just seemed like he was putting on a show. That’s all.” He offered, grimacing at his choice of words. Why wasn’t he taking this opportunity to tell her the truth?
Her responding facial expression confused him, “oh, okay.” She turned to the door and then spun back around. “Jason, what does that mean? Tell me honestly, what did you think of Kyle?”
“I’m happy if you’re happy, Mariss. What I think doesn’t really matter.”
She looked like she was about to argue when Cable poked her head in to inform them that Mack and his lawyer had arrived.
Bull decided to ride back to the reservation with Mack, wanting to pump his old roommate for more details. Before he had the chance, though, Mack turned to him.
“So, what’s the deal with Marissa?” He raised a brow at Bull.
Something angry and jealous roared inside his chest, “what do you mean, what’s the deal?” He turned the question back, tone clipped.
Mack shook his head, “come on man, she’s gorgeous and I didn’t see a ring. She seeing anyone?”
Bull clenched his jaw for a moment before turning to face Mack more fully. “You are on trial for first degree murder, I hardly think contemplating the relationship status of people I work with is a priority right now.”
This only made Mack chuckle, “oho, so that’s a yes, she is seeing someone and it’s not you. And you’re pissed about it.”
Gripping his knees, Bull managed to grind out a “what?”
“Man, JB, you forget I was a psychology major too and I lived with you. I can read people still, I don’t have some fancy job for it, but I didn’t forget everything. Especially not how you get when you like a girl.”
No, this wasn’t happening, the whole reason for this car ride was to prep for what was turning out to be a mountain of a case, with rockslides, avalanches and feral wolves coming out at regular intervals to make their job more difficult. “I do not know what you are talking about, but if you would like to get back to discussing your case, which I took on as a favor, I think that would be a better use of our time.”
Mack’s eyebrows flew up, “alright man, whatever you say.” And from his tone, Bull knew all he’d done was further confirm Mack’s initial thoughts that he was pissed that Marissa was dating someone else.
She hadn’t really wanted to go out, work was crazy and they were so out of their element with this case taking place on Tribal land and in the Tribal court system that Marissa had turned down Kyle’s invitation at first. Jason’s words that Kyle had been putting on a show were still echoing in her head as well; and the fact that Jason hadn't really answered her question about what he thought of Kyle...
But he’d been insistent, claimed something big had happened and he just had to show her. She could feel his energy over the phone, and she didn’t want to dampen that enthusiasm; so, she’d caved. And that was how she’d come to be blindfolded in the back of a car with him. Confused, but curious as well.
“Okay, I felt us park, can I take off this blindfold yet?” She asked, reaching for the cloth.
Kyle snagged her hand though, “not yet.” He placed her hand on his chest, “you feel that?”
Marissa furrowed her brow, “it’s a nice shirt?” She replied, half laughing.
“No,” Kyle chuckled as well, “that’s my heart pounding.”
Suddenly multiple pieces of the puzzle clunked into place and Marissa snatched her hand back, her own heart thundering now as well. “What? No, no, no, no. Kyle, this is starting to get gooey and I am actually not good with gooey.” She wasn’t one hundred percent sure what was going to happen, but she knew she needed to discourage it before Kyle got too far into the evening. “I’m actually really good with going to nice restaurants, and, and enjoying some good wine and sleeping over at each other’s apartment once or twice a week.”
“Alright, stop.” He cut her off, “this isn’t gooey. My heart’s pounding because I’m about to show you something that means a lot to me and I’m just worried that—”
Oh, she had misread the whole situation. That was embarrassing…. But also, a relief, Marissa’s insides relaxed at his words and she quickly moved to reassure him now that she knew it wasn’t some kind of proposal. “Hey, hey, hey, don’t worry. Stop worrying.”
When he instructed her to remove the blindfold, she hadn’t known what to expect, but a dark street with foreclosed and boarded up buildings certainly hadn’t been on the list. And when he suggested they get out of the car, Marissa hesitated but followed.
