Getting to the Heart of It All
by Mike Paterno

Disclaimer: Early Edition, it's situations and characters are the property of
Columbia/Tri-Star Television and CBS Productions.

Rating: PG-14 (Romantic bubble bath scene w/brief partial nudity)

Summary: A Valentine's Day story and a continuation of my Gary and Marissa
romance series. Gary and Marissa spend their first Valentine's Day together as a
couple and reminisce about their experiences with Valentine's Days in the
past. This story takes place after "ROSES AND REMORSE", but before "THE MAIN
EVENT". As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Getting to the Heart of It All
by Mike Paterno


"Whadya mean you can't tell her how you feel?" asked Gary to a man standing
on the side of the Lake Street bridge, getting ready to jump. "How do you know
what she'll say? It's Valentine's Day, pal!"

Gary glanced down at the headline again, 'MAN JUMPS TO DEATH, Feared
Rejection From Love Interest', and then quickly re-read the line in the story that he
needed to convey to the would be jumper, 'When reached for comment, the object
of his affection, Ms. Edith McGillicuddy, tearfully explained that she never
knew about his true feelings and would have welcomed them.'

"Listen, uh..." Gary hurriedly searched for the man's name in The Paper,
"Harvey. Why don't you go buy a nice card, some flowers and a box of chocolates?
I'm sure she'll appreciate them and maybe even welcome your feelings."

"Why?" Harvey demanded, "And how would you know? Edith doesn't even know I
exist! I love Edith McGillicuddy!"

"Then tell her, Harvey!" Gary exclaimed. "It's Valentine's Day! It's the
perfect day to tell someone that you love them!" He grabbed Harvey's arm and spoke
softly, "And I'm sure that, um, Edith, will return your feelings."

"I dunno," Harvey replied, "And I can't afford to buy her all of that stuff
that you said I should."

"Here," Gary said as he took some cash out of his pocket, "Take this and go
get her what I mentioned. I know she'll be thrilled."

"Ya think so?" Harvey climbed back over the bridge railing to the sidewalk
and took the cash. "Thanks. I'm not crazy, Mister, I just, well, I've been in
love with Edith for so long and I've been afraid to tell her, that's all."

Gary smiled. "Harvey, believe me, I understand. It was like that with the
woman I love, too. Her name is Marissa and it took me nearly three years to tell
her how I felt...and I only did that *after* she told me how she felt about
me. If you wait too long to tell someone that you care about might
never know how they feel in return." He winked, "And I'm gonna guess that Edith
has feelings for you, too."

"Ya think?" Harvey smiled, "Thanks again! I guess I'll go to the store and
then to Edith's! Thanks!" He then walked away.

Gary smiled as he watched Harvey cross the bridge and leave, but then
suddenly realized that he needed to get to the store, too. 'Marissa would be very
upset with me if I forgot to get her flowers and chocolate today,' he thought,
'No matter how hectic a day it's been! I just hope there's still time!'

Gary quickly ran towards Marshall Fields and went inside.


It was around seven thirty Valentine's Day evening when Gary entered
McGinty's. He had been able to get the last dozen roses and the final box of expensive
gourmet chocolates in Marshall Fields and now scanned the bar for Marissa.
Unable to see her anywhere in the bar area, he went to the office, but she
wasn't in there either. His next stop was the kitchen, but Marissa was nowhere to
be found. Puzzled, he began to rub the back of his neck.

The look of bewilderment on his face was amusing to Jackie, one of the
waitresses. Walking over to him, she smiled and asked, "You wouldn't be looking for
Ms. Clark, would you, Mr. Hobson?"

He sighed. "Yes, Jackie, I am. You wouldn't know where Marissa is, would you?
I mean, uh, she didn't go home, did she?"

"Hmm...let me see," Jackie giggled, "I can't seem to remember where she said
she'd be..."


She playfully swatted his arm. "She's waiting for you upstairs in your loft."


Gary quickly ran up the stairs to the loft and walked in. Not seeing her
right away after flipping on a light switch, he shouted, "Marissa? Marissa, are
you here?"

"Gary? I'm in here!" Suddenly came from the direction of the loft's bathroom.

