AN: This is actually based on the movie—so Marry the Man Today doesn't occur and Sky hasn't told Sarah his real name—but it does contain references to the musical.

. . . . . .

He's standing in the hotel lobby with his suitcase in hand, thinking how glad he'll be to see this city in his rear-view mirror, when he hears a voice that clears all other thought from his head. "How much did it cost you?"

He turns around and there she is in that ridiculous red hat and cape, looking small and grave and achingly lovely. He has found that when he is around her, he inexplicably thinks of his childhood, of a little brownstone and the gentle smile of his mother and ball games in the street on the fourth of July. Maybe, says a voice in his head, it's not that inexplicable. Maybe it's that after years of roaming, you've finally found something that feels like home.

But none of that matters now; she's a mission doll, after all, and he's just another gambler. That hasn't changed. So he simply tilts his head—force of habit, he does it to make the other person wonder what he's thinking which is a nice edge of have when making a bet—and responds calmly. "How much did what cost me?"

She takes a step forward and then falters. Her hands come up to touch the clasp of her cape and he has to fight back a smile as he realizes she's trying to fiddle nervously with her buttons but her cape is getting in the way. And then he thinks that the last time they spoke she wasn't nervous, she was angry, and maybe the fact that they're back to nervous is a good sign. The thought makes him nervous.

"Mr. Detroit told me about your bet," she says simply. "So I know you lied. How much did it cost you? How much did you bet?"

He's not quite sure how to react. If she'd come running into the lobby and into his arms, he would have held her tight and quite possibly never let her go. But she's simply standing there, still and prim, asking him about his bet, and he can tell that if he reached for her now she'd pull away. So why is she here? Does she feel like she owes him? "Nothing I can't afford," he says off-handedly. Which is true; he could have given a grand to each gambler in that sewer, so a thousand dollars to Nathan Detroit isn't much. Not much money at all for a final apologetic goodbye to Sergeant Sarah Brown.

"Please tell me," she insists quietly.

If she'd yelled, if she'd argued, he could have said no. He would have said no. But he can't resist her quiet plea. "A grand." His arm is getting tired and he sets his suitcase down on the floor.

Her eyes widen in shock and she leans toward him in her surprise. "You paid a thousand dollars for a bet you actually won?"

You'd have to know him well to see that the tiny flicker of movement just then is him shifting uncomfortably; he learned long ago to hide his tells. But he is indeed uncomfortable as he responds. "It seemed like a reasonable price to save your reputation."

Her expression cycles through emotions as though she can't decide which one she's feeling most; the one that eventually settles onto her features is reluctant admiration. And that he wants to object to; he didn't do it to make her care for him again. Well, he did—he hoped, anyway—but all he'd wanted was for it to remind her of what she'd felt on that long plane ride back from Havana, when she'd slept peacefully with her head on his shoulder and her fingers entwined with his. He'd wanted it to remind her that standing on the dirty sidewalk in front of the mission in the gray light of pre-dawn, she'd been a woman in love. What he absolutely does not want is for her to feel obligated to him for paying Nathan. He knows what it's like to have a doll stick around because he throws cash around for her and that is not at all what he wants here, thank you very much.

But if she does feel obligated to him, she doesn't dwell on it long, because after a long, tense moment she's speaking again. "Brannigan came to the prayer meeting just now," she says stiffly. "He informed General Cartwright that Nathan Detroit ran a crap game in the mission last night."

He's still as a statue but inside he feels a growing urge to sock Nathan in the jaw. Is this twice now that the crap game has blown it for him and Sarah? But at the same time he can't help but worry a little that the police may have finally caught up with Nathan. He may want to sock the guy but he's still a friend. In fact he's found that the friends he wants to sock in the jaw are often the ones that mean the most to him. "Did he?"

And suddenly she's blushing and fidgety. "They're—it's all right. I . . . put Brannigan off."

He raises his eyebrows. "Did you?"

"I didn't want to ruin the prayer meeting," she says defensively. "It had been going so well and General Cartwright was so pleased. And . . ." And here she pauses, fiddles again with her cape, looks at the ground. "They were in my mission. I felt responsible for them."

A slow smile spreads across his face. "Sarah Brown," he says, gently jokingly chiding, "did you lie to an officer of the law?"

There's color in her cheeks and steel in her tone. "I thought that the things they could learn and feel in a prayer meeting would be more beneficial for their lives and their salvation than being dragged away by the police."

He'd love to keep teasing her on this but he knows it's time to pull back. And he still wants to know why she's here if it's not to fall into his arms, as it so far appears not to be. "And how did the general feel about all this?"

She deflates a little. "After Brannigan left, Mr. Detroit confessed that they had had their crap game last night, but without our knowledge. I . . . left not long after, but I think she probably didn't mind." A ghost of a smile plays over her lips. "She was very impressed when she heard that you won all of those men in a dice game. 'Fighting fire with fire,' she called it. She gave me all the credit, although goodness knows all I did was fly to Havana and get in a bar fight." She hesitates, then looks him right in the eye. "I suppose that's why I'm here, to give credit where it's due. You saved the mission. Everyone back there thinks it was me, but I know it was all you."