Kyle wrapped his arms around her, tugging her closer, sliding his hands along her hips and abdomen, talking about how his company and investors were going to transform this area—build apartments and grocery stores. Talked about how all he thought about every day was her and this project and that he thought they should finally meet. He lifted her off the ground and onto the back of the car, startling her.
But his enthusiasm was contagious and when he lurched forward and kissed her, she couldn’t help but return the kiss, her hand sliding into his hair and pulling him closer. This, she smiled when they broke apart and he suggested going to eat, drink good wine and figure out who’s apartment to wake up in—this was uncomplicated, good and it made her happy. This is what she needed. Not the conflicting feelings she had towards Jason, not the conflicting feelings she knew wouldn’t be reciprocated. This. She beamed and pulled Kyle back in for another kiss, forgetting about Jason completely.
Bull approached Mack after the trial, he was packing up his truck, heading to some casinos in Mississippi. They parted on better terms than they had the last time, no more favors owed and still friends. As Bull turned to head back to his own car, Mack called out.
“JB, I might not ever get that jackpot, but neither will you if you don’t tell that Marissa woman how you feel.” Bull shook his head and made to get in the car, waving away the comment. “I’m telling the truth, man. You know I’m right. Don’t pass up on what could be your happy ending just because you’re scared.” With that Mack waved his hand and headed back inside his house.
Bull paused a moment to think and then climbed into the car. He knew Mack was right, he’d been working on telling Marissa—it’s just that, he’d found it harder to do than he’d initially thought. And he’d initially thought it would be pretty damn difficult. Sighing, he settled back into the seat and looked out the window as they drove. That big fundraiser for the mayor was coming up… he normally invited Marissa, until this year it had always been a platonic invitation. But this year, maybe, maybe he could say something that night as they left, tell her everything.
Yes, that had possibilities.
Chapter 21: Chapter 21
Covers face. I’m sorry for the (checks last time fic was updated and cringes) almost year long hiatus. I got really swept up in another fandom and, honestly, I lost interest in Bull a few episodes into season 3 and stopped watching. But I’m determined to finish this fic!
Sorry again and if you’re still reading this almost abandoned fic you’re amazing and I don’t deserve you.
Bull moved forward to help Marissa out of the car she’d arrived in. As she emerged, he made a concentrated effort to hide his blatant admiration of the incredible red dress she wore and the elegant twist of her hair which left her neck and shoulders completely bare; she was stunning.
He couldn’t help the thoughts flashing through his mind of him kissing along her neck and shoulders, nipping at her collar bone before moving down to give attention to where he could see the crests of her breasts above sweetheart neckline of her dress. Swallowing, and trying to take his mind off his fantasies, Bull remarked, “I must say Marissa, you look absolutely beautiful.” Then the green-eyed monster reared its head and he added, a little bitterly, “but I’m sure Kyle’s already told you that.”
Unaware of his jealousy, Marissa chuckled and flashed him a quick, wicked grin as they walked up to the door of the event. “Yes, he told me I was beautiful in the shower.” Bull had to look away quickly, if he’d been having inappropriate thoughts before Marissa certainly wasn’t helping now. She continued, oblivious to Bull’s reaction. “He told me I looked beautiful in my underwear. And then, he told me I looked beautiful in my dress. I couldn’t help but notice his sense of conviction diminishing the more clothes I put on.” Marissa scoffed lightly, a smile playing at her lips at the recent memory.
Scowling, Bull could picture Kyle’s smug face as he told Marissa how beautiful she was, but not wanting to give himself away, joked “men, what’s our problem?” He forced himself to look away when Marissa walked in front of him to check in at the table, not trusting himself to stop his eyes from sweeping over her figure. If he kept acting like this, he’d blow his plan before the night even started.