"Oh! I'll wait until you get out! Happy Valentine's Day, Marissa!"

The sound of giggling, along with the aroma of lavender and spices now caught
his attention.

"Why don't you come in, Gary," answered Marissa, "I've been waiting for you."

Gary shook his head and walked towards the bathroom.



Having reached the slightly ajar door of the loft's bathroom, Gary knocked on
it lightly. "Um, Marissa...are you sure you want me to come in?"

Marissa giggled loudly, "Of course I do! I did ask you to, Gary, didn't I?"

The pleasing aroma that caught Gary's attention earlier was now stronger and
he noticed the flickering of soft glowing light around the opening of the
door. Gary then thought he heard the sounds of water lightly sloshing, only it
seemed to be muted. "Are you washing something, Marissa? I thought I heard

She laughed. "I suppose you could say that!"

He was still puzzled and had not yet opened the door. "Should I leave your
Valentine's gifts out here?"

Marissa giggled again. "You can bring them in with you. I have your gift in

Gary shrugged his shoulders, opened the door and entered the bathroom. The
first thing that came into his line of sight were the many thick burning candles
that had been placed all around the bathroom. The soft flickering light and
the pleasing aroma that they created gave the bathroom a very romantic feeling.
The next thing he saw was an open bottle of Rose' and two empty glasses
sitting on the floor next to the bathtub. Gradually moving his eyes from the wine
bottle on the floor to the bathtub, he was shocked to see Marissa smiling
broadly and soaking in a bubble bath.

"Marissa....what do you think you're doing?" Gary's face became red and he
immediately turned around and began to leave the bathroom.

"Gary? Gary Hobson!" shouted Marissa, "You get back in here right now! I
worked very hard to plan this for us and you are *not* going to spoil my
Valentine's Day surprise for you!"

Once outside of the bathroom, he answered her, "Marissa! What were you
thinking? We don't have that kind of a relationship!"

"I understand that, Gary! But there's also no reason that we can't share a
romantic bubble bath together! The scented candles are burning, there's some
wine for us to drink and all I wanted was for you and I to relax and enjoy each
other's company in a romantic setting! I went though a great deal of trouble to
get this just right and if you don't come back in here and join me, I-I swear
that I'll come out there and pull you into this bathtub fully dressed if
that's what it takes to get you in here with me!"

Gary stammered, "But...but..."

"No *buts*, Gary! I'll give you until the count of thirty to get in here!"
Marissa was adamant, "And if you don't...I *will* come out and get you to join

"It's just...well..." he sheepishly replied, "I shouldn't see, uh....without...uh.."

Marissa giggled, "You mean without my clothes on?"


"Gary," She laughed, "We *are* over twenty-one and I'm not embarrassed, nor
ashamed, to take a bubble bath with you." Marissa paused for a moment, "And
besides, the bubbles are covering me...for now. If you wait much longer....."

"I love you very much, Marissa, but I just don't want this to lead into
something that we're not ready for yet."

"I know..." she answered sweetly, "And it won't. I trust you, Gary...please
trust me."

Gary took a deep breath and then exhaled. "Well, you did go to a lot of
trouble and to tell the truth, it would be nice to relax in a warm bubble bath...."

"Then you'll join me?"

"Um....yeah, I suppose."

"Good!" she quickly replied, "And don't forget to bring the Valentine's gifts
in here with you!"

"I won't." Gary said as he began to undress.


Gary slowly entered the bathroom, one hand holding the roses and the other
using the box of chocolates as a makeshift loin covering. "Um, do
you want me to get in the tub?"

She moved over to one side, "Sitting next to me. This tub of yours is quite

"Um...okay," he answered and gradually climbed into the bathtub. After
sitting down next to Marissa, he reached over and poured two glasses of wine.
Handing her one of the glasses, he then gave her lips a delicate kiss. "Happy
Valentine's Day, Marissa." The warm water felt good and Gary began to smile. "This
was a great idea. I apologize for acting the way that I did."

Marissa took a sip of her wine and returned his kiss. "You have no need to
apologize, Gary. I more or less thought that you would react that way. Those are
some of the qualities I love about you. Your shyness and goodness."

"You can read me like a book, Marissa."

She giggled. "A Braille book, Gary."