"I wouldn't say that," he says. "You took down half a bar full of Cubans, that's something." But he's forcing his tone to stay light; what he really wants to do is drop back onto the couch behind him, put his head in his hands and sigh. She came to tell him he saved the mission, that's all—and to find out why Nathan thinks he won their bet. She did not come, as he'd hoped, to wind her arms around his neck and murmur into his ear that she was wrong and please don't leave town.

But after a long moment, he realizes that at least he was right about the part where she admits she was wrong, because suddenly she's uncomfortable again and saying, "And I suppose I came here to apologize. I misjudged you, Mr. Masterson"—they're back to Mr. Masterson, apparently—"and that was wrong of me. After the police showed up, I should have at least given you the benefit of the doubt."

"No, you shouldn't have," he said calmly. "I didn't give you much of a reason to trust me. I'd already told you I took you to Havana to win a bet."

"But you did tell me," she points out. "And you'd been a perfect gentleman all evening. You didn't . . . take advantage of me, even when I threw myself at you." She pauses, then fixes him with a hard glare. "Although you did get me drunk. I remembered what Bacardi is eventually."

He can't stop the smile that provokes, and she smiles reluctantly back before dropping her gaze to his hands. "The point is, when I saw all those men running away from the mission, I focused on the tidy category I'd placed you in, gamblers and sinners and criminals, and I refused to believe that you could be anything but one of them. It was unfair and unkind of me."

I can be more than just a gambler and a sinner and a criminal, he wants to tell her. He doesn't know what he'd be if he stopped gambling, but for the first time since he left home, he's open to finding out.

But she can't hear his thoughts, so she simply smiles gently at him. "I'm sorry, Sky."

And it's so nice to hear his name off her lips that without thinking he corrects, "Obadiah."

"I'm sorry?"

"Obadiah," he repeats, then says a bit hesitantly, "That's my real name. I've never told anyone before." And he hadn't planned to tell anyone ever again, but he suddenly needs to hear her say it, especially if this turns out to be the last time they speak.

And she doesn't disappoint. "Obadiah," she repeats shyly, and he's never liked his given name until this moment. Without meaning to he steps forward and one hand lifts to touch her arm, but she flinches away and the moment is broken and, embarrassed, he steps back. "Don't, Sky—Obadiah," she corrects herself. "It's not a good idea."

Hurt makes his voice sharper than he'd intended. "Then why did you come down here?" he demands.

"I don't know," she admits softly. "I . . . I couldn't stand the thought of you going away like that, with everything still hanging between us this way."

"Is that all?"

She is silent.

"I love you," he says, and her eyes widen. "I've never been in love before, and I don't have a clue what I'm doing. But I love you."

He can see in the nervous movement of her body that she's restraining herself from moving; what he can't tell is whether she wants to come to him or to run away. "It would never work, Obadiah. You're a gambler, I'm a missionary."


"My father is a prominent minister in Massachusetts, did I ever mention that? He's known all over the country for his sermons against gambling and drinking. I'm hoping he never finds out about what I did in Cuba."


"And you're leaving town anyway, so what does it matter?"

"I could stay," he says. "If you asked."

Her chest rises and falls in a surprised breath. "You'd still be a gambler."

"I could stop," he says. "If you asked."

She shakes her head and answers as a missionary—he supposes it's an ingrained habit. "That's not true conversion—"

He smirks a little. "If it's believing in God you want, that's not a problem. I was raised a good Episcopalian boy. I've always believed in God, I just haven't always taken His advice."

"Oh," she says, surprised, and hesitates before continuing, "But that wasn't what I meant. And if anything it just shows how little we know each other."

"That can change. Ask me to stay, Sarah," he repeats, and takes a step toward her.

There's been a look dawning on her face for a while, and it's bright enough now that he can read it like a line of text: she wishes she could say yes. "It's not that simple."

"Most things aren't," he says. "But you'll never sort them out if you don't start somewhere."

She is quiet, her gaze flitting nervously about the lobby, and when she finally speaks her voice is reluctantly interested. "Are you suggesting a particular somewhere?"

"Yes," he says, channeling every ounce of his emotion into his voice and his face, because they're the only way he's allowed to reach out to her right now. "I stay—I check back into this hotel right now. And I ask you to dinner tomorrow evening—in the city this time, not in Cuba. We spend time together properly and you decide what you think."

Her face is turned up toward him, shining and open like a prayer book. Lord, let us pray, he thinks.

And his prayer is answered. "We could try that," she says hesitantly, but there's a smile tugging on her lips at odds with her uncertain tone. "I'm available after seven tomorrow."

He can't help the grin on his face. "Then apparently I will be picking you up at the mission tomorrow at seven. Shall we shake on it, Miss Brown?"

He sticks out a hand and she takes it after a moment. It's been a matter of only hours since he held her hand last, but he's surprised at how much he's missed it. They stand there a while, hands clasped, looking at each other, and in the end it's her that moves first—up into his arms, and he can see in her face that she'll finally let him so he kisses her softly while violins play and angels sing.

It's going to be a new world for Obadiah Masterson, one with a lot less gambling and a lot more respectability, but exploring that new world is a risk he's willing to take. Because right then, with a prim, feisty missionary in his arms, he's home.

. . . . . .