“Bull, Dr. Jason Bull” she informed the volunteer at the table. Bull turned to face her then and realized it was going to be a long night of making sure he didn’t stare. A long night of him now imagining her saying ‘Bull. Dr and Mrs. Jason Bull’ in that same melodious voice. She recaptured his attention when she inquired, “why are we even here? I thought you swore last year you were never coming back.”
“And I meant it. Oh, wait a second. Is this the annual Mayor’s ‘you scratch my back, I have no idea who you are’ fundraising gala?” He teased, causing Marissa to purse her lips to keep a laugh from spilling out. Bull winked at her and held out his arm to escort her to their table.
The dinner had finished and the final preparations for the auction were being made when Bull’s eyes strayed to where various couples were dancing. Taking a deep swig of wine, Bull turned to Marissa and held out his hand. “May I have this dance?” He made sure to wiggle his eyebrows, but truthfully his stomach was flipping at the idea of being able to hold Marissa in his arms again in any capacity.
A smile bloomed across Marissa’s lips. “Yes, that would be lovely.” She took his hand and stood, smoothing out her dress as she rounded her chair to join Bull on the dance floor.
He swept her dramatically into the proper dancing position, causing Marissa to laugh and drop her head onto his shoulder for a moment.
They danced formally for a while before their positions relaxed, the distance between them dwindling and their hand positions became more familiar. “So how was your weekend off?” Bull asked, slowly spinning with Marissa towards the edge of the dance floor, no longer part of the other couples on the floor.
“Oh wonderful! So glad I finally got to cash in on that bet we made in Callisto.” She teased, playfully tugging on the short hairs at the nape of his neck where her arms had settled. “Kyle took me to a cabin he rented, and we hiked and had a picnic and relaxed—completely unplugged. It was lovely.”
Bull forced a grin, his insides twisting at the fact that the weekend off he’d owed Marissa had been used to further her relationship with Kyle. He could imagine the kind of ‘relaxing’ they did at a remote cabin in upper New York. But there was no point in focusing on that now, not when Marissa was softly pressed against him as they swayed to the music.
He was about to suggest ditching the rest of the night to go grab a few beers and a pizza to make up for the surprisingly small amount of food they’d been given when the MC asked everyone to take their seats for the auction.
And oh, how the auction dragged on… and on. Bull sighed and signaled the waiter to refill his wine glass again; it was turning out to be a much longer night than he’d expected.
Marissa watched in slight disapproval. “Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” She lifted a brow at the glass already halfway to his mouth.
“Astonishingly, no. I can still hear this guy’s voice.” He pointed at the auctioneer who was droning on about a carriage ride in central park with the mayor. When there didn’t appear to be any takers, Bull heaved a sigh. “Oh god,” and lifted his sign.
Reaching for his arm to yank it back down, Marissa gave him a baffled look. “Wha, what are you doing?” She hissed, glancing between him and the MC to see if his action had been noticed.
Bull gave the sign a little wave, ignoring Marissa’s restraining hand. “It’s worth $2,000 just to get him to shut up.” He muttered and Marissa huffed in reluctant amusement and dropped her hand, only to look at him in shock as he continued to drive the price up. When he lost, Bull gave her a smug smile and took another drink. “See, what did I tell ya. Do I know what I know, or do I know what I know?”
Marissa rolled her eyes and gave his shoulder a light shove. But movement at the front of the stage stopped her from mockingly congratulating him. “I don’t know.” She murmured, indicating to where the mayor’s aide was now talking to the auctioneer.
When it was announced that they would give two carriage rides to both bidders, Marissa barely suppressed a snort. “Do you know what you—”
Bull waved away the rest of her comment, making her chuckle. “That’s cheating, you can’t count that against me.”
Smirking, Marissa just shook her head. “Uh huh.”
As they were leaving, almost an hour later, the mayor’s chief of staff approached them and asked if they’d take a case defending a local teacher. Though he normally liked a bit more digging of his own, Bull agreed; it wouldn’t hurt to meet with the woman, and he could always turn down the case if he wanted.