"I have to admit," Gary remarked, "This has turned out to be quite a
Valentine's Day."

"For me, too, Gary." Marissa took another sip of wine, "It certainly has the
makings of one of the best I've ever had."

"I think so, too," He replied. "I can't recall another like it."

Marissa laughed, "I should hope not! But it does make me wonder....what were
some of your other Valentine's Days like?"


"I'll tell you about some of my past Valentine's Days, Marissa," Gary said
while putting his arm around her as they relaxed in the bubble bath, "As long
you tell me about some of yours. But first, I gotta tell you about some of my
saves today! Boy, was I busy!

Marissa giggled, "I'm all ears, Gary!" She cuddled closer to him and rested
her head on his shoulder. "I imagine that your saves were a bit out of the
ordinary today. I know that I didn't get much of chance to speak to you this
morning....You ran out of here pretty quickly." She began gently running her
fingers up and down his bare wet chest.

Gary reacted to her gentle caressing with a smile. "That feels nice,
Marissa....I just wish I could do the same for you...."

She grinned, "I know you do, and someday you will."

"H-howzat? Um, that's...well, uh, okay." Now blushing, he quickly changed the
subject and began telling Marissa about his day, "This is how today went. Ya
see, my first save was this woman who got sent the wrong card with her
flowers. The flower shop made a mistake and put a card in her bouquet with
woman's name that happened to be sent by a guy that had the same name as her
boyfriend. She was furious and thought he was seeing someone else! She was
go his office and, after confronting and accusing him of cheating on her,
cause him to lose his job with a prestigious and conservative law firm by
performing a complete striptease in the middle of the firm's reception area!
would've been arrested and he would have been given the boot by his firm!"

Marissa shook her head, "Wow, Gary! Talk about *hell hath no fury like a
woman scorned*! How on earth did you prevent it?"

"Simple! I went to the flower shop and changed the cards. The second woman
that got the first woman's card caused some trouble, too. She was going to get
upset and slash the tires on her boyfriend's car! He's a doctor and because of
the tire problems, couldn't get to the hospital in time to do a heart
transplant on the first woman's boyfriend's boss!"

Marissa looked puzzled, "Uh...could you run that by me again?"


"But how did you know...." Marissa stopped in mid-sentence and smiled,
"That's okay. I guess their names were in The Paper."

Gary grinned. "Yep! And so was the name of the flower shop. And another thing
would have happened, too! The flower shop manager would have been fired
because of all the problems that were caused by the card mix-up! And it wasn't
her fault...a clerk accidentally misplaced the cards."

Marissa was still puzzled, "But how did you change the cards? How would you
know which bouquet was which?"

Gary chuckled. "I went to the shop and told them I was the first woman's
boyfriend and wanted to check on how the flowers looked. I read in the article
that the boyfriend had called the order in, so the shop had no idea what he
looked like. When they showed me the bouquet, I told them that they were
the wrong card to the right address! They quickly fixed it."

Marissa smiled. "Simple....but effective!"

"The next save was a bit more difficult."

Gary noticed that the bubbles in the bubble bath were beginning to shrink a
little, so he slid a bit further down in the water. Marissa assumed that was
his reason for moving and did the same.

"So, Gary," she asked, "How difficult was it?"

Preoccupied with making sure that he was still covered by the bubbles, Gary
suddenly lost his train of thought. "How difficult was what?"

"Your next save!" Marissa answered him sharply. Now slightly perturbed by
Gary's apparent distraction, an idea popped into her head and a small grin
appeared across her face. Silently moving one of her hands under the water,
located Gary's bottom and gave it a little pinch.

"OW! What was that for?"

She laughed. "It was so that you'll learn to keep your mind on what you're
telling me about in the future!"

Gary laughed. "Point taken.....literally." He gave her a kiss. "The second
save of the day was to locate some boxes of candy that had been accidentally
poisoned at the candy factory. One batch of chocolate covered cherries had
sprayed with a pesticide instead of a sugar based sealer. The factory thought
that they had recalled all of the boxes, but at least ten boxes had missed the
recall and I needed to go all over the city to stop people from eating them
and getting sick. One guy punched me and a woman hit me over the head with an
umbrella! I had replacement boxes for each of them, but they were convinced
since I wanted the boxes of candy they already had, there must be something
valuable in them! It took me nearly the whole day to track down all of the

"Never a dull moment for you," she felt for his lips and gave them a kiss,
"Is there, partner?"