Exiting the building, Marissa looped her arm through his. “How is it, that you get wrangled into paying up $8,000 dollars and taking on a case in one night? Is it this sixth sense or is it just something you know?”
“Ha ha, very funny.” Bull knocked his hip against hers. “Want to get a nightcap before heading home?” He needed more alcohol if he was going to broach the topic of deeper feelings with Marissa.
Marissa shook her head and gave him a rueful smile. “I can’t. I promised Kyle that I would—”
Unwilling to hear anymore, Bull stopped short. “No problem, I’ll see you later.” He removed his arm from her grip and moved away, hailing a car and opening the door for Marissa. She furrowed her brow but nodded, pecking him on the cheek and baying him goodnight as she climbed into the vehicle.
Bull grumbled to himself as the car drove away. He’d been a coward. Had taken the first excuse that presented itself to not tell Marissa how he felt and packed her away into a car. Rubbing the back of his neck, Bull heaved a sigh and started to make plans, again, for how he’d tell Marissa he loved her.
As the car drove away, Marissa couldn’t help but look over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of Bull’s retreating form. He’d been acting oddly tonight, as though there were something on the tip of his tongue that he kept biting back. She’d wanted to push, to ask what was going on in that head of his. She almost had, when they were dancing…. But Marissa had chickened out, not wanting to ruin the moment and have him release her. Besides, Jason would talk when he was ready and if she pried he’d only dig his heels in.
Turning back to the front of the car, Marissa exhaled slowly, trying to ignore how wonderful it felt to dance with Jason, to be held by him.
The case was a struggle from the start. Bull had thought it would go more smoothly once he got a better handle on Gwen Kinsey, the lawyer representing their client. Her very high score on the Machiavelli test he’d given everyone had given him hope they might come together after all. Jury selection began strong, until Kinsey veered suddenly into the defense she’d initially proposed; challenging standardized testing.
He’d wanted to debrief with Marissa afterwards, back at the office, see if she had any ideas on how to deal with their slightly rogue lawyer. But she was gone when he got back. Cable mentioned something about Marissa having dinner plans as the young woman walked backwards towards the elevator, clearly not stopping to provide him with any additional information.
Groaning, Bull went to his office anyway and tried to brainstorm what to do; pouring himself a generous glass of scotch while he was at it.
Dinner had been lovely, a welcome distraction from how frustrating Kinsey was to work with, how difficult this case would be without the cooperation of their client’s defense attorney. What came after dinner was even nicer.
Which was why Marissa was surprised to find Kyle gone when she reached across the bed to cuddle closer to him. Frowning, she’d pulled her robe on and padded down the stairs where she could just see the faint glow of one of her lamps.
What she found made her heart plummet.
“Tell me you are not going through my personal papers.” She stated, voice hard as she descended the last few stairs and came to a stop behind Kyle.
Looking nonplussed, he shrugged. “Sorry, can’t do that. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
His nonchalance burned her. Swallowing, Marissa planted her hands on her hips. “Okay, I need you to stop right now. I need you to get up, get your clothes and leave.”
Kyle had the nerve to huff. “Are you mad at me?”
Was, was she mad? How could she not be at this intrusion? At this complete invasion of privacy. He’d known it was an invasion too, why else would he sneak down here in the middle of the night while she was sleeping to do this? Running her tongue over her teeth, Marissa leveled him with a glare. “I am going to count to three, if you are not out of that chair and getting your clothes, I’m calling the police.”
He dropped the papers then and stood, hands held up. “Out of the chair. But I was just looking through this stuff because I’m worried about you.” When she looked at him skeptically, Kyle lowered his hands and kept talking. “Marissa, I’m a money guy, that’s what I do. And you won’t let me take care of you.”
The words rankled her. She didn’t need taken care of. Marissa had been looking out for herself most of her life. And if she hadn’t needed it as a child, she certainly didn’t need it as an adult. Crossing her arms, Marissa was about to tell Kyle as much and then send him on his way as she’d planned, but he continued.
“Half the time you let me pay for dinner, and I get it, that’s what works for you.” She opened her mouth to say if he truly got it, what worked for her, then he wouldn’t have done this. But Kyle talked over her once more. “But I am who I am, and I need to know you’re okay. That you’re set for the future… and you’re not.”
Unmoved, Marissa scoffed. “That’s my business.”
Kyle took a step closer to her, but she didn’t budge, jaw set and body tense. He went on about how much she had saved, how much she was spending by taking care of her mom, keeping her apartment. It unnerved her further, he’d had more time to sift through her things than she’d thought.
“You need to leave.” She repeated, wondering if she’d truly have to call the police to get him to leave. Her body was practically vibrating with anxiety and tension, why wouldn’t he just leave? He’d been caught, violated her trust—something she didn’t take lightly, Marissa shouldn’t even be listening to his explanation as he clearly wasn’t listening to her desire for him to be out of her sight and out of her apartment.
He tried to take her hands as he went on about how he could invest her money in his project, could help her save more. But Marissa didn’t want to hear it, she slid her hands from his and looked away, expression blank.
Finally taking his cue, Kyle sighed and went upstairs to collect his things. When he came back down, fully dressed, Kyle paused at the door, his hand on the knob. “Marissa—”
“Go.” She snapped, proud how steady she sounded.
When the door closed behind him, Marissa rushed over and locked it. Turning to rest her back against the door, she covered her mouth with her hand and tried to force back the tears pricking her eyes. Was there no man she could trust?
Greg, Greg hadn’t understood her job, hadn’t understood her desire to work towards the greater good even if it meant sacrificing part of her personal life. He’d tried to chip away at her, guilt her into quitting, into taking a job closer to home with more regular hours. He’d broken her trust when he’d tried to make her into something she wasn’t. There had been a few men interspersed through the years after her divorce. Nothing serious, perhaps because she’d been stupidly and obliviously falling in love with Jason.
And then there was Kyle. Wonderful, kind Kyle who had naively left his wallet at a bar and she’d naively returned it. How had they gotten here? He said he cared. That was why he’d done this, because he cared. But you didn’t lie to the people you cared about. Didn’t go behind their backs and snooped through their personal things. Didn’t try and twist the situation so that she should feel ridiculous for being mad.
Pushing off the door, Marissa went over to the small filing cabinet and started to resort her things, cataloguing everything he’d seen and making a note that just because these were the papers that were out, didn’t mean Kyle hadn’t already been through others and put them away.
As she slipped the last paper in and reached to turn of the light, her stomach twisted. Was this the first time he’d done this? Or was this just the first time she’d caught him. Running her hands through her hair, Marissa made her way back upstairs, knowing, even as she laid down, that she wouldn’t be falling back asleep.
She struggled to pay attention during the trial the next day. Her mind whirling with the events of last night, Kyle’s offer, her reaction… wondering if she’d overreacted.
Marissa knew she wasn’t the most open of individuals, and because of this there was no way Kyle could know how his comment about taking care of her hit the wrong chord. Because of this he couldn’t know she had trust issues, for a whole slew of reasons, but her jobs and ex-husband being few that were easy to pinpoint.
He couldn’t know she was jaded; she hadn’t let him in far enough for that.
Perhaps she had overreacted. Kyle still shouldn’t have gone through her things, should have just talked to her about his concerns, what he’d like to do. She wasn’t sure if that would have made a difference, her walls built too highly to let many past, but it would have been preferred to what had happened the night before.
Still on the fence about the whole thing, Marissa found herself waiting in Bull’s office with a drink in her hand after everyone else had gone home.
“That drink better be for me.” Came an only partially teasing voice from behind her.
Pivoting, Marissa gave Bull a half-hearted smile. “Sorry, this one’s spoken for.”