He returned her kiss, "No, I suppose not."

"Did anything else happen that you want to tell me about?" She cuddled close
to him again.

"I had a few other small saves after that and then stopped a guy who was
going to jump off of a bridge."

Marissa laughed, "Sounds like just a normal day for you!"

"Yep, except that it was Valentine's Day."

"That reminds me, Gary," she gave him another kiss, "Didn't we say that we'd
tell each other about some of the experiences we've had with Valentine's Days
in the past?"

Gary smiled. "Yes, we did!" He returned her kiss, "I guess I'll start with a
story about my first Valentine's kiss!"



Gary carefully placed his arm around Marissa's shoulder and drew her closer
towards him. She, in turn, began to gently massage his bare wet chest again
would occasionally kiss it.

"Ya know, Marissa," he smiled, "This is really pretty nice. I haven't taken a
bath with a woman since I was married to Marcia."

Marissa giggled, "I've *never* taken a bath with a man before, Gary." She
suddenly sat up straight, exposing her bare bosom, and gave Gary a passionate
kiss on the lips. "Now are you going to tell me about your first Valentine's
Day kiss, or are you going to leave me hanging?"

Gary blushed at the sight of Marissa's bare breasts and turned his head away.
"Uh, Marissa, umb&the water isn't, um, covering you as much as it should."

She laughed and felt for his face. Finding it quickly, she cupped his chin in
her hand and gently turned his head towards her. "I know. I'm not at all
embarrassed and neither should you be." She kissed him again and smiled. "I
love you, Gary Hobson."

Feeling more relaxed and no longer embarrassed at seeing her breasts, Gary
returned her kiss, "I love you too, Marissa Clark."

"Now will you tell me about that first Valentine's Day kiss?" Marissa slowly
slid back down into the water.

Gary smiled. "Uh-huh! I was eleven years old and in grade school. My class
had a tradition of exchanging Valentine's Day cards and we would put them in a
big box on the teacher's desk. Our teacher would then hand them out to the
kids they were addressed to. There always seemed to be a contest to see who would
get the most cards, but at the same time, there was also a much crueler
'contest' to see who got the least or none."

Marissa slowly shook her head, "Some children can be so mean to other

"I know," replied Gary, "And I also knew that no one intended to give a shy
little girl in my class any Valentine's. Her name was Celeste Metzler and she
was from some small European country that I can't seem to remember. Her dad
worked in the G.M. plant with my dad and all I knew was that her family kept
mostl y to themselves. Celeste spoke broken English and most of the kids made fun
of her. They'd tease her and play nasty pranks on her, just because she was
different. She seemed very sweet, and I didn't want her to suffer the teasing
she'd probably receive by not getting any Valentine's Day cards. She really
didn't deserve that, no one does. So, I decided that I'd only put one
Valentine in the box, and that it would be for Celeste. When the teacher began handing them
out, some kids in the class were snickering and looking towards Celeste. She
started to slink down behind her desk and little tears began to form in her
eyes. All of that quickly changed when the teacher handed her a Valentine! The
look of surprise and joy on her face was something I'll never forget. She
opened it and saw that it was from me. She quickly closed the card and put it
in her pocket so the other kids wouldn't know who sent it to her. She didn't look
in my direction and kept looking ahead at the teacher's desk, but the smile
that was on her face was all of the acknowledgement that I needed. After
school let out, she waited until all the other kids had left the schoolyard and came
up to me. She didn't say a word, but just smiled and gave me a little kiss on
the cheek."

Marissa kissed him. "You were a good boy, Gary, and now you're a good man. So
did Celeste become your first girlfriend?"

"Unfortunately, no." He sighed sadly, "A week later, her father was killed in
an accident at the plant. Her family moved away and I never saw her again.
With all that she had go through with that, I always hoped that maybe she felt
good about herself before her father's accident happened and that not all
American kids were bad."