Brow furrowing, Bull closed the distance between them. “You upset about the trial? Well, it’s only just begun.”
She’d stayed here for this reason, to talk to Bull about what happened. But now that Marissa was facing him, she found she couldn’t tell him the truth; not all of it. Perhaps it was shame, her pride, or just confusion over her feelings for both Jason and Kyle. In any case, she needed more time to think, so, she took a large drink.
The action didn’t go unnoticed, Bull’s eyebrows flying up. “That was a serious swallow. Want to tell me all about it?”
“What is it about what we do that makes it so hard to trust people?” She looked up at him, hoping for the first time that he might psychoanalyze her, might figure out what was wrong. Why she had trouble trusting, letting people in, trouble with love. And maybe, just maybe, he would pin it all on their work and not on her.
Bull blinked, taken aback by her question. He’d known work wasn’t what was bothering her; Marissa didn’t usually resort to alcohol as a means of coping with a hitch in the case. That was his schtick. But this, this was much deeper than he’d expected.
Trying to lighten the mood, he chuckled. “Oh, we’re going to have that conversation?” When she averted her eyes, Bull resisted the urge to hug her, to pull her in and comfort her. While he was certain this had to do with Kyle, and he wanted nothing more than to come between the two of them… Bull couldn’t sow more seeds of doubt in Marissa’s mind.
He knew how difficult it was for her to open up, to trust. He refused to be another reason for why she couldn’t connect with people in the way she deserved. As much as he hated Kyle, Bull loved Marissa more. And he would tell her the truth, in this at least, because this conversation was about what she needed, not him.
Touching her forearm lightly, Bull waited until she brought her eyes back to his. “Mariss, give yourself a break. We spend the whole day figuring out if people are lying to us or not. And when we’re not doing that, we’re figuring out how to convince twelve strangers that our clients are telling the truth.” He leaned in conspiratorially, “of course we don’t trust anybody.”
A true smile twitched on Marissa’s lips but was gone just as fast at it disappeared. Swirling the contents of her glass, Marissa looked out the window. “Kyle offered to do something for me the other night. Something nice, thoughtful.”
“And what did you do?”
She smirked a little. “I threatened to have him arrested.”
Something boiled up inside Bull, but he couldn’t identify exactly what it was. He wanted to ask Marissa what happened, push for more details. Because she was logical, she wouldn’t have threatened Kyle with the police if what he had done or offered was truly ‘nice and thoughtful’.
Before he could respond, however, Marissa handed him the drink she’d been nursing. “I think I’m going to go home and call him to apologize.”
Bull barely had time to register the sudden shift, when he looked up to teasingly call after her, Marissa was already out the door. Dumbfounded, he sat down and finished the drink she’d left behind. While he was happy he’d reassured Marissa that she could, indeed, trust people, Bull couldn’t help the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that something was wrong; that Kyle was wrong.
But he had nothing to base that on. And Bull couldn’t be certain his conclusion wasn’t colored by his own personal feelings. So, he’d held his tongue. He’d kept quiet even though he’d desperately wanted to tell Marissa that she shouldn’t trust Kyle.
He couldn’t do that to her though. Couldn’t undermine her thoughts, her trust, couldn’t make her doubt and see ‘evil’ around every corner. He loved her too much for that. Sighing, Bull stood and made for his desk where the bottle of scotch was resting. “Ain’t love grand,” he muttered to himself as he refilled his glass.
She hesitated; once she got home. All the conviction she’d had in the office dwindling the closer she got. And once she was inside, could see the where Kyle had sat last night, trying to convince her that her anger was unjustified in face of his concern… well, she’d waffled.
Maybe it wouldn’t work out, but she at least needed to call Kyle and talk to him. At least explain and allow him to explain further as well. Jason’s words had soothed an old pain, they’d given her an excuse for her mistrust that wasn’t just her past. He was right. They were constantly looking for lies, looking for how to spin lies to their advantage; she couldn’t really blame herself for letting some of her work habits bleed into her personal life.
Summoning her courage, Marissa pulled out her phone and dialed Kyle’s number. He answered readily, breathing her name when he picked up. And the sheer relief in his voice, it reassured her. Reassured her that he knew he messed up, that he hadn’t meant anything more than what he’d told her the other night. There were no ulterior motives, no hidden agendas. It was just Kyle being sweet, trying to look out for her… and would it really be so bad to have someone look out for her?
The ringing in his ears as the jury read the verdict and the judge then sentenced their client muffled all other sound. Bull promised Lacey they would fix it somehow. Which was how he found himself meeting the mayor’s aide in at the park entrance. The man was stunned Bull actually set the appointment, most people just donated the money and pretended they forgot what they won.
But Bull had ulterior motives, it was a way to try and help the woman whose case they had just lost. But the aide, who had turned TAC onto the case in the first place, assured Bull that the woman would land on her feet and nothing more could be done. Disgruntled, Bull kicked the aide out of the carriage and instructed the driver to the next block over where he’d told Marissa to meet him. After everything that had happened during the case, all he wanted was some alone time with his favorite person.
If he was the bigger man, Bull wouldn’t have planned this. He would’ve just used the carriage ride to get the mayor’s ear, to try and help their client and been done with it. But things were rocky with Kyle, and just because she’d gone home to potentially reconcile things didn’t mean it’d all worked out and what better time would there be to confess than this?
As they rounded the corner, Bull saw Marissa ahead, standing confused and checking her watch. He took the moment observe her, he hadn’t seen her this casual in a while—Kyle dominated most of her free time now. Her cream-colored sweater was mostly hidden beneath her bright red peacoat, a black beanie pulled over her curls, and her dark skinny jeans made it difficult for him to look away from her legs even when they disappeared into knee high boots. As they pulled up to stop by her, Bull leaned over the edge and smirked. “Young lady, it’s dangerous to be out alone so late at night. I must insist on giving you a ride.”
Laughter burst from Marissa’s lips when she realized who was in the carriage. “Jason!” She exclaimed, approaching him, her eyes bright with excitement. “What is this?”
Bull leapt down from the carriage and held the door open for Marissa. “Why it’s what I won in the auction. I wanted to make sure someone who would appreciate the experience got to enjoy it.” He explained, helping Marissa into the back and stepping in himself.
She scooted over to make room for Bull to settle in next to her, already gazing around her as the coach started moving. “Oh, Jason this is such an incredible surprise. Thank you.”
The carriage lurched back into motion, the drive calling back over his shoulder. “Hey, you two, there’s a blanket back there if you get cold.”
“Oohh, perfect!” Marissa reached forward, grabbed the blanket from the other bench and unfurled it over their laps. A brief gust of wind had Marissa snuggling closer into Bull, her hands clasping his jacket lapel, her smile refusing to leave her lips.
Bull comfortably wrapped his arm around her and began pointing out different aspects of the city they didn’t get to appreciate using public transportation or his car. And it was everything that he needed. Time away from the office, away from their most current case, just time to let his mind rest. And with Marissa warm against him and chuckling at the latest fact they both knew he made up, he couldn’t think of anything else he could want.
Lifting her head from Jason’s shoulder, Marissa glanced up at him and couldn’t help but smile. The thought of it not being so bad letting someone look out for her coming to mind unbidden. Before she could brush away the thought, Bull tilted his head to meet her gaze, their faces close, and else something flashed through her mind. Warm lips, the taste of scotch, a little moan escaping her throat, fingers tangled in her hair while another hand was firm between her shoulder blades—pressing her closer.