"I'm sure she did, Gary." Marissa then slid up, placed her bare chest on his
and gave him a hug. Now cuddled close to him, she gave him another kiss. "I
guess now it's my turn to tell you about my first Valentine's Day kiss, eh,

"If you'd like to."

She smiled. "Of course I do. It happened when I was twelve years old..."



Marissa grinned, "I went to two schools growing up. In the morning, I went to
a city instructional school for visually impaired children, and in the
afternoon, I attended my neighborhood elementary school. Being *the little blind
girl* at a regular elementary school made me the target of many cruel pranks.
Although I put up with it most of the time, once in a while the teasing and
pranks left me in tears when I was alone. It wasn't going to be easy, but I was
determined to *fit in*. One boy never teased me and even offered to carry my
books now and then. His name was Peter Holmes. He only lived a few blocks from me
and attended my church. He tried many times to get the other children to quit
teasing me, but they wouldn't listen to him. He was a good boy and we became
close friends. It was the first time a boy had shown any interest in me and I
was thrilled. One Valentine's Day, Peter asked me if I would be his Valentine
and I said yes. We held hands as he walked me home and when we got to the porch
of my house, he nervously asked if he could give me a kiss!"

Marissa paused for a moment and gave Gary a kiss on his chest.

"I told him that he could only kiss me if he wanted to be my boyfriend," she
continued, "And he then asked me if I wanted to be his girlfriend." She
laughed, "I really wanted to be his girlfriend, but my grandmother had always told
me not to rush into anything with boys. I always took to heart what my
grandmother said, so I told him I wasn't ready for that yet. I could sense that Peter
was crushed, so I said to him that since it was Valentine's Day and that he
asked me to be his Valentine, he could kiss me on the cheek. He kissed my cheek
and then ran away. We remained close friends until high school, when he was
accidentally shot and killed by a policeman who mistook him for someone else. He
was a good person and had a great heart."

"I know you don't like the word *sorry*, Marissa," Gary said softly, "But in
this case, it happens to be the only thing I can say. I'm sorry he was

"I know, Gary. So am I." She curled up even closer to him, "But that was many
years ago. It was nice to think of how special Peter's kiss was. Not only was
it my first Valentine's Day kiss, but also my first kiss from a boy at all.
I'll never forget it, or him."

Gary took her hand and gave it a gentle kiss, "And you never should forget
him, Marissa."

Marissa smiled and changed the subject. "I don't know about you, Gary, but
I'm beginning to feel like a prune. I think it's time we got out of the

"Um, do you want me to get out first so you can have some privacy?" He asked.

Marissa giggled and then surprised him by standing up, "No, I don't think
that's necessary, Gary." She held out her hand, "Here, let me help you up and
then we can dry each other off."

Gary nervously stood up and took her hand. She responded by giving him a hug
and a kiss.

"Are you still embarrassed, Gary?"

"A little."

"You don't need to be," she replied as they stepped out of the tub together,
"Consider this a dry run for our future together. It won't go any further than
this for now, but at least we know that we can be comfortable with each other
in ways we never imagined before." She smiled, "Now, if you could hand me a
towel, I'll start drying you off and you can do the same for me."

"No, Marissa. You should remember what your grandmother told you and not rush
into anything with boys," Gary chuckled, "Not even with me. We did enough for
now. This Valentine's Day was very pleasant and I don't want to spoil it by
doing something that we're not ready for."

Marissa was somewhat disappointed, "I understand, Gary, and I know you're
right, I need to remember what my grandmother said."

Gary kissed her, "The night is yet young and we have each other. We'll get
dressed, play some romantic music on the stereo and just enjoy each other's
company." He then gave her a loving embrace, "I love you, Marissa, and please
never forget that."

She smiled once more, "I love you too and won't forget, Gary. And you're
right again, we have each other and that's all we need. I hope you're not upset
with my wanting to do some things before we were ready."

"Not at all." Gary gave Marissa a passionate kiss, "Happy Valentine's Day,

"Happy Valentine's Day to you too, Gary!" She returned his kiss.

They got dressed and Gary led Marissa towards the sofa. The two of them were
happy and spent the rest of their first Valentine's Day as a couple in each
other's loving arms, laughing, kissing and just glad they had one another to

The End

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