Marissa dropped her eyes from Bull’s and shook her head minutely, knowing that couldn’t be right. She’d never kissed Jason; would certainly remember if she had. Her subconscious must be drumming up old dreams or transposing memories of Kyle onto Bull. Here she was, trying to clean up the mess that was her feelings for her best friend and somehow almost every interaction spread the mess further, tugged her heart a bit more in a direction she could not afford to let it go. She had told Chunk the truth, back in Miami, Jason didn’t feel the same way about her; never would. Continuing to harbor these feelings was fruitless and exhausting; especially when she was dating Kyle.
As the carriage concluded its final round, Marissa slowly pulled away from him, gently disengaging her hand from here it had somehow become entangled with Bull’s in his lap.
Despite her movements acknowledging the end of the ride, Bull kept his arm around her, now more around her back and waist than shoulders. Unfortunately, the time was up far too soon for his liking and he watched with a sinking feeling as Marissa withdrew from him, eyes shuttering slightly as she courteously refolded the blanket and set it on the bench.
Bull finally removed his arm, stood and exited the carriage and held out his hand to help Marissa down. “Milady,” he bowed his head.
Smirking and eyes coming back to life, Marissa inclined her head and took his hand as she stepped down. “Why thank you, good sir.” Bull was still holding onto her hand, about to suggest they grab a bite to eat, like they always used to on late nights before so much changed, when Marissa’s phone rang. “Oh, it’s Kyle, one second.” Marissa grinned at her phone and stepped away from Bull for a moment to talk quietly on the phone.
He scowled at the ground and scuffed his shoe before glancing up and watching Marissa’s smile widen as she continued her conversation with Kyle. How could that prick make her smile like that? How could they have fixed things so quickly?
Hanging up the phone, Marissa came back over, arms wrapped around her for warmth. “I’ve always wanted to go on one of these, you know.” She smiled, reaching up and stroking the horse’s nose, her own scrunching in delight when the animal nuzzled into her palm.
“Yeah,” Bull murmured softly, coming up behind her, “I know.”
She turned to face him. “Thank you, Jason. This was perfect,” Marissa tipped onto her toes and kissed his cheek, “but I have to get going. Kyle—”
Not wanting to hear any more, Bull held up a hand. “Say no more.” Please God, he thought, say no more. Because he was already chickening out again, he should have just said it on the carriage ride like he’d planned. But he’d been nervous and hadn’t wanted to ruin the moment, hadn’t wanted her to pull away and ask the driver to stop and let her out. And now? He couldn’t confess anything now that he knew she and Kyle were back together again.
Watching Marissa walk away from him, Bull ran a hand agitatedly through his hair, muttering to himself that he’d ruined it again.
His thoughts were interrupted by the carriage driver. “You’re a real good couple, is Kyle her brother?”
“Boyfriend.” Bull muttered darkly, slapping the tip into the driver’s hand and turning to leave.
“Wait, what?! She’s not your girl? But the way you two acted, I thought a proposal was going to happen back there…. And trust me I’ve seen a lot of couples.”
Huffing, Bull shook his head, unsure why he was unloading all this onto a stranger, but unloading, nonetheless. “I waited too long, and I lost her to someone else. Now I’m just trying to figure out a way to let her know without ruining our friendship.”
A low whistle escaped the driver. “Oh man, well good luck. If it means anything, I think she feels the same. No way you two were always just friends and act like that without some extra feelings on her side too.” The man shrugged when Bull’s head snapped up to look at him. “Just saying what I see. Have a good night.”
As he climbed back into the carriage, Bull contemplated what he said. That Marissa felt the same as well, at least on some level; it bolstered him. He should have confessed tonight; this should have been his big gesture and he’d mucked it up. Let the mention of Kyle throw him off and distract him.
He wasn’t going to let that happen again. But with Thanksgiving coming up next week, he’d have to wait. Marissa always went to Florida over the holiday, it wouldn’t do any good to tell her he loved her only for her to leave a few days later. No. Bull would plan something even better. Marissa loved Christmas; it was her favorite. He’d do it before then or not at all. Bull couldn’t keep playing this game with himself.
Ultimatum set, Bull went to the curb to hail a cab